Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Christmas Reminder

There is no question that Scripture teaches us to “receive Jesus”; to “believe in His Name”, to become children of God (John 1:12).

There are many who hear the gospel and will not receive the truth and hope being offered to them in the precious blood of Jesus. Whether you credit stubborn, hardened hearts (Rom. 1:18-22); the deceit of the enemy, Satan (Matt. 13:18-19); or the lack of the Holy Spirit making the message clear (1 Cor. 2:14); this will always be true of evangelism. Not everyone who hears the gospel is going to receive it.

To receive Jesus, we must also believe in His Name (John 1:12; 20:31; Acts 10:43). What about the Name of Jesus? What must we believe in when it comes to His Name?

Going back to Isaiah the prophet’s writings, His Name is “Immanuel” – God with Us (Isa. 7:14). Isaiah also gives a list of what His Name will be called in Isaiah 9:6: “Wonderful Counselor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace.”

Jesus is God with us; carrying all of the identity of the trinity with Him:

Wonderful Counselor – The Holy Spirit is our Counselor (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26)

The Mighty God – What Prophet would ever call a mere mortal, “The Mighty God”? Isaiah said that would be Jesus’ Name! Jesus is God, even according to the OT.

The Everlasting Father – Jesus said he was in the Father and the Father in Him. Isaiah said that Jesus’ Name would reflect His oneness with the Father.

The Prince of Peace – Jesus was the bearer of peace between God and man. This is also what His Name reflects. Without Jesus, there is no peace with God.

You cannot truly claim to believe in the Name of Jesus if you do not believe these truths about Him. His deity is articulated and proclaimed in His Name.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Meme - Thanks to Mark Schnell

I'm game. I have been tagged by Pastor Mark Schnell, Seminary student and good friend of mine, to do a "Book Meme". This is apparently like a blogger's chain letter, except no superstitions to it. The task I have been given is to pick any book, go to page 123 and write out the three sentences following the fifth sentence.

Currently, I am reading The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity by Alex McFarland (I was blessed to hear him speak at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism). Great Book - here are the assigned three sentences:

"You could argue, for example, that the 9/11 terrorists were liars, or at least seriously mistaken. We might say, and even be able to demonstrate, that what they believed was false, even though they believed it was true.

Of Course, you could also say that the first-century martyrs were mistaken and deluded as well."

The next task is to tag five other friends with blogs and have them do the same thing. I will have to get back to you on this one after I find those five people, and learn how to tag them.

Thank you, Mark for this wonderful opportunity.

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Christians" Defined By Their Sins

Drunkard. Swindler. Liar. Adulterer. These are titles given to people because they define the lifestyles of the people. Believers in Christ are not defined by these terms. True children of God do not continue in their sinful lifestyles.

1JN 3:6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Jesus said, in John 12:46 - I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

We do not have to sin, or stay in darkness. We can't. So why are "believers" living in sin? Prominent leaders are having affairs, misappropriating funds, getting divorced.

Give me your insight. What is happening to the church? Is God powerless over your sin? He can't stop us from sinning? Your thoughts.

Friday, October 24, 2008


God told us in Hosea 4:6:

HOS 4:6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

He may have been speaking to other people at the time, but I believe the same could be said of our day. People in the church do not know what the Bible says. They often don’t even really care. They may say they care, but they don’t act on it. If we carried that inaction over to other areas of life, we could see how true this statement is:

“Caring about something demands action.”

Ladies, if your husband says he cares about what you have to say, but doesn’t show any signs of listening, do you believe him? Men, if your child tells you that she has heard what you have told her, and that she loves you very much, but she disobeys you and does something completely different than you had instructed her to do, how real would those claims of love for you feel? Would you be pleased with her?

If you care about something, you must act on it. God’s word says that His people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Let’s break that down:

“My people” - He doesn’t say “people”, He doesn’t say “lost people”, He says, “My people”. People who have believed in Him for salvation, He is talking about you! He is talking about me! A lack of knowledge will destroy you in your relationship with Him. Christians need to keep learning to build a relationship with God that survives.

“Destroyed” – It isn’t just a shame people don’t know the Lord better. It’s not just a sad statement on the church and our failures that people don’t know the Lord or His word. It is a matter of life or death; overcoming or being destroyed! That means that ignorance about God is a terminal situation. Does that matter to you?

“Lack of Knowledge” – We aren’t talking two-plus-two kind of knowledge, we are talking about knowledge of the scriptures. Knowing the word of God helps us know the person of God. We can know how to please Him, what makes Him happy or unhappy, and we can hear the Spirit remind us of all God has said. But we must make the effort to learn. (Read 2 Peter 1:5-8)

I would like to recommend that you get involved in Sunday School. This is not supposed to be just a “program” we offer. It is the tool by which we strive to gain knowledge and understanding from the word of God, and I believe it is very important for all believers; those whom God called “My people.” Hosea 4:14 says:

“…a people without understanding will come to ruin!”

Do you care? Then do something about it. God Bless.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Economy and the Church

We decided we didn't want to be a free market society. We decided we didn't want to answer for the money that we spend. We decided that the government is supposed to take care of us. We are going to the government for help, for hope. We've made mistakes and we are asking the government to pay the price for us - to bail us out.

We "disposed" of God, and put government in His place. In the words of the vernacular: "How's that working out for you, America?"

A request to His church: Would you please set the example to the world and pray without ceasing? Would you please live by faith in God, and faithfully trust Him with your future instead of depending on your 401K? We are citizens of heaven, and the world is trying to mock us for our faith as they drown in debt, fear and hopelessness. The only way this mockery works is if we continue to live no differently than the rest of the world - full of fear and hopelessness.

Continue to pay your tithe, now, more than ever, because God's blessing on His people is needed! He has always been our supply, but we forgot. Now we are being reminded in a spectacular way. Will we learn, again, to live by faith in God, and nothing else? No candidate for president can fix this if God decides not to allow it to be fixed. We need Him!

"Without faith, it is impossible to please God." - Hebrews 11:6

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jesus and Me (and Prayer)

Too many leaders in the church are trying to do what Jesus didn't do - what Jesus wouldn't do.

What an incredible thing to try to be stronger than Jesus! As His disciple that is really quite disrespectful. Jesus said in His own teachings:

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
- Luke 6:40

Some of us would think no one who follows Jesus would have to be told they are not greater than Him, yet Jesus had to say it to drive the point home to His disciples. More than surprising, this astounding statement has to be reiterated yet today to the leaders of the church. Not just the Pastors, but everyone who does the teaching, training, working and ministering among and on behalf of the body of Christ.

You may be wondering in what way today's leaders are acting like they are greater than Jesus. What are we doing that Jesus wouldn't do?

The answer lies back in Luke:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
- Luke 5:15-16

Way too many leaders in the church are trying to minister the word of God, serve in the love of Christ, avoid temptation and evil desires, without getting away from everything and praying...OFTEN.

Too busy, too tired, too hurried...I know all the excuses. I battle with them myself. But here is the issue we have to wrap our minds around: If Jesus needed that time in prayer, and Jesus is God; then we must need it, even more so! We are not greater than Him; if we are fully trained, we might get to be like Him, but never greater.

Whether you are a Sunday School teacher, a Youth Sponsor or a Pastor, you need that time of prayer, often. If the church is going to see God's power displayed among us, her leaders need to be praying.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Billy Graham School of Evangelism

Just a personal review of the event I was blessed to be a part of at the end of August...

1. A great reminder of the priority evangelism should play in the life and intent of the church. It is easy to get comfortable dealing with the "stuff" the church deals with every day, and just be glad to get everything done. Evangelism is never done, nor should it be put on the back-burner for any extended amount of time.
2. A lot of people would disagree what the "gospel" is, even in the church. We need a steady input of the message that saves people for would you explain it to someone who is lost?
What does it say to our world, today?
Why does it matter of we tell people or not?
Is it okay to be "exclusive" in our theology - Only Jesus can save?
Can you "know" you are going to heaven?
Why do people fight our message so adamantly?
3. I've said it myself before, but it was confirmed for me again at the SOE: Kids must be told the gospel message often, and commit themselves to the Lord. Statistically, most believers choose to do so by age 15! Kids and Middle School ministries are vital to evangelizing the world!
I want to use the questions raised in point two to direct the conversation of this post for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Positive Reputation among the Community

Does this mean the community has to like or appreciate everything we do? Absolutely not. It is impossible for the world to like and appreciate everything God does. Many things that happen in the church are not understood by the community, and that causes many false conceptions of what we are and who God is.

We do, however, have the ability to create a positive reputation in the community, and as it is possible, we should make every effort to accomplish this.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

Acts 2:42-47 shows us an example of the early church’s routine. Verse 47 describes the believers as, “Enjoying the favor of all the people.” This is a good thing.

The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe. If the community sees that gospel as hope for them, and they see Jesus loving them through us before they accept Him, we have shown them the true gospel. Christ loved us before we came to Him. He became our salvation after we came to Him. A healthy church knows that is still His way, and will work to love the community.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Heart of Compassion for the Community

Our “Neighbor” is not the same as our “Brother”. Our “neighbor”, as you will read later in this post, is anyone in need. Our “brother” is a person who is part of the body of believers.

I point out the difference because churches tend to focus on one or the other of these two groups, but not both. They may have a soup kitchen for their “neighbor”, yet make all of their “brothers” feel guilty for not giving to this need. Often, their “brother” is not better off than the “neighbors” to whom they are trying to force their “brother” to give. They may have a great program for helping their “brothers” in times of need, but nothing for the “neighbors” in the community around them.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10

We are supposed to “especially” meet the needs of our “brothers in Christ”.

But the Greatest Commandments are: 1) to love God with all you have, and 2) love your neighbor as yourself. When asked who his neighbor was, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message was that the Samaritan, helping an absolute stranger who was in need, fulfilled this commandment. We are to love all people, even enemies.

The people in our community are by far not our enemies. They are our family and friends. They are our mailmen, our grocers, and our repairmen.

If our church is to be spiritually healthy, we must have hearts of compassion for our community. Shoving the Bible down their throats all the time is not an effective way to show our love and concern for the people outside of the church. We need to use our resources to help meet their needs, just as the Samaritan gave his money to aid the injured man in the parable.

How do we develop an effective ministry to the community?

  1. Be willing to help with no strings attached.
  2. Pray consistently for our community and for opportunities to help.
  3. Set aside resources for the basic needs we might encounter.
  4. Make this a priority and prove it is a priority by our action.
  5. Set up a system of communication to stay aware of community needs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Scripturally Solid Teachers With God’s Agenda At Heart

This may sound a little redundant, but it is really necessary to understand the difference.

There are people who teach scripture, but push a personal agenda on the hearers. These people may think the church needs to be more traditional, so they find reasons to push traditionalism whenever they can – whether it is truly the message in that passage or not. They may believe the church is too stodgy, and find reasons in scripture to go crazy in the aisles that have no inherent message of the kind.

When we study scriptures to prove a point rather than studying to find the truth, we are limiting – even thwarting - God’s attempts to communicate Himself to us. His Spirit is supposed to be the filter by which scripture is sifted for truth, not my opinion or yours. A spiritually healthy church seeks only what God desires for us, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.

This goes for those who teach anywhere in the church, from the children’s ministry to the small group leaders to Sunday School Teachers and the Senior Pastor. It is not healthy for the church to give a platform to someone who cannot be trusted to help build up the body with an ear toward the Spirit and a heart of unity. Dividing the body with your own agenda is an errand you carry out for the enemy; possibly without knowing it; definitely without thinking.

How do we kindly make sure our teachers are well grounded in scripture and carry no divisive agendas into the classroom?

1. Have prospective teachers fill out a questionnaire.

2. Interview prospective teachers.

3. Train new prospects how to teach scripture.

4. Pair up prospects with experienced teachers as mentors.

Many churches have to beg people just to get teachers for their programs. What good is that? If the teacher doesn’t have the heart, knowledge and desire to teach, he has the potential to become an angry, bitter member, who tries to enforce an agenda because the church somehow “owes him” for agreeing to teach.

Jesus knows His body, well. He has a person to fit every need. Do we trust Him, or do we try to force a “hand” to do the “foot’s” job? That is the problem of forcing someone to teach who is wrong for the job.

A hand can’t be a foot. If we need a foot, Jesus will provide that need for His body. If we need a teacher, God has prepared someone for the job, and they will consider it an honor to serve in such a wonderful capacity!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Willingness and Passion to Study and Know the Scriptures

“I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11

The heart’s cry of a healthy church should be that we might not sin against God. According to this passage in Psalms, the way to accomplish that goal is to have God’s word protecting our hearts and minds. The church must be passionate about learning and knowing God’s word.

This falls under the mantle of “Discipleship”, but it also requires more than talk. The word of God is living and active, according to Hebrews 4, and therefore must not be reacted to as a lifeless work of literature. The leaders of a healthy church must set the pace of passion for His word by drenching ourselves in His Word’s sanctifying power.

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

The word “Sanctify” means to “Set apart for holy use by God.” God’s own words are what set us aside for His use. Jesus prayed this prayer for us in John 17, not just those disciples who were there.

When items were sanctified in the Old Testament, they went through a special cleansing ceremony by the priest. Since Jesus said that the word of God “sanctifies” us, He was saying that it “makes us clean for God’s use.” His word has a cleansing effect on us to wash away the dirt of the daily grind in the world. The leaders of the church should be firmly grounded in scripture themselves to lead the laity into a passionate love for the word of God.

How do leaders motivate the body to be passionate about knowing the scriptures?

1. Teach the Truth – Scripturally sound messages

2. Set the Example – Daily personal study by all leaders in the church

3. Be Accountable – Leaders asking each other about personal studies

4. Provide Study Helps – Both at church and for home study

5. Be Genuine In Lifestyle – Live out what we preach and teach

6. Live Out the Victory – Do not complain or argue among the body

7. Let God Prove Himself – Watch and Pray according to His will

When the church passionately pursues the truth in Scripture, God will reveal Himself as He is. Otherwise, we have false expectations and our foundation in like quicksand. In the story of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7, Jesus says the fool heard the word, but never acted on it. The wise builder heard the word and put it into practice. That foundation is indestructible! It is true for individual lives and for the church family.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Definite Scriptural Context of Purpose

Every decision we make must be sound with scripture. The leadership of the church is responsible to set the standard in this area. We cannot depend on the majority all the time, nor can we choose to ignore the majority all the time. We must, however, carry out our God-given responsibilities as “men who must give an account to God for our actions and decisions.”

Therefore, we must be personally grounded in scripture as the leaders of the church. We do not need the best business minds of our church involved in the decision-making; we need the most scripturally sound minds of our church filling the gap. We are not to become a really effective business, as many churches have become, but we are supposed to accomplish the purposes laid out for us in the Bible as God empowers us to do so.

Each leader must keep the purposes of the church in mind when discussing ideas with the laity. Remember that these are God-designed purposes for His invention of the church. When we start trying to make something else out of this invention, we abuse God’s gift to us.

A layperson may say, “Why do we always have to sing standing up?”

A leader should respond something like this: “I don’t believe you have to stand at all. It is a suggestion, because worship is, ‘Sacrificing ourselves for the Glory of God.’ When you honor someone, you either stand or bow, so we stand, because it’s hard to sing when you are bowing.” This would show a scriptural understanding of why we do things the way we do, and hopefully put an end to any divisiveness that may have occurred otherwise.

You might also turn the layperson’s attention to John 4, when Jesus said true worshippers of God worship Him in spirit and in truth. This use of scripture to support our actions lovingly educates an obedient follower of Christ and returns an attitude of unity and peace to his heart. Additionally, scripture will foil the desires of a divisive person who thought he could disrupt the unity of the leadership.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why does the church _________________ (You fill in the blank)?” Think about the activities of an average worship service…singing, offering, prayer, communion, sermons, etc. Do you know why we do these things in the context of a Worship Service? Do you think these things are a part of genuine worship? Do you see things in scripture that the church should be doing, but most don’t?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A United Heart of Passion to Carry Out Our Purpose

Once we have a plan of action, we must communicate the vision in such a way that people understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and even how we came to the decision.

Communication is vital to making peaceful transitions in ministry. Most people will follow if they believe in the leaders’ decisions, but they can’t believe in a decision they don’t understand.

Announcing the changes first to all the people involved in the ministry is a must. If they feel they have been forced into a programming change they will automatically go on the defensive.

First, meet with the whole ministry team and share the problems you had to address. By helping them see the problem you were trying to solve, you are able to bring them along through the problem-solving process with you, rather then creating a confrontational situation.

Then, when you make them aware of the problem-solving process you went through, you will be able to direct their hearts toward the same conclusion you came to; that these changes are for the best in the ministry and for those who are carrying out the ministry.

Always keep the desire to bring a unified heart to the table, remembering we are all ultimately answering to God for our attitudes. When the body of Christ is unified, no weapon formed against us will prosper, and the devil knows that because he knows scripture. The enemy wants to divide and conquer – therefore, we must work all the harder to unite and overcome!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Clear Plan of Action to Fulfill Our Purpose

We need, then, to develop a scripturally sound plan of action to accomplish our purposes. These plans must be the result of prayer, thoughtful contemplation, careful planning and clear communication of the plans. We must follow up on these plans and evaluate them, tweak them, and be willing to drop them when they are no longer effective.

I suggest that each leader review the ministries of the church they serve and evaluate them according to the purpose for each ministry to discover how healthy the church is.

The following are the questions a church should ask in evaluating its health:

  • What do we do to Evangelize, both at home and worldwide? Are we taking the gospel to the lost, or hoping they will come to us? Do lost people attend our church? What ministries are succeeding at this calling and what ministries need to change or be discontinued?
  • How is our Fellowship? Are new people staying? Are we family-like, or business-like? What ministry is effectively meeting this need? How do we build unity?
  • Where in our programming are we training people to be like Christ - Not just “telling,” but “training” them? Are we making Disciples effectively?
  • Are we offering enough Ministry and Service opportunities? Are people using their gifts in ministry, or are we filling round holes with square pegs? Do we run programs that meet our needs, or do we run programs because other churches do them?
  • Do we live out personal sacrifice for the sake of Christ? Do we truly worship God, or do we just sing about it?

Answering these questions will help determine the health of any church. At least they will know why they are here, and can plan to accomplish what they were made to accomplish.

After we have evaluated where we are, we need to address where we are going. Do we plan to maintain the status quo or do we have a vision for the future?

To look into the future, we need to understand current trends both in society and in ministry - not “fads”, but the practices of our people. What are schedules like? What is happening in the job market? Where is our economy headed? What seems to draw people in to try a new place out? What makes people keep coming back to any one location (Restaurants, department stores, etc.)?

We should also be willing to create and discontinue ministries based on needs and effectiveness. If any ministry seems to be waning, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions:

  1. Why did we start this ministry?
  2. Is it still a necessary ministry for our community?
  3. If so, why is it faltering?
  4. What do we need to do to correct the problems?
  5. How will these changes affect the people involved?
  6. What can we do to cause the greatest improvement with the least offense?
  7. Can we do this with the resources we have at our disposal?
  8. What is our plan of action and timeline for these changes?

This process will help us come up with a clear plan of action to fulfill our purpose for every aspect of the church’s ministry. Every step of the way, we must be covering our process with prayer, scripture and patience. We do not want to try to fix spiritual issues with human solutions. The only power to change lives is found in Jesus Christ, not smooth planning and programming.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Scriptural Purpose for the Church

How do you know if any invention works? When it is tested, it accomplishes what it was created to accomplish.

God created the church for a purpose. We can never accomplish that purpose if we don’t know what it is. Therefore, the first step to spiritual health is to know why we are here as a church. Then we can test our ministry to see if we are a healthy church body.

The series we have been following at our church, “The Purpose Driven Life”, written by Pastor Rick Warren, has been very timely for us in establishing the scriptural purpose for each of us. Since the church body is made up of individual parts, each of us knowing why his life matters helps us with the big picture of knowing why the church exists.

Jesus was asked what the most important commandment in the law is. His response to that question gives us two main purposes for our existence.

1. To love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – Worship

2. To love your neighbor as you love yourself – Service or Ministry to others

Worship is a way of life. Romans 12:1 tells us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is our spiritual act of worship.” Keeping myself holy in the way I live is Worship of God. Singing about it is part of the expression, but the music rings hollow in God’s ears when there is no truth lived out to back up what I am singing. In John 4, we find that we are to worship wherever we are in Spirit and Truth. In Isaiah 1, we get a glimpse of God’s view of going through the motions at church, then going back and living the same life of sin and selfishness we have always lived. Worship, then, is living a life of sacrifice to myself, and complete surrender, in love, to God.

Service is a genuine attitude before it is an effective action. We must consider others as better than ourselves if we truly are to serve them in love. If we work as for Christ and not for men, the attitude of service will be one of “being honored” to serve Christ, rather than “being forced” to serve others. Mother Theresa said that she was able to serve the diseased people of India because she envisioned Jesus’ face when she looked at the people she was helping. She was serving God, rather than men. If we love God more than ourselves, we have to love other people more than ourselves.

It was Jesus Who gave us the “Great Commission,” as well. The jobs he gave the disciples to carry out still also ring true for the church.

  1. Go and make disciples of all nations. – Evangelism
  2. Baptizing them – Fellowship
  3. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded – Discipleship

Evangelism covers not only your local community and people you know, but the entire world. Missions work and local ministry are necessary parts of the church’s effectiveness in the call to evangelism. Getting out of our comfort zone to find the lost ones that God calls is not just a nice idea; it is a command of God for those who would be His true disciples. Luke 15 has three different stories to make the same basic point. Search for the lost until you find them, then celebrate like crazy that they have been found!

How does baptizing new believers relate to fellowship? Well, if you think fellowship means eating together, it doesn’t. But if you understand the personal connection of the family-like relationship of believers, then you know that when one is baptized into the faith, they are becoming part of the fellowship of that family.

When people are baptized, they are publicly saying, “I want to be a part of the church, which is the body of Christ and the Family of God. I want to be known as God’s child.” True fellowship is attained when we see each other as family and care for each other as such. When one hurts we all hurt. When one rejoices, we all rejoice with him. We are the fellowship of believers, joint heirs with Christ, the family of God.

Christ described discipleship with excellence when He told us to teach new believers to obey everything He has commanded. Once they join the family, they need to know what God’s family looks like. They need to recognize His discipline when He is treating us like His own children. We are all learning and growing and becoming like His One and Only Son, Jesus. This is how the Family of God behaves.

Why does the Church exist? To carry out the Great Commission as we follow the Greatest Commandments.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Supernatural Activity

Correct me if I’m wrong, but God is still alive and well, isn’t He? Is He the same yesterday, today and forever? Do the following words come right out of John 14:12-14 in the New International Version of the Bible?

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Jesus said these words, Himself, when explaining to Philip that he could believe in Jesus if for no other reason than because of the miracles He performed. Those miracles were a sign that Jesus was sent by God and approved by God. This reason for miracles is still valid, today. God puts His stamp of approval on a godly person or on a situation by accomplishing supernatural things in our presence – even greater things than Philip had seen Jesus do!

What did Jesus do in the presence of His disciples? (Luke 7:22)

  1. Healed the sick
  2. Gave sight to the blind
  3. Made the lame walk
  4. Restored hearing to the deaf
  5. Cured the lepers
  6. Raised the dead

Will He still do this? Ask Him. His word says He will. Do we believe in Him or don’t we? A spiritually healthy church sees miraculous events take place, when we ask the Father in the Name of Jesus. Does He always follow our will? Of course not! His will be done! But do we ask Him to accomplish His will through miracles like we should? Do we expect that He still might just raise the dead, if He so desires? When did you last ask Him to bring honor to His Name or stamp His approval on us by healing someone?

You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. - James 4:2-3

Why do you want to see miracles? Have you asked God? What are "wrong motives" for miracles? What makes an event "miraculous"? What do you pray fervently for God to do?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spiritual Gifts Being Used

I'm not going to pretend to be the first or hundredth or in any other numerical equation, the innovative thinker who developed this notion. All believers are called to use their spiritual gifts in ministry. Every independent being in the entire body must do his or her part for the body of Christ to be healthy.

If everyone has spiritual gifts and these gifts were given to us to strengthen the body, then for the body to be healthy, all these body parts need to be functional. This particular aspect of the healthy church is largely ignored or treated as unrealistic.

“What church has 100% participation?”

This question is supposed to be some kind of evidence that this calling by God is impossible to fulfill. Because the answer to this question is, “None that I’ve ever seen,” those who think this to be an unattainable, far-too-lofty ideal, choose to ignore the fact that unhealthy churches all over the country are squandering God’s power!

Where in the Bible do you find support for the call to "attend" among believers? The Great Commission is just that; a "commission". "Go and teach people to attend a church," was not part of that commission.

SPEAK the gospel.
BAPTIZE in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
TEACH them to obey
LOVE God with all you have
LOVE your neighbor as yourself

All of these are actions. The church is a body that acts...that does. If you in your body just sit there, doing nothing but "attending" life, you will become weak, then ill, and eventually, you will die. Unfortunately, this is happening to the body of Christ all over our country!

Here is an interesting question: "How can Jesus become sick?"
Answer: "When His body becomes unhealthy and lethargic due to inaction."

When did God ever empower anyone in the Bible and then expect him or her to waste it?

Never! The question is so absurd that even as it is read, the mind races in search of an excuse or rationalization to prove this is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison. That quest will fail, because this is an exact assessment of our failure to communicate the expectation of God that all believers are expected to take up their roles in the body and accomplish His will, together!

Because we all know more people in the church could get involved, we know we have some work to do in this area. What steps can be taken to breathe new life into the hearts of the people who have remained deaf to this call?

1. Teach that using your gifts is a doctrinal necessity. It is!

2. Require church members to be involved.

3. Have a clear plan to help people find their ministry gifts and put them to use.

4. Create ministry opportunities based on gifting – let the hand do a hand’s work, etc.

5. Communicate often the needs of the church family to the body.

6. Pray that God will send the right “Body Parts” to meet your church’s needs.

7. Consider dropping ministries that God is not providing people to accomplish.

When we are weak, we are not healthy. Everyone using his or her spiritual gifts in ministry strengthens the body. Therefore, we are healthy when everyone is accomplishing the ministry they were formed to accomplish.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spiritually Changed Lives

One major fact we cannot deny is that we cannot choose how God will work. It is not our will that He carries out, but quite the opposite. If this is true, then the only way the Holy Spirit can truly be the power source of the church is when we step back on the day’s program, and invite Him to come among us and do His will. Isn’t this what we truly want?

So then, a healthy church is identified by current examples of lives being changed. Only the Spirit of God brings about true change, so if change is happening, the Spirit must be moving. And, if the Spirit is moving, we can assume He is pleased with our body of believers, and is free to work among us.

The truth of scripture is spiritually discerned, and discernment brings wisdom and change. What a testimony of spiritual health to see lives changed!

What the should we watch for? We should expect the alcoholic to be set free from addiction. The one who is drawn to pornography should suddenly find the strength to dispose of this habit. The marriage that is in ruins can be restored, if both sides are in a true relationship with Christ. Victims will become overcomers. The heart of the greedy will become generous and giving. The trouble-maker will become the peace-maker. The desires of our hearts will become the desires of God's heart.

These are the changes that a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ will bring, because He gives us His Spirit to dwell in us.

"You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." - Rom. 8:9

"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." - Rom. 8:12-14

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Healthy Church

As a minister, I am often asked how I would define a "successful church". The current trend is moving from judging by attendance numbers to reflecting on the health of the church. I support this transition of the standard by which churches are measured, but I also know that different people will have different ideas of what a "Healthy Church" looks like.

So, I am going to throw in my two cents about how I believe the health of a church can be somewhat defined. Some of these items are measurable, others are much more abstract and will probably only be completely known in eternity. As much as I can, I want to stick to the measurable things that will let my church judge how spiritually healthy we are.

  1. A Healthy Church Manifests the Work of the Holy Spirit.
    1. Lives Changing
    1. Spiritual Gifts Being Used By the Entire Body
    1. Supernatural Activity
  1. A Healthy Church Knows Why it Exists.
    1. A Clear Understanding of the Scriptural Purpose for the Church.
    1. A Clear Plan of Action to Fulfill Our Purpose.
    1. A United Heart of Passion to Carry Out Our Purpose.
  1. A Healthy Church Is Grounded in Scriptural Truth.
    1. A Definite Contextual Proof of Purpose.
    1. A Willingness and Passion to Study and Know the Scriptures.
    1. Scripturally Solid Teachers With God’s Agenda at Heart.
  1. A Healthy Church Lives Outside As They Do Inside the Church Building.
    1. A Heart of Compassion for the Community
    1. A Positive Reputation Among the Community
    1. A Solid Discipleship Training That Changes Lives and Lifestyles
This is a spring board for the coming writings over the next few weeks. I want to take this list point-by-point and give deeper insight into what I am claiming here, and why. As always, I will appreciate any constructive input any of you may have.