Do you have as much passion for Jesus as you do for football?

Written by Jon Zenor

Have you ever seen a person who is fanatical about football? They sit in the bleachers in a blizzard with nothing covering them but pants and paint.  What is it that makes a person go to such lengths to show support for their team?

It’s passion, or in this case extreme passion.  But you don’t have to have an extreme passion for something to make it number one in your life.  Most football fans don’t go to those extremes, but they do spend as much time as they can involved in the sport.

A football fan spends hours a week watching football, even throwing parties to get others together to watch the game.  You talk about it all day at work, spend time looking up news on how well various teams did that week and on trades or injuries.  You wear jerseys that show support of your team, even if they lose all the time.  You even create your own fantasy teams.

Your life, as a football fan, is consumed by football.  There is not anything wrong with being a fanatical fan at all, I just have one question for you.

How does your passion for Jesus — your Lord and Savior, your creator, the one who died to have a relationship with you — compare to your passion for football?  It may not even be football for you, it could be video games, baseball, programming, martial arts, planes, motorcycles, or any number of things that consume your every thought.

Jesus must come first!

Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

As Christians Jesus must come first in our life.  Not because it will please God, but because God deserves it, it is the least we can do, and the Bible says we must do it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

It is even written in the Ten Commandments when God says to Moses “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  Leonard Ravenhill reminds us that “Anything you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, I don’t care what it is!”

If you think that is harsh look at what Jesus himself said.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Jesus is saying that your love for Him MUST be first in your life, and nothing goes above that, not your own life, and not even family.  And if you think this is selfishness on God’s part, just remember that He is God almighty, the creator, the one who holds all of existence in his hand, you are just a created thing, a sinful man who rejects God every chance you get.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am not saying all entertainment is bad and you should do nothing but read the Bible and sing praise songs.  What I am getting at is that when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower, we are saying we are putting God first in our life, above everything, including entertainment.  Where you spend your money and how you spend your time show what is first in your heart, Jesus or something else?

Imagine the impact YOU could have

Imagine what the impact would be like in the lives of those around you if you treated Jesus with as much time and energy you spend on football.  You would go to work talking about what God has done in your life, sharing the gospel, talking about God and what is going on in the church.  You would let the world know that Christians are not just hypocrites that live like the rest of the world but they are actually out there doing things!

You would remind them that when disasters happen and the government has its hands tied to help, like FEMA did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was our churches that were out there giving food and aid to the people.  In fact, instead of going to football games you would go on a missions trip to somewhere that needs the help and help others.

Instead of looking up news for football stats you could look up what news there is on martyrs around the world and pray for them.  Every week I get an email from Voice of the Martyrs with information on those being put in prison, who are losing their homes, who are being outcast from their families and beaten because they are the ones on the front lines putting Jesus first in their life.

You would attend church no matter what the weather was like outside, or how much air conditioning worked or how comfortable the chairs at your church were.  Your focus would be more on fellowship and worship than on comfort.

We don’t even need everyone to do this, just you.  If just you would start putting Jesus first in your life, and having a passion for Jesus, then you alone could change a huge part of the world, everyone you interact with.  Those that look up to you would catch that fire and it would spread.

Del Tackett of Focus on the Family, teacher of The Truth Project, said if just a few of you would really believe what the Bible says is true, you would change this world for Christ.

Being a Christian is not a game or a hobby. It is not something we do just once a week.  Being a Christian is a life long commitment that changes your daily life, putting God first in everything you do.

When you don’t have the passion

If you find that you do not have the passion for Christ that you should there is hope for you.  The first and most important thing is to test your salvation, make sure you are saved.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Study the Word of God, what does it mean to be a Christian?  This is an important enough topic to spend the time studying for yourself.  When I went through this last year it took me a couple of months of searching scripture, comparing what I was reading to my life, and most importantly praying, a lot.  Being saved is not based on works, but if you are saved, if you do have Christ living in you, then you cannot help but manifest the fruit of God living in your life.

A major thing that will get in the way of a Christian’s passion for Jesus is sin.  If you are living in sin then you will not be passionate for God, you can’t be.  You will avoid the Word of God, and the things of God.  Search your life for any unrepentant sin and repent of it, turn every area of your life towards God.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:4-6

Jesus wants all of us, not just our leftovers

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus wants, and deserves every part of you to follow Him.  He knows that we are most satisfied personally when we are bringing glory to Him, it is what we were created for.  Don’t waste another day putting garbage in the place of God in your life.

Living Rich, is it a sin to have money?

We have mentioned in many posts recently what God says about the rich. Mainly that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven, and yet every one of us in the United States and the western world in general are rich. Considering the fact that most of the world lives on less than $2 a day we can get a sense of just how rich we truly are.

I know that many of those articles can be very convicting and give the impression that we are need to give all possessions away and live like the poorest so we can give away everything. I know the thoughts that can go through your mind when reading these articles because this is a struggle I have had for the past several months. I don’t write these articles with an attitude of “I got it all together, now do what I do!” On the contrary, I write these articles because it is what God puts on my heart, and He puts them on my heart ninety-nine percent of the time because it is the lesson I need to be taught.

The past several months I have been in conviction over my money, am I making too much, am I using it wisely, do I give it all away, what about retirement? I have had nights where I get home from work in the morning and weep and seek God in prayer because I am just so lost on what to do. I don’t want God to say it is impossible for me to get into heaven because I am obsessed with riches, or because I saved one million in the bank instead of giving it away. (ha, like that would ever happen :P)

So after months of seeking God in this, I finally have a hint of where to go. I wish I had the full answer, but until God reveals it to me you will be in the dark with me. 🙂

Is it wrong to make money?

Being wealthy is not a sin. Many heroes of the Bible were wealthy, Abraham for one, and even Zaccheius was wealthy and likely some of the disciples had at least a decent amount of money such as Mark (tax collectors generally did well then) and Luke, a physician had the ear of the “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3) which meant he probably had a position of power, which means wealth.

The difference, between any follower of God in the Bible and the rich man Jesus rejects in Luke 18, is that a follower of Jesus doesn’t care about the wealth. If you are following Jesus, your goal should never be about money, making more or saving more or even giving more, focus on Jesus. When He is your focus you realize that your wealth is really nothing more than a resource God has given to you to manage properly and serve Him.

Is it wrong to save money?

Saving money is not a sin as long as you are following God with your money. Zacchaeus (Luke 19) gave away 50% of everything he owned, because he wanted to use his resources to serve God, not to just save for himself. But why not give away 100%? He gave away what he was convicted to give away, following God’s prompt on his conscience. It no longer was about saving or having money to him, just about following God, even if it meant giving away his wealth. He didn’t care because he was following God, that is what matters. He is just one of many examples of how when we focus on Jesus, we care less about ourselves and our achievements and start to adopt the heart of God for the lost.

Here is another thing to look at. There is a joke of a guy who was trapped in a house during a flood. A guy on a canoe came by, asking if he needed help while the guy tried to climb to the highest point on the roof. The guy responded “No thank you, I have faith God will save me”. Then as the water continued to rise a helicopter came by to save the guy, who just replied “I have faith God will save me.”

Well, the guy ends up drowning. He gets to heaven and asks God, “why didn’t you save me?” To which God replies “I gave you warning a flood was coming and even after you ignored it I sent a canoe and a helicopter, what else could you need?”

Bad joke, I know, but it shows a lesson which is true. We can’t throw away God’s blessings and then expect him to miraculously save you last minute. He might, because He is sovereign and loves us despite us being bad stewards of His money. God has given us in America the money to get out of most situations. We just choose to blow it on ourselves and buy things we can’t afford and then cry out to God when we are out of money. Yes God provides for us, but does that really sound right to waste his provision and then blame him for “not providing” when times are tough?

Is that how we are supposed to manage God’s resources?

Is debt wrong?

The Bible does give some allowance for debt, but I do not recall ever seeing the Bible promote or say it is a good thing. I personally think debt is a sin, for two reasons.

First, debt is almost always caused by our wanting what we cannot afford. You want that new car? Save up for it! Or find a cheaper alternative.

God has given us tremendous resources, there should be no reason we can’t save up for something whille still having money to give to those in need and supporting our family. It may take sacrifice, but at least you will be buying what you afford and not borrowing.

The second reason I see debt as sin, is something God has recently shown me. I am absolutely tired of not being able to help people like I once was able to, why? Because of my debt. My debt is draining so much of my money that I live paycheck to paycheck and have a really hard time paying for food, let alone helping others.

If I did not have my debt it would free up my resources to be able to help others. Lost your job? Sure, here is $350 to help you get back on your feet, oh wait, that money has to go to my car payment, sorry. There is so much more we could do without debt.

Stay Tuned

In my next article I will discuss about worrying over money and what God has told me about each of these areas in my own personal finances.

What do you think? Is it a sin to make money or save money? How do you ensure that you are using God’s money wisely and not just blowing it on yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

Operation World

Operation World is an organization dedicated to seeing the world come to Christ by encouraging Christians everywhere to pray for the world. But not just the world in a general sense.  Operation world focuses each day on a different country or part of the world, and brings up needs that the people in those areas have. Both physical and spiritual needs.  It could be anything from a government that is against Chrsitanity, high illiteracy, or lack of missionaries.

We do not merely pray about the many points featured herein, we pray toward something, and that something is magnificent – the fulfilment of the Father’s purposes and His Kingdom come

Is it effective?

We have a global mission of reaching the lost with the gospel. While each Christian is tasked with the great commission to reach the lost that God sends into our lives, there is also a much greater need. One that we cannot do alone.  Jesus never placed this mission on just one person or one small group.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Matthew 9:36-38

Notice that Jesus did not tell the disciples that it was their job to do all of the work. They had their fair share to do too, but they were also to pray. Not just pray that each person comes to Christ, but for what? For workers.

So yes, this website has an exteremely Biblical context. Praying for workers and other needs in each and every country. One country per day.

A Quick way to draw closer to God

It only takes 5 minutes to do, but the spiritual impact these five minutes will have is enormous. It did not take long of me praying every day for a country before I started to have more of a burden for the lost.  And even better, it strengthened my relationship with God by a lot in a very short time.

So how do you get involved?  First got to their website, and sign up for the mailing list. You will receive a reminder every day to pray for the country of that day. The daily country is listed on their website as well and most have a short video prayer that you can watch.  And finally, you can get the book, which I highly encourage. The book has a lot more information on most of the countries and gives you more things to pray for.  Plus last year I did have a few problems with the website and mailing list not working as expected but the book is always there telling you what country to pray for each day.

So what are you waiting for? Go get praying!


Jesus does not need you, you need Him

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone say to me “I would follow God if he would just show up in my room with blinding light telling me to follow him,” or if God would just miraculously give me a million dollars in my bank account or save me from this situation or do any number of extraordinary things.  God is capable of doing this, of course, so why doesn’t he?

The answer is simple, God does not need to beg you to come to him, he gives you all of the evidence you need, it is up to you to decide to follow him.

God never begs anybody to follow Him

Have you ever noticed in the Bible how Jesus never, ever, begged people to follow him?  Never once did Jesus say “please follow me, pretty please?”  Then why do so many people think God caters to us to try and entice us to come to him?

The purpose of parables

After Jesus told the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) the disciples asked him why Jesus told parables (Matthew 13:10). Jesus’ answer was probably a little shocking to the disciples, I know it is shocking to me.  Jesus answered and said

Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘ Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11-15)

Is the Bible telling us that Jesus did not want them to understand?  Yes, that is exactly what this is saying.  But why? Because the people would not respond correctly. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)  Jesus had just said in Matthew 13 that people will be judged based on how much knowledge they are given, so Jesus speaks in parables out of compassion, not giving too much information to those who will not respond properly but giving enough to peak the curiosity of those that really want to know God.  Jesus only wants those to come to him who will respond properly.

Jesus wants everyone to be saved, right?

Yes, God wants everyone to be saved (2 Timothy 2:3-4) “God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone to come to him in the same way I want my son to follow God and never stray, never get hurt. But I know that my son will stray despite what I want for him, just like God knows not everyone will come to him despite God wanting everyone to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus knocks on the door for all of us, he does not beat down the door or force his way in. Those that answer the door Jesus dwells with, those who tell Jesus to go away, get a silent door.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23)

Those who seek

God wants you to seek him, not be lazy and wait for everything to come to you.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus is a treasure worth sacrificing everything

Today it is so easy to get caught up in what the society thinks. We think God is nothing more than something else we add to our life, an hour or two a week and try to avoid sin and then we are good, we have our ticket stamped ready to go to heaven.  But that is not what God wants. God is more valuable than that! God is not a trinket we wear around our neck along with everything else in our life. He is our life.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus, treasured above everyone

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

What? We are to hate everyone in our life? Jesus has to be number one in your life; your love for him must be so much more than any other relationship that everyone else is put to the side for Jesus, you do not put Jesus to the side to serve your family!

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Do you get it yet? Jesus is not someone who begs you to follow him.  Jesus is so awesome, so wonderful, you need to come seek Him.  Jesus already paid the ultimate price to free you from your bondage in sin, and he created you (John 1:3), what else do you need?


Why did Jesus speak in parables?

The Sharp Bite

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of the Making Disciples Blog. Sorry I have not written lately, but I have been kept busy, and tired by life.

Work has been making me so tired lately that I sometimes will go to bed as soon as I get home from work, without dinner or anything. Then I just sleep through until I wake up for work again. Very depressing life sometimes… I want to be able to spend time with Danae and Malikai when I get home from work. Oh well, we do what we have to do to pay the bills. So, on to some other news.

Malikai has been a little speed demon. He has fully mastered the crawl technique, staying on hands and knees, belly off the ground, and from one end of the room to the other in about 20 seconds or less. Whatever he sees that he wants, that’s what he goes for. It’s fun to watch him crawl around until he goes for something that he shouldn’t. The fun is only beginning.

Malikai can also quickly stand up as long as he is supporting himself on something. Of course with standing up comes falling down, which he does a lot also. He needs to learn how to sit down instead of just falling down. It reminds me of kids who are learning how to roller blade outside. They figure out how to go, but don’t really know how to stop so they just crash into the grass or nearest wall. Never does make much sense…

So, Malikai tried to suck on my finger the other day, and was biting down on it like usual, except unlike usual, this time the bite was a bit sharp. That’s right, Malikai’s first tooth is coming in. Lower front right tooth for those who absolutely must know every detail about it. I tried to take a picture of it, but they didn’t turn out at all.

There is just one more thing that Malikai is doing that is new. And it can best be displayed by a picture. So here:

That’s right, he is standing up on the second or third step, and all that with no assistance.

So of course this means I need to put up the gate that I have been procrastinating at putting up, but our stairs make it extremely difficult to attach a gate because the railing is so large and hangs down low. So tomorrow will be a trip to Home Depot so I can buy the stuff to screw it into the wall. Now I just need to find my drill which somehow wound up missing.

This weekend Danae’s sister is coming into town. That should be a fun time, but it would be better if we actually had the money to do things. At least going for hikes at any of the many hiking places around here is free. We will be taking full advantage of that next week. Also this weekend we have to get the 60,000 mile service done on the car and buy Malikai some bigger winter clothes. Not looking forward to the extra expenses, but it’s all a part of life. Even when we don’t know how we are going to make certain payments, we know that God will provide. It just takes faith, even when that faith is hard to have.

Remember the passage where Jesus says that God provides for the birds, they don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from, and if God provides for the birds then how much more so will He provide for us? (Luke 12:22-34) It is so true, do we really think that God cares for us more than He does the birds of the air? If He does, then why should we ever worry about where our provisions come from? As Jesus said: “O you of little faith.” It all boils down to faith. If we have faith, then we find that there is nothing to worry about.

Of course I still have a problem worrying about money sometimes, but then I just need to sit back and think about the truth’s of the Bible. God does love us, so why would our heavenly father not provide for us? If even our earthly fathers provide for us when we ask for things such as food, and our earthly fathers being evil and sinful, how much more will our Heavenly Father provide, being perfect and good? (Luke 11:11-13)

Well I’m off to the world of Azuroth for an hour or so before going to bed, so until next time, I shall say good bye.

Good Bye!

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Bread from Heaven

John 6:24-27
24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”

This passage takes place just after Jesus feeds a multitude of people with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. They went seeking after Jesus after this only because Jesus met a physical desire that they had. The people wanted to eat! So Jesus fed them. They didn’t really care about who Jesus was or why He was there, they liked hanging around a guy who would give them a free meal that tasted good!

In a lot of churches today this is the attitude that people have. They want to be fed, but they don’t care about the spiritual food or spiritual bread of life that is in Jesus. They just want to go to church because they can get a free meal out of it. I’m not talking just physical food here, but any need or want that the person has. Many times people just go to church to appease their conscience, because they feel that it is the right thing to do. Or they go just to hang our, or because there is free coffee before service. But these people are going for all the wrong reasons.

The purpose of going to church is to be spiritually fed by the Word of God. If the person does not go for this reason then they will not be fed, and if the church pastor doesn’t make the Word of God the center of the church then he will not feed them. While the church body is getting fat on physical food and good feelings, they are spiritually starving.

How sad that these people who came up to Jesus, their creator and God, the only one who could forgive them of their sins, and all they wanted was some physical bread! How they were so close yet they missed the main attraction! It is like going to see the president of the United States, when you have a back stage pass to dine with the president personally, but after you come and get your T-shirt saying you were there, and a cookie, you just leave. How often do the people of the world focus on such minor things and miss the great reward that is freely available to us. Instead of a cookie you can have a full 7 course meal and a personal relationship, but they just don’t care…

John 6:28-29
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

I wish more people would have the attitude of “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” We all should be asking what we can do that we may work the works of God. And Jesus’ response is so simple… Believe in Jesus. Not just believe that Jesus existed… even the demons believe that; but believe IN Jesus, put your faith and trust in Him. That is the only way that we can do the work of the Father, because without Jesus in our lives, following God is an impossible task.

John 6:30-40
30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Here is another crazy thing.. Jesus just fed thousands of people, with a couple of loaves of bread, with 12 baskets left over, and they still need a sign? Wasn’t that enough of a sign? They are seeking something similar to bread from heaven, or manna, but what Jesus has, is true bread from heaven, the bread of everlasting life which is only found in Him.

Jesus made it clear and easy to have eternal life, to have our sins forgiven, to have a relationship with God, we just need to follow Jesus! So simple, yet so many people refuse to follow the simple task. They would rather lead their own lives and eat the bread of this world, which only fills their belly for a short time. And when their spiritual lives are starving, they try to feed it with false religions, which is like trying to drink ocean water when you are dying of thirst. All you are doing by drinking ocean water is satisfying your tongue, but your body is still dehydrated and dying.

If Jesus, being God, came not to do His own will, but the Father’s will, how much more should we being humans focus on doing God’s will in our lives instead of our own? Jesus only wants the best for us and to keep us, but He is loving enough to leave that decision in our own hands. If you are not a Christian, you can be, come to the cross of Christ and give Him all of your sins and follow Him. If you are a Christian, are you living your life by YOUR will, or by God’s will? Are you living in sin still, trying to hang on to that which temporarily satisfies, or did you give all of your sin up to Jesus so that He can satisfy your spiritual needs eternally?

All through the old testament God shows how much He hates sin… do why on earth would we want to continue in it? God hates it, it destroys our relationship with God, and it destroys us and those around us, nothing good comes from living in sin.

There is only one source of life that we can get and that is through Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose again that we might partake in the life giving bread of heaven.

John 6:39-40
39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

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Taking up your cross

Luke 9:18-23

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”

19They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.”

20And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”

21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone,

22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”

23And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Jesus starts by asking a simple question, “Who do the people say that I am?” Peter answers by saying the people think that Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah, a little different than what we would expect.

Why did people think that Jesus was one of these people?
What did John the Baptist do that would make him seem like Christ?
He walked with God and delivered God’s message.
What did Elijah do that would make him seem like Christ?
He walked with God.

Whose will and mission were these men trying to accomplish, their own? NO, these men were focused entirely on doing the will of the Lord at all costs.

So again, why did the crowd think that Jesus was one of these men? They all lived lives that reflected the will of God as number one.

If they were able to live this type of life without the Holy Spirit, then how much more should we be reflecting the will of the Father with the Holy Spirit indwelling our lives and helping us out?

The next question that Jesus asks is a lot more personal. He asked “Who do *you* say that I am?”
Peter replies by saying “the Christ of God”

What did this mean? Christ wasn’t a name. It was a title meaning messiah or God’s anointed one. Paul was making a confession that he believed that Jesus is God’s chosen Person sent to redeem all of humanity, not just in man’s eyes, but God’s. “the Christ of God” Jesus is sent by God to do His will.

Verse 23 describes three things that we need to come after Jesus.

Deny self – Do not be centered on yourself. Following God means that He is number one in your life, not that you are number one in God’s will. Deny yourself completely, because putting God first and yourself second is still going to distract you from God’s will. You are not a priority at all. If you are focusing on yourself at all then you are not focused fully on God.

Take up your cross – A cross is not a fashion statement. It isn’t meant to be just something you wear around your neck on a necklace. A cross is the unrelenting symbol of death. Where in this verse does it say that if we follow God then we will be blessed with riches and great health and a perfect body? NEVER! Following Christ means we take up our cross and die to ourselves and to the world daily and live only to accomplish the will of the Father at any cost.

Follow Christ – Only after we have died to ourselves can we follow Christ.

Christians, you have a job to do, and it is one that is more important than anything in your life currently.

Evangelizing is super important and we all need to do it, but I’m talking about more than that.

How can we witness to others if we are not following God?
How can we, if our lives do not reflect Christ’s?

John the Baptist and Elijah followed God in their daily lives to the point where people thought Jesus was one of them. How about your life? Does it reflect a life of someone who is truly following God? Or does your life look like everyone else’s?

I heard a frightening saying that I fully believe in.

The number one cause of athiesm in the world today is Christians, who confess Jesus with their lips, but deny him by their lifestyle. – DC Talk

You may be eternally secure in your relationship to God, but how many people are going to hell because they are sickened by or tired of our hypocritical lives?

I know a lot of people who do not believe in God but were raised in church or Christian homes and saw the hypocrisy. Everybody from their parents, church members, deacons, and even pastors did not take up their cross or live lives that reflected Jesus. And now, as a result, many people are athiests and going to hell because of it.

Who can blame them?

How many people are drawn to or turned away from Christianity because of your lifestyle while you claim to follow God? I’m not talking about living perfectly, but does your life reflect the life of Jesus so that others can “see” Him through your life and actions?

Ideas we can use in witnessing to others, and ministering to new Christians

I. Foundation Verses and Their Major Points (in sequential order):

A. Matt. 16:1-4
B. Matt 16:5-12
C. Matt 26:1-13 (esp. v. 10-13)
D. Luke 4:8
E. Luke 4:16-19 (digression)
F. Luke 19:1-10
G. Romans 2:4
H. Matthew 16:26
I. Ephesians 5:1-7
J. Mark 13:28-31

A. Matt 16:1-4
1. Read v. 1-4
2. Explain:
– The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted a sign that Jesus was who
He said He was; Jesus said an adulterous nation seeks a sign.
– The Pharisees and Sadducees naturally thought that God would give them a sign if they were to believe someone who was really the Son of God; Their forefathers Abraham, Moses, etc. had signs from God when God wanted to get His point across.
– Jesus says in v. 4 that the only sign they will get is the same sign the prophet Jonah got – three days in the belly of the beast. Basically, Jesus is talking about His death, burial, and resurrection.
– Jonah was in the belly of the beast three days; Jesus was dead for three days before he resurrected.
– First of all, we learn from this that we have to show those we evangelize to that there will be no sign from God, just because you ask for one; If you say “God, I don’t believe in you, but if you show me a sign, I will believe in you!”, then chances are it won’t happen. You have to accept with faith that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved; Faith is VITAL to becoming a child of God.
– Another point from this is that NOW is the time for repentance! They must know that the Second Coming is imminent.
– Read 1 Cor. 1:21-22 (echos two points: You need faith to be saved, and the Jews request a sign).
– Read Romans 5:1 to echo point of salvation by faith alone
– They need to know also that Jesus’ death on the Cross is the thing which will save them, and the ONLY thing that will save them.

1. Read v. 5-12
2. Explain:
– The disciples thought Jesus was warning them because they did not bring any bread with them; Jesus was actually warning about the “leaven” (doctrine) of the Pharisees – the ways in which they made up rules as they went along.
– When witnessing we need to understand that the idols and false doctrines of the world is what blinds the world from seeing Jesus for who He really is – the Son of God and the Messiah. We need to expose the lies the people we evangelize to are believing in, and the false Messiahs they are focusing on (money, power, sex, drugs, etc.). These false doctrines and lifestyles are clearly wrong to God, and they all server as a distraction from the truth of Jesus Christ being their saviors (as apposed to money, power, sex, drugs, etc.)
– These things are tools the enemy uses (as any other sin) to keep people on the wrong path, so that they feel too guilty about what they do to face their God.
– We need to also warn these people to stay true to themselves and to be careful what kind of leaders they choose, spiritually or otherwise. For there are many false prophets out there, especially in these days where we’re getting closer to Jesus’ second coming.

C. Matthew 26:1-13, (esp. focus on 10-13, give explanation of 1-9)
1. Read said verses
2. Explain:
– In v. 1 – 9 a woman anointed Jesus with expensive oil. The disciples, esp. Judas (as you see in another Gospel where it is more detailed), is upset because the oil could have been sold for money to “give to the poor”. Note, Judas wanted to steal the money.
– In v. 10-13 Jesus tells His disciples that what the woman is doing for him is a benefit to the spread of the Gospel and a memorial onto his burial.
– He also says that what the woman was doing will be a memorial unto her. I understand this to mean that our deeds as Christians and our witnessing will be rewarded when we are in Heaven.
– I also think this to mean that we should preach the Gospel around the world as a memorial unto Christ Jesus. So if we know that we should do it, we should make it clear to those who we convert that it doesn’t stop at becoming a Christian; they should also get acquainted with the word and start evangelizing too.
– This duty to the poor mentioned in these verses is explained in one of our upcoming verses.

D. Luke 4:8
1. Read Luke v. 4:8
2. Explain:
– Jesus was being tempted, but He stood fast, and quotes a very important verse from Deuteronomy: Worship God and Him alone!
– We must make sure we press this upon new Christians. As said before, being a Christian means abandoning any doctrine or “idol” which keeps up from abiding in Christ constantly!

E. Luke 4:16-19 (digression)
1. Read v. 16-19
2. Explain:
– We have an obligation to the same people Jesus preached the Gospel to:
– The spiritually poor
– The spiritually blind
– The broken hearted
– The captives, in order to set them free

F. Luke 19:1-10
1. Read Luke 19:1-10
2. Explain:
– In these verses the man, Zacchaeus did what Jesus had commanded another man to do, and that was sell his possessions to give the money to the poor and right all the wrong he had done.
– We must also teach others by example to do the same thing, especially those who are seeking to become and grow as Christians, because a Christian does that – he helps the needy and rights his wrongs.
– These verses also talk about reclaiming the lost; we must teach others by example to do the same thing!

G. Romans 2:4
1. Read Romans 2:4
2. Explain
– We must teach others to turn away from their sins.
– We must also teach them that failure to repent is a disgrace to the fact that God allows us to repent to show His goodness, instead of immediately punishing us.

H. Matthew 16:26
1. Read Matthew 16:26
2. Explain:
– We must learn to make sacrifices for God
– This pleases God greatly
I. Ephesians 5:1-7
1. Read Ephesians 5:1-7
2. Explain:
– Be an imitator of Christ
– Do not partake in the said activies
J. Mark 13:28-31
1. Read Mark 13:28-31
2. Explain:
– This verse speaks of the Second Coming
– All people, Christian or not, NEED to know that the second coming is imminent and they should spread that message!

Tune Into the Heart of God

Mark 9:14-29

v.14And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes [Torah teachers] disputing with them.

While Jesus, Peter, James, and John were away, a crowd gathered around the other nine disciples. The scribes saw this as a great time to engage the disciples in a debate. So they attacked.

v.15 immediately when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him.
v.16 And He asked the scribes,” What are you discussing with them?”
v.17 Then one of the crowd answered and said,” Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
v.18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

-Now the key to the Jewish “formula” of exorcism was getting the demon to give up its name.. So, a demon who could make its victim mute was an impossible case. This man had brought his son to Jesus but not finding him there, had asked the disciples for help. They weren’t able to deliver the boy, and that’s when the debate broke out with the scribes.

-So the Torah teachers were pretty hammering away at the disciples saying in their minds, “If Jesus is such a hot shot, then why aren’t His disciples better equipped to deal with the need at hand?” We see here, as in many other areas of the gospels, that Jesus is judged on the basis of how closely His disciples follow His example.

v.19 He answered him and said,” O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”

-It irked the Lord in the extreme that a father and his child were going through such torment while His disciples and the scribes were debating theology! These guys were supposed to be the godly men of the day - and they stood there arguing over who was right, while a poor boy’s life was literally in danger! Isn’t that so like today though? While brothers and sisters in Christ are arguing over who has the most correct doctrine in regards to how people should be baptized, what day is the most proper day to go to church, if Christ’s sacrifice was meant for all or if He only died for those He knew would accept him…while we are arguing these things, thousands of spiritually dead people around us are in danger of dying to an eternity without Christ.

-Where are our priorities? Making sure our doctrine is the most correct and arguing the points to the death? Or pursuing spreading the message of the cross to a world that is dying!

-In v.19, Jesus cuts through the debate with the words “Bring him to Me.” The solution to the argument was the boy’s deliverance. As the world looks at the modem Church, what do they see, groups of people arguing? Or lives being changed. Are the suffering and the lost being healed? Or are Christians becoming so involved in their own mindsets and churches that they are ignoring the needs of those around them.

v. 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
v. 21 So He asked his father,” How long has this been happening to him?”
 And he said,” From childhood.
v.22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
 Jesus said to him,” If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

-You see, while the so-called religious experts on both sides were arguing doctrine, this man with the demon-possessed son understood Jesus was compassionate. He didn’t care about fine points of theology. His son was tormented and needed help, and Jesus was just the One to give it. So with the scribes standing on one side, and the disciples on another, Jesus showed them all that it was not about head knowledge, but about simple faith in who He was and what God wanted to do that mattered.

-This is an important lesson for us. Let’s not get so caught up in the pursuit of correct theology and doctrine that we lose sight of the HEART of God. Time in the prayer closet is far more important than that spent in a seminary classroom. A head full of doctrine can NEVER substitute for a heart full of faith.

v.24 immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears,” Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

-The man believed in Jesus, and that faith opened him up to the awareness of just how imperfect his faith was. That’s what genuine faith always does - it reveals its own shallowness. We can only see the Lord when we look in faith, and once we look, we realize how far short our faith comes to really knowing Him.

-The one who can truly say, “Lord, I believe” can’t help but saying,” But not nearly as much as I should.” The one who thinks he/she is a person of great faith has no idea what faith is or Who God is.

v. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it,” Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”
v.26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said,” He is dead.”
v.27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
v.28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately,” Why could we not cast it out?”
v.29 He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

-Prayer and fasting are both means by which our spiritual strength and awareness are developed. Though the disciples had earlier been authorized by the Lord to cast out demons, they’d not continued to hone their spiritual senses. As a result, when they came face to face with this demon, they’d not understood the authority that was theirs in Christ.

-Paul makes it clear in Eph. 6 that our real battle is not with or in the physical realm. Our contest is spiritual. If our battle was physical, we’d concern ourselves with diet, exercise, and weapons-drills to hone our ability to wage war in the natural realm.

-Since our battle is spiritual, we need to develop ourselves spiritually. Prayer and fasting are weapons the Lord has given us to secure our position and press into enemy territory. Without these means, we lose our spiritual edge and strength.

-Being a disciple, being a follower of Jesus, doesn’t automatically mean you’re keeping your spiritual edge and relating to life from a primarily spiritual perspective. Why you can even be arguing about doctrine, and still be useless as far as the things of the Spirit are concerned!

-Make sure that in your studies and your acquiring of wisdom and knowledge of the Word, that you don’t become so involved in the nitty gritty of it that you lose sight of the big picture…we can be so involved in putting a microscope to everything, that we ignore what God is trying to say to us…what He is wanting to reveal to us. Be sure that in your study, you do not forget to listen to the voice of God and become in tune with His heart and His will and what He is trying to say to you personally.

-Sometimes when we get involved in disagreements and debates, we read the Word with a mindset to FIND things to tell others…to use as a defense in arguments…like we’ll read and something will catch our eye, and we’ll say to ourselves, “Oh! That would be GREAT to say to this person or to say in that thread…this verse backs up my view perfectly.” We can get so involved in reading the Bible for OTHERS, that we ignore reading it for ourselves.

-Instead of saying, “What is God revealing to me to share to so and so” say “what can God be saying to ME…what is He telling me about my OWN walk; what is He wanting to reveal to me?”

Adapted from a sermon by Pastor Lance Ralston of Calvary Chapel of Oxnard.

Following Jesus Part 2

-In chapter 1 of Mark, we find that when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John, their reaction was the same as Matthew’s, they dropped their fishing nets, and left their boats to follow Jesus.

– Like Matthew, they’d not had what it takes to be a disciple according to their torah teachers so they had followed the path that was expected of them – the family business of commercial fishing.

– BUT unlike the rabbis and torah teachers of that time, Jesus didn’t look at what they were in themselves – He saw what they would become by the work of His Spirit in them.

-Remember, the goal of discipleship is to become just like the rabbi. So when a young man began his discipleship, he picked a rabbi to follow by asking, “Who could I be like?” But most of them were turned away by the words, “You can’t be like me!”

-But when Jesus said to Peter and Matthew, “Follow Me” He was saying to them “I know that YOU can be just like Me.”

-What Jesus said to them, He says to you and I. We did not choose Jesus – He chose us! He came to us while we were going about our lives in this world, and He showed us there was a whole new way to live.

-We didn’t go to Him and plead with Him to let us follow Him. No – He came to us and said, “Follow Me – and I will make you just like Me.”

-That’s what the Spirit is doing in us – He’s making us just like Jesus. As it says inRomans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

-Disciples in Galilee followed their rabbi for 15 years, until they turned 30, then if they had accomplished the task of becoming like him, they became rabbis in their own right.

-But after only 3 years of training the 12, Jesus sent them forth to make disciples of the whole world. Matthew 28:19a says “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

-Jesus took the narrow doors off of what it takes to be a disciple. Before He came, only an elite few were disciples, based on their skill, talent, and intelligence. But Jesus based the invitation to discipleship, not on our ability, but on His.

-Even to this very day, Jesus comes to men and women who have been beaten down by sin, to those rejected by the authorities, crushed by parents and teachers who have told them they’ll never amount to anything, and He says, “Follow Me, and I will make you just like I am.” Then, even more, He entrusts His mission to us and tells us to go and make disciples who will be just like Him.

-There is one condition though – one necessary thing we must do. Like Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew – we must drop our current identity and occupation if we’re going to follow Jesus. Peter couldn’t follow Jesus and fish at the same time. Matthew couldn’t follow Jesus and collect customs duties at the same time. To be a disciple meant leaving his tax-booth.

– Now, i’m not saying we all should forsake our jobs and live and work in a church…what i’m saying is this, if we follow Jesus, then we must turn our backs on our identity as sinners and drop the things that make for sin…we must shed all those things of the “old life” the “old nature” and embrace the new life, that new nature that Christ offers us in Him.

-In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” See, the invitation is open to all – “If anyone” Jesus said.

– But the condition to following Him is to die to self so that Jesus can live in and through us. It’s this indwelling of Christ that brings the power to change us so that we become just like Him.

-Being a Christian today means we follow Jesus in the midst of our careers and vocations and family lives. What we leave behind to follow Jesus is the old man, our identity as people who defined themselves by the things of this fallen world.

-Jesus invites you to be His disciple today. He doesn’t invite us to be His student. The invitation isn’t even to be a Christian, or a deeply religious person. He invites you to become just like He is and to enjoy the closest possible relationship with Him.

-It doesn’t matter what’s happened to you in this world. It doesn’t matter what sin you’ve managed to immerse yourself in. It doesn’t matter that others have told you you’re a loser, that you’ll never amount to anything.

-Jesus stops before you today as He stopped before Matthew’s tax-booth, He looks you in the eye, holds out His hand and says, “Follow Me.”

-Just as the disciples were called to follow Jesus TOGETHER, so are we. The Body of Christ embraces men, women and children of all colors, backgrounds, and social levels. Our common bond is our relationship to Jesus, and that relationship erases all other distinctions.

-As Paul says in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Applying that to today, we could say in Christ there is no Caucasian, Hispanic, African, or Oriental; there’s no distinction between ravers, skaters, Goths, surfers, punks, waxheads, preps, minis, silents, jocks, nerds, and geeks.

-As we follow Christ, we invite all, whatever their background, color, or ethnic group – to come follow with us in following Christ.

-And in Christ we are one.