June 2021

Intentional Parenting

Jewish tradition refers to Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as the Shema. Shema is a Hebrew word that means “hear” and is the first word in this Jewish text: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus, of course, quoted the Shema when He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Adding the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), Jesus revealed that all of the other commandments flow from these two—love God and love others.

The View from the Mountaintop

The breathtaking panoramic view from the mountaintop defied words. My family and I visited Alaska a few years ago and experienced something incredible. We rode a train from a small village up a steep mountain grade all the way to the summit. From that vantage point, we could see the snow-capped mountain peaks to the east and the vast Pacific Ocean to the west. The village at the bottom of the mountain looked like a small drawing in a children’s book. How vast the world looked from that mountain vista!

Discipleship Essentials

The topic of discipleship immediately brings my childhood to mind. I was fortunate to be discipled by my parents. My parents’ lives modeled incarnational discipleship. The activities of the week and the family conversations around the table pointed each of us toward Christ. If there was a formal discipleship plan, we never saw it, but we knew the lessons by heart. It was who we were and what we did as Christians.

As I look back at my life, I can clearly see three patterns in the way my parents discipled us: presence, passion, perseverance.

Presence

A Journey of Grace

As I began serving as the global director of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International (SDMI) in August 2018, many people asked me, “When you speak about discipleship, what do you mean by ‘discipleship’? Do you mean ‘Sunday School’? Do you mean small groups? Or do you mean ‘one-on-one mentoring’?” I have wondered if they asked me that in order to see what “camp” I fell into so they could decide if I was worth listening to. Their questions, however, revealed that we had a problem.

Life Is a Journey

Our spiritual life is a journey: a journey of grace. It begins when we hear God’s call to come and follow Him, to put our faith in Jesus Christ. This was true in the life of Simon Peter. One day, he was cleaning his fishing nets with his brother, Andrew. Jesus looked at them and invited them to come and follow Him. Immediately, Peter and Andrew left everything and followed Jesus. That decision changed their lives.

On the Brink of Everything

The phrase “On the Brink of Everything” is taken from a recently published book by Parker Palmer.1 Dr. Palmer is a renowned educator, writer, and thinker. He turned 80 not long ago, and in his book, he looks back across the landscape of his life. In fact, the subtitle of the book is “Grace, Gravity & Getting Old.” 

Come, Follow Me

The “Journey of Grace” is an invitation to experience a life of transformational power that changes a person from a life of sin to a life of grace—a life of unconditional and undeserved favor of God that is revealed to all who follow Him.

Fullness in Christ

As the son of a Nazarene pastor, I grew up hearing the church sing the hymn “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” I can still hear the words: “Higher than the heavens, deeper than the sea; Greater than my guilt, nailed to the cross; Grace that satisfies the soul with full salvation, Grace that leads to heaven; It is the wonderful grace of Jesus.”1 The worship leader would hold the hymnal open in one hand and enthusiastically wave the other, encouraging the congregation. The choir would divide into two groups, their voices intensified as they sang the words in rounds.

Life with God

One of the most powerful stories of a life-changing encounter with Jesus in the New Testament is the story of the two disciples on the road to the town of Emmaus on the day of the resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). Although this is a unique story, it has become an example of the journey of grace for many—certainly for me.

Our First Estate

Having listened intently to the minister, Jim began examining his life. The talk of intimacy with God touched a nerve that revealed his inner need. During the question and answer session, Jim couldn’t remain silent. Rising to his feet, he explained that many years ago, he had given his life to Jesus. He said, “I have done everything I should do. I have attended church, been faithful to Bible reading and prayer, and financial giving to my church. Yet, I have rarely experienced intimacy with God. I have most often felt relational distance rather than a relational connection with God.”

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