A Movement Is A Series Of Sparks

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” – 2 Timothy 2:2.

There is no experience like going to church camp and gathering around a blazing campfire with other kids. The kids would chat and eventually somebody would start to strum their guitar and the group would sing songs. One popular song in years past was “Pass It On.” It was a simple, campfire-type song about starring a fire. 

It only takes a spark to get a fire going

And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing

That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it

You spread His love to ev’ryone you want to pass it on

Sparks are small but that doesn’t mean they stay small. One spark can result in a blazing, destructive fire. But the spark in Pass It On is entirely different in that it is positive and potentially life-giving. Some sparks may seem small. They may be done in relative obscurity in the context of our normal lives. It may seem like what we do is little and thus not really very important. But ultimately the gospel is spread one spark at a time. Our sparks may be small, but they are part of a worldwide movement in God in every part of the globe.

It only takes a tiny spark to ignite a fire and it only takes one individual filled with the Spirit of God to ignite others into becoming followers of Christ. It was one man, John the Baptist, who saw Jesus passing by and proclaimed, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! ” (John 1:29) Two of His disciples, Andrew and Peter responded to Jesus’ call and began to follow Him. Jesus eventually had 12 disciples. Those 12 developed into seventy disciples who went out to the villages. From the 70 (Luke 10:1) came 120 (Acts 1:15) and on the day of Pentecost, that number burst through the roof to 3,000. (Acts 2:41)  In Acts 4:4, we read 5,000 came to believe. 

The Christian gospel is the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the two thousand years since, the account of Jesus’ victory over sin and death has been embraced by hundreds of millions of people.  Each of us who are followers of Jesus are beneficiaries of this ripple effect of the gospel.  We are asked to do our part to continue the ripple. It only takes a spark for God to cause a ripple through our communities.  

In our lives, we all know people that from the outside look unlikely to turn to God. However, on the inside, they are desperately longing for someone to tell them about Jesus. All they need is a spark.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways we can be a spark in our communities? 
  2. How can you be a spark in someone’s life this week. 

Philip And The Eunuch

So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.” – Acts 8:35

Imagine for a moment during a Sunday worship service, an out-of-the-blue thought enters your mind. And it stays there. You need to leave the church service and walk to a nearby Waffle House. It’s not that you lack focus on the sermon or you suddenly crave some hash browns, smothered and covered. No, this is a direction from the Holy Spirit. As you enter the Waffle House, you notice an open seat next to a strangely dressed person. You immediately assume he is not from around here.  His head is buried deep in a book, and as he looks up with puzzlement on his face, he turns to you and asks, “I don’t get this. What does John 3:16 mean anyway?”

The Holy Spirit has set up the perfect opportunity for you to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a stranger. In Acts 8 we read about the Holy Spirit calling Philip from success in Samaria, where many are won to Christ, to a lonely desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza. To this point, the good news of Jesus has been preached to crowds, and conversion has happened to many at a time. Now, we see how God uses Philip to save one man—and not any man but an Ethiopian eunuch, from a land far away.  

In Acts 8:29 the Spirit says, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” The Holy Spirit does not tell Philip why, or who is in the carriage.  Philip hears the Ethiopian reading out loud the book of Isaiah. “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.” (Isaiah 53:7–8).

Now Philip knows why the Lord directed him to this desolate place where there is one lone chariot and man from Ethiopia. Philip proclaimed the good news of Jesus to him, the Ethiopian believed, was baptized (v. 38) along the road, and went on his way rejoicing (v. 39). 

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch teaches us one of the ways God uses us to evangelize the world. It’s what one does if one loves Jesus and loves people. You tell the good news. The Ethiopian eunuch shows us that through the power of the Holy Spirit with the good news of Jesus Christ, God will radically save even the most unlikely.

When God calls you to move, to act, or to share – will you? Philip did and a man’s life was changed for eternity.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We can trust in God’s foreknowledge to align people, situations, and events that present us with opportunities to share the gospel with those whose hearts are ready to receive. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. It’s important to have a solid biblical foundation, a knowledge of Scripture, and how it all points to Jesus, if we’re going to be Spirit-filled and evangelize our neighbors. Agree or disagree and why? 

The Jesus Model

“… Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14-15

When we look at Jesus’s life and ministry we see the greatest evangelist that ever was or ever will be.  He was the light of the world. He was the one who in every moment of His life for thirty-three years filled every word He spoke with grace and truth. We would do well to imitate Him in everything we do, including going out amongst the lost. 

His passion is for us to be in the world as He was in the world; to imitate Him and to love and to serve non-Christians. His desire is that we be like Him and that we commit ourselves to develop intimate relationships with non-Christians. Jesus intended for His disciples to make disciples. Or in other words to multiply His life in the life of others. That’s what happened in the early church. (Acts 6.7 ESV) says, “…the Word of God continued to increase and number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem….” 

But how do we go about going out amongst the lost? We can learn from what Jesus did. We can learn first from how Jesus related to people. Jesus connected with people on a personal basis. He was loving, caring, and treated people with dignity. He built strong relationships with people, yet, He never watered down the truth. Jesus was passionate; He made a conscious effort to enter into and participate in people’s lives. He regularly dined in people’s homes and attended wedding feasts; He met people from all walks of society. When He was criticized for eating in the company of tax collectors and sinners, Jesus pointed out, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:17). Clearly, Jesus associated with the spiritually lost in order to save them. He cared for the lost. He never tired of bringing the Gospel to people. 

Jesus directed the conversation toward spiritual things. It is good for us to interact with those we meet, but simply being friendly and talking to people will not save them. The gospel is God’s power to save: “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16). If we are to have success in reaching the lost, we must eventually turn our conversations with them toward spiritual things.  

We can learn a whole lot about going out amongst the lost from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You and I, of course, are not the only people in the world that Jesus loves and cares for. He came to save all people. The Bible says that “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 2:2) Jesus had so much to give and He gave it all for us. It is our job to go out amongst the lost and give it to them. 

Discussion questions:

  1. What does going out amongst the lost mean to you?  
  2. What can we do this week to imitate Jesus model for evangelism? 

Getting Out Of The Holy Huddle

“For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” –Romans 10:13-15.

If we are not careful, Christianity can be practiced in the midst of our “holy huddles.” For those of you who don’t know, the term holy huddle is defined as, “the tendency for Christians to surround themselves with other believers.”  Oftentimes Christians perpetuate this self-imposed insulation by purposely segregating themselves into holy huddles with other believers in the church and outside of the church. As a result, believers have few if any deep friendships with unbelievers.

Without even realizing it, we can fill our days with tons of Christian activity, but never once step out to engage with someone who isn’t in the family of God. We have the best of intentions. We meet for small group here, a prayer meeting there, and next thing we know our calendar is filled with holy huddles. We need to remember that Jesus “…came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10) and He calls us to do the same.  

Before you think otherwise, community with other believers is critically important and necessary for the believer who wants to grow spiritually. Meeting with other believers is a great way to be encouraged, refreshed, and challenged. Hebrews 10:24-25 is just one of many verses on the importance of meeting with other believers: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” But it is not the end-all for your Christian experience. We were saved to save. Forgiven to forgive. Loved to love. We are the light of the world. The living breathing testimony that God is real and His love is powerful. Everything that we have been given was always meant to be given away. God has placed you amongst people who don’t know Him yet. God’s plan to save them is us. 

In Romans 10:13-15, Paul tells us the way someone far from God draws close to Him, is if someone close to God goes far to reach them. The people in our life may never hear about Jesus if we don’t have the boldness to leave our comfort zone to tell them.

But do you have what it takes to reach the lost? The answer is yes. Jesus has already given believers everything they need to not only share the Good News but also to be effective witnesses of His power, authority, mercy, and love. What’s more, as His disciples, He’s given us instructions on how to go about this even in the face of adversity. So what can you do to intentionally love the lost people in your life? What friendships can you pour into, what groups can you spend time with, what habits can you set up, so that you are regularly seeking out and loving on the lost?  Find some time to escape the holy huddle to talk to the people in your life who don’t know Him yet.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who do I spend most of my time with?
  2. How often do I make an effort to make relationships with people who don’t know God?

Going The Extra Mile

” If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” –  Matthew 5:41

In Biblical times, a Roman soldier, under imperial Roman law could demand or command that a Jewish man or boy carry his load or burden for up to one mile. The Jews naturally resented being treated and humiliated in this way, so they carried the soldier’s burden for one mile and not a step further. The Roman soldier, would then look for another Jew to further carry his burden and so on. The Jews longed for the coming of the Messiah, who they thought would set things right with the Romans. But when Jesus did appear, He said one mile is not enough, carry it two miles.  

I can only imagine what the Jewish people were thinking when they heard that. They expected a true political hero, a champion of champions, and not one who would ask them to carry their burdens for further distances.  

We don’t carry Roman backpacks anymore. But, as Christians, we are asked to go the extra mile. It is easy to do the very least that we are asked to do, but what God wants us to do is to go above and beyond what we are expected to do.  This principle applies to every area of our lives today—in our relationships, at home, at school, at our jobs, etc. The ESV version of Matthew 5:41 says, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” The idea applies to anybody and anybody means everybody.

The extra mile is caring about the work as if you were working for God: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23).  

Because “extra-mile service” gives you an opportunity to impact the lives of others. A person with an extra-mile attitude is someone who cares more than others think is necessary, risks more than others think is safe, believes more than others think is possible, and gives more than what others think is practical.

By carrying the pack an extra mile, it not only showed the soldier the love of God but opened up an opportunity to tell him about Jesus. There’s no telling how many soldiers became Christians during that second mile. How many more people become Christians if we would just go “the extra mile” for them?

Jesus gives us the bottom line: “What reward do you deserve if you only love the loveable? Don’t even the tax collectors do that? How are you any different from others if you limit your kindness only to your friends? Don’t even the ungodly do that? Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, become perfect like him.” (Matthew 5:46–48 (TPT) So always do more than is expected.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What Bible stories come to mind on going the extra mile? 
  2. What does it mean for you to go the extra mile?  
  3. What can we do this week to help carry someone’s burdens? 

Missionaries: Heroes Of Evangelism

 The job of carrying the gospel to remote tribes hidden in strange and dangerous places often requires a courage and daring equal to that displayed by the explorer in search of a new river or the soldier in the performance of his duties.” – A.W. Tozer

Every day we read or hear about heroes in our country. They are soldiers, police officers, and firemen who are in the service of their country. Many are ordinary people from all walks of life who have done incredible acts when someone is in danger or needs help. They deserve our respect and gratitude.  

Missionaries share the same characteristics. Their heroic acts are not one single incident – they are lifetime commitments. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and friends who have made a lifetime commitment to serving God in countries all over the world, some of them dangerous places for Christians. They take care of orphaned children, they provide medical care to indigenous people who have never seen a doctor, they distribute food to refugees, they help victims of natural calamities rebuild their lives, they construct wells to provide water in arid areas, all the while sharing the good news of the gospel. 

One example is Brother Andrew. Brother Andrew is both adventurer and risk-taker. He’s best known, in fact, for courageously putting his life on the line to smuggle Bibles behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War which earned him the nickname “God’s smuggler.” He is known for praying “Lord, make seeing eyes blind: Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see.” And they never did.

If you asked what we can do as Christians to support our missionaries, the number one answer would be to pray. It is very important to pray for missionaries, pastors, and others in Christian service. They are on the frontlines of the Great Commission, facing near-constant spiritual attacks. Missionaries are real people with real doubts, fears, challenges, and struggles. They face spiritual battles, cultural and language barriers, and physical exhaustion. They need our prayers to face each day with wisdom, grace, and strength from on high.

It is ok to pray for missionaries using generalities because there are certainly things you can pray for them as a group (like Colossians 1:9-14 or Philippians 1:9-11). But you could also pray more particularly for one missionary a day and rotate them as you pray for them. Pray for protection over them. Pray that the hearts they come into contact with would be open and willing to hear and receive the life-changing truth of the gospel. 

See your campus pastor for a list of missionaries you can pray for.  You may even consider dropping them a note of encouragement occasionally. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Pray for a missionary this week. 

God Can Do The Impossible

“Can you direct the movement of the stars—binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?” – Job 38:31-33.

There’s a curious trait that we all possess, and it has a habit of showing up in interesting ways.  In general, we prefer to place our trust in what we can observe.  We want our eyes to be convinced of something before our hearts are willing to trust in its reliability.  In many respects, this trait makes a lot of sense. But not all.  

God is honored when we trust Him for what we cannot yet see.  He is glorified when we take Him at His word.  Anyone can walk by sight, but not everyone is willing to walk by faith, and God has promised us many things some that seem impossible because impossibilities are the platforms upon which God does His best work. “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”  (Matthew 19:26). God wants us to trust Him to do the impossible.   

Have you ever hesitated to offer up a prayer, thinking it’s an impossible request? Does an overwhelming challenge leave you confused and frustrated? Maybe you’re not receiving the answer to a long-standing prayer and wonder if you should just give up. When you are in that situation remember Luke 1:37 (ESV) “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Nothing means just that: not one thing. Nothing is too big for God, too hard for God, too much for God. And if nothing is impossible, that means anything and everything must be possible with God. He can remove any obstacle, overcome any challenge, mow down any opposition. He can do anything. Anything.

So no matter what situation is in front of us, we can boldly come before Him and place it at His feet.  Whatever we think is impossible, God says He has no limits or boundaries. His power makes all things possible. Isaiah  43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

You can trust God. Pray, knowing that God can make all things possible.  If it is in His will to do so, nothing can stop Him. 

Discussion questions:

  1. How often do you reflect on how big and how great our God is? 
  2. Read Psalms 97:1-6: What does that say about God?
  3. How should the fact that God can do the impossible change how we view extraordinary prayer?

The Power Of Extraordinary Prayer

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” – 1 John 5:14-15.  

One of the most life-giving aspects of daily time alone with God is prayer. There are many ideas out there about what prayer should be. Prayer is the pathway for us to walk every day into a deeper relationship with God. 

The Bible has a lot to say about prayer. “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises…Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him… Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (James 5:13; 1 Chronicles 16:11; Ephesians 6:18)

That there is power in prayer is undeniable. More than just communication or communion with God, it is a union with Him. Through prayer we pour our lives, our longings, into God and receive His character, mind, and authority in return. 

God loves to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. No matter what weakness you think you have, God wants to bring heaven down to earth through your faithful, extraordinary prayers. Extraordinary Prayer is when ordinary men and women pray for an extraordinary length of time, for many consecutive days, and in extraordinary numbers. The not-so-secret secret for it to be extraordinary would be to pray without ceasing. When we are in constant conversation with God all day long, those are the times when it feels extraordinary.  

The evidence from history is clear. Time and time again, when Christians unite as one body with one purpose, God moves. The Book of Ezra contains an example of extraordinary prayer. Ezra was preparing to lead a group of the exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem. The king had even offered troops for protection on the perilous journey. But Ezra had refused the troops, pointing out that God Himself would protect them. As the people gathered, Ezra began to realize how dangerous the trip would be and that they should not merely presume upon God’s protection. So he called the people to humble themselves and pray and fast over the journey. God heard their prayers and gave them safe passage to their destination.

Have you ever made a decision to pray like that? Not merely pray that God bless us or even God protect us–but a life-changing commitment to pray until God is in charge of every aspect of our lives. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does extraordinary prayer mean to you? 
  2. How can we change our prayer life from ordinary to extraordinary this week? 

Extraordinary Prayer

“As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them” – Acts 4:23-24.

When you study movements of God around the world, there is one consistent thread: Prayer. Whether it is people from Lynn Haven, Los Angeles, or Lithuanians rising early in the morning to pray. They want to see God touch their nation. They want to see all of their family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors follow Christ. They want to see God do something miraculous. And they believe the key to all that is prayer. 

That shouldn’t surprise anybody. Prayer is a common subject in Scripture. We see this call to pray throughout the Scriptures. Here are just a few examples from the first few chapters of the Book of Acts: Acts 1:14 says, “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” Acts 2:42 says, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” Acts 3:1 says, “Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.”

The early church in the Book of Acts set in motion a great movement of God that swept the Roman Empire, leading to millions coming to Christ in a relatively short period of time. If we want to see the results they saw in the Book of Acts, we have to do what they did in the Book of Acts. Pray extraordinary prayers.  Extraordinary prayer is experienced when you pray beyond your normal practice of prayer. If you ordinarily pray five minutes a day or an hour a day, anything beyond your ordinary becomes extraordinary. It’s all about multiplying extraordinary prayer.

Because the more we pray, the more we sense our need to pray. And the more we sense our need to pray the more we will pray. It is a matter of taking “ordinary prayer to “extraordinary” levels. 

Extraordinary prayer will lead you to believe God will do something extraordinary through our life, our church, and even through us, together, as we take the Gospel to our community, state, and nation. Trusting God in these challenging days for a movement of God takes an extraordinary commitment from us to pray like it really matters, believing God is able to do what no one else can.

A great movement of God begins with the extraordinary prayer of God’s people.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What obstacles and distractions does a persons prayer life face? Which ones seem to affect you the most? 
  2. Why should we pray extraordinarily? 
  3. Where can we practice extraordinary prayer at home/church? 

A Root In Dry Ground

“My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” – – Isaiah 53:2. 

According to Isaiah 53:2, the prophesied One would not appear to be anything great using imagery of “a tender green shoot” and “a root in dry ground.” Isaiah uses the metaphor “a root in dry ground” to emphasize the unfavorable conditions in which the Messiah would appear.  

But this “root in dry ground” not only survives but takes root and grows everywhere, even in the unlikeliest of places. The thrill of this truth is that nothing is beyond His reach. No situation is beyond His power to change. Think of the driest place imaginable–maybe some part of the world or in your town. Or what about the hardest, coldest heart, the shattered marriage. The Root of which Isaiah spoke will produce a shoot and thrive there.

What about neighborhoods, cities, and nations. Is it possible that “a tender green shoot” could survive and grow there? The answer is yes. We see movements of God in every city and nation, even in the unlikeliest of places. We should not be discouraged when we view our neighborhoods, cities, and our nation. We must simply recommit ourselves to planting the Root where we can. Plant Him in our neighborhoods. Plant Him in our cities and in our nation and in the world. He will survive and grow. He will change hearts and lives whenever and wherever He is planted. 

But it starts with each one of us. Colossians 2: 6-7 says, “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” In this passage, Paul is reminding the Colossian church of their foundation, their root system. When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts and as the Lord of our lives, the root process begins. We start to grow our roots into Christ, our firm foundation. 

Reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word is so important. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the stronger your roots will become in Jesus. Meditating on God’s Word will also increase your faith.

As you study, decide on ways to apply what you are learning. You can memorize verses that you find most helpful and stay focused on them throughout your day. Sharing what you are working on with someone else helps establish it for you even further. Maybe you know someone who would be blessed to hear about what you are learning because it would help them become rooted in God as well. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be rooted to God? 
  2. How can we use the Bible this week to become more rooted?