discipleship

Everyone loves the idea of compassion until it costs them. We love the idea of love until it comes to unlovable people. We think discipleship is a romantic programmatic workshop of willing people: but it’s actually messy, difficult, heartbreaking, and requires your whole life.

What they also don’t tell you is that it’s awesome. When you’re face to face, chair to chair, eye to eye with a real person, there’s nothing like seeing the lights go on, the lies disentangled, the burden lifted, the problems exposed, the trauma healed, the heart rejoicing — there is absolutely nothing that compares to the pinnacle of God’s glory in one human being discipling another. I mean really discipling them, to just love someone. That click you hear is the something-missing being filled. To love people is what you’re created to do. Once you get there, you can’t go back anymore.
—  J.S. from this post
I was talking to one of my students recently about the temptations of youthful spirituality, how when you are young you get addicted to the buzz of the worship high and then go searching for a more intense fix. You become a worship junkie. From your high school youth group on being close to God is being ON FIRE! Because God is AWESOME! That’s the temptation for youth, being trained to associate God with adrenaline and the Spirit with excitement.

What I told my student was this. What no one ever shares with you when you’re young is that Christianity is boring. No one tells you that. That Christianity, for the most part, is boring. No one tells you that Christianity is a 70 to 80 year grind in becoming more kind, more gentle, more giving, more joyful, more patient, more loving.

You learn that God isn’t in the rocking praise band or the amped up worship experience. What you learn after college is that Holy Ground is standing patiently in a line. You learn that Holy Ground is learning to listen well to your child, wife or co-worker. Holy Ground is being a reliable and unselfish friend or family member and being a good nurse when someone is sick. Holy Ground is awkward and unlikely friendships. Holy Ground is often just showing up.

Being more and more like Jesus is a million boring little things. No one ever tells you that when you’re young.
The whole problem of our life was neatly expressed by John the Baptist when he said (John 3:30) ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ This you have realised. But you are expecting it to happen suddenly: and also expecting that you should be clearly aware when it does. But neither of these is usual. We are doing well enough if the slow process of being more in Christ and less in ourselves has made a decent beginning in a long life (it will be completed only in the next world).
—  C.S. Lewis
Grace is not so much any one action or rule or attitude, but grace is more of a story about broken people being loved and healed.

Let me tell you about my first pastor. When I first came to church over ten years ago, I was a stubborn thick-headed horny atheist who was looking for hot Christian girls. I hated the sermons but I kept coming back: because there was something about this pastor.

He endured with me. I asked him tons of annoying questions about God and the Bible, but he answered them patiently. I screwed up a lot: I slept with a few girls in the church and confessed them all, but he never flinched. He called me and texted me when I never replied. He bought me lunches, dinners, books, and sent cards to my house. He spent hours praying for me. He never once lost his temper with me.

Over time, I realized how much of a jerk I was to him. I didn’t listen; I was late all the time; I got drunk and went to strip clubs on Saturday nights before strolling in hungover on Sundays; I hardly asked how he was doing. BUT: he was endlessly loving. And the grace of this man completely melted me. I’ve known him now for thirteen years, and there’s no way I could be the person I am today without him.

I remember small moments. When one day I was horribly depressed, and he wrote me a letter right in front of me. When I got out of the hospital from swallowing a bottle of pills, and he listened without judging. When I was sobbing hysterically one day and he gripped both my hands and told me, It’ll be okay. God still loves you and He will never stop.

Even now, my eyes glisten and my heart swells at his sacrifice. His grace fundamentally ripped away my selfishness and disturbed my ego. I deserved nothing and he gave me his all.
—  J.S. from this post

This verse has been on my mind lately. Paul wants us to understand that in the last days there will be times of difficulty. And those difficulties will not come from natural disasters, political decisions, disease, or famine, although those difficulties will be there also. The difficulties that Paul talks about will come from people and their attitudes.

You can probably find a description of yourself on the list, I know that I found myself. That is a symptom of our fallen conditions. But I’m not everything on this list and neither are you.

What I do notice is that this is a pretty good description of post-Christian American culture, a culture that is more than ever denying God, and that is a scary thing.

If you do come across a person or a group of people who fit this description, the instruction is clear: Avoid them.

That doesn’t mean to turn and run (though with some extremely hardened people that may be the case). It meant to not let them be an important or influential part of your life.

And of course, never stop praying.

My Friend Wants To Leave Behind Faith: What Do I Do?

afoolofhope asked:

How would you suggest one to go about discussing faith with someone who said they were raised in a strong Christian home, and growing up wanted to believe in God and all the things that go with that, but they had to “test the waters” for themselves? It seems like the conclusion they came to was along the lines of “this is good for some people, but since I can’t believe it, it’s not for me.” I want to help point them to Christ, but I’m not sure how to do so/talk with them about it.

 

My dear friend, I first want to applaud you for truly caring about your friend. It’s already a difficult task to talk about faith, and the fact that you want to talk faith with someone who doesn’t is a huge testament to your loving heart.

Here’s the hard part.

If your friend wants to leave behind their faith, there’s not a whole lot you can do.

Of course, you can continue to ask questions. Stay involved. Reach out. Invite them to church activities. Challenge their assumptions. Keep asking, “How’s life?” Be around and be near.

But in the end, each person must choose their own way. If you bring up matters of faith as a way to bring them back to “the fold,” they’ll see right through you, and suddenly they’ll feel like a project or a charity case. No one wants that. It’s hurtful. No one wants to be part of someone’s agenda for a triumphant church-victory.

More than that though, if we coerce someone with the external apparatus of persuasion, then they’re not really going to think for themselves. They might turn back to faith because you won an argument, but not because they were fully convinced in and of themselves that Jesus was the one for them.

I know this whole thing feels very urgent, because sometimes the church will pressure you into clawing back the prodigal. You might have heard, “What if they die tomorrow?” And I suppose that could be true.

Yet it’s even worse to make someone want something if they don’t want it. You can only present Christianity the best you can through the overflow of your life, and perhaps one day, they’ll come back. And if they don’t, keep loving them, and you cannot blame yourself.

 

Here’s what I’ve seen. Your friend might eventually exhaust themselves on the world and get to the end of their options. I’ve been there and I’ve seen friends get there. They’ve tried everything: gyrating strangers in the club, every cliched chemical, the vicious cycle of getting back with a bad ex. They will exhaust themselves. 

At that point, who will they turn to?

I can tell you who I did not turn to. I didn’t turn to the guilt-tripping, Bible-verse slamming, theologically correct friends who were waiting to use my comeback story. They were cool and all, but I couldn’t trust them to accept me as an individual; I was only a trophy, a sort of prop in their savior narrative. 

Instead, I turned to the ones who wouldn’t judge me. Who were always there for me. Who invited me all the time to things, even when they knew I would say no. Who had left me countless voicemails and even mailed me handwritten letters. Who didn’t drop Bible-verse bombs. Who were nice to my mother. They didn’t treat me like I was “behind” and they were “ahead.” They didn’t use Christianese phrases to trap me. They heard my venting about church. And they were there for me after I spent myself dry on the world and when I wanted something more.

They never compromised on theology. Yet I never felt uncomfortable around them. They were Jesus for me. And I hope you can be Jesus for your friend.

– J.S.

If a movement is going to start it’s going to be because of action. I don’t think there are so many unbelievers in America because they don’t hear about Jesus. I think it’s because they don’t SEE Jesus. And so many of us have gotten so good at speaking ABOUT him but actually becoming like Him? And so serious about becoming like Him that we can tell others to just look at the way I live, this is the way Jesus lived? Follow my example.
—  Francis Chan