Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Power of a Thank You

Probably one of the best things my parents instilled in me was to have a thankful heart for anything that someone did for me or gave me.  I was encouraged to always say "thank you" for the smallest of things and if I wasn't sure if I said it then I should say it again to be safe.  Please know that I'm not saying I'm the best at being thankful but I always strive to let people know how much their kindness means to me.   Every time someone gives me the smallest gift I try to make a note on my list as a reminder to send them a thank you.  In fact, I carry thank you cards in my backpack so if I have a few moments somewhere I can send one off.

Over the years, working with the youth at the church I would always try to tell a young person how much it meant to me that they would tell me thank you.  In essence I was thanking them for thanking me.  Sounds goofy I know but I believe it is that important as it honors others.  When we would have a youth event at someone's house I would always tell the kids to make sure they said thank you to our host three times--my thinking was they might say it at least once.  We were always welcomed back and it helped that we really cleaned up after ourselves.

God esteems a thankful heart and desires that we express gratitude towards others (Ephesians 4); however, consider how much HE wants to be thanked in the following verses. 
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
  • Ephesians 5:20 "Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"
  • Psalm 136:26 "Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever."
  • Psalm 106:1-2 "Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?"
  • Psalm 100:4 "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
  • Psalm 136:1 "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever."
This Thanksgiving, may I challenge you in two ways:
      1. Share around the table how you are thankful for one another.
      2. Spend time this week just thanking God for being your God.
A thankful heart is spiritually healthy!  It pleases the heart of God and encourages the hearts of one another.  With so much bitterness and negativity around you, don't underestimate the Power of a Thank You.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog today ; )

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The IMPACT of the Gospel

The Gospel is not just a message we share with those who do not know Christ.  And, it is so much more than a get out of Hell free card!  The Gospel is what should give believers purpose each and every day.  The Gospel is the ongoing message that God loves us and desires us to walk in ways that please Him alone.  The decisions Christians make each day should speak loudly about the life-changing Gospel that has touched their lives.  Christ made it possible, by the giving of Himself as the only acceptable sacrifice, for all mankind to be brought into communion with God.  In fact, the Gospel not only brings a sinner into relationship with God, it is the work of the Gospel that collapses walls between enemies and allows them to enjoy one another’s fellowship—not just tolerate them!  This indeed is the mystery of the Gospel that the apostle Paul described.  I hope we all believe in the power of the Gospel since there is NOBODY we can’t forgive because of how the Gospel has changed our lives.
As Christians, our hearts should long for the words of Christ to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:15-17).  However, in order for that to happen we must be spending time in the Word.  The early church was marked by its desire to know God’s Words and His Words served as the FOUNDATION of this first church. The Gospel not only creates a desire to know God through His Word more, but it prompts an uncommon love and concern for others (Acts 2:42-47).
The very first church not only set a pattern for future churches, but it established high priorities for God and others.  The church celebrated the Lord’s Supper together, prayed together, praised together, and they were very in tune with one another’s needs.   This type of love for one another demanded a loose grip on their personal schedules, priorities, and possessions.  The community that was observing this Christian behavior was “favorably” impressed and many of them were coming to know Christ, being added to the church regularly (day by day, Acts 2:47).
We can be guilty of building a church on the wrong foundation and preaching Gospel-light messages that don’t bring salvation or lasting change.  Programs and fanciful methods do not necessarily equate God’s glory being radiated from His church.  However, churches built on the authority of God’s Word, praising and proclaiming the saving Gospel, caring for one another, and all in prayerful dependence upon God are prepared to grow for His glory.  Healthy organisms always experience growth and so it is with spiritually healthy churches!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Gospel of the Church

Over the years there has been much talk by pastors about the poor spiritual state of their local churches.  Questions are asked, “How can folks behave or live in this manner?” and “Why do folks show no urgency to personally share the Gospel?”.  These are indeed fair questions and many more could be asked.  We could suggest that there is no accountability, they have never been taught Biblically, leadership has done a poor job, or that sin has just entered into the church—these could all be true.
Almost all churches require that an individual desiring to be a church member be a professing Christian—after all that is the Biblical pattern found in Scripture (believers were added unto the church—Acts 2:41).  The Bride of Christ (the church) is comprised of those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins and those believers should be living in obedience to the Word of God which gives proof of that conversion (Eph. 5:1-19; Matt. 7:15-23).  This is why it is so important to understand that Biblical repentance reveals itself in a new way of life and a putting to death of the “old man” (Romans 6:1-7; Gal. 2:20).
One of the challenges is that the church has allowed non-believers into membership and I believe it occurs for lack of knowledge of what the Gospel of Christ is truly about.  PLEASE know that I welcome non-believers to church and we are talking membership.  The church leadership, in most churches, is responsible to hear the testimonies of those desiring membership and to make sure there has been a salvation decision.  It is difficult to argue when somebody says that they’re a Christian or that they have asked Jesus into their hearts.  Might there be value in defining the Gospel to that individual?  Some people live very upright lives and don’t know the first thing about the Gospel, which makes it difficult.
The Gospel is the engine of the church that drives all the church does.  Scripture is also clear that nothing happens without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).  The church needs a clear understanding of the Gospel:  that all men (and women) are sinners, condemned to an eternity in Hell, separated from a Holy God, unable to save themselves, but Jesus Christ (the Son of God, the sinless, perfect sacrifice) died for all sinfulness and that those who repent and put their belief in Him can have forgiveness—this is how we are drawn into a relationship with God.  God can finally accept us because we are now dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Without a Biblical basis for what the Gospel really is it becomes a matter of personal morality and any behavior can be justified.  A life of obedience, beginning with baptism, gives proof of the Gospel change that has occurred (Acts 2:36-41). 
As Christians, we cannot afford to disguise or sugar coat the Gospel to get others to accept it—getting others to accept it is God’s job.  We are to live as empowered witnesses of the Gospel—after all, we have first-hand experience (Acts 1:8).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spirit Empowered Church

As pastors, we understand that one of the greatest tasks that we have is to train God’s people to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).  It is a never-ending task as people continue to come to know Christ as Savior.  However, one of my greatest concerns is that this work is often done within our own power, wisdom, and strength.  Christians can be consumed at striving to accomplish great things for God apart from the empowerment that He continually provides through His Spirit. 

The promise of God’s Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ (John 14) was meant to indwell believers as they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9).  Christ’s desire is that His followers accomplish wonderful things for His glory.  However, the same Spirit that leads, directs, empowers, enlightens, convicts, protects, and secures believers is too often not acknowledged or embraced in the Christian walk.  The Spirit is the power for this new life.  He begins a lifelong process of change as believers become more like Christ (Galatians 3:3; Philippians 1:6). Those who receive Christ by faith begin an immediate, personal relationship with God and it is the Holy Spirit who works in them to help them become like Christ.

I stand amazed at how the Spirit unites the Christian community in Christ (Ephesians 2:19–22).  In the series that we are currently studying, The Church in Motion, we see this week that those onlookers of Christ’s new church stood in amazement at the work of the Holy Spirit in the believers (Acts 2:1-13).  It may sound child-like but that is the type of church that “I want”—for His glory.  What truly marked the church for greatness was an unusual unity that could only come by the work of the Holy Spirit.  The great tasks that the church would accomplish came through keeping in step with the Holy Spirit of God (Galatians 5:25).  

 The coming of the Holy Spirit to the church at Jerusalem was only the beginning of many great miracles to come.  God’s Spirit would work in hearts to transform believers, convict the world of sin, bring Jews and Gentiles together, serve as a Counselor to believers, bring unity in the church, empower the church to do great things in the community, help believers to understand the truths of God’s Word, and so many more!

The CHALLENGE remains:  We strive to work independently from the Spirit of God!