Matthew 16: 24

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”

We discuss discipleship much in the church, but it can be a difficult idea to fully wrap your head around. The reason is that it is not a concept which is common in western culture. In fact, it kinda flies in the face of our individualistic approach to life.

We can begin to understand discipleship when we think about Jesus’ disciples. When he called them, they not only followed him, but they left their way of life and essentially took on a new way of life. When we talk about following Christ, we have a loose idea of “being Christian”. In other words, we have some pre-conceived, though esoteric, ideas about what it means to be a Christian and we overlay those nebulous ideas over the word discipleship. The result is that we do not have a clear idea of what it means to be a Christian much less a disciple. Looking back to Jesus’ followers may help us refine our picture of what a disciple is.

A good example of discipleship comes from when Jesus said, “Follow me,” and his soon to be disciples left what they were doing, left their businesses, arose and literally went with him (Matthew 4: 19 – 20). They literally walked in his footsteps, literally laying aside their old life in favor of the new life in him. The key here is that following Jesus radically changed these people’s lives. Ultimately discipleship means transformation. Being a disciple of Christ should change us. It should reform us in his image.

We sometimes hear people discuss discipleship in terms of being a student. That may work in other cultures but not in western culture. The word which I believe fits better is adherent. We are to adhere to the ways and teachings of the mentor. When I think in these terms, I find myself thinking of glue or some other adhesive. Adherents stick to their mentor so that the one is inseparable from the other. We are to be transformed or changed by our teacher. We are to follow them so closely that we walk in their footsteps. We do as we see them do. We leave our ways behind and adopt those of the teacher. This is not the western idea of a student. Thinking about movies about Asian Monks creates a closer model to Jesus’ experience with his disciples. And, just so you don’t freak – remember that Jesus did not live in a western culture. He lived in the middle east where Asian ideas were understood and lived.

In western culture, students learn, academically what the teacher gives. There is not a discipline involved nor is there a requirement that the student adhere to the teachers’ beliefs, only that he/she be able to regurgitate what has been taught. There is no assimilation required. The student does not have to agree with the teacher. The point I am trying to make is not that the western ideas of education and student/teacher relationships are wrong, but instead, that they are different. We cannot understand discipleship through a western paradigm because discipleship is a non-western concept. If we can shake ourselves free of our intellectual restrictions, we can see what it means to Jesus that he has called us to be disciples.

It is my hope that this will not so much answer questions for you as stimulate your own musings. We should perceive discipleship in its light as a transformative process. Discipleship implies leaving our ways and devoting our lives to obedience, discipline and following our Lord and teacher in surrendered subservience. Boy, that is a word we don’t like. However, discipleship means surrendering our will to that of the master and walking in the way he chooses. It means he gets to make the decisions and we respond, “Yes Lord.”

I hope today’s devotional blesses you, but also that it stimulates within you a desire to draw more closely to Jesus. I pray you find within you the ability to lay aside your “stuff” and follow him wherever he may lead.

Well Ordered Life

Proverb 23: 12                   God’s Word

Live a more disciplined life, and listen carefully to words of knowledge.

When I read this proverb, this verse immediately sounded like some of that sage advice to which we are supposed to listen. I need to live a more disciplined life myself and this is a good call from the Lord, himself.

For my part, leading a more disciplined life means setting my priorities and working on the most important things first. I have so many irons in the fire that I tend to work on the one that is red hot at the moment. The other thing I tend to do is to work on the “to do’s” that I can complete quickly. Some of my projects require that I get to my desk and pull out the needed source materials before I can even begin. Egads! That is where I sometimes stumble. I can perform 15 other tasks immediately without having to get all settled in so those are the ones I do.

Certainly, listening carefully to words of knowledge/wisdom, helps us mange life and tasks better. Reading helps point the way to a more disciplined life. Perhaps one finds an article on sleep or on time management. We may also glean what we need through conversations. The key, though, is to formulate a plan of implementation.

Sometimes leading a more disciplined life boils down to getting out a calendar and blocking out time for the important tasks of the day. I find the more organized I am, the more I accomplish. The time I spend organizing my time ultimately pays dividends in getting more done, but also in more of the important things getting done. There are so many things in a day to fill one’s time and so many people who have needs and pull on you.

Here is one little discipline of life I will share with you because this is something I fail at routinely. Have a pad and pen near you so that when you think of something you need to do you can write it down. I often fail because of my “Do it now” attitude. Generally, that is a good concept, but sometimes the best thing one can do is continue in the present task rather than jumping around. Write down the other “to do,” finish the task at hand and then move to the next task. You will ultimately get more done. This is a discipline. Discipline yourself to writing out a schedule and then sticking to it. If you are in your reading time, read. Don’t jump on the phone or write a few emails. Get your reading done then pick off the next item.

There is so much we could discuss about living a disciplined life. Often, we talk about diet and exercise, but there is so much more to living in a disciplined way. What is it that you think you need? Where could your life use a touch of discipline. Click reply and let me know.

The Proverbs

Proverb 1: 1 – 7

These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.

What better way to begin our journey through the proverbs than to discover the author and have him tell us the purpose for giving them? The book of Proverbs is the ultimate book of wisdom. Of course, wisdom is found throughout the Bible but this book succinctly discloses golden nuggets of wisdom for us.

Solomon begins his disclosure on how to receive wisdom in the very next verse when he tells us that the beginning of all wisdom is in reverential awe and respect of Yahweh. In God is all the wisdom of the universe so when we give our lives and time to Him, He reveals Himself and His wisdom to us.

Through this journey, we will acquire wisdom, discipline and insight. It’s going to be a great voyage!

My Kingdom for a Leader

Proverb 13: 10, 13, 14, 18, 20                        NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

I prayed many years for a mentor and when one appeared I learned a quick lesson. This learned and wise man suggested that I participate in a conference call which occurs weekly. Even as I clicked on reply to affirm my acceptance I realized something very important, I had already eliminated the option to say “No.” When you ask someone to mentor you or you ask God to provide you with a mentor, then “No” is no longer an option. This is called discipline and obedience and although they are very alien concepts in our modern culture, they are part of the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian ethic. We talk about discipleship a lot in Christian circles but one of the things it seems that we fail to realize, much less underscore, is that discipline is at the root of discipleship.

What do you think about when you hear the word discipline? Many of us think of punishment. I do not. I think of athletic prowess. Athletic competition taught me much about discipline, for which I am, to this day, grateful. When I hear the word discipline I think of the well-honed athletes that we admire. They have had to discipline and deny their flesh. They have had to discipline their minds, overcoming every negative thought, fear and impulse that would constrain them. And they have submitted themselves to coaches and trainers in order to become excellent in their chosen field. This, I believe, is an ideal model for discipleship.

No one attains any great level of success on their own. You may hear people claim that they are self-made but it is not true. When you pull back the veneer of their success you will find that they had mothers drive them to practices at ridiculous times in the morning, dads pitching the ball with them into the twilight hours and wives who have taken care of every detail of their lives so that they could focus on their one central goal. Neither do we become spiritual giants of our own merit. We must always lean on those who have gone before and we are just foolish if we try to learn it all on our own. Why spend 80 years of your life learning what the guy who went before you learned. First learn what he can teach you and then take that wisdom on to the next level. This is how it was meant to be. This text says that whoever walks with the wise will be wise. Why? It is because they share their wisdom with you so that you may avoid the potholes which cause misalignment and also because you get to stand on their shoulders. I remember when I was a small child and we went swimming, I would stand on my dad’s shoulders. All of a sudden the water wasn’t over my head. Instead I was well above it.

I can only think of two reasons why we do not subject ourselves to authority more readily, perhaps you can think of others. The first reason, I suspect, is just ego. We do not want to bow to anyone. That is pride and you know that nothing good comes out of pride. 

The second reason is fear. Anytime there is a spiritual problem if you look behind the curtain you will often find fear lurking. Fear comes from not having a full realization of the love of God. In here is weak self-esteem, anger issues and about everything else but including not being able to submit oneself to authority. It is hard enough to submit ourselves to our bosses and pastors who have legitimate positional authority over us. How much more difficult is it to willingly submit yourself to the authority of someone who does not exercise any substantive power over you. Fear makes you feel that you will be made small when you submit yourself to another but that is a lie. Willful submission to a mentor or intentional discipleship will make you stronger and wiser. Is there ever an occasion for a rebuke? Well sure. If your mentor loves you, they will correct you and correction is okay. It helps us to grow and to make right choices.

So this is my suggestion, if you are the locomotive of your train, find someone who can be a leader and an advisor for you. The people following you need for you to be a good disciple to someone else so that you can be a good leader to them. Leadership always begins with followship (if you will allow me to coin that word). If you have never allowed yourself to be led, mentored or discipled today is a great day for you. Do not delay. First ask God for a mentor. Second, recognize that one may appear quickly and humble yourself. Do not let the fear that they may take advantage of you or “Lord” it over you prevent you from receiving that person and their wisdom. Just keep your mouth shut and learn everything they know. If you outgrow their knowledge, God will assign you a new mentor. Just remember, if he has not yet assigned you a new leader then there is still something that He wants you to get from the one you have. The person that God wants you to shadow may be in your life right now and in fact, probably is. They won’t be perfect so stop looking for the perfect but they have something you need.

Lastly, if you perceive yourself as the leader of your group I suggest this little exercise. Stop leading for a moment. Turn around and see who is behind you. Who is following you? If your following is not what you want it to be or expect it to be, then run quickly to find your mentor. Submit yourself to their direction. Never let yourself be a leader without a leader. Make sure that as you lead others there is someone leading you. Foremost that is Christ but God has also provided people to disciple and mentor us. If you do not have someone filling that role in your life, pray to the Father for your leader and make it your determined goal to receive that person. 

Wisdom, honor and success accompany discipline.