School starts for our girls this week and I go back to my part-time job next week as well as begin a new class I am taking this semester through SWU. We love change but, it takes a while for us at the Smith house to balance everything out when we have a new routine. Being a wife, mother, pastor, friend, employee and student requires balance and effort. Somedays I am better at one thing than another, but it is never good for me to let go of something completely.
When it comes to being a disciple we are to follow the example of Christ. In Luke 6:12-19 Jesus demonstrates the importance of spending time with the Father, hanging out in community with the disciples and reaching out to the lost in the world, or as we have been labeling it, the UP-IN and OUT of discipleship. Christ has called us to seek time with the Father, growing in our relationship with Him. He has called us to spend time encouraging and lifting each other up as the body of Christ, loving one another and challenging one another to be more like Christ. Jesus didn’t leave it there, he also called us to reach out to the world around us outside the church walls.
We read in Matt 22: 34-40 NLT
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
We are called to love the Lord our God with everything we have. That’s the UP. But again, Jesus doesn’t leave it there. No, he asks for much more. He quotes the law in saying, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Neighbor here is two-fold. We love our neighbor as in we love our family, our community of believers. Jesus said to his disciples, “This command I give you: Love one another.” (John 15:17) That’s the IN. Jesus explained in a parable that our neighbor is anyone we come across, the OUT. We are to love everyone!
So how do we balance all three of these? We work at it together, as a family, sharing our strengths with one another and depending on others to help us with our weaknesses. Doing two of the three is not an option. If we are not living out all three areas in our walk with Christ, we are either a social club, a humanitarian or a lone ranger. We are called to be disciple makers! Let’s work together to build the kingdom of God.
A triangle is strongest when all three sides and angles are equal. To be the church God has called us to be, we must be involved in all three areas of discipleship, the UP-IN and OUT!
Honestly, I waited till Friday to publish this for the simple purpose of having the name "Friday Fireworks". Catchy, eh?
Do you know how fireworks are made? It's a very precise, dangerous process. I mean, there is explosives involved. Essentially, a firework is a shell filled with black powder (explosive like gunpowder) in one specific area, with a charge leading to it. Nowadays, big fireworks displays are set off by computers or even robots. Fireworks are extremely dangerous when not handled correctly.
Reaching out to other people, having this high challenge/high invite, is like a firework. It's a delicate process and something that should be taken seriously. This OUT in the Jesus pattern can be the hardest to accomplish because of that fact.
Talking to people, getting into life with them will be messy. It won't always be fun. And sometimes, there will be other things we "think" we need to do. People are people, which means they have feelings about everything just like you do. In 1 Peter, Peter really focuses on the fact that yes, we are to talk to other people about Christ, but to do it in a gentle matter. Souls are at stake. Literally. But really, this is why we are Christians. If we believe in who Jesus says He is, then we also believe Him when He says....
"...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 NIV
You have the ability and the power to impact your family, your neighborhood, your city. Like for real. You can change the world.
Today, look for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Smile at someone. Buy their coffee. Start a conversation. Pray with someone. Be kind to those who are rude.
Whatever situations we find ourselves in today, I pray we embody the Church as we are called to.
Peace to you.
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach”
Think about the environments in which you’ve learned and grown the most. What were the circumstances? What was the setting? What expectations were placed on the leaders and followers?
Sunday’s sermon was about the IN in the Jesus Pattern of UP, IN, and OUT. When we develop a life pattern of IN we will consistently engage with other believers in intentional disciple making relationships. Within the church, we often seek to facilitate these relationships through small groups. There are three prevalent kinds of small groups:
1. Information Groups - content-focused groups which typically focus on a book or topical study.
2. Affinity Groups – groups which form based upon common interest that bring people together.
3. Transformation/Discipleship Groups – groups which are open, honest, and vulnerable regarding life with God and others.
At Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, it is our hope that intentional disciple making relationships will be nurtured and discipleship groups will begin to form that both invite us to be with others and challenge us to grow in our faith and character. We are seeking to develop a culture of discipleship. But what does this culture of discipleship look like?
In the book Building a Discipling Culture, author Mike Breenuses a four-category matrix to illustrate different types of culturebased on the level of invitation and the level of challenge.Invitation refers to the level at which a disciple is invited into a relationship with a discipleship leader, or the amount of access the disciple has to the one setting the example. In a high-invitation setting, disciples are given access to the leader and are invited to observe and learn from the places in which Jesus is at work in the disciple-maker’s life. In a low-invitation setting, the leader remains private and shares little of his or her life experiences with the disciples and is unwilling to discuss personal lessons, challenges and experiences. The example of Jesus with His disciples would be considered high-invitation as He invited them to live life with Him and learn up close.
Challenge refers to the level of responsibility both accepted and placed on the disciple by him or herself and the discipleship leader. For example, in a high-challenge setting, disciples are expected to “live into” his or her identity as a son or daughter of the King, taking great care to follow Christ closely and receive instruction from the disciple-maker. In a low-challenge dynamic, there is little expectation or responsibility placed on the disciples. They are free to receive teaching at a selected level, but are not held accountable to make changes or live out a response.
In Breen’s four quadrants of discipleship settings, the top left quadrant is the low-challenge/high-invitation setting and is referred to as the “Cozy Quadrant.” The discipleship leaders do most of the work without holding the disciples to any responsibility. Disciple-makers offer access to their lives but place no expectations on the disciples to follow suit. Again, little life-change takes place here, and this is where church leaders experience enormous burnout.
The bottom left quadrant is referred to as the “Boring Quadrant.” It is the low-challenge/low-invitation atmosphere in which neither the disciple nor the leader makes an investment in the process. The disciple-maker offers little access to his or her life and does not expect much from the disciple. Little life-change, if any, is experienced here.
The bottom right quadrant is that of a low-invitation and a high-challenge and is considered the “Stressed Quadrant.” The disciple-maker offers little access to the disciples, yet they are expected and asked to make drastic changes in their behavior to follow Christ. Without help and guidance, the disciples become overwhelmed and frustrated.
The final quadrant is where we prayerfully want to be as a church. In a high-invitation/high-challenge atmosphere, discipleship leaders offer disciples access to their lives and extend a challenge to them in return—the challenge to own and live in their identity as children of God. There is mutual effort in this setting with both leaders and followers committing to a relationship with Christ and each other. The leaders offer to share their journeys with the disciple, and the disciple grants them permission to speak into his or her life in return.
As our example, we follow that of Jesus. He very clearly established a high-invitation/high-challenge journey for His disciples and, as a result, transformed them into world-changers. We believe by maintaining the same environment, we will see the Lord start the same kind of movement with us.
Hopefully my boss doesn’t read this. When I’m not being a pastor (who am I kidding? I’m always trying to be a pastor), I pay my bills by selling building materials. Every day at 3:30 am a report drops into my email inbox so I can measure exactly how close or far I am to hitting my sales goals. I get a lot of notes from my boss. “Any sales hitting today?” He sends a weekly report of “sales driving activities.” Job site visits, follow up phone calls, strategic planning, and the like. Sometimes I get so busy recording and documenting my sales driving activities, answering my boss’ email, I don’t actually have time to sell things!
Track with me for a minute. Sometimes as pastors and church people we also make the “activities” primary and the results secondary. Sunday’s sermon was about the UP in the Jesus Pattern of UP, IN and OUT. I introduced the idea that GOOD FRUIT is the new measure for success. You should know that this is what moves Cornerstone forward. We long to see God transforming lives. Not only that, we believe that God can use us to transform the entire community! And that necessarily has to start with the UP. We recognize that we are pretty much helpless on our own, but with God we are unstoppable. That’s the heart of Jesus’ message to his disciples in John 15.
So, what does she mean by sometimes we make the activities primary and the results secondary? You might ask. Sometimes… not always!... but sometimes, we say that you just need to read your Bible and pray more. Which is actually 100% true. I was just thinking I need to push myself to read my Bible and pray more. I mean really, God is so cool! I just want to hang out with Him all the time. I hate that I get distracted from that sometimes. What if we longed for God’s presence like you long for ice cream on a hot day!?
Here is a reminder of what John 15 says…
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that
doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even
more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
Our purpose is to produce fruit. What is fruit? The natural expression of a life lived in Christ. And you can keep reading the gospel of John to give that definition more color.
Here’s the point. Don’t spend time with God just to fix you. We are connected to God so that we can become part of the heart of God. That changes a person. Don’t sit down to read your Bible because it’s just another task on your to-do list today. Don’t pray because your pastor told you to. Seek God because together we want to see lives changed and whole communities transformed. Seek God because Jesus promised, “Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
The phrase "Good Friday" has always bothered me a little bit. It wasn't a good day for those disciples watching their leader die. It wasn't a good day for the hopeful people watching their hope die. It wasn't a good day for a beaten, bloodied Jesus. And it wasn't a good day for God who turn the other way.
This was anything BUT a "Good" Friday.
Let's feel that today. Like a gut punch that has taken your breath away...
Jesus is dead.
Death has won. The story is over.
“Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did. Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe. ) These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and “They will look on the one they pierced.””
If you never read the end of Jesus' life before, you've just heard about it, I must tell you it's about to get bad. Gruesome actually.
Despite that, there are some key things coming out of the reading today. Let's do a 3 point thing today (spice it up a little)....
1) Jesus is silent. He doesn't talk, but ONCE, and it needs to be paid attention to. Jesus basically says that nothing or no one has power over him, except if God has granted it AND he saying Pilate is more innocent then most people in this scenario. Which brings us to point number 2...
2)Pilate, a Roman leader, who was under Caesar, who treated people unfairly, is less sinful in this situation than the Jewish leaders and people shouting at him about Jesus. Jesus even says this! You can also see the way Pilate really struggles with killing this man called Jesus and that is beyond odd for a Roman leader. Did Pilate see more of who Jesus was then the Jewish leaders?
3) "This is it. There's no turning back now." Probably what Jesus, Pilate and the Jewish leaders were thinking all at the same time...but in different ways.
Read this story slowly, carefully today. Feel the agony of Jesus, the confusion of Pilate and the hatred of the Jewish leaders. Tomorrow...tomorrow will be far worse.
Jesus was ready to die. For them. For you.
“Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!” When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” “Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.” The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.” When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha ). It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!” “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!” “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away.”
John 19:1-7, 9-16 NLT
Have you ever been slapped in the face? Like an actual slap? It hurts! But have you ever been slapped in the face with someone's words? Yeah, often that hurts much worse. Jesus is about to experience both.
Not only will someone physically slap Jesus, Peter, one of Jesus' beloved disciples is about to deny he ever knew Jesus. Three times.
Jesus' response inside with the High Priest is perfect not only for those who are watching Jesus inside, but also for what Peter is doing outside.
"... if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?”
Do we do this to Jesus? Do we smack Jesus with how we live our lives sometimes? Is denying that we ever knew Christ really that bad? Is living like Christ hasn't changed us at all really that bad? Is it all really a slap to the face?
Yesterday, we read Jesus was ready to die, but now it's a little different...
Jesus was ready to die for those who deny or refuse to see who he is, despite seeing them for who they really are.
Jesus was ready to die. For them. For you.
***Note: Blue represents what Peter is going through. Green is what Jesus is going through. Both things are happening simultaneously.***
"Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. The woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?”
“No,” he said, “I am not.”
Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself.
Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”
Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.
Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?”
Then Annas bound Jesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest.
Meanwhile, as Simon Peter was standing by the fire warming himself, they asked him again, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “No, I am not.”
But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed." (John 18:15-27 NLT)
Happy Monday! Remember yesterday when I said that this week was going to feel a whole lot different? That's because this week's devotionals are only going to cover about 48 hours worth of real time events. Today we read immediately what happens after Jesus is the garden of Gethsemane. Judas Iscariot has officially betrayed Jesus, and, Jesus is ready for it,
Jesus was ready? Yeah, Jesus was ready to die.
Can we grasp that? I mean, really. Jesus just sweat blood over this, actual blood, but he's ready. He doesn't run, confuse the soldiers, or argue with them. In fact, he encourages them to take him. Why would Jesus do that?
I ask all these questions because I feel that sometimes living in a world 2000 years removed from the actual Easter day, we forget how the disciples must have felt. Can you imagine?
"Why is he letting them just take him?"
"He said he was going to bring the kingdom here...isn't now a good time to fight back?"
"Why isn't Jesus calling out Judas?"
"How could Judas do this to Jesus?! To us?!"
"Why isn't Jesus doing anything?"
Frustration, anger, and fear all probably filled the disciples in some way. In reaction, we see Peter cut the ear off of the High Priest's slave.
Jesus responds by telling Peter to put away the sword, and that this pain, this suffering, was meant for him. He's ready.
Jesus is ready to die. For them. For you.
"After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“Jesus the Nazarene,” they said.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?”
And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
“I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”
Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”
So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. First they took him to Annas, since he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time. Greek that year. Caiaphas was the one who had told the other Jewish leaders, “It’s better that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:1-14 NLT)
As you read the story today, I want you to keep in mind, that not only is Jesus the Savior people were looking for he was innocent.
"Like yeah, we know this already, Jesus was perfect!"
Right, but can we even grasp that fully? Can we grasp that a completely innocent man died for a sinful world? A sinful you? A sinful me?
The people in this part of the story are exchanging the power, but uncomfortable hope they see in Jesus, for the normal, comfortable sin-filled life they see in Barabas.
Have you ever done that before? Exchanged truth for a lie?
Jesus was ready to die. Jesus knew exactly who he was dying for. Jesus knew he was innocent, but took it anyway.
Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”
“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.
“Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.
“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.)
Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?”
But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.) (John 18: 28-40)
I have been praying for you as we have gone through this lent season together. I have been praying that through your fasting that God has spoken to you and through you. I have been praying for you.
Pastor Densel, Pastor Sharon and Pastor Sheralyn have done such a fantastic job preaching and writing these devotionals during this season. I hope you have enjoyed and learned from them as much as I have.
This week, Holy Week, is going to look and feel a little differently. Holy Week has been something very special to me since I rededicated myself to Christ in 2010. My goal for this week is not only to learn who Jesus is, but on Easter morning, for you to answer who Jesus is for you.
"What do you mean who Jesus is for me? I already know that."
Lets recap today...
Hundreds of people cheered Jesus on as he rode in on a donkey (including us). And yet, Jesus is taken back by this. Why? Because even though they were cheering, they didn't know who Jesus really was.
This is why Holy Week is important.
Easter is so much more than we think sometimes. But it's a journey; to get there, we have to go through a terrible loss and darkness.
Join me. Let's walk Holy Week together...
Love to you all,