Discipleship Posts

RickNotes: The Anatomy of a Disciple

I have been asked by countless people, “How would you summarize The Anatomy of a Disciple?” Here is how I might describe it to someone:

  1. Most Christians hear bits and pieces about the Christian life from sermons, books, blog posts, Facebook chatter and the like, but few could ever describe the dynamics of the Christian life. All of the things people hear and read about the Christian life are like puzzle pieces. The Anatomy of a Disciple is the box top that shows how all the pieces fit together into a beautiful, wonderful mosaic.
  2. God is working to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, to become like Him, to become mature like He is mature. He is changing us, more and more, to be like Him.
  3. All the change in the life of a Christian begins with God initiating that change. It continues with God sustaining that life change, and God will complete it. It is so arrogant for us to think we can make ourselves like God. That is Satan’s aspiration: to make himself like the Most High God. God is the life-change agent, not us.
  4. God is working to change us, not to just modify our behavior so we will look and act more like Him. He is truly changing us at the core of our being to be more like Him, from the inside out.
  5. God begins by changing our hearts to be more like His heart. The heart is the seat of the essence of our being. It is the taproot that determines who we really are. It is the home of the Holy Spirit for all believers. God is working on our hearts so we will increasingly become more Humbly Submitted to Him as the Lord and Master of our lives.
  6. God is also changing our minds, through His Word and His Spirit, to increasingly have His perspective and understanding – of Him and ourselves, the world around us, life as He designed it, how we are different from Him and how He is changing us day by day. The heart and the mind form the core, the engine of all other life change. The core is the focus of God’s work to change us to be more like Him.
  7. As God is changing our hearts and minds to be more like Him, it will eventually start changing the choices we make in life. We will increasingly become more Sacrificially Generous, like Him, more Morally Discerning, like Him, and more Relationally Healthy, like Him.
  8. Also, as God is changing our hearts, minds and choices, that will impact our compassions for others in the world around us. We will increasingly become more of an Intentional Blessing to others in the world, like Him, more Culturally Engaged in the world, like Him, and practice more Inclusive Community, like Him.
  9. So if God is doing all this in our lives, what role do we play? Our role is not to replace what God is doing with our own efforts. What God does call us to do and helps us to do is to pay attention to where He is working in our lives and then get in step with Him and what He is doing. This is an act of faith – that God knows what He is doing.

That is the essence of The Anatomy of a Disciple. God is changing you to be more like Him in your heart, your mind, your choices and your compassions. Your role is to look for and pay attention to what God is doing in your life and get in step with Him. And when you mess up – and you will, because we all do – you admit it, lift your eyes up to see what He is doing in your life, and get in step now. That is the life of a disciple who is becoming more like their Master.

Being a Friend When Someone Has Experienced a Loss

Being_A_Friend

When Judy and I lost our 5 ½-year-old son Kyle, we were shocked and numb for several weeks. During that time, and through many conversations with others in the last 37 years, we have learned some of the best – and worst – practices for being a friend to someone who has experienced loss.

Loss comes in many shapes and sizes. From losing a child to losing a spouse, through death or divorce, from losing your health to losing a job, all these are forms of loss that call for our friendship to step up to another level of care and compassion.

As we think about being a friend, let’s think about what we go through in our heads and hearts as we contemplate helping someone who has lost. We want to do something that will really help, but are at a loss as to what that might be. What would really help is to undo the loss in the first place, but in most cases that is impossible. So what do we do that would be meaningful? We must resist the temptation to think that anything we say will make them feel better or “fix” the situation.

Within a week of losing Kyle, we had comments from well meaning friends who were trying to use words to make it all better. We heard everything from, “Well at least he’s in heaven” to “God must have known that he would have made your life miserable later on and was sparing you that grief.” We were glad for the assurance that our son was in heaven, but we would rather have had him with us right now. And we would have much rather have had a son, alive, even if he did make some bad choices later in life that would have been painful for him and us.

Words can bring some comfort in the midst of the pain, but they can never fix the pain one suffers in loss. Comforting words may include “I’m so sorry” or “My heart is aching for you right now” or “If I can do anything at all, please tell me. Can I…?” Don’t take over and become a bossy cow in the person’s life, but genuinely be there for them and with them, willing to do whatever.

The two people who helped the most right after we lost Kyle were very different, but both made a real impact. One dear friend just took the initiative, went to the store and bought some diapers for Eric, another of our sons, who was 2 ½ and in the hospital fighting for his life. He too had drowned, but was able to be resuscitated. Then she offered to take Bryan, our 3 ½ year old, to her house while we stayed overnight in the hospital.

Another dear friend came to the hospital to see me in the middle of the night. I was sitting in the hallway on the floor, reliving the horrors of that day over and over in my head. And my heart was aching from the reality that I would never see our son Kyle again in this life. Andy just sat next to me on the hallway floor. He put his arm around me and we just cried together. I’m not sure he ever said a single word in over two hours. He just sat and cried with me, and his presence meant the world to me in that moment.

One of the best things you can do is be a friend who is present and cares. Not a fixer. Be one who empathizes, not one who takes over and forces your help on someone else. Be one who says little, but loves greatly. It is your love, spoken or unspoken, that will mean the most to someone in their time of loss.[1]

[1] For more on this subject, consider my book, When Life Is Changed Forever: By the Death of Someone Near.

If You’re Going to Fight…

fight

Richard C. Halverson was the Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland from 1958-1981. He served as the Chaplain of the United States Senate from February 2, 1981 until December 31, 1994.

One of my favorite quotes from this great man of God is, “If you’re going to fight…” I share this with you hoping it will challenge and encourage you as it does me.

If you’re going to fight…

Fight for the relationship – not against it!
Fight for reconciliation – not for alienation.
Fight to preserve the friendship – not to destroy it.
Fight to win your spouse – not to lose him/her.
Fight to save your marriage – not to cash it in.
Fight to solve the problem – not to salve your ego!

If you’re going to fight, fight to win…not to lose!

Lasting relationships are not negotiated…they are forged. That means heat and pressure. It is commitment to a relationship which sustains it…not pleasant feelings.

Treat a relationship as negotiable – it is easily lost.
Consider it non-negotiable – a way is found to make it work.

Authentic intimacy comes only through struggle.

How often in our marriages do we start thinking of and treating our spouse like our enemy rather than our partner for life? The way we communicate and treat each other can easily devolve into trying to win a battle. But consider, every time I win a battle with my wife, that makes her a loser. And in the end, that makes our marriage lose. We are going to fight sometimes. But what I am reminded of by Richard Halverson is that we ought to fight in a way that makes our marriage a win not a loss.

So, if you’re going to fight, fight to win…not to lose!

Meet Socratease

Basic CMYK

The famous philosopher Socrates (pronounced saw-kruh-teez) lived in Greece from about 470-400 B.C. We actually have little to nothing written by him personally, but we have many stories about Socrates through four other philosophers, mainly Plato and Aristotle. Socrates is consistently portrayed in their stories as a particularly skillful teacher who took dialogue and questions to an all-new level of effectiveness.

If Socrates were alive today, dealing with current issues and events, he would assuredly use his teaching method to make people think more reasonably and logically about their beliefs. His dialogic questioning, salted with irony and sarcasm, would surely bring a smile to many a face, while making us think deeper and more profoundly about life and God and many other issues.

Since Socrates is not alive, and I don’t want to put words and beliefs into the ancient philosopher’s mouth, I am creating a modern day caricature to employ his same method of teaching to today’s world. Meet Socratease[1] and get to know him in the following interview.

Bob (the Interviewer): Good afternoon, Socratease.

Socratease: Is it?

Bob: Well, yes I think it is a good afternoon. I was just trying to be friendly.

Socratease: So how do you determine if something, like this afternoon, is good or not?

Bob: Well, I’m not sure I’ve thought about that before exactly. I guess since nothing bad has happened today, it must be a good afternoon.

Socratease: So you’re saying good is the absence of bad?

Bob: Well, I guess so.

Socratease: And I suppose you would define bad as the absence or opposite of good?

Bob: Sounds like I really haven’t thought this through very well. How would you define good and bad?

Socratease: It seems they are relative ethical terms the way we use them today. But relative to what?

Bob: I’m not sure I understand your question.

Socratease: Good and bad, the way I hear people using those words today, speak to the ethical value of something or someone. But what if I think you are bad but you’re friends think you are good? What was the basis for me saying you are bad, and what was the basis of your friends saying you are good? What is the standard for saying anything is good or bad?

Bob: Isn’t that relative to the person and situation? Depending on how someone looks at something.

Socratease: So what you are saying is each individual person determines what is good or bad, based on their own, individual perspective.

Bob: Well, yes. I mean, that’s what everyone I know says today. Everything is relative.

Socratease: So let me make sure I understand you. If I as an individual think you are bad, and I think your badness is deserving of death, then it is good if I kill you?

Bob: That’s crazy. Of course not! You’ve got to take the whole of society into account as well.

Socratease: So it’s really not the individual that determines good and bad, but each individual society?

Bob: I guess that right.

Socratease: That’s interesting. That being the case, the German society of the 1940s, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, would have been correct in killing over 6 million Jewish people from all over Europe, because they as a society determined Jewish people were bad. Is that right?

Bob: That’s crazy talk. No, that’s not right. It can’t just be individual societies that determine good and bad; it must be the human society as a whole.

Socratease: So the human society of the world determines good and bad?

Bob: Yes, that must be right.

Socratease: You have red hair, Bob. Are you saying that if the human community could somehow agree on something and decided red-haired people were bad, and needed to be eliminated, that it would be good for them to kill you?

Bob: OK Socratease, it’s obvious there has to be another way of determining what is good and bad besides individual people and societies, or even the whole human society of the world. So what else is left?

Socratease: If there is no reasonable and equitable way we can determine what is good and bad as humans or societies of this world, then could there be someone beyond this world, who might be responsible for this world, who could determine that?

Bob: I don’t know, Socratease. That’s a pretty antiquated belief, there being someone like a God, who created this world and sets the boundaries of good and bad.

Socratease: So you’re saying old ideas and things are bad?

Bob: Oh, I can’t keep going on like this. My brain is getting tired.

Socratease: Your brain? Or is it your logic and beliefs that are getting tired? Have a “good” afternoon, Bob.

1 ©™ Dr. Rick Taylor, 2008.

Biblical Families: Spiritual Growth

Rick and Judy discuss what it looks like to grow spiritually as individuals and as a couple, seeking Him first in all things (Matthew 6:33). They provide some ideas about how you can find your personal rhythms and how a husband and wife can grow spiritually together.

Biblical Families: Headship

Headship from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

God designed men and women differently. So what roles should a husband and wife have in a marriage? Rick and Judy talk about what the Bible says a husband’s role of headship really means and how that looks in a healthy marriage.

 

Learning to Cherish Jesus

Cherish-Jesus

After many years of being married to Judy, I could say I loved her, truly loved her – with my words and actions. However, I did not cherish her. That was something new to me. It was new territory.

I would love her by telling her I loved her. I would love her by doing the laundry some, doing the dishes some, bringing her flowers occasionally.

But to cherish her, that was another story. Cherish involves tenderly caring for her, creating an intimate, tender atmosphere where she feels loved and cared for, where she feels very special. It’s amazing to me how much deeper and more intimate my relationship with Judy became when I started growing in my desire and ability to cherish her.

As this new world was opening up to me, I also realized that I loved Jesus, truly loved Him – with my words and actions. But did I cherish Him?

I had taught Matthew 28:18-20 many times, but the end of those verses took on new significance for me. After commissioning His disciples, Jesus says, “and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Another way of translating that is, “I am with you every step of the way.”

It humbled my heart to seek to increasingly cherish Jesus – knowing that He cherishes being with me.

Jesus has promised to be with His disciples every step of life. You and I have the incredible opportunity to walk through life with Jesus.

When you feel at a total loss or in over your head…

Remember, He too had to grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). He understands. Ask Him for help.

When you get frustrated by the religious culture all around you…

Remember, He reasoned with Jewish teachers at age 12 (Luke 2:46-47) and cast out money changers from the temple (Matthew 21:12). Seek His wisdom.

When you feel like your circumstances are impossible…

Remember, He walked on water and helped Peter back out of the water (Matthew 14:28-31). Reach the hand of your heart out to Him. He will lift you up.

When you are wrecked with fear…

Remember, He spoke and the storm was calmed (Mark 4:39-41). Share your heart and fears with Him. He cares. He can calm the storms in your life.

When you are weary to the bone…

Remember, He promised to give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30) and not to keep piling it on. Relax and rest in Him. You don’t have to do the work alone.

When you are falsely accused…

Remember, He faced His accusers with power, not words (John 19:9-11). He’s still there. Cry with Him. Count on Him and His power to sustain you.

When you are betrayed by others…

Remember, He was betrayed by all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). He will never betray you. Count on Him. He will stand with you, even all others desert you.

When your heart is hard and calloused…

Remember, He forgave Peter. He forgives you (John 21:15-19). Allow your heart to be softened and even broken by Him. He is a gentle, effective heart surgeon.

When you feel life isn’t worth living…

Remember, He felt your life was worth dying for (Mark 10:45) and He’s right here with you (Matthew 28:20). Draw near to Him. Walk with Him – every step of the way.

When you rise in the morning, walk through your day, and go to bed at night…

Remember, He’s right there with you, every step of the way.

No matter what your circumstances,
no matter how joyful or sad you are,
no matter how long you have been dealing with hard things…
Remember, He’s right there with you, every step of the way.

Remember, and never forget.

Cherish Jesus every moment you walk through life with Him.

The Courage of Caleb

Courage_Caleb

In the days of Moses the people of Israel had to make a choice. Did they have the courage to trust God, or were they going to cling to what was inadequate and detestable, but familiar? The book of Numbers tells us the story:

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites…” When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many” – Numbers 13:1-2, 17-18 (NIV)

The Lord wanted the Israelites to go see and hear and smell the land He was giving them, their new home. So Moses sent leaders out to explore the land and its people. There must have been a wave of excitement in the air as these explorers left on their journey. I’m sure there was a buzz around camp while they were gone. And surely men were posted to let Moses and the others know when the heroes returned to camp. Finally the day of their return arrived:

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along Jordan” – Numbers 13:27-29 (NIV)

What a land they saw. Flowing with cactus milk and fig honey, giant fruit, sweet and plump. But the people! The fortified cities! The huge crowds began to hiss and mumble. They did not expect this kind of a report. As the murmuring spread, the volume began to drown out the spies, until one of them spoke up:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” – Numbers 13:30-31 (NIV)

The stage was set for a showdown. Caleb, one of the spies, wanted to pack up right then and take the land that God was giving them. But 10 of the 12 spies, the overwhelming majority, said, “Impossible! They are too strong.” Caleb shouted, “We can certainly do it.” The ten retorted, “We can’t.”

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” – Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV)

The people of the community had a choice to make. That choice was not really over whether they should take the land or not. It was not over whether to go back to Egypt or stay where they were. It had nothing to do with their wives or children, or whether to replace their leader. None of these was the real choice facing the people that long, restless night in the Israelite camp.

They simply had to decide whether they were going to trust God or not. God had already told them that He was giving them this land. All they had to do was go up and accept His gift. Did they trust that God would do it? That He could do it?

There were options. They could go back to Egypt or get another human leader. But which of these alternatives could possibly help them in the distress brought on by unexpected changes in their lives?

We are faced with the same choice. God promises us a new kind of life beyond the wilderness we are in. But all too often we behave just like the Israelites who turned their backs on God, grumbling as they turned, looking for other worthless, empty things to trust in.

Are you willing to trust God when He says you should persevere through your pain? When He says that He will enable you to become a more complete person on the other side? Are you willing to accept pain and difficulty as part of God’s like changing process?

What makes the difference? The focus of faith. Are you focusing on God, or on the circumstances of life? When we keep focused on God, the circumstances have a way of fading into the background, and don’t have a chance to sap our courage to trust God.

(Portions taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor, When Life Is Changed Forever, Harvest House Publishers)

Give Thanks (And Not Just Once a Year)

Give Thanks (And not just once a year

Have you ever noticed how important giving thanks is to God? When mankind does not give Him thanks as they should, it ticks God off. Think I’m being too dramatic? Consider these words:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them… For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…. – Romans 1:18, 21 (NASB, emphasis added)

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven for they did not give thanks. Powerful words.

God deserves our thanks, and not just once a year. But what should we be thankful for?

No matter what else is true of our lives, we owe God our thanks for the very life that pulses through our veins. What did you or I ever do to earn or deserve life at all? We owe Him thanks for being able to function physically to whatever degree we can do so. We owe Him thanks for being able to think, reason and choose to whatever degree we can do so. We owe Him thanks for the people around us who are gifts from God for us to relate with. We owe Him thanks for the desire and capacity to love and be loved. Those are all gifts from God! Give thanks!

But even more than all those reasons, He has given us the free gift of Jesus, who was willing to come, live among us and die for us so we could experience both the forgiveness and new life promised to those who receive that gracious gift. For this great gift, we need to give thanks!

Not only does God deserve our ongoing thanks for what He has given us, the Scriptures also indicate we will give thanks—if we are under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit. Hmmm. Do you give thanks on an ongoing basis? If not, it is an indication that His Spirit is not leading your life.

Paul says in Ephesians that we should be, and keep on being, under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, and if we are, it will be evident in our lives. He tells us how with a series of descriptive participles. He says we will be joyful, we will be serving others and we will be “always giving thanks” (Ephesians 5:18-21, NASB).

What might that look like?

1. When you get that raise you have been hoping for, what is your first thought?

“Boy, I worked hard for that. It’s nice that they finally recognized my worth.”
OR
“Thanks, God, for giving me the ability to work and the desire to work hard. Thanks for blessing me with this raise.”

2. When you are almost in an accident, what is your first thought?

“Wow, that was close. What was that guy thinking?”
OR
“Whoa, thank you, Lord, for sparing me from what could have been a really serious situation.”

3. If you lose out on that job you thought was the perfect one for you, what is your first thought?

“You’ve got to be kidding me! How could they not hire me? I was made for that job. They really blew it.”
OR
“God, I don’t really understand this. I’m so disappointed. But God, I know you are in control. Thank you for looking out for me and for whatever job you have for me.”

A constant prayer of ours ought to be, “God, help me to be thankful. Help me to believe that you are almighty and you love me. Help me to trust you and give thanks, even when I don’t understand and it doesn’t feel good. You are good. Thank you!”

Joy Is a Choice

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The wound left by death and loss is severe.

A friend once asked, “When does it go away? When does the overwhelming pain stop?” Getting the weight of pain off our shoulders can become the preoccupation of our lives. But, unfortunately, the harder we try to get rid of it, the worse it becomes.

Pain is not the enemy of living. Death and separation cause a great deal of pain. God allows us to hurt over the loss of someone near, but for good reason. He wants us to be more complete, more of who He designed us to be, more of the people we so passionately long to be deep inside. As we grow in our understanding of the true nature of joy, as we open our hearts to the love that still waits to be given and received, as we sense the help of God’s Spirit, and as we set our priorities with eternity in view, God will use the pain we are experiencing to bring us to a place where we can live the “changed life” joyously.

In my struggle over the loss of [my son] Kyle, I have found much strength and direction and encouragement in the book of James. James, the half-brother of Jesus and senior pastor at the church of Jerusalem, wrote these words to his dispersed, hurting congregation: “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

James goes so far as to say that the trials in life are “many.” There are more of them than we can count or imagine, and they come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors. Facing the death of someone we care deeply about is one of the major trials we encounter in life.

A most remarkable phrase in these words from James is the simple word “whenever.” He does not say “if,” but “whenever” we face these potholes. Pain and suffering are a part of life. Not if, but when. Each of us who has lost someone near needs to realize that pain is not the enemy of life; rather it is a primary means God uses to help us discover a more complete, fulfilling way of living.

James goes on and says, “knowing the testing (purifying) of you faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

God wants to bless us. Do you believe that? I didn’t. I said the words, but I never really believed them. We have a perfect Father who knows how to give us the greatest possible joy in our lives. And He is willing to help us, even when we don’t enjoy or appreciate what He is doing in our lives. True joy and blessing and fulfillment for each of us is found as we live through the difficulties in a trusting, dependent relationship with God.

It is because we know that God will bring us through the difficult times that we can experience pure joy in the midst of tremendous pain. That is at the heart of God’s plan. No matter how much we may hurt over the loss of someone near, we can be free to experience joy.

 

(Taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor’s When Life Is Changed Forever; selections from Chapter 12, Harvest House Publishers)