Content with Discontentment

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We millennials are not a very content lot. We’re the kind that like to stage protests each weekend because we don’t get our way. We’re known as world travelers and major-switchers and job-hoppers who have trouble settling down.

But then again, the older generations aren’t terribly content either. They get upset if any bad press comes out about a person they like or if their views are not held by everyone else. They never can get their “dream house” or “dream job.”

Let’s face it – humans are not very content creatures. I’ve always known this is an area I especially struggle with, but recently the Lord seems to be bringing it back to the forefront of my mind.

In my short life, I’ve moved all over this country to all sorts of towns in all sorts of houses, but I’ve never been fully satisfied with any place.

I’ve been in all sorts of churches, had all sorts of jobs, been friends with all sorts of people…and yet I’ve never been content!

I think I get to a place where the grass is green but every time I get there, it looks greener somewhere else.

Such is life…a series of moves toward fields of green and yet always finding myself in a field of brown.

Why do we humans always find things so unsatisfying? Why do the people who seem to have everything they could have always want still desire more – and ruin their lives to get it? Why are the magazines at the grocery store check-out full of celebrities who gained the world and yet don’t have enough?

The world understands this discontentment. In a song from the hit musical Wicked, Glinda laments that she has gotten everything she’s always wanted…but still isn’t happy.

“…Getting your dreams,
It’s strange, but it seems
A little – well – complicated.
…that joy, that thrill
Doesn’t thrill you like you think it will…
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true –
Well, isn’t it?”

It’s not just Glinda who speaks to common human discontentment. C.S. Lewis wisely observes what may be causing this universal syndrome –

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why we’re all so discontent. That’s why no matter where I go, I’m not content. That’s why no matter how many friends I have, I don’t have enough. That’s why no matter how much food I eat, I always want more (or maybe I just need to go on a diet).

Nothing in this world ultimately satisfies. No amount of fame or money or power fills us up. That’s the problem with our human dreams – they either get crushed or they get fulfilled…and we still feel crushed!

Over coffee with a friend of mine of late (a millennial), he rehearsed how a really healthy dream of his was crushed by someone else. And then stomped further into the ground by another friend, leaving him hurt, bitter, and angry.

But the Lord worked in him so that he actually approached these people and apologized for his bitterness. After recounting this to me, he sat back in his chair – I’ll never forget it – and said simply, “And now…I am content.”

Content? Dude, you were just betrayed. Stabbed in the back. Had your heart crushed! How can you be content?

I thought long and hard and tried my very best to do the same – sit back in my chair and look at my life and say, “I am content.” And I thought I was doing pretty well – until the Lord revealed a key area where I’ve been complaining! Oops…

But how can any of us humans sit back and say that we’re content, when so many of our dreams get crushed or end up being unsatisfying?

I think it’s because we see the truth in Colossians 3:1-4:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Look to where Christ is. Look beyond this world. Look to Heaven. Why? Because you died – and your life is now hidden with Christ. In fact, HE IS YOUR LIFE. If He is your life, you won’t long for things in this world. You will find in Him all you need.

He ultimately satisfies. No one else does. It’s a simple concept – but oh, so true and comforting!

Millennials, getting your Master’s and getting a nice-paying job in a big city will NOT satisfy you. Xers, getting that promotion and having seventy grandchildren will NOT satisfy you. Boomers, retiring early and playing golf will NOT satisfy you.

But Jesus will.

It’s not wrong to wish life turned out differently. It’s not wrong to be discontent from time to time with the futility and “vanity” of this world (see Ecclesiastes).

In fact, you’re guaranteed to be discontent in this world. But instead of letting that discontentment drive you to complain, let it drive you to seek something beyond this world that can make you content even with your discontentment.

His name is Jesus.

Take the advice of John Piper as recorded in a recent blog post (that nearly brought me to tears):

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Embrace the life you have. Sit daily with Jesus. Lean back in your chair and say, “I am content…with You.”

-M@

Moms Make the Best Mentors

 

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Moms are pretty fantastic. I highly recommend them.

Especially mine – she’s incredible. And my awesome mother-in-law too. The very best of the best!

You know why moms are so awesome? Because for almost everyone on the planet, the #1 mentor in their life has been their Mom.

Think about it – what makes a good mentor?

Somebody who does life with another. Somebody who goes to every game, every concert, every graduation. Somebody who throws themselves at a person to seek to grow and mature them. Somebody who gives up countless hours to do acts of service for them. Somebody who loves them no matter what and never stops praying and pursuing if they wander away.

That’s what makes a good mentor. And that’s what moms are!

No one has gone to more concerts and ceremonies for me than my Mom. No one has spent more time eating with me – from the time she had to spoon-feed me to the times she still has my wife and me over for Sunday lunch.

No one has been a bigger fan of me. Probably no one has prayed more for me. Probably no one has admonished me more when I strayed.

My Mom is my mentor. And if you stop and think about it, your mom probably was too.

And yet sometimes, this “mentoring” of moms can be a negative when they try to over-protect their children from every slightest danger. But I have found that the best moms – mine included – will let their kids explore far and dream big and make bold prayers for them and see them answered. Even if it pains them in the process.

Think of some biblical Moms. Think of Hannah, Samuel’s Mom, who prayed long and hard for a son. But when God finally gave her one, she willingly gave him entirely over to the Lord. Yet, she didn’t give up on him. Year by year, she brought him a “little robe” to wear (1 Samuel 2:19).

Think of Mary. She had no need to “mentor” her son (Him being the Son of God and all). And yet she was always there for her Son. At one point, she seemed to try to call Him away from ministry (see Matthew 12 – she was perhaps thinking of the time it was prophesied that a “sword” would pierce her own soul), and yet at the end she quietly watched Him suffer and die on a tree. The little baby she once held was now dying for the sins of the world.

Moms are a big deal to God. They are a big part of His plan for discipleship. It’s no wonder that so many heroes of the Bible and church history were greatly influenced and even brought to Christ by their mothers. It’s little surprise that so many influential people attribute their mother as the one who influenced them the most.

It’s no shock that the Apostle Paul himself would compare his own discipleship endeavors with being a mother. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 describes Paul’s gentleness with the Thessalonians like a mother with her nursing child. He travailed for the Galatians like a mother in a labor (4:19).

Mentoring is a lot like mothering because mothers make the best mentors.

So thank the Lord for godly mentors in your life. But when you do, never forget who was probably the best, most loyal, most faithful mentor ever – your own mother.

Thanks, Mom!

Mentoring Messy Millennials

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An interesting comment was posed to me on the “inter-generational panel” that my Dad organized for our church’s Men’s Retreat –

“I understand the importance of mentoring the next generation. But the millennials I’ve tried to invest in seem arrogant and always reject my attempts to disciple them.”

My response acknowledged the harsh reality –

“Yes, there certainly are a lot of flaws with my generation. Including great arrogance and rejection of authority.”

Let’s face it – for all our pleas for discipleship, we millennials are hard to disciple. We may desire inter-generational relationships and at the same time reject the older people who try to reach out to us. I’ll admit, it’s hard to mentor millennials. We’re kinda a mess. As I wrote in an earlier post, we’re the “Jerk Generation.”

But my response didn’t end there –

“And while it’s true that we should try to invest in those who are willing to be invested in…we also know that we are abundantly thankful God didn’t use that reasoning with us. He didn’t look for those willing and eager to embrace Him. He reached out into the lives of people who had rejected Him and wanted nothing to do with them. Since God chose to invest in us, who spurned His love, we should choose to invest in those who spurn our efforts to invest in them.”

Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite so eloquent during the actual moment, but I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since then. Especially when confronted in my own life with people who didn’t want me to invest in them. People who took advantage of my kindness. People who don’t listen to my advice and never change no matter how many times I tell them.

People I want to give up on.

But I can’t. Because Christ never gave up on me when I sinned the millionth time. He never abandoned me when I rejected time with Him for time with Facebook, movies, or worse yet, immorality. He stuck with me.

And that should motivate me to stick with the millennials I’m investing in. Even when they’re a big mess.

Yes, we should invest in those who seem to be interested. But at the same time, we should not reject those who reject us. We must be willing to throw ourselves at even the most messy and unmotivated people

That’s what Paul did. No, not in his relationship with Timothy (who seemed very open to discipleship). But in his relationship with his “troubled child” church – Corinth.

Both letters to this city are full of Paul’s gracious reprimands for what should have been obvious problems. 1 Corinthians confronts the church about letting a man who committed incest get away with it, dividing up into factions, and even denying the resurrection of the body!

As if that was nothing, his second letter had to confront something even worse for Paul personally. As you read the book, it becomes apparent that Paul was writing to people who had rejected him. False teachers had convinced them that Paul himself was a swindler, out to steal their money and promote himself. In fact, they questioned Paul’s apostolic authority entirely!

Talk about a punch to the gut. Paul had spent a lot of time with this church. He had personally invested in many of them, telling them about the Gospel and teaching them patiently how to apply it to their lives. And now they were treating him like dirt!

So what did Paul do? Give up on them? After all, they’re not worth it. If they don’t love him, he won’t waste his time on them. He’ll go and focus his efforts on churches that actually care about him. The Ephesians were always nicer to him anyways…

Quite the opposite, actually! Paul doubles down on these messy people. He won’t abandon them to heresy or sin. He boldly confronts them, yet the whole tone of the letter is that of a father with a wayward child.

In fact, Paul proves how much he loves this jerk church in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13. He tells them that he had great evangelistic opportunities in Troas, but abandoned them. Why? Because he was so concerned about the Corinthians and how they were responding to the letter he sent them through Titus. He had to leave sharing the Gospel in Troas to find Titus because he was so worried about them!

Wow. What love for messy people. But I love the way he sums up his care for them toward the end of the letter.

2 Corinthians 12:15 could be called the Christian mentor’s motto.

“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”

Such is the life of those who choose to invest in others, especially the messy and often rude millennial generation.

So, to answer the question raised by the person trying to invest in millennials but getting rejected…

Welcome to mentoring. Join the club.

Join me and Paul. In fact, join God Himself who lavishly loves those messy people who reject Him. People like you and me.

Easter – A Ceasefire in the Worship Wars

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I love Christmas music. I start listening to it sometime early fall (don’t shoot me!).

But I also love Easter music. And I feel like it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but when it comes to New Testament emphasis, the resurrection of Jesus Christ seems to be WAY more important. Our music should reflect that.

Maybe one reason it doesn’t is because there are far more “contemporary” resurrection music than Christmas. Maybe we can’t emphasize it in our worship services because so many of the songs are embroiled in controversy.

Brothers, these things ought not be.

A Ridiculous Controversy

Imagine my wife and mother are planning a birthday party for me (hint, hint, it’s coming up in a month, Mom and Carissa!). But all along the way while they plan it, they keep arguing over what they should do at the party. They can’t agree on the type of cake – “I like carrot cake,” says Mom. “But I like red velvet!” argues my wife. They can’t agree on the color of the balloons.

“I like blue!” “No, green!”

How ridiculous! If I found out about it. I’d be a little peeved. No offense, but who cares which color they prefer. It doesn’t matter what type of cake they personally enjoy. It’s MY party – they should pick colors and cake that I would like (FYI, I like green and red velvet)!

Similarly, it’s ridiculous that we are celebrating the RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS, and yet arguing over what tempo the music is! We’re celebrating the day Christ conquered sin and death once for all – and yet we can’t agree on whether we should use organ or guitar.

Generation vs. generation. Pew vs. pew. Church vs. church. Culture vs. culture.

No offense, but WHO CARES what kind of tempo or music style or instrument YOU prefer. This is the Sunday of the year we focus on Jesus our Savior (who, by the way, DIED FOR US!). It doesn’t matter our preferences! All that matters is what HE cares about. We’re worshiping HIM after all. But too often all we end up doing is worshiping ourselves and our preferences.

By the way, I’m pointing the finger at both sides. And I’m pointing the finger at myself!

This past week, at my university we had a singspiration focused around Easter. I found myself standing there singing…nit-picking the song selection! Oh, I don’t know this song. Oh, this song is old. Oh, I like this song normally but the style is not what I like. On and on my thoughts ran.

I felt convicted. Here I had tried to piously look like I was celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but in my heart I was judging. That’s not worship. At least not worship of God. It’s worship of self!

Resurrection over Preferences

That service was a combination of new songs and old. And that’s probably what my church will have tomorrow. Some I will really like. Others won’t be my “jam.”

But who cares! Maybe your church sings too many “contemporary,” modern songs for your taste. Maybe your church is stuck on the organ and hymnbook.

I have one request for you and myself. Don’t focus on your preferences tomorrow in the service. Focus on the Savior.

Let’s make Easter Sunday a day of ceasefire for our worship wars.

A Beautiful Harmony

On Facebook, someone posted this: “Give a *single line* of a hymn that encapsulates what Christ accomplished on the cross. Go.”

The comments were beautiful.

Old songs with timeless truths – “No condemnation now I dread – Jesus and all in Him is mine!” “When I survey the wondrous cross…” “Jesus paid it all!” “At the cross where I first saw the light…”

New songs mixed in: “No guilt in life, no fear in death.” “Death has died. Love has won – hallelujah!” “Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table, Jesus thank You!” “Love has won. Death has lost!”

Young people. Old people. Boomers. Millennials. Fundamentalists. Hipsters.

All of these people coming together to share their favorite line encapsulating the redemption.

That’s how Easter should be! Not a day for bickering in heart or around the dinner table about a song chosen. Not a day to confront your music pastor about the volume.

This day is not about us. It’s about Him. So long as the songs properly and reverently worship the risen King, let us sing with all our might! Wherever in the world we may be…

Our brothers and sisters in Africa will gather in small village churches and beat on drums as they dance and sing to the resurrected Jesus.

Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East will gather in small rooms, fearful for their lives and yet still exuberantly singing with what instruments they can find.

Our brothers and sisters in the South will be singing with Southern drawl, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!”

Our brothers and sisters in inner-city churches will burst forth with, “Hallelujah for the Cross!”

Our brothers and sisters in rural Ohio will be all smiles as they sing, “Up from the grave He arose!”

And all of it will be sweet in the ears of our Savior, who is risen and ascended and seated at the right hand of God!

Let’s sing!

 

Let’s join with the Apostle Paul, who had to confront his own “worship war” in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 14. But notice how the topic suddenly shifts in chapter 15 to something Paul can’t help but write about – the resurrection of Christ. And notice how he ends – with what seems to be a song! A song that he and all the Corinthian believers – even with all their problems and misuse of tongues and spiritual gifts – a unified song they could all sign together two thousand years ago…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Let’s join that ancient song. And at least for a day, let’s have a worship war ceasefire.

When Your Mentor Ascends into Heaven

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Sometimes the best way to mentor someone is just to get out of the way.

You can retire. You can move away. You can resign from that position. You can sit in the back row instead of behind the pulpit.

Or, you can ascend into Heaven via a whirlwind.

That’s what Elijah did. He is perhaps one of the greatest examples of a mentor in all of Scripture. We’re going to take the time on this blog to look at a number of mentor/mentee relationships in Scripture, and we’ll start with Elijah and Elisha, the two often-confused prophets to Northern Israel in the reign of Ahab and his sons.

I love Elijah. He’s a raw, gritty guy – hairy with a leather belt, he is described. He’s the kind of guy who grew up in a rough part of Israel and was probably used to a solitary life, especially as the unpopular prophet of Yahweh in an era of Baal.

But even Elijah gets lonely. Following his success on Mt. Carmel, he’s threatened by Queen Jezebel and runs into Sinai. There, the prophet of God complains that he’s the only halfway-decent fellow in the whole kingdom. God corrects him by pointing out that there are seven thousand others who haven’t given into Baal worship yet. Elijah was never that good at math…

But notice what else God tells Elijah in his moment of depression – He commanded him to go anoint three people: Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his replacement. God said these three guys would wipe out Baalism.

How many of those guys did Elijah anoint to their positions? Well, look a few verses later in 1 Kings 19 and you’ll see he at least did the last one – his own replacement, a young man named Elisha.

But what about Jehu and Hazael? It seems Elijah never got around to them. Elisha, his mentee, anoints Hazael in 2 Kings 8 and sends a “son of the prophets” to anoint Jehu in 2 Kings 9. This is all after Elijah’s death – er, his assumption into Heaven.

What’s up with that? Was Elijah slacking off? Was he sipping lemonade in Jezreel, confronting Ahab about Naboth’s vineyard when he should’ve been on a flight to Damascus to have words with Hazael?

We can’t be certain. Maybe Elijah disobeyed. Or maybe he never had the opportunity to do so. Maybe God’s plan was for Elijah to train Elisha so he could do it. And then Elisha could train an assistant who could finish it with anointing Jehu. Three generations.

We see in this overlooked account a principle for mentoring – sometimes, those you mentor will be more successful and do greater things than you do.

And that sometimes hurts. But it shouldn’t – it should be cause for rejoicing!

Elijah never got to see the overthrow of the worship of Baal. He never got to see the death of Jezebel. In fact, he never even got to anoint the guy who would run over Jezebel with his chariot (Jehu)!

Instead, he got to train his replacement. His replacement got to see Baal blown to bits out of Israel. His mentee got to do greater works than he did – multiply food, summon she-bears, heal leprosy, etc.

Do you think Elijah was up in Heaven pouting that he never got to do that cool stuff? That he never got to see his work come to fruition? No, I’m sure he rejoiced even more that Elisha had found that the “Yahweh, the God of Elijah” was present with him as well – and powerful!

Recently, a lot of guys I’ve spent time with have “grown-up.” They’ve taken positions that I once held. They’ve gone beyond anything I did. And what sometimes hurts the most, they’ve made all those things way better and been more successful than I ever could have done.

And that hurts my pride. But at the same time makes me proud.

Because it was never about me to begin with! When I go up to Heaven (hopefully by a whirlwind!), I want people to speak more of the “God of Matthew” than about me. Because anything I do, anything those I mentor do, can only ultimately be done by Yahweh.

So I’m going to get out of the way. I’m not going to try to maintain power. I’m going to train a replacement and let him take over. I’m going to let him become more awesome and more popular than I. Rather, I’m going to let God receive even more of the credit as He uses the next generation. I’m going to praise Him more for working in their lives than complain about how He never did that for me. That’s the way the church should work.

May I be the kind of mentor who knows how to get out of the way and watch God do even greater things with the next generation.

Real Christianity

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We millennials want the “real deal.” We want real coffee and real free-range beef and real gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free cardboard to eat.

Okay, we’re a little weird.

We’re a generation who hates the fake, but we sure do engineer “fake” profile pictures of ourselves on our social media. We decry the lies of politicians and yet so easily fall for the delusions of “fake news.”

When it comes to Christianity, we say we hate the fakers or pretenders of prior generations who put on a suit and tie on Sunday and yet live like Jesus means nothing on Monday as they eat, talk, and act just like the unsaved. And yet, we do the same things, indulging in the sins of our generation (which are many).

Where is the reality? Where is the substance? Where is real Christianity?

I know one place it is – Detroit, Michigan. I spent Spring Break here, touring the city through the eyes of inner-city church planters and pastors.

The pastors and Christians up here are not fake. It’s been a huge encouragement…and a big rebuke.

I’m sick of seeing people who pretend to love Jesus but by their lives obviously do not. I’m sick of being that person myself!

I love to meet people who truly love Jesus. People like the ones up here, of all generations, who gather together in the rough parts of town. Who sit around discussing their various unsaved friends and how they can strategize with others to reach them.

How rarely we talk about such things in my sphere. The older generations preach about it, and the younger generation complains about how we’re not doing it – but is anyone actually doing anything?

Is anyone actually accomplishing the Great Commission?

I love how one of the pastors up here explained the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

The command of the passage is to MAKE DISCIPLES.

Not “go” (a participle in Greek), which is the context of this command. Jesus assumes we have “gone” into the world ever since he launched the church out of Jerusalem like a flaming arrow in the first century, spreading the Gospel fire around the Roman Empire. We too have “gone” to the world into our various workplaces and neighborhoods (though we could all go further and meet more unsaved people).

But the central command is simply to MAKE DISCIPLES. That’s not a quick-fix, Bible-Belt-strapping thing.

In Detroit, it looks like a Christian having to call an ambulance for a lady who will later curse them out. Or being threatened with a drugged-up new believer who tries to kill them in his delirium.

And yet after hearing about and seeing such things, it’s easy to get on a “spiritual high” up here where things are “real” only to miss out on the reality going on in the Bible Belt. Things may look a little different, but drug addicts and hurting people – indeed, unsaved people in general – are everywhere in this world. The opportunities to make disciples is endless.

But how do we do that? How do we make disciples? Jesus gives two simple processes after the initial command.

  1. Baptize the new converts. This is the important first step. This brings them into the fellowship of a local church for accountability and discipleship. You cannot disciple new believers outside the context of the local church, which makes church-planting so important.
  2. Teach them to obey everything Jesus taught. Notice He does not command us simply to teach them everything He taught, as if we just need to teach a bunch of facts to new believers. As if we just need to have them memorize a bunch of key verses and then they are discipled. Doctrine is huge, but the Bible always connects doctrine to doing. So we teach these new believers to OBEY in day-to-day life what Jesus taught.

There you have it. That’s real Christianity. Churches who do this are real. Christians who do this really love Jesus. It’s simple…but oh so hard!

But what if I go to a church that doesn’t seem to have much time for these things? That’s no excuse for us. To you (and me), let me challenge:

  1. Realize that the teenagers within your church and even freshmen college students ARE the new believers. Odds are that anyone under 20 is a new believer in some sense, even if they’ve been saved for fifteen years. In fact, most of us millennials are still baby Christians (some of us are in the “terrible twos”). We need a lot of discipleship.
  2. Stop complaining about how the church isn’t “real” and start acting. You may not be a pastor. You may not have a chance to teach or preach or even sing a special. But there is nothing stopping you from growing the body of Christ. There is no lack of opportunity to be involved in ministry because there is no lack of unsaved people in this country, from Detroit to Greenville. So GO – make disciples in your city. It’s easy, especially for we millennials, to complain about how the church isn’t real. It’s far harder to be real in our own lives and obey the Great Commission.

Matthew 28 is the basis for mentoring and discipleship. In fact, according to Jesus in this passage, making disciples is our whole mission on this planet. We don’t have time for complaining or warring between generations.

It’s time to make disciples.

Does it sound too ambitious? Too dangerous? Too messy to get involved in people’s lives? Too heart-breaking?

That’s why Jesus ended the commission with these words.

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Amen.

Come and See

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“How did you meet your wife?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that in the past three weeks. (Yes, I got married. That is, Matt got married. Not Caleb – he just got a dog, which is not the same thing as a wife.) It seems everyone wants to know how the two of us met. It’s a pretty interesting story, and I must admit, I don’t mind sharing it.

Here’s a more important question though – “How did you meet your Savior?”

How did you come to know Jesus, the Son of God? It’s a different answer for each one of us. Some, like myself, were led to Christ at a young age, perhaps through a pastor’s message or parent’s talk. Others came to Christ later, maybe through a friend, spouse, or family member. Others perhaps got saved by simply reading the Word of God or a tract or falling under conviction in a service.

However it happened, one thing is true for all of us: there was a moment we became followers of Jesus. Or you could say, we became “disciples” of Jesus.

That’s where we get a word we use often on this blog – “discipleship” or “discipling.” Sometimes we call it “mentoring” or “life on life relationships.” That’s what this blog is really all about, particularly in the area of intergenerational discipling. And that will never change.

But this year, we want to get into a deeper discussion of what that actually looks like BIBLICALLY. You know our opinions on certain practical matters. But recently I was hit with this question – what does the Bible actually say about discipling and mentoring? What does it command? What do healthy intergenerational relationships look like according to Jesus?

In 2017, we at the Church Accords want a lot less opinions and a lot more Bible.

So let’s dive into the Bible and start with the Gospel of John. It doesn’t take us long to find discipling there. John 1, in fact!

I love that chapter. You start with the very beginning of time, eternity past, the Word with God…and end with that same God interacting one-on-one with dirty, smelly Galilean fishermen. If Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, who created all things and IS GOD, can stoop down to take flesh and disciple guys…what’s our excuse again?

Anyway, we see in the end of John 1 the various ways people become disciples. If we’re going to study what the Bible says about discipling, we should probably start at the beginning. You can’t make disciples if you aren’t one yourself. But if you are a disciple, as Mark Dever points out, you WILL be making disciples.

How does it all begin? How can someone meet Jesus?

John gives us a couple of ways.

  1. Through preaching the truth of Jesus (35-39). John the Baptist was standing with some of his guys and saw Jesus. He pointed at Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” And two of his guys left him to follow Jesus. Jesus asks them what they’re looking for. They say they want to see where He’s staying. I love Jesus’ reply – it’s one that every disciple-maker can use: “Come and see.” Some people become disciples of Jesus through hearing someone else proclaim Him as the Savior. This doesn’t diminish one-on-one relationships. In fact, preaching should always go hand-in-hand with personal conversation. The Bible puts a premium on solid, biblical preaching, but it also emphasizes discipleship. We must do both.
  2. Through someone else’s invitation (40-42, 45-51). Andrew, one of those guys from before, goes and does what every good disciple-maker should do – he brings someone else to Jesus. Specifically, his brother Simon Peter (heard of that guy?). Then a couple verses later, Philip is finding his buddy Nathanael and bringing him to Jesus. Notice what words he uses: “Come and see.” I love that! The disciple has taken up the words of his Master, inviting people to experience what he’s experienced. This is discipling!
  3. Through a personal experience with Jesus (43-44). Some people are drawn to Christ on their own. Sometimes, Christ captures someone’s heart not necessarily through a person, but through His Word and Spirit directly. Philip was approached directly by Christ and called to be a disciple. From the following conversation with Nathanael, Philip seemed to have been studying the Old Testament and knew what Moses and the prophets wrote. Maybe through his own study of Scripture, Philip’s heart was prepared for an encounter with Jesus.

There are a variety of ways people come to meet Jesus. We all have our stories. For some it’s a radical, life-jarring event where Christ drags you out of a life of sin. For others, it’s as simple as a young child’s prayer kneeling next to their Mom. Either way, a miracle has occurred! And we must never forget that. For if we realize all that Jesus has done in calling us to Himself, we will feel compelled to go out and tell others to “come and see” Jesus.

You met Jesus. Now it’s time to introduce Him to others.

Six Ways to Start Mentoring in 2017

To start the year, we have another guest post from Andrew Miller, who’s posted before. Be sure to check out his own blog.


 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. (That’s why it’s called the present.)”

A quote from one of my favorite animated movies is quite insightful.

So 2016 is history and you might say there are many things about 2017 that are a mystery (and I’m not even going to mention politics…)

There are some things that don’t have to be a mystery though. Like actually following through on resolutions for once… (I’m preaching to myself here…)

Have you made any resolutions? I’ve made a few but they’re pretty insignificant compared to my most important resolution: to invest more into my relationships this year.

I’m going to ask you the same question I asked myself: “Do you think you’ve invested enough into your relationships this past year?”

It can be a difficult question to ask and even more difficult to answer.

If your reply is, “yes I have!” that’s great! If you haven’t, there’s always room this year for improvement (hence why this year doesn’t have to be a mystery!)

No matter how you did LAST year, THIS year gives us 365 more days of opportunities to be encouraging one another.

So if you’re committed to investing in people this year but aren’t sure HOW you go about doing that, here are 6 pieces of advice that might serve you well this coming year.

1. Set the example.

Before you start investing in someone else’s life, you have to start with yourself. Make sure YOU are setting the example for what their life should look like. Are you living Christlike? Is your life a reflection of God’s grace to you? If your mentee’s life looked just like yours, would you be proud or encouraging them in their lifestyle?

The best mentoring comes not from the words you speak but from the way you live your life. We’ve all heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.” The more we hear that phrase doesn’t make it any less true.

Remember that the main idea of mentoring is “doing life together.” And that means doing life together in a God-glorifying way. And that starts with YOU.

2. Identify your mentoring opportunities.

The anxiety of finding the “right” mentee is sometimes discouraging. Not every younger person that comes along will be right for you. But there may be more mentoring opportunities out there than you think.

Start by looking around you. You don’t have to travel very far to find people around you that are in need of someone to just listen to them, to care about them. That could be at your work with one of your coworkers/employees or even at school with one of your peers or students.

However, one of the best places to start looking for people who are attempting to seek after God with all their heart is within the church. Look to your local church to find someone who would be willing to be encouraged with this mentorship. That’s one of the reasons the church exists, right? We are to be building each other up as brothers and sisters under the unity of Christ.

I also think there is a false stereotype that a “mentor” is a person of an older age. That’s usually the case due to the fact that people who have lived longer have more life experience and therefore can offer more “life advice.”

However, sometimes there exists a person who is younger that has more wisdom whether that be life wisdom or spiritual wisdom. This may happen when an individual becomes a Christian later in their life and starts seeking wisdom.

So don’t be afraid if you have a younger person giving you advice. And don’t be afraid if someone a little older than you seeks your opinion or guidance on something.

There is something we can always be learning from each other. So let’s start sharing.

3. Set aside time.

This is a type of relationship after all. Relationships take time. Sometimes they take more time than we expect or want them to, but they still take some amount of time and energy.

Sometimes developing these relationships and investing in them take sacrifice.

Be intentional.

If you don’t know this secret about relationships, I’m giving it to you now…

Relationships. Take. Work.

No matter how you slice it, they require time and commitment. Whether it’s a friendship, romantic relationship, or mentorship, you will need to plan to spend some amount of time (on a regular basis) to develop the relationship.

It’s sometimes easy to forget this. We’re all pretty busy people doing fantastic things. We get busy, have other priorities, and just lose track of time.

Even when you’re busy, however, you should still be able to find time.

What’s the loose definition of mentoring? “Doing Life Together.”

One of the greatest mentors I’ve been told about was a pastor named Tom Craig. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet him, but it is easy to see the impact he made on the people around him. He was a busy man but he still found time to invest in people.

If he was on a trip to Home Depot, he would call up one of the teens in his youth group to see if they wanted to ride along. If he was out running errands, he would be developing relationships.

Everything he did was centered around serving, developing, and growing people. Everything.

How much of our life is centered around people?

4. Have a plan.

You don’t always have to have something in mind to say as you shouldn’t plan out EVERYTHING you’re going to discuss.

However, it would be helpful at times to have a general idea of what you’re going to be studying/doing/talking about.

If you have regular conversations-over-coffee, think about what you’ll talk about. Ask yourself, “what is this individual’s greatest need right now and how can I help them?”

It may require listening to them and understanding the challenges they are facing in their life to know how you can help them.

Or if you’d like to go through a book as well, have a couple books in mind and talk to them about it.

Whatever route you choose, make sure your plan’s end goal is to grow both of you closer to God.

5. Read…lots.

We’ve heard the saying, “readers are leaders.” Not only does reading make you a better leader, but it gives you more to talk about.

Like I said in the last point, going through a book together would be VERY beneficial for both you and your mentor or mentee.

Might I suggest a book on relationships? (Relationships, a Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane)

Or even a C.S. Lewis book? (The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity)

No matter what you choose, the book should be challenging your heart and your mind.

6. Be “THAT” guy/girl.

I saw a quote the other day that really captures much of what mentoring is.

quote

Did you have someone in your life guide you to where you are now? Was there someone strengthening and encouraging you along the the way of life?

Maybe it’s time YOU give back.

Maybe it’s time for YOU to become that person in someone’s life.

Remember – it starts with you.

A Tradition Even Millennials Can Love

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Millennials are not fond of traditions. We hate it when old people get stuck in the ruts of a certain color of pew, singing out of hymnbooks, or having a certain order of service.

But sometimes our witch-hunt to destroy traditions can take us too far.

In a conversation with a millennial friend, we debated whether or not the whole Christmas season was even biblical. American Christianity seems to have embraced the culture of covetousness, materialism, and empty rituals inherited from the Catholics and pagans.

Why do we need to dedicate a whole month (or two or three) to an account found in only a couple Gospel chapters? Why don’t we do the same for the holiday celebrating the death and resurrection? Why don’t we dedicate times to reflect on His earthly life or various other aspects of salvation?

Would God really have wanted us to spend so much time focusing on Christ’s birth and use it as an opportunity to indulge in gluttony and greed?

I was sincerely curious. For years, I have been one of the most Christmassy people around. My room was always the most decorated, and I was always the first to start listening to Christmas music (I waited till October this year!). But was my obsession with the season really motivated by an ethnocentric, Westernized materialism?

Certainly, the overspending and overeating are issues we must repent of. We should find a balance between Black Friday hordes and Scrooge-ness. But I don’t think we should throw Santa out with the sleigh on this issue (though getting rid of Santa may not be a bad idea)…

God obviously enjoys holidays. In Israel’s Law, He instituted several feasts throughout the year to celebrate certain events – Passover for the Exodus, Booths for the wilderness journey, and the Day of Atonement to confess sin. What about these feasts today? Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 14 and declared that we have Christian liberty on the matter of holidays (vs. 5).

Must Christians celebrate Christmas? No. But if we are to be redeemers of our culture and have a witness in our community, embracing the positive aspects of Christmas is a great idea. Like what?

Celebrating the birth of Christ for an entire month is not too much of a focus on a small matter of Scripture. If properly studied, the birth of Christ – more accurately, the Incarnation of the God-Man – spans many, many passages.

There are countless Old Testament passages that speak of Christ’s coming. John 1 and 1 John 1 are as much Christmas passages as Luke 2! Reflect on those passages and stand in awe at the fact that “the Word became flesh.” Study the Pauline epistles for references to His Incarnation (Philippians 2 is a great place to start).

The Bible cannot help but speak about the fact that the God of the Universe became a man. And why not? It’s an earth-shattering concept! He forsook Heaven to suffer as a little baby! We could celebrate that all year round for all eternity and never fully exhaust the wonders of that truth.

I thought I knew the Christmas story after ten years of studying it. I’ve written stories about the night Christ was born and countless poems and blog posts. But every year, I still come away with something new.

This year, I was struck by how often the characters in the story are drawn to worship God because of the news of Christ’s birth. Literally, everyone is drawn to praise!

Why doesn’t the Christmas story compel us to do the same? It’s no empty tradition. It’s a time to worship Christ! If we truly celebrate the Incarnation as we should, we will come away calling, “Oh come, let us adore Him!”

It’ll also cause us to give gifts, not out of materialism, but out of genuine selflessness. Gifts that cost us something, like the Magi. Or better yet, like God who gave up His Son.

It’ll cause us not to be focused on our American traditions but on the world in need of the Gospel, from a Jewish priest to Gentile sages. The shepherd’s encounter with baby Jesus led them to want to “make known” to all what the angels had “made known” to them.

It will cause us to reach out to the poor and needy, since our Savior was born in poverty, without even any room in a guest house for Him.

Christmas can be a time of great spiritual growth and evangelistic drive to the needy. Or it can be a time of empty traditions and ethnocentric materialism. You decide.

I call on millennials to spend less time wanting to disregard a good tradition and more time in redeeming it for the glory of God and the worship of the One born King of the Jews!

Merry Christmas from The Church Accords!

Building Relationships in the Busiest Time of Year

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Welcome to the Christmas season – like it or not.

Welcome to lots of stress, little time, and a fair amount of whining. The schedule is packed with activities as the stomach is packed with pounds.

So where’s the time for mentoring? When can we possibly squeeze in some discipleship? We hardly have time for our wives and kids – how can we find time to invest in some needy person this holiday season?

Here’s a few practical tips for finding time for discipleship during the Christmas season – or during any busy time.

1. Start at Home.

You won’t be an effective mentor if you’re not an effective parent or husband. You can disciple a young-married guy to spend time with his wife, but it will be words of hypocrisy if you aren’t doing it yourself. You can’t disciple guys to respect parents if you have a horrible relationship with yours. You can’t preach proper parenting if you never spend time with your kids. Your mentee will see right through you.

So don’t sacrifice time with family for time with mentees. This doesn’t mean to forsake your disciples entirely – maybe you can find a way to do both in balance. Maybe invite your mentee to join you on a family outing. Sometimes his seeing how you treat your family is better inspiration than hours of time and gallons of coffee.

Besides, your greatest “mentees” will be your wife and kids. Be sure you are discipling them effectively before expanding to others.

2. Don’t Do by Yourself What You Could Do with Another.

Going to buy a tree? Going shopping for your wife? Going on a mid-afternoon peppermint mocha run? Text a young guy to tag along. Teach him how to shop for a woman (no easy feat!). Show a young-married girl how to pick out food for Christmas dinner. Show her how to find the best deals on toys. Spend a few extra shekels on buying them a chestnut praline latte (I’ll take a grande!).

Sometimes you can learn more by just accompanying someone on a task than you can by listening to their advice.

Here’s a key fact: you have to eat. And oftentimes, lunch break isn’t long enough to go home. So instead spend it with a young coworker or someone from church who works nearby and needs some advice.

3. Use the Busyness as a Tool for Discipleship.

You aren’t the only busy and stretched one out there. Odds are, the person you’re investing in is also pretty stressed. Use the crazy season as a tool for showing how to maintain “peace on earth” from Christ in a packed season.

Be the example! They are looking at you. If they see you panicking and freaking out, they will do it themselves. Show them how they can shine like a Christmas light in a dark world.

Show them the attitude of the humbly-born Christ as you celebrate His birth.