138: Legalism or Discipline?

What are spiritual disciplines?

What purpose do they serve?

On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Bruce Wesley about the spiritual disciplines that have been especially helpful in his spiritual life.

They also discuss some of the practices that don’t get mentioned as often, like fasting, meditation, and celebration.

https://youtu.be/dyqge3DAUaU

The Aaron Suhre Story

“We’re just this small story in the greater, bigger story of what God is doing. These are some things God has done in this life for his greater good.”   – Aaron Suhre

 

The Amy Swift Story

Amy Swift and her husband, Chris, moved to Louisiana from Texas, about a year after they were married. It was supposed to be a short-term move, but it turned into five years. And it was a long, lonely five years for Amy.

The Swifts just had their first baby, she was living in a new city where she knew no one and Chris traveled a lot for work. Which meant Amy was home with the baby most days, and she began to feel the crushing weight of isolation, separation and eventually depression.

She was tired, frustrated, anxious, and alone.

Chris & Amy thought getting back to Texas might fix everything… Texas is awesome, but Amy’s dark season wasn’t over when they moved back.

But I want you to hear how God used HIS PEOPLE to bring peace in Amy’s life. How through his people she experienced the presence of God.

Take a listen.

113: Cigars, Grilling, and Missional Living

When Jesus commissioned his people to “Go and make disciples,” in Matthew 28:19, he was telling us to bring the gospel, not only to the ends of the earth, but also everywhere we go in our normal, everyday lives. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with campus pastors, Chris Alston and Karl Garcia, about how they intentionally and authenticity engage in relationships with people around them.

Resources:

Table Talk Series

3 Tips for Having Hard Conversations with Your Kids

We’ve all been there. When our child is exposed to something scandalous for the first time, or a teachable moment presents itself, or we suddenly realize just how old our child is these days and it’s past time for them to learn about some more mature subjects.

 

Here are three tips for navigating through these moments well.

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Who Should I Follow?

As a teenager and young adult, the leaders in my life were always limited and clear: parents, coaches, teachers, and pastors. Today, however, I have access to a plethora and diversity of leaders in every aspect of life.

There is an abundance of riches in leadership. And what a gift it is to be able to hear and learn from so many experienced and skilled people in so many areas!

But, this abundance also entails dangerous possibilities when it comes to whom we follow.

We use the term “follow” frequently in today’s world, especially regarding social media, but we often forget the original implications of the word. To follow means that someone is leading us; we are trusting them to inform us, teach us, and shape us, in some way or another, even if we’ve never met.

I’m not only talking about Instagram feeds (although, this definitely applies to social media), but also the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, and the celebrities we desire to emulate—all the different ways we allow, and even invite, others to influence our lives.

Whether considering leaders in the Christian faith or leaders in any field at all, here are three things to consider when deciding who to follow:

1. Character above Charisma

We live in a time of influencers, and Christians certainly have their fair share.

In this atmosphere, personality sometimes matters more than content. Our culture has trained us to value entertainment, so it helps if someone is attractive, witty, and inspiring. However, the goal of the Christian life is not celebrity but Christ-like character. What should matter most is not how persuasive or articulate someone is, but who they are: the narrative of their lives.

Do they love the least of God’s children? Do they speak the truth when it is unpopular? Do they live, and call you to live, submitted to the lordship of Jesus?

Charismatic leaders are exciting and enticing — and certainly you can be charismatic and also a devoted follower of Jesus — but let us remember that physical attractiveness, persuasive speaking skills, and successful ventures are not the most important things about leaders.

What should truly inspire us is a character that is conformed to Christ.

2. Humility above Hubris

Leadership comes with power. But power can be addictive and destructive.

Often, powerful leaders who are self-promoting and prideful are not only tolerated, but celebrated in our culture. Jesus, however, states clearly to his followers, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you, must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

The leaders we follow should seek to look like Jesus, who although he was God, humbled himself even unto death on a cross. The king of the universe was also the suffering servant, washing the feet of his followers.

Does the person you follow spend more time seeking fame and influence than seeking God and his kingdom? Do they spend the majority of their influence for their own ambition?

When choosing who to follow, let us find someone who, like Jesus, uses their power and position to glorify God and serve other people.

3. Truth above Trend

The most challenging and important aspect of determining who to follow is understanding what they really believe.

Do you know if they hold to orthodox Christian beliefs? Are they part of a Christian community that holds them accountable?

Our beliefs about God, the Bible, and salvation affect everything.

Please do not hear me saying that you cannot learn from anyone who believes differently than you do — you can, and you should. We all should be willing to engage with those whom we disagree and learn from them. However, engagement is different from discipleship.

The world is constantly shifting its values and beliefs, and often the most popular speakers and leaders are not committed to biblical truth.

Before you follow someone — ingesting their books, appropriating their worldview, sympathizing with their purposes — make sure you understand their foundational beliefs. It matters.

 

Recently someone asked me for a list: write down the women to avoid and the women worth following.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple.

What we really need is community, discernment, and wisdom. We need a vibrant and committed personal faith, walking with others, as his Spirit and his people speak to our hearts and minds. We need to study and understand Scripture for ourselves so that we can test the truth pronounced by others through the filter of a biblical lens.

Through our church community, through faithfully listening to God’s voice, through study of his Word, and through our own personal relationship with Jesus, we can develop the discernment to wisely choose which leaders to follow.

When you are following someone, consider where they are leading you. Ultimately, whomever we choose to follow should lead us beyond themselves and to our king.

In the end, in all ways, may we be led, and may we lead, others to submit to, proclaim, and look more like Jesus.


 

4 Ways Christians Can Engage Culture

Picture culture as a river. The waters of the river can either be vibrant and life giving or polluted and dangerous to the ecosystem around it. As the waters of the river go, so go its surroundings. As Christians, we are faced with a dilemma. What is our role in culture?

When I was growing up, I had a Christian T-shirt. Come to think of it, I also had a few Christian CD’s, a handful of Christian surf movies, one Christian skateboard, and I think I even had a lone Christian computer game. These “sacred” options were mediums of entertainment and enjoyment for me. I liked them because I felt some type of validation that I could still be “cool” and a Christian. I was seeing and hearing people that believed the same things as me, doing the same things as me, and that felt good.

Are “Christian” T-shirts wrong?

No. In fact, there are a lot of good Gospel conversations that can come from wearing something that proclaims what you believe. However, underneath this so-called subculture that I grew up in, there was a mindset that was forming. A philosophy that I didn’t realize was shaping the way I viewed my involvement in the culture around me.

You see, the more I secluded myself from culture by segregating what was sacred from what was secular, the more I lost my effectiveness as a missionary. I began to combat, criticize, and cower from culture, believing that it would make me a more holy person.

But, in the process, I was becoming less like Jesus.

The Son of God, to everyone’s surprise, had a different approach to engaging the culture in which he lived. Accused of being a drunk, glutton, and “friend of sinners,” Jesus lived in such a way that disgusted the religious elite of his day. These self-righteous members of the community thought they were above the “common people” and decided it was best to keep away from those “less holy” than themselves. This was not at all Jesus’ idea of mission.

Now, for clarity sake, I am not suggesting that Christians should lower their ethical and moral standards to fit it. In fact, that is the farthest thing from what I am saying. I am merely suggesting we take a seat in the school of Jesus and his mission, and think about our roll on this planet. We are here to be on mission with Christ. Our prayer and hope is that we might see his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and this may require a different approach.

It might, in fact, require us to contemplate, conversate, and even create culture ourselves, not simply condemn it or cower from it. This type of approach doesn’t embody the humble, reasonable, accessible picture we see in the Son of man who lifted the head of the prostitute and preached on the hillsides to the poor.

The life of Jesus illustrates a beautiful marriage of holiness and lowliness, humility and purity, transcendence and presence. Jesus exemplified being both God and man. This connection of heaven and earth is the same mission to which we are called 2,000 years later.

Which brings me to the question: How should the Gospel shape our engagement in culture?

As Christians, we are called to a citizenship of heaven. This does not mean that we are trapped here waiting for our eutopia to come. Instead, it means that, as faithful followers of Jesus, we have a mission in the here and now. So, here are four suggested ways to engage culture as a follower of Jesus:

1. Create Culture

Missionary artists are challenged with bringing the Kingdom to light through creativity and beauty instead of cheap counterfeits. This means displaying innovative art, playing original songs, and showing captivating films in the same halls and venues as those of different beliefs, side by side with the unchurched. As well, non-artists are called to create healthy, kingdom culture in their homes, workplaces, and communities.

2. Contemplate Culture

Mission-minded parents are called to walk through life with our kids, providing a place for them to ask hard questions and explore faith. This means getting our hands dirty and having awkward conversations instead of sheltering them from the broken things in this world that Jesus came to redeem.

3. Converse with Culture

Missionary neighbors are led to become competent and strategic at uncovering the Gospel in topics in which our unchurched friends have never seen Jesus at work before. This means sitting down to eat at sinners’ tables and listening deeply to the interests of those we are trying to reach. It means meeting people right where they are.

4. Care for Culture

Believers of all ages, backgrounds, and giftedness are empowered to care for this river called culture. As we tend to the waters, the banks of the river come to life and we begin to see the redemptive work of God unfold before our eyes. This means wading into the filthy parts of the river that will one day be a crystal clear torrent flowing right through the city of God, instead of just sitting on the banks.

 

What about the shirt though? I mean, a shirt that says “Jesus” instead of “Reese’s” isn’t cowering from culture, right? A band that sounds just like Nirvana, with slightly less grunge, and positive, encouraging lyrics isn’t condemning culture, right? Perhaps, but aren’t they counterfeiting it? And for what purpose exactly? To provide an alternative that is “sanctified” and “safe”? To make us feel like, if just for a moment, all the brokenness we experience is gone and heaven is here? Maybe copying culture is just another means of creating our own utopia where we don’t have to engage in the darker places of our world and the murky waters of our culture.

Friends, we must be wise about who or what will influence our formative minds and hearts. We need to guard our hearts well and seek to help others navigate these waters, too. But, you can’t navigate a river by standing on the bank.

We need to wade into the waters with our children, our neighbors, and our friends and family who are new believers, and embark on this mission of engaging culture with a Gospel perspective.


 

Spheres of Influence Activity

This activity will help you identify your circles of accountability, also known as our Spheres of Influence. Take note of the non-believers with whom you can build intentional relationships. Get to know them, pray for them, serve them, and find opportunities to share your grace story and the gospel.

 

Of these relationships with non-believers, choose the five biggest priorities for prayer.

This is your Top 5:

  1. _______________
  2. _______________
  3. _______________
  4. _______________
  5. _______________

Nothing to Lose

Telling people about Jesus can be weird and awkward.

No one wants to be approached by that person in line, or that guy with a pamphlet at your door, or that neighbor who, on the very first conversation, blasts you with “Have you accepted Jesus?”  Even if we have, we cringe. No one likes being blasted.

Perhaps that is why we are sensitive to being the blaster.

Those of us who are committed to Christ are called to share the love of Christ. We believe the gospel. We know the freedom, joy, peace, and hope that it gives. We think eternally, and this makes evangelism one of the most important parts of our existence on earth. But we still don’t want to be “that” person. The topic of Jesus and the gospel is difficult to broach, and in many situations we don’t know how the recipient will respond. So, sometimes we steer so clear of blasting that we don’t approach the topic of Christ at all.

There must be an alternative to blasting and not speaking of Christ at all. 

My small group leader recently observed that evangelism is a two-part process: creating opportunities for Christ, and then seizing those opportunities. The creating aspect is developing relationships with neighbors, friends, or family that don’t know Jesus.

Instead of blasting, we are truly making efforts to know them, invest time with them, and making an effort to love them. When we are in relationship with others, opportunities are naturally created to share the gospel. Then, when the name of Jesus comes out of our mouth, because it eventually will, it is not blasting. We are simply seizing the moment to share an important part of our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, it may still feel weird. 

Our small group acquired a relationship with a man named Greg, who is homebound with health issues. Greg needed help getting groceries, but more importantly, he needed love. We began sharing costs for groceries and delivering them to him every other week, but the groceries were incidental – they really created an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

Greg had recently undergone intensive surgery on his foot and was having to work through a long rehab in the hospital. One of our small group ladies suggested we write him some cards of encouragement for his hospital stay. So, I sat there, pen in hand, knowing I should seize this opportunity to write Greg a note of encouragement.

It felt weird. I had not even met the man!  And, in light of what I said earlier, I did not want to be “that” Christian chick. I was ready to write but unsure what to say.

I thought for a minute, prayed, and wrote down a few words of encouragement. It took a grand total of 5 minutes. I thought, There. I did it. That was weird and he may find it weird. But, I knew I was seizing this opportunity to share love and hope, maybe even creating an opportunity to eventually share the gospel.

To my surprise, Greg did not find it weird. In fact, he was quite encouraged and excited to get a blessing like this from someone he didn’t even know. He received another card from someone else in the group, and he called our two cards “fan mail.” I loved it and immediately wanted to write to him again. I had no idea the card would mean so much. It had cost me so little – 5 minutes and a little weirdness.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

Romans 1:16

We must all learn to do what we are called to do: love people with the intent of sharing Christ, and then trust God with the rest.

If we try to talk about Christ with someone and it doesn’t go well, we really have lost nothing. But if we follow our fear of losing respect, it can inhibit the opportunities we have to share the gospel.

Respect is worth losing, but the message of Christ is not. Are you willing to risk feeling a little weird, for the amazing reward of being used by God in changing someone’s entire life and eternal trajectory?

If we believe the gospel, the answer should be clear.

Let us take heart, be courageous and learn how to create and seize opportunities for Jesus.


 

 

056: Sharing the Gospel in Everyday Life

Does the idea of bringing up your faith at work, at the ball fields, or in your neighbor’s driveway make you anxious? What if they get turned off or ask you a question you can’t answer? Evangelism (or sharing the good news of the gospel) doesn’t have to be scary or uncomfortable. It can be a joyful experience to be used by God and it can happen naturally, anytime, anywhere. On this episode, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aaron Chester about sharing the gospel in everyday life.

Resources: 

Go & Multiply: Sharing the Gospel in Word and Deed by Clear Creek Resources

The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs

Gospel 101: Learning, Living, and Sharing the Gospel by Jeff Dodge

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer