discipleship

Tools That Work

A More Visceral Hands On Advent Experience

My sons are 4.5 and 2.5 years old, and have a limited attention span. They're also drawn to experiences more than stories. After trying to truncate devotionals to appeal to them, I realized these boys need something more visceral and hands on.

So here are 7 lessons I've created for Advent...


The Hard Donkey Ride

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A donkey ride

Courtesy of their PopPop

Load the kids on your back for a donkey ride. Have them hold on as long as they can as you travel the house. When they can't anymore, break to tell them how before Jesus was born, his Mom, Mary, had to take a ride to Bethlehem on a donkey. It took 5 whole days to get there--that must have been very hard as a pregnant lady!

Read this verse:

Joseph went to Bethlehem with Mary, his wife, who was pregnant with Jesus.

-Luke 2:4-5

Pray this prayer:

God, thank you for helping us do hard things like ride a donkey. And thank you for protecting Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, when he was born. Amen.


The Stars Point to Jesus

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Look up 

To see stars God placed

Take the kids outside with binoculars or a telescope at night. Lay on your back and look at the stars in the sky. Then tell them how when Jesus was born, God put stars to show people that he had come. And that's why many people put stars on their Christmas tree and decorate with lights. When we see the stars it reminds us of Jesus.

Read this verse:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men came saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star, and have come to worship him.

-Matthew 2:1-12

Pray this prayer:

God thank you for putting a star in the sky for Jesus. Please put light in our life so that we can find Jesus. Amen.


Jesus is the Light of the World

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My son Lukas

Feeling the light.

Turn off all the lights in your house so it's pitch black. Light a small candle and let the kids hold it as you tell them that before Jesus came, the world was dark, but Jesus brought light from Heaven.

Read this verse: 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

-John 8:12

Pray this prayer:

Jesus, help me have you in my life so that I have light in my life, and that my life is not dark. Amen.


Lost Sheep, Found by Jesus

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The boys

Hiding and being found

Play a game of hide-and-seek, but this time in your whole house. Encourage your kids to hide really really well. Then take an extra long time to go find them, until the point when they will be antsy. Then go find them and talk about how Jesus came to the world to find us. 

Read this verse:

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

-Ezekiel 34:11

Pray this prayer:

God, thank you for sending Jesus to this world to find us and rescue us since we were like lost sheep. Amen.


Jesus Was A Different Kind of Baby

Boden

Holding his baby cousin

Tell your kids to look for someone who is different at school, church, the grocery store, anywhere. Look for different hair, accent, skin color, disability, anything they notice. Tell them when they find someone different, don't say anything, just come squeeze your hand. When they do that, at the soonest opportunity in private say there is someone else who was born different too, Jesus. He was different because he was holy, he was part baby and part God. 

Read this verse: 

God became a person and lived with us as Jesus. Jesus came from God and was full of grace and truth. 

-John 1:14

Pray this prayer: 

God, thank you for making us all so different. Thank you for this person my child noticed, and help us to be kind to those who are different. And thank you for making Jesus a person who was Holy and part God. Amen. 


Jesus Is The Greatest Gift Ever

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The suspense

Grows all week.

Cutout the shape of a man and put it in a box with a couple of sweet treats. Wrap the box and put it under the tree weeks before Christmas so excitement will build. Tell your kids that inside the box is the Greatest Gift Ever. One night gather the family around to open it, make it a big deal with popcorn and hot cocoa. Then let them open it and give them their treat and tell them that the Greatest Gift ever was Jesus, because Jesus was a gift from God to save us. And that's why we give gifts to other people on Christmas. 

Read this verse: 

God gave us the gift of grace and righteousness through one man, Jesus Christ!

-Romans 5:17

Pray this prayer: 

Dear God, thank you for loving us so much that you keep helping us. And thank you for sending Jesus to us. Amen.


Jesus the Servant

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Boden learning

About being a servant

Start asking your kids to do things for other people, for their siblings, for you, anyone that comes up. "Please take this drink to your brother. Please take the newspaper to the neighbors door. Please help clean up this spill that I made." Really overdo it for a few days, and do whatever is needed to get them to help. After a few days, tell them that doing all of these things is like being a servant. And even though he is the King of Kings, Jesus was born to be a servant. 

Read this verse:

Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for many.

-Mark 10:45

Pray this prayer: 

Jesus, thank you for doing so much to serve other people. Thank you for even dying to help us. Help me to care about other people too. Amen. 

People Getting It Done

Jim Yost: Authentic Faith

Jim Yost is a partner of Cityteam, I'm not entirely sure in what capacity. All I know is I've met him passing through the halls a couple times a year, and there are some guys you just see the peace and presence of God in them, and Jim is one of those guys.

Additionally, Jim sends out an email update every month or two about what he is up to and what he is seeing in Indonesia and other places in the world that come into his view. They are incredibly insightful, weaving together Scripture with everyday work on the ground. What Jim and his team has been able to accomplish among the people of Papau is amazing. 

When Jim was back in the office a few months ago, there was an open floor for praise reports, and it was hard to follow his shoes--he reported that he and a couple of others had baptized 2,000 earlier in the year in plain view (ie danger) of onlookers. 

I encourage you to email Jim to be added to his (decidedly simple) email newsletter.

October 2015 and I caught another update from Jim talking around a table in Kansas City. When I stopped by the Cityteam offices they were buzzing about it. He talks freely about many aspects of faith, the church, discipleship. Check it out, you won't regret it....some quotes.

"I asked God, how much more time do I have on this Earth? I promised God that with the remaining time I have, I'm not going to be satisfied with a few growing churches...could my eyes see a movement from one side of Indonesia to the other...the largest Muslim country in the world?"

 

"We're not doing a good job if 250,000 people can die in an instant from a tsunami and enter a Christ-less eternity."

 

"We focus on the words of Jesus a lot, we don't focus on his actions, which were divinely inspired and showed his model of life."

 

"These guys were seeing stuff they never thought possible. Since then, we've seen 1,400 churches planted among Muslims. We've baptized 20,000 people, but the number is not the important thing."

 

"My definition of movement is 2 Timothy 2:2. If you get four generations of disciples making disciples, you're getting viral now, you can't be stopped."

 

"Everything about urban living pulls families apart. Religion in urban areas is put into a box, it becomes secularism, it leads to atheism."

Tools That Work, Most Read

An Old Pal Meets Jesus On Facebook

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People talk about how Facebook is evil, and I'm like "yeah right, i'm making disciples up in there!" 

Seriously, I've connected with a bunch of people that has led to us going deeper in the things of God. And what's crazy is I never go looking for it, in many cases people will write me with questions, for advice, or in response to something I've posted. 

I have one pal from high school who reached out to me just to check in and I dropped a quick note that God was good and it has evolved into a journey of exchanges (chats, texts, phone calls) for over a year.

He sends me questions and answering them teaches me. He sends me updates on what God is showing him and it encourages me greatly. 

Here's how it started and progressed thus far:

I think there are a few tips buried here that might help you make disciples on Facebook (or any social media platform).

1. Don't be shy about how God is present in your life.

2. Don't be a religious drone, simply spouting or reposting what other people say. Have your own material. Talk about the personal ways God is speaking to YOU. If you are on social media then invest the prayer and time to do it for the glory of God.

3. Avoid the crazy issues that get everyone inflamed UNLESS you commit to A. learn about the issue from various viewpoints and B. pray a ton about it and get direction from God about what to say.

4. If someone writes you a note to say whats up, drop a little spiritual bait maybe, a note about how God has blessed you or offer to pray if it applies (then actually pray for them).

5. Once people reach out to you, you gotta respond. Don't get nervous about it, their eternity doesn't rest in your hands alone. The Bible says God is drawing them, and that the Holy Spirit teaches them. So proceed in a lighthearted yet intentional way.

6. Don't bombard people with all your favorite books, songs, a free copy of the Bible, and more. I used to do that, it didn't work. Someone else's faith is going to be different from yours, which God will reveal to them in their own time. Not saying don't send ideas now and again, just don't deluge.

7. Let people respond, and a bunch never will after that first interaction. But some definitely will, and its glorious not only for them but for you. 

Consider that your Facebook page (along with everything else in your life) is useful to God for drawing people to himself. Are you tuned in to allow him to do it? Go for it.

Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.
— Jesus in Matthew 4:19

People Getting It Done, Legends

Jaeson Ma: International Disciplemaker

I was introduced to Jaeson when he showed up to pray with a group of guys in Menlo Park. The group goes loosely by the name Legends, and Jaeson is a driving force behind it in Orange County. Even more than that, upon meeting Jaeson, I just had the sense that he was both sharp and humble, on the move and available. 

At that first meeting, Jaeson shared what he is seeing in China where his travels as a talent acquisition executive in Hollywood takes him often. Wherever Jaeson goes, he is looking for people God is drawing and making disciples! Even more, he gave encouraging updates about how Jesus is moving in Hollywood in unmistakeable ways, he shared with us that the Bible Series on the History Channel was going to be huge, long before it was. 

Since then, I've occasionally been on the receiving end of an email from Jaeson to the Legends guys where he shares more about what he is seeing including passing along prophecy. These are profound indications of what is going to happen in the future in the Kingdom of God. 

Did I mention Jaeson is a multimedia talent himself?! He recorded a hit song with Bruno Mars, is active on Facebook, YouTube, and much more, you can follow and learn more about him online here. In closing, a short but important message from Jaeson.

People Getting It Done

Peter Kockleman: Kingdom Construction

Peter Kockleman is a man who captures your attention. With tales of his adventures over the years (he set a world record with a 2,000 foot bungee jump from a hot air balloon once), and his matter-of-fact approach to business and life, he's easy to like and listen to. His latest undertaking, the expansion of his business Summit Steel, is one for which he praises his partnership with Cityteam.

"My church group hosted Cityteam guys from the recovery program at a boot camp and while playing football with them, I learned many were looking for work. Even more, they needed someone to believe in them, so I took a chance to hire guys without experience that had to be trained and invested in.

When we hire and care about them, it speaks volumes to them that we haven't written them off and that they matter. Since then, I've hired 20 guys, and 14 are still with us. They show up on time, they're hard workers, they have a peace about them and they haven't failed me; in fact, they've literally build the business in our new location."

Peter hasn't been content to simply hire guys. He personally contributes financially and last year, his company was the top sponsor for Cityteam's Golf Classic at the famed Olympic Club. He teaches the men a course on sexual addiction. And, when he can't hire guys, he helps them find a job, even buying their tools to work in other trades such as carpet laying. He's helped guys find housing, paid the deposit on apartments, and so much more.

Pete adds, "I can honestly say I have been more dramatically impacted than the 20 graduates we have hired over the past two plus years.  I will NEVER write off another human being as being beyond hope since I have witnessed these men die to their former lives and transform into men worthy of honor that God always knew they could be.  God never gave up hope for His creation.  Now I know why!"

People Getting It Done

David Watson: Warrior for Christ

My first week at Cityteam was an immersion into caring for the poor, addicts, and reaching the lost, those who do not know Jesus. That included two days with David Watson, and everyone in the room with him knew that he was legit.

Truth, wisdom, patience, David is a man that lives to see Jesus made famous, and he has fought many battles along the way. He's lost friends as martyrs in Nepal, has lived in more countries that I can name, and he has trained up thousands of leaders that are making incredible impact around the world.

In short, because I'm not doing David much justice in my introduction here, if you want to know about discipleship from a warrior, follow David Watson's blog. He doesn't update it all that regularly, but there is meaty content already there. He also runs a FaceBook page called Church Planting Movements, with his son, Paul (who I'll cover in another post here soon). 

Tools That Work

Why I Read Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest"

There was a dusty copy of this  book sitting in my parents bathroom for years, and I never picked it up. 

Years later, having fallen into a group of men who meet on Friday mornings, calling themselves the New Canaan Society, I heard reference to Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" again. So, I picked up a copy.

Oswald writes in a very direct, matter-of-fact way, always expounding on a verse of Scripture. His thoughts are deep, often weaving together key concepts in the Christian faith. He has one devotional for each day of the year.

I don't recommend too many devotionals, mainly because I don't assume what works for me will work for others, but I do recommend Oswald. And the only reason I can give is that there are times when I simply open the book and what he has written speaks to me very clearly and in a way that is extraordinary. Let me give you two examples:

A mentor to me wrote me one day for an idea--he was set to give a talk at the New Canaan Society group and he wasn't sure how he wanted to approach it yet. So he texted me if I had any ideas. The day prior, I had taken one of the guys from Cityteam's addiction recovery program with me to a business meeting, and wanting to include him, I asked his opinion to which he blurted out Luke 17:21: "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."

I remember thinking at the time that his response wasn't especially applicable to the meeting. But, as I pondered the verse more, I was amazed at the meaning of it, how while we are often searching to see where God is or how he's moving, all the while he is right in our midst!

And so, when my mentor wrote me for an idea about what to speak about, I texted back to him, "Luke 17:21." He replied something along the lines of that being a great verse and he might incorporate it.

The following day, it was Friday, October 19th, 2012, and I ushered into the New Canaan Society meeting that morning. There was my mentor all set to talk. But before he did, another man got up to open in prayer. As he did, he opened his Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" book and read the entry for that day, which highlighted what else but Luke 17:21. My mentor and I exchanged surprised looks, who could have imagined that this verse would come up again? That verse continued to come up in my life for a few weeks, so much so that it became alive to me and engrained in my heart.  And what Oswald wrote about it spoke to me and my tendency to value practical activity in service of God more than a relationship with him.

On another day, June 1st, 2014 to be precise, I was running around coordinating the production of a large and busy hackathon at a technology incubator in Silicon Valley. Another man on the production team was suffering from an illness and I could tell he was worn out and stressed about many of the details. He sought my opinion throughout the day on how everything was going to get done, and I could sense his worry. Seeking a dose of Scripture and a few words to explain it, I pulled up Oswald's site and read the entry for that day. An excerpt of it reads:

It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him. 

These words spoke to me greatly, and I followed up my reading of them with a couple minutes of prayer thanking God for his Word. Then I found the man who was worried and I pulled him aside to remind him that God was in control, that we were doing this for his Kingdom. We prayed together right there on the spot, and he thanked me for what I had done. He later come back to me and asked me to get before the entire hackathon to pray over the group ahead of the final day of presentations and the awards ceremony, which can be stressful. I gladly did this, and I used Oswald's writing for that day as a basis for my prayer. Once again, his words on this day have stuck with me, and have balanced my understanding of faith and work. 

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

Revival at Denny's

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Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42

I was invited to a gathering of pastors at a local Denny's. There were about 20 in attendance, someone spoke for 10 minutes, then we broke into groups of 4 or 5 to see how we can pray for each other. When they got to me, I went on a rant about how God is flooring me and how I don't know what we are doing as a church and why haven't we reached out to pray for our server already.

Minutes later, the server, a skinny 20 –something year old Mexican kid who is all disheveled comes to our table—and a guy at our table asks him, "can we pray for you?" To which he responded: "I wanted to ask you guys for prayer, but I thought you were too busy."

Jaws dropped.

The server followed up by dropping to a knee and saying tearfully, I want to give my life to Jesus, but I can't. We asked him why, and he said because he smokes too much pot. We prayed over him something fierce, one pastor was literally hooting and hollering, another spoke in tongues (I think it was a first for me to hear).

I got his cell number so I could follow-up.  A few days later, one pastor forwarded me his weekly newsletter, detailing the story of Oswaldo at Dennys. How much do we busy ourselves with ministering to those of faith while missing the lost literally right at our table?

As a follow-up, I followed-up with Oswaldo shortly after our encounter and learned the number he gave me was no longer working. So I went to Denny's to see him in person, but he wasn't there. I left a note that another server said she would pass on to him, but I never heard from him. A year went by, and Oswaldo popped into my mind once in awhile.

Then, one of the guys at the table, the one who'd spoken up, he sent me a text message to report that Oswaldo had called him, but he was in the hospital with his wife and couldn't call back. Excited, I called Oswaldo and he answered, there he was. I quickly learned that his English was much easier to understand in person. It didn't matter, I asked how he was and went on to tell him what I thought about him, relaying the truth of God to him. His only response was something about how I had no idea how powerful this call was to him, how important. 

I wish I could say that Oswaldo and I have connected more, we have not. He has never called me back, and I have only prayed for him occasionally. And yet, I trust that seeds have been planted and I pray they will be watered, and I know who to trust for the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). Even more, given the way this story came to life, I trust that it was a genuine move of the Holy Spirit.