Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Are you eager?

I have been talking a lot about passion lately. Therefore, this passage from Paul’s letter to Titus jumped out at me because it addresses an area of our lives that needs to be passionate.
who gave himself (Jesus) for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:14
But, what is our motivation for doing good? Do we have a passion to do what is good or do we do good out of duty or an expectation? Paul isn’t talking about doing good out of religious duty. Rather, he is talking about a passion to do good that flows from a changed heart; a heart surrendered to Christ; a heart made alive by Christ. So, are we eager to do good?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are you denying God?

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. - Titus 1:16

Our actions are an indication of whether or not we know God. We can claim to know God with our words and with our thoughts, but still deny Him by our actions. According to the apostle Paul, if we think our actions don’t matter, then our thinking and our very consciences are thoroughly messed up.

How we live, what we do, how we treat others, and what we say is either an act of praise to God or an act of denial. So, are you praising God or are you denying God?

Monday, April 28, 2008

FREEDOM

Freedom in Christ is not a license to do whatever we want. It should never lead to lawlessness or licentiousness.

We are free to do good. We are not free to do evil.
We are free from sin. We are not free to sin.

Because of the work of Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin. Sin is no longer our master – we are free! We are now free to live for Christ, free to love God and others, free to obey, and free to fulfill our purpose because our freedom was purchased by the imperishable blood of Christ Jesus. Now this is good news!

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. – 1 Peter 2:16

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Passion for our mission

Big Idea:
The Christian life is not a quiet, boring, or passive existence. Rather, it is a daring life of action, risk, and faith. As followers of Christ we have a mission – to follow Christ with total abandonment! Is this your passion?

Summary:
As Christians, our mission is to risk it all, leave it all, and give it all for Christ. For the early church this mission was embraced as their destiny; their reason for living; the purpose for which they were born. Becoming a Christ follower produced an immediate and radical change in behavior. When people fully surrendered to Christ, bondages were broken, bad habits were released, weakness was turned into strength, and sorrow gave way to joy. Are you expecting and experiencing personal transformation like this in your life? Are you onboard with the mission?

The mission to risk, leave and give everything for Christ is possible because God has provided all we need for success. The Holy Spirit is God and He desires to fill us with power from on high; power for daily living: power to overcome spiritual weakness; power to do what He has called us to do. The New Testament norm was that every believer was entitled to experience the Holy Spirit. They understood that the Holy Spirit was to be experienced, not just admired. They took a very utilitarian approach to the availability of the Holy Spirit and His gifts of power. We must also embrace the Holy Spirit.

God uses the process of discipleship to prepare us for the mission – for our destiny. In fact, according to Detrich Bonhoeffer, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son… There is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” Without discipleship the mission will not be realized. Becoming a disciple means that I learn what Jesus taught His disciples, the will of God, and then begin to incorporate that teaching into my daily life in a practical way. God has a mission that He is calling you to embrace. Do you accept the call?

Discussion Questions: (read the Scripture & discuss)

Acts 2:42-47
How did the early church respond to their new mission? How can you incorporate this new way of life into your own life?

John 16:5-16 (The work of the Holy Spirit)
How does this passage display the important roll the Holy Spirit (Counselor) plays in our lives? Discuss how the Holy Spirit is actively experienced in your life.

Matthew 28:18-22
Our mission is to make disciples, but we must also be disciples. How does Jesus say we make disciples? Discuss practical ways this can be accomplished. What assurance does Jesus give that being and making disciples is possible?

Taking Action: Go big this week. Identify anything in your life that is preventing you from completing the mission and living the great adventure. Bring it to the cross, surrender it to God, and accept His invitation to enter the life He has called you to live. It is a life unlike any other.

Ministry Time

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It’s both…

We are called to live PURE for God.
We are called to live PURELY for God.

We are called to live HOLY for God.
We are called to live WHOLLY for God.

God demands our SOUL devotion.
God demands our SOLE devotion.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The holy experiment

"The only thing I can give to God is 'my right to myself' (Romans 12:1). If I will give God that, He will make a holy experiment out of me, and God's experiments always succeed." - Oswald Chambers

Bottom line: Give God my whole self (100%) and He will accomplish more than I could ever imagine or hope for, He will be glorified, and I will fulfill my purpose. Conversely, if I hold back, even just 10%, the result will miss the mark; I will not fully accomplish my purpose; I will be outside of God's perfect plan and outside His will - not where I want to be. Therefore, I choose to surrender all; I give up my rights; I'm yours.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not a life of frustration

Putting to death the deeds of the sinful nature and getting rid of sin is not optional – Paul says it is mandatory for all who are followers of Christ. It is mandatory because of the work of Christ on the cross. It is mandatory because Christ won the victory and we have been given all we need for this new life and for godliness. If we have truly died to self, then living the new life in Christ is our destiny.

The Christian life is not designed to be a life of frustration – “I know I shouldn’t sin, but I guess I will always have to deal with some of it so I just need to learn how to live with it.” No! We “MUST” rid ourselves of it all. This is not something to be afraid of or something that should frustrate us. On the contrary, this is incredibly good news. We need to rejoice that this call to holiness has been given because we have been given all the power and grace needed to answer the call. This demand to get rid of sin comes from the truth that we are truly victorious over it because of Christ. Let’s celebrate this victory and honor our Savior Jesus Christ by (1) believing we are victorious and (2) living victoriously.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. – Colossians 3:5-10

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Do you know who you are?

Christ has victory over sin and death. He is over every power and authority. Now here’s some more big news - those who are in Christ have been given the fullness of Christ and can walk in this same victory and power. Followers of Christ are not weaklings. We’ve got the power to move mountains and to put sin to death in our lives. It is time we understood this truth and began living it out for the glory of God.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. – Colossians 2:9-12
Lord, may I walk in the fullness of who I am in you. May I always remember that I have the victory because you have the victory. This reality means that I have all I need to live for you, for your will, and for the purpose you have for my life. Let’s roll.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are you running on jet fuel?

We are called to work hard for the kingdom of God. We are called to roll up our sleeves and labor for the sake of the gospel. Paul is the poster-child of a hard working man of God. He threw his entire life into the things of God. He lived a life of action that was filled with huge accomplishments. Did he get a lot done by sitting around and hoping for the gospel to advance? No, he labored and struggled. However, he didn’t labor and struggle in his own strength. Rather, he was fueled by Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:29). He did much kingdom work because he was filled with the power of Christ that was working through him.

We are all called to a life of action, of work, of labor for the kingdom, but this work must be fueled by Christ himself otherwise we will burn out and accomplish very little – if anything. However, if you are filled with the high-powered jet fuel of Christ, you will fulfill your purpose, you will make a difference, and you will finish the race for the glory of God.

Work hard for God, but make sure your tank is filled to the brim with Him.
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. - Colossians 1:28-29

Monday, April 21, 2008

Passion for Purpose

Big Idea:
You were created by God on purpose and for a purpose. But, do you know your purpose and are you pursuing it with passion?

Summary:
Man’s ultimate purpose is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever (Westminster Shorter Catechism). You were made by God, you were made for God, and you were put here for His purposes. Just as everything in the created world around us has a purpose—sun, moon, stars, plants and animals—there is a purpose for every human being and we are called to pursue this purpose with a passion.

Do you ever find yourself asking the following questions: Why am I alive? Does my life matter? What is God’s purpose for my life? You will only find the answers to these questions as you pursue God, understand His will, and live passionately for Him and Him alone. In fact, finding purpose outside of God is an endless journey of disappointment, emptiness, and substitute passion. God has made it clear in His Word that we were made to know Him, we were made to be like Him, and we were made to serve Him. Those are the 3 primary purposes of your life. And if you are not living them out with passion, then you have settled for something less than God intends for you.

If my purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, then what does that look like? Well, God is most glorified when we are most satisfied and we are most satisfied when we rest in Him and do His will. We are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things, our satisfaction included, will be added. In other words, live passionately for God and the rest of life will be put in its place – our purpose will be accomplished. On the contrary, if we live for ourselves and seek our own glory, comfort, and happiness, we will not be satisfied, we will not glorify God, and we will not fulfill our purpose. Let’s glorify God and pursue our ultimate purpose with a passion.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Psalm 139:13-16
Was your life planned and does it matter to God? How does this scripture reveal that you made on purpose? Discuss how this passage also shows that you were made with a purpose.

Matthew 5:16
How does this instruction by Jesus relate to our purpose and why is this important? What is our light? How do we let our light shine? Discuss practical examples.

Matthew 25:14-30
How does this parable help us discover and live God’s purpose for our lives? Give examples of “talents” and how they can be invested with passion for God’s kingdom. What happens when we fail to live out our God-given purpose?

Taking Action: Go big this week. Pursue your purpose with passion. Identify areas of your life that are outside of your God-created purpose and submit them to God by making real changes.

Ministry Time

Colosse

As you can probably tell, one of my study threads is currently Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colosse. In September of 2006 I spent 2 weeks in Turkey and had the opportunity to visit the location of the ancient city of Colosse which is still unexcavated. However, the images and views I took-in while walking upon that ancient city mound are still vivid in my mind: the Lycus valley and the beautiful mountains from which streams of cool water flow into the city.

Friday, April 18, 2008

To be continued?

Whether you fizzle before you finish the race because it was a faulty start or because you just decided to quit the race due to disinterest or a desire to go back to your old ways, isn’t what we are tackling today. The point Paul is making in today’s text is that we must stay in the race and finish it. We must continue, we must persevere, we must endure, and we must remain. This is not done out of our own strength or human effort. It is done because of Christ in us. However, we have a very active and participatory role to play.

Today’s Colossian text is a wonderful reminder of Christ’s redemptive work and our necessity to daily live from a position of faith.
21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. – Colossians 1:21-23
We once were lost in our sin and strangers to God, but now we are made new because of Christ’s work on the cross and thus brought close to God. However, Paul clearly follows this beautiful truth with the fact that this is not a one-time decision. He tells us that this is a reality for those who “continue in their faith”. In other words, walking the isle is only the beginning of the journey. The one who will be presented free of accusation will be the one who continues the journey and walks daily with Christ. The present tense of “continue” calls for a continual action - this should be our habitual practice or our lifestyle. This represents the cooperation with the process of our sanctification. Therefore, this is the full gospel that Paul proclaimed: justification and sanctification = salvation.

The follower of Christ must answer the question of “to be continued?” with an emphatic yes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who’s the creator?

Who created the world and everything in it? God did right? Right, but more specifically we see in Colossians 1 that Jesus was the member of the Godhead that was the creator of all things in heaven and on earth. John also points out in his gospel that Jesus, the Word, made all things.

Paul continues in Colossians to point out that Jesus is also the one who holds all things together, He is the head of the church, and He is supreme. With this in mind, it is interesting to think that (1) Jesus created all things including man, (2) man fell and sin entered the world, and so (3) Jesus was then the member of the trinity that came down to earth to redeem it and restore it back to Him. As Paul said, He reconciled to Himself all things by making peace through His blood.

This makes Jesus not only our savior, but also our creator - the creator of life and the creator of new life. I guess what I am saying is that Jesus is awesome, He is big, He is the creator and the redeemer of my life, and He is my everything.

Jesus, I often say thank you for saving me; for redeeming me from my old life of sin. In fact, I live my life in a constant state of thankfulness for your loving act of redemption. However, I sometimes fail to remember and comprehend that you were the author of my life and the supreme creator of all things. Jesus, you are big and deserving of all my praise for all things were created by you, for you, and made right again because of you. Your love is huge and I am humbled and eternally grateful.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. – Colossians 1:15-20

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. – John 1:1-5

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Never my will ... always yours

In order to live a life worthy of the Lord, we must know His will. A life lived for God is a life lived, not to accomplish our desires, but instead to fulfill His desires and purpose. And we need to grow in our wisdom and understanding of His will. How do we do this? By a steady and consistent diet of truth found in His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Paul points out some of the characteristics of a life that is worthy to be called a follower of Christ and that is pleasing to God: producing good fruit (what we do matters), growing in knowledge of Him (maturing), being filled with His power, and giving thanks to God. Are these characteristic found in abundance in my life? May it always be so.

In verse 13, Paul underscores why living this kind of life is expected and possible. It is because we have been rescued and invited into His kingdom. We can love God by living for Him because He first loved us, died for us, and redeemed us.

God, fill me with the knowledge of your will through spiritual wisdom and understanding. I want my desires to be your desires. I want my will to be your will. And I want my actions, the way I live, to reflect your character. I want to bear only good fruit. I want your power and grace to be evident in all areas of my life. I want to live totally out of you and not out of my own strength. Thank you for calling me to you while I was far from you. May I continue to daily grow closer to you and never retreat. May my eyes and my heart never wander from my first love - you.

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:9-13

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obedience from faith & infidelity from unfaithfulness

This morning while reading Romans 1, the fifth verse jumped out at me and the following thoughts began to race through my mind:
“Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” – Romans 1:5
Paul didn’t say that he was filled with grace to call people to a personal relationship with Jesus. Rather, he said he was filled with grace to call people to obedience that comes from faith. Paul is essentially saying that obedience is a key (if not the key) characteristic (evidence) of our relationship with Christ. Do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Do you have faith in Christ? Well, have you answered the call to obedience? Is your life characterized by obedience?

Obedience to Jesus shows our faithfulness to Christ and indicates our faith in Him. When we are characterized by disobedience to Jesus, it indicates a problem with our faith or a complete lack of faith. So, disobedience is actually a sign of unfaithfulness.

Isn’t the marriage relationship a good example of this correlation between obedience and faith in the sense that fidelity and faithfulness in a marriage are closely related? If we are truly faithful to our spouse, then we will not engage in adultery or other acts of infidelity. However, the reverse is also true because infidelity in marriage is a sign of unfaithfulness. In fact, we label someone who is engaged in adulterous relationships as unfaithful. When we fell in love with our spouse, we then made the decision to be faithful to them. We even confessed this faithfulness before men. However, this confession of faithfulness is only as good as our actions. Do we live our daily lives committed to our spouse, committed to faithfulness?

It is interesting that Jesus said that unfaithfulness is the only acceptable reason for severing a marriage relationship. (Matthew 5:32)

Paul preached the call to obedience. Jesus told us to make disciples; teaching them to obey all He had commanded (Matthew 28:20). Calling people to obedience that comes from faith in Christ Jesus may not be a popular thing these days, but it is biblical and what we are commanded to do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Small Groups Unplugged

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to present at the Arizona Church Workers Development Conference sponsored by Grand Canyon University. The topic of my talk was geared around small group ministry and was titled, “Small Groups Unplugged.” Here’s the basic description. “No fancy theories or what-if scenarios here. We will roll-up our sleeves and take a real-life look at how an actual small group ministry is being revitalized and is experiencing refreshing growth by going back to the basics - where the biblical values of sharing life, growing in faith, and reaching others is intentional and life changing.”

I got a great response and a challenge by several of the pastors to consider opening up our small group leader training to other churches. I think it’s a great idea and hope we can make it happen as we keep a kingdom mindset to ministry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Passion for Jesus

Here is the third part to the "Go Big or Go Home" small group focus on passion.

Big Idea:
Just having passion isn’t enough. As followers of Christ, our passion must be for Christ himself. He must be our first love and we must give our utmost for Him.

Summary:
What is your greatest desire? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Where is your passion? For some, the answers to these questions include sports, music, food, work, bank accounts, or friends and family. But the answer for a Christian should always be, without reservation, from the bottom of his heart – JESUS! Why, because Christ demonstrated ultimate passion for the Father and for us when He gave His all. Christ didn’t just give up a meal or a few comforts and pleasures. Rather, He passionately gave 100% of Himself and this is why Jesus demands our undivided and complete passion. His passion for us was undivided and complete. He went all-in and expects us to go all-in.

It is one thing to be intrigued by Jesus and His message, but quite another thing to be His disciple – someone who is willing to leave everything and everyone to follow Him. Being a disciple of Christ requires passion; an intense, driving desire, and devotion. Jesus Himself tells us in Luke 14 that our passion for Him must be so intense and uncompromised that everyone and everything else is relegated to a very distant second place. Passion for Jesus is ultimately displayed in our total allegiance to Him. “Forsaking all others” for Christ Jesus must not just be our motto, but our way of life.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Isaiah 53
How far did Jesus go with His passion? How did Jesus go all the way? What is your reaction to this display of passion for God and for you?

Mark 10:17-31
What did the Rich Young Ruler desire more than Jesus? What are some things that compete for our primary passion? Is Jesus OK with a competing passion? What does Jesus require in order to be His disciple? How does, or how should, this affect your daily life?

Luke 14:25-27
Was Jesus telling his followers to be hateful toward their families, or was He going to an extreme to make a point? What point was he making with this radical statement?

Taking Action: Go big this week. Do a little self-examination. Do you desire Jesus more than anything else? Is He your reason for living? Does He have your undivided allegiance? Is He your first-love and your passion?

Ministry Time

Click here for PRINTER-FRIENDLY copy of the curriculum

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Is this really possible?

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. - 1 Peter 1:13-17

We can, should, and must live the kind of life Peter is talking about. The Christian life is a life of action, of transformation, of victory, of self-control, of obedience, and of holiness. This is the life we are clearly called to live today! And it is all possible because of Christ; because we were redeemed with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). To not live this kind of life that is evidently transformed is to cheapen or disregard the blood of Christ.

To not believe this kind of transformed life is possible is to either not understand the work of Christ on the cross or to not fully accept the work of Christ on the cross.

I find the fact that we are both called to holiness and fully equipped in Christ for holiness to be incredibly exciting good news.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mission-minded?

In her book "The Mission Minded Child: Raising a New Generation to Fulfill God's Purpose", Ann Dunagan lists some of the characteristics of kids who are developing a heart for missions.

A mission minded child...
  • dreams of fulfilling God's destiny.
  • May want to become a missionary--or a teacher or a doctor or a newspaper reporter or a state governor or a pastor or a businessperson or an airplane pilot or an author or a florist or a mother--as long as its what God wants.
  • prays for that next-door neighbor.
  • is not a picky eater!
  • takes home a photo magnet from the visiting missionary family and puts it on the kitchen refrigerator.
  • is healthy, active, and adventurous.
  • spends a summer night sleeping outside on the trampoline, gazes up at a sky filled with twinkling stars, and realizes God's plan is infinitely bigger than his or her own backyard.
  • imagines rollerblading on the Great Wall of China!
  • recognizes the names of David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, and Loren Cunningham.
  • knows how to use chopsticks.
  • has a reputation for thoroughly enjoying the Bible sword drills and memory verse contests at church.
  • puts extra money in the monthly missions offering and feels extra good inside.
  • thinks it could be fun to sleep in a mud hut in Africa!
  • reads all the way through the Bible by the age of ten (or eleven or twelve)--and is excited to start again!
  • stares at the photos in the new geography textbook or magazine and imagines climbing to the top of that Egyptian pyramid, snorkeling in those tropical-blue waters, and giving a new outfit to that poor boy with the ripped-up shirt.
  • befriends the new kid at school.
  • thinks beyond the "box" of what's merely expected and hopes to do something big, or something little, for God.
  • wants to obey (even when no one is looking).
  • loves Jesus!
Thanks to Jeff Meyers of Passing the Baton for compiling this information.

So, are you raising mission-minded children? Are you mission-minded?

Monday, April 07, 2008

It’s both: forgiveness and obedience

Peter’s first letter begins with a rich greeting. It talks about God’s elect and those who have been chosen. However, I am not going to focus on the long disputed doctrine of election. Rather, I want to highlight what Peter said Christians are chosen for. Peter says Christians are chosen “for obedience and sprinkling by His blood.”

In other words, we are chosen for obedience and forgiveness. This represents both sanctification and justification. We are not chosen only for the benefits of redemption received by the sprinkling of Christ’s blood, but we are also chosen for the benefits of redemption experienced through obedience. Christians will (must) experience the sanctifying work of the Spirit which leads one from sin towards real holiness. It leads to true saving faith that results in obedience.

To reiterate what Peter is pointing out in this incredible salutation, we are not chosen only for forgiveness and we are not chosen only for obedience. We are chosen for both! Grab hold of the entire redemptive work of Christ and live in forgiveness and obedience for the glory of God.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:1-2

Friday, April 04, 2008

Count the Cost

It is one thing to be intrigued by Jesus and His message, but quite another thing to be His disciple. In the 14th chapter of Luke it records Jesus telling people that they need to “hate” everyone including themselves (meaning Jesus must be first and requires total allegiance above everyone and everything else), they need to carry their cross, count the cost, and give up everything in order to be His disciple. This is a far cry from most modern altar calls.

Jesus knew how difficult it was going to be for His disciples and He wanted people to only follow if they were completely informed and ready to go all the way. So, instead of soft selling the idea of being His disciple, Jesus spelled out just how big of a commitment it would be. He didn’t want people to make a decision based on emotions or feelings, rather He wanted people to count the costs and spend some time examining just how significant this decision was going to be.

Let us share the goodness and love of Christ with everyone. But, let us also be honest and share the cost of discipleship too. This will help prevent false converts and it will also help those who choose to follow Christ by giving them a firm footing as they begin the most incredible journey of all time.

Salvation cost Jesus everything and while it is freely offered to us, it will cost us everything too. Can we afford to be His disciple? Can we afford not to be?
In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Living a Passionate Life

Here is my small group curriculum for part 2 of the "Go Big or Go Home" series.

Big Idea:
Are you living a passionate life? In other words, do you live your life from a position of fear or from a position of faith? True faith in Christ will be passionately expressed – it can’t be contained.

Summary:
“The glory of God is a man fully alive.” Passion matters to God, and Jesus pointed out the importance of passion when he rebuked the church in Laodecia for lacking passion by being “neither hot nor cold.” We are called to make a decision. Playing both sides of the fence is the antithesis of passion. It is the definition of “playing it safe” – not wanting to go all-in. For the Christian, it is actually a position of fear rather than of faith. Fear kills passion and renders us ineffective. We see in Judges 7:3 how God told Gideon to release those soldiers who were fearful. Twenty-two thousand went home that day. They left the fight. Their fear was greater than their faith. A lack of passion eliminated them from the battle and they missed out on the victory.

People living with passion can make history. They can change the world. The early church grew because of passion. The early Christians poured out their best for Christ. They gave their all – their lives. They lived passionately for their Savior and Christianity spread throughout the entire world. Jesus lived a passionate life. He was passionate for God and for people. He only did the will of His Father and He went all the way with it. No short cuts. No compromises. No riding the fence with Jesus. He was all-in and that changed everything for all eternity. Are you all-in? If you answered yes, then jump off of the fence, cast off fear, submit wholly to the will of God, and live the passionate life.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

John 12:42-43
What killed their passion? Discuss things that keep us from living passionately for
God (examples: pride, selfishness, desire for comfort and stuff, reputation or personal gratification)

Revelation 3:15-16
What does Jesus think about us riding the fence with one foot in the His camp and the other foot in the world? Give examples of how we might be riding the fence.

Matthew 14:25-31
Why did Peter have the confidence to walk on the water to Jesus? What caused Peter to sink? Discuss how Peter’s experience can be applied to our lives.

Taking Action: Go big this week. In your personal prayer time, ask God to reveal areas where you are “riding the fence” because of fear. Submit those areas to His Lordship. Confidently step out with faith and passion to follow God’s leading.

Ministry Time