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Discipleship Category

April 11, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

God, the master storyteller

In Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he writes about what he learned about his life and God’s grand story while the screenwriters “edited his life” for the movie version of his book “Blue Like Jazz.” As he reflected upon his boring, uninspired life and contrasted it with the ways in which his life was being made more interesting for the movie, it got him thinking about the grand story of risk and adventure that he believed God was calling him to live. Let me share a few quotes from the book that really challenged me:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Story

March 28, 2017 by Rob Freyer 0 comments

Guest blogger: Rob Freyer

Jesus speaks these words to his disciples and the rest of the population surrounding him, and it can be understood as both a challenge and a command for those who at this point still aren't sure who he is ... a prophet, John the Baptist, or some other figure of importance. This statement is a make or break ultimatum. Will these people follow, and what are they willing to give up to do so?...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Gospel, Discipleship

March 14, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Somebody scratch my itching ears

In Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy, he warns him that the time will come when people will seek out teachers who “say what their itching ears want to hear.” I imagine there have always been teachers like this throughout the history of the church, but this warning is undoubtedly prophetic today. But rather than point the fingers at others, we would be prudent to consider where it is that we are most tempted as Americans to have our itching ears scratched....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Preaching, Discipleship

March 7, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Does putting God first cause you to love others better or worse?

When I was a youth pastor, I remember engaging in a conversation with a friend of one of my youth group kids who was questioning whether or not God was real. At one point, as I was sharing with her how God was the most important person in my life, she asked the question, “Isn’t that offensive to your wife?” It’s an understandable question. After all, I know that there are non-Christian spouses who are bitter about their significant other’s devotion to Christ, because they feel that their marriage takes second place. My answer,...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: God, Discipleship

February 28, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

You're not as free as you think you are

This past Sunday, I preached from Romans 6-7 about the question of motivation: If I am saved by faith in Jesus, not by my good works, then what is my motivation to “be good” or follow God? Why not just live however I please if God has already saved me? One of the reasons given in Romans 6 is that “freedom” as our culture teaches it is a fallacy. In the end, you are either a slave to God or a slave to sin (Romans 6:16). The choice is not between following God and living free to do as you please. The choice is between serving God, which leads to eternal life, or serving sin, which leads to death....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Freedom

February 21, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

This life feels like one long race

I love sports, but I hate running. During my high school career, I played soccer, basketball, and baseball for four years, but I could not stand running just for the sake of running. When I tried to run in my first 5K, in college, I discovered quickly that I completely lacked the mental toughness necessary to overcome the physical pain and mental monotony that for me accompanied running long distances. Unfortunately, I have found that much of life is similar to running a long race. ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Running

February 14, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

You don't have to change the world

One of the best Christian speakers I ever heard was a missionary named David Pierce, who travels around the world with his band, No Longer Music, bringing the message of Jesus to Satanist clubs, anarchy festivals, and anywhere you wouldn’t normally expect to find Christians. Pierce wrote an incredibly unique book called Dancing with Skinheads and other Bible Study Topics, and one thing he wrote in there that I’ve never forgotten is this: “Do something small for God.” He said that so many people want to do something big for God, to do something that really changes the world. But often it’s the small, overlooked, seemingly insignificant things that are the biggest steps of obedience to God....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Service

January 3, 2017 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

The resolution underneath all resolutions

Happy New Year! With a new year upon us, many of us are thinking about ways to improve ourselves, how to put behind us the mistakes of the past and step into the man or woman we wish to become. Whether your goal is to eat healthier, spend more time with God, be more patient, or something else, I wish you well and pray that God would empower you to be more holy and self-disciplined. As I’ve reflected on New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been thinking about how one resolution could really help, no matter what my goal might be....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: New Year's, Repentance

December 20, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

THIS IS THE BEST POST EVER!!!

I read a number of blogs by pastors and theologians, and one pastor I used to read regularly always promoted his upcoming Sunday service as “the best one ever!!!” or one “you have to bring all your friends to!!!” or one that “God is going to do AMAZING things at so you have to be there!!!!!!!” I never got the sense that the pastor was just trying to artificially sell his church; it truly seemed that he loved his church and believed that God was going to do great things every Sunday. But still, after a while the message began to lose its ability to inspire anticipation. I’ve been thinking about that pastor recently, and reflecting upon how opposite my approach, as well as our church’s approach, can be....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Passion, Discipleship

November 29, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

A home for the homeless

For the past eight years, my wife Michele and I have been licensed foster parents. We began this journey by taking in one teenage girl at a time for as long as DCF would keep them with us, and as the needs of our children increased, we eventually transitioned into becoming an emergency placement home, providing a home for a night, a weekend, or sometimes as long as a week to a child of any age who had been removed from their home for abuse, neglect, or during a time of transition. Like any ministry or service, it is not always easy, often disruptive and stressful, but also very rewarding and transformative, not just for us but for our children as well. Given that background, I was intrigued when an online article came across my screen this morning entitled “Why you should let complete strangers stay in your home.”...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Hospitality

November 15, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself!

Most of the Psalms are directed towards the community of believers, encouraging them towards praise and communion with God. Other Psalms are directed towards God, expressions of worship or lament. But some Psalms, like Psalm 42, are directed inwardly. They are much needed reminders that often our biggest enemy in our life and faith is ourselves, and the messages we are telling ourselves. Listen to how the great Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it: Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Gospel, Discipleship

November 1, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

How do you develop a LOVE for God?

It is worth noting that Jesus, when asked what the greatest commandment was, did not say “BELIEVE in God.” He said “LOVE God.” I know many people who have a hard enough time believing in God, and others who would point to their belief that God is real as evidence of their faith. But Jesus has the audacity to say that we are not just to believe in God, but to love God. In fact, James goes as far as to say that belief in God puts us on par with the demons of hell, for even they believe in God (and probably with greater certainty than we do!) (James 2:19)....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Love

October 11, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

What makes you happy?

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? If I could only spend my time doing the things that I really enjoy, then I would be truly happy. If I could just eat doughnuts for breakfast and have a big bowl of ice cream (or two bowls) every night, I would be happy. If I could just spend my days watching the shows I like and playing the games I like and avoiding those things that I don’t like, then my life would be great. But Jesus dares to disagree....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Happiness

October 4, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Playing Whac-a-Mole with your struggles

I became a follower of Jesus as a college freshman at age 18. After a couple of years of learning what it meant to follow Jesus, and developing some close friendships with my Christian friends, I started to understand the importance of accountability, of having someone that I trusted enough to confess my sins too, someone who would ask me the tough questions about my walk with the Lord. For the past 20 years, I have always had at least someone that I talk with regularly so that I stay sharp in my discipleship. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” But here’s the thing about accountability and the sincere desire to avoid sin....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: accountability, Discipleship

September 27, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Adjust your thinking...

When God met Moses at the burning bush and told him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go free, Moses asked God the above question ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: God, Relativism

September 20, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Overcoming anxiety

Although I may hide it well, I am often an anxious person. At times, my anxiety overwhelms me so quickly that I respond out of my fear without even thinking. My anxiety has caused me to lie, to avoid stressful situations, and at times to act with a lack of integrity and courage, all out of a desire to stuff down my anxious feelings and regain the peace I so desperately desire. I hate the way my anxiety affects me. What is beneath my anxiety? If I stop and think about it, it is often one of two related reasons:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Anxiety

September 13, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Not everybody grows in the same way

In John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want To Be, the author talks about the unique ways God grows each of us spiritually into the people we were created to be. One of the parts that really spoke to me was where Ortberg said this: “The Bible does not say you are God’s appliance; it says you are his masterpiece (Eph 2:10, NLT). Appliances get mass-produced. Masterpieces get hand-crafted. God did not make you exactly like anyone else. Therefore, his plan for shaping you will not look like his plan for shaping anyone else. If you try to find a generic plan for spiritual growth, it will only frustrate you.” (Can anyone say journaling?)...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: God, Discipleship

September 6, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

The world doesn't revolve around you

I still remember where I was the day I realized that the world did not revolve around me. I was in Washington D.C., 21 years old, sitting in the top section of RFK Stadium at a Promise Keepers conference. All around me, thousands of men from all over the country stood, many with their arms raised to the sky, worshiping their God. As the swell of their voices echoed around the stadium, a sweet sound in our Lord’s ears, I suddenly realized that I was not the center of the universe. I was just one among many who had gathered that day to worship God and to commit our lives to His service....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: God, Discipleship

August 30, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Stop wasting your time and money

What are you pursuing? What do you instinctively look to in order to fill you up or give you life, or to escape from the pain? And is it working? Is it filling you up? Giving you life? Removing the pain? In Isaiah 55:1-3, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah to his people, and he asks them why they are spending their time, energy, and money on things which can not satisfy them. He goes on to invite them to come to him, to experience His covenantal love, to find true life for their souls....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, God

August 16, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Judge not...

This past Sunday, I preached on pride, humility, and wisdom. I joked about it from the pulpit, but for most of us (including me), I would bet that as we listened, we had someone else in mind that we were hoping was listening or that should have been there listening. Because, after all, THAT PERSON has an issue with pride, not us. Hopefully as the sermon went on, we all realized just how much of a problem we all have with pride. In keeping with the theme of pride, I want to share an excerpt from a Charles Spurgeon sermon that I read recently and found especially encouraging and challenging:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: pride, humility

August 9, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

I want your life

I wish I had their house. I wish I drove that car. I wish I could go on a vacation like that. I wish I grew up with parents like that. I wish my boss were more like that. I wish my spouse were more like that. I wish I had a spouse. I wish I looked like her. I wish I had his life. “Do not let your heart envy sinners,” the writer of Proverbs tells us in chapter 23, verse 17. Maybe you read through that first paragraph and did not resonate with any of those wishes, but more than likely, you have said one or more of those things, maybe even today. To envy someone is to notice something that is good about someone else, but instead of rejoicing over the good they have, you weep over the fact that you don’t have it (Facebook, anyone?)....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Envy, Contentment

July 19, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Being fully present to the moment

This past Sunday before the benediction, I referenced an older pastor in my life who has the distinct ability to make me feel like he has nowhere else to be and all the time in the world whenever I see him. I have always been touched by his ability to be present with me, to listen well, and to show genuine care for me, without ever feeling like I am interrupting him or holding him up from something more important. I hope and pray that I will be able to be more like him someday....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Rest

July 5, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

What comes out when you are under stress?

When you are under pressure, when the stress levels are rising, what comes out of you? How do you instinctively respond? In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus makes the point to his disciples that it isn’t the external things that defile a person. No, Jesus says: there is more than enough evil in our own hearts to defile us ten times over....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Stress

June 21, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Keeping the faith when God seems absent

There is a popular saying that goes like this: “God works in mysterious ways.” Which is another way of saying, “GOD, I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!” Can anyone relate? We believe that God is sovereign, that He is good, and that He loves us. And we like to believe that if we were a good, sovereign, loving Father/Deity, we would know how to treat our children. And so, naturally, when we suffer in ways we can not understand, we question the character of our God who seems to so often enjoy working in “mysterious” ways....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Suffering, Discipleship

June 14, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

That could have been you in Orlando

As we gathered for church this past Sunday, most of us were unaware of the tragedy in Orlando, or at least the terrible extent of it. Now that we know how awful it was, our prayers go out to the families of the victims as they grieve, and we pray for the church in Orlando, that they might be a light in the darkness in the way they respond to this tragedy. As we consider the terrible hatred and deception that could cause someone to open fire on a crowd of people, I want to share a story with you that I recently heard...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Sin, Orlando

June 7, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Are you really free?

Here in the United States, we pride ourselves on our freedom. We believe that our country stands as a beacon of freedom to this world, as evidenced by the Preamble to our Declaration of Independence, which testifies to our belief that we have all been given unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But just what is freedom, really?...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Freedom

April 12, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Jesus is life. Everything else is just skubalon.

Skubalon. In Philippians 3:8, Paul uses this Greek word, which the New International Version translates as “rubbish,” to describe all the things in his life that he once boasted of but that now mean nothing compared to knowing Christ. When you consult a Greek lexicon, you find that the word skubalon was the word commonly used not just for garbage but for animal excrement. You know, that stuff in your yard that you step in and proceed to track into your house until you realize what you’ve done and gag from the stench. Animal excrement. That’s a little more evocative than rubbish, don’t you think? Paul emphatically states that his desire to know Jesus, to know his power, to share in his suffering, to look and act like Him in every way, was such an all-consuming passion that all of his earthly awards, noble qualities, and previous reasons for pride meant as much to him as a hot, steaming pile of skubalon....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Suffering, Discipleship

April 5, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

There is a plan

In September 1997, I was 21 years old, just starting my senior year at UConn. Having recently completed my second summer as the Youth Director at South United Methodist Church in Manchester, I was pretty sure that God was calling me into full-time youth ministry. I was not sure what that meant, but I knew three things: I loved the kids at South UMC, and hoped God would keep me in the Manchester area. I wanted to disciple kids, not just do fun and games with them. And I had a heart for the Hartford region, wanting to minister in some way to more than just the kids of one church....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: God's sovereignty, Ephesians

March 29, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

"What if you only had one month to live?" is the wrong question

What if you only had one month to live? It’s a common question these days, showing up everywhere from songs (“Live like you were dying”) to books (One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life) to YouTube videos (“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch). It’s a powerful question that has the ability to inspire, to bring life into focus, and to help us take risks that are in line with what we really want. It’s also a misleading question. The better, more accurate question, is this: What if you will live forever?...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, eternal life

March 1, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Mullets, Zeppelin, and our good Father

When I was in 8th grade, I wished I had straighter hair so I could grow a mullet like the cool high school boys. When I was in 11th grade, I wanted to paint a mural in my room that would be inspired by the songs of Led Zeppelin. When I was a freshman in college, I wanted to get my ear pierced. Those embarrassing memories came together in just a few minutes of reflection. I am sure that if I took some extended time to look back on my life, I would be able to come up with many more things that I was sure I wanted at the time, that I was positive were great ideas, that I can now look back on and say “I am so glad I didn’t get what I wanted.”...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Trust, Unanswered Prayer

February 9, 2016 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

I don't understand why I do what I do

In my opinion, Romans 8 the greatest chapter in the whole Bible. Filled with promises about the love of God and His commitment to us, it builds from verse 1’s declaration that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” to the crescendo of verse 35-39, where we are exhorted that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. Hallelujah! But perhaps just as important as Romans 8 is the end of the preceding chapter, Romans 7. After all, Romans 8:1 begins with “therefore,” which should prompt us to ask what it is “there for.” Romans 8, the passionate declaration of God’s great love for sinful, undeserving humans, follows Paul’s most candid confession of his complete inability to live up to not only God’s standards, but even his own. Listen to these words:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Sin

October 6, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Making vows to God

Today’s post is a shortened version of an article written by A.W. Tozer called “Five Vows for Spiritual Strength. Tozer was a 20th century pastor and prolific author, best known for his book “The Pursuit of God.” Some people object to taking vows, but in the Bible you will find many great men of God directed by covenants, promises, vows and pledges. The psalmist was not averse to the taking of vows: “Thy vows are upon me, O God,” he said. “I will render my praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12). My counsel in this matter is that if you are really concerned about spiritual improvement - the gaining of new power, new life, new joy and new personal revival within your heart - you will do well to make certain vows and proceed to keep them. If you should fail, go down in humility and repent and start over. But always keep these vows before you. They will help harmonize your heart with the vast powers that flow out and down from the throne where Christ sits at the right hand of God....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Tozer, Vows

September 29, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

not a fan.

This past weekend was our annual men’s conference at NewLife. On Friday night, I shared about the gospel of Jesus, and contrasted it with two tendencies we have in our Christian walk: legalism and antinomianism. The main belief of the legalist is “If I perform well, God will accept or bless me.” The legalist tends to believe that if he is praying regularly, having his quiet time, and living victoriously over sin, that God loves him more. But if he is falling to temptation and not spending much time in prayer or devotion, that God is angry or disappointed with him. The antinomian, on the other hand,...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Gospel, Discipleship

September 15, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

The Cost of Discipleship

One of the books that has been most challenging and influential in my faith has been Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937. There are many Christian books out there, but few carry the weight and integrity behind them that this book does. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who actively opposed Adolf Hitler, even to the point of returning from England to Germany in order to stand in solidarity with his countrymen who were suffering under Hitler’s reign. At age 37, he was arrested, and at 39, he was killed for his resistance. As Bonhoeffer wrote before returning to Germany:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Bonhoeffer

August 11, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

When God seems cruel and uncaring

Psalm 23 is probably the most widely read and beloved of all the Psalms. Its picture of God as a tender, gentle, and loving shepherd who cares for us like sheep evokes images of peace and rest. But anyone who knows what actually goes into caring for sheep ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Suffering, Discipleship

July 21, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Someone knows your secrets

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed. God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness. Both Jesus, in Luke 12:2, and Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:4, testify to the reality that there are no secrets and no safe hiding places ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Confession, Judgment

June 16, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Remembering Elisabeth Elliot

On Monday, June 15th, the world lost a spiritual giant as Elisabeth Elliot passed away at the age of 88. Elliot was a prolific author and speaker, perhaps best known for two of her books. The first, Through Gates of Splendor, recounted the story of the martyrdom of her husband, Jim Elliot, along with four other missionaries, at the hands of the Auca people in the Amazonian rainforests of Ecuador as they sought to bring the gospel to them (the 2005 movie End of the Spear also told the story, from another family’s perspective). The second, Passion and Purity, was about honoring God with one’s love life. The only fictional novel Elliot ever wrote, No Graven Image, was written in 1966 and was loosely based on her experiences as a young missionary to Ecuador. Of all her books, this book is noteworthy because it is so unlike the majority of Christian fictional books and movies. ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Elisabeth Elliot

May 19, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

What is influencing you?

In Proverbs 4:20-23, the heart is depicted as both the receptacle of external influences, as well as the place from which action originates. In order that his son might experience life and health, the writer of Proverbs implores him to guard his heart, and particularly to keep his father’s words within his heart. The writer of Proverbs is communicating a fundamental principle to life: the influences we allow into our lives have a great impact on what comes out of our lives. Consider for a moment what influences you have allowed into your life already this week....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Influences

April 14, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Somebody scratch my itching ears!

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:1-4) In the above passage, Paul is writing to his protégé Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus. Paul tells Timothy that he needs to take care in preaching God’s Word accurately, because there are people who, rather than listen to what the Word of God says, prefer to find teachers who tell them what they want to hear....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Truth

February 3, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Embracing the conflict in your story

During this past Sunday’s sermon, I shared a quote from the Donald Miller book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. As I meditated on that quote and the place of conflict and struggle in the story God is telling through our lives, I thought it would appropriate to reprint a blog post I wrote in November 2009 after reading his book for the first time. Here it is:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: conflict, trials

January 6, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Food that truly satisfies

“Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’ ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’” (John 4:30-34) What were you created for? What is the work that energizes you, that gives you life, that makes you sing? And are you doing that work? Or have you even figured out what that work is?...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Spiritual Gifts

December 16, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

How will you grow in 2015?

With this in mind, look back over the past year. Where have you seen God‘s purifying work in your life? How are you different in December 2014 than you were in December 2013? Are you more like Jesus? And as you look ahead to 2015, where can you make an intentional effort to grow in your faith? As you reflect upon that question over the next few weeks, consider some of the following possibilities:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: New Year, Discipleship

November 14, 2014 by Lynne Pleau 0 comments

Guest blogger: Lynne Pleau - "Facets of Glory"

Imagine: what if God were a diamond the size of the Earth -"internally flawless and burning with a fire infinitely brighter than the sun, rotating through space and shooting spectrums of light, through billions of facets, into every galaxy of the universe? And what if we were the facets? What if we were facets cut exquisitely into the surface of God‘s Being: shaped for overall symmetry, placed where we are with precision, and designed to radiate His light at a specific wavelength, in a specific direction, for a specific time?...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Service

October 28, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Do not let yourself be mastered by anything

One of the most neglected spiritual disciplines is the discipline of fasting. While typically thought of in connection to food, the discipline of fasting is a way of setting aside something that is not necessarily a bad thing in favor of an even better thing, namely seeking God in a more fervent manner. Sometimes we fast because we are facing a big decision and want to seek God in a more determined way. Other times we fast because we are struggling through a difficult time and need to depend on Him in a greater way. But other times, fasting ‘" whether from food or something else ‘" can be a way of ensuring that we are not being mastered by anything, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Fasting

October 14, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

I'm not as busy as I claim to be

“Every day is a journal page, every man holds a quill and ink And there's plenty of room for writing in all we do is believe and think So will you compose a curse or will today bring the blessing? Fill the page with rhyming verse or some random sketching? One of the songs that inspires me, whose lyrics are in italics in this article, is Chris Rice’s Life Means so Much. One of my continual struggles is to make the most of my time, to spend each moment doing things that matter, and prioritizing those things that are most important. This song is one of those voices in my life that encourage and inspire me to live my life for the Lord....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, time management

September 23, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Some day the house will be clean...

It is a continual struggle around our house to keep things clean and in order. As you can imagine, four young children and a few pets wreak their fair share of chaos on a daily basis, and do precious little to repair the damage. Every night, once the kids finally fall asleep, we find ourselves amazed again at the amount of work that goes into simply maintaining some semblance of order. There exists, more so in my wife but still to some extent in me, a desire that everything would be in its right place. Every room would be neat, every chore finished, every crumb off the floor, and every piece of clothing folded neatly in its drawer. Every item on the to-do list would be crossed off, and there would be true rest from the constant work. But such a state of order is always and forever just out of reach....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Heaven

September 9, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

What righteousness really is

The first seminary class I ever took was New Testament Greek. One of the insights that I have never forgotten was when the professor told us that the Greek word ‘œdiakosune,‘ commonly translated as righteousness, is best thought of Biblically as ‘œright-relatedness,‘ i.e. related rightly to God. I have always appreciated that nuance, as righteousness is a word that tends to conjure up images of moral perfection in my mind. In other words, a righteous person is someone who does not sin, who does what is right and does not do what is wrong. But thinking of ‘œdiakosune‘ as more than just moral perfection, but as being rightly related to God, introduces a whole other element. ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Righteousness

August 12, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Do something small for God

One of the best Christian speakers I ever heard was a missionary named David Pierce, who travels around the world with his band, No Longer Music, bringing the message of Jesus to Satanist clubs, anarchy festivals, and anywhere you wouldn‘t normally expect to find Christians. Pierce wrote an incredibly unique book called Dancing with Skinheads and other Bible Study Topics, and one thing he wrote in there that I‘ve never forgotten is this: ‘œDo something small for God.‘ He said that so many people want to do something big for God, to do something that really changes the world. But often it‘s the small, overlooked, seemingly insignificant things that are the biggest steps of obedience to God....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Service

June 24, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Your spiritual growth will not look like mine

I‘ve recently been enjoying John Ortberg‘s new book, The Me I Want To Be, in which the author talks about the unique ways God grows each of us spiritually into the people we were created to be. One of the parts that really spoke to me was where Ortberg said this: ‘œThe Bible does not say you are God‘s appliance; it says you are his masterpiece (Eph 2:10, NLT). Appliances get mass-produced. Masterpieces get hand-crafted. God did not make you exactly like anyone else. Therefore, his plan for shaping you will not look like his plan for shaping anyone else. If you try to find a generic plan for spiritual growth, it will only frustrate you.‘...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Spiritual growth

June 17, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Anxiety!

Although I may hide it well, I am often an anxious person. At times, my anxiety overwhelms me so quickly that I respond out of my fear without even thinking. My anxiety has caused me to lie, to avoid stressful situations, and at times to act with a lack of integrity and courage, all out of a desire to stuff down my anxious feelings and regain the peace I so desperately desire. I hate the way my anxiety affects me. What is beneath my anxiety? If I stop and think about it, it is often one of two related reasons:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Anxiety, Trust

June 3, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Profit and loss

In Philippians 3, Paul uses an accounting metaphor to describe how his attitude changed when he met Jesus. Before knowing Jesus, his profit column was filled with all the things that gave him status and worth: his lineage, his morality, his involvement with the religious elite. But after Jesus, all that was in the profit column was moved to the loss column, as Jesus alone occupied the profit column. As I reflected on this, I began to realize how true this is. Whether or not we are aware of it, we spend so much of our lives trying to convince ourselves and others that we are worth something....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, idols

May 13, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

What's your reputation?

I used the New King James Version translation of the passage above because of the way it translates verse 6: when Jesus was on this earth, He made Himself ‘œof no reputation.‘ I find that to be a fascinating translation, more descriptive than the New International Version‘™s ‘œHe made Himself nothing.‘ For many of us, our reputation is something we closely guard, even if we are not aware that we are doing it. We want to be seen as intelligent, or hard-working, or moral, or cool, or successful, or attractive, and so we carefully screen out that which we want the world to see and that which we wish to hide from others....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Jesus, Reputation

April 22, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Are you heading in the right direction?

One of my favorite places in the world is the Center for Retreat and Renewal in Simsbury. This retreat center, located behind Covenant Presbyterian Church, has proved to be an invaluable place in my spiritual journey, as once every month I get away from the office, unplug from the internet and cell phone, and spend an uninterrupted work day before the Lord. I typically devote the first half of the day to personal reflection and planning: I sing, I pray, I read, I journal, I look back on lessons I am supposed to be learning, and I organize and make plans regarding where I and my family need to go. After lunch, I spend the second half of the day on church work: planning an upcoming sermon series, doing long-range planning, or thinking through deeper issues and plans that require uninterrupted time. I always leave feeling like I have a plan moving forward, and wishing I could come back more often....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Reflection

March 11, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Christ in you, the hope of glory

As I prepared for the current sermon series on suffering, one particularly moving passage I read was this one from Joni Eareckson Tada‘s ‘œWhen God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty‘: Suffering fashions us into a ‘œholy and blameless‘ image of Christ (Ephesians 1: 4), much like a figure sculpted out of marble. An artist in Florence, Italy once asked the great Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo what he saw when he approached a huge block of marble. ‘œI see a beautiful form trapped inside,‘ he replied, ‘œand it is simply my responsibility to take my mallet and chisel and chip away until the figure is set free.‘ The beautiful form, the visible expression of ‘œChrist in you, the hope of glory‘ is inside Christians like a possibility, a potential. The idea is there, and God uses affliction like a hammer and chisel, chipping and cutting to reveal his image in you. God chooses as his model his Son, Jesus Christ, ‘œFor those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son‘ (Romans 8: 29)....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Suffering, Discipleship

January 28, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Suffering and the single-minded desire

Skubalon. In Philippians 3:8, Paul uses this Greek word, which the New International Version translates as ‘œrubbish,‘ to describe all the things in his life that he once boasted of but that now mean nothing compared to knowing Christ. When you consult a Greek lexicon, you find that the word skubalon was the word commonly used not just for garbage but for animal excrement. You know, that stuff in your yard that you step in and proceed to track into your house until you realize what you‘ve done and gag from the stench. Animal excrement. That‘s a little more evocative than rubbish, don‘t you think? Paul emphatically states that his desire to know Jesus, to know his power, to share in his suffering, to look and act like Him in every way, was such an all-consuming passion that all of his earthly awards, noble qualities, and previous reasons for pride meant as much to him as a hot, steaming pile of skubalon....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Suffering, Discipleship

January 21, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

When God takes away the things you love

As I was in preparation for the current sermon series on suffering, I heard the following in a Tim Keller sermon (parphrased): ‘œIf your ultimate love and joy is found in the treasures of this world, then suffering will rob you of your joy and make you sadder and madder. But if your ultimate love and joy is found in God, then suffering will drive you deeper into the source of that joy.‘ Carefully consider those words....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Suffering, Discipleship

January 14, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

The world does not revolve around you

I still remember where I was the day I realized that the world did not revolve around me. I was in Washington D.C., 21 years old, sitting in the top section of RFK Stadium at a Promise Keepers conference. All around me, thousands of men from all over the country stood, many with their arms raised to the sky, worshiping their God. As the swell of their voices echoed around the stadium, a sweet sound in our Lord‘s ears, I suddenly realized that I was not the center of the universe. I was just one among many who had gathered that day to worship God and commit our lives to His service....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Purpose

November 12, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

The challenge - and freedom - of forgiveness

This past Sunday I shared from Matthew 18 about forgiving those who have hurt us. There are few things harder in life than extending forgiveness to someone who has wounded us, because to forgive someone is essentially to suffer twice. The first time, you suffer because of something that is done to you; the second time, you willingly choose to suffer again by forgiving instead of making the other person suffer by taking revenge on them or slandering them. But in the end, forgiveness is the only way to freedom, the only way to not let our heart become hard or our spirit become bitter and angry. Forgiveness is a process, one that can take years for the person who has endured significant abuse or betrayal at the hands of another person or a group of people. Whatever hurt you might be dealing with, I want to encourage you to take a step towards forgiveness and freedom. Consider the following possibilities:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Forgiveness

October 15, 2013 0 comments

Guest blogger: Mac Beaulieu

Do you irritate God? We spend much of our lives getting irritated by others because they don't do things the way we wish they would. Is their failure to meet our personal preferences a valid reason for our losing patience with them? That's a rhetorical question because we know that it is not (as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:5, love is ‘œnot rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs‘). We know that it's very unreasonable for us to hold people accountable to our whims and demands. God doesn't even do this, so how arrogant it is for us to do so! We can be very thankful that God doesn't sport our attitudes. We can be thankful that God doesn't get irritated by our tendency to do things our way instead of his way....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Guest Blogger, Mac Beaulieu

September 24, 2013 by Eric Stillman 1 comments

God takes the scenic route

This past Sunday we experienced an incredible and unique time of worship as we joined together with three other Wethersfield churches for a time or prayer, worship, and the Word in Wethersfield Cove Park. It almost never happened, of course ‘" all week long, the weather forecast was predicting torrential downpours overnight on Saturday night and a miserable Sunday morning. But as we prayed and talked about it on Saturday, the other pastors and I felt that this was such a unique and special opportunity that we wanted to go ahead with the time of worship and pray that God would clear up the skies, relying on a 10:30 indoors service at First Church of Wethersfield as the backup plan. But God didn‘t need a backup plan....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Faith

September 17, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

I do not understand what I do

In my opinion, Romans 8 the greatest chapter in the whole Bible. Filled with promises about the love of God and His commitment to us, it builds from verse 1‘s declaration that ‘œthere is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus‘ to the crescendo of verse 35-39, where we are exhorted that NOTHING can separate us from God‘s love. Hallelujah! But perhaps just as important as Romans 8 is the end of the preceding chapter, Romans 7. After all, Romans 8:1 begins with ‘œtherefore,‘ which means that we should ask what it is ‘œthere for.‘ Romans 8, the passionate declaration of God‘s great love for sinful, undeserving humans, follows Paul‘s most candid confession of his complete inability to live up to not only God‘s standards, but even his own. Listen to these words:...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Sin

June 18, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Leave a legacy

There aren‘t many people who could tell you the historical significance of Edward Kimball. After all, he is so un-famous that he doesn‘t even have his own Wikipedia page. But through his simple service to God, he has had a worldwide impact. In 1854, Kimball was a Sunday School teacher in Detroit, and one day he went to visit a 17 year-old boy who was in his Sunday School class who had little interest in God or religion. During his visit with this young man at his job in a shoe shop, he led the boy into a relationship with Christ. That young man was D.L. Moody, who went on to become one of the greatest evangelists in the world, sharing the gospel with 100 million people, as well as founding Moody Bible Institute and The Moody Church in Chicago. But the story doesn‘t end there....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: NewLife, Discipleship

May 14, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

You're my hero, Eric Stillman

In December of 1997, I sat down with a small group of teenagers from NewLife at Mike and Melissa Smith‘™s house in Glastonbury. A 21 year-old senior at UConn, I had just recently been hired as the youth pastor at NewLife, and this sit-down was my first ‘œmeet-and-greet‘ with the teens of the church. I remember telling them about some of the people I regularly ate meals with in the UConn cafeteria, and the daydreams I had about challenging the smart atheists to consider the reality of Jesus Christ. In my daydream, I would clearly and cleverly outline the truth of Jesus‘™ life, death and resurrection, and skillfully answer every argument thrown my way. Soon, it became clear that the whole cafeteria was listening intently to our conversation. And so, in my daydream, I would stand up and tell all who were listening about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as the crowd responded in affirmation, I would leave the cafeteria, leading the hungry-for-God crowd up the hill to where our Christian fellowship met. And as person after person committed their life to Jesus, the prettiest girl in the Christian fellowship would come up to me and say admiringly, ‘œyou‘™re my hero, Eric Stillman.‘ ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: prodigal son, motivation

May 7, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Are you poor in spirit?

Jesus‘ Sermon on the Mount begins with this counterintuitive statement ‘" ‘œBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.‘ In other words, Jesus declares that God‘s favor is not on the spiritually self-sufficient, those who exalt and justify themselves and think that their good works have made them righteous in God‘s sight. Instead, God‘s favor is on those who are spiritually bankrupt, who realize that in themselves they have nothing of spiritual significance to offer to God, but are completely dependent upon His grace and mercy. By the time Jesus is declaring to his disciples that they need to ‘œbe perfect as their heavenly father is perfect‘ (Matthew 5:48), I am sure Jesus‘ disciples were all thanking God that God‘s favor is on the spiritually bankrupt who recognize their utter dependence upon God for their righteousness, because none of them have measured up to Jesus‘ commands. ...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: pride, humility, poor in spirit

April 30, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

By what standard do you measure yourself?

As I‘ve been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) on Sundays at NewLife, one of the repeating themes has been how the Pharisees interpreted the law in such a way that they found themselves on the ‘œrighteous‘ side of the bar. ‘œDo not murder‘ meant don‘t kill anyone, ‘œDo not commit adultery‘ meant don‘t have sex with someone who is not your spouse, and their laws on divorce came to mean ‘œAs long as you give your wife a certificate of divorce, it‘s okay to divorce her.‘ In each case, the Pharisees looked at the law and felt righteous. But one of the things Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount is to explain the spirit and truth behind each of those laws, and in the process raises the bar to such a height that no one - not even the Pharisees - can end up on the righteous side of the bar on their own merits....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Grace, Sin, Jesus

April 9, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Don't give up

‘œElijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. ‘˜Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.‘™ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.‘ (1 Kings 19:3-5)...Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, Faith, hope

April 2, 2013 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Watch your step!

‘œSo, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.‘ (1 Corinthians 10:12-13) Paul‘™s words in 1 Corinthians 10:12 have been words I have never forgotten since that day back in 1997 when I first heard it shared from a small group leader in my college Christian fellowship group. The leader was talking about how we all struggle with sins, but that sometimes we can get to the point where we have experienced some degree of victory, and no longer feel like it is a struggle. However, she said, that is precisely when our sin can often sneak up on us and cause us to fall to it once again, because we have grown confident and let down our guard. The moment you think you are standing firm, watch out - you just might fall....Keep Reading

Posted in: Discipleship Tags: Discipleship, temptation