Disciple Making Movement Resources

Click to download a PDF that includes:

  1. Discovery questions: to use with a group of friends/family to help us understand, apply, and share any passage of Scripture together
  2. Three-column Bible study: to help you understand, obey, and share Scripture when discovering on your own
  3. Discovery story sets: with various lists of Scripture passages to use over time to discover what God has to say about life on a few important themes

Click to download a PDF with Disciple Making Movement Resources.

The Gift & Call of Singleness

I’m blessed to be sharing a message this Sunday in Junction City, WI on “Making Disciples Who Multiply!”  Praying through the Scripture I’ll be sharing from this weekend reminded me of themes I touched on in a message on “The Gift & Call of Singleness.”

No matter your relationship status or your season of life, I pray these thoughts will encourage you to be a multiplier who gathers others for Jesus-like disciple making friendships!

Wedding Symbolism

The marriage covenant is an eternal promise based on the truth of God’s Word, rooted in Christ’s love, and centered on His steadfast character.

*Marriage as a picture of the Gospel relationship:
The Bible teaches that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship Jesus has with those who love Him (Ephesians 5:29-33).  Each of us has turned away from right relationship with the God who loves us.  God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, clearly reveals our selfishness.  By loving others more than the LORD, lying, hating, lusting, and refusing to forgive, we have pushed ourselves away from relationship with Him.  
If we come to God trying to earn His love or to deserve a place in Heaven because of our good works, we will never know Him.  Our sin has separated us from Jesus, and we deserve only God’s judgment in Hell.  However, He wants us to experience His love and a close relationship with Jesus that marriage was designed to depict.
The good news is that Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth.  He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead!  As a Groom coming to claim His bride, Jesus will come again for all those who have turned from sin and put their trust in Him.  Jesus gave His lifeblood because of His desire to become united with those He loves.  He paid the bride price with His own life.  Husbands likewise are called to serve their wives by dying to themselves and sacrificing for the good of their wives. Wives are called to respond in self-giving love by cooperating with their husbands – that together the couple might be ministry partners for the Master.
Jesus calls you today to join His Bride, the Church. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20).  Jesus has promised to return to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever.  Are you in right relationship with God?  Have you fully trusted your heart and life to Jesus?  In an act of bold love, He invites you to do so today.

 

assorted signage decors
Photo by Craig Adderley
*Bridal party walking down the center aisle in participation:
Walking down the center aisle is based on a tradition from the Bible.  The LORD made a promise to bless Abraham, who was a forefather of Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 15:9-21, the LORD instructed Abraham to sacrifice several animals, cutting them in half and laying them on the ground.  Two parties making a covenant would confirm their agreement by walking between these two halves of an offering that had been split in two.  In Genesis 15, only the LORD walked down the center aisle, because it was His sole responsibility to unconditionally uphold His promise to Abraham’s descendants.  Abraham was asleep.  We walk down the center aisle today as a symbol of involvement, either as participants or witnesses, in this marriage covenant.
*Vows as terms of our covenant:
In the Bible, the LORD made many promises to His people.  God is always faithful, perfectly upholding His vows to love and provide.  In Exodus 20, after the LORD delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God and His people exchanged vows.  We call these vows the Ten Commandments.  In verse 1, He begins by stating who He is and reminding His people that He set them free from their bondage.  The ten commands that follow are the vows that His loved ones promised to uphold in the relationship that they would enjoy with their God.  Today, the New Testament provides many examples of promises that the Lord Jesus made to His Bride, the Church.  Our vows today are the terms of our life-long covenant relationship with each other.

 

love rings wedding bible
Photo by Caio
*Rings as visual symbols of our lifetime commitment:
We have chosen to exchange circular wedding rings as a continual sign of our marriage, serving both to announce to others and to remind us of our vows.  A circle is a shape without starting or ending point.  It symbolizes the eternal nature of God, who is without beginning or end.  The Trinity – the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – has always existed and always will (Genesis 1:26).  This eternal God created marriage (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:4-6).  He empowers us to remain faithful in our marriage, as He has first been faithful to us.  1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” 
*Salt covenant as a sign of irreversible partnership:
In biblical times, when two people wanted to make a covenant promise of loyalty, each would take some salt from a pouch carried on the belt and sprinkle it into the other’s pouch.  Both would then shake their pouches, intermingling forever the grains of salt.  Just as the individual grains of salt could never be taken back, their covenant would never be broken.  The LORD also included salt in covenants that He made with His people (Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5).

 

bright burn burnt candle
*Unity candle as a symbol of our new united family:
The Bible records that Eve first introduced sin’s darkness into the human heart (Genesis 3:6).  However, God also brought Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, through a descendant of Eve, a woman named Mary (John 8:12; 9:5; Luke 1:30-35).  As followers of Jesus, we have been called by Christ to be light in this world (Matthew 5:14-16).  Because they brought us into the world, we have chosen to have our biological mothers light candles representing all of our family relationships.  In a beautiful way, we leave and cleave to each other, forming a new family of our own, which includes our extended families.  The unity candle in the center represents this union of two people and two lives joined by Jesus Christ to become one.

 

heart shaped candle
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Who are you?

There they sat at an Italian establishment, discussing what they would name their first child. The husband had been reading a book on the Roman Emperor Constantine. And the dad-to-be liked the name Flavius, a hero in the story. His wife knew she needed to think fast. There in that Pizza Hut, she had an epiphany.

On a napkin, she wrote a name, which formed an acronym of her and her husband’s full names. She wrote, “Marcus.” These two were my parents.

In biblical times, names entailed great meaning. They were given with purpose and often prayerfully. A man’s name represented who he was. People usually lived up to their names.

Jacob was a “deceiver.” He “wrestled with God” and was renamed Israel. Isaiah’s ministry prophesied, “Yahweh is salvation!” Joseph, called Barnabas, epitomized a “son of encouragement.” Phoebe was “bright” and “radiant” as she shared the Gospel alongside the Apostle Paul.

Marcus means “mighty warrior.” I have affinity for Ephesians 6, where Paul urges believers to be clothed in God’s armor, so we can engage in spiritual battle. Marcus has been the name of a Roman orator, a pope, a politician, a statesman, and now a news editor and open-air preacher.

My middle name, Arthur, comes from words meaning “bear” and “stone,” and it makes me a namesake of my dad and my Grandpa Pemberton. When Elizabeth in Scripture became pregnant in her old age, her husband was likewise expected to pass on a family name to their son. However, Zechariah obeyed the LORD’s prompting, naming him John, which means “God is gracious.” Constantine is Greek and means “constant” or steadfast.

I strive to live out my name, as a mighty warrior, bold as a bear, steadfast as a stone, constant in the faith, conducting myself in a manner worthy of Christ’s Gospel (Phil. 1:27). What do your names mean?

When seeking to properly place you, people may ask, “Who are you?” I’ve gotten in the practice of answering, “I’m a child of God and a follower of Jesus. My name’s Marcus.” Whether your name means “deceiver” or “Yahweh saves,” it does not determine who you may become.

When you know who you are, you can live confidently. No excuses are needed for a life of surrender to the Holy Spirit. It is for freedom that Christ sets us free (Gal. 5:1). We are not to submit to slavery again. Only Jesus frees us to fully live as He intends. What holds you back from becoming who you could be?

Are you known by extravagant love for Jesus? They will know by our love that we are His followers (Jn. 13:35). Why do some professing Christians talk about seemingly everything except Jesus? Treating Christ like a hobby breaks the heart of the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). We are called to love Him and not this fallen world. When we live in His freedom, unbelievers may think our love is excessive. They should.

Remember, they hated Jesus first (Jn. 15:18). He loved perfectly, and they nailed Him to a cross. Out of our union with Jesus flows that sacrificial love, intimacy with the Father, and soft heartedness toward the Holy Spirit. He is our power source (Acts 1:8).

Christ followers have become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). We have received new names (Rev. 2:17; 3:12). It’s against our new spiritual nature to act contrary to the LORD’s will. Live in light of who you truly are. When we know who we are in Jesus, we can live confidently in His love, faithfully in His power, and freely in His grace. Believers could spend an eternity pursuing the beauty that becomes ours when we join Christ’s Bride by faith. And we will.

Divine appointments

Sitting aboard a 6:30 a.m. Megabus, I was overcome with the reality of the sovereign power of God. Lightning illuminated a dark sky. As we drove through a pouring rainstorm devoid of thunder, I recalled the morning’s events.

I’d planned to take a 5:30 a.m. Brown Line train to make my bus with wiggle room. The day before, I worked from morning till midnight, showered, and set out clothes with excitement to visit my sweetheart and family over New Year’s.

I slept through my alarm and sat up in bed at 6 a.m. in a daze. I dove from the top bunk and confirmed my bus would leave at 6:30. My thoughts raced as I hurried around my room: could I catch a later “L” train and still make it? The train schedule didn’t cooperate with mine. Of course, a taxi! I was struck at that moment with a bolt of truth. The LORD was answering my prayer offered up the day before: “Lord Jesus, as I go, set divine appointments for me to share the faith.”

I flew down the hall, onto the elevator, and out the front door. Abduhl, my Muslim cab driver, spotted me flailing my arms and splashing through puddles down Wells Street.

As he hit the gas toward Union Station, he asked if I was studying religion at Moody Bible. Our spiritual conversation accelerated.

He told me about his religion and warned me not to go as a missionary to his home, Somalia: “They won’t listen, and it’ll be a waste of money.” Abduhl asked me, “Who is Jesus to you?” I explained, Jesus is God in flesh, and He died to defeat death and conquer the devil (Jn. 8:58-59; 10:30-33; Col. 2:15). When it came time for payment, the fare was half what I’d expected, and I’d kept my first appointment. In the rush, I’d left a few items in my room, but I’d also left a Gospel tract and my email with Abduhl.

I boarded a crowded bus and filled one of the few remaining seats. The open spot beside me was soon taken by Josh, the tech guy for a creative nonviolence group in Chicago. He and his wife were also traveling for the holiday. He’d heard of Moody and was gracious during our few minutes of conversation. I asked if he planned to sleep on the bus. When he nodded yes, I noted his organization’s website and gave him a Gospel tract with my email. He thanked me and agreed to consider my message. Appointment number two kept.

My itinerary said I’d have only five minutes to make the transfer onto the bus that would carry me home to family. I’d heard these buses were often delayed. I sat in the dark, wondering if I’d make it. In that moment of anxiety, I surrendered to the LORD’s sovereignty. The Living God, who woke me up on time for my Gospel-sharing appointments, would lead and guide me safely to His intended destination with or without an alarm clock.

We rolled in about half an hour early, and I shared the Gospel with a few people at the bus station and a non-practicing Jew named Mike during the final leg of the journey. Each appointment had been purposefully set by my Heavenly Father. When I arrived, I learned some Jehovah’s Witness friends of the family wanted to talk about theology. “Can I set an appointment?” a beloved family member asked. I knew an appointment had already been set on the Lord’s calendar. On the return trip, I kept appointments with a confused college student named Andy, John from Mexico, and Samson from Japan.

Could it be that my temporary challenges were necessary in the glorious outworking of God’s plan to draw these people nearer to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Our present suffering is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). The King of the universe turns darkness into light and makes the rough places smooth (Isa. 42:16). He’s trustworthy and in control.

Lessons from Nonna Maria

Nonna Maria, my maternal grandmother, is 91 years old. She and her husband, Nonno Ignazio, were married 44 years and 4 months. They emigrated from Sicily to Rochester, NY in 1956, over 50 years ago. Nonno passed into eternity in 1994.

 
Nonna worked as a seamstress for 20 years. She gets an $82.42 monthly pension because of her efforts. Most of her coworkers were Italian and her boss spoke Spanish, so they got along communicating without English. After decades in America, Nonna still speaks broken English. We speak Italian with her in our home. She loves to tell stories of her life in Italy.
 
Nonna’s mother, Giuseppina, was a generous woman of faith. When she cooked for her family, before they ate, she and her daughters would bring bowls of pasta and bread to those living on the streets in their village. One day, Nonna Giuseppina arrived home with only her slip on. When questioned about her appearance, she explained she had met a homeless woman. She knew she could buy or make herself a new dress, but that poor woman could not.
 
Nonna told of her mother faithfully attending church every weekend. When the children were young, she and her husband would attend mass at different hours, so one parent was home with the babies. When her husband traveled for business, Great-grandmother brought all her children to church with her. Nonna had nine siblings. At that time, two were still babies.
 
When the children grew noisy and restless. A woman sitting in the pew behind leaned forward to complain. Nonna’s mother told her, “I wanted to come to church. My husband’s on a business trip. If you don’t like the noise, go home.”
 
Nonna tells another story of her mother walking along the cobblestone street in their Sicilian town, warmly greeting everyone she passed. As they walked on, my Nonna, then a young girl, finally asked, “Do you know all these people?” Nonna Giuseppina answered, “No. But, the LORD knows all about them, and He wants me to greet them and give them His blessing.” Everywhere we go, we should be about the Father’s business. Everyplace you go, endeavor to bless it for Jesus. Be His witness, His ambassador, His representative.
 
As a boy, I’d often spend weekends at Nonna’s house. One weekend, I brought an empty notebook and asked Nonna if we could cook. Together we made everything from pasta sauce and chicken cutlets to chocolate cookies. I recorded these treasured recipes as best I could, trying to discern how Nonna’s “pinch” or “dash”  translated into standard measurements.
 
Once after Nonna came to live with us, she and I were watching a TV special about the persecuted church. A young Chinese girl refused to spit and step on an image of Jesus. Following her example, the rest of the children at her school stood firm in their faith. All the children were martyred. As the show was in English, Nonna did not understand. But looking up from her chair at my tears, she began to weep with me for our fallen brothers and sisters who laid down their very lives for the Lord Jesus.
 
Nonna says we are to live “tutto nel Signore,” meaning, “all in the LORD.” Nonna keeps it simple. When I ask her what she believes happens after we die, she says, “If you believe in Jesus, you go to Heaven; if not, you go to Hell.” She’s right.
 
I enjoy sharing these stories and lessons from Nonna. The Bible commands us to honor the aged. Proverbs teaches that gray hair is a crown of splendor for the old (16:31; 20:29). It’s good to be old. It means you’ve endured. If you’ve trusted your life to Christ, old age means you’re closer to Heaven.
 
While you’re alive, learn from those who have lived longer than you. Ask questions. Learn to be a wise listener. In those conversations, be bold in sharing the gospel of Jesus. It might be someone’s last day on earth. Redeem the time. The old have wisdom to share. Let’s listen.
 

Nonna has taught me to hold my life in an open hand and to seek the will of Jesus. She’s often said she would love to be at my wedding and to kiss my babies “se Dio vuole”—if God wills. Let’s flesh out our faith, seeking the will of Jesus that we might perform it and honor Him in all things until our last breath.

Nonna Maria, pictured at age 90
(photo by Joshua Harrison, Audio Scripture Ministries)

 

Be fully dependent

“Dependence is a dirty word.” That summarizes several comments posted on my Facebook status. My status read, “In life, you have two choices: either become independent or fully dependent on Jesus.”

The unbelieving world deems the college years a period when youth should become independent. As usual, the world is wrong.

I, a dependent college student, wager the college years are an opportunity to become utterly dependent on the Lord Jesus. Yes, students usually leave home and family; In Chicago, I’m 600 miles away from mine. Sure, they often become self supporting, more responsible and mature. Of course, battle plans and personal goals are refined. However, independence should never be the aim of a Jesus-follower. He calls His disciples to complete reliance on Him.

Christ-loving students should expect college to be a stretching, painful experience wherein the Lord of Glory trims the fat from their lives. I propose God does this on purpose. That way, absolute surrender to Jesus and connection with the Body of Christ arise as the only antidotes to our need.

Let’s euthanize the myth that students should church hop and sample as many local assemblies as possible. Plug in. Be dependent on Christ’s Body. Be faithful. Commit yourself to a local church family as soon as possible. You’ll be obedient to Jesus and set yourself up to experience the operation of spiritual gifts in the context He intended.

If I aim to become dependent on Christ, I must learn to redeem the time for “the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). Every second two people die, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Unless of course, I surrender to Jesus and in the power of His Spirit declare the Gospel in and out of season, making the most of every opportunity (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 4:2).

A dependent disciple of Christ is driven by the will of God and not the needs of man. One who attempts to meet everybody’s needs commits ministerial suicide. Those who depend on Jesus must be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s voice minute to minute and do what He says.

I am dependent on the only Source, who can always provide (Take that, the world, the flesh, and the Devil!). And I plan to keep growing in that dependence until the day I see Him, Face to face.