Teachable Moments

Don’t Try Harder!

Do you want to really discourage yourself?  Then buy motivational prints that give really bad advice.  Here are some of my favorite ones to hate:

  • Second Place is being a First Place Loser (really, you couldn’t just let me lose – you had to make me feel even worse about it?)
  • It’s Not Over Until You Win (ridiculous – if you can’t enjoy the journey to your destination, then it seems a bit of a waste of life to me.)
  • Success means to Exceed Everyone’s Expectations Always (this is an outrageous goal – it’s a one way ticket to setting ourselves up for disappointing everyone we know)
  • Here’s how I’m going to beat you – I’m going to outwork you.  That’s all there is to winning. (Really?  Talent, planning, strategy and how about prayer?  None of these matter? Yeesh!)
  • If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. (Well I wish I would have known about this in High School – I would have been able to sit out gym class.)

And I think out of all the bad advice about how to live can be summed up in this one quote you can buy online and hang it on your wall, 

“Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, you should try harder”

Here’s my advice – don’t take the above advice.  And definitely do not try harder!

Winning, competing, and trying harder all lead us to focus on ourselves and picture others as opposition.  We can end up being prideful of our abilities and talents; we trust our own efforts. We are on a slippery slope toward arrogance.  

While these quotes are “popular” and are intended to motivate, they accomplish the opposite of what a Christian Disciple should be motivated to become or to do.  Stay away from such poor guidance.

A Christian Disciple does not try harder, but rather they become less self-reliant and more Spirit reliant.  Scripture is clear that we are not to rely on our own efforts, but rather rest in the effort of God on our behalf.  Our faith is in Him alone.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5)
  • It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)
  • Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

Next time you want to try harder to do the right thing such as fight temptation or grow in wisdom – stop.  Don’t try harder in what you are doing. Stop – tell God you trust Him, you need Him and you will rely on His Spirit.  Ask Him to fill you and give you the wisdom and strength you need to accomplish whatever it is you need to do.   

As our children grow in faith, how can we help them be reliant upon God?  First, they need to see it in us before they will ever try it for themselves.  Show them how to walk with God. Second, pray with them, asking God to fill you both and to give you His strength and wisdom.  Pray with reliance upon Him. Third, read God’s promises.  Meditate and memorize them.  Fourth, rejoice!  When we rely on Him, we see His Word come to life in ours.

Dear Reader, as you walk as a Christian Disciple, following God and as you do so, becoming transformed into His image, remember that your journey of faith must be Spirit-filled and Spirit-reliant.  His power is what we need, not our own.

May you be completely reliant on God this week – may you try less hard and find God more faithful.

Fondly yours always, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Follow the Leader

Contemporary Pastor and author, Francis Chan, wrote this about following Christ; “Following Christ isn’t something that can be done half heartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when it is useful. It must be central to everything we do and are.” (Crazy Love:  Overwhelmed by a Relentless God)  Following Christ then becomes less of an exercise of behavior and becomes instead, a transformation of the heart.

A Christian Disciple is a Christ-follower, a constant learner from and about their Master.  The Christian Disciple strives not only to know their God, but follow His lead and become like Him as they do.  How do we teach our children to be a Christ-follower?  

Easy – play a game!

Games teach us – intentionally.  When the best designers sit down to create a new game, whether a board game, digital, or interactive, they usually take one aspect of human experience and create an interesting balance of challenge and reward.  Games are intended to make us question our abilities and bring us to our limit. In this, games are some of the best teaching aids around.

Children’s games are no different than adult games in these key characteristics.  While Jeopardy challenges someone’s quick remembrance of trivia, Sword Drills in Sunday School or family devotions challenges how well a child remembers Bible verses.  Jeopardy and Sword Drills are all about memory and content. And while content games have their place, interactive physical play is hands-on learning at its best. Take for example, the game, Follow The Leader.

Follow the Leader requires a number of skills that translate directly into our spiritual walk with Christ.

  • Pay attention to the Leader
  • Watch carefully what the Leader is doing
  • Understand what the Leader is saying
  • Use the Leader as your example of what to do
  • The goal?  
    • To do exactly what the Leader does exactly how they do it and exactly when they do it.

Aren’t the above objectives the key elements of a faithful Christ Follower?

  • Pay attention to the Leader
    • Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He is gracious to us.  (Psalm 123:2, NIV)
  • Watch carefully what the Leader is doing
    • “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes”! (1 Samuel 12:16, NIV)
  • Understand what the Leader is saying
    • “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Prov. 4:7, NIV)
  • Use the Leader as your example of what to do
    • For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21, NIV)
  • The goal?  
    • To do exactly what the Leader does exactly how they do it and exactly when they do it.
      • “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6)

Teaching children to be Christ-followers can be as easy as playing the game, Follow the Leader.  As you play this game, remember to have fun with your kids.  Get into the spirit of the game! And while you do so, reinforce the above objectives and then share with them how God’s Word tells us to “play” Follow the Leader with Him.

Dear Reader, if we but stop and think, we can teach a biblical worldview to our children through our everyday activities as play.  Let’s not waste a moment to challenge them and ourselves to Follow Christ Faithfully all the days of our lives.

In Him and For Him Alone!  Blessings to you – Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Midweek Meditation: Call Your Children To Be Disciples, Not Just Christians

As we approach the weekend, I would encourage you to take a minute to stop. It is so easy to get caught up in the busy pace of our world, but I want to encourage you to choose the gospel pace, the pace that puts the things of Christ before the things of this world. It is not an easy choice, but a deliberate day by day choosing. Take a minute or five today to meditate on the following quote from my last blog, Call Your Children to Become Disciples, Not Just Christians, and verses, then close your time with the Puritan prayer. 

May this time of meditation be sweet and refreshing to your soul, dear reader!
Blessings Abundant, 
Elizabeth

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” 
   Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Romans 12:1 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
    *All verses are in ESV

Devotion – A Puritan Prayer

God of my end, it is my greatest, noblest pleasure to be acquainted with You and with my rational, immortal soul; it is sweet and entertaining to look into my being when all my powers and passions are united and engaged in pursuit of You, when my soul longs and passionately breathes after conformity to You and the full enjoyment of You; no hours pass away with so much pleasure as those spent in communion with You and with my heart.

O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over myself when my soul is afraid of nothing except grieving and offending You, the blessed God, my Father and friend, whom I then love and long to please, rather than be happy in myself! Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper, worthy of the highest ambition, and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians, may my joy derive from glorifying and delighting You. I long to fill all my time for You, whether at home or in the way; to place all my concerns in Your hands; to be entirely at Your disposal, having no will or interest of my own. Help me to live to You for ever, to make You my last and only end, so that I may never more in one instance love my sinful self.
Author and Date Unknown

Teachable Moments

Call Your Children To Be Disciples, Not Just Christians

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”   
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Is there a difference between the terms “disciple” and “Christian” and if so, why does it matter?  

If I were to ask you, “do you want your child to be a disciple or a Christian or both?”, how would you answer?  

While it may seem like we’re splitting hairs, denoting the differences between what it means to be a disciple versus a Christian may help us find clarity in how we view our faith.  And obviously, the clearer we are, the clearer our children will be. Words matter for they define what we believe and what we believe directly influences what we pass on to them and others.

Here are some quick facts to help us distinguish between the words disciple and Christian:

  1.  The word disciple is used in the New Testament gospels while the first use of the word Christian isn’t seen until the book of Acts (Acts 11:26). 
  2. Jesus refers to his followers as disciples, but never as Christians, and New Testament believers called themselves disciples, brothers, or saints.
  3. The word disciple is translated “follower” or “student” while Christian is translated “belonging to Christ”.
  4. Christ clearly lays out the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28, 33) which is considerable and should be expected.

The difference in terms is somewhat noteworthy when we take the full meanings of the words to heart and consider how to apply them to our everyday lives.  Reflecting on these bits of information, I find two questions come to mind:

  • Do I belong to Christ? (Christian)
    • Here we examine what we believe about God and examine ourselves, “Have I placed my faith in Christ, thus belonging to Him?”
  • Do I follow Christ? (Disciple)
    • Here we examine how we worship God through our lives, “Do I strive to imitate God in word and deed no matter the cost?”

The best of both worlds is when we see and refer to ourselves as Christian Disciples.  We know to whom we belong and in doing so, we are committed to being imitators of Christ, (Ephesians 5:1-2) following in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21) in both word and deed.  This is a Christian Disciple and this is who God wants us to raise our children to become.

How do we encourage our children to be disciples, and not just call themselves “Christians” and call it a day?  Start simple (I suggest the following as a template).

  1.  Ask your children questions. What is a Christian Disciple?
  2. Discuss with them how to define their identity as a Christian Disciple.   Belonging to Christ and choosing to follow Him in all ways.
  3. Look into scripture and create simple points from the scripture you read to help children understand and remember the points:
     Puts Christ first in all things (Mark 8:34-38)
    Shares the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20)
    Shows one’s love for Christ (Philippians 2:6-8; Galatians 5:22-23)
    Grows in their love for Christ (Matthew 22:37-40)
  4. Pray that God works in their hearts to understand and live out a true and vibrant faith.
  5. Live as a role model so they see you as a Christian Disciple.

Dear Reader, for 2020 – I challenge us all to consider what we mean by “discipleship” and how we are living it out in our homes and churches.  What is the most important thing we can do for our children, for our church, and for all others?  Inspire one another to embrace our identity as Christian Disciples so we bring glory to God and participate in the expansion of His Kingdom.  He is worthy! 

May 2020 be blessed with His presence as you wallow in the joy of belonging to Him and live faithfully as His disciple.

Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Teachable Moments

It’s Time!

Time is nearly impossible to manage.  C. S. Lewis wrote quite a bit about it, musing on how we complain that it goes too slow, goes too fast, we have too much, or we don’t have enough.  Time is the environment we live in and it is sprinkled throughout most of our conversations and yet – we are never comfortable within it.

Helping our children learn to manage time is one of the key life skills parents will teach their children and whether we think we are teaching them or not, we are.  How we talk about time, how we use our time, how we waste our time are all messages we are giving that are shaping our child’s perception of time.

My husband has recently been preaching on being a disciple focused on the mission of expanding the Kingdom of God.  Pastor Brian wisely wrote,

Jesus said to greet no one on the way. In other words, keep focused on the main goal and don’t get sidetracked or waste time. Of course, in our context of being embedded missionaries, stopping and talking is the mission (not the distraction). 

How do we manage our time well, passing on these necessary skills as we parent the next generation of embedded missionaries (our children)?  The world wants to steal their time through social media and video games; their inner desire to entertain themselves can spend hours on Netflix or Youtube and our third enemy, the demonic realm, will do anything to distract our attention away from God’s mission that he has for us.  Again, I’ll turn to Pastor Brian’s recent article and share with you what he learned from a perusal of an old but helpful time management resource.

  • Eternal Perspective –  Charles Darwin said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” Of course this is true for a man who doesn’t believe in eternity, but how much more should this be true for we who believe we will live for eternity in light of what we did with our few short years during this life?
  • Can I schedule this goal on my calendar? – The super successful people don’t just burn hour after hour trying to cross more items off their task list. No, they have already thought through their priorities and have scheduled a time for them. And then, enough is enough. Decide on all your priorities, schedule them, and let the rest go. Replace your to-do list with your calendar. 
  • Energy Management – Important items should be scheduled as early in the day as possible. Manage your priorities around your ever-depleting energy.  
  • Always carry a notebook – Write everything down. (I am learning to use my voice recorder app as an idea capturing device). Capture everything. Sort it out. Prioritize. Schedule.
  • Have the courage to say no – Everyone has a wonderful plan for your life, but only you know your priorities.  Don’t forget – we need to say no to more non-essentials and yes to more Kingdom building opportunities.
  • Evaluate what your 20% is. – 20% of the effort yields 80% of the results. Evaluate what that 80% is that is eating up all your time… kill it.
  • Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin – touch your snail mail, email, and voicemail once… not multiple times.

Dear Friend – want to know a secret about this blog?  Managing time is not a solitary event – we tend to make better choices and can get more done when we partner together.  Your spouse, your best friend and yes, even your kids – all of our significant relationships can help us manage our time and accomplish the Kingdom work God has for each one of us.  I put this principle in action in this blog by “stealing” my husband’s work (with his permission, of course). Don’t waste your time trying to do it all, all by yourself.

Spending my time thinking of you, dear reader, and praying God expands your time and energy and blesses the Kingdom work you do is one of my favorite ways to spend my time.  Thanks for thinking life through with me and grabbing every Teachable Moment we can.

Fondly yours for all time, Elizabeth

PS – Here’s a Bonus List of questions and tips that can help maximize your Time Management, courtesy of Pastor Brian.  (Thanks honey for helping me maximize my time)

Bonus List
DROP: What items can I drop? 
DELEGATE: What items can I delegate to someone else?
REDESIGN: What do I need to continue doing, but do it in a new time-efficient way ?
LIFESTYLE:  Get enough sleep  and remember what Mark Twain said , “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”