Daily Devotions for Cell Leaders

Daily Devotions for Disciple Makers

Based on articles written by Chris Adsit, Director, Disciple Makers International

Day 1

Fast and Cheap Disciple-making

Two building contractors were chatting over coffee one day. "Have you heard about those new titanium-alloy girders?" Joe asked. "They're supposed to be strong enough to withstand a nine-point earthquake!" "Yeah, I heard about 'em," replied Sam. "But they're worthless. You'll never catch me building with them." "What do you mean 'worthless'? Build a skyscraper with those and it'll never fall. Totally fire-proof, too - can withstand a ten-thousand degree fire!"

"Sure they're durable. But they're too expensive! And hard to work with! And they add to your construction time!" "Well, what do you use instead?" asked Joe. "I prefer plastic and Styrofoam," Sam replied. "What? That's crazy! For girders?" "Sure! If you use enough of them, they'll hold a building up - at least for a while. You don't need any heavy equipment - we can just throw the beams up by hand! Forget riveting - we use glue and Swintec staples! And if things are a little out of kilter, you can just hit it with a hammer or chop a little off with a knife! As long as the wind doesn't blow and there are no earthquakes, hot days or heavy birds landing on it, it's great!"

Joe was incredulous. "You can't mean it! Aren't you worried about safety or longevity or anything? Don't you care about your reputation as a contractor?" "Listen," said Sam. "My job is to construct a building, and when I'm done, it's someone else's baby. I can't be held responsible for building maintenance as well. I build them! And as you know, I build them faster than anyone in the city - 25 skyscrapers per year! Now that's the reputation I care about!"

Many disciple makers approach their mission of disciple making with the same attitude. Their objective is not strong, stable disciples, but the speedy completion of a program, quantity, quick turn-over rates, and a checked-off agenda.

Paul spends an entire chapter warning disciple makers against just such an approach. At first glance, most people conclude that 1 Corinthians 3's discussion about gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay and straw refers to our works being tried before the judgment seat of Christ. But in fact, the context is disciple making, and the kinds of materials one uses to build into the life of another!

In the first nine verses of the chapter, Paul chastises the Corinthians for their lack of growth and their "I'm of Paul" and "I'm of Apollos" contentions. He points out that his work and Apollos' work as ministers is important ("I planted, Apollos waters . . .) but God was the one who caused the actual growth and He is the owner - they are God's field and God's building.

But then Paul points out in the next several verses that God had hired him to be the "building contractor", and that he took his work very seriously.
"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he [the building] will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he [the builder] will suffer loss; he himself [the disciple] will be save, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Cor. 3:10-15)

What's your attitude toward the "building" God has given you to work on? Is disciple making an optional pursuit with you, something you like to fiddle with if you've got time? Or are you co-labouring with God to build a superstructure of steel and concrete, enabling that disciple to stand firm in the storms and earthquakes of life? The day will come with the quality of work we've done will be apparent to all.

Day 2

Getting Pushy

I was tired. It had been a rough work-out: repeat quarter-miles. I had just settled down to dinner in the dorm cafeteria, and up strolled Dick and two of his friends. "Hi Chris! We're going over to the next town to watch this great Billy Graham movie, want to come along?" About two weeks earlier, Dick had led me to Christ. My love for the Lord was growing fast, and I wanted to follow Him, but I wasn't too sure about these Christians. I mean, they carried around Bibles and prayed out loud and sang songs in groups, for cryin' out loud! I wasn't ready to start hanging out with a bunch of fanatics!

I had to think fast. How was I going to get out of this? "Oh, well, thanks for asking, Dick, but as you can see, I've just started dinner. I don't want to hold you up - you guys go on and have fun!"
"No, we've got time. We'll wait for you." They all sat down. Better try a new tack. "Actually, Dick, I've got a lot of homework tonight. I'd love to go, but . . ." "What exactly do you have to do tonight," Dick asked. I quickly listed several bogus assignments. He fielded each hit and showed me where I could reschedule my "work" and even offered to help me with some of my tasks. How was I going to shake this guy?

"Well, the truth is, Dick, I'm on scholarship with the track team, and the coach has imposed a curfew on us. We've got to be in our rooms by 10." Dick expressed surprise. "You haven't made the curfew yet, Chris. Why start tonight?" Think, man! Think! "You know, I'd love to go, but I just don't have the money right now . . ." "No problem!" Dick slaps down a five-dollar bill.

That was it. I was licked. They dragged me off to that movie, and that evening changed my life forever. I watched how these guys loved each other, encouraged each other, had good, clean unadulterated, pure-hearted fun with each other. I saw Christ in their midst, and I wanted in! From that night on, I greatly preferred the company of my new Christian friends, rather than my old non-Christian ones - a step which significantly contributed to my spiritual growth.

But none of that would have happened if Dick hadn't "pushed" me. It was obvious to him that I needed fellowship, and he was willing to risk my rejection and anger by being aggressive and tenacious with me. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

Too often, we Christians say, "Now, I don't want to be pushy. I don't want to alienate anyone." Listen, the world's pushy! Satan's pushy! Before I knew Christ and decided to stand for Him, my dorm friends thought nothing of pounding on my door at midnight and dragging me off to go drinking. If we are going to gain back ground for the Kingdom of God, sometimes we're going to have to push!

In the Great Commission, Jesus said, "Go, therefore, and make disciples . . ." We must take the initiative - both with non-Christians who need to know Christ and with Christians who need to know Him better. The job won't get done if we're "staying" - only if we're "going".

A primary reason why some many Christians are falling into sin these days is because we are not "pushing" each other toward maturity and safety. We back off on this issue for the same reason we back off on witnessing: Fear of rejection. We don't reach out to other because of what it might cost us. We listen to Satan's lies instead of the truth of God Who says in Isaiah 58:10-12:
"If you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom will become like midday . . . and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail . . "

If we reach out and touch someone, both we and they will benefit - and Satan loses! If my coach hadn't pushed me, I'd never have become an All-American. If my professors hadn't pushed me, I'd never have gotten my degree. And if Dick hadn't pushed me, I never would have grown in the Lord.

And by the way, if you ever see me standing in the middle of the road with a truck bearing down on me, do me a favour: PUSH ME! I might think you rude at first, and I may smart for a while, but I guarantee I'll thank you for it later.

Day 3

Getting Up Close and Personal

Two extremely significant things happened to Chris (not me) while a student at North-western University: (1) he became one of the best offensive linemen in the school's history, and (2) he came to know Christ as his Saviour. Though he was involved in a Bible study there, he received very little personal follow-up.

Upon graduation he moved on to professional ball. For a while, he faithfully attended the weekly chapel programs, but for one reason or another, he never entered into a personal, one-to-one relationship with a stronger, more mature Christian for the purpose of being discipled. Eventually, he lost interest in the chapels and dropped out. He is now one of the top offensive linemen in football. He's been all-pro every year since his career began. He's a man who could influence tens of thousands of people for the Kingdom of God, but his ministry for Christ these days is non-existent.

Who knows how differently this scenario might have played if a stronger brother had come alongside him during his early days as a Christian and become his close friend? If someone had helped him get established in his walk with Christ, taught him how to defend himself against the devil, and had been there eyeball-to-eyeball to help him find answers to his doubts, fears and misconceptions, he might be a champion for Christ today.

The "small group" dynamic - such as a weekly study - is vital. But we have found that if there is not also some kind of significant "one-to-one" time with each member of the study, they will seldom develop into spiritual leaders. Even in the context of the group study, they will exhibit far less attention and participation and show far less application. Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and needs. You can't deal with all that variety in a group situation. Only in the "one-to-one" context can you personalize and specialize the discipling process.

You might be leading a dynamite study on "Stewardship", But Joe over there isn't listening because he's being eaten alive by anger and bitterness toward his coach. Frank thinks about nothing but his neighbour’s wife all day. Jed's thinking about dropping the study next week because he can't resolve evolution and creation. Individual needs require individual attention.

It's only in the intimate, personal environment of the "one-to-one" that you can deal with the intimate, personal issues of life. And let's face it: if a person doesn't have a place where he can deal with the intimate, personal issues of life, he will be devoured! It's one of Satan's oldest tactics - separate the individual sheep from the flock. Break off all ties of spiritual accountability and encouragement, pour on the pressure, and then watch him self-destruct.

People don't bail out of the Christian life because they didn't catch the sequence of Paul's missionary journeys, or because they only made it through Book Three of an eight-book Bible study series. They bail out because life got a little too rough, and when they needed someone to lean on for a while, no one was there. No one to pray for them, no one to steer them back to God for real answers, no one to say, "Buddy, though the whole world's against you, I'm for you, and I believe in you!"

Every one of us has a hurdle or two that's keeping us from going a little farther down that road to maturity - and usually the tallest ones are the private, personal types that we'd never feel comfortable talking about in a group setting. Take the time to really get to know the people you're working with. Let them see your love and concern, earn their trust, and then help them dismantle those hurdles.

Day 4

Adventures In Discipling

When we begin to disciple someone, it's futile to address only the issues in their "religious cubby hole." People need to grow and mature in every area of life, so we need to relate to them along a wide front. As Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy,
"But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, sufferings... (2 Timothy 3:10,11)"

Those two men went through a lot together! And so should we with our disciples. Don't look at them as a "ministry project," be their friend. Do spend time together in prayer and Bible study; but do fun things together, too! Have adventures together. Minister together. Go on overseas projects together. Play together. You cannot develop a deep relationship with a person if you're only meeting for an hour a week over lunch in a restaurant. And without that deep relationship, it's not likely they'll ever open up to you and you'll never know what issues might be slowing down their maturation process.

Gerry and I were teammates on Colorado State's track team. He had come out of a rough, drug-related background and was a nominal Christian when we first met. God had given me a burden to help Gerry grown, so I invited him to join a Bible study I was leading, which he did. He was pretty faithful about coming, but I still felt he was holding me at arm's-length. Our once-a-week small-group meetings weren't getting us very far.

As I prayed about it, the Lord gave me the idea to take Gerry tubing on a nearby river in the Colorado Rockies - just the two of us. As we drove, Gerry began to open up. Because his life had been hard, he wasn't convinced that God really gave a hoot about him personally. Inwardly, I asked God to show Gerry otherwise.

The river looked rough, but we jumped into the icy water anyway. About a half-mile downstream the current took a sharp turn to the right. I shot up sideways over a boulder, stayed on top of the tube and made the turn. But as I looked back, I saw Gerry flip over. He then committed the cardinal sin of tubing: he let go of his tube. I pulled to the side, snagged Gerry's tube and watched for him to pop up, so that I could throw it to him. Ten seconds passed. Twenty. Thirty. I began to panic.

Finally, up shoots Gerry, his eyes as big as tennis balls! He splashed over to me, exhausted. He said that the current, after it went over and around the boulder, created a tremendous down-wash, and the river must have been 20 feet deep right there. It pushed him all the way to the bottom. Twice he fought almost to the top, and twice it pushed him down. He said, "After that second time, I quit. I saw my life pass before my eyes, and I knew I was going to die. All of a sudden, it was like this giant hand grabbed me and threw me to the surface! Chris, I know that was God! He does care about me!"

And just to make sure there was no more doubt about it, as we were walking back up the road and contemplating another run down the river, Gerry's tube exploded! That settled that. I don't recommend near-drowning as a standard discipling technique, but Gerry and I became very close from that day on, and this opened the door for a lot more input over the next several years. God used the context of our friendship to accomplish something that could never be done in the context of a formal Bible study.

Only in the context of an intimate, personal relationship will you be able to uncover and deal with the intimate, personal issues in your disciple's life. And if a person doesn't have a place where he can go to deal with those issues, he will be devoured (1 Peter 5:8).

Most younger Christians don't bail out of the Christian life because they dislike the pastor's style of preaching, or because they only made it through Book Three of a six-book Bible study series. They bail out because sometimes life gets overwhelming, and when they turn to their fellow Christians for help, no one's there, and no one cares. That must change! As Solomon said,
"One standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12 TLB)."

You need to be there for your spiritual children! The young Christian, the Lord, and you will be that tough, triple-braided cord.

Day 5

The Changing Needs of Growing Disciples

Babies, babies, babies! In a spiritual sense, we have a tendency to think that the greatest thing we Christians can do is to beget babies. Consequently, what we've got here in America today is the largest spiritual nursery in history. Mature Christians are as hard to find as frog hair. The few real leaders that exist are mobbed by spiritual brats. "Easy-believism" has given people the idea that all Jesus asks of them is to be included in their portfolio. People will gladly accept eternal life from Jesus, but they'll shun His lifestyle.

God wants His children to grow. He's pleased when they do and is not pleased when they don't (1 Cor. 3:1-3; 13:11; Eph. 4:11-16). As Paul said in Hebrews 5:12:
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers..."

God has a time line, and He has plans for each of us. I'm not going to debate how specific those plans are, but we know for sure He says, "I plan for you to grow up! I want you out of the nursery and into the foxhole! I need soldiers--not bed wetters!"

Our job as disciple makers is to help spiritual babies grow up. This is not an easy, overnight process. One of the main things that makes it so complex is the fact that if something is growing, it's changing, requiring us to change our tactics right along with it. As Shakespeare said, "Everything that grows holds in perfection but a little moment."

You can't cause growth, that's God's job (1 Cor. 3:7). But what you can do is to create an environment that's conducive to growth. To do this, you must first be aware of the changing needs of a growing Christian, and seek to meet them in the power of the Holy Spirit as they come along.

The Apostle John categorized growing Christians into four levels of growth: babies, children, adolescents and adults (teknia, paidia, nianiskoi and pateres in 1 John 2:12-14). As you study the scriptures, it becomes apparent that the spiritual needs of growing disciples parallel their physical needs. The primary needs of a baby Christian are "protection, love and basic knowledge." Brand-new Christians need protection from Satan, discouragement, bewilderment, doubts, cults, etc. They also need to know that they are loved (by both God and you) and that they belong to a genuine family--not just another "club." As his discipler, your role is primarily that of a "mother," regardless of your gender.

But as an infant becomes a child, his needs change. Now he goes to "school" and his needs are those of "consistent, strong guidance, and to 'learn the ropes' regarding his walk and his ministry." More is required of him and a stronger hand is applied. Discipline and accountability are introduced. Many a first-grader initially needs the teacher to actually hold the pencil in his hand and guide his every movement so that he can form the letter "A." Just so, a spiritual "child" needs someone to pay him a lot of attention, help him almost every step along the way, and be an example for him. In this context, he learns the basics of what it means to be a citizen of God's Kingdom. Your role is now more that of a "teacher."

At the "adolescent" level, the disciple needs to develop "strength, experience and responsibility." He needs a little more breathing room, a little more chance to fail and bounce back on his own. The load needs to be increased in order to develop strength. He needs to be given more responsibility, so he can gain experience and wisdom and to feel the fulfilment of a job both started and finished while he was calling the shots. Your role now is that of a coach, standing on the sidelines, urging him on. You're there to take him out of the game if he gets hurt, to patch up his wounds, show him where he went wrong, and to send him back in again.

The spiritual adult's greatest needs are those of "leadership abilities and consistent self-discipline." He needs to develop a deep-seated tendency toward a closer walk with the Lord, ever-deepening commitments to Him, and ever-increasing fruit production. Most adults strive for this in the physical realm, but so many Christians bail out at the threshold of this level and become professional pew-sitters. Your role is now that of a peer, shouting in his ear, "Don't stop now! Let's keep going!"

Don't treat a baby like an adolescent; and don't expect the behavior of an adult from a child. Become a "student" of your disciple, discern his current level of growth, and adjust your discipling strategy accordingly.

Day 6

When God Says "No"

The fellow I was discipling and I were talking about prayer one day, and the conversation turned to why God sometimes doesn't answer our prayers. "He always answers our prayers," I said. "It's just that sometimes the answer is 'No.'" "Why would He do that?" asked my friend. "I mean, if He's got the ability to, and He loves us and wants to see us happy, and if it's not a self-seeking or extravagant request, why shouldn't He?" "For one of two reasons," I answered. "Either there's something extra good in God's heart, or there's something extra bad in our heart." "What do you mean?"

"Let's take the first option. Sometimes God will say "No" to a request we have because He has something even better in mind than we could imagine." (1 Corinthians 2:9; Romans 11:33,34). "You mean, like I might be asking him for a Chevy, but He would rather I have a Cadillac?" "Perhaps. Or He might rather you take the bus, on which He's planned for you to meet your future wife. You never know in what creative ways God might want to bless you! Then again, He may deny our request because He knows that what we want would be bad for us." (Psalms. 84:11; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

"So He would say 'No' to protect me?" "Exactly. My infant daughter might dearly desire to play with the nice, shiny butcher knife, but I'm going to have to tell her no, because I love her, and want her to keep all ten fingers as long as possible. She might not understand or agree with my decision, but my decision will stand. Or remember how Paul asked God three times to remove his 'thorn in the flesh?' God said 'No' to insure that Paul wouldn't be overcome by pride." "But then He made up for it by pouring on extra grace, right?" "Right!" said I. "And Paul said he liked that answer even better!

So one primary reason why God will say 'No' to our prayers is because He wants to improve upon them - something 'extra good' in His heart!" "You mentioned a second reason," my friend said. "Something `extra bad' in my heart?" "Yes, sometimes God says 'No' because of sin in our lives. (Psalms 66:18; Isaiah 59:2). God loves to grant us our requests, but He has priorities - and top priority for Him is that our relationship with Him remains unhindered. If there is anything going on in our lives that is jeopardizing that relationship, it becomes the focus of God's attention until it is resolved."

"You're saying that God gets 'tunnel vision' about that issue?" "In a way, yes. When we sin, it isn't an event that happens once and then it's over. It's effects linger. If we don't confess it and repent, we become hardened, calloused, and a little more prone to do it again and again. Eventually, it can destroy us. (Hebrews 3:13; James 1:14-16). Even if we don't recognize this, God does, and He won't allow us to 'change the subject' until it's dealt with."

"What do you mean, 'change the subject'," my friend asked. "That's what we're doing when we refuse to deal with sin in our lives and yet continue to come to God with our requests. It's like this: let's say you came to me and wanted to borrow my pickup truck so you could help your friend move. But as we stood talking, I noticed a red stain on your shirt sleeve. I pointed it out to you, but you told me to forget about it, and continued to explain your need for the truck. The stain began to grow rapidly, and soon it was clear that you had a deep cut, and the blood was beginning to pool at your feet. "I became alarmed, and offered to take you to the hospital. But you became impatient with me. Here you were, coming to me with a legitimate, selfless request, and all I could do was bug you about this little scratch - which you were sure was of no consequence and would soon heal up.

"But it became obvious to me that if I didn't get you to the hospital soon, you wouldn't be alive to help your friend move. So despite your pleas, I had no regard whatsoever for your request. Instead, I did all I could to get you to the doctor.

"In the same way, we might be coming to God with noble requests, but God isn't going to bother listening if He sees sin in our lives, cutting us to ribbons. Helping you get rid of the sin becomes His top priority, and everything else will just have to wait."

Day 7

Recognizing Grownups

One of our main jobs these days is to grow up. Paul spotlighted it when he said that we are no longer to be children, but we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head: Christ (Ephesians 4:14,15). And I'm sure you recognize that the primary reason we should grow up is so that we can help others grow up, too.

I once thought it would be helpful if I knew how the Bible defined "grown up". That way, I'd know what I was shooting for in my own maturing, and would also be able to point out the target for those I was discipling. So I looked up every place in the Bible where adults were described - fathers, mothers, parents, elders, leaders, pastors, etc. Here are a few characteristics of "Grownups" that I discovered:

They nurture and cherish (Isaiah. 49:15a; 66:12,13; 1 Thess. 2:7,8). A spiritual adult is someone who takes care of spiritual babies. One Bible expositor observed that the Hebrew word “pater” (father) is "from a root signifying nourisher, protector, upholder." Hey! That's exactly the kind of attention spiritual babies need!

They teach (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-9,20,25; 1 Chron 28:9; Prov 4:1-5). This is clearly seen as one of the major jobs of parents in Old Testament times. Because this characteristic was sadly lacking in the Hebrew Christians, Paul blasted them with both barrels in Hebrews 5:12. My paraphrase: "By now you should be teachers; instead you're still babies. You should be givers; instead you're still taking." The opposite of a baby is a teacher; the opposite of input is output. Input is fine for babies, but output is the goal for adults.

They discipline (Prov 3:12; 13:24; 23:13,14; Hebrews 12:4-13). A grownup isn't afraid to put a little teeth into his or her teaching. I do it with my kids, and my dada did it with me. It's important. One of the reasons the Body of Christ today is so full of spiritual wimps is because it's so full of wimpy spiritual parents. Too often our leaders are unwilling to hold the "children" accountable, rebuke them when needed, and mete out loving, effective discipline.

They are sympathetic (Psalm 103:13,14; Prov 12:18; Luke 15:20; Galatians 4:19). They can discipline, but they aren't tyrants. A grown up Christian knows the difference between the loving hand of a father or a mother, and the vindictive, self-seeking hand of a tormentor. It's tricky, but it's vital that we find the balance between love and discipline.

They are encouraging (Deut 3:28; Prov 12:18; 2 Cor 1:3-7; Ephesians 4:29; 1 Thess 2:11,12). It seems that with some parents (both physical and spiritual), about the only time they open their mouths is to yell about yet another bungle their kid has committed. Growing Christians need a lot of encouragement - to do better and when they do better. As the "One Minute Manager" instructs, "Catch them doing something right." My aspiration is to be a "Home On The Range" disciple maker - you know, the kind where never is heard a discouraging word . . .

They are responsible workers (Gen 2:24; Prov 31:10-31; Isaiah 22:20-24; Hebrews 5:14). When a person becomes a grownup, he needs to take on adult roles and responsibilities. Most of you are probably familiar with "The Excellent Wife" of Proverbs 31. Did you ever notice how skilled, experienced, knowledgeable and conscientious she is in a wide variety of pursuits? Specialists are great when it comes to doctoring - but not in the realm of spiritual leadership. The wider our scope of skills and abilities, and the more responsible we are with them, the better able we will be to meet the needs of our disciples.

They are servers (Matt 20:25-28; James 4:6,10; 1 Peter 5:5,6). Jesus made it clear that if you want to be the greatest, you must be the servant of all. I've noticed that whenever Average Joes like me sit around and talk about the "Spiritual Giants" of our day whom we might have had the good fortune to associate with for a period of time, the most prevalent personal characteristics that are mentioned about them are humility and a servant's heart. Never forget that the disciples we minister to are not here to enhance our ministries; we're here to enhance theirs!

Day 8

Covert vs. Overt Disciple making

Any spy worth his shoe-phone knows that espionage is carried out on one of two levels: covert or overt operations. In some circumstances his overt, or "open to view", activities are entirely appropriate. But at other times the success of his mission depends on covert, or "not openly shown", work.

Many of us have found the same thing to be true in disciple making. There are times when it's simply not appropriate to tell a person, "God told me to start spending two hours a week with you so's you can get conformed to the image of Christ. Get out your calendar." Often, it's best to begin discipling a person without them even knowing they're being discipled. I call this "Covert Disciple making."

There are many reasons why a Christian might initially hesitate to enter into a formal discipling relationship with you. A busy wife and mother might feel her schedule is already full enough. A man might be suspicious of your motives: "I hardly know this guy - why does he really want to spend so much time with me?" One might have formerly lived next door to the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh and is fearful that you're trying to set yourself up as some kind of guru. Or a person may simply question the value of what you have to offer in exchange for his time and energy. In cases like this, you'll need to spend some time "proving" yourself to the prospective disciple.

If God has laid a certain person on your heart to disciple, ask Him to begin giving you insight as to how you could meet needs in that person's life. They may be spiritual needs, physical needs, financial, emotional, familial, automotive, health - whatever! Just look for casual ways to spend more time with that person (invite him to lunch, go to a ball game, sit with her at church, etc.) and then look for ways to meet needs. Any needs!

But in this need-meeting context, take advantage of opportunities to inject scriptural truth into your conversation from time to time. Meet felt needs, but steer them to the Book that contains the words of the One that will meet their real needs! In this way, you'll not only be demonstrating your care and concern in a tangible way, you'll be feeding their soul and spirit as well.

Before long, the potential disciple will find himself saying, "Seems like every time I'm with old So-n-so, good things happen. And I feel refreshed! And I'm learning more about myself . . . and God!" As that attitude grows, it will motivate him or her to make more time to spend with you.
After a while, you might say something like, "You're really interested in the things of God, aren't you? What would you think about you and me meeting regularly to study the Bible together?" If they say yes, then you've crossed the threshold into "Overt Disciple making".

In this phase, you are now meeting regularly one-on-one. You're spending time in the Bible each time (at least discussing it pointedly, if not actually opening the physical book), you're teaching and he's learning. Somewhere along the line, you'll need to actually formalize the discipling relationship - discussing expectations and responsibilities, and making sure you both know that your friendship is now a very unique "discipling" relationship.

A few years ago I met a professional man here in town, and the Lord immediately made it clear to me that He wanted me to disciple him. However, at the time we met my friend was not exactly chummy with the Lord. In fact, he was running from God, the church and Christians in general. To suggest an overt discipling relationship would have been met with a brick wall of rejection. So I joined the YMCA where he worked out. Soon, we were meeting three times a week, thrashing each other to within an inch of our lives in the weight room. Eventually we became good friends, and more and more frequently our conversation turned to the Lord. Within a few months his fire for the Lord was rekindled, and he is now as zealous a Christian as I've ever known, and we've maintained a strong co-discipling relationship for the past couple of years.

Isaiah 32:2 describes well the kind of Christian we need to be as we are involved in "Covert Discipling":
"Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land."

Day 9

Your Ministry: Silver Chalice or Garbage Can?

If you're going to read this article, put on the asbestos gloves. Are you being used by God these days? Most Christians would honestly answer, "Yes, to a degree, but I wish He was using me more." In our minds, there is a continuum of "divine employment", with Saddam Hussein at one end and Mother Teresa at the other - and most of us find ourselves sitting closer to Iraq than we'd really like to be. Did you ever consider that perhaps the reason you're not being used more is because you're not very usable?

As a senior at Wheatridge High in Denver, I was second-string centre on the basketball team. I loved basketball, but frankly, I wasn't very good at it. The most exciting game of the year was the one with our arch-rival, Lakewood High. We were a point behind with less than a minute to go in the game, but they had the ball and were stalling. Our first-string centre had fouled out, so I was in the game. Suddenly, I looked down, and somehow I had stolen the ball! I dribbled a few steps, passed it to one of our guards and he promptly called time out.

I was beaming when I went over to the bench! Man, was I pumped! I'd made the big play! Finally coach was going to be proud of me! He clapped me on the back, was genuinely appreciative, and then replaced me with a guard. I protested strongly, but, as politely as he could in that electrified setting, he said, "Chris, you may have saved the game for us, but I can't use you in there right now. We need good ball-handlers to work it in for the basket. Sit down, son." We made the basket, won the game, but I felt like a real dud. In my adolescent mind, the coach had been unfair. I deserved to stay in there and finish the game. He just didn't like me.

I can look back now and realize that the coach's decision had nothing to do with fairness or personality preferences. He did what was best to help the team achieve its primary goal: winning the game. I wasn't useful toward that end, so I was out. If I had done a better job in earlier years to develop my basketball skills, I would have stayed in. The problem wasn't with the coach, it was with my lack of usefulness.

In Paul's second letter to his young disciple Timothy, he lists various defilements the world will offer those who want to be used by God. Then he says,
"In a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honour and some to dishonour. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from all these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Tim 2:20,21)

In other words, there are many different types of receptacles in God's house. He has crystal bowls and silver chalices; he also has garbage cans and toilets. The type of receptacle you'll be is up to you.

Don't give me any malarkey about, "Oh, I'm just content to be an oil-drain pan in God's garage." It's a cop-out and false humility. It's like saying, "I like sitting on the bench all the time!" Remember, we're not talking about value to the Master, we're talking about usefulness. Our value to Him is as infinite as the blood of Jesus Christ which paid for our sin. But one of the deepest desires of anyone who has given their life to Christ should be that he could be of some use to God in the harvest.

Disobedience will ruin your usefulness. King Saul was God's man until he failed to utterly destroy the Amalekites and their property. Samson was the hero of God's people until he started giving in to his lusts. Demas was greatly used by God as a part of Paul's missionary team, but he fell in love with the world and deserted Paul.

On the other hand, if you determine to cooperate fully with God in your sanctification, you will be useful. You may be a cracked and leaky vessel right now, but that can change. Jacob, Gideon, Matthew, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Paul - all were in rebellion, all made a decision to follow and obey, and all were greatly used by God.

Not every Christian who stands before God on Judgment Day will hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Make a decision. Don't be among those to whom God will say, "I couldn't use you."

Day 10

Disciplemaker Slayer

I was in Spain last month for Project Barcelona '92, and was asked to teach on disciple making. I had been given two hours. I took the podium, and began my seminar, but my opening remarks seemed to shock the Project leadership. "I've been brought here to Barcelona to speak to you about disciple making; but knowing that this subject is so deep and complex, I feel that two hours really isn't enough time to do it justice. So instead, if you don't mind, I'd like to talk today about 'Training Techniques and Breakfast Cereals of 20th Century Decathletes'. I feel far more comfortable and proficient with that topic..."

I was no more than 15 seconds into my speech when Joe Smalley, PB '92 Project Director, jumped out of his seat and hollered, "Wait a minute!! We have you here to teach about disciple making! We don't care about decathletes! What's wrong with you?! Get back to the proper subject!"

Well, I was persuaded to teach the assigned subject (despite my offense at his disregard for decathletes). But then I made my point: I had just exhibited the attitude that most people have toward a disciple making ministry. Since disciple making is deep and complex and takes a lot of time, we often choose to limit our ministries to what we are comfortable and proficient at, and what we feel we have time for. We disregard the fact that disciple making is the Number One assignment the Lord gave us in Matthew 28:19,20.

We all know who the "Disciple maker Slayer" is: Satan. But it may surprise you to hear what his main weapon is. In order to destroy a potential disciple maker’s ministry, Satan doesn't need to blow up his (or her) house, kill his children, tempt him into an adulterous affair, or ship him off to the Hari Krishnas. All he's got to do is chip away at the disciple maker’s time. So simple! And so perfect.

An extra magazine subscription here, an "unmissable" TV show there. Pressure to be the PTA secretary. Bowling league. Model building. Surfing. Do you see anything horrendously Satanic about those activities? They are perfectly harmless. But it's very interesting how these benign pursuits can - before you realize it - fill up your schedule and make it "impossible" to obey the Prime Directive of the Great Commission.

I'm not advocating the end of all hobbies, recreation and relaxation. I know we all need diversion, and I know we can weave our ministries right into those pursuits as well. But if our weekly agenda is so crammed with various "good" activities that there is no room for the "best" activity, we'd better start looking where we can cut back on a few non-eternal non-essentials.

Not too long ago I sent out a survey to disciple makers all over the world. One of the questions I asked was, "What keeps you from being as effective as you'd like to be in your disciple making?" The clear response of the great majority of the 161 respondents was, "Lack of time." You must see it! Satan is waging war on disciple makers worldwide! His weapon is subtle but deadly! We must target this attack with the same grim determination we use against his more obvious assaults.

As David Dawson, founder of Equipping the Saints Ministry wrote, "The real difficulty is not the lack of time but what we do with the time we have. Since we can never accumulate, stockpile, replace or turn back time, we must learn to control it as it passes. If we fail to manage our time, nothing else in our lives can or will be managed."

There's a fable that goes like this: Satan assembled his top advisors one day and asked them, "What strategy can we invent that will discourage Christians from their ministries?" The first demon stepped up, "I'll convince them there is no heaven! With no final reward, those selfish humans will lose interest." Satan thought for a moment and then rejected the idea. "No, they'll still reach out to others because of the disgusting love God has put in their hearts."

Another one speaks, "I'll convince them there is no hell! If they think there's nothing for people to be saved from, they'll lose their motivation." "No. That won't work for the same reason. The Spirit of God within them won't allow their consciences to turn away from others in need, as long as it's in their power to do something about it."

A third demon rises slowly. "Then I have our solution... I'll convince them there is no time." And that, it seems, has indeed turned out to be the most effective strategy of all.

Day 11

Discipling FAT People

In these days of heightened sensitivity, never refer to someone as "fat". The "politically correct" term is "horizontally gifted". But when it comes to deciding who to invest your time in as a disciple maker, forget protocol and look for FAT people; that is, Faithful, Available and Teachable. Your time is valuable! You have a limited number of hours in a day, and how you invest those hours is crucial. As you ponder who to give your time to, look for these three qualities:

Faithful. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul admonished Timothy,
"The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
Draw a bead on those who are faithful to God and faithful to the commitments they make. Look for those who are eager to
"Come to Me...take My yoke upon you and learn from Me..." (Matt. 11:28,29).

Available. Look for people who will either have or make time to be discipled. As Jesus said,
"I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work."
Little can be done with someone who is already working eighteen hours a day and can't even find time for his family or for the Lord. If a person is unwilling or unable to alter his priorities or adjust his schedule to spend time with you, why should you bother?

Teachable. Most of us are poverty-stricken when it comes to time. It's a foolish extravagance to squander precious time teaching a person something he will never apply or pass on! It's pearls before swine. As Mark Twain once said, "Never undertake to instruct a pig to sing. You'll only frustrate yourself and annoy the pig."

There are two notable exceptions to the FAT criteria: those you lead to the Lord and those the Lord clearly directs you to disciple despite their gauntness. In the former, it is vital to remember that newborn babies need time to develop the FAT qualities. Your role with them is to be the "mother". A mother will expend great energy to be sure her child is fed - regardless how ugly or irresponsible that child might be. She exhibits unconditional love and acceptance, and her need-meeting is on their terms, not hers. Eventually, they need to begin growing FAT, but the good mother will give them some time.

In the second exception, your initial assessment of a person may produce a strong, "Naaaaah." But be sure to consult the Lord. He might see something you don't, something not on the surface but in the heart, and He might overrule you. There are many "diamonds in the rough" out there that our sovereign Lord knows all about. With a little chipping, splitting and polishing, they could be dazzling. I can think of eleven terrific examples found in the four Gospels. In fact, two of them wrote Gospels!

Allow your commitment level to parallel those you minister to. If someone exhibits only a casual interest, don't immediately dive into a consuming one-to-one discipling relationship. Better to involve them in a low-commitment weekly group study first. Gauge their faithfulness to that, and gradually focus in on them as they sharpen their focus on the Lord and demonstrate their spiritual obesity.

Though it may sound harsh, it needs to be said: don't waste your time on the uncommitted. John the Baptist said that Jesus was going to do some winnowing; the wheat He would put in His barn, but the chaff He would burn up (Matt. 2:12). Focus on the wheat. The chaff will do nothing but drain you physically, emotionally and spiritually. There may come a time when you have to confront an un-FAT-ful disciple and say, "Look, make a decision: be wheat or be chaff. Get serious or get out." This measure will either blow some debilitating chaff out of your life, or it will score the hull of that wheat grain just enough to stimulate some germination!

Would God say, "There's more to love with the FAT ones"? Adsit might, but not God! Every child of God is on the receiving end of 100% of God's love; it's not performance-based, and neither should our's be. But when it comes to the strategic decision of who I should invest my time in, I'm keeping my eye peeled for the FATties!

Day 12

Neonatal Nightmare

Rahnella and I take very seriously the command from God that we "be fruitful and multiply". In the fifteen years that we have pursued compliance in this area, the population of the Adsit household has increased 200%, and we're darn proud of that.

Whenever we bring a new baby home from the hospital, we have a little welcoming ceremony. We do this not only to ease the child's transition into its new environment, but also because we feel it's important for each new family member to have a clear understanding of his or her roles and responsibilities in our household.

Generally, we sit the child down on the couch, prop it up with pillows (using duct tape if necessary), have the other children gather around and my wife and I perform an antiphonal reading of the following liturgy:
“On behalf of the Adsit family, we would like to welcome you to your new home, [insert child's name here]. As you know, being born is a very big step. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. But we want to assure you that you have done the right thing in joining our family. We like to think we're one of the best in the neighbourhood. We have gone to a great deal of effort and expense to provide for your every need. Now for the details: your room is just up the stairs and on the left. We have purchased a new crib for you, so we anticipate you will sleep soundly. If you need diapers, they are under the bassinet. We'll restock weekly. Extra blankets are in the closet. All the food you'll ever need is in the pantry just off the kitchen. The can opener is in the top drawer next to the refrigerator. Microwave instructions are taped to the wall right next to it. Breakfast is at7:00, lunch at noon, dinner at 6:00. Please be considerate of others by being on time. Saturday is my day off, so you're on your own that day. There will be no loud music or crying after 10:00pm. Plus, we would appreciate it if you would get past this messy diaper stage as soon as possible. Here's a book we think will help [hand baby copy of "Ten Baby Steps to Potty Training"]. If you have any other needs or problems, please don't hesitate to call on us. That's what we're here for! You represent the continuation of our family line, our hope for a heritage. Let us know if we can be of service to you. So let us once again say, "Welcome to the family! May you be warmed and filled!"

Following the welcoming ceremony, we do our best to provide a loving Christian atmosphere in which the baby can grow. We sing a lot, tune into Christian teachers on the radio and keep the house clean and orderly. I give Rahnella lots of hugs and kisses - right in front of the baby! We cook nourishing meals and we always invite the children to join us. We wear nice clothes. We even put a stained glass window in our living room a couple of months ago!

But we have convictions about not being too "pushy". We don't want to compromise the baby's free moral agency, so we try to give it plenty of space; let it come to its own decisions about life. We try not to interfere.

Plus, it's not like Rahnella and I have nothing else to do. I have my writing and speaking and golf, and my wife is developing a very active counseling ministry. Even if we wanted to, we really couldn't devote an inordinate amount of time to babysitting anyway. We must stick to our priorities.

Some may think these techniques are controversial. Some would argue that they have contributed to the fact that only four of the 28 children Rahnella has given birth to are still alive (we know the truth: the 24 were simply unteachable).

Some would say that anyone who treats babies that way should be keel-hauled and never be allowed near children. And some would recognize that this is very similar to the way Christians usually take care of newborn spiritual babies.

Day 13

God's Arms

"If you hadn't come along when you did," Betty said, "I'd planned to go into the church office with a pistol and blow my brains out in front of the pastor and secretaries--to get even."

"Betty" (not her real name) had hit bottom. She was recently divorced from an abusive man, was raising three children and a granddaughter alone, had a number of other problems, and nobody cared. Whenever she told other Christians about her difficulties, they backed off, as if she had some disease they might catch. Even the church pastors and counsellors couldn't see her any time soon. They wouldn't even return her calls.

My wife Rahnella spotted her in this state at a women's Bible study, sitting by herself, crying and looking quite angry. Rahnella launched a quick prayer, went over and put her arm around her.
"Why are you crying?" "I'm alone, I'm hurt, I'm afraid, and nobody gives a d___! So why don't you back off, too!"

Rahnella enjoys a challenge, so she stayed and talked. In the course of their conversation, Betty shared that she couldn't trust Christians any more. All they ever do is stab you in the back. One of her only friends had recently promised to take her to the Oregon coast on a mini-vacation for some R & R. Betty was desperately looking forward to it, but she just learned that her so-called friend had already left with another woman. She'd had it with Christians--and with God. This would be the last Bible study she'd ever attend. And then maybe she'd go end it all somewhere.

Well, Rahnella wouldn't stand for that! She perceived that Betty was not only being run into the ground by the circumstances surrounding her life, she was also being hobbled by spiritual oppression, and needed someone to fight for her. She led Betty in prayer, and helped her combat the "spirit of suicide" that was urging her toward self-destruction. She helped her put on her "spiritual armour" as described in Ephesians 6. Then she said, "I've got some friends who own this great little cabin on the coast. Why don't you and I plan a weekend there?" Betty was stunned. "You'd do that . . . for me?" "Sure, why not? I think we could both do with a good change of scenery!"

Two weeks later they were in Yachats, Oregon, just the two of them. Betty talked for two-and-a-half days. Rahnella listened. She didn't apply any profound principles of advanced Biblical psychiatry. She simply came along side of Betty and walked with her through the depths of her despair--and out the other side.

Toward the end of their time together, after she told Rahnella about her now-abandoned suicide plans, Betty broke down and cried for a long time. As Rahnella was holding her in her arms, Betty said, "For the first time in a long time, I feel like God is holding me in His arms again, and that He's going to take care of me." Rahnella was God's arms for Betty.

Betty is doing great now! Not only is she on top of her problems (instead of vice versa), she's reaching out to others, like Rahnella reached out to her. That's what it means to be the "Body of Christ". We can all be His arms, His hands, His feet, His ears.

If we wait for the over-worked pastors and counsellors to do all the work of the kingdom, it will never get done. Perhaps this "Let Pastor George do it" attitude explains why so many of the church's walking wounded are looking for aid and comfort in places other than the church. "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," said Thoreau.

God wants you to be His arms today. He can't wait around until the pros clear their schedules. In fact, He loves to work through ordinary people, just like you.
"God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things . . . so that no one may boast before Him." (1 Cor. 1:27).

Jesus is the Living Water, and He has chosen you as a receptacle. You're not as fragile as you might think. Go ahead: put yourself in a place where you might get bumped around a little. You won't break--and there's a good chance that some of that Living Water will slosh out onto those around you who are dying of thirst.

Day 14

Sometimes You're The Bug

Mary Chapin Carpenter has a song getting a lot of air time these days on the country music stations that goes: "Sometimes you're the windshield; sometimes you're the bug." I don't know about you, but I'm closely identifying with the bug a lot lately! And by golly, I resent that! After all, I'm a leader! I'm a disciple maker! I've been a Christian for twenty-two years; been in full-time Christian work for nineteen years; have faithfully represented Christ to individuals and crowds all over the world; and if that ain't enough, I've even written a book! I think I deserve a little better treatment here!

Have you ever felt like that? If you haven't, and you're committed to being used by God to expand His Kingdom on earth, you will soon! But why? Why is it that the more serious our attitude becomes about following Christ, the more we find ourselves glancing over our shoulders for on-coming windshields? Because God is excellent, and He demands excellence from His leaders. And no matter what the pursuit, the road to excellence is tough.

When I was running track as a sophomore in college, we got a new coach who asked me what my athletic goals were. After thinking deeply about his question for about, oh, I'd say four seconds, I said, "Coach, I want to compete in the Olympics in the 400 meter hurdles!" I was sure he'd be impressed and pleased.

But following that conversation, our relationship took a decided turn for the worse. Apparently, he began staying up late at night, devising devilish ways to make my life miserable. He made me take long runs up in the mountains. He insisted I sprint up stadium stairs. Forced me to lift great quantities of iron. Commanded me to go to bed earlier than I wanted and to rise before I wanted. Compelled me to eat distasteful food. All I did was share with him this pleasant notion about going to the Olympics, and he turns mean and tries to ruin my life! Someday, I'm going to get even with that guy.

And when I do, I'll tell him thanks. I will exalt and glorify his name, because he was willing to put me on the anvil, and beat me into the athlete I'd always hoped I could be. I missed that Olympic berth, but I did become an All American in the 400 hurdles, and Del Hessel helped form the foundation of my life and ministry for the next 20 years.

Have you told God that you want to be a first-stringer on His team? If you meant it, He's going to whip you into shape. And it won't always be pleasant. In John 9, a man told Jesus he wanted to see. So Jesus hawked up a loogie, spit in the dust, smeared the resultant mud in the guy's face and said, "Now, go wash it off." It's not how I would have done it, but God has good reasons for everything He does. Despite the unsavoury process, the man got exactly what he wanted in the end.

Our house was too small. It had no family room, no dining room, and our twin boys slept in the utility room. We had given up notions of having Bible studies there - or even having guests over for dinner. With no place for our four active kids to go, it was impossible to carry on sane, adult conversations. We needed more room, but hadn't a clue how to get more room. So last June we asked the people on our newsletter list to pray for some kind of solution for us.

On July 28, that house burned to the ground due to faulty wiring. That's bad news. It's tough to lose most of the physical evidence of the first 42 years of your life. All the momentous and memories are irreplaceable. But the good news is that State Farm - and Jesus - are going to see to it that we have a beautiful new home that will accommodate all the ministry we'd ever hoped for! It's not how I would have done it, but God's ways are perfect!

Carpenter's song goes on to say, "Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger; sometimes you're the ball." It's true. But sometimes, if that ball is hit hard enough, in just the right direction, on just the right day, it gets put in somebody's trophy case. God wants to put you in His trophy case (see 2 Timothy 2:20,21). But don't be surprised if you get the horsehide knocked clean off you in the process! It will be worth it in the end!

Day 15

Christianity Lite: All The Benefits, Half The Guilt

"Sure, I'm a Christian!" I was dubious. I was sitting in an Automatic Witnessing Machine (commercial airliner). The man next to me was a world class track and field athlete who was famous for his decidedly non-Christian lifestyle. "Really?!" I tried to sound like I believed him. "That's great! When did you become a Christian?" "Oh, quite some time ago. This guy read a booklet to me about Jesus, and said that if I'd pray a prayer and ask Him into my life, He'd forgive all my sins. So I prayed the prayer, and that was that!"

"Terrific!" Yeah, right. "What changes did you notice in your life after that?" "Changes? None, really. Well, I guess I felt a lot better about myself, and didn't feel guilty anymore." "Didn't feel guilty - you mean because you turned away from your sinful lifestyle?" Tongue firmly in cheek.
He laughed. "H___ no! Because I wasn't guilty anymore! Now I do whatever I want, and Jesus pays for it! That's what's so great about Christianity!"

This fellow was radically wrong. No one had taken the time to explain to him what true, saving faith is. He thought if he simply gave intellectual assent to a philosophy, he had "faith"; and since we're saved by faith, he was therefore saved. With that pesky detail behind him, he could now carry on business as usual.

Those who are considering the gospel message - and those who are young Christians - must be told that "we are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone." The non-Christian who doesn't understand this will be confused enough to be denied eternal life, and the young Christian who isn't clued in will live a life of weakness and defeat.

"Praying a prayer" saves no one. It's the faith which spawned the prayer that connects with the grace of God and results in a sinner being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. And there is only one kind of faith that will accomplish this. It's the kind tied to personal commitment rather than mere intellectual assent.

"I believe that George Washington was our first president." One might think that's a statement of faith. But it's really only an opinion about a set of factual propositions. It doesn't require any personal involvement from me, and its validity is of no real consequence to me. How about "I believe there is a God"? Good enough? No - it's in the same category. The Bible says even demons (who ought to know) have that brand of "faith", but both they and God know they are condemned.

A statement of true faith, according to Dr. William Herr, is like the difference between saying, "I love chocolate" and saying, "I love you." In the first case, I've simply stated a fact. It doesn't require any change or further action on my part. It will have little or no effect on the one I say it to. But when I say "I love you" to someone, I've entered an entire new realm of communication. To utter those words, and then walk away as though nothing important happened, as though the relationship is not now profoundly altered forever, is to have no grasp of what those three words mean.

When I say "I love you", I'm saying, "I commit myself to you. I put your needs above mine; your desires above mine. I'm eager to change so I may better serve you. What can I do for you?"
In the same way, to say, "I love you" to God, with no subsequent changes or commitments, is hollow. The speaker isn't really thinking about what he's saying, and actually means something else, such as, "I love me, and I would like it very much if you'd bless me, God."

Obviously, we can't expect a person without Christ to pledge moral perfection prior to receiving Christ, nor can we assume a new Christian will instantly imitate the apostle Paul. Growth takes time. But central to the identity of a disciple of Jesus Christ is an attitude that says, "I want to learn, to grow, to change."

Many who are drawn into a relationship with Christ own this attitude initially, but soon lose it. With no motivation to grow, they stop. This is why the body of Christ today is the largest spiritual day-care centre in history. As disciple makers, we must continually foster ever-deepening personal commitments to Christ in those we disciple. If we don't, we'll be producing a generation of hedonistic - if guilt-free - spiritual babies.

Day 16

But Wait… There's More!

I hear this is a true story. There was once a shepherd in the Scottish Highlands who received a pup as a gift. The unmarried, childless man raised the dog with great love and care. He and his dog were inseparable, whether at work or at play. After several years, the old shepherd died. They put him in a casket, carried him to the town cemetery, and buried him. The dog watched these proceedings with great interest, and when the last shovel of dirt was placed over the grave, the mournful dog climbed up on the mound of soil, and laid down.

No matter how he was enticed, the dog would not leave the grave. Bones, food, pats and whistles would not budge him. Finally, the townspeople grew weary of trying to relocate the hound, so food and water were brought daily to the dog who was so determined to wait until his master woke up.

The little sheep dog didn't maintain his vigil over his master's grave merely for weeks or months. He was there for almost seven years—summer and winter, rain or shine, patiently waiting. The townspeople woke one morning to find the old dog lying on the grave as usual, but his life was gone now too. They buried him beside his beloved master.

Think of it: seven years of waiting on his master. No scratches behind the ears from him; no encouraging words; no treats; no positive reinforcement whatsoever, and yet he stayed. It shames me to think of how often I have given up and gone home when my Master seemed silent and unresponsive.

Waiting can be boring, seemingly unproductive, and downright maddening! And yet, time and time again, we are enjoined in the Word of God to "Wait on the Lord." Why? because the when of God's will is just as important as the what of His will.

Disciple makers must always be aware that God orchestrates two major phases in the maturing process of a believer. Phase One… relatively short and sweet… has to do with the development of faith. Phase Two… which lasts the balance of a lifetime… focuses on the development of enduring faith.

It's relatively easy for a young man of 20 to decide to trust God for the selection of his future bride; but how does he feel on the subject when he's 35 and still unmarried? As disciple makers, it's imperative that we co-labor with God in this process of producing enduring faith in the hearts of His children. Help those you are discipling keep perspective in periods of obscurity, inactivity and unanswered prayer. Those frustrating periods are often divinely designed simply to beef up our "enduring faith" muscles.

But sometimes those fallow seasons come because the timing of God-based activity is crucial, and He's just not ready to launch the prayed-for action. That's why Jesus told us to "keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking". Without occasional silence from God's side, we'd never develop faith that would remain firm over the long-haul. We'd never build this precious, sheep-dog-like, enduring faith if God immediately jerked the door open every time we put our knuckle to it.

Here are a few analogies you might share with your disciple when he or she is going through a period of apparent unresponsiveness from God:

1. Tall Building… Deep Foundation

I have a friend who worked across the street from the Columbia Seafirst Centre in Seattle… second tallest building west of the Mississippi. During its construction, she and her co-workers wondered if the building would ever gain any altitude, as the builders spent months simply digging a hole. The foundation for this lofty structure eventually went down thirteen stories—then they started work on the more visible portion of the building.

2. Birth

From the moment of conception, the baby exists. But for nine months, he or she must participate in crucial processes hidden from view. This period is vital to his or her survival and cannot be hurried. From the mother's perspective, the final month of pregnancy can be agony… physically and emotionally. But again, there is no way to hurry it along. There is no alternative to simply waiting.

3. Concrete

Yesterday we finished laying the foundation for our new home. Right now it's just sitting there. Twenty-seven days from now, it will still just be sitting there. Why? Bad scheduling on my contractor's part? No, he realizes it will take that concrete twenty-eight days to cure and reach its full strength. He doesn't want to risk cracking it by building on it too soon. It doesn't seem like anything is happening out there. But things aren't always as they seem.

Day 17

Pushy Christians

Famous last words of H. G. Wells: "Go away. I'm alright." Often, these are also the last words you'll hear from a Christian who is out of fellowship and flirting with sin, just as he's slipping away from the sheepfold to finish off his days in defeat and obscurity. He may figure his condition is serious, but certainly not fatal! Too late, he learns otherwise.

For a child of God to stray from the faith, three things must exist: subversion, isolation, and the determination to disobey. The enemy of our souls never tires of providing an abundant supply of the first commodity; the second, unfortunately, is the product of an unvigilant, unresponsive and sometimes disinterested body of believers. With those two chemicals in the beaker, it doesn't take much of the third component to precipitate a fall.

Hebrews 3:13 reads,
"Exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today', lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

Did you catch the two descriptions of sin? It hardens, and it's deceitful. When you sin, the Holy Spirit jabs you, and says, "That's a no-no." This is called "conviction", and God uses it to steer us toward safe and righteous behaviour. But when you say "No" to God's "no-no", it hardens you a little… makes you a little less receptive to the next jab. Eventually, you build up a callous in that spot; Paul calls it having your conscience "seared" (1 Timothy 4:2). Finally, you don't feel the jabs at all, so you figure, "Hey, no feedback from God! I guess this is OK!"

It doesn't happen all at once; it's deceitful, subtle, tricky. Do you think Jeffrey Dahmer was a murderer and a cannibal from birth? Obviously not. He progressed down to that level of depravity step by insidious, unchecked step, over many, many years. Satan subverted, no one was there to help Dahmer recognize and counter the temptation, so he determined to acquiesce to it and disobey the laws of God that were written on his heart. But undoubtedly, each time it was "...just this once; just this one little thing."

How does God expect us to counteract the deceitful, hardening effects of sin? In large part, by exposing ourselves to the examinations and exhortations of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In many cases, we can't see the disease of sin gradually taking us over, but they can.

Many of you who are products of the 60's remember the movie Papillon starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. They were convicted felons being held in a prison in the swamps of Florida. There was a period when they were put in isolation, during which their greatest fear was that they would contract a certain dreaded disease unique to that area… and fatal. One couldn't actually feel its effects, until it was too late. However, the prisoners could simply look at each other and recognize its onset. But if you're in isolation, how are you supposed to know? For this reason, every time the prisoners got a glimpse of each other, they would frantically ask, "How do I look to you? Do I look OK? Do I?"

That's one very important… and too often neglected… function of a local body of believers: to tell each other if we see any spiritual disease taking over. As disciple makers and leaders, one of the most crucial jobs we have is to be sure that those we have been given responsibility for are regularly involved in a healthy fellowship… one that is willing to "exhort one another daily".

But a lot of Christians say, "Oh, I don't want to be pushy… goodness no! It's the job of the Holy Spirit to convict… not me!" True enough. But He seeks to use not only the conscience of the individual, but also the friends of the individual to convict and correct. Jesus stated clearly in John 16 that the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. But then He also said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel." He established a partnership.

And if you think it might be out of place for a Christian leader to be pushy when it comes to matters of sin, righteousness and judgment, read 1 Corinthians or Galatians sometime! The Apostle Paul was quite a pusher! The world pushes us all the time. Before I knew Christ and fellowshipped with darkness, my friends thought nothing of pushing me toward sin. Christians should understand that, when they signed on with Christ, they signed on with a bunch of people who would be willing to push them too… but away from sin and toward righteousness. At least, that's how it's supposed to be.

Day 18

Go and Make WHAT?

On rainy winter evenings in Oregon, people play the Dictionary Game. The leader chooses an obscure word from the dictionary, and everyone cooks up a definition and writes it down for the leader to read out loud. Your job is to (a) fool everyone with your definition and (b) pick out the correct one. Some of the ersatz definitions are pretty hilarious. In our last game, someone suggested that rata plan was "the strategy employed by the Pied Piper of Hamlin". Nematode was "having an infection of streptococcus nema on or between the toes". Querulous was "of or pertaining to homosexuals".

As I ask various Christians to define the word disciple, I sometimes wonder if I've stumbled into a rousing game of Dictionary. Many folks who are eager to obey Christ's Great Commission to "make disciples" have only a fuzzy idea of what a "disciple" is. How do they expect to make what they can't even define? Vince Lombardi was once asked to pinpoint the difference between a good coach and a bad one. His immediate answer: "Knowing what the end result looks like." The same principle holds true for disciple makers. So, let's define disciple. First, some fake definitions, which might have been fooling you for years.

Disciple: a mature Christian; a spiritual Green Beret; a leader; a Christian who is victorious over all difficulties; James Bond with a Bible; someone in full-time Christian ministry; a disciplined, witnessing, praying, Bible-reading, fellowshipping, Day-Timer-ed, smiley, seminary graduate.

I just know many of you are saying, "Wait a minute. Some of those look pretty good! What's wrong with that one?" As we take a hard look at what the Bible says a disciple is, the flaws in those definitions will become apparent.

Whenever you want to discover the exact meaning of a word in the Bible, you must do two things. Step 1: go back to the original language for a literal definition; Step 2: study how the word was used in context. When you do this with the word disciple, Step 1 will make it clear that a disciple owns a certain attitude, and Step 2 will show that this attitude manifests itself in certain actions. Today we'll look at the attitude, and examine the actions tomorrow.

Disciple is from the Greek word mathetes, which is simply translated as "a learner". But when Jesus said "make learners", what kind of learning was he referring to? Book-learning? The kind of learning I did back in college, where I'd pour the curriculum into my cranium and dam it in there just long enough to spill it out on the final exam and then forget it? Not exactly. After an exhaustive search through a truckload of lexicons, theological wordbooks and Greek dictionaries, it became clear to me that a mathetes is someone who "learns by use and practice, resulting in a changed lifestyle".

Watch athletes learning their sports, and you'll get a feel for the kind of learning Jesus was talking about. How do they learn? The coach demonstrates the basic principles and techniques, and then the athlete imitates the coach. Once? Twice? No, he or she participates in drills over and over until the desired skill comes automatically. Through use and practice, the athlete trains his muscles and nerves to act and react properly every time.

Back when I was young enough to run without creaking and popping, I was one of the top hurdlers in the world. If you'd seen me my first year of hurdling, you would have shook your head and muttered, "Hopeless." But after having jumped over approximately one million, two hundred thousand hurdles in six years, I improved a bit. I learned to hurdle not only by reading books or chatting with coaches; I learned to hurdle by use and practice… by hurdling! And I spent so much time hurdling, it began to define who I was. People would see me on campus and say, "There goes Chris Adsit, the hurdler."

In the same way, God has laid out the principles and techniques of righteousness in His Word, and has provided a 24-hour-a-day coach for each of us: the Holy Spirit. As we apply those principles and techniques consistently and repetitively while walking in the Spirit, they transform our actions and reactions. Eventually they begin to define who we are; people start saying, "There goes Chris Adsit, the Christian."

So the crucial attitude a disciple owns is: "an eagerness to learn by use and practice". But this is only half of the picture. Tomorrow we'll see how the inconsistent behavior of the disciples in the Gospels shed light on the crucial actions of a biblical disciple.

Day 19

Disciple: Schwarzenegger with a Bible?

The kid next door is really weird. I keep telling my neighbour he ought to put that child in an institution. He refuses. "Look," I say, "He crawls in the dirt, he's incoherent, he's disgusting when he eats, howls when he doesn't get his way, and he can't control his bodily functions! Give it up, pal!" But he's stubborn and naive. He thinks that because the boy is only six months old, I shouldn't judge him too harshly. Yeah, right.

You think I'm weird, because I'm condemning a baby for not meeting the criteria of a gown-up. Yet Christians condemn themselves and others in the same way all the time, because they don't understand the "person-in-process" facet of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yesterday, I had started work on a Biblical definition of the word disciple. You learned that a mathetes owns a certain attitude: "an eagerness to learn by use and practice." In this column, as promised, you'll discover what actions we need to look for in a growing disciple.

Usually, if you want to learn the meaning of a word in the Bible, check how it's used in context. I did this with the word "disciple" and almost blew a gasket… so confusing! Jesus placed high standards on those who would call themselves disciples of His. They must take up their crosses and follow Him, give up all their possessions, be willing to die for Him, and more! What does He want, Spiritual Schwarzeneggers!?

But when I examined the actions of the disciples in the four Gospels, I found them to be more like Spiritual Fred Flintstones! They were dull, powerless, faithless, prejudiced, uncommitted, compassionless, wrathful, violent, ashamed of Jesus, immature and they deserted Jesus in His greatest hour of need! Yet they were called "disciples", 238 times in the four Gospels!

So what is a disciple, anyway? Cosmic wonder or comical wimp? The answer is: both. A Biblical disciple is a person-in-process, moving gradually toward maturity. That process begins at the moment of new birth and will continue as long as he keeps learning. He starts out as a baby; he doesn't meet the criteria of a mature Christian, nor is he expected to right away. The growth continuum won't be smooth and steady… it'll be full of fits and starts, set-backs and leaps. But the general direction will be upward.

In this respect, the Bible is a photo album. Jesus was showing us pictures of grown-up disciples. He was saying, "If you belong to Me, this is what you're going to look like; this is where you're heading." As we look at the actions of the Apostles in the Gospels, we're seeing pictures of baby disciples… constantly falling down, but with Jesus right there to pick them up, dust them off, kiss their owies and send them on their way. In the book of Acts, we see that they've grown considerably, looking more and more like the photos Jesus had shown us. By the time they're writing the Epistles, the similarities are precise.

From time to time in this process of educating His learners, Jesus will increase the course load. If a disciple wants to remain a disciple, he must respond positively. You can see a good example of this in John 6:60-69. Jesus was increasing his demands on His disciples, and it says that, "As a result of this, many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore." These disciples said, "That's enough. You've gone too far. We don't want to learn any more." Then He turned to the twelve. "What about you? Are you going to leave too?" "Where else can we go?" asked Peter. "You have the words of eternal life!" They agreed to His demands. They wanted to keep learning, to keep growing.

To the growing disciple today He will say, "You're doing well! Now it's time to graduate to the next class. It'll be harder, but Oy! What you're going to learn! Are you ready to go?" If we say no, Jesus says, "Then you cannot be My disciple. It doesn't alter My love for you, or your eternal destiny, but as far as what I can do in you and through you, this is as far as we go… for now. If you won't learn from Me, you're not My learner."

So the actions we're looking for are not necessarily the perfect 10's on the floor-ex mat of life, but simply increasing commitments to Christ along the road to maturity. Combining the attitude and the actions, we arrive at our formal definition of a disciple: "A person-in-process eager to learn and apply the truths that Jesus Christ teaches him, resulting in ever-deepening commitments to Christ and to a Christ like lifestyle."

Day 20

A Spiritual Hijacking

You have a ministry. You may not realize it yet, but you have a ministry. You were born with natural talents; upon salvation you received spiritual gifts; and along the way, you have acquired specific skills. The mixture of those three assets will give rise to the unique ministry for which God has wired you.

But there is a problem… three in fact. There is a hellish conspiracy of three foes who work tirelessly to keep you from discovering and conducting your ministry: the world, the flesh and the devil. The three of them stay up late each night, thinking of new ways to hobble you, cow you into submission, and keep you quiet. To the degree they are successful, to that degree your ministry will not happen.

How can we best fight back? There is a lot of confusion about what would be the most helpful strategy. Which of the three is hurting me the most? Which should I go after first? Can I take on all three at once?

Think of it in terms of a car race. You're at Le Mans just before the start. The race course is the world. Your suped-up, turbo-charged Lotus is your flesh. And just as you're about to get behind the wheel, Satan elbows you aside, straps himself in, and roars off in your car! And man, can that demon drive! He knows the track backwards and forwards… every bump and the tiniest curve. He knows the Lotus, too… each nut, bolt and wire. And it may sound funny, but it seems like the car likes him at the wheel better than it likes you! The combination of that car and that driver on that track is unbeatable. What are we going to do?

If we could alter the race track, that might do some good. But the devil owns the track. Getting through all his red tape might prove to be a long and daunting task. Perhaps we could disable the car. Two problems with that: (1) as quickly as we disable it, he'll think of five ways to fix it, and (2) it's your car! Cripple the car and you're out of the race too!

Our only hope is to separate the driver from the car. If we can get him out of the driver's seat, the Holy Spirit and I can hop back in and drive that car like we want it driven. That undertaking must be our focus. We need to use the power we have been given by God to yank Satan out of our car.

Two summers ago, Dr. Tony Evans, a board member of Dallas Seminary, instructed the Campus Crusade for Christ staff about the power we believers have. He said there are two dominant Greek words for "power" in the Bible. Dunamis means "might, power, strength". It's where we get the words dynamite and dynamo from. But that's not the kind of power we have. Christians have been givenexousia by Jesus Christ. This word also means "might, power, strength," but it has the added facet of "authority, or power in legitimate hands." It's like a criminal having a gun and a policeman having a gun. Both have power, but only one has the badge.

When you watch a football game, you see a number of men out there on the field with a considerable amount of dunamis. They pump iron, take supplements, eat raw meat and are usually genetically predisposed to having lots of dunamis. But as big and fast and powerful as those men are, down there on the field they do not have "all-power". Omnipotence belongs to those little guys with the striped shirts and the whistles! As Dr. Evans said, "Those players have enough dunamis to put you down, but the refs have enoughexousia to put you out!"

When it comes to our lives… our walks with God and our ministries… we have exousia over the devil. Obviously, he doesn't want us targeting him (or his representatives) as the driver of the hijacked Lotus. He would prefer that we expend our energy trying to disable the car or alter the track. Instead, as he attempts to neutralize your ministry or defeat you personally, remember: you have the whistle! Use the authority you have been given and disqualify the devil. James 4:7,8 promises that if you resist him, he will flee!

Day 21

Velcro Christians

Have you ever been to a "Velcro Bar"? I haven't, but I hear they're all the rage in some parts of the country. Apparently, one wall of the barroom is covered with the "woolly" side of the classic Velcro fabric pair. Enthusiastic patrons don a jumpsuit made entirely of the "hooks" side of the Velcro. Then, with the aid of a mini-tramp, they take a flying leap and see how high up they can stick to the wall. Brawny men with ladders are then employed to tear the leapers off the wall and reunite them with the floor. When someone says, "I got ripped-off at Blacky's Bar last night," they mean it literally.

Some say that if you want to pull a dirty trick on one of the leapers, put on a mohair sweater and give him a big hug just before he launches. The fuzz from the mohair clogs up the Velcro hooks, greatly diminishing the stick ability of the jumpsuit. Gives a whole new meaning to the term "bouncers" in the bar context. Not a pretty picture.

That's the problem with Velcro, isn't it? Sometimes bits of thread, lint, fuzz, hair, fur, etc. get stuck in the little hooks, and it doesn't work. Nothing wrong with the woolly side… only the hooks side. In fact, even the hooks are working just fine; it's just that they've hooked to the wrong stuff, which keeps them from hooking to the right stuff.

Christian ministry is a partnership. God is the brains, we are the brawn; God is the hand, we are the tool; God is the electricity, we are the light bulbs; God is the vine, we are the branches; God is the wool, we are the hooks. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me… therefore you make disciples… and I will be with you." For reasons clearly known only to Him, God has decided to partner with us puny humans to accomplish His glorious will and expand His Kingdom here on earth. It's not how I would have done it, but He has His reasons.

Our contribution to the partnership may not be significant, but it is crucial. All the power generated by gigantic Hoover Dam still has to pass through a few square inches of wire. If that little wire's cut, the dam might as well be a Hoover vacuum. God is the source of all power and authority, and His method involves flowing through you and me. But we are the potential tripped-breakers in the system.

Here's where the Velcro comes in: some Christians are like clogged-up Velcro. Our hooks have become so attached to the wrong stuff, that God can't find room to hook His right stuff to. He is determined to accomplish His will on earth by partnering with His people, and He's doing everything He can to "hook up" with us, but too often He finds very little in us with which He can partner.

When I'm full of anger, will God be able to use me as an instrument of His grace? The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20). When I'm puffed up with pride, will God use me as His humble servant? God resists the proud. (1 Peter 5:5). Will my soul be quiet and receptive to the things of God if it's filled with lust? Abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11). Will God be able to energize my witness if I'm packed with materialistic motivations? And the deceitfulness of riches… enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:19).

I may leap with great vigour and expectancy at God's Velcro wall after hugging that mohair world, but I'll bounce right off and land in a heap… disappointing everyone concerned. "Lest possibly… I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:27). “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

God is supremely interested in using you to accomplish His purposes on this planet, but is He finding things in you that He cannot partner with? Is He finding your Velcro jammed with fleshly fuzz? If you'd like to remedy that situation, try using a few small nails. …That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection… (Philippians 3:10).

Day 22

Showing Up

Cal Ripken Jr. showed up. From May 30, 1982 to September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. got up, put on his clothes and went to work every single day his employer asked him to. He didn't think it was that big a deal… after all, he got paid for it. He was only doing his job. But when he showed up that 2,131st time, breaking Lou Gehrig's "unbreakable" consecutive-games-played record, the world demonstrated how much they valued Cal Ripken Jr.'s dependability. 46,272 fans, his teammates, four umpires and the entire opposing team got to their feet and began clapping. They didn't quit for twenty-two minutes. This group included the President and Vice President of the United States. The House and Senate chartered a special train to take them up to witness this monumental event. Baltimore threw him a parade. So did Aberdeen, his home town, although he didn't attend that one… he felt obligated to get back to work. Ripken showed up, and the country stopped for a few days to admire him for it.

Ripken has lots of ability: 13-time All-Star; has hit more home runs than any other short stop; has set nearly a dozen fielding records. But even if he hadn't been so excellent, I doubt that the world would have pulled out any fewer stops when they honored him last September. Among all the records he has set, this one… the one linked to consistency… stands as a monolithic accomplishment that dwarfs all the rest.

Some day, there is a very real possibility that you and I might be so honoured… not by fans and peers, but by God, angels and a great cloud of witnesses. And the honour will come not by virtue of any great abilities we may have, but because of a trait that is accessible to all and of great value in God's eyes: availability.

As leaders and disciple makers, we are interested in making an impact for the kingdom of God on this planet. So naturally, we'll do all we can to hone our ministering abilities to a fine edge. Nothing wrong with developing a spirit of excellence. But we must never forget that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 tells us that when it comes to picking a team, God chose the foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. Why did He choose the lowly? "So that no mortal man should have pretense for glorying and boast in the presence of God."

It's faithfulness, dependability and availability that impress God! He's not scouring the earth in search of a bunch of high-powered, flashy, highly-educated whiz-kids who can cook up and execute their big ideas. He's looking for faithful, available servants who will show up every day looking to carry out His big ideas! Think about some of the great men and women of the Bible… how little they had going for them and yet how significantly God used them.
• Abraham: Idolater; liar; did nothing of significance until he was in his 80's; became the father of the Jews and ancestor of the Christ.
• Joseph: Papa's pet; hated by his brothers; kidnap victim; sold into slavery; falsely accused of rape; wrongly imprisoned; became the Prime Minister of Egypt and saved the embryonic nation of Israel.
• Moses: Murderer; sheepherder in exile for half his life; a man of great reluctance and little faith; became God's ambassador and the one He spoke to face-to-face.
• Ruth: A Moabite in exile; widowed; childless; destitute; married Boaz and became the great-grandmother of David.
• David: Sheepherder; youngest child in an insignificant family; adulterer; murderer; became King and led Israel to the pinnacle of world power.
• Esther: Orphan; a minority exile in a hostile country; became Queen and kept Israel from annihilation.
• Jesus: Carpenter's son from a backwater town in Galilee; King of kings and Lord of lords.

God doesn't need men and women of great ability; He needs people with availability, people who are willing to do what He wants them to do, say what He wants them to say, go where He wants them to go and be what He wants them to be. He doesn't care what your background is, what challenges you are facing, what handicaps you have. The main thing He wants is for you to show up! Show up with your five loaves and two fishes, and then stand back!

Day 23


Everyone loves a slap on the back, a "way da go!", a solid high-five. Letters of commendation, special recognition, promotions… these are the things that keep us motivated and ambitious in whatever we pursue.

We want people to watch us perform, so that when we do well, they'll notice it and affirm us. However, this can backfire. As hockey goalie Jacques Plante once lamented, "How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on, a buzzer sounds and 18,000 people boo?"

For many athletes, though, one of the primary reasons they compete is because they crave the acclamation of the crowd. When a person invests thousands of hours in order to excel in a certain discipline, one of the big pay-offs is the applause. Go ahead, admit it; whether you're an unregenerate pagan or spiritual giant… you love applause.

But who's applauding? That probably makes a difference to you. I recall running an indoor 60-meter high hurdle race in Los Angelesonce. I won the race and was happy to be applauded. As I was decelerating after breaking the finish tape, I noticed that one of the guys helping us stop before we smashed into the wall was one of my all-time sports idols: Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain! And he was applauding me! I tell you, his applause outweighed that of the entire arena to me!

Several years ago, Athletes in Action sponsored several "Supersport Weeks". We would assemble several four-man teams composed of well-known Christian professional athletes and AIA staff athletes, and blitz a city with the gospel for a week. We'd go to a high school and challenge the four best athletes in the school to a five-event "Supersport Spectacular" competition during an all-school assembly. We'd share our testimonies and the gospel during breaks in the competition.
I was in rigorous training for the decathlon, hoping to go to the Olympics later that year, but decided to take a week out of my training to participate in the Supersport Week in Seattle. It was a arduous week! Our team did "Spectaculars" once or twice a day, every day, on top of other speaking. We were totally exhausted, sore and spent by the end of the week, but hundreds of kids had come to Christ.

The last night, they threw an appreciation banquet in a fancy ballroom. Everyone was there… all the athletes, city dignitaries, businessmen, donors, AIA brass… the works. As I basked in the glow of the evening, I thought, "Ahhhh. It was all worth it." One by one, they asked each athlete to stand as he was introduced and applauded. They got to the end of the list and moved on with the program, but there was one problem: they never said my name! I was absolutely devastated! All that toil; missing a crucial week in my training; working to exhaustion every day; giving my all in the competitions; preaching my heart out to the students… and no one noticed! No one cared!"

Then came the voice. It was as clear and audible to me as if someone had knelt next to me and spoke in my ear, but it was God talking to me in my heart. "I noticed, Chris. I care. And I appreciate what you've done." My heart leaped and tears came to my eyes. From that moment on, I didn't give a gnat's navel if anybody else in that room or in the entire world acknowledged my effort! God did!

As a Christian athlete; as a Bible study leader; as a disciple maker; as a ministry leader: who are you looking to for applause? We usually get weary in well-doing when nobody notices that we're doing well. But Jesus notices, and He stands to applaud!

Max Lucado wrote in The Applause of Heaven: "Certain things about God are easy to imagine. I can imagine Him creating the world and suspending the stars. I can envision Him as almighty, all-powerful, and in control. I can fathom a God who knows me, who made me, and I can even fathom a God who hears me. But a God who is in love with me? A God who is crazy for me? A God who cheers for me? But that is the message of the Bible." Digesting this fact can be the highest motivational force you have ever known--no matter what your goals are.

Day 24

Getting Up and Staying Up

Shug Jordan, former coach for the Miami Dolphins, once asked linebacker Mike Kollin if he would do some recruiting for him. Mike answered, "Sure, coach. What are you looking for?" "Well, Mike," Jordan said, "you know the kind of guy that gets knocked down and just stays down?" "Yeah… but we don't want him do we, coach?" "Correct. We don't want him. But you know the guy who gets knocked down and gets back up, and then gets knocked down again?" "We don't want him either, do we?" "No, we don't. But Mike, there's this other guy that you can knock him down, and he gets right back up. Knock him down again, and he gets up again. Knock him down again, he gets up again. You know that kind?" "Yeah, coach. He's the guy we're looking for, right?" "No, we don't want him either. We need to find that guy who's knocking everybody down! He’s the one we're after!"

There's a lot to be said for resilience. Persistence, endurance and hard-headed stick-to-it-iveness are great assets for both athletes and ministers of the gospel. In both pursuits, you can count on being knocked down from time-to-time. If you don't possess the heart to get back up after having assumed the horizontal position, your usefulness in either discipline will be limited.

But have you ever known anyone who was content with being a punching bag with good bounce-back ability? A boxer may proudly say, "He hit me 458 times in 15 rounds, and I went down 27 times… but I went the distance!" A key objective in boxing, however, is to hit the other guy and make him go down. How many of your punches landed? How many times did he go down?
When it comes to dealing with our adversary, the devil, too many Christians tolerate a victim mentality within themselves. We do have a spiritual enemy who is constantly working to cut our legs out from under us. Some people only require a slight shove, and they're on their face in the mud, savouring their favourite whine: "Waaaah! Life is too haaaard!" Others may take a header, but they're right back up in a flash. They are invigorated as they declare along with the Apostle Paul, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…" (2 Corinthians 4:8,9).

This is a good thing… but it's not enough! The Bible says that "in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37). We don't stop at mere endurance. God's intention for us is that we fight back! We are empowered to resist the devil, not avoid him and hope he doesn't bother us. God has given us armour and weapons and expects us to use them! In 2 Corinthians 10:4,5, Paul speaks in aggressive terms when he says that our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. Defence is good, but without an offense, you'll never win the war. Can you imagine an army whose greatest and only asset is that they are real good at hunkering down and surviving enemy attacks?

It's not advisable to go out and look for trouble from the devil, but when he dares to fool with those who are redeemed and indwelt and empowered by Almighty God, he needs to know that he's about to be knocked down! And you are just the man or woman to do it… not because of your own resident strength, but because you have been given power and authority that is greater than that of our adversary (Luke 10:19; 1 John 4:4).

In 1 John 2:14, John commends those who are spiritual adolescents ("young men") because "you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." It is God's will that you would grow up, become strong through a steady diet of his Word, and dwell in a state of persistent triumph over the enemy!

Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary once greeted a student with a cheerful, "How are you?" He was answered drearily, "Oh, OK I guess, under the circumstances." Hendricks looked at him quizzically, "Well, what are you doing under there?"

It's time to stop dwelling under the circumstances that Satan has introduced into your life! It's time to fight back, regain the ground that the enemy has taken from you, and perform the ministry God has given to you! Satan is the greatest loser of all time, and we are the winners… let's start living like winners!

Day 25

Dealing With Set-Backs

Johnny Kerr, former NBA centre and coach, said his biggest coaching test came when he was at the helm of the expansion Chicago Bulls. They had lost seven in a row, so he decided he'd give his guys a psychological pep talk before the game with the Celtics.

Kerr said, "I told Bob Boozer to go out and pretend he was the best scorer in basketball. I told Jerry Sloan to pretend he was the best defensive guard. I told Guy Rodgers to pretend he could run an offense better than any other guard, and I told Erwin Mueller to pretend he was the best rebounding, shot-blocking, scoring centre in the game. We lost the game by 17. I was pacing around the locker room afterward, and Mueller walked up, put his arm around me and said, 'Don't worry about it, coach. Just pretend we won.'"

Few things bug athletes and coaches more than losing, yet it's a universal experience. We've all developed ways of dealing with our athletic set-backs, but unless the athletes we are discipling learn how to handle defeat with eternity in mind, they'll never reach their potential as athletes or as Christians.

The day a person invites Christ into his life, God commences a highly-specific training program to make him like Jesus. Romans 8:28,29 says: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren."

The goals we set for ourselves will be met or abandoned as we move through life, always to be replaced by other goals. But there is one high and holy goal that God has for us that will be Numero Uno on our personal agenda until the day we die: "Become like Jesus." Every other goal we have, God subordinates to this one.

As we pursue our temporal goals, we must never set ourselves up as little gods, pronouncing absolutes with regard to our life experiences. "I fouled out… that's bad!." "I got cut… that's bad!" "My teacher flunked me… that's bad!" "I'm injured… that's bad!" If a person belongs to Jesus Christ, and if Romans 8:28,29 is true, God… the only legitimate absolutes-pronouncer I know of--is saying, "No, each of those things is GOOD. They may not be pleasant at the moment, but I'm going to USE those experiences to make you more like My Son. And the benefits you receive from realizing THIS goal will last forever!"

Might not your disciple's level of athletic intensity decrease as he pursues this foundational goal? It had better not… or else he has missed the fact that God intends to use "ALL THINGS" to make us like Jesus. Even our athletics. God will milk our sporting careers for all they're worth to develop things like courage, determination, discipline, patience, endurance, faithfulness, honesty and the like, as we do all things "heartily, as unto the Lord." But when things don't turn out as we'd intended, we can rest in the calm assurance that God will sovereignly manufacture GOOD from the set-back.

Fred Dixon and I were competing in the National Decathlon Championships way back in 1975. I was a new-comer, and eventually finished seventh in the meet, but Fred and Bruce Jenner were the USA's top decathletes, and both were on world-record pace by the sixth event… the discus. Fred was about the best discus thrower of all of us there that day, and in his desire to capitalize on his strength, he put a little too much effort into his three throws, and spun himself out of the seven-foot ring each time. That meant zero points for that event. Fred was through for the day… and the year.

Because of his defeat in this meet, he could not represent the USA in the Pan American Games. A year of training, hoping, planning and praying evaporated on that third foul. I walked over to Fred and just shook his hand. I couldn't speak, but Fred simply smiled and said, "Well, Chris, this didn't take God by surprise. He's in control, so we'll just trust Him to work it out for the best."
For years Fred's response has been a challenge and inspiration to Christian athletes who have heard this story. It epitomizes the attitude of cooperation with God in His agenda to make us like Christ.

And by the way, we decathletes petitioned the AAU, who put Fred on the Pan Am Games team despite his defeat, and Fred went on to win the Silver Medal there. God knew what He was doing all along!

Day 26

If Not You, Then Who?

Middleweight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard was speaking at Harvard a few years ago. "I consider myself blessed," he said. "I consider you blessed. We've all been blessed with God-given talents. Mine just happens to be beatin' people up."

Well, we've all gotta do our best with what we've got, right? What talents has God blessed you with? And just as importantly, how are you using those talents for the expansion of His kingdom?
Obviously, God has not called every Christian into full-time vocational ministry. We could always use a few more pastors and missionaries, but probably what our society needs most these days are vast numbers of solid disciples in secular jobs rubbing elbows day-in and day-out with people who need to know Jesus. We need more sanctified shoe salesmen, more anointed anthropologists, more ordained orderlies, more holy hot dog vendors!

God sovereignly equips and calls every one of us to a specific ministry. Sometimes it's full-time, sometimes it's within the context of a secular job. As you grow to maturity, you may sense a "call" to a particular type of ministry. But when you pick up the receiver, how can you tell if it's God on the line? There are a number of factors to consider, but here is one that you shouldn't overlook. Take a hard look at yourself and determine the specific ways God has gifted you. How can those talents be most efficiently invested? Where are they needed most?

I was an All-American in the 400 meter hurdles as a collegian, but when I graduated, I rejoiced that I was not going to have to "waste" any more time training and competing. I could finally invest that time studying the Bible, witnessing, discipling people, leading Bible studies… you know, important things… things I had gotten pretty good at over the years.

I was being heavily recruited to join the AIA Track Team, but I wrote the coach and told him I'd decided to enrol in seminary, thanks for askin', see ya. He wrote back one more time: "Chris, please re-read the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25. Be sure you are not burying a talent that God intends for you to invest." That got me right between the eyes.

About the same day I received his letter, I read a quote by Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators: "Never do something someone else can or will do, when there's something else to be done that only you can do." Another bulls eye.

In the space of one day, God totally changed my mind about my calling. God had given me a very specific talent: hurdling. Tens of thousands of dedicated Christian men and women would be entering seminaries all around the world that fall to be equipped as pastors and missionaries. But how many of them could run the intermediate hurdles in 50.1? How many of them would have the kind of platform I could have with other hurdlers? And if I didn't fill that niche, was there anybody else on the planet who could or would? Were there many others who could employ their witnessing, discipling, study-leading and speaking skills as naturally as I could among the hurdlers of the world?

It became perfectly clear to me that day: God had spent four years preparing me for a ministry as a full-time competing athlete with the AIA Track Team. He gave me back a love for the sport. He helped me see that the time I invested in training and competing was as sacred as the time I spent studying the Bible (well, almost). The track became my classroom and pulpit. Workouts became a holy discipline.

That was twenty-two years ago. As a young Christian, it never occurred to me that my athletics might eventually become my ministry, or that my ministry might eventually become my career. It doesn't always (or even usually) happen that way, but that's how God worked it out for me. He may or may not call you into full-time, life-long, vocational ministry. But two things are certain: He's preparing you for something, and he's calling you to something. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open… He might be dialling your number even now! Or would you rather God ask Sugar Ray to exercise his gift on you? Just kiddin'…

Day 27

What Jesus Expects of Those He Selects

Illiteracy is common in Africa. You’d think this would cause big problems on shopping day… if you can’t read a label, how do you know what’s inside? Easily fixed: put a picture of the contents on the label. If you see peas on the label, you can expect peas in the can.

You can probably imagine the horror of so many African women when those little jars of Gerber Baby Foods began appearing on their grocery store shelves! You know… the ones with the chubby, smiling baby on the label? Gerber hastily pulled all their products and underwent some massive packaging adjustments throughout Africa. I don’t know for sure, but I think the cannibal market really felt swindled.

Whenever you select something, you have certain expectations. Sometimes they are realized, sometimes they aren’t. When Jesus selected His twelve disciples, He had certain expectations, too. As we stand at the threshold of the twenty-first century, His expectations for us are the same as the expectations He held for His first-century disciples. And knowing what His expectations are might help us fulfill them.

Jesus’ expectations for His disciples were many, but a key one is found in Mark 3:14: "And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him . . ." What do you think it would have been like to "be with" Jesus… to have had front row seats to some of the most incredible experiences humans have ever witnessed? Imagine watching Jesus walking on the water, calming a storm, healing the sick, raising the dead, commanding demons. Remember how Peter reacted after he’d seen Jesus’ transfiguration and His summit meeting with Moses and Elijah? "This is incredible!" he babbled. "Can we set up some tents and stay here for a while?" Day in, day out, the same ol’ trans-dimensional supernatural overrides of our current time/space continuum. What a blast! Being "with Him" in those days must have been like walking next to a spiritual tornado!

But that’s only one side of the coin. To "be with Him" also meant you’d get to abandon your career. You get to sleep outdoors and travel all over Canaan by foot. You get to be thrown out of synagogues, harassed by religious authorities, abandoned by friends. You get to pick up a cross and fall in line behind Jesus and follow Him to Golgotha. You get to face heavily armed Roman soldiers coming for you in the night. You get to fight doubt and fear when your Master is taken into custody. You get to die a thousand deaths as you run and hide and deny Him and watch Him ridiculed and tortured and executed.

When Jesus calls someone to "be with Him", He calls them to the mountain tops, but He also calls them to the dark valleys of the shadow of death. And you should never forget that it’s a package deal.

In those days, Jesus was localized in one, human body, and He only had three years, and he could only effectively work with twelve people. But now that He has triumphed over death and has access to us through the ministry of His Holy Spirit, He can work with BILLIONS of people simultaneously… and He wants to work with YOU.

He calls you to "be with Him"… not to be on the bench while He’s playing the game. Not to be sitting at base camp while He scales the summit. Not to be relaxing back at the PX while He’s fighting on the front lines. He wants to walk with you in the midst of the flames.

"With Jesus" you are safe and secure and protected, surrounded by His ministering and warring angels, indwelt by the supreme problem-solver of the universe. The roads He’ll take you on may get steep and rugged from time to time. But know this: every experience, every step of the way, every bump and every knock will be specifically designed for your benefit, and for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.

Do you need to meet certain criteria and qualifications in order to be picked to "be with" Jesus? Only one: willingness. Willingness to learn from Him. Willingness to let Him hold the place in your life that He already holds in the universe: Lord and Master. Willingness to let Him mould you into the man or woman He has in mind. Even if you are simply willing to be made willing, that’s all He expects for now. He’ll take it from there.

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