Category Archives: Devotional

Live Sent #devo

The father sent Jesus on an intentional mission of love and sacrifice. He lived simply and invested in others. He came to seek and to save the lost. He stayed connected to heaven and free from the entanglements of life. He gave all he had to give. Lord, help us live this kind of sent life. #devo

The Father’s Heart for the Lost

In Luke 15, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the Father’s heart for the lost.

1. Those far from God liked Jesus and he liked them (verse 1).

Is that true of me? When was the last time someone far from God approached me? Am I available to them? Building relationships with them?

 2. Jesus welcomed and ate with disreputable characters (verse 2).

When was the last meal I had with someone far from God? Do I welcome or repel those far from God?

3. Jesus advocated leaving the crowd to “go after the lost one,” celebrating when the one is found (verse 4).

Who’s the one that I’m going after right now? Do I celebrate one sinner’s repentance or only the crowds faithful participation?

4. Jesus advocated for “carefully” searching for the lost until found (verse 8).

Can I say that my search for the lost is careful, deliberate, diligent?

5. The lost, dishonorable son was met by a heart “filled with compassion” (verse 20).

Do I have compassion or contempt for those far from God?

Jesus’ words in Luke 15, remind us that following the Father’s heart may mean…

  • Being misunderstood
  • Focusing on fewer people, rather than large crowds
  • Careful, diligent, time consuming work
  • Laying aside our contempt for sin, to throw our arms around sinners

And also, celebrations in heaven and on earth, as lives are transformed by the Father’s who loves the lost.

 

Bread to Eat and Seeds to Plant

I love feed stores on Saturday morning. The smells. The activity. The plants. The SEEDS! Feed stores offer potential in the form of dirt, plants, and seeds. They also offer labor, because leaving with a bag from the Feed Store, probably means you have work to do when you get home.

I also love restaurants on Friday night. Especially with my wife. Restaurants offer food, experience, memories, but when you’re done, you’re pretty much done. Restaurants, even the cheapest, are also much more expensive than seeds and plants. And labor after the experience is purely optional – “I think I’ll look up that recipe and try it at home.”

Bread to Eat AND Seeds to Plant

So which one of these describe your church? Do you offer the consumer experience of bread to eat, experience, memories, until next time? or Do you offer the potential of seeds to sow into the community and encouragement to labor in the hood and home?

Healthy churches will offer both, but will be intentional about equipping people to plant seeds of the gospel and labor for the kingdom when they leave.

American Christianity has often focused on the bread to eat consumer experience and it shows. As Christians, we often talk about our churches like a favorite restaurant – “I like the music – preaching – programs.” The programs are laid out much like a menu of options for your enjoyment. And we’ve got it covered. Labor outside of Sunday’s is purely optional. Falling out of favor as a church or pastor, often means being met with the often heard assertion, “I’m just not getting fed.” 

Food to eat and grow as a believer is something we need. Jesus did describe himself the “Bread of Life.” Pastors are Shepherds, and a shepherd feeds his sheep. But Jesus went beyond just offering bread. He sent people out with the seed of the word of God. He refused to set up a permanent feeding station on the mountain side for thousands, which would have swelled his numbers. And the book of Hebrews uses the analogy that people should, like babies, grow from milk, to meat, from being fed, to feeding themselves.

So, how do we balance the ministries of Bread to Eat and Seeds to Plant? 

  • Communicate that the labor for the Christ follower starts at the door of the church. Disciple making is about planting the seeds we pick up on Sunday in the home and hood. Food is for energy, not just enjoyment. How do you communicate about the role of church in the life of the believer?
  • Equip people to multiply and share the gospel. How much of the calendar and menu of programs at your church offer real equipping and practice for the mission of God in the community? We can see in Jesus’ ministry modeling, assisting, watching, and leaving them to do the ministry. How are you training believers to be self-feeders and missionaries in their communities?
  • Offer, how to’s and to do’s, with every sermon. Knowledge alone does not lead to maturity. Jesus was biased toward obedience and action and we should be to. Let’s think hard about practical application for everyday believers in every lesson and sermon.

What ideas does the analogy of Bread to Eat and Seeds to Plant bring to your mind?

Primal Reactions

When times get hard we often return to our primal instincts. Primal means by nature or instinct. It may also refer to the earliest form of something.

Some of our Primal Instincts:

  • Survival and Reproduction are often called the most basic instincts. Revealing themselves in most of the others.
  • Food or Desire to Eat. Hunger.
  • Fear. The Fight or Flight response to events.
  • Breathing. The body has primal reflexes to try to secure air ways.
  • Health and Wellness. When we get sick we have a drive to diagnose and get well
  • Addictions can become primal instincts, taking over our brain and hijacking our desires.
  • Love and Family. Nature calls Mom to care for the family and Dad to provide for the family.

So what did you do? How did you react when uncertainty and difficulty and pressure came? Our primal reactions to difficulty tell us about ourselves and may highlight area of spiritual immaturity. So did you… 

  • Choose Fear or faith?
  • Choose Division or unity?
  • Hoard or give?
  • Demonstrate Anger or joy?
  • Create Tension or peace?
  • Lash out or Encourage?
  • Hide out or stay connected?
  • Pray or Worry?
  • Obey Jesus or Obey your lust?
  • Witness or Complain?
  • Depend on God or handle it yourself?

Your primal reactions will show you some areas of potential spiritual growth. The good new is, Jesus is in the business of transforming our nature, our instincts. Check out some of favorite verses on the subject of transformation: 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

Ephesians 4:22-24 

22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

2 Peter 1:4

By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.

Jesus gives us a new nature when we put our faith and trust in him. Do you need to start there and ask Jesus to enter your life and give you a new nature, replacing the corrupt, basic instinct of this world with his presence and transformation? “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13. Saved from the old nature, to put on the brand new. 

When we do that, some of our old nature may hang on and not let go. As we submit to Jesus everyday, we can gain the advantage in that area. Is there an area of your life that does not line up with the divine nature? Did our current crisis reveal areas of weakness in your faith? Maybe you need to seek God today, repent, and ask him to empower you in that area.

This is true for the church as well. We need to return to our Primal Roots to be fruitful and effective in this culture. And that, we’ll uncover later this week. 

Good Fruit comes from Healthy Roots

  • FRUIT – “Daniel distinguished himself… he had an extraordinary spirit… he was trustworthy and no negligence or corruption was found in him.” Daniel 6:3-4
  • ROOT – “three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed and gave thanks to God.” Daniel 6:10

The fruit of distinction, spiritual power, depth of character comes from the root of consistent, disciplined time with God.

Who Can I Reach? Discovering New Persons of Peace

You have a network of people that only you can influence for Christ. The term used for these people is Persons of Peace. A person of peace is someone who:

  • God is drawing to Himself and opening their heart to the Gospel. (see John 6:44; Acts 16:13-15).
  • Is open to hearing your story, God’s story and the Gospel.
  • Welcomes you. Invites you in to their life and relationships.
  • Has an interest in spiritual things and / or are interested in your life as a believer.
  • Opens doors for you to meet others and gain more opportunities to share your faith.

At any given time, we all have in our network persons of peace that we can share with and lead to next steps in their faith. These should be our first priority because we already know them and have a relationship with them. We can also DISCOVER NEW Persons of Peace around us. God is in the world reconciling people to himself (2 Corinthians 5:15-20). He’s always at work around us drawing people to himself (John 6:44). Here are some ways to Discover New Persons of Peace:

1. Pray expectantly to meet persons of peace throughout your week. When we’re praying for opportunities to be a witness, our eyes are more open to the opportunities around us. Pray everyday for God to show you where and with whom he is working.

2. Initiate relationships with new people. Study after study show that people are lonely. Most people want relationships and appreciate kindness. In line at the store, walking around the neighborhood, wherever you are, take the time to initiate relationships. Stop. Ask questions. Invite people into your life. You’ll discover persons of peace by being a relationship builder.

3. Learn to fish for spiritual interests. Develop a way you explore peoples spiritual interest. Questions may include: Do you have a church you attend? Do you have a spiritual background? Or just being a good listener can clue you in to spiritual interests in peoples lives. Listening for change talk (“I need to make some changes in my life) or for first steps of interest in spiritual things (“I’ve been reading the Bible lately” or “I’m looking for a church”).

4. Observe people’s behavior. In Acts 8, Phillip saw the Ethiopian Eunoch reading the scroll of Isaiah. Along with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Phillip used this behavior as a springboard for spiritual conversation. We can discover people of peace by observing unusual kindness, observing someone reading a sacred text, overhearing a conversation about spiritual things.

5. Serve with the purpose of finding Persons of Peace. Every outreach effort of a local church should have as one of its goals, discovering persons of peace. You can also discover persons of peace by serving in your local community. Often, God’s work in our lives leads us toward generosity. Like Cornelius in Acts 10, who was a God-fearer and was known to be generous, even helping the Jews with synagogue building projects. Get involved in volunteer opportunities around the community and discover persons of peace.

6. Proclaim the Good News. We should use every means necessary to boldly proclaim the good news of Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17. As we actively share about our faith in every conversation, on social media, and with our actions, we will find that Persons of Peace will find us. And today, more than ever, people are looking to discover truth, not in a building or through an institution, but through a relationship.

Don’t get discouraged with those who lack spiritual interest. Keep looking. Keep waiting. Keep watching. That’s what Jesus instructed his disciples to do (See Matthew 10:11-14). Be confident that God is working. Connect with people. Get their info and get ready to help people with next steps in the faith. Which is where we’ll pick up next week!

Who Can I Reach? Discover Your Persons of Peace

Evangelism in the early church was not propelled by the attractional worship venues, great music ministries, or interest piquing events of the churches. Evangelism and disciple making was propelled then, and can be today, by the personal networking of ordinary believers who faithfully shared the gospel with those they knew and those they met.

You have a network of people that only you can influence for Christ. That may include inviting them to church. It’d be better, and more effective today, if it included you actively witnessing to them, teaching them to obey, and leading them to reach THEIR network as well.

Identifying Who I Can Reach

Have you thought about who in your network of relationships are open to spiritual conversations? You probably have someone right now who is a neighbor, a family member, or friend on a social media platform, who is open to learning more about Christ. Think about it and write down a few names.

The term used for these people is Persons of Peace. A person of peace is someone who:

  1. God is drawing to Himself and opening their heart to the Gospel. (see John 6:44; Acts 16:13-15).
  2. Is open to hearing your story, God’s story and the Gospel.
  3. Welcomes you. Invites you in to their life and relationships.
  4. Has an interest in spiritual things and / or are interested in your life as a believer.
  5. Opens doors for you to meet others and gain more opportunities to share your faith.

Who do you know right now who is a possible person of peace? Who has reached out to you and asked spiritual questions? Who has ask you about your church? Who has commented or liked your post about spiritual things on Social Media? Is it possible that God may be preparing that person for reconciliation and salvation? And is it possible that he wants to use you to lead this person to know and follow Him?

One of my favorite person of peace experiences was when Heather and I were trying to start a church in a rural area. The only potential gathering place was an old fire station, which was also used for community events. We were praying for persons of peace and finding none to this point. I mustered up the courage one day to stop by the fire station to ask them about using the old station for Bible Studies. I met the fire chief and within five minutes he had asked me questions about God and church, asked me if I would be the chaplain of the Fire Department, and offered me the use of any of the department facilities for church events at no cost, without me even asking. He was one of our first persons of peace. Over years of friendship, the chief has opened up many doors of ministry for me and most importantly, committed his life to Jesus Christ as well. God was preparing him and me for that moment in time. What a rush to see God working and drawing people to himself.

God is preparing people around you as well. Think about who they may be right now.

A few other resources on Persons of Peace: 

  • A Person of Peace and How to Find One – Video
  • A Person of Peace is Receptive – Video
  • Children can be Persons of Peace – Video

Mobilizing Prayer through Prayer Partners

img_6973Being on mission to make disciples will quickly bring us to the end of ourselves. We need divine help and resources. The pathway opened up for us to request and receive them is prayer (Matthew 7:7-8). Getting more serious about making disciples, should include getting more serious about prayer. Disciple makers create a culture of prayer around their life through personal habits (like with daily prayer prompts), including diligent intercession (like with a prayer calendar), and humbly seeking the prayers of other like minded believers. Do you have a prayer partner or a prayer partner network? You can build these relationships and increase the capacity of prayer for those you desire to reach and disciple.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Make a list of people you know that have invested in you, prayed for you, and will be interested in your efforts to share the gospel and make disciples. These may be people in your church, people you grew up with, people who discipled you. And these are people who should have a heart to see people saved and discipled.

2. Reach out to them and invite them to be a prayer partner with you in making disciples. Consider this approach: “You’ve been an important part of my spiritual life to this point. Thank you! I’m getting more serious about my life as a witness and disciple maker. Would you be willing to pray for me and with me on this journey.”

3. Communicate with your partners regularly about specific people that you’d like them to pray for. Email or text message are great tools to mobilize prayer. The more specific the prayer requests the better. Consider names and stories of lost people that God is bringing to your mind. You may want to brand your communication around a favorite verse or aspect of your personal calling.

4. Keep communication brief. These are most likely people who are busy and active in other spiritual endeavors. They’ll appreciate brevity and respect for their time.

5. Celebrate the stories of life change through prayer. And when God’s people are mobilized to pray specifically and according to his heart for the lost, there will be life change!

Years ago, I was a prayer partner with a young lady who wanted to see a friend saved. She invited everyone she knew that prayed and had a heart for the lost to pray for him by name. She sent reminders everyday for three weeks. Dozens, if not hundreds prayed for this man for three weeks.

I was then part of a team from our church that went to his house specifically to share the gospel with him and his family. After small talk, we asked him, “Have you ever thought about your relationship with God? about heaven and hell? about eternal life?”

He said, “Are you kidding me? That’s all I’ve been able to think about for the last three weeks!

He gave his life to Christ right there and was soon baptized and dozens of people who prayed were able to celebrate the life change in this families life.

Creating a culture of prayer can increase the potential and capacity for fruitfulness in our lives and praise to God as he is glorified through answers to prayer. Get started by making your list of potential partners.

Mobilizing Prayer with a Prayer Calendar

Church leaders are known for encouraging prayer. Encouraging an action is not as effective if the person is not actively involved in it. Encouraging works best from alongside or behind, when you’re observing an action. I’ve recently been inspired by a prayer mobilization tool called the Prayer Calendar. This tool and the habits that go along with it, go further than personal prayer, but are meant to draw other people into your life of intercession and create a culture of prayer around your life.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Make a list of 30 to 90 people who you know that need prayer. 

2. Focus first on those who are lost or whose spiritual condition is unknown to you. 

3. Put these in a spreadsheet numbered 1-30. So if you have 60 names, you will make two columns. If 90 names, 3 columns. I’ve made a template for you HERE.

4. Pray for the names on the corresponding day of the month that you’ve written or typed in everyday. So the names in row 1, you’d pray for every 1st day of the month. The names on row 25, you’d pray for every 25th day of the month.

Other tips here:

      • You could organize the columns if you’d like into Lost, Unknown Spiritual Condition, Family, Church Family, Missionaries or whatever.
      • I have about 150 people in my Prayer Calendar, so 5 columns of 30. Which allows me to intercede for 5 people each day.

How does this draw people in and create culture? It seems pretty individualistic at this point. 

5. Call or text one or more of the people you pray for everyday and let them know you are praying for them. Ask them if they have any prayer requests. Pray with them on the phone if the occasion is right for that.

Disciple Making Tip:

      • If they are already believers, tell them what you’re doing and ask them if they’d like to join you in making a prayer calendar for themselves.
      • If yes, set up a time to meet with them to go over the plan for a prayer calendar.
      • A yes, and a follow up here may tell you that this is a person ready to say yes to obedience and becoming a disciple maker. This may be someone that you can train and mentor and partner with.

What does this process do? 

  • It helps you organize the intercession part of your prayer life, which is essential to the life of a Disciple Maker. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus talked about three key habits of kingdom people: Giving, Praying, Fasting. Why were these three, so important? Lots of reasons, but one is: YOU HAVE TO BE ORGANIZED TO PRACTICE THEM. If you don’t set a budget, you probably won’t give. If you don’t set a time and place and make a list, you probably won’t pray. If you don’t plan your meals and make a commitment, you probably won’t fast. Intercession requires organization. The Prayer Calendar has worked to establish intercession for me.
  • It helps create a culture of prayer around your life. When you call or text people and let them know you are praying for them, you are letting them know what your life is about. You’re establishing yourself as a person they can call with needs or problems. Those people that have called me through the years and ask how they could pray for me are all close to my heart. They are unforgettable. They are now on my prayer calendar and will be getting calls from me as well.
  • It helps you find persons of peace. Those who are excited about your efforts to pray for them and who may say yes to establishing their own prayer calendar are people God has prepared for this time. Your prayer for them and your call to them may very well be a divine appointment that propels them into spiritual maturity and binds the two of you together as partners in disciple making from now on.

Get Started Mobilizing Prayer!

Take some time this week to make your list and start your prayer calendar. If we want to make disciples, we must do what Jesus did, and he prayed regularly and consistently. Go beyond encouraging prayer. Mobilize prayer and expand the kingdom as Jesus did.

For more information on this process check out these resources:

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7:14 – 10:01 – 4:02

Establishing prayer as a priority and rhythm of life is about being intentional. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your private room, shut the door, and pray to Your Father who is in secret” Matthew 6:6. Three intentional acts in this one verse – “Go…shut…pray…” We see the intentionality of Jesus, as he often withdrew to quiet places to pray. Developing intentional rhythms for prayer and communion with God must be a priority for the believer.

One intentional step that has helped me prioritize prayer is using technology to remind me to pray regularly throughout the day. My smart watch buzzes everyday at 7:14am, 10:01am, and 4:02 pm. These times are reminders of three key verses for prayer and intercession.

7:14am

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

This is my usual devotional time, and this alarm reminds me to pray for humility, desire, forgiveness, and healing for our nation and the nations of the world. I’ll usually pull up the Unreached People of the Day during this time and pray for them as well.

10:01am

Romans 10:01 is the Apostle Paul’s heart for his fellow country men – “my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.”

This is the normal break time for my work, so it’s a great time to pray. This alarm reminds me to spend some time praying for people I know who are far from God. You can develop an active list using a process called Oikos Mapping and pray for those people everyday.

I usually also pray the 10:02 prayer for laborers at this time as well –  “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. 

4:02pm

James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives.”

This alarm, toward the end of the day, gives me an opportunity to stop and ask –

  • What have I needed today, that I haven’t asked God for?
  • What or who have I thought about today, that I haven’t prayed about yet?
  • Where have my motives been selfish?

These three prayer prompts have helped establish times of prayer throughout the day. Consider setting alarms for yourself for 7:14am, 10:01am, and 4:02pm and join me in prayer.

  • How have you established rhythms of prayer?
  • What verses would be prayer prompts for you?
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