Jesus Was A Small Group Leader

Jesus Was A Small Group Leader

Jesus Was A Small Group Leader
Now that we’ve taken six weeks to look at our most important communication—between us and God—we next want to look at our membership in a small group.

Not there yet?

By the time we’ve finished the next six weeks, I hope I will have convinced you that the life of the church exists within small communities.

If we use Jesus as an example (and why not? He’s the best example of everything right and good!), we can see that our faith walk is made to be shared with others.

Jesus chose 12.

These were common, ordinary men, probably on the young side, who were looking for a  Messiah and determined to follow Him wherever that might lead. They weren’t content to simply go to synagogue on the Sabbath and celebrate the feasts. They wanted all God had for them, and although they may have thought they made the choice to follow this itinerant rabbi, in truth He chose them. 

Yes. Even Judas who would later betray Him.

Because Jesus knew that He needed to leave us an example of how we will best accomplish His plans for us. In groups of close friends.

“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him (Matthew 10:2-4 NIV).”
[bctt tweet=”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead” username=”suzi59344978″]
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matthew 18:20 ESV).”

This “Jesus life” is something that cannot be accomplished alone. To do so leaves half of His purpose completely out. What was His purpose? To reconcile people to God and people to people. He said the two greatest commandments were “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37).”

No room for Lone Rangers.  This is a group activity.

“And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:23-26).”

The early church comprised Jewish believers in Yeshua as their long-awaited Messiah. Little by little, Gentiles heard the Gospel and believed. Together they formed small groups that met regularly to fellowship, worship, and study the scriptures.

But they still went to the Temple to join with their fellow Jews in worshipping God with their age-old traditions.

Hooked into the life of the Temple, they never thought of themselves as anything but Jewish. They weren’t trying to start a new religion. They simply wanted God’s chosen people to see and recognize the time of their visitation, turn to Jesus, and be saved.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 KJV).”
Yet another reason for becoming a part of a small group is for encouragement. When we are fighting the enemy of our souls who wants nothing more than to destroy our walk and kill our faith, it can be very difficult. In fact, you most certainly will have more success together than alone.

James admonishes us to confess our sins to each other. Chris Morton calls it “articulating

what is wrong.” When you bring sin into the light, you can clearly see how evil it is, and those praying with you can rejoice over your cleansing. God gave us each other. We find a safe place to “let it all hang out” in a small group of like-minded believers.

Yet another reason is for sharing. While our culture today screams at us: “Get more stuff! Get more stuff!”, we need to recognize that God is our provider. We need to realize that it is not we, ourselves, who gain wealth, but God who enables us to acquire and enjoy things. When we share, it is because we know that all good things come from God’s warehouse, and there will always be enough to meet our needs. We need not grasp onto what God has given us. He will always give us more as we open our hands in generousity to others.

Sharing also involves making ourselves vulnerable in other ways, too. Sharing the depths of our souls promotes trust. We can also share our daily lives, not just at church, but “breaking bread from house to house” as the disciples did. Just remember that small groups do not replace corporate gathering, but enrich it.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46 NIV).”
As we step into this next study of godly communication and authentic life, let’s make the commitment to include each other in our loving circle of friends.

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You Are God’s Best Friend

You Are God’s Best Friend

You Are God’s Best Friend

The loneliest place in all the world is where you are right now, if you have no special friend. A best friend is someone with whom you can be perfectly at ease and who hears you and knows you fully without judging you.

 

Who is that for you?

Imagine yourself walking down a street in the fall, with beautifully colored fallen leaves swirling around your feet and the light that amazing gold that only happens in autumn. You are so comfortable with your friend at your side that you don’t apply any filters when you talk. You say exactly what’s on your mind, and so does your friend. Together, you enjoy an intimacy in communication reserved for just you two.

In the Amplified Bible, Paul is thanking his friends at Philippi for their fellowship just as much as for their contributions as they help him spread the gospel. He recognizes that we are not meant to walk this path alone, because if we did, we would miss the amazing splendor that God has created in the fellowship of other believers. In other words, instead of the beautiful day of the fall with all its golden glory, we would see the ugliness of the fall where sin has corrupted everything that surrounds us.

Philippians 1:3-5 reads: “I thank my God in every remembrance of you,  always offering every prayer of mine with joy [and with specific requests] for all of you,  [thanking God] for your participation and partnership [both your comforting fellowship and gracious contributions] in [advancing] the good news [regarding salvation] from the first day [you heard it] until now (AMP).”

[bctt tweet=”If you’re struggling to believe that God wants this kind of “BFF” relationship with you, then you haven’t fully understood your status as a child of the high King.” username=”suzi59344978″]

That’s the kind of relationship God longs to have with you. You say exactly what’s on your heart with no fear of reprisal or recrimination. You have His full attention and He understands even better than you do what you’re trying to say. His smile warms His eyes as He looks at you with perfect, genuine love.

If you’re struggling to believe that God wants this kind of “BFF” relationship with you, then you haven’t fully understood your status as a child of the high King. When Jesus died, He did so to resurrect you from death to life. His substitutionary death paid every penalty for every sin you’ve ever committed or ever will commit.

Your communication with God is without restraint because He has completely remade you in His image.

“Then God [plural elohim] said, “Let Us [plural pronoun] make man in Our [plural pronoun] image, according to Our [plural pronoun] likeness.” Genesis 1:26

God was complete before He began to create. He did not need to make man for His own companionship; the Triune God had complete, perfect fellowship as an attribute of His character. So when He made man in His image, He created a being that would crave the companionship that He, Himself, enjoyed in the Godhead. Then, He created woman.

So that made two: man and woman (human fellowship). But God’s image is trinitarian, so in order to make man in His image, a third was needed. And that third is God Himself.

Can you even imagine God the Father not sharing all things with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? Of course not! Therefore, as part of the fellowship God has created, He will likewise share all good things with you. Your communication with God need not be fearful or restrained. Believe me, God has already heard it all—and He has forgiven it all.

Now when you walk down that street with your best friend, remember that God is there with you. Share whatever is on your heart and don’t hold back. Communication with best friends is a unique treasure that God wants to share in its entirety with you.

Let go! Talk to this “best friend forever” in what is truly an eternal friendship. 

 

 

God is talking. Are you?

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:51 ESV).”

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God’s Search and Rescue Team

God’s Search and Rescue Team

God’s Search and Rescue Team

What do you think of when you hear the term “spiritual warfare?” Do you imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer using martial arts to injure and maim evil spirits? Or do you picture Elisha  praying that God would open his servant’s eyes?

Many people think of deliverance as a synonym for spiritual warfare and then visualize a scene from The Exorcist. They draw back in fear when they think of casting demons out, afraid of what they don’t understand.

This spiritual battle often takes place in the mind and the enemy attacks us and attempts 

“The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (2 Corinthians 10:4 AMP).”

to get us to rely on our own strength to defeat his evil lies. But we know that Mark 16:17 says “In my name shall they cast out devils.” In whose name? Jesus’ name, of course!

[bctt tweet=”If you were bullied as a child, you may know what it feels like to stand up to the bully when your big brother stands behind you.” username=”suzi59344978″]

If you were bullied as a child, you may know what it feels like to stand up to the bully when your big brother stands behind you. That fear-mongering scoundrel backs down really fast when he’s no longer the big guy, doesn’t he? Well, fighting spiritual battles are the same 

thing. An evil that is taunting you and trying to fill your head with his lies dances around in front of you until your Big Brother shows up. And then the evil one flees.

“O Lord, open his eyes so he can see (2nd Kings 6:17)! ”

When Elisha was living in the city of Dothan with his servant, an enemy king’s army came to surround him and capture Elisha so he could no longer counsel the king of Israel. When the servant got up in the morning, there was the king of Aram’s army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. In a panic, he asked his master, “What shall we do??”

What Elisha did NOT do is run, nor hide, nor attempt to negotiate with the enemy. Instead, in complete confidence, he simply prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he can see (2nd Kings 6:17)! ” And immediately the servant saw the LORD’s army standing on the hills. Can you imagine what that must have looked like? Michael, the archangel, standing with the LORD’s army in full battle array. Elisha was right when he said, “Those who are with us are greater than those who are against us (2nd Kings 6:16).”

The Lord’s army is there to do battle. So what are you to do? Don’t you have some part in this great battle, too?

Why, yes, you do! Your job is to be chaplain to the troops who have been fighting the battle. You bring God’s light and word into the fray and deliver lost souls to God. You speak the words of light and heal and cleanse every warrior who cries out in distress. You walk around behind enemy lines, delivering the prisoners of war held there by the enemy’s tactics. But you are not walking alone! God is there with you, to lead His children into freedom, and because God is there with you, there is nothing the enemy can do to stop you.

Once He opens the eyes of those held captive, they can see that what appeared to be their defeat was actually the very thing that led them to victory.

Our relationship with our Lord must be so intimate that we know where He’s going and what He’s doing so we can be part of His heavenly search and rescue team.

Let God do the fighting. Because “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1st John 4:4)!”

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Do you know that God speaks directly to His people individually? How do you know when you are hearing God’s voice, and not your own—or even worse, Satan’s?

God still speaks. The question is, are you listening?

In the time during which Eli was high priest, it was rare for people to hear the Word of the Lord. Eli’s sons “were scoundrels” according
to the NIV. They were treating the sacrifices
to the Lord with disdain, taking for them-selves the choicest pieces of meat, even before the fat was burned as required by God. 

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27 NIV).”

They were also committing adultery with women who served at the entrance to the temple. Eli knew about it and questioned them, but he did not discipline them for their sins. Thus, God was determined to judge Eli and his sons.

God first sent “a man of God” to Eli (1 Samuel 2:27). This man’s identity is not revealed, but his status is: he was a man of God. This was a common euphemism for a prophet. Because God is just, He sent Eli a message through the prophet to warn Him of what was to come to His family. Perhaps because God didn’t immediately carry out his judgment against Eli and his sons but instead gave them time to repent, they did not believe that God was going to actually do what He had said.

So they heard, but they didn’t listen.

Hearing is something you don’t really control. Today, with all the media and technology constantly barraging us with their messages, we can hardly help hearing. But listening we have control over. Listening is active, where hearing is passive. So Eli and his sons heard but didn’t listen.

Samuel was just a boy, living in the house of God and serving the high priest. One night when they were asleep, God called Samuel’s name. After thrice coming to Eli, thinking he was hearing the old priest, Eli suddenly realizes that God is speaking to the boy. He tells Samuel to answer God the next time He called.

“So Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down, and it shall be that if He calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place (1 Samuel 3:9 NIV).”

It was rare to hear from God in those days, and Samuel had not yet heard from God directly. Imagine being a young lad and hearing the condemnation of your boss the very first time God speaks to you! No wonder he was afraid to tell Eli the next morning!

God still speaks to His followers today. But with all the other voices constantly coming at us, how do we know when we hear His voice? Here are five ways God might speak to you.

1.  He speaks through His word. We can be absolutely sure that the written word of God is His voice. When you read a verse and it resonates with you, you’ve heard the voice of God. Next is to listen to what He is saying!

2.  God also speaks to us in our minds. We have a profound thought that surprises us. If it lines up with the word of God, that may be God speaking directly to our minds, especially if the thought deeply surprises you.

3.  Prophetic dreams are another way that God speaks to His people today. If you think that He only spoke that way in the Old Testament, 

then read Acts 2:17 where we are specifically told that “young men will dream dreams and old men will see visions.” (Prophetic means speaking forth the word of God, not necessarily foretelling the future.)

4.  God speaks through things that can only be attributable to God. Coming to faith itself is only by an act of God. Healing or being freed from bondage are also ways we know we are hearing from God.

5.  God answers prayers. When we petition God and He acts on our behalf, we have heard from God.

So how do we know for sure that it is God we have heard from? First, He is fully capable of bearing witness through something over which we have no control. He will confirm His word to us, often through the confirmation of elders who affirm God’s voice.

1 John 4:1 tells us to test the spirits. He says that we should test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false spirits have gone forth in the world. Don’t believe everything you hear, but as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11, examine the Scriptures every day to see if what you are listening to is true.

1 Corinthians 14:29 (AMP) says, “Let two or three prophets speak [as inspired by the Holy Spirit], while the rest pay attention and weigh carefully what is said.”

“Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit. Do not scorn or reject gifts of prophecy or prophecies [spoken revelations—words of instruction or exhortation or warning]. But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 AMP).”

If what we have heard testifies that Jesus was resurrected from the dead (lining up with the word of God), we can rest in the knowledge that the word is, indeed from God. If it doesn’t, then the spirit behind the voice is not God’s Spirit.

So today I challenge you to actively listen to God in His word, in others you trust, and in your own mind and heart.

 

God still speaks!

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Intercession: How to Pray So God Says Yes

Intercession: How to Pray So God Says Yes

Intercession How to Pray so God says yes

Is it possible to pray in such a way that you know God’s answer will be yea and amen? I believe it is. C.S. Lewis said, “Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.” Will you allow God to change your prayers?

For His own reasons, God has chosen to partner with us in prayer. But He is not a vending machine that automatically dispenses the things we ask for in prayer. He is sovereign. When He decides to do something, He moves His people to pray.

What would you do if God asked you to go to the foreign mission field? He asked me to do that nearly twenty years ago. I was so sure of His call that I left everything behind and moved to Russia. There was no doubt in my mind that He had a call on my life for a season of serving overseas.

It was easy to trust Him for the things I

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14 NIV)

needed during that time, because I knew I was doing His will. When I returned after seven years, I wasn’t so clear about what my mission at home was. I had to learn to hear Him all over again.

[bctt tweet=”The bigs things were easy. God was asking me to trust Him even in the little things.” username=”suzi59344978″]

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples (John 15:7-8 AMP).”

It was easy to trust God for the big things. Living totally dependent upon God in Russia was easy compared to living in the States where I had for so many years depended on myself for the little things. But God was asking me to trust Him even in the little things.

I needed to learn how to pray according to His will when things didn’t seem quite so clear. That’s when my prayer life changed—dramatically.

I learned to seek first to glorify God in how I prayed. I began to ask Him what was on His heart and how He wanted me to pray.

In every situation, God has a plan. He wants us to pray according to that plan, and the only way we know what to pray is to ask Him.

So what kind of prayers glorify God and produce fruit in our lives?

[bctt tweet=”He lives to make intercession.” username=”suzi59344978″]

God’s glorious light shows us exactly how we should pray. His light does four things:

1. It dispels darkness. Praying according to what is true glorifies God

2. It finds lost things. We know that the ultimate fruit is seeing others come into the kingdom. Prayer for the salvation of others is always according to His will.

3. It cleanses. God’s will for each person is to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

4. It heals. God wants us to be healed, physically, emotionally, mentally, and most of all, spiritually. And while it is not always clear why we don’t always see that healing physically manifest, it is still according to His will to ask for it. (See James 5:16.)

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25 NIV).”

Prayers that focus on what God says is important rather than what we think is important align with His will.

If the Spirit lays something on your heart, you can be 100% sure that He will hear you. And we can know that it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to prayer because what we feel led to pray for will line up with God’s word.

 

Our relationship with God is intimate. We have His Holy Spirit resident within us, and we have Jesus, the Word of God, to guide our way.

While we are petitioning God according to His will, Jesus is petitioning Him on our behalf. That’s a combination that cannot lose.

That’s  how we make intercession.

 

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What Hinders Prayer

What Hinders Prayer

What Hinders Prayer

God has made it possible for us to enter the Holy of Holies through the atoning blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. At the moment of His death, the veil that separated man from God’s most holy place was rent in two, from the top to the bottom. In other words, the Way was opened from the top, where God is, to the bottom, where man is. That’s significant.

When Esther wanted to see the king—her own husband—she could not just enter the throne room. To do so without the king’s summons could mean death. But if he held out his scepter, it meant she had found favor with him and could enter the throne room. It is significant that God is both husband and king (Isaiah 54:5). He invites us into His presence.

The Amplified Bible shows more fully the great privilege we enjoy in approaching the throne of grace.

Hebrews 4:16 reads: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (NIV).”

[bctt tweet=”At the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil that separated man from God’s most holy place was rent in two, from the top to the bottom.” username=”suzi59344978″]

“Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment] (Hebrews 4:16 AMP).”

There are, however, some things that can hinder our prayers to our gracious Father.

1. Ephesians 4:26-27 shows us that we can give the devil a foothold, The Greek word topos means foothold and indicates a room or a place. We can’t expect to waltz into the throne of grace dragging a demon!

2. We give the devil a foothold when we have unconfessed pride, rebellion, deception, sexual impurity, and any other ungodly thing in which we participate.

3. Sometimes, we think so highly of ourselves that we try to usurp Jesus’ place as Savior and the Holy Spirit’s place as Counselor. We don’t trust the Holy Spirit in others but expect them to trust Him in us, ourselves.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes we try to usurp Jesus’ place as Savior and the Holy Spirit’s place as Counselor. ” via=”no”]

4. Mark is very clear in his Gospel that forgiveness is necessary to an ongoing, deep relationship with God (Mark 11:25). We cannot expect God to listen to our pleas for help when we ignore the needs others have for our forgiveness.

5. Unconfessed sin of any kind will disrupt our intimate relationship with our Father.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV).”

The “race set before us” requires faith, stamina, commitment, and discipline. What athlete thinks he can win a contest without those four things.

The race’s parameters are set by God. They are encompassed in the meaning of the word holiness.

The Hebrew word kadosh (קָדוֹשׁ) doesn’t mean individual righteousness. Instead it indicates something set apart for a particular purpose, one of God’s choosing. If we desire that our prayers remain unhindered, we must remain “set apart” from the world. “Holy” is the exact opposite of “common.”

The cloud of witnesses are those who have already finished the race and have left behind a pattern for us to follow. If we follow their lead, we are sure to finish well.

Habitual sin will hold you in bondage. So how do you know if you are in habitual sin? Here are some clues.

You feel hopeless. You “did it again” even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t.

You see yourself as worthless.

You believe the lies the enemy is feeding you.

You feel like giving up.

You spend less time with God.

You feel ashamed and keep it to yourself.

Your sin is always on your mind and you feel helpless to overcome it.

It is interesting to me that Hebrews 12:1-2 says “the sin” and not “sins.” So what sin is this referring to? It is always the same sin that so easily entangles us. And that is thinking that Jesus’ blood was not sufficient for our lives. Yet we know that 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that we have everything we need.

When all is said and done, only pride will hinder your prayers. Because pride keeps you from coming humbly to God when sin has run roughshod over you and left you weeping once again. God told Cain that sin crouched at his door (Genesis 4:7), but the only thing we need to overcome sin in our lives, habitual or not, is reliance on Jesus.

“”For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3 AMP).”

You can do this. You can close the door Satan and not let crouching sin enter. The solution to the problem (hindered prayers) is contained in the problem. More prayer, unencumbered by sin!

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