by Dietrich Bonhoeffer · Touchstone · Paperback · 320 pages · ISBN 0684815001
by Neil T. Anderson · Baker Publishing Group · Paperback · 256 pages · ISBN 0764213768
by Neil T. Anderson · Harvest House Publishers · Paperback · 298 pages · ISBN 0736918140
by Bill Hull, Dallas Willard · Baker Publishing Group · Paperback · 224 pages · ISBN 0801064708
by Francis Chan · David C Cook · Paperback · 333 pages · ISBN 0781408237
by David Platt · Tyndale House Publishers · Paperback · 245 pages · ISBN 1414373287
* The ideas on this Spiritual Disciplines List have been greatly influenced by Dallas Willard, especially his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines. He discusses the all-important vision and motivation behind the disciplines for the spiritual life in Christ, as well as teaching on individual practices.
(The following is provided by Bill Hull Ministries)
Choose The Life exists to assist the motivated disciple in entering into a more profound way of thinking and living. That way is the pattern of life Jesus modeled and then called every interested person to follow. It is a life grounded in humility—characterized by submission, obedience, suffering, and the joys of exaltation. It is the life that transforms its adherents and penetrates the strongest resistance. Bill Hull’s book, Choose The Life: Exploring a Faith that Embraces Discipleship challenges traditional thinking about what it means to be a Christian—it rebuilds the Gospel from the disciple up. It asks what is wrong with the Gospel taught in contemporary Western Culture and then suggests some changes in the way it is communicated by the Church. It then calls upon each person to rethink what it means to be follower of Jesus. A Disciple’s Guide to Choose The Lifeby Bill Hull and Paul Mascarella is designed to lead disciples in a ten week course through Choose the life. However, it is more than simply a reading guide. It presents the ideas in Choose The Life so as to provoke a disciple’s thinking towards the application of these truths, which produces in him a faith hospitable to healthy spiritual growth— a faith that embraces discipleship.
► Its Purpose
Choose The Life exists to assist the motivated disciple in entering into a more profound way of thinking and living. That way is the pattern of life Jesus modeled and then called every interested person to follow. It is a life grounded in humility—characterized by submission, obedience, suffering, and the joys of exaltation. It is the life that transforms its adherents and penetrates the strongest resistance.
Bill Hull’s book, Choose The Life: Exploring a Faith that Embraces Discipleship challenges traditional thinking about what it means to be a Christian—it rebuilds the Gospel from the disciple up. It asks what is wrong with the Gospel taught in contemporary Western Culture and then suggests some changes in the way it is communicated by the Church. It then calls upon each person to rethink what it means to be follower of Jesus.
A Disciple’s Guide to Choose The Lifeby Bill Hull and Paul Mascarella is designed to lead disciples in a ten week course through Choose the life. However, it is more than simply a reading guide. It presents the ideas in Choose The Life so as to provoke a disciple’s thinking towards the application of these truths, which produces in him a faith hospitable to healthy spiritual growth— a faith that embraces discipleship.
Virtually all significant change can, should be, and eventually is, tested in relationship to others. To say that one is more loving without it being verified in relation to others is hollow. Not only do others need to be involved to test one’s progress, they are needed to encourage and help one in the journey of transformation. Therefore, going on the journey with others is absolutely necessary.
The Disciple’s Guide is designed to lead each disciple in a personal journey of spiritual formation by his participation within a “Community” of disciples, who have likewise decided to choose the life.
The “Community” is composed of (optimally) from two to six disciples being lead through this ten week exploration of Choose The Life.
Participants in the community will have agreed to make time and perform the daily assignments as directed by the Disciple’s Guide . They have agreed to pray daily for the other members of their community and to keep whatever is shared at their “Community Meeting” in complete confidence (unless express permission to disclose a specific matter, is given by all involved). They will attend and fully participate in each weekly “Community Meeting.”
Change is a process. Events can change people but most often transformation is a process that takes time. Most studies on change agree that acquiring and establishing the permanence of a new idea or habit of thinking requires about three months of daily practice. This would be the minimum time required—the ten weeks to finish the Disciple’s Guide provides a solid opportunity for significant transformation.
The process employed by the Disciple’s Guide includes:
The Disciple’s Guide leads an exploration of each successive chapter of the book (including the introductory material) in ten weeks.
Each week (beginning with Chapter One) a chapter is explored in five daily, 30 minute sessions.
Each daily session begins with a prayer focused on the issues to be presented in the daily reading. The daily reading presents a core thought or key idea that will be explored in the day’s exercises. Questions are provided to help the disciple understanding the day’s core thought and key idea. Disciples are then directed to reflect upon how the day’s core thought or key idea applies to their own spiritual growth and the action it requires for them to accomplish, that day. Journaling space is provided for answering the questions posed, and recording the thoughts, questions, and insights arising from their time of reflection.
Once weekly (at the sixth session), the disciple meets with the other disciples which comprise his “Community.” At this Community Meeting, they pray together, discuss the core thoughts and key ideas introduced in the week’s readings, share from their times of reflection, and encourage each other on their journey.
Although the Disciple’s Guide was designed primarily for use by groups consisting of from 2 to 8 members (optimally), the material contained within can easily be used to effectively lead much larger groups in a discussion based exploration of Choose The Life: Exploring a Faith that Embraces Discipleship. This is done by using the 10 weekly Community Meetings as the agendas for a ten-week discussion program. It is recommended, when the Disciple’s Guide is used in a large group setting, that the accompanying DVD, A DVD Guide to Choose The Life be used to introduce the topic for the week’s discussion. Additional questions to enhance the weekly meeting may be gleaned from the week’s five-day study program.
Lastly, it is recommend that the leader (or leaders) of a weekly discussion group proceed through the Guide together as their own Community group. The insights that will they will acquire by proceeding on their own journey through Choose The Life will be invaluable to them and the larger group they will be leading.
When leading a classroom sized (or larger) group through Choose The Life, one must keep in mind that most of the “spiritual traction” for transformation is due to the interaction that the Lord has with each individual as He interacts with them through the other individuals in a community of believers. To preserve this traction, the leader must provide a venue where, and time for, this interaction. For this reason it is suggested that some time during the weekly session, the leader divide the large group into smaller groups (mimicking the 2 to 8 member Community group) for the purpose of more intimately discussing the issues presented in the week’s session. It is reported that, after experiencing successive weeks with the same members of their smaller “discussion group,” individuals who previously were not participants in a “small group” program express their desired to continue in just such a program.
While the authors believe that the most “effective and efficient” means of leading individuals to healthy spiritual transformation is in the context of a smaller Community group, we do acknowledge that the larger group setting may be the only means currently available to a church’s leadership, whereby the biblical truths taught in Choose The Life are likely to be made available. We believe most strongly that though the form of instruction is important, the function is what must be preserved- Verum supremus vultus (truth above form).
Learning studies demonstrate the importance of application. The most relevant question a teacher can ask is, “Are my students learning?” According to a leading learning researcher people remember:
Each session asks the disciple to determine what concrete activity they can take that week to apply what they have learned. The Disciple’s Guide highly values the spiritual traction one can get by facing challenges in a high trust community. This avoids the hothouse effect (people not experienced in the reality of ministry) on groups that do not answer the challenge to reach beyond themselves.
Christ was a man for others; disciples then are to be people for others. It is only in losing ourselves in the mission of loving others that we live in balance and experience the joy that Christ has promised. This is the faith that embraces discipleship. This is the life that cultivates Christ-likeness and whose product is a transformed disciple—the only life of faith worthy enough to justify our calling upon others to Choose The Life.
To believe what Jesus believed means we hold a conviction that the life he described in the Sermon on the Mount is possible right now. In fact, Jesus said we can equal and exceed the works that he did. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied… I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”(Matt. 5-7; John 14:12-14)This requires a commitment to set aside time to study, pray, and meditate in order to hear the voice of God and to take on the mind of Christ. If that commitment is not present, we are practicing Christ-less Christianity. After all, how can you follow and learn from someone whose voice you can’t recognize.
Too often following Jesus has been limited to admiring the mystery of the God-man and resting in the finished work of the cross. While the basis of a relationship with God in Christ is both his person and his finished work, the ongoing nature of salvation, sometimes called sanctification, should not be ignored. A pathology of the American church has been to disconnect belief from behavior. People think that if you say the right words and believe the right things, you’ll receive your get-out-of-hell-free card, and that’s it. In the meantime they manage their sin until heaven. Jesus calls us not to sin management but to transformation, where we experience on breakthrough after another and do away with sin in our lives. We are called to follow Jesus and be transformed into his image. We are called to take seriously the character description of Jesus in the Gospels and Philippians 2:5-8 “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!” We are expected to take on that same character and thus influence the people around us in the same way Jesus influenced others. In short, the gospel connects belief and behavior.
Some of us have settled for loving those who love us and forgiving those who have asked us for forgiveness. We have set limits on how many times we will forgive someone for the same action. The church is marginalized because of estranged relationship and a lack of commitment to follow Jesus. To love as Christ loved is the way to break down the walls that separate us and bring healing to broken lives. Jesus didn’t hold anything back and loved until others experienced that love. A community develops character as it pursues the standard summarized by Jesus when he told us to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
“the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus ministered out of who he was; his influence came from his character. The way he exercised power was consistent with the humility and submission that governed his character and service (John 14:12-14). As disciples of Jesus we can have the same impact Jesus had.
Many spiritual leaders find themselves trapped in a church dominated by the surrounding culture of success. Nothing fails like success and that is so true of spiritual leaders who have mimicked models of leadership other than that of Jesus. The leader gets trapped in the “church world’s” version of success with its rewards and punishments. The great temptation is to climb the “success” ladder, but then you find yourself standing on the top of a very short wobbly ladder, and you are sure to fall because there is nothing dependable to hold onto. If the proper markings of success are not present in one’s life, consequences follow. Jesus is our leader, and inherent to following him is leading the way he led. Jesus was irrelevant and unnecessary to his culture. And by taking a servant’s role, even thought it cost him everything, he became the most relevant and necessary man of history.