Are you connected to Wi-Fi internet right now? It is very likely that you are, even as you read this blog. Today we are going to be talking about connection.
CONNECTION IN SOCIETY TODAY
The reality today is that it is easier than ever to stay connected to people.
With various social media platforms such as: WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. we can stay in touch with people very easily. With our smartphones: we can text, we can browse the web, we can make phone and video calls to someone who is in a different part of the world at the push of a button. Today, staying connected is easier than ever.
I remember when I was a teenager, not that long ago, we had what was called, “Dial-up Internet.” Basically, this was connected to our house phone and we would be able to go on the Internet by using this method. You would literally hear it dialing and then some weird sounds until the connection was established. The connection was not the greatest, and would often disconnect but it’s what we used to connect with people in those times. I certainly don’t miss dial up and I’m very happy with wi-fi speeds nowadays.
It doesn’t matter how many years we go back- connection has always been important. Connection has power, connection has purpose, and we all desire it in some way. God created us for connection and the most important connection we have is one with God through Jesus.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Using this verse, we are going to focus on connection today.
I love how Jesus decided to use this metaphor when speaking to His disciples.
If there is one thing the people of Jesus’ day were familiar with it was grape vines.
Grapes were important in Israel for several reasons:
-They were used in their diet.
-They were used to produce wine. Wine was used in their meals, used as medicine, and it was used in their worship.
Since Grape vines, and the fruit that they produced were a very important part of life in Jesus’ day, Jesus uses this example of a vine to share with His disciples something even more important. Jesus describes Himself as the Grape vine.
What do grape vines do?
-They provide nourishment and life to all of the branches that are connected to it. This is what Jesus does in our lives daily.
As we walk in the Spirit, we bear fruit. This can only happen through the Holy Spirit and by us abiding in Jesus. No amount of self-effort will bear spiritual fruit.
It requires a total surrender to God, so that the Holy Spirit can work through us. Jesus describes us as the branches.
What do branches do?
-Branches connect to the vine. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and allow Him to live through us, we are connected to Him.
If you think of a branch that has fallen from a beautiful tree, no matter how beautiful the tree is, the branch has no life in it if it has lost that connection to the tree. It could’ve disconnected because of weather or some other reason. The point is, something impacted the connection and actually caused it to disconnect.
Just like our wi-fi connections may be a bit slow at times, and just like how branches sometimes disconnect from their main source, there are things that can actually impact our connection to God.
Here are 3 things that can impact our connection to God:
1. Life Circumstances
We all go through different situations and we also deal with situations differently so life circumstances are very unique to each one of us. These can include: challenges, trials, etc.
When I was a fairly new Christian on fire for Jesus, our family went through an unexpected difficult situation. On Christmas Eve, my father, who according to the doctor was in good health, suffered from a heart attack at the age of 48 years old.
I will never forget the moment when we were informed that they did what they could, but that he did not survive. Everything stopped for a moment as if life paused. God gave me amazing strength and comfort during the whole process and then after everything set in a few weeks later, I began to grieve. I remember not being angry with God but just so sad and hurt. This affected my connection with God. I still loved God, prayed, went to church, etc. but there was an impact on my connection with God.
I want to mention this because we need to be aware of what we experience in life and fully surrender it to God and allow Him to heal us in all areas: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
1 Peter 5:7
7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
18 “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
By casting all of our anxiety on God and by accepting His healing and comfort, we
can strengthen and build up our connection back to God.
2. What we feed our souls with
What we feed ourselves with on a daily basis is so important. Because the world is imperfect, we need to constantly be vigilant to what we feed our souls with…what we listen to, what we watch, what we read, what we engage in.
8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This verse is pretty clear and an excellent guide to help us make choices about what we allow our souls to be fed with.
I love to listen to my satellite Sirius Christian radio station. We do pay each month under $20 for mainly one channel, with access to many others but we feel it’s definitely worth it. So whenever I am on the road, I have it playing. It’s encouraging, it’s worship to God, its powerful, it’s uplifting, it connects me to God. We need to feed our souls with things that allow and encourage us to connect to God.
There are a few different yearly performances that a lot of people see as great performances and entertainment. The reality is that a lot of times there are many hidden messages which are disturbing: occult rituals, symbolism, and a very twisted idea of women empowerment: women are sexualized and degraded.
We choose what we listen to and engage in and whatever that may be, it will either bring us to a closer connection with Jesus, keep us where we are, or further from Jesus.
I would encourage you to feed your soul with what allows you to have a closer connection with Jesus. This is vital in our spiritual growth.
3. Other People
The people we choose to spend our time with can have an impact on our connection to God.
1 Corinthians 15:33
33” Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
We need to surround ourselves with people and things that encourage and help strengthen our connection with God. This is so important. We need to stay connected. Let’s talk a little bit about how we can do that.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we will ever have. Through prayer we build our connection to God and we grow spiritually so that we could do all that God has called us to. The more time we spend with God in prayer, the more connected we are to God.
And the more connected we are to God, the more we become passionate about what He is passionate about. Prayer is a powerful tool that we have and at any moment of the day. Through Jesus, we are automatically connected, no dial-up necessary-direct connection!
2. Other Christians
23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Spending time with other Christians is so important to our growth. We are there to encourage each other and genuinely want the best for each other. I personally have a handful of people in my lives that I know care about me, pray for me, and have my best interest at heart. It’s important to have at least one or two people like this in our lives. It will help us grow in our relationship with the Lord.
3. Make it a lifestyle
6” Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”
As Christians, we represent Jesus wherever we go and we need to remember that being a Christian is not about religion. It’s about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus and a lifestyle where we daily connect with God.
Noah is one of the most important people in the Bible. In a world taken over by evil, violence, and corruption, he is presented as a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time. Not only that, he was the only follower of God left on Earth. We all know the story of how God called him to build the ark. You can read the story in Genesis chapters 6-9.
It amazes me the connection that Noah had with God. He received very specific details about building the ark and he followed God's instructions. Even when people would ridicule and make fun of him, he still did what God asked him to do.
This tells me that Noah had a strong connection with God and he made it a part of His everyday life.
Are you connected to God’s network?
-God's network is always strong
-God's network never fails
-God's network offers us unconditional love.
-God's network offers a clean slate each day, new mercies.
We talked about connection today and this is the most significant part of the connection we have with God because it actually determines eternity for each one of us. God doesn’t force Himself upon us, He allows us to choose Him. He allows us to choose to accept Jesus as our savior and be connected to God
What is also significant is that our life on earth is where we get connected to God and maintain that connection with His help. In heaven, we will enjoy that connection forever. But it’s here, where we need to maintain it. None of us know when this part of the timeline is for us, and that’s why we need to always be in communication with God. We need to be connected and stay connected.
Now is not the time to tap out, but instead to tap into our connection with God.
It’s also not the time to not tell others about this connection. We need to share this connection with others. Feel free to pray with us on Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings via zoom. Contact us to get the zoom links.
Maybe you’ve lost some connection? That’s ok: God is saying right now you can
re-connect with Him, right now we can build our connection with God. My prayer is that you would stay connected to God wherever you’re at in your walk with the Lord. God is for you. Be encouraged. May God bless you as you stay connected to Him.
PERSON OF PEACE
Welcome back to the Discipleship blog series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can find them here.
Last time we learned how to impact our neighbourhood and connect with people by Prayer Walking.
This week we will learn about the Person of Peace.
In an earlier session you were introduced to the idea of a Person of Peace. In this session we'll go into more detail about who that person might be and how to know when you've found one. A Person of Peace can help rapidly reproduce disciple-making even in a place where followers of Jesus are few and far between.
When Jesus sent out His disciples to new territory to make disciples, He gave them a simple but strategic command. This is found in Luke 10:1-9.
Jesus said -- Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.
But what does all that mean?
When we think of making disciples, our first thought might be -- We better get our finances in order, pick an obvious target, and have a clear plan of action. If Jesus said - “Go”, we better “go” and keep on going! Tell Everyone! Everywhere!! All the time!!!
However, in His instructions, Jesus seemed a lot less worried about finances and fervour, and a lot more concerned about focus.
Jesus wanted His disciples looking for - and investing in - a Person of Peace.
When you want to make disciples in a place where not many - or maybe even any - exist, then looking for a Person of Peace might be the most important thing you do.
A Person of Peace is:
In the Bible, we learn of Jesus and His followers meeting Persons of Peace that are a little - unexpected.
In the region of the Gadarenes, Jesus met a demon-possessed man who lived isolated and in chains. We would never think of Him as a Person of Peace, but He was OPEN to hear from Jesus. He was HOSPITABLE and WELCOMED Jesus to where He lived. He was WELL KNOWN and could easily draw a crowd - even if only for his outrageous behavior.
And Jesus found that he was FAITHFUL and SHARED what Jesus meant to him with his family, his community and his whole country. In fact, when Jesus came back to that area, a great crowd gathered, excited to see the Man they had heard so much about.
In Samaria, Jesus met a woman at a well. She was OPEN to Jesus, willing to be HOSPITABLE and answer His request for a drink. We learn she had had five husbands and was living with still another man, and so in a small town, she was sure to be KNOWN BY OTHERS. And after Jesus spoke to her, she was FAITHFUL and SHARED - so much and so quickly that the entire town asked Jesus to stay and share with them, too. And He did.
So, if a Person of Peace can live almost anywhere, do almost anything, and be almost anyone we know or meet - how do we find one?
Here are three simple ways --
We ASK for recommendations from people in the community - Who is someone that is trusted here? Is there someone in this place who thinks of others before themselves? If we hear the same name again and again - we try to meet them, share spiritual ideas, and see if they’re open to hear and share.
We OFFER to pray for someone while Prayer Walking, or at work, or at the game - wherever there is an opportunity - and then turn that prayer into a spiritual conversation.
We INTRODUCE spiritual ideas into every conversation to see if God is working in a person’s life. These are often referred to SHEMA statements. If they are open and willing, then we ask if they would be willing to gather a group to discuss even more.
ASK for recommendations, OFFER to pray, INTRODUCE spiritual ideas. These are all ways we can begin the process of finding a Person of Peace.
And no matter how we find them, remember Jesus said a Person of Peace is someone with whom we should be spending most of our disciple-making time.
It is easy to think that the most “fair” use of our time is to give away a little bit of ourselves to everyone, equally. However, Jesus said - and showed - that He does not want us to be shallow with everyone but to give deeply to a few.
Jesus often attracted crowds, but the Bible tells us repeatedly that Jesus would draw away from those crowds to spend most of His time with just twelve of His closest followers.
There were a number of times, where Jesus would invest even more time with a smaller group of just three.
If Jesus, who had much more power, much more energy, much more authority, discipline, wisdom, knowledge, understanding and compassion chose to spend His time investing deeply in just a few and told His own disciples to do the same, doesn’t it make sense that we should follow and share His perfect pattern?
A Person of Peace.
They’re not easy to find - maybe one in a thousand. But like a hidden treasure that’s worth the search, their value in growing God’s family can’t be measured.
Welcome back to the Discipleship blog series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can find them here.
Last time we learned how every disciple - every follower of Jesus - needs to be able to see not just where God’s Kingdom is, but where God’s kingdom isn’t.
This week we are learning about Prayer Walking.
God’s Word says that we should “petition, pray, intercede and give thanksgiving for all people, for kings and all those in authority – so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
Prayer Walking is a simple way to obey God’s command to pray for others. Prayer Walking is just what it sounds like - praying to God while walking around.
Instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, we keep our eyes open to the needs we see around us and bow our hearts to ask humbly for God to intervene.
You can prayer walk in small groups of two or three or you can prayer walk by yourself.
If you go in a group - try having everyone pray aloud, a conversation with God about what everyone is seeing and the needs that God brings to their hearts.
If you go by yourself - pray silently or aloud if you pray with someone you meet along the way.
Here are four ways you can know what to pray for during your prayer walk:
Here are five areas of influence that you can focus on during your prayer walk:
Finally, here are five ways you can pray for people you meet during your prayer walk:
As you walk and pray, be alert for opportunities and listen for promptings by God’s Spirit to pray for individuals and groups you meet along the way.
You can say, “We’re praying for this community, is there anything in particular we can pray for you about?”
Alternatively, say, “I’m praying for this area. Do you know anything in particular we should pray for?”
After listening to their response, you can ask about their own needs. If they share, pray for them right away. If the Lord leads, you may pray about other needs as well.
Use the word BLESS to help you remember five different ways you can pray:
If the person is not a Christian, your prayer may open the door to a spiritual conversation and an opportunity to share your story and God’s story. You can invite them to be a part of a Bible study or even host one in their home.
If the person is a Christian you can invite them to join your prayer walk or train them how they can prayer walk and use simple steps like praying for areas of influence or the BLESS prayer to grow God’s family even more.
Prayer Walking - another simple tool to help you make disciples.
Do you prayer-walk?
If so, how do people respond?
If not, will you try?
Let us know in the comments.
Whatever will be will be, the saying goes. That is not the Gospel. Nor is it the heart of God. Jesus described His purpose on earth by saying “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
A sense of urgency about lostness is one of the most common characteristics found in disciple-makers.
Hearts Broken For the Lost
Jeremiah cried out, “I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me” (Jer. 8:21).
Jesus wept as he looked at Jerusalem, calling them sheep without a shepherd.
Does lostness cause us to weep? Or have we become casual in our attitude toward those apart from God?
Ask God to give you His heart in a fresh way today.
What Keeps a Sense of Urgency to Reach the Lost Burning In Our Souls?
1. A proper theological understanding of lostness.
The world tells us it is arrogant to think that others are lost and we have been found. “All roads lead to God,” say Hindus or New Agers. “Do your own thing. You be you, I’ll be me” is the millennial mantra of the West.
Is it proud or intolerant to see those apart from Christ as lost? Not according to the Bible!
Christ is our example. He used this word, not only to describe His mission but also to explain His great love for those apart from Him (see the parables in Luke 15). If Jesus called those who did not know Him lost, so can we.
2. Embracing compassion rather than looking at your own needs.
It can be challenging to focus on others rather than self. This is especially true when we are in pain. Emotional or physical suffering causes us to be self-centered. Part of the solution to coming out of that difficulty is to focus on others. Millions wait to hear the good news. They are our neighbors, colleagues at work. Does their lost condition stir your heart?
3. Letting go of judgements and offense caused by unsaved people in your life.
The lost are not always nice people. Sometimes they are rude, even evil in their actions towards you. Their sin may feel offensive to you or their behavior cause feelings of disgust. We must ask God to change our heart, to help us see them as those who are lost lambs that the shepherd is seeking after.
Repent of judgments and ask Jesus to fill your heart with His love for those who do not yet know Him. Do not be like Jonah who called down fire and brimstone and hoped God would judge his enemies. That did not turn out so well for him.
4. Regular prayer and intercession for those apart from Christ.
I cannot change my own heart or cause it to become soft and compassionate. There is something I can do though. Regular prayer for those around me who do not know Jesus changes me. I begin to get my Father’s heart for those I am lifting before Him, those I am asking Him to bless. Soon, I find my heart is feeling different as well.
May God soften our hearts and cause us to see the lost as helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.
Share your own prayer for lost people, or any comments you have on this topic in the comments below.
WHERE THE KINGDOM ISN'T
Welcome back to the Discipleship blog series. If you haven’t read the previous posts, you can find them here.
Last time we learned that, just like ducklings, we can and should follow and lead in discipleship at the same time.
This week we’ll learn how disciples multiply far and fast when they start to see where God’s Kingdom isn’t.
As humans, we think about, focus on and work for things that we can see. We call it reality. The way things are. But the kingdom grows more quickly when we focus on things we can’t see.
Things that aren’t there. Or things that aren’t there, yet.
There are places all around us where God’s will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven - giant gaps where brokenness, pain, persecution, suffering and even death are a part of normal, everyday life.
Every disciple - every follower of Jesus - needs to be able to see not just where God’s Kingdom is, but where God’s kingdom isn’t.
Kingdom work is about entering into those gaps and into those dark places and working to close the chasms and bring light and life during our time here on earth.
We can see where God’s Kingdom isn’t in two ways -- through people we already know and through people we haven’t yet met.
The first way is through people we already know - our ONGOING RELATIONSHIPS of friends and family, coworkers, classmates, neighbors and more.
This is the way God’s Story travels FASTEST. We love and care about these people because we know them already. It’s natural.
Jesus told a story of a selfish rich man - arrogant in life and now being punished in hell. The rich man begged - “send Lazarus to my father’s home. Let him warn my five brothers, so they won’t come to this horrible place.”
Jesus showed us how even the selfish and suffering have some love and concern for those close to them.
The people we know are placed in our lives because God loves us and wants us to love them. We need to be good stewards of those relationships with love and patience and persistence.
Disciples multiply when they’re concerned for the people God’s placed around them and they have a plan to do something about it.
You can help increase their care and build a simple plan to multiply in just a few steps.
Here’s how - Have them write a list of 100 people they already know. Have them break that list into 3 categories.
●Those who follow Jesus.
●Those who don’t follow Jesus.
●Those who they’re not sure whether they follow or not.
For the followers - disciples can equip and encourage them to be more fruitful and faithful.
For the non-followers - disciples can learn how to share and introduce them to a loving God.
For those who they’re not sure - disciples can learn to invest their time and learn more.
There’s also a way we see where God’s Kingdom isn’t through people we haven’t met.
These are people OUTSIDE OUR RELATIONSHIPS - people we don’t know, neighbors we’ve never said more than “hello” to, businessmen and women we pass on the street, strangers in every village, town or city we’ve never even visited, yet. Jesus said - make disciples of all nations.
Jesus said - you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Sharing with people we know is the way God’s Story travels FASTEST. Sharing with people we don’t know yet is the way God’s Story travels FARTHEST.
If we love and care about these people we don’t know, that’s not natural. It’s supernatural and evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
God’s favorites are the least, the last and the lost. These are the ones He pours out His heart to over and over again.
If we want to be like God, then these are the ones we have to invest our lives in. God commands us to go. And part of going is to go not just to those who are close by but also to those who live in the spiritually darkest corners of the world - people who sometimes have never even heard the name, Jesus.
God’s Word says - God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. As followers of Jesus we must give grace as He gives it - to the humble, to the desperate, and to the lost.
Disciples multiply when they’re concerned for the people God’s placed in their lives. Disciples multiply even more when they’re concerned for the people God’s placed nowhere near them.
But even then they still need a plan.
You can help increase a disciple’s care for others and build a simple plan to multiply by training them to look for the people God’s already prepared to hear.
Jesus said - As soon as you enter a home, say, “God bless this home with peace.” If the people living there are peace-loving, your prayer for peace will bless them. But if they are not peace loving, your prayer will return to you.”
We call someone who God has already prepared to hear a PERSON OF PEACE - someone responsive to God’s message and faithful in OBEYING and SHARING with others.
In a place where we know very few, instead of sharing with our friends, families, co-workers, classmates and neighbors, we train a person of peace how to reach theirs.
But the best results always come when we focus on the faithful. Remember faithfulness is demonstrated by OBEYING what God tells us and SHARING it with others.
Faithful people who obey and share are like the good soil that Jesus talked about.
Jesus said - a few seeds fell on good ground where the plants produced thirty or sixty or a hundred times as much as was scattered.
●Faithful people don’t have hard hearts that reject God’s Word.
●Faithful people don’t fall away when they’re persecuted or when times get hard.
●Faithful people aren’t distracted by the worries of this world or riches that don’t last.
●Faithful people are like the demon-possessed man in the Gerasenes who obeyed and shared what Jesus showed him.
One faithful man who obeyed and shared produced many, many people who wanted to know Jesus more.
Opening our eyes to see where the Kingdom isn’t and reaching out through people we know and people we don’t know yet is how disciples multiply and God’s Kingdom grows far and fast.