A recent trip we took to Santa Barbara, California was influential in recalibrating my sense of purpose. The fresh air, the ocean and a recounting by a member of the community, of the story of the Christian missions planted across California. The member of the community had been taught a revisionist view of the historical planting of the Christian Missions across the state of California.
Not knowing I was a Christian pastor he related that the missions were planted so that the Christians could force locals to turn from their religions and become Christians. He stated it as fact and in the same breath seemed to dismiss Christianity as having any value at all. Perhaps he had once been in a Christian church as a young child or young adult. Whatever the story of his life it raised, for me, the value of authentic Christianity lived out in community. It would be hard to believe that this individual who was discounting Christianity as just another group of religious bigots, had ever had a true meaningful encounter with the Christian community.
He may well have attended a Christian church a time or two or even as a child but had he ever seen Christ at work in the life of a true follower of Jesus? Across America the Christian church buildings are visible the question is can anyone see Jesus?
The call of God is first and foremost to personal relationship. Our buildings have no kingdom value if the people in them are not surrendered followers of Jesus Christ. Whose kingdom are we building? Every pastor loves a big crowd on Sunday. I am in that group. It is wonderful so see the building filled with people. I know how hard our volunteers and leadership teams work all week long to prepare for the Sunday gathering. But I am unwilling to trade authentic Christianity for a crowd.
In the end, I want people to answer the call to relationship with Jesus before they answer the call to membership. You are welcome here but do not leave without making Jesus Lord and Leader of your life. If all we did was entertain you for an hour or excite you with the momentum of the crowd…WE FAILED. Showing up is huge but I want more than that for you. I want you to personally know the God of Christianity. I want you to surrender your life to Him. I want you to LIVE out Christianity in the community for all to see.
We can have both the King and the Crowd when the King is King of our hearts. Our motive must be that our personal relationship with Jesus is a life priority. I am most effective for His Kingdom when I am completely surrendered to His Lordship over my life.
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Growing up as a PK (pastor’s kid) we lived exclusively in the parsonage of the church where my dad served. Usually that meant that the church itself was connected to our home or very close. As a result, our home was not very private. My dad would sometimes use one of the open bedrooms as his study.
Many of those who attended our church considered our home their second home. For the most part people were respectful of our home and attempted to give us some sense of privacy. A few times I remember intrusions from people who did not seem to have a healthy natural space barrier.
One man in our home church who had lost his wife was desperate for fellowship. So desperate that he would come to our home unannounced at least 4 to 5 times a week. Sometimes he would offer an excuse as to why he had dropped by at other times he just dropped by. My parents were compassionate and never turned him away but it left us in an awkward position. We never knew when he might drop by so we had to live as if it might be any moment.
After a few months of this behavior, my dad would sometimes park his car behind the church building to give the impression we were gone. Eventually the man began to date someone and we did not see him except at church. He remarried and they were a wonderful couple together.
There were many interesting things about growing up as a pastor’s kid. At school when my classmates discovered my dad was a pastor they would try not to cuss around me, which was cool, I guess. I noticed that some of them were not comfortable going into my home. It was as if they thought my dad might recognize their sin or something and suddenly preach a sermon. Often after meeting my parents they were at ease and enjoyed coming over to the house.
At church, pastor’s kids were and still are, watched carefully. There is an expectation for pastor’s kids: They are to be good Christian examples for the other kids and youth, they attend everything that the church does, they arrive early to set up and leave late after cleanup, they never do anything to embarrass their parents or the church, they serve in ministries in the church.
In all honesty though, I loved being a pastor’s kid! I met the most interesting people, heard some of the great preachers of our day in their prime, hosted in our home Missionaries, Evangelists, Christian Leaders. I had a front row seat to watch God move among his people. I was first hand witness to miracles. I loved the music, special singing, choirs, Christian bands, and to be honest I just loved singing the hymns and choruses each week at church.
The church family was my second family. I can still see their faces, remember the great times we had together. Their touch on my life made such an impact that I chose to follow God’s call on my life. Some of my closest friends today, I met at church as a pastor’s kid. Many of them are now in ministry across the globe.
I made Jesus the Lord and Leader of my life when I was just 6 years old. I remember it clearly even today. My uncle was preaching about the power in the name of Jesus. As the message closed and he gave an altar call many came forward. I was among them. The encounter I had with God that day began as I left my seat and long before anyone saw me at the altar, God was at work in my heart. At six I did not have a long list of sins to ask for forgiveness. What was going on with me was more about the presence of Jesus than his power to forgive. I wanted to know Him personally. In a short moment of time I was overwhelmed by His presence. That day a relationship (not a religion) started that continues to this day.
My PK (pastor’s kid) story is not the story of all pastor’s kids. In some cases, PK’s have fallen away from the faith. The challenge to live up to expectations is too much for some. Others are moved to doubt as they see Christian contradictions, hypocrites, pastors and spiritual leaders who have moral indiscretions. Some start to doubt based on intellectual arguments, perceived Biblical errors, scientific arguments that refute Biblical accounts.
In fairness to PK’s, they have a front row seat to the ugly part of the church. They see people who call themselves Christians doing some not so Christian things. I saw my dad and mom viciously attacked by a handful of church members who had a power agenda. It was very hurtful to watch my mom cry to see the worry on my dad’s face as he pondered our future at the church. When I was 16 years old I remember a church friend, asking me when my dad would be resigning the church, his parents and one other member had been discussing it at the dinner table the night before. I could tell from the way he asked it was not out of concern that they may lose a good pastor but more about we are ready for the next pastor.
It would have been easy maybe even natural to start to dislike or even hate church people when facing circumstances like this regularly. What made the difference for me was the relationship I have with Jesus. It was clear to me that people acting in this manner did not really know Jesus. Additionally, I knew how much my dad loved Jesus. My dad loved Jesus so much and knew Him so well that he longed for all the people of our church and community to know Him too. I felt the same way. It was never “us” against “them”. It was always about Jesus and all of us.
Every day we hear reports of violence, theft, hatred and war. Not one day passes on our planet without a murder, rape, assault or acts of racism. Humans are certainly involved but is there a devil involved as well?
Recent events in Charlottesville, have received a great deal of attention in the Christian community. I have heard and read several leading pastoral responses. For the most part they are well thought out and scriptural. It is sad that Christians are feeling the need to defend their faith when it comes to racial reconciliation. Christianity in its purest form is crystal clear that God accepts, loves and has created all mankind. We are all equal in His eyes and that’s what true Christianity puts into daily practice.
It would be impossible, in my mind, for anyone to be dismissive of evil in our world. We see it, experience it and have practiced it on one another. The presence of evil on our planet in and of itself is testament to a nature of sin in human kind. It would be one thing to disagree with another human but to climb into your vehicle and run that person over intending to kill them and silence their voice forever, that is an act of extreme evil. What force pushes the bounds of human anger and justifies an act so evil?
In some ways, talking about a "problem of evil" is a false start. A better quandary to start with would be the problem of sin. How quickly we rush to raise a self-righteous fist while our other hand digs in the cookie jar.
"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?" (Ezekial 18:25).
Whatever we think we understand about God, it is clear from His actions toward mankind that God is Good. It is easy to prove as we look at his gift in the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross to redeem mankind from the consequence of sin and evil. His goodness is also seen in the “free will” He grants his creation. We are not slaves of the most powerful being man could imagine, we are instead, granted SONSHIP. We are invited to choose. We choose to be family members of God or not. The choice is ours to make.
That presents the problem of sin for us. With God, we have the power to overcome sin to make a good and right choice. Without Him we find ourselves more and more the slave of sin. The master of sin is given descriptive names in the Bible. Here are a few: Angel of the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:11), Accuser (Rev. 12:10), Dragon (Isa. 27:1 & Rev. 20:2), Evil Spirit (I Sam. 16:14), Father of Lies (Jn. 8:44), Satan (Job 1:6) Prince of Devils (Matt. 12:24)
Each name (there are 31 total) describes the content and purpose of his nature and being. He was not always this way. In fact, he was with God, many scholars believe he was an Archangel. God had given him the name Lucifer. That name means: “Son of the morning”. His rebellion against God was brief and a complete failure (Ezekiel 28 and Isa. 14).
He was also a creature of free will and he chose himself over God. Mankind made an identical decision. A decision to throw off the authority of the God who created us and embrace the illusion of self-rule. I say illusion because when we walk away from the authority of God we also walk away from the protection of God. Leaving us at the mercy of the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4).
That title for him with the little “g” is a squatter’s title. He has no legal right to the planet it all belongs to the God with the big “G”, the one and only God of the universe. That said, those who do not follow God are following the purposes of the devil. God warned Cain (one of the sons of Adam) in the early Bible:
“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Gen. 4:7)
Cain refused to do what was right, to put God first, to make God ruler in his life. As a result, SIN won out in a most evil fashion…He killed his own brother.
The ‘serial killers’ of our day look surprisingly normal to us when we see them on TV. Often, they have led very normal lives except those brief hours in their lives where they were overcome by evil in submission to their sinful nature. The joy of the devil (if you can say he has one) is not mankind’s acts of sin but rather mankind’s rejection of God.
IS THERE A DEVIL?
Yes. He is the author of sin. It is important that we recognize there is a force for evil on the planet. But the devil is not the author of your sin…You are. The devil decided to be his on god long before the creation of man. The choice now is ours. We can worship God or attempt to be our own god. If we choose to be our own god we invite sin to rule and set the table for evil to work through our lives.
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News… (II Cor. 4:4)
Rejecting God is not rejecting religion. Rejecting God is saying: “I know better than God”. If you are wiser than God you are god in your own mind, philosophy and world view. Without God, there is no power to resist a sinful nature and do good. We will do what seems right to us even when doing so hurts someone else and or destroys us physically, emotionally and mentally.
Is God your God?
Please feel free to comment on this post. If you would like to speak with someone to learn more about Jesus contact us at: email@example.com
I started looking for my wife among the sea of people who were worshipping Jesus at the Brownsville Revival. Only weeks into this great Revival in an Assemblies of God church in Pensacola, Florida and the crowds were so large you had to arrive hours before the service began to get in.
Services were held nightly at 7p and would often not end until 1,2,3 or 4a. People poured in as the doors were opened around 6p. The building was completely full by 6:30p. The auditorium would seat about 1100 people. For those who did not make it into the main auditorium there were several overflow rooms set up that silmocast the services.
One of the interesting things I noted in human behavior as I watched the people, no one was in a hurry. No one looking at their watches as the service went along, no fidgeting, no phone gazing, no distractions. The people had come to worship Jesus. He alone was the center piece of every gathering.
At the close of every service people almost ran to the front of the building to be prayed for and to spend time at the altars in prayer. Both Michele and I had gone to the front for prayer. As we passed through the crowd I had lost track of her. One of the pastoral leaders nearby had offered to pray for me and so I spent the next hour or so in personal worship. Just loving on Jesus as He loved on me. It was incredible.
You really do lose track of time and space when you are worshipping. What seemed important when you came into the building seems to fade in the presence of our mighty God. The front of the building was still packed with people when I stood to go back to my seat. I had to step over people all the way back.
As I walked I was looking for Michele. I spotted her half way across the auditorium near the east wall of the building. Her face seemed to be glowing. At first I thought she was under a spotlight but as I drew closer I could see it wasn't a spot light or any light from the building. I could hear her saying these four words over and over: "Jesus, I love you". I was still about 12 feet away from her and I did not want to disturb this anointed moment for her so I sat down in a nearby seat and watched her as I continued to worship Jesus.
Are there distractions in your life that prevent worship like this? The Brownsville revival went on over a year. Many 1000's came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Many 1000's of Christians experienced a renewal in their faith that increased their passion for Jesus and His mission. That's what Revivals are really all about. The reviving of the people of God. We tend to drift off, get mucked down in cultural habits, prioritize things in our lives that are not worthy of priority. A revival is an awakening! It helps reset our calendar of priorities. It put's God FIRST. It puts the Mission God has given us through Jesus at the top of our to do list.
Here is some really good news. You don't have to attend a Brownsville revival to worship Jesus. Although this was a milestone for Michele and I it was not and has not been the first or last time we have had incredible experiences worshipping God. The kind of experiences that renew us and impassion us for ministry. In fact I saw that same light on Michele's face this past Sunday. At the close of service our church was worshipping Jesus and I looked over and saw her mouthing those words again: "Jesus, I love you".
If you want to love Him more enter into worship. Put aside all the distractions. Don't look at your phone, the clock, your neighbor. Look to Jesus. He loves you so much. Just love Him back.
if you want to know more about the Grace Place or view our weekly messages go to: www.gp.church/sermons
Join us this Sunday for Friendship Sunday! It kicks off at 10:30a with our live worship band. Here is the schedule:
- 9:00a Prayer
- 10:00a Stop by the Welcome Table for your name Tag/Visit the Coffee bar and make some friends while you are there.
- 10:30a KICK OFF with our Live Worship Band
- 10:45a: Sunday Focus call to Community friendship
- 11:00a God Talk by Vanessa Ochoa (MiT member)
- 11:40 Stick around and celebrate friendship! Refreshments provided including our FRIENDSHIP CAKE.
I don't know where I would be today if it were not for lasting friendships. There is really no better place to find lasting friendships than the church. At the Grace Place Church we are working extra hard to provide opportunities to get good people connected. This Sunday we want to slow things down a bit and dedicate some quality time to moving past the acquiantance level and helping each one of you form Friendships.
When I was 9 years old I formed several lasting friendships at church. Today those friends are scattered across the globe including serving in Missions in foreign countries. But we have remained friends and their impact on my life has made a huge difference. I thank God for each one of them. Over the years God has added many more. Dennis Tucker and I met when I was a sophomore in High School. We met at church. I was there when he met the women he would marry. I was there when his first child Nathaniel and his second child Sara were born. When I got married we all became friends. Michele and I were there when he and his wife faced a marriage crises that could have ended their marriage. We walked through that difficult time with them and saw God heal their marriage. We rejoiced when we saw them forgive each other and fall in love all over again. How awesome is God!!
Not only have we been there for our friends but our friends have been there for us. When we faced a serious ministry financial crises a several years ago, many of these friends sent money, prayed for us, encouraged us. Through our friends and family we saw God do in 2 weeks what we could not have accomplished in 2 years. Friends have stood by us when we faced crisis, sickness, loss of jobs, discouraging moments. Friends have encouraged us to go for it! To accomplish the impossible to live out the dream God has put on our hearts even when it meant we had to leave them.
Friendship is such a valuable gift. We can have a "friendship Sunday" and that does not mean you will have friends. But if you will make a commitment to be a friend first you will discover there are others who need it and want to give it back. So let's start this Sunday. I want to be your friend. Join us early and bring some of the friends you have already made. It's going to be a great Sunday!
If you don't have a home church and you live in the Austin/Round Rock area we want to invite you to check us out at: www.gp.church
Thankfully at our church, people don't describe church as boring at least not out loud to me. I am sure there are people everywhere who have at one time or another said those words about all kinds of churches. Not just children but also adults. How about you...Is Church boring?
If you answered yes or sometimes, I would like to suggest that YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! Church is so much MORE than the weekly gathering. The weekly gathering is very important in this respect. It brings us together to worship Jesus. To learn about Him and to grow in Him. But the best part of church is not the weekly gathering. The best part is BEING the church not just going to church.
I have been out of the pulpit for several weeks over the summer. Among other things I am preparing for our Fall campaign and writing a book about our church. Each Sunday I have faithfully attended our church and really enjoyed each of our guest speakers. Everyone of them but one, are leaders in our church and they have done a fantastic job. As I listen to them I realize this is the church! They all have day jobs that are very demanding but they have prioritized being the church in their communities at work at school.
It is exciting to see the church at work all week not just on Sunday. Whenever church seems boring it is because you are sitting on the bench. It's time to get in the game. John Madden once described football this way: "football is 22 people being over exercised while 70000 people get under exercised."
Church is not a spectator sport. All together we ARE the church. The church is 24/7. Last Tuesday morning I felt a prompting from God to call my brother. He answered the phone and we greeted each other. He paused for a moment and said; "Just before you called I was praying and I said God I need for someone to tell me they love me today and as soon as I finished praying you called to tell me you love me!" Wow! That's how church works. Late Friday of that same week I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Round Rock and I guy came out and set nearby and opened his Bible as he listened to worship music. A minute or so later another guy came out sat across from me and he opened his Bible and began to read. I was like this is cool! This is exciting! Church is everywhere!
If you don't have a home church I would like to invite you to try the GRACE PLACE CHURCH! If you are not in our area watch us on video or listen to our podcasts at www.gp.church/sermons It's time to not just go to church but BE the church!
HOW TO SHARE YOUR FAITH
At the heart of every conversion to Christ story, is the role PRIDE played in attempting to prevent the conversion all together. Pride leads unbelief. Every person who surrenders their life to Christ must first overcome their own pride. Pride separates us from God by putting us squarely in His seat. Pride at work in the life of a human being is easy to spot. There is a mocking tone in their response to your belief in God.
“Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance.” (Prov. 21:24 NLT)
Remember when you are sharing your story of God’s Grace, mercy and forgiveness the person listening is also battling their own pride. Often, we are fearful when attempting to share our faith, fearful that the people we share with may ask us questions we cannot answer. What if they know more about the Bible than us? What if they have a scientific argument that makes our belief in creation look foolish? What if they simply ask us something about our faith that we have no answer for? Is it possible that talking about our faith could do more damage than good?
Fear always has a way of making a mountain out of a mole hill. It also paralyzes us and keeps us from moving forward. But is it true that if you share your faith it will get thrown back in your face? A recent survey of Christians showed that the vast majority believe they should share their faith with others but revealed that only 25% of Christians can recall a time where they shared their faith and only 14% said they had done so three or more times in the last six months. The survey also asked if they had personally invited someone to attend church or to a church event and more than 48% said they never had.
Inviting someone to church seems much easier than sharing your faith but the same fears that prevent some Christians from sharing their faith also prevent them from inviting people they know to church.
Is there a way to overcome fear and share your faith? Yes, and it is easier than you may think. The Bible tells us that one of the most powerful tools we have for telling others about Jesus is our OWN story. The Bible calls it your Testimony.
1 John 5:11 “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is found in his Son.”
Each one of us who have made Jesus Lord and Leader of our lives, has a great story to tell. We know what life looked like for us before we became a Christian and we know what a wonderful change has taken place in our hearts since we surrendered our life to His Lordship. Our story is ours and it is powerful. Someone once said that: “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument”. This is so true for each one of us. It does not matter what argument someone may use to dismiss God for their lives it will never hold water for us. Why? Because we know Him! We have experienced Him. We have put our trust in Him.
Sharing your faith is as easy as sharing your personal story. One thing I have discovered to be true: people love to tell their story and to hear your story. We all want to be known by those around us. We want people to know what we have come through in life, what we have accomplished and what we value. A great way to set your story up for telling is to invite the other person to tell their story first. Our stories are personal invitations to others to get to know us. They are a snapshot of our journey in life.
We tell our story on a regular basis when we meet new people and when we are seeking to deepen a relationship with someone we already know. The question is, are we leaving out the most important part of our story? Did we really accomplish all this by ourselves? Are we motivated to face each new day just because it is a new day or because Jesus has great things planned for our day?
Here is how to share your faith: Tell YOUR STORY but don’t leave out the good part….
“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see.”
I can't remember a time when our nation was more divided than it is right now. There has been a concerted effort over the past 5 decades to arrest and imprison the Biblical principals upon which our nation was founded. It is an effort that has largely been successful and now we are starting to see the fruits born of that endeavor: racism, hatred, intolerance, class warfare, murder, abortions, religious persecution.
It is a dark picture. We do need to take an honest hard look at it. Why?
On one occasion, recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 6, a large group of dissatisfied followers of Jesus walked away.
"At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God. (Jn. 6:66-69 NLT)"
When life gets ugly and the challenges seem greater than you can bare you need to re-read these words spoken by Simon Peter: "Lord to whom would we go?" If you have a better solution for America than Jesus I would love to hear it.
We need to remind ourselves that this life is about HIM and not us! He is the answer to the division we see in America. The flag is a symbol of America. It can't unite our divided country but the Cross of Christ can. In Christ alone is the HOPE of all mankind. Our nation is in crises we need to lift up Jesus so our nation can see where hope is!
Where can we Go? Only Jesus can heal a broken nation. Take that message to your social media, your neighborhood, your school, your work place. Jesus is the answer.
If you want to know more about the Grace Place Church contact us at info.gp.church or go to our website: www.gp.church
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is an empowering for service that takes place in the life of the Christian (Acts 1:5,8). In it we are immersed in the Spirit's life and power.
Every believer who has made Jesus Lord of their life is filled with the Holy Spirit. From that very moment the believer becomes "Spirit" led. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is a daily, life changing work that is making us more and more like Jesus. But what is the difference in being filled with the Holy Spirit and being Baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Illustration: If you drink a glass of water the water is inside you but if you go to the beach and step out into the ocean you would be in the water. Jesus told the disciples...
"Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with* water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 14:5)
He further promised: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
There is a marked difference in the effectiveness of the followers of Jesus after the initial Day of Pentecost and the out pouring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts. 2. These followers were emboldened and empowered to do the work of ministry in a dynamic way. The word Power in Acts 1:8 is the Greek word "Dunimus". That is the root of the english word Dynamite.
Who should be baptized in the Holy Spirit? The answer is...every believer. This is a gift from God.
“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38,39)
HOW DO I RECEIVE THIS GIFT?
We start by believing that this gift from God is for us. God loves you and the Bible tells us...
For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Ps. 84:11 NLT)
"He will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right" He wants YOU to be baptized in the Holy Sprit. If you can believe this is true all you need to do to be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to ASK God.
WHAT DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT BEING BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT?
This Gift is FREE but it is radically life changing. The disciples loved and followed Jesus before they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. They were even effective in doing various ministry functions. But after the Day of Pentecost outpouring they were power filled for ministry in a way they had not previously experienced. It appears their passion level for Jesus and the work of ministry increased 10 fold. They were almost fearless in their ministry in the cities, towns and villages.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF I HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT?
When we ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives we instantly experienced change in our lives. Our desires, our hopes, our dreams, our Joy, passions all began to change. In a short time even our friends and family members saw the change in our lives our attitudes, our language and so much more. In other words there were outward signs of an inward work that was taking place inside of us.
This is also true when you baptized in the Holy Spirit. There are outward signs that the water is not just in you but you are in the water. On the day of Pentecost the believers were empowered and emboldened for the work of ministry in their community and in the world at large. Certainly it will be visible to you and to those around you when you receive this gift of the Holy Spirit.
WILL I SPEAK IN TONGUES?
And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages,* as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:4)
The gift of the Holy Spirit Baptism, in at least five occasions recorded in the book of Acts, indicates the people receiving spoke in a language not their own. In most cases it appears to be a heavenly language not a man known language. Even in the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit it was recorded...
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:5-12)
It's clear from the text that the believers being baptized were speaking a spiritual language but the ears of the unbelievers were opened to hear them "declaring the wonders of God" in the language they understand. That beautiful spiritual language seemed to be a constant where believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
This spiritual language is different from the "Gift of Tongues" described later in the scriptures. The purpose of a spiritual language is to allow the Holy Spirit to pray through us, to be personally encouraged, uplifted and filled with the hope of God for the completion of the ministry work we have put our hands to in obedience to His call on our lives.
WHAT WILL IT SOUND LIKE? Praying in tongues is a big hurdle for some Christians. Fearful of doing it wrong or being more self than Spirit driven. In truth "Fear" often becomes an obstacle to our walk with God. We are afraid to witness to others about him. We are afraid to publicly worship Him. We are afraid to pray out loud. We are afraid to answer an altar call.
The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Why do we care what others may think? Let me encourage you with this story.. Many years ago as a youth leader I was teaching our youth about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The series went on for several weeks and each night after the youth service we prayed for those who wanted to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit. Our youth group was about 30 or so at the time and each night 2 or 3 were receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Alfred and his wife were youth sponsors. Alfred was about 21 years old. He wanted to be receive the gift and he wanted to speak in tongues. He had not told me this and he did not respond to any of our altar calls except to help us pray for the youth who did respond. Each night after the youth service he went home and asked God to Baptize him in the Holy Spirit.
I was getting ready for work and my phone rang. It was Alfred's wife. "Pastor Alan, I want you to hear something." she said. "Alright go ahead I am listening" I responded. She put the phone up to the bathroom door where Alfred was taking a shower. I could hear him praying in a heavenly language. She got back on the phone. "He has been doing that for 30 minutes what should I do?" she asked. I was choking back tears enough to respond to her "Just let him go until him and Jesus are done".
I saw Alfred the following Sunday and he was beaming. There was a marked difference in his commitment level, his passion for Jesus and his overall ministry over the next several months.
So what does it sound like. Each believer has an individual and personal experience. There is no teaching you how to do it or if the phonics are right or wrong, it is just you and the Holy Spirit. Your tongue, your vocal chords, your willingness to call out to God and the Holy Spirits working through you. My prayer language is beautiful to me. I don't really care how it sounds to someone else. It is me talking to Jesus through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in my life. I do it most every day as I worship Jesus. I purpose to pray in English most often in public, so that everyone can understand what I am praying for and about.
If you have not yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I want to encourage you to ASK GOD. He loves you and wants to give you every good gift. If you want me to agree with you and pray over you for the baptism of the Holy Spirit let me know it would be my honor to pray for you.
if you want personal prayer for the baptism of the Holy Spirit contact pastor Alan at; firstname.lastname@example.org
So how do you like the hat? Picture was taken at Disney Springs in Florida. We were on a family vacation. This fine Irish pub/cafe was one of our stops it also had a little shop full of Scottish/Irish treasures and the hat was the one I selected it reminds me of my people. lol
We had a great time most of our immediate family was able to go. Allison (my granddaughter) especially enjoyed the Irish dancers and singers in fact she decided to dance along with them. Great fish and chips at this place I might add.
I admit to struggling with the title on this post. I know creative titles can draw you into the article, so that's what I attempted to do here. This "How to" series of posts is intended to give you practical tools, ideas, understandings about the subject matter so you can put it to work in your life. If this is the first one you have read let me encourage you to go back and read at least a few of the other six "How to" posts.
In Christian circles we talk a great deal about what we "Ought to do" but it seems we fall short on showing "How". So that's what these posts are intended to do for you. Help you know "How" to get started. Another great resource for this post, you can find at: www.gp.church/sermons a few weeks back a talk I gave titled "Extraordinary Generosity" may also be helpful.
Our view of money clouds our decision making about it. To succeed in getting more out of our Money we need a clear view of money. We see our money as:
-Security, Power,Self worth, Prestige, Freedom, Enjoyment, Pleasure, Happiness, even Necessary
If I were to ask a person in a third world country that makes 50 dollars a week if they felt rich they would probably say No. If I asked them how much money they needed weekly to make them feel rich they may say 100 dollars a week. You and I would not consider that to be rich. But in a country where the monthly rent on your 1 bedroom apartment is 50.00, utilities are 17-20 dollars, that would leave you a nice bit of cash to finish out the month.
The point is this: No one really believes they are rich. It is always the other guy who is rich. As long as we view money as a measure of our worth we will always believe we need more or we can't do more. An incredible thing about learning to put God first in your Money is...You learn you can do more with less. You learn you can do more and more and more and God see's to it that you are replenished.
The "How to" for this issue will require you take some "trust" steps. There is just no way to change your view on money without real action. You can be inspired by stories I share of people who changed their minds and life view about what money is, but in the end nothing will change for you until you act. It is in our action that our view changes.
When it comes to money there is just some firm math we come to grips with. If I have 100 dollars and I give you 100 dollars to help you out, the math says I have 0 dollars left. But the math is not allowing for the work of the resupplier. That's why you can't see it until you do it.
Matthew 14:13 begins the story of the miracle where Jesus feeds 5000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. Now we know from the story that everyone ate until they were full.
"20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers."
This is just one of hundreds of scriptural examples we have of the work of the resupplier. The hard math did not work: 5 loaves of bread + 2 small fish does not = FEEDING 5000 HUNGRY PEOPLE.
Likewise we look at our monthly budgets and recognize we need 100% of our income to make it work. To subtract 10% and give that to our local church for the work of ministry just does not add up. Who will make up the 10% difference. It is too risky to act and trust. Our view of money says we need to see and then we can trust. How about an advance 10% and then I will give.
We all believe we would do more if we had more but statistics reveal that the more a person makes in annual income the less they give. In fact the largest segment of givers per capita to charity and non-profits are people who make 50,000 or less. Why is that? Because of the way we learn to view money we don't view equal sacrifice as a high value. A person who earns 50,000 a year may give 5,000 of that away each year. A person who earns 500,000 a year may give 25,000 away each year. One looks much bigger but one is a much greater sacrifice.
When Michele and I got married way back in 1983 we had to make a decision about giving. We both practiced generous giving as single adults but now that we were married our expenses were increasing. Could we trust God to resupply us? We made a decision to trust God and we have never looked back. NO REGRETS. God has supplied for every need and the picture above is a nice reminder to me of how God takes such good care of us. He has always been so faithful.
How can you start? The operative word is "Start". I would encourage you to make a step of trust. God has asked us to take care of "His" church and promised He will take care of us. Make the kind of step that requires Trust in God. It may be a tiny step at first but make it anyway. Your view of money will change. You will see God as your source and not your bank account, employer, mattress money.
Additionally you will get engaged in helping change "lives" for eternity. Recently I have been saying to our church "Attending the Grace Place weekly is good for your soul". Jesus brings the kind of life change needed to heal broken marriages and relationships. Jesus heals broken people, sick people, hurting people.
If you want to learn more about the Grace Place contact us at email@example.com you can also follow our weekly messages at www.gp.church/sermons
I'll admit it right from the start "I LOVE CHURCH". I am very biased when it comes to talking about church attendance because I love it so much it clouds my vision or better said; "it clarifies my vision". I do not just love church because I am the pastor I really, really love it and would go and have, even when I was not pastoring.
This church thing started for me at birth. From my earliest memories church has been a wonderful, essential part of my life. Church is were my friends were, my extended family. Most importantly Church was where I learned about Jesus and found I could personally experience relationship with HIM. I did not want to miss a single service because I thought I would be missing a life changing event!
Yesterday driving home from Church I see this car with it's windows all decorated up about a soccer team. They were obviously returning from a soccer match where they were victiourious and the final line on the back window read: ON TO STATE! My first thought was "bummer they missed church".
In my lifetime I have won more than my fair share of ribbons, trophies and certificates. Most of them a long gone, lost or mostly forgotten. I was on some winning teams and some not so winning teams but what has really impacted my life the most is what happened weekend and week out at my local church. Organized sports is great! It really taught me some very valuable lessons. But my character was shaped in church.
Kids camp, Youth Camp, Kids crusades, Royal Rangers, marriage retreats, marriage seminars, revivals, missions trips, serving in my church. Great programs that helped shape my life and character. All of this and so much more has impacted my marriage (33 years) my children who also love God and His church. I am certain things would not be ok if attending church was not a priority in my life.
A commitment to raise our family in a healthy church setting has had a huge impact on each member. I went to prom my Junior and Senior year. I can't even remember my date my Junior year but I do remember a beautiful young lady that was voted Youth Camp Queen and is now my wife. I would not trade any single day of my life and I enjoyed every time I attended God's House. I really love being in HIS family.
Not sure if I have convinced you of how important it is to make Church a habit but let's move on to the "HOW TO" part just in case I did get through to you. Here are the absolutes for developing a good church attending habit.
1. ALL IN! It's never going to take unless you personally are all in! You can be a single mom or dad or maybe you are the only parent who really wants to go and take the children to church. Perhaps you are single or a married couple with no children. The only thing that really matters is...ARE YOU ALL IN? Commitment means: "I am going to Church regularly and any child in my home (age matters not) is going with me". We told our kids not to take jobs that required they work on Sunday. WHY? Because far more important than their job is their SOUL. Lot's of jobs out there and there always will be. Only one life to get your SOUL RIGHT! NO EXCUSES. Over the years I have seen moms bring their children to church with no support from dad even a few dads who did so with no support from the mom. You don't need anyones support you just need to be ALL IN.
2. GET INVOLVED. This is true of everything. Soccer parents who volunteer to be coaches, team leaders, event schedulers etc... their faithfulness to each game and practice spikes through the roof. It's true of Church too. If you get involved and get your kids involved soon you won't hear "Do we have to go to church" you will hear "When do we get to go to church again". There is a lot to do at church much more than you probably think. Whatever your gift or interest there is likely an opening for you at church. Gardener, Admin, teacher, coach, mentor, music band member, artist, actor, handyman, host, technician, organizer...you name it and it is needed at your local church.
3. FORM FRIENDSHIPS. Your church is not the building it is the people. Get connected and form friendships that will be life long. I love my church family. Look forward to seeing them each week. Often I miss them so much I call them and get together during the week. Just this past Sunday some of our friends invited us to lunch at their home. It was incredible food but the time with them, hearing their stories and laughing together was priceless. In order to build these friendships you need to be willing to take the first step. Invite someone to coffee, over for dinner, out to a ballgame. Take a chance on friendship you will never regret it.
If you do these things you will find that going to church will never be a problem. You will find yourself a bit sad when you miss a service because you need to be out of town. You will also see spiritual growth happening in your life and that of your family. Regular attendance to the House of God has a way of maturing us in Christ.
if you do not have a home church and are in the Austin/Round Rock area we encourage you to give the Grace Place Church a try. www.gp.church
Does prayer really work? Most people pray even if they are not sure there will be any results from it. Often a crises or difficult struggle in life causes people to turn to God in prayer. Even self proclaimed atheist will say a prayer from time to time...just in case someone is listening.
There is plenty of evidence all around us that prayer works. The issue is do you see it working? I have hundreds of personal stories of answered prayer that I can share. I see it working daily because I practice daily prayer. In our church there are several recent testimonials of answered prayer: People who were sick or had a bad report from their doctor that we prayed for and they got well or received a good report on their next doctors visit. People who needed a job and we prayed for them and they got the job. People who needed encouragement, financial help, guidance on a big life decision all received what they needed in answer to prayer.
The single greatest motivation for prayer is the observance of answered prayer! We pray because God answers. It may not always be the answer we want to hear but God does answer prayer. Consistent prayer prepares our hearts for today and tomorrow. Because active prayer is both listening for God's voice and communicating our request. Often our request are re-shaped as we spend time in God's presence. We move from a self centered position on the issues to a God centered position.
It is important that we listen to God when we pray. That calming voice that gives us assurance and instructions as needed. We can hear God through His Word, speaking to our hearts, watching his work around us. But we must tune in and that is what prayer is all about.
Are you tuning in? The practice of prayer is too often neglected until the crisis hits. Probably more difficulties than we realize could be avoided if we had an active prayer life. Praying daily invites God into your daily decision making, into your circumstances, into your prioritizing.
How to pray
The disciples asked Jesus one day about prayer. His answer is what we commonly refer to as "the Lord's prayer". It was never intended to be a ritual prayer but a beautiful outline that would guide us in effectively praying.
OUR FATHER: The opening calls us to focus our attention on a very personal God. The one we call our Heavenly Father
WHICH ART IN HEAVEN: This line reminds us that God is timeless, over everything, all powerful and positioned to see us and to know our needs.
HALLOWED BE THY NAME: A call to reverence and to honor and worship. How awesome is our God!
THY KINGDOM COME THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN: This line is the priority line. It invites God to re-shape our requests so that He is honored in all that we ask and do. It serves as advance notice that if things don't go as we wish we are resolved to worship Him and be content that things are going the way He wants them to go.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD: Reminds us HE alone is our source for everything we need to survive.
AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBT-ERS: This is our obligation based on our relationship with God through Jesus. We have been forgiven and God expects us to forgive others.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE: in this line we are reminded not only that we face spiritual warfare daily but that God alone is our Deliverer! He will help us overcome every temptation we need only invite Him.
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER AMEN: i love this closing line that puts everything into prospective. HIS KINGDOM, HIS POWER, HIS GLORY! It's all about Him!!
You can use this outline in your daily time of prayer. Set aside time everyday to spend moments with God in prayer. Let this outline guide you to effectively praying over the issues that arise in life. Pray for others as much or more than you pray for yourself. Look around you and watch God at work answering prayer.
To learn more about the Grace Place Church go to www.gp.church
Discovery reading is a great way to get a fresh start on a habit that will lead to GODtalks! The kind that will change your life forever. But before we explore this more let's talk about your Bible.
We are so blessed today to have instant and FREE access to God's word online. Pickup your phone, your iPad, your laptop or kindle and you can find God's Word accessible. Additionally there are many FREE Bible resources online: Commentaries, word studies, Bible dictionaries, manners and customs books and so much more.
Often, as a pastor I am asked "what version of the Bible should I use to study?" Purchasing a study Bible is a good investment. There are so many great ones out there that I hesitate to endorse one over another. There are Women's, Men's, Youth and Kids study Bibles. There are Christian leadership and pastoral study Bibles. Take the time to ask around, read the feedback from those who have made purchases like this. Be prepared to invest up to 100 for a quality study Bible. You will never regret the investment you make in a good Study Bible.
First let's talk about what Version. I grew up hearing God's Word read weekly and daily from the King James Version. The King's English is not very common these days and you might find it a little more challenging to read. For me it is poetic and I still enjoy reading from the KJV even today. Over the years I have gravitated more and more to the New International Version. Written in more commonly used English it makes it easy to read to people who have not read much from the Bible. Here are the top five most popular versions according to a recent survey:
- New International Version (NIV)
- King James Version (KJV)
- New King James Version (NKJV)
- New Living Translation (NLT)
- English Standard Version (ESV)
You can easily sample each version online to see which you like best. Below is an example from John 3:16
King James Version (KJV) 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
New International Version (NIV) 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
New King James Version (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
New Living Translation (NLT) 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
English Standard Version (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Decide what is most effective for you and then select the study Bible in that version. A good study Bible should contain the following: Concordance, Dictionary, Topical List, Reference, Basic Bible maps. Some also include: Ribbon markers, Wide margins, Charts, Devotional helps. Harmony of the Gospels.
If you want to look at a few study Bibles before you make a decision, go to a Bible Bookstore and take time to thumb through them and see what will work best for you. You need a good study Bible so you can explore further what you will discover as you are reading.
What is Discovery Reading? I really encourage you to give this a try if you have not already. Discovery Reading is familiarizing yourself with the content of the scriptures. First Commit to reading daily. You may have days you only read one scripture and other days you read a full chapter or more.
Before you start reading take an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and fold it in half. Be sure you have a highlight pen and a regular pen or pencil on hand as well. Now as you start to read if you run into something that interest or confuses you or that you just want to look a little deep at write a word or two or a phrase from that passage on your paper and put the scripture reference beside it. For instance:
“Let there be a vault between the waters..." (Gen. 1:6 NIV)
The idea in discovery reading is that you are just out to discover things, you will explore them later. Keep reading and making very brief notes. These notes will serve you well later when you start really using your Study Bible and other Biblical tools to dig deeper. I recommend you continue this pattern as you read completely through the Bible. It may take you a few months or a year or two but it is not a waste of your time. You will be daily hearing from God.
I have used this method a number of times in my life. The first time I had two full pages of tiny writing when I completed my read through. I took those discoveries and turned them into sermons, teachings and personal growth understandings. It was so awesome to re-discover, explore and learn. You will really enjoy reading this way. Do not get bogged down trying to make sense of everything. Just read for discovery. Take your time, enjoy what you discover. Let God speak to your heart.
If you want to learn more about the Grace Place Church go to our website at www.gp.church
Our growth and development is measured by an honest assessment of where we are compared to where we hope to be. If I want to lose 10 pounds I need to climb on the scales today and take an honest look at my weight and make note of it so that next week at this time when I weigh in, I will know if I am up or down a few pounds.
It is impossible to know if you are growing spiritually if you have not taken accurate measurements of where you are right now. There are three questions that can help you better understand where you are on your spiritual journey.
1. What percentage of my daily life purposefully seeks to involve Jesus? (daily decision making, do I practice a devotional time, do i believe and practice that Jesus is the only way to God)
Are you engaging, connecting with God regularly? How often? What percentage of your day? Are there days you do not engage at all?
2. Am I actively and intentionally studying God's Word in an organized, developmental method so that I can know God and make Him known? (Classes, regular attendance to Sunday gatherings, leadership training, reading, small group studies)
Is this a priority in your life? Some take a formal route by enrolling for online classes in a Bible College or academic arena. Today we can all do this so easily and I really encourage it. We connect our MiT team (Ministers in Training) with this formal side of education. Our church is an approved training center for Global University under the heading of BEREAN SCHOOL OF THE BIBLE. Classes are around 100.00 per class. If you attend the Grace Place we encourage you to join Grace Place University. GPU offers a variety of short FREE classes to help you grow as a Christian. GPU classes are on Monday Nights at 7p. Check our website to see which ones are coming up.
3. Am I active in the community of faith? (Connected to a local church body, actively involved in serving, faithful attendance to services, building strong friendships with other believers to support them and to receive support from them in your faith walk).
You can attend church but not be connected. This is not God's plan for your life. He wants us to come together in unity and grow in community. Don't just attend get connected? How? To start with: Arrive early and stay late to at least one Sunday service a month. Why? It will give you an opportunity to meet people and get to know the staff. At the Grace Place we offer a class called "Discover Grace Place" The next scheduled Discover Grace Place class is April 24th at 7p. You can sign up online and we provide food. The class is FREE and informative and FUN!
Take time this week to go through each of these questions at they relate to you. If you need more than a week take as much time as you need. Remember you will not be able to access your growth going forward if you fail to access where you are right now. You will probably be surprised in two ways: 1. How much you have grown to this point. 2. How unintentional your growth has been. When I say unintentional I mean, that you are growing as you attend services, special classes, small groups but as you evaluate it you realize you are not being purposeful or intentional in planning it you are just kind of falling into it as you drift along in the spiritual current.
Just think how much faster you will grow once you put a plan in place for your spiritual development. You will be able to see and prove measurable growth not just yearly but monthly and weekly. So let's get started with an Honest Beginning...Take a long hard honest look at the 3 questions above and answer them. Take your time. Do a good assessment so you can see where you need to grow and also how fast you are growing in that area.
Find more information on the Grace Place at gp.church If you would like prayer, encouragement or want to speak with someone about your spiritual journey contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave your comments below. We thank you for stopping by and reading out posts.
After service one Sunday morning, a young man came up to me. He was paying me a compliment on the morning message. He asked me "How do you know so much about the Bible?" Before I could say anything he spoke up again "Tell me short cuts". I knew what he was saying. He was expecting the answer I would have given him. It takes years of committed study in God's word to be able to relate to others in confidence the things I had shared that morning. But that's not what he wanted to know. He just wanted to know were there any short cuts so he could avoid years of study.
Not every journey is the same but I can tell you without a doubt...THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS! I wish there were. Believe me I would have taken them. You need to put in the "hard work".
A pastor friend of mine ask me a question one day in my early ministry. It was a complex theological question. I sat quiet waiting for him to give me the answer but he just walked away. Later in the day I brought it up and he said: "You want to know the answer"? I responded "Of Course". Then he said: "Go study and figure it out". I was looking for a short cut. The problem with short cuts is: if you do not put in the work, the answer someone else gives you will not endure during trials of your faith.
When you do the hard work and learn the truth, it will endure even the most violent faith storm. A growth plan that requires no work will not grow anything.
Let's take a moment to access where you are. Write a definition for the terms below that you understand or have a basic grasp on. If you don't know what they are let me challenge you to do a little research and yes you can use google if you want.
All of these words are found in the Bible. We do need to understand what they mean for us and for mankind. The way we understand them now may change as we grow to know God more through his word, through our experience and through the Holy Spirits work teaching us.
How did you do? Don't be discouraged the process of learning is just that...a process. It takes time. Take a look at these terms:
If it makes you feel any better the early disciples of Jesus would have been clueless on this list. We know because we have been born into it and we have experience and training. Once you get a plan together for spiritual growth you will learn all about the Biblical terms above. The key is you need to put in the work and effort. You have teachers around you that are willing to help: your pastor, spiritual leaders in the church, Biblical education teachers, other Christians who are mature in their faith.
Stay connected and let's Grow for Jesus!
HOW IT WORKS...
How do we grow spiritually? We understand physical growth and maturing. We try to grow as an individual emotionally and intellectually. A lot of people are very "intentional" about keeping their bodies in good shape. They work out, eat healthy and try to get the rest needed to keep them operating physically at their best. Many are also committed to learning and growing in their understanding of the world around them. Some are extremely dedicated to increasing their knowledge base so they can increase in value in their chosen career fields. Some have a written plan they follow to help they stay on track in their growth and development.
But what about growing spiritually? Do you have a plan? Many church going individuals would have to honestly answer..."no". The old saying "if you fail to plan you plan to fail" is a true statement when it comes to spiritual growth. King David who wrote many of the old testament Psalms said it this way:
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:10,11)
INTENTIONAL! That is the operative word. Growth is never accidental. We must be intentional about it and that means we need a plan that we can execute. That same King David who penned the words above was called out by God to fight a giant when he was a young man. This was before he was a King. The giant was clad in armor for war but David had only his leisure attire and a sling shot. David was offered the armor of King Saul but that armor was too big. But David had more than a slingshot, he was spiritually mature enough to understand this and say these words to the Philistine giant:
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand" (I Sam. 17:45-46)
How did David get there? Remember the words from the Psalm he wrote "I have stored up your word in my heart". David could speak with confidence about a God he knew.
David was very intentional about his spiritual growth. At the Grace Place Church we offer a variety of ways for you to grow spiritually. One of my favorite is our Monday Night GPU (Grace Place University) classes. Most of the classes are offered for FREE. In fact if you do not have a Bible we will provide you one for FREE when you attend one of the four 101 classes we offer: Discover your Bible, Discover your purpose, Discover your Faith, Discover your Mission.
Just as we would be "intentional" about our physical body care and development we must be intentional about our spiritual growth.
First things first...
GROWTH PLANNING Pt. 1
The younger you are in your faith and in the church the more eager you are to learn. That's not always the case but over all that is a fairly accurate picture. I have discovered that new converts are eager to sign up for classes, learn how to use new tools for Bible study and of course attend church.
So what about long term Christians? Sounds a bit like a terminal condition right? lol. Some are as excited about Jesus as when they first met Him and they love to learn too. Others are a bit weary, they have heard a lot of preaching and teaching and given a lot of time in serving others. The things that are new to a new convert are things they have heard before. The problem is there was never a spiritual growth plan in place in their lives. What they did early in their walk with God, that ignited them spiritually, no longer works. They have lost connection with the purpose for a plan.
I know what you are saying right now...Just give me the top three, four, or five tips for putting together my growth plan.
You need to hear this first...
NO GROWING WITHOUT KNOWING! You cannot hope to grow spiritually without intimate connection with Jesus. The beginning of an effective spiritual growth plan is not with the tools: Bible, commentary, classes, church service, pod cast, seminars, small group...The Beginning is JESUS! Over the years I have watched the lives of those God has graced me to serve. I am always surprised to find out there are some who attend church faithfully but do not seem to love the Lord. How is it that you could hang out in His house and not fall madly in Love Him?
‘These people, says God, honor me with their words,
but their heart is really far away from me.
9 It is no use for them to worship me,
because they teach human rules as though they were my laws!’” (Matt. 15:8,9 GNT)
God is not into religion. If you want to know Him you need to spend time in His presence. From my early childhood I have been captivated by His presence. I love Him so much it is impossible to express in human language. He is faithful, gentle, loving, kind, compassionate, just, never failing, always revealing a new facet of Himself to me daily. Do you know Him? Oh I hope you do. How awesome is His name! How majestic is His rule! If I had the tongues of men and angels I would struggle to express a single facet of His nature. But I love HIM because He first loved me.
The starting point is JESUS. I would encourage you to find a place where you can spend time with him right now. Invite Him into the room, ask Him to be Lord and Leader of your life. Tell Him how much you want to know Him. Open your heart to His presence. He loves you so much. This is your moment. This is the beginning of your Spiritual Growth Planning.
"Jesus we love you so much. We invite you into the room, into our hearts, into our lives our decision making. Be the Lord and Leader of our lives. We believe you died for us and that you rose again from the dead. Forgive us all our sins and reveal yourself to us. In Jesus name"
Next Week: Intentional Growth Planning Pt. 2
For the next two months I want to spend some time talking to you about “Spiritual Formation”. Let’s start by giving a simple definition..
The real-life processes of transformation in order to grow with a growth that is from God.
“16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)”
Over many years in pastorate ministry I have heard from the people I lead about their longing and desire to grow in their faith. In fact, to date, I have never heard anyone in the churches I have served say “You know I really like the music and your messages are nice and all but I really have no desire to grow spiritually I just like the FREE coffee and donuts”.
What I hear, more often, than not, is something along these lines.
“Pastor I really want to read my Bible and Pray more. I know it is an important part of growing up spiritually but I can’t seem to make it work in my life. I start and then I stop. I know what I ought to do but I don’t know how to do it regularly in my busy life.”
We can all identify with the struggle. We know we ought to love more, read and study God’s Word more, pray more, serve more, be more than we currently are. In pulpits across America pastors remind us what we ought to do but there is a huge gap between what we know to do and what we actually do.
So many Christians are frustrated with a lack of spiritual growth. They feel they have become professional beginners. They have mastered beginning in faith but have not ventured much further. Overwhelmed with life and weary of an inner battle with sin, they stumble and now another day is gone. The sun rose and set. We are a day older but spiritually no wiser. We are one step closer to moral relativism. Truth as defined by our desires not His Words.
In this series of blog posts, we will do more than point out what you ought to do. We will look at real examples of men and women who found a way to partner with God for the growth and development that transformed their life.
We want to deepen theologically and experientially. It is not enough to intellectually defend our faith we must know our God as Paul stated:
“to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)
If you are frustrated with little to no spiritual growth day by day, week by week…you get the picture, these series of posts are for you. It’s time to stop beating yourself up. It’s time to GROW UP GOD’S WAY! What awaits you is more than you could ever possibly imagine.
Next week: Intentional growth planning
To learn more about the Grace Place Church contact us at: email@example.com
Who are they?
Millennials — persons who reached adulthood sometime close to the year 2000 — represent one of the most sought-after demographics in existence. Research suggests that millennials have an estimated $200 billion spending power. Effectively reaching this demographic has shown to require specific marketing techniques. Millennials are far more digitally connected than any other group, and they expect a more personal relationship with businesses they support.
Only about half of Millennials (adults who were born between 1981 and 1996) say they believe in God with absolute certainty, and only about four-in-ten Millennials say religion is very important in their lives. By contrast, older generations say they believe in God and say religion is important to them.
The challenge to reach the Millennial generation with the gospel of Jesus is a Grace Place Church priority! The Millennial generation make up the community we live in and serve as a church. From the beginning we set out to engage this wonderful community in a direct way.
From the structure of our services to the daily functions of our staff you can see how committed we are to impact our community. On the front lines for reaching Millennials is our Media team. We made a commitment to producing valuable spiritual content day one. You can visibly see that commitment on our website, social media, videos, weekly sermon videos and podcasts. www.gp.church
We are among the few churches across America, that made social media sharable content a part of the daily responsibility of staff. We are reaching out to the Millennial generation where they reside, in ways they understand and in content that has real value for daily living. We love this generation and are not just talking about them we are showing them we care, we speak their language and we want to join with them to make a difference in our world.
Spiritual Journey without a church family
“I have been studying the Bible intently for the past 2 years.” Rick was intently focused on me as he said those opening words. I was a captive audience. It was after church and most everyone was gone now. Rick was a very intelligent person who had a hunger to learn and grow in understanding of God’s Word. Conversations like this were becoming common place now. He would call me during the week, rarely to ask a question mostly to tell me what he now understood about the Bible.
At this point he was looking at the books of prophecy and primarily the book of Revelation. He had told me that the locust spoken of in the book of Revelation were likely military helicopters they had a face like a man (looking inside the front window at the pilot) and the sound of many of them would have sounded like locust to an ancient prophet who had never seen anything like it before.
“2And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6 In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
7 The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. (Rev. 9:2-7)”
Rick had mostly dropped out of church his visit on this Sunday night was the first time I had seen him and his family in about 6 months. It was clear Rick was deciding to do this spiritual journey thing by himself. Among one of the last things he said to me was…
“The Antichrist is Ronald Reagan”
Why Ronald Reagan? For those of you who remember President Reagan you will remember President Reagan was Shot by John Hinckley to impress Jodie Foster (an actress). Hinckley fired a few rounds at President Ronald Reagan. He hits Reagan in the armpit, and nearly kills Brady white house press secretary, with a shot to the head. Hinckley also wounded Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy.
So how does that make Ronald Reagan the Antichrist? Among the prophesies concerning the Antichrist in the Bible is this one from Revelations 13:3
3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
There was no talking to Rick at this point. The primary reason he had popped in was to see if there would be room for him to teach interested members of the congregation what he was learning. Rick was on a mission. The Christian community was ignorant when it came to Biblical prophecy and most pastor’s (he probably considered me in that group) were also ignorant and unable to teach the scriptures correctly.
The more Rick studied on his own outside of the Christian community and accountability the more convinced he was that he was right. He had found a handful of authors and teachers that he agreed with and that was comfort enough to plow forward.
I was able to strike an agreement with Rick: “Rick, Ronald Reagan will fulfill his term in office and retire as a former president. When that happens will you promise me that you will bring your family back to church? God intended that we learn and grow together. No one was ever created to be a lone ranger for Jesus.” He smiled and agreed that if by some miracle, he was wrong and I was right he would come back to church.
Rick kept that promise. Reagans presidency ended and Rick came back to church with his family for one Sunday only. We both knew why he was there and that he would not be back. Why? Rick wanted to be his own church. The church of Rick. Attendance (1). Sadly, he was keeping his beautiful family from the great community of faith. The place where they would all be loved, encouraged, corrected, served, taught to correctly handle the Word of God.
We can be SINCERE and be SINCERELY WRONG. What is at stake in our spiritual journey is… Eternity. I have often talked about how wonderful the church family has been to me over the years and how much they have helped not only me but my entire family. One of the things I am grateful for is how the church family and pastoral leadership has kept me grounded in faith and Biblically sound in doctrine. Sound Biblical preaching and teaching have prevented me from falling into traps set by the enemy to destroy my faith in Christ. From my childhood through my formidable teenage years I was surrounded by people who taught sound doctrine and lived it out in their daily lives.
A spiritual journey without the Christian community will always lead to falling away from God. You were formed to be in God’s wonderful family…
“God’s unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” Eph. 1:5 (NLT)
It is in family that we learn, grow, love and find our purpose, mission and calling. In the family, we are called into accountability. The rough edges of our personality are softened.
It is dangerous to try to make this journey outside of God’s family. We need each other. In God’s family, we thrive.