maturing 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.

Perseverance

Perseverance

When I was a young college student, I was being mentored by a godly man, Don Anderson. We met a couple times a week and always ended with prayer. After one of our prayer times, Don paused, looked at me directly, and said, “Rick, I notice that you keep asking God for a lighter load. But God wants to give you a stronger back.” What a truth – one I desperately needed to learn.

One of the most tragic mistakes I see people in pain making is beginning to grow and then bailing out and going backward. They quit instead of finishing the course, not realizing that in doing so the pain will remain and the joy will not stay.

God promises that He will not allow us to go through more pain than we can handle. He will supply us with everything we need to go through that painful time successfully (1 Corinthians 10:13). He knows our limits. He even knows how much we can stretch in our faith to trust Him and grow in endurance – the ability to keep going even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. This is what James calls perseverance:

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything – James 1:4 (NIV)

I used to be a runner of sorts. I ran five to ten miles most mornings. It took one painfully stretching day after another to build up my endurance, but in time running became a joy. I felt I could run forever. I was happy that I had persevered through the earlier pain and developed the endurance I had. Somehow the pain of the training paled in comparison to the joy of the run. And so it is with life as God designed it.

There is a deep-seated part of us that is convinced the key to fulfillment is avoiding discomfort. What a sorrow that must be to our Father. He wants us to stop living a false and dangerous illusion. He wants us to grow up and to mature. He wants us to be able to persevere in real life.

That is what James says: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete.” We all want to be more mature. We all want to be more completely who God designed us to be. We’re not sure we can make it. But we can. We have God’s word on it.

Do not cut the process short. Hang in there. Trust God to get you through – even if you can’t see the other side of your pain. Stop fighting and resisting your heavenly Father. The pain is not evil and bad. It just hurts. There are worse things than hurting, like not growing. Learn the wisdom of hanging in there and enduring the pain – the fulfillment and satisfaction in climbing above a mountain of difficulty.

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

The Many Faces of Love: A Mother’s Love

A Mother's Love

As I write this, I am sitting in the hospital with my mom – again. This is the second time in three weeks she has had to be rushed to the emergency room and then admitted to the hospital with a critical blood infection the doctors can’t seem to get rid of.

As I watch my mom fight to live, I find my heart aching for her and my mind reflecting back on so many years of her love for me. Just the thought of her love brings tears to my eyes. I have always heard and felt her sacrificial love for me.

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, living in a small white house on John Street in Evansville, Indiana, our house backed up to a donut shop on Division Street. About 5:00am every day you could smell those donuts being made. What an alluring smell! And every Saturday morning my dad would walk those 100 steps or so to that donut shop and buy a half dozen fresh, warm donuts. He’d walk in the house and we’d sit down to a big glass of milk and two donuts each.

My mom loved donuts. In fact, she has always had a major sweet tooth. Every Saturday my mom would eat her first donut very slowly, while I wolfed down my two. Then my mom would say, “I’m not very hungry this morning. Want my other donut, Ricky?” Without hesitation I took her up on the offer and ate that third donut pronto.

I know now that being hungry or not had nothing to do with her offer of her second donut. My mom loved to see me happy and excited. She would do anything and everything she could for me – even to a fault at times. But it was always motivated by her deep love for me. I realize so much of what I know about love, I learned from my mother’s love.

From the earliest days I can recall, I have heard my mom, referred to as Nana by her grandchildren, say two things frequently: “I love you” and “I’m so proud of you.”

Even now, as she lays in her bed fighting for her life, the most common thing she says is, “I love you so much, Rick! What a blessing you are to me.”

And my heart speaks back to her, “I love you so much, Mom! I’m so blessed to have you as my mom.”

 

Note from the author: My mom went to be with Jesus last night. She is finally experiencing the complete peace and joy of being free from the pains of this life and being in the presence of God. She loved so well and was loved by so many. Thanks to all for your thoughtful words and prayers.

The Learning Curve

Basic CMYK

I fancy myself a bit of a craftsman, and I like to do projects at home, particularly projects with wood. Right now I’m building a pergola, a shade structure, on the back of our home. It is now June and I have been working on this on and off since last October.

There are many stages and aspects to building this structure the way I want. Like most projects of this type, about the time I finally figure out how to make the cuts just right is when I’m just finishing up the project. Then I don’t need that skill again for a few years and I have to go through that same learning curve all over again later. Sound familiar?

The same can be said about living life. Often we will be forced to learn a skill or work on a character area, and just about the time we start to get it, we find that it is not an issue for a long time, and then at some point in the future, the learning curve starts all over again.

The Scriptures are given to us as a guide for life. We can use the Bible like an encyclopedia to look up issues as we face them and see what the Bible has to say. Nothing wrong with that, but that is really not the intention of the Bible by design.

The Bible is a far better guide for living life when we spend regular time in it. I have found that as the teaching of the Bible has become more familiar to me, more a part of my life, the less the learning curve each time I face that next issue or decision.

The Bible is designed to be a daily reminder of who God is, who we are and how life was designed. The truths and principles that it imparts, along with the empowering Holy Spirit, can guide us as we have to make choices and will eventually shape our compassions to be more like His. But it is meant to be ongoing, not just when we feel we need it.

If we wait until we feel we need it, we are usually too late. God wants us to always be prepared for life and ministry, no matter what the circumstances, the issues or the timing. This takes ongoing and growing familiarity with His words of life in His Word of Life.

King David said, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”[1]

Life is like a project and can become quite frustrating if we have to keep paying the dumb tax of the learning curve over and again. But regular, daily time in His Word will forestall much of that, especially over time.

Can I encourage you to spend regular time in His Word – reading, thinking and praying about what you are reading? Just a few verses or a chapter a day would be a great start for some. Read it two or three times. Think about what those verses are saying. And then pray that God would give you understanding and wisdom in whatever area of life these verses touch on. You might be surprised how often that nugget of truth will come in handy, even that same day.

 

[1] Psalm 119:105