Church Community Encourages Growth!

-Celebrate The Differences!

During our nearly 35 years of marriage & ministry together, my wife and I have had several opportunities to minister to some married couples who were struggling with their relationship.  And, more often than not, they were fighting over the very things they originally found attractive about each other—their differences! Oh yes, indeed, opposites do attract! And, if you don’t celebrate the differences from the start of the marriage, you’ll begin to see them as irritants after while.

-Diversity Is God’s Blessing!

Those differences were obvious early on; and, they were seen as complimentary because each one filled in some deficiency in the other person. That’s also true in the faith community that makes up every local church.  Have you noticed how different each individual member is in your church? We all have different backgrounds & upbringings; and, that diversity adds strength to the faith community! But—like marriage—those differences can become problematic to our fellowship if we’re not careful. We can look at how different we are & conclude that we just can’t fellowship with those people! When we “go there” we make the same mistake as the troubled married couple!

-Differences Give Us Perspective!

The differences that my wife & I brought into the marriage gave us perspective; and, stretched us because they exposed our individual weaknesses & our need to make some changes in our lives. I believe we are each a better person because we’ve grown, in those areas, to actually be more like the other person. God uses His church to accomplish the same thing in our lives—our differences make us stronger! God often exposes our weaknesses & our sinful tendencies through the strengths of others.

-No Traction Without Friction!

In fact, our interaction, within the faith community, is one of the MOST significant ways that God grows us spiritually! It’s the friction that we encounter, in our church family, that gives the Holy Spirit the necessary traction to grow us! So, don’t ever look condescendingly at anyone! In Romans 15:1-6 the Apostle Paul points out the fact that there are individuals—within the church—who are strong spiritually; and, others who are weak! And, that can be said of every local church!

-Spiritual Infants Need Your Help!

In every faith community there are some who are spiritually weak in their faith. Perhaps they’re a spiritual “infant” because they’ve never been discipled. Their greatest need is for someone spiritually mature, in the faith, to come alongside them & show them how to grow.  There are others who are weak because they’ve been wounded or hurt—could be spiritual, emotional, or physical pain that they’re dealing with! Again, they just need someone to love them enough to come alongside them & take the time to listen; and, to help! God intends for the Church of Christ to do the work of Christ! That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer so that we could reconcile people to God!

 

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What A Healthy Church Looks Like!

-It’s Supernatural, Holy Spirit Empowered!

God’s work is never accomplished in the strength of the flesh! The book of Acts describes the early church as a supernatural, Holy Spirit empowered organism. What we read, in the 2nd chapter, is the result of a healthy church living in obedience to Jesus. After His resurrection, He gathered the disciples; and, He commissioned them to go & do something—He commissioned them to make disciples of all nations! But, He told them 1st to go to an upper room, in Jerusalem, and, WAIT for God’s Holy Spirit to indwell them & empower them! And, that’s exactly what they did!

-The Normal Way The Spirit Works!

In the power, of the Holy Spirit, they began to make disciples! It says:  “Those who accepted the message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41-47).  The church grew spiritually & numerically! This is the normal way that the Spirit of God works.

-A Healthy Church Is Gospel-Centered!

When a church gets spiritually healthy, Jesus uses them to add disciples—a healthy church is loyal to God & to one another in their devotion to sound doctrine. The text says “…they devoted themselves…” to the teaching of the Apostles! That word “devoted” literally means to be “loyal” or “attached” to something—the church was LOYAL to the teaching of the Apostles; so, they were LOYAL to sound doctrine! That’s a mark of a healthy church—it’s “Word” centered! It’s “gospel-centered”!

-A Healthy Church Rejects Error!

That means it exposes “error”—all teachings contrary to the Apostle’s! Any church that fails to expose error; and, fails to align with the New Testament teachings of the Apostles is unhealthy! And, we do so out of a loyalty, and, attachment to God first; but, also to the rest of the members of our local church! As a faith community, we show loyalty to each other; and, Biblical love for each other when we insist that everything we teach & preach—in classes, in Small Groups, in the pulpit—is consistent with the Apostle’s teachings in the New Testament!

-It’s A Challenge To Stay Healthy!

Can you imagine the challenges, of this church, in Jerusalem? Adding 3,000 new believers in one day is both a Pastor’s “DREAM” & a Pastor’s “NIGHTMARE.” All the variety of backgrounds! Their ignorance of basic Bible doctrines! What a mammoth task to disciple them all in their new faith—but, they were “devoted” or “loyal” to each other & that made all the difference!

Daniel & The Invisible God!

(NOTE: This Concludes Our Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Never Give Up On Prayer!

As I bring this series of posts—on Daniel’s life—to an end, I conclude with an urgent plea not to give up because you don’t get an answer, to your prayers, according to your time line! Instead of quitting, follow Daniel’s example and devote more time to more prayer & fasting! Daniel shows us that because we pray in the spirit, we can’t see—with our physical eyes—the spiritual responses our prayers stir up!

-If We Could Only See!

If we could see into the spiritual realm, our prayer effort would reveal invisible forces of good & evil opposing one another. Unseen spiritual forces are behind every movement! Daniel couldn’t tell, just by observing the Persian Gov’t, that there was a war going on between an “angel of God” & a demonic “prince of Persia” (see Daniel chapter 10). But, if he could have pulled the curtain back, dividing our realm from the spiritual real, just a bit, he would have observed the battle going on in the spirit world. We can only assume, from this text of Scripture, that Satan has “territorial” demons in places of influence, among government leaders, in every nation. That’s why the Apostle Paul later wrote Timothy—in the New Testament—and, told him to pray for kings & all those in places of authority.

-Who Is The Real Enemy?

The REAL ENEMY is not the people we may oppose politically! Our battle, according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,  is not with flesh & blood. We need God’s help to see the truth about this! We need to pray for our leaders to be saved! Knowing that our warfare is spiritual in nature, it is our prayers, humility, knowledge of God & perseverance that serve as our best weapons against the spiritual forces of evil in this world; and, the unseen spiritual world behind the curtain that separates us. So, be inspired & encouraged! Daniel prayed! He humbled himself before God; and, he purposed to know God & to understand His ways! And, he persevered! For 21 days, the text says, he prayed & fasted & waited on God to fulfill His Sovereign purpose in His Sovereign time frame! Will you wait on God also?

-Focus On The Unseen!

A Biblical response—to the war going on in the spiritual realm & to life’s problems that result—is to focus NOT on the seen; but, on the unseen! What you see going on in this world will mess with you! It will frustrate you! It will, at times, cause you to question God! It’ll even depress you because it will APPEAR that we’re losing! So, focus on the UNSEEN, not the SEEN! Focus on the invisible God, who is Sovereign, who is Omnipotent; and, who is All-Knowing! He has an unbeatable plan; and, He will get it done! Don’t focus on the political climate of our country; or, the rest of the world! That’s the SEEN! Focus on the UNSEEN God! Pray to Him! He’s the only One who can bring revival & clean up the mess humanity has made of this world! Are you struggling in this area of your life? Make it a matter of prayer! Turn it over to God!

 

 

Daniel: God’s Mercy Has A Limit!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Do Not Test God!

So, how long will God extend mercy, toward the habitual sinner, before He finally breaks out in judgment against him! No one, but God, actually knows! But, Scripture is clear that it’s incredibly dangerous—and stupid—to test God! He does have a limit; and, the Babylonian King Belshazzar discovered it according to the prophet Daniel’s account in chapter 5 of the book named after him! As the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar should have known better! By his grandfather’s own testimony, he knew that God had judged him to live like an insane animal for 7 years until he acknowledged that God was Sovereign over all the affairs of man; and, that all of life’s “stuff” is a GIFT from Him. But, Belshazzar continually turned his back on God until God, in judgment, turned His back on Belshazzar. And, that would be the tragic ending to Belshazzar’s life.

-He Died A Fool!

His was a wasted life! He became a “byword”; or, a moral proverb! He should have known better! But, the words of judgment, “…you…have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this…” haunted him at the end (v.22).  He died a fool! What about you? You need to know that pride invites God’s judgment! You need to know that human wisdom is inadequate! You need to know that God’s patience can run thin! It can be exhausted! You need to know that God’s Word is certain; and, that there’s no escaping God’s judgment!

-You Need An Advocate!

God’s Word says, for certain, that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one of us may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  You don’t want to stand, before Him, alone because the deeds you’ve done will never earn you salvation! You need an advocate! You need Jesus to stand beside you! You want His atoning work, on the cross, for your sin to be applied to your account! Only by accepting His Son, Jesus, will God “…vanquish our iniquities; and…cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) He’ll “…remember them no more…” (Isaiah 43:25); and, “…remove them as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalm 103:12)

-You Are No Longer Ignorant!

I urge you to turn to Jesus! Don’t come to the end of life; and, say, like King Belshazzar, “I should have known better.” It matters not what you’ve done with your life up until now! If you humble yourself before God, He will extend to you His love, mercy and grace! Dedicate the rest of your life to serving God by the power of His Holy Spirit! You’re flesh isn’t enough! You’re physical strength isn’t enough! You need Jesus! You can’t “UNDO” what you’ve “DONE”; but, you can change the course of your life moving forward! We serve the God who makes beauty from ashes! He loves to set the sinner FREE! He redeems and makes all things new; including, your life if you’ll just give it back to Him!

 

God’s Law Of Sowing & Reaping

-My Parents Had Eyes In Back Of Their Head!

I grew up convinced that my parents had eyes in the back of their head! You too? Or, they had a spy reporting back to them every time I disobeyed; because, I never got away with anything! The Apostle Paul sets the record straight:  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” Galatians 6:7-8.  So, it wasn’t my parents! It’s an all-knowing, omnipresent God who knows everything about me.

-Why Do We Think We Can Fool God?

And Paul says that God will NOT be mocked!  That word “mocked” literally means “to turn up one’s nose.” We can’t turn up our noses at God and live a life contrary to His Word without facing the consequences. We won’t get away with it! There’s always a time lapse between the time of sowing & the time of reaping—in the spring, the farmer is out sowing seed in the fields; but, harvest can be 6 months away! Don’t be deceived! You may have sown a seed. You may have acted sinfully. You may think you got away with it; but, the harvest is still coming in!

-Sow An Act, Reap A Consequence!

Or, perhaps you’re a follower of Jesus who is troubled by the godless individuals around you who seem to get away with their sin—remember the time lapse between planting & harvest! In time, God will right all wrongs:  “…vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord” Romans 12:19.  The “Law of Sowing & Reaping” assures a harvest of corruption for the one who sows everything to the flesh—the one who’s consumed with this present life; and, has little to no regard for the eternal! They’re placing time deposits in all the stuff that will one day pass away. They have no treasure being stored up in heaven because everything they’ve sowed will only produce a harvest here in this life—corruption, Paul says!

-Reaping A Harvest Of Eternal Life!

The “Law of Sowing & Reaping”, however, produces a harvest of everlasting life for the one who sows to the Spirit. We sow to the Spirit as we plant a new affection for God. It’s an intentional pursuit of Him! It’s overriding the desires of our flesh with the desires of a new heart He gives us at salvation! It’s fleeing those lusts, of the flesh, as the Holy Spirit directs & empowers us!

-Sowing To The Spirit

We sow to the Spirit when we say “YES”, on purpose, to everything that will strengthen Holy Spirit inspired desires in us! We repent of sin quickly as the Spirit points it out to us! Sowing to the Spirit means turning our back on the lies about God—changing our mind by intentionally filling them with the truth about God! Sowing to the Spirit means we submit to those things that God uses to strengthen His Work, of Grace, in our hearts! God uses the Scriptures to prepare the soil, of our hearts, to sow to the Spirit! God uses prayer to prepare our hearts for sowing seed to His Spirit! He also uses worship to convince us God is better than anything our flesh offers & He uses the local church to keep us accountable to spiritual decisions we’ve made. When all is said and done, God gets the glory for the changes, in our life, because it was by His Spirit that it happened!

 

 

God Is Great! God Is Good!

-God Is Also Very Personal!

I still remember our prayer, before meals, growing up—“God is great! God is good! Let us thank Him for our food! Amen!” Nothing wrong with those words! They acknowledge God! But, they’re repetitious words that just aren’t very “personal.” And, God is personal! The Psalmist wrote these words:  “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done” Psalm 62:11-12.

-God Reveals Himself Through Scripture!

God uses the Scriptures to reveal Himself to us; and, Jesus—God’s “Word” incarnate—revealed, to us, what God looked like in the flesh. He loves us! He’s actively involved in our justification, our sanctification; and, ultimately, our glorification! We are “His workmanship”—He continues to image us into the likeness of His Son. So, what is the biggest hindrance to His work in us? We are! We get in the way of our own spiritual growth.

-Get Out Of The Way & Let God!

But, God is great; and, God is good! He is strong enough to change us when we quit being controlling! The Psalmist said He is “strong”—in fact, He is “omnipotent”; or, ALL POWERFUL! You can’t manipulate Him! So, why do you try? Why would you want to? He is a benevolent God! All of His intentions, toward us, are kind & good! He is also strong enough to change us when we quit fearing man! One major reason, for our sinful behavior, is our craving for man’s approval! We fear the rejection of some person; but, “The fear of man lays a snare. Whoever trusts in the LORD, however, is safe” Prov 29:25.  When you live for the approval & acceptance of others you succumb to a form of “idolatry.” You’ve placed created beings on the throne of your life instead of your Creator! God is great; and, God is good! And, He loves us enough to change us when we quit looking for love in all the wrong places! It’s the goodness of God, Scripture says, that leads us to repentance. He calls us to find, in Him, the only thing that truly satisfies! Whatever the stuff of this world offers you, God offers you more! He isn’t just better than that stuff; He’s the BEST!

-Quit Trying To Prove Yourself!

That’s the heart of the Gospel message—because God is love, He will change us when we quit trying to prove we can do it ourselves! Salvation is not about what we do for God; rather, it’s about what God has already done for us! Like the Father, in the story of the Prodigal Son, God always welcomes us! He will rescue us from ourselves when we confess we’ve messed it all up! If you’ve had the tendency, like I have, to think God’s going to rub your nose in your sin for a little while before He forgives you, you’re mistaken! That’s not God! The Psalmist said: “…you, O LORD, are LOVING…” He comes running when we confess to Him! He embraces us & changes us when we stop trying to prove, to Him, our worthiness!

 

God’s Plan For World Evangelism

-We’re Insulated From The Real World!

There’s something about living in America that insulates us from the real world. When we see pictures of some of the horrors that choke the rest of the world, they seem so far away that they’re almost surreal! Well, Church, we need to awaken from our slumber; and, we need to see the world through the lens of Scripture. We need to face some realities—at best, 1/3rd of the world knows Christ if you count everyone who claims to be a Christian! Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt, that still means that 4.5 billion people are, by their own admission, non-followers of Christ. They remain eternally separated from the God of creation at this moment!

-We’ve Failed The Rest Of The World!

What is God’s will for these? “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.  It’s not God’s will that any of these would perish? So, why are many of them dying without ever hearing the Gospel? It’s because we—Christ’s Church—have failed them! And, we are without excuse! It is God who empowers us to be His witnesses to the whole world! We can’t ratchet up enough strength to follow through on the Great Commission. Jesus told His disciples, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you…” Acts 1:8. His Spirit has come; and, He indwells each of us! God commands us to embrace the lostness of the whole world—”…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

-Jesus Didn’t Just Die For “US”; Or, The “U.S.”!

We need to face a humbling truth that Jesus didn’t just die for US! We may not say it; but, we live like we think God is an American! But, John 3:16 doesn’t say that “God loves ME so much He sent Jesus to die for ME.” The message of Biblical Christianity is that God loves me so that I might make HIM known among ALL the NATIONS! It’s about the LOSTNESS of the whole world before God; and, reconciliation by the work of Christ! The total depravity of the world requires our faithful witness to the Gospel’s work on behalf of sinners!

-The Gospel Is Intended For All Ethnic Groups!

He says, “…YOU will be MY witnesses…” We are witnesses of the Gospel work He has done in us! In Christ’s commission— “Go and make disciples of all NATIONS…”—that word, “nations”, is “ethnos” in the original Greek. It’s the word we get “ethnic” from in English. So, it’s “ethnic” groups or “people groups.” And, in Matthew 24:14, Jesus says, “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the NATIONS, and then the end will come.” Same word! So, it seems that God intends for all people groups to hear the Gospel before the end comes! Let’s be faithful to our calling