Teaching. Learning. Leading. Following.

Everyone teaches. Everyone learns. Everyone leads. Everyone follows. These exist as passive or active realities in every person’s life. These truths confront me daily, and I must choose whether they live in a positive or negative way.

You get to make the same choice. Everyone makes this choice, some deliberately and intentionally, others by letting life happen to them and allowing negative habits and influences to shape their existence.

Several sources combined to stir my thoughts on this topic.

sf_GoMakeDisciples_0010_Group 1Are you just a spectator in The Great Commission?

My view of The Great Commission expanded recently as I changed from just seeing it as a whole to better understanding each individual part. The inescapable aspect of it that seems to be gripping me more and more involves teaching.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

In my observations of the church, we are pretty good at the making and baptizing (or at least focusing there). But, sometimes, the “teach” part seems neglected. Well, I guess more so teaching to be disciples. We’re also pretty good at teaching to serve, an important part of being a disciple.

But what troubles me, and what my mind struggles putting into words, I find expressed well by the discovery of Bill Hybels (founder of the Willow Creek Church movement) when he surveyed his own members. Here’s what Hybels discovered:

“Heavy involvement in church programs did not translate into spiritual growth and maturity.”

In the article “What Non-Christians Really Think of Us,” the late Charles Colson discussed the following:

“What the Church needs to do is to make disciples, to grow people in the faith, not be spectators. We must teach them what Christians believe and how to live out these doctrines in all of life. Like Hybels, church leaders need to examine whether they are making disciples and encouraging holy living.”

On a personal level, this translate into looking into my own role as a teacher and a leader. At the same time, I must examine my own learning as well as following.

Before we begin discussing these thoughts, consider the perspectives the following resources provide.

schoolChristian Faith at Work – Is Everyone Gifted to Be a Teacher?

The post “Is Everyone Gifted to Be a Teacher?” by Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work begins a series addressing the idea that every person’s calling involves being a teacher. While not everyone holds a formal teaching position and not everyone may be described as a “gifted” teacher, every Christian should teach others. Read the series to find out more. It’s well worth your time.

The Leadership Mandate – Book Recommendationdansblack_3D1-890x1087

My friend Dan Black from Dan Black on Leadership recently published a book titled, The Leadership Mandate. While reading it, two main thoughts immediately came to mind.

First, the book provides a terrific exploration of the basic elements of leadership. The elements Dan discusses must exist in order for someone to be an effective leader. What I liked the most about the elements he lists and discusses is that the first one involves leading yourself since an effective leader must lead himself successfully.

Second, my boys need to read this book. Because Dan simplifies the essential elements of leadership so well, The Leadership Mandate is a great resource for new leaders wanting specific action items that will help develop them as leaders.  (My 14-year-old did in fact read the book & found some helpful tips he plans to immediately apply.)

(Note: When you purchase  The Leadership Mandate now through October 7th, you will receive some terrific bonuses – 6 of them actually! Check out Dan Black on Leadership for more details on these bonuses!)

Time for Discussion

Do we have any business being teachers if we are not also students?

And, what effectiveness can we have as godly leaders if we are not also godly followers?

Is every Christian called to teach?

How does learning to lead yourself successfully fit into The Great Commission, if at all?

Lastly, how can the church improve at teaching disciples?

Recommendation – God Is My Refuge

1-21-13 howard book coverWhen choosing a daily devotional, four elements rise to the top as essential. It must be practical, scripture focused, relevant, and challenge me to amplify my relationship with God. God is My Refuge by Kathy Howard contains all of these elements, making it a perfect daily devotional.

Practical

By practical, I mean that it fits my lifestyle. It’s not too long and easy to fit in when time is limited. Practical means the format is easy-to-use and helps us non-morning people ease into our days. Practical also means that it contains sufficient direction to help me focus on Christ as I start my day. A practical devotional also means that the topics focus on everyday situations, and I can immediately apply what they say. All of this provides a practical approach for starting my day in a way that honors God.

Scripture Focused

A devotional without a focus on scripture simply fails to even qualify as a devotional. God is My Refuge is not only chocked full of scripture, but Kathy also challenges readers with scripture memorization as well. Kathy doesn’t simply give a verse to memorize and leave the reader on her own, though. She takes the process several steps further and provides a variety of suggestions and methods for memorizing scripture, something with which even seasoned saints struggle. In addition, the topics focused on connect scripture in ways that help lead the individual toward wisdom and then victory in that area of her life. The methods and suggestions also help readers to individualize the memorization process according to their own learning style.

Relevant

If a devotional fails to connect directly to my life, it fails to provide the focus needed to start my day with God. God is My Refuge contains stories to which every woman can relate, connecting them with scripture and Biblical application in a relevant way. Relevance, for me, means being relatable and then using that as a bridge to help me further connect with God’s Word. Kathy’s devotions do that. Not only are the individual devotions themselves relevant, the topics on which they focus will connect with every woman, no matter where she is in her Christian walk. What woman doesn’t struggle with trouble, need, loneliness, illness, fear and broken relationships at some point? Who doesn’t find themselves facing weariness, worry, temptation grief and discontentment upon a seemingly regular basis? These are the extremely relevant topics covered within this 12-week devotion.

Challenging

God is My Refuge takes daily time with God and in the Word to another level by providing a “Reflect and Reply” section as well as a “Prayer Prompt” after each devotion. For me, these sections challenge deeper application; they even amplify what I am already doing in those areas by challenger my personal depth. Immediately addressing the day’s topic in prayer forces me to get God’s perspective on where I stand in that particular area. I need a daily devotional that challenges me to go to the next level with God, a place that I sometimes struggle going to on my own.

1-21-13 howard 5

The subtitle of God is My Refuge says “12 weeks of devotions and scripture memory for trouble times.” In John 16:33, Jesus says to expect trouble. The topics that God is My Refuge addresses definitely make the top of the list of troubles we can expect to experience in life. Because so much of life includes struggling through troubles, this devotion works for everyday life regardless of if you are currently on a mountain top, in a valley, or somewhere in between. You certainly don’t need to feel like you are going through “troubled times” to receive tremendous blessing and encouragement from this devotional. In fact, let me encourage you to order two books when you get your copy. I ended up ordering a second book to send to a friend who is a new Christian. You’ll want to bless and encourage another woman with God is My Refuge. I promise.

Check out this SAMPLE DAY’S DEVOTIONAL from God is My Refuge by Kathy Howard.

Recommendation – Jesus Calling

A friend recommended the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young to me several months ago. The daily readings take maybe five minutes but have been profoundly me. The depth of insight in each devotion provides a tremendous start to the day by focusing you on the presence of God. Not only does each devotion and accompanying scripture connect significantly in my spirit, they seem to also speak to me exactly where I am. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that this book was written just for me.

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Recommendation – Victory in Our Lives

Recently, Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work posted a terrific series about victory in our lives. Because Struggle to Victory is all about pushing through the struggles of life to the victory God has for us, this series is a terrific recommendation.

The individual posts in this series are as follows:

  1. How Do You Define Victory?
  2. Are You “All In” for Victory?
  3. Do You Expect Victory?
  4. What Does Victory Look Like in a Christian Business?
  5. Why Is Victory So Elusive?
  6. How Do You Plan for Victory?

Note that not only is this series a terrific one to read and learn from, all of the posts at Christian Faith at Work are well worth your time.

Recommendation – 4 Must Watch Family Movies

In addition to playing games together, my family and I love to watch movies together. We have quite a collection of our favorites, and we like to venture into new ones when we get the chance too. The problem in finding movies comes with finding ones that don’t drip violence, harsh and inappropriate language as well as visual images that kids just don’t need, especially boys. The following 4 movies have risen to the top as must watch family movies because not only are they absent of these things, but they also strongly push messages that we emphasize daily as parents anyway. Know that you can watch these movies with your kids without any of the concerns a Christian parent should have when choosing what to watch on Family Movie Night.

These suggestions really fit best for older kids simply because of the understanding needed, but younger kids can benefit as well. What other suggestions do you have for family movies?

Recommendation – New Hope Ladies Bible Study

At the beginning of this summer, I began a new venture by starting a Bible study blog for my home church. That blog is called New Hope Ladies. While getting the ladies in my church family to venture into the world of blogs and online studies has been somewhat of a struggle, I am certainly blessed by the process of creating the blog. My hope is that featuring this blog as a “recommendation” will bring some input into how the blog can be improved as well as what is good about it from people more comfortable in the world of blogs and online Bible study.

Features of the site include:

Thank you for taking the time to view this aspect of my blogging life.

 

Recommendations for Daily Devotions

Lately, my morning devotions have become somewhat eclectic. What I mean by this is that instead of using one source for my study (such as one devotional book), I have been using several small sources. I certainly don’t advocate against using a single devotion, but I do believe that routine can become a dangerous place. (See The Danger of Routine and Habit in Our Prayer Lives for more on this topic.)

For me, mixing up my routine gets my spirit going in new directions and keeps my from going through the motions. The Holy Spirit never ceases to use the small steps that we take to do amazing feats within us. In my life, this has meant that He connects the small sources that I am using to direct me to the dusty corners in my spirit and to clean out the cobwebs. Sometimes, this involves using all of what I study to focus on one main issue. Sometimes, this involves getting at several small issues.

For what it’s worth, I thought I would share some of the sources that I have been using lately as a sort of recommendation for trying something new & different, especially if you feel like your routine is working against you. In addition to the wonderful blog posts I receive regularly from a variety of blogs (most of which I have featured on my blog through a guest post, recommendation or source link), I offer the following resources as ideas to help stimulate your daily devotional time.

What resources do you or have you used that you would like to recommend?

Recommendations… Notice a Pattern?

So often, God speaks to us about issues or gives guidance to us through patterns. He often uses what I read in this way. As an example, below are several blog posts that fit with a pattern in my life where I feel God wants me to focus.

Fruit of the Spirit – You’re invited to Plant, Grow, & Cultivate – Weekly Bible study by Kathy Howard.

Does Playboy Influence Your View of Christian Community? @ A Curious Band of Others.

Small Town Triples in Size Overnight! @ A Curious Band of Others.

How to Inspire Others to Be Productive, Courageous, and Hard-Working – Episode 9  – Podcast at Life of a Steward.

Make Time For Relationships: How and Why – Episode 4 – Podcast at Life of a Steward.

If a topic or issue keeps arising in a variety of ways in your life, consider that it may just be God speaking to you. For me, that usually means I need to quiet my spirit and take time to listen.

DISCUSSION: Does God use patterns to speak to you too?

Recommendations & Guest Posts

The purpose of this blog is to help Christians struggle to victory and age gracefully while living deliberate, determined & balanced lives that make the most of every opportunity. Within that goal come the goals of pursuing simplicity while remaining curious and unique at the same time. For more on the drive behind Struggle to Victory, please visit the Why? and About pages.

With that purpose and those goals in mind, I would like to announce that Thursdays will now feature either a guest post or a recommendation post. (Note that recommendation posts were previously on Tuesdays.) Anyone who would like to guest post on Struggle to Victory should read the Why? and About pages before expressing that interest. Guests posts published on this site must fit within the purpose and goals expressed on those pages. While I am under no obligation to publish any submitted guest posts, I will give everyone prayerful consideration. To put it even more bluntly, the Holy Spirit decides what is published on this blog, not me.

Suggestions and ideas for recommendations are also welcome and also must fit within the purposes and goals express on the Why? and About pages. See the following recommendations previously published on Struggle to Victory as examples.

This new and exciting change to Struggle to Victory is meant to enhance your experience with this blog as well as to give you additional resources to help you make the most of every opportunity in your life.

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Recommendation – My 5 Favorite Bible Study Tools

This may shock some people, but not all of my favorite Bible study tools come from a virtual library. In fact, the top three I reach for regularly currently sit on my desk in front of me as real books. Yet, electronic resources provide a terrific supplement to my three favorites. Probably none of these resources are new to anyone, but I offer them now for consideration if you haven’t tried them or may have let dust accumulate on some of them.

  1. NLT Notemaker’s Bible – No study notes. No related scripture lists. Just scripture and room to make notes. This is the Bible I take with me to church, and the one I like to use for personal study. I like letting scripture simmer without any outside influence, and I know I’ll peek if it’s there.
  2. NASB Life Application Study Bible – I usually go to this after reading scripture in my Notemaker’s Bible. Love the notes at the bottom and the scripture links in the margins. This is my second resource when I feel my thoughts and ideas are ready for more guidance.
  3. Three-In-One Bible Reference Companion – The Associate Pastor at my church recommended this to me about 8 years ago when I first started teaching adult Sunday school. This reference helps when I have a topic I want to study further by defining the word and by providing all the scripture containing the word. This reference has many times provided the outline or skeleton for developing my teaching notes or for a devotion or other writing.
  4. Biblegateway.com – In addition to the many Bible versions, this website has a variety of other study tools as well including concordances, devotionals, topical indexing and more. Between this one and #5, I find much of what I need to craft what I want to write and say confidently.
  5. Biblos.com – Just like the way this site is laid out. Like having the various translations come up all at once with the commentaries afterward. Provides a quick way to get information that helps me think through a topic as well as move forward when I am stuck.

I have been considering adding an amplified Bible to my reference collection, and it would be an actual book and not electronic. There just something about holding an actual book, especially the Bible…

DISCUSSION: What are your favorite Bible study tools? Why are they your favorites? Do you have a recommendation for an amplified Bible?