Psalm 81:1-16 Today's reading includes a promise of God I've been claiming for years: "I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots" (v. 6, KJV).
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Luke 14:7-35 Jesus shares in this passage the cost of discipleship. He says clearly that discipleship requires forsaking all. He shares the parable about the man who prepared a great supper and invited many to come. Those invited had excuses for not attending the dinner. One man was too busy with his possessions, another was too busy with his business, and another was too busy with his family.
Deuteronomy 34:1-Joshua 2:24 So many seek success and desire to prosper. Financial seminars are held to teach people how to invest and make the most of their money. Training seminars on selling yourself to the interviewer are attended by those who desire to advance in the business world. The Lord sees prosperity and success totally opposite of the way the world sees it.
Luke 13:1-22 This passage in Luke has special meaning to me because the plea of the vine dresser became a prayer my husband and I prayed for a church we were attending. In this church the pastor was open to the things of the Spirit, but most of his congregation were not. They did not want any changes. We were in this church for three years when we attended a Sunday school retreat. The retreat was in Calloway Gardens in South Georgia, and we were in charge of getting the speaker.
Luke 12:35-59 Remember the game "hide and seek"? One child closes his eyes and counts to ten while the other child hides. At the count of ten, the child opens his eyes and begins his search by saying, "Coming ready or not!" Then this child diligently searches high and low to find where the other child is hiding. I recall being a child hiding, and the moment the one who sought me found me, my heart jumped and I always yelled loudly "Boo" to scare him.
Luke 12:8-34 My life verse is Philippians 2:13: "It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." It was such a joy to have this understanding when I was twenty-six years old. I was at a retreat, and our leader instructed us to go out by the lakeside and be quiet and still before the Lord. We were instructed to ask the Lord questions and then wait for answers. Waiting for an answer when I prayed was a new experience for me, as usually all my prayers were one-way conversations with the Lord. What happened in a twenty-minute span of time changed my whole life.
Proverbs 12:19-20 Counselors of peace have joy." Romans 14:17 tells us, "For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." In yesterday's reading we learned that Jesus is the kingdom of God. He is all righteousness, all peace and all joy, and we can enter into the kingdom when we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and take over our lives. I do not know a person on earth who does not desire to be right with God and his fellowman, to have peace and to experience joy. Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, and sometimes we forget this is our message also. In addition to preaching the kingdom, we also now can tell of the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who now sits in heaven making intercession for us. The gospel should contain all of these facts.
True faith originates in our core being. We are not saved by mental awareness, warm emotions, or even intellectual assent. Rather, it's "with the heart one believes unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10, NKJV). Faith deeply believes God will do what He says. Faith produces words of agreement and actions of obedience. The corresponding words and actions are simply evidence that our heart has laid hold of what God has spoken.
Luke 11:14-36 One of the favorite expressions in our family is, "Well, nobody is perfect." We all make mistakes, and I am so ever grateful for our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our redeemer. He is able to take our messes and make something worthwhile out of them. As I was reading this morning about another ministry Jesus had, I recalled an incident I experienced in India.
Luke 10:38-11:13 Our pastor has said that we have to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. When we look at our lives, we have to ask ourselves, "What is the main thing?" I had a friend who put on her refrigerator a sign that said, "What difference will this make 10,000 years from now?" Priorities change when we realize that our life here on earth is but a hands breadth. Those who know Jesus Christ personally will live forever with Him. Jesus told Martha that she was careful and troubled about many things, but Mary had chosen the one thing needful. Mary chose to sit at His feet and learn of Him. Without Him we can do nothing. When we realize this, we will spend more time sitting at His feet as Mary did.
Proverbs 12:12-14 One of my constant prayers is that the law of kindness would be upon my tongue and that my conversations would be seasoned with grace. There is a proverb that says that pleasant words are health to our bones. This proverb says that we are satisfied with good by the fruit of our lips.
Luke 9:51-10:12 From the time my three sons were toddlers, I prayed that all three would be used as laborers in the last great harvest. Jesus exhorts us to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers. The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. The Lord sends the laborers. He speaks to the potential laborer and gives him the call for his special field.
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1. A Cry for the Simple Gospel
By Francis Chan
When I did youth ministry back in the 1980s our goal was to get people to our meetings however we could. We offered entertainment, food, bands, games, prizes—anything. Then we would give a message telling people how easy it is to get to heaven. We wanted to get them to pray the prayer!
Some good things resulted from those days, but I also know I wasn’t being entirely honest. Fearing rejection, I often didn’t mention the cost of following Christ. This was faulty reasoning.
The truth is, when the Holy Spirit moves, people will come to Christ regardless of the cost. All I was doing was deceiving them into thinking they were saved when they indeed may not have been.
Thankfully, the days of “tricking” people into church gatherings and manipulating them into praying seem to be coming to an end. Today’s Christians are hungry for absolute truth and desperate for authenticity.
Unbelievers are still offended by the gospel, but they are more offended when a person’s true beliefs are watered-down. The world can respect those who lovingly disagree with them but not those unwilling to state their true beliefs.
Jesus was very direct and easy to understand. He said, “Follow me.” He was clear that following Him was going to be difficult but that He is worth it (see Matt. 16:24-26).
Rather than ignoring the commitment He calls us to, let’s emphasize the worth of our King so people are willing to follow at any cost.
Francis Chan is pastor of Cornerstone Community Church (cornerstonesimi.com) in Simi Valley, Calif., and the author of two books, Crazy Love and Forgotten God.
2. A Cry to Engage the Culture
By Erwin McManus
For some Christians, whenever they hear the word “relevance” they hear the word “heresy.” Being relevant doesn’t mean you change your convictions to cater to any audience. You do listen carefully to learn how to communicate effectively to the people who so desperately need to hear, believe and receive.
Any church that genuinely loves people and passionately pursues them with God’s love is going to have to rethink much of what they’re doing today—how they are going to get the living water to those who are dying of thirst.
If you are biblically literate you immediately understand the metaphor of living water. Jesus used it when talking to a woman at a well. He was attuned to the times and to His context, and His imagery and language made perfect sense.
Today we’re still using the same language, the same metaphors. When was the last time you met someone at a well? But I bet you’ve met someone recently at a Chili’s or a Starbucks.
We have made the words rather than the wisdom of Jesus our model. I don’t for one minute think Jesus intended for us to canonize His analogies. I believe He expected us to do like He modeled.
At Mosaic, where I pastor, we carry as our No. 4 core value, “Relevance to culture is not optional.”
We keep reminding ourselves that the church isn’t ours, that we are the church and we belong to God. And if that makes us controversial, then so be it. I would rather be a friend of sinners anyway. How about you?
Erwin McManus is lead pastor of Mosaic, a faith community with locations in greater Los Angeles and Berkeley, Calif. (erwinmcmanus.com).
3. A Cry for Justice
By Lynette Lewis
There comes a time when you look at all the pain in the world and stop hoping something will change. You decide, I will answer the cry for justice, not knowing how you’ll find the time or resources, who will join you or when you’ll see results. You simply decide to act.
That is how the Stop Child Trafficking Now campaign began. My husband, Ron, and I were tormented by the growth of child sex-trafficking in the U.S. But being appalled wasn’t enough. We researched the issue, talked to experts and built a grass-roots campaign.
Though we branded the campaign as a “human rights” mission, Psalm 10 became our battle cry—in particular verses 17-18: “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted ... defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more” (NIV).
As the campaign grew, thousands of teens and youth inside the church and beyond it responded to the cry for justice. The last weekend in September 2009, people in 40 cities and on 70 campuses participated with walks, runs and other rallies, raising more than $750,000 to fund operative teams of retired military elites who track down predators and bring justice to child victims. This is only the beginning of an all-out effort to defend the innocent.
This generation will not be silenced while the atrocities of injustice go on. The movement will grow until His “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24, ESV).
Lynette Lewis is an inspirational speaker and co-founder of Strategic Global Initiatives, an organization dedicated to giving a “voice to the vulnerable” globally (sctnow.org).
4.A Cry for the Persecuted Church
By Lazarus Yeghnazar
In the last century, more souls heard the gospel and accepted Jesus Christ than in all the previous history of humanity. More martyrs also gave their lives for the gospel in that time period than had done so since the emancipation of the church.
When we reflect on the first-century church and the suffering it went through, we tremble and remember the words of Jesus Himself:
“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me. If you do not take your cross and follow Me you are not worthy of being my disciple!” (See Matt.10:38; Luke 14:27.)
The trail of crimson, holy blood spilled by the saints has run through the church from the foot of the cross to this very day—from the Roman catacombs to the Soviet gulags to the burning churches today in Indonesia, Mindanao, Nigeria and India.
The “persecuted” church is the church. The church that truly is “salt and light” in the world causes irritation, friction and suffering. Light and darkness cannot coexist peacefully.
Jesus said: “I have come to bring the sword” (see Matt. 10:34). A silenced, amiable, accommodating and nonthreatening church will live in peaceful coexistence with the world under an undeclared truce!
Are you a part of the persecuted church? Do you identify with her pain and suffering? Or would you rather be in a nonthreatening church with few demands? I am a member of the persecuted church.
Lazarus Yeghnazar is an Iranian evangelist based in England and director of 222 Ministries (222ministries.com).
5. A Cry to Reach the City
By Napoleon Kaufman
The first homicide of 2010 in the city of Oakland, California, occurred during a robbery in which a young man was shot and killed in front of his wife and kids. The story touched me deeply. Our church isn’t in Oakland, but we have many members who live there. The tragedy was a reminder that we must reach our cities for God.
The apostle Paul was a master at reaching cities for God. Ephesus, Antioch, Paphos, Troas—everywhere Paul traveled he left a lasting impact. I believe he understood that truth is the greatest need in the hearts of people.
Truth is what ultimately will make us free. Paul skillfully preached and taught a noncompromising gospel that helped people come to grips with the fact that they needed to be born again. As a result, God’s Word broke through barriers of religious pride, cultural bondage and spiritual deception.
We will never truly reach our cities if we continue preaching about politics or the latest Hollywood drama. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2) Our cities, political leaders and communities need the church to be what we were created to be—the pillar and ground of the truth.
Had anyone shared the gospel with the thief in Oakland? Had he ever been told there’s a better way? I don’t know.
But I hope that there’s a cry welling up within you to go and reach your city for Jesus. Promise me that as you go, you’ll tell them the truth.
6. A Cry for the Poor
By Biju Thampy
Five-year-old Raju and his mother, Vanda, had not eaten for four days when we found them lying on a busy street in Mumbai, India. We were shocked by seeing Raju’s right eye literally sticking out, bitten by something. The infection had entirely destroyed his eye.
Vanda had given birth to a baby 12 days before, right on that sidewalk where we found her. The newborn died on the street for lack of care.
Vanda and Raju would have died in a few days if we hadn’t met them. Hundreds of thousands of people had walked past or stepped over them without listening to their cry.
There are millions like them—who are not mere numbers but precious individuals created in God’s image for whom Jesus died. But they are unable to voice their powerlessness.
God hears their silent cry, and He commands us to stand up for them as well: “‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute’” (Prov. 31:8, NIV).
I believe He created mankind to live with dignity (see Ps. 8:5-8). Today it isn’t charity that will answer the cry of the poor, but dignity. Charity makes the giver feel good and gives temporary relief to the recipient. But giving dignity to the poor ends their cry, causes them to rise up and stand on their own feet, and puts them on the giving side.
You and I are God’s answer to the cry of the poor in our generation. It is a cry we cannot ignore.
Biju Thampy is based in Mumbai, India, and founder of Vision Rescue (visionrescue.org.in), a ministry with the stated purpose to help the poor “live with dignity and respect.”
7. A Cry for Radical Discipleship
By Mark Batterson
During a trip to the Galápagos Islands I witnessed something awe-inspiring: wild animals in their natural habitat doing what they were created to do. They were uncivilized, untamed, uncaged. I felt a new affinity with Adam when I was in the Galápagos environment. I could imagine what life must have been like before the fall.
After returning home, our family went to the National Zoo near our house in Washington, D.C. But after the Galápagos, I’m ruined for zoos: too safe, too tame, too predictable.
While walking through the ape house I had this thought as I looked at a 400-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.
I love the church; but too often we take people out of their natural habitats and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk, the danger, the struggle. And we end up with caged Christians.
We foster spiritual co-dependency. We learn more, do less and call it discipleship. But Christ called us to live by faith, use our gifts and make a difference.
Radical discipleship is the willingness to do whatever and go wherever Christ calls. And I promise this: It won’t be the path of least resistance because that’s also the path of least impact.
Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure.
And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross to keep us safe but to make us dangerous. When was the last time you asked God to make you dangerous to the enemy?
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. (theaterchurch.com).
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Psalm 73:1-28 Where will your focus be today? Here the psalmist looks at the people around him. He compares himself with those who are ungodly and realizes they seem to be better off than he is. He reminds God of how he has cleansed his own heart, but he cannot see the benefits of living a righteous life. His complaint to God is the same as that of many Christians today: "What's the use in trying to be good and going God's way when nothing is working out?" But then he goes into the sanctuary and draws near to God. He realizes that the wicked will eventually perish, but he will not. He thanks God for His faithfulness in holding his hand through hard times, for His guidance, counsel and strength. Then he shares this wonderful statement: "It is good to draw near to God; to put our trust in Him and to declare His works." The psalmist first sees only the people who are close to him and the circumstances around him. At the end of this psalm, he is given a supernatural pair of glasses to see beyond those things he is experiencing. He focuses on the God who is in control of all things. To receive healing for his eyesight, however, he had to go into the sanctuary and draw near to God. He had to retreat from his circumstances and the people who surrounded him and get alone with God. In the sanctuary there were no distractions and his attention was focused only on God.
Psalm 72:1-20 Vladimir, our Russian son, has been our gardener for the seven years he has lived with us. I remember the first time he cut the grass; he was so very proud of his accomplishment. Shortly after the grass was mowed, a shower came; we both stood in the carport and breathed in the elegant smell of rain on freshly mowed grass. There is nothing to compare with this smell. This psalm gives a beautiful description of what will happen to people who fear the Lord. One of the promises of God to those who fear Him is, "They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth" (vv. 5-6, KJV).
Luke 8:41-9:6 Jairus had just heard the news that his daughter was dead. Can you imagine his amazement when he heard Jesus say, "Fear not, believe only?" This story has a happy ending because Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead.
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