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When you Call upon the name of the Lord

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There is a sense of urgency in this post that moves me to write even though I am currently sitting next to a desk full of work that requires my attention. The thoughts I am going to share were brewing in my heart and mind last week spurred by the tragedy that took place in Parkland Florida where a 19-year old opened fire on his classmates, killing 17 and injuring many more. Even further back the tragedy in Las Vegas where a man shot from a hotel window killing 58 and injuring many more, the seed thoughts of what I want to share were being planted.

 

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it is a philosophy of current culture that seeks to silence the core of practicing Christianity. Central to our faith is the ability to “call on the name of the Lord”.

The photo above is a photo recently circulating on social media captures what is driving me to speak. I am not sure if this is an actual photo of what this person sent to a congressman or something put together by someone who wanted to make a statement. In the end, it does not matter because it is a philosophy of current culture that seeks to silence the core of practicing Christianity. Central to our faith is the ability to “call on the name of the Lord”. In fact, one might rightfully say that the beginning of all faith was when men/women began to call on the name of the Lord.

26   Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.   (Gen. 4:26)

This short verse is penned sometime after mankind fell into sin and experienced, for the first time, being separated from God. There is so much in this brief verse that jumps off the page as we read through it. After the birth of Enosh, (Enosh is mentioned in Luke 3:38 in the linage of Jesus) men started calling on God in prayer. This is no small thing! It is the beginning, of everything!

In Genesis 12 God met with Abraham as he “called on the name of the Lord” and promised to make him a great nation. In I Kings 18:24 the prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal (an Idol) to call on the name of their god and he would call on the name of his God and the God who answered by fire would be declared God! Elijah’s God answered by fire and the people present fell face down and worshipped the God who answers prayer. In Acts 2:21 the great promise: “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”

For those who would treat prayer as if it were just kind thoughts toward individuals in peril… To those who would equate prayer with the words penned in a condolence card… To those who believe the actions of men are more powerful than the prayers of the saints… You are deceived.

If mankind could solve the problems of mankind we would not need to call on God. But mankind cannot cure evil or establish lasting peace or heal those pronounced terminally ill. No law we have passed has cured the sinful heart, saved one sinner, given a sound mind in place of a troubled one. Prayer, turned the heart of a wicked King to allow and fund Nehemiah to rebuild the destroyed walls of Jerusalem and the temple of God.

I am a first-hand witness to the power of prayer to heal the sick, make whole the financially ruined, restrain the work of evil, change wicked hearts, heal the deep wounds of the abused. In my lifetime, the Berlin wall fell in answer to prayer, Revival swept across our nation in the Charismatic Renewal and the Jesus movement of the 60’ and 70’s in answer to prayer.

Many Christians experience answered prayer every day. In the little and big things of life, we can see God at work daily in our lives and in the world around us. When tragedies like those listed above strike our communities we are fixed on them for good reason, we grieve with all those who suffer. We should also recognize the answered prayers we receive each day: Every time our children return home safely from school, each time we arrive at a destination in tact with our family, each time we pray for each other in sickness and we recover to full health.

It is no small thing to pray for someone!

It is no small thing to pray for someone! To lift a need to the living God means everything. When we place circumstances, family members, loved ones in the hands of God through prayer we have done the very highest and best we can do on earth. It does not always mean we will get what we want, it does mean God’s presence has been invited into the circumstance and He always accepts that invitation and acts upon the circumstance for His glory.

Prayer takes a backseat to no one! Without prayer, our world would be in chaos and that’s the reason man first called out to God in prayer. They recognized their need of the God who created them. They also recognized the limitation of humanity. We call out to God because He loves us but most of all because He hears and ANSWERS PRAYER! 

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52 HOURS WITH GOD 2018

How's Your Faith Doing?

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Jill Bledsoe wrote: “The storms in my life, have become workshops where I can practice my faith in God’s Sovereignty”. Wow! What a powerful truth! The Christian walk often goes off the safe road. It’s far from boring, if you are doing it right. Your faith will be tested daily in big and small ways. 

As we start the new year 2018, I want to challenge you to join me on a dangerous road trip. A 52 hour with God road trip. Leave your smartphone with navigation app in the glove box. I suggest that no matter how difficult the journey becomes that we commit to letting God drive. My faith always gets in trouble when I try to drive. 

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Can your faith handle the dangerous, unpaved, roads God will lead us down? Are you up for an adventure? Are you done with routine? Ready for a challenge? Each hour you will need to personally answer the question: Do I trust God to get me through?

 

God has proven, He can be trusted.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5.6)

 

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There is nothing I can say or do that will prepare you for this journey with God. We can all look to our past experiences with God and glean from them wisdoms, but our God is a God of surprises. The Children of Israel were excited to leave slavery in Egypt but they soon would face the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s army behind them in hot pursuit to kill them. That’s a journey all of them would not have signed up for if they knew about it in advance. SURPRISE!

 

The good news is that God always has a navigation plan that works no matter the circumstances. A Red Sea is no match for a Mighty God. I can promise you this: If you will commit to the journey, God will see you through it. There may be joys and sorrows to face but we will never need to face them alone. God will be with us.

 

What do you dream? What do you hope? Pack lightly and join me for 52 hours with God beginning January 7th 2018. 

www.gp.church 

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Here is what you really want for Christmas...

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What we celebrate in Christmas is great news for our hearts…

 

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)

 

Few of us want to extensively examine the contents of our hearts but the prophet Jeremiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over 3000 years ago warned humanity with these words. It is so much easier to believe our intentions are mostly good and if someone was hurt or wounded along the way we could not possibly be responsible.

 

Outwardly we know how to disguise our thoughts, intents, disgust. We are the masters of disguise. With our smile, our charm and purposeful body language we choreograph a new story. Yet something does not feel right. We have been able to justify our feelings and lay blame at the door of someone or something else, yet there remains an uneasiness deep down inside. At the heart of the matter, there is a problem.

 

We do need a Savior. We are not good enough on our own. We can’t fix what is broken down deep. We need a new start, a new heart, a new beginning. Enter the baby!

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is givenand the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)

 

Christmas is good news and timely. A good Savior for a bad heart. A Wonderful Counselor for bad decision makers, a Mighty God for mighty big problems, an Everlasting Father for the failures of earthly fathers, a Prince of Peace for divided nations and earthly conflicts. Christmas is for your heart, your home, your world. God clothed Himself in flesh to touch you and be touched by you. In his poetry, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described how the hatred of mankind meets the Prince of Peace of Christmas:

 

“And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!” 
― 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

A Child is born at every surrendered heart at the cross of Christ. Newborn, free from sin, wide eyed in wonder and fresh born in spirit. What you really want for Christmas is a new heart.

 

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Santa Clause is coming to town

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You better watch out

You better not cry

Better not pout

I'm telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town

He's making a list

And checking it twice;

Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice

Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping

He knows when you're awake

He knows if you've been bad or good

So be good for goodness sake!

O! You better watch out!

You better not cry

Better not pout

I'm telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is coming to town

 

My favorite Christmas Carol is “Joy to the World”. It seems to strike the appropriate chord for the season: “Let every heart prepare Him room”. Our first year at Grace Place we invited the church to go with us through the neighborhood across the street from the church to sing Christmas Carols. Joy to the World was the first song we sang at each home. You could see the sparkle in the eyes of the people as we would sing. The message of Christmas is that the Savior has come and that event should be received with great Joy. It’s the best NEWS mankind could have ever received.

 

So where does Santa fit into Christmas? I did not grow up where it snows in winter so my memories of Christmas rarely included snow. A few times growing up we had a winter storm around Christmas that would bring some snow. It would only last a day or two. I think snow looks lovely in pictures but if you were to ask me what would be my dream Christmas location I would want Jimmy Buffet’s Christmas Island…

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How'd ja like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ja like to spend the Holiday away across the sea?
How'd ja like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ja like to hang your stockin' on a great big coconut tree?

 

Yes please, thank you very much, I would like to hang my stocking on a coconut tree. I think Santa would locate me just fine on Christmas Island. Santa? You ask. It’s interesting that our world would develop the legendary character of Santa to capture a snapshot of Christmas in action. The picture painted of Santa is an ageless man whose sole purpose is to bring gifts to children. The song “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” indicates that Santa: “sees you when you're sleeping He knows when you're awake

He knows if you've been bad or good So be good for goodness sake!”

 

First, is Santa a threat to the meaning of Christmas? I don’t believe so. In fact, I think Santa embodies what our world hopes resides in every individual, namely goodness. The picture of Santa is the world’s wish that at least one time a year, mankind could set aside their differences and just do something good, something kind, something with no strings attached for someone other than themselves. Santa as a world view somewhat resembles what we as Christians know and believe about God.

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1      God is our Father/Santa called Father Christmas

2      God never sleeps and is omnipresent/Santa is said to see us sleeping

3      God sees our hearts and is aware of ever action/Santa is said to know if we have been good or bad

4      God is ageless/Santa is said to be ageless

5      God is GOOD/Santa’s stated purpose is to do good

 

I think there is remarkable evidence that Santa is the world’s attempt at painting a picture of God. Agreed, the world's picture is a stick figure when compared to Wonder and Majesty of God’s character. But for a world who has not seen or experienced God it tells us a great deal about the kind of God they hope to find.

It also reveals why they are struggling to find God: “You better watch out you better not pout, you better not cry, I’m telling you why Santa clause is coming to town”. Sadly, the world view of God is driven by what man can do, not what God has done in Christ Jesus. Man’s attempts to earn an audience with God, fail and disappoint. Jesus said: “No one is good--except God alone.”  (Matt. 10:18)

 

A relationship with God is based on His goodness not ours. We can never earn His favor by good works. That’s why Christmas is so wonderful for all of mankind. God came seeking us! God sent us a gift of goodness clothed in flesh, born of a virgin. This gift would satisfy our debt of sin, give us the ability to do good, bring us into relationship with our heavenly Father. That gift is Jesus. He is the light of the World. He brings Joy into a dark world.

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“JOY TO THE WORLD THE SAVIOR REIGNS!”

 

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THE RISE OF EVIL

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8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (II Cor. 4:8-9)

 

Las Vegas, New York, Sutherland Springs, Texas. Just the mention of those cities reminds us all, of major recent acts of Evil perpetrated upon the innocent. The Rise of evil in America and around the world is alarming. For many, it is perplexing to see what humans can do to humans. Without conscience three men recently ended the lives of innocent men, women and children in Las Vegas, New York, Sutherland Springs, Texas. The most recent at the time of this post, occurred in Sutherland Springs Texas, at First Baptist Church in this tiny rural community.

We are witnesses to the unfolding of Biblical prophecies concerning the final days before the return of the King of Kings.

The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.” (Ps. 2:2-3)

Each of these men were willing to open themselves up to the work of evil. They were complicit in the acts, they were not puppets. But the destroyer was directing the chaos.

The destroyer is actively seeking to throw off the shackles of constraint that have held back his anarchy. It is the Church of Jesus Christ that, with the power of the Holy Spirit, has invaded the darkness and pushed back the work of the destroyer. Binding him and his evil from overcoming the world.

11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer). (Rev. 9:11)

The warfare against evil is age long for the church. The real enemy is the destroyer, satan. Jn. 10:10 lays out his plan for every individual life. The three violent acts of evil were carried out by human beings, but make no mistake they were under the influence of demonic spirits. Each of these men were willing to open themselves up to the work of evil. They were complicit in the acts, they were not puppets. But the destroyer was directing the chaos.

The challenge for each of us in the face of evil is to reclaim our footing. Evil forcefully pushes at our faith, kindles the flames for revenge, disturbs our inner peace, the injustice of it fuels our anger.

Every act of evil is first justified in the heart of the individual who carries it out. “I deserve it”, “They deserve it”, “no one tells me what to do”, “they are dangerous and I am doing right”, “I make the rules!”

“All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)

How do we combat evil? The challenge for each of us in the face of evil is to reclaim our footing. Evil forcefully pushes at our faith, kindles the flames for revenge, disturbs our inner peace, the injustice of it fuels our anger. God knows all about our feelings and emotions, the pain we suffer, the gross injustice, brutality and victimization brought on by evil. He gives us careful instructions on how to deal with evil acts and the people who perpetrate them.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Ro. 12:17-21)

These are the instructions that Jesus lived out on his way to the cross to pay the price for the sin and evil of mankind. He was wounded, beaten, spat upon every evil of mankind was placed upon him at the cross. In our helplessness, in our grief, in our deep despair we can hold on to the one who has overcome the world. We can gather our footing and stand strong. We are not overcome by evil! Evil is overcome by the goodness of God! He did not run from the cross, He boldly embraced the cross for all mankind. This is our message, this is our Hope, THIS IS OUR SAVIOR! We STAND IN CHRIST ALONE!

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THANKSGIFTING...Money

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“God does not want something from you, He want’s something for you”

 

 

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.

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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”.

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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. 

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WHO AM I?

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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?

People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.

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)

 

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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.

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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.

 

SUMMARY:

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.

The Christian community is to be a place where we can hear the truth and put it into practice.

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: alan@gp.church  

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WHAT'S NEEDED

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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

Mary has chosen what is better...

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.

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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, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things...”

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. 

...”but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

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, 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.”

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. 

“Don’t let your life be driven by distractions, lusts. cravings or things that have a temporal shelf life.”

To watch our weekly messages tune in at: www.gp.church/sermons

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OUR FLAG, OUR FAITH, OUR FAMILY

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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.”

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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. 

 

“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.

 

 

Mark 8:34

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.

“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”.

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)

 

 

 

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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. 

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Listening for God's Voice

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God still speaks today. If you are not hearing from Himguess 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.

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THE KING OR THE CROWD...

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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. 

 

Follow us at: www.gp.church 

If you need prayer or encouragement reach out to us at info@gp.church 

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THE PASTOR'S KID...

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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. 

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IS THERE A DEVIL?

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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.

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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.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else”

 

 

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: info@gp.church

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Jesus, I love you

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. 

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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 

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Friendship Sunday

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 

 

 

 

 

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Are You Bored With Church? Then You're Not Doing It Right.

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!

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HOW TO SHARE YOUR FAITH

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.”

 

 

If you would like more information about the Grace Place Church or how you can connect with Jesus contact us at: info@gp.church  Follow us on the web at www.gp.church

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