Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Recruit Followers

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.  Matthew 4:18-20
Many years ago the great explorer, Sir Francis Drake, was attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration.  He gathered them around and told the group that if they came with him they would see some of the most marvelous things their eyes could ever behold; sandy white beaches, juicy fruits, foreign peoples, priceless treasures, and gorgeous landscapes.  He told them that this wild adventure could be theirs if they came with him.  Not one of them enlisted for the journey.
The next day a different group came out.  Drake told them that if they came with him they would encounter storms that would terrify them to tears.  Fierce winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months.  Water would frequently be scarce.  At times they would be so thirsty that their very souls would cry out for simply one drop of water.  In short, danger would always be their constant companion.  Drake concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams.  Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day, some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families, they just boarded the boat eager for the journey.

What made the difference in these two groups? Why did the first group turn down the mission and the second jump at the chance?  Was the second group different and more adventurous than the first?  The answer is: No.  It is not the men who had changed; it was the message. The first spoke of rewards; the second spoke of challenges.  The first offered comfort; the second promised testing.  The first tempted them with things; the second seduced them with an experience unlike any other.  I like to think that Sir Francis Drake discovered what Jesus knew all to well.  And that is this: The paths that are offered to us must promise some value beyond material if they are to have any appeal to us at all.  If we are presented with a challenge that will make a lasting difference, we will be more eager for the journey. 

When Jesus called His disciples he made clear the cost when He said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:16-18 This was certainly no invitation to a party.

There are many opportunities that come our way and call on us to follow.  Choosing to involve ourselves in something that has lasting impact turns our lives toward purpose instead of only pleasure.  What is it about Jesus' message that made the disciples eager for the journey?  That is what we will discover in the next few days.

Scripture to Claim:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13

Spiritual Lessons from the Eagle’s Nest

Deuteronomy 32:11-12
The eagle gently coaxed her offspring toward the edge of the nest.  Her heart quivered with conflicting emotions as she felt their resistance to her persistent nudging.  "Why does the thrill of soaring have to begin with the fear of falling?" she thought.  This ageless question was still unanswered for her.

As in the tradition of the species, her nest was located high on the side of a sheer rock face.  Below there was nothing but air to support the wings of each child.  "It is possible that this time it will not work?" she thought.  Despite her fears, the eagle knew it was time.  Her parental mission was complete.  There remained but one task -- the push.

The eagle drew courage from an innate wisdom.  Until her children discovered their wings, there was no purpose for their lives.  Until they learned how to soar, they would fail to understand the privilege it was to have been born an eagle.  The push was the greatest gift she had to offer.  It was her supreme act of love. 

And so one by one she pushed them, and they flew!
from the book Even Eagle Need a Push by David McNally

I. The Design Stage  II. The Demonstration Stage  III. The Discomfort Stage
IV.  The Decision Stage - Joshua 24:15
Most people hate making decisions.  We also dislike change.
The church can become our nest.
Churches that turn inward have serious problems in their fellowships.
 Christians are not called to “nest” but to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
We are all products of our decisions regardless of the circumstances of our lives.
The impact of pressure in life is that it forces us off the fence or, to use our analogy, out of the nest.
It takes COURAGE to jump when it’s time to fly.
We don’t jump because we are more afraid of what we don’t know than what we do know.  We stay crippled by fear and lose our freedom and purpose.
V.    The Danger Stage - Proverbs 24:16
Growth and success in life is not without risk.
VI.  The Development Stage - 2 Timothy 3:11
To “develop” something means to unwrap it.
Take the struggle away and you take the strength away.
VII. The Deliverance Stage – v.11

VIII.    The Determination Stage
The one who learns to soar above others is a person of great personal faith.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Most Important Part…

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  Ephesians 6:10-11

Well, we are at the end of our study of the Armor of God and I have saved perhaps the best for last.  Maybe the most important thing we need to remember about the armor of God is that to completely protect oneself from the enemy, you must put on the full armor of God.  You see, if you don’t, Satan will find that one weak link; that one unprotected area, and he will attack.  He knows where our weaknesses are and he knows how to get to us so we must cover ourselves, every inch, with God’s perfect protection.  

In one sense, the full armor of God is a picture of Jesus Christ.  Christ is the Truth (John 14:6); He is our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and our peace (Eph. 2:14).  His faithfulness makes possible our faith (Gal. 2:20); He is our salvation (Luke 2:30) and He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). This means that when we trusted Christ, we received the armor. Paul told the Romans what to do with the armor.  Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:11-14  

We are to:
  • Wake up (Rom. 13:11),
  • Cast off sin, and “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).
  • We do this by putting “on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14).
  • By faith, put on the armor and trust God for the victory.
Once and for all, we have put on the armor at the moment of salvation. But it still has to be “put on” each and every day.  The one day you don’t or are lacking in any one area, you can bet the enemy is watching and waiting to take you down.   When King David put off his armor and returned to his palace, he was in greater danger than when he was on the battlefield (2 Sam. 11). We are never out of reach of Satan’s devices, so we must never be without the whole armor of God.

 Scripture to Claim:
He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle. Isaiah 59:17

What is the Word of God?

…and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:17
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.   Psalm 119:105
 God's Word—the Holy Bible—illuminates. It reveals to us the good and the bad, the wise and the unwise. It is the ultimate tool in learning how to live the best possible life, free from the restraints of stumbling in darkness.

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.   John 17:17
God's Word is truth, plain and simple.  We can have perfect confidence in the fact that His words are accurate, true and unerring.  When followed, they guide us without fail in the paths that we need to walk.  Hosea 4:6 tells us that we can be destroyed by lack of the knowledge of God, but Luke 11:28 affirms that we will be blessed if we hear and keep the Word of God.  Such knowledge is not just for us. We are to be ready to answer others who ask us (1 Peter 3:15).

The Soldier’s Sword
This sword is the offensive weapon God provides us.  The Roman soldier wore on his girdle a short sword which was used for close-in fighting. Hebrews 4:12 compares the Word of God to a sword, because it is sharp and is able to pierce the inner man just as a material sword pierces the body. You and I were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37; 5:33) when the Word convicted us of our sins.  Peter tried to use a physical sword to defend Jesus in the Garden (Luke 22:47–51); but he learned at Pentecost that the “sword of the Spirit” does a much better job.  Moses also tried to conquer with a physical sword (Ex. 2:11–15), only to discover that God’s Word alone was more than enough to defeat Egypt.
A material sword pierces the body, but the Word of God pierces the heart.  The more you use a physical sword, the duller it becomes; but using God’s Word only makes it sharper in our lives.  A physical sword requires the hand of a soldier, but the sword of the Spirit has its own power, for it is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12).  The Spirit wrote the Word, and the Spirit wields the Word as we take it by faith and use it.  A physical sword wounds to hurt and kill, while the sword of the Spirit wounds to heal and give life. When we use the sword against Satan, we are out to deal him a blow that will cripple him and keep him from hindering God’s work.

The Lord’s Sword
When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Christ used the sword of the Spirit and defeated the enemy.  Three times Jesus said, “It is written” (Luke 4:1–13).  Note that Satan can also quote the Word: “For it is written” (Luke 4:10), but he does not quote it completely.  Satan tries to use the Word of God to confuse us, so it is important that we know every word that God has given us. You have heard it said, “You can prove anything by the Bible.  True — if you take verses out of context, leave out words, and apply verses to Christians today that do not really apply.  The better you know the Word of God, the easier it will be for you to detect Satan’s lies and reject his offers.

When we memorize God’s word, we always have it with us.  Inside the Bible we can find all the information we will ever need for life.  When we get caught in enemy fire or we find ourselves in a dangerous attack from the enemy, we can lift ourselves up and get our thinking on track.  Satan will try to catch us off guard and throw us off.  When we know what we know, we can stand firm and fend off his attacks. 

Scripture to Claim:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

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