THE RISEN LIFE
Easter came and went. There is a good chance that you hunted a few eggs, gathered with friends or family, and worshiped with your church.
Easter Sunday is one of the most highly attended church gatherings of the year. For many, it amounts to nothing more than a dutiful obligation, a day to reflect on a historical event but then to live as though nothing significant took place.
But what does it all mean when the big day is over? Do we just put away the decorations like we do at Christmas and look forward to the next big celebration on the calendar? How does one get past the tendency to celebrate the date and learn how to live a life of resurrection celebration? How does one teach our children the importance that the resurrection has on our lives everyday?
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was all part of the plan of Redemption. What Adam gave over to Satan in the Garden of Eden by disobedience, was taken back by one perfect Man’s obedience. God reclaimed THE BLESSING that was stolen in the garden of Eden and got His family back. He gave us back the dominion and authority that rightfully belong to us as His children.
Jesus triumphed! Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (NKJV).
He triumphed over the devil, triumphed over all principalities and powers, triumphed over the kingdom of darkness. He disarmed every power that could take a stand against us.
Most Christians stop at the cross and don’t take full advantage of all that Jesus provided. But you can! Start today with these four ways to live in resurrection power every day.
Jesus’ resurrection gives meaning to our lives, and it is a truth we can bet out lives on. With boldness, we can tell others about the difference that Jesus makes. He seals our souls for eternity and gives our lives purposes for today.
Paul wrote, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18).
The power of the resurrection is available no matter what we are trying to overcome. If God can bring back His son from death, He can fix whatever is messing up our lives right now.
Jesus Himself said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
Jesus triumphed over death and the powers of evils. That means we have rock-solid hope for the future. As Christians, we do experience sorrow when someone dies, but we don’t grieve like people who have no hope, because we do not have to fear death and the grave, we know the story isn’t over. Jesus is our tangible proof that the worst obstacles, even death itself, can be overcome. Because He lives, we truly can face tomorrow, and we can face each day with confidence.
The gospel is life-changing news. We don’t live in true freedom until we live risen.
Whatever is overwhelming you right now, place Jesus in the center of it. He invites you to bring your burdens to Him, and He has proven He can handle it.
WHAT'S YOUR WHY?
Have you ever asked a question before? What about a why question in particular?
At our house, we have a 5-year-old and lately, it seems to be very popular to ask a lot of questions that begin with why. When I say a lot, I mean a lot.
Why did you do that? Why did you say that? Why is that like that? Why, why why?
Kids in particular love to ask why questions, but as I really thought about this more, I realized that even as adults we can ask these questions a lot as well. And, in some seasons we may find ourselves asking these questions more often than others.
While we all have asked these type of questions, if we are really honest, we have even asked God these questions. This is nothing new and there are actually quite a few examples of this in the Bible. Let’s look at a few together:
1- Moses asked, “Why have You dealt ill with Your servant?” Numbers 11:11
2- David asked, “Oh Lord why do You stand far off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
3- Job asked, “Why have You made me your target?” Job 7:20
4- The disciples asked, “Why was this man born blind?” John 9:2
5- Habakkuk asked, “Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?” Habakkuk 1:3
6- And even our Lord Jesus on the cross asked God “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
The fact that Jesus also used this type of question tells me that these are important questions to ask, sometimes.
When Jesus was on the cross, the sin that was placed upon Him allowed Jesus to feel that God the Father had forsaken Him. This was the only time that Jesus experienced this and He asked the question.
In any relationship, when we are in situations where we find ourselves asking why, it builds the intimacy in the relationship. For example: if someone said something that hurt or upset you, you may ask the person why they did what they did. These questions are definitely not easy to ask, but you learn more about the other person and as you work through it, it helps build intimacy and trust in the relationship.
How many of us have ever been in a situation where we questioned God in this way?
This goes way back to Bible times. The verses that we just went through were some examples of people that asked God why questions.
Now, I would like us to focus on the book of Habakkuk for a few moments. This is a very small book in the Old Testament with 3 chapters. I encourage you to read through all of the chapters when you are able to. There is so much that we can learn in just these 3 chapters.
Habakkuk is a prophet who is ministering during the “death throes” of the nation of Judah. The nation was repeatedly called to repentance, and they refused to leave their sinful ways. We know very little about this prophet except that he asked God questions and he received answers.
The book is written in the form of a dialogue between Habakkuk and God, where Habakkuk is questioning why God is allowing evildoers among God’s people to go unpunished.
The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2. How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but You do not listen?
Or cry out to You, “Violence!”
but You do not save?
3. Why do You make me look at injustice?
Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4. Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
Habakkuk was troubled and confused. He had a problem that he couldn’t solve and it seemed like God wasn’t doing anything about it. So, then God responds to the prophet.
The Lord’s Answer
“Look at the nations and watch--
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on--
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
God revealed to Habakkuk that the Babylonians, would become God's instrument of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk could not fathom or understand God’s plan and he sure did not expect to hear what God was saying. For a time, evil would win over righteousness and bad things would happen to good people.
This led the prophet to be a bit more troubled and confused. So, he questions God again.
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
12 Lord, are You not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, You will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
You, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do You tolerate the treacherous?
Why are You silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?
Why was God going to use the Babylonians in this way? Surely God must have a better way or plan the prophet must have thought?
How many times do we feel like we need to “help God” in our own lives? We have all done it at one point or another.
So the prophet waits for God’s response.
I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
I think that was a pretty bold thing that Habakkuk did. He was basically saying, Lord, I’m going to wait here for You and I expect You to answer me. Habakkuk just could not understand why this was happening and he really needed some more answers.
If you notice here, Habakkuk also mentions something about being corrected. This is significant because that tells me that Habakkuk was open to correction, he was open to shifting his attitude in this situation as he got more insight from God.
The Lord in His amazing mercy, answers the prophet again.
The Lord’s Answer
2 Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it lingers, wait for it;
It will certainly come
and will not delay.
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright--
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.
God also acknowledges that the people are being wicked, but also that they will destroy themselves by their own evil. Pride and cruelty always bring destruction but the just shall live by his faith.
God always knows what He’s doing, no question. He is God. He is sovereign. And His timing is always perfect, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. And God will always work out all things for those who love Him. God will use everything in our lives for His purposes for us and for His glory.
So now, we have the prophet who is listening to God again and this time, he is really hearing the Lord. Faith is rising up in him. He is realizing that God is in control and will indeed accomplish His purposes, His way, and in His timing.
I love how the prophet responds to God. It’s with a beautiful prayer expressed in song.
Habakkuk 3:1-2, 16
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
2 Lord, I have heard of Your fame;
I stand in awe of Your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Habakkuk realized that though he did not understand God's ways or timing, he could not doubt God's wisdom, love, or reliability. Then Habakkuk wrote his great affirmation of faith.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk affirmed that even if everything he relied on failed, if everything that gave stability to his life crumbled, still he'd trust the Lord. This is so beautiful and very encouraging for us today. The prophet was able to move from questioning to trusting and praising.
What’s your why?
I encourage you to start praising God today, even through your questioning. It will build your faith in Christ and take you to a new level of trust and intimacy with the Lord.
When it comes to us asking God these questions, I think it’s important that we keep a few things in mind and in check within ourselves. It’s good for us to ask these questions, and I encourage you to ask.
Let’s look at 3 things to remember when asking God why questions:
1- When we ask why, it should bring us closer to God and not further.
2- When we ask why, our attitude and motives should be in check. (respectful, humble).
(Habakkuk eventually had the right attitude. He was a man of faith and he went to God the second time expecting to be corrected, because he knew he needed it.)
3- When we ask why, we need to be ok with whatever answer we get or don't get.
When you are about to ask God a why question remember this:
W- walk towards God
H- hold onto faith
Y- yield control to God's plan. To yield is to surrender or to submit.
When we yield our desired outcomes to God’s sovereignty, He can shift our why questions into other types of questions.
So, instead of asking why we can ask:
What can I learn from this situation?
How can I praise God through this situation?
Who can I help?
God will always work all things together for our good, no matter the situation. He will also sometimes use our situations to help others. There is something about empathizing with someone who has been through a similar situation that we have.
What’s your why?
May God bless you, keep you, and guide you, as your surrender all of your “whys” to Him.
ARE YOU A CONSUMER OR A PRODUCER?
Welcome back to the Discipleship blog series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can find them here.
Last time we considered the value of being accountable to what the Bible tells us to do. Every follower of Jesus will be held accountable by God, so every follower of Jesus should practice accountability with others.
In today’s post, we’ll talk about how we can help a follower of Jesus become a PRODUCER in God’s kingdom instead of simply a CONSUMER.
In His perfect plan, God created us to live in balance - to PRODUCE and to CONSUME, to CREATE and to USE UP, to POUR OUT and to be FILLED so we can POUR OUT again.
But, in our broken world, people have rejected God’s plan, and many spend their energy living out just part of God’s perfect equation.
They LEARN things but they don’t share them. They are FILLED UP but they never pour out. They CONSUME but they don’t produce.
If we’re going to make disciples who multiply, then we need to share with them how they can be producers and not just consumers.
This is how — God uses His Written Word - which we call Scripture or the Bible - to grow us spiritually. Every disciple needs to be equipped to learn, interpret and apply Scripture.
Over thousands of years and through many different authors, God spoke His word into the hearts of faithful men who captured and shared what they heard. The Scriptures teach us God’s story, His plans, His heart, His ways.
In earlier posts, you learned two simple tools - SOAPS Bible Study and Accountability Groups. In an upcoming session, you’ll learn one more simple tool - 3/3rds Groups.
These three tools work together to help equip new followers to learn, interpret and apply God’s Written Word. They will learn not to be just hearers of God’s word but doers and sharers, also.
God also uses His Spoken Word - which we can discern through Prayer - to grow us spiritually.
Prayer is speaking and listening to God. Prayer helps us know God more intimately and understand His heart, His will and His ways. Prayer helps us minister and serve others, helps us teach and share in specific ways that helps individuals or a group know God better.
Two simple tools - Prayer Walking and The Prayer Cycle help followers develop a personal prayer life and learn to pray in ways that serve others. These tools help develop a habit of praying without ceasing and learning to see the world from a spiritual perspective instead of only relying on what we can visibly see.
When used consistently, they help a follower of Jesus, increase their capacity for prayer and enhance their ability to hear from God and share what they hear.
God uses His Body of Believers - which we call The Church or the Followers of Jesus - to grow us spiritually. As the gathering of believers, we are connected. God’s Word says that in Jesus - we are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In other words, we’re not just connected to God - we’re connected with each other.
God says to submit to one another. God says to serve one another.
Each of us has different strengths and each has weaknesses. God expects us to use our strengths to help others who may be weak. And He expects us to allow others to help us in our weakness using the strengths He has given them.
God’s Word says God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.
Simple tools like 3/3rds Groups, Accountability Groups and Peer Mentoring help us encourage one another to love and good works by not only helping us to obey what God tells us to do but also helping us find ways to share what we learn with others.
God also uses Persecution and Suffering - sacrifice and loss that we suffer on behalf of Jesus – to grow us spiritually.
When people oppress and hurt us because we love and obey Jesus, or when bad things happen even though we love and obey Jesus, God uses those persecutions and sufferings to refine our character and make us more like Jesus.
He develops our character, strengthens and purifies our faith, equips for ministry and allows us to serve others who are suffering in a special way - all while making Himself known more clearly to everyone who watches us and knows our pain.
God tells us that as followers of Jesus we should expect to be persecuted.
Jesus said - God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven. People did these same things to the prophets who lived long ago.
Simple tools like 3/3rds Groups and Accountability Groups give followers of Jesus an opportunity to share the persecutions and sufferings they experience. These groups give you a chance to teach disciples that God’s word says we should expect hard times and to equip them in how to respond well by trusting God’s love even when things go wrong.
Scripture. Prayer. Body Life. Persecution and Suffering.
These are all ways that God grows us to be more like His perfect Son, Jesus.
Simple tools help us not to just be consumers of these good things that God has given us but to be producers and sharers as well.
WHO IS CHECKING ON ME?
Welcome back to the Discipleship blog series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can find them here.
Last week we looked at a way to study the Bible, the SOAPS Bible study method. This week we will consider accountability.
Jesus said - “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Jesus shared many stories of accountability and told us many truths of how we will be held responsible for what we do and say.
Jesus tells us these things now, so we can be ready for later. And because we will be
accountable to him one day, it’s good to practice being accountable to one another now.
Accountability Groups are made up of two or three people of the same gender - men with men, women with women - who meet once a week to discuss a set of questions that help reveal areas where things are going right and other areas that need correction.
Every follower of Jesus will be held accountable by God, so every follower of Jesus should practice accountability with others.
But what are we accountable for? I think there is an issue with some of the existing kinds of accountability groups in that it’s never really clearly defined what anyone is accountable for. So let’s define it here.
Using a set of questions helps to keep the group on track and aware of what the group members are accountable for. Consider the following list of questions that can be used. Some of the terms might not be familiar but future blogs will define the terms and tools associated with them.
Pray that we will become like Jesus.
How are you doing? How is your prayer life?
Do you have any sin to confess? (relational, sexual, financial, pride, integrity, submission to authority, etc.).
Did you obey what God told you last time? Share details.
Did you pray for the unbelievers on your list of 100 this week? Did you have a chance to share with any of them? Share details.
Did you memorize any Scripture this week? Quote it.
Have you done your Bible reading each day this week?
What did God say to you from the Word this week?
What are you going to specifically do about it?
Did you meet with your discipleship (three-thirds) group this week? How did it go?
Did you model or assist someone in starting a new three-thirds group this week? Share details.
Do you see anything hindering my walk with Christ?
Did you have the opportunity to share the gospel this week? Share details.
Practice 1-3 minute testimonies and the gospel now.
Who can you invite to do a DBS with you?
Close with prayer regarding what was shared.
The whole purpose of accountability is to encourage the expectation of obedience. Jesus said that a disciple is one who follows and obeys. Let’s help each other to follow and obey.
So, are you part of an accountability group? Does this seem frightening to you? Do you see value in having this kind of accountability? Let us know in the comments below. If you want someplace to start contact Mark at email@example.com and we could put you in touch with someone in person or virtually to get you started.