Showing posts with label SERMONS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SERMONS. Show all posts

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Jesus Christ, Our Great God, and Savior

Titus 2:11–14 gives us the reason for why we should live as godly men and women, old or young, and in our places of service (Titus 2:1–10)—the saving grace of God has appeared in the person of Jesus Christ to teach us how to live godly lives. Part of this godly life is to expect our Lord Jesus Christ to appear again. Titus 2:13 describes us as “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the last phrase of this clause, we find one of Scripture’s strongest declarations of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not just our Savior and the Christ, but He is also “our great God.”

Some prefer to understand “our great God” to refer to the Father. If this is the case, Jesus is identified as both the glory of the Father and as our Savior Jesus Christ. However, five reasons suggest “our great God” also refers to Jesus Christ.

First, one article before both “God and Savior” ties these two titles together as one and the same. The text literally reads “the glory of the great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ.” The glory that appears, then, is Him who is God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Second, several passages similarly identify Jesus as God. John 1:1 identifies Jesus as the Word who is God at the Father’s side. Thomas identified “him” as “My Lord and my God!” in John 20:28. Acts 20:28 mentions “the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Romans 9:5 identifies Christ as “God overall.” 2 Peter 1:1 speaks of a righteousness that belongs to “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Third, using references from just the Pastoral Epistles, while it is true that the Father is identified as our Savior (1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 1:3; 3:4), Jesus is identified as Savior as well (2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 3:6).

Fourth, if it was the Father’s grace in Christ to appear in Titus 2:11 and not the Father Himself, so also would we expect the “appearing” in Titus 2:13 to refer to Christ as well. Just as Mathew 25:31 refers to the final descent of Christ as when He “comes in His glory,” so also Titus 2:13 refers to Christ’s coming appearance as glory itself.

Fifth, Paul likely used a well-known phrase and applied it to Jesus Christ. “God and Savior” could refer to leaders or even the emperor, and Paul’s use of the phrase identified Christ as the only One who should properly receive such a title.

Whether using Titus 2:13 or one of the passages above, one truth is certain—the man Christ Jesus is also God. May the Father’s grace through Him continue to change us to be more like His Son, especially as we wait for Him to come again.



By David Huffstutler 

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses on his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.


Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Beware of Hypocrisy

Moment of hypocrisy

Has anyone on earth not had at least a moment of hypocrisy? Sadly, many have lived a lifetime of it. Hypocrite originally had a neutral sense, “someone who answers,” and hypocrisy meant “answering.” Initially, these words were used for the normal flow of questions and answer in conversation or discussion. They later became connected with question-and-answer sections in plays, naturally followed by the idea of acting a part. Eventually, “hypocrite” came to describe one who is never genuine but always play-acting. The basis of hypocrisy is insincerity.

Hypocrites inhabit every walk of life, trying to impress others in an attempt to hide who they really are. In the Christian life, a hypocrite is someone who tries to appear more spiritual than he really is. Such a person knows that he is pretending, and he hopes he will not be found out. His Christianity is a shallow charade.

As the crowds following Him grew, Jesus decided to warn His disciples of this spiritual pitfall. They could easily surrender to human nature, giving in to the temptation either to gain popularity by pleasing the crowds or to avoid trouble by pleasing the Pharisees. Human nature drives us to want people to like and admire us, and it seems so easy to “act the part” that others want to see.


1. What causes hypocrisy? Luke 12:4-7

Jesus mentions “fear” five times in these verses, teaching that a basic cause of hypocrisy is the fear of men. People will do almost anything to avoid embarrassment or harm. When we are afraid of what others may say or do to us, we try to impress them to gain their approval, and our human nature will stoop to deception to accomplish its purposes. Sadly, many of the Pharisees were more concerned about reputation than character—what people thought about them than what God knew about them. The fear of men always brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25), and Jesus wants His disciples to avoid it and be stable in their faith. As Scottish novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott, wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice deceiving.”


2. How can we avoid the pitfall of hypocrisy? Luke 12:1-3

Jesus compares hypocrisy to leaven, which symbolizes sin (I Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9). Like leaven, hypocrisy begins small but grows quickly and quietly. As it does, it infects the whole person and eventually the whole society. When a person is puffed up with pride, hypocrisy flourishes and character deteriorates (I Corinthians 4:6, 18-19; 5:2). Hypocrisy, like all sin, must be stopped before the underlying pride has an opportunity to spread (James 1:14-15). The longer he waits to deal with it, the worse it gets. Nothing can really be hidden (Mark 4:22), which makes hypocrisy foolish and futile. So why keep pretending?

Jesus was perhaps concerned that His disciples might be tempted to compromise the truth to avoid offending the crowds or the Pharisees (see Luke 8:16-18; 11:33). Many who profess to be God’s ministers do something like this to remain in their pulpits. God’s truth is like light, not leaven, and it must not be hidden.


3. What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Luke 12:8-10

Jesus appears to contradict Himself. In Luke 12:8-9, He demands that we openly confess Him without hypocrisy, but in verse 10, He says our speech against Him can be forgiven. Yet, God will not forgive speaking against the Spirit. Why? One who blasphemes God’s Spirit so thoroughly rejects its power to work in him that he refuses to submit to God. Too proud and rebellious to repent, he cannot be forgiven. A true Christian, though, constantly depends on the Spirit to reflect Christ’s life as much as possible.

Christ’s sacrifice for the overall forgiveness of sin and the receiving of God’s Holy Spirit applies only once for each person, and if an individual rejects God’s grace, it cannot be applied again (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-27). This is why apostasy is so serious a matter and why the first-century apostles contended so fiercely against heresy. Eternal lives are at stake!

Sustained neglect can also lead to eternal death. The sinner may know he should repent of his sins, but through lethargy, he never bothers to overcome them. In his apathy, he may try to appear righteous, but he is not fooling God. In effect, he is blaspheming God’s Spirit by refusing to repent, so his sin is unpardonable.


4. How can we overcome hypocrisy? Luke 12:8-12

The remedy for hypocrisy is reverent fear of God, the fear that conquers all other fears because the person who truly fears God fears nothing else. The apostle John teaches that the love of God casts out fear (I John 4:18, 19). Thus, we can ignore the negative things people say and do. With God standing by us, why should we fear the criticism of others (Hebrews 13:6)? They can do no more than kill the body, but God can destroy both life and body (Matthew 10:28). Since Christ is the ultimate and eternal Judge, it is logical to put the fear of God ahead of everything else.

Fearing man often results in denying Christ, bringing severe consequences (Matthew 10:32-33). A Christian can avoid persecution by denying that he is Jesus’ disciple, but the eternal cost of doing so is far worse than the persecution that he sought to avoid. The opposite of denying Christ is to confess Him before others, that is, to be a true witness for Him by living God’s way. A Christian living any other way is a hypocrite.


There is no shame in suffering for being a Christian. If we suffer for righteousness, we should keep on doing what is right, trusting our lives to our Creator, because He will never fail us (I Peter 4:16-19).


by Martin G. Collins

Thursday, 24 September 2020

The True Gospel

Imagine a corporation needed to train new sales representatives to expand its market. Unfortunately, the company could not bring all the new employees to its headquarters, so it was decided to send out trainers to the various new markets and train the salespeople there. 

However, the trainers all had different ideas about what the corporate philosophy and sales methods were! The new salespeople were all taught different things! What confusion!

A similar difference in teaching has occurred in the various Christian churches, each of which has its own understanding of what the true gospel is. Some say it is "the gospel of grace." Others call their version "the gospel of salvation" or "the gospel of Christ." To others, it is "the gospel of God" or "the gospel of the Kingdom." Which is it? How does the Bible define the true gospel? The only true gospel is the one presented in its pages, and we can search it out! Below are eight QUESTIONS;


1. Does it matter what gospel Christians believe? Galatians 1:8-9.

Indeed, it does! Paul pronounces a double curse on anyone who preaches a gospel different from the one preached by the apostles! The gospel is a serious business! The apostles were taught directly by Christ, who gave them a commission to "preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15).


2. What gospel did Jesus Himself preach? Mark 1:14.

Jesus preached "the gospel of the kingdom of God"! "Gospel" derives from an old English word meaning "good news." He came proclaiming the good news that God's Kingdom would come and restore all things (Acts 3:19-21). Jesus is the King of a literal Kingdom that will reign over the whole earth when He returns (see John 18:36-37; Revelation 5:10; 19:11-16; 20:4-6). The gospel explains, not only that it is coming, but also how we can be a part of it. That is great news!


3. What did Christ say we must do to enter it? Mark 1:15.

The conditions for entering God's Kingdom are simple in concept: "repent and believe in the gospel." Repentance is a complete turning or changing of the mind and way of life to follow God. And God's way of life is defined by His commandments (Matthew 19:17). We repent by quitting our former sinful way of life and keeping God's commands.

Believing the gospel encompasses both believing in Christ as well as believing what He said (John 8:30-31). Millions believe that He came as their Savior and now lives eternally as their soon-coming King while rejecting the very message He brought to save them! What a paradox!


4. Where did Christ's message originate? John 12:49-50; 14:24; 17:7-8.

Jesus spoke only what His Father in heaven told Him to speak! Thus, our Messiah, Jesus Christ, was a Messenger from God the Father, bringing the message of God's plan for all mankind, the message of the New Covenant (Malachi 3:1). The gospel of God, the gospel of Jesus, and the gospel of the Kingdom are the same gospel! It originated in God, was proclaimed by His Son, and tells of the coming rule of God and our part in it!


5. What is "the gospel of grace"? Acts 20:24-25.

In these verses, Paul is speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus about his ministry. He explains that his ministry had testified "to the gospel of the grace of God." And what had he preached? The Kingdom of God (see Acts 28:30-31)! God's wonderful offer of grace and salvation is also part of the gospel of the Kingdom!


6. Is the church the Kingdom of God? Colossians 1:13.

While Christians await the establishment of God's Kingdom on the earth at the return of Jesus Christ, they are considered by God to be spiritually a part of His Kingdom. Having voluntarily placed themselves under Christ's rule, they are said to have their citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and be "members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). As members of Christ's body, they are "in Christ" (Romans 8:1; II Corinthians 5:17), and therefore are actively participating in the advancement of God's Kingdom. However, Christians have not yet inherited the Kingdom in its fullness, an event that will not happen until they are resurrected and glorified at Christ's coming (I Corinthians 15:50-54). In addition, their being "in Christ" does not preclude their falling away from Him in the future (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31).


7. Is the Kingdom of God "within you"? Luke 17:21.

This sadly mistranslated verse has led many sincere people astray. Without even knowing the Greek language, we can see that Jesus could not mean that the Kingdom was some ethereal quality in the hearts of the Pharisees! On the contrary, He castigated them often for their unbelief! Entos, translated "within," should be translated "in the midst of" or "among." Jesus, the coming King of the Kingdom of God, was in their midst or among them! The thrust of His teaching in this section is that unbelievers will not recognize the working of God's Kingdom among them, just as the Pharisees had not recognized their Savior among them.


8. What gospel is to be preached before the end comes? Matthew 24:14.

The gospel of the Kingdom is for today! It is preached, not only when we proclaim that Jesus Christ will return soon to establish His government upon this earth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Zechariah 14:9), but also when we teach both believers and unbelievers how to live God's way of life (I Corinthians 15:1-2; Philippians 1:27; I Thessalonians 2:8-9). That is truly good news!

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Should I Be Fasting?

Should I Be Fasting?


Mark 9 contains a story I’ve read a zillion times before. Jesus and His inner circle were coming down from the mountain where they had experienced the transfiguration, and they were making their way toward joining the other disciples.

While Jesus, Peter, James, and John were up on the mountain, the remaining disciples had an encounter with a heartsick daddy and his demon-possessed boy.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” (Mark 9:17–18)

It was during this encounter that the dad prayed one of my favorite prayers in all of Scripture, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24). Jesus cast the demon out of the boy, and he stood up cleansed and healed in front of his dad.

After the dust cleared the disciples asked an important question: “Why could we not cast it out? (v. 28).

Jesus replied, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer [and fasting]” (v. 29).

For me, the two words found inside the brackets of the text are like a gold nugget of truth I’d never noticed before.

“This one can only be driven out by prayer and fasting?”

If that was true for a child afflicted by demons and his desperate daddy, is it true for something in my life? What about the things that seem to throw me to the ground or toss me up against the ropes? Can they only be dealt with through prayer and fasting? What about when I’m in the fire like this boy was? Is prayer and fasting the only way out? What about those things that I’ve tried and tried to fix and cannot? Is fasting the key that unlocks the remedy? Start of a complete life transformation, click here.

Those questions nudged me to run to God’s Word looking for answers to this big question, “Should I be fasting?” Here’s what I found.


Reasons for Fasting

Fasting is a theme throughout all of Scripture. Fasting is never commanded for all believers, but the Bible does give us lots of good reasons to fast including:

Fasting before making an important decision (Acts 13:2, 14:23).

Fasting to overcome addiction (Isa. 58:3–7).

Fasting for God’s intervention (2 Sam. 12:15–17).

Fasting to show humility (Ps. 35:13).

Fasting in response to grief or mourning (Ps. 35:14, Est. 4:3).

Fasting to request God’s protection (Est. 4:15–16, Ezra 8:21–23).

Fasting to set apart leaders for Christian service (Acts 13:2–3).

Fasting with repentance (Joel 2:12–15).

Fasting as a leader who desires God to work amongst your people (Jonah 3:6–10).

Fasting in Good Company

I can find plenty of good reasons to fast from that list. Scripture also shows us that many of the superheroes of our faith, including Jesus, fasted.

Moses fasted before receiving the Ten Commandments (Deut. 9:9–18).

David fasted to mourn his child’s illness and ask God to intervene (2 Sam. 12:1–23).

Ezra fasted to mourn the sins of his people (Ezra 10:6–17).

Esther fasted for the safety of the Jews (Est. 4:15–17).

Daniel fasted for an answer to prayer (Dan. 10:1–3).

The elders of the church in Antioch fasted before sending out missionaries (Acts 13:1–3).

Jesus Himself fasted before starting His ministry (Matt. 4:1–2).

These are the people I want to be like when I grow up. I want Moses’ power. David’s passion for the Lord. Esther’s courage. Daniel’s boldness. The church in Antioch’s gospel focus. Above all things, I want to be like Jesus. If Jesus fasted, I want to follow His example.

If we are looking to the Bible for good reasons to fast, there are plenty of them. But the Bible also offers a few bad reasons to fast.


3 Bad Reasons to Fast

Not all fasts are God-honoring. Here are three bad reasons to fast.


1. To twist God’s arm.

The people described in Isaiah 58 were regular fasters, but they got miffed when God didn’t seem to notice (v. 3). God took the opportunity to teach His people about true and false fasting. What’s the bottom line? Fasting is about positioning our own hearts, not twisting the arm of God. It is not a transaction where we fast and God gives us what we want. (That would make Him a pretty small God, no?) It is a gift He gives to us, not a gift we give to Him.


2. To gloss over our sin. 

The Pharisees were regular fasters too, but they were also very good at missing the point. In Luke 18:9–14, Jesus blasts a Pharisee who publicly declared that he fasts twice a week while simultaneously glossing over his own sin. Fasting is not a substitute for repentance.


3. To show off.

Jesus said we should pray in secret. It’s not because fasting is shameful or something to be covered up, but because it is private—it’s between you and God. If your motivation for fasting is to impress others, to make them see you as super-spiritual or extra holy, go ahead and have the cheeseburger, sista, 'cause that is not what fasting is really about.


Is God Calling You to Fast?

I told you God’s Word has a lot to say on the subject of fasting! And I’m just getting warmed up. There’s still so much to discuss. Be sure to hop back on the blog tomorrow for a follow-up post, “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Fasting,” for some practical helps for how to fast.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever fasted? Do you fast regularly? Why do you fast? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.


Friday, 8 November 2019

Creating Space for The Weak

THE VERSE MOST CHURCHES IGNORE

In America, cultural Christianity has led to some serious problems. As a result, Christian America has become more and more post-Christian America.  One of the greatest reasons for our fall is our unwillingness to obey one particular verse in the Bible.  “Accept the one whose faith is weak….” – Romans 14:1.

By failing to include and disciple those without faith along with our impatience with those new to faith, we have caused people with genuine doubts and issues to give up or no longer come to us for help.

Too often Christians have been seen as judgmental and an increased pressure to embrace a facade to look like a “good Christian” has been cultivated.  As a result, churches have been tempted to operate under more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many who follow Christ want everyone to have it together or at least act like they have it together.  In the end, people who struggled with their faith or struggled with sinful choices have felt a need to go in one of two directions:

  • Hide their struggles and never get help.
  • Embrace their struggles and leave the church.


The antidote to this slide away from faith is to follow Paul’s command to the Roman church to “Accept the one whose faith is weak….” – Romans 14:1.  Romans challenges the church to create space for those weaker in faith; this exemplifies the love of God and the missional essence of the church.

JUST CONSIDER, WHAT IF…?


  • What if churches followed through on Paul’s direction to the Romans to accept those who are weak?
  • What if churches allowed people to belong before they believe?
  • What if churches communicated to the world in words and in action to truly “come as you are”?


Accepting the weaker person and creating the space for the unbeliever to be among us is difficult and challenging.

The realities of including the weak more intentionally in our church family have multiple facets:

  • Struggling people don’t often think of the church as their go-to place to find healing.
  •  For those who are part of the community, people who are struggling are messy.
  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • Many of the “more mature” people who follow Christ are looking for a church community in order to hide from the struggles and broken people of the world.
  •  “More mature” Christ-followers give money to be “fed” rather than looking for ways to invest in skeptics and new believers.


  CONSIDER MORE OF THE PASSAGE:

“Accept the one whose faith is weak…. without quarreling over disputable matters….

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself…

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  – Romans 14:1, 15:1-6

CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY

It appears consumer Christianity is not an issue only in America. Paul challenges the Roman Christ-followers to “bear with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves.”  Our human default is towards selfishness and pleasing ourselves.  Our American default is to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” more than anything else which leads to a consumer Christianity. The way of Jesus is to build up others – no matter how weak they may be.  As spiritually-minded people, another way to say this is that we need to join the mission of Jesus and His Church.

Unfortunately, we have misconstrued this word: “Church.”  The Church is not a building. The Church is not a service on Sunday. The Church is not an institution. The Church is not a religion.

We’ve been tricked and confused by distorted views of the Church. Additionally, the stereotype of the world religion known as Christianity often does not represent Jesus well.


  • Rather than loving others, religion judges others.
  • Rather than inviting others in, religion excludes others who look differently or make different moral choices or believe differently.
  • Rather than acknowledging our need for God’s love and forgiveness, religion reeks of hypocrisy and pride.


Instead, the true meaning of the word “Church” literally means “the called-out ones.” The Church is the community of people who follow Jesus!  The Church are those who give up their entire lives to follow Jesus. We are set apart from the world by our behavior and sent out into the world to bring new life!

We are wounded, healers!


There is a universal church – everyone on the planet who follows Jesus and there are local expressions of the church like Gateway.  If you follow Jesus, you are part of the Church!

Erwin McManus, our pastor in Los Angeles, used to say: “The Church is not here to meet our needs. We are the Church, and we are here to meet the needs of the world!”

THE TRUE CHURCH

How differently would the world view the Church if we chose to live as we were created to live – loving and serving and meeting the needs of the world around us?  The Church’s mission is to advance Jesus’ invisible kingdom. His invisible Kingdom is advanced through the faith, love, and hope expressed by those who follow Jesus!

We do not advance the Kingdom of Jesus through violence, arguments, protests, posts on Facebook or tweets on twitter.  We advance His Kingdom through a willingness to lay down our lives to love others as we exemplify Jesus by living godly, holy, and selfless lives.  We do this not so that God will love us. He already does! We do this in response to His love – out of gratitude for His love!

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:


  • Evaluate:  When are we or our ministry leaders operating out of religious tendencies and obligation as opposed to a relationship?


  • Invite a friend skeptical of faith to attend a Sunday service. Ask him or her to share what elements resonated and what elements were off-putting and not helpful.


  • Challenge your leaders to evaluate their ministry areas to consider if they are creating space for those who are weak in their faith.


  • Challenge your leaders to evaluate how they are challenging and helping Christ-followers in fully following Jesus rather than succumbing to cultural Christianity.

Written by Eric Bryant is the pastor at Gateway Church in South Austin, a professor with Bethel Seminary, author of Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World, creator of churchgrowthworkshop.com, and founder of ericbryant.org

First published by SEND INSTITUTE

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Equipping Women to Thrive

Is There a Place for Me? Equipping Women to Thrive

Is There a Place for Me? Equipping Women to Thrive
“Until I saw you, I didn’t know there was a place for me here.”

I had just finished hosting our services on Sunday morning, and a young woman came rushing up to me in the lobby to share this thought. I was a bit caught off guard. After all, I was simply facilitating the transition moments within the service. I wasn’t leading worship. I wasn’t preaching the message. I was for all intents and purposes doing the announcements.

Later that day her comment was still echoing in my mind. Something about a female being present on stage, sharing information, leading the congregation through something as simple as announcements spoke to her.

A few weeks later, I invited her to coffee because I needed to better understand what was resonating with her. Why did my presence on stage matter? As she drank her latte, she expressed that although she grew up in the local church, she never really felt like her gifts had a place. Her experience with the church suggested that the opportunities for women to serve were limited to children’s ministry of hospitality. While she respected and valued those ministries, they weren’t areas where she felt like her gifts were a great fit. As a young professional she loved communicating and leading. She flourished in sales presentations and leading teams. While she loved her local church, she had grown comfortable with attending regularly but found herself less and less involved.

She expressed to me that seeing another woman serving in a different capacity within the church helped her envision a place for her beyond her past experiences.  This gave her hope that there was a place in the church where she could contribute and thrive in her gifting.

Over the years I’ve heard countless stories like this one. I’ve also heard stories of women who didn’t see opportunities for them to serve inside their local church, so they devote their time and energy to other organizations in their community where their gifts are more visibly valued.

A PLACE FOR ALL

These stories all point to the same reverberating question: “Is there a place for me?”  As network and church leaders, this is a question we must address.

Do the women in our churches and in our communities know there is a place for their gifts and their talents to be unleashed in the local church?

Have we made it obvious in our network or church that every individual, male or female, is valued and vital to the church family? Can someone walk in on any Sunday and see women serving and flourishing in various areas within your church?  Is your network incorporating the gifts of women to maximize the efforts for Kingdom growth?

Today’s modern young woman does not see her place inside the church or church planting.  Her talents, gifts and God-given calling are walking out our doors and into the hands of businesses and other non-profits where all her gifts are welcomed and celebrated.

CREATING A CULTURE OF VALUE

Are you creating a culture at your network or church where women feel like their gifts are welcomed and valued?  I want to challenge you to be intentional and create a plan to more actively involve women in ministry.

Young women operate under the assumption that hospitality and kid’s ministries are the only areas for them to serve.  These were the opportunities they saw when they grew up in the church, and so they assume that those are still the acceptable options.

Will you accept the challenge to show them differently?  Will you show them that the church is eager for them to be a part of God’s Kingdom work through a variety of facets?

Women leaders will only know of other opportunities if we are actively showing them innovative and creative pathways for women to serve and flourish in their giftedness.

ACTION/REFLECTION

Wondering where to start?  Here are some questions for your leadership team to consider:


  • Where do women most visibly serve in your network or church?  The cafĂ©, the nursery?  How about production, on stage, on leadership teams?  How can we incorporate women into various facets of your network or church plant?


  • What percentage of your key leaders are women?


  • When do you offer women’s groups or training, and at what times?  Are they mostly during the day and targeted to moms?  Or do you have evening groups and subjects that connect with professional women and singles?  If you are not consciously creating opportunities for women, then you’re subconsciously marginalizing their value.


  • If you were a single, professional young woman would you be able to easily identify where you fit inside your church or network?


These questions will help you identify where you may be unintentionally communicating that there is very limited space for women to lead. I encourage you to think through these questions, discuss them with your leadership team, invite some women in your church or network to share their perspective, and then build a plan to more clearly create opportunities for women to serve.

The church needs all of the body, men, and women, using their gifts for the glory of God and the good of others!


Written by JENNI CATRON and first published on Send Institute website
Jenni Catron is a leadership coach, author, and speaker. Her passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same. As Founder and CEO of The 4Sight Group, she consults organizations on leadership, team culture, and organizational health.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Why does God allow earthquakes?

Key Scriptures Romans 8:18-23 and Luke 13:4-5

Earthquake Aftershock

If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way, the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.

This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God.

As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.

We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.

The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long-distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. That too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.

Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday's rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that - even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.

And the 12-year-old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5'11.5", 170 lbs and has an IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bedtime he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from the epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question...

damaged property


"Why does God allow earthquakes?"

I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority because we don't know what comes next. And while God doesn't cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder - that creation is subject to God's curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such "groaning" God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.

He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don't get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.

Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we put in place when we can't find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don't see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma or frustration.

He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness...


Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn't make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.

Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don't have the answers, Lord bring us peace and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!

Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Kingdom of God

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 



The kingdom of God is a central theme of the Gospels as well as other New Testament books. It is the message that John the Baptist declared in preparation for Jesus (Mt 3:2Mk 1:14-15), what Jesus taught the disciples in the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension (Ac 1:3), and what Paul is recorded as proclaiming at the conclusion of the book of Acts (Ac 28:31).

A kingdom is a place where someone has a rule or governance. The same is true of the kingdom of God. Jesus said in his prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). The kingdom of God is where God’s will is carried out.

The Old Testament theme of Yahweh’s rule and reign is another way of describing the kingdom of God. The psalmist speaks of Yahweh’s kingdom as an everlasting realm that endures throughout all generations (Ps 145:13). Isaiah declares that Yahweh will save (Isa 33:22) and speaks of a time when God will be worshiped in all the earth (Isa 2).

During the first century AD, many Jews believed that the Messiah would initiate this reign, which is based on passages like Malachi 3:1-5; Zechariah 9:9-10; Isaiah 9:1-7; and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. They also believed that the kingdom would be established through political or military means (compare Mt 26:51-53; Lk 22:47-53) - but Jesus ushered in the kingdom in a radically unexpected way. He announced that the kingdom had come upon those whom he freed from demons (Mt 12:28); he taught that the kingdom should be received like a child (Mk 10:15) and explained that it belongs to the impoverished (Lk 6:20). Jesus declared the kingdom of God as a present reality that could be experienced by those he taught and to whom he ministered.

Jesus’ teaching also assumed the kingdom was a future reality. While his disciples expected the kingdom to appear immediately, Jesus changed their expectations by telling them a parable about a ruler who had to leave before he could return to his kingdom (Lk 19:11-27). He described what good and faithful servants could do in the meantime. Paul spoke of the kingdom as something that could be inherited (1 Co 6:9-10) and that does not perish (1 Co 15:50). These examples testify to the kingdom of God as a future reality.

To borrow the phrase made popular by George Eldon Ladd, the kingdom of God is “already/not yet.” God’s kingdom has a dual dimension. Jesus initiated the kingdom of earth, and wherever God’s will is carried out, the kingdom is a reality. The kingdom, however, had not been fully manifested in Jesus’ day - nor has it in ours. We do not yet live in a world where God’s will is a complete reality. We feel the tension of experiencing God’s kingdom in our lives and communities before it is fully realized. We still see unbelief, brokenness, and sin, telling us God’s will is not yet fully expressed.

Many believers neglect to focus on the kingdom as a present reality. Their concern centers on the future reality of getting to heaven - but this focus can easily sever the relationship between the Christian life and the life here and now. When Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10), he asked that God would bring the experience of heaven to earth. Through Jesus, God’s reign, rule, and power are available to us today, not just in the distant future. The present reality of the kingdom of God should prompt us to examine our lives and ask what areas we have not yet surrendered to God’s rule.

On a larger level, the notion of God’s kingdom should lead us to examine both our neighborhoods and the global community and ask what lies outside of God’s desires. Where are people not being treated with the dignity and honor they deserve as God’s image-bearers?

As we anticipate the time when all things will be made fully new (Rev. 21:4-5), we can actively participate in the kingdom of God now (Mt 4:17). As we surrender to the reign of God, we will begin to experience the kingdom of God now - as God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10).

What questions does the present reality of God’s kingdom prompt you to ask about your community?





Cred: Bible Connection News

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Dealing with Evil in the Church, without losing your faith


19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT2)

In one of his (Boccaccio) stories in the Decameron, a practical Jewish businessman, Abraham, is contemplating conversion and baptism, at the gentle leading of the pious archbishop of Paris, but has to reside at Rome for a season to do business with the Borgia family and the papal bankers. The archbishop asks him if he wouldn’t like to receive baptism before his trip, but he is a practical man, and business must come first. The bishop is convinced that Abraham will never join the Church once he sees her corruptions with his own eyes; but when he returns to Paris, he asks to be baptized! He explains to the startled archbishop, “I’m a practical Jewish businessman. I don’t know theology, but I know the business. And one thing I know with certainty is that no earthly business that corrupt and venal could possibly last fourteen weeks; this one has lasted over fourteen centuries. It’s a miracle! Count me in!”

I have been grieving over the church recently.

It seems like we are entering a season where evil seems to be winning, thrusting its devastation both near and far. I see the broken lives, some still in denial about what is going on, about their role in the game, I sense that others don't really care, passing by the broken lives as the priest and the Levite did on the road.

On the national level, the battles are like icebergs. In my denomination, you see it in the reactions to a document which alleges chronic, planned and coordination bullying. The Catholic Church has its internal wars going, as do the Methodists, Baptists, and other groups.

And what is even scarier, the wars we see are often not the real war. As any counsellor/manager knows, the stated problem is rarely the real problem. Those are deeper, even at the point of sub-conscious, as our souls can't bear the trauma.

On a local level, sin has raised its bitter head to many times in the past two months. Again, the temptation is to deny the seriousness of the impact on individuals and parishes. We want to say, "that's their problem, it won't affect me or mine." Yet, even in saying that, we acknowledge the division in the church.

To that point, Peter Kreeft's Socrates referents Boccaccio, and makes me think deeper. Could our evil be used by God to draw others to Him? (This is by no means an excuse, or should we use it to justify or be complacent about evil - we need to confront it) The Jewish businessman finds hope because the church perseveres in spite of the corruption, in spite of the evil.

It requires a great deal of faith or true depending on God to see this. It takes the attitude of Joseph, who can piece together all the things God used to come to a point where the family is preserved, where they are provided for in the midst of another storm.

God doesn't like such things or plan them, and I am sure they break His heart. Yet, His love finds a way to use them to bless us, all things, even the evil, even the brokenness. He promises that so many times, along with the fact that He will never leave us or forsake us.

We need to know that in these dark days, and in those to come.

He is with us, He will be with us, and somehow, He will use even these times.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

Friday, 21 December 2018

Our Victory in Christ

What do we think of when we hear the word victory? For the serviceman, it means winning a war, often with bloodshed as a trophy. For the addict, it means conquering the desire to hurt themselves physically, morally, and spiritually. For the policeman, it means that a crime has been solved and the criminal is punished. For the fireman, it means that the flames are extinguished and lives are saved.

But, as noble and important as these things are, to those of us who are convicted of our sins and desire peace with God, victory is when we surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and death, hell, and the grave hold no place for us for eternity.

We are made free from the grip of the devil and have an ever-present Friend who will guide and protect us from the wiles of the enemy. Romans 10: 9-10 says: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”(KJV) We can ask Him to save, cleanse, and forgive us by the blood He shed on our behalf on the cross.


We can sing with the redeemed the old hymn:

“Oh Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever, He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.” (Public Domain)

Victory for the child of God is based upon the fact of salvation found only in Christ.

-Jesus is promised victory over death, hell, and the grave (Isaiah 53:12)

-Through Jesus, we overcome the world and all its sins (John 16:33)

-Jesus will deliver the kingdom to the Father at the end of time, with His work of redemption concluded (1 Corinthians 15:24)

-Jesus has victory over the events of the world and will bring all things under His rule (Revelation 5:5)

-He will be victorious over the evil of the world and usher in a time of peace for all time (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-10).


When we see the terrible things happening on the earth and within the souls of people, we can get discouraged and somewhat frightened for our lives. We see that the clock is ticking and the forces of Antichrist are soon coming upon this world, enveloping all who take his mark into a future of absolute hell on earth and eternal hell forever.

This is why, against all the odds, we must continue to be faithful and effective witnesses for Jesus. Our loved one’s lives are in the balance. God’s calendar does not need to be corrected or hurried. Even in this seemingly chaotic world, everything is going according to His plan, even if we can’t see the “big picture”.

Remember, we are victorious in Christ and we have become one of His children by trusting Him for salvation. He will have the last word and nothing will stop Him from accomplishing His triumphal mission. Remember that when you feel overwhelmed or discouraged. It’s going to be all right. We are on the winning side! Amen!




By Dr Donald Whitchard

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Why Are Millennials Leaving Church?

Why Are Millennials Leaving Church? Millennials Explain


\Nearly one year ago, Sam Eaton, a millennial from Minneapolis, wrote a blog post detailing "12 reasons millennials are over the church." Since then, he has received thousands of hateful and angry comments. But what he wants Christians to know is that that was his love letter to the American church.

"I got a lot of hate for this," said Eaton, an elementary school music teacher and founder of a suicide prevention ministry called Recklessly Alive. "I love the church like Christ loved the church. I want to see it prospering and I look around and I see my generation has left."

Eaton was joined this week by two other millennials to discuss his controversial blog post on "The Table" podcast, hosted by Dr Darrell Bock, executive director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Bock invited them to try to better understand what millennials are thinking and why so many are leaving the church.

For one, millennials want to be mentored, not preached at.

"Preaching just doesn't reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. See millennial church attendance. We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our fingertips," Eaton wrote on his 2016 blog.

"Millennials crave a relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes. We're looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don't have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch?"

Eaton clarified on the podcast that he's not advising churches to stop preaching the Gospel to the younger generation.

"But if you're relying on that to drive millennials into your church, it's just not going to work because if I'm struggling with fear today, I can sit at home with my sweatpants and find 50 sermons by Francis Chan about fear," he explained. "Yes, keep preaching but also come around us … teach me how to live these things out."

Millennials not only want to be mentored but they also want to be heard and valued for who they are in a world that says they're not good enough.

Another reason millennials are "over the church" is that they're sick of hearing about values and mission statements.

"Stop wasting time on the religious mambo jumbo and get back to the heart of the gospel," Eaton wrote.

Expanding on that, Eaton said this week that though churchgoers need a common mission, they're not impressed when the church spends more time talking about the mission statement than putting it into action.

Kat L. Armstrong, executive director of Polished, a ministry for young professional women, believes integrity is a big issue among millennials.

"I think millennials are serious about integrity in a way we've never seen before," she said on the podcast. "Let's have some integrity behind our words."

Part of that includes serving the "least of these," Eaton noted.

While many churches schedule countless "church-type activities" such as Bible studies, social functions and planning meetings, very little time is being devoted to helping the poor or least fortunate, Eaton argued.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't be studying the Word of God; we should be studying that every single day. You should be in a Bible study … [or] in a small group but if that's it, you're kinda missing the point of this book (Bible)," he explained.

"I just don't know how you can read James or Matthew 25, the least of these, and just go back to your normal American life and not live it out."

Millennials are also tired of the church blaming the culture for everything, Eaton noted.

Nika Spaulding, director of Women's Equipping and Curriculum at Watermark Church in Dallas, said the young adult generation needs help interpreting the culture.

"Rather than hearing it's evil and dangerous, help us interpret it," she said on the podcast. "That kind of teaching requires nuance … to help you navigate this world that is utterly broken and yet has redemptive value throughout it that we can find."

The church also needs to start addressing controversial issues rather than avoiding it.

Issues include career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals and body image.

"We don't like how the world is telling us to live, but we never hear from our church either," Eaton, who once struggled with suicidal thoughts, lamented.

"Tell us what the Bible says about these issues and then give us some space to wrestle with it ourselves and let us talk to God about what the Bible says," he said.

Another big issue millennials have with churches is distrust and misallocation of resources.

"Over and over we've been told to 'tithe' and give 10% of our incomes to the church but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don't trust institutions for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be," Eaton wrote.

What millennials want is "painstaking transparency" - such as a document on the church website tracking every dollar, he suggested.

Spaulding noted, "We're being lectured all the time, 'you're living beyond your means' and then you look at this $5 million debt of a [church] building."

She said her church has a rule "where if my budget went on the front of the Dallas Morning News, would I be comfortable with that?"

"I think that holds me to a different level of accountability," she noted. "Would I feel comfortable telling the 20-year-old who gave 10 per cent of their $12,000 salary and the 60-year-old who … also gave me 10 per cent of their $150,000 salary, am I valuing their contributions?"

According to a 2013 Barna survey, 59 per cent of millennials (born between 1984 through 2002) who grew up in the church have dropped out at some point. Over a third said they left because of the church's irrelevance, hypocrisy and moral failures of its leaders. Meanwhile, two out of 10 said they feel God is missing in church.

Armstrong said she hopes that churches can put "some defenses down" and "take some ownership on this" as they try to bring millennials back to church.

Bock agreed that change is needed.

"How can we preach and teach transformation and then not be willing to change? That doesn't make sense at all," he said. "So to be challenged to do better is not something that should threaten the church, it's something the church should welcome."




Cred: Christian Post

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Not of the world, though in the world


My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. -John 17:15-16

How are God’s people supposed to engage the broader culture around them? There is much confusion about the topic of cultural engagement. Whereas some Christians choose to ignore culture, others rail against it. And others are seduced by it.

The Bible calls us to engage the broader society while retaining a distinctive Christian identity and purpose. We need to think deeply and clearly about what it means to engage secular, pluralistic culture, especially in our work.

Many Christians are confused about how and to what extent they should engage the world. For this reason, discussing cultural engagement requires humility and submission to God. We need to realize that if we do not think carefully about how to engage the culture, we may succumb to the ways of the culture that are not pleasing to God when we decide to engage it. Pastor and theologian Tim Keller explain:

“The reality is that if the church does not think much about culture - about what parts are good, bad, or indifferent according to the Bible - its members will begin to uncritically imbibe the values of the culture. They will become assimilated to culture, despite intentions to the contrary. Culture is complex, subtle, and inescapable…. And if we are not deliberately thinking about our culture, we will simply be conformed to it without ever knowing it is happening.”

Keller then reviews four different models of cultural engagement:


-Being relevant to the culture to live winsomely (joyfully)
-Transforming culture into the decrees of Christ when possible
-Living counter-culturally to shine the light of Christ
-Recognizing that there are two kingdoms- the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God

According to Keller, each of these four Christian approaches to cultural engagement can help us discern how to engage the world in a fruitful and faithful way. There is not one uniform approach that should dictate how a Christian engages the world. Rather, there is a need for significant spiritual discernment in the difficult balance of being in the world, but not of it.

Every day we are faced with decisions about how we should engage the world in our work. For example, many of us have to make decisions about which clients to take on, whose lead to follow and what causes to stand for. And our decision-making inevitably entails all sorts of trade-offs, compromises and ambiguity. We often find ourselves living and working in gray areas, questioning how intentional or effective we are with respect to engaging the world distinctly as Christian.

How do we know where we can and should be flexible for the sake of a greater good? How far is too far before we lose our distinctiveness as Christians? The answers to questions like these will need to be considered case by case, with the wisdom of Scripture and other Christians. But the four approaches provided by Keller above are a good starting point. We must realize, with humility, that different situations require different approaches. Nevertheless, as Christ’s disciples we are called to engage the world so that we might win some to Christ and see his kingdom advance on earth.

How can you engage culture distinctly as a Christian in your day-to-day life?




Cred: Bible Connection News

Monday, 13 August 2018

The Person of the Holy Spirit

Who Is the Holy Spirit?


A good number of religious beliefs teaches about a force that offers life and purpose to all things in all of the earth. One example is the concept of the karma- the law of cause and effect where everyone creates their own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Most Christians, nevertheless, hold that this “force” is not a strange and impersonal by any means, instead, it's a God who cares greatly about our lives. Early Christianity exclusively and distinctly believes this God is one being made of three unique persons: the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Every single person in the Trinity shares precisely the same substance and possesses a special role. The relationship of love and community that is shared among the three flows over into a relationship that the triune God wants with each and every person. For that reason, the Holy Spirit is a significant aspect of who God is.


Biblical References

Christians believe the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity due to the fact Bible generally back up that idea.

The Old Testament helps to make various evidence to God’s Spirit. The Spirit was present at creation and gave strength and power to humans like Moses, Samson, and David. And the Psalms speak of the Holy Spirit’s boundless presence in which no person can hide or flee.

In the New Testament, authors also elaborated on the Holy Spirit. They wrote in regards to the Holy Spirit’s role in convicting people whenever they do wrong, guiding and directing people to do what is right, and often teaching and enlightening the truth about God to all who seek him. Luke, a medical practitioner and one of the Gospel writers, revealed that one’s relationship to God is very much like one’s relationship to the Holy Spirit.

However, knowing properly who the Holy Spirit is can be challenging. It’s fairly simple to believe God as a creator or a father-like figure. Also, Jesus is a touchable person who we can learn about and study. However, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, may appear far more unexplainable and incredibly elusive. A selection of examples can certainly help our understanding.

Describing the Holy Spirit


In the first English, translations of the Bible -the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Holy Ghost.”

Ghosts are generally considered scary creatures. They reportedly haunt houses, graveyards, and people. Or ghosts are represented as nice and cute-like Casper or bed-sheet-covered three-year-olds who knock on the gates at Halloween.

But in line with most Christians, the Holy Spirit is neither scary nor cute. So what exactly is-or who is the Holy Spirit?

One image found in the Bible arises from nature. The word often translated “spirit” from Hebrew and Greek, the original languages of the Bible, also mean “breath” or “wind.”6 In this sense, the Holy Spirit is like the wind you can feel its effects when it blows however, you cannot pin it down.

Jesus described it using this method: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. Therefore it is with every person born of the Spirit.”

One more image regarding the Holy Spirit is advocate or helper. When Jesus was teaching his disciples at some point, he said, “All this I have spoken while still with you. Nevertheless, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

An advocate is someone who stands alongside you, works together with you, encourages and supports your cause. He is a counsellor who supports, defends, teaches, and helps you whenever you are having difficulties. Imagine a legal advocate who pleads your case in court. This is actually the role of the Holy Spirit for people who ask for his support in their lives.

The Presence of the Holy Spirit


So in some cases, the Holy Spirit is comparable to the mysterious but powerful wind; sometimes he is just like a special helper, partner, or advocate beside us. And yet Christians also believe the Holy Spirit can live within us, filling our minds and hearts with freedom, joy, purpose, and grace.

By doing this, the Holy Spirit could be the presence of Jesus in our lives.

When people first started following Jesus, his love infected them and changed their lives. Though Jesus is no longer in physical form present in the world, the Holy Spirit makes his life-giving presence accessible to all who seek him.

The apostle Paul simplified it like this: “But if Christ is in you, then despite the fact that your body is subject to death as a result of sin, the Spirit gives life by virtue of righteousness. Given that the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

That being said we take another look at the unexplained role of the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working together inexplicably to express God and his will in our lives.

What the Holy Spirit Does


Possibly the easiest way to fully grasp who the Holy Spirit comes from outlining what he does. For many years, men and women of faith have tried to communicate the sacred feeling they encounter when they pray and seek God.

To many, it’s a moment of power and inspiration that brings about emotions which can’t actually be explained. Some others summarize it as the voice of their conscience warning them of grave danger or challenging them to help someone in need of help. Additionally, it’s the tremendous sense that-when other people have let us down-we are not alone. We are still loved by a God who is both infinitely transcendent and imminently close.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

What it mean to be forgiven

FORGIVEN? WHAT DOES IT MEAN 


Nearly every religion in the world is based on the idea that forgiveness must be earned. The one exception is Christianity. The heart of the Christian message is that sin must be punished, and there’s no way people can earn their own forgiveness. However, Jesus came to earth, lived the perfect life we could not live and died the death we deserved to die so that he could pay the penalty for our sins. So you are forgiven. Period. When you know you are forgiven, your past can stay in the past and your future can be totally different because you’ve been set free from guilt and shame over what you’ve done.

Think you’re such a world-class sinner that not even almighty God can rescue you? Don’t flatter yourself. Nothing you could ever do is more significant than what Jesus has already done for you on the cross. When Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30), he meant that the full price for sin had been paid-no matter what you’ve done. He’ll forgive you if you just ask him to(see 1 John 1:9-10).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

And once you’ve confessed to him, any accusations you keep hearing won’t be from him-because he won’t bring up your past sin once it’s been forgiven.(see Psalm 103:12).

as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us




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Friday, 16 March 2018

Going To Church

Why Should I Go to Church?


Celebrating Together

When you decide to follow Jesus, you are not following a religion, but beginning a personal relationship with God through Christ. However, your faith isn’t just a personal thing that has no implications for connection with other people.

Scripture gives reasons why the Church, worldwide body of Christians-is important in your faith journey and here are some;

Church Was God’s Idea


God wanted to have a people for himself: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). Jesus, too, spoke of the church. He made it clear that establishing the church was one of his primary missions and that, despite opposition, nothing would stop it: “….on this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).


You’re Already Part of Church


In God’s family, no one is an only child. You are part of a huge multinational, multicultural, multiethnic enterprise. The metaphor often used in Scripture is that of a body. This speaks of how utterly important each member is, including you. Each Christian needs the other parts of the body-those that are totally unlike each other in order to see the full picture of who God is and to serve him effectively in this world. Check out I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 for more.


You Have Spiritual Gifts to Offer


All believers are given spiritual gifts. These gifts are intended to be used to build other believers up. Again, Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 have something to say about gifts, but also look at 1 Corinthians 14 and I Peter 4. The church should be a place to discover and develop your spiritual gifts. It can enable you to exercise your spiritual gifts through serving in different areas of mission and ministry in and through the church.


It Teaches You about Community


The Bible is filled with verses like “bear one another's burdening” and “love one another” (read John 13:34, Romans 12:16, Galatians 5:13 and Colossians 3:13 for just a few). And the church is where you can learn to live out all these “one another” verses. You were never intended to do life alone, but rather in the company of brothers and sisters. Your transformation in Christ will start showing up in your relationships with others.


Church Gives You Role Models


As you interact with people across generational lines, you’ll learn what healthy, biblically-rooted relationships look like. You can find models of vitalized marriages. You can receive kindness from an older woman who fills the void your own mom was never able to fill. You can reprogram your concept of “father” (which is important for how to relate to God, your heavenly Father) when you have healthy relationships with men of integrity and purity.


The church is Ultimately about God


Last but not least, the primary reason the church gathers is to give God the praise he deserves. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it goes: In the same way people rate restaurants for service, presentation, and taste, they sometimes come to church with a “consumer mentality.” People wind up appraising the preacher or the band, either positively or negatively. Nonetheless, you and the rest of the church are called to “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29).


What about you? If you’ve started going to church, have you seen any of these six reasons become a reality in your life yet?


by Mindy Meier




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Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Transfigurations

The Light Shines!




Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the transformation God is working in your life, as the Holy Spirit causes you to shine with God’s glory!

Two transfigurations?

If you looked carefully at the title of the sermon, you would have seen that the word transfiguration is plural.  You would also see the reading the sermon is based on is not the reading of Jesus transfiguration, that amazing day that stunned Peter, James, and John as Christ was transfigured, right before their eyes.

Can you imagine being there, having Jesus revealed in all of His glory?  Would you drop to the ground in awe, or would you put your foot in your mouth like Peter did?  John would speak of it later with these words,

 14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

But this sermon is not about the transfiguration, it is about the transfigurations.  It’s not based on the Gospel according to Mark, but what we call the second letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.

It’s about the transfiguration the Holy Spirit is working on this morning, the transfiguration that is occurring to you and to me, as the glory of God is seen in our lives.

And because this is about our transfiguration, it, of course, it is about Christ being revealed to us, in all His glory as well.

What blinds you?


For the Jews in the time of Jesus and Paul, the Old Testament served as the veil which Paul describes.  Oddly enough it was voluntary at first, as people were so troubled by the glory and love of God that they couldn’t even look upon a reflection of the glory seen glowing in Moses.

They choose the veil, and they hung on to it as if seeing God, would overwhelm them.  Paul identifies that veil as the Law, the Old Covenant that allowed them to focus on all the law, on all the minutiae. On all the ways they can try to prove they are God’s choice, or on all the ways they fail and fail to see God’s mercy that is available to them.

But we have our veils as well, things that we think hide us from God, or at least His holiness, His glorious love from us.  Our veils are just as much a challenge, and we choose them and bind them about us.

The first veil is the one the Pharisees and Sadducees often wore.  It is the self-righteous we wear, that would melt away if we compared it to the glory of God.  We might consider ourselves good because we go to the best church, or because we have the better political beliefs, or because we don’t sin as blatantly as others.  We try to measure up to God’s law, well at least the commandments we haven’t overtly broken.  I mean, no one here murdered anyone this week, or committed adultery, or robbed anyone else…. Right?   ( I won’t mention “bear false witness- gossip” or “be envious of others homes, spouses, job, pets, - but I will project that on the screen!)

The other veil is self-condemnation, looking at all the rules and realizing that we can’t keep them, about living with the tears and shame that comes from hiding behind a veil, and realizing how we are wasting away in a prison of our own making. Thinking that because we can’t overcome sin and self-centeredness on our own, that this means we will never escape how it crushes us.

And we, who think we can hide behind a veil… often move from being self-righteous to being self-condemned, fluctuating day by day, sometimes far more frequent.

The veil stops us, but how can it be removed?

Only God Can And Has


It is removed when we trust in Jesus, as we depend upon Him to keep the promises made to us, about cleansing us from the sin we so hate.

This is the work of the Spirit, as we are turned to the Lord, as the Spirit takes away the veil, as Christ Jesus is revealed, and His work is made known.  As that happens, our lives are being changed,  our lives begin to reflect Christ, not as a mirror would, but something deeper.  For the Spirit begins to transfigure us, this is the same word that Mark uses in His gospel.   We are transfigured as we look to Christ, as we dwell in Him!  We begin to show His glory, as the Holy Spirit makes this happen!

We are changed for the glory of Christ didn’t just reflect from our lives, but as it made its mark there.  His glory, which we stand in awe of acts like a branding iron, forever marking us as His own people, a people who become more and more like Him. What a glorious thing!

It is why Paul says we can be bold, so assure of God welcoming us, His children, into His presence.  It is why we don’t give up, and why we strive to do things the right way, keeping this powerful word of God straight, undistorted, focused on Jesus, reveling in the fullness of His love!  It is so incredible, as Paul says, we don’t want to talk about ourselves, but rather the love of Jesus, and are willing to serve people to help them know that!

That is why Paul said we work so hard trying to reveal Jesus love to others. Hear His words again,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

The assurance of sharing in His glory, the assurance of being loved by the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit!  For one with Christ, you are being changed into one who shines with His glory.  This is the transfigurations!  Rejoice and rest in His peace!  AMEN!




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Thursday, 8 March 2018

Wasted Life?

Christian, do you ever feel like your life is a waste?



16 Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his •slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception v they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, w x and therefore I’m unable to come.’
21 “So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’
22 “ ‘Master,’ the slave said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’ ”   Luke 14:16-24 HCSB

The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.

Vivification.  That incredible blessing as the Holy Spirit pierces our heart with the law, and then creates life in a person, creating in them the ability to believe in God, and the ability to depend upon Him.  We talked about Justification a lot, and Sanctification some, but Vivification?  Not so much!

To put it in less technical language, Jesus brings us to life, all of us, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The older versions of the creeds talk of being quickened, and that is what we are talking about.  We were dead in sin, and in baptism intimately linked with Jesus death, and then so united, we rise to new life again. This is how the Holy Spirit makes us born again!

Too often though, we don't encourage each other to live this new life.  We talk about being united with Jesus in life, but we too often forget we are united in His mission as well. To use the parable from Luke, we forget the importance of the party and choose instead to waste this new life away.

We come up with so many good excuses though!  I can worship God on my own, I don't have time for long prayers, or studying His word.  We don't have to do these things -because we don't earn our salvation!  We keep making the excuses, we keep telling ourselves we will get back to church later, that we will open that dust-covered Bible, that we will spend more time in prayer, and we will try to love our neighbor, and our enemy.

And with each excuse, we choose to not walk with Jesus, we choose to ignore His wonderful invitation, and we fail to see the Spirit work through us.

This isn't "do this or you won't be saved", it is "this is what salvation is", walking with God, knowing His love, ministering to others, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is having a life worth meaning, a life we can look back on and truly say, God was with us!"

Lord, have mercy on us, forgive us of making excuses, and help us live in everlasting life, with you!  AMEN!



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How can we be in “Fellowship” with Those in Error? (or How can we not be?)

Devotional Thought



51 When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. 53 But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem.54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
55 But He turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.  Luke 9:51-56

2  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:2-6 (NLT)

15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter.14* For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour.15* They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities

But as the words of this decree show, the apostles did not want to impose an ordinance on the churches. For they say that no one should mind if his brethren do not correctly compute the time in celebrating Easter. The text of the decree is preserved in Epiphanius: “Do not calculate, but whenever your brethren of the circumcision do, celebrate it at the same time with them; even if they have made a mistake, do not let this bother you.”....  44 The apostles wisely admonished the reader neither to destroy evangelical liberty nor to impose a necessity upon consciences, since they tell him not to be bothered even if there has been a mistake in the calculations.

I have had to walk a few people through the same question in the last few weeks and to be honest, I have struggled with it as well.

If they are in error, do we separate ourselves from them (i.e. kick them out)?  Or who are we "in fellowship" with, and how much should that concern us.  For that matter, is fellowship something that is able to be constrained within a man-made,, man-defined organization?

And into that equation today is thrown a few more things to consider.  Two scripture passages, a quote from Vatican Council II's Lumen Gentium, and a quote from the Lutheran Confessions.

All point to something we need to remember, fellowship is defined by God, as being united, first and foremost with God.  There is only one church, one body of Christ.  Paul is explicit in the quote from Ephesians, as he is in First Corinthians.  We are united to Christ, that is what defines us as the ecclesia, those called, those drawn into Jesus, and united to Him at the cross.

That's why the Roman Catholic Council notes that there are many ways we are linked, including in our baptism, that we are honored by being called Christian. Even though we don't agree with all they profess, and we don't recognize the Pope as the successor of Peter.   That's why the Lutheran Confessions clearly point out a time when the church chose unity over what had been declared doctrine, and praise and encourage loving our brothers enough to celebrate God's grace, even if they are mistaken about the day and date.

Can we be comfortable with error?  Is there a point where the links are no more, where what binds us together is severed?  I suppose that if what bound someone to Jesus were severed, then the link between would be cut as well.  But the work of the church, even then, is to reconcile the one severed from Christ because of sin back to Christ.  There is still a link there, just as there was with the prodigal, though the prodigal didn't know it.

And the Lutheran Confessions make it clear, there are some errors that seem extreme at the time, (i.e. food offered to idols, the dating and celebration of Easter, even the use of the spiritual gifts i  1 Cor. 14) that should not divide us, but that we can overlook those minor errors for the sake of the church, His church.

This means in the caring process, we may not commune together for a season, but it doesn't stop us from praying for them and with them, it doesn't stop us from talking, it doesn't stop us from having the goal of being united in Christ Jesus.  Of making every effort to be united in the Spirit.  These times, where discipline is broken, where unity is hindered, the goal is still that unity, unity found in the grace and forgiveness and restoration that is the reason Jesus came in the first place.

So next time you look to win the argument, consider whether winning gives you the idea that you are the better or the more orthodox or Biblical believer...and consider whether your actions are conciliatory, or divisive.....

And then, do what builds up the body of Jesus....




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