Thursday, March 30, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 10 – Back up the Spiral

As I have done the past few weeks, you can find each link to the posts of this series at the conclusion of this current post.

As I constructed the thought process for this series of blog posts, I realized that I had to make a decision. As I began to think about this blog post, that decision came back to the forefront. Do I focus on how each of the Steps (the 4Ls) intersect with each letter of my Strategy and then each component of my Mission? Or do I lump my Strategy into one post and my Mission into a single post as well? The blogosphere is not the place for a series of thirty highly-interrelated posts, but there are always contrarians. And while I am not true contrarian, I have a little of that blood in me. However, because this series of posts is meant to be helpful, I have concluded that a more thorough examination of each of the components of my Strategy (LEARN) and Mission are in order. As I have mentioned the last couple of weeks, I am doing this from my perspective, and while I believe the 4L Model of Discipleship can work for anyone, how each “L” applies to any one individual must be determined in light of each person’s vision, mission, and strategy. Thus, by my elaborating on the individual pieces, my aim is to help others make the necessary adaptations to use the 4L Model in a practical way suited for them.

But the individual pieces must wait until next week. First, I remind us that this series started by taking a birds-eye view of the 4L’s by starting with my Vision, then moving a little closer to Mission, then closer yet to Strategy before looking at the 4L’s collectively (Steps), and then individually. Now, it is time to move back “up” and see how the Steps directly impact the Strategy, then Mission, then Vision. Again, this means I have several more posts in this series, but if my effort helps anyone to be more purposeful in their approach to living for Jesus, then it is more than worth my effort.

So, how do the Steps impact my Strategy? As I mentioned in the post about Strategy earlier, the Steps are what makes the Strategy work. Think of it this way. Suppose you are having guests over for dinner. You (this could be a plural you) have decided to make a nice meal to serve. You now have a goal. You then begin to plan what is necessary to meet the goal (your strategy). What will be served? When? What ingredients are needed? Etc. Then you begin to map out the details (your steps). First, you must find a recipe, then make a list, then go to the store, prepare the meal, set the table, etc. We perform this kind of process all the time although we rarely consider how many decisions we make to complete routine tasks. (Consider, for instance, stopping for coffee on the way to work (goal). If you know this the night before it impacts the time you might set an alarm, what route you drive, etc. All part of a strategy and steps so you can meet the goal of having coffee.)

The challenge is that most people live much of life without being intentional. Even though the decision to get coffee might require twenty or more small decisions, if you have done it before, you barely stop to think about it. Quick thought: which shoe did you put on first today? Why? (The answer is, unless you have an injury which impedes you putting on a shoe, you don’t think about this at all. Of course, this is not a big deal, but how much we live of our lives without thinking, can be a very big deal.)

So, the steps we take are designed to lead us somewhere – in both a literal and figurative sense. But do you know where you are going? That is why it is important to have a strategy before you develop the steps to implement the strategy. But once you have developed the steps, they should be utilized in incorporating your strategy into your life.

Next week, I will begin sharing how the 4Ls do affect my Strategy which, you may recall, consists of the acrostic L-E-A-R-N. No doubt you will notice some overlap, but that is good – it reinforces certain aspects of both my strategy and steps, and also means I have less to remember overall. I look forward to sharing these thoughts as we move back up the spiral as this series is reminding me, and hopefully encouraging you, of why it is to be diligent in living our lives with intentionality – for ourselves and for God.

Prior Posts:
4L – Matthew 4.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-419.html
4L – Matthew 28.19 – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/4l-discipleship-matthew-2819.html
4L – Spiral – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/01/using-4ls-part-1-spiral.html
4L – Vision – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-2-vision.html
4L – Mission – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-3-mission.html
4L – Strategy – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-4-strategy.html
4L – Steps – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/02/using-4ls-part-5-steps.html
4L – Learn – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-6-learn.html
4L – Live – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part-7-live.html
4L – Love – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part8-love.html
4L – Lead – http://fotonni.blogspot.com/2017/03/using-4ls-part9-lead.html

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 9 (Lead)

This series of posts* is not designed for you to follow my example directly. Some may, and that is fine, but the main goal is to help the reader to identify a process and to use mine as an example. Of course, the 4L’s are designed to hold true for anyone, but how they fit the collective understanding of the 4L Model of Discipleship will need to be adapted into your own life’s goals and purposes.

*At the conclusion of this post, I have included links for each of the previous posts. Due to the length of this series and the frequency of referencing certain concepts in each post, this system will allow the present post to not be cluttered with an inordinate amount of links.

--
Over the past three weeks, the focus has been on being a disciple who is learning to live as a disciple by loving God and loving others. But Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” was not just for the benefit of those who choose to follow, but to those who need to choose as well. Of course, not everyone will choose to follow Jesus. Most did not do so while Jesus walked the earth physically, so most will not choose to do so today when we lives through us spiritually. But His call to follow remains, and, just as Jesus led others, so must we.

The primary passages covered at the outset of this series capture the idea of “leading” well. First, Matthew 4.19 contains the promise for His early followers to be fishers of men. That implies leadership, and the promise extends to us today – even if fishing does not appeal to you. The second verse, Matthew 28.19, is a command for Jesus followers to make other followers. This command doesn’t imply leadership, it makes it explicit. This is especially true when we note that making disciples is not only teaching others, but teaching them to observe – which means others must be shown how to observe – all that Jesus taught.

Thus, leadership is a requirement for a true disciple. Some may initially balk at this, but J. Oswald Sanders, in his book Spiritual Leadership, shares that while not all leaders are Christians, all Christians are leaders. This is so true. People are watching and our words and actions lead people one way or the other – toward Christ or away from Him. The question is not whether you are leading others, the question is how you are doing so.

For me, I keep two primary verses in mind related to this Step. The first is 1 Corinthians 11.1. Paul wrote to a church in Corinth that had all sorts of confusion about what it meant to follow Christ. His words here provide a direction – a guide – for the saints of Corinth. He wrote, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” This statement is so rich. First, Paul takes the responsibility to lead the way. He is not perfect, but as Paul imitates Christ, he invites others to do the same – by following his example. This invitation is only possible as Paul continues to follow Christ, but he is resolved to do so, not just for his own purposes, but because he knows so many others are looking to him for guidance as well. That is the price of leadership, but Paul was a leader who welcome the responsibility because the stakes are eternal.

The second verse is Paul’s charge to Timothy to make disciples who make disciples. In 2 Timothy 2.2, Paul reminds Timothy that he has learned many things from Paul. Now, Timothy needs to teach others what he has learned, so that these others can, in turn, teach others still. I call this verse the 4G verse – as in 4 Generations. 4G is currently the fastest data can be transferred to/from cell phones across the phone network system. As long as one is close enough to the network, the data flows freely. The same is true for the Christian. If we are close to Christ, we should allow His message to flow freely – leading others who lead others, who lead others still. After all, if you are a Christian, that is why! Someone led you because someone led them, and that pattern flows all the way back to Paul telling Timothy in this verse because Jesus told the original disciples in Matthew 28.19.

So, how does this impact my Strategy, Mission, and Vision? Next week, I will begin to move back up the sequence and show specifically how that is done, beginning with my Strategy. But for now, let me jump to Vision. A couple of paragraphs above, I mentioned Paul’s writing to Corinth, and his invitation for the people there to imitate Him. This is only worthwhile if Paul is imitating Christ. But elsewhere Paul wrote to the Ephesians to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5.1-2). If you recall, that verse is the background for my Vision – to become the man God wants me to be. To do that, I must Learn to better imitate God as I Live out His commands to Love Him and Love others. As I continue to become this man, I must Lead others to do the same. Doing so is not easy, but it is commanded by Jesus and later echoed by Paul and others.

Being a disciple of Jesus is not just about learning from Him, it is about leading others to follow Him as well. Will you be a true follower? Jesus said we must count the cost, but He also promised He would be with us always, as we live for Him.

4L Model – Matthew 4.19
4L Model – Matthew 28.19 
4L – Spiral
4L – Vision
4L – Mission
4L – Strategy
4L – Steps
4L – Learn
4L – Live
4L – Love

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 8 (Love)

This series of posts* is not designed for you to follow my example directly. Some may, and that is fine, but the main goal is to help the reader to identify a process and to use mine as an example. Of course, the 4L’s are designed to hold true for anyone, but how they fit the collective understanding of the 4L Model of Discipleship will need to be adapted into your own life’s goals and purposes.

*At the conclusion of this post, I have included links for each of the previous posts. Due to the length of this series and the frequency of referencing certain concepts in each post, this system will allow the present post to not be cluttered with an inordinate amount of links.

--
The next step to consider is that of LOVE. The problem with this step is that my intention is misinterpreted. When we think of love, most people will naturally think of people, which is certainly appropriate. And, in a very real sense, this Step does require a love for people. In fact, how can being a disciple of Jesus not include the love of people? For as Jesus says the greatest commandment is to Love God and the second is like it – Love Others. As Mark recounts this statement, Jesus concludes this statement with “There is not other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12.31). Notice what Jesus is saying – no greater commandment (singular) than these (plural). Jesus has fused the two commandments (Deuteronomy 6.4-5 and Leviticus 19.18) into one meaning it is impossible to truly love God without loving people (1 John 4.20-21).

But loving someone requires more than words. And this is the important part of this Step. An expression of our love for God is to keep His commandments (John 14.15; 15.10, 14). In other words, our actions are an expression of our love for one another and our love for God. And our actions are represented in how we LIVE (Step 2). So, the things we do (LIVE) when done with the right motivation (LOVE) allow us to move from Step 2 to Step 3.

Consider it this way. We all have things we have to do. Maybe these “have tos” relate to work or to-do lists at home, but many tasks that we do on a regular basis we do because we must. But some people do the very same tasks and “love to” do them. Depending upon the task, we may find their attitude strange, but nonetheless, their attitude is far beyond treating the task as mundane. Perhaps, at one time, the task was something these others did because they “had to” to do it. But something changed over time.

That is essentially the point of this third step – LOVE. Jesus commanded His disciples to teach others to observe all that He commanded (Live). Let’s be honest, some of those commands are hard. One of the hardest is actually a command to love – loving your enemy. In this one command, we are to properly live by loving, which may seem possible until we realize it is about our enemy. But what if we LEARN to LIVE through a LOVE for what we do.

Consider the one thing the disciples eagerly asked Jesus to teach them – how to pray (Luke 11.1). They wanted to LEARN to pray. The desire to do this was so they would actually pray (LIVe). But, we know that prayer was a task for them just as it is for most of us (see Mark 14.38 and 40 – they could not stay awake to pray!). But over time, I suspect the disciples found prayer as less of a task they “had to” do, but rather something they looked forward to doing. That is, they began to “love to” pray. That is the essence of this step – loving what we do for (and with) God and others after we begin to observe what He has commanded.

Most of us know people who “love to” give or “love to” serve or any number of other aspects of living. Each of us have certain tasks we may appreciate more than others, but a true disciple will begin to accept some commands as easier than others, and, over time (ideally), learn to appreciate living each of them as a matter of service to God and others. As we do, we can truly say that our service to God and others is not just a matter of duty, but a reflection of love. When this happens, our actions express LOVE in a way that our words never truly can.

This is the hardest step for me. Some actions are easier than others, but some people are easier than others. But Jesus does not ask me to be selective in keeping His commands, nor does He want me to be selective in my service to others. While that does not mean that I can, or should, do everything for everyone, I must continue to grow in this area so that I can be more effective in the next step – LEAD, where making disciples is the goal.

As I LOVE, I better LIVE the life that I know God wants for me. I have a long way to go, but as I continue to LEARN, I will be able to realize my Strategy, fulfill my Mission, and achieve the Vision of becoming the man God wants me to be, which includes to “walk in love” (Ephesians 5.1-2).

Prior Posts:
4L Model – Matthew 4.19
4L Model – Matthew 28.19 
4L – Spiral
4L – Vision
4L – Mission
4L – Strategy
4L – Steps
4L – Learn
4L – Live

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 7 (Live)

This series of posts is not designed for you to follow my example directly. Some may, and that is fine, but the main goal is to help the reader to identify a process and to use mine as an example. Of course, the 4L’s are designed to hold true for anyone, but how they fit the collective understanding of the 4L Model of Discipleship will need to be adapted into your own life’s goals and purposes.

Having covered the first L (Learn) last week (here), I will now review how the second, Live, fits within the grand scheme of my Vision, Mission, and Strategy. As I mentioned last week, the word disciple means “one who learns.” But learning is not just for the sake of instruction; rather, true learning should provide the means for something else. In the realm of discipleship, we can say it this way: Learning is not simply to be better informed, it is so we can be transformed. And a transformed life is one that uses what is learned to better live.

Many people consider Jesus a great teacher, whether or not they believe He was/is the Son of God. But a “great teacher” makes investments in their students not just so they can be better prepared for a test, but so they can apply principles to pass the test. In the case of Jesus, that test is related to our life, and potentially, even more specifically, various tests of our faith.

Consider the Great Commission (see post here). Jesus did not say that disciples should be made by teaching them only. He said teaching to observe. No doubt, the intent of Jesus is for a disciple to not only know what Jesus taught, but how to live according to what He taught. The reality is that no disciples perfectly knows or observes all that Jesus commands, but that is why the grace of God is necessary. It is why the only Man who ever did live a perfect life had to die – because the sacrifice of Jesus paid for the sin for all of us that could not make a way for ourselves. BUT! But that does not excuse His disciples from attempting to observe all that He commanded – not for salvation, but because of salvation.

If you recall, my vision is to “Be the man that God has called me to be.” That vision certainly requires learning, but Ephesians 5.1-2 (my vision verses) says I am to “imitate God” which requires living. That living encompasses loving, teaching, and encouraging others to be disciples and to make more disciples (a part of my Mission). And my Strategy provides clarity to how I must Live in a variety of areas. I must love, exercise discipline (spiritually, physically, financially), be active in my faith (i.e. live out my faith), read, and nurture others.

Each part of my Strategy encompasses some aspect of actively living, although some may consider reading passive. However, my purpose for reading is to grow – as a man, leader, disciple, etc. So effectively, my reading is so that I can be better in how I Live, even if the reading itself may not be considered living by some.

Last week, I concluded by stating that a true disciple is never finished learning. Well, that statement is equally true for living. We may find occasion to retire from a job or career, but a disciple is to be a disciple – heeding the call of Jesus to “Follow Me”  until the end. It will not always be easy, but it is necessary. And most, importantly, the call comes with a promise to all who respond in the affirmative. For Jesus said, “I will be with you even to the end of the age.”

If that is true, then let us Live what we Learn. And, do so with Love (next week) as we Lead others (two weeks) to do the same.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 6 (Learn)

This series of posts is not designed for you to follow my example directly. Some may, and that is fine, but the main goal is to help the reader to identify a process and to use mine as an example. Of course, the 4L’s are designed to hold true for anyone, but how they fit the collective understanding of the 4L Model of Discipleship will need to be adapted into your own life’s goals and purposes.

The 4L Discipleship Model is based upon four interdependent aspects of the life of a disciple. In previous posts, I have outlined the 4Ls based upon Scripture (here and here). Now, in this series, I am showing how the 4Ls help to guide me in following my Strategy to achieve my Mission so that I can fulfill my Vision. Each of the L’s have an independent purpose but also must be woven together in order to fully realize the impact. In last week’s post, I covered them collectively. This week, I will begin with the first of the L’s – Learn – and focus on each individually, first expounding a little further on the idea of Learn in general, and share how it applies to my life’s purpose.

The first L is Learn. This is sensible because the very word disciple means “one who learns.” Of course, what we learn, and even where we choose to learn are important elements in what type of disciple we become. In a general sense, a disciple can learn any number of topics, lifestyles, etc. However, this word is typically used in a Christian context, and from that standpoint, our learning should be based upon the Bible and the teachings of Jesus.

According to Matthew’s account of the gospel, the last words of Jesus included the need for His followers to make disciples of all nations. The word nations is from the Greek word ethnos, which means it implies more of the various ethnicities rather than geographical boundaries. But the goal is to make disciples – or learners – of each of these groupings of people.

Making disciples certainly encompasses the transfer of information (how we typically view learning), but the reality is that disciple-making is far more than information. Jesus words to The Twelve and others was to “Follow Me.” This implied learning about life from Him – watching Him as He traversed throughout Galilee, Judea, and eventually Jerusalem. His first disciples were to watch Him, learn, and then emulate Him. While all accounts slow them to be slow learners, eventually (post-resurrection) they “got it” and the implications are still being realized today.

The same words Jesus said to His followers directly, are still applicable today, even if we may audibly hear them. “Follow Me,” is a phrase that still rings true today. It is a call to be informed (Learn) so that we may be transformed and be conformed to His image (Romans 8.29). The proof that learning is more than information can be found in the two primary verses I have shared elsewhere related to the 4L’s. In Matthew 4.19, Jesus calls others to follow so that He can make them something else (fishers of men). In Matthew 28.20, Jesus doesn’t just call people to learn information, but states that the teaching is not complete until it is “observed.” That is, until we observe His commands, we have not truly learned them, and thus, we are not true disciples. Thus the LEARN helps us to LIVE which will be the focus of next week’s post.

So, how does LEARN relate to my Strategy, Mission, and Vision? Well, first, as you can see here, my Strategy is based upon the acrostic L-E-A-R-N. As I better learn to understand and live by those principles, I am becoming a better disciple. As I become a better disciple, I am then better equipped to make disciples which is a part of my overall Mission. Furthermore, as I LEARN more about God, I not only better know what He wants from me, but I know Him better! As such, I find myself more apt to imitate Him which is my ultimate goal (Vision). Of course, I can do none of this on my own; I am only able to become more like God because of Him working in and through me, which is why I need to heed His call to “Follow Me” in the first place.

A true disciple is never finished learning – at least on this side of eternity. To Learn is the very essence of being a disciple, and the learning we do allows us to then Live and Love and Lead, which will be the focus of the next three posts.