Hi Friends! My name is Brandi and I’m addicted to books. (grin) So I’ve started a little something new. Have you seen the new page added to my website – The Book Shelf?! It’s a cozy little place where I’ll share some of what I’m reading. And today I’m kicking it off with a book I really didn’t expect to read (and honestly, I didn’t expect it to have as much of an impact on my heart as it did…)
Contagious Disciple Making
Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery
by David Watson and Paul Watson
“Our Christian culture can have an extremely negative impact on disciple making. …In fact, Christian culture – not to be confused with God or what He teaches through the Bible – is often a barrier to people falling in love with Jesus.” ~David Watson
“Lost people are mostly repulsed by religion but inexplicably drawn to spiritual men and women.” ~David Watson
This. Right. Here. Has me pondering deep and long about what my beliefs look like to my neighbors. I get it. Christian-ese and church-i-ness can get under my skin like nobody’s business. (And I am an avid church goer…). The world hungers for real faith, faith that breathes the same air in the church as outside the church. Faith that touches everyday life in the real world.
I went into reading this book thinking it was a “how-to” book about church planting and in all honesty, I hadn’t ever given much thought to the process of starting and growing a community of believers. However, this book is not a “How-To” book, this is a book about The Great Commission. This is a book about discipleship.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19
David and Paul Watson, Father and Son duo, have been planting and growing churches for over 26 years. David has seen 100,000 churches start and trained more than 30,000 leaders from 167 nations. Paul has trained 1,500 disciples-makers in 14 different countries and served along side his father with the mission organization, City Team. And they decided to write a book for the believer who sits in church on Sunday and wonders why the people they pass in the supermarket on Wednesday aren’t sitting here too.
Right on page 4 of this book David gripped my heart and pulled open my eyes. “…I had to focus on making disciples of Christ, not followers of my church or denomination.” Growing the church is not a formula of doctrine but a practice of relationship. They want real and so do I.
Relationship. A multifaceted and incredibly complicated process. Vulnerability and time are essential requirements. Discipleship is about taking faith and making it livable. Knowledge becomes wisdom through the process of relationship and in the nitty gritty of living life the intellect of scripture becomes faith. Nobody needs intellect, but everyone needs faith.
The book is broken into two parts, the first half detailing the difference between mainstream church planting and the true need for a Discipleship Group within the Global Christian community. The second half of the book is all about what a Discipleship group looks like and how it works. These pages are chalk full of information, giving detailed thought to the essence of the gospel message, what prayer is, and connecting within a community. The last few chapters in the second section are about transitioning community groups into a church.
Even if you don’t want to start a church, but you do want to spread the message of the cross, this book is for you. If you are like me and you are learning to live your faith outside the comfort of your prayer closet… you might like what this book has to say.
“Please note that it requires no faith to learn something. …Learning does not require faith, just intellect. Obedience requires faith.” David Watson
The Crown on Your Head
On the day that we met and I put you to bed,
I noticed a crown on the top of your head.
It was made up of sparkling, glimmering things
like moonlight and fireflies, and dragonfly wings.
As the days came and went,
it was faithful and true…
… and it grew right along with the rest of you.
I always knew just what your crown meant.
It said that you were magnificent.
(That means you are grand from your toes to your chin.
Take a deep breath, and let that sink in.)
That’s about as high as a word can climb!
Thats the top of a mountain…
a steeple chime.
That’s over the moon in a nursery rhyme…
and it means, like a star,
You were born to shine.
(Blink three times and.. there you are!
You are twinkling, little star!)
In other words, from your very first day,
you were chosen to glow in a very big way!
With your crown made of glittering, high-flying things,
you’ve got wind in your pocket, your wishes have wings.
You can run like you mean it…so, let the wind blow…
There’s just no telling how high you can go!
Whatever it is you choose to do,
no one can do it exactly like you.
Ride on the big slide! And if you fall down,
remember your glorious, marvelous crown.
It won’t flicker or fade. It won’t dim. It won’t leave.
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS BELIEVE.
Do you, my child? I hope that you do.
The world is a wonderland waiting for you.
And you get to share it with all your friends, too!
They each have a crown that is faithful and true.
No one’s is brighter, no one’s is duller.
It’s only a crown of a different color.
So sometimes, just every now and then, whisper “I believe” again.
Your crown is your best friend forever, by far.
It tells the true story of just who you are.
That’s why every night, when I put you to bed,
I’m careful to kiss the crown on your head.
Friend, you wear a crown glittered with jewels of love, compassion; a crown of true joy. Yours is a crown declaring you victorious, full of life. You, dear one, wear a crown of heavenly beauty.*
Isaiah 61:3 … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes… They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
* Psalm 103:4 Psalm 149:4 Isaiah 51:11 James 1:12
I’m a sucker for the comparison trap. Even when it comes to faith. I think some have more faith than me – which really means I don’t have enough for the “big” things.
I decided to go in search of really, what it is and how to get it. But I discovered that faith isn’t a more or less, it isn’t given in greater measure to those that do or less to those that don’t. And it isn’t taken away. We tend to give faith (along with loads of other things) degrees of strength and place a value on it. But faith is not measured in depths. In fact it isn’t measured at all, it doesn’t vary. It either is or it isn’t.
We talk about “growing” faith like we grow vegetables. We sometimes use the analogy of muscles… so using our faith muscles will strengthen our faith. I’m not sure that is entirely true. In that same hallway of faith we find Abel – who’s one act of offering a sacrifice lines him up right next to two men who lived a heck of a lot longer and had plenty of opportunities to “exercise faith”. If having unwavering faith is about time spent building muscle, Abel sure didn’t spend much time in the gym.
Then there’s Noah, who built an outrageous boat and Abraham… well, they call him Big Papa for a reason.
So why the accolades? Why does their mug shot hang on this infamous wall – why are their names mentioned here in the book of Hebrews?
What do they have that I don’t?
I stared at the heroes of Hebrews 11 for a bit and found…
They did faith every day. In the mundane, the day to day tasks. One foot in front of the other. Slowly, steadily, predictably. It wasn’t some formal act filled with pomp and circumstance. It wasn’t a big blatantly obvious deal. Faith was in the rhythm of life, like breathing. This grooved pattern became a foundation, an automatic. Then when the earth flooded, or the doubts loomed and fear beckoned they leaned back and stood where they’ve always stood.
“It is a great thing to have faith in the presence of a terrible trial; but the first essential is to have faith for ordinary every-day consumption.” … “Faith will not come to thee all of a sudden, in the dark night, if thou hast shut it out through all the bright days. Faith must be a constant tenant, not an occasional guest.” ~Charles Spurgoen
Check out Abraham. Yes, he moved to a strange place when God told him to. Yes, Sarah conceived and bore his heir when she was far past childbearing years. But look at one of the biggest acts of faith (big by our measurements)…his act of nearly sacrificing Isaac.
Abraham loaded up the donkey with fire wood. Packed himself and Issac an overnight bag and kissed his wife good bye. (I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell Sarah what he was planning…). They traveled for a few days. And then climbed the mountain. He set up the wood and then bound Isaac’s hands and feet. I wonder what Isaac was thinking during this step? Then the Father of many nations lays his one and only son, the one God promised over and over again up on the altar and raises his machete over Isaac’s neck. (gulp).
Ok – pause right there. We all know how this ends. God provides and Isaac grows up to be one of the patriarchs of the Bible. Stand there on that mountain with me for just a moment. This great act of faith is not a new one for Abraham. He has been in this very stance countless times before (just over a goat or a lamb, not a handsome son of promise). He had built altars with every promise God gave; he built altars when he arrived and when he left. Abraham had been building altars and standing in God’s presence with every transition, every next step. Abraham was offering gratitude, he was worshiping. He was honoring. He was walking in faith.
So when God said, hey, go offer a sacrifice it was a familiar path. He had been doing it for decades and this was not new to their relationship.
If something is commonplace in a relationship, doesn’t it make sense to do it again? If you and your husband always have date night on Fridays, then when he plans an outing on a Friday it’s easy to organize the details, right?
Faith is the same way. Your walk of faith in the midst of every day life is the same walk of faith through cancer, through death, through financial hardship. Start right here, right now in your everyday moment. Walk with Him. Take His words with you in carpool line, listen to His love sing in the shower, talk to Him while you do the dishes.
Faith is not an achievement to attain, but a characteristic of your identity in Christ.
I am linking up with Meredith Bernard today for Woman to Woman Wednesday! And since it’s technically Thursday, I’m leaping (and linking) over to one of my mentor’s pages for the first time too ~ Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday. Come, grab your coffee and join me!
*Pictures are curtesy of Creative Commons on Flikr.com
The calendar is fresh. Open wide for dreams and goals and wishes. The page spreads out on the horizon hungry to be filled. What will the days ahead hold? What adventures and trials will sprinkle color across these next 300 some days?
As we step out in developing new habits and destroying old ones, as we face success and failure in each new dawn I can’t help but wonder what it is about a new year that calls out change? And how do we find change that lasts?
I read recently this Letter to the Real You by Ann Voskamp. She has challenged me to take change to the inside. If I seek any change at all this year I start deeper than empty duties of daily actions ~ I start at the heart.
“And because the way you live your ordinary days is what adds up to your one extraordinary life.” ~Ann Voskamp
May your Sunday be a savoring of your ordinary. May your heart overflow with kindness, first to yourself. And may it pour into all of those around you.
Friends, I am working on an upcoming message about Beauty. Could you help me out a little in my research? I have a survey, quick and easy (and yes, gents you can help out too!). I’d really appreciate your input! Click the link below. And please feel free to share the link with anyone and everyone!
Thank You so much!!
“But Mommy, how can God help me?” She whimpered through tears as we dimmed the lights and tucked in the covers. “How can He help me? We can’t see Him, we can’t hear Him, and He isn’t here.”
Oh, do I relate to her pleas for relief in the dark moments of hard times. When you are walking through a process so heavy and hard that you simply cannot see through the fog. It feels impossible and impassable. Circumstances become like chains, holding you captive in the barren place of shadowed perspective.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1
Faith is one thing in the daylight when sight is clear and conditions manageable. But it is something completely different in the dark, lonely places of uncertainty. That kind of deep faith is unwavering. That faith is deeply rooted, beyond the shifting plates of life’s conditions.
I want that kind of faith; faith that holds a steady heart while groping through the dark. I just don’t want the trials. But the truth is – I’m not sure this kind of faith can be built or even found in the daylight. This kind of faith is forged in fire.
Can we ponder this a bit? Can we be brave and really dive in to the depths of our own reflections? When the rug is pulled out from under your feet and the world turns to quicksand, where do you go? When it doesn’t make any sense at all, what do you cling to?
Abel is the first Ancient mentioned in Hebrews 11, that infamous “hall of faith”. Not Adam, not Eve… Abel. Their second born. And even though his story in scripture is rather short, his face is the first that hangs on that wall. He brought an offering before the Lord, an offering of devotion. It was the first and very best produce of his herd. That was it. His act of faith was an act of devotion, surrendering over the vulnerability of his best work.
I wonder what that took, to sacrifice his favorite calf. To lay down his dream and most prized possession at the altar. Perhaps he was teased by Cain or maybe even his Mom cast a few words of doubt. Did he wonder if he’d ever have one like that again? Did he worry if the rest of his herd would be enough?
And yet, despite the cloudy outlook, no matter the crazy predictions this action triggered; he did it. He gave it up out of pure devotion to an unseen God.
And he was murdered for it. Not rewarded with a larger herd, or even a really juicy steak. He was murdered by his very own brother.
Had he known, do you think he would have done it anyway?
Unwavering faith is first a choice. A choice to lay bare before the Lord. Abel chose the Lord over his best work, his visible guarantee. And God still honors him for it millennia later. Before the world got complicated with a brother’s jealousy Abel made a choice regardless of outcomes. He valued the place of a Sovereign God over His expectations.
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1 MSG
No, my sweet daughter. We can’t see Him with our earthly eyes. But if you close your eyes you can see Him with your heart, and He is faithful. He is faithful beyond anything on the horizon.