Deep Mentoring

Deep MentoringGod’s desire is for you to be salt and light in the world.  This involves helping others to follow Jesus.  The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy,

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  (2 Timothy 2:2)

This process is not automatic however, it involves a significant investment of time and energy such as Jesus demonstrated as He trained His disciples.  Disciples are not manufactured wholesale but they are developed through intentional deep mentoring as we invest our lives in others.  Deep Mentoring is designed to provide you with the principles to come alongside others to equip them to live as a reproducing disciple.

This book provides biblical principles of mentoring along with practical tools that can assist you in your mentoring.  The emphasis is on developing your skills as a mentor by helping you work through questions such as,

What kind of people are you developing?
Are they more loving, kind, joyful?
What kind of life are you inviting people to? (pp 17-18)

The emphasis throughout the book is to help the reader become a competent mentor, “Developmental theories and maps serve a vital purpose, but what we desperately need more of today are wise men and women who are willing to become guides for others along the way” (p. 23).   Through the skillful use of questions, the mentor is able to help others discern God’s will and understand God’s purpose for their lives,

How do I see my life purpose now?
What do I do best?
What role would I love to have?
How would I like to be remembered? (p. 159)

The authors discuss three critical formations to guide one in mentoring others:

Character formation which is related to the care of our heart.
Skill formation is concerned with the practices of developing others.
Strategic formation relates to a coherent philosophy of ministry which provides the moral compass for effective ministry.  (pp. 64-65)

I would add a fourth area, servant formation, that would enable the mentor to effectively interact with others.

The authors incorporate several principles and lessons learned from Bobby Clinton’s seminal work in leadership development.  Their summary of lessons learned from those who have finished poorly and those who have finished well provide helpful guidelines when mentoring others.

Lessons from those who finished poorly provide instructive warnings how people tend to go astray:

1. They misuse and abuse of finances
2. They exhibit an inappropriate use of power
3. They struggle with pride
4. They do not have appropriate boundaries as related to sexual matters
5. They have unresolved critical issues in their family of origin
6. They may plateau in their leadership development

Lessons from those who finished well provide helpful practices to incorporate into our lives and those we mentor:

1. They maintain a learning posture throughout life
2 They value spiritual authority a primary power base
3. They recognize leadership selection and development as important
4. They work from a dynamic and focused ministry philosophy
5. They lead from a growing awareness of personal destiny
6. They perceive ministry from a lifetime perspective
7. They prioritize mentoring relationships for themselves and in developing others

If you want to make a long-term impact on the lives of future leaders, then you must realize that your example is fundamental to the process – more is caught than taught.  The Apostle Paul realized this principle as he wrote the the Corinthians,

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

You are without excuse

No excusesIt’s interesting that Jesus had more difficulty with the religious leaders than anyone else.  From outward appearances the scribes and Pharisees appeared to have it all together.  Their religious performance however, became a source of pride and they looked down on others.  Jesus told a story about  those who trust in their own righteousness and view others with contempt,

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’   But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:10-14)

The Pharisees didn’t realize that they were sinners just as much as the tax collectors and that they too were in need of a Savior.  Unfortunately, Christians at times can wear their righteousness as a badge of honor and look down on others.  The Apostle Paul takes the church at Rome to task for this type of attitude,

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  (Romans 2:1)

Notice the intensity of Paul’s statement, you have no excuse.  This truth applies to us as well.  We must realize that our righteousness comes from God on the basis of faith.  What is your attitude to those who are different than you?  Do you look down on others because their level of spirituality is not where you perceive it should be?  We need to realize that our righteousness before God is not based upon our performance but it is through faith in Christ.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;  (Romans 3:21-24)

What a great comfort it is to realize that our righteousness comes from God – not from ourselves.  I recently participated in a 5K/10K charity race through wooded trails at Laurel Hill Plantation.  I saw a fellow runner this past week and asked her how she liked the race.  She had registered for the 5K race but took a wrong turn and ran the 10K race – it was not as enjoyable had she had hoped since she ran farther than she had anticipated.  In the same way, we must not gain righteousness on our own but follow the righteousness as marked out for us by Christ.  Righteousness is not about your performance but it’s about what Jesus has already done on your behalf.  Be encouraged that your righteousness is based on Christ’s finished work and not your keeping of the Law.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  (Romans 3:28)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School

50 Rules

Charles J. Sykes has written a number of books that call for personal responsibility and challenges our victim-minded society.  He offers fifty life lessons that are not usually included in the self-esteem-laden, reality-light curriculum of many schools.   Parents will most likely appreciate Sykes rules and some readers may take offense.  For those who take offense see Rule 21: “You’re offended? So what? No, really. So what?”:)

50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School

1. Life is not fair. Get used to it.

2. The real world won’t care as much as your school does about your self-esteem. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

3. Sorry, you won’t make sixty thousand dollars a year right out of high school. And you won’t be a vice president or have a company car. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn’t have a designer label.

4. You are not entitled…

5. No matter what your daddy says, you are not a princess…

6. No, you cannot be everything you dream…

7. If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He won’t have tenure, so he’ll tend to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you FEEL about it.

8. Your navel is not that interesting. Don’t spend your life gazing at it.

9. Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t.

10. Life is actually more like dodgeball than your gym teacher thinks.

11. After you graduate, you won’t be competing against rivals who were raised to be wimps on the playground.

12. Humiliation is a part of life. Deal with it.

13. You’re not going to the NBA, so hold off on the bling and spare us the attitude.

14. Looking like a slut does not empower you.

15. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.

16. Your parents and your little brother are not as embarrassing as you think. What’s embarrassing is ingratitude, rudeness, and sulkiness.

17. Your parents weren’t as boring before as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, driving you around, saving for your education, cleaning up your room, and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are.

18. Life is not divided into semesters. And you don’t get summer off.

19. It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible.

20. Smoking does not make you look cool….It makes you look moronic.

21. You’re offended? So what? No, really. So what?

22. You are not a victim. So stop whining.

23. Someday you will have to grow up and actually move out of your parents’ house.

24. Batman’s girlfriend is right: “It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”

25. Pi does not care what you think.

26. A moral compass does not come as standard equipment.

27. Your sexual organs were not meant to engage in higher-order thinking or decision making.

28. Somebody may be watching…

29. Learn to deal with hypocrisy.

30. Zero tolerance = zero common sense.

31. Naked people look different in real life.

32. Television is not real life.

33. Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

34. Winners have a philosophy of life. So do losers.

35. If your butt has its own zip code, it’s not because McDonald’s forced you to eat all those Big Macs. If you smoke, it’s not Joe Camel’s fault.

36. You are not immortal.

37. Being connected does not mean you aren’t clueless.

38. Look people in the eye when you meet them…

39. People in black-and-white movies were in color in real life. And no, the world did not begin when you were born.

40. Despite the billion-dollar campaign to turn your brain into tapioca pudding, try to learn to think clearly and logically.

41. You are not the first and you are not the only one who has gone through what you are going through.

42. Change the oil.

43. Don’t let the successes of others depress you.

44. Your colleagues are not necessarily your friends, and your friends aren’t your family.

45. Grown-ups forget how scary it is to be your age. Just remember: this too shall pass.

46. Check on the guinea pig in the basement.

47. You are not perfect, and you don’t have to be.

48. Tell yourself the story of your life. Have a point.

49. Don’t forget to say thank you.

50. Enjoy this while you can.

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Messy Grace

Messy GraceMessy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach is an amazing story of an individual who was raised by LGBT parents and experienced the hatred of Christians but ended up becoming a pastor.  This book is a cogent blend of grace and truth as it applies to sexuality.  The author points out “. . . that we can be right in our beliefs but wrong in how we communicate them” (p. 8).

This book may encourage and discourage people at either end of the spectrum on the topic of homosexuality.  “I want to warn you ahead of time about something:  whichever side of the tension you feel most comfortable with (grace or truth), there will be times during your reading of this book when you may not agree with what I say” (p. 15).  Caleb’s story provides helpful insight to view homosexuality from the LGBT perspective, He asserts, “I believe this book can change you – permanently” (p. 16).

The author does an excellent job developing a biblical foundation for his case, focusing on the life of Jesus:

Jesus saw these people as wounded, not a burden.
Jesus saw these people as hurting, not in the way.
Jesus saw these people as an opportunity, not a liability.
Jesus saw these people as God’s children, not sinners who got what they deserved.
Jesus saw these people as testimonies of the gospel, not moochers of religion.
Jesus was for them, not against them.
Can the same be said about us?  (p. 54)

Throughout the book, he supports the Bible’s teaching while not losing sight of maintaining the relationship.  “What I’m talking about is accepting, which is different from approving.” (p. 106-107).  He challenges churches to adhere to this biblical tension between truth and grace, “Because if our churches are places where people can’t be honest, we are creating sanctuaries for fake people.  Ultimately, our churches become Pharisee factories” (p. 153).

Caleb calls churches to follow the example of Jesus and not take their cues from society, “Jesus did not die on the cross to create a little country club where we could have weekly gatherings, pat ourselves on the back for our good behavior (while hiding our bad behavior), and meet in clusters during the week but do nothing to reach out to the community” (p, 158).

I highly recommend this book to give you a biblical perspective of an environment of grace.  “It isn’t our job to change someone’s sexual orientation.  You and I are not called by God to make gay people straight.  It is our job to lead anyone and everyone to Christ.  I believe God is big enough to deal with a person’s sexuality” (p. 185).   (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Righteous Person

Praying personWhat comes to mind when you think of a righteous person?  We usually think of someone who is characterized by uprightness or morality.  We often evaluate righteousness by one’s external actions but Jesus goes much deeper than that – He goes to the heart. 

The religious rulers of Jesus’ day, the scribes and the Pharisees, were considered the spiritually elite.  Jesus shocked His listeners as He said,

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:20)

I’m sure His listeners were wondering, “How can I surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?”  The truth is that none of us can be truly righteous in our own strength – but God can make us righteous.  The Apostle Paul gives us the answer in his letter to the Romans,

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”  (Romans 1:17)

This is a quotation from the Old Testament (Habakkuk 2:4).  We achieve  righteousness before God not through our performance, but through faith.  Paul continues on in his epistle and presents the example of Abraham,

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  (Romans 4:2-3)

The word “righteous” conveys the idea of being justified before God.  The verb form of the Greek word for righteous is translated as “justified” and could be translated as “declared righteous”,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  (Romans 5:1)

Are you experiencing peace with God?  If not, perhaps it’s because you’re seeking God’s acceptance through your performance.  The good news is that you are made righteous not through your performance, but through what Jesus has already done on your behalf.  Paul summarizes that truth in his message to the Corinthians,

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Charles Wesley eloquently captures the truth of our redemption in his hymn, And Can It Be That I Should Gain,

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Don’t let the enemy keep you from appropriating these powerful truths.  Live out your true identity as a child of God – live as a righteous person.  As Mark Twain observed, “This will surprise some people and astonish the rest.”

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

A Life Apart from God

Slippery-SlopeGod’s desire is that you would know Him and honor Him as God.  The Apostle Paul describes how God’s general revelation reveals the splendor of God,

 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:20)

God wants all people to know Him, but we see that even though they knew about God, they did not honor Him as God.  A moral slide started as they became futile in their speculations, and their hearts were darkened.  Their moral slide was exacerbated as Paul describes their mindset,

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.  (Romans 1:22-23)

The first step in a moral slide is a lack of knowledge of the true God.  If this error is not corrected, then God will let you continue down that path.  Chapter One of Romans illustrates the devolution of mankind with the continuing refrain, God gave them over,

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.  (Romans 1:24)

The word “impurity” conveys the idea of uncleanness, especially in a moral sense.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.  This sounds like our celebrity culture where people can be famous for being famous even though they do not have any particular talent.  Why do people like the Kardashians and Paris Hilton have such a large following?  If left unchecked, the slide continues,

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  (Romans 1:26-27)

The legalization of same sex marriage is a symptom of a much deeper systemic problem.  Actress Kristen Stewart commented, “I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s like, just do your thing.”  Miley Cyrus echoed a similar opinion, “[I don’t] relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”

James Emery White cites a study in the United Kingdom that, “nearly half of all young people don’t think they are exclusively heterosexual. The YouGov survey revealed that 49% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 identified as something other than 100% heterosexual. This despite the repeated findings that only about 4% of the entire adult population are actually homosexual.”  (“Nearly half of young people don’t think they are heterosexual,” by Helena Horton, The Telegraph, August 17, 2015).  As the moral slide continues, violence is not only condoned but it is given approval.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.  (Romans 1:28-32)

The above paragraph reads like our current headlines as we hear of one senseless murder after another.  Several years ago Robert Bork presented a devastatingly insightful exposé of a culture in decline in his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah.  He paints the picture of a nation in serious moral trouble as its foundations were crumbling and it is slouching not towards the Bethlehem envisioned by the poet Yeats, but towards Gomorrah.  Recent history has unfortunately validated his prophetic warning.

C.S. Lewis cogently observes,  “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.   No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened”  (The Great Divorce).  Much of the pain and suffering we see in the world is not God punishing mankind, but rather it’s the natural consequences of not following God’s moral order.

Romans One paints a bleak picture of mankind but the story does not end there.  God knows and cares about His people,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

How to Experience Your Best Morning!

Morning-SunshineI love the early morning.  I find that a good start to the morning sets the trajectory for my day.  This seems to be the practice of David of Israel as he recorded these words,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

The word “earnestly”, Hebrew שָׁחַר (shachar ), may also be translated “early”.  You may say, “But I’m not a morning person.”  My advice is to give God your best time of day – I find that mornings work best for me.

Over the years I’ve discovered some practices that enable me to have a great start to the day and perhaps they will be an encouragement to you.  They are summarized in the acronym BEST.

B represents the Bible.  I start with God’s word.  I find that reading three chapters a day (and I add a few on the weekends) enables me to read through the Bible in a year.  I read slowly, expecting that God will speak to me through His word.  Here are some questions I find helpful:

Sin – Is there a sin to avoid?

Promise – Is there a promise to claim?

Example – Is there an example to follow?

Command – Is there a command to obey?

Truth – Is there a truth to believe?

E represents exercise.  I find that a good workout is invigorating and I have a sense of accomplishment afterwards.  It’s a great feeling to get out in the quiet of a predawn morning and then to see the sun coming up through the trees as I’m finishing up a run.  Do you experience stress in your life?  John Ratey in Spark, asserts,

I want to cement the idea that exercise has a profound impact on cognitive abilities and mental health.  It is simply one of the best treatments we have for most psychiatric problems.  (p. 7)

S stands for solitude.  It’s refreshing to come before God and simply be still and listen.  When we turn off the noise of the world, then we are able to hear the still, small voice the Holy Spirit.  This aspect of my morning then leads to the T.

T represents talk to God in prayer.  This is an opportunity for me to reflect upon what I’ve read and pray as God leads.  I’ll bring the challenges of my day to God in prayer and seek His wisdom.  I’ll also reflect upon what would make this an amazing day.

If your schedule is like mine, there will be early morning meetings and I simply don’t have the time I would like.  My Bible reading is a non-negotiable, it is a priority with me.  I may  delay or skip exercise if time is tight, however, I find that if I don’t work out in the morning it’s difficult to fit it in later on with a busy work day and evening meetings.  If this seems overwhelming then start small, don’t let perfectionism keep you from experiencing your BEST morning.

Are you ready to experience your BEST morning?  Set your alarm clock and get ready for a great start to the day!

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5