January 2015


FISHERS OF MEN.

(3) “FISHERS OF MEN.” The final three words of Matthew 4:19 indicate a response of action… something that affects what we live for and what we do.

A disciple of Jesus is saved for a purpose. A disciple of Jesus is about being on mission. Inspired by who Jesus is an what He has done, disciples are absolutely compelled to love people and tell them what they’ve found in Jesus. It’s not something that “radical Christ followers” do. It’s what every disciple should do.

“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:15

Our mission is not to live comfortably, go to church every Sunday, to be nice to people, or to know a lot about the Bible. All of those things are good, but the real mission is for every disciple to JOIN in God’s mission. We can’t just be spiritual consumers; a true disciple of Jesus is a spiritual contributor.

There is NO greater gift or act of love than to share the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ. Do we really believe? Do we really love? If we do, then there should be more urgency in our hearts and in our churches to share the greatest news the world has ever received.

Being a “Fisher of men” is a commissioning and a call to action. Do we love people enough to act? We all have God-given abilities that can be used for His glory and to point the world to Him. Are we using them for the Kingdom?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

…AND I WILL MAKE YOU

(2) “AND I WILL MAKE YOU…” <— This is a really exciting statement! These next five words in Matthew 4:19 indicate the process of transformation that happens for every follower of Christ. After Jesus invited people like Peter and Andrew to follow him, guess what? …they were never the same! The disciples were different than they were when they first met Jesus because walking with the Lord changes you forever.

This attribute of a disciple is primarily a spiritual response to the Holy Spirit. It speaks to people at the heart level, as they assimilate the Word of God and allow Him to transform their inner being. (Ephesians 3:14-18) Discipleship isn’t a transfer of information leading to behavior modification–it involves transformation at the deepest levels of our understanding. (The heart and spirit level)

Romans 8:29 tells us that we are being conformed into the image of Christ. That’s the goal. It is when we are becoming like Christ in word, thought, attitude, and action that the world starts to be transformed too. It is when we stop simply admiring Jesus for carrying the cross, and we start picking up our own crosses.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 promises that God is transforming us from one degree of glory into another. (into HIS image) God will transform everything, especially how we see the world, and what we value and consider important. This is Discipleship. It’s Jesus molding our hearts to become more like his heart. It is when we start to truly love what he loves and hate what he hates.

Habits like Bible study, journaling, memorizations, prayer, fasting, and giving are all means to an end. They connect us to the grace of God, and through the grace of God we are transformed into the image of Christ. The more we are transformed, the more we will love and reach a lost and hurting world.

FOLLOW ME…

Matthew 4:19 – “ He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Over the next few blogs, we are going to dissect the three parts of this verse: (1) “Follow me” = [sacrificial] (2) “and I will make you…” = [transformational] (3) “fishers of men” = [relational].

(1) “FOLLOW ME” – What does it mean? This is an invitation and it indicates our acceptance of Jesus Christ. “Following” means we recognize and accept who Jesus is as Lord, leader, and master of our lives. Following takes sacrifice. It takes trust. It takes surrender. He’s the one who initiates and guides. He is the light that illuminates our path and our thinking. John 12:26 says, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”

Accepting Jesus Christ doesn’t mean he’s going to fulfill all of your wishes and dreams. Accepting Jesus by His definition is more about knowing Him and following Him as the one true God. Though we used to be self-ruled, now we are Christ-ruled. Jesus Christ lovingly rules our lives, and as he does, he replaces the falsehood we were handed from the world with the truth. Following Jesus means learning and believing those truths about Him. Disciples of Christ must be truth seekers and truth revealers.

Jesus leads. We follow. There’s no one else I’d rather trust and submit to as the head of my life than the God of the universe!

DiscipleSHIFT

Last week I started my second term of seminary, and one of the courses I’m taking is called Discipleship Ministries. Over the next month, I’d love to share some of what I’m studying in my blog. Together we can examine all things discipleship. ie. What does it mean to be a disciple? What are the Biblical requirements? The cost? How do I start discipling others? How important is discipleship? If you have any questions or comments along the way, don’t hesitate to ask or engage.

To begin, here are two essential qualities of a disciple of Jesus:

1.) LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD

If we do not continue in the Word, then we are wide open to deception, discouragement, and defeat. You cannot be a disciple without an aggressive commitment to consume and obey the Scriptures. As we drink in the Word of God, it has the power to transform our minds, and when our minds are transformed, then we can experience the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

2.) LOVE FOR OTHERS

John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Ultimately, if we do not love others, then we don’t truly know God. Francis Schaeffer observed that our love for one another should be so strong that it would unite believers in such a way that the world would believe that Jesus was sent by God. I pray that we as a Church can embody this kind of supernatural love and be committed to it in every way. Love for others includes first having God as our greatest love and in turn, purely loving our neighbor, the lost, the poor, the marginalized, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we love like this, there is no argument that can stand against this force. I think the way we love is often a great indicator of the condition of our faith. What is your love level like right now?

Youth For Christ Conference

Hey everyone, Brian here, and I just wanted to share a particularly awesome moment from the recent YFC conference we attended in Manchester, England.

The moment I speak of was a beautiful encounter with God that ended a really hard season in my life. Over the past couple of months our ministry in England had begun to feel like an incredible weight. The amount of life changes Morgan and I have gone through in the past 8 months was catching up with me and my focus had begun to shift off of ministry and onto myself. It felt I was just trying to stay above water. It came to a head around Christmas time, and I remember sitting in one of the night services completely numb (not a great place to be in ministry). I couldn’t hear, sense, or feel God and I began to offer up such a simple prayer. “God I can’t feel you, but I know You’re here and I know You sent me here. Please rescue me and breathe new life into me.”

Flash forward a couple of weeks and I found myself in Manchester at the YFC Conference. One night a gifted speaker from London was preaching on David and Goliath, and having the courage to face giants in our lives by simply having the willingness to step up to the fight. She said that God promised that He would do the rest. It spoke directly to my situation. I felt I had been willing to come to England and now I was waiting for God to really move in me and move in the lives of the youth I was ministering to every day.

Before she could even finish her alter call, I began to walk toward the front. I trust my God and I knew that I needed prayer to continue to have faith that He would move. I could feel that He was already stirring something new inside me and I could sense a fresh call inside me to pursue the youth in England with much more passion and focus than I had before, but I was still so apprehensive. Even though I could sense something new, I was still so afraid I’d fall back into the place of feeling so drained that I was in before. Nothing particularly special happened at the front of that room. In fact the guy that prayed for me prayed so quietly I didn’t hear a single word he said. I felt confident though. Confident in the promises in scripture that the more I continued to just say “I choose You God” that He would come through for me. I’d seen Him do it too many times for Israel and David in the Old Testament to be fooled into thinking He wouldn’t do the same for me, His beloved adopted son.

The next morning, during our coffee and tea break, a man I had never seen before in my life came up to me and asked if I had gone to the front the night before. I said yes. He told me that he’d tried to get to me last night, but the crowd was too big and he lost me, but as soon as I began to walk to the front he felt God slam something on His heart to speak to me. He asked me if I had ever been repelling. I said yes. He then said that God had shown him I was on the edge of a cliff and I just needed to trust that when I stepped off the harness and the rope would catch me. He said that God just really wanted me to know that I could trust Him. I was floored. Firstly, because a random person has never come up to me and said they felt God had shared something for me with them. Secondly, because it spoke to exactly what I was going through. I knew my God was speaking to me through the man that came up to me. It was so beautiful.

That’s not the end…

Morgan then walked up to me and asked if we could go over and meet Wes Stafford, the founder and CEO of Compassion International. He was one of the speakers at the conference and was chatting with people after the morning message he had delivered. I said ok, and joined my wife with the crowd of people surrounding Wes. He shook her hand and began talking and answering the questions of the group. The whole time I was just quiet, and quite honestly not listening to a word he was saying because I was still just thinking about the incredible way my God loved me and was breathing new life in me. I noticed Wes was beginning to say his goodbyes and move on, when we made eye contact. He did a double take, parted the crowd, and walked straight to me with his hand out. I shook his hand, and while my face looked quite startled I’m sure, he asked where I was from with the most intense curiosity. I told him I was from Oklahoma and that I was here for a two year commitment with YFC. He asked what was next, and I said I had no clue. He then asked if he could share some advice…. Needless to say, I said yes. Wes then went on to tell Morgan and I that often times we won’t know the next step, but we have to be wherever we are 100% for the time we are there, and if at all possible try and give 110%. He then looked in my eyes again and said, but I can already tell you will.

It was almost too much. Out of sheer joy I could’ve punched through a brick wall I was so fired up. Why? Because someone important told me he could see potential in me? NO! Because a fellow believer who has been in ministry for years looked me in the eyes and could see that God was doing something in me. It was the icing on the cake that what God was doing in my heart, made a man do a double take, part a crowd, and walk straight up to me to see what I was about. He wasn’t drawn to me. He was drawn to the flame Christ had lit in my spirit.

The moral of the story? God delivers on His promises. When the desire of our heart is to have more of Him, He gives it to us. Every. Single. Time. I can say that with no fear because it’s not a promise that I’m making. I’m a witness to it, but it’s a promise that the living God made to all who seek Him.

A month before, I was at the end of my rope. I was drained and feeling so numb. I began to press into God and there was no immediate answer. I continued to press into God, and finally my eyes were opened to the wonders of a God that loves me so much. He used three random people I had never seen before and will most likely never see again to tell me the same message: I’m with you and I love you.

It wasn’t just a cool experience though. That’s not how God works. He’s not in the business of flashy emotional highs, He’s in the business of breathing into the dust and creating new life. His touch doesn’t leave a fingerprint it completely alters what He comes in contact with. Today we had our first day back in schools. Normally it’s a time that is particularly draining. The kids have generally no interest in God or me, and today the atmosphere was flat out different. I came into a classroom and I felt I couldn’t contain the love that was beating in my chest for those kids and they responded to it. I could travel this whole world and talk to a billion people, but if I’m not submitted to God, it’s all dust. When a person is submitted to the living God, He could ask them to pick a gum wrapper off the street and save a whole nation through the act. Not because the act is significant, but because HIS words are the MOST SIGNIFICANT in all of existence.

Thank you so much for your prayers! God is moving so much in her and I’s lives and we are so thankful for you and your support! Please continue to pray for us and the youth we work with. Morgan and I are experiencing revival in our ministry and we pray that we see a revival in the youth here to follow.

Song: Overwhelmed (by Big Daddy Weave), Give Me Faith (by Elevation Worship)

Scripture:
Deuteronomy 4:29 – But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Proverbs 8:17 – I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Digging Deeper. Hello 2015!

Hey, Morgan here! Brian and I just finished up a wonderful week in Manchester at the 2015 Youth For Christ Conference, themed “Digging Deeper.”

 
It’s been an incredibly encouraging start to the new year for both of us. The speakers, seminars, workshops, and overall fellowship reminded us of the importance of our job as youth workers. What an honor it is to be commissioned by the God of the universe! We are truly blessed to be doing God’s work here and pouring into the lives of these kids that He loves SO much. We are more motivated than ever to press forward into 2015, giving it everything we’ve got!

 
One of the many inspiring leaders who joined us in Manchester was Dr. Wess Stafford, the former President and acting President Emeritus of Compassion International. Stafford shared with us every morning and I can’t emphasize enough how moving his stories were from his upbringing in Africa to his life changing experience through the help of a YFC worker when he was fifteen.

 
How cool is that? You never know what you say or do that will change a person’s life forever. Someone influenced Wes, a hurting young man, who grew up to love Jesus passionately and lead a 645 million dollar Christian nonprofit that speaks up globally for the poor, helping millions of children in need every single day. I just love that. God wants to use you.

 
Thanking God today for refreshing our spirits this week and for breathing new life into His work for us in England. We are excited to dig deeper with Him in 2015.

White as Snow

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December 31st
White as Snow

We are celebrating New Years Eve in the snowy Prague, Czech Republic tonight!!! Snow is often associated around Christmas time. This passage in Isaiah however, associates snow with the forgiveness of sins.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

First, “Let’s settle this,” means, “to come to a legal decision.” There is no call for a compromise here—the people were to come to an agreement with God concerning the immense gravity of their sin. God was not declaring His people innocent of wickedness, but He was willing to pardon their sins if they would repent and turn to Him.

Second, white in all of time has been symbolic of innocence and purity. Snow and wool are substances that are naturally white, and therefore, portray what is clean. (Scarlet, or crimson, on the other hand, are colors of a deep-red permanent dye; its stain is virtually impossible to remove)

Third, Isaiah was a prophet of grace. The name, Isaiah actually means,“The Lord is salvation.” He was a man who consistently taught on God’s pardoning of sin for those who truly desired forgiveness and to walk in obedience.

Isaiah 1:18 is a stunningly beautiful depiction of what Christ did for us on the cross. In this promise, the worst of sinners may find comfort and hope. God here assures us that however guilty we may have been in the past, however deep dyed our sin may have been, it is possible to be restored to purity and holiness.

What an encouragement to know that after repentance, our sins are no longer deep, fixed stains. They are forgiven. We serve a God who wants to purify us and make us white as snow.

I pray you start off this New Year with a clean slate before God and a completely yielded heart. “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” I John 3:3

Recommended Readings: Psalm 68:14; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 7:9; Matthew 17:2, 28:3; Revelation 1:14, 3:4-5, 4:4, 7:9, 7:13, I John 1:9

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