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Spiritual Teamwork

Religion & Spirituality Podcas

Spiritual growth through Christian Discipleship. Being a disciple of Jesus is easier when we do it together.


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Spiritual growth through Christian Discipleship. Being a disciple of Jesus is easier when we do it together.




Know Where You’re Going Before You Start

Welcome back! It’s been quite a year, and it’s been nine months since I posted a podcast. That has a lot to do with the title of this podcast and what I am doing moving forward. When I started Spiritual Teamwork in 2007, it was a coaching website, then it moved to a discipleship website, then I shut it down. Then I switched to pinnaclebalance.com. Then I switched back to spiritual teamwork. This went on for four or five years. Also, during this time I was trying to get ordained, so I took a pastorate at a church no one else wanted to prove I could do it. That lasted three months. This all went on for about five total years, then I got out of pastoring all together. And now someone else owns pinnacle balance. I didn’t have direction. I had no idea what I really wanted to be or do all because I didn’t have a focus or a purpose. I had no idea where I wanted to be or how to get there. I was a certified coach for a certain career company and I still couldn't stay focused on what I wanted. I knew all the tips and tricks, but I couldn't make it work. In the end, i started blaming everyone else, but it was just me all along. After we left the pastorate in 2014, I became deeply depressed. I knew for 15 years that I was supposed to be a pastor. I believed in my innermost depths that God had called me to be a pastor. Apparently, I was wrong. Which is okay. I gave it a shot. I followed my dream, and it didn't pan out. It didn't pan out, not because God wasn't in it. It didn't pan out because I had no purpose and no real direction. I wasn't willing to do the work because there was no plan. Why am I doing this? When you can answer this question with every ounce of honesty you can muster, I believe you will be on a road to success. The problem is most people I know don't have a why. Purpose Why Am I Doing This? Our purpose for doing something can be fairly wide ranging. Our purpose can be simple, like I want to save money, or it will make me feel better. To grand like I want to help save baby turtles in Guatamala. What our purpose does is give us a motive. The underlying why to our trip we are about to take. Having a purpose that will make us want to conquer the world will help draw people to us. When they see that our purpose drives us, they will want to take part in what we are doing. People will come alongside us and provide support and encouragement. I had no real purpose for becoming a pastor other than I believed God called me. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is a vague purpose at best. I didn't develop a purpose beyond that initial calling, so I couldn't see past any problem that came up. Not having a defined purpose was the reason I kept flip flopping back and forth between websites and the message I was trying to convey. I created problems that would have never come up if I had defined my purpose. Having a purpose keeps us focused when the cares of life creep in. Problems will always pop up, and having a purpose will keep us focused on the bigger picture so we can get through the problem. Having a purpose helps us prepare. When we have a purpose, we can set goals and make plans that give us direction for our cause. Direction We have to look at where we are going before we start. I wanted to be a pastor. That was where the center of my goal target was. The problem was that I did not know what all the steps were to become a pastor. When you use Google maps, there is a section that shows you every step from your location to your destination. That's what we need to have in our lives. If we want to achieve "X" we need to figure out what every step from where we are is to "X". Let's say one of my goals is to have a deep relationship with God. How do I get to that relationship? Do I wake up every day and say, "Hey God it's Steve, just wanted to let you know I'm here waiting for you to show up." Or can I lay out a logical plan that takes me from, hey God, it's Steve,


Surrendering to Christ

Welcome back. This week we’re going to be talking about surrender to Christ. The idea for this podcast comes from the book, Becoming a Healing Presence by Dr Albert Rossi. (Amazon Link) And chapter 6 is on Surrender. Specifically, surrender as it relates to becoming a healing presence to others, but I want to touch on surrendering to Christ with our whole lives and by doing this, we will become a healing presence to others. Surrendering to Christ. One of the most profound verses on surrender comes from St John the Baptist, “he must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30 We live in a world of increase. Everything we watch and listen to is telling us we need to obtain more. Even many of our Christian leaders are telling us that we can get more stuff if we just trust God. A pastor bought his wife a Lamborghini and gave it to her on stage to show how God will bless us if we are faithful. And St John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” We talk about surrender as Christians today in a way that belittles the early church, or the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.We talk like surrendering is something THEY did back then. We’re too sophisticated, or too intelligent. We can manage on our own. And in most things we can manage on our own. I can tie my shoes without Christ. I can drive my car without Christ. But should we? 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 says , 'Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” ' Surrender is what we are all called to do on a regular basis. It isn’t something you do at an alter once then get up and walk away saying I gave my life to Christ 30 years ago. Surrender is something we do on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis. Because of my volunteer work, I talk to alcoholics and addicts on a regular basis. If you want to talk about us as Christians not being able to surrender, ask an addict how much of their life is surrendered to drugs. Ask an alcoholic how much time he or she spends thinking about alcohol. Addicts and alcoholics are completely surrendered to their drug of choice. We as Christians have the same choice. We can surrender to Christ and let him rule our life or we can continue to give in every day to the world. God Will Let Us Go Because of free will, God will let us go on our own. God wants all of us, See Matthew 22:36ff, but he will let us go to the bitter end if we wish. God will not make us surrender to him, that has to be a choice. Dr. Rossi shares this from St Theophan the Recluse, Seek God: such is the unalterable rule for all spiritual advancement. Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but it is only given to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their own powers to the test, then cry out with all their heart: Lord, help us. So long as you hold on to even a little hope of achieving something by your own powers, the Lord does not interfere. It is as though He says: ‘You hope to succeed by yourself -very well, go on trying! But, however long you try you will achieve nothing.’ May the Lord give you a contrite spirit, a humble and a contrite heart.” Let’s go back to my friends in the half-way house. Their victory over their addictions came after they surrendered to God. They had surrendered to their addictions for so long that they had lost all hope, but a spiritual awakening through surrender to God is how they are overcoming their addictions. But when they decide to take their will back, the urges return. Dying to Self I saved a quote from Pinterest that says, Surrender is the intersection between acceptance and change. Surrender is us dying to ourselves, to our ego,


Five God Centered Goals For The New Year or Any Other Time

I know I said I wouldn’t do another podcast before 2021, but I got back from vacation and decided to do an end of the year episode about goal setting because there are thousands of year-end episodes about goal setting in the new year. So what’s one more? Well, I want this one to be different. I’m not against goal setting. I have goals. I have goals for myself; I have goals for my family, and I have goals for my writing and this podcast. We can’t see the future, and God doesn’t reveal everything to us all at once. So these types of goals will change as we grow closer to Christ. What I want to do today is encourage us to take a step back and instead of just setting goals we want to accomplish for ourselves; we set goals that bring us closer to Christ. In fact...these aren’t just goals, they can become our way of life. 1. Spend a little more time with Christ I say spend a little more time with Christ because for me, spending time with Christ seems to take a back burner when I get busy, or just find something else to do. Our growth isn’t automatic! If we genuinely want to be mature Christians, we have to spend time with Christ. So one of the things I have recently adopted is the attitude that I can do anything for two minutes. And what I’ve found is that if I do something for two minutes, I will continue longer, but you don’t have to. Another way to spend more time with Christ is to set an alarm for a couple of times a day to remind you to just say a quick prayer like, “Thy Will be done” or a simple “thank you” just to keep Christ centered in your mind. What I don’t want to encourage you to do is start an extravagant prayer rule that will take an hour or so to complete. If you want to start spending time alone with God, start small so that you will have more success and not burn yourself out trying to keep it up every day. Two minute is easy and you can do it even if you get up late. Look at it this way. If your goal is two minutes and you spend 30 minutes, you will feel great and want to continue, but if your goal is an hour and you only spend 2 minutes, then you feel like you failed and will possibly give up. One of the most beautiful lines of scripture is Psalm 42:1 'As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. ' That’s how I want my life to be, and I hope you do as well, but unless we’re called by God to do long sessions of prayer starting small will give us the momentum to grow. 2. Go to Church Regularly When we miss church, the body of Christ isn’t complete. I mentioned this in the 3rd part of the Didache series. The virus has shown people that they don’t really need to go to church. They can stream it in their living room or just skip it all together. Many times people make the mistake of thinking that we go to church to receive a blessing. That we go to church to be filled. And while those things are accomplished when we go to church, they are not the reason we go to church. We go to church to Worship God because we love him for what he has done for us. We go to church to share in the life of Christ with other believers. For the listeners who are Orthodox Christians you don’t actually go to a church service you go to Liturgy which actually translates to “The Work of The People.” Making it all the more accurate to say that we need to be there so the body of Christ is complete. Father Thomas Hopko said You go to church to work. You don’t go to church to be entertained. It’s not food for thought. It’s not rest and relaxation. It’s not a trip into some escaping world of childhood, where it’s all pretty and nice; it’s hard work: to come to church, to stand there, to pay attention, to listen, to bring it in. We can also consider going to church regularly as completing the number one goal of spending a little more time with Christ. So this Goal can be a two for one, if your keeping score. 3. Understand What You Believe


The Didache Part 3

Welcome Back today we’re going to focus on the last 6 chapters of the Didache. These last few chapters focus on Teachers, Prophets, and Apostles. While some people argue that because the author uses the term apostle, that means it was written early enough for the Twelve apostles to still be traveling sharing the gospel. I don’t necessarily agree with that thought. There were 70 Apostles in the bible see Luke 10. The church also recognizes others through history as Apostles to certain groups Like St Columba Apostle to the Scots and Sts Cyril and Methodius apostles to the Slavs. What I think the author is teaching is to test those who call themselves apostles by giving these guidelines. Heresies Were Prevalent Through History The first thing the author says in this section is that if someone comes and teaches you everything layed out in this teaching, then let them stay with you. If they try to teach something else don’t listen to them. Heresies were already creeping into the church as the bible was being written in the first century. We see Paul and John both tackling heresies in their writings. So it’s not going to change by the time the Didache was written. Or even today. Heresies are still prevalent in the church today. We have to be aware of what scripture says, and what the church has taught through the centuries, so we are not led away from Christ’s teachings. Remember, every heresy starts with a grain of truth. For instance, there is a group who calls themselves Trinitarian Christians who baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and The Holy Spirit. But they don’t believe the Holy Spirit is anything more than a messenger for God. Not an active person of the Trinity. That is a very subtle heresy most people will never see. It’s a subtle misstep most people won’t notice. Unlike more prevalent heresies, like not believing Jesus is God or that We can become equal to God that most people can spot a mile away. Heresies are also why the church gave us the Nicene Creed 200 years after they wrote the Didache. It is a short, memorable statement that lays out most of the teachings of the church. Having teachers who teach us the truth is a blessing. According to the author, we should lift these people up in prayer and give them honor. True Apostles And Prophets Now, if an apostle or prophet comes, we receive them like we would the Lord. They can only stay one day and we can only give them enough bread to make it to the next stop. This seemed extreme to me, but as I looked at the reasoning, it really isn’t. This teaching goes back to the teaching in Luke 10 when the Lord sent out the 70 Apostles. He told them to only take their clothes and a walking stick. They were to travel from town to town sharing the Gospel They were to rely on God to provide for their needs. So the author of the Didache followed that teaching when he was giving guidance on what to look for in an Apostle or a prophet. The author tells us how to judge a prophet. They won’t call for the Eucharist while speaking in the Spirit and then receive it. They won’t ask for money while in the spirit. A prophet will act like the Lord, so that is how to tell them from false prophets. We should support any prophet who decides to live among us because they are our high priests. This goes back to Paul's teaching to Timothy 'Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.” 1 Timothy 5:17-19 Support Your Pastors and Priests I’ve been told many times that pastors and priests should work outside the church and not make money from the church. I get it; I talk about working at the church as not having a real job. But the teaching is very clear from the bible and documents like the Didache from the early church that pastors, priests,


The Didache Part 2

Welcome Back! We’re continuing our overview look at the Didache. Last week we talked about the first 6 Chapters of the Didache which are an early church catechism. This week we are going to look at the second part, which is directions on how to do church stuff like fasting, prayer and the Eucharist. Next week well get into the later chapters that deal with itinerant prophets and pastors. This makes up chapters 7 - 16. While this may sound like a lot, the Didache is only 20 pages total, but each thought is laid out in the translation as a chapter which isn’t found in the original text but makes it easier to find subjects or heading like the translations of the bible. Again, I’m not going to go line by line, but there is a lot of good stuff in here. I just want to hit some highlights of each section and try to relay how we can use the Didache today. Let’s Get To It! Chapter 7 is on Baptism After the person had been taught everything in the first six chapters, they are ready to be baptized. That is another point we fall short on today. We either rush people to get baptized out of fear of eternal damnation, or teach them the history of our church and basic beliefs. The teaching in the Didache was a requirement. The early church wanted to make sure people understood what they expected of them before they were baptized. I don’t even qualify to be baptized by their standards. They weren't interested in numbers. They were interested in the truth of the gospel and making sure the community would last. If Jimmy got baptized, he stood a good chance of being killed, or at least ostracized by his family and friends. I also love this section on baptism because it starts out with a strict, ”Baptize in cold running water,” then goes to you can use lukewarm water and if you don’t have running water pour it over their head. Finally, just use what you have because how you baptize isn’t as important as why. Make sure they know the gospel and then baptize them. Chapter 8 fasting and prayer While fasting is prescribed still by the Orthodox and Catholic churches, most protestant churches don’t have set guidelines for fasting and some church bodies reject it completely. The writer of the Didache presumes people in the church fasted and gives the guideline of fasting on Wednesday and Friday instead of Tuesday and Thursday like the Pharisees. The author gives no other restrictions and I assume this is because anyone who read the document would know how to fast because they did it regularly. What he does do is give some direction on praying. He says we should pray the Lord’s prayer three times each day. This could be the first establishment of what the church calls today, praying the daily cycle, or the hours, or the watches. All of which are a set time throughout the day. Some churches have set prayers for the daily cycle, and the Lord’s Prayer is included in these set prayers. Chapters 9 and 10 The Eucharist The Eucharist is only for those baptized into the church. Orthodox and Catholic churches still follow this practice and maybe some protestants, but today just about anyone can show up to most protestant churches and receive communion. As a former protestant we did this, I think for two reasons. First, communion is not looked at as the Real Body and Blood of Christ. It is a symbol of what Christ did for us, and it is done in remembrance of his death on the cross. This remembrance view opens up to the second reason, which is inclusion. Today most people in America believe they are Christians and when they go to church, they take communion if it is offered. We didn’t want to turn people away because there may be an opportunity for evangelism if they weren’t actually members of the church. Again, these are my two thoughts on this. There may be many others so leave me a note in the comments or go to the Spiritual Teamwork website and leave them there. Orthodox and Catholic churches practice closed commu...


The Didache Part 1

Welcome Back! It’s been a couple of weeks, but I wanted to do this podcast when the rewrite of the Didache in Modern English hits Amazon, which it has. So, if you don’t know what the Didache is or you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a little recap. So what is the Didache? The Didache is an early church document, also referred to as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It is thought to have been written in the early to mid-second century. However, with the title The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, some feel it may be an even earlier work and some church fathers thought it should be included in the biblical canon, so it held a lot of weight in the early church. I was surprised when our men’s lunch group read it last summer that most copies are just reprints of 19th century books and not modern texts. I want to make sure everyone understands, I'm not translating from the original Greek, I have three public domain copies from the 19th century I am using to come up with a modern take on the document. It was mentioned by several early church fathers in their writings, but no copy of it had been found until a Greek Bishop named Philotheos Bryennios found it in a stack of other 11th century copies of early church documents in a monastery in Constantinople (Yes that’s still what the Orthodox Church calls Istanbul) in 1883. The finding of the Didache is the completion of a circle for some scholars. It’s not on a level with the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the Gnostic Gospels found in Egypt, but it's a document that scholars knew was out there, but no one had found a copy. The funny thing is that two teams of scholars passed this copy over a few years before Bishop Bryennios found and published it. Why Does it matter to us today? The Didache is important to us because it gives us a glimpse into the early church. One of the biggest takeaways I have from the Didache is that it was written to a group of people who were living a life separate from the world. It wasn’t written to a country or a state or a city. It was written to a group of people who were separated from the world. The Roman world was a harsh and unforgiving place for Christians, and the Didache was written to teach them how to live lives separate from that world. Today we live for the world and go to church. These people lived in the church and participated in the world, but knew the world was not for them. They didn’t try to change the world; they let Christ change them. This is a lesson I think the church of today could learn from. Here is a short overview of the first five chapters, which are an early catechism of the church There Are Two Ways! The First Part of the Didache starts with the teaching of the two ways, one of life and the other of death. And there is a great difference in the two. “This is the way of life: First Love the Lord your God who made you, second Love your neighbor as yourself, third do nothing to anyone else that you wouldn’t like to happen to you. To keep these teachings, bless people who talk bad about you, pray for your enemies, and fast for people who persecute you. What credit is it to you if you only love people who love you? Sinners can do that.” This first part is very familiar to most people who have been in church for any length of time. The Great commandment and the Golden Rule. It’s not twelve ways to be a better Christian or 45 days to a more Godly life. It’s love God, Love your neighbor, and pray for your enemies. Isn’t it amazing that 20 centuries later this is still the hardest teaching we as Christians have? We can’t figure these three things out and our best writers and scholars think we are going to spend 30 days doing something or 10 lessons to get something and we can’t Love God and everyone else. But that’s the way it is with the Didache. Do the things that draw you toward God and don’t do the things that draw you away. Jesus says, if your hand causes you to sin,


St Moses The Black and My Faith Journey

Welcome back! This episode is a little different because I am sharing a little of my faith journey and tie it in with the story of St Moses the Black, whose name I took when I was Chrismated into the Orthodox church. I first shared this at St John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, Florida. I have changed it up a bit because there are things I wanted to share that I wasn’t able to the first time. So here’s some background... When individuals convert to orthodoxy they take on the name of a saint. This is usually someone they admire or with my children they just take the name of the Saint I gave them when they were born. When our family converted to Orthodoxy, I chose St Moses the Black because he was someone who I could identify with, but he was also someone I could look to in my walk of faith. Lifestyle of a Saint St Moses started out his life as a slave but was banished by his master because he, according to some accounts, murdered a man. Whether or not he did St Moses was an all around bad guy so his master didn’t want him around. Soon after being banished, he became the leader of his own band of marauders. What else could he do? St Moses lived a life of excess whether eating, drinking or stealing. It is said that no man could stand up to him because of his strength. Once he was interrupted as he was trying to steal from a farm so he waited until night, swam the river to kill the farmer who had hid from him again so he stole two of his sheep and swam back across the river to kill and roast them for dinner. The church I grew up in only baptized people when they accepted Christ into their lives, and this is known as Believers Baptism. They baptized me at 13 years old. I don’t remember what was said or what prompted me to go forward. I knew at that age I was filled with a blackness that needed to be cleansed. That’s where my connection to Abba Moses starts. Because when Abba Moses was ordained to the priesthood, someone commented that “now Abba Moses has become as white as snow.” And Abba Moses retorted, “all but in his heart.” I understood at 13 years old exactly how he felt. Even as a child I knew God couldn’t forgive me because of the blackness in my heart. All I remember hearing when I went to church was that God was angry with me for my sin. That I could do no right. I don’t even know that was what was said, I just know that is what I heard. Jesus was an insurance card to keep me out of hell, not someone I could have a relationship with or someone I could live like. I was a Christian in name only and believe it or not I was arrested within a year for breaking and entering. Church wasn't where I could fit in, but the guys I was arrested with they knew me. We were close. Except for when they would steal my stuff, but that’s the price you pay to have friends. I left the church at age 16 because those same friends didn’t go to church, so why would I. I walked out of church one Sunday and my best friend asked me why I went there because I cursed and smoked and did drugs, and he was right. Church was for people who were good, not people like me. Church was guilt driven and shame based, and I didn’t want to feel guilty or ashamed. My friends didn’t judge me, they encouraged me. I stayed away from church for the next 10 years. I became an agnostic, which means I assumed there could be a God, I just didn’t want him in my life. But, in my heart, I knew I needed God, but I wasn’t willing to accept him. One story says that St Moses would talk to the God he didn’t know and ask him to show himself to him. God has a funny way of getting through to people. After 10 years I had a conversion experience ironically enough, my conversion came at a local county fair. I had a booth selling air purifiers, and across from my booth was a baptist minister selling burial plots now if you don’t think that irony. The Saturday night before the fair closed he asked me if he could buy...


The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Welcome back, this week we’re going to look at one of the misunderstood miracles that Jesus performed and how the early church fathers saw this miracle, and what we can learn from it. I originally talked about the miracle of the fig tree in April of 2019 at St John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville FL but I’ve had time to rethink it and expand on it a little. I also want to say that most of my study on these verses come from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. (Affiliate Link) If you love the early church Fathers this is a great commentary to have. The Parable of the Fig Tree 18 On his way back to the city early next morning, Jesus was hungry. 19 He saw a fig tree by the side of the road and went to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. So he said to the tree, “You will never again bear fruit!” At once the fig tree dried up. 20 The disciples saw this and were astounded. “How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?” they asked. St Augustine said, Isn’t there something absurd about Jesus literally cursing a tree for not bearing fruit out of season? Everything in Scripture is to be understood either in its literal sense, in its figurative sense, or in some combination of these. St John Chrysostom said, When such things are done, whether to places, plants or animals, we do better not to be overly curious about the divine will. Do not inquire too far into whether it was just that the fig tree withered, or you will lose perspective. This sort of question is trifling. So what Augustine says is this has to be understood in a way that makes sense and Chrysostom is saying the tree isn’t the point. Today the Kids would call the fig tree a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is a device or object that serves to trigger the plot, in this case, a discussion about faith and the word MacGuffin was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a great word that you can impress your friends with the next time you go to the movies. Don’t get caught up in what he does to the tree, get caught up in what Jesus says next. 21 Jesus answered, “I assure you that if you believe and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I have done to this fig tree. And not only this, but you will even be able to say to this hill, ‘Get up and throw yourself in the sea,’ and it will. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Jesus uses the fig tree to get the conversation started. The disciples ask how this is possible. And Jesus looks at them and tells them about faith. This isn’t the first time Jesus has said this to the disciples. He told them earlier and we can read it in Matthew 17:20 that is they have the faith the size of a mustard seed they can toss the hill into the ocean. (Chrysostom) He repeated this Lesson to enable them to cleave to prayer and faith. For you shall not only do this, but you shall also remove mountains; and many more things you shall do, being confident in faith and prayer. Jesus repeated this lesson because he wanted them and us to get it. He wanted them and wants us to understand that our faith is the key to everything, and through faith we produce fruit. Our Greatest Example Mary gives us our greatest example. One ordinary girl’s yes changed the course of human history. We don’t sing “Greater in honor than the cherubim and beyond compare and more glorious than the seraphim.” because she exhibited a little faith. As Fr. Stavros Akrotirianiakis says, in his book, The Road Back to Christ, “Her “YES” was a yes to the greatest task ever given a human being—the responsibility of bearing God’s own Son.” The excuse I always give is that I’m not Mary or Paul or one of the Heroes we have throughout Church history. But they were all just ordinary people. Father Stavros says again, In order for God’s miracles to take place, they have involved ordinary people demonstrating extraordinary faith The Flip Side to Faith But,


Being a Disciple Part 3 – Discipling Others

Welcome back! This week we’re going to talk about letting God use us to make disciples. This episode was actually going to be a stand-alone episode on discipling others, but I realized that part of being a disciple, which is what the last two episodes were about, is letting God use us to make disciples. Jesus says that part of our being disciples is to make more disciples. This is called the Great Commission; it is found in Matthew chapter 28 verses 18-20 and is usually paired with the great commandment we talked about in the episodes on the Law of Love. 'And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.' One of the biggest misconceptions of this verse is that only people who are missionaries can do this. You Don’t Have To Be A Missionary When Christ says, “Go to all nations” he doesn’t mean the only way to make disciples is to go to other lands. 99.99% of all Christians in the early church, and since then I assume, never went anywhere but their hometown and the church multiplied. Yes, some people will go and start churches in other lands, but most will be witnesses in their own city, town, or even on their own block. If we all went somewhere else, no one would be here. So please don’t think you have to be a missionary to make disciples. Sometimes it’s easier to go and make disciples than it is to be a disciple. What we teach most of the time is our personal opinion or the tenants of our theology. While neither one of these is bad, neither of them has the power to change like a relationship with Christ does. Whether we go abroad or stay at home, when we begin to make disciples, we shouldn’t rely on our own knowledge and abilities. As with all parts of our lives, we rely on the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that when we go out to make disciples he is with us always and forever. If we try to do it in our own power, we end up like the Pharisees and make children of hell (Matthew 23:15) because we are teaching them to follow us or a certain dogma and not Christ. Disciples Want To Make Disciples I talked about this in the last two episodes so I’ll just touch on it again. If we are not being disciples, we can’t expect Christ to use us in making more disciples. We can’t give away something we don’t have. Start with the basics, read the bible, and pray every day. We have to start where we are. Don’t start with 2 hours of bible reading and prayer because that will last about two days. Start where you are and grow from there. You may want to start learning about other spiritual disciplines. There are several great books you can find on spiritual disciplines. My three favorites are The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. The best, in my opinion, is Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. (Affiliate Links) When God is working in our lives through the Holy Spirit we will have a desire to walk the road of spiritual formation with other people. I used to get frustrated at pastors who would expect everyone to be out saving the lost. They would say that you “MUST witness for Christ” or you “SHOULD share the gospel with everyone you meet.” It doesn’t work that way. We can’t give away something we don’t have I heard a pastor tell a story about leaving a church service and going out to witness to a person on December 31st because he had set a goal to witness to 301 people that year. He had only witnessed to 300 people and he had to reach his goal so he could be an example to his church. We don’t have to force the process. As we begin to grow in God, people will see the change in us.


Being a Disciple of Jesus – Part 2

Welcome back! Last week we talked about being a disciple and I tried to make the case for being a disciple. I went through some of the things the bible tells us it takes to be a disciple like time, commitment, and self-denial. We talked about it being hard and not being something every Christian will choose to do. This week I want to go through some practical steps we can take to get us started on our journey. The one thing I have heard said by several different people is, the longer you are on this journey, the more you realize you are just beginning. Paul talks about our part as disciples a lot, but a couple of the more noticeable places are Philippians 2 'Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ' And 1 Corinthians 9 'Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.' St John Chrysostom says it’s not enough to just show up and run. We have to train to box in a match or run in a race. We have to train to be the men and women we are called to be. He tells us to train our bodies so that when temptations arise we don’t give into them. Paul talks about those temptations in almost every letter he writes. Paul also makes it clear that it is not because of what we want to do that we become disciples. It is always God working in us that brings us back to him. Here are some practical steps we can take to be disciples. Have A Guide Just like we see Paul being a guide for those who were trying to be disciples in the churches he started, we need to have a spiritual guide who can speak into our lives. In the Orthodox church, we are well aware that we do not just become spiritual apart from the leadership of a spiritual parent. Our church teaches that we need a guide for the spiritual journey. This starts with our Father Confessor. Our priest knows us and knows our needs so he is our first guide. As we get started having someone to encourage us, who has been where we want to go, will help us stay on track when we start to get bored or lose focus. While our priest is the first person to hold our hand as we grow, God puts other people in our lives who can walk with us as well. Most of the people I rely on for spiritual guidance aren’t ordained. They are men and women who have been or are where I want to be spiritually. In order to be disciples, we have to be willing to listen to the people around us. If we can’t listen to the people we can see, how can we listen to God whom we can’t see? For me, having a person in my life who genuinely cared for my spiritual growth was a game-changer in my growth. I talked last week about the fits and starts my spiritual life had gone through over the last twenty years. Finally getting someone in my life who will walk me through the ups and downs of the spiritual life, someone to show me what I needed to do to take the next step got me out of just reading books and into the application of the spiritual life. Have a Prayer Life St. Nikon of Optina said, “Do not forget prayer─it is the life of the soul.” Having a prayer rule will help us to not forget prayer. It’s not really a rule but a practice to help us stay on track. This is also something you should work on with your priest or pastor. I don’t know about you, but I am prone to get overextended and try to do an hour of prayer when I haven’t had a prayer life. Instead of being ourselves and learning to walk before we run...


Being A Disciple

Welcome back! This week we’re talking about being a disciple which is the basis for this podcast so I probably should have done this podcast earlier, but I didn’t, so let’s get started. I view discipleship in two ways. Personal discipleship or being a disciple of Jesus and discipling others or group discipleship. Being a disciple is us imitating Mary in John 14? We are sitting at the feet of Jesus and we are learning what it means to love him and let him be part of our lives. Group discipleship is when we are learning with others in what Gregg Ogden calls a micro group of no more than four people. Our example for the group style is Peter, James, and John again with Jesus. Jesus set these guys apart and they in turn lead the others. Being a Disciple Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Affiliate Link) That was written by Richard Foster in 1978. I read that paragraph for the first time 20 years ago when I was leading a monthly men’s book study. That paragraph started me down a road of fumbling and stumbling, fits and starts, and everything in between. I wanted to be a deep person. I can honestly say I have yet to become a deep person, but I have become a changed person. Being a Disciple Takes Time Personal Discipleship is the choice we make as Christians to grow in our relationship with God. Let’s face it, we can’t love God with all our heart, soul, and mind if we’re not spending time getting to know him. When we meet someone we like and want to get to know, we will go to any length to know them better. I have friends I make time to be with, every month because I want to know them deeper, not just as acquaintances. In Luke 10 we read the story of Mary and Martha. Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear his teaching. Martha chose to prepare the food and exhibit hospitality to their guests. I don’t think Martha was any less a follower of Christ than Mary. Mary made a very specific choice to devote herself to be as close to Christ as she could and learn directly from him at that moment. We see this happen again when Jesus returns to their home after he raises Lazarus from the dead. John 12 says that Mary anointed his feet with oil and dried them with her hair as Martha again serves the meal. Martha is not doing anything wrong, Mary is CHOOSING the better according to Jesus. I get it. Someone has to serve the meals. Someone has to go to work every day and make enough money to support a family. Nothing is wrong with working and making money. I think the reason I have to qualify this so hard is that we have lost all sense of what being a disciple really is. Giving up a little of our free time each day to just sit and share life with God through the Holy Spirit isn’t asking a lot. I think it is what I am about to say next that people find hard to hear. Being a Disciple Takes Self-Denial In a 2011 article titled, Self-Described Christians Dominate America but Wrestle with Four Aspects of Spiritual Depth the Barna Group stated this ... most churches encourage people to engage in an increasing amount of religious activity, asking them to pour themselves into efforts related to the “core six” spiritual dimensions: worship, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, service, and community. While growth in those areas is important, Barna expressed two related concerns. The first was that people often fail to realize that the end game of spiritual development is godly character, not worldly accomplishments. God does not need His followers to achieve things on His behalf in order for them to become more acceptable or valuable to Him. The research also indicated that sometimes people get so wrapped up in finishing church programs or producing specific religious resul...


The Law of Love – Loving Others

This week is the second part of The Law of love. This week we’re going to be talking about loving others and with what’s going on around the country and the emotions we’re starting to deal with, loving others is one of the farthest things from some people's minds. So let’s see how we as Christians are supposed to respond to those around us. ' Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ' Here’s the deal. The world wants us separated. I say the world but what I mean is Satan, the enemy, the deceiver, whatever you want to call him. I use the term “The World” because the world is what Jesus says we don’t belong to (John 15:19) and if we focus on it we lose sight of Him (Matthew 13:22). The world, through the media, politicians, and other leaders separates us. First by race, and it chops us up into little pieces; Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native Ameican, European American, African American. Then it separates us by income; high, middle, and low. Next comes region; north, south, northeast, midwest, California, Florida. Then by sexual orientation Gay, Straight, LGBTQ, Lesbian, Asexual. Then by religion; Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai, Fundamentalist, Social Gospel. Finally by political party Republican or Democrat but mainly conservative or liberal, because everyone has to be one or the other in order to separate us. Every time we are separated from the people around us, we lose a little bit of ourselves. Because of the walls we put up between us and the people we live near, most Christians are more willing to go serve in another country than they are to serve the people in their neighborhood. Separation creates fear, and where there is fear, there is no love. Paul says in Philippians 4, 'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ' How are we doing with that Peace that passes all understanding? If we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we can’t live in fear. One of the old cliches is that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. The only way to get over our fear is to let God in to change us, and for us to move out into the world around us. Where do we start? Prayer The first place is to start by letting God love us so we can love ourselves, then love others. I talked about this last week so if you haven’t heard that episode you may want to listen to it too. Anything that does not begin with prayer is probably not going to bear much fruit. We have to be willing to let God lead us and change us in order to get to an attitude of love. Each of the four groups I give below should be prayed over regularly in order to let God work. We can’t make ourselves do anything. The harder we try to be something the farther away from it we get. We can’t just will ourselves to love, we have to let God love through us. Love Other Christians 1st John 4 directly addresses this, 'Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. ' As Christians, we are supposed to love other Christians. By doing this it shows God’s love and helps His love to be perfected in us. This isn’t talking about anyone outside the church. This is talking only about Christians.


The Law of Love – Love Yourself

Learning to love yourself can be hard, but we can love ourselves because God loved us first. I need this just as much as anyone else and I hope you find it helpful. So what is the Law of Love? You probably know it better as the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10 but originally found in the Book of Deuteronomy ' Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ' I use this verse a lot because, as I said in the beginning, I am trying to learn this myself. But, I want to take a different view at first because I think one of the most important parts is the, “Love your neighbor as YOURSELF.” I bet I’ve heard 20 sermons on this verse and only one I can remember on loving ourselves. That is mainly because most Christians don’t believe it. They come up with some self-deprecating quasi humble, “I’m not worthy” and that’s not what the bible says. Yes, we are supposed to have a proper sense of self but, the implication is obvious, if we don’t love ourselves we can’t love our neighbor. As Christians, we want to talk about ourselves like we’re dirt or worms or worm-dirt or worse but that is not how God sees us. And while we are sinners, God made us and he made us a little lower than Himself (Psalm 8:5) ' You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honor. ' (CEV) It's Okay To Love Yourself God didn’t create you not to love yourself. We get those feelings of inadequacy from years of telling ourselves we’re bad (Which is what I did) or other people telling us we’re bad. When you are Chrismated into the Orthodox Church you get a new name. Just like Saul who became Paul after his conversion. I took the name of St. Moses the Black because he was the badest dude I could find. But deep down, I also knew that if God could heal a thief and scoundrel like Abba Moses, he could heal me. This was born of my low self-esteem. The Book That Helped Me See In his book, Healing for Damaged Emotions, (Affiliate Link) David Seamands gives four things that low self-esteem can cause. Low self-esteem paralyzes your potential - He says God grieves over this and very few people overcome this haunting self-doubt. It seems to settle in like a great fog. He references the story of the talents in Matthew 25 and how the servant with one talent was paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy so bad he couldn’t decide what to do, so he just buried it. Low self-esteem destroys your dreams - In the prophecy of Joel 2:28 he says, ' Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams.' Seamands says the Holy Spirit helps dream the dreams God has for us but our feeling of unworthiness snatch them away. Low self-esteem ruins your relationships - Think about your relationship with God. Seamands says that if you feel inferior you will think God must not love or care for you. After all, He made you so he must have made you this way. This will also lead to our relationships with others. If we don’t like ourselves then we can’t like others. He says this, “If you have low self-esteem, you ask another human being to do for you what no other person can do--to make you feel adequate and able--when you are already convinced that you are inadequate and unable.” If you don't learn to love yourself, you won't let anyone else love you. Low self-esteem sabotages your Christian Service - What’s the first thing people say when you ask them to serve in the church, “I can’t….insert excuse here” If you’ve ever worked in church ministry you know this is true. Seamands says that our low self-esteem robs God of a “Mar...


Where Is God When I Pray

Last week we talked about Making time for God and how we could set aside more time throughout our day to pray and open ourselves to God. But what happens when God APPEARS to not show up? When I was doing the Introduction for the podcast I talked about knowing what it’s like to feel like you’re praying in a vault and asking, "Where is God". When you not only fell shut off from God but you’re shut off from the world. I can say this was the absolute lowest point in my life because I wasn’t praying. I knew God wasn’t listening and I stayed there for a couple of years. This week we are back in the book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link), by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. In the first chapter, he helps us see why sometimes it appears as though God is not present. Prayer Is A Relationship The first thing Metropolitan Anthony reminds us is that prayer first and foremost is a relationship that is deep and can’t be forced. Either on us or on God. If you have met someone you like and want to establish a relationship with them you make plans to get together, to get to know each other better. The same is true with God. If we really want a relationship, we will spend time with Him. And, like a relationship with a friend, there will be times we show up both physically and mentally and times we don’t. We may be there physically, but mentally we are just going through the motions. If we have to work at connecting to people we can see, how much harder do we think it will be connecting to a God who lives in us, but we can’t see. But, just like building a friendship, we don’t give up at the first sign of struggle. We don’t just expect it to happen, we make time to cultivate and grow the relationship. However, if we don’t “feel” like we connect with God on a regular basis we may give up on Him in a heartbeat. Let’s face it, if we are really honest about our relationship with God, He has a lot more to complain about us than we can complain about Him. Prayer Is A Moment of Judgement Metropolitan Anthony says that meeting with God is always a moment of Judgement for us. Not in an eternal sense but a personal sense. Think about the Israelites when God wanted to show Himself to them, 'When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen, but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” ' God knows everything about us and there may be times when we don’t want Him to show up because of unaddressed sin in our lives that we think we can hide from Him. We can’t fool God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants to give us a chance to search ourselves and repent before He shows himself fully to us. As an Orthodox Christian, I attend confession with my priest, on a semi-regular basis. I also have two accountability partners who I can trust and can be open and honest with. Unlike most people believe, confession isn’t about punishment, it’s about drawing us back to God. The priest doesn’t forgive us, God does, but God knows that when we share our burdens they become lighter. In the book of James, we read, 'The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. ' I know a lot of people both in and out of Orthodoxy who say they don’t need to confess to anyone else, they can confess to God and he forgives them. That is absolutely true. The thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that I can lie to myself. I can always justify my behavior. But, when I am talking to someone else about my behavior they can help me carry it just a little. If we are truly honest with another person it cleanses us and ...


Making Time For God

We can all make time for God if we waste a little less. Steve uses the book Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom for hints at ways to make time for God. Transcript This week we’re going to talk about making time for God and this is inspired by the fourth chapter of the book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link) by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. When I was a kid television stations actually went off the air at midnight or one am. Even some of the 12 cable channels we had; went off the air for a few hours each night. But, today I think every station has something on 24 hours a day. We live in a world that never stops. I think that’s why Time management is a big deal today. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on time management From apps on our phones to the standard paper planner, (I use the bullet journal method) to classes costing thousands of dollars. Time management is a big business. The reality is that we can not make time. We only have what we have and once it is gone we can’t get it back. Instead of managing our time what Metropolitan Anthony asks us to do is waste a little less. He says if we waste a little less, we will always have more and we can use those once wasted pieces to draw closer to God. He also says, there is no way to grow our inner life in a hurry. Our relationship with God only comes from slowing down and making use of the time we are given. We can’t hurry enough to make more time. This is about taking time out of our busy schedule to be present with God. Ephesians 5:15-17 says Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Making the most of my time is where I like to make excuses. I don’t have time, I’m to busy, I’ll do it later. But I watch my wife, who is actually busy and realize I’m just making excuses. She works and takes college classes but makes time every morning for prayer, bible study, and journaling. She helps me see that if I really want a relationship with God, I can make the time. Think of spending time with God as our food or air. We wouldn’t refuse food or air if it were offered to us after a long absence so neither should we refuse to spend time with God if we honestly want to seek Him. Just like food and air, once we have spent time with God, we won’t want to do without it again. What can we do to Make Time for God? Have a Prayer Rule One of the best ways is the use of a prayer rule. A prayer rule helps us focus and stay on track with our prayers every day. It gives us a guided way to approach God instead of just showing up and trying to figure out what were going to do. It frees us to give in and just be present. I’ll do a whole episode on developing a prayer rule later but a short prayer rule would include when, where, how long, and what to pray for. In Orthodoxy, we have a set of daily prayers we should start with but the list is absolutely endless with prayer options. Practice Short Prayers Another way we can spend more time with God is by carving out short blocks of time during the day. Metropolitan Anthony says we can start with any amount of time we can get and just begin to sit quietly in God’s presence letting go of the “Cares of the world” and just being present with God. Since our minds are so cluttered with work, family, and life in general being silent for five minutes may seem like an hour. So being quiet for a couple of minutes at first is a great accomplishment. If sitting quietly isn’t your thing then try saying the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. As you breathe in, say, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God” and as you breathe out say, “Have mercy on me a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer has been practiced for centuries by everyone from monks to generals and everyone in between.


Introduction to Spiritual Teamwork

This episode is an introduction to Spiritual Teamwork and the host Steve Crenshaw. Introduction Transcripts You can go to About Steve or About Spiritual Teamwork to read the transcript of the podcast. If you would like to learn about my Christian Journey, you can see a talk I did at St John The Divine Greek Orthodox Church on YouTube, Heroes of the Faith--Abba Moses the Ethiopian


Trailer For Spiritual Teamwork

Short introduction trailer for Spiritual Teamwork


Spiritual Teamwork Promo 1

This is the first promo spot for the Spiritual Teamwork podcast Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward.Soren Kierkegaard First Episode Releases June 3rd