One of my responsibilities, as a Pastor, is to give sound Biblical counsel to people who ask. I have found that two primary issues are at the root of many of the problems people bring to counseling: SEX and MONEY. I want people to know what God’s Word says that can liberate us from the bondage created when we choose our lusts over His commands. The root issue for us all, is the same now as in the garden of Eden, we want our will and our way over God’s will and God’s way.
When it comes to money we use the language: Our money, Mine, My savings, My 401k, Our investments, My paycheck, I pay my bills using my money, My debit card, My mad money, My cash stash. Money is very personal to us. We earned it, we have the right to consume it. Money takes on a life of its own. It has power, allure, with it we can, without it we can’t. We can never have too much of it.
10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. (Ecc. 5:10)
Money is not alive. It is Amoral. It has no opinions, no dreams, no passions, no preferences. It is our “love” of it that will direct it toward our wants, desires, passions and preferences. God does not have a problem with you or your money. He takes issue with the “Love” of money.
The Biblical command is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and being. Few things provide more allure and will challenge and compete for our love more than the two things we mentioned above: SEX and MONEY. That’s why Jesus said:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
In the Amplified version the last verse (21) reads: “21 for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.” The way we spend our money tells us a great deal about what is most important to us in life. It shows us what we really love. The world has a saying when it comes to finding the motive of a politician or a large corporation. That sayings is: “Follow the Money”.
Early on in our lives, our hearts get linked to our wallets, our bank account, our money. It is so natural we don’t even struggle. We see money as Happiness, Freedom, Joy, as our provider. Much of this is natural to a sinful nature and there are plenty of models who show us in their daily actions that this is the way to live. We are taught to look good, live life to the fullest, enjoy life you earned it. The vehicle for all this life enjoyment is…Money.
Money is the counterfeit god. We do all we can to serve it but at the end of life whatever is left gets passed around. It has no eternal value. It does not provide happiness, freedom, joy and it is not our provider. I have stood beside the wealthy, stricken by cancer, who have told me they would give away all their money if it would buy good health. I have talked with wealthy couples who, in vulnerable moments, have admitted they were happier when they were financially poorer.
Love of money is a shallow love. It is all one sided. Empty bank accounts replace that love with fear quickly. The Bible mentions money 140 times. God wants us to have clear perspective when it comes to our view of money. God is our provider! He alone puts money in your hands. When we understand that we can learn to handle money differently than the world who does not know God.
As committed disciples of Jesus Christ, Michele and I see ourselves as stewards of money and not owners. Everything belongs to God, not us. As stewards, we take what God gives and we give and use it where God directs us. Our priority is on obedience to God not self-preservation. We belong to Him and He takes good care of us. We trust Him and our bank account shows that we do. We have savings, we tithe to our local church, we support missions and we pay our bills on time. We can do this because God is our provider.
Do you trust God to provide for you? Is money in a place in your life where it does not belong? If your bank account shrinks are you in panic mode? I want to challenge you to do something for next 90 days. Put God to the test.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Mal. 3:10)
God invites you to test him with your finances. For the next 90 days give tithing a try. Take 10% of your income and put it into your local church, the place where your spiritually fed. The language of the passage above is not accidental. God says he will pone the “floodgates (other versions say Windows) of heaven”. The only other place this language shows up in the Bible is when God opened the floodgates/window of heaven to flood the earth with water in the days of Noah. Am I saying you are going to get Rich by obeying God? Yes! Maybe not the hit the lottery way rich but you will be rich in what is meaningful in life and eternity. You will be putting God in charge of your finances and He will show you what a great provider He is.
Are you up for it? You will find that you cannot out give God. He loves you! He died for you and He alone deserves first place in every area of your life. Remember: God does not want or need something from you, He wants something for you.
Identity struggles have been a part of the human condition since the fall of man in Genesis chapter 3. In 2017, the struggle with identity grows even more complex and is rising to crises levels as people struggle not only with their spiritual identity but their sexual identities as well.
The sexual identity struggle is not new in and of itself, it is,rather, how our culture has raised the issue. It is described as the brave new frontier where transgender individuals are boldly, bravely bringing their struggles to light so that the generations behind them will not suffer as they have.
According the American Psychological Society:
“Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.”
People we know and love are in a life struggle. Identity is so key to human existence that the last thing we should do as Christians is be dismissive or hateful. Some people strongly believe they are trapped in the wrong body or trapped in gender at all. In other words, perception can be greater than truth in the mind of the individual. What they feel, think and have come to believe may defy what they see as their creative body. So where is the starting point for Christians, as we seek to lead our generation through identity crises?
First, we begin where Jesus told us to start.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (Jn. 13:34 NLT)
People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. My heart is broken for our generation and for the ones behind who are grappling with sexual identity crisis. We should reach out to embrace every individual allowing them to experience God’s Love.
Second, we must present the TRUTH in Love.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (I Cor. 14:33)
Psychology does not change Ontology:
As Christians, we have the opportunity and responsibility to confront new challenges with biblical truth. God made men and women different (Gen. 1:27). Men and women are different at the deepest levels of their being. Our chromosomes are different. Our brains are different. Our body shapes are different. Our body strengths are different. Our reproductive systems are different. The design for what our bodies are structured and destined for are different, and these designs bear witness to differences that reflect God’s creative will for humanity.
Our design is unique. But our identity is not found in our design alone. John Piper wrote: “For good or ill, we never find our identity by ourselves, in ourselves”. The Bible tells us we were made in the image of God. We are not the sum of our parts we were made in the image of God. Most Theologians agree: The image of God (Latin: imago dei) refers to the immaterial part of humanity. It sets human beings apart from the animal world, fits them for the dominion God intended them to have over the earth (Genesis 1:28), and enables them to commune with their Maker. It is a likeness mentally, morally, and socially.
Our complete identity is found in relationship with God through Christ. We cannot find our identity inside ourselves or in the world around us.
‘For in him we live and move and have our being, As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28)
Our identity is complete in Him: sexual, physical, mental and social. Our feelings, desires, cravings, hopes, beliefs and ambitions are not always aligned with HIS. That’s why we struggle in identity. Our feelings and emotions tempt us to move in one direction or another but the Bible tells us that we can be deceived by our feelings and emotions.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. (Jer. 17:9)
If we are looking for identity within ourselves by how we feel what we are attracted to or what we are not attracted too, we can be led astray. We may pursue a false identity. An identity that we gain through community, contemporary culture or internal inspection is not complete. The final word on who we are is found in Christ alone.
“He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:22a NLT)
Rick Warren, author of “Purpose Driven Life”, wrote: “The thing is, if you don’t know who you are, then you’re vulnerable to other people telling you who you are. But the concrete, solid, gospel truth is that you are who God says you are, and no one else has a vote in the matter.”
“In Him” is the important distinctive that reveals our true, identity. We can be “In Church” “In Religion” and not be “In Him”. There are attempts even in modern theological studies to match what we believe, feel and want to be true with Biblical proof texts. This practice is outside the bounds of proper scriptural exegesis and hermeneutics.
Proper scriptural Exegesis looks at each passage of scripture in the light of historical context and in the light of the complete cannon of scripture context. Proper hermeneutics (science of the study of the Bible) will take the context of each passage in ultimately define practical application for Christian living. Below are four examples of false doctrine derived from improper exegesis of scripture.
· Mormons baptize the dead;
· Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the deity of Jesus;
· snake handlers misapply Mark 16:18, and with disastrous consequences;
· prosperity preachers advocate the American dream as a Christian right.
There is much more that needs to be said on this subject matter and many questions that arise not only outside the church but inside. For many in the church this issue has become very personal as they have children, family or friends who are caught in the identity struggle. The first step inside the Christian community is for us to accept each person in the love of Christ. Since the original fall of mankind in sin all of mankind has struggled with identity. Outside of Christ we cannot find our true, identity. The Christian community should be a place where we can experience the love and patience needed for us to hear, understand and put into practice the truth.
Truth in and of itself does not liberate us from anything. It is Truth put into practice that changes us and our circumstances. It is vital that we understand “TRUTH” is not just a set of facts but rather the person of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6)
If you are struggling in this area and would like to speak with someone, contact me at: email@example.com
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-41
I have made some foolish choices in my life. More often than not it is because I chose the urgent over the needful. We are a people driven by the urgent. Whatever we can see, feel, taste, smell or hear gets our attention especially when it satisfies an urgent craving.
Living in a consumer culture we want to be satisfied now and often. It drives us to treat people as objects to satisfy our urgent drive. The breaking news of recent days regarding a major Hollywood producer and his sexual crimes against women actresses, is news worthy but not NEW news. Our world is broken by sin. The one rule of sin is to get what you want at any cost.
Broken in sin, Men and women have long used their power to satisfy urgent wants and desires, irrespective the fallout. Their motto: The end justifies the means. This producer was overheard to have said to one actress, something along the line of: Don't ruin your career by turning down five minutes with me.
As a father, A husband and man of God I am furious that predators like this man abuse power and destroy lives. Theologically I understand it as the outcome of SIN. A force that has threefold purpose according to John 10:10 "kill, steal and destroy". Everything this producer thought he gained is lost.
He may not escape his bondage but if he did for a moment...Just long enough to view his damage: ruined lives, careers, reputations, achievements, broken friendships, money, his wife left him, an empire in his field given over to others and likely sold for pennies on the dollar. If he could see the destruction of his own soul. The ugly darkness in the core of his being. And for all of it, he is still driven by the urgent. His need is still unmet. All that he thought would fill his need has left him empty.
I don't know the full story of this producer whose evil acts are now public knowledge, that said, he probably did not start out life with any of this in mind. The pattern that leads to destruction for all mankind begins on a path where individual passions, desires, lusts and cravings are given urgent daily attention. Over time as one travels this path the difference between what is Urgent and what is Needful gets blurred. The urgent is the needful.
In the Bible story above, Martha is not an evil person she is a person caught up in the day to day urgent issues. So captured, by the urgent, is Martha, that she is offended that Mary is not fully engaged with her in the urgent.
Martha was driven by the things she was upset about, by the things that were undone, by the things that troubled her the most. Even if all those things were accomplished in that single day, tomorrow would present her with a brand new list of urgent things, to upset her day. Jesus speaks into this endless cycle of urgency that Martha was living.
One thing is needed. That one thing is a right relationship with God through Jesus. All of life must orientate through that perspective. God first! It is easy to say but challenging to live out. The call of the urgent is constant. The drum beat of the urgent is compelling us to feed the beast. We can win! In this story Mary finds her fulfillment at Jesus feet.
Mary sat, Martha was distracted. I'm not saying we can ignore what happens around us in life. I am not saying do nothing but sit in your room with your Bible open praying. I am saying don't let your life be driven by distractions, lusts. cravings or things that have a temporal shelf life. Do what is needful.
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Unique to Christianity is the priority of Love. Loving God with all our Heart and our neighbors as ourselves. In response to this priority of Loving God and Loving people the enemy offers loving self. When loving self becomes a priority it does so at the expense of humanity and the gospel.
The Priority of Love…
“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
The gospel is “We over Me” because of Love. Satan seeks to divide us, to unite us only as victims. To focus our attention, energy, resources on being offended. The devil would raise the offense higher than the Cross and we cannot let this happen in our generation.
I am deeply troubled and saddened at the division in our nation. If I thought a politician could unite our nation I would have dedicated my life toward that mission. Instead I have given my life to serving the King of Kings. He alone, is the bridge that spans the divide. That bridge is the cross of sacrifice where he laid down His life for ALL. He is not an answer, He is the Answer.
There is no cause, no grievance, no suffering on earth that can be elevated to the height of the Cross of Christ. The greatest injustices on earth were bourn on the Cross. That Cross is what we are commanded as Christians to Carry before the World.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
What have we done to the message of the Cross? We have made it about us and not about Him. To our Savior whose hands are scarred from the nails, whose head bore the thorny crown, whose side was pierced we say: “I know how you feel”. No, you don’t!
You have no idea. Our sins crushed the life out of our Savior.
5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;”
Each generation of Christianity has bourn the weight of the message by picking up His Cross not by picking up their offense.
17 For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; and even my preaching sounds poor, for I do not fill my sermons with profound words and high-sounding ideas, for fear of diluting the mighty power there is in the simple message of the cross of Christ. (I Cor. 1:17 LB)
The Christian Generation before us is at the gates of eternity, who will take up the cross they bore and carry it forward? If you want to pick it up, you must first lay down self. Lay down your right to be offended, your right to have a hearing in a deaf world. Lay down rights in favor of responsibility. Our responsibility to the Cross of Christ, to the generation before us, to the sovereignty of God: He alone rights wrongs, forgives sin, judges injustice, rescues the weak and conquers evil.
He has not called us to be God, He has called us to reveal God to our lost generation by "Loving" like He Loves. Cancel your victim cause and replace it with the cause of Christ. You don't have to look hard to find a reason to be offended. We do need to work hard to see ourselves as we really are inside. To uncover our motives, our lusts, our bag of rights that fly in the face of spiritual authority over us.
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Ro. 5:8)
There is a huge difference between doing right things and doing things right. When we do things right we are under the authority of the King of Kings. We are serving His mission, His purpose, His priority of Love. Often when we are activist's for a cause, we are serving our interest, someone else's offense or simply what seems right in our own eyes. Abraham took his son to an altar of sacrifice in obedience to God. It was to be a picture of what God would do for all of humanity. Though God spared Abraham's son, He did not spare His own Son.
We are son's and daughters of God. God wants a big family. Every member of His family is called to love. You don't even need to work to produce this love, it is freely given to you, through relationship with God in Christ. Every ounce of Love you need is freely provide. An abundance of Love so that you can even love those who are difficult to love. Love looks beyond race, status, social injustice and ideology. Love binds us together, unites us in mission. Love heals the broken, establishes our trust in the only one worthy of trust. Love conquers all.
God still speaks today. If you are not hearing from Him…guess who moved? He loves you, He has been in pursuit of you all your life. From the moment you were born to this very moment, God is setting appointments to meet with you that only YOU can cancel.
This past weekend the ladies from Women’s Teen Challenge were on our campus. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Teen Challenge, it is a ministry program that helps women and men addicted to drugs and alcohol get free. The method is simply introducing them to Jesus. As they ask Jesus to be Lord and Leader over their lives they experience the power of Christ to get free of the bondage of the addiction.
It was wonderful to hear their stories of how God had freed them from addiction. After the service, I was talking with one of the ladies (Ashley). She had shared how God was speaking to her even as she was rejecting Him. She could not escape the voice of God. She told me how she had moved away and took a job in Arkansas. During her time at work she would slip out at times to take a smoke break. She would be standing alone at the back of the building smoking and a lady in the community would drive by roll down her window and say: “Jesus loves you, young lady”. It did not seem to matter what time of day she took her break that woman would drive by roll down her window and remind Ashley that Jesus loved her.
That story reminded me of an experience I had several years ago in Phoenix Arizona. I was in the mall doing some last-minute shopping for Christmas. This young, women, with a newborn walked past me and God spoke to me: Tell her I love her. I was rationalizing in my head that this would be so awkward. I thought about how I would probably scare the young women by confronting her and after all she had a tiny baby in her arms. So, I let the moment pass without obeying God’s voice. I really felt awful about it. I turned the corner to head into my destination store and what do you know…There stood that young lady with the baby again. God spoke to me again: Tell her I love her. The store was crowded and I was looking for the moment, still feeling uneasy. The young women left the store and went back out into the mall and I felt bad again. I missed my opportunity.
I ran into her again about 15 minutes later. This time I did not even make the effort to share God’s words with her. I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. So much so that I promised God that if he gave me one more chance I would obey Him fully. I really thought I was off the hook as I headed out of the mall and down the escalator. Heading toward the front doors and the parking lot I was feeling ashamed but at the same time a little relieved. The automatic glass doors opened and right in front of me was this young lady with her baby looking at me. I walked up to her and said something like: I know this will sound strange to you. God told me to tell you something and here it is: “Jesus Loves you”. She broke down, tears streaming down her face. She said you are the fourth person today that has said those words to me. We talked for several minutes and I had prayer with her.
Walking back to my car I was struck by how persistent God is with us. He wants to speak to us every day. www.godtalks.tv For the next 6 weeks we will be in our annual Fall series titled “GODtalks”. I want to invite you to tune it. The link above will have the weekly messages. Take time to Tune In! God is speaking and LISTENING CHANGES EVERYTHING.
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
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