Discipleship


jesus walks on waterRemember the story of Jesus walking on the water taken from the Gospels?  In Mark’s account of the story, Jesus doesn’t invite Peter to come out on to the water but rather he intends to walk past the disciples who are in the boat.

I often puzzle over the entire incident.  This story reeks of magic, an illusion, a trick.  Of course, I know that this was a miracle but what was the purpose?  In recent months I’ve seen there are several explanations.  First, water walking was the quickest way to get across the lake.

The second was that Jesus wanted to get the attention of the disciples to teach them a lesson.  That is pretty reasonable to me.  After all, at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the presenter will use an attention-getting device before the devotional actually begins.  If you’ve taken any preaching courses or courses regarding public speaking, you know that attention-getting is a time-honored technique used by successful preachers and other presenters.  However, Jesus had already gotten the attention of his disciples.  That afternoon he had fed about 20,000 people with almost no food.  They were already impressed.

The third reason kind of coincides with and combines the first two reasons.  Perhaps Jesus wanted to his followers to understand in a concrete way that they could depend on God to do miracles in even the simplest areas of their lives.  He knew they were straining to row the boat in the storm.  He came the quickest and shortest way possible.  He got on the boat and calmed the storm.

jesus calms stormA few weeks earlier, he had calmed a storm and rebuked the disciples because he was asleep on the boat.  “Didn’t you know I was in the boat?” he had asked them.  This time there was no rebuking.  There was calmness.

Within the intellectually disabled community, there is a woeful lack of self-esteem.  Most of our members carry with them the stigma of their disability.  While professionals and parents do a wonderful job of helping them to understand their worth as a human being, only God can give a holy understanding of who we are to him, without the lousy side effects of self-pride.  The disciples experienced a miracle in the middle of a common storm in the life of a fisherman.  Even if our only disability is stubbornness, God wants us to understand that we can also experience miracles in our lives. During the daily storms of life,  He loves us enough to come along side our vessel and calm the storm.

Have you seen God work miracles in the lives the people to whom you minister?  Has God done a miracle for you?

350px-GW_BridgeAs a Special Gathering member sat on the George Washington Bridge that links New Jersey to New York City, she and her parents were irritated.   A terrible traffic jam was delaying their tour of the World Trade Center.  They had planned to be in the building before 9AM so that they could avoid the people coming to work.  Instead the three of them sat on the bridge like many of the employees who worked in the famous building.

The date was September 11, 2001 and that traffic jam saved their lives.

There are occasions that miracles appear as negative influences or occasions interrupting our lives and plans.  Later, we realize that God was working out these things for our good by allowing us to be caught in a traffic jam, to miss a plane or to forget an important appointment.

I’ve lost several “dream jobs” by a whisper because of one unavoidable circumstance or another. Yet, my true dream job was planned in the future when the Lord introduced me to The Special Gathering and our amazing members.

Paul and King AgrippaThe Bible shares many times that God works miracles through negative circumstances.  Paul was arrested and stayed in prison for several years paving his passage to Rome. Through the rough years when he remained behind bars, he encountered kings and governors who would have been out of his reach as a missionary.

While it’s hard to sit patiently in stalled traffic and even harder to imagine lost opportunities for advancement and promotion, we can be sure that if we have placed our lives in the hands of a faithful and loving Father, He can turn these negative experiences into megative miracles.

calming story

In the fourth chapter, Mark records a miracle that astounds the followers of Jesus.  In fact, their perplex reaction makes this encounter noteworthy to many observers and critics.

The men were traveling by boat across the unpredictable and often tempestuous Sea of Galilee when a terrible storm blew over the waters.  The men were concerned for their lives; but Jesus slept in the front of the boat.  They woke Jesus and rebuked him, “Is it nothing to you that we are going to die?”

Once awake, Jesus spoke to the wind and waves and told them to be calm.  The weather obeyed his command immediately.  The wind stopped and the sea became as smooth as glass.

Recording their reaction, Mark writes the disciples were terrified by Jesus and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him.”

When Jesus slept in the front of the boat, the men felt apprehension.  In fact, Jesus uses the word that means timid, cowardly  or fearful to describe their fear.

However, after Jesus calms the storm, Mark describes their emotions.  He says they were “greatly terrified.”  The two Greek words used in the manuscript could be translated “had a holy reverence to the point of terror.”

After seeing the strength of Jesus’ power to mold circumstances and events to his will, the Son of God’s companions were more afraid of their Master than of losing their lives.  There will be miracles in our lives that will demonstrate God’s awesome power in such a magnificent way that we will mutely stand more terrified of God than the circumstance that lead to the revelation of His might.

At that moment in time, we stand in amazed wonder acutely aware of our own finite existence contrasted with God’s magnificent ability to bend time, space and nature.

on kneesWhen was the last time, you knew of anyone who was terrified by the awesomeness and power of  God? Too often, we trivialize the work and omnipotence of God.  Yet, there is a transforming, supernatural authority which can throw us instantly to our knees in holy terror.

 

photo by michaelwalden.com

Paul arrestedA Good Man’s Faith

Central Theme:  God uses faith to accomplish his will in our lives.

You know about Jesus from Nazareth, that God gave him the Holy Spirit and power.  You know how Jesus went everywhere doing good and healing those who were ruled by the Devil, because God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

 Introduction—There are many things in our lives that we think we cannot control.  As I first typed this message on Microsoft Word, I worked on the format for almost 2 hours.  It’s an upgraded program and it does lots of things I don’t want it to do.  I seems to have no control.  But I can learn how to use the new program and then I’ll be able to make it do what I need.  There is one key to living a good life—that is faith in God.  Have a member read Acts 10:38

I.    Paul came to Jerusalem to tell the elders of the church the great things God was doing wherever the gospel was taught.   (Acts 21:15-36; 22:30-23:10).

A.    The elders were happy but they wanted Paul to do something to prove that he was not teaching Jewish people to forget about following the law.  They told Paul to take four other men and perform a seven-day cleansing ceremony with them.

B.    At the end of the seven days, some people from Asia recognized Paul and they started a riot.  It was terrible.  The Jews were trying to kill Paul.

C. The Romans came to stop the riot.  They had no idea what had happened. So the arrested Paul.  But Paul said that he did the things he were prescribed in the Bible and they were right to do them.

II.    Paul had done the right thing.  He had obeyed the people God put over him. But he STILL got in trouble.  Now he was in jail and all he did was obey.

A.    We expect to get in trouble when we do wrong.  But there have been times that we do the right thing and we still get in trouble.

B.    I was the president of an organization once.  My board made a decision I didn’t agree with but it was my job to carry it out their decision.  The right thing to do was to do what my board said.  But it was an unpopular decision and many people got angry with me.  The odd part was that my board who were the people who made the decision were the main people who got angry with me.

III.    Paul did not blame anyone.  He saw it as part of God’s plan for him.

A.    God’s plan may be different from our plan but God is always right.

1.   Think about Jesus’ life and death.

2.   People still don’t understand why God chose to have Jesus born and die the way he did.  But it was God’s plan and God was right.

Conclusion—There will be bad things that will happen in your life.  You may be asked to do something by a person who is over you.  Then you could get in trouble for doing it.  Remember God’s plan isn’t our plan and we should do what we think is right.

photo by freebibleimages.org

When Gabriel visited the elderly priest, Zachariah, in the Holy Place of the Temple, he came to announce a miracle birth.  Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife, was well past the age of child bearing.  Yet, she would give birth to a boy and he would be named John.

Abraham and Sarah were given a similar announcement.  Samson’s parents stood before God too old to have children.  Hannah could not conceive but the Prophet Eli told her that she would have a child.  Mary was a virgin.

While every child born is not a miracle but most are born as a result of the natural course of God’s design and laws, the Bible records many children who had miraculous births.  For each of us, these miracles speak of God’s ability to break though in miraculous ways in our lives–long past the time that WE believed that our prayer should or could be answered.

In ancient Israel, children were considered your heritage.  While this is still true today, the present-day world system is much more concerned with temperal acqusition than leaving a legacy.  Measuring today’s values, only presidents and people with international significance worry about heritage and legacies.

Even though, this may not be God’s plan for our lives, it is a fact of the temperal system in which we find ourselves.  As a result, when we look at the miraculous births recorded in the Bible, we are given the promise of prayers being answered long after their expiration date.

Many of the miracles in our lives are answered prayers that were prayed decades before and placed in heavenly containers to become great and significant miracles in our lives.  Don’t despair when your prayer seems to be hitting some hollow void in the heavenlies.  God is not deaf.  He may not even be delaying.

God may be preparing you for a marvelous miracle to appear one distant day in your future.  Get ready!  Your miracle is on the way.

storm

It is a popular misconceptions that most miracles happen in our bodies.  While many of them do happen in connection within our bodies.  In reality, most miracles happen within the natural world.

Derek Prince often told about a miracle that happened during World War II.  One evening the prayer group he attended prayed for a particular battle that was being fought in North Africa.  It was thought that the tides of war would turn if this battle could be won by the Allied forces.  The next day, it was reported that the Allies had decidedly fought back the Axis and gained victory in this battle.  This was a miracle achieved through prayer.

storm babiesIn 2004, as their home was being totally destroyed as Hurricane Jeanne slammed into the coastline of Central Florida, the family gathered in a small inner room and prayed.  Miraculously, the house was destroyed; yet, one room was spared.  It was the room in which the family gathered to pray.

On April 3, 1974, when a category 5 tornado ravaged Xenia, Ohio.  A widow took refuge in a small closet under the staircase of her home.  She cried out to the Lord that He spare her life.  She understood that her home could be replaced; but this widow believed that she still had a work to do for the Lord.  It was a miracle that her entire house was shredded into pieces.  Only the staircase and that small closet remained at the end of the day.

A young man was diagnosed with an incurable disability.  His father was in the Air Force in Hawaii.  The entire family prayed.  Friends prayed.  Taking their son to the doctor on base, they found that the doctor who was assigned to their son’s case was the only doctor who was known to be an expert in treating their son’s disease.  Under this doctor’s care, the young man made a complete recovery from the disability.

It appears that God repeatedly and meticulously creates events that are beyond understanding and comprehension.  There is no other explanation, except that there was a miracle of God.

It is often said that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.  That is a great rule to follow, except when God decides to break His own rules and give us a miracle.

jassmineGod is Patient

II Peter 3:9

Central Theme: God is patient with everyone.

Introduction– I had purchased a new jasmine vine that that I brought to show. My other vine was killed in a hurricane.  It took me a long time to replace it because I was really sad that the other one  died.  It had grown so large that it was a shelter for my back yard. Do you think a man of God should be more concerned about a dead plant than he is a city like Vero Beach  or Melbourne, Florida?  (Insert your city.)

I. Have a member read II Peter 3:9

  1. Tell the story of Jonah.
  2. Show a dead plant.
  3. Jonah wanted God to kill all the people in the city on Ninavah. But he was so angry he wanted to die rather than live because his vine had died.   (Jonah 4)

II. God is patient with everyone.

  1. He does not want anyone to have an unhappy life or die without Him.
  2.           A. There was a time that I got angry with some people who were gossiping about me.  There were actually times I wanted them to die.
  3.           B. God helped me to love them because He loves them.
  4. This is how God will help me to be patient with people, especially people who are being hateful to me.

A. God helps me remember that God loves that person as much as he loves me.
B.  God  helps me find out good things about that person.
C. God  helps me think good thoughts about the person when he or she is not with me.  I find that we usually like people when we are with them.  But we will think bad thoughts when there are not with us.

a. Many times when they are not with us, we think about what the people did or said.  Then we get angry.

Conclusion–God is patient and he can help me to be patient with other people.

Next Page »