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Our Faith Progression

We, therefore, desire to copy his character and put our feet into his footprints. Be it ours to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. What saith our Lord himself? “Follow me,” and again, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Not Christ’s apostle, but Christ himself, is our guide; we may not take a secondary model, but must imitate Jesus himself. 

Charles Spurgeon
 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Many years ago, I had the benefit of listening to a sermon series on our progression as a disciple of Christ.  I have heard many pastors say there’s too many of us Christians who seem stuck at the beginning of that progression and aren’t fully living the life Christ wants for us.

It may even come as a surprise to some that there is an expected “progression” in our faith lives.  We assumed that once we accepted Jesus as our Savior we’re done.  We are able to check off that box on the questionnaire asking what our faith is: Christian.  

"But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16

We all have probably heard the above verse a few times in our Christian lives.  But reading the entire chapter reveals something even more.  The progression.  

"When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The apostle Paul himself explains that when he first came to the people of Corinth He came with the first step in the progression – the message of Jesus’ love for us.  That He died for us.  He rose again for us.  Paul goes on to say:

"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature." 1 Corinthians 2:6

The mature.  Who among your faith group would you deem “mature” in their faith?  Who among them would you deem a “baby Christian?” And where do you count yourself?  This is not asked in judgment.  All who are saved are equally loved by God.  But you can probably tell the difference between people who are further along in their faith progression and those that aren’t.  And it has nothing to do with age.  The sign of a maturing Christian is that they’ve received the gift and have actually opened the box and are using it.

So what is this progression? In the sermon series I mentioned, these steps were defined as: 

  1. Believer – Mark 9:23 
  2. Follower – Luke 9:23
  3. Apprentice – Ephesians 4:14 
  4. Learner – Philippians 4:9

Jesus Himself shows us this progression as He lived out those three world-changing years. 

  • Step 1) The Loving and Faithful Friend 
  • Step 2) The Obedient Servant
  • Step 3) The Courageous Warrior
  • Step 4) The Patient Teacher
  • Step 5) The Wise Counselor

Throughout this series, the Jesus Mindset, we will meet people – some famous and some very ordinary– who exemplify the different steps in the faith journey. And it is only correct to start with the first step.  Lest we think we have step one down pat I should warn you that so many Christians remain in step one because of the difficult truths and expectations presented.  It is the message we hear over and over in our churches.  It is the first and the last message Christ has for us, which makes it the most important of all.  

“As the Father loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

When I was researching various pastors who make love and friendship a cornerstone of their message I realized I had an old friend already in my midst waiting to talk to me again.  As I perused through my Christian books I stopped on, “How Happiness Happens,” by Max Lucado.

Pastor Lucado probably needs no introduction.  He is an internationally known pastor, author, speaker and more.  He’s written too many books and articles to count.  And the theme throughout is love. How to accept Christ’s love.  And how to show love not just to our friends but to complete strangers.  He reminds us that Jesus is our loving and faithful friend and wants us to model that character trait to everyone we meet.  When you read about Pastor Lucado you see his lifelong mission is to set solidly in our hearts the message of God’s love for us.  He shows us how to translate that great gift to others.

“I’m a pastor. I can sit down with somebody who has a broken heart and love them and encourage them and remind them of how God cares. But I struggle when I look at a budget. Or I struggle when somebody says, ‘Well, what’s the long-term strategy for our church?’ Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. Let’s love God, preach Jesus, and pray.”

Max Lucado on his leadership style

So much of what Pastor Lucado speaks of seems simple.  And yet, I find myself day in and day out forgetting to live out the simple messages. 

“Greet one another for your sake.  Experience the joy of showing people they matter.  Greet each other for their sake. What is small to you may be huge to them.  Most of all greet each other for Jesus’ sake.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

How often do we go through an entire day and find ourselves never having truly connected with another human being?

“Listen intently and praise abundantly.”

Max Lucado, “How Happiness Happens”

Isn’t that what Jesus did throughout His ministry? You can only imagine how the woman at the well in John 4:1-26 felt when Jesus was with her.  He wasn’t looking over her shoulder at a bird or cute dog while she spoke.  He wasn’t thinking about the next town He was to visit or His next meal.  He saw her.  He listened to her.  He loved her even when she pushed Him away.

It’s definitely easier to live out the Jesus Mindset of being a loving and faithful friend with people we choose to be around.  We pick our friends and we even pick who in our family we spend more time with.  We are deliberate with whom we ask to go to lunch at work.  But Jesus loved the unlovable.  He touched the untouchable.  

“You wonder why God doesn’t remove the enemies in your life? Perhaps because he wants you to love like he loves. Anyone can love a friend, but only a few can love an enemy.”

Max Lucado

Isn’t this where so many of us get stuck?  We count ourselves, “good people” or “good Christians” and yet we harbor, at best unforgiveness, and at worst hatred for people.  

I grew up in a household where unforgiveness and hatred ran deep.  I had a parent who judged harshly and never forgave. People and places got etched into stone on “The List.”  That was my touchstone, my guidebook.  So when I started hearing the message of God’s love, faithfulness and forgiveness it was difficult to accept.  The first step was to believe God felt that way toward me.  And to be honest, I find myself frequently falling backward into not returning those gifts to others.  

The lessons and examples from Pastor Lucado are great every day reminders on living out Jesus’ request of us to love one another.

“God is love” (1 John 4:16). One word into the passage reveals the supreme surprise of God’s love—it has nothing to do with you. Some people love you because of you. Not God – He loves you because He is He.  

Max Lucado

Isn’t that amazing? Wouldn’t you agree that most of the people in your life love you because of who you are to them? A daughter or son, a wife or husband, a longtime friend with similar interests, and so on. We may even find ourselves saying we love a person who is related to us but we don’t like them very much. It’s all conditional. But God loves us because He is love. Let’s not just gloss over that. Take a moment to really let it sink in. He is the definition of love. Like a cloud of love envelopes us and snuggles us wherever we go!

I saw a picture the other day of a woman at the store who had created a contraption designed to keep people six feet away from her. It involved a hula hoop, straps, signs, warning reflectors and more. When I saw this I thought, “that’s the exact opposite message of Jesus.” His cloud of love surrounding us is more like a fog bank — it pulls others in and seeps into everything. It quiets the world around us.

Today, when you go out into the world, picture your God cloud swirling around you. It’s beautiful and inviting. Its little tendrils reach out and wrap around others you meet. Invite them in with a smile, a greeting, a shrug of forgiveness. With each act of love we a do a bit of cloud seeding — leaving a piece of Jesus to grow.


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35,000 Decisions

…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
Habakkuk 3:18

According to Psychology Today we make an average of 35,000 decisions each day.  That’s about 2,000 decisions per waking hour.  I remember when I was working as a public relations and marketing executive at a mid-sized company.  At the end of each day I felt exhausted.  I couldn’t even think about what to make for dinner.  I realized at some point I had decision-making fatigue.

So many of our decisions are ones we don’t really think much about – if we are going to get up and go to work, if we are going to brush our teeth before leaving the house, if we are going to get dressed.  We just sort of do them out of habit or necessity.  

But what about our faith lives?  How many of us have, along our journey, made the decision to fade away from our faith?  Not realizing we’ve made a decision to shut out God.  For some people, because of issues at their church or maybe a difficult time in their life they actually made a conscious decision to completely turn away.

There are basically three types of people shown in the Bible.  First there is the nonspiritual person who has not accepted God at all.  Second there is the person who has accepted Jesus as their savior but still lives by the world’s expectations. And third is what is considered a “mature believer.”  This person learns to do the will of God no matter how he/she feels or how difficult it is.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  
1 Corinthians 13:11

This is where the term “baby Christian” arises.  It’s the second type person described.  Picture how a baby lives its life.  Crying and throwing a tantrum when things get uncomfortable.  Babies are very self-focused people.  They don’t care if you haven’t slept all night or exhausted from a long day at work.  They want, they need, they demand.  If they don’t get it, they aren’t happy.  They live off feelings and wants and needs.  It may sound harsh, but how many of us are living our Christian lives this way?

No matter what level we are on, we should want to grow , but if we find we are still in the baby stage of Christianity, we should certainly make a commitment to God to start working with His Holy Spirit toward maturity.  

Joyce Meyer, Change Your Words, Change Your Life

That’s why I like the verse from Habakkuk today.  Prior to verse 18 the prophet lists all the things that are going wrong – the fig tree isn’t budding, there’s no grapes, the olive crop is failing, and there’s no livestock.  Yet he will rejoice.  

Great faith is maturing faith. Great faith is growing faith. And great faith is becoming stronger and great faith is standing on the truth of the Word of God. Not feelings, not other people’s opinions, not the past, great faith stands on the truth of the Word of God. Here’s what God is saying. And the focus is on God. Great faith is always focused on God. 

Charles Stanley

And growing faith means choosing to be faithful. We humans don’t tend to like to be the cause of our problems. We want our lack of commitment to God to be about something that happened to us, an absence of the right feelings, or because of the world’s demands. But it’s really about where we have placed so many of our 35,000 decisions. In how many of them did we even consider God’s desires for us?

When you feel like quitting or running away, remember that you can’t run away from your troubles and you can’t run away from yourself. The solution is not running away; it’s running to. It’s running to the throne of grace and finding grace to help in time of need.

Warren W. Wiersbe, Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms

Take the time today to consider your decision making and how it relates to your commitment to God.  Sometimes we are tasked to just decide to run to Him – not waiting for a feeling or some grand emotion to well up inside us.  If we can make the decision to get up and go to work today or the decision to do the laundry or get the kids off to school we can make the decision to open our Bible. We can make the decision to have a conversation with Jesus. 

Most of the 35,000 decisions we make today will be for the world of the flesh.  How many can we carve out to be the ones that matter for all of eternity?

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Pray It Till You Make It


Although controversial to some, I credit evangelist Joyce Meyer with the jumpstart to my transformation from “baby Christian” to a maturing one.  Why? The day I broke down and said to God, “Why am I still so unhappy?  Why can’t I experience joy and peace in my life?” He admonished me and asked, “What have you really done?”  Yes, He really did say that, out loud, twice.  I landed on my knees and asked Him to direct me.  I knew that I hadn’t been “all in.”  My first step was to go and buy a devotional.  As I stood in front of the many books I prayed, “God, tell me which is the one I need right now.”  And that’s how I ended up with Ms. Meyer’s book, Power Thoughts.

“Power Thought: My thoughts are not hidden from God. I know I can change with His help.” 

Joyce Meyer, Power Thoughts Devotional: 365 Daily Inspirations for Winning the Battle of the Mind

The reason it spoke to me is that it focused on that tiny part of me that ends up ruling everything about my life – my thoughts.  At the time, I proudly wore a badge of pessimism.  I was constantly outraged, angry, hurt or sad.  And yet on the outside my life was truly blessed.  I needed to attack the devil living inside my head with the power of God (Psalms 139:23).

Words are extremely powerful.  They can hurt and heal.  They can tear down and build up.  They can cause fear and joy.  With words we can complain or comfort.  And what is prayer but words?  

I’ve been challenged to create a list of statements about my life as God sees it (Isaiah 55:8). It’s not a list of what I’m like right now.  It’s not a New Year’s resolution list.  It’s a list of prayers, based on the Word of God, of what I will be and have in my life with God’s intervention.


Power of Positive Thinking – Mayo Clinic

“Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.

If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.”


This may sound a bit “new age” – and it’s true that a list of positive changes in our lives that we decide to just talk about may never come to fruition.  But as Christians we have the transformational power of prayer at our fingertips (James 5:16).  And our challenge will be to not only listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance but to then pray daily those changes.

It is not so true that “prayer changes things” as that prayer changes me and I change things. God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of Redemption alters the way in which a man looks at things. Prayer is not a question of altering things externally, but of working wonders in a man’s disposition.

Oswald Chambers

So, get out a new sheet of paper and join me as we create our transformation list January 11-29.  A transformation into mature Jesus followers.  A transformation into the people God truly wants us to be.  Because up until now, what have you truly done to walk fully in the life He wants for you?