Have you ever had a conversation with someone and then hours or even days latter a response pops into your head that you didn’t think of at the time? I recently experienced just that. I was talking to someone near and dear to me when they mentioned that Paul, after he was saved, went into the dessert for ten plus years in order to study and prepare himself to be used by God and like Paul we too need years of preparation before we will be in a place to be used by God. This wasn’t the first time I heard that sentiment and at the time I didn’t give it much thought. But a few days later, like a light bulb being turned on in my head, I realized the error of that line of reasoning.
Specifically, there are two problems with the view. First, it is factually inaccurate. To see the inaccuracy, one only needs to look at what Paul does after his conversion and after regaining his sight, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God… But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:20-22). Apparently, the three days he spent fasting after he met Jesus but before he regained his sight was all the preparation he needed to confound the Jews and prove that Jesus was the Christ. Secondly, the thought is based more on personal presupposition than the word of God. The ten plus years are often referred to as the silent years for a reason—there is not a lot of information about them, however there are some clues that can be picked up on. For instance, every time we see Paul before he is sent to be an apostle to the Gentiles he is preaching in synagogues, saving souls, and making enemies, which is the identical thing he did after the church of Antioch sent him out. There was no substantive change in Paul’s behavior—his ministry did not begin after he was commissioned but after he was converted.
To be completely frank, we sometimes use Paul’s “preparation period” as an excuse to do nothing significant with our lives. It stands as an unassailable justification for living self-focused, myopic lives. But we need to see it for what it is—a rationalization—and what it does to us—prevents us from doing something eternal for the Lord. Don’t wait to make a difference for the Lord, grab a hold of every opportunity, life is short, make it count! A friend of mine, a Romanian pastor, recounted a story to me that I think is appropriate to close this devotional. After several years of getting equipped my friend went out into the backwoods of Romania and began preaching the gospel in small villages. After preaching in one particular village an elderly man walked up to him and said, “I believe what you said and if what you said is true, that means that all my family members and loved ones are in hell right now. I have only one question, what took you so long to come here and preach? So many people who now have no change could have been saved. Where have you been?”
It’s a sobering story that begs the question, “What am I doing today to make an eternal difference?” It’s a question that only you can answer. It there a coworker that needs to hear the gospel? It is time to take a step of faith into something new? Is God calling you to share his love overseas? Do you need to use your resources to advance God’s kingdom? There are no do overs in life—choose to make an eternal impact today.
The Jewish leaders were continually trying to trap Jesus in what he said so they could condemn him publicly. On one occasion, they came up with a scheme to make him choose between the hundreds of commandments from the law. A lawyer asked Jesus which was the most important, and without hesitation Jesus replied,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)
Bam! He boiled the whole Old Testament down to two things: Love God and love people. There was no way the lawyer could argue against that. And when it comes to loving other people, Jesus said the qualification is that we love them to the same degree that we love and care for ourselves. Now when it comes to my family, I’m okay with that. I love my wife and kids and would do anything that is for their best. I would even take a bullet for them to save their life, or choose to get sick if it meant them staying healthy. But Jesus said that our love isn’t just for family, it’s for our neighbor as well!
Then another time, Jesus raised the bar even higher when he said,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34, ESV)
Instead of my self-love being the measure of love for others, Jesus took it to a new level and says that we’re supposed to love others in the same way that he loves us! Wow! That’s a tall order! Jesus’ love is way beyond what we normally have. This command is sandwiched between washing the disciples’ feet (an act of humility and servanthood) and his arrest, which led to his greatest demonstration of love: dying in our place. His love compelled him to step out of heaven and become human. His love drove him to undergo the beatings, humiliation and crucifixion. He didn’t have to do all that, but he did because of love. Then he goes on to say that this kind of love is the distinguishing mark of being a disciple (v35).
So… how’s your love for God and for other Christians? Can you say that you love like Jesus loves you? And what would it look like in your life this week? In relationship with your family… your co-workers… your neighbor… the homeless guy on the street corner?
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18, ESV)
There is a passage of scripture that jumped out to me today. It’s found here:
“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” Matthew 26:52-53
It’s simple to read past it. “those who use the sword” Jesus was ready to fully embrace God’s will, he was ready and although he had the power to avoid it, he chose not to, being our ultimate example of humility. Peter, was at the opposite side of this, he wasn’t ready to embrace God’s will, he wanted to force the outcome, so he drew out his sword and took a solid swipe at it.
Jesus, ready to embrace suffering and God’s will and Peter, ready to force his own will and avoid suffering.
Which one are you living right now? Is God allowing some suffering in your life? How are you responding to it?
What’s so remarkable is as you read the Epistles of Peter, you see a man, transformed, talking about suffering for the Lord, suffer well he teaches us, there is joy in suffering he encourages us to know. How does this happen? Peter eventually was filled with God’s Spirit. He had Jesus completely transform his life from the inside out and in doing so..viewed suffering in a beautiful, wonderful light.
If you are ever to be more like Christ, it’s through suffering, through nails, scars, bruises and ultimately death but in the end, what will be seen..is a transformed life, made in likeness of Christ. I pray that for you and me. Daily.
Marc Millan, Lead Worship Pastor
Two of the best kids on planet Earth…just sayin’
So I’m a very late bloomer. I’ve heard about Crazy Love written by Francis Chan for years. I’ve seen the adds for it’s Community Group videos and heard quotes from Chan periodically. I even read Forgotten God which was written after Crazy Love, but had not yet read this best seller which had spoken to the hearts of so many…
It was the same when the Passion of the Christ was released in theatres. I was a hold out for two years. I couldn’t imagine watching my Lord in the last few days of his life, so I kept putting it off. I even bought the DVD when it was released and waited another year to actually put it in and hit “play.” Hitting play for me, I thought, was willingly walking into a dense cloud of conflicting emotions. Feelings of deep gratefulness, sorrow, flaming anger- all of it. I’ll never forget the flight where I finally pressed play and with a “quivering lip” cried like a baby for the next two hours.
Chapter nine and ten of Crazy Love was the perfect conclusion to an amazing book. It called me to a higher level of sacrifice and a higher level of obedience to God. For me, the book’s summary could simply be that one day we’ll stand before the Creator of our Lives and may he be inclined to say, “Good and faithful servant…”. But is the life we’re living now WORTH the sacrifice Christ made on the cross? Is it worth the crazy love he has showed to us and the cost of this free grace we have been given?
Throughout the book Chan is in a wrestling match with the rich and selfishly apathetic nature of Western Christianity. We know that this isn’t always the case, but it’s undeniable and a blaring weakness of our culture. He does a good job of bringing light to this and calling it out through scripture and love.
When my wife Nicole and I were weeks away from our wedding she had a stroke because her body was filled with blood clots. After six weeks of bouncing from the ICU unit to the neuro-step down unit, and then back to ICU, we came face to face with death on three very real occasions. I hung a sign in our hospital room that read, “When you don’t understand God’s ways, trust his heart.” We reminded ourselves of his heart on a daily basis. When we finally came to the day she was to leave the hospital Nicole felt the Spirit of God say to her, “Nicole, I gave you today. What are you going to do with it?”
I’m reminded of a quote my Uncle Eric shared with me at 15 years old. He said, “Chad, my greatest fear is not that I won’t succeed, but that I will succeed at something that doesn’t really matter.”
If you haven’t already, I pray that today, in this moment, you will get on your knees and experience the crazy love that God offers to you. If you have, I pray that you will join me on my knees and thank him over and over for the grace he has given us.
“You are awesome and words fall short as we seek to describe how wonderful you are. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for bringing us into relationship with you. Thanks for filling us with life. Thanks for the opportunity to share you with others. Help us to live a life worthy of your cross. We need you. We need your help. Help us to love you like we want to. Fill us with more of your spirit. Help us to see the world through your eyes. We want to love you more. Amen.”
Why do we think our lives are all about us? Isn’t it true though, like we are the main character in the movie of our lives? I find the thought of that very, very convicting. At times, I think first of ME being fulfilled, MY dreams, ME being happy, ME being used by God the way I want him to use me. I’ll never forget sitting with Bill, a Professor at Vanguard University, and over a Vegan lunch at the Anti-Mall he explained what it means to be “obedient” with our lives to God. As I sipped my lentil soup he unpacked who should be in the center of our lives and what it actually means to be a follower of Jesus. Convicted deeply, I realized how often I expect the God of the universe to follow me rather than me follow the God of the Universe.
This morning I read this excerpt from CRAZY LOVE written by Francis Chan. I hope it speaks to you as it has me- Enjoy!
Now consider the movie of life… God creates the world. (Were you alive then? Was God talking to you when he proclaimed, “It is good” about all He had just made?) Then people rebel against God (who, if you haven’t’ realized it yet, is the main character in this movie), and God floods the earth to rid it of the mess people made of it. Several generations later, God singles out a ninety-nine-year-old man called Abram and makes him the father of a nation (did you have anything to do with this?). Later, along come Joseph and Moses and many other ordinary and inadequate people that the movie is also not about. God is one who picks them and directs them and works miracles through them. In the next scene, God sends the judges and prophets to His nation because the people can’t seem to give Him the one thing He asks of them (obedience). And then, the climax: The Son of God is born among the people whom God still somehow loves. While in this world, the Son teaches His followers what true love looks like. Then the Son of God dies and is resurrected and goes back up to be with God. And even though the movie isn’t quite finished yet, we know what the last scene holds. It’s the scene I already described in chapter 1: the throne room of God. Here every being worships God who sits on the throne, for He alone is worthy to be praised.
From start to finish, this movie is obviously about God. He is the main character. How is it possible that we live as though it is about us? Our sense in the movie, our brief lives, fall somewhere between the time Jesus ascends into heaven (Acts) and when we will all worship God on His throne in heaven (Revelation). We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths-of-a-second to be about my making much of God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That is what each of our two-fifths-of-a-second is about. So what does that mean for you? Frankly, you need to get over yourself… The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.
CRAZY LOVE, Francis Chan Pg. 43-45
Chad Furlong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Danny Quimlat is one of the Pastors at the Rock and recently shared this story with us at a Staff Devotion:
In the Civil War days before America’s slaves were freed, a northerner went to a slave auction and purchased a young slave girl. As they walked away from the auction, the man turned to the girl and told her, “You’re free.” With amazement she responded, “You mean, I’m free to do whatever I want?” “Yes,” he said. “And to say whatever I want to say?” “Yes, anything.” “And to be whatever I want to be?” “Yep.” “And even go wherever I want to go?” “Yes,” he answered with a smile. “You’re free to go wherever you’d like.” She looked at him intently and replied, “Then I will go with you.”
DOERS are people who know how to work. They get things done and in itself, that’s not a bad thing at all! I love being around doers because they tend to be people to rely on, and are devoted to the task at hand. They make great teammates.
But LOVERS, wow, they are in a class all of their own. They don’t only “do”, but their doing comes from a deep sense of gratitude, or better yet, love. When all roads converge to a single point, and we come to a realization of not “self” but of “God”, we then say- “Anything Lord. I love you so much. Ask anything of me. With joy I serve you. I’m ready to begin serving you even now!”
Lovers accomplish more than doers any day of the week. And regarding tasks, does God our Father care more about the items we are accomplishing or the son or daughter he is shaping? He is calling us to be LOVERS, not only DOERS.
Listen to these beautiful thoughts by Paul the Apostle:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-22)
And in the same spirit, may you and I have the spirit of Jesus in us as LOVERS of the living God. I pray for us both that in the weeks to come we will mature even more into the men and women God would have us to be. And to HIM be the glory forever and ever, Amen.
This photo is of Tom & Heidi Lonsdale who moved their family to Mazatlan, Mexico six years ago to start a cafe and share the love of Jesus to the community. They’ve “put themselves out there.”
Recently I took the TWELVE students to a monastery in Oceanside where we gave ourselves to a vow of silence for 24 hours. I gathered the team and said, “24 hours from this time we will get back together at this very spot. Ready!? It starts… now.”
This is the second time I’ve been on a monastery in this way. At first it’s a bit awkward. No eye contact during hallway passing is a bit weird. There’s of course the hours of solitude in gardens with no words. That’s truly amazing, but, most awkward are the uncomfortable meal times when you’re sitting across from others trying to temper the awkwardness by staring into your plate.
If we put ourselves “out there” with God, there is a point in our journey when everything changes. We let go of hurts and stresses, and grab hold of the overwhelming Creator of the Universe. We become alive and present with him. My goal is not to learn or attain anything in these endeavors. My goal is to simply “be” with the Creator and everything I need to learn or hear from him will happen from that place.
As I write this I am in Mazatlan, Mexico serving my missionary friends Tom and Heidi Lonsdale through their café called the Looney Bean (http://looneybeanmaz.jimdo.com). We’ve been ministering all over the city but our hearts have been left in the dump area. We helped mix concrete with shovels and built an extension off the house of an elderly woman who was hit by a car last year.
When the trucks arrive, families at the dump need to be close so they can gather anything of value from them when they drop material. They will take plastic, copper, and the gold in computer equipment or anything else that can be sold. Because the families need to be close to the action, they actually live in the dump. There is no electricity or running water and their homes consist of plastic or wood and metal all tied together to provide shelter. Their water is contaminated, stored in barrels. Tom and Heidi moved their family here to build a business that would give back to the community. They put themselves out there in a way most people wouldn’t even consider.
Families in the dump wash in and and drink the contaminated water. I watched a mom dunk her 3-month-old baby in a 5 gallon bucket for a bath. The kids are happy, even though they are likely to be hit by a car or get sick. The older mothers I talked with had lost at least half of their children for various reasons.
It’s critical that we set ourselves apart to God for him to speak to us and use us in any way he wishes. I told our team before we started, “God may choose to use us in big ways or small ways, but we are just a tool in his hand to be used how he wishes.” Putting ourselves out there may look small in the eyes of man, but trust me, it’s big in the eyes of God. And that’s all that matters.
This is a trip that will forever change the direction of my life. It’s one of those defining moments that would have never happened if I didn’t put myself out there. So today, wherever you are, put yourself out there. Give something to God that costs you something. Decide to go on a missions trip or reach out to the poor in your community as Jesus did so often. Or send a few emails of encouragement written in the love of Christ and see what God chooses to do with it.
Put yourself out there. Be dedicated to him, and be willing to do something that may be a little crazy. Just see what God will do! Watch the joy he will put in your heart.
If you’re interested in supporting the Looney Bean or learning more about Tom and Heidi and their family, visit http://looneybeanmaz.jimdo.com/.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ.”) Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) John 1:40-42 (NLT)
I remember many years ago when I was in high school I had several friends who went to this crazy big youth group called Cross Current. At that time, I sporadically attended church with my parents, but these guys from my school kept asking me over and over to go with them. They talked about how awesome it was, and how much fun I would have. I wondered what all the “hype” was about. It wasn’t until several years later that I eventually showed up to a camp that they were hosting. It was on that trip, one night down in front of a stage, I went from knowing about God, to actually encountering Him… and it changed my life forever. I still remember all of those guys hands on my back praying for me as I knelt there on the concrete floor. I remember standing up and hugging these incredible guys, and being so grateful that they cared enough to keep inviting me.
I think it’s easy to sometimes underestimate the power of inviting. In John 1 it describes a scene where this guy named Andrew meets Jesus and it impacts his life so much that he decides to leave everything and follow Him. He becomes a follower of Jesus. The very next thing he does is run and find his brother named Simon, and invited him to come with him to meet Jesus. Simon’s encounter with Jesus not only changes his life, but also his name… from Simon to Peter (the Rock) foreshadowing his role in the launching of the church.
The Bible doesn’t dive into depth into Andrew’s life, but many people are familiar with Peter. He’s the guy that stood up at the beginning of Acts and preached and at least 3,000 people (possibly double or triple that as they only counted men at that time) committed their lives to Christ. Imagine how proud Andrew must have been. As Peter was speaking to the crowd, I wonder if Andrew’s thoughts wandered back to that day he brought him to meet Jesus… and how that encounter changed both of their lives… and so many others.
You might not be called to get up in front of thousands of people and preach, but we have all been commissioned to bring people to meet Jesus. Who knows, your simple invitation could change the course of history.
Action Step: Take a minute right now and pray and ask God to show you who in your life you could invite to church to meet Jesus this week.
Connect with Mark at http://about.me/marksbell
I led my first small group when I was in college, and since committing my life to Christ only about 10 months earlier, I certainly didn’t feel qualified for it! I had invited a friend to an outreach event where he became a Christian, and afterward I asked my small group leader how to help him grow. I wasn’t ready for the answer: “You start a small group and disciple him!” That started me on adventure of helping others grow in their faith, and in the process I grew in leaps and bounds myself.
Why would anyone want to lead a group? At a foundational level, every Christian is called to be a disciple of Jesus. In his words, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17). Following Jesus means that we give up our right to be in charge of our lives, submitting to him as the leader. As we follow, he transforms our lives; he has a plan for us to become more like him, and a purpose for us to fulfill in building his kingdom. I believe that as we become more like Jesus, every one of us is responsible to help others in their spiritual journey too – and Community Groups at the Rock Church are a great place to get involved in the adventure of discipleship!
Maybe you’re like I was at the beginning, feeling totally inadequate and not qualified. But if you have a genuine love for God and are seeking to follow him, and have a love for other people and want to make a difference in their lives, you might be called and ready!
Remember, you’re not alone! When you became a Christian, God gave you the Holy Spirit to empower you to accomplish his will. If you’ll step out in faith and lead a Community Group, you’ll find God working in and through you in a new way that will blow your circuits!
What’s the process to start a Community Group at the Rock?
1. Fill out an online application – http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups/lead/
2. Attend the two-hour “Intro to Rock Small Groups” training:
- North County Campus – 3 Sunday of every other month; contact email@example.com for dates
- Point Loma Campus – last Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. (other than July, November & December)
3. At the Intro to Rock Community Groups, you’ll begin filling out a Small Group Plan, then in the following week meet with a Community Groups Coordinator or your Coach to review your plan and help you get started
4. In the following weeks and months, we’ll walk with you through the process of filling your Community Group and getting a healthy start. There will be further training opportunities, and you’ll have regular contact with our staff and Coach
Need more information? Email or call! Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org, 619-764-5130
“We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” (2 Thess 1:11)
Dave Stewart, Community Groups Pastor
P.S. If you’re not in a Community Group now, I’d encourage you to get involved in one in your neighborhood! You can search for a group at http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups/find/