The Weekly PowerBreak – “Did Jesus really mean it?”

Jesus seemed very serious about being “all in” when it comes to following Him or serving Him. Take a look at the following and see what you think:

Luke 9:23 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:62 (ESV) — 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 14:25–33 (ESV) — 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

What does a true follower of Jesus Christ look like?

He or she looks like someone who is totally sold out to Him. After all, to be saved is to look to Him as “Lord,” which means sovereign ruler or the one who has complete charge over you as in He is the Master and you are the servant.

Romans 10:8–10 (ESV) — 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

OK, then what does Jesus say about following Him?

First, it’s costly – you are to deny yourself. That means as you are planning your schedule and managing your time, you deny what you want on His behalf.

Secondly, there is the taking up your cross, whatever it is in your life that is difficult, you use to honor Him by dying to self and living to Him.

Thirdly, you are not to keep looking back or around for that matter and thinking about what you are missing in life. When Lot’s wife looked back at what she had left in Sodom, she turned to a pillar of salt. Jesus makes it known you can’t move forward in serving Him by looking back.

Fourthly, Jesus made it clear you are to count the cost before following Him. Too many don’t count the cost and they quit when things get rough. When you go to countries where Christians are persecuted, you’ll find that people who follow Christ know exactly the cost. They know that following Jesus will likely mean prison, beating, and probably death BUT they are glad to do it because they have counted the cost.

Fifthly, Jesus said unless you are willing to renounce all that you have you haven’t really stepped out to follow Him.

He’s not asking you to follow Him out of convenience but follow Him sacrificially. Can you truly say your life demonstrates one who is following Christ in that manner or are you holding back, serving Him when it’s convenient? He is calling for a life of continual sacrifice.

Speaking of sacrifice, notice how the apostle Paul calls followers of Christ to make a sacrifice:

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The passage above is a call to offer yourself to be consumed by the Lord Jesus Christ because it’s only reasonable when you consider all that has gone into your salvation. Otherwise if you are not consumed by Christ as a totally sold out follower, you’ll be consumed by the world and you don’t want that.

So, what is it going to be? Half-hearted service or an “all in” follower of Christ.

Consider these examples:

Mark 1:16–20 (ESV) — 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John were successful professional fisherman. Jesus called and immediately they left what they were doing and followed Jesus. That is what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, “all in.”

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

The Weekly PowerBreak – “Participating In Holy Combat”

We sometimes balk at the phrase, “prayer warrior,” because we have lost sight of what happens when we pray so when we hear that phrase we think the person thinks they are at war with God in prayer. And if you hear the way some people pray or talk about prayer it seems like they are at war with God as they make demands and seem to tell God what to do. On the other hand, “prayer warrior” seems quite adequate when we consider the part of prayer in spiritual warfare.

Ephesians 6:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

It sounds pretty clear that our battles in life involve much more than we can see or touch because it’s a spiritual battle. Once a person is blessed by God to receive a new heart, one that fears God and is submissive to Him, he/she is a new creation, enjoying the blessing of the “saved” and the assurance of victory in the battles of life as the gift of faith is applied with the tools that God has given us to fight the spiritual battle throughout life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) — 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

1 John 5:4–5 (ESV) — 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

With what do we fight the spiritual warfare?

Ephesians 6:14–17 (ESV) — 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

You will notice the above is all defensive armor, with the exception of the word of God, about which I shall consider in a moment. Look again at the list but first the imperative to “stand” that simply means be ready to hold your ground. The point being if you are not working at holding your ground you will be pushed around in this spiritual battle. But remember you are not standing on your own strength and power, it is the power of God that enables you to stand and keeps you while you put forth the effort to hold your ground. Notice then the call for effort in applying the battle suit of armor. There’s the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the Gospel, shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. You’ll notice that the armor does not cover the back since you’re to hold your ground or advance, not turn and run from the enemy. Don’t stop there. There are two pieces of the Christian armor that are offensive which are as affective as the stones in David’s sling as he slew Goliath. The offensive weapons are the word of God and prayer.

Ephesians 6:17–20 (ESV) — 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Did you realize the more you are in God’s word, the more you are attacking the powers of darkness in the world, the flesh, and the devil? Remember when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil and each time Jesus’ weapon of warfare against temptation was the word of God. No wonder the Psalmist said the word of God will keep you from sin.

Psalm 119:11 (ESV) — 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Along with the word of God, the other offensive weapon against the powers of darkness is prayer. Too many times we act like prayer is almost a useless activity because it seems so meek to humbly seek for God’s grace and favor. Did you realize however, that when God’s people pray they are actually “reigning on the earth?”

Revelation 5:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

This is the song of the redeemed to the Lamb of God, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom they have been ransomed from eternal damnation and have been made a kingdom of priests that reign on the earth. What do priests do? They represent others before God. How do they reign? God uses the prayers of His people to bring about His sovereign plan and because they can pray anywhere, at any time, under any condition, and no one can stop them, they are reigning upon the earth.

No wonder then we are told the prayers of the saints come as sweet incense to God and are a vital part of worship.

Revelation 5:6–8 (ESV) — 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Now that should enliven your prayer life!

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

The Weekly PowerBreak – “Almost Won’t Cut It”

It was a feeling of frustration for a four-year-old boy, who every time he visited his grandmother, longed to be in the school playground behind her house. The playground seemed within easy reach. However, a six-foot chain link fence appeared to be the monster for a four-year-old that kept him from his heart’s desire. One day the boy could take it no more.  He overcame his fear and climbed the fence. Straining to get to the top, he pulled himself up, put one leg over, paused for just a brief moment, and got stuck on the top of the fence. Sitting on the top allowed the rough edges of the metal chain link to puncture his jeans and being unable to untangle himself and getting more frightened by the height with each passing moment, he did what any four-year-old would do.  “Help! Help”, he screamed. When his father came to his rescue, his father’s words were simply, “Son, go one way or the other, but don’t just sit there.”

As I said later in life when recalling this event, “I don’t know how many times that happened before I got enough sense to not stop half way but just keep going when I hit the half-way point!”

It’s like that in life.  We get all enthused about a course of action we are going to take, take some initial steps, even make some progress toward our goal when it hits us that we aren’t there yet, and we get discouraged. The advice is the same as my father gave to me while sitting on the fence, “Son, go one way or the other, but don’t just sit there.”

The Bible is clear that fence sitting – straddling between believing God and moving forward and stifled by unbelief just doesn’t cut it with God.

James 1:5-8 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

It’s like the picture in the Old Testament when Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  Once they hit the half-way point, the opposition came out and discouragement set in.

Nehemiah 4:6-7 (ESV) 6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.

It’s a matter of keeping our focus on the finish line and not stopping until it is reached.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Half-way won’t cut it. We can’t just sit there half committed. If we are going to finish the course, it takes discipline to just keep going. If we see we have made a mistake in the course, then stop, turn around (the Bible calls this repenting), and begin a new course of action. It’s that simple.

Our problem is like the problem the boy had in the story, when we stop and relax in our progress we often get stuck half way, making it very difficult to go one way or the other.  To keep this from happening to you today, don’t just sit there straddling the fence, leaning one way or the other, get going or go back and try something different.

Joshua put it this way:

Joshua 24:14–15 (ESV) — 14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

 

The Weekly PowerBreak – “The Battle with Self Sabotage”

There could be a variety of reasons behind a person missing the mark, seeming to sabotage what they are doing or the direction they are going. Sometimes a person is trying to live up to expectations to which they have not really been called. Others advanced way beyond their level of faith and the future looks scary. I have seen cases where a person seemed to be more given to the sin of sloth which becomes a means to self-sabotage to true progress in life.

In the case of Jeremiah, the prophet, he was discouraged when his faith was tested by the way God was handling things, so he expressed his dismay to God.

Jeremiah 12:1 (ESV) — 1 Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?

Of course, this action was really a kind of self-sabotage to his ministry because as a spokesman for God he needed to believe God and trust Him; therefore, God challenged him to consider his complaint.

Jeremiah 12:5 (ESV) — 5 “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?”

What a great challenge! If you are really called to something, the small challenges become a proving ground to advance, not a means to give up. Jeremiah had a much superior calling to bring a great message to an even larger number of people.

What little thing has you tripped up in life and why is that getting to you? Is it a lack of faith? Is it the sin of being slothful? God often uses the little areas of our lives to test us and prepare us for the next level. God proves His people through testing and when we prove faithful, He is glorified as He entrusts us with greater responsibility.

Luke 16:10–13 (ESV) — 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Mark it down that God is constantly testing and challenging all of us. As He does, He is giving us opportunities to overcome whatever tendency we have that is sabotaging what He is doing in our lives. How great to come to the end of the way and know you did not give in and quit but kept fighting through each difficulty or challenge proving yourself faithful.

2 Timothy 4:7–8 (ESV) — 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker

 

The Weekly PowerBreak – “Laboring To Rest”

Have you ever had one of those nights when you thought you were tired but couldn’t get to sleep because your mind was really active? Or you woke up in the middle of the night but couldn’t get back to sleep because you thought of one thing after another? Although the application is entirely different, the words of Hebrews 4:11 sound applicable, “let us therefore strive to enter that rest…”

Hebrews 4:11 (ESV) — 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

There is a plethora of studies that show the need for sleep and the benefits of getting a good night of sleep, yet a common complaint among the young and the old is how tired everyone is and how they long for good rest. Perhaps the words from the book of Ecclesiastes would apply to our society that seems to value comfort and ease over anything that would be least considered hard work or labor.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

So maybe our lack of rest is because we focus on the “easy life,” and take advantage of all the gadgets and devices that make life easier. Whereas, working hard physically will help us get a good night of rest, so does a labor or striving to do what is necessary helps us get proper rest. Things like going to bed at a decent hour, turning off devices long enough to calm our minds, proper hygiene, room temperature, keeping out light, etc. help to assure proper physical rest.

On the spiritual side, the words of Hebrews 4:11 teach us that entering into the rest that God promises, takes effort – not to earn it, but to submit to find it.

Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV) — 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

When Jesus, by the working of the Holy Spirit in your heart calls you to “come,” you will find the promised rest when you respond, when you apply yourself to walking along beside Him, yoked together if you please, and apply yourself to learning from Him. Naturally speaking, a person would not even care about coming to Christ, walking along beside Him, nor learning from Him but those who are laboring under the heavy load of trying to find a way to please God because inside they know they need to please Him, then the Gospel message of the finished work of Christ in reconciling us to God by His work, brings us joy in knowing there is a promised rest. So why don’t we find that promised rest? Because we actually work at things that will not satisfy that longing which is like the way we work at staying up late trying to pack in all we can in a day and wonder why we can’t sleep at night.

Isaiah 55:1–2 (ESV) — 1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

What should we do?  Simply stop and assess your situation. Like the need for physical sleep and rest if not satisfied will run us into the ground, so the need for spiritual rest will likewise rob us of our joy in the Lord. The answer is found in striving or doing whatever it takes to come to Him, to walk with Him, and to learn from Him. The result is rest for your soul. Wouldn’t that be a delight?

Godspeed,

Bob Brubaker