Lord, Thank You for Remembering Me

On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was unjustly convicted, mocked, humiliated, tortured, and crucified. While on the cross, he spoke seven times and each of these statements are a significant part of the story of Jesus and his life lived and given for us. The saying that fascinates me the most, is Jesus’ interaction with the two criminals crucified with him.

Luke tells us (23:39-43), that one mimicked the mockery of the crowd – “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (v. 39). His response to Jesus drips with mockery, unbelief, and entitlement. I’ve responded to God like this at times. “I don’t deserve this.” When I did. “Aren’t you God? Why don’t you do something?” When he had given me opportunity and direction.

The other criminal though, responded with humility, faith, honesty, and brokenness. He confessed his guilt and professed his belief in Jesus’ innocence – “we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41). He then in faith and humility, sought grace – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42).

When grace from God is sought with humility, faith, honesty, and brokenness, it will be given. 

Jesus extended his grace and gift of salvation to this guilty criminal – Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The simple prayer of the criminal was answered.

The promise to the criminal is for anyone who believes with humility and faith. Anyone can gain paradise, a place in Christ’s kingdom for all eternity, by trusting Jesus. In his death, Jesus demonstrated that He remembered us. In his death, he was busting wide open the doors to paradise, to eternal life, to relationship with God, to God’s Kingdom. In his death, he remembered our sin, our separation from God, our brokenness, our eternal destiny. He remembered. We’re not entitled to it. We can’t demand it. It’s given as a free gift to the humble, believing sinner.

A few good, Good Friday questions:

  • Have I acknowledged my guilt?
  • Have I professed my belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ?
  • Have I sought grace from God in humility and brokenness?
  • Is Jesus’ promise mine?  “you will be with me in paradise.”
  • Who do I know that needs to hear this story today?

Lord, thank you for remembering me. When I was lost in sin, you made a way for me to know you. Thank you for the gift of grace and salvation. Thank you for the promise of eternal life. Thank you for seeking and saving the lost. 

 

Lord, Help Me Stay Awake

On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples and then retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane with his inner circle to pray. The disciples were pretty much in the dark on what would unfold in the coming hours and days. They had no idea that Jesus would soon be arrested, beaten, crucified, and buried. Jesus shared with Peter, James, and John his deep grief and soul travail that he was experiencing over the price he would pay the next day, asking them to “stay awake” with him. However, they went to sleep (see Matthew 26:38-40). He ask them again to “stay awake and pray” (v. 41), but again they fell asleep. A third time, he came back and “found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open” (v. 43).

I can’t help but think, if the disciples had understood the urgency of the moment, they would have been awake, alert, watchful, attentive, and vigilant. These are some of the meanings of this word translated “watch” or “stay awake.” Because of their spiritual blindness, the disciples lacked the urgency to obey Jesus.

I too have been a sleeping disciple. I’ve too often been inattentive to Christ’s commands and unmotivated by the urgency of obedience to Jesus and the needs of the world. Busyness, laziness, worldly desires have often lulled me to sleep and kept me from pursuing what is most important.

What did it take to awake the disciples? The were awakened by the passion of the Christ. The next 24 hours would be the most difficult and painful hours of their lives. The one they had left everything to follow would be betrayed by one of their own, falsely condemned, humiliated, tortured, crucified, and buried. Now they were awake! And in the coming days and months, they would awaken to the full plan and purpose of God as they experienced a risen Christ, the forgiveness of their sins, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the urgency of spreading the news to the world.

This story, the person and work of Christ, and his purpose for our lives should be enough to wake us up and make us alert. Being awake means we are prayerful, pursuing God, watching for opportunities to obey, on the lookout for God at work around us, ready to tell the story and display his grace in the lives of others.

“Stay awake” became a regular part of the vocabulary of the early disciples (see 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 16:15). It should also be a regular part of our personal examination of our lives.

  • Am I ready to obey Jesus?
  • Am I looking for opportunities to share and show the Gospel?
  • Am I devoted to prayer? keeping up my spiritual disciplines?
  • Am I awake to the temptations around me? and the adversaries prowling?
  • What is it in my life that tends to lull me to sleep and keep me from obeying the Lord?

Lord, help me stay awake. I want to be alert, attentive, watchful in regard to your desires. Awaken me to your passion, displayed by your death on the cross. Awaken me to your power, displayed in your resurrection from the grave. Awaken me to the needs of the world around me and the eternal destiny each one faces. Let me not be too busy, too lazy, too worldly to understand and follow your will.  

Lord, Help Me Close the Door on the Devil

On Wednesday of Holy Week, Judas set in motion his plan to betray Jesus. At dinner in Bethany, a woman broke an expensive bottle of perfume and used it to anoint Jesus (Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8). Judas protested, that it could have been used to care for the poor. Jesus defended the woman, spurning Judas’ opinion. The next scene has Judas making his offer to the religious leaders who wanted Jesus arrested and questioned. The arrangement was made and Judas began looking for the right opportunity to betray Jesus.

What do we know about Judas? A few things:

  1. He was called by Jesus and he obeyed and followed. None of Jesus’ disciples were perfect. Studying what we know of them, we find flaws, just as we can find flaws in ourselves and probably everyone at our church. Jesus is not looking for perfect, but available. Judas had been called and he obeyed and followed Jesus.
  2. He was not suspected to be dishonest. No one knew who the betrayer was. Judas always has a crooked nose and evil grin in my minds pictures. However, Judas kept the money bag, so he was trusted by the disciples and by Jesus, though evil intent was found in his heart in hindsight.
  3. The gospel writers paint him with hindsight as a thief, stingy, greedy, and glory seeking. And he probably was, but no one suspected it or accused him of such before his kiss of betrayal.

What happened to Judas?

Some commentators point to the stern correction that Jesus gave to Judas after the perfume was spilled as a significant moment in his life. Correction can be for us an opportunity to grow wise or an opportunity to grow bitter (see Proverbs 10:17; 15:10). This event may have been a tipping point for Judas’ heart. His pride and bitterness opened the door for the devil. That’s what anger and bitterness can do. Paul in speaking of anger, says to not hold onto it “and don’t give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Could it be that Satan can take the opportunity of a slight, our anger at someone’s word or actions, or our hurt pride at a spurned idea to make a betrayer out of us? 

Luke says that Satan entered Judas (Luke 22:3). John says that “the devil…PUT INTO the heart of Judas…to betray” (John 13:2). The Greek word translated “put into” is the word for thrust or cast or throw. This image should remind us of the armor of God and the shield of faith that help us “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

It’s easy to read the story of Judas and think, “I’d never do that.” Or to think of all those wicked, crooked nosed betrayers out there. Or to think of someone that has betrayed us or those we love. But the story of Judas should cause us to ask, “Is the seed of betrayal alive in me?” or “Am I opening the door for the devil?” You might find the seed or the opened door in your relational pain. Have you held on to a grievance when someone offended you? Are you holding someone else responsible for your unheeded ideas or unmet needs? Have you harbored anger at someone for longer than a few days without letting it go? Let’s remember Judas and close the door on the devil by forgiving, receiving correction with humility, putting faith in Jesus, and remaining faithful followers. 

Lord, help me close the door on the devil. If the seed of betrayal lives in me, convict me that I may forgive and follow you. Thank you for providing the shield of faith that can keep us safe from Satan’s arrows. I want to be a faithful follower and friend until death. Protect me from anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.     

Prayer Walking Guide

Prayer walking has been defined as “Praying on site with insight.” While you walk you can pray for what you observe. You can pray for God to give you insight into your community. You can pray specifically for your neighbors and the needs around your community as you see them. This is a great way to obey God’s command to pray for others. Prayer works every time it’s tried. Here is a printable guide to use while Prayer Walking – PDF.

 

Lord, Cleanse My Cup

On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem, spending time in the Temple teaching. He also was engaged by the religious leaders who wanted to trap him and discredit him. His dialogue with them led to a harsh admonishment of their hypocrisy (see Matthew 23) capped off with the accusation – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25.

There are two ways to read this:

1. “Yea! Get’em Jesus!” There is a temptation to see this through the lens of Jesus giving it to all those mean, religious people out there somewhere.

or

2. “Lord, cleanse my cup.” The better response is to use this as an examination of our own hearts. Are any of these characteristics of hypocrisy alive in me?

Examine Yourself

Here is a personal list of questions and prayers using Jesus’ admonitions against the religious leader, as a means of personal self-examination. Let’s examine and rid ourselves of the hypocrisy that Jesus decried during Holy Week:

  • They don’t practice what they teach (v. 3). Is my life consistent with my words and my profession of faith? 
  • They burden people rather than bless people (v. 4). Do I give grace or guilt in my relationships with others?  
  • They do things to be noticed by others, not to be obedient to God (v. 5-7). Who is the intended audience of my life? Am I thinking through actions with God or others in mind? 
  • They love personal recognition more than glory for God (v. 8-12). Does my title, place, or position matter more to me than the glory God receives?
  • They believe themselves to be front doors to the kingdom, rather than servants leading and pointing the way to it. (v. 13). Do I project a place of servant-hood or superiority in sharing the gospel? 
  • They convert people to religion and not to the kingdom of God (v. 15). Am I making more church people or am I making disciples of Jesus?  
  • They emphasize the minor and inconsequential while overlooking the important and necessary (v. 16-24). Does my preferences and cultural lenses color how I see people’s actions? Am I concerned first with the weighty matters of the heart, instead of the outward appearances?  
  • They make a great show on the outside, but the inside – the heart – is a mess in God’s sight (v. 25-28). Am I more concerned with how things look on the outside, than how things are on the inside?

Praying for God to rid my life of hypocrisy:

Lord, let my life and my words be consistent.

Lord, help me lead with grace, not guilt in all my relationships.

Lord, you are the only audience that matters. I want to be obedient. I’ll trust you to show others what you want them to see in my life.

Lord, to your name be the glory. Let the desire for title and position be far from my heart.

Lord, the Kingdom is yours. You’ve opened the way through your Son. It’s your kingdom to fill. Help me always remember that I’m a simple servant, pointing everyone, everywhere to your way.

Lord, let me not aim to make church people, but to make disciples of Jesus as you have commanded.

Lord, help me to be consistent. Don’t let my personal preferences or cultural lenses be more important than your heart and desires for people.

Lord, cleanse my cup. I want that part that only you can see to be clean and beautiful. Only you can do this work. Do it in me.

Amen

Lord, Cleanse Our Outer Courts

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus entered the temple and in anger, drove out the merchants who were selling and trading, making profit on Passover necessities (see Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 12:15-19; Luke 19:45-47). This was most likely from the area of the temple known as the outer courts, where non-Jews could enter the Temple and seek God for themselves. What caused Jesus such righteous anger? There were plenty of places to buy and sell, but the people chose the temple for this, showing both a lack of reverence for God AND a lack of concern for outsiders that might seek Him. With the world at the doorsteps, God’s people were more concerned with buying and selling. They had lost the Father’s heart for the outsider and His vision of them being a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3). Jesus’ teaching had emphasized the Father’s heart in this regard (see Luke 15) and now he was backing up his words with a demonstration of anger at their sinful disregard.

We would do well to remember this scene as we examine our hearts, homes, and churches today. Do we have a place for outsiders? When those far from God see us, do they see the gracious and compassionate God of love and mercy? Is our primary focus seeking and saving the lost and being a light to the nations? Do we have the Father’s heart for the world? What would Jesus need to drive out and overturn from our hearts,  homes, and churches to restore the place of outreach and witness? What would Jesus need to drive out and overturn in my life, so that I could rightly prioritize the lost and broken?

Lord, give us your heart for the outsider. Let us be a faithful witness to your grace and mercy. Cleanse our outer courts, so that nothing we do or say will distract the world from their need and your provision of redemption and eternal life in Jesus Christ.      

 

Make Disciples: Why? Who? What? When?

Jesus wants you to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Do you have one hour to get equipped to make disciples? Here is an outline with handy, short videos that can get you ready for a disciple making mission. All you need is a few blank sheets of paper.


Introduction: Link (2:48)
  1. Why do we make disciples? Link (2:04)

  2. Who can I reach? Link (4:09)

  3. What do I say?

      • Part 1 – Link (4:07)

      • Part 2 – Link (4:35)

  4. When am I going to do it? Link (4:05)


A lot more great videos to equip you to start a movement at the site: Link

The Kingdom Grows

The number of Christians in Asia grew from 101 milion to 351 million between 1970 and 2010.
In China, it is estimated that 10k people per day become followers of Christ.
In China, Christianity has grown 4,300% in 50 years.
By 2030, China will have the largest Christian population on earth.
Where Christianity is growing the fastest:
  • there are no Facebook feeds of sermons.
  • there are no large gatherings
  • there are few buildings with padded seats
  • there are no Eventbrite or Facebook events about what’s upcoming
  • there are few full bands
  • some people have to walk dozens of miles to gather with a church of 30-50.
It’s not bad that we have been blessed with these things, but looking around the world we can be reminded that the kingdom grows without them. The Covid-19 crisis may also gives us an opportunity to assess the strategic value of all we do in growing God’s kingdom.  

Develop a New Habit: Scripture Memory

StockSnap_ZBW2P0D543Quarantine time is time to lean in to trusting God. A habit that has helped me do just that over the last few years is Scripture Memory. The Bible Memory App has been a daily companion, helping me commit over 1,000 verses to memory. Here’s a list of my posts on Scripture Memory, including info on getting started with the Bible Memory App. I’ve never regretted a moments time that I’ve invested in memorizing God’s word. The Bible Memory App helps me stay on a good plan for reviewing and mastering verses. Check it out!

  • Cultivating the Habit of Scripture Memory – Link
  • Why and How to Memorize Scripture – Link
  • Getting Started with the Bible Memory App – Link

What tools have you found helpful in memorizing scripture? 

A Viral Outbreak from Asia

T4TCatching up on some reading this week. You know why. Lol! Reading about another Viral Outbreak that came to us from Asia. Ying and Grace Kai’s Training for Trainers: The Movement that Changed the World. There are several books about T4T, but this is actually Ying’s side of the story. Very instructive to get the heart of the author and orchestrator of a movement that in 10 years, led to 1.7 million baptisms! (and that’s just the ones they know about). This movement has spun off many other expressions of the same kind of principles and practices that Ying Kai began with a group of 30 farmers in 2000. The beauty and the secret of T4T is simplicity. Simplicity leads to reproducibility. Simplicity and reproducibility are key ingredients in viral movements. Considering a reset in your ministry, this book will get you thinking!

The simple step-by-step process:

  1. Develop a list of unsaved people in your network of relationships.
  2. Teach your group how to tell their story, repeatedly practicing to become fluent in sharing their story.
  3. Teach the story of Jesus, repeatedly practicing to become fluent in teaching the story of Jesus.
  4. Have them commit to share their story and the story of Jesus with five people each week.
  5. Don’t encourage the growth of one small group, but train everyone to become trainers of their own small group.
  6. Never give up on anyone.

T4T type disciple making should be the commitment of every Christian, but leaders in this movement concede that only about 20% of people that are trained will follow-up with obedience and action. This is only for doers of the word. But how much time and energy do we spend trying to keep and attract those who only hear. T4T helps you develop a vision for discipling those who have the capacity and heart to disciple others.

Here are just a few of the quotes that jumped out at me:

  •  We are always inviting people to come to our church…. But Jesus said we are to go and find lost persons.
  • It is not until one can train others that they can grow into a true disciple.
  • Share the gospel with at least five people each week.
  • I may say that I am a Christian, but if it is only knowledge of the truth and I have never really worked in the kingdom of God, then I am just a nominal Christian and not a true kingdom citizen.
  • It is our duty to sow seeds broadly and we should not limit where and when we sow.
  • God sees our heart to serve and not how talented we are.
  • Too much discussion leads to no action.
  • Keep things simple so that anyone is able to do it and everyone is willing to do it. Once things begin to get complicated, people start to put it off and not do it.
  • We should not encourage them to bring others into our small group. We are training them to become a trainer. They must start and train their own small groups.
  • So long as Christian perceive of discipleship as knowledge or simply doctrine, they fall short of the life-changing, world-changing power of true discipleship.
  • In every community with whom we share the gospel, there will be men and women who are already under the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
  • The Great Commission instructs that we are to go, not invite them to come to us; that everyone is to be engaged in attempting to reach everyone, everywhere; and we are to make disciples, not just church members or converts.
  • Whatever is taught, it should not be a knowledge dump, but training simple enough so that the new believer can grasp and replicate what has been taught.
  • The real test of success is the trainee taking what he has learned, and training a fellow believer…
  • The relationship with God will lead to an international outflow of gospeling and discipling.
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