Category Archives: Discipline

The Starving Soul of The Sluggard

sluggard

There is nothing good about a lazy person. Right? Wrong. Even the lazy person longs for good and satisfying realities. Desire is something, but it is not everything.

Proverbs 13:4 contends: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat (fully satisfied).” 

You see, there it is. The sluggish and lazy person really wants to live the good life. They want something; apparently they want a fat or fully satisfied soul. But they get nothing because they do nothing, or at least not enough.

This passage might be applied to many areas of life. For instance, I desire to be more physically fit and have more energy, but the couch is way more comfortable and so my desire does me no good. Someone else might crave financial freedom from debt, but it is way easier to eat out all of the time instead of sticking to a budget. Another person may want to have a healthy marriage, but the miserable peace that exists is better than having to have a hard conversation about the reality and the needed adjustments that would have to take place for the relationship to improve.

As it relates to this verse, the category I most often think about is the spiritually atrophied soul. This person wants to know the blessed life of walking with Jesus by faith (Matthew 5), but instead they choose a life that does not satisfy. Many who claim to have a life-changing relationship (2 Corinthians 5:17) with the Creator of the world in Jesus Christ, seem to know so little of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) that is produced by the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). And by the way, all of us struggle or fail at this, but there is a difference between struggling forward and believing the present situation is the inevitable reality we were destined to endure.

CS Lewis was right, so many are playing with mud pies in the slums of life and craving more, when they could be enjoying a vacation at the beach.

The answer to this problem is clearly stated in the text. If you want to be satisfied in anything (Psalms 128:1-4), and particularly in God, you must diligently seek it and work at it. You most go after what you want. You must train yourself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). You must abide in Christ, for without Him you can do nothing (John 15:5). You must apply all diligence to attain godliness (2 Peter 1:5-11).

To be clear, I am not talking about earning salvation. God is not opposed to effort, He is opposed to earning grace. But grace should drive us away from being sluggishly lazy (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In light of the wisdom probability that is Proverbs 13:4, craving or desiring is a start, but if you want to live a full and satisfying life in Christ, you must get busy living with all diligence. You must pursue God and the things of God. Otherwise, your soul will be starving and weak. God wants something better for you than the life of the sluggard.

If you desire more, but don’t know the way of the satisfied soul, find someone who appears to have love, joy, peace, etc. The satisfied soul is glad to help others be satisfied in Christ because God is an overflowing, forever God who wants the best for those who love Him and know Him. Do you believe that? Then be diligent.

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5 Group Best Practices

5 Groups are gender-specific groups of four to six people that meet weekly for the purpose of accountability and sharing honestly. These groups read through a book of the Bible as their curriculum and they meet for a defined period of time in order to multiply and replicate what has been modeled for them. (5 Groups – Questions and Answers)

I have led four generations of these 5 Groups and in doing so, through trial and error, I have been able to settle on some practices and habits that better facilitate our meetings. Here are several practices that have been helpful to the groups I have been a part of:

  • At a minimum, I have the group read the assigned passage at least twice before meeting.
  • I Send a weekly group text with a reminder about the text you are going to read. Sometimes I include a question of the week like: “How are you sharing the gospel with others?”
  • We always read the passage out loud together before we discuss it.
  • I make it known from the beginning that I will ask everyone to share an insight, a question and an application regarding the weekly assigned text. This provides accountability for reading the text prior to the meaning and it helps people to prepare.
  • I press for application, asking pointedly: “What does Jesus want you to do in light of the insight and questions you have about God’s Spirit-inspired word. This isn’t just about a great discussion or learning, it must also be about following Jesus.
  • I always make room for prayer. If our discussion has gone long when we meet, we still take the time to share prayer requests, and then we assign those requests to each person in the group, asking them to text the person they are praying for when they have prayed for the request.
  • I remind the group every few weeks why you are meeting with them. I will say to my groups that the reason we have designed these groups the way they are is so that they can do the same thing with someone else. I will sometimes say: “The reason I am doing this with you is so that you can do it with others.” I want to press the need for reproducing multiplication and I want them to be thinking who they might invite to join them when the next round of groups is started.

One of the things I like about 5 Groups is that they are simply this simple by design. All you need is a few faithful people, a plan to read a book of the Bible, some leader vulnerability for the sake of honesty and a consistent plan for a defined time.

What practices have worked best for you?

7 Ways Core Groups Can Cultivate a Culture of Evangelism

We are already a week removed from a six-week sermon series on speaking of Jesus (Evangelism), and overall I was very encouraged by the response and continue to be encouraged when I hear of people who are investing and wanting to invest in others to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that many people in our church want to know the joy of testifying about our Lord and Savior.

And while we will continue to hear about the life-changing gospel as we work our way through Mark for the next six months, there won’t be the singular, weekly emphasis on proclaiming the gospel. This is a cause of concern for me because I know that most good and Godly things in life don’t happen by accident. Rather they happen when we discipline ourselves for the purpose of Godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Evangelism, like many aspects of the Christian life, is a discipline and a discipline is something we determine to do, when we ordinarily would not do it. It is easy to sit on the couch and watch the Biggest Loser. It is quite another thing to regularly exercise. One is easy and the other is not easy and requires discipline. Evangelism is a joy-bringing discipline that we have to determine to do – or most of us simply won’t.

We were not meant to follow Christ and love others alone. We need the help of other brothers and sisters to spur us toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). One way we can encourage the discipline of evangelism is through consistent reminders when our Core Groups meet.

However, I want to offer a word of caution. Well-meaning efforts could frustrate, discourage and alienate those we are trying to help. If the same question is asked every week and the results are the same, we might discover we are hurting more than helping; we are frustrating more than inspiring. We must aim to inspire speaking of Jesus, but we must do it in a humble and varied ways.

Here are 7 ways to regularly inspire and stir others up to speak of Jesus.

  1. As a leader, determine to consistently bring up evangelism in your Core Group. Ask someone who shares leadership with you to hold you accountable to do it faithfully.
  2. Ask your group if any of them have attempted to share the gospel since you last met. I would not ask this question every week, especially if you are getting the same result from the same people. Start here but vary the approach.
  3. Ask someone in your group to briefly explain the gospel as though they were going to share it with someone they were investing in. This is a more subtle way to remind your group that they should be sharing the gospel with others.
  4. Ask someone in your group too briefly share the story of how the gospel changed their life. Again, this reminds people that they should want for others what they themselves have received.
  5. Ask your group members to share who it is they are trying to speak of Jesus with so that the group can pray for opportunity and boldness.  Then pray for them and ask about them regularly.
  6. As a leader, model for the group the ability to admit failures in sharing the gospel. Be honest when you are not speaking of Jesus. Explain missed opportunities. Express desires to want to speak boldly of Jesus. Ask the group to pray for courage and clarity.
  7. Identify and joyfully celebrate successes. Obedience is success and there is joy in obedience (John 15:11). When someone works up the courage to invite someone to read the Bible. Celebrate it. Even when they are rejected, or the response is uncertain. Celebrate it.  When someone shares the whole gospel with someone. Celebrate it. Good intentions are not obedience, but sometimes we need to encourage and celebrate right desires that lead to obedience.

A warning: Be careful that this does not turn into a time of self-righteousness or a brag-fest, but also keep in mind we have all heard that what gets celebrated gets done.

What are some others ways to encourage the discipline of evangelism in your small group? We won’t cultivate a ongoing culture of evangelism if our Core Group Leaders fail to prayerfully and carefully encourage the discipline of speaking of Jesus.

 

 

8 Action Steps for 2013

I’ve been stewing on some 2013 resolutions for several weeks now and I have decided to make some of them known for the help of public accountability and perhaps to help others take needed action steps. Additionally I want to put into practice some ideas I recently blogged about (Being Intentionally Consistent).

You will notice that these “action steps” are things that will either be done or they will not. There are no statements like: “I want to pray more.” There’s nothing wrong with expressing a desire to pray more, but what does that mean? So here are some concrete goals that I will either do or I won’t.

I will:

  1. Ask daily that God will give me the wisdom and strength to live for His glory and not my own by observing all that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:20).
  2. Exercise by running at least 3 times a week.
  3. Pray for President Obama weekly. The Bible tells me I should, and I would want him to pray for me if I were in his shoes (Matt. 7:12).
  4. Read an average of one chapter of a book per day.
  5. Go over the New City Catechism at least five days a week with my family.
  6. Meet with every Core Group Leader at least twice to listen, encourage and help.
  7. Explain the gospel at least once a week, in various ways, to my sons.
  8. Write at least five handwritten notes to people in our church every week.

I’m sure this will grow, as I am currently considering others, but I don’t want the list to become too large and unmanageable. I think 10 goals or fewer is a good beginning.

I remember someone saying once that plans without goals……. Well I forgot exactly what was said, but you can finish the thought. I think it might have been: “are dreams that are never fulfilled.” Or, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”  Danny Chambers

I hope this inspires others to pray about what God would have them do and then write it down, share it with someone and do it. Most of us need all the help we can get.

Intentionally Consistent

I, like most people, mean to do well, but often my actions are inconsistent with my intentions.

How then do I keep from being inconsistent? I want to accomplish things but even a well-meaning intention often doesn’t get much done, or at least not for long.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says: “The signature of mediocrity is not the inability to change, it’s chronic inconsistency.”

Consistency is a huge problem for most people but for people who excel it seems to be a life fixture. Think of the professional basketball player and how many times he/she has taken a jump shot? Consider the accomplished father or mother of several children who has persistently taken every opportunity to speak and model the values they cherish.

If anyone is excellent at what they do it is because they were intentionally consistent. Coupled with time, the two are powerful together. Though I suspect many people are forced into various kinds of consistency – like work, diaper changing, talking to their spouse or paying the mortgage. We should want to do those things but I am talking about doing things beyond the scope of what must be done. It’s one thing to breath and walk, it is another thing to be alive and healthy.

So how might a person be intentional and consistent so as to avoid scraping by (mediocrity). Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Know what it is that you want to accomplish (goal). “I want to exercise this year.”
  2. Know why you want to accomplish it (motivation). The Bible and praying should have a lot to do with both one and two so as to avoid self-dependent, idol-making. “I want more energy and I want to live long enough to raise my children to grow up and live for God’s glory.”
  3. Take the time to write down what you intend to do (actions steps). I find this clarifies what needs to happen and why it needs to happen. Additionally, if the time has been invested to do this then it probably means your serious about it. “I will run 2 miles three times a week.”
  4. Invite others to help you by sharing your goals and action steps (accountability). Invite those who will hold you accountable to be honestly confrontational. “Spouse or friend, here are my goals and actions steps. Will you encourage me to act consistently?”
  5. Review weekly and reorient as needed (follow-through). “I am or I am not doing what I said I would do. I watch too much TV. I need to cut out 90 minutes a week so I can run.”

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that most people are only consistent at being inconsistent. We must plan to act on our good intentions but we must plan to be consistent with what we intend. May God give us each the ability to be intentionally consistent for His glory in whatever we do.