Thursday, December 29, 2016

Redefining Life

This may not have been your best year spiritually and perhaps you started last year off with the best of intentions.  God's desire is that we worship Him through the knowledge of His Word.  It is through the Word of God that we learn the will of God.

Psalm 138:2 tells us that God exalts His name and  His Word above all things--hopefully we do that as well. We are told by the psalmist, "I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word."  God esteems His own name and Word above everything else!

We can attempt to define our lives by many different standards that really don't matter apart from God's standards.  At times we feel we are doing pretty well compared to many other people.  Doing life without a daily consumption of God's Word is to run spiritually hungry and spiritually parched.  The reality is that we can't display a relationship that does not exist in our lives; failing to spend time in God's Word is revealed in our personal walk.  Let's redefine our lives by getting back into the Word of God this year.  Allow God to quench our thirst and to fill us spiritually.  David cried out to God in Psalm 42:1, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God."  

As a church, we work better together and fight the enemy better when we are strong spiritually in the knowledge of God's Word!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hope Revealed

Did the Old Testament saints and prophets fully know who Jesus Christ was or what He would fully accomplish?  Did they understand the way that this promised Messiah would be born or how he would deliver them?  Did they understand that He would bring spiritual deliverance and establish a future kingdom and not an immediate physical kingdom for them to enjoy and rule?  Why does it appear that the picture of Jesus Christ is so much clearer in the New Testament?

As early as Genesis 3:15, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, was foretold as the One who would come and crush the head of the serpent (Satan).  This was going to happen through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and by Satan, along with his demonic host, being ultimately condemned to the lake of fire that was created for him. 

God was making preparations before the foundation of the world to redeem mankind through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:18-21 tells us, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." However, God progressively made the Hope of mankind (Jesus Christ the Messiah--the anointed One)  known throughout the course of history until the right time of His revelation.  The patriarchs,  kings, prophets, and God's people in the Old Testament were given various degrees of understanding over time that there was a Deliverer and Hope coming through God's provision.  Then, Christ arrived at the proper time as prophesied through the virgin Mary and was crucified under the authority of Pontius Pilate.

The prophet Isaiah on several occasions made references to Him in different ways and shared what this Messiah would accomplish.  We are told that it would be through a virgin that He would arrive and that He would be called Immanuel (meaning "God with us", Is. 7:14) This helps to understand that He would dwell and live with the people.  He also tells us in Isaiah 9:1-7 that He would give light to those who walked in darkness, He would release those who were in bondage, He would rule in peace, and that He would bring perfect justice.  Isaiah even calls Him the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  Much about His character and His role was told some 700 years prior to the Messiah ever arriving. 

Even though much of the prophetic news about Christ has taken place, all of Christ's work is not yet complete.  Christ is still saving souls and He will return and rule in justice as the perfect Judge.  HOPE continues to be revealed.  For the Christian, we take comfort in God's divine plan and sovereignty.  Christ is our living hope and He remains the only true hope for the world.  Let's share this hope with those who are living and dying without Jesus Christ all around us!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Maywood's Church Planting Partnership

My heart rejoices as God is working in our church to develop an understanding about the priority of taking the Gospel of Christ forward by planting churches that  also plant churches.  Some ask, "Do we really need another church?".  That is a fair question and the answer to that question is that we need more progressive, Gospel preaching churches.  Many churches fail to reach their community for Christ and a great deal of them exists in a self-preservation mode in which they exist just to take care of themselves.  They have lost the vision of "Becoming a people to reach people for Christ"--which is the Great Commission given by Christ.  Not all churches are faithfully proclaiming the Gospel or staying true to the Gospel message.  Currently, 3500-4000 protestant churches are closing their doors each year-- the church is in a crisis.

This year God worked through your great generosity in our Thanksgiving Offering to bless the Evangelical Free Church of Mount Morris, IL with a gift of money to help them launch a church plant in the Sterling, IL area.  Last week I was blessed to drive down to Mount Morris with one of our elders and deliver a card and that check for $15,000 to Pastor Bruce and his church family.  He was so moved and touched by your great generosity!  This week we are distributing prayer cards at the church so that we can pray faithfully for them and I look forward to some warm weather when we can drive down to Sterling, IL and pray over the area and seek God's direction for them and this church plant.

Please pray for Maywood that God would grant his favor and blessing as we seek to be a church planting church for years to come.  Pray that God would grant His vision to us in order that we would make decisions that honor His name and advance His Gospel.  At Maywood, we are committed to the authority of the Word, His Gospel and His glory!  Let us pray and labor together on this journey!  These are exciting days!

Pastor Gary

Monday, December 12, 2016

5 Surprising Insights About the Unchurched

This next Sunday is Friend Sunday at Maywood and this article is worth the read.  It will give us a better understanding of our culture and encourage us to invite someone.  It was written by one of my favorite authors, Thom Rainer.

They aren’t antagonistic.

They welcome a conversation with believers.

They aren’t staying out of church for the reasons you may think.

They are the unchurched. And because many church leaders and members have such misperceptions about them, churches often fail to reach them, or even attempt to reach them.

In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on the unchurched, LifeWay Research, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism in Wheaton, surveyed 2,000 unchurched Americans. They defined “unchurched” as someone who has not attended a worship service in the last six months.

One-third of the respondents were non-white. Genders were almost equally represented (53% male), and almost half have a high school diploma or less.

I want to unpack this massive research more in the future. For now, let’s look at five surprising insights about the unchurched.
  • Most unchurched do indeed have some church background. Contrary to some perceptions, the great majority of unchurched have a church background. Almost two-thirds of them (62 percent) went to church regularly as a child.
  • Most unchurched quit church because they got out of the habit of churchgoing. For certain, a number of them did leave churches for negative reasons, but that is not true of the majority.
  • One-third of the unchurched have plans to go to church in the future. Please read that statement carefully. One of three unchurched Americans are actually planning to return to church. Is your church actively inviting them?
  • The unchurched are very open to a gospel conversation. Nearly half (47%) would interact freely in such a conversation. Another third (31%) would listen actively without participating. Pause for a moment. Look at those numbers. Almost eight of ten unchurched Americans would welcome a gospel Another 12% would discuss it with some discomfort, and only 11% would change the subject as soon as possible. We can’t use the poor excuse that the unchurched really aren’t interested in gospel conversations. In reality, church members are more likely not to be interested in initiating gospel conversations.
  • If you invite them, they will come. About a year ago, I received requests to provide a framework for churches to invite people to church. We called it “Invite Your One.” We are now getting responses from churches that have initiated this ministry, and we are blown away at what God is doing. Among the unchurched, 55% said they would attend church if invited by a family member. And 51% said they would attend church if invited by a friend or neighbor. These numbers are staggering. The opportunities are incredible.
I have been involved in church research and practice for four decades, a testament to both my passion and elderly status. These data confirm my anecdotal observations that there has never been a more opportune time to connect with the lost and unchurched.

It’s truly an incredible opportunity.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Many of us do not have the time, patience, or desire necessary to work on something that is old, broken down, and ready for the dump.  However, I admire those who take the time and possess the passion to see something that was once considered valueless and then they transform it into an item of great beauty and extreme value.  I suppose we could say that some of us don't have an eye for it or we lack the creative juices to make it happen.

The sadness comes when people are viewed in this manner.  Often times the greatest trophies of God's grace are those who were so messed up that they were deemed as worthless and rubbish by others.  Although we would never tell another person this directly some of us would still allow these thoughts to be entertained.  Scripture serves to remind us that God makes Himself known through the broken down, the simple, the underprivileged, and even the outcasts.  Those who have served as champions of God's grace are often those who have fallen very hard in this life and by God's grace they have stood back up, certainly humbled and disgraced, but forgiven and loved by God.  I suppose we could say that they have been "repurposed". 

When people come to Christ whose lives have been in ruin or return to Christ after a journey away from Him--can God still use them?  Do we personally believe that they are valuable?  Perhaps a better question is do we see them as forgiven by God and ready to move forward for His glory.  Can God's glory still shine beautifully through their lives although once broken and perhaps still carrying battle scars.  The answer is emphatically yes.  God loves those with repentant hearts and those who find their restoration in Him alone.  Through genuine humility and dependency upon God alone, lives can be transformed.  David says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17)."

Most of us do not want to be broken by God and yet God chooses for His servants to go through difficult times.  Many times it is in order for God to craft a vessel more fit for His service.  God believes in restoration and He does the BEST work.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crazy Thanksgiving Day!

Growing up, my mother typically hosted the Thanksgiving dinner for all of her extended family.  It was much more than just a meal, it was a full day of hanging out, eating, laughing, playing games, and napping.  Family members would bring special dishes to pass and there was always an abundance of food.  Rarely did we go around and express what we were grateful for as individuals but my grandfather would always give thanks to God for His provision of food and for the gift of family.  I was thankful that my grandmother would always bring a large dish of banana pudding--one of our favorites!

At the age of 11, while celebrating Thanksgiving with all of the family, I recall a tragedy that happened at our house.  My father asked my cousin to back our car away from the garage door a little bit in order that the door could swing open.  I was offended that my father asked my 14 year old cousin when he had a very competent son who could have done the job.  After my cousin rolled the car backwards in order for the garage door to open, he came inside and placed the car keys on the kitchen counter.  My mental gears were spinning with  less than noble thoughts.  I picked up the keys and went outside 10 minutes later in order to drive the car back up the incline, in order to place the car in its original position (near the garage door).  What was the purpose of this exercise--I still don't know.  This was a mistake!  After starting the car and placing it in gear, the car began to roll backwards towards my grandmother's car--yikes!  Out of pure fear I punched the accelerator and drove right through the garage door with my parents new, red Chevy Impala.  Needless to say, my sister was standing inside the garage as I went driving past her.  After shaking the house and gaining everyone's attention, I had only one thought--run and hide!  While we typically take this time of the year to thank God for the many things that He has blessed us with, I can also think of several things that He has not given me that I certainly deserve.

Here is a short list of those things:
  1. No punishment for the short cruise in my parent's car and no jail time.
  2. No garnishing of wages especially since I had no job. 
  3. No humiliating correction in front of my family and friends.
  4. And, No punishment for my sin--Christ took that for me!
God is so loving by not giving us the very things that we deserve due to our disobedient hearts.  He placed all of His wrath for our evil upon Jesus Christ.  Not only have we been given many things to thank Him for but He has refrained from giving us many things that we deserve.

Galatians 1:4 (Jesus Christ) "...who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

1 Peter 2:23-24 (Jesus Christ) "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 

Romans 3:22-24 "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Complaining Christians

One of the most "life-taking" types of people are those who continuously complain and complain about everything.  They are like a dripping faucet that never ends.  They seem to suck everything positive out of us until we turn negative ourselves.  Misery truly does love company.  However, we as Christians are much wiser in how we go about complaining.  We want to masquerade it as a concern or a prayer request.  When another person approaches us and prefaces their comments with the words, "I'm not really complaining, but I need to tell you...."  It is their pious and gentle way of complaining to us.  Few are the people who can always find the silver lining and look for God's greater purposes.  Those people are high in demand and folks love to be around these types of people--especially complainers or whiners. 

Sadly enough, Christians are seldom confronted about the sin of ingratitude, complaining, or whining.  However it is a lack of understanding who God is and how He might be at work in others.  Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,..."  God disapproves of our grumbling, whining, and complaining.  In fact, according to Scripture, it hinders His work through us and blemishes our ability to impact the world for Christ.  Our society sees this all the time and it is fitting for a non-believer but not a child of God.  We shine brighter by looking to Him with hearts of gratitude.  We reflect an inner beauty that acknowledges that "God is in control of the details so let's see what He is going to do."

Before we begin to cut loose with our negative spirits and unwholesome words let's ask ourselves if what we are about to say is going to reflect the beauty of our Savior.  We may feel a right to complain or to vent to others because we have been wronged.  However, God has a different way of dealing with our problems.  It means bringing it to Him and if necessary, humbly going to another person in order to bring resolve.  In all things, we must advance the image and work of God that He has entrusted us with.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Is Pain & Suffering a Gift from God?

Without pain, suffering, and failure I would be much less than I am today.  It appears that God grows us in the red zone and not necessarily in our comfort zone.  It seems that those who know Christ most intimately have learned that intimacy on the anvil of failure and suffering.  It is through the dark nights that others have been forced to cry out to God and in so doing, learned that He is sufficient, good, powerful and the only one who can ultimately rescue their soul from trouble.

Suffering is the maker of character and faith if we treat it properly.  There is really no growth in our life without pain.  That pain may be inflicted upon us by others or even brought upon us by ourselves, or it may simply be the circumstances of life that we encounter.  Regardless, our Sovereign God allows and appoints things in our lives in order to make us better and not bitter.  The things we hate and resist may be the very things that God wants us to learn to trust Him with. 

Peter understood suffering well and he was a recipient of great pain and at the same time great grace. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trains. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Father, I pray that in the crucible of difficulties that You send my way that You would help me to see it as a blessing to trust You more and to allow You to make me more effective for Your service.  May my faith in you come forth as gold.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

8 Reasons Many Bible Belt Churches Are in Trouble

Thom Rainer was one of the developers of my Church Revitalization program and I would consider him an authority on church culture and church health.  He wrote an excellent article that I believe we could all identify with to some degree.  He serves as the president of Life Way Research and provides valuable help to struggling churches.  Please take the time to read as I know you will appreciate.

Thom Rainer Writes:  "What a big difference a region makes.  Or use to make.  I served as pastor of four churches, and three of them were in the Bible Belt.  One was not. It was my favorite. The Bible Belt refers to that region of the southeastern and south-central United States where church attendance has been higher historically, and where biblical values are more closely aligned with cultural values.  But the buckle of the Bible Belt is coming off. That means the entire belt will soon fall off.   And it is happening rapidly.  There are thousands of churches in the Bible Belt. Sadly, too many of them are not adjusting to the changing realities of the area.  They still act like it’s 1975. Here’s why:

1  They don’t recognize the decline in cultural Christianity. They refuse to admit the world has changed around them.  And they are often angered when someone suggests they make methodological and stylistic changes.
2  They have many “church rules.” The church rules could be related to attire worn on Sunday, or times of worship, or inconsequential polity issues.  The point is they do things like they did 40 years ago, and wonder why those on the outside are not interested in their churches.
3  They have leaders who have never led in a highly unchurched mission field. Of course, the problem is that the mission field around them is growing increasingly unchurched.  Birmingham and Nashville, in that regard, are looking more like Spokane and Boston.
4  They confuse traditions with truth.  That is a dangerous reality. When our church members equate biblical teachings with some of the bylaws and processes of the church, the congregation is in big trouble.
5  They do outreach the way they’ve always done it.  So if Tuesday night visitation was effective in 1975, it should be effective in 2016.
6  They have significant conflict due to frustration.  A number of the leaders and members of these churches can’t understand why and how things have changed so much. They want their old church back, but it’s not coming back. Their frustration can lead to conflict that exacerbates their other problems.
7  They are very slow to respond. Their internal culture moves at a much slower pace than the community around them. If they do respond to an opportunity, they might be five years late. Or ten. Or twenty.
8  They have significant facility challenges. Many of these churches were built for one big crowd one day a week one hour a week. They might have old and dated education and recreation facilities as well.  Some of them are in worship centers with a capacity multiple times their actual attendance. They can have significant unused space and deferred maintenance. A lot of their funds go to keep the lights on."

(Pastor Gary Speaking)  It is my opinion that many of us can identify with some of these traits through former churches.  My prayer is that we as a church understand why we are here and where we are headed in order that we can always make the necessary adjustments in preparation for the future.  Our mission and God's Word remains unchanged but our methods must always remain relevant.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Humility--What Leaders Can't Live Without!

It is rather amazing how most of us feel that we are not proud but that we have done a pretty good job in learning humility.  Although none of us would be so bold to say that we have attained it--we often fall far short from the biblical idea.   Perhaps the greatest of all virtues that could be learned from Jesus Christ is that of humility as he walked this earth.

As a young boy, I read through the book of Proverbs regularly--it was probably my favorite book.  A prominent theme is that of humility and pride.  The following are a few verses that I've committed to memory.  Now, I have the life-long task of pursuing it.

Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Proverbs 22:4, "By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honor, and life."

Proverbs 27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips."

Proverbs 12:15, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."

There are many things that make for a truly great leader but there is one thing that no leader can do without--humility.   A healthy leader understands that life is not about them.  Leaders get much attention and credit which can create a mindset that everything, revolves around them.  There is not a leader who has fallen that did not begin to think that it was all about them.  A healthy leader understands that they are only stewarding a ministry that belongs to the Lord and that it takes a team to make it happen.  Through humility, a healthy leader understands that they exist to serve their team and to help that team to be all that it can for God's glory.  Humble leaders understand that they are not the only ones with ideas that matter.  They learn to listen more and validate others for their contributions.  Perhaps the greatest thing that I've witnessed is that a humble, healthy leader give the credit away to others.  He is not concerned about getting the recognition but that the ministry moves forward.  

Perhaps one of the boldest things we could pray for is for God to help us to be a humble, servant leader and to allow God to exalt us in due time should he desire to do so.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Seeking Wisdom

In difficult times in our lives it may be difficult to know where to turn as real wisdom is in short supply today. Too few people think deeply and equally few people have so saturated their thinking Biblically that godly wisdom emerges from them. When you find a wise person, that individual is a treasure. When we are able to provide wisdom to others we become a treasure and gift to them.

How should we recognize them?  Biblical wisdom is first of all grounded in "the fear of the Lord." It is an acknowledgement that God is above all and that the wise individual takes God into account in all of their thinking, actions, strategies and decisions. For the wise individual, God and the things that matter to God are central to everything!  Their longing is to glorify Him with the right decisions.

That means that wisdom is not simply pragmatism—the end justifies the means. A course of action can be pragmatic but not take into account God's view about the matter.  Wisdom is the ability to understand a situation and know how to respond to it in a way that would please God, demonstrate mercy, fairness and righteousness, and accomplish what God has mapped before us.

I have heard it said in a leadership book that, “It is wise people who are able to take complex issues and many moving parts and find a solution while keeping God's perspective or character in the center of the equation.”  To me, this would appear to be biblical wisdom.

Not all of us are given the gift of special wisdom.  However, all of us have access to people who God has gifted in that way. Where do we find them or get to know them in order to hear their perspective? We must pray and keep our ears open to them as we listen to those God has placed in our paths.  We must evaluate the current wisdom that we embrace and ask if it has been biblical and God-centered.  God tells us to begin and seek Him who gives wisdom freely (James 1:5).

(Note: Modified & taken from a former blog by Tim Addington)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

10 Ways to Jump Start Your Personal Evangelism

A year ago I stumbled across this blog written by our friend Dr. Chuck Lawless. Many times we want to say more about Christ and yet we are fearful or don't know what to say.  Take the time to read this for your benefit.

Dr Chuck Lawless writes:

If you’ve read the posts at this site in the past, you know I’m burdened about my own commitment to reaching the lost. Even as a professor of evangelism, I have to continually push myself to do evangelism. For what it’s worth (and frankly, as a matter of accountability), here are some steps I’m taking to move in the right direction:

  1. Ask God daily to let me see people as He sees them. I tend to see people as the driver in the car who cut me off, the cashier at the gas station, and the neighbor whose name I don’t know. God sees them as sheep without a shepherd and souls for whom Jesus died.
  2. Ask other believers to pray at least once a week that I will speak the gospel boldly and clearly. This approach is nothing more than what Paul asked the Ephesians and the Colossians to do for him (Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4). If Paul needed that kind of prayer support, I surely do.
  3. Ask God to renew my fire for Him. The bottom line for me is this: I do evangelism when I’m most amazed by Jesus. That’s why I wrote Nobodies for Jesus, and now I’m being challenged like never before to apply personally my own teachings.
  4. Pray by name for non-believers at least once a week. I often pray every day for some non-believer, but I have also set up one weekly focused time for praying that God would open the blinded minds of non-believers (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
  5. Strive to speak a good word about God to somebody each day. God is so majestic and His blessings are so numerous that I have no reason not to speak of His goodness. Even if I daily speak those words to only a believer, I develop the practice of moving conversations toward God.
  6. Force myself to get to know people I don’t know. I’m an introvert who would prefer to read a book, but that tendency obviously hinders evangelism. With God’s grace and in His power, I’m learning to push myself out of my shell.
  7. Offer to pray for others. Simply letting people know I’m committed to praying for them can open doors for deeper conversations. Life hurts sometimes, and folks who bear burdens alone are often both surprised by and appreciative of the offer of prayer.
  8. Commit to telling a non-believer what Jesus means to me at least once a week. If one of the above strategies doesn’t open this door, here’s the approach I take: “I’m a follower of Jesus, and I’ve made a personal commitment to tell others what He means to me each week. May I have five minutes to tell you my story, and you help me to know if anything is unclear?” I’ve been surprised by how many people are open to listen.
  9. Use social media to tell the gospel. I need to do evangelism face-to-face, but the Internet also provides multiple avenues for telling others about Jesus. I do not want to miss any opportunities.
  10. Just be obedient because I want to please God. Anything less than a lifestyle of telling others about Jesus – and initiating those conversations because it models our God who came to us while we were yet sinners – would be disobedience.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Scams From the Pulpit

Christ took the time to caution His followers against false prophets--they were those who would appear to be very religious, but yet they were void of the truth of God's Word.  He said in Matthew 7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits." Throughout the corridors of time there have always been those who have sought to selfishly capitalize on the trust and vulnerability of others.  Christians are not immune to this temptation and it happens too often in Christian circles.  It shames the name of Christ and hinders the work of the Church in delivering the Gospel message to a dying world.  Once a ministry or pastor loses credibility with his flock or his community, his work there is pretty much over.  It also serves as a real set back for that ministry for years to come. 

Some would suggest that Christians are not to judge, but that is definitely not what Christ is saying here or elsewhere.  All things are to be measured against the standard of God's Word while taking caution that one's own life is in order spiritually.  The way to know a false prophet or a scammer is by the genuineness of their labor and by what they call Truth.  There are those in our country today who are building personal empires and fortunes at the expense of gullible people who fail to see through the false motives.  Even a false prophet / teacher appears to have fruit, but Christ says that their fruit is spoiled.  Each week there are false prophets delivering messages that are not from God's Word.  It is imperative that Christians search the Scriptures to make sure that all things that are taught are Biblical.  When the message from that religious leader is not founded upon Scripture and it fails to promote the glory of God, then it is time to step away from that leader and that ministry.  God's Word must serve as the foundation that drives all Christian ministries--especially Christ's church.  False prophets are guilty of NOT presenting the entire truth of God's Word; they love to talk about love and focus on feelings.  A false prophet is one who fails to present the entirety of the Gospel.  Many false prophets today are all about money, self-glory, and building large ministries and they fail to talk about the authority of Scripture. 

Take heed and be like the Bereans in Scripture who searched all things that the Apostle Paul was teaching them in order to see whether or not the Truths were accurate according to Scripture (Acts 17:11).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Feeling Lost and Helpless

Does anyone know that I'm even here?  Would I be missed if I was not around?  Is this the way that the rest of my life is going to be?  Can anyone hear me? Why am I questioning the value of my own existence.

These are questions and voices that many Christians have listened to over the years.  These questions have led some to make bad decisions and have caused others to seek help.  Christians are capable of entertaining these very negative thoughts when they drift from fellowship with Jesus Christ.  The lies of the enemy come quickly and sharply.  Satan knows our weaknesses and he has been around much longer than we have.

When we walk close to Christ, stay in His Word, and spend time in fellowship with God's church it is less likely to get caught up believing the lies of the evil one.  We are valued so much that Jesus Christ died for us personally and He is praying for us today.  It is true, "No one ever cared for me like Jesus."  You may be wandering in the wilderness today and wondering if anybody knows or cares.  Please read and pray through the following verses and stay victorious through Christ who truly gives us the victory.  You are truly worth it!
  1. Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  2. Psalm 25:16, "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted."
  3. Psalm 68:5-6, "A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widow, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land. 
  4. Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
  5. Isaiah 41:10, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  6. 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
  7. Romans 8:31-39, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

    But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

10 Ways to Practice Normal Evangelism

Last week I spoke about 10 reasons why people don't share Christ.  This week I read a well written blog on 10 practices for effectively sharing Christ written by Juan Sanchez.  PLEASE take the time to read this blog as it can powerfully prepare you to share your faith in Christ.
Juan Sanchez writes:
Many of us find evangelism daunting, even frightening. However, evangelism should take place as we naturally converse with people. As we have normal conversations, we are to look for opportunities to speak to people about Christ. In a normal evangelism culture, we will pray together for the unbelieving, and we will celebrate gospel conversations, not just “deals closed.”
Here are 10 practices of normal evangelism.
Know the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Four words provide an outline for the gospel: God, man, Christ, response. When we understand the gospel, we know that GOD is holy and created a world without sin. God provided mankind with all he needed to dwell in his presence. But, MAN rebelled against God, and rebellion requires judgment, the penalty of which is death. Yet, God in his grace, provided CHRIST as a representative substitute to live a life of perfect obedience and to receive upon himself the penalty of sin on our behalf. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, proving his victory over sin and death. Now, all who RESPOND with repentance from sin and faith in Jesus have eternal life. This is the good news that we must know in order to share it with others.
Live your life in light of this gospel. As this gospel takes root in our own lives and we begin to apply it to our marriages, parenting, relationships, and lives together as a church, then our lives will be markedly different than the world and thereby attractive. How can we announce that this gospel is the power of God to save and change lives if we who profess Christ continue living just like the world?
Pray and fast for unbelievers (John 14:12-14; 15:7-8). One reason unbelieving people are not on our minds is because we don’t pray for them. Make a list of unbelieving people and begin praying for their salvation. But also ask God to open doors for evangelism, then by faith be obedient when the opportunities arise.
Be willing to share your life with unbelievers (1 Thessalonians. 2:1-8). If we are going to reach unbelievers, we need to get to know them: where they live, shop, eat, recreate. Look for opportunities to relate with them where they are, instead of thinking they will come to us. Let us wisely share our lives with unbelievers: talking to them, inviting them to church or into your home for a meal.
Share the gospel with urgency (2 Peter 3:8-10). To be sure, we need to share the gospel naturally & clearly, but we must also share it urgently. Right now is the time for salvation. When a person dies or Christ returns, there will be no more opportunities for repentance and faith.
Study the doctrine of hell. If you lack urgency in evangelism, then study the doctrine of hell. As you consider the fate of those who reject Christ, ask God to break your heart and move you with urgency to share the good news with the lost.
Invite unbelievers to repent and believe. The gospel requires a response. We must call on all people everywhere to repent (turn away from their sinful ways) and believe (in Jesus Christ).
Invite unbelievers to church. Invite the unbelieving, unchurched to come with you on the Lord’s day so that they may hear the gospel proclaimed. Surprisingly, in a 2010 study of unbelieving, unchurched people in Austin, a large number indicated that they would be open to invitations to go to church. Imagine that! They don’t come because we don’t ask.
Trust Christ for the results. Faithfulness, not results is what God requires of us. Salvation is of the Lord, so we must trust the sovereign Lord to do his work in the hearts of unbelieving people. Our responsibility is to faithfully share the gospel indiscriminately.
Share with others and ask them to join you in prayer. I have found it encouraging to hear other Christians’ stories of evangelism. Share your evangelism encounters, celebrate simply sharing the gospel, and pray together for those souls. Let’s make evangelism normal again!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

10 Reasons Why Churches Don't Reach Others for Christ

Spiritual apathy is a problem for many Christians because we have gotten used to fulfilling what we believe to be the minimum that God would require of us.  One area that is often neglected is our obedience to share our faith, also known as the Great Commission.  I imagine this could be because nobody is around to see if if we are really doing it.

A survey was done as to why many churches are not evangelizing or sharing the Gospel with the lost.  Here are the top 10 reasons according to Church Health Consultant, Thom Rainer:

  1. They don’t really believe people need Jesus. Unless church members and leaders really believe in the lostness of humanity without Christ, they will not be evangelistic. John 14:6 is a clear biblical statement on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. Too many leaders and members only give lip service to it.
  2. Evangelism is spiritual warfare. In the most carnal sense, life is easier without being evangelistic. Spiritual warfare is tough. Sometimes it seems to be easier to go AWOL from the battle than to fight in the trenches.
  3. It’s hard work. From time to time someone will ask me, “What is the easiest way to get our church to do evangelism?” The answer is “none of the above.” Too many churches have become self-serving country clubs rather than obedient and sacrificial vessels of God.
  4. Evangelism requires intentionality. God did not say, “Share the gospel as you stay where you are.” He said, “Go” (Matthew 28:19). When you “go,” you have to know where you are going. That requires intentionality.
  5. Effective evangelism often requires we pray for the opportunities. Consider this challenge. Begin each day with a prayer that God will bring people in your path (or help you to see them) where you can be a gospel witness in word and deed. I have been amazed (though I shouldn’t be) how God has answered that prayer in my own life.
  6. Too many people have too many excuses. One church member told me the entire county where he lives was fully churched. In fact, he said there are too many churches. There are, he said, no gospel opportunities. I then showed him demographics that showed his county was 62% unchurched. His response? “I don’t believe that.”
  7. Too many churches are too busy to do evangelism. If your church has so many activities, meetings, and programs that your members never have time to develop relationships and share the gospel, your church is too busy. Some times Satan’s most powerful tool is to get us doing good things to the neglect of the best thing.
  8. Church leaders are not evangelistic. If the pastor, staff, elders, deacons, and teachers are not evangelistic, it is unlikely the church will be evangelistic. The church members will follow that disobedient example.
  9. Many church leaders and members don’t know their field or ministry area. Jesus said, “the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). So where is the harvest field? Too many churches neglect their community because they are really ignorant of who is there and what their needs are.
  10. Evangelism is counter-cultural. If you want to be a people pleaser, don’t be evangelistic. Culture hates the gospel that says there is only one way of salvation. But if you want to be a God-pleaser, share the gospel. You may die doing it, but what an honor to pay such a price!

PLEASE, pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel with a lost soul this week and watch God open the door for you to step forward.  Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16).

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Finding Peace Amidst the Storm

Many times, the storms in my life move upon me rather quickly, while I'm enjoying some of the best of life.  My natural thought is often, "how long will I  have to endure this situation" and not necessarily how will I make it through or how will God glorify Himself through this storm.  I've watched friends and family members deal with hardships that I would never wish on anyone else.  I'm truly thankful that my anchor holds firm in Jesus Christ and that He truly provides confidence and hope for the future. Let's rest in Him.

Take some time to meditate and pray these 10 verses concerning PEACE from Scripture.  May you find your hope and strength in Jesus Christ today.

  1. Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."
  2. Galatians 5:22-23b, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
  3. Hebrews 12:14, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."
  4. 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
  5. Philippians 4:7, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
  6. Proverbs 16:7, "When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them."
  7. Psalm 29:11, "The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."
  8. Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
  9. Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."
  10. Matthew 11:28-30,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Scripture Teaches Us About Government

Whether we like it or not,  government is a fact of life that people must live with. Throughout human history we can see that God has used government to help govern the affairs of mankind.  So, it is not a surprise that Scripture even references government. 

Every government is put in place by God.
  • Jesus Answered [Pilate], "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:11)
  • "There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13:1b) 
God uses even sinful governments to accomplish His will for our good.
  • "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation." (Jeremiah 25:8-9)
  • God even used the government to oppress Jesus Christ.  "Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you [God] anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." (Acts 4:27-28)
We ought to pray for those who govern us whether or not we agree with them.
  • "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

We should honor and submit to those who govern us. (Biblical honor)
  • "Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:13-17; also consider Romans 13:1-4)
All human government will eventually end and Jesus Christ will reign over everyone forever.
  • "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. … From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:11, 15-16)

    Friday, August 19, 2016

    In Times of Uncertainty

    Every person has times of uncertainty and nobody can plan on when those times will come.  It is during those moments that we can sit perplexed and even confused because there appear to be no good options.  At times, I believe the only answer is to sit still and listen to the voice of God and to lean upon His promises. Christians are blessed with the true Comforter (called the Holy Spirit of God) who is always at work within us.  It is the reason that Christ told His disciples that he needed to leave--in order that the Comforter would come and the Comforter would do amazing works within them.  Sadly enough, we often exchange and forfeit the comfort that God provides over something that is meaningless and provides no measure of hope at all.  We can seek comfort in things that God never intended and they are always short lived. 

    Consider these 10 verses in times of uncertain: 
    1. Philippians 4:6-7,  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
    2. 1 Peter 5:7, " Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."
    3.  Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
    4. Psalm 55:22, "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved."
    5. Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
    6. John 14:26, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
    7. Proverbs 3:24-26, "If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught."
    8. Psalm 91:1-2, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
    9. Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 
    10. Psalm 62:6, "He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken."
    Write one of these verses down and claim God's promises today!  Let's rest in the fact that God loves us the most and is in control of all our situations--even when we don't know the next move.

    Thursday, July 28, 2016

    Are We Peaceful or Peacemakers?

    When I looked for the word "peacemaker" on Google Images all that I received were images of revolver handguns.  I'm afraid that might be the way that many people feel that peace is brought about--by completely annihilating another individual.  That is certainly not what Christ was thinking when He said in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God." 

    Many people consider themselves peaceful people.  After all, they get along with most everyone and they love almost all people.  They hate war and they don't even allow a naughty dog to frustrate them.  Most everyone loves peace.  At times in our lives peace is disrupted, and we may do all we can possibly do to restore that peace--especially in our families.  Striving to just tolerate a poor situation can wear you down after a while.  Relationships that are not peaceful cause us to not want to spend time in the presence of that person. 

    It is important to note three things about peace:

    1. God has made peace possible through the work of Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Christ has made it possible to live at peace with God because God has declared us righteous based on the work of Christ.  When God sees us, He sees us dressed in the righteousness of His Son. 
    2. Secondly, Paul says about Christ, "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility," (Philippians 2:14).  Once again, only because Christ died in our place and has forgiven us, is it possible for us to enjoy sweet relationships with even our enemies.  
    3. Thirdly, Christ is not asking us in Matthew 5:9 just to be peaceful people.  He says, blessed are the "peacemakers."  There is a difference.  Christ expects his children to work to bring about peace around them.  This may mean in our homes, work place, or even our churches.  The blessed person works to bring about healthy relationship amongst people who are at odds with one another. 
    Living as a peacemaker is a rewarding life to live.  Others will see us as "the sons of God" because it characterizes God Himself.  We begin to look and act like our own Heavenly Father.  Let's pray that God would give us unsettled hearts for relationships that are not healthy and to serve as a healing balm for His glory.