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4-16-17 Ten Easter Discipleship Lessons – From Crisis to Process to Success

By on April 20, 2017

The Easter story, always the Easter story. Every year, across the country and around the world, Christians are reading and celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and then rose again on Sunday morning. We know that as bad as Friday night was, Sunday was on its way, and Sunday has made its way! Our God makes a way where there is no way!

Ant behind the events of that first Easter morning, as ten great lessons for us as disciples of Jesus, as we’re being led and taught by the Holy Spirit.

Your end may be God’s beginning. John 20:1 The first day of the week Mary Magdalene arrived early, when it was still dark, to the sepulcher where Jesus was lain, and she saw the stone had been taken away from the opening.

Mary was in a time of darkness, no clear vision, and clearly upset, because God’s will was totally different than what she’d expected. She already was confused, and then, she discovered the stone of Jesus’ grave had been moved. In other words, her world was turning upside down, everything had changed and nothing was going the way she expected.

Lesson: Just because it seems like it’s the end, doesn’t MEAN it’s the end. It’s not over until God says it’s over. And I’m happy to say, God hasn’t said it’s over!

When things are going wrong, that’s when you need to seek fellowship.
John 20:2 Then she ran, and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we do not know where they have laid him.

When you’re least feel like being around people, that’s when you need to get into fellowship. Mary RAN to get with Peter and John. When things go wrong, when we’re disappointed, that’s when we feel like withdrawing. And, that’s when we can least afford to pull back.

Lesson: When you’re confused and disappointed, instead of pulling back, make yourself reach out, to make contact with other Believers. That’s what they are here for – to provide comfort and support.

Alone again. John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

They didn’t abandon Mary. It probably felt like they did, but they didn’t let her down. They were there to confirm that things were as she thought they were, and that there was no real danger, and then they went back home. That was the right thing to do.

Lesson: God may raise up people to confirm things in your life, but He doesn’t want you to depend on them. He wants you to depend on Him. Don’t expect others to be there for you day and night. You have to do your deepest growing by yourself.

Don’t be surprised if Jesus isn’t where you thought He was. Don’t let it make you bitter to find out you thought He was somewhere that He isn’t. He may not be in that relationship that you’ve just started. He might not be in that opportunity that you want so badly. He is not here: He is risen.

He may not be where you thought He was. Even nowadays, Jesus isn’t always where you think He is! You might think He’s one place, only to find out He is not there at all. Don’t let discouragement overwhelm you at this point. Jesus is risen. His thoughts are above our thoughts and His ways are above our ways.

Lesson: When Jesus isn’t where I thought He was, that’s my cue to find out where He is. He may seem like He is hiding Himself from me. But actually, He is encouraging me to seek Him with my whole heart, and to draw closer to Him.

Heaven is aware of your heartaches and disappointments. John 20:13 And they say unto her, Woman, why are you weeping? Heaven watches you and is involved with your life, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You can’t suffer a setback without catching Heaven’s attention. Setbacks are a part of the process of growing in life. And, they cause you to re-examine yourself, to check your spirit, to do a moral inventory.

Notice the question: “WHY are you weeping?” They didn’t tell her to stop crying. They didn’t say there was anything wrong with crying. There isn’t anything wrong with crying! This question was for Mary: “WHY” or what specifically about all this is making you so upset? Is it that nothing ever works for you, Mary? Is it that you’re tired of being alone and on your own? Or, that you came all the way out here for nothing? Lesson: Get to the root of what specifically is troubling you. Not just that you’re hurt or that something is bothering you. Take inventory, and learn what the real issue is. What specifically am I upset about?

Be able to state the problem clearly. “. . .She said unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, . . .” Mary didn’t say, “Well nothing’s going right! She limited it to EXACTLY what was troubling her about all this. “They” had done something, and now I don’t sense the presence of my Lord. Have you ever felt like that?

What about “them?” It’s easy to blame other people when you’re in a place of uncertainty. Easy to feel like other people are keeping the will of the Lord from coming to pass. People, whether it’s unbelievers or carnal, self-serving religious people cannot keep the plans and purposes of God from coming to pass. He WILL do what He has planned to do! He WILL do what He has planned to do! No matter WHAT! If He can’t use one person or group of people, He will use a different one. Lesson: God will not be hindered just because some people are totally uncooperative. God’s plans and purposes in your life are MUCH, much bigger than the petty offenses and problems that the people around you are causing.

Not only is it a “they” problem, it is an “I” problem. “. . . and I know not where they have laid him.” That’s what is so frustrating about it. “I don’t know what to do.” That’s a key to real growth. They need to change. I need to change. I can’t change their moving Him, but maybe I can change my not knowing. I want to change “them.” I need to change me. Face it, they aren’t going to change! Lesson: “It’s easier to put on slippers than it is to carpet the whole earth.”

Now Jesus shows up! John 20:14 And when she had said these things, she turned around, and saw Jesus standing, and did not realize it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? When does Jesus show up in a person’s time of crisis? When the person has gone through this process. Taking action, seeking fellowship, getting alone, clarifying the problem, and being ready to change yourself. When we are ready, He shows up. There is an old proverb that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Lesson: Go through the process, and then He shows up. “His presence does not depend on my on my recognition of it.”

Restoration of faith, fellowship and position. John 20:16 Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned and said unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Mary got the word that she needed: She had not been forgotten by Jesus. She hadn’t been forgotten by Jesus and you haven’t been forgotten by Jesus. He called her by name. How long was He there? Probably the whole time – but He was just out of sight. Even in our times of frustration, fear, doubt, loneliness, Jesus is here. Do you suppose He didn’t hear her questions? Do you imagine that He doesn’t hear yours? Do you think He didn’t hear her cry and see her tears? I tell you, Jesus hears your cry and sees your tears! Lesson: He is not far off, even when I don’t sense His presence. When I am ready, He will make His presence and his plan clear. There is nothing better than the clear sensing of the presence and comfort of the Risen Lord Jesus!

SOME POWERFUL LIFE LESSONS FROM PALM SUNDAY

By on April 11, 2017

Every year on Palm Sunday we hear the same verses about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We read about Him riding on the back of the donkey and how the people spread their coats on the road in front of Him and cut down palm fronds and waved them as they celebrated His entry. We know that this same crowd turned against Him by Friday and demanded that He be crucified.

But what are some of the lessons in these verses? What are some life principles that we can use today? Here are a few:

Real Discipleship means Action!

Matt 21:1 And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, to the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples…

Being a true disciple, serving God, has to do with action. Jesus isn’t making listeners, He’s making disciples – people who will ACT on their faith. Jesus always gives His disciples something to do. It involves work, something to do, it involves talking to people, it involves meeting people.

Lesson: Stop letting the fear of what people think be greater than your love for the Lord – and listen to His inner voice as He directs you in your day to day schedule.

You’ll always be questioned and challenged

Jesus sent the two disciples into a neighborhood they weren’t familiar with, and told them to untie a colt that belonged to people they didn’t know. He may lead you to do things that are new and different than what you’ve ever done.

Mark 11:5 And certain of them that stood there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”

Get used to it. People may not have cared what you did when you were just a regular person and not professing to be a follower of the Lord. But when you start being a disciple of Jesus – when you become a person of action, a Doer of the Word, you and your actions become fascinating!

Maybe not to YOU, but to people who are watching you.

All your life, while you’re living like everyone else, drugging, drinking, cheating, partying, people don’t mind. They figure, “it’s your life, and everyone’s entitled to do their own thing. Whatever floats your boat.”

Then: Give your life to Jesus, start being faithful to church. Everyone starts having an opinion about your decisions and your choices all of a sudden. They didn’t care how you spent your time, how you spent your money, or what you did when they weren’t around. But now they all want to know how come you’re in church so much, how come you don’t hang around with them like you used to.

But think about this: The people who are criticizing you – do they have the lifestyle that you really want? Do you really want to be like them? Their criticizing is your opportunity to tell what Jesus has done in your life.

There’s no “Quitting Time” for true disciples of Jesus

Mat.21:8 And a very great number of people spread their robes and coats on the ground in front of Him. Others cut down branches from the trees, and laid them in the way.

True disciples aren’t “clockwatchers.” Your spiritual life isn’t something you can turn on and turn off. Jesus gave day and night for humanity it takes day and night to do all that God has prepared for you.

You’ll never be successful at anything in only forty hours a week. Even on the job, it takes more than just the 8 hours a day that you’re hired for, if you’re going to move ahead. It takes 8 hours a day to just maintain. But to move ahead takes more than that. You’ll not only have to work more, but on your own time, you’ll need to be learning, going to conferences, reading and sharpening your skills. The average executive works more than 60 hours a week.

Being a true disciple of Jesus may mean that you have people calling you at all hours of the night, asking for prayer or help or counsel. You may find yourself in not only the Sunday morning services, but also in the other meetings and gatherings during the week. Like Sunday Night In-depth Bible Study, or Tuesday Night’s Celebrate Recovery or the other gatherings. Not just coming there for yourself, but for the people you are helping and working with.

I know I wouldn’t work as hard as I do for mere money, no matter how much I was paid. But I’m working for the Lord, and He has people out there who need someone to listen to them, or pray with them, or sometimes, just to be there for them, not saying a word. It’s well worth it to invest those evenings and extra weekend hours to find a person who needs support and wants a change their life. You CAN make a difference! To each person you reach, you make a difference!

Being Popular is fun but don’t get too used to it
Mat. 21:9 The crowds that went ahead of Him, and those that followed, shouted, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

People are cheering Jesus! He’ll make everything all better! Now our dreams will come true! Hooray for Jesus! People can recognize the Lord’s work in your life and they want it IF it’s quick and easy. Most people are looking for a quick fix, an easy answer, a pill to take for their finances, marriage, raising their kids, their jobs. When people see the blessing of God on your life, they immediately want what you have – as long as it’s easy and doesn’t require any change on their part.

But once they find out that it is not instantaneous, and that growing takes a while, many of them quickly change their minds!

Truth: There IS no quick fix, no easy answer, no pill you can take for the major issues of a person’s life.

As a true disciple of Jesus, you understand “active” patience.

It’s easy to get discouraged with yourself, and with God when you find out that it takes longer than you thought to get your life turned around. But, remember, this is why Jesus referred to it as being “born again.” When you’re born again, you’re a baby. How long does it take to reach adulthood? Can you speed it up? No.

It’s the same with planting a seed. How much fruit will you get in a week? It’s that way all through nature. God’s plan sifts out the folks looking for easy answers and quick fixes. We have a name for plants that grow fast and easy: weeds.

When you’re going somewhere, people want to go with you!
Mat. 21:10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

When there’s a group of people committed to becoming all they can be, so they can help all the people whose lives they can touch, that IS exciting! Everybody wants to be part of something like that.

Why? Because most people are in a rut. They’re not committed to anything and not going anywhere. They wake up and do the same thing day in and day out.

This is one of the attractions of when you really get on fire for Jesus. You’re committed and things are happening in your life! That makes people willing to listen!

Be CLEAR about Who has changed you!
Mat. 21:11 the multitude said, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.”

When you’re going somewhere, you become interesting! They want to know what happened. How come you’re like that? Where’d you get it? How can they get some of what you have! You know where you’re going. You know what this Gospel can do in people’s lives. You have vision.
Let people know you’re going with Jesus! Invite them to join you. One common thing we say here at the Worship Center is, “We want you with us!”

Dangers of Negative People!

Mat 21:15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were totally displeased,

Make a decision that as much as possible, not be around anyone who tries to lower your commitment to serving the Lord and building a quality life. I know, many times, those people are the ones in our own household! You don’t have a choice about that. Just keep things as light and positive as you can, and don’t get into arguments with them.

But where you have a choice, spend less time hanging out with people who are negative and complaining. Negative people rub off. It’s like when you pet a dirty, wet smelly dog, and then smell your hand. What’s it smell like? Like a wet, smelly dog. Hang around negative people and smell your thoughts! They will smell like negative people! You can’t afford to hang around with negative people anymore than Jesus did. Some people’s negativity is stronger than your spiritual health.

Choose who you learn from.
Mat:21:16 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes and have you never read the Scriptures where it says, Out of the mouths of little children and toddlers God has brought forth perfect praise?”

Years ago, Linda and I made a decision to pick our friendships from among God’s people. We quit hanging with people who gossiped, told dirty jokes, cussed, and criticized their spouses and families.

We found out that people who are truly following the Lord are quality people who care about each other, care about us and want us to succeed in life. We found that we could learn so much from what the Lord had done and was doing in their lives. God’s people are successful in LIFE. They generally aren’t the richest or most powerful people in the community, but they are successful at life. True success is finding new life in Jesus and walking with the Lord. God’s people are the kind of people I want to learn from.

Jesus left them.
Mat 21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

Jesus didn’t hang around with negative, critical people. God’s people are the kind of people I want to learn from. Do you want to do well on the job? Find the people who love working there, and who are doing well. Hang out with them and learn from them, instead of listening to the person who has been there for years and years, and complains all the time.

Do you want a happy marriage? Quit hanging around people who disrespect their spouse or who cheat on them. They can’t help you have a happy marriage. “You get like the people you hang around with.” Choose to hang with people who have found true meaning in life.

Invest in your own life and ministry

There’s always an investment you make in life. You pay a price to serve God. You pay a price not to. You pay a price to make your life really work. You pay a price to let it fall apart. You pay a price to come to church at the appointed times, to worship your Creator and to learn wisdom from His word.

You also pay a price to hang around negative people. You can pay the price for living right or you can pay the price for NOT being fully committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

People are happiest when they are active, when they are serving and when they are totally involved in touching others peoples’ lives. You need to find an area of service in life to be genuinely excited about. Find a group of people committed to becoming all they can be, so they can help all the people whose lives they can touch. That’s what keeps our fire going!

When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Being a true disciple of Jesus is about following Jesus wholeheartedly, no matter what the people around you are doing and no matter what the people around you are saying. We aren’t living for their approval, we are living for the approval that comes only from God!

DOING THINGS YOU HATE AND NOT DOING THE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO!

By on April 4, 2017

We cheat on our diets. Lose tempers with loved ones. Sabotage our own dreams. Neglect good friendships while chasing after relationships that will bring us pain and possibly shame. All the while, loathing ourselves for it.

One of the most forceful arguments that the devil is alive and thriving on our planet is the fact that so many of the things we crave are the very things that will wipe us out, over the long term. We just seem to be pulled to things that are detrimental to our health, long term happiness, true success and spiritual well-being. That’s why you and I are faced with a daily struggle to beat temptation. Usually, the temptation to take the path of least resistance; to take the easy way out and to ignore the consequences that will spring from what we’re doing.

The battle that you and I find ourselves in is one that most people are losing – badly. Too many people in our society find themselves apparently unable to deal with the inner forces that seem to program them for self-destruction and failure. That’s why so many of our friends find themselves swept along by the anything-goes rip tide then at first gets people in over their heads – and then crashes them on the rocks of emptiness and despair.

The campaign to stop self-destructing has to be won every single day of our lives. Not just in the areas of our major goals, but even in the little things. It’s because ANYTHING worthwhile has a price. Years ago I read that “Heaven knows the right price to put on it’s goods.” That’s as true today as it ever was.

If you and I will walk close to God and follow the principles in the Word, we WILL have the strength and wisdom given to us so we can make it. We’ll understand the price of being a disciple…and the rewards that come as a consequence of walking with God.

If we’re walking according to spiritual laws rather than using carnal reasoning, we’ll become consistent in our actions. And, we’ll follow through on our decisions and commitments. We’ll do that’s right instead of what’s easiest at the moment.

If you and I are going to have positive and meaningful lives, we will HAVE to be consistent. Consistent in our relationships, in our moods and emotions, in our commitments to God, in our church involvement…in every area. That’s what the Bible calls “having a PATTERN of good works.”
Most of us have a pattern of false starts and unfilled promises. Here’s why: We listen to our darker side when it tells us to make exceptions to what we know we should or shouldn’t do. Then, we say, “I REALLY shouldn’t, but… We’ll, just this once!”

Right here is where the most stained among us gets wiped out. We make an “exception” to our own rules and our own standards. There’s the ONE time we’ll make an “exception” in our diet. And, the ONE time we’ll take something that we have no right to have. The ONE “exception” to our rule of never repeating gossip. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?!!

This is the way we end up DOING the things we hate to do and NOT doing the things we KNOW we should do. It’s as simple as giving in to exceptions. We set high standards, and then we allow ourselves to cave in or compromise when an “exception” comes up.

Soon, the exception becomes the rule. We always have a reason why we can’t do the right thing instead of the easy thing. We mean well. We tell God that, tomorrow, we’ll be a lot better than we were today. Tomorrow, we’ll get back to our normal selves. It’s just today that we have this problem, and have to make an “exception”.

I’ve just described how easy it is to totally mess up a perfectly good life and a promising future. The only way to protect yourself from being ruined like this is to live by the rule of NO EXCEPTIONS. This is where you will need all the help you can get from Jesus. This is where you will need to draw all the strength you can through prayer and the Word.

We need to build up our resistance because there will always be someone who will come by to try to get you to make an exception “just this one time.”

This is the moment you HAVE to draw on every ounce of strength that’s in you. To be STRONG and tough it out. Be able to say, “NO”. And stick with your comment.

You and I have to walk by faith instead of by our senses. Otherwise, we’ll make exceptions just because we’re “tired”. Or “lonely”. Or “down”. Or “not feeling too good.” Or “bored”.

See, we can either play now and pay later, or pray now and play later. It makes more sense to PAY now and PLAY later.

To get the rewards that God promises to those who will walk with Him by faith, we have to make it a personal creed to do the right thing whether or not we happen to feel like it at the moment. If we don’t FEEL like doing the right thing today, odds are that we won’t FEEL like it tomorrow either. So, do the right thing right NOW!

One day that the enemy wipes out multitudes of sincere people by…
You can end up in the situation where you’re so far off track that it will take major help to get you back on! You get to where you’re already so disgusted with yourself that you decide you might as well “go for it”. You figure that you’ve already gone so far over the line that the next “exception” won’t make much difference anyway…You’ve already muffed it so bad, you might as well go all the way!

DON’T YOU DO IT!

The making of exceptions is how we end up doing the very things that we loathe. So, how do we break the cycle?

It begins by understanding the Bible principle of salvation. Where Jesus came into your life while you were yet in sin (missing the target in life) and redeemed what was left – and strengthened the things that remained.

On days that you’ve blown it, instead of sinking deeper, you want to repent. You stop before you go from being all wet to crashing on the rocks. Even if you FEEL like one more transgression won’t hurt, you stop anyway. You change your mind and attitude. So, you turn around midstream. You salvage the day, instead of pushing further out from shore…and being lost at sea.

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