Family Discipleship

familyFamily Discipleship

Each week I look forward to Thursday nights.  My wife, daughter, son, and me will gather in the living room with our Bibles and share a story from Scripture together.  We talk about what God might be saying to us, and how we should respond to it.  We sometimes hold hands and take turns praying, and other times one of us will pray.  We try to make it fun with an activity or game, but sometimes there are days it seems kind of dull.  We are not perfect, but my prayer is that God uses that time to draw us close to each other, to show that God’s Word is important, and we are growing up together.

Growing up is a fact of life.  Many kids look forward to being adults because they think the ability to do whatever you want is the ultimate adult superpower.  Many of us adults recognize that power is a myth, and we’d rather be younger (just not in middle school—terrible time).  As parents, we do so much for our kids.  We are responsible for providing them food, shelter, education, clothing, manners, respect, water, toilet paper, among many things.  We do these things because we love our kids and want them to grow up responsible and have a life better than our own.  That’s a lot of responsibility. 

You know, as parents, we are just as responsible for providing our kids the spiritual food they need to grow up in Jesus.  Hebrews 5:12-14 talks about God’s Word as milk and solid food.  It says, “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice” (verse 14).   When it comes to spiritual maturity, how is your family growing?  Are your kids still infants in the word thinking life is generally about them and their needs, neglecting others?  Are your kids children in the word, growing up and learning, however, it’s still mostly about them—their needs, their wants, their comfort?  Maybe your kids have grown into spiritual young adults, realizing as their faith grows their desire to serve others has grown also, becoming doers of the word, not just hearers.

What about you?  The spiritual growth of your family is primarily your responsibility, you are after all the parent.  Spiritual parents are those who understand the spiritual needs of those in their care, and take on the responsibility of meeting those needs. It’s not easy, but it is necessary.  I pray that you are encouraged to disciple well in your home.

 

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This Conversation Never Gets Old

benchThis Conversation Never Gets Old

“Jeromy, I want to get baptized!” She came up to me with a gleam in her eye, and I wasn’t expecting it at all.

“Wow, that’s great,” I said, “but why do you want to be baptized?”  I’ve never heard her Faith story, and obviously baptism isn’t a first step.  Her face turned to a puzzled look at my response, and she didn’t seem to know what to say.  Did I just burst her excited bubble?  Maybe, but it’s more important to help her understand the truth.

“Well, there’s a step people take before they are baptized.  There isn’t anything special about baptism, the water isn’t holy or anything.  People are baptized to show that they have trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior,” I explained, “Have you made that decision?”  She bites her lip in confusion like I’ve just spoken a foreign language.  That sometimes flabbergasts me when the mere mention of the Gospel brings bewildered faces.  Don’t we talk about the Gospel just about every week?  I’m reminded the sower scatters seed, but it is God who causes it to take root and grow.

I immediately recognized she has not EVER trusted Christ as Savior.  So here is the moment, the opportunity to sit and share the Gospel with her.  We go outside and sit on a bench, and I ask her, “Who is Jesus, and what has He done for you?”

“He died on the cross for my sins,” she said.

“That’s right, but why did he do that?” I asked.

“Because He loves me,” she said matter-of-factly, like “duh?”  There was no disrespect in her tone, but I told her that knowing Jesus is the most important part of life, and I’m asking these questions so I can understand what you know.

“So, we know Jesus loves us.  But why did He have to die to save us?”  She didn’t know the answer.  Many students don’t.  They hear it so often in our culture, “Jesus died for my sins” but they don’t know what that means.  If we aren’t careful, we will assume because this is the right answer, that students get it and rush them to the baptism pool, and later watch them walk away from their faith.  We can’t ever fully know that they completely understand, I mean who does really, but they need to know the Gospel personally.

So I explained, “Jesus, died on the cross because of MY sin.  Sin is basically what God disapproves of, and everyone is guilty including me.  Sin ultimately separates us from God eternally, and leaves us dead spiritually.  We cannot do anything to earn eternal life and get out of our sin on our own.  Because of His love for us, Jesus came and died IN MY PLACE.  I should be punished for my sin, but instead Jesus was punished for me.  That’s love!  But did Jesus stay dead?”

She is hearing every word, and you can see in her eyes that her mind is processing what I’m saying.  Thank you Holy Spirit for giving me words to speak!  She answered, “No, he rose again.”

“That’s right!  He’s alive!  Death couldn’t defeat him!  We celebrate this at Easter, and every Sunday really.  In John 3 the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.  I would not believe that promise if Jesus had not rose again!  So, by His resurrection He has made a way for us to overcome our sin, and have life with God forever.  Is that what you want?”

“Yes,” she says.

“Well you have to receive that gift and here’s how you receive it.  The Bible tells us that we must repent of our sin.  That means, we agree with God about our sin.  Often we try to justify our anger toward others, or our lies, but God sees the truth.  We agree with Him about our sin, and we ask Him to forgive us and help us to live for Him instead.  We repent, and we believe that Jesus did die for me, paid for my sins, and gives me forgiveness.  By repenting and believing, we confess Jesus as our Lord.  He’s in charge of my life from now on, not me.”

“Do you agree you’ve sinned?”

“Yes.”

“Do you believe Jesus died for you, will forgive you for your sins, and rose again to give you eternal life?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want Him to be Lord of your whole life?”

“Yes.”

“But wait, confessing Him as Lord is huge step!  Matthew 16:24 says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.  Jesus is saying that when I don’t get what I want, or what I think I should have I still follow Him.  When life is hard and doesn’t make sense, I still follow Him.  When my dreams all fall apart, I still follow Him.  Are you willing to go that far with Jesus?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” I asked her. I know I’ve laid a lot on the table for this young girl to consider.  But this decision is the most important she’ll ever make, and I do not want to lead her flippantly.

“I just…feel like this is what I need to do with my life.  I know that I haven’t been living like I should, and I’ve always heard about Jesus in church, but I’ve realized I’m not really following Him.  I need him to help me get my life right,” she shared.

Who am to stand in the way of that choice by a teenage girl?  I commended her, and told her that she needs to be sincere about this.  Don’t just do this because you think it’s right, do it because you desire it in your heart.  She agreed, and we prayed together.  She admitted her sin, expressed her faith in Jesus to forgive her and give her eternal life, and committed to follow Him from now on!

When we opened our eyes, hers were moist and the smile on her face was really big!  “How do you feel?” I asked.

“I feel great!  It’s such a relief!  I’m excited, and I feel good!”  she beamed.

You know, that conversation never gets old.  I love to see the determination in students to live righteous lives, and I really love to see the joy and relief in their eyes when they step from death to life!  It is in those moments I know the Holy Spirit is changing hearts, and He never gives up.  Students will walk away from those moments and grow, and often make poor decisions even still.  But they will never forget that moment!  A seed has been planted, roots have taken hold, and let’s see what beauty grows in her!  I’ll follow up with her soon and we’ll talk about baptism.

What is Important to Them

important_picture

What’s Important to them, is important to me. 

I’m not a big fan of substitute teaching.  Students come into the classroom with the expectation that they don’t have to work, and who am I to tell them otherwise.  It makes for a long day.  But I’m not going to stop.  What makes it worth it is high fiving students in the hallways, talking with students between classes, and just sharing smiles with students throughout the day.

Today, I had a great conversation with a couple middle school students.  They had an incentive this morning and were able to go outside for a period.  These students shared what they are looking forward to this new school year, what they are dreading, and even some laughs.  The best quote from the conversation, “My parents grew up in the old days so they don’t understand math today.”  Hilarious!

We talked about what they like and don’t like.  Both students love to read!  I’ve read some of the books they were talking about like Divergent, and it was cool to share that.  When students (or anyone for that matter) feel that you care about what is important to them, it opens doors for stronger relationships.  Going to a home football game, watching the varsity volleyball game, or just talking about books we like to read are simple ways to love on students.  It matters!

Next time you’re with our students, find out what is important to them, and talk about it.  You may have something in common you didn’t know before.

 

Ministry Isn’t Flashy

 

DSC_0395Ministry Isn’t Flashy

I love the feeling going into a concert, or SummerSalt worship!  The anticipation, waiting for the doors to open are stimulating. You don’t just hear the music, you feel it.  It’s really incredible, and God uses these moments to change hearts, and that is the best of all.

At times in my ministry I have felt the need to replicate those sights and sounds.  But time, maybe experience, or just simply wisdom has led me to recognize, ministry isn’t flashy.  Ministry is meeting real people right where they are, in the hurt, in the pain, in the struggle, in the uncertainty and helping them to trust Jesus, love Jesus, and follow Jesus.  There is nothing wrong with a great program, these tools are beneficial, but not essential.

There are so many stories, right now, of broken families, kids removed from homes, poor choices bringing harsh consequences.  Every person looks for a way out of the brokenness, but the truth is, only Jesus offers a way out.  Our Lord and Savior did everything for us on the cross to make a way for us to enjoy abundant life, and not worry when life is hard.  It’s His sacrifice that restores our joy and our hope.

Whether we serve 100 students or 10, we will serve.  No matter who walks across our paths, into our facilities, in earshot of these Bible studies, we will love them, and lead them to know Jesus.  Ministry isn’t flashy, it isn’t easy, often it’s

Straight Paths Ahead

Proverbs TitleHave you ever been on a path?  I remember just a couple years ago, some students and I went to on a Bible study retreat.  We had free time one afternoon, and some of us wanted to hike to a waterfall nearby.  It would take us about 2 hours total.  One of the counselors would guide us along because the path hadn’t been cleared of overgrowth yet to be ready for summer activities.  We’re traveling pretty good, winding our way through the woods, crossing over the creek half a dozen times, and the minutes keep passing by.  At one point our guide turned us around, and said we need to double back.  We were somewhat lost, just took a few wrong turns.  We eventually made it to the waterfall after about an hour and a half!  I remember students seeing tourists visiting the waterfall, and going back to their cars.  You mean we could have driven here?!  Needless to say, some of us went back, got the vehicles and picked the rest of the group up.

That was a path I won’t forget.  Great memory!  There are a lot of different paths in the world.  There are hiking trails, sidewalks, roadways, aisles in the grocery store, maybe even footpaths across your backyard.  Even computers have paths to locate files and websites.

Paths have common characteristics:  They are designed with clearly marked boundaries to move us to a determined location.

Often the Bible compares our lives to a pathway, a journey we are on. And like other paths, our lives are designed to move us to a determined location – to fear the Lord and obey His commands.  Solomon drew this conclusion at the end of Ecclesiastes, and the book of Proverbs continues this thought saying, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge…”  As you read the book of Proverbs, you learn quickly that God has given us clear signs to keep us on the path toward a greater, holy fear of God.  Proverbs 3 for example, exhorts us to learn God’s Word well (3:1-4), let God lead with every step (3:5-8), honor the Lord with our wealth (3:9-10), and not to despise the Lord’s discipline (3:11-12).  If we keep in step with these, not as occasional pieces of advice, but as a deep, heart transforming way of life, God promises us great blessing now and forever.

So, are you following the path God designed for you well?

Tips for Discipling Students

Hey Leaders!

A few weeks ago I sent out 10 Questions for you to consider about yourself and how you disciple others.  Thank you to those who sent responses back in.  I enjoyed looking at these!  The reason for these questions is help me see where each of you are in discipling others, and how I can come alongside you more intentionally.  Here are 5 observations and encouragements I took from the responses I received.  Consider how you might do one or more of these as you make disciples.

 

  1. Pray for Students by name!
    Many of you responded with 2-4 students with whom you could establish a positive relationship built on trust.  Students need older men and older women teaching them and modeling for them what it is to follow Jesus.  Start by praying for them by name!
  2. Invite a student to be with you in a normal routine.
    Relationships are strengthened when you’re with someone.  We all have certain things we do each week like running errands, working in the yard, going to extra-curricular activities.  We are busy, and it’s really HARD to carve extra time out of our schedules to spend time with students.  So, why not bring them along with you in what you are already doing?  Don’t make excuses, make opportunities!
  3. Listen to their story, Share your story.
    When you are with them, learn their faith story. Find out how they came to Jesus, and discern if they really understand who Jesus is and what He has done.  Often, we take this for granted.  Don’t stop there!  Share your story!  Tell them how you came to know Jesus, how He changed your life, and why you are following Him now!
  4. Have Word Conversations.
    When you spend time with students, whether it’s an hour or just a few minutes, find a way to speak the Word into their lives.  You don’t have to preach or present a Bible study, but you can share with them how God’s Word speaks to their situation, or how it has helped you go the right way.
  5. Be consistent.
    Relationships are built over time, through ups and downs. Students need to know you care about them before anything else!  If you choose to invest in a student, to disciple them in following Jesus, then you choose to keep going as long as the opportunity is there.  Find a way to make contact with them (outside church) on a regular basis (text, being with them, letters, phone calls, etc.)

 

Tell me what you think!  Is this pie in the sky thinking, or real ministry opportunities?  If you didn’t get the questions from the first email, they are below.  Thank you for what you are doing.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

 

Be Fruitful and Multiply

“And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply…”  Genesis 1:28

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

In the beginning God created all things including man and woman.  He blessed the man and woman and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  Should I explain what that means and the process?  Probably not, but imagine if God had not told them to do so.  What reproduction wasn’t part of God’s plan for the family?  Would any of us be here today?  It would have all ended when Adam and Eve died.  Multiplying has always been part of God’s plan.  Multiplying is a simple concept to understand:  what starts with two parents produces 1-2-3-4-5-6…. Kids, who grow up and give you grandchildren, and if you’re blessed you’ll even see the great-grands!  Have you ever thought that reproduction is part of God’s church plan?

Before Jesus ascended into heaven He told his disciples to go and make disciples.  At the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:19) He called the disciples into a process that would make them fishers of men.  Multiplication, reproduction, replication…whatever you call it, it’s what the church does.  If the church doesn’t reproduce it dies out!

So, how are you being fruitful and multiplying in your spiritual life?  Are you sharing the Gospel with someone at work or at home with the intent they will receive Him?  Are you investing into someone regularly, teaching and showing them how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to serve, how to give, how to trust God?  Are you leading someone else to multiply too?

Think about it this way – Jesus invested in the disciples so that they would invest in others when He was gone.  Are the people, or students, you’re investing in doing the same for others when you’re not around?