True discipleship. Let's DO IT!

And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 
Mark 8:34-36

We must not have a Christianity where Christ does all the dying.  ~ A.W. Tozer

Have you ever sat through a sermon feeling like the Pastor prepared and wrote it just for you?
That was my experience yesterday.
I was already thrilled to be 'home' again after a few weeks of traveling and worshiping with believers in another church. I was craving worship through song, encouragement from the body, and a sermon that would knock me off my feet. And the Lord did not disappoint!

The sermon topic: The nature and cost of true discipleship.

Some moments found me writing furiously in my journal while others had me staring intently at my pastor as I absorbed every word, every verse, and every truth spoken. How I needed this message!

I am highlighting some of my notes here, and trust the Lord will use them to encourage someone who needs to hear this as much as I did!

The nature and cost of true discipleship.
Deny - Debate - Declare

----> Deny
Jesus humbled Himself unto death, so He calls His people to do the same.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8
The Chrisitan life is not about US!
It is about JESUS!

SIN = an assertion of self against God and rejection of the Lordship of Jesus.
Sin says, "You can't tell me what to do!"
Salvation takes the "I" away because we are no longer orbiting around SELF, but have our eyes fixed wholly on the Savior.
*** "I" "I" "I" canNOT be the vocabulary of the believer! ***

DENY = Refusal to be driven by self, denial of autonomy and self-sufficiency
"Take up your cross and follow Me."
It is a daily martyrdom.
We must deny self - our desires and demands - in order to follow God wholeheartedly without distraction or wavering.
"Lord, today I give You my body, my mind, and my heart. Do with me what YOU will!" - this must be our daily prayer!

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. 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. Romans 12:1,2
"The problem with a living sacrifice is that it is always trying to crawl OFF of the altar!"

----> Debate
When Self tries to win the far of flesh vs. spirit, we have to fight with TRUTH.
The battle is often fought in the MIND.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ ... II Corinthians 10:3-5


Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

----> Declare
Biblical discipleship is BOLD and demonstrative!
Live your Christianity without shame or fear!

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38
We must stand FIRM for the truth of the Gospel.
We must DEFEND the Gospel.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16

We are children of The KING!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  
I Peter 2:9



Sometimes when we get overwhelmed we forget how big God is.
                                                                        ~ A.W. Tozer



In order to realize the worth of the anchor 
we need to feel the stress of the storm.
                                                                         ~ Corrie ten Boom


An audience of ONE.

Two of my sisters in Christ responded to my recent question: Does anyone else want to know and understand and love God's Word MORE?
After asking them what they want to study, and how they want to hold each other accountable, one of them said, "I would love to delve deep into a study on prayer."
So - prayer it is!
This topic has been at the forefront of my mind since then, so I was perusing past blog posts I wrote about this spiritual discipline to recall what the Lord has taught me and convicted me about in the past. I am so glad I did this! Living in the present and planning for the future are good endeavors, but we must also take care to look back - and remember the work of the Lord.
I wrote this almost two years ago, but it still resonates with me now.
It also excites a new passion in me to pray MORE, because nothing on earth is as powerful or as effective. Nor can anything else bring the peace that it offers a fearful, anxious, or restless heart.
Thank You, Lord, that we have direct and constant access to You through the gift of prayer!
May each of us become, and remain, children who pray - without ceasing.
When I was young I was terrified to pray out loud. I never volunteered to pray, and when it was expected during a small group time of prayer, it was all I could do to eek out a few sentences because I was worried about what everyone was thinking the entire time.
I listened to several sermons on prayer ... prayer is for the Lord, not for men ... do not worry about others ... there is no such thing as a perfect prayer ... but I still felt paralyzed when it was my turn in the prayer circle rotation.
Though I didn't appreciate it then, I am so thankful for godly people who encouraged and challenged me to push past my fears.

Attending a Bible college significantly impacted my desire and ability to pray out loud. Participation in small groups, Bible classes, chapel, and mission trips provided ample opportunities to pray with others. And when you become part of a leadership team, your 'refusal' to pray in
front of people is quickly and thoroughly smashed to pieces. You cannot expect others to follow where you will not lead.

Like anything else, the more you practice something the easier and more natural it becomes.
I was still insecure and tried to "clean up" my prayers by eliminating "ums" and other distractions, but after a while I did not think about it anymore. When it was time to pray, I prayed!
It felt so good to be free from the burden of fear.
And that freedom created a JOY to pray. It created a DESIRE to pray. It brought peace.
I thought I would never have to deal with prayer troubles again.
But I was wrong.

In my late twenties and early thirties, I discovered a new trouble in public prayer.
People did not like mine!
"Are YOU going to pray?" with a roll of the eyes.
"Can you please not do a 'Michelle prayer?' I'm on a time schedule."
"It's late, can you pray faster than usual? I'm tired."
And the most memorable ... someone TIMED ME. How do I know? Because after I said "Amen" they hit their watch and said, "4 minutes, 13 seconds!"
I was not offended by any of these statements.
I was wounded.

I spent much of my life being criticized, and apologizing, for being 'me' - and now I am being criticized for how I talk to the Lord?
So - I stopped praying.
With people.
Even when they would ask me, I would decline.
I no longer trusted that they were not rolling their eyes, looking at their watches, or screaming inside their heads for me to wrap it up.

But because the Lord is faithful, He confronted my foolish refusal to pray (for that is what it was) and shattered every excuse. 
And He needed to. My reasons were absurd and completely unbiblical.
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them. Matthew 18
The Lord's rebuke left me without the slightest wiggle room to disobey.
I willingly embraced the joy of corporate prayer, again, but this time with the commitment that I would never again loosen my grip!
I started listening to other saints pray. Really listened. Especially to the older saints. I heard their passion, their intensity, their affection ... and never once did I hear them apologize for what they prayed or how long they prayed. They just knelt before the Throne of Grace - and talked to their Father.

I followed their example.
I stopped apologizing.
I stopped worrying about the thoughts and judgments of others.
I prayed as if only the Lord was listening.
And I was FREE.

I love praying!
With the saints.
With the hurting.
With the broken.
With a child.
I love to pray prayers of JOY to rejoice in God's goodness!
And in the hard moments, when there are no words ... the beauty of prayer changes everything.

How embarrassingly long it took to let the Lord bring me to this place.
How many prayers were offered to people - instead of my Savior.
I may as well have prayed with my eyes open to monitor the response of everyone around me because my mind was not focused on Christ - it was focused on man.

Never again.
When I pray, it is to an audience of ONE. And I desire to please no one else - but Him.

The prayer that God accepts is offered to Him alone. He who presents it cares not one atom who likes it or who does not like it. He is talking with his God, pleading with the Majesty unseen. He is very careless of the criticism of others. His only desire is to please the Lord. 
~ Charles Spurgeon



Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.
~ A.W. Tozer