GoingFullCircleBlog

Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ


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Summer Devotional for Your Worship Team: The Water of Life

Blessed Be   O the deep, deep love of Jesus,

vast unmeasured, boundless, free,

Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.

Underneath me, all around me is the current of thy love,

Leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above.

The two of us stood looking out over a crystal blue ocean on an international mission trip. Standing beside me was Tom Westmoreland, age 87, founding director of music for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. As we stood in awe of God’s magnificent creation, Tom said, “You know, most people wear blinders. All they can see is their own little world. When I look at the ocean, I like to wonder where this water has been across the centuries. I wonder if I’m looking at water that flowed in the Jordan River when Jesus was baptized, or drawn from Jacob’s well when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman, or swirled around Paul when shipwrecked on his missionary journey. We never know where this water has been and who it has touched.”

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best,

‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ‘tis a haven sweet of rest.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ‘tis a heaven of heavens to me,

And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to thee.

The water of life pours from the cross of Christ to the world. Drink deeply of this water and quench your eternal thirst. Then go and share God’s living water with our thirsty and dying world. Where will the water flow next?

You have the water of life if you have Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life. Will you be a missionary to share the Living Water with a thirsting world everywhere you go this summer?  — Mark Powers

From: “O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” – Words, Francis/Music, Harris (Public Domain)


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So Why Does God Go to All This Trouble to Grow His Children?

Jesus5You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless,

how can it be made salty again?

It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Matthew 5:13, NASB

Those who heard Jesus teach that day could only begin to grasp the full meaning of what we call The Beatitudes. John MacArthur, in his book The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, says: “The Sermon on the Mount was a critique of the Pharisees’ religion. He condemned their doctrine; their phony approach to practical holiness; their pedantic style of Scripture twisting; and their smug overconfidence.”1 Do these charges apply to us today in the institutional church?

We see the Beatitudes from our vantage point this side of the cross. May our vantage point never de-sensitize us to God’s parenting. Those who heard the Sermon on the Mount could hardly comprehend what this discipleship process would mean for them. They would be salt and light on mission to the world. Salt flavors, heals, and preserves. For us who would flavor the world for God, total dependence on him is essential. For us who would administer God’s healing, self-sacrifice must reign. For we who would preserve the world for God, we must embrace daily repentance and purification. Otherwise, we become useless to him—flavoring without flavor, medicine without healing, preservative that rots. Uselessness should be a disciple’s greatest fear!

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14, NASB

What would you think of a marathon runner who loads his or her body with carbohydrates for the race and then sleeps in, misses the start, and spends the day watching the race on television? Too many of our church members are fat with God’s nutrition yet never use it to fuel real work for the kingdom. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food,” charged the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 5:12, HCSB).

Like worship, if discipleship is for our own enrichment alone, it becomes idolatry. Discipleship is the process of growing more Christ-like so that, like Christ, God can use us to reach people. He desires to use our relationship with him to bring others into relationship. Too often discipleship has been misinterpreted as “sit and savor.” Jesus calls us to get up and go. THAT’S WHY HE IS TRYING TO GROW US UP AS HIS CHILDREN… to take us full circle as a worshiping disciple on mission!

The apostle Paul exemplified going full circle in missional living. The ruthless persecutor of Christians encountered the living Christ face to face. Jesus’ words to Paul on the Damascus road were the truth of the gospel. The word of truth took root in his heart, and he responded with brokenness. The power of the gospel gripped him, propelling him into the world. Paul was truly transformed. The cruelty and hardness of his own spirit gave way to the Holy Spirit. The ultimate Pharisee became the ultimate disciple. The ultimate disciple became the ultimate missionary. The ultimate missionary gave us the list of characteristics God expects from worshiping disciples on mission. Paul’s life went full circle.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22–23,NASB

We have gone full circle in the process of discipleship. Are you submitting to our heavenly Father to grow you spiritually? Is the fruit of God’s Spirit growing out of you? Are you partnering with God on mission to make disciples who make disciples? These are not goals we can attain, but rather the evidence of a life completely yielded to Christ in discipleship.

We must allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to produce his fruit in us. Without these spiritual traits active in our lives the world will reject us as hypocrites. If they see meanness, anger, harshness, anxiety, or lust in us, how can they embrace the God we claim has saved us from those things?

Go one step more. Think of the worship team that you lead… or your family, or your team at work or school. Do they produce the fruit of the Spirit, too? Do they show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control in their daily lives? If not, you must partner with God to bring them into his process of parenting. Lead them into discipleship and take them on mission. Your heavenly Father awaits.  — Mark Powers

MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, 129.

 


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How God Grows His Children: Step Four

Dad-child“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8, NASB

Parents hope and pray that their teenagers will remain pure. A commitment to purity is crucial to every child of God. To resist the temptations of the world, we must trust implicitly that God is the only source for our every need. This trust level requires that we see God at work in every aspect of life. We find him there at every step. Our all-knowing Father is never surprised by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Knowing this we begin to take life’s challenges in stride—his stride.

But purification is ongoing. Because the world is a battlefield between Satan and God, life is a battle between godliness and godlessness. Sanctification requires hand-to-hand combat with our sin. No doubt, God is our comforting Father throughout the daily battles. But he is also a strong Father who expects obedience. Being superficially religious won’t cut it, no matter how impressive we seem. He wants to purify us so we see him clearly in every moment of every day. If we’re going to join God on mission, it’s crucial to see clearly where he is at work. Purity, then, is a single-minded focus on seeing God and remaining untainted by the filth we see around us.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9, NASB

When God fills his disciples with mercy and purity, inner peace moves in. Spiritually mature disciples who have found God’s calling for their lives possess that peace. The Jewish people bestow the hope of peace on others with the blessing shalom. Shalom is a one-word prayer for the restoration of the world to God’s design. A mature disciple possesses the personal peace of knowing God’s design and then partnering with him to restore that design to the world.

Peacemakers bring calm to a raging world. But they are not naïve. Soon after his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sent his disciples out into the world. “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves,” he told them in Matthew 10:16 (HCSB). Peacemaking requires remarkable inner strength. Every attitude Jesus has presented in the discipleship process to this point will be required of a peacemaker on mission. Peacemakers are spiritual adults capable of raising spiritual children in God’s family. They have died to self and experienced brokenness and mourning. The kingdom of heaven has become theirs by accepting Christ’s death in their place. They receive God’s comfort and become gentle in the experience. A peacemaker is filled every day by a right relationship with God. Mercy and purity grow out of a peacemaker’s life wherever they join God on mission.

A world at war with God cries out for peacemakers. God sends them on mission to birth people in Christ and raise them as disciples. They are acclaimed as sons of God, his grown children. Ah, the pinnacle of discipleship is attained. The mature disciple can now relax and enjoy the blessings, right? Wrong! Keep reading.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10–12, NASB

Just a short while after presenting the Beatitudes, Jesus prayed to his Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, KJV). Ever since the fall of man into sin, God has chosen to suspend his perfect will on earth so we might have the privilege of choosing him. God’s perfect will is done in heaven, and he allows Satan to reign in hell. Earth is their battleground. The disciple lives on the battleground, and the world is at war. A disciple on mission must understand this truth.

The world hates godliness even as it hungers for God. Paul said to the citizens of Philippi, “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18–19, NIV). Earthly life is torn apart by this conflict.

Look at the modern media for proof. They exalt celebrities as gods of society, and we keep buying it. Then we tear those celebrities down at the first sign of human frailty, only to lift them up again when we crave more entertainment. During Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem the crowds shouted, “Hosanna,” as he arrived, then cried, “Crucify him,” five days later. As Christ-followers, the world will do that to us, too. The world yearns to possess what God has given us. But upon hearing what it will cost, they turn back to their pursuit of pleasure. Their lives are consumed with satisfying the lower instincts rather than lifting hearts and minds to God. The very ones who cry for our help turn against us.

When the world is against us, the Father’s love endures. The kingdom of heaven is ours. Hallelujah! The forces of evil may take every earthly thing we own. They may even come for our lives. But they cannot steal our Father’s ultimate gift. The souls of those who are in Christ will live forever with God. We are his children, and he is our Father. He has grown us to maturity, so now we move out with him to share the relationship with others. The discipleship process goes full circle!   — Mark Powers


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How God Grows His Children: Step Three

Dad-childBlessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6, NASB

For a child of God who has experienced grace, gentleness is only the beginning. Now we have grown past the spiritual infant stage into childhood. As we grow, we truly hunger and thirst for a right relationship with our Father. An unquenchable hunger drives us to feel our Father’s hug and see his smile. Disobedience then is disloyalty to the love relationship that we are building.

As God’s children, our relationship is far more than following rules and regulations. Instead, through the Spirit, God himself lives inside us and works his way from the inside out. The Holy Spirit, active in us, enables us to live a righteous life as a response to God’s love. The whisper of God calls us, “I love those who love me; and those who seek me, (will) find me” (Prov. 8:17, NIV). The disciple will grow from spiritual infant thirsting for milk and comfort, to child of God hungering to learn of him in mutual love and trust.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 5:7, NASB

As we move into older childhood in God’s school of spiritual maturity, the challenges get tougher. Life itself and the people in it can be very annoying. But God’s eyes are eyes of mercy. A growing child of God will see others through his eyes. Things that bring tears to his eyes bring tears to ours. A disciple learns to look, feel, and respond with mercy. The characteristic that began as gentleness matures into mercy. Mercy is a must if we have any hope of being effective on mission.

Just a few minutes after this teaching, Jesus told those assembled: “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” (Matt. 6:14–15, HCSB). Mercy prevails at the judgment seat of God. Mercy must prevail in daily discipleship. My pastor, Ed Carney, at Riverland Hills Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., says of Jesus’ statement, “Do you think Jesus is fooling around when he says if we don’t forgive others God will not forgive us? Is he joking? No! He means exactly what he says: Forgive everybody, everything, every time.”  — Mark Powers

 

P.S. – I did not post last week due to the SC Baptist Singing Churchmen *Sing N’ Serve Mission Trip* to Cleveland OH with the North American Mission Board.  Our group recorded 46 spiritual conversations, 32 presentations of the gospel, and 2 people who accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.