The Purpose of Pain

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Do you want to see more alignment and serenity in your life? Then you have to stop avoiding this.

Do you want to see more alignment and serenity in your life? Then you have to stop avoiding this.

I know some of you have had to deal with significant pain in your life. You may be going through a painful time right now. How do you view pain? Is it something to avoid at all costs? Is it something you deserve, that “balances the scales”? How does Scripture teach us to view pain?

I fall more into the camp of avoiding pain at all costs. But more and more I am realizing just how high the cost is for avoiding pain and not seeing the role it has. One passage in particular has been helpful.

In Hebrews 12:11 the writer explains, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Duh! Thanks, Captain Obvious! But the writer continues, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Pain can train.

There is a teaching or instructing role with pain. The word discipline is used ten times, depending on the translation, in Hebrews 12. The word behind discipline is the word pedagogy is derived.

The writer knows the hard things the believers are facing. It is important it doesn’t impact their understanding of God’s character. In verse 10 we read, “God disciplines us for our good that we might share in his holiness.” This tells us 2 things: God does discipline, but he does not discipline to punish us, but to complete us. Sharing in God’s holiness, means sharing in his completeness, his wholeness.

You are familiar with the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” This passage seems to be saying, “Know pain, know gain.” If we will be trained by pain, we will see a harvest of righteousness and peace in our life. There is a crop of rightness and serenity that can only come by way of pain.

Is it possible the incompleteness, in all it’s forms, and disruption is a result of trying to avoid pain? Perhaps some willingness to endure pain for a moment would result in a harvest of wholeness and rest that would far out way the pain.

Of course, the context of this conversation of pain is the pain that Jesus willingly endured. In verse 2 we read it was for the joy that was set before him the Jesus endured the cross. He saw the harvest of souls that would come from his pain.

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The Scary Truth about Discipleship

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You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.

You have been reading the Great Commission all wrong.


If you stop to think about the way you live the Christian life (how you were discipled) practically, day-to-day, I would guess you have learned what you do by imitating other Christians. The positive and negative habits, both good and bad traits, have been developed by imitation.

Wired for imitation

We are wired for imitation. How we live the Christian life is more caught than taught.

Faster and more powerful

Imitation is more powerful than education. Duplication is more powerful than doctrine. We are shaped more by mimicking others than we are memorizing theology. We copy the way others live faster than following what they teach.

A way of life

Jesus’ final mandate in Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission) was to make disciples of all the nations baptizing them (identifying with God’s character and authority) and teaching them to observe (not to learn) everything he commanded. A disciple is an apprentice, a follower, an imitator of a way of life.

Not about belief

There is nothing in this mandate about what to believe. The mandate is to make people imitate a way of life. Jesus didn’t say teach them to KNOW everything I commanded. He said OBSERVE—live it!

Living what we believe

Don’t hear me say that what we believe is not important. What I am saying is the more important point is living what we believe.

About imitating

Discipleship is about imitating a certain way of life. If every church imitated your church, what would the state of the church in your community be?

Not style but character

I know we value diversity and different styles and we wouldn’t want every church to be a copy of just one church, but I’m not talking about style, I’m talking about character.

If every church…

So if every church imitated the generosity of your church, how much resources would flow out of the church and touch the lives of the people in your community?


If every church imitated the outreach and evangelism of your church, how many people would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the message of who Jesus is and what he has done?

…your church

If every church imitated the service and assistance of your church, how much good would be done around your community? Would service organization be overrun with volunteers? Would schools be glutted with tutors? Would park districts and municipalities be laying off employees because there would be so many people cleaning up and working in the community?

What about you?

Those were broad generalizations about the church as a whole. Let me really meddle for a moment and ask you to apply the same question to yourself. What about you is worth imitating?

If every Christian…

If every Christian in your church imitated you, what would the church look like? You don’t have to think about your entire community, just think about what your church would be like if everyone was like you.

…imitated you

If everyone has the same level of faith you have, what atmosphere of confidence in who God is and certainty that he will do what he has promised to do, would there be in your church? If everyone treated their family like you do, how strong would the homes be of people from your church? If everyone prayed with the same consistency and intensity as you, what would the prayer life of your church be?

A life worth imitating

Your goal should be a life shaped by Jesus, worth imitating. Until you do, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled. Making disciples is more than convincing them what to believe. Making disciples is about convincing people your life is worth imitating.

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When You Get Disoriented

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How do you reorient yourself when you get disoriented?

How do you reorient yourself when you get disoriented?

I thought I remembered

You have probably had a similar experience to what happened to me a couple of months ago. I was driving on a highway I had been on one hundreds times. The highway took several turns through a small town. It had been about five years since I had been through that area. I thought I remembered the turns.

That’s when I realized

Twenty minutes later, the highway came perpendicular to a lake. I had no memory of a lake on this highway. I grabbed my phone to open up the GPS. I didn’t have it on because I thought I knew this area so well. That is when I realized, at one of the turns in that small town, I started heading north, instead of continuing east, the direction I thought I had been going for the past twenty minutes.

When you get disoriented

What happens when you get disoriented in your surroundings? Getting confused about where you are can be dangerous. If you are in an unfamiliar city or country and don’t know where you are, what are the dangers?

  1. Waste time: you may waste time heading the wrong way, like me driving north when I thought I was going east.
  2. Wrong place: you may wind up in the wrong place.
  3. Wreck: you may wreck if you can’t see where you’re going.

Locate the North Star

Imagine being captain of a ship before satellites or any electronic navigation existed. Suppose you were on the sea even before the invention of any type of compass, going through a storm, bobbing like a cork. After the waves settle, you have no idea which direction your vessel is pointing. Your only hope is for a clear, cloudless night and to wait for the stars to appear, so you can locate the North Star.

The point of orientation

The entire northern sky rotates around one star that remains nearly fixed. It is the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. We call it the North Star, but is also known as Polaris. It was the point of orientation for mariners for millennia. It does not rise or set in the night sky, because the axis of the earth is pointed at it. The North Star is a fixed point of orientation.

Direction no matter the landscape

Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a North Star for life? On a micro level, there are times of disorientation as to what needs to be done next. On a macro level, disorientation occurs as to where we are headed in life. A North Star provides an orienting direction no matter the landscape.

What is your North Star?

What is your North Star? What are those fixed points in your life to help you reorient yourself? Beyond to-do lists or bucket lists, what gives you clear direction for where you are heading? When you are uncertain about what you are doing and where you are going, what can you look to with certainty? Chuck Smith use to say, “When things happen in life that you don’t understand, you must fall back on what you do understand.”


What axioms, truths, and principles do you turn to in times of uncertainty?

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Satisfaction, Success, and Significance

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Significance comes from making a difference that lasts.

Significance comes from making a difference that lasts.

I love the Model X Tesla. I know that is a poor use of the word love. Go ahead and judge me—I’ll take it. The Model X is an all-electric car with doors that open above the roof. They are called falcon wings—their take on the Mercedes 300 Gullwing. It’s a car that melts the soul.

It would be satisfying

It would be satisfying to own a Model X Tesla. In theory I could buy one. I would have to sacrifice a couple of my kids’ weddings and college educations. But in theory, it is an attainable goal.

Reaching that goal

How satisfying would reaching that goal be? Teslas have an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty. There are test models which have had over 500,000 miles put on them. Let’s say I maintained it well, kept the rust off, and had good fortune with the computer system. Maybe I could enjoy it for 20 years.

A point in time

There is a satisfaction that comes from the success of reaching a goal. My definition of success is a goal reached at a point in time. Being the owner of a Model X (reaching that goal) would create a measure of satisfaction; maybe for as long as 20 years.

Last over time

By contrast, there is a satisfaction that comes from significance. My definition of significance is making a difference that lasts over time. The longer the impact lasts, the more significant it is.

Limited satisfaction

I have reached many goals up to this point in my life. I am sure you have, too. I have bought houses, started programs, and built businesses. There are many successes I can look to as accomplishments. All were goals I set out to reach that happened in a point in time. But the satisfaction from those accomplishments has been limited.

Lasting significance

I want to give myself to more than successes though. I want to be able to say I have done something that had some staying power. There may be a few items that get passed on to my kids or grandkids that last beyond me. But there is something in me that wants to know what I am giving myself to has eternal significance.

A life of significance

What are those areas where a difference can be made that last over time? What impact can be made that lasts throughout time? What are the eternal investments that can be made? Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 NLT) I think Jesus wants you to experience the satisfaction that comes from successes. However, more than the limited satisfaction of success, he wants you to have the unlimited satisfaction of a life of significance.

An eternal mark

There is nothing more lasting than a soul. A Model X may melt the soul, but it doesn’t make an eternal mark on the soul. This idea is clarifying for me. Is there a more worthwhile place to attempt to make a difference than a soul that will live for eternity? Can anything compare to the significance found in impacting a soul that last beyond time?

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Stop Thinking about Discipleship

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The goal of the Christian life should be for most of our attitudes and actions to automatically come from who we are.

The goal of the Christian life should be for most of our attitudes and actions to automatically come from who we are.


Do you think Jesus had any habits? If so, what habits do you think Jesus had? Do you think Jesus had any bad habits? Not that Jesus had any sinful habits, but perhaps he was a nail-biter or slurped his matzoh ball soup. Maybe his mother had to remind him to not chew his food loudly when Uncle Zechariah and Aunt Elizabeth would come over for dinner.

Jesus’ habits

The Bible does mention several habits of Jesus. Luke 4:16 tells us that every Saturday Jesus had a custom, or habit, of going to the synagogue. We also know he had a habit of hanging out on the Mount of Olives, according to Luke 22:39. He was in the habit of teaching people, too, whenever crowds gathered, according to Mark 10:1. These were routines or patterns Jesus regularly followed.

What we automatically do

The word “custom” used in the verses above is ethos. It is who we are based on what we automatically do. It simply means what is normal for a person or group of people without having to think about it. We derive our word ethics from it. The same word is used in Hebrews 10:25 when it mentions some were in the habit (ethos) of not meeting together.

More than discipline

Habits are not instincts, though. They become automatic through accumulative action. Habits are made. But they are not just disciplines. Some people would say a good disciple is a well-disciplined person. I don’t think good disciples are undisciplined people, but something more than discipline is involved.

Who we are

Discipline is about training and controlling behaviors. Certainly this is part of Christian living. I wrote about that last week. At some point, though, attitudes, behaviors, and living into Jesus’ way should become part of who we are—an ethos should form. Jesus’ way of living should become our normal in more and more aspects of our lives.

Explore Further:

So how do we create these customs into our lives, like Jesus had? There is a lot of good research on the topic of habits. A few books you explore further online or at your library would be:

  • Josh Hunt, Break a Habit; Make a Habit
  • Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
  • Joyce Meyer, Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits
  • Philip Nation, Habits of our Holiness
  • David Mathis, Habits of Grace
  • Edwin Lutzer, Getting to No


How have disciplines become habits in your life?

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Training Better Versus Trying Harder

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Training to be godly is very different from trying to be godly. Trying to be godly doesn’t work, training does.

Training to be godly is very different from trying to be godly. Trying to be godly doesn’t work, training does.

Try harder

When discussing the Christian life with others, advice on how to follow Jesus can easily sound like a push to try harder. Do you ever feel as though you are telling people to do more and more? Do you ever feel like you are merely poking them to be better and act nicer?

Sounds like effort

When Paul tells Timothy to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7) is he in danger of creating a moralistic do-gooder? What is the difference between training oneself to be godly and trying really hard to be good? Training sounds like effort. Isn’t effort the enemy of the gospel?

Hit the gym!

I studied that passage in 1 Timothy recently. As you may know, the word behind “train” in the verse above is connected to gymnasium. It was the place the olympic athletes would exercise and condition themselves for competition. The KJV uses the word exercise in that verse.

Training not trying

This type of exercise is not an enemy of the gospel. It is the way God transform people into the likeness of Jesus. Training to be like Jesus is very different than trying to be like Jesus.

You train

Imagine being challenged to run 10 miles (at one time). You could get your most encouraging, inspiring friends to do it with you. The best motivational speaker would come talk to you beforehand. Most of you would not finish. You may make the daring effort to finish at the cost of injury and illness. If you were able to do it the reason would be you trained to run.

Stop trying

Trying to run without training can be dangerous. Trying to be godly without training can be just as dangerous to the soul. Bill Hull, in his book Choose the Life, says, “I think Christians should stop trying to be godly and start practicing the disciplines that form pathways to the heart of God and transform us into his likeness.” Do you see the difference between trying and training?

Key to transformation

A similar illustration is made with playing the piano by John Ortberg in his book on spiritual disciplines, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. He writes,

“Respecting the distinction between training and merely trying is the key to transformation in every aspect of life. People sometimes think that learning how to play Bach at the keyboard by spending years practicing scales and chord progressions is the “hard” way. The truth is the other way around. Spending years practicing scales is the easy way to learn to play Bach. Imagine sitting down at a grand piano in front of a packed concert hall and having never practiced a moment in your life. That’s the hard way. This need for preparation, or training, does not stop when it comes to learning the art of forgiveness, or joy, or courage. In other words, it applies to a healthy and vibrant spiritual life just as it does to physical and intellectual activity. Learning to think, feel, and act like Jesus is at least as demanding as learning to run a marathon or play the piano.”

Train wisely

So, effort, in this sense, is not the enemy of the gospel. Training is inextricably linked to the gospel. Being transformed into the likeness of Jesus is not a matter of trying harder, but training wisely.


Are you challenging those you are discipling to the spiritual equivalent of a 10-mile run, without the necessary training? What practices can you help lead people, in order to train them to be godly?

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Mission Questions > Mission Statements

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Some form of Jesus’ statement

The church is God’s people. Since the church is God’s, it makes sense that he would define her purpose. The purpose, or mission, can be worded a lot of ways, but it will be some form of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus’ followers are to help others from every nation follow his way of life.

Mission statements are valuable

A lot of time is devoted to mission statements. There is a desire for it to be memorable and catchy. I think mission statements are valuable. Jesus obviously did too or he wouldn’t have given one! They point the direction everyone should be heading. They, also, answer the most important question anyone asks: Why?

More mission questions

That sets up the point I want to make. If we already have the mandate (some form of Make disciples of all nations), maybe we need mission questions instead of a mission statement. Like I said, mission statements determine the direction, but it isn’t the direction that is the ultimate concern – the destination is.

Hang a question mark

A mission is meant to be accomplished. People on a mission like to know they are making a difference. Mission questions, not mission statements, help us know if the direction we are heading is still aimed at our destination. Someone once said, “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you take for granted.” What would it do to hang a question mark on the end of the Great Commission?

Other questions appear

Let’s try this out on the core of the Great Commission: Make disciples of all nations? At once, other questions appear and assumptions are challenged.

  • How are we to make disciples?
  • What is a disciple?
  • Do we have a vision for the nations?

Mission questions can provoke us to ask even more basic questions, such as:

  • Is this my mission?
  • Are we making disciples?
  • Is the team on this mission together?

Mission drift is real. It takes no effort. That’s why it is called mission drift. Without trying and usually without noticing, a person, team, or church can go off course from its original purpose. A question, though, has the power to snap us back in the direction of our intended destination.


What would happen if you hung a question mark on the end of your mission statement?

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