Becoming a disciple: loving an enemy

Scripture – Acts 8:1, 3 (amp)

And Saul was [not only] consenting to [Stephen’s] death [he was pleased and entirely approving]. On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers).

But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison.

Observation

Saul was a Christian-hating psychopath. His mentor was Gamaliel, one of the top pharisee dudes, and he was the young up-and-coming star of the Sanhedrin. He knew all the top brass and had his sights on becoming the youngest-ever chief priest one of these days. It’s difficult to overstate how voraciously opposed he was to the Way.

Application

It’s easy to love people as they are beginning to turn the corner and have an encounter with God. It’s not easy to love the people who just straight up hate you, hate your church and your Jesus.

I wonder who the people are that are Saul’s to our church and our faith. Who are the people we just steer clear of? Do I believe it’s possible one or more of them could experience such a 180 turnaround?

I want to find someone who just hates us. And pray. And love. And see what happens.

Prayer

Father, please give me supernatural insight into who could be a Saul in our community, who would do anything to see our faith and our church fail. Show me and our church how to pray and how to love so that we are there when it happens. Amen.

Becoming a disciple: Eager to do good. Eager to love.

Scripture – 1 Peter 3:13-14

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 

Observation

Good question, Peter. Who, if we really think about it, is going to come against us for just doing good, loving people expecting nothing in return? No-one. Probably. But even if…we are blessed. Before we knew him, Christ died for us. He loved us all, with no guarantee we would ever love him back. And yet. He still decided to love.

Application

We are called to, commanded to, released to, invited to…love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

I want to love people, specifically and tangibly, expecting nothing in return. I want to love first. I want to be like my Father and love my neighbor as myself. I don’t expect to be harmed in doing so, but even if I am, I count myself blessed. Really blessed.

Prayer

Father, dad. Thank you for inviting me on this great adventure with you. Loving a world that doesn’t think it deserves to be loved. Loving eagerly expecting nothing in return. It cannot be done without the power you give through your Holy Spirit working in me. Thank you for first loving me. I choose to follow you today. Teach me to love like you love. In Jesus’ incredible name, amen.

Love is everything

Scripture – 1 Corinthians 13:3

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Observation

Performance is empty. Whatever fuels us in life, to do good, and to crave gifts of the Spirit…unless it is love, then it is all pretty pointless.

Application

Love is everything. Love for God and for the people created in his image. Love must be what fuels me. Not success, not comfort, not prestige, not fame, not feeling good – but simply love.

Prayer

Father, consume me with love for you and your people. Let love mark me. Thank you for reminding me to check my engine. If I have not love, then I have nothing. Thank you for loving me so much. I love you. In Christ, amen.

Becoming a disciple: Watching what dad does and doing it

Scripture – 1 John 4:19

We love because he first loved us.

Observation

We are called to follow the example of our Father.

He loved us – let us love one another. He forgave us – let us forgive one another. He was patient with us – let us be patient with one another. He was kind to us when we were rebellious – let us be kind to those who betray us. He believed in us before we believed in ourselves – let us believe in others before they believe in themselves. He gave us gifts we did not deserve – let us give gifts to people who don’t deserve them. He laid down his life for us whether or not we would ever accept it – let us lay down our lives for those who may never see it or accept it.

Application

I need to take the Scripture seriously and pray for help to actually apply these things to my life. I say I want to be more like Jesus and I know I can become more like him through the power of the Holy Spirit, but when there are obvious ways I can imitate God, do I really do do them?

Prayer

Father, thanks for being my example. You are amazing – so different from the world. Give me a daily chance to be trained in the way of the Lord – to practice doing what you would do – just because I want to be more like my dad. My life is in your hands. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Becoming a disciple: Being a good fruit tree

Scripture – 1 John 3:24, Galatians 5:19-24

And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Observation

God lives in us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been given to us as a gift from the Father.

Our flesh, without the Holy Spirit, wants to bend towards enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions and envy. Most Christians gloss over this list because of the other things in the list (orgies, idolatry, sorcery etc) but the things listed are what most people in the church have problems with.

The Holy Spirit acts as a seed that grows and produces fruit in our lives. The fruit that is produced is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each of us needs to allow the Holy Spirit to grow such fruit.

Application

We cannot judge others’ salvation. We can only witness the fruit or lack thereof in others’ lives. However, we have no right examining others’ lives when we do not openly and honestly examine our own hearts and lives.

What fruit of the Spirit is being produced in my life?

  1. Is there a love for God and for people that is obvious and authentic?
  2. Is there a deep sense of joy (different from happiness) – but a joy that only comes from God and is not dependent upon circumstances?
  3. Is there a peace about me as a person, or do I seem flustered and anxious?
  4. Do I know how to wait, to trust in God’s timing and in the timing of the spiritual authorities in my life?
  5. Am I kind? Is there a generosity and a focus on others’ well-being above my own?
  6. Is there a spirit of goodness about me? Do people just sense that there is only good and no evil over me as a person?
  7. Is there evidence of a fullness of faith, trusting God with my life (my finances, my health, my family) as well as an obvious devotion to him and to my wife and children?
  8. Am I gentle? Do I have a tendency to deal harshly with people or is there a gentleness and compassion in my tone, my attitude and my actions?
  9. Am I driven by my emotions? Am I able to exhibit self-control in different areas of my life – my thought life, my interactions with difficult people, or when being disciplined or coached by my spiritual leadership?
I want to grow. I need to grow. I want more of God and less of my flesh. I know I have far to go but it’s so good to ask myself the questions.

Prayer

Father, I want nothing to do with the works of the flesh. I want to be a man of the Spirit in whose life an abundance of fruit is produced every day. I am yours to disciple. I am your son. Till the soil of my heart that I might bear more spiritual fruit. Help me to become more like my Savior Jesus. Lead me today Father. You have complete ownership and authority in every area of my life, my family and my ministry. Make me a good fruit tree in your kingdom today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Becoming a disciple: A spirit of power

Scripture – 2 Timothy 1:6-7

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Observation

The spirit that we have inside us is not a spirit of fear BUT a spirit of power and love and self-control.

So many Christians are afraid of the Holy Spirit, of his gifts, and so run away from the power available to love people.

I know people with gifts of knowledge, discernment between spirits, prophecy, healing…yet for the most part these gifts are not being used to build the church. We are scared to develop these gifts. We don’t know how to use them and what to do with them – because we have seen them used in wacky ways.

Application

We need to teach on this. We need to make sure people know that it’s normal, that we live in a supernatural world and we have a supernatural God who wants to empower us to bring love to the world. We need to bring these gifts to the surface, gently teach and train people how to use them, why they have them, and how using them in the service of God is what they’re for.

We do not have a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and self-control.

Let’s get over ourselves and embrace the supernatural power of God that he wants to use through us – it may be more that we’re comfortable with, but we’ve been bought with a price and we’re no longer our own.

Prayer

Father, show me how to develop and use the spiritual gifts you have given me to serve you. Help me help others do the same. Let our church not put you in a little comfortable box. You are supernatural. You have a plan. I choose to follow you. In Jesus’ name, amen.