Archives For Discipleship

Sad

Christians get depressed too — even pastors. I know because it’s part of my story.

Years ago, my family and I went through a series of difficult events. I was hurt. I was bitter. It led me down a dark road.

The first feeling I remember was like being tired. I didn’t know I was depressed. But getting out of bed every day took all the strength I could muster.

I had been working in the trenches of ministry for years. Was I just burned out? I’ve heard so much about burnout. Maybe this was it.

So I got a lot of rest, but it didn’t go away.

If you saw me at church or around town, I would have smiled and told you I was good. On the outside, I wore the mask that so many Christians do. Inside, I was dying.

My wife will tell you that it was the darkest year of our life. I was tired and sad every day. I was present with my wife and kids physically, but mentally I had checked out.

Six months in, I finally admitted that I wasn’t just burnt out. I was depressed.

But I’m a pastor! I’m…

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God wants you to grow up.

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything” (Ephesians 4:15 The Message).

“We are not meant to remain as children ….” (Ephesians 4:14 Phillips).

Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ, living a life of love and humble service.  Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.  They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is because they never intended to grow.

Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing.

Discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ – always begins with a decision.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9 ESV).

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need…

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One great way to connect your church into small groups is to focus on life transitions. More than at any other time in our lives, we need people when we’re going through periods of great change. Helping people join small groups during these times provides immediate comfort as well as the potential for years of ongoing support.

What transitions should your church use to connect people?

Significant events: Take a look at significant events in people’s lives. When you baptize several people at the same time, try to get them together in a small group.

After you hold a baby dedication, start a parenting small group. In your premarital counseling process, recommend that young couples join a small group. These events happen all the time in churches. Use them to help people build meaningful relationships.

Struggles: Pain motivates people to get connected with other people. No doubt about it. For example, many people are struggling with finances right now. Help them connect with others who are struggling in that area. You can find all sorts of great small group curriculums that deal with finances. Whenever we do a stewardship message at Saddleback, we give people…

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Steps

When I think about the commitments I’ve made that led to spiritual growth, often a very small step took me to a place where I could make the next commitment. Here are some baby steps that will help your members make the next commitment toward spiritual maturity.

1. Put a place to commit on your welcome cards. If you have a card for guests to use to give you information about themselves, that’s also a great place to offer an opportunity to commit to a class. Your guests will see from the beginning that these classes are a priority at the church. It also gives them an opportunity to sign up without leaving their chair during worship services.

2. Personalize the weekend announcements. When you’re announcing the classes from the pulpit, think about the person who needs to make a commitment to the next step. Ask yourself, what will help him or her to do that? Focus on who needs to take the commitment step. Don’t simply tell people when and where the class will be. Remember, you’re inviting people, not numbers, to the class.

3. Make the commitment to the next class a…

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By Dee Brestin

Idol Lies by Dee Brestin

At the root of every destructive behavior is a deception. We may think that our identity is in Christ, but in reality it may be in the success of our marriage, mothering, or ministry. We may think that God is our refuge, but in reality, we may find refuge in friendship, food, or Facebook. Seeing the lie is half the battle in being set free. These are deceptions that are common among Christian women, though they certainly can snare men as well.

My Friends Can Be My Security

Women are the relational gender and, generally speaking, their friendships are more intimate, more enduring, and more satisfying than the friendships of men.

But the dark side is that women can begin to expect their friends to be what only God can be. When Christy’s best friend, Brooke, began to be less available because of a new boyfriend, Christy felt avoided as if she had the flu. A wise friend gave her the name of a good Christian counselor, and Christy finally decided to go. She remembers the opening conversation verbatim:

“Christy, you became a…

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Not Giving UpStatistically, this is the time of year when most people abandon the goals they set just a few weeks ago, giving into the idea that change is either hopeless or just too hard. We often give different names to the reasons for our failures:

Time – usually not enough of it.
Tough – the task is just too hard.
Terrible – to describe how you feel on the new diet, wake/sleep pattern, budget, etc.

The answer for most of these problems is simple though: maintaining consistency. Simple concept, yes, but difficult practice. The behaviors we repeat often define the reality of our lives. Aristotle may have said it best when he said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

– Aristotle

You have probably heard that a habit can be created or broken in a matter of just 21 days. But more recent research has shown that this isn’t really accurate. The study reveals that the actual number is 66 days with variation of between 18 and 254 days depending on the specific habit being developed. Yes, some habits are harder to form,…

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Forgiveness is everything. Seriously, everything, especially when you realize how much you and I need it.

I’ve lived about 22,000 days. Let’s say I’ve sinned an average of four to five times a day or about once every three or so hours while awake. That would mean I’ve blown it about 100,000 times in my life so far.

Of course, you’re thinking, “No way, not Kurt; he’s much holier than that!” Or, you might truly know me and think that number is far too low!

The fact of the matter is, the Bible defines sin as missing the mark. Anytime I miss the mark of perfection, that qualifies as a sin in God’s eyes.

I think something that God would never think. Sin.

I look at something that God would never look at. Sin.

I say something God would never say. Sin.

I don’t do or say something God would do or say. Sin.

I look at a person in a way God would never view a person. Sin.

I treat my wife, children, grandchildren, family or friends in an uncaring or thoughtless way. Sin.

I pretend to be something I’m not. Sin.

I react in fear rather than respond in faith. Sin.

I act…

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Train Station Schedule Board

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30 NIV).

Timing was important to Jesus; everything in its time at just the right time. On his mission to bring you and me from death to life (Romans 6:13), he never rushed or struggled to play catch up.

He clearly worked from a different clock than everyone else. Instead of Eastern Standard Time, Jesus seemed to be on Eternal Standard Time. He never arrived late and he never arrived early; he simply arrived according to his purpose.

Jesus was born at exactly the right time to be in Bethlehem with his parents, right as the stars aligned to announce the birth of Israel’s long-awaited king. When he was older, he stayed to study Scripture in the temple, even though his parents had left for home.

When others thought he was late, Jesus arrived just in time to raise Lazarus from the dead. When his brothers wanted him to go with them to the Festival of Shelters, Jesus told them, “Go on to the festival. My time hasn’t yet come,…

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Tracks

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I ask God for a word that will keep me focused on what he has for me that year. On the first day of 2017, he gave me my word:

Alignment. 

I like that alignment is a noun. It’s tangible, yet not something you can reach out and touch. You can’t hold it in your hands, but you know it’s powerful — much like faith, which was my word in 2016.

Last year, I stretched out wide and long in my faith. I stepped out of my comfort zone and trusted God in big ways and watched him move. This week, I curled up warm and cozy, on my friend Faith’s couch with a big cup of coffee that lasted more than four hours. I love that she is like me. We don’t do surface chat; a cup of coffee feels more like a long (and much-needed) spiritual therapy session.

As we hunkered in, with the rain washing the outdoors fresh for the new year, our conversation washed our souls new. We settled on variations of one topic for most of the time: ambition.

Both of us are late in…

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Facts

For those who may not be familiar with my story, I became a Christ-follower in high school. I’m grateful for several men who influenced the early steps in my spiritual journey, including guys like Charlie, Lee, and Chris. Charlie, in particular, met with me just about every Saturday over several months. I would either go to his home or his office, and he helped me begin to understand who Jesus was and what he did for me.

Through that process, I was introduced to the Bible. This was a big deal for me. As I was growing up, the church I attended did not encourage people to engage with God’s Word. I heard messages taught from the Bible growing up, but there was no encouragement to read, study, or attempt to apply the Bible to my life. That’s why when Charlie introduced me to the story of Jesus in the New Testament, I was captivated. God’s Word really came alive for me.

Though we were several years away from getting married, Emily also encouraged me in those first steps of faith. In fact, she gave me my first leather-bound Bible as my high…

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From the beginning, Pastor Rick’s vision for Saddleback Church was to attract unbelievers, lead them to Christ, grow them into mature believers through the work of the Holy Spirit, and send them out on mission, all for God’s global glory. His goal was always to be a disciple-making and disciple-sending church. Out of this vision, came the Purpose Driven paradigm as the intentional process to accomplish this goal.

He first asked the question, “What is spiritual maturity?” and then, “How might one measure it?” He knew it was a myth that spiritual maturity is measured only on what you know. Pastor Rick says, “Many churches evaluate spiritual maturity solely on the basis of how well you can identify Bible characters, interpret Bible passages, quote Bible verses, and explain biblical theology. The ability to debate doctrine is considered by some as the ultimate proof of spirituality.” Some people who are not even believers have an incredible knowledge of the Bible without any spiritual growth in their lives. Spiritual maturity is not just cognitive.

So he set about to discover the characteristics of spiritual maturity and how leadership could measure it. He came to the conclusion…

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Steps

We’re all familiar with making New Year’s resolutions, and we all have every intention of following through with them, saying, “This is the year I’m going to lose the weight, quit drinking, fix my marriage, etc.” However, for the majority of Americans, these resolutions often get tossed to the curb along with the holiday garbage, and within weeks, people fall back into their old habits.

According to The University of Scranton, a mere 8 percent of people will successfully achieve their New Year’s goals. For this reason, I propose a change — rather than making a mere resolution this year, focus on making true life transformations. That means not simply addressing the symptoms of problems but taking a very hard look and addressing the heart of those issues. Transformation means a thorough and dramatic change — a real life change.

Here are five key steps below to help get you started in that process.

Let go of the resolutions you made in 2016 that didn’t work.

There is no use beating yourself up for past failed resolutions. Often, those resolutions stem from unrealistic fantasies and expectations, and wind up doing us more harm then good when we realize we have…

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