Redefining Greatness through God

Redefining Greatness through God

Today’s guest post is written by Jan Harrison, author of  Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has inspired thousands of women for over 15 years. She and her husband, Frank, have three grown daughters and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter when we prepare our heart to receive the joyous reality of Christ’s resurrection power by reflecting on his life and death. In sincere and genuine reflection, I find myself under conviction. God’s firm but gentle hand is leading me to look into the mirror of his word.

Will you join me in your heart and pray with me?

Lord Jesus, When I look into the mirror of your word I see selfish, self- centered, self-protecting me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’ve neglected your example and failed to practice what you taught when you washed your disciples’ feet. Show me what it looks like in my life to genuinely serve others as you did. In your name I pray, Amen.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave to all.” (Mark 10:44-45).

To be perfectly honest, I would like to be great for God.  I genuinely desire to live my life with eternal purpose and to bring glory and honor to his great name.  My challenge is to remember whose voice I allow to define the meaning of ‘great’.

Greatness is usually defined in terms of numbers of people who follow, like, listen, and talk about us favorably. This world measures greatness by the number of people who serve you. We like to be catered to and taken care of. We gladly pay for people to serve us. Maybe one reason Jesus was rejected by the Jews and religious leaders, and by people today, is because he came as a suffering servant. Born in a manger, trained as a carpenter, roamed the countryside with unprofessional, unlearned men and misfits in society—hardly the resume of a ‘great’ man. Read Jesus’ words and you will find ‘greatness’, according to his standard, rearranges everything you ever heard.

“I am among you as the one who serves,” (Luke 22:27).

Greatness for God didn’t just happen, not even for Jesus. Read the words from Philippians 2: 5-8, and see how Jesus became great:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

Jesus emptied himself of glorious heavenly perfection.

Jesus humbled himself and willingly became a bond-servant. The king of glory stooped low to assume the position of a slave.

Jesus obeyed the Father’s requirement of death on a cross to atone for sin. He laid down his perfect, sinless life on a painful, shameful cross to pick up and pay for my sin and shame.

As I reflect on the price for greatness with God I have to ask myself,  “Am I willing to take the same steps required of Jesus?

Will I:

1. Empty myself and hold nothing for myself? Paul said it this way, “Whatever things were gain to me, and those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ,” (Philippians 3:7). 

2. Humble myself, bow low and stay there everyday, in every circumstance? “He gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6).

3. Become obedient and discipline myself under the Word where the will of God is revealed and respond with obedience? “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,” (I Samuel 15:22).

4. Suffer willingly and allow my suffering to be used to bless others? “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow to attain the resurrection of the dead,” (Philippians 3:10).

 How serious are we about being great for God? Crowded into the upper room to eat the Last Supper, the disciples got into a dispute about who would be the greatest. Patient Jesus gave them a demonstration of greatness instead of a lecture. Without introduction or fanfare, he got up from the table, took off his outer garments, and tied a towel around his waist. He moved quietly around the table where they reclined and washed his disciple’s feet. Emptying himself, humbling himself, obeying his Father, suffering for others, just as he had done everyday of his life on earth. When finished he said,

“For I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, neither is one who is sent, greater than one who sent him,” (John 13:15-16).

What do you consider to be gains in your life? I would call these the things we consider to give us a “leg up” in life. Some possibilities could be your heritage, spirituality, education, a talent, career, family, social position, reputation, influence? Would you consider them all as loss, and be willing to empty yourself of them in order to genuinely serve in the name of Christ?

It’s time to do more than reflect. It’s time to repent. Using these prompts as I did, allow the Spirit to redefine greatness. [Click to tweet!]

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What’s the Big Deal with Palm Sunday?

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Today’s guest post is by Rob Bentz, author of The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-Progress (Crossway, 2014). Rob and his wife, Bonnie, have been married for 17 years, have two children (Reid and Bethany) who like to laugh, and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Palm Sunday is a day most Christians recognize, yet many consider a second-tier faith holiday. Perhaps we should all reconsider—Palm Sunday is a big deal!

The biblical narrative, often referred to as the Triumphal Entry, is one of the rare stories of the life of Jesus found in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19). That fact alone makes the details of the story something significant for every Christ follower. Yet there’s a whole lot more for us to engage with when seeking to grasp the magnitude of this moment in Jesus’ life.

Here are the key points of the narrative: Jesus, riding a young donkey, enters Jerusalem. He’s greeted by crowds of people honoring and praising him with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowds cover the dusty path before him with their cloaks and palm branches as they would for an earthly king.

Theologians call this day “Passion Sunday,” as it’s the beginning of Jesus’ final week on earth. I call this one of the most poignant moments in all of Scripture!

The God-Man who left the comforts of perfect unity with the Father to enter our world is now willingly riding on a young donkey. But it’s not on a joy ride—rather it’s a bittersweet moment of half praise as he journeys the city of his death to be sacrificially slaughtered for your sin and mine.

As a child, I recall getting thin little branches in Sunday school on Palm Sunday. We waved them in honor of Jesus that day. Then I would take my branches home and move on with my life. Like my childhood experience, I fear that many of us overlook the significance of this biblical narrative. Many of us—myself included—often consider Palm Sunday simply a nice Bible story complete with a tangible object lesson for children.

But this thinking is to our detriment.

Read the Gospel narratives of the triumphal entry afresh and take note of the irony. The masses praise Jesus for what they think he’s about to do. They wave palm branches to honor his coming kingship. Yet Jesus doesn’t come to establish an earthly throne, but a heavenly one. He doesn’t offer tangible earthly benefits to his followers, but eternal ones.

This biblical narrative that begins Holy Week is significant because it gives us a vivid picture of the truth that Jesus’ ways are not the ways of man. His plans and purposes are different than even his followers can fully comprehend. For many of us, our life seems upside down, inside out—the negative image of what we believe it should look like. It is in the midst of this messiness that we are reminded of the powerful image of our Savior riding on the back of a donkey.

Palm Sunday is an ironic, hope-filled beginning to a world turned upside down by Jesus, the Christ.

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Hearing the Voice of God

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Today’s guest post is by Dr. Brian Simmons, the lead translator for The Passion Translation. He is also the author of I Hear His Whisper, 52 devotions to encounter God’s heart for you.

True prayer is a love relationship with God—it is enjoying a relationship, not enduring a religious activity. Prayer is the privilege of soaring to the very throne of God to touch His face. It is meeting with God Himself. Our souls are starved for this sense of awe . . . to speak and to hear from God. We must never forget that Father God loves to share His heart with His children.

Fellowship with God in prayer is meant to adjust us, not to adjust God to what we want. We must have frequent, intimate contact with our Father—the Daddy Abba Father of Galatians 4:6. Prayer is more than speaking to God; it is speaking with Him. We cannot build an intimate relationship on one-way speeches.

As I pray to God, I am aware of this: both of us will speak, and both of us will listen. When we practice two-way prayer, listening carefully and humbly, God will often speak. This prophetic interchange is not limited to verbal communication. We can expect to encounter God in various ways. However we hear Him, this divine encounter will always do two things: it will change us, and we will be given ammunition for spiritual warfare.

As we hear accurately from God, the church will begin to enter into prophetic praying. Prophetic prayer is praying with revelation and receiving God’s response. It is becoming a prayer partner with Jesus. God will not only speak to us, but He will also pray through us.

I encourage you to become one who hears from God in the secret closet where you are trusted with strategic prayer assignments. Instead of praying, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” it’s easy to fall into “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking!” Decide today that you will have a heart that will wait on the Lord and listen for His voice.

Your tools for ministry must include a consistent life of hearing from God. I love the words of Isaiah 50:4–5 (NKJV):

“The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.”

Ask Him for a listening ear! Marvelous revelations and a deeper understanding of Scripture await those who will ask for it . . . and linger in His presence to hear His voice. Our Lord is known as the great “Revealer of mysteries” (see Daniel 2:29, 47). There is much He has to say to the seeking heart.

Sometimes people ask me, “How do I know when it is God speaking? I don’t want to be misled. I only want to listen to the Holy Spirit.” Here are some simple guidelines for knowing God’s voice and discerning when it is the voice of the enemy:

  • Jesus is a gentle Shepherd; Satan is a condemning and accusing intimidator.
  • The Lord’s voice is often quiet and deeply internal; Satan’s is intrusive and vulgar.
  • The Holy Spirit calls and draws us; Satan threatens, demands, and drives.
  • Check the content—does it agree with the Scriptures?
  • God’s voice drips with mercy; He does not condemn our personal worth before Him.
  • The Lord’s voice will change you and touch you.
  • His voice is rooted in hope, not negativity or despair.
  • God’s Word is for now; Satan locks us into our past.
  • God uses the ordinary, not merely the spectacular.
  • His Word gives more hope, not more condemnation.
  • God’s voice inspires us to love, not to criticize others.
  • Peace comes from God; anxiety comes from Satan.
  • The voice of the Spirit will always glorify Jesus as Lord and point us to Him.

John 10:2–4 (TPT) gives us reassurance that we can hear God’s voice. Are you listening today?

“And the sheep recognize the voice of the True Shepherd, for he calls his own by name and leads them out, for they belong to him. And when he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them and they will follow him, for they are familiar with his voice.”

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Redemption for All

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Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, as well as an internationally known speaker who’s appeared on TBN, Daystar, and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural! Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma Magazine, and Pray! magazine. Greenwood is part of the core faculty at Wagner Leadership Institute under C. Peter Wagner and Ché Ahn. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!

Matthew 27:50–54, AMP

God did not forget His covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in His perfect time sent His Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down His heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that He paid by shedding His blood and dying on the cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus? After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against Him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and threatened by His power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying His friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with Him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’ suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed Him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’ expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed His most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked Him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, He carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. Yet after His persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of His crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing Him, He cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up His Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the Law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to Him and His saving grace, will be raised and with Him upon His return.

* * *

Learn more from Rebecca Greenwood by downloading her powerful ebooks: Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. Get them on Vyrso today!

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Redemption for All

discipline

Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children GoDefeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, and an internationally-known speaker. Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma magazine, and Pray! magazine. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs.

 

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!”

—Matthew 27:50–54 (AMP)

God did not forget his covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in his perfect time sent his Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down his heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that he paid by shedding his blood and dying on the Cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus?  After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’s popularity and threatened by his power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly-deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying his friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’s suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’s expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed his most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself,” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, he carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. [Click to tweet!] Yet after his persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of his crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing him, he cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up his Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to him and his saving grace, will be raised and with him upon his return.

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The Holy Spirit: Our Faithful Discipler

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Today’s guest post is by Jennifer LeClaire, senior editor of Charisma Magazine. She is also the director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale and the author of several books, including Mornings with the Holy Spirit: Listening Daily to the Still Small Voice of God and her upcoming book, The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening. You can learn more about her work at JenniferLeClaire.org.

When Jesus walked the earth, His disciples followed Him just about everywhere He went. They turned to Him for wisdom, for comfort, for protection, for provision—and more.

Before He ascended to the right hand of Father God, Jesus said something shocking: “I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you,” (John 16:7, MEV).

This must have been unsettling to the disciples. If Jesus left, who would offer them wisdom and comfort? Who would be their advocate and intercessor? Who would disciple them? Jesus followed on by explaining, “But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, MEV). Jesus is in heaven, but the Holy Spirit remains with us to lead us into all truth—to disciple us.

Although we can glean invaluable lessons from pastors, spiritual fathers and mothers, and others in the body of Christ—and we should—the Holy Spirit who dwells with us is our first Teacher. John writes about the anointing we have received from Him abiding in us and teaching us concerning all things (1 John 2:27).

Indeed, the Holy Spirit will disciple us—if we allow Him. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener and Standby (John 14:16, AMP). The Holy Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14) and guides us into truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

I believe the Holy Spirit is always trying to teach us. He teaches us to walk in the fruit of the Spirit. He teaches us who Jesus is. He teaches us about the Father’s heart. He teaches us how to walk through a trial with character. He teaches us how to navigate life’s challenges. He’s always teaching us—always discipling us—if we’ll listen.

In my devotional, Mornings with the Holy Spirit, Listening Daily to the Still Small Voice of God, I share with readers something important the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart:

“Take a moment—take some time—to meditate on the lessons you are learning. I am teaching you new things and reminding you of things you know that have slipped out of focus in the midst of the warfare around you. Consider what I have taught you. Meditate on those truths. Record them on the tablets of your heart. Never forget them. Call them up when you need them. This wisdom will serve you and others around you in the days ahead.”

Again, the Holy Spirit teaches us all things and will bring to our remembrance the Word of God we sow in our hearts when we need it (John 14:26). Our part in the discipleship process is to exercise Proverbs 7:2–3 (MEV): “Keep my commandments and live, and my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As disciples of Christ, we need to tune our ears and align our hearts with the Holy Spirit Jesus sent to walk with us after He ascended to the right hand of the Father. God puts many wonderful spiritual leaders in our lives and we should welcome and submit to that authority, but when the lights go out at the end of the day, it’s just us and God. Sometimes man’s wisdom—our own wisdom—fails us but God’s Word and His Spirit never fail. The Holy Spirit is the best discipler I know.

Prayer this prayer with me:

Holy Spirit, put me in remembrance of the teachings of Christ and the words of wisdom you’ve spoken to my heart. I ask You now for the grace to draw on what you’ve taught me so that I will walk in Father’s ways and glorify my Savior through my words, thoughts, and actions.

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The Power of the Cross

The Power of the Cross

Today’s guest post is by Bill Giovannetti, the senior pastor of Neighborhood Church of Redding and a teacher at A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and Simpson University. He is the author of Grace Intervention: Understanding God’s Beautiful Gift of and Secrets to a Happy Life: Finding Satisfaction in Any Situation.

Pretty gold crosses dangling on shiny chains have a narcotic effect on our thoughts about the Cross. So do 2,000 years of time’s passage and 5,000 miles of distance. Our sanitized crosses fall far short of the gut-wrenching realities of crucifixion. What the Gospels say in four icy words, “and they crucified Him” (Mark 15:25), would have been emotionally devastating to behold, much less endure.

Of all the big deals in theology, the biggest deal is the Cross of Christ and all it means. So Jesus gathered his ragtag followers and turned a Passover meal into an endless commemoration of that dark day soon to dawn.

Jesus is into commemorating because we are into forgetting. “Never forget,” he said.

As we move from Good Friday, into Easter, it’s crucial we re-calibrate our hearts to this mother of all theological messages.

Scripture contemplates the Cross in five little words: “Christ died for our sins.” Christ died — that’s history; we could have seen it with our eyes had we been there. For our sins — that’s theology. It requires a revelation of God. Let’s open our hearts this season to the brutal realities of these words.

Christ Died (History)

Medical experts have reconstructed the physiological effects of this horrific Roman death by torture. Though they don’t all agree on the various details, they all affirm agonies beyond comprehension.

Scourging

“So Pilate too Jesus and scourged him,” the Bible simply says (John 19:1). To scourge means to skin alive with a whip. The beating was made worse by bones or weights embedded in the whips tail. Deep bruising, rib fractures, and open lacerations would result.

The Crown of Thorns

Most likely, the crown of thorns would have been shaped more like a cap than a circlet, and would have covered the whole head. Matthew explains that soldiers “took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matthew 27:30), in effect hammering the spikes into Christ’s scalp. Excruciating pain would have followed.

Nails

 The spikes were made of iron and about four to five inches long. The force used in driving the nails would have caused searing pain throughout his body. Given what Jesus had already endured, shock was inevitable. As soon as the body’s full weight transferred to the nails through his hands and feet, Christ’s already horrific pain would have been magnified to levels beyond words.

The two little words, “Christ died,” pack enough punch to send the devil tumbling head over heels across the cosmos forever. Christ died because his work was finished. He paid the price. He satisfied justice. He died the death we deserved.

The next time you partake of the Communion cup and bread, stop and take a breath. Bring your mind back to that awful day. Block everything out long enough to remember the Lord’s brutal death.

This is the fountainhead of all grace. This is the Cross. This is what God did for you when Jesus died.

Yet, none of his physical sufferings compared to the pains about to come.

For Our Sins (Theology)

What could be more painful than the tortures, the beatings, the crown of thorns, and the nails through his hands and feet?

Our sins.

When our sins were laid upon him, that’s when Jesus cried out.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

For Jesus, no physical suffering compared to being forsaken by God—a black-box mystery, a breach in the eternal fellowship between Christ on the cross and his Father in heaven. This is impenetrable darkness. Bow in wonder and keep silent.

Why did God forsake him?

Because God was judging him for the sin of the world. Damning him. Condemning him. Christ died for our sins. For my sins. For yours.

By the blood of his Cross, you’ve been redeemed (1 Peter 1:18–19), reconciled (Colossians 1:20), forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), brought near to God (Ephesians 2:13), cleansed in conscience (Hebrews 9:14), been made satisfactory to God (by propitiation, Romans 3:25), and declared good enough for God forever (by justification, Romans 5:9).

It was his death—not his life, not his teachings, not his miracles, not his love—that shoved darkness into a bottomless pit and rescued your sorry soul forever. Yes, these wonders of the life of Christ dazzle angels and demons, yet they were nothing if not a prelude to his death.

Let’s not rush through Good Friday. Let’s not forget the Ground Zero of our salvation — the birthplace of grace, and the foundation of the church.

Christ died for our sins.

Hallelujah.

***

Learn more about the power of the cross in Bill Giovannetti’s ebook, Grace Intervention: Understanding God’s Beautiful Gift of Grace for $9.74 on Vyrso today.

 


 

This article is adapted from his latest book, Grace Intervention (Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press, 2015).

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The Revolutionary Jesus

The Red Letter Life

Today’s guest post is by Bob Hostetler the author of The Red Letter Life: 17 Words From Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical, Purposeful Living, and the upcoming The Red Letter Prayer Life: 17 Words from Jesus to Inspire Practical, Purposeful, Powerful Prayer

The land of Jesus was always a hotbed of revolution.

A man named Theudas led a rebellion among the common people, raising an army of 400, until he was killed and his rebellion ended.

A Galilean named Judas, when Jesus was a boy, led a tax revolt and gained a following, until he too was killed and his rebellion ended.

Like them, Jesus amassed a popular following. And, like them, he died.

But Jesus was different. And rather than dying in failure, he died in victory. Because he did not come to overthrow armies or governments or economies. He came—and he lived, and died, and rose again—for a better cause.

He came to overturn religion

“Now, wait a minute,” someone says. “I thought Jesus came to establish a religion!”

No. Not hardly.

That’s a common misconception, you know, that Jesus came to launch a new religion called “Christianity.”

But the world of Jesus’ day was not short on religions. He came to overturn religious futility, to revolutionize how people relate to God, and enter into his kingdom, and grab hold of eternal life, abundant life.

By his death and resurrection, Jesus flipped the process as he overturned tables in the temple. Rather than people trying to get to God by their efforts, he granted access to God by his efforts. [Click to tweet!]

 

He came to overwhelm darkness

In July 1999, a pilot, his wife, and her sister boarded a Piper Saratoga airplane in New York City to fly to Martha’s Vineyard. The pilot had flown that route before. . . but seldom at night, and never on a night like that one. As the lights of the coast disappeared and their route took them over the ocean, the darkness and haziness of the night combined with the utter blackness of the waters below began to to disorient the pilot. Experienced pilots will tell you that at such times with no landmarks, no lights, no stars in the sky, only the plane’s instruments can tell you whether you’re rightside up or upside down. That is how experts think JFK Jr. and his wife and sister-in-law died.

It is a fitting parable of the human situation.

Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, wrote:

Most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up. Indeed, we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference.

Jesus came to change that. He said, “Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going,” (John 12:35, NLT). But he also said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life,” (John 8:12, NIV).

He came to plant within us the light that will dispel doubt and sin and darkness, the truth that will expose the lies—the forces in this world that have been trying all your life to convince you that you’re worthless and will never amount to anything, or that God feels nothing but disgust toward you and that if you approached him he would slam the door in your face, or the forces that want you to think you’re powerless, a victim of evolution and environment and circumstance who can never live a life that will bless yourself and others. He came to overthrow that deception in your heart and mind and show you that, “You [can be] a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV).

 

He came to overcome death

Less than a week after Jesus rode into Jerusalem amid adoring throngs on Palm Sunday and then cleared the Temple precincts of merchants and moneychangers, he was arrested and executed, like Theudas and Judas the Galilean before him.

Unlike them, however, Jesus’ revolution didn’t end there.

Because Jesus didn’t stay executed.

The testimony of the church for two thousand years— and the overwhelming weight of the evidence—says that Jesus rose from the grave that first Easter Sunday.

He overcame death.

He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” (John 11:25-26, NIV). He also said, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full,” (John 10:10, NIV).

John Huffman said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ equips us to face the two biggest fears in the world: the fear of dying and the fear of living.”

That is what Easter means. It is why Jesus came. He said it himself, quite succinctly, when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” (John 14:6, NIV).

Religion is not the way. . .“I am the way.”

The stuff this world has you believing is not the truth. . .“I am the truth.”

Even this mortal life you’re leading is not real life. . .“I am the life.”

 ***

Start reading Bob Hostetler ebook, The Red Letter Life: 17 Words From Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical, Purposeful Living for $8.44.

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Do You Believe?

do-you-believe-40-day-devotional

Today’s guest post is by Robert Noland, author of Do You Believe? 40-Day Devotional. He began writing in 1983 as a songwriter, musician, and producer. Robert Noland has continued writing and is currently a freelance writer and author for faith-based organizations, ministries, and Christian publishers. You can connect with Robert Noland on his blog.

The Jesus Movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s spawned many great Christian slogans, used to communicate the hearts of a virtual army of young believers. Many of them were emblazoned across banners and waved unashamedly for the world to see—sayings such as, “One Way—His Way,” “Right On With Jesus,” “The Jesus People Are Here,” and “Turn On to Jesus.” Even if the language used back then makes us laugh, the very present and prominent placement of the word “Jesus” is impressive, inspiring, and challenging to us today. And these weren’t just clever hashtags to promote a brand; they were expressions of a new community living for Christ.

One of the most poignant statements brought to life from this era was actually a question—“If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” In our current politically correct culture and seeker-friendly church environment, this question sounds rather militant today, does it not? It draws a line, demands an answer, gets a bit in-your-face. After being hidden in the Christian closet, so to speak, for decades, the film release of Do You Believe? in theaters March 20 dusts this question off.

When I received the call about writing the companion devotional book for the film and heard the vision, I knew I was all in. The widely popular Pure Flix film, God’s Not Dead, offered the opportunity for viewers to see there is a God who loves and cares for us, and the film Do You Believe? brings the eternal question to the individual heart—what do you do with Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross? Does this make a difference in your life? And, finally, yes, that burning question revived out of the 60s: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

During The Jesus Movement, young people brought the son of God to the conscious of the culture and offered up the gospel as a solution for the pain of a rapidly changing and deeply hurting nation. But let’s face it. We haven’t seen anything like a revival in a very long time. In fact, to say we’re on a downward spiral could be an understatement. Sure, there have been pockets of renewal rising up here and there over the past 40 years. But a movement? No.

So could it be time for The Jesus Movement of the 21st century? Are we desperate enough yet as a nation? Might the question, “do you believe?” become a societal line-in-the-sand?

Statements that demand a commitment to the ways of God weren’t born in the ’60s, in the revivals of the 1800s, or the Reformation in the 1500s. They were written on the lips of our Lord.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30) NIV.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38) NIV.

Regardless of the church’s choices or culture’s mood swings, generation after generation, Jesus has consistently stood before the world, making these statements. Black and white—no shades of gray. Clear-cut—no question. Young people of the ’60s asked some hard questions, made some bold statements. Why? Because they heard Jesus and obeyed. It’s that simple. The question for us in 2015 is, while he is still speaking, are we going to listen? Will we obey or just keep sleeping, while the world slips away?

Are the Jesus people here? Is your one way, his way? Do you believe? Is there evidence enough to convict you of standing with Jesus? I pray there is. So we can once again stand firm, gather for him, and live lives worthy of the name of Jesus!

***

Be encouraged with Noland’s, Do You Believe? 40-Day Devotional and his other ebook on Vyrso, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus.

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What it Takes to Be a True Disciple

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Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, and an internationally-known speaker who’s appeared on TBN, Daystar, and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural! Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma magazine, and Pray! magazine. Rebecca is part of the core faculty at Wagner Leadership Institute under C. Peter Wagner and Ché Ahn. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Making a disciple involves more than just making a convert. The Greek word for disciple is matheteuo. Being baptized and studying Scripture are primary factors in the discipling process, but it also involves a true commitment of the will. It is a relationship that goes beyond surface understanding, and involves and encompasses every aspect of the disciple’s life.

A true disciple attaches themselves to the teacher. They live in such a way that every aspect of the disciple’s life is intertwined with their teacher. The disciple identifies with the teacher, meaning they’re closely associated and linked with their teacher. All who know this disciple will see the influence of the teacher and know they’re in a close relationship with them. Disciples learn from their teachers by study and imitation—the words of the teacher are life to the disciple. They are so important that the disciple will take time to study and know the thoughts of the teacher in such a way that the disciple’s life is a reflection of their teacher.

This leads me to all of us. Jesus wants each of us to walk with him in such a manner that we, as his disciples, exemplify that true reflection of him. Every area of our lives is submitted to him. His Word is life itself to us and those who see us know we are his disciples—ones who live a life abandoned, obedient, holy, humble, repentant, faithful, righteous, full of love, aligned with his uncompromising truth, and full of gratitude and praise.

One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. Here’s a summary of the verse taken from The Message, written by Eugene Peterson: “Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”

As we look into God’s Word, encounter his presence, and see his son, the Spirit transforms us into the very image of God. We become alive and truly assured of our relationship with him as his disciples. He works in our lives causing us to engage in a visible change on the outside that is birthed on the inside. Just as Moses did, we too reflect the glory of God. Our lives become brighter and brighter and more beautiful like our Lord Jesus Christ as we grow “from glory to glory” (1 Cor. 3:18, kjv).

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Learn more from Rebecca Greenwood by downloading her powerful ebooks: Let Our Children GoDefeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. Get them on Vyrso today!

 

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