Section One: Personal Holiness...It’s about you and Jesus.
1 Peter 1:15–16
But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
Week One | October 20 - 26
Holiness is an intimidating thought. It is not only intimidating but it seems outdated and unreasonable. When one thinks of holiness, visions of monks in a monastery or some half crazy dude living on a high mountain come to mind. Or one might think that being holy means living in seclusion. We need to refocus on the definition of holiness.
Holiness means “set apart”. It doesn’t mean perfection or being sinless. It means I belong to Jesus. I have been “set apart by Jesus for Jesus”. Holiness is then lived out in community, not in isolation. Jesus, the holiest one to ever live, lived in community. His holiness was on display. He was sinless! He was perfect! And His grace to us through faith gives all of that to us. We cannot be holy apart from a relationship with Jesus!
Becoming a holy man or woman is an event and a process. In Romans chapter 12, Paul pleads with us regarding holiness. This pleading is a word picture of one putting their arm around your shoulders and holding you close in order to lead you somewhere. It is the same word used by Jesus in John 14 as he is describing the Holy Spirit. Paul is pleading for us to be holy!
I must present myself. Give myself to God for holiness to become a reality in my life. This decision is an event. I must choose Jesus. This is not just a salvation decision but a deeper life decision. I decide to trust Jesus as my savior! Jesus makes me right with God through his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. Jesus is also my sanctifier! Jesus is the one who is crafting my life to be like him. I had to trust Jesus to save me, and I have to surrender to Jesus to make me like him, and He is holy. If I fail to surrender (or present) my life to Jesus, I will not enjoy the full and meaningful life Jesus has in mind for me.
Prayer focus: Do I belong to Jesus? Have I decided to give my life to Jesus?
Prayer focus: Am I pursuing personal holiness? How?
Prayer focus: Is my pursuit of holiness making me arrogant?
Prayer focus: What areas of my life do I need to fully surrender to Jesus?
Prayer focus: Is there a hurt, habit, or hang up that is keeping me from becoming all Jesus expects?
Prayer focus: How am I living out holiness in my family, with my friends, in my workplace?
Prayer focus: Will I pray “Jesus, I am yours?”
Week Two | October 27 - November 2
The surrendering of my body, or better said “giving all I am to Jesus” begins a change in me. My mind changes. My attitude or thoughts shape my character and influence my behavior. The event of surrender leads to the process of a changed mind and a changed life.
My mind changes by exposure to the things of God as found in scripture. My mind changes by my exposure to people who love God and love me. My mind changes when I pray. Prayer doesn’t inform God; prayer makes me aware of God. My mind changes when I view circumstances through the lens of scripture. I become holy through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not through my efforts of self improvement but in surrendering to Jesus.
Day seven of last week you were asked to pray a simple prayer, “Jesus, I am yours”. This is a prayer for those who are coming to Jesus for the first time and a prayer for those who have followed Jesus for a long time. It is a prayer of surrender, of holiness. Why would I have to pray that prayer so often? Because I am a living sacrifice. I crawl off the altar! God never needs reminding of my commitment but I often do!
When my mind changes, my behaviors change. Jesus deals with the hurts, hang ups, and habits that keep me from becoming all He expects. I still sin, but I recognize sin faster and repent quicker and long to be restored fully.
Being holy is a heavy burden and we cannot bear it alone. We need Jesus and we need each other. I have noticed that when we are trapped in sin, we seldom turn when we see the light, it is when we feel the heat that we begin to turn from sin. Even when we are caught in our sins, we don’t confess to everything, not even to God. So why would God want us to be holy when it seems out of our reach? Because God has created you to become like Jesus! Jesus is holy.
Prayer focus: Why is holiness so difficult?
Prayer focus: Do I have false beliefs about Jesus, God, or the pursuit of holiness that I need to confront and confess?
Prayer Focus: What is happening in your heart right now? What is God teaching you?
Prayer focus: Do I behave like everyone else in the world or has my behavior become
more like Jesus?
Prayer focus: Do I really desire personal holiness?
What commitment do I need to make or remake to Jesus?
Prayer focus: As I gather with other believers, will my pursuit of personal holiness become contagious?
Week Three | November 3 - 9
Are you a Holy man/woman? That is a crazy question but a question a friend was asked on a crazy trip to India. Here’s his story.... Several years ago I was invited to help train leaders in India and assigned to a team to teach in Mumbai. Mumbai is a city of 27 million people of which 5 million live on the streets. It was an overwhelming experience. I went to teach, and I was the one who received the education and the blessing. The church we were working with had about 25,000 in attendance in 52 locations. They had a vision to have 200,000 people connected into life groups and feed, clothe, house, and educate over 100,000 street children. They were led by pastor Joseph who was himself a street child who found Christ by receiving a Bible from a British sailor. His misery became his ministry!
I set myself up for a difficult week by choosing to speak at our church, Parkway Church in Victoria Texas, on Saturday and Sunday then catch a plane Sunday night, fly to India, teach for three days and fly back to speak the following weekend. This was a bad plan. What I didn’t know was that God had another plan.
I arrived in Mumbai on Monday at midnight. I had flown for two days and was exhausted. Mumbai is a teeming city of horns blowing and never ending streams of people. The humid air was thick with curry and confusion. I had never been to India, and it was overwhelming. I traveled alone, so I was met at the airport by a stranger and driven to my hotel. Looking back, I see the danger in all of this. Sometimes details matter!
The next day I joined the team and we began training leaders. I spoke that morning, and during the lunch break, I decided to buy my wife a gift. The local pastor took me to a shop to look at cheap Indian jewelry. A young woman was waiting on me when she asked me, “Are you a holy man?” This caught me off guard. I had never had anyone ask me that before. It was a great question, and I paused before I answered. The pastor stepped in and declared, “Yes! He is a holy man from Texas!” I looked at him in shock and the sales girl fell at my feet and asked for my blessing. I didn’t know what to do. I quickly lifted her to her feet and told her that I was just an ordinary man but followed Jesus. The pastor then began to tell her about Jesus, and she accepted Jesus as her savior right there. Then from no where two women stepped up and told the pastor that they would begin teaching this girl how to live all for Jesus. They told him they had a life group meeting in the store every morning. The pastor knew these women so this girl was already in a group. Wow!
My head was spinning at the whole holy man thing. Although I had been a pastor for 30 plus years I had never considered holy man as a thing to grasp. The thought consumed my mind and it still does. There is the tension of the desire for personal holiness and dealing with the reality of how far I fall short. What must be understood is that God is still at work in, for, and through me.
Prayer focus: Are you a holy man/woman?
Prayer focus: Can others see your pursuit of personal holiness?
Prayer focus: Have you considered holiness something to be grasped?
Prayer focus: Our scripture memory verse is a pointed one. How is that scripture being
worked out in your life? I Peter 1:15-16
Prayer focus: How is God using this season of prayer to shape you?
Prayer focus: Is there something you need to confess today?
Prayer focus: Are you a Holy man/woman? What has changed this week?
Week Four | November 10-16
If you are like me, I notice my shortcomings more than I realize God’s power working in me. I see my sins while overlooking my Savior. Jesus wants me fully devoted to him. He wants me to be a holy man. But how? How do I become what Jesus expects?
God is using everything in my life to shape me. He even uses the broken things in my life to shape me into a man He can use. God takes my broken life and pours His Abiding Spirit into me to make me like Jesus.
Holiness is all about Jesus. Holiness is not perfection. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He knows I am dust. We, those of us in the church, get holiness and perfection confused. Being holy means “set apart” not perfect. It is amazing that when people or a church start pursing holiness it often leads to elitism, legalism, and spiritual arrogance. That is not the desire of God. Personal holiness should never produce pride. The closer we get to Jesus the more we should realize our overwhelming need for Him.
One preacher asked this question in his sermon, “Do you want it all from God, forgiveness of sins and forgiveness of being sinned against?” I found myself that day wanting it all from God. Not just forgiveness, though I need his forgiveness greatly, but to be a forgiver and then to pursue God into holiness. I want it all! Do you?
When we take the pursuit of personal holiness seriously then God will do a great work in, for, and through us for His glory!
Prayer focus: Do you struggle with holiness verses perfection?
Prayer focus: How has God used the broken things in your life to make you holy?
Prayer focus: How can the pursuit of holiness lead to entitlement, elitism, and arrogance?
Prayer focus: How do you think forgiveness and holiness are connected? Ask God to help you grasp these truths.
Prayer focus: Holiness is to be lived out in community. How are you living out your pursuit of holiness?
Prayer focus: What do you think God is asking of you these days?
Prayer focus: Do you want it all from Jesus? Spend some time asking Him.
Section Two: Relational Renewal...It’s about us and Jesus!
Scripture Memory Verse:
Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.
Week Five | November 17-23
Relationships make life rich! Relationships also make life interesting and often difficult. During this 99 days of prayer we are expecting Jesus to change our hearts, change our relationships, and change our church all for the glory of God. During these next four weeks, we will take a deeper look at who we are together and how we can love those in our circles of influence.
There is a Greek word “oikos” that means household. This word is used in the book of Acts when gentiles were responding to the gospel. What Dr. Luke, the writer of Acts, was referencing was household relational influence. When people heard the gospel they and their household would respond. That is how the church became the church, through relational connection. This reveals the power of relationships. We are better together. We become like Jesus better together. We impact the world more effectively together. Living all for Jesus is within your “oikos”, your household, your circle of influence, your relationships.
This week your prayer focus will be on who is in your “oikos”. Who are you influencing? Who do you know that needs the love, power, and forgiveness of Jesus?
Prayer focus: Make a top ten list of people you know that need to know Jesus. Begin to pray for them.
Prayer focus: Who are the people you see on a regular basis with whom you might share the love of Jesus? Ask God to open your eyes. Ask God to prepare their hearts.
Prayer focus: Are you prepared to share your “faith story”? If not, why? Tell your fears to Jesus.
Prayer focus: Take a few minutes and write out a prayer of thanksgiving for those relationships in your life.
Prayer focus: If you could see one person come to Jesus, who would that one person be? Pray for them.
Prayer focus: Are you concerned about the eternal destiny of those in your “oikos”?
Prayer focus: Think about the previous four weeks and personal holiness. Are there behaviors, attitudes, or reactions in your life that are barriers to people close to you coming to Jesus?
Week Six | November 24-30
Adversity will reveal your character and there is nothing more adverse than difficult people. In life you will encounter difficult people in every organization, movement, team, or church of which you are a part. As one writer said, “everybody is normal, until you get to know them.” I am keenly aware that the church is the fellowship of the broken. God puts difficult people into our lives to make us more loving.
A man was playing golf one day when he experienced the group in front of him playing super slow. They were waiting to tee off and growing more frustrated as they waited. His golf buddy, who was playing with this man reminded him, “Jesus died for those people as well”. An observation the man didn’t like, but his golf buddy was right. God loves people, even difficult ones. If He loves them, then so should I.
As you read this you might be thinking, “I don’t have any difficult people in my life.” If that is your thought maybe you are the difficult person in the lives of others, just saying.
People bring problems. People problems are often the most difficult ones to handle. What is troublesome is when difficulties arise from a trusted friend or that is caused by a beloved brother or sister. Those difficulties are the hardest to endure. If you are alive, you will experience difficult people. This week let’s focus on how to pray for the difficult people in our lives, even if that difficult person is you.
Prayer focus: Who are the people in your life who give you the most trouble? Pray for them.
Prayer focus: Is there resentment or bitterness that you need to take to Jesus?
Prayer focus: Is there an attitude of disunity in your heart?
Prayer focus: Some people require extra grace. How can you intentionally show these folks that extra grace?
Prayer focus: Titus 3:10 says, “warn a divisive person once or twice, after that have nothing to do with them for they are self condemned and warped.” That is harsh! Are there people in your life like that? Is it you?
Prayer focus: How can you be used by God to maintain unity in the church?
Prayer focus: As you gather with the church family, pray in advance that God will reveal to you those who need extra grace. Then give it to them!
Week Seven | December 1-7
This week we will use these four questions to guide our prayer time.... Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the right thing the right way? Am I doing the right thing the right way for the right reason? Am I doing the right thing the right way for the right reason with the right kind of love?
This will require a bit more intentional focus and self probing. It is time to go deeper into your heart regarding your relationships and your intentions. Don’t be afraid. Just go for it. There is a blessing waiting.
Prayer focus: Am I doing the right thing? Take a deeper look at what you are doing.
Prayer focus: Am I doing the right thing the right way? Take a deeper look at how you are doing things.
Prayer focus: Am I doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons? Take a deeper look at your motivation.
Prayer focus: Am I doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reason, with the right kind of love?
Prayer focus: What has Jesus taught you so far this week? Take time to write it down and pray through it.
Prayer focus: With whom will you share what you are learning?
Prayer focus: Look around you today and ask Jesus to show you who needs love and compassion. Then obey!
Week Eight | December 8-14
In every church, there are those “extra-grace-required people.” One music pastor had a defining encounter with one of those folks.
Sam, not his real name, came into his life like a whirlwind. He relocated to Jacksonville, Florida to learn a trade and begin life on his own. His family lived in South Florida. Sam came to Jacksonville with their blessing but little to no support.
Sam attended church, and it was clear that he was different but very sweet. He also turned out to be very needy. The music pastor was leading the choir and invited him to come and join. In those days the ability to sing was not required to be in the choir. Choirs were judged by their size and not their ability. His job was to turn a mob into a choir. Sam couldn’t sing. He was awful. He was loud. He was on the front row. It was really bad. However, he was faithful. Because choir was a low talent high commitment program Sam couldn’t be fired.
Not only could he not sing he was always hanging around. He would come to the office and sit for hours. He would call at all hours whether at home or at the office. He was just a pain. He was awkward, needy, and relationally challenged.
The music pastor tried to avoid him, but he would not be avoided. What this pastor didn’t realize was God was using Sam to build his character.
One day Sam arrived at the office and he had been beaten. The guys he was living with decided it would be fun to use him as a punching bag. He was in really bad shape. The music pastor took him to the doctor. He was not seriously injured but was afraid and betrayed.
The senior pastor was told what was going on. He then instructed the music pastor to reach out to Sam’s family, buy him a bus ticket, and send him home.
The music pastor admitted that he was not willing to do any of that. He was so over taking care of this guy. Sam had interfered with his family, job, and made the choir worse. The music pastor explained all of that to the senior pastor when the senior pastor said, “You need to do this.” The music pastor called Sam’s sister, loaded him up in the truck and took him to the bus station.
Although Sam was an inconvenience, he was very outgoing. He would talk to everybody. When they arrived at the station, the music pastor said in a very stern voice, “Now, sit there and keep your mouth shut. I am going to buy you a ticket home. The bus will arrive at that gate and you get on it. You had no business coming up here in the first place. I don’t know what your family was thinking.” On and on he went. Then, he realized that Sam was crying.
The music pastor thought, “Great now I’ve hurt his feelings”and asked him, “ Why are you crying?” Sam looked into his eyes and said. “You are my best friend. Nobody has ever loved me like you have. I am going to really miss you.”
Wow! The music pastor realized that he had been a total jerk. God had given him the gift of loving someone who was not loved by the world and all he could do was think about how inconvenient Sam had made his life. God was using a difficult person to teach him to be more loving. God broke the music pastor’s heart that day.
The music pastor bought Sam a ticket and sat with him until his bus arrived. He waved goodbye to Sam, but Sam stayed on his heart. Sam called later that night. He called the next day. He called everyday for a while. Through time and relocation, the pastor lost track of him, but he learned some valuable lessons. Sam was a gift.
This is the reality if you don’t love people, even difficult people you are not becoming like Jesus. Jesus said. “if you have done it to the least of these you have done it to me.” Sam was a least of these. So are each of us. We have been a “Sam” to someone at some point in life. How we love reveals to whom we belong.
Prayer focus: Who is your “Sam”?
Prayer focus: How can you show compassion to those around you? Make a plan and do it!
Prayer focus: Ask God to let you remember how it feels to be unloved, then use that remembrance to intentionally not let others feel that way.
Prayer focus: The greatest act of compassion is to share Jesus. Who do you know that you can share the love of Jesus with?
Prayer focus: People come to Jesus best on the arm of a trusted friend. Earn the right to share Jesus by actions of love.
Prayer focus: Who can you invite to join you at a church gathering or in your group? Make the ask!
Prayer focus: Ask Jesus to give you His eyes to see today as you love people like He does.
Section Three: Missional Renewal...what are we doing together?
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Week Nine | December 15-21
Every church has a guiding philosophy. It might not be stated, but there is something that drives every church. Some are driven by traditions, some by personalities, some by programs, some by buildings. The lack of a clearly-stated philosophy leads to confusion. There are churches who state their philosophy, but they don’t live it out or structure around it. They post it on their walls where it dies a dusty death.
First Baptist Church Uvalde has a clearly defined philosophy. We exist to glorify God by leading people to believe in Jesus, belong to Jesus’s family, and become like Jesus. We do this as we share the love Christ with others so that they might believe in Jesus. Next, we encourage people to belong to Jesus’s family through membership. Then, we encourage people to become more like Jesus by
- Growing deeper in Christ with fellow believers in a group
- Serving Jesus by serving others
- Sharing Jesus with others
This is a disciple making philosophy that is based on the the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. When we as a church understand why we exist, what we are doing, and how it is being done there is a security and a unity that prevails and binds us together for God’s glory.
This disciple-making process is as old as Jesus and His disciples. It is time to bring this biblical discipleship making process back into the life of the church.
I heard of a guy once who said he was going to be original or nothing. He was both! We don’t have to come up with something new. Let’s do what God has always called the church to do.
Prayer focus: Ask God to make this disciple philosophy clear to you.
Prayer focus: What do you think has been driving FBCU through these 137 years?
Prayer focus: Which aspect of our mission statement is most meaningful to you? Why? Why? Mission statement: We exist to glorify God by leading people to believe in Jesus, belong to Jesus’s family, and become like Jesus.
Prayer focus: Ask God to help you understand the “why” of the church.
Prayer focus: The Great Commandment says to love God and love people. How are you displaying the love of God and the love of people?
Prayer focus: The Great Commission says to “go into the world and preach the gospel”. How are you living this commandment out today?
Prayer focus: It is said you can tell the health of a church by singing and staying. If people sing loud and stay long a church is showing healthy signs. How are we doing? What can you do?
Week Ten | December 22-29
Adherence to sound doctrine is of the utmost importance. When we speak of sound doctrine we are talking about the basics of the faith. The inerrant truth of Scripture, belief in the Triune God, salvation by faith through grace, proper view of the church, clear missiology, sinfulness of people, the love of God, the security of the believer, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus as savior, sanctifier, healer, and coming king. The basic stuff.
If we allow doctrine to drift, we come off the rails as a people. When folks in the church begin to stray off sound teaching, fractions emerge and divisions surface. All it takes is one misguided leader to cause a group of people to be hurt and deceived.
There are doctrinal drifts like word of faith, prosperity, experiences trumping Scripture, returning to Jewish roots, salvation by works and not grace, legalism, progressive or liberal Christianity, and the like that damage the church.
We are committed to the Word of God. We hold to a high view of Scripture. Everything in the life of faith, and life itself, is validated by Scripture. God has revealed Himself through His Word. Sound doctrine matters.
There are many other beliefs that can be held that are not as important as the core essentials as mentioned above. In those areas of differences, we can and should show love and grace. We should be careful of legalism. We don’t require others to follow our personal convictions on grey issues. Our love for Christ and commitment to sound doctrine should lead to Christ-like character and love for others.
Prayer focus: Are you clear on doctrine? Does it matter?
Prayer focus: Do you think a high view of Scripture is necessary for church health?
Prayer focus: What area of doctrine is the most difficult for you to understand?
Prayer focus: How have you been influenced by doctrinal drift?
Prayer focus: How is what you believe affecting your behavior?
Prayer focus: If your behaviors are not changing according to match your beliefs, then do you really believe what you say you believe?
Prayer focus: Ask God to reveal to you how what you/we believe matters.
Week Eleven | December 29-January 4
What are you doing? What should you be doing? We need these questions to help us! In the middle of our ongoing adventure called life, we can and do get a bit off track. These gentle reminders help us stay the course and accomplish the assignments set before us. Focus is a big deal.
If your focus is stolen, so are your dreams. If your focus is stolen, then so is your vision. If your vision is stolen, you become blind to what God desires to do in, for, and through you.
That is why we need focus.
We believe that a great commitment to the Great Commandment, as found in Matthew 22, and the Great Commission, as found in Mathew 28, will grow a great church. This leadership axiom must be burned into our thinking.
Now, consider another commitment. A commitment to a Great Cause. The church, at large, has lost it focus and started down a dangerous road. There has to be change and a return to focus.
In Matthew 16, Jesus has a conversation with his disciples and he wants to have the same conversation with us. We are at the forefront of a great movement of church revitalization and there must be a return to God’s focus.
When Jesus had come to the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "who do people say that the Son of Man is?" "Well", they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets." Then he asked them, " But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "you are the Christ the Son of the living God!" Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you, you are Peter (which means rock), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
This is the Great Cause, the church. Matthew 22 gives us the Great Commandment. Matthew 28 gives us the Great Commission. Matthew 16 shows us the Great Cause! All for the glory of God! We are committed to building this church based on the Commandment and the Commission, now let’s give ourselves to the Great Cause. This will require focus!
Will we lean into the assignment of bringing renewal and revitalization to the church in North America? It could be said that the church has lost its focus. The church needs to hear the questions of What are you doing? What should you be doing? Some might suggest that the church has lost not only her focus but her way. The church has fallen and cannot get up.
But in the cause to which Christ calls there is a promise. Jesus said He will build his church and nothing can stand in her way. The church might have lost her focus, but Jesus has not lost His.
What does that mean, and what will that require of us? We must allow this passage to shape our thinking and return to the very core of Jesus's declaration about His church. Then we must act on that declaration and join Him in the cause. We must be serious about leading people to believe in Jesus, to belong to Jesus’s family, and to become like Jesus.
This is worth our lives!
Prayer focus: How has what you read affected your thinking?
Prayer focus: What has stolen your focus?
Prayer focus: What are you doing? What should you be doing?
Prayer focus: Did you know that 95% of churches in North America are plateaued or declining? How does that make you feel?
Prayer focus: In what ways, are we one of those churches?
Prayer focus: What is God saying to you about this situation?
Prayer focus: Do you long to see revival in God’s church?
Week Twelve | January 5-11
Your Christology will shape your Ecclesiology leading to your Missiology. In other words, how you view Jesus and His mission shapes your view and function of the church and therefore, shapes what the church should be about. Proper focus will realign vision and values to Jesus. Therefore, we must return to the mission of Jesus by having a clear Christology. This statement of Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?" is the launching point of clarity.
Jesus asked his disciples that day not to gain a clear picture of where they stood with him, he knew their hearts even when they didn’t know their own. Jesus asked this question to start them thinking in the right direction toward what he was really doing in the world.
This question is not somehow frozen in time and to only be answered by those who heard it that day. It is the question we must all answer. The answer to the question will shape not only our lives but our eternal destiny. The highest thoughts one can think are about God and the most important question one can answer is this question., “Who do you say that I am? Peter, said “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!” Have you answered the same? This is the question of clarity or better said focus.
Many churches are not asking this question as they gather. Fewer and fewer pastors and leaders are giving a clear call for people to accept Jesus as savior. If people attend church gatherings and are never confronted with the gospel, then what are we doing? Has the church shifted it’s focus from the mission of Jesus to an inward focus on serving church members? Has the church forgotten that the mission of Jesus was and is to seek and save the lost?
Jesus was very clear about His mission...to seek and save the lost...to bind up the broken hearted...to release captives...to proclaim the good news of salvation. He said this about himself when he preached in Nazareth. Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah, who some 400 years prior to Jesus wrote about Jesus. Isaiah’s prophecy is found in Isaiah 61.
We must and should be about the same focus. A clear Christology is to see Jesus as Savior. The God Man dying for our sins to redeem us from the fall of sin. The one who binds up, sets free, and proclaims freedom.
Jesus was so intentional that He asked this focus question and made His Great Cause statement at the very place of pagan worship. The location of Jesus’ declaration about the church is vital to understanding His mission.
Jesus took his disciples on a spiritual renewal retreat up in Caesarea Philippi. This beautiful place was the home of various pagan temples. Jesus intentionally took his disciples out of their comfort zone to teach them the nature of His rescue. Jesus didn’t come to comfort the convinced but to convert the pagan. At the pagan temple site at Caesarea Philippi there was a large crack in the cliff wall called “the gates of hell”. The ancient pagans believed that spirits and demons would pass through this crack to go in and out from the underworld. These same pagans would practice all manner of sexual perversions as acts of worship at this site.
The disciples knew what was going on at these temples and how these unclean pagans worshiped. They would not be caught dead at a place like this and here they were with Jesus in the very spot. Jesus challenged these arrogant and elite Jewish boys to reach the broken people, and He does the same to us. The church exists to be the hope of the world, not the safe place for the saved.
Jesus never intended His church to exist in comfort for her own leisure and pleasure but to be an army boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The church is to be about storming the gates of hell not holding down the fort! For many in the church they have never heard this. Have leaders given into maintenance and not advancement?
This is a raging battle! We must never forget we are at war. The war is spiritual and Satan wants to steal our focus. When we realize that we are at war, then we must decide if we are either a warrior or a refugee. Warriors run to the battle. Refugees run for cover and usually into a camp. Which are we? Which are you? The church of Jesus Christ was never to be a refugee camp but a base camp.
When the church fails to call men and women to the Savior, she has missed her orders and has lost her focus. When the church fails to help people to become like Jesus, she has lost her focus. When the church becomes a social club and not a movement, she has lost her focus. There are seasons of a person’s life where they need the comfort of a refugee camp. A refugee camp was never intended to be a permanent home. The church should never settle to keep people in a refugee camp.
In Rwanda, an evil government that lead to the genocide of over 1 million people was overthrown. The forces that brought down this nefarious rule were refugees. The rebel forces were living in Uganda and mounted the overthrow from a place of refuge. While in a place of safety, they planned the overthrow of evil. This group knew Rwanda was home, not a refugee camp. This is a great lesson in history.
As the church regains focus regarding the mission of Jesus, the church will discover that the mission of Jesus wasn’t just about salvation, the message was holistic. Jesus cares about the whole person. Jesus went about teaching, feeding, and healing.
The church should be about the same. The gospel void of social justice is incomplete and social justice void of the gospel is heretical. The church’s focus is to be on bringing people in, building people up, training people for ministry, sending them out as warriors thus these newly converted people will become “the oaks of “righteousness” as described in Isaiah 61.
Prayer focus: How did this reading affect your thinking?
Prayer focus: Are you a warrior or a refugee?
Prayer focus: Are you on mission with Jesus?
Prayer focus: How do you need to adjust?
Prayer focus: How do we need to adjust?
Prayer focus: We are in the middle of a sermon series called “First Life”. How are the teachings shaping your thinking and behaviors?
Prayer focus: Who do you know that needs rescuing?
Section Four: What Now?
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
Week Thirteen | Janaury 12-18
There is an amazing discussion between Peter and Jesus found in John 21. Peter is fresh off his denial and has returned to fishing. Jesus goes after him.
While Jesus serves breakfast, He asks Peter if he loves Him. Peter responds in a casual fashion. Peter says “I love you like a brother.” Now that’s nice. Peter loves Jesus like a brother. Peter just ratted Jesus out three times, and he is giving that soft answer. Come on Peter, man up and admit that you blew it.
Jesus asked again, “Do you love me?” Peter takes the soft route again. Really? Jesus is about to give Peter the assignment of changing the world and Peter is playing games.
Jesus asks a third time, “Do you love me more than these?” This time Peter gets his feelings hurt. What is wrong with you Peter? This is the risen Lord who is assigning you to feed his sheep and you get your feelings hurt. Peter then does what we normally do; he drags someone else into the sticky situation. He asks Jesus, “What about John? Mister goody two shoes over there, the beloved disciple, what about him?” Instead of sprinting back into Jesus arms, asking to be forgiven and restored, Peter plays it cool. He tries to shift focus and even shirk his assignment.
Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter, and He will not give up on us! Jesus will chase you down, call you out, forgive your sins, heal your soul and send you out to change the world. It is not how you start but how you finish!
Something happened between the breakfast on the beach and the day of Pentecost. What happened was that Jesus restored Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit. He became the rock he was destined to be. Peter went from being a refugee to becoming a warrior!
The comeback of Peter proves that nothing can separate us from God's love, not even our brokenness. Read what Paul said, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38–39).
Prayer focus: What is next for you as you live all for Jesus?
Prayer focus: What is next for this church?
Prayer focus: What needs to change in me, in us?
Prayer focus: What intentional actions are you taking to “feed Christ’s sheep?”
Prayer focus: Are you committed to serving Christ by serving others?
Prayer focus: Who do you know that needs to be brought in, built up, trained for, and sent out?
Prayer focus: Today, spend special time praying for those who need Jesus.
Week Fourteen | January 19-25
The Congo, in 1890, was a dangerous place for missionaries. In spite of the dangers a group of young missionaries set out to bring the gospel to these unreached people. Five families set out from upstate New York to take the gospel to the people of the Congo. Within two months of their arrival in the Congo, they all died. All of them!
When word reached their home sending agency that all the families had died, fifteen more missionary families stepped up, packed their belongings in their coffins, and headed to the Congo.
Today one of the largest movements of the church is in the Congo. The Congolese church is living all for Jesus in spite of difficulties and poverty. Because 15 missionaries made a decision to live for the glory of God, millions in the Congo and as a result, throughout Africa have come to Christ. These few took the great risk. They chose not to live for themselves but for the gospel.
When we live only for ourselves we can think the blessings of God are our comfort and prosperity. We are blessed when good things happen. These brave missionaries believed that the blessing of God was to do the will of God. Although they lost their lives, they gained much more in the true light of eternity.
When we live all for Jesus, blessings are found in pleasing Him. We are to be persons of the “deeper life.” We must choose to live for the Lord.
When we choose to live all for Jesus we can expect adversity. In any movement of God, there will be adversity. “The road to greatness is paved with adversity.” It is true. When we choose to live all for Jesus, we can expect trouble. The first group of missionaries didn’t expect to die. But die they did. The next group expected to die, but found life in the decision to die to themselves.
As we move forward in this new day of the church, and of our own lives, will we choose to live as if we will never die and die to ourselves to live for Jesus? Let’s hope so. In spite of adversity, personal discomfort, trials, or heartache, the apostle Paul was correct when he said, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
This is our last week in this 99-day adventure. Now it is time to move forward in faith. This coming weekend we will have a great celebration. This is your opportunity to invite your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to “come and see.” It is our prayer that we as a church and you as a Christ follower will never be the same. 99 days has shaped you, shaped us...all for the glory of God!
Prayer focus: What has God taught you during these 99 days?
Prayer focus: What do you think God has been teaching us as a church?
Prayer focus: How are you going to live differently?
Prayer focus: How has adversity shaped your life to be more like Jesus?
Prayer focus: What does the “deeper life” mean to you? Ask Jesus to take you deeper.
Prayer focus: Make a list of lessons learned and prayers answered during this adventure.
Prayer focus: There is no going back! God has changed your life and your perspective. It is time to thank Him!
We took an intentional journey into the heart of personal, relational, and missional renewal. Journeys of this sort have no end. They launch another adventure. It is my prayer that you will never be the same, that this church will never be the same.
May it echo in our hearts and in our halls... For the glory of God! We will live for Him!