thoughts on life and theology from an ordinary pastor

Tips in Reading and Discussing a Book Together

One helpful way to spur others on to growing deeper in your discipleship is meeting together with other Christians. I’ve previously given some suggestions on what such a regular gathering might consist. One tool to deepen discipleship in a regular meeting with others is to choose a book to read together and discuss it. What is involved in such a commitment? Here are a few suggestions on how to make the most of reading a book (outside Scripture) together. Commitments in Reading Material Together Determine exactly how much you will read and discuss each week. Make sure everyone involved is committed to complete the reading each week. Commit to not only read, but think through specific applications of what is being read. Commit to read the material chosen carefully, not merely complete the portion agreed upon each week. Don’ts for Good Discussion Don’t commit to something you cannot consistently contribute to significantly. Don’t allow each other to remain general in what they are applying to what they are reading. Don’t merely read quotations that you thought were good. Why were they good? How are they impacting you? Don’t only consider applications for yourself – but consider applications for the church and how what you are reading could build up others. Don’t dominate the time so that others can’t participate. Be mindful. Do’s for Good Discussion Mark up the book you are reading, including notes in the margin to remind yourself how/why what you marked has impacted you. Quickly glance over the the assigned section of reading and your marks before the discussion. Determine the most impactful element of the... read more

Preparing for Sunday – Matthew 13:44-52

Carefully Think Read Matthew 13:44-52 List the parables described here. What are the similarities between each of the parables? What are the differences? What is the emphasis of the first two parables that do not have a stated explanation? What is the emphasis of the thrid parable that is explained? What are the new and old things that Jesus is referring to in the last parable (vv 51-52)? How is this final parable (vv 51-52) a good summary of the three parables before it? Of all the parables in chapter 13? Prayerfully Meditate How do you see your participation in God’s kingdom similar to the man who found the hidden treasure and the merchant who discovered the valuable pearl? The disciples could identify themselves with the parables (v 51). How do you personally identifiy with each of these parables? What is it about the kingdom of God that you find overwhelmingly, joyfully, compelling that you would give up everything to have it? How do you cultivate and maintain such a compelling joy in the things related to God’s kingdom? Intentionally Act Do you find anything in your life distracting you from the deepest joy in the kingdom of God? How can you focus your heart on the kingdom this week? What will you do? How will you respond? How could you use this passage as a means to encourage someone else? Who would that be in your life? Make plans in your heart and schedule to do that this week. Pray for those who will be in attendance Sunday do not love God’s kingdom like the man who finds... read more

What Could a Discipleship Meeting Look Like

From the outset, let me again say, discipleship is more than a meeting. It is living all of life in devotion to Christ. A meeting isn’t sufficient and doesn’t necessarily guarantee discipleship. However, I find that being intentional about pursuing Christ with two or three other people is a very helpful tool to keeping myself sharp and push myself and others to be intentional about our pursuit of the Lord. If you were to begin meeting with another person or a small group of a few people to encourage and deepen your fellowship with Christ, what would you do in that time together? What would guide your conversation and make it most helpful? You could simply keep it organic and spontaneous. I just haven’t found that to be the most helpful in the long run. Over the next few posts, I will expand on each of these and suggest some practical ways to go about each of them. For now, here is a brief suggestion of how you could arrange an hour together, assuming there are three people meeting together. Obviously you can arrange this differently with different elements and times of which you engage. I’m simply suggesting a practical way to get started if you aren’t doing anything currently. I suggest that each week, you take turns each leading one of these areas: Discuss what you are reading in Scripture or a specific book you are reading together and how it is specifically challenging and shaping you. (20 minutes) Review Scripture you are memorizing together (15 minutes). Discuss your application of a key question you were all asking... read more

Discipleship Questions to Consider

Last week I suggested a few bullet points of how you could practically serve another brother or sister (or group of people) in deepening your discipleship in Christ. One of the suggestions was to ask specific application questions of one another. Discipleship is more than a meeting. Accountability questions can be dodged and become legalistic. I’m certainly not suggesting they be used in such ways. Use them to simply stimulate each other’s thinking about how to apply the Bible more fervently, specifically, and intentionally to daily life. Recently, the way I have used these questions is to have someone choose a question for the group to think on through the week. When we get back together, we start off by talking about how we lived out (or perhaps did not) the application of the question. It has proved to be a helpful stimulus for me and others. Some of these questions were taken from a list one of our elders found online, and some of the questions were developed by a good friend who used questions he was asking himself after listening to various sermons at church. They are a random list given in no specific order. Here are some of those questions: In what ways am I consciously or unconsciously  creating the impression that I am better than I really am? How am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits? How did the Bible live in me today? Am I enjoying prayer? Why/Why not? How so? Am I defeated in any part of my life? How, why, in what ways? How do I spend my spare... read more

Practicalities of Discipling One Another

As I recently taught through Matthew 10, I urged my congregation and myself to consider how we could become more intentionally involved in each other’s lives to stimulate each other on to deeper relationships that produce biblical love and kingdom living. Discipleship is inclusive of engaging both non-Christians and Christians with the gospel. Here are a few bullet-point suggestions that would actually work with either. However, for the purposes of this post, let’s consider how you could invest more of yourself, more intentionally in the life of another Christian – or even two or three others regularly meeting together. Discipleship is not about checking off the following points. The following points are merely suggestions of how you could begin to think through ways to interact intentionally with other believers in a growing and ongoing way to develop more significant relationships for God’s glory. I don’t intend to annotate each suggestion. Use them as a beginning point to consider how it could flesh out specifically with you. In future posts I will give a few detailed suggestions for things such as applications questions, books to read, how to discuss a book together, etc. So here are a few suggestions on how to think about getting together with another Christian to encourage each other in more intentional ways. What to Do Converse Over Biblical Truth Read books of the Bible together         Read excellent books         Ask specific application questions of each other         Memorize Scripture together Pray Together Pray about what you are reading Pray about what you are struggling with... read more

Why I’m Still a Mac Fan

This past weekend was one of “those” weekends. It used to happen to me so much more frequently. However, I have not experienced it in almost five years: the dreaded laptop crash. I saw it coming over the past few weeks. The reliable and beloved MacBook Pro (2009) was not only slowing down, it was beginning to crawl like an infant. Last weekend, I removed just under 100 gigs of material (apps, docs, pics, music, etc.). Nothing. In fact, the dreaded Mac beach-ball-of-death was showing up on a more frequent basis throughout the week – to the point that it was taking almost as long as a Windows machine to boot, and then with every app I opened, I would have to wait for some 2 to 5 minutes before I could work. Nope. That won’t work. So, instead of trying to relax on my one day off, I spent the afternoon and evening in a last ditch effort to bring back my Mac bliss. I researched articles (on my iPad) on how to speed things up. I purged, I cleared, I dumped, etc., etc. Nothing. No change. At all. I finally came to the conclusion that I would have to do what every Microsoft phone-assistant suggests as a first step: reinstall the OS. Sweat, anger, fear – it all rushed upon me. Honestly, I haven’t felt this in years. I used to go through a Windows laptop every 18 months for a number of years before my Mac conversion. I forgot what it felt like – but the memory was quickly engaged and old feelings flooded back. However,... read more
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