3 Lies You may be Believing about SMC

You made a great decision to come to SMC 2022! Do you still believe that?

You inevitably begin to think more about your decision to go to SMC the day after Christmas than any other point since signing up. The only thing between you and the conference is New Year’s day, so it is customary to begin processing what you think your SMC experience will be like.

I have found that your perception of SMC can sometimes be quite a bit off from the reality of what you are going to experience.

3 Common Thought Processes

1) I have bitten off more than I can chew with SMC. Did I make the right decision? 


Try to think back to Late Night when you most likely signed up for SMC. There was a hunger to know more about God and grow closer to those around you. Dane reminded us of all the benefits, and you were excited. 

Christmas break has a numbing effect on a lot of people. Something about being at home and spending time with old friends has a way of shadowing the excitement we once had for spiritual growth. 

When that first Main Session starts at SMC, you will have two thoughts running through your head simultaneously. The first will be how glad you are that you decided to come. The second will be how grateful you are that you didn’t back out. 

God reminds us in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” It takes faith to come to SMC for the first time, and every year I watch God reward those people who show up!

2) I don’t want to grow in my faith anymore; I think I will stay home.

Be very careful here.

There are two root reasons why I believe we have this thought process. The first comes from John 17:3,

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

It may be that we have forgotten or possibly never realized that knowing God is the very purpose of our existence. When we invest in knowing God, we feel like a fish back in the water! 

Another possible root cause comes from Ecclesiastes 10:18, which says

Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.

The principle here is that laziness has consequences. There are apparent physical consequences when we are lazy, but there are also less obvious spiritual consequences. Prioritizing knowing God and building a relationship with him is hard work. A lazy attitude will always avoid hard work. 

Don’t let a lazy heart dictate your decisions over the break. If you are in this camp, staying true to your commitment to SMC may be the breakthrough moment you need to crush the idleness and apathy in your life! 

So often, in my experience, something incredible is right on the other side of some hard work and effort.

3) Am I going to feel lonely? I don’t know many people going to SMC…I don’t even know who I am rooming with.


If you come to SMC with an optimistic mindset and participate in the things SMC encourages you to do, it will be three days filled with new relationships and life-changing content!

So many people I know and love who are thriving in life on many levels say it all started with the decision to go to SMC. I am not saying it is the secret to a successful life, but I will say that the SMC environment is designed to help you succeed!

And I would argue that staying home by yourself has much higher odds for you feeling lonely from Jan 2-5th.

Final thought

There are three things that the Bible teaches that are eternal. God, God’s People, and God’s Word (Bible). When you are considering an investment, you should always consider the return on investment (ROI) in anything. Most investments have risk involved that causes many to be hesitant. For example, one of my family members has been encouraging me to invest in crypto-currency, but my lack of confidence in the outcome gives me cold feet.

What is the ROI of SMC? Well, SMC is built around God, God’s People, and God’s Word, the only three things that last forever. Do you know what this means? Your time, energy, and money investment in SMC is a sure thing! You can’t lose! The only loss would be not to invest by not coming to SMC.

We are so excited to see all of you soon and experience this amazing conference together!

Why Finish to the End?

I want to start by saying that there are many reasons we must follow Jesus to the very end.

Hebrews 3:14 reminds us that, “We have come to share in Christ if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”

Matthew 25:13 reminds us that, like the disciples of Jesus time, “…you do not know the day or the hour” that Jesus will return. Therefore we must be alert and ready until the last breath.

These could be a factor in why you continue in your faith until the end or, as I like to say, finish.

In this article, I would like to highlight, what I believe, is one of the strongest motivations from the scriptures to finish strong in your discipleship. Let’s look at a few places in the scriptures that this motivation is seen. 

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD. All the families of the nations will bow down before Him (Psalm 22:27-28)

It is written: “‘ As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'” (Romans 14:11)

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelations 5:9)

Why would you finish strong in your faith today, this week, this month, this year, or a better way to say it? Why would you finish strong in your faith until your last breath?

Because God’s purpose for your life is to spread the gospel to all peoples of the world!

Jesus lived and died for this purpose. He reminds us at the end of Luke 19 that he came “to seek and save the lost.”

The cross was designed for this purpose.

God did not spare his own son for this purpose (Romans 8:32)

It is because of this purpose that the Apostle Paul says,

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20).

And this should be at the very core of our motivation in every step of faith we take to love God and love people.

The Life of Adoniram Judson

Hanging behind me in my office is a picture of a man named Adoniram Judson. I bring him up because as we consider the idea of finishing to the end, there are few men that we could point to that would model this same quality more than Judson.

I want to introduce you to this man, his life, and his ministry so that we can be inspired by his willingness to finish out of a motivation to reach people who have never been reached.

One man who was present during the death of Judson is famously quoted saying,

Few men die so hard.

Here is his story.

The Story of Adoniram Judson

Adoniram was born into a faith-filled family. His father was a minister, and his mother was known for her strong and deep faith. As a boy, it was evident that Adoniram was no ordinary boy. At age 6, he was reading entire chapters out of the King James Version of the Bible.

At the age of 16, he went to Brown University and graduated as the head of his class.

His parents didn’t know it at the time, but while at Brown, Judson was beginning to lose his faith. He had befriended a guy by the name of Jacob Eims, who was Diest. This is someone who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being, but that this Supreme Being does not intervene in the Universe.

Jacob Eims influenced Judson tremendously, so much so that by the time Judson would graduate, he would openly identify to his friends at school that he was not a Christian. The only problem he still had was that he had not yet told his parents, and he had even managed to word his valedictorian speech in a way that kept him from exposing his new beliefs.

But on his bday, August 9, 1808, Judson broke the news that broke his parent’s hearts. He told them that he was never a Christian and wanted to go to New York to pursue playwriting and theatre. He asked his father to pay for him to purchase a horse so that he may leave immediately with friends to carry out these dreams. Broken-hearted, his father obliged.

New York was not the dream he hoped. His so-called friends he went with turned out to be a group of reckless vagabonds who would deceive, cheat, and steal from anyone and everyone they could. This bothered Judson so severely that he decided to leave New York.

He left on horseback and headed into the country to his uncle’s house in Sheffield, MA. When he arrived, instead of finding his uncle, who was gone on a trip, he found a pious young man who stunned him with his firm Christian conviction. It left quite an impression on AJ.

Judson recalls this moment when he was left wondering if there was another way to be a Christian. It still wasn’t enough to convince him, though, so he set off for home.

The trip was far enough that Judson had to stop for the night at Inn. The Innkeeper informed him that he was out of rooms, but after some pleading from Judson, he agreed to let him share a room with another man. The keeper warned him that the man in the room was very sick and unlikely to make it through the night. But Judson was desperate and didn’t want to spend the night in the open darkness out of fear of being robbed or killed.

Judson did not sleep that night because of the horrendous screams of pain as the man on the other side of the curtain was grasping for life. Adoniram began to ponder his death and if he was ready for it.

The following day he found that the man next to him had died, and it struck Adoniram to the core. As he was walking out, he said to the keeper, “do you know who he was?” The keeper replied, “Oh yes, a young man from brown, his name was Jacob Eims.”

Judson was frozen. For 3 hours, he sat at the Inn in disbelief and terror. He thought if Jacob Eims was correct, then all of this life is meaningless, and no matter how hard he tried, Judson could not believe that life was meaningless.

Although Judson did not immediately become a Christian at that moment, this experience played a vital role in his decision to follow Jesus a few months later.

He enrolled in Andover Theological Seminary and read different books about the cultures in the east. He couldn’t get past that so many of these places had no access to the gospel. His heart latched explicitly to the people of Burma.

With his newfound love for Jesus came a new passion for going to the Burmese people to proclaim the good news of Jesus

After coming to grips with this in heart and mind, there was no stopping Adoniram from finishing out his calling! On June 28, 1819, he and four others presented themselves to the congregation of foreign missions to ask to be sent out as the first foreign missionaries from America to the east. The assembly agreed, and it was on this day, he became ordained as a missionary and the day he first saw Anne.

Adoniram and Anne’s relationship began to blossom. Still, in the back of his mind, Judson knew the day would come when she would have to decide to stay in the comforts of America or risk her life as a missionary in the disease-ridden, lawless jungles of India.

Anne decided to give up the comforts to spend her life in the world of the heathen. The only person left to convince was Anne’s Father. Here is was the letter Adoniram wrote him said.


I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring. To see her no more in this world, whether you can consent to her departure and her subjection to the hardships and the sufferings of a missionary life, whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this for the sake of him who left his heavily home and died for her and for you and for the sake of the perishing immortal souls’ in the glory of God? Can you consent to all the hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory with the crown of righteousness brightened with the acclamation of praise, which shall resound to her Savior from the heathens saved through er means from internal woe and despair?


Her father gave her the decision, and a year and a half later, they were on a boat heading to Calcutta, India, with the hopes of getting to Rangoon, Burma, as soon as possible.

The missionary journey was a total of 33 years.

[Here is the questions I would like for you to ask in your head as we move into the missionary experiences of the Judsons. What are you willing to do to endure finish until the end? Maybe a better question, who are you ready to endure for till the end?]

Anne gave birth to their first son on the trip to Calcutta, the child died before they reached their destination, and the child was dropped overboard. Their second child, Roger, died at 17 months. It was after the death of Roger that Anne wrote this,

Our hearts were bound up with this child, but God saw that it was necessary to remind us of our error and to strip us of our only little awe. Oh, may it not be in vain that he has done it. May we do much to improve it that he will stay his hand and say it is enough.” [how many mothers do you know that would respond this way?]

They reached their destination in Calcutta and told some of the missionaries in India their plan to go to Burma. William Carey, a famous missionary to India, said to AJ,

don’t go there; it’s useless…all missionaries that go either die or quit…

Burma was filled with fierce enemy raiders, zero religious toleration, diseases unknown to any American, and an absence of any medical education.

But William Carey did not deter them. The hope of ALL PEOPLES echoed through the mind of the Judsons, and against the counsel of many, they arrived in Yangon in 1813.

His first convert came in 1819. Six years before a single person follow Jesus [makes a semester not seem so bad]. By 1822 there were 18 converts. He spent much of his time during these years working on producing Christian writings, translating the Bible from Greek/Hebrew to Burmese, and setting up events to have a religious dialogue with the Burmese people.

Between 1813-1831 the price was enormous.

[Few examples: Adoniram got sick, and the solution was saltwater and warmer weather. Was supposed to be gone for two weeks, but because of storms and wind, didn’t come back for six months // It was two and a half years before they heard anything from someone in the United States// Anne got so sick that she traveled back to the US for two years, during that time she wrote a book that would lead the sending of hundreds of more missionaries and large amounts of funding to overseas missions // the suffered immensely about of pressure from the community to be silent //their lives were threatened on a continual basis]

In 1823, the Judsons moved from Rangoon to Ava, the capital city, to influence the emperor who had complete authority. Including the power to remove the head of anyone who approached him with a request.

Little did they know that Britain was going to attack Yangoon in May of that year during that time.

Immediately every Western man was considered suspect and thrown into prison, including Adoniram, who had just found out that Anne was pregnant with their 3rd child.

The prison conditions were beyond what our minds could even imagine. Every prisoner was bound in shackles across their ankles, and each night the guards put a bamboo pole through the shackles. The bamboo pole was raised to suspend each prisoner upside down so that only their head and shoulders touched the ground. This happened every night!

Anne spent her days visiting the prison and walking 2 miles, pregnant, in the 108-degree heat, to the palace to plead with the emperor for better living conditions for the prisoners.

A year later, as the war became more intense, the prisoners were moved to another prison in the middle of the night. They laid them down in the new prison cell, but now the prisoners completely wore their feet with sores from walking. One prisoner described it as “being eaten alive” by the mosquitos that would come in off the rice patties in the evenings. If it wasn’t the excruciating pain from the mosquito bites, then it was the screams of the prisoners that would keep AJ from sleep each night.

Anne had followed the prisoner, now with a new baby that had been born. She became as thin as AJ, and her milk dried up. AJ begged the jailer for mercy and the jailer allowed him at night to take the baby and walk through the village to look for anyone willing to nurse the baby so that the baby would live.

Suddenly after 17 months of this torture. Judson was instantly released. Rangoon and Britain were attempting peace treatises, and Judson was needed to translate.

Eleven months later, Anne died from the tole that the previous 17 months had taken on her. 6 months later, their baby girl died. Three months later, he received a letter informing him that his father had died.

Dark times fell on Adoniram.

[He retreated more and more// the burning of all of his letters // gave away all of his wealth // build a hut in the jungle to live alone // for two years he was in total isolation // dude his own grave to sit by and contemplate existence…said in a letter “I believe in Him and find him not”]

While he was in isolation, he had news that his brother El Nathan had passed away, and ironically this was the news that reignited his spirit for the Lord.

The reason was that when Adoniram walked to the ship to sail to Burma, he was accompanied by his brother. During that walk, he pleaded with his brother to put his faith in Jesus but wouldn’t. The fantastic news of his brother’s salvation came in the letter he received about his brother’s death.

This brings us to 1831. Do you think this was an accident? It was designed.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24)

The outpouring that came after 1831 was because Adoniram had all but died to himself.

But that was just the beginning of his suffering, there’s more, but I will have to bullet point for the sake of time.


Sarah Bordman

  • His 2nd wife was Sarah Bordman, a widowed missionary who took her baby into tiger-infested jungles alone to preach the gospel.
  • Married 11 years and had eight children (2 died).
  • She got sick and had to make the trip back to America; Judson was told he must accompany her because she was too weak to go alone.
  • They were headed for New England. Three oldest kids came, three youngest were left behind (one died).
  • As they rounded the tip of Africa, Sarah dies. The boat docks just short of New England, barely long enough for AJ and kids to dig a grave, say goodbye, and sail on. With three kids crying on his neck, he comes home…33 years later.
  • Mom and dad are both dead.



  • 29 years old, with her entire life ahead of her, gave up everything to go to Burma with AJ
  • One child
  • They were married for four years, and the nagging sickness began to overtake AJ.
  • AJ took a boat trip, but Emily was pregnant, so he was accompanied by a man named Thomas, and they headed for the Island of France.
  • The suffering was unspeakable. Convulsions followed by vomiting over and over again.


On April 12, 1850, Adoniram Judson died at sea away from family and church. The ship crew assembled quietly in the evening; there was no prayer because the crew was unbelievers. Instead, they slid his coffin into the ocean in the night a few hundred miles west of Burma, and the boat sailed on.

Ten days later, Emily gave birth to a dead baby. Four months later, she went home. Three years later, she died at age 37 because the journey to Burma had damaged her health.

Few men die so hard.

And as you hear this story, you may have a similar question that I had.

To what end?


Adoniram’s Legacy

  • The entire OT and NT translated into the Burmese dialect.
  • For that, AJ had to learn the language, know Greek and Hebrew fluently, and then translate it all on his own! [hidden in a pillow]
  • Not only did he complete a Burmese Bible, but he also finished half of a Bible dictionary to help understand the text for the Burmese people.
  • When AJ came to Burma, there were no known Christians, and the population was generally Buddhist/non-religious. At his death, 100s of Burmese converts were leading the church, and today there are 3700 congregations in the Burmese Baptist convention.
  • About four-fifths of the country’s 3 million Christians are a part of this convention.


Judson wrote a letter at one point in his life to those who were considering going overseas to do missions; here is what it said,

Remember, a large portion of those who come out to the east die within five years, walk softly, therefore because death is narrowly watching your steps.

I share this story because I think it is common to look around at others doing ministry. When we see someone’s life, it either encourages us to keep going or discourages us because we see a lack of faith.

Most Christians never die to themselves. Most, at best, give chunks of their time for a small period of their lives to dabble in spiritual growth and help others.

But the call to finish is the call to die daily for the sake of people on the other side of the earth to hear about Jesus.

I am not sure what your motivations typically are when you consider things like…


  • Why should I work hard to prepare those last three bible studies?
  • Why should you share the gospel or follow up or process the gospel a few more times with that guy or girl?
  • Why should I commit to finishing strong in my spiritual disciplines, bible reading, prayer, scrip men, fasting…
  • Why should I fight to have that invite convo with that guy/girl that still hasn’t heard or been given a compelling reason to come to SMC?
  • Why should I stand firm against that sin that has been luring and enticing me all semester?
  • Why should I stay in the game when many around me seem to be throwing in the towel.
  • Why should I do DMT? It’s such a high commitment… other places would ask less of me.


You may answer that question in many ways, but tonight I want you to see that for Judson, the answer was because the people on the other side of the globe are depending on you too!

Your ability to finish by dying today, and then tomorrow, and then the next day, is the process by which you become a disciple and make disciples. Disciples being raised is the only hope of someone giving their life to going overseas! Disciples going overseas is the only hope for over 3.16 billion people in the 10/40 window, many of who will be born and die without ever hearing a single word about Jesus.

That is why we finish; what you do during the semester matters! Finishing matters!

What would it look like for you to die-hard this last month! Spend 5 minutes answering that question in your journals.


What Does it Mean to have Faith?

What does it mean to put your faith in Jesus?

This question caused tension in my life as I was growing up. You see, I had many experiences with God through Bible studies and church groups that left me feeling very spiritual, but then months, even just weeks later, I was back to my old way of doing life. It seemed like my relationship with God depended more on my feelings and experiences rather than true faith.

True faith, what does that even mean? Was I suppose to blindly accept what I heard about God and the Bible from church and friends? Should I have a funny feeling in my stomach or be able to perform miracles? It was all very confusing.

Many people in my hometown claimed to have faith, but their lives looked very similar to those who didn’t believe in God. Outside church attendance, nothing about their lives demonstrated the faith they claimed to have.

This caused me to investigate the question: what does it mean to have faith in Jesus? I believe the answer to this question can be summed up in three steps.


  1. Hear – The true message of who Jesus is must be told to us through something or someone (Romans 10:14).
  2. Believe – To accept something as true with your mind (John 1:12).
  3. Trust – To commit to something through your actions (Luke 9:23)

These three steps must all be present to experience true faith. Imagine a military general standing before 100 soldiers as he prepares them for battle. With a look of determination and grit, he stares over them and says, “Tonight, we will march together into battle! It will be tough, some of you will lose your life, but without victory we will never experience freedom!!!”

After finishing his speech, the 50 soldiers sitting at the front of the group cheered with excitement and passion while the 50 soldiers sitting in the back quietly stared at the grass beneath their boots. The soldiers were dismissed and told to return at 6 pm to march into battle.

That evening the General was shocked to see that only 25 soldiers had come prepared for battle. There was no option to turn back, so the General marched into war with the army that he had.

Let’s use the soldiers in the hypothetical situation to help us diagnose true faith. After the General finished his inspiring speech, 50 of the soldiers sat quietly. Why? Because they were in the back of the group and couldn’t hear the General. They didn’t show up for the battle because they weren’t aware a battle existed. Many will never experience an authentic faith in Jesus because they will never hear the truth about Jesus.

The 50 who heard the speech shouted with passion and excitement because they had intellectually agreed with the General’s statements. They agreed that it was necessary to go into battle to win their freedom in their minds. Therefore, they heard, and they believed. Many people who claim to have faith are in a similar situation. They have heard the

story of Jesus through their parents or a church group. They have been to Sunday school and know all the right answers. Not only that, they agree with what they have learned.

Yet, only 25 of the 50 soldiers who heard and believed showed up to march into battle. Why? Because only 25 of them trusted. It wasn’t enough to hear and believe. True faith only comes to fruition when we have all three steps: hearing, believing, and trusting.

The same is true when it comes to putting our faith in Jesus. To experience the fulfilling life that Jesus has to offer us, both here on earth and in heaven for eternity, we must have all three steps.

Discussion Questions

– What do you think the difference is between believing and trusting?

– Which of the three steps have you taken in your life up to this point? (hearing — believing —


– Why do you think it is not enough to hear and believe?

– Based on the article you just read, do you think you have true faith?

– What would be a good next step in light of how you answer the questions above?

Accessing the Grace of God

If you were to ask me what was under the hood of my car, my response would be, “the engine.” We could lift the hood of my car and factually agree that there is indeed an engine. But if you were to ask follow-up questions such as, “how does an engine work?” I would have trouble giving you an answer because the truth is I understand that my car is powered by an engine while simultaneously not understanding much about how it works.

Something similar happens in the minds of most Christians when you say the word grace.

I mean that we all feel comfortable using this word in the same way we feel comfortable claiming that there is an engine under the hood of our car. But when you begin to ask questions like, “how do you access grace?” or “in what ways does grace impact your day-to-day walk with Jesus?” We all of a sudden find ourselves realizing we know less about this word than we initially thought.

What is Grace?

Grace is unmerited favor from God upon sinners. It is the compassionate response of the superior, God, to the inferior, us. Without grace, there are no Christians because it is only by grace that we are saved. Grace is also the only way we continue to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus.

It is impossible to overstate the necessity of grace in the Christian life. It is, hands down, 100%, no questions asked, the single most important word for anyone who follows Jesus. Romans 5:2 puts it this way,

Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

To “stand” in grace means that we are surrounded. We can take no pathways as a follower of Jesus that isn’t initiated, carried along, and finished by grace.

Is Grace only significant for Salvation?

This is a common misunderstanding of grace for young followers of Jesus. For them, grace becomes limited to the moment they believe in Jesus for the first time. They realize their need for grace to save them from the punishment of their sin but fail to realize that grace is the only hope for living a life of following Jesus. Look at how the Apostle Paul speaks of grace.

1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

You see a life consumed by grace in this passage; grace is what makes Paul who he is. He says, “But by the grace of God I AM WHAT I AM…”

How did you get to where you are right now? I bet you can come up with a lot of different answers to this question. That answer would be filled with stories of human effort and self-determination for most of us, but not for Paul. Paul is who he is because of one thing, grace.

How did Grace impact the life of Paul?

What was different about Paul because of grace? It is evident from his NT letters that grace saturated every area of his life. Here are some examples.

  • Grace fueled Pauls Obedience to Jesus (Romans 1:5)
  • Grace Justified Paul before God (Romans 3:24)
  • Grace freed Paul from the burden of the law (Romans 6:14-15)
  • Grace was the means by which Paul was chosen (Romans 11:5)
  • Grace gave Paul the confidence to speak boldy to other Christians (Romans 12:3; 15:15)
  • Grace is means by which Paul recieved his spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6)
  • Grace gave Paul the ability to do ministry (1 Cor 3:10)
  • Grace gave Paul identity and allowed him to work hard (1 Cor 15:10)
  • Grace simplified Pauls ministry approach (2 Cor 1:12)*
  • Grace increased Pauls thankfulness (2 Cor 4:15)
  • Grace made Paul spiritually rich (2 Cor 8:9)
  • Grace is what Paul ministered to others (2 Cor 8:19)
  • Grace was how Paul abounded in every good work (2 Cor 9:8)
  • Grace gave Paul power in his weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Paul was called to Jesus by grace (Gal 1:15)
  • Grace qualified Paul to do ministry with the other apostles (Gal 2:9)
  • The absence of Grace was enough for Paul to claim some had been severed from Christ (Gal 5:4)
  • Paul looked ahead to the fullness of God’s grace in Heaven (Ephesians 2:7)
  • Grace was the thing Paul stewarded to others (Eph 3:2)
  • Paul was made a minister of the gospel through God’s grace (Eph 3:7)
  • The power to preach the gospel came from Grace (Eph 3:8)
  • Grace is what Paul wanted to insert in others lives with his words (Eph 4:29)
  • Grace connected Paul to other believers while he was in prison (Philippians 1:7)
  • Grace is from the Lord overflowed to Paul with faith and love from Jesus (1 Tim 1:14)


Grace was everything to Paul! It consumed his whole life, but it was also what he hoped would consume others. Every single letter Paul wrote has the phrase “Grace to you…” in the introductory sentences.

“Grace to you…” Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon.

It was of first importance to every letter Paul wrote to those in his ministry. He wanted grace to go to them! Why? Because as we read in all of the examples, grace was the twin-turbo engine that powered every spiritual thing in Paul’s life.

Listen closely. You can not follow Jesus outside of the grace he supplies to follow him. You can try, but you will only experience burn out and frustration.

If Grace is this important, how do we access it?

How do you get this grace? Where do you find it? Is it something that happens or something we seek out? Do we have to work for it, pray for it, or wait for it to “fall on us?”

The long answer.

We access this Grace of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as we employ the spiritual disciplines modeled and commanded by the pages of Scripture.

That shorter answer.

We can access the power of Grace through the spiritual disciplines! Things such as prayer, Bible reading, fasting, scripture memory, generosity, service, solitude, silence, celebration, and more.

How does Grace connect to the spiritual disciplines?

What purpose do things like reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, scripture memorization, and fasting have in your life? I assume you have tried some or all of these disciplines at some point.

For some, these activities are just what Christians are supposed to do. Maybe someone told you this is how you become a “good Christian.”

Others see these things as healthy habits that will make them better people.

Still, others are searching for some mystical experience that might take place as they seek God through the spiritual disciplines.

Let’s not forget those who pursue knowledge in an academic sense; those who feel insecure that they know so little of God that they open their Bible in the same ways they open their school books.

Do you relate to any of these? There is danger in the subtlety of these pursuits. They are noble and typically praised by many. But sadly, they miss the spirit of the disciplines and keep you from accessing the power of grace that you so desperately need to follow and imitate Jesus.

Here is how the disciplines are supposed to work

The purpose of the spiritual disciplines.

Each of the spiritual disciplines opens the opportunity for the grace of God to work in your life. Here are a few examples. 

  • Reading/Studying/Meditating/Memorizing the Bible is an apparent discipline that God commands us to pursue. As we open our Bible and engage in any of these disciplines, God’s grace becomes available to us. It may be that He convicts us of sin or encourages us to be obedient in an area we have never considered, but without opening the Bible, we will not have that opportunity. We must open the scriptures for this to be possible. 
  • Prayer is a spiritual discipline. As we communicate with God, we experience grace. This grace brings us peace from the worries of the world, it brings comfort and healing as we confess sin, and it brings hope as we trust God will do more than we can imagine (Eph 3:20). These are all a product of God’s grace in your life. You only experience them as you pray. 
  • Fasting is purposely removing food from your life for a spiritual purpose. As we fast, we become desperate for God in a new way. We come face to face with our dependency on food and replace that with dependence on God. We feel the constant hunger pains and tell God this pain is nothing compared to the pain of not experiencing whatever we need God to do. We tap into the grace of God in a new way when we participate in this discipline. 

And we could go on and on with the different disciplines. We could discuss disciples such as study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. I do not share these to overwhelm you but to open your eyes to the potential of God’s grace that could be working your life. You must learn more about these disciplines and practice them to experience the abundant life God has for you as you follow Jesus. 


  • How have you viewed the spiritual disciplines wrongly in the past?
  • Have you ever consider grace as a power that can work through you? How does thinking of it this way impact your relationship with God?
  • Which of the spiritual disciplines are you most familiar with? Which are you not?
  • What is one new spiritual discipline you want to learn about and apply to your life?

Fear Not

There is a phrase in the Bible that is used 365 times. It is a phrase that, coincidentally, needs to be heard all 365 days in a year by every person that follows Jesus. The phrase is “fear not.” These words were spoken by Jesus more than any other phrase.

Why did he use these words so often? Probably because he understood the weakness of the human state.

Why do you think he used these words so often? Probably because he understood the weakness of the human state. The disciples and others around Jesus were full of fear. Some of those fears included:

  • Fear of the unknown (Matt 10:26)
  • Fear of what people will do to them for following Him (Matt 10:28)
  • Fear of not being provided for (Matt 10:31)
  • Fear of future decisions (Luke 5:10)
  • Fear of not being valued (Luke 12:7)
  • Possible fear of future career decisions (Luke 5:10)
  • Fear that Jesus wasn’t really who he said He was (John 12:15)
  • Fear of not gaining treasures of the world (John 14:27)
  • Fear of the unknown or death (Matt 14:27)
  • Fear of the angels God sent (Luke 1:13)
  • Fear of speaking to others about Jesus (Acts 18:9)
  • Fear of the mission Jesus gave them was in vain (Matt 28:10)
  • Fear of losing loved ones (Luke 8:50)

These fears and many more are connected to a word that is more commonly used today, anxiety. Anxiety connects to a spirit of fearfulness or worries about something that lies in the future.

We all have a fear that leads to anxiety in many different areas of our lives. It is a shared human quality that no one escapes. When fear rises to a high status that impairs us somehow or gets out of our control, we refer to it as a phobia. Some of the more common phobias include:

  • Claustrophobia: This is the fear of being in constricted, confined spaces.
  • Zoophobia: This is an umbrella term that involves an extreme fear of certain animals.
  • Acrophobia: This is the fear of heights.
  • Brontophobia: This is the fear of thunder and thunderstorms.

Many types of social phobias have to do with the fear people develop as they interact with other people. This can be one-on-one, small group, or large group settings, especially when someone is required to speak.

Jesus’s command to “fear not” is just as relevant today as 2000 years ago. But how do we do it? Does Jesus want us to pretend that fear does not exist? No, Jesus is well aware that we are going to be afraid of many things. Does he want us to muster up a false sense of courage with some high-energy music or a motivational speech? Not at all. Instead, in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus explains how we can do it. Let’s look at the passage.

Matthew 6:25-35 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The focus of this sermon is on the necessities of life, food, and clothes. Today our lives are filled with all sorts of anxieties over things that are far from necessary. We rarely worry about where our next meal may come from or if we will freeze over the winter seasons. But the truths we can pull from this part of Jesus’ sermon are still as valuable for our anxieties today. Let’s pull out a few.

1. You don’t have to be anxious because you are valuable to God.

Jesus is pulling illustrations from the things that are most likely in the eyesight of the listeners. When he says, “look at the birds of the air…” and “consider the lilies of the field…,” the listeners could have looked up and look over to see them both. They would see them every day as they went about their routine tasks. The characteristic of God that Jesus is highlighting is His care for what he has created. He does not the birds, which he made, go hungry. He does not let the flowers, which he created, go without clothing. If he treats the lesser things of his creation with such care and concern, how much more will he care for the pinnacle of his creation, us!

Much of our worry is rooted in a lack of trust that God values our well-being. It is easy to live as though God has more important things to do than care for our needs. But Jesus tells us just the opposite. He says, “Are you not more value than they?” The answer is a resounding YES!

The connection we must make is that if we are of greater value than the lesser things God created and cares so well for them, he must care an immense amount more about us. So the anxiety issue is not that God does not value us, so we are left on our own; instead, God values us more than any other part of his creation, and we don’t believe it.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Do you believe you are as valuable to God as Jesus says you are in this sermon? If you live a life crippled by fear, which leads to constant anxiety, the answer is no. Jesus wanted his fear-filled disciples to realize how much God cared for them because they were filled with fear when they didn’t. It is why Jesus says, “o you of little faith” at the end of verse 30. This was the disciple’s most significant issue. Therefore it is where we must begin if we wanted to break free from a fear-dominated life.

2. Seek first God’s Kingdom today, and leave the worries of tomorrow to God.

These words give us more insight to how anxiety works. Anxiety is always about the future. It is about the worry of tomorrow. We rarely, if ever, worry about something that has happened in the past. We may worry about the consequences of the past, but only because they will have repercussions in the future. There is nothing to fear when it’s over. We are gripped by anxiety before because we don’t know how troublesome or hard tomorrow will be.

Notice that Jesus is not advocating a fatalist mentality here. He does not say that God is in control, so just sit back and relax because nothing is going to change regardless of what you do. He is not saying don’t be provident or prudent because other places tell us that he who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (1 Tim 5:8). Instead, he is making a statement to our spiritual attitude towards how we think about tomorrow. Do what you have to do, but at the same time, tomorrow is in the hands of God.

When we begin to get in God’s territory by trying to control the future, we end up crippling our ability to be faithful today.

  • A father cannot engage with his family at home because his mind is filled with the anxieties of that next promotion or job change in the future.
  • A mother is short-tempered with her children because she is glued to her phone, wrapped up in how her next social media post will be accepted in the future.
  • A pastor is disengaged with a member of his church because he dreams of larger congregations or better financial opportunities in the future.
  • A college student cannot leave their dorm room because of fear of what people might think in the future of their personality.

When we worry about a future out of our control, we lose control and become anxious. But when we stop and remind ourselves that we are only responsible for being faithful with what God has put in front of us today and allowing God to take care of tomorrow, those anxieties can fade away.

How to Worry Less About Tomorrow?

Focus on the Kingdom of God

Jesus says, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” If we ever hope to rid ourselves of fear, we must shift our thinking from building our earthly kingdoms to building up the kingdom of God. So much of our fear that leads to anxiety comes from self-absorption. We want life to be a certain way that is beneficial for us, and when it doesn’t work out the way we hope, we get anxious.

Instead, we should have our eyes focused on what is above (Col 3:1). What is above? The Kingdom of God. This one shift of perspective will melt away fear and anxiety because living for God’s Kingdom never returns void; it is only when we build our kingdoms that vanity engulfs us (Psalm 127:1).

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

You have no control over what tomorrow might bring. The unpredictability of life catches off even the most diligent planners’ guard. We are all potentially moments away from unexpected circumstances. I am not advocating reckless or chaotic lifestyles. Instead, we must put our hands to the plow, accomplish what we can achieve today, and allow God to take care of how it plays out tomorrow.

If we are not careful, the worries of tomorrow (that we can’t control) will cripple our efforts to obey the clear commands that God has given us for today.

Consider How Much God Values You

It is important to remember that God is for you and if God is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31). The entire redemption story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is so that YOU could be reconciled to Him. If you are in Christ, you are his child with the freedom to approach his throne. He has given you his Holy Spirit to aid you and mold you into Christlikeness while you are here on earth, and he has prepared a place for you in his Kingdom for the day you leave.

Everything God does is for your good, whether you realize it or not. Even his discipline in your life is for your growth and overall good (Hebrews 12:11).

Cast your Anxieties Upon the Lord through Prayer

Philippians 4:6-7 says,

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God is ready to give us peace in our moments of fear, but we must ask Him for it.




From Check-Up to HEART Check

A common mistake I see many college ministers make is putting their discipleship goals ahead of their disciple’s hearts.

Now don’t get me wrong. Disciples are not made without intentional, well-prepared content, but often we place the cart in front of the horse. If we are not careful, the content can become king, and the disciple becomes a project. This is a sure-fire way to grow disciples that do not feel cared for.

What is the solution?

We must move from a “check up” mentality to a “HEART Check” approach.

Check Up Mentality

This is when your time with your disciple becomes more about them doing the right things rather than your care and concern for them. Typically these times together consist of A LOT of questions. Some of those might include:

  • How often are you meeting with God?
  • How much have you been praying?
  • How is your Bible study going?
  • How many guys/girls came last week?
  • When will you share the gospel with them?
  • What is the next step for each of them?
  • Do you have any ministry appointments coming up this week?

Now let me be crystal clear. There is a time and a place for these direct questions, a ministry team or disciple-making group, for example. I ask these exact questions to the guys I am discipling regularly. The one-on-one setting should be approached differently than a ministry team setting. We must use our one-on-on time to engage our disciple’s HEART.

HEART Check Approach

The word heart serves as both the focus of the time together and a useful acronym to guide us through this style of meeting. Each letter will serve as a reminder to guide us into the next section of our time with our disciples. Here is how it works.

The “H”

The “H” triggers you to ask HOW ARE YOU type questions. Your disciples are human, just like you. They have gone through an entire week since the last time you sat down together, most likely, filled with exhausting days, hard conversations, and missed expectations. They may have received tough news that week that has consumed their thoughts. We must open up by allowing them to share this. It is equally important that we listen well and respond with concern. Here are some potential questions to ask during the “How are you?” section of your HEART Check.

  • What has been good about this last week?
  • What has been difficult about this last week?
  • Are you enjoying your time with God in the mornings?
    • If yes. What has he been teaching you?
    • If no. Is there an obvious reason why?
  • What are you enjoying about work?
  • What did you think about the different pieces of training we did this week?
  • Who is someone you are enjoying getting to know better?

These questions are designed to open the door for honest dialogue. One goal is to ask questions in such a way that you avoid one-word answers. Rather than “how was your week?” which will inevitably lead to the answer “good.” We can bypass that question and go straight to, “what was good about your week?”

This is also a great place for feeling-type questions. Beginning a question with “how did you feel” removes any threat. There is no right or wrong. It is simply allowing them a chance to process out loud with you about everything that is going on in their lives.

The “E”

The “E” will cue you to ENCOURAGE. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” We have all personally experienced the “sweetness” of a well-thought-out encouragement by someone we respect. Our words to our disciples will either build them or break them! Using our words to build them up is a biblical command, while the other is sin. This section is not only sweet, but it is simple and short. Here is how it works.

  • Come up with 1 or 2 specific ways to encourage them. These are areas of their lives that you have noticed over the previous week that need to be brought to their attention for encouragement. Here are a few examples.
    • “I have noticed that you have been up extra early to meet with the Lord before work. That has inspired me to want to love God and his word more, and it is positively impacting our group; keep it up!”
    • “I noticed last week that our group keeps leaving dirty dishes in the sink, but you went out of your way to clean them without anyone asking. That was an amazing example of Christ to our group. I love your servant’s heart.” 

That is it. It only takes 30 seconds to sweeten the soul and bring health to the body of your disciples. It is the ghost pepper of a discipleship meeting because it is small but has a powerful and lasting effect!


The “A”

The “A” sparks you to ASK HOW YOU CAN HELP. Jesus left the right hand of God to come to earth, but Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:6-7 remind us that, although he had every right to be elevated, he made himself a servant. When we think too highly of ourselves, we will not serve others. We must use our one-on-one time to humble ourselves, set our agenda aside, and ask, “how can I help you?”

Now to avoid the common American response, “I can’t think of anything right now,” we must strengthen our servant-driven questions. Feel free to try some of these or come up with some on your own.

  • Has there been anything from this last week that has been difficult for you that I could help with? 
  • I know you got hit with a lot of new info this week; how do you feel about everything?
  • Anything I could clarify or help you think through? 
  • I know you are leading Bible study this week, would it help if I looked over it with you and helped you think through some questions? 
  • How are you feeling about sharing the gospel, would it be helpful to go over it together at some point?
  • Is anything confusing you that you have learned this week?
  • What, if anything, is stressing you out about the upcoming week? I could help you with that.

One thought you might share with me as you read through these questions is, “what if they ask me to do more than I have time for?” In the rare case that this might happen, it is good to remember that serving them doesn’t always mean you personally helping them. It may be you helping them find the help they need. For example, if they said they needed help practicing sharing the gospel. You helping them is one way to serve, but what if your week is full? Another option is to serve them by connecting them with someone else that they can practice with. You may say something like, “I would love to help you with that. For me, getting more reps helped grow my confidence; what if you shared the gospel with each person in our discipleship group this week?”


The “R”

The “R” is your bread and butter. It is the “Read the Bible” section of your time together. It can be a single verse, multiple verses, a parable, or any other area of the Bible that you want to insert into the heart of your disciple. The key is to address a specific issue or obstacle that is prohibiting maximum growth for your disciple. This can happen in one of two ways.

Situation 1: Your participant has shared an obvious problem or obstacle as you are sitting together. If they don’t have a prominent issue, this can also come from the “How are you” section or the “Ask how you can help” section. 

  • “Hey, I get that. I have struggled with similar things. What if we looked at God’s word to see what it has to say about it?” 
  • “You mentioned that you are having trouble with your attitude at work. I get that. Let’s look at God’s word and let him speak into that area of our lives.” 

Situation 2: Your participant seems to be doing fine. They are not sharing any pending problems. In this case, something preplanned is an excellent option. 

  • “Seems like things are going well for you so far. I want to share a few passages of scripture that will continue to encourage us in our walks with Jesus.” 

I realize that there are many directions this section of your one-on-one can go so I wanted to take a minutes to think through some common Q and A’s.

  • How do I prep for this time? Here is a link to a handout you can use to prepare for this section of your one-on-one.
  • How do I figure out the content for this time? Two ways. The first is to be prepared for the common issues that your disciples will inevitably run into. For example, if your disciple says, “I am just so stressed and anxious about life right now!” in the “H” section, I would make a note. Then when you come to the “R” section of your one-on-one, I would say, “Hey, you mentioned being really stressed; let’s spend some time seeing how God tells us to handle our stress and anxiety.” Then I would open the Bible to Matthew chapter 6 or Philippians 4:6-7 and read them together. The second is to prepare general content on the front end but still be ready for other issues. Be sure to refer to the handout mentioned in the previous question before doing this.
  • What if they have any issues that I don’t know any Bible verse for? Please stick to the prepared content you have already prepped, but be sure to let them know you want to talk more about what they mentioned. Then spend the next few days discovering in God’s Word great truths that your disciples need to hear. The following week use the content you have discovered as your “R” time. Obviously, if the issues are more pertinent, there is no need to wait a week to get back together.
  • How long should the “R” section be? 5-10 minutes is plenty of time. That may seem short, but remember that there is another context when spending extended amounts of time in the Bible together is appropriate. A devotion together or a ministry group meeting. A HEART check is casual. It can be done sitting down at a coffee shop, at the gym, or even on a car ride. There will be exceptions to this rule. For example, if someone shares something of extreme significance or if the conversation is highly emotional.


The “T”

The “T” is both a natural flow to this time as well as the most powerful way to end your HEART check. It stands for “Talk to God.” Once you close your Bibles, go ahead and say, “could we spend some time praying over what we just read and ask God to give us desire/strength to live out these truths?” Then you pray. Not just one of you, both of you. This would also be a great time to share prayer requests. I would recommend keeping a prayer journal just for your disciple’s prayer requests so you can be praying for them regularly and checking in on their requests each week.


Some closing thoughts…

A few things are assumed before implementing a HEART check one-on-one in your discipleship.

Assumption 1: You and your disciples have other consistent spiritual rhythms in their lives. The HEART check is designed for disciples who are in the “battle,” so to speak. This means you both are actively participating in a disciple-making group, attending a healthy church, spending regular time in God’s Word and prayer, and fleeing from sin to pursue holiness. The HEART check is a way to kick the tires of a vehicle that is in use. It will not function as a stand-alone appointment once a week in the life of a nominal or unbeliever.

Assumption 2: You are personally committed to disciple-making. The HEART check asks more from the mentor than the disciple. It will challenge you to study and memorize the Bible. It will push you to consider your disciple above yourself. It will challenge you to become a better life-on-life disciple builder.

Assumption 3: You love and believe the Bible literally. The HEART check is not a counseling or therapy session. If one spent their time listening and giving advice without inserting the truths of the scriptures, the HEART check loses its power and effectiveness. The greatest purpose of this time with your disciples is to identify lies/obstacles/burdens and insert God’s truth through reading the Bible and prayer.

Now you are ready to prepare and launch into your first HEART check one-on-one. Please leave feedback and thoughts in the “reply” section to continue to improve this resource. I would also love to hear any encouraging stories as God moves in your life and the lives of your disciples.