Do you need a M.E.?

IMG_1172If you are between Ministers of Education, this may be a perfect time to do a six-month Sunday School Tune-up. Here is what I have in mind.

I would like to come out once a month for six months and work with your Sunday School to get it in tip-top shape. Each trip will be five days. I will travel in on Friday and be there Saturday – Wednesday and leave out on Thursday. I will do the following on each trip

  • Conduct one of six conferences (see below)
  • Attend all worship services and one Sunday School class each trip.
  • Do a walk-through of the building and offer suggestions.
  • Do a space analysis of the building and offer suggestions.
  • Meet with 12 hand-picked Sunday school teachers for a small group teaching time. See below for subjects taught.
  • Meet with staff to offer suggestions on Sunday services.
  • Meet with staff and go over content of Doubling Groups 2.0 and You Can Double Your Church in Five Years or Less.
  • Meet with each Sunday School teacher individually or in groups of 2 – 3 for personal discipling/ coaching. (For large churches, I may not be able to meet with all of them.)

The six conferences I will conduct include:

  • You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less
  • Teach Like Jesus
  • Disciplemaking Teachers
  • Make Your Group Grow
  • One Magnificent Obsession
  • Evangelism as a Team

The six small group lessons I will teach are:

  • Lesson #1: Never try to teach people you have not prayed for
  • Lesson #2: The “With them” Principle
  • Lesson #3: The goal is not to make smarter sinners. Teach for application. Make disciples.
  • Lesson #4: You can’t infect people with a disease you don’t have. Only disciples can make disciples. Set an example.
  • Lesson #5: 100% guaranteed way to sin less than you do.
  • Lesson #6: Why we MUST discuss.

Cost for each trip is $3000 plus expenses. I am willing to stay in a home if need be to keep expenses down. Total expense per month should be less than the salary of a M.E.

Contact me at josh@joshhunt.com or 575.650.4564 for more details.

Transformed by sovereign grace

JoshPerhaps you are not interested in all this. Perhaps you think you will settle for going to church, getting your ticket to Heaven, trying to live a decent life and leaving the John 10.10 living to the super-saints.

I have some bad news. If you take this approach, you set yourself on a collision course with the Almighty. Consider these verses:

  • Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV2011)
  • For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29 (NIV2011)

All who are God’s children are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. God will carry His work on to completion. God will get his way. Your arms are too short to box with God.

When my children were young, they sometimes did not want to follow my leadership. I knew we needed to take a trip as a family, but they refused to get in the car. What happened? I got them in the car. They got in the car kicking and screaming, but they God in the car. I am the dad, and I will get my way.

God is God and He will get His way. He can get you there kicking and screaming, or He can get you there the easy way, with the easy yoke, but either way He can get you there.

The hard way involves lots of pruning. It involves lots of discipline. It involves more pain than you want to imagine.

The easy way is much more joyful. The easy way requires willing obedience. The easy way is, well, easy.

The easy way does require self-discipline. It requires our cooperation with God. It requires us to start our day with our Bible on our lap. It requires that we memorize Scripture so that our minds are transformed. It requires that we confess our sins, one to another. It requires that we serve. It requires that we spend time in worship.

Sound like too much trouble? Does obedience sound too hard? Try disobedience. Try inviting the disciplining hand of God. That is the hard life.

C. S. Lewis was once interviewed by an American Christian journalist who was writing about well-known characters who had converted to Christianity during adult life. The theme was ‘decision’. He wanted to get Lewis to say how he had ‘made his decision’.

Unfortunately for his project, Lewis refused to put it in those terms. He hadn’t ‘made a decision’, he said. God had closed in on him and he couldn’t escape (though at the time he had badly wanted to). The closest he would get to using the language the reporter was interested in was to say, ‘I was decided upon.’ In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he describes it in a more evocative phrase: ‘His compulsion is our liberation.’

Lewis was decided up in his conversion. You may feel that way about your discipleship at times.

How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;

Has God hammered you and hurt you? Don’t be surprised. This is discipleship. “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6–7 (NIV2011)

While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

Have you been there? Have you felt tortured by the almighty? This is discipleship, or part of it. It will not all be this way, but one course in the school of discipleship is most assuredly suffering.

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

God knows what He’s about. That is the great hope in suffering. You can suffer with Christ, or you can suffer without Christ. Either way there is suffering. There are tortured nights crying out to God.

Tom Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 82.

 

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

Transformed by pain

IMG_7015-EditWe are all motivated by two things: pain and pleasure. We are motivated toward pleasure; we are motivated to avoid pain. Look carefully at this familiar passage. See what it teaches us about pain avoidance:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:1–6 (NIV2011)

If you don’t abide in Christ you find pain. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Ouch.

Some people think living for God is painful, and it is. So is living without God.

If you do abide in Christ you find pain. Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be more fruitful. In this world you will have trouble. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. The Father disciplines those He loves. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

There is something about pain. There is something about hardship. There is something about trouble. Pain tenderizes the heart. Pain drives us to our knees. Pain calls us to cry out to God. Not just pray—cry out to God. Only people in pain do that.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

If you teach, make one of your primary teaching aims that of preparing people for the pain that is coming their way. Tell them often of the storm that looms. Don’t let the storm surprise them. Tell them winter is coming. Tell them that God disciplines those He loves.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 83.

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

Transformation by speaking the truth

IMG_0158-Edit-2Let me misquote a verse. See if you can catch the mistake:

Instead, hearing the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15 (misquoted)

Here is the correct verse:

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.Ephesians 4:15 (NIV2011)

Catch it? We are changed by speaking the truth. If we speak words of gratitude, we become more grateful. If we speak words of love, we become more loving. If we speak words of faith, we become more faith-filled. We are changed more by what we say than what we hear.

This is why groups of two or three are so powerful. Jesus ministered in three organizational levels:

  • To the masses
  • To the disciples
  • To the inner circle—Peter, James, and John

Churches are normally organized around two levels:

  • The congregation
  • The small group

We need a third level of organization:

  • Groups of two or three

In the introduction to Organic Church, Leonard Sweet says, “The church is at its best in two’s or three’s-not in two or three hundreds or two or three thousands.”

Neil Cole on groups of two or three:

Neil Cole goes on to explore seven advantages of this third level of organization:

The Bible often elevates a group of two or three to significance. Both the Old and New Testaments mention the phrase “two or three.” It is interesting that at least ten times “two or three” is suggested as an ideal size at which to conduct ministry. It is not ever “two” or “three” alone but always “two or three.” The Bible also does not say “two or more” or “two to five,” but “two or three.” Perhaps it is good to have flexibility with not too many options. When looking for witnesses in a criminal trial, we are to have two or three witnesses, not more and not less. This is not to be a mob trial, nor is a single witness-one person’s word against the other’s-enough. Here are a few reasons I believe two or three is the ideal size for effective fellowship and ministry that will penetrate the rest of the church and ultimately the Kingdom.

First, community is stronger with two or three (Eccles. 4:9-12). Solomon writes, “Two are better than one … and a strand of three cords is not easily broken” (Eccles. 4:9-12). There is a sense in which a group of two or three is indeed stronger for community than any other size. Why? Not only do they share effort (or as Solomon says, “they have a good return for their labor”) but also they can encourage one another well. Solomon writes, “If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.” It is possible for one to fall in a crowd and not be noticed. But in a group of two or three, everyone is noticed and a single absence cannot be ignored. It may seem obvious, but it is easier to meet one another’s needs when the group size is only two or three. It is also easier to resist the enemy as two or three. As Solomon wrote: “If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him” (Eccles. 4:9-12). All of us need this kind of community strength as we take on the devil and his cohorts.

Second, accountability is stronger with two or three (1 Tim. 5:19). According to Levitical law, no one could bring a case to trial without two or three witnesses. Moses explains why this is important in Deuteronomy (19:15): “on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” Paul carries on the idea of strict accountability when dealing with sin in 1 Timothy 5. He is addressing accusations brought against church leaders as he says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” In other words, our information is held more accountable with two or three people than with only one. This size of a group is better for holding one another more accountable. In a group of five, it is easier for a person to hide and not speak up, but in a group of two or three all are forced to participate.

Third, confidentiality is stronger with two or three (Matt. 18:15-17). Jesus instructs us that if a brother sins we should reprove him in private. If he listens to us, we have won him back, but if not we are to take two or three others with us. This is further application of the idea of accountability in a group of two or three. Jesus goes on to say, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” It appears that Jesus is showing us the balance between having accountability and maintaining confidentiality. The bridge between these important concepts is made of two or three others. A group of two or three is indeed the best context to blend and balance confidentiality and accountability. It is far easier to give account of our hidden thoughts and foolish mistakes with two other people than to a larger group. This is especially true if all in the group are sharing equally, and all wrestle with their own honest issues.

Fourth, flexibility is stronger with two or three (Matt. 18:20). Jesus went on to say (in the passage previously examined on discipline for an errant brother) these famous words: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Many believe that these words are the most basic description of church found in the Bible. Coordinating the calendars for a small group of ten to fifteen busy people is a real challenge. It is far easier to coordinate two or three discrete calendars. The larger the group, the fewer the options for meeting times and places. Finding a place where fifteen people can meet comfortably is certainly easier than for a larger church of a hundred or a thousand people. The options for a group of two or three are vast, almost limitless. A group of two or three can meet at a coffeehouse, in the marketplace, or beside a water cooler in the workplace. I have heard of two or three women meeting at a local park while their small children play together on the jungle gym. I have also heard of two or three men meeting together at the grownup gym while they lift weights together.

Fifth, communication is stronger with two or three (1 Cor. 14:26-33). It is certainly easier to communicate with fewer people. The more voices you add to the equation, the more confusion results and breakdown occurs. Paul counsels the Corinthian church that they should limit the number of people speaking to two or three at a time, with clear interpretation. Our attention span is not that great. We have technological gadgets that do much of our thinking for us today. I have to look down at my wrist now to know what day of the week or month it is. With a short attention span, it is hard for us to receive more than two or three messages at one time. In a context that was challenged by lack of order, Paul recommended that we limit our intake to two or three messages at a time.

Sixth, direction is stronger with two or three (2 Cor. 13:1). Paul wrote at least three letters to the Corinthian church because of its problems; we have two of these letters recorded in the New Testament. He used the Old Testament principle of two or three witnesses to verify the direction he was giving to the church and to affirm the authority by which it came. In trying to find God’s direction, it is useful to wait for two or three witnesses to confirm the direction. This is not a Biblical command, by any means (frankly, God should have to say things only once). But if you are uncertain and torn between a number of paths, the counsel of two or three may help.

Seventh, leadership is stronger with two or three (1 Cor. 14:29). Paul suggests that only two or three prophetic voices should provide leadership to a spiritual community at any one time. The others are to pass judgment on the messages. There is wisdom in a plurality of leaders. But too many leaders can also be a problem. If the children of Israel had been led by a committee, they’d still be in Egypt. A team of leaders, two or three working together, is a powerful enterprise, safer than a solo leader yet more powerful than a committee. In a group of two or three, leaders are accountable to one another, community is stronger among them, and there are four to six ears listening to God’s voice. It seems that God has ordained two or three to be a perfect group size for life. Marriage is between two. God Himself exists in a community of three. If one can reduce the church to its smallest, most irreducible minimum, it would have to be two or three. If we can instill a healthy DNA here in each group of two or three, the entire church body will have health throughout. Reproduction is also easier at this level. If you have a group of three and want to multiply groups of two or three, to multiply all you need is to find one other person. By reducing multiplication to this simplest level, reproduction can be part of the genetic fabric of the entire body of Christ.

To all these benefits, I would add an eighth: in groups of two or three you can speak the truth. You can tell what God is doing in your life. You can go over scripture memory verses. You can share promises discovered. You can speak words of gratitude, and become more grateful. You can speak the truth and be changed by it. You can be transformed.

You can’t do that in a congregation-sized group. You can’t even do it in a small group. You can only do it in a group or two or three.

Neil Cole. Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) (Kindle Locations 77-78). Kindle Edition.

 

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

Transformation by hard work

IMG_1172There is more to Christian living than trying really hard to be good. More, but never less. Some Christians, I am afraid, don’t try hard enough.

When Paul spoke of Christian living he spoke of striving and straining and boxing and running. These are all very active metaphors.

One of my favorite jump-ball questions is this: is Christian living active or passive? Is it trying hard or resting in the finished work of Christ? Is it working like crazy, or letting go and letting God?

I love this question because it is a little bit of both. Christian living is both trying hard and trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to do His work in me. It is both Faith is the Victory and I’m pressing on the upward way…

Some Christians don’t try very hard at all. They read a verse like this one:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV2011)

They wonder what Paul is talking about, “weary in doing good.” I think you ought to be tempted to get weary in doing good every now and then. I think you ought to push yourself to exhaustion every now and then. I think you ought to lie your head on your pillow dog-tired every now and then.

You shouldn’t stay there. Don’t be weary in doing good. The verbs in this verse are present tense verbs which suggest linear action. They suggest habit. Don’t make it a habit of getting weary. Don’t camp out at tired.

The Sabbath was given to man as gift to the tired. It was given to ensure that we never stay tired. But we ought to get tired occasionally. We ought to need the Sabbath.

One of the things the Lord commended the church in Ephesus for was their hard work. (Revelation 2.2) Jesus told the disciples they would be able to reap a harvest only because others had worked hard. (John 4.38) Paul didn’t take a salary and supported himself by his hard work. He taught us that if a man does not work, he should not eat. It is morally wrong to feed a man who could work but chooses not to. The Proverbs speaks often of the value of hard work and warns against the sin of laziness:

  • Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. Proverbs 10:4 (NIV2011)
  • Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. Proverbs 12:24 (NIV2011)
  • All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23 (NIV2011)
  • The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5 (NIV2011)

We live in a country that longs for shorter work weeks, more days off and early retirement. We serve a God who says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” Exodus 20:9 (NIV2011) We think of the 4th command as a command to rest, but really it is a command to work and rest. If you think of it this way, there are really eleven commands—the command to work and the command to rest being two of them. The ratio is 6:1. Lots of work; a little bit of rest.

We live in a culture that values entertainment. We value leisure. We thank God it is Friday because Friday is the weekend and on the weekend we don’t have to work. We see work as a punishment to be avoided. The nation’s bestselling chair is a Lazy Boy, not a worker boy.

Christian living is hard work. There is no abundant living without hard work. It means setting an alarm when you would rather sleep in. It means going to church when you would rather stay home and do nothing. It means memorizing Scripture when you would rather watch TV. It means exercising your body when you would rather not. It means serving when you would rather be served. It means forgiving when you think it is impossible, then, forgiving again.

There is no transformation without hard work. There is more to Christian living than trying really hard to be good. But, you will never lay hold of the abundant Christian life without trying hard to be good.

 

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

Transformed by the power of the human example

Josh2007HighYour progress in discipleship will be greatly enhanced if you can find someone in your life to be a pacesetter. We all do best if we have an example to follow. If you look back over your progress in the faith, you will find this principle illustrated many times.

As clear as this principle is in scripture, modern Christians often say the opposite. You would not have to hang around church too long before you heard someone say, “Don’t follow my example; follow the example of Christ.” It sounds spiritual, but it is so wrong.

Jesus didn’t ask us to simply do what he said; He asked us to follow His example. Jesus knew his disciples needed an example:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:15 (NIV2011)

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV2011)

You might be tempted to think that this was good for Jesus because He was Jesus. It was also true of the Apostle Paul:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV2011)

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. Philippians 3:17 (NIV2011)

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV2011)

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV2011)

That last verse is an interesting one. The word Paul uses is mimetes. We get our word, “mimic” from this word. Paul goes on to say, “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV2011) Follow my example; for this reason I have… sent Timothy? I would have expected Paul to say, “Follow my example, for this reason I am coming to see you.” Paul had discipled Timothy so well that he could send Timothy in his stead. To follow Timothy’s example was to follow Paul’s example.

Paul says of the believers in Thessalonica, “And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:7 (NIV2011) The HCSB translates it “example.” Here, Paul uses a different word, tupos. We get our words “type,” and, “type writer” from this word. Think of a typewriter striking the paper. Every time, it makes the exact same impression on the page. It was used by Thomas in John 20.25 when he said that unless he saw the nail marks in Jesus’ hands, he would not believe. The nail marks. The marks left by the nails. The Thessalonians had been marked by Paul’s life. He had (literally left an impression on them. Now, they were making an impression on all the churches in the area.

This is how the gospel is transferred—from one life to the next. From one generation to the next, one man marks another man who marks another who marks another. We follow human example.
I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

 

Transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit

IMG_0158-Edit-2If ever there were a people who would be transformed by the renewing of their mind, it would have been the Jews. They had the Word of God. They memorized it. They meditated on it. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest they tried really hard to obey it. But, they did not obey.

God’s people lived in community. If ever a people were to be transformed in community, it would have been God’s people, the Jews. If ever there were a tight-night community of people who were trying to follow God, it was the Jews.

If ever there were a people who would have been transformed by worship, it would have been the Jews. The details of the worship they experienced were meticulously prescribed by God and carried out by God’s people. The temple worship was worship like no other. They experienced worship where God wrote the order of service. Yet, they were not transformed.

They were in community. They had the Word. They had worship. They had the discipline of God. They tried really hard. Yet, they were not transformed.

What was missing?

Is anything different today? What hope do we have of really living transformed lives if in the Old Testament we read of 2,000 years of mostly failure to live godly lives?

Much in every way. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV2011)

Get your hopes up! Abundant living really is possible. Get your hopes up, joy is available! The Kingdom of God is come. Joy to the world!

How is this possible? How is it possible to lay hold of the John 10.10, abundant Christian life? If for 2,000 years God’s people tried and studied Scripture and participated in the temple worship and all the rest, and were largely unsuccessful, how are we able to live this life?

The forgiveness of sins through the cross is part of the answer. But, Old Testament saints also enjoyed the forgiveness of sins. They didn’t have the privilege of understanding exactly how God would deal with their sins, but if they believed by faith that God would forgive, they were forgiven. I ask again, what is different now?

Perhaps it is the teaching of Jesus. That certainly helps. Jesus was the greatest teacher to ever live and His teaching is invaluable in transforming our thinking so that we can be changed. But, there is more to Christian living than trying really hard to follow the teaching of Jesus. What is different now?

The Holy Spirit.

It is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life that makes Christian living possible.

Yet, many Christians do not understand how to be daily filled with the Holy Spirit. Without this knowledge, transformation is impossible. Without this knowledge, Christian living is impossible.
I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

Transformed by habit

IMG_1172The vast majority of what we do is simply habit.

  • We either pray or not as a function of habit
  • We read our Bibles or not as a function of habit
  • We go to church or not as a function of habit.

The writer of Hebrews warned that some people had gotten out of the habit of meeting with fellow believers—to everyone’s detriment. They didn’t intend to stop meeting together. They didn’t stop meeting together as an act of rebellion. They simply got out of the habit. Most of life is that way.

Did you exercise today? If not, it is likely you have not formed the habit of exercise.

Did you have a Quiet Time today? If not, is almost certain that you have not cemented the habit of Quiet Time.

Are you giving regularly? No? Form a habit.

Are you memorizing God’s Word? What a wonderful habit that is!

“Good habits are hard to form and easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form and hard to live with.” They are more difficult to form than most people think. Do a google search for, “How long does it take to form a habit?” and you might find the answer, “21 days.” Read the fine print. Research shows it take far more than that—on the order of about two months.

Of course, if depends on what that habit is. Getting into the habit of eating ice cream is easier than getting into the habit of eating broccoli.

Here is the key to forming a habit:

  • Set a low bar.
  • Go for ruthless consistency.
  • Get a long list of reasons why you want to establish the habit and what bad things will happen if you don’t.
  • Take some friends with you.
  • Overdetermine success.

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

Transformed in community

Small-GroupImagine a man who read the Bible for an hour a day.

Imagine he spent another hour a day memorizing scripture.

Imagine he listened to sound Christian teaching on the way to and from work.

Imagine he listed to sound Christian teaching on TV at home in the evening instead of watching sit-coms and the news.

Now, imagine he never talked to another Christian. He never went to church. He was not a part of a small group. He spent his life alone. He was never encouraged, never admonished, never corrected. He never spoke the truth in love. No one ever spoke into his life. He was never loved by another human being. He was alone.

Question: how much would he grow spiritually?

We are transformed one at a time, but we are not transformed alone. We are transformed in groups. If you are not in a group that is working toward being transformed into the image of Christ, you will not be transformed. People are not transformed alone. The writer of Hebrews made this clear:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24–25 (NIV2011)

This verse is often used as an admonition to come to church. Note that this is not what it is talking about. It is not talking about sitting in straight rows and watching the same events happen on the same stage. It is talking about meetings where we encourage one another; meetings where I encourage you and you encourage me. As Andy Stanley says it, “Circles are better than rows.”

Circles encourage one another to start their day with the Bible on their lap. Circles ask hard questions. Circles probe. Circles admonish. Circles hug. Circles love. Circles transform.

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

 

We become what we behold

Josh2014-500wThere is something about worship.

There is something about looking at God that makes us godlier. There is something about basking in His love that makes us more loving. There is something about thinking about his grace that makes us more gracious. There is something about worship.

On that day we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. There is something about seeing Him. There is something about worship.

It is true on a human level. Consider the following research:

A study published in the March 2006 issue of “Personality and Individual Differences” may have the answer. Twenty-two people, divided equally between male and female, participated in the study. They were asked to judge the looks, personalities and ages of 160 married couples. The participants viewed photographs of men and women separately and were not told who was married to whom. The subjects consistently judged people who were married as being similar in appearance and personality. The researchers also found that couples who had been together longer appeared more similar.

If a man will come to look like his bride by staring at her over the years, how much more will the bride of Christ come to look like Christ by beholding Him.

It is not only true of husbands and wives, it is also true of tennis players. Consider the typical coaching session:

Imagine what goes on inside the head of an eager student taking a lesson from an equally eager new tennis pro. Suppose that the student is a middle-aged businessman bent on improving his position on the club ladder. The pro is standing at the net with a large basket of balls, and being a bit uncertain whether his student is considering him worth the lesson fee, he is carefully evaluating every shot. “That’s good, but you’re rolling your racket face over a little on your follow-through, Mr. Weil. Now shift your weight onto your front foot as you step into the ball… Now you’re taking your racket back too late … Your backswing should be a little lower than on that last shot… That’s it, much better.” Before long, Mr. Weil’s mind is churning with six thoughts about what he should be doing and sixteen thoughts about what he shouldn’t be doing. Improvement seems dubious and very complex, but both he and the pro are impressed by the careful analysis of each stroke and the fee is gladly paid upon receipt of the advice to “practice all this, and eventually you’ll see a big improvement.”

That is the typical coaching session, and it never works. Let me show you are more excellent way:

My next lesson that day was with a beginner named Paul who had never held a racket. I was determined to show him how to play using as few instructions as possible; I’d try to keep his mind uncluttered and see if it made a difference. So I started by telling Paul I was trying something new: I was going to skip entirely my usual explanations to beginning players about the proper grip, stroke and footwork for the basic forehand. Instead, I was going to hit ten forehands myself, and I wanted him to watch carefully, not thinking about what I was doing, but simply trying to grasp a visual image of the forehand. He was to repeat the image in his mind several times and then just let his body imitate. After I had hit ten forehands, Paul imagined himself doing the same. Then, as I put the racket into his hand, sliding it into the correct grip, he said to me, “I noticed that the first thing you did was to move your feet.” I replied with a noncommittal grunt and asked him to let his body imitate the forehand as well as it could. He dropped the ball, took a perfect backswing, swung forward, racket level, and with natural fluidity ended the swing at shoulder height, perfect for his first attempt! But wait, his feet; they hadn’t moved an inch from the perfect ready position he had assumed before taking his racket back. They were nailed to the court. I pointed to them, and Paul said, “Oh yeah, I forgot about them!” The one element of the stroke Paul had tried to remember was the one thing he didn’t do! Everything else had been absorbed and reproduced without a word being uttered or an instruction being given!

How does this relate to discipleship? Much in every way.

If we would make disciples, we must train them to behold. We become what we behold.

I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.

Click here to access Transformed by… lessons.

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