DiscipleshipDare: Inviting Relationship

Hospitality, fellowship and community are inseparably linked and permeate Scripture. Their basis is our common worth as being created in the image of God, beings for whom God Himself died. In fellowship, both parties are giving and receiving in relationship; the over-arching goal is to become more like Christ and in doing so, long for more fellowship with the Father.

The Christ habit of “community” is the habit of opening one’s life and offering friendship and acts of kindness to others, even to strangers and those whom you find most difficult to love. It is precisely in the latter situation, that we need to be most intentional to practice the habit of hospitality and extend the hand of friendship.

A “church of friends” is a church with a culture that expects people to freely open their lives to each other. Members share more than superficial greetings. They share their greatest joys and deepest sorrows; they know their church family will be there for them through thick and thin. They experience community— an honest, selfless sense of caring for one another.

Our challenge to you, disciple, is this:

Grow at actively inviting relationship.

Think of an upcoming lunch, breakfast or other meeting you are having with one other person. Picture yourself being totally present for that other person. What do you expect to potentially distract you? How can you help yourself remain attentive?

Ask God: “Show me how to treat this other person with dignity. Show me how to offer a sense that this person is honored and loved. Show me how to take seriously whatever he or she is struggling with, even if the person doesn’t feel free to talk about it.”

*Adapted from Community: Inviting Relationship from our Christ Habits collection of studies for targeted discipleship.

Listening Together: Gaining Spiritual Direction

Spiritual friends are as essential to our individual following of God’s directions as close trusted friends are to life in general. In holy listening, we can serve each other by truly being present and asking probing questions – while trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work, and respecting the spiritual journey of your friend. In this setting, you are not the teacher, advice giver, or counselor; this requires humility and a deep trust of God to do His work without your input. Spiritual direction focuses entirely on the relationship between God and the person seeking direction. Become for your friend a mirror in which can be seen a more accurate reflection of his or her beliefs about God and his or her discipleship.

Even though God’s direction for us is unique and personal to each of us, the norm for the directing process includes a community of like-minded followers of Jesus.

  • Grab two friends, open up your calendars, and schedule a 30-minute block of time to go through an exercise of holy listening for spiritual friends.
  • Print off our free guide and follow the instructions for a wonderful experience of intentional practice.
  • Remember that you and your friends meet in the company of God, who is the true guiding presence of this time together.

When we intentionally grow through spiritual guidance, whether we use groups, friendships, or individuals…we will grow in our connectedness to God.

This group exercise is adapted from Listening Together: Gaining Spiritual Direction in our Christ Habits collection of small group studies. Read more…The quarterly publication of Ascending Leaders, for churches, leaders and disciples. Read more…



DiscipleshipDare: Fasting to Feast on Joy

Whether it’s the gloom of early winter, the speed with which the sun seems to flee below the horizon, or the bittersweet memory of happy times spent with lost loved ones, the holiday season leading up to Christmas is for some a time of sorrow or melancholy.

In recent years, the growing pressure to de-commercialize the family Christmas experience, while a noble and worthy cause, has piled on guilt and anxiety as we try to do everything just right.
For the next month, we dare you to identify what is keeping you from Christ in Christmas and to make a decision to fast from it.

Is it fear, overwhelm, worry over finances, the stress of holiday overeating, a sense of loneliness? Much like our physical need for food, all of these are natural and some are unavoidable. But the answer to that question is probably getting in the way of a relationship of greater intimacy with God. When you are confronted by the urge to give in to the emotion, action, or thought pattern, understand that personal will power is not a healthy solution during a spiritual fast.

Trying harder isn’t the answer.

Instead, bring it God with words similar to this: “Father, I’m experiencing (fill in the blank) right now. I believe this is in response to a deeper longing for something only your presence can fulfill. I implore you to meet this need. I trust in you.”

Then walk away from the thing from which you’re abstaining, whether it’s physical or emotional. You could cement your strong sense of God’s provision by meditating briefly on a Psalm from God’s Word, or spending a few minutes in your advent reading for the day.*

*Adapted from Simplicity and Sacrifice: Embracing More with Less (FREE download right now!)

Resources for Advent

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