The Expectations Challenge

Expectations. We all have them. Of ourselves, of others, of the abstract concept we call “life.” It’s nearly impossible to walk through a given day without having or expressing some sort of expectations.

I see believers all around me, both on social media and within the in-person church, who express anger, cynicism, frustration, bitterness, and even hatred because other people don’t meet their expectations. How come they do this, how come they don’t do that, why is this X way, how come it isn’t Y way? These questions are embedded in our thinking and reveal an innate sense that certain things or people “should” be a certain way (that we determine) and a desire for justice. Continue reading

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15 Practical Tips for Listening to Teaching in Church

Thought this was excellent and wanted to share!

15 Practical Tips for Receiving the Word – by Leadership Resources

1. Prepare your heart in prayer. Pray to have listening ears and that the Spirit would sow the Word into your heart. Confess your sin and examine yourself to see if any cares of the world might be choking out your desire to receive the Word and obey it (Mark 4:18-19).

2. Pray for the proclamation of the Word. Pray for your pastor to faithfully proclaim the Word in the Spirit’s power. Pray that the congregation would be challenged, instructed, and built up from the preaching of the Word.

3. Read the passage to be preached before the service starts. This is done preferably at home to set your mind on the eternal truth you will receive during the message. Humbly pray over the passage for the Spirit’s illumination and help applying it.

bible14. Prepare your mind and body for receiving the Word. This means getting a good night’s rest the night before and avoiding activities that might make it hard to wake up and focus. This may also mean refraining from watching TV or checking email before the service to ensure a clear mind.

5. Arrive at church early. While this may seem impossible for some, it will reap rewards. Arriving early (or at least on time) will make it so you don’t miss anything in the service, will help avoid unnecessary anxiety from running late, and allow you to fellowship with the body of Christ with your extra time.

6. Listen to the sermon with an open Bible. Follow along in your Bible when Scripture is read and referenced. In a discerning Berean-like spirit check your pastor’s word with what God says and submit yourself to God’s truth.

Read the whole article at How to Listen to a Sermon: 15 Practical Tips for Receiving the Word « Leadership Resources.

Discipleship: 10 Nuts and Bolts

Last week, I shared some thoughts about discipleship and helping us as believers realign our thinking about what it means. This week, I thought I’d offer some nuts and bolts ideas of what it really looks like in “real life” to disciple someone. Note that I believe that online discipleship is just as valid as in-person. The internet is full of real people.

As I also said last week, I believe discipleship begins the moment someone indicates an interest and continues after they have trusted Christ. So these tips should be useful for either a new believer or someone who is searching. Some of you may think these belong more on the side of evangelism than discipleship, and I’m okay with that!

1. Pray. It goes without saying, but sometimes in our enthusiasm we can leave it out. Pray to be available for and dependent upon God, pray for Him to bring people to you (or vice versa), pray to recollect the scriptures and explanations, pray for protection from spiritual attacks. Another good prayer is for the confidence and calm to know that it is the Holy Spirit who works in people, not your clever or perfect words or your persuasion.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Cor. 2:1-5 ESV]

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Discipleship: Sinking Deep Roots

A few days ago, Trevor at TrevorNashleanas.com asked me what made me so passionate about discipleship. What started as a reply turned into an unplanned blog post. I’m so glad that Trevor asked me because it made me think through it a little bit. I think it turned into a pretty neat team effort, thanks to God.

Using Trevor’s words,“discipleship is the process of learning to live for the glory of God by faith in and obedience to Jesus through relationship with other Christ-followers over time.”

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Photo credit: hirokimurakami.com

The idea here is that no matter where you are in your journey of faith, you are learning. You are not yet what you are to be. Whether you just started believing or you’re 40 years in, you still haven’t got it all. You’re a disciple.

Trevor wrote: “It’s best that we disciple people toward Jesus and let the Holy Spirit be the one who decides when and how he brings people to the Lord throughout that process.”

Key words here: toward Jesus and process. To me, discipleship begins as soon as someone begins to seek God (the “toward Jesus” aspect) — that is, reading books, asking questions, giving it thought. While it’s true they are not yet His disciples, the very fact they are seeking makes it worth the time and effort to be alongside them — to whatever end. It is never a loss to show kindness and the love and truth of Christ to someone. We don’t know how long this journey is from belief to unbelief. So perhaps we are often too impatient to commit ourselves to that process. Continue reading