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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Study the Significance of the Cross

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As we draw closer to Holy Week, we’ve taken the time to look intently at the death of Jesus. In Bill Giovannetti’s guest post, we looked at the pain that Jesus suffered when the nails went through his hands. In Bob Hostetler’s guest post, we explored the revolutionary that Jesus was in his day and how this echoes into our lives now. We’ve highlighted a few discounts to aid you in your study of Jesus’ death including:

Crucify! Why the Crowd Killed Jesus by Timothy J. Stoner—available for free through April 3, 11:59 p.m. (EST).

You can also get The Meaning of the Death of Jesus Bundle for just $20.99 through 11:59 p.m. (EST) on March 22. In the bundle you’ll get the following three titles in the bundle:

-The Day That Changed Forever: Twenty One Life Changing Experiences at the Cross by Tim Roehl

-Bought with Blood by Derek Prince

-Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary Images of the Atonement by Mark D. Baker

Want to learn more about this exclusive ebook bundle? Check out our blog post from Monday this week, here.

Check back next week as we conclude the second to last week of Lent. We’ll be featuring content on the meaning behind the resurrection of Jesus. There will be guest posts by Karen Jensen Salisbury, Rita Schulte, Anita Agers-Brooks, Rebecca Greenwood, and Brian Simmons. You’ll find a new bundle and individual titles available at a discount to aid you in the study of Jesus’ resurrection.

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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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Symbol of Salvation

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Today we’re featuring an excerpt from the ebook Do You Believe? 40-Day Devotional, by Robert Noland. Robert Noland has continued writing and is currently a freelance writer and author for faith-based organizations, ministries, and Christian publishers. You can purchase the ebook on Vyrso for $7.49.

Day 1

Symbol of Salvation

Matthew is a pastor, sitting at his desk at night. The house is very quiet. He is intent in his thoughts and appears burdened. The small desk lamp illuminates a legal pad. As we move closer, we see he has filled the page by drawing a simple outline of a cross. Underneath it, he has written a bold message: Do You Believe?

Humans have always used symbols to represent important elements of their existence. Few have stood the test of time and lasted throughout generations, becoming unmistakable, nonverbal icons to create a recognizable image of deep meaning.

One of the most enduring symbols of all time is the cross. But different people understand different meanings based on their life experience, so let’s ask. . .

When you hear the word cross, do you tend to think about . . .

. . . a fashionable piece of jewelry?

. . . a classic element of church architecture?

. . . a representation of a religion long since left behind?

. . . the physical instrument God used for the spiritual redemption of your soul?

For you, is the cross’s meaning. . .

. . . historical?

. . . religious?

. . . personal?

While your answer to the latter question could certainly be “all three,” there is a likelihood one rings the most true for you.

As we begin this forty-day journey centered on the cross of Christ, evaluating how you feel, what you think, and how deep your belief goes is important to how impactful these days will be for you. One of the vital keys for experiencing life change will be the level of honesty and transparency you allow with God. He already sees you and knows you intimately, but opening your heart to him will make all the difference.

A distinguishing focal point of the cross is that it is not associated with any belief system other than Christianity and with no person other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Throughout church history, and in art of all forms, the cross is presented in two ways.

First is with Jesus hanging on its beams, representing his suffering, sacrifice, and eventual death. Second, and where we find many of our artistic images, is the empty cross. While this could seem to denote an absence of Christ, it is actually showing the opposite—a presence. Christ has risen! He is alive and seated at the right hand of God. The cross and the tomb are now empty so that our hearts can be full and our lives fulfilled.

Few will debate or argue the historical fact that Jesus hung on the cross and gave his life. The only disagreement for people is whether or not his death meant anything for mankind.

The simple, rough-hewn wooden beams strapped and nailed together convey a powerful and prevailing image of God’s intervention in the world. While the cross may instigate different responses, the image has remained a respected, valued, and consistent reminder of man’s problem met with God’s presence. But the real question is not what does the cross mean throughout history for the world, but rather, what does the cross mean to you?

Regardless of your own personal perspective, this cruel device of torture and execution the authorities used to eliminate Jesus actually was the instrument God wielded to surgically remove the sting of sin and death forever from those who would choose to believe him.

Today, let us not think of the cross as a symbol, an image, or an icon, but rather, a personal choice each one of us must make. So our closing question today comes from the film’s title and Pastor Matthew’s drawing. . . Do you believe?

Whether you feel you are hanging on to life by a thread and desperately searching for answers or you are a vibrant, mature follower of Christ simply looking to grow, we must continually ask ourselves what we believe and what the cross means to us—today. This day!

And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross. —Philippians 2:8 NCV

With as honest of an answer as you can give, complete the sentence below on your journal page, while expressing any other thoughts you have on today’s reading.

For me, the cross of Christ means. . . [Click to tweet!]

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Do You Believe?

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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).

* * *

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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From Messes to Miracles: Giving Your Life to God

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Today’s guest post is by Tammie Head, author of More: From Messes to Miracles, a new ebook coming soon to Vyrso. Head is the founder of Totally Captivated Ministries, and resides in Cypress, Texas with her husband, Erin, and their two daughters. 

 

Messy.

We’re all feeling it.

People everywhere are anguished inside for something more. Churched and non-churched alike. I’ve met them in malls, talked with them in nail salons, prayed with them in my church, encouraged them in my friendships, visited with them at speaking events, cried with them in my home and, honestly, I’ve been that person myself.

None of us have to stay this way though. God has a miraculous plan for our lives. If I know you like I think I do, you want it. So much so, the desire for it probably drives you crazy sometimes. We’re each longing for something more. What if we found the more in this season of Lent?

But I just have to ask:

Have you ever seen something so unbelievable you scratched your head in wonder? And your jaw dropped to the floor? That’s what God wants to do in your life. Would you like to know how to tap into his plans?

It starts by encountering his presence, by becoming his disciple.

When I was young, I struggled to understand what made life worth the living. Before God saved me, it seemed to me as if life wasn’t worth the effort, you know? Restless thoughts tirelessly entertained my mind. I longed for a different version of life and, furthermore, I longed for a different version of me. Deep in my soul’s fabric was an irksome sense of void and vacancy.

I used to think my upbringing was the initiator of my pining for something more. But then I grew up and discovered many of my friends felt it too. And their backgrounds were dazzling compared to mine. What I realized is all of us engaged with life as human garbage disposals looking for something, anything, to whet our appetites and satisfy us.

Some of us sought it in seemingly good ways—pursuing good deeds, being respectable, and passionately watching our every single p and q. Others sought it in rebellion—pushing the envelope, climbing out windows, and sailing the gusty winds. Neither avenue, respectable or not so respectable, was able to provide what we yearned for.

The truth is, everything sold us short. Finding lasting love. Amassing popularity, power, and control. Working our way up the corporate ladder. Making great money. Having gorgeous bodies. Accumulating loads of material possessions. Owning fabulous homes. Living however, wherever, and with whomever—getting our own way for a change. When our heads hit the pillow at night we each still knew:

Somethings missing.

Perhaps you can relate?

Later on in life, I discovered this need for more stems from the same empty well in all of us—even if our attempts to satisfy our emptiness play out differently in each of our lives. I think this emptiness was created in us by God and for God. I think the “more”we’re longing for is God.

So the question is, how do we find him?

We find him by living a life that is sold out to following hard after God. To discipleship. Like those we read of in the Scriptures. People like Abraham, David, the prophetess Anna, and John the Baptist.

But I’ve also learned a few things about this life of a disciple that I want us to talk about for a minute. These are the very things that keep us from living a life of following hard after God, a life of devoted discipleship:

1. Following God kills usand that scares us.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.” In God’s economy, dying precedes all living. The Lord’s way is to push us up and out of our comfort zones all the way into his strong arms of a thousand dichotomies; rest and risk, safety and unknown, death and life, worship and warfare, wounds and healing, suffering and joy. Yet, what we must remember is that while he pushes us right into that spacious place where nothing is sure, we can also know that all will be well in our Father’s presence.

2. Many of us are in troubling situationswe feel stuck.

Struggles can have a crippling effect on us, leaving us empty and dry. We can’t see past our present disappointments, confusions, and despair. Does this sound familiar? Listen, I have good news for you. You don’t have to stay stuck. God can and wants to help.

To begin tapping into what God has for you starts by throwing down your crutches of self-reliance and giving God what he wants. He wants your life! What if this Lent season you gave up hesitating to obey? What if you opened his Word more, and inhaled it? Or what if you made more room in your life to soak in his abiding presence, and took the time to relax in his arms? What if you gave him full access to everything?

What if you gave him your whole heart?

I am asking God to do a mighty work in your life during this season of Lent—a now work, where you experience a hunger for his presence, his Holy Scriptures, and to walk with him like never before. You were made for more than mere survival. Why not give God your whole life? [Click to Tweet!]

The life of a sold-out, surrendered, on fire, obedient disciple of Christ.

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What Will You Preach Next Month?

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One month from today, Easter will be upon us. I’m hoping that the sun will be shining, that birds will be singing springtime songs, and that the weather will be warm. I also hope that those of you who are preaching will impart the beauty of the gospel to those around you. I hope that your message will be an engaging story of how the gospel intersects with everyday life. I hope that you have a plan.

As Greg Gilbert and Mark Dever argue below, a plan can have a big impact on your congregation. The following is an excerpt from Preach: Theology Meets Practice—you can get it today on Vyrso for $9.99.

The famous third-century preacher John Chrysostom told his congregation in his third sermon on Lazarus and the rich man, “I often tell you many days in advance the subject of what I am going to say, in order that you may take up the book in the intervening days, go over the whole passage, learn both what is said and what is left out, and so make your understanding more ready to learn when you hear what I will say afterwards.”

We think that’s a great idea, and we both try to follow that practice in our own churches by publishing a card that gives our preaching schedule—texts and titles—for the upcoming months. Doing something like that offers a number of benefits. First, like Chrysostom said, it gives your people time to read the passage in advance, to let the Holy Spirit begin to work in their hearts with the themes of that text, and to prepare their hearts to hear the Word of God preached on Sunday. That, in turn, can create a unique sense of excitement in the church. The people come with thoughts of their own, questions and insights about the text; and your words in the sermon are then able to interact with and catalyze with the thoughts they already have. Publishing a preaching schedule will give your people another tool for talking with their non-Christian friends and family about spiritual things. People take those cards, highlight or circle a particular sermon title they think a non-Christian friend might be interested to hear, and then hand it to that person as an invitation to come hear that sermon.

Sometimes people ask us if we think planning a preaching schedule so far in advance could squelch the Holy Spirit. What if something comes up in the life of the church that begs to be addressed? What if you get sick? What if something happens in the world such that your planned series seems out of place all of a sudden? Good questions all. But we don’t think planning a schedule in advance squelches the Holy Spirit.

For one thing we don’t think the Holy Spirit only moves “in the moment.” Of course He does that sometimes, but that’s not the only time He does it. The Holy Spirit also moves and directs months in advance when we are planning a preaching schedule. Both of us have been amazed at how people in our congregations have been impacted by a particular sermon or series in specific and time-sensitive ways. That’s not because we planned for that to happen. On the contrary, we believe the Holy Spirit worked it all together in His providence. Take a look, for example, at this church card from Capitol Hill Baptist Church for the fall of 2001, which included September 11, 2001.

That preaching schedule was made months in advance of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Nothing was adjusted; nothing was changed in the aftermath of the attacks. But look at God’s provision for this congregation right in the heart of one of the cities that came under attack: “The Quest for Justice,” “The Quest for Security,” “When Bad Things Happen: Questions and Confidence.” The Holy Spirit was planning, even months before, to feed His people with truth from His Word that would impact their lives and their needs directly and specifically in the aftermath of—and even in advance of—a world-shaking event.

Not only that, but adherence to a preaching plan doesn’t have to be slavish. Mark tends to stick to a preaching plan more doggedly than I (Greg) do. If Mark gets sick or something else intervenes, the church card is what the church card is—even if it means skipping a sermon in a series. I, on the other hand, have been known to pull all the sermon cards from our pews and print another batch.

We both have the same approach, more or less, to holidays. We both try to plan series in which the sermons that land nearest Christmas and on Easter won’t be utterly weird—though Mark preached once on Christmas Day an entire sermon on death! But we don’t insist that Christmas be from Luke 2 and Easter from Matthew 28. On Christmas Day 2011, I’m scheduled to preach on James 5:13–20, the prayer of the righteous for the sick. For Easter 2011, though, I shifted some things around so that I’d be preaching on Hebrews 8 rather than Hebrews 6. That was in the expectation that we would have an unusual number of visitors in the congregation who would attend church only infrequently, and I wanted a text that would have the gospel itself as the main point.

However you end up doing this, and however tightly you stick to a plan once it’s made, the point is that planning your preaching schedule well in advance can give your people a good tool both for their own spiritual growth and for evangelism.

So, how do you decide what to preach? Well, as we said before, everything should be done for the edification of the church. We would argue that preaching through entire books, preaching from both testaments and all genres of Scripture, preaching from varying altitudes, and publishing in advance what you’re going to preach will best accomplish that goal in the long run.

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Want more insight on how to preach? Download Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s ebook, Preach: Theology Meets Practice for just $9.99.

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Discounted Titles on Discipleship

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This week we’re discussing discipleship—you’ll have the opportunity to hear from some top authors on what discipleship means in the context of Lent. We have a discipleship bundle for men that’s just $12.99 (learn more here.)

There are also a handful of individual titles that you can get for 50% off or more for a limited time during Lent:

Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master by Gary W. Moon—get it for 99 cents!

In this winsome book, Moon provides a 30-day apprenticeship with Jesus, where readers will actively practice being with Jesus day in and day out. Each day’s reading uses compelling stories and scripture to illustrate a point and closes with a suggested apprenticeship activity.

Get this ebook for 99 cents through March 7 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World by Gene Edward Veith Jr.—get it for just $7.00!

Loving God with All Your Mind shows us that the answer is neither wholesale rejection of intellectual life and culture, nor blind acceptance of it. The answer lies in understanding that Jesus is Lord of all of life and that everything in life must be carefully viewed in the light of what Christ’s lordship means. Gene Edward Veith unfolds a dazzling critique of the postmodern intellectual world and culture. He affirms the part that is good and true, but he also shows crucial weaknesses that have such a hold over contemporary thought. This book shows Christians how to survive and flourish in a postmodern world while affirming the truth of the Christian faith.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Disciple Making Is. . . : How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence by Dave Early and Rod Dempsey—get it for just $6.00!

Grounded on a solid biblical foundation, authors Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey—both veterans of one-on-one, collegiate, small group, and local church discipleship—share their practical insights on how to best reproduce reproducers of Christ’s message.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Breaking the Discipleship Code: Becoming a Missional Follower of Jesus by David Putman—get it for just $5.00!

Breaking the Discipleship Code, written by Putman with a foreword fromEd Stetzer, opens the door to a greater understanding of what it means to personally be a missional follower of Jesus in relation to every aspect of our changing world. Balancing cultural relevance with biblical faithfulness, the book invites ordinary believers, whether on Wall Street or in a Waffle House, next door or across the ocean, to begin having an extraordinary spiritual impact in their unique context.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples: Every Christian an Effective Witness Through an Enabling Church by Charles and Win Arn—get it for $8.00!

The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples contends that individual Christians should focus on disciple-making as a part of their lifestyle, sharing their faith naturally within their own network of friends and relatives. After articulating principles for making disciples, the authors offer ideas for reaching friends and family, insights on how congregations can support evangelism, and suggestions for more effective incorporation of new converts into the church community.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

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