The Tortoise and The Hare

A fun story to enjoy and consider…  

Can you guess what this has to do with discipleship?!  ;0)


Once upon a time in Kalamazoo

Where the animals roam freely like people now do

There lived a lively bunny who chanced upon a scale

Weighed herself, exclaimed, “Oh my!” and thus begins this tale.

Her neighbor chanced to hear her shriek and called out, “What’s up, dear?!”

“It seems I’ve nibbled a bit too much.  My belly’s as big as my rear!”

“Oh, I can relate,” her neighbor replied.  “Slowly I’ve put it on too.

It seems over time the weight just creeps up, but I know what I’m going to do.”

“Do tell!”  said the bunny, “Won’t you come in for tea?

I’ve been baking all morning delicacies.”

“Oh no!” said the tortoise as she crept into sight

“I can’t for I started to diet last night.”

“Oh, you’re so good!  But I bet I can lose faster!

Let’s make a challenge to see who really is the diet master.”

The hare always loved a race and knew it’d make weight loss fun

Besides she was sure to win (and lose!) with her intense motivation.

So she ordered equipment and exercised away

Doing aerobics six times a day.

She always loved veggies, so ate only these:

Carrots, celery, lettuce and peas.

Mrs. Tortoise however just took it in stride

Eating four food groups, pushing dessert aside.

She also did aerobics, just three times a week

And took the stairs and walked to work and never did she peek

To see how much her weight dwindled for all her efforts done

Unlike Mrs. Hare who daily weighed at the setting of every sun

With her clothes, her shoes, her teeth and wig all carefully removed

And all air expelled from the depths of her lungs, happy only when she did lose.

Mrs. Tortoise, however, could tell deep inside

By the way her shell moved from side to side

(And by the way that Mr. Turtle

Asked if she’d bought a tighter girdle!)

One day Mrs. Hare sat in her kitchen,

Crying for she had just been caught snitchin’

By Mrs. Tortoise who’d come over to chat

And borrow the bunnies extra baseball bat!

(She now played shortstop for their winning team

The realization of a lifelong dream).

“Now friend, what’s up with you?  You’ll gain back all you’ve lost.

Before you eat more cookies, be sure you’ve counted the cost!”

“It’s just that I am so depressed.  I’ve shooting pains in every bone.”

Mrs. Hare dropped her head to the table, “I’m tired please leave me alone!”

“Alright if that’s your heart’s desire, but Saturday the weigh-in takes place.

Remember you were the one who wanted to embark on this silly race.

But I’m glad!  I feel great!  And I’m still losing!  I’m so thankful for what you’ve done!

“Oh, go hit a homerun with the children! I don’t care any more if you’ve won!”

When Saturday came the town gathered round

Shocked to discover Ms. Hare gained ten pounds,

Which all considered a great disaster

as they crowned Mrs. Tortoise, “Kalamazoo’s Diet Master!”



You’re Not Crazy!

After I graduated from college my greatest need as a discipler was for someone to come along periodically and tell me “You’re Not Crazy!”

I’ll never forget when one of the girls I was discipling met a girl at the gym who was asking all sorts of spiritual questions.  She asked if I’d be willing to have dinner with them after work.  Now I’d only been married a little over a month and I was working full time.  The last thing I wanted was to spend more time away from my husband!  But five months later when this new friend entered into God’s family was I ever thankful I did!

Shortly after this I was reaching out to a student assistant who invited me to go birdwatching at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings.  When you work full time, getting to sleep in that one morning a week is pure gold.  Again I had to leave my new husband!  At the time it was like pulling teeth to go, but when she entered the kingdom a few months later was it ever worth it!

A life seeking to spur others on to follow Jesus is not an easy way to live!  It requires intentionality and sacrifice of time, energy and resources.  On top of this, there is a great struggle as you bear the burdens of others and take part in their battles too.  Paul told the Colossians  “I want you to know how much I have agonized for you…”  (Col 2:1 NLT)  This is part of loving deeply and investing heavily in someone.  Where your treasure is, your heart is also… in both joy and pain!

When one of the girls I was meeting with shared she was emotionally involved with her boss and about to leave her husband, this led to one of the most intense battles I’ve ever engaged in.  Afterwards it was beautiful to see the way the Lord intervened to save her marriage and family – but that did not happen without grueling spiritual and emotional warfare.

Being involved in the lives of others can be exhausting!  And it’s not uncommon to wonder if you are crazy for even trying!  Especially as there aren’t many people around, not even among committed Christians, doing this.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19 “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”   He acknowledges following Jesus and helping others do so is hard!  If this life is all there is, we’re getting the short end of the stick!

What a help it can be when a friend reminds you this isn’t all there is!  When she reminds you of what’s eternal, of what awaits!  That what’s important isn’t about feeling good, or taking it easy or being comfortable in this life!  Who helps refresh your eternal perspective, reminding you it really is worth all the sacrifice!!!

Thankfully the Lord blessed me with a friend who recognized my need for this. For years she has taken initiative to get together with me, to pray for me,  to listen to how I am doing and remind me it really is worth it.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having at least one friend like this ~ and being a friend like this!  For no one who is actively involved in advancing God’s kingdom has it easy in this life!

So many times when I read what Paul wrote about being poured out like a drink offering , I think “Yep!  Been there.  Done that.  Living this right now!”

And note, Paul didn’t just write about this once!  You’ll find he mentions it in both Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6.  This is a common experience when you are intentionally reaching out and investing in others, seeking to advance God’s kingdom!

And it is a battle!  Without a doubt whenever someone comes to know Christ, hard things always happen in our lives – plumbing backs up, appliances stop working, our son breaks an arm…

What a blessing when a friend will come alongside to pray with us and for us, to love on us, to encourage us, as we dive into the battle as well as during it and even when we take time to rest and refresh.

And it doesn’t even have to be someone in the same town!!!  Proverbs 25:25 states, “Like cold water to a parched soul, is good news from a distant land.”  What a difference getting a real letter in the mail can make!  And now with Skype and Facetime it’s so easy to keep in touch with friends at a distance.

Every single laborer in God’s Kingdom needs this!

So be sure to take time to cultivate at least one encouraging relationship!  Don’t try to do this alone!  Ask the Lord to provide someone who will care for your heart and be there to remind you, “You’re Not Crazy!!!”

If you truly desire to labor for a life time, it’s not just worth it, it’s vital!

Will You Disciple Me?

How would you respond if someone came up and asked you that question?

Would you rush to say yes and start setting up a weekly time?

Would you ask for time to pray about it?

Would you say no?  …change the subject?  …or just not get back to them?

How you respond reveals a lot about who you are, what you believe and what’s going on in your heart.

It can be a heady thing to have someone ask you to disciple them.  It’s definitely a compliment.  They’ve obviously seen something in your life that’s given them the desire to walk with you and learn from you.  A dear friend once shared with me there are three things that motivate people:  accomplishment, community, and influence.  I am primarily motivated by the latter!  Does that ever make me vulnerable when people ask me things like this!  So it’s good to know yourself and understand what might drive you to rush into something prematurely.

Prayer is always a great idea!  But do you have enough information to pray well about this?  If you have known the person for a long time, you very well may.  But if you don’t know them very well, I find it sure can help to get together with them once and learn more of their story, hear what’s on their heart and in truth as I’m prayerfully listening many times the Lord will reveal whether this is someone He wants me involved with.

But even if I do sense the Lord is leading me to meet with someone, I won’t rush to commit to meeting weekly with them right away.  As I mentioned in the August 11th Post “Where are You” I have found it so beneficial to start with one meeting and at the end give a copy of the “What is a Disciple study”  (Found in the Hello!  section).  Then I encourage them to contact me when this is completed.

Jesus had twelve disciples.  I find the max I can usually handle is four.  So it’s not uncommon for me to have to say no – because I simply don’t have the time.  Now saying “no” is incredibly difficult for me!!!   And in truth I’ve known many people who don’t handle this well – they either change the subject if someone asks or not return calls or even say they’ll pray about it and never get back to them.  These are not good responses!  Why?  Because you don’t love well when you do this!

Here are a couple thoughts that have really helped me learn to say “no” well:

1)  The Lord created time – it is not a limitation for Him – and there is always time to do everything He wants me doing, but not for things He doesn’t want me doing.  If I say yes to doing things He doesn’t want me doing, it will prevent me from being available for what He does want me doing.  Time is not the enemy.  But there is an enemy who delights to get me to misuse it.  As one friend once shared with me – if the enemy can’t get you to stop he’ll get you so busy you don’t do anything well.   If I overextend myself by saying yes when I shouldn’t everyone else I’m involved with will suffer, not just me!  And that certainly isn’t modeling being available very well for those I meet with is it?!!!

2)  Also, God’s best for me is always His best for everyone around me.  If He doesn’t want me discipling someone, then I’m not doing them any favors by disicpling them!  He has another plan for them!  And if I don’t follow Him in this, I can only get in the way!  It really is loving them well, when I follow Jesus’ lead and say no when He wants me to, even if it’s not what they want to hear.  By sharing this, I can say no in a way that keeps them hopeful and eagerly looking to see what He does have for them!

To really grasp these truths has helped so much with telling people no!   And the longer you disciple, the more opportunities you’re going to have to say no!  It’s vital you learn to do it well!

For whenever someone asks “Will you disciple me?”  it is a very important question – and not just for the one asking!

How you respond to the question “Will you disciple me?”  speaks volumes about how much of a disciple of Jesus you are!

The Right Stuff!

The right tools sure can make a job easier!  Imagine trying to cut your grass with scissors?!  Or your hair with a chain saw?!  Without the right tools – at best you can end up frustrated, at worse, a bloody mess!

It’s the same way when discipling.  Proverbs 25:11 states, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” ~  is that ever true for a tool aptly given!

One friend was struggling in her prayer life – when I shared how I use index cards on a ring to record prayer requests and then take them with me when I’m walking and praying, she got so excited!!!  You wouldn’t believe the life this simple idea has breathed into her praying!

Another tool that’s really been enhancing my prayer life is the ACTS acronym.  Each night before bed I pull out a composition notebook and spend time in Adoration writing down what comes to mind as I remember who the Lord is and praise Him for this!  Then I spend time Confessing my sins.  It’s amazing how much better I sleep when I’ve taken time to agree with God about the ways I’ve blown it and how much more I appreciate Him after coming face to face with how much He’s forgiven me.  Does that ever flow naturally into Thanksgiving, which really helps fight against focusing on what I don’t have.   And then I share what’s on my heart with the Lord through Supplication.  Over and over I’m amazed at how He answers these requests.  Having a written record where I see Him in action doing this certainly does add to my joy!  Now I could pray before nodding off without this, but I find this tool really stretches me and helps me pray in ways I might not naturally.

One big difference between someone who has been discipling women for thirty years versus someone who has just started is the size of her toolbox!  In Matthew 13:52 we’re told  “And He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Can those treasures ever be of great value!  There is so much we can learn from others!  In fact, that’s one of the things I love about summer training programs – or any place where people who love to disciple gather together – it’s such a great opportunity to swap tools and discover new treasures the Lord has given to someone else!  Can this ever save you time and keep you from having to re-invent the wheel!

But tools can be dangerous too.

Just as you can’t do everything with a hammer – there is not one tool that is good for everything or everybody!

Sometimes we can get so excited when we see the difference a tool is making in someone’s life we think everyone should be using this.  But note that word “aptly” in Proverbs 25:11.  “Apt” means “suitable or appropriate for the circumstances.”

Don’t become tool dependent, thinking “this worked in the past, of course it’s the best for now!”  Instead, make certain you are always depending on the Lord!  Only He truly knows what is suitable or appropriate for any given circumstance or person – and remember His ways aren’t our ways!

And don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking you don’t have what it takes if there’s barely anything in your toolbox!

A discipler following Jesus with a tiny toolbox, is infinitely better off than someone with a loaded toolbox who depends solely on her tools!

You see, there really is just one tool that’s vital – the Word of God!  From this one treasure the Lord can give you any number of ideas for ways of creatively applying it!

When one of my friends went to Africa, he found the tools that worked in America weren’t as effective over there ~ and He had a HUGE tool box!  So what did He do?  He went to the Lord and using His Word discovered new ways of ministering to those the Lord brought into His life!

Even seasoned disciplers sometimes need to start from scratch!

So what does it look like to have the right stuff?  If you have Jesus and His Word you’re good to go!

But don’t dis the tools – seek to keep adding to your toolbox all you can – for when you use them as Jesus directs they can be an amazing help!  Just never rely on them instead of Him!

The Art of Chewing

Let’s face it – we don’t know how to chew well.  We live in a big gulp society where fast food is the norm.  Get it and go!  The quicker the better!

But taking time to really chew is about tasting, savoring and digesting.  When it comes to God’s Word is this ever vital!

In Psalm 34:8 we’re encouraged to “taste and see that the Lord is good!”  That doesn’t mean taking a tiny bite but to really taste and let the flavor soak in.  There’s a difference between a two year old tasting a new food dubiously to see if she likes it and an epicure tasting to savor rich flavors, to reap full benefit, enjoying each bite.

It’s like the difference between downing shots at a bar and a wine tasting party where you go slow, first observing the color, then inhaling the aroma, finally swishing a small bit around your tongue so you fully experience all the wine has to offer.  As your senses are fully engaged, the subtle nuances are savored and experienced.

When it comes to God’s Word are you more like a fast foodie or an epicure?  More like a beer guzzler or a wine connoisseur?

It’s so vital we learn to savor, chew, taste… to slow down when ingesting God’s Word.

For example, it’s easy to look at a list of God’s attributes and say, “Yep!  That’s who He is.”  But if you focus on one and camp out there, starting with the obvious, “Omniscience – God knows everything,” then considering what that means in your every day life, “before a word is on my tongue God knows what I’m going to say – whether good or bad.  When he gives me an opportunity to share with someone about Him, He already knows what I’m going to say and He’s still chosen me to do this!”  what a difference it can make to truly grasp this as you prepare to tell someone about Him!

Or “God knows everything I do – even all I’m going to do… or not do.  Because of this I can never disappoint Him.  To disappoint is to expect more, then be let down ~ because God is omniscient that never happens!”

Or to contemplate, “God knows all about me – how many hairs are on my head, what’s weighing on my heart, and He is carrying my griefs and bearing my sorrows – and not just mine but those of every person in the entire world!”  Then get specific ~ apply that to everyone in your family… and in your neighborhood… in your city, state, country, world!   It’s amazing how BIG the Lord gets when you do this and how that can help your problems seem so much smaller in comparison.  Jesus isn’t just your “homeboy!”  He is incredible!!!

Beyond experiencing wonder and delight, chewing is also important for digestion.  Know how corn sometimes passes right through?  It can only do that when it’s not chewed!

In the same way, without chewing, these truths about who God is, often pass right through without really impacting your life.  But if you do take time for this get ready to be amazed – especially at the peace and joy that come.

The hard part of chewing for me?  It takes time.

We live in a fast paced society so this is counter-cultural.  That’s one reason we’re told in Romans 12:1-2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Note it’s not “be transformed by reading God’s Word” – but as your mind is renewed, changed, impacted by God’s Word taking effect inside you, transformation occurs.  You have to take time to process what you’re hearing and reading or it’s in one ear and out the other!

I still find I’m needing to learn to take time to chew on God’s Word.  This does not come naturally!  And it’s critical I help those I meet with start learning to do this too.  But again, just “telling” isn’t enough.

One way to help someone practically grow in this is to challenge them to come up with an “Alphabet of God’s Attributes” – to think up one key attribute of who the Lord is for each letter (eg., A = Available, B= Beautiful, C= Caring… and yes you may need to get creative for some of the letters! :0).  Then encourage them to take one a day and spend time chewing on this.  Make it a goal to fill a whole page with thoughts on each attribute.  Since I’m an external processer I find it helps so much to write down my thoughts as I do this.

In the beginning those thoughts usually aren’t spectacular.  I start with the obvious.  But as I keep chewing on this, it’s surprising the new thoughts and life applications that surface.

Don’t do this with someone until you’ve done it yourself and found it helpful!!!  But if you do, can it ever help launch them in learning the fine art of spiritual chewing… and being well nourished for life!

Processing Poop!

Um, yes.  This can be a messy, stinky, nasty subject.  But it is a reality of life!

From the moment of birth until the day of death, it’s something you have to deal with daily!  Physically as well as spiritually.

Think about it – there are waste products that daily impact our lives and the lives around us that come from living in a broken, fallen world – and from being broken and sinful ourselves.

Thankfully the Lord has given us three precious gifts to help us deal with this.  But if you don’t know about them, if you don’t take advantage of them actively applying them in your life – it won’t take long until things get really crappy!

So processing poop is a key area that needs to be addressed when you are following someone up.  And in truth, if someone hasn’t learned how to do this or isn’t regularly doing this, even in discipleship you have to make it a priority!

GIFT #1:  Jesus!

Because of Jesus, once someone has entered into a relationship with Him and put their trust in Him they are clean – even on their worst day!  Because of Jesus God never sees us as a poopy mess!  We are told in 1 John 1:7, that “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, cleanses us from all sin.”  Did you catch that?  ALL sin!  And just in case that’s not enough, He stresses this again in 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 9:28, and Romans 6:10!  Jesus didn’t just die for the sins we committed before entering into a relationship with Him, but for ALL of them!

But because we don’t see the way He sees, He also gives us…

GIFT #2:  Confession

Confession is simply agreeing with the Lord that we were wrong!  He promises us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just, to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Now God gives us His very great and precious promises so we’ll take Him up on them!  If you don’t, it’s like getting a bunch of checks for your birthday you never cash!  Do you ever miss out!

I don’t know about you – but I sin every single day! Even without trying to!  But it’s so easy to just move on, as if it didn’t happen and not deal with it.  That, my friends, is like dropping a load every day and never flushing the toilet!  Even though the Lord sees me as clean and Jesus has paid the penalty for all I’ve done, it won’t take long until that stench starts impacting me!

But what’s worse, in Luke 7:47 Jesus makes it clear that those who are forgiven little, love little.  Now it’s not that there are people out there who just don’t sin much – it’s that without confession, without actively experiencing the Lord forgiving you, it’s so easy to not realize how much you’ve been forgiven – and miss out on appreciating Jesus even more and growing in loving Him more because of this!

You see, when I take the time daily to confess my sins, agreeing with Jesus I’ve blown it, that I am wrong, not only do I have the satisfaction of experiencing Him cleansing my conscience, but I have the opportunity to grow in loving Him even more as I become increasingly aware of how desperately I need Him every single day!

Bet you never knew processing poop could yield such beauty?!  :0)

But this doesn’t just happen!

We have to first understand how vital confession is – I need it for my conscience sake – or I am really a sitting duck for the enemy.  But I also need to understand how it can help me grow in appreciating and loving the Lord more.  This provides the necessary motivation for me to take the time to do this!

Then I need to know how to do it and come up with a plan for doing it.  For myself,  each night before I go to bed I take time to reflect on the day, asking the Lord to bring to mind ways I’ve blown it.  As I write these down I agree with God I was wrong, and thank Jesus for paying the penalty for each sin I committed.  I cannot begin to tell you how much better I feel and how much better I sleep after processing through this with Him.

(In the Heal section there is a story “The Princess and The Pig” illustrating the beauty of confession)

GIFT #3:  Forgiveness

I’ll never forget when my son was an infant, I was sitting in the back of church when he had a total blow out!  We were using cloth diapers at the time and let me just say, they weren’t too great at containing things.  Yep!  I ended up drenched!

Is that not a perfect picture of what sin can do – it doesn’t just impact the one sinning, but it sure can leak out and mess those around you.  When that happens, when we are soiled by the sin of others, God’s gift of forgiveness is so vital for us to get clean.

Now in our culture forgiveness is treated way too lightly and inefficiently.  When you have been negatively impacted by someone else’s sin you need to not just forgive them for what they did, but also for how it made you feel.  If  you look under the helps section you will find some great resources for how to help someone truly learn how to forgive.  This is a KEY area that people have to learn about to survive in this broken world.  Honestly, this is something you want to excel in – daily!  Please note this is a key thing Jesus teaches His disciples when they ask Him how to pray!

And you know, each time I have to forgive someone, I’m reminded how costly it was for Jesus to forgive me.  So here too, processing poop yields beauty!

Don’t let it pile and defile!

Oh Baby!

What’s the difference between follow up and discipleship?

In truth, many people lump them both under discipleship, but I find it really helps to maintain the distinction.

When someone first becomes a Christian there is a need to follow them up.  The Bible uses the metaphor of being born again, and when someone’s just been born we call them a baby.  That’s where we get the term “baby Christian.”   Whereas in discipleship the focus is on helping people grow and become more like Christ as they follow Him, when you do follow up – you are following them, just like babies aren’t expected to follow their moms and dads, their moms and dads have to follow them!!!

So there are totally different expectations going into this, as well as needs to be met!

Think about what a baby needs – to be fed, cleaned, protected, with lots of love lavished on them… Seriously, that last part is THE most important.  When babies fail to receive adequate attention and care many simply give up and die.  Those that don’t are often impacted for the rest of their lives.

But they also aren’t going to last very long if they aren’t fed.  In the very beginning you are providing the sustenance for them, and sometimes you need to be creative in helping them eat!!!

I love to have shared quiet times with baby believers – frequently!!!  In truth, in the very beginning they often get more out of what I share from my quiet time than from their own.  But before you know it they’ve grown to the place where they can start feeding themselves.  That’s why a key goal when you first start following up someone is to help them learn how to feed themselves.  Having a shared quiet time will usually be all we do together until I see them start doing this on their own (granted, I often select specific passages for us to focus on related to what’s going on in their lives!).  But after loving them, their next greatest need is to learn how to feed themselves – adequately and regularly!  (you can read more about this in the article “How to have a shared quiet time” located in the Helps! section).

The second key goal in following someone up is helping them grow in trusting God.  Of course they have to trust God to become a Christian in the first place!   But it can often be one thing to trust Him for your eternal destiny and quite another to trust Him with the details of your life today ~ especially when His ways aren’t your ways!

Helping them get to know who God is and experience Him is so very key for this occurring.  One key gift He’s given to facilitate this are His very great and precious promises!  I have found time spent helping them learn God’s promises and how to apply them in their life is a HUGE help, spurring them on in trusting Him.  (I’ve just placed a second article in the helps section entitled, “Promise Based Follow Up” which explains in more depth how you can help someone with this!)  

Discipleship begins when someone becomes a disciple – as soon as they’ve reached a key point in their walk with God where they are willing to say, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Usually there is one issue that the Lord will highlight, a fork in the road where they have to decide, “Am I going to go my way or the Lord’s way?” followed by a time of intense wrestling (like Jacob with the angel of the Lord!) that finally ends in surrender.   It can really be helpful when first meeting with someone to share what that looked like for you and then ask if they’ve experienced anything like this.

For me that happened the summer after I became a Christian.  I’d always been incredibly ambitious, with a ten year plan already set in motion!  I was studying Broadcast Journalism and by the end of my freshman year was already the Assistant Programming Director for a local radio station.  In high school I’d hosted a television program for two years, so I was making certain I had extensive experience both in front and behind the camera.  But then the Lord called me to give up my plans and follow Him – to follow Him without knowing where or how He was going to lead.  You’d better believe I wrestled!  By mid-July I finally reached the point of surrender, writing in my Bible, “Tonight I said “Yes” to giving up my plans and following Jesus wherever He leads.”  When I got back to campus that next month I quit my job at the radio station and dropped my major, just taking general ed classes, waiting for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do.  That was when I had a friend ask Barb if she’d disciple me!  And you better believe after making that sacrifice I was ready to do whatever the Lord (and Barb!) asked me!

In all honesty, I would not have been ready to give up my major, let alone say no to everything for a month the way Barb asked me to (see “The Challenge!” posted August 8th if you’re wondering about this story!) right after becoming a Christian!  God has a timing for all of this!  It’s like a flower blooming – you can’t try to force it without doing damage.  Your expectations for a flower just starting to form has to be different than once it’s fully opened!

I run into people all the time who get so frustrated because they are trying to disciple someone who still needs to be followed up.  “She never does what I ask her to do!” is a common complaint!  Or “I’m just not sure how serious she is.  Sometimes she’ll do exactly what she believes the Lord wants her to but other times that’s not even on her radar screen!”  That’s a key symptom of someone who is still struggling to trust God.  She trusts Him when His way is her way and it makes sense to her, but when that fork in the road comes, she’s not yet sure about giving up what she thinks is best to follow Him.

All too often, people think discipleship is about helping someone become a disciple of Jesus!  But that is the goal of follow up!  Discipleship begins once someone has become a disciple, once they are ready to follow Jesus and learn from Him – not just in a soak-things-into-your-head way, but to make his teachings “the rule of conduct for their life” – not to earn His favor, but to be with Him and increasingly become like Him.  And you don’t have to take my word for it!  The online dictionary defines discipleship as “The state of attempting to follow the example of Jesus or another leader.”  It’s not about making the decision to follow as much as once you’ve decided to follow learning how to do this!

So follow up is helping people come to the point where they are ready to head in Jesus’ direction.  Discipleship is coming alongside someone as they are heading in Jesus’ direction to help them persevere and learn what He wants them to, so they are increasingly transformed into His image for His glory!  And then able to help others in this way too!

If you can understand the goals of follow up and how they differ from the goals of discipleship can that ever help you! And them!  And save you both from a ton of frustration!

So here’s my big suggestion for the day  – Don’t expect a baby to follow you up a 14er!  And don’t get upset if she’s easily sidetracked!  Love her!  Feed her!  Help her get to know and experience Her daddy!  If you do, it shouldn’t be too long till she’s ready to start following Him – even when it involves jumping off cliffs!

Where Are You?

The very first question the Lord asks Adam and Eve after they sin is, “Where are you?”

He isn’t asking because He needs to know the answer.  1 John 3:20 makes it clear that God knows everything!  Psalm 139 reveals He knows us even better than we know ourselves!

So why did God ask this?  Because Adam and Eve need to know!  It’s so important to understand where you are so you can see your need and be ready for help.  And ever since the Fall we all need help!  The problem is we aren’t always aware of this.

So that’s also the first thing I ask the first time I meet with someone.  If someone has come up to me and requested, “Would you disciple me?”  a key way I “ask” this is by giving them a copy of a simple Bible study to complete called “What is a disciple?”  (you’ll find a copy posted under the “Hello!” section on this blog).  This study helps people discover what Jesus says about being a disciple and then asks them to consider in light of what they’ve learned from this study, whether they truly are one or not.

Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a disciple or are ready to be discipled.  If you do the study you’ll see that a disciple is a learner and a follower.  To truly follow someone you have to go where he goes and be where he is – even when that’s not where you want to be.

It’s easy to follow Jesus when he’s going the way I naturally want to go.  But a disciple follows God just like Jesus did – even when she has to say, “Not my will, but yours be done”  regardless of cost.

This doesn’t mean someone has to be super mature and have it all together!  Remember being a disciple is a direction, not a designation or a position attained.  I’ve seen brand new believers who are ready to follow Jesus wherever He leads. You especially see this in countries where Christians face severe persecution.  Under those circumstances, no one becomes a Christian unless they are ready to die.

But if you try to disciple someone and they haven’t yet truly surrendered their will, their hopes, their dreams to the Lord, you can really be setting yourself up for frustration.  What that person needs is to be followed up, to have someone come alongside and help them get to know God, understand what He’s promised and start actively taking Him up on those promises so they can grow in trusting Him until they are ready to commit themselves to following Him wholeheartedly.

I’ve found it’s incredibly telling how long it takes a person to complete this study, that’s why I always say, “Let me know when you finish it and we’ll plan to get together then!”  If they are ready to be discipled I usually hear back from them quickly.  Sometimes I never hear back.  Other times I don’t hear back until they are ready to move forward!  I will not commit to meeting one on one weekly with someone to disciple them until they’ve finished this.  I’ve found it really does help us get off to a good start!

This study is also an excellent starting place for those with a heart to disciple others.  Remember, you have to be a disciple to help someone become a disciple because when you meet one on one with them, it’s not “let me tell you what you need to do,” but rather, as Paul says, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

Every time I give this study to someone to do,  I complete it again myself.  Because being a disciple is a direction, I find it so helpful to keep asking myself this question.  It’s easy to get side tracked, to shift focus and not realize it.  Does this ever spur me on to keep persevering myself!  And every time I complete it there’s always new treasure, always something the Lord wants to say to my heart through it.

So where are You?  Consider yourself invited to do this Bible study.  And if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Lessons from the Gym!

Two people can workout at a gym, spending the same amount of time.  One gets a great workout, the other’s body is barely impacted.  Why?

It’s not just a question of putting in the time, but what you do with that time makes a world of difference.  This is why people pay $100 an hour for a personal trainer – someone who will guide them, challenge them, help them make the most of the time.

Change isn’t easy.  Whether you’re talking about physical change – going from a couch potato to being in shape, or spiritual change, where the goal is becoming more like Christ – it doesn’t “just happen.”  Of course God is the One who changes us.  But He doesn’t just zap us and make us mature Christians.  There is a partnership, a key role we play in the process too.  And can that process ever be uncomfortable, even painful.  If you just “do what comes naturally” you’ll usually remain the same.

This is why two people who have been Christians for ten years may be in very different places spiritually.   In Hebrews 5:12 the author states, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food.”

There are basic things we need to learn before we can move on.  If you don’t get them or even more importantly learn how to live them, there is a need to be taught all over again!  What a difference it can make when you have someone intentionally helping you!  Especially in the spiritual arena!  As it says in 1 Timothy 4:8, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things holding promise for both this present life and the life to come.”

Richard Hooker once said, “Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.”  This is biblical!  In fact, Hebrews 12:11 puts it even stronger, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.”

Did you catch that?  No discipline!  Not one seems pleasant at the time, but painful!  Who likes pain?  Not me!   This is why it can sure help to have someone come alongside to help train you.

But just as personal trainers vary in their helpfulness, so disciplers can too.  A lot depends on what is done during the time spent one on one.  Consider this list of key things the best personal trainers do:

1.  They assess where the client is and where she needs to grow, helping the client identify goals.

2.  They draw on their experience to provide guidance for how the client can grow to attain her goals.

3.  They help their clients learn what to do and how to use the equipment.

4.  They come alongside and provide ongoing motivation, holding the client accountable, challenging her to do more than she most likely would on her own.

5. They watch out for her and correct her if she is doing something wrong so she isn’t as likely to get hurt.

6.  They periodically assess her progress and make adjustments in the plan as necessary.

7.  And the best, train clients so they can continue on and won’t always be dependent on them.

Every one of these correlates with life changing discipleship!

As they use to say at the gym, “No pain, No gain.”  Only that isn’t just true for the one getting the workout, but for the personal trainer and discipler too!  I want people to like me, to be happy with me.  And that doesn’t always happen when I have to speak into a hard area or hold them accountable or especially if I need to correct them.  Some of my deepest pain has been experienced while discipling women.

But “later on” when this hard training produces a harvest of righteousness and peace, you better believe there’s thanks!  From them!  And me, too, for how the Lord gave me the grace to press on and persevere even in the midst of the pain!

Next time you’re at the gym – watch the personal trainers.  You might be surprised at what you can learn about discipling from them!!!

The Challenge!

The first year I was a Christian I devoured my Bible daily and was super active at my church, I even helped lead a service for handicapped people on Sunday afternoons!   I eagerly read Christian books, and even joined a discipleship group where we memorized scripture and started learning about different spiritual disciplines.  But I started noticing there was a big difference between what was happening in me and in how my friends who were being met with one on one were growing.

I was eager to grow!  No doubt about that!  And putting a ton of energy into it!  But I was all over the place!

When I first asked Barb Choat if she’d disciple me, her response was, “If you can go for a month without saying yes to anything then I will.”  What a wise woman she was!  You can’t even imagine how hard that was for me, especially when my church called that night and asked if I’d design a mission program for kids!  I love kids!  And I’m passionate about missions!!!  And I love designing programs!!!  But crying out to God for strength, I said, “No.”  And kept saying, “No” that whole month.  And I’m so glad I did.

I desperately needed to slow down and focus.  When you’re talking about laying a solid foundation for a lifetime of following Jesus, slow and steady wins the race!  But I so needed outside help to be able to do this.  A dear friend once shared with me, “If the enemy can’t get you to stop, he’ll get you so busy you don’t do anything well.”   Was he ever having a heyday with me!

Barb’s challenge also made me count the cost – how much did I truly want to be discipled? And what was I willing to give up to gain this?  Every time I said “no” that month (and trust me it was a lot!), I was saying yes to being discipled!   Instead of being another activity on an already packed list, being discipled became a priority I had time for.  So when we finally did start meeting – oh blessed day!!! – I was ready and available.

What a difference it made in my life because of this!!!

Beware of letting discipleship be something people try to cram into an already overpacked life – even if they ask for it!  It will take time and energy.  Where is that to come from?  What are they willing to give up to make this happen?

One of the key goals of discipleship is helping people focus on Jesus – so they can learn from Him and follow Him.  My first step towards this was initiated by the woman who discipled me before we even met for the first time!