Archives For Discipleship

These articles are written to encourage and equip you and your people to grow closer to God and become more like Jesus.

Topics include: Spiritual formation, CLASS, prayer, Bible reading, other spiritual disciplines, campaigns, theology, etc.

Navigating the Winds of Life

Wind is one of the most powerful forces of nature. Kay and I live in a canyon and experience canyon winds for several months every year. In the windy season, it can be brutal.

The winds of life can be powerful too. They can knock you off balance. So, to have an effective ministry, you’ll need to learn to withstand the powerful, rogue winds of life. Ministry isn’t a problem-free life. That’s why it’s critical to have a firm foundation. 

Proverbs 10:25 says, “Storms can blow away unrighteous people, but the godly have a foundation that keeps them standing firm” (NLT).

When the storms come, you want a foundation that you can stand on. Here is what you can do to build that foundation in your life and ministry:

Stay connected to your spiritual family.

God never intended for you to withstand the destructive winds of life on your own. Whether you experience a ministry struggle, the death of a loved one, an illness, or a family crisis, God wants you to go through these periods with the…

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7 Secrets to Overcoming Discouragement

No matter what’s discouraging you today, know this: You’re not alone. The greatest missionary in the history of the church faced all kinds of discouraging circumstances. In 2 Corinthians, Paul describes being shipwrecked, flogged, beaten, stoned—and much more.

But Paul also gives us seven, time-tested principles for overcoming discouragement. If you’re in a difficult season, take some time to consider his words.

Never forget how much God loves you.

You know God loves you. You’ve preached about it and shared it many times. But do you feel it in your heart? When you stop feeling the love of God, you’ll get discouraged. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:1: “We don’t become discouraged, since God has given us this ministry through his mercy” (GW).

You can’t feel discouraged and feel the love of God at the same time. You have to choose between the two. Some people don’t feel God’s love because they think God is angry at them all the time. Pastor, if that’s the voice you’re hearing, it’s not God. He’s not mad at you; he’s mad about…

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God Wants to Heal Your Wounds

We all have hidden wounds. Pastor, that includes you. Maybe it’s from your childhood, a painful event that you’re still dealing with years later. Maybe it’s someone who has hurt you in ministry through unfair criticism or attacks on your family. 

And these memories haunt your ministry. You’ve tried everything to get past them. You hide them so no one can use the pain from your past to hurt your ministry. 

But the truth is, you forget physical pain from years back, but you never forget emotional wounds. 

What do you do with that pain so it no longer drags you, your family, and your ministry down?

Admit your hurt.

You won’t get well until you face your feelings. Holding on to a hurt is like having a hot coal inside your heart. It’ll burn you up inside.

You begin to find the answer for your hurt when you own up to it. Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. 

10 Commandments of Emotional Health During Stressful Times (Part 2)

Pastoral ministry is full of stress. The past year has been particularly stressful for many church leaders as the world has faced a global pandemic, racial unrest, and unique economic challenges. For many pastors, the world has turned upside down. Burnout has become rampant among church leaders.

But there’s hope. Last week I gave you the first five of 10 biblical actions—what I’m calling “10 commandments of emotional health”—that can help you recharge and refresh during any stressful season.

Last week I urged you to . . .

  1. Show grace to yourself and others. (James 4:6)
  2. Start and end each day refueling your soul. (James 1:21)  
  3. Set and stick to a routine. (Ephesians 5:15-16) 
  4. Reduce your media consumption. (Matthew 6:22-23) 
  5. Schedule a daily time to connect with the people you love. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) 

Here are the next five actions you need to take to avoid burnout.

Share your feelings instead of stuffing…

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10 Commandments of Emotional Health During Stressful Times (Part 1)

Some seasons are more stressful than others—especially seasons of great change. This past year has been such a season for many people, including church leaders. Spiritually leading and nurturing people through an unprecedented time have taken a toll on many pastors. 

Regardless of how much emotional and spiritual reserves you had before the pandemic, a stressful period will deplete your emotional and spiritual tank a little each day, like letting the air out of a tire.

I love what Paul says in the Message paraphrase of Romans 12:12: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.”

How do you keep yourself fueled and emotionally healthy during stressful seasons?

Here are the first five out of 10 biblical actions—or what I’m calling “10 commandments of emotional health”—to prevent burnout:

Show grace to yourself and others. (James 4:6)

Treat yourself and others how God treats you—with grace, mercy, and forgiveness. God always gives us what we need, not what we deserve. During hard times, we need extra grace.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect yourself…

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When Fear Gets in the Way of Your Relationships

Relationships are at the heart of every effective ministry. Whether they are with your spouse, your family, your staff, your church, or your community, you can’t lead well without having good relationships.

But one thing that can damage your relationships is fear.

Here are three fears that can have a destructive impact on our relationships:

Fear of admitting our faults.

We often get defensive when it comes to our faults. No one likes to admit their weaknesses. Instead, we deny them and even defend them at times. Think about Adam and Eve’s responses in Genesis 3:12-13: “God asked, ‘Did you eat what I told you not to eat.’ Adam answered, ‘The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit and I ate it.’ She replied, ‘The snake tricked me into eating it.’” 

In those verses, we see two common reactions to dealing with failure. We accuse someone else, and then we excuse ourselves. 

Ask yourself this question: What fault do I get defensive about when it gets mentioned?

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Four Ways to Lead With Integrity

You don’t need to read much of the Bible to realize that God cares deeply about his reputation. 

For example, the Bible says in Ezekiel 20:44,Then you’ll know that I am the LORD, when I will have dealt with you for the benefit of my own reputation and not according to your evil attitudes or corrupt practices” (ISV).

But God doesn’t just care about his reputation. He cares about the church’s reputation, too. This is taught throughout Scripture. As Christians, we are “little Christs” who represent Jesus on earth. We can either bring him fame or shame. 

This is important for all believers, but it’s particularly crucial for those of us who lead. We must be people of integrity. The world is watching how we respond to the tests and trials in our lives. We either draw people to Jesus or repel them with our lack of integrity.

To have a ministry of integrity, make these four commitments:

Speak the truth plainly. 

The Bible tells us in James 5:12, “But most…

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What the Bible Says About the Doors in Your Life

A few years back, I spent most of the year studying the Bible’s use of the word “door.” The concept is found about 400 times in Scripture, often as a metaphor for opportunities in our lives. 

You may not realize all the doors you have before you right now. Doors can be entrances or exits. They can be a bridge to something great or a barrier. They can represent acceptance or rejection.

As I studied the concept of doors in the Bible, I made a list of over 50 lessons that God wants us to learn about the “doors” in front of us—and here are seven of those lessons:

Every door is a decision.

In the Bible, doors are metaphors for the choices we make every day. We discover early on in life that we can walk through some doors and not others. But we need to make a decision each time we see a door.

My destiny will be shaped by which doors I walk past and which doors I…

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4 Questions to Consider When Making Godly Decisions

As pastors, we’re often asked hard questions about how to make decisions. People will come to us and ask, “Can I be a good Christian and still do ___________?”

Sometimes the Bible is clear about how we should answer their questions. But many times, the issue is morally neutral—neither response is good nor bad.

So what do you do?

Here are four questions to consider when helping people make godly decisions.

Will the action be helpful?

Paul tells us that our freedom in Christ means everything is allowable, but he reminds us that not everything is beneficial. 

He writes, “‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is helpful.’ Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be brought under the control of anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 HCSB).

In that one verse, Paul gives us two tests to guide our decisions:

  • Will it make me a better person? Many things are not necessarily wrong, but they’re just not necessary. Life is too short to waste on non-essentials,…

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It’s Never Too Late for a Miracle

Every pastor needs hope. You can’t live without it. You can’t lead without it, either. And you definitely can’t just preach about hope. You need to embrace it personally.

Over the past year, you’ve likely needed to help many people in your community find hope during the pandemic. After a year of helping other people find hope in one of the most difficult seasons any of us have experienced, you may find yourself in need of hope.

So where do you find hope in the midst of pain?

You get it from the resurrection, the central event in all of history. 

Most people don’t understand hope. They think it’s just wishful thinking about the future or optimism. But hope isn’t based on what you think you can do. Hope is what you think God can do. It is based on reality. Hope says, “It’s bad; it’s really, really bad. In fact, I don’t think it’s been any worse than it is right now. But I believe God can bring us through this. I believe God is in control.”

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Three Ways to Recharge During Your Sabbath

I know many pastors who have been exhausted over the last year. Pastoring during a pandemic has brought unique challenges and new routines for all of us. And some of us are still struggling to keep up with all the changes we’ve had to navigate. 

If this is you, God has more to say about what you’re feeling right now than you might realize. In fact, God has more to say about your need for rest than he does about murder or adultery. God’s commandment to observe the Sabbath is the longest of the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:8-9 says: “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy. Work and get everything done during six days each week, but the seventh day is a day of rest to honor the Lord your God. On that day no one may do any work: not you, your son or daughter, your male or female slaves, your animals, or the foreigners living in your cities. The reason is that…

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Managing Your Mind for More Effective Ministry

Your mental health is a critical part of your effectiveness in ministry. But it’s easy to think that your problems have more to do with your circumstances—a lack of resources, spiritual apathy in your church and community, or a personal struggle you’re facing—and less to do with how you think.

But the truth is, God is far more interested in changing your mind than your circumstances. We want God to change our circumstances and take away the pain and sorrow around us. Those issues are important, but God wants to first deal with what’s going on in you.

Paul tells us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).

Nothing will change in your life or your ministry unless you change how you think. 

Why is mental health so important?