Expert Status…

I have heard that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert. That is a lot of hours. To put it into perspective if you wanted to become an expert at guitar or piano and played for 4 hours every day it would take 2,500 days to be an expert. That is almost 7 years to reach expert status. That is no breaks, no sick days, and no vacations. 4 hours every day for almost 7 years. That also does not take into account everything you need to learn to practice the new stuff. Things like reading up on new chords, scales, or whatever. Obviously, I am not an expert (I cannot even play). But I think we get the picture. Expert status takes a drive, dedication, determination, and time. It does not happen overnight. But why am I talking about becoming an expert at playing an instrument? I am not, I just wanted to put the idea in perspective.

I do want to talk about becoming expert Christians. More specifically what it means for you to be an expert in your walk with Christ. I say your walk because each one of us should be striving for expert status in our walk with Christ. We should be the foremost leading expert (besides God Himself) on all things pertaining to our walk with Christ. If we use the 10,000-hour rule as a guide we can add in the things we are actually doing to practice our walk and see when we can expect to reach expert status.

My initial thought was “I always have the Holy Spirit in me so subtract sleep and divide.” WOW, that was simple – 588 days or 1.6 years. But then I found a problem. I don’t remember being an expert in my walk with Christ all those years ago. In fact, I am still learning things.

The Bible is not silent on this 2 Corinthians 8:7, for example, says that we should “excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge.” So it seems clear that we cannot become an expert just by existing as Christians. That would be nice but it does not seem to actually work. Well, maybe it makes a good hypocrite but that’s another story…

Instead, I want to offer three categories that I think we need to practice to help reach expert status. Also, I am going to keep the bad/good news for the end.

First up is obedience because I think a lot of the things we are supposed to practice fall into the obedience category. Giving, for example, is about obedience. Serving is another item that deals with obedience. Come to think of it the Bible is so insistent on obedience that it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. It also Jesus was obedient to the point of death. Obedience is like John says “walking as He (Jesus) walked.” That means obedience is pretty high up on the list of things to practice. So how much obedience do we need to do to reach our 10,000 hours? My guess is roughly 10,000 hours. Yeah, I don’t think we can split this one up. Sorry, it is a one for one ratio on obedience. So let’s make the math simple and say that overall each obedient act counts as one hour because some are longer and some much shorter. We only need 10,000 acts of obedience. That’s really not too bad. If we do one obedient act a day we can become experts in 27 years. But there is a problem.

The problem is it is not just about obedience. There are two other major categories and the next one is discipleship. I thought about maybe putting this one with obedience but Jesus was pretty insistent on this one thing before He ascended back to heaven so I think it should get its own practice hours. Mind you this is not evangelism. You cannot just say well I told 10,000 people so I met my hours. Sorry, wrong answer. Discipleship is taking time to invest in the spiritual formation and maturity of other believers. Discipleship is about being involved in other peoples lives and allowing them to be involved in yours. It is a process and as such, it takes time to complete these hours. So the question – what’s the ratio. Come on Mike how many hours of discipleship do I need to complete to reach expert status? Well, let’s keep this train rolling and say it’s one-to-one. So 10,000 hours or one hour a day or 27 years of discipling others and you have your hours. Again that is no breaks, vacations, or time off. But still, it’s a number.

Lastly, we come to prayer. Prayer is time between you and God. Paul says we should be praying always so there is a good reason to pray. The Bible is full of commands to pray, examples about prayer, stories of God hearing prayers. Jesus even taught the 12 to pray. I would suggest that not only is prayer a big deal it is a progressive act. The more we pray the more we need to pray. The more focused and disciplined our prayers become the more focus and discipline they need to be for us. One of my favorite passages on prayer is when Jesus says that we should keep asking, keep knocking, and keep seeking. I find that very confusing and very exciting. We have to continue to pray. In the beginning, only praying I want prayers is OK. Nothing wrong with that. It is like learning to walk and holding onto the couch or learning to ride a bike with training wheels. It is perfectly OK. But at some point, our prayers need to shift into something deeper. Something more intimate. Our prayer life reflects our spiritual maturity. So can you guess what the ratio is? Go ahead guess… That’s right it’s one-to-one. You might be thinking that this is an easy one right but the problem is the more you pray the more God delights in you and the more He refines you. The more you pray and grow in prayer the deeper your intimacy with Him becomes. The number might as well be 6 billon because the more you pray the more you become dependent on God. Besides, do you feel you have given 10,000 hours of prayer?

In the end, at best we can become experts at what it means for us to be a Christian in 27 years if we practice every single day. No breaks, no vacations, no sick days. This is nearly impossible. Nearly. The joyful thing is that the journey is part of the process. Learning what it means to be obedient, helping others in their walk with Christ, praying and leaning into the Father is the Christian life. That is what it is about. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that was written towards the end of his life that he had not reached the goal of being fully mature or an expert but that he is pushing forward towards the goal. We keep moving forward and driving towards the end goal of maturity in Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

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Follow Me

Matthew 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount and there is a ton of great stuff in there. Jesus teaches on the Beatitudes, how He fulfills the Law, loving your enemy, giving, praying, and on and on. There is enough for a whole sermon series but what struck me was the 5:1 when it says Jesus saw the crowds and sat down. Jesus saw the great crowd and took a seat. He is so comfortable in His teaching and authority that He did not need to walk around and convince people of what He was saying. He just sat there and gave some of the most profound teachings recorded in history.

I am so amazed and thankful that we have a Savior who sits down. He is not worried about anything. He is not struggling to achieve. He is not stressed out about the future. He is content and can sit and rest. Not only that He calls us to do the same thing. Jesus says come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Why are we not resting in Him? Why are we not coming to Him to lay down our burdens? He is seated why aren’t we?

If we are following Him and we trust that we know His will we can relax. We can take a breath. We can rest in Him. I am not going to tell you how to know you are walking in His will. He is your Savior. You seek Him for that, but I can tell you that He will reveal it to you. Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd and His sheep hear His voice. If you are His sheep, you will hear His voice. If you are not hearing it then press in harder. If you are not feeling His presence, then push in deeper. He might be calling you into a deeper level of intimacy. You also need to be in a position to and willing to listen to His will.

Why would God reveal His will if you are not going to obey? What is the point of instruction if you are disobedient? God wants and seeks willing hearts. He says that His eyes roam the earth looking for hearts attuned to His will. If you want to rest and to lay down those heavy burdens you need to be willing to obey what He is saying.

Jesus’ command is a simple one, He says follow Me. That is the whole thing right there. Just follow Him. If we do that we will walk as He walked, we will love our neighbor as ourselves, and we will love God with all our heart soul and mind. We just need to follow Him. It is terrifying and peaceful to follow Jesus. Jesus does not promise it will all turn out OK on this earth. He does not say He will reveal everything. He does not say I will explain later. He just says follow Me. It is simple and pure. It is true and light. It is the most basic command and it comes from the most glorious One. Follow Me. When we follow Him, we can hear His voice and know His will. We can trust His teaching. We can obey. We just need to follow Him.

Today I would suggest that Jesus is still sitting only now He is in heaven. He is sitting and speaking. He is saying follow Me. He is not worried or concerned about the future. He is not restless or unsure. He is not confused about options. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father saying Follow Me.

Just a thought,

Mike

Four Statements you need to hear

Did you know God is calling you? Not on the phone, although I am sure he could. No, God is calling and has been calling you all along. We can think God is distant, but He is not. He is present and calling. I for one know there have been times when I know God is calling me and other times like after I sin that I am sure He is not calling me. But again, He is present and calling. Not only is He calling but I like the way River Tree church in Ohio puts it – He is For, With, One of, and In Us.

God is the one who sought out Adam and Eve after they sinned. It was God who initiated the seeking. It was God who called Abraham to leave his homeland and become the father of the faith. It was God who called Moses. It was God who called Samuel. When we read through Scripture we read God calls to people. If we go back further even than the garden to pre-creation creation itself, we read that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8 NIV). Because God is omnipotent He knew before forming Adam that He would have to send His Son to pay the penalty for sin and still He was for us.

Because God is for us He was moved to be with us. Because God loves us He was moved to send Jesus to take up residence with us. Jesus chose to leave heaven and take on human form. Not only did He take up human form He spent time with some really bad people. How often did the religious leaders of Jesus’ day accuse Him of being friends with and liking sinners? It makes one wonder if I could be accused of such a thing.

Moving on, God is one of us. This is the incarnation! An event so great that all of heaven sang out in wonder that Christ is born as they gave glory to God and proclaimed peace on earth (Lk 2:14). This was a moment creation and heaven was waiting for. This was the first of what I think are four of the most profound statements in the Bible that relate to God’s relationship to humankind. The first being that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (Jn 1:14). God clearly pronounced what it means to be for someone. The incarnation is God demonstrating His great love for us. While the world is still sinning and far from Him, He has come to bring life. This creates the possibility for a second profound statement when Jesus says it is finished. God’s being for us moved Him to be with us, living like us and then dying as one of us.

Finally, we get to the God is in us. This is the third profound statement when the angels declare He is risen! The grave could not hold Him, and He is alive once again. This makes a way for the final statement which is in Colossians 1:27 when Paul declares that the glorious wealth of the mystery is Christ in you the hope of glory. God was for us and now He is in us.

FOUR Statements that changed the world!

  • The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. John 1:14
  • It is finished. John 19:30
  • He is risen. Matthew 28:6
  • The glorious wealth of the mystery is Christ in you the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

Just reread those four statements and let that sink in. If you are “far” from God read those statements because they tell you that God is not “far” from you. If you are a lifelong saint, then read those statements because Christ is in you and He is your hope so don’t forget that. If you are a new Christian read those statements because they will be what you hold on to in times of trouble. If you are wondering what the purpose of your life is when read those statements because they will show you that Christ died and rose just to be with you. The beautiful thing about these simple little statements is they show so much about God and so much about you. So what are you going to do about it?

Just a thought,

Mike

Why must evangelism and discipleship happen at the same time?

Frank Sinatra sang that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. According to the song, one belongs to the other and any attempt to separate them is an illusion. In the Western world, we marry because of love and those in love will, ideally, get married. Why must evangelism and discipleship happen at the same time, because you can’t have one without the other. Evangelism is the telling of the Gospel or the good news. The gospel among other things includes that the Lord Jesus came bringing the kingdom of God. Evangelism is telling people about Christ death and resurrection and relating how it is relevant to their life now. Discipleship is not only helping accept this reality but submitting to the Lordship of Christ because the kingdom is here now. If the Gospel includes the fact that Christ is Lord, then submission or discipleship is included in the message of the Evangelism.

The goal is not church growth or numbers. At best we can understand that each number represents a life that Jesus cares about deeply. Our mission as the church is to spread the message of the Gospel and help people become obedient to that message and as Rick Wood says, “everything we do as a church must be evaluated on [that] basis.”[1] To say that a church is growing with discipleship is to say my marriage is growing without love. The two are connected because they require one another. Discipling people with mere information or facts apart from faith is like someone in the Western world marring without love. The two go hand in hand because “discipleship is transformational, not informational.”[2] Trying to separate the two puts the carriage before the horse or worse it forgets the carriage and the people inside at home.

 

[1] Rick Wood, “A Call to Radical Disciple-making,” Mission Frontiers, 2010.

[2] Eric Geiger, “Discipleship: More than Information,” 2012.

A Call to Death

I have noticed that I share on the topic of discipleship a bit more than I thought. I wonder why that is, though. Maybe it is due to the lack of my own discipleship training. Maybe it is because of the lack discipleship training I see in popular Christianity. Maybe it is a part of a calling. I really don’t know but either way, I was thinking about discipleship.

The call of Christian discipleship is first and foremost a call to death and denial of oneself. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24 that we must carry our cross and deny ourselves daily. Luke records it in his Gospel by saying whoever does not carry their cross cannot be Jesus’ disciple (14:27). Paul further clarifies in Galatians 2:20 that we have died and now live in Christ. Paul’s point about death to self and life in Christ is found throughout his writings and give us the clearest picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

It is a hard road to be sure and there will be times of wrestling, fighting, and rejection. Times when wrestle with our decision to obey Jesus. Times when our flesh fights back and tries once again to lead our lives. Times when we reject the notion that death is required. These are to be expected and to be endured. James writes that the testing of our faith is necessary to produce maturity (1:3-4). This is to be expected, but in that we can also expect victory. If we are being tested, then it is because we are in Christ. Testing is not for those who are not disciples. Testing is for the elect. Simply put we are tested because we are His.

The call to be a disciple of Christ is a hard call. It is not for the faint of heart. It is hard because it requires all of us. It requires our total commitment. 1 Peter 3:8-9 says that we as disciples are to be like-minded, sympathetic, love believers, be compassionate and humble, not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but to give a blessing. The call to be a disciple is a call to live opposite of your natural self. It is a call to live counterculturally. It is a call to live in Christ so that He can live out through you. In that others, will see Him and then they, in turn, can die to self and live in Christ. It is not simply a call to live selflessly. Anyone can try and live selflessly. I can try and live for my family or friends but to what end? So, that they might love me? So, that they might respect me? What a short goal. No, the call to be a disciple of Christ is to live for Him so that others receive eternal life.

But even in that, there is a balance that must be maintained. We are to live for Christ yet in that He desires us to live abundantly. We are to live for Christ yet we are to take the time to rest and reflect on our lives. We are to live for Christ but we are also to enjoy the life we have. At times that feels like a contradiction. We are to be wholly dedicated to Jesus yet at the same time He is wholly dedicated to us. It is a symbiotic relationship where we live in Him and have our being and at the same time He dwells in us and says He will give us the desires of or hearts. It is in Jesus that we find our lives and that is the catch. Jesus says He is the vine and we are the branches. If we want to produce fruit, we must do it in Him. We must make the commitment to die to ourselves and live in Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

I don’t want it that bad

 

43704_1717_8807This is the truck I want. Oh, I want this truck. Every time I drive by it I look at it. I think about it and how cool I would look in it. I think about how people would be like “oh yeah that’s Mike’s truck.” Oh, I want this truck, but what I do not want is the payment so I don’t have the truck, and unless someone watching is loaded and wants to buy it for me I will not have this truck. I want this truck but I don’t want it bad enough to buy it. That is what I want to talk about today…how bad do you want it.

There are three men in Luke 9:57-62 that wanted to follow Jesus. At least they said they wanted to follow Jesus but apparently did not want to follow Him bad enough to actually follow through with it. Let’s take a quick look.

The first man said he would follow Jesus wherever He went. This guy said he was ready for anything. He was ready to go, so Jesus said: “I sleep on the ground and use rocks for pillows.” The basic idea Jesus was trying to get through to him was that if he wanted to follow Him then that as ok but he could not be in for anything other than the privilege of following Him. In return, the man who was down for anything said: “I’m out.” Apparently, he did not like camping and wanted the finer things.

The second one Jesus actually called. This man said, “first let me bury my father.” Jesus’ replied, “let the dead bury their dead.” Now this sounds harsh but this man’s father was not dead. We can figure that out because if his father was dead and needed burying then he would have been home burying his father. Instead, he was hanging out to see what Jesus was doing. He did not want to follow Jesus enough to actually follow Him. Instead, I think he just wanted to be close enough so that if things went well he could get in on it.

The third man said, “I’ll follow you, Jesus.” This man was ready to step up where the others failed, but before Jesus could respond this man said: “but first I need to go home.” He was saying “Jesus I’ll follow you, but I need to go home and get permission from my family.” He was more concerned with what his family thought about his choice than what it actually meant to follow Jesus.

These three men said they wanted to follow Jesus but in reality, they did not want to actually do it. They wanted to be known as followers because Jesus was a big deal and they wanted in on the fame. They wanted the glory but not the work. Jesus says that we can follow Him but we need to give up everything.

If we want to know what it means to follow Christ as Lord and not just have Him as Savior then we need to look at Abraham and the Disciples. Abraham left everything to follow God’s direction. God told Abraham to leave his home and his family and Abraham left for a land he did not know simply because God said go. We have to remember that at this time they worshiped a few different gods and these gods were regional so one god might be strong here but over there he was not. Yet Abraham believed this God was strong enough to break boundaries. This was a tremendous act of faith on his part.  

The Disciples when Jesus called them left all sorts of things. Some left ministries they were involved in, some left business ventures, and some left jobs all because Jesus said follow me. Think about that. What if while you were sitting in your cubicle Jesus said follow me and you knew He meant quit right now, would you? Would you just tell your boss “Jesus said I need to quit.” What if you ran a small business and the same thing happened. Would you just hand someone the keys and say “Jesus said I need to go.” What if you were serving in a successful ministry and Jesus said: “time to go.” I am not saying He will do that but He could…

We have to ask ourselves whether we are questioning the faith, new to the faith, or long time Christians “If Jesus says go will I go?” It is not a question that we should take lightly either because our relationship with Him hinges on how we answer. That is not to say if you’ve said no in the past that you’re out of luck but if He asks again will you say “yes Lord.” You and only you can answer the question of how bad do you want it.

Just a thought,

Mike

Potential Fears of Discipleship.

In Matthew 10:24-42 there are a handful of potential fears that a disciple of Jesus could have. To summarize they are ridicule because if they spoke against Jesus they will speak against you (v25), revealing because everything from their deeds to ours will be revealed (v26), discomfort because Jesus calls us to speak what He shows us (v27), death because there will be those who desire to take the life of the believer (v28), and finally, family rejection because those who do not understand your new devotion to Christ can reject you because they do not know the new you (v35&36).  Jesus calms almost all of these fears by saying don’t fear and which is easier said than done, however, the key to not fearing is found in verse 25 where Jesus says that it is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher. If we look at the life of Jesus we then have an example of how to conquer these fears and that is by relying on God’s power. The greatest example of this would be Jesus praying in the garden before His crucifixion. In that moment of His greatest trial, Jesus went to prayer so our response to times of trial whether persecution, rejection, or just fear should be to seek God in prayer to ask for strength. If the goal of discipleship is to be more like Jesus, then it must be accomplished by moving in His strength and power. This is not a mimicking although there is a time for that but instead true reliance on His power and strength.

 

Just a thought,

Mike