Bottleneck?

Read Mt 21.20-22, Mk 11.20-26. Why is it that Jesus transitions from prayer to forgiveness so often? It’s pretty evident that unforgiveness is a logjam to answered prayer. We want so desperately to see God in action through our petitions. But He wants to see us in action too. He wants us to forgive the way He forgives us. And let’s face it, with how often we are so easily offended, we could spend all day practicing the godly art of forgiveness. Is lack of forgiveness a bottleneck to our answered prayers? If the discipline of forgiveness as strong as any other spiritual discipline in our lives?

Why Pray?

Read Mk 1.35, Lk 5.16, Lk 6.12 – If God knows all, why pray? Well, first and foremost, because Jesus did. We can get wrapped around the axel and get into deep theological discussion but my mind it put at ease when I simply look at the example of the Master. But how did He pray? It seems to be a priority from morning to night, from start to finish. And there were times to pray with others and alone. I must admit, for years I struggled with this discipline (and still do). But in recent years, prayer has become more of a delight than discipline. Keep at it! The Father enjoys spending time with you.

It is Written

Read Mt 4.4,7,10 – Three times Jesus responds to the temptations of Satan with “It is written…” and some twenty times in the gospels as He interacts on various topics. He actually alludes to the Old Testament over 70 times. Jesus saw the Word of God as His primary source for authority when discussing any subject. Most of the time it appears Jesus is quoting the Scriptures from memory. If you poked Jesus, the Word of God came pouring out. Are we giving ourselves to the Word as Jesus did? Is it our first reference when answering questions about life and ministry? Are we “hiding it in our hearts” so that is readily available when needed? My Simple Scripture Memory Plan – https://drive.google.com/…/1–c0uGIOy6aHpg3czyA4TBCgWKG…

The Word. Our Food.

Read Mt 4.4, Jn 6.34 – Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” But when we are intentionally trying to become like Jesus we come to discover that daily bread is a whole lot more than what we put in our stomachs. Jesus saw the Word of God and the application of it as His very food. I’m sometimes asked, “Where are you fed?” (meaning what good preacher are you sitting under). I believe hearing sermons is good but reading the Scriptures for yourself and applying them is where I’m getting my meat. Are we being like Jesus and putting a premium on knowing and applying the Word of God?

Jesus Abiding in the Father

Jn 5.19, 12.49 – So how did Jesus abide in the Father? Fasten your seatbelts and be prepared to be blown away. Jesus was so connected that He never did or said anything that wasn’t in perfect alinement with the Father. WOW! That seems as impossible as trying to swim to the moon. We feel so inferior to Jesus we say things like, “Well He was God.” or “It’s impossible so why even try.” And yet this is His example that we are to conformed to (Rom 8.29). The key is to begin the journey. Are we studying Jesus and taking one step at a time to align ourselves with Him as He is with the Father?

Walk as He Did

1 Jn 2.6 – “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” So what does it mean to be like Jesus? We know it doesn’t mean be single, grow a beard, and wear sandals. If you would have asked me this question 5-10 years ago, I would have said that our ministry should mirror His. 2-4 years ago I would have said we need to be like Him in character (loving, faithful, truthful, etc…) I would still say those are important areas to study and emulate but I think I have found the quintessential element in which we should be following Jesus’s example. Here it is; To relate to Him the way Jesus related to the Father (Jn5.19, Jn 15) What do you think?

So You Want to Be a Disciple-Maker? The First Step (Part 12)

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…

(Matthew 28:19-20)

He was madder than a hornet. A young soldier we had led to Christ walked up and confronted us. “I’ve been reading my Bible,” he says. “Why didn’t you tell me I needed to get baptized!?” (He had now been in our ministry for over two years) Red-faced I turned to the guy that was discipling him and apologized for not being a better disciple-maker. One of the things that I’ve learned about problems in the ministry is that you ought always look upstream first. And the finger I was pointing for this young disciple-maker’s critical blunder was squarely pointed back at me. 

In almost every conversion story in the New Testament, a profession of faith was immediately followed by baptism. Immediately! Not 2 years! Not even longer than a few days in Paul’s case. (Act 9.10-18) Paul even baptizes the Philippian Jailor and his family in the middle of the night. (Act 16.33) It seems in almost every case both the baptizer and the baptizee had a sense of urgency. It really was the disciple’s first step of obedience.

Today we want to wait to see if “salvation” is really going to stick or we want people to go through eight weeks of classes to make sure that they understand what they are getting into. We use baptism as a gate of authentication. There is no such Biblical precedent for that. That my friends is pure tradition. So let’s stop holding the first step of obedience hostage for new believers. We would never say, “Don’t stop committing adultery until we are sure you’re a real believer,” would we? No way! Start challenging all would-be disciples to immediate baptism. It should be the first step of many steps in following Jesus.

Here’s a good little Bible study on the immediacy of baptism; Baptism Hammer

So You Want to Be a Disciple-Maker? Pouring Spiritual Concrete (Part 11)

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:18-19)

Baptism. Think about it. It’s simple enough that almost anyone anywhere can do it but it’s just weird enough that people balk at it. “You want me to do what? Fully submerge myself in water while being fully clothed?” But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He gave us this command to be “baptizers.” A lot of times we are looking to put something very tangible around a very spiritual reality. We are looking for a way to pour concrete around a cloud to capture what it is. We walk an aisle, pray a prayer, attend confirmation, etc… Well, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think Jesus gave us the “concrete” to pour on our spiritual condition when we start following Him; its called Water Baptism. That’s the metaphorical picture we can point to that we express our commitment to Jesus. Baptism doesn’t save us but it is a way to capture the relationship I have with Him and to acknowledge to the world; “I have died to myself and I now live for Christ.” (Gal 2.20)

Many other religions tolerate and even like Jesus. It’s really no problem for some to say, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus.” But once you start talking about baptism the tenor of the discussion completely changes. A line has been drawn in the sand (or water). Baptism is the symbol of being “All In.” And they are not prepared to make that kind of commitment. Interesting that people from other religions would have a clearer view of the symbolism of baptism than a lot of Christians. Do we take Jesus’ command to be a baptizer seriously? Do we see baptism as an optional superfluous ritual or a religious act that is like a ticket to heaven or a command to be obeyed that gives us a tangible symbol of our new identity in Christ?

So You Want to Be a Disciple Maker Pure Genius (Part 10)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8)

Jesus was a Master at casting vision. He starts with a simple “Follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men” and in the end, He says “There’s the world, now get after it! Pure Genius! And as scalable as Jesus was in His approach to inspire His men to the mission, in the same kind of way NoPlaceLeft is amazingly simple and comprehensive. We can start with NoPlaceLeft in our hearts and quickly move to NoPlaceLeft in our family, our neighborhood, city, state, country, and ultimately the world. And as long as we keep it a vision and not an organization or about a set of tools or strategy, anyone who has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God is answering the clarion call (whether they know it or not). And lest we highjack the Great Commission with our catchy vision statement, let’s pin the rose on the True Founder. It was Jesus. He is the One who makes our hearts burn to see His glory continue to be the global goal. So NoPlaceLeft may be an inspiring way to repackage what Jesus commanded but He owns the rights and the results to the mission. 

And think about it. It is easier than it has ever been to “Go Global.” Just this morning I was sharing the gospel with a Hindu in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India on Facebook. But you really don’t even need the internet or an airport, the nations are living next door to us. In our day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for not reaching the “ethnos.” They are all around us. And if we simply share the gospel and help them fall in love with and obey Jesus, we will have obeyed the global mandate of the Ruler of it All. Does Jesus’ Commission grip your heart? Are we living our lives in a way that His glory will spread like “leaven through the whole lump of dough?” Are we casting this vision in such a way that it ignites those around us to join the greatest enterprise in the universe?