4 Reasons to Try a Discipleship App

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There are apps for almost everything we could physically need or want. I can order a pizza, check my bank account or rent a movie while on my phone standing in line at the grocery store.

But what about spiritual needs – is there an app for that?

Family Christian’s new ministry, iDisciple, is answering with a resounding YES. The new app offers a first-of-its kind discipleship experience, delivering your favorite Christian content from your favorite Christian leaders all in one place on any device. (I was honored to be one of the original contributors of content.)

I received a free trial from iDisciple, and here’s 4 reasons I think you should try it:

Daily Devotions – Three daily devotions are delivered to users from a selection of 20 leading Christian leaders. iDisciple content providers include Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Dennis Rainey, Louie Giglio, Beth Moore and many more.

The content can be custom-tailored to me – Users of the free version have access to basic features including sermons and devotionals, but for $4.99 per month, I can create a personal profile that allows the iDisciple system to suggest appropriate content for my specific preferences, needs and interests, like managing finances or developing my faith.

It’s growing – iDisciple’s library currently features more than 30,000 sermons, devotionals, articles, Bible studies, blogs, podcasts and an in-app Bible. They’re always adding content, and Christian e-books and music will be available early this year.

It keeps on giving – Because iDisciple is a Family Christian Ministry, 100 percent of earnings will be donated to support Christian ministries and causes. Additionally, I can give to my favorite charity through a personal giving account within the app.

For more information on iDisciple, or to check out the free 14-day trial, visit www.idisciple.org.

To encourage you to give it a try, iDisciple will provide a free-subscription to one lucky reader of this blog. You can enter for this drawing by commenting on this post.

A representative from iDisciple provided this article.

A Key to Keeping Any Relationship Strong

Elderly couple

One key that helps keep any relationship strong…especially the marriage relationship…is what I call…

Keeping Short Accounts

The premise is simple. If something is bothering you now, even if it is a small matter, it will only bother you more in days to come if you don’t deal with it. You basically have two choices. You can choose to let it go and live with it (Which most of us are not very good at doing) or you can address the area of concern. One of the two must be chosen or the issue will eventually become a major problem.

I realize the first option seems to be the easier option many times. It avoids conflict. It keeps things from being messy. It’s a passive approach that works for a time.

But, here is a truth you cannot escape: Over time, small problems become big problems and big problems destroy relationships.

Learning how to handle conflict is critical to any relationship…especially a healthy marriage, so begin to deal with the issues of concern in the relationships you care most about protecting before they begin to negatively alter the strength of the relationship.

What is bothering you about a relationship in your life?

If the problem never goes away, can you live with it and the relationship still be healthy? If not, keep a short account…address with the problem…get outside help if needed…and get on to making the relationship better.

My 12 Most Popular Tweets of 2013

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Here are 12 of my top tweets from 2013:

If your church attracts broken, messed up, can’t get it right people, then it’s not doing something wrong, it’s being the church #NoteToSelf

Weak leaders try to weed out anyone who could compete for their position. Strong leaders recruit them as team members.

Don’t mistake the silence of God as the absence of God. He is working.

As a leader, you’ll seldom make everyone happy. In fact, if that’s your goal, you might consider whether or not you’re a leader.

God’s not ignorant of your situation. He’s not perplexed either. Or overwhelmed. When it’s time…and you’re ready…He’ll reveal His plan.

If God is stretching you, it may be uncomfortable for a while, perhaps even hurt, but eventually you’ll love the new shape.

Great leaders see opportunities where others see obstacles. #Leadership

Don’t be defined by a past you don’t intend to repeat.

God’s not worried. If your trust is in Him, why should you be?

Some people will learn to love Jesus only when His followers learn to love like Jesus.

I’d rather lead with character than competence. I can surround myself w/competent people, but no one can make up for my lack of character.

You can’t lead people if you don’t love people. You can control but not lead.

You can follow me HERE.

7 Ways Christians Should Behave Online

Social media on Smartphone

I have had an online ministry for over 15 years. God has humbled me with the way He has chosen to use this influence He has given me. I try not to take it for granted.

One thing that has changed since I began ministering online…and it’s changed for all of us…is the rise of social media. Whether you believe it’s a good addition or not, we cannot deny it’s impact on culture or even on the church. Personally, I have chosen to use it for good as much as possible.

Still, it disturbs me some of the ways I see Christians respond on social media. I can post one thing…whether serious or not…and I do use humor intentionally as a part of my online presence…and it never amazes me how someone might respond. I have referred to the practice as a slam and run. I just have to thank God at times for the delete option. :) But, it’s an example of a bigger problem. Christians aren’t always behaving well online. What we’d never say offline we have no problem saying online.

Seriously, this isn’t a personal plea. This is a Kingdom plea. Just as the world is watching how Christians respond in public they are watching how we respond online. We must be careful then with what we post. All of us will be misunderstood. But, we shouldn’t be blatantly offensive.

Here are 7 ways Christians should behave online:

No soapbox -We are told to “do everything without arguing or complaining.” (Philippians 2:14) That doesn’t mean we can’t support causes we believe in, but they should be moral and Biblical issues, not personal agendas.

No public bashing – Unless you’ve practiced Matthew 18 principles, and even then it would be rare, don’t address your problems with others online. It’s not helpful and never promotes peace. (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14)

No little jabs – We shouldn’t say things about others that may be misinterpreted as a stab against them. Guard your online tongue. (James 3). I see this especially as a passive aggressive tactic. We feel “safe” evoking insults or cuts to another person online that we would never say to their face.

Encouragement – Social media can be a great way to encourage others. We shouldn’t spam with massive amounts of posts. Few appreciate the person who reshares everything they see, but most everyone likes to read an encouraging word pointed especially to them. (Ephesians 4:29)

Do to others – As we’d have them do to us. We should always think before we post. Pause. Breathe. Think. Post. Ask yourself how you would be impacted by the post before you post it. (Luke 6:31)

Guard against pride – We have to be careful with self-promotion and bragging about ourselves online. Granted, this is coming from one who has built an online platform online and I frequently encourage other pastors to do the same. It’s one of the best ways currently to engage people for Kingdom building. But, this is a reminder for me too. We must check our motives, guard our hearts and never allow our egos to rob glory from what God wants to do through our online presence. (Proverbs 11:2, 13:10)

Not allow it to be a replacement for community – It’s easy to post “Happy birthday” or reply “Praying for you” without really doing so. We shouldn’t trade the functions of the Body for an online presence. (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:24)

Those are 7 that come to my mind. What would you add?

(Be general please and not specific in your comments, so as not to violate the purpose of the post.)

7 Tips to Read the Bible Through in One Year

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Are you up for a challenge?

How about reading the Bible through this year?

I’ve heard so many people who would love to read the Bible through in a year, but never completed the task. It’s nearly impossible for the pastor to preach through all of it, so you are going to miss something unless you study on your own, but most believers haven’t read all the Bible. Some of the best nuggets of truth I discovered on my own, reading through the Bible in a year.

Here are 7 tips for reading the Bible through in a year:

Pray – Ask God to give you the motivation and strength to accomplish this goal. You can’t read the Bible like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you.

Pick an easy to read version – Currently I’m using the Holman Christian Standard. I previously wrote a post about versions. You can read that HERE.

Find a plan – You could simply read three chapters a day and do fine, but I have found having a printed checklist helps keep me disciplined. It may seem mechanical to some, but it will keep you on task. YouVersion has many plans to follow. There are more than you can imagine. The key is to find one. I like the balance of reading some Old and New Testament each day, but choose one that works for you. Here’s a LINK to other options. (Personally, I’ve chosen the ESV Study Bible plan available through YouVersion.)

Find a place - Choose the time and place that works best and that you will most likely stick with through the year. I find mornings work best for me. I travel frequently, so I can’t have just one place, but when I’m home, I have a certain chair. I’m moving this year to the dining room table, because I know I’ll be less distracted. For me, I need to turn off everything else and simply concentrate on the Bible reading.

Document your reading – I’ve found I get more out of my reading if I journal along the way what it’s saying to me. Even if I don’t understand it completely, writing the questions I have down helps me process them later and eventually something else I read seems to help answer my questions.

Discipline yourself – It will likely take you on average about 15 minutes per day to complete this. Once you’ve done it consistently for 30 days or so, you’ll be well on your way to having a habit formed.

Catch up when needed – If you miss a day, don’t sweat it…and don’t quit. Spend a little extra time and play catch up on what you missed. Of course, if you do this too many times you’ll eventually give up, so the key is discipline, but extend grace to yourself as you move through the year. Also, if you didn’t start on the first, start on the 2nd, or the 22nd, and go through the same time next year. You can begin today. There’s no legalism here…just encouragement! You can do this!

Keep the goal in front of you and follow through. This time next year you’ll be glad you accomplished your goal.

Who’s with me?

A Dozen Challenges for a New Year

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I posted some of these last year…but feel some of actually applied again…and I changed a few of them.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else – God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens – God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others.

Start embracing today – Let the past go. You can keep hoping your life away, but when you learn the secret of contentment today can become a great day, in spite of the challenges it holds.

Find real community – Granted, you’re most likely reading this online, but our lives aren’t meant to be as isolated as an online world encourages. Find opportunities to engage with real people…in person…with no technology in the way. (This may be as simple as turning off your television more frequently.)

Accept God’s grace – It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it.

Live free of grudges and bitterness – The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness.

Live with an eternal perspective - You’ll laugh more readily…even in the midst of life’s greatest tears, because you’ll always have hope. (Of course, make sure your eternity is secure.)

Admit mistakes quickly – Sincere humility is an attractive quality.

Give generously – Giving opens the heart to contentment. And, there are many needs around us.

Lower unrealistic expectations – Many times our disappointment in others and ourselves is because we placed unrealistic expectations on them…and ourselves. There has only lived one perfect person. (And, it’s not you…or me.)

Take a new risk – Fight your fears and go for it!. The adrenaline of walking by faith will fuel you for future success.

Record your life – This, like every year, is going to be an exciting year…full of surprises…some good and some not so good. Start a journal of your days. You’ll enjoy reflecting back this time next year. (It may even prove to be therapeutic.)

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

7 New Year Resolutions that could Change the World

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In the new year…let’s resolve.

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life.  And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving…it might become contagious…and we might just change the world.

7 new year resolutions that could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check. It will require discipline…but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good. It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling…in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good…mostly to us…more than “them”.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger. This is true in every relationship…but especially in marriage. Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others.

Let’s resolve not use Facebook as a forum to bash others. Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook…rant-free even…where we stalk…I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people…real people…may actually see what we write. And care. (This includes Twitter too.)

Let’s resolve to exercise our patience muscle. Wow! I put this one in the middle so that maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need…we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality…and Christ’s strength…we can keep getting better.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us. This one alone would change the world. What if we placed into our schema that other people matter…just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak. It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. But, it guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change we need is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others…including other believers…others might want to hear our Gospel.

What resolve do you propose? 

What Is Your Jesus New Year Resolution?

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One of my closest friends and I hosted a Christian radio talk show for 17 years. He was out of town one morning for Christmas break and I had to do the show alone. As I was preparing that morning, I read Mark 5.

The story of the woman subject to bleeding has stuck with me for several weeks and let to a New Year’s resolution I have been mindful of ever since. It became my “Jesus resolution”.

To save you time looking up the story, I have pasted it here:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

(Mark 5:24-34 NIV)

The story prompted a thought that I shared that morning on the radio.

What am I going to do with Jesus in the New Year?

Here’s what came to me from this story.

Seek Jesus more passionately.

Once this woman heard of Jesus she began to track Him. She became a “Jesus groupie” of sorts. She knew Jesus was her only hope.

That’s the way I want to pursue Him in the New Year.

Cling to Jesus more tightly.

It did not matter to the woman that she was not supposed to be in the crowd. Her physical condition should have kept her away, but she was willing to risk everything to “touch His garment”. Cultural expectations couldn’t keep her from Jesus.

I want that kind of commitment to Christ in the New Year. Regardless of what is politically correct, just give me Jesus.

Claim Jesus more readily.

When Jesus turned to look for the person who had touched him, the woman came forward. She could have left. She had received what she wanted. She didn’t have to stick around for public attention, but she was willing to declare her faith publicly. In times of hardship or times of blessing, she followed Jesus to make Him known.

This next year, I don’t want to miss opportunities to tell others about the faith I have in Jesus Christ!

Experience Jesus more expectedly.

The woman was healed! Her faith was rewarded. She went from being an embarrassment to the crowd to the star of the day. Honoring Christ came with great rewards. He blesses those who place their complete faith in Him, to the point that we are still considering her experience with Christ today!

This year, I want to see Christ bigger than ever before. I expect to see Him magnified greatly, as I place my total trust and faith in Him and watch expectantly for His appearance in my life!

What are you going to do with Jesus in the New Year? What’s your Jesus resolution?

3 Questions to Write an Easy Personal Development Plan

I am frequently asked to help someone get started writing a personal development plan. I think everyone’s plan looks different, because we all are starting at different places. I believe, however, that there are some common questions, which can help all of us think about how we should be developing.

Take a break from your daily routine, grab a cup of coffee, a pen and some paper, and think through these three questions. Keep in mind, I can’t write your plan for you, but these may be tools to fuel your thoughts towards personal development.

Where am I now?

Be honest with yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where do you most need to improve? Consider each aspect of your life. Where are you in your career, family, social, financial, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being? Which of these areas are most neglected? In which areas do you excel?

Where do I want to be?

Think in terms of each of the categories above. Think through six months, one year and five years. What areas do you most need to improve? In what areas are improvement most critical? What areas, if you were to address them, would improve your overall satisfaction with life? What are some dreams you have for each area? Where do you get excited about the idea of stretching yourself to achieve them?

How can I get there?

For every goal you say you want to achieve, write some concrete action steps..a plan to get you there. What are some measurable goals you could implement to help you achieve them? This is the hardest part, but simply write one or two action steps for each broad goal. You will need to update this plan periodically with your progress and you can continually add to and refine these action steps. The key is that you take action to move forward in the direction you want your life to develop. Ask yourself: Where do I need more training? Do I need a mentor? Could I use more practice? Who could hold me accountable?

Now work the plans; take action. A piece of paper with plans of them, or an idea in your head, is worth very little until you take steps to achieve them. The best day to get started is today!

This sounds simple, but if you will spend a few hours thinking through your individual plan for personal development, the time could make the difference in whether or not you achieve the goals you have for your life. When you finish this plan, you won’t necessarily have a professional looking document you could turn into your college professor and there are certainly methods more complex for writing a personal development plan, but for me the end goal is progress towards my goals, and most of us are more likely to do something which is easy and less time consuming. This is a method I can and do use frequently.

Do you need to do this?

5 Questions When Attempting Life Change

Sadly, people end each year no better than they end any other year, because they continue to repeat the same mistakes and live out the same bad patterns and habits they have always lived.

If you want to make genuine, sustaining changes, consider your answers to the following five questions. For best results, write your answers to these questions on paper. There is a certain finality of purpose when you invest time and energy recording them.

Is my life headed in the right direction? If you continue living your life the way you have been living it, will you eventually achieve the dreams and plans you have for your life? If not, then move to question number two.

Am I willing to make changes? You will never make change that lasts if your heart is not into making them. Be honest.

What are a few changes I can make that could have the greatest impact? Don’t try to change too much at one time. It could be in your finances, health, relationships or church attendance, but usually a few changes, whether major or minor, will have significant impact. If you are overwhelmed with the changes needed, read THIS POST.

What disciplines are needed to realize these changes in my life? You may need to get up 15 minutes early each day. Perhaps you need to read one chapter of a book each night. Maybe you want to start taking your lunch to work to save money. Think through some practical ways you can discipline yourself to stay on track.

Who can hold me accountable? Recruit someone to help you achieve your objectives. Give them the changes you want to implement and allow them the freedom to question your progress periodically. Ultimately your success is dependent on you, but knowing you will be asked often keeps you moving in the right direction.

Many of the outcomes the of your life will be greatly determined by your willingness to allow positive changes in your life. Let me encourage you to make wise choices for a positive and productive life.

One important closing thought. It is my firm belief that the only way to experience real life, the way we were intended to live it, is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you do not have that relationship or it is not as strong as it should be, start there.

What changes are you making in your life these days?

If you need help writing a life plan, consider THIS POST.