Be On Mission

Be On Mission

Preaching the gospel to our friends and families is not the easiest task.  For one thing, it can feel awkward, we might feel inadequate, and we don't want to be shunned.  However, it doesn't have to be such an uncomfortable experience.  

Based on Matthew 10:1-25 and Acts 4, we find four steps to a successful evangelistic strategy.

Don't Get Stuck

Don't Get Stuck

In Hebrews 4:3, the author tells us what God did to the Israelites that spent their days complaining throughout the wilderness. He says, "For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger, I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’ ” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world."

This is a sad state. Israel spent their time complaining about their plight, so God decided never to give them rest. Ouch! In Numbers chapters 11-21, we read of all the complaints these former slaves had against God, Moses, and his leaders, although God delivered them from slavery. They preferred to return to Egypt and enslave themselves instead of enduring a short journey into their promised land. It's incredible to think that their lips kept them from their promise.

What's the most loving thing to do?

Let's play pretend for a moment. Let's just say you're an allergist, and if you happen to be one, just follow along with me. You have a patient that loves chocolate cake. He's had chocolate cake every year for his birthday for the past 24 years, and in just two days, he will be celebrating his 25th birthday. He's ordered the most chocolatey chocolate cake ever, and he intends to indulge for his big party.

Now, you've discovered that he has developed a severe allergy to chocolate, and if he has even the smallest piece of this cake, he can die instantly. What's the most loving thing you can do? Keep this information to yourself and allow him to enjoy his birthday cake with friends? Or, is it better to give him the information you have? The answer should be obvious. The right thing, and most loving thing to do is to provide this information, even though it's not what your patient wants to here.

Sin is a far more significant problem and has far greater consequences. Sin is killing us, killing our culture, and will ultimately destroy every unrepentant sinner. Jesus died to save sinners. However, our culture has taught us that sharing our faith with others is unkind and unloving. So, we stay silent and keep Jesus to ourselves. We resolve that calling sinners to repentance is unloving, and Jesus wants us to love people. But the problem is that Jesus, himself, called sinners to repentance. He called sinners to abandon a life of sin and self, and turn their lives to God.

Further, God, in his love for people has given us the responsibility to call the world to repentance and abandonment of sin. He's called us to tell people that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ. In Luke 24:47, Jesus said to his disciples that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem".

We have a mandate to call sinners to repentance. Do they want to hear it? Perhaps not. Do they need to hear it? Absolutely. It is not unloving to call sinners to repentance. Instead, it's the most loving thing we can do. If Jesus, the most loving person to ever walk this earth, preached a gospel of repentance. So should we.

Matthew 4:17
17 from that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Where's Your Trust?

Ever feel like God's no longer listening to you? Ever feel like God sees but doesn't want to respond to your needs? I've been there. When I attended Seminary, I remember a day when I was crying those very words to God in prayer. The only difference was that I wasn't actually crying, I was upset with God. I was protesting, and yelling at the top of my lungs because I felt abandoned by God.

To be honest, today, I don't even remember the circumstances, but I'm no longer yelling. Whatever I was praying/whining about has passed. But you know what hasn't passed, God's faithfulness.

In Psalms 13, the Psalmist is crying out to God because he feels God as distant. He asks, "How Long," four times. He feels God is absent. But he does one thing in verse 5 that settles everything. He commits to trust God and sing to the LORD in spite of how he feels.

Do you feel like God's abandoned you, and doesn't care for you? God does care, and whatever you're crying about now will be a thing of the past. What won't pass is his love for you. Be encouraged today. God still cares, and He's is always listening.

Psalm 13:5-6

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The Aim of Our Charge is Love

Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:5, and tells him "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." In context, he's encouraging Timothy to stay at Ephesus so he may combat false doctrine. He tells Timothy that our goal is to love people with sincere faith. Our goal is for them.

As believers, our goal in preaching and witnessing to people is not a gold star in heaven. Our goal in correcting false doctrine is not the satisfaction of winning an argument. Instead, our goal is to love people. The challenge is that loving people is much harder than we often think because people aren't always lovable. People will sometimes irritate us, hurt us, or misunderstand us. And though loving people can be difficult, it is possible with God's help. Loving people is a MUST in God's eyes (see 1 John 4:20).

So, how can we love with sincerity? The key is prayer and self-examination. The psalmist said, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. 24. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

Our hearts can be deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and if we're not careful, we can easily stray away from sincere love. I've found that it's always important to ask why we do what we do. Are my actions focused on my personal benefit, or are they putting the advantage of others above mine?

Whatever we do for others, let us remember what our aim is. Our aim, our goal, is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Before acting in love today, consider the attitude of your heart, consider your conscience, and consider your faith. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Am I doing it for them, or am I doing it for myself?

Our goal is to love people with sincerity. Who do you need to love with sincerity today?

Thank God, Lest You Forget

It is my conviction that a grateful heart does more for you than for the person you thank. In Deuteronomy 8:11-18, God encourage Israel to take care lest they forget all God had done for them, lest they say their power and might have gotten them their wealth. The Psalmist would later say in Psalms 103:2, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Why? Because it's easy to forget when someone has helped us advance, and easy to credit ourselves for things that only God deserves the credit.

Let's face it, what Job said is true, we came into this world naked, and we will return naked (Job 1:21). You could have been born in an impoverished country with little to no opportunities. You could have been born with much lack, but God was gracious to you. No matter how little (we think) we have, we've been blessed. Thanking God consistently, and falling down in worship continually helps us acknowledge and remember who our source of strength really is.

My encouragement for this week is that you take some time to be alone with God and thank him for his mercy upon your life. Like the one leper that thanked God in Luke 17, be the one, even if you're the only one that comes back with praise. Cry out to God in Praise and adoration, fall at his feet, and thank him for his compassion and love displayed toward you.

Purpose

pur·pose /ˈpərpəs/
the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

Nothing can be more important than understanding something's purpose.  When we don't understand the purpose of an item, we can soon abuse it, and completely misuse it.

One of the questions we discovered this week was the purpose of our being.  Isaiah 43:7 states that we were created for God's glory.  Revelation 4:11 says that we were created for God's pleasure, and Colossians 1:16 echoes that we were created by God and for God.  

If you've ever asked yourself about your purpose, there it is.  You exist by God and for God.  You exist for his glory and his pleasure.  Therefore, the question is, are you living life in a way that fulfills your purpose.  Any purpose that doesn't satisfy the glory of God is an abuse and misuse of your purpose.

You have an option today.  Your option is to live in step with the purpose God has created you and designed you for, or live for someone else's or something else's plan for your life.  However, you must know that nothing will satisfy you until you live out the purpose God has designed you for.  Simply stated, you exist for God.  So, are you living in your purpose?  Are you living in a way that satisfies God's desire?  If not, make a decision today to surrender your life to Christ.

Jesus said it best, "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it".  Matthew 10:39.  Lose your life today, and find its true meaning in Christ.

You Have No Limits

First, I want to thank you for your generosity with our family during Pastor Appreciation.  We love you and love seeing what God is doing in your life.  

This week, I was asked how old I was when I started preaching.  I don't remember the exact age, but I must have been about 16 years old when I started.  Except, I didn't know that was my start.  I thought it was a one-time event.  If you're shocked by that age, so was I.

I'm sharing this with you because I don't want you to despise your age, or how God might be able to use you.  In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul tells Timothy, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, and in purity."

The God we serve uses the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, simply because he's assured to take all the glory from it.  No matter where you are in life, God wants to take you from there and use you.  Age is not your limiting factor, gender is not your limiting factor, your socio-economic class is not your limiting factor, nothing can stop God from using you.  

Whatever you have, whoever you are, God can use you for his glory.  If God can use a young man with five loaves of bread to feed five thousand people, he can certainly use you.  But, you have to be willing to start where you are and start with what you have.  

An old song we used to sing in church said, "If you can use anything Lord, you can use me."  I hope that's your prayer before God today.  Make yourself available and you'll see him manifest his glory in your life.

Can we trust the Bible?

This is probably the one question we should all ask. God is not opposed to our questions; he's very open to them. He's got nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. And before we commit to the God of the Bible, and commit to following its precepts, we must ask ourselves this fundamental question. "Can we trust the Bible?"

In yesterday's message, we shared three pieces of evidence that point us towards the trustworthiness of scripture. We considered the fact that we have over 5,800 Greek New Testament Manuscripts that can help us get back to the original text itself, and that's only the Greek NT Manuscripts. We also have 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian. And if that's not enough, scholar Dr. Bruce Metzger suggests that even if we lost all the Greek manuscripts and the early translations, we could still reproduce the contents of the New Testament from the multiplicity of quotations in commentaries, sermons, letters, and so forth of the early church fathers. By the way, Bruce Metzger was Dr. Bart Ehrman's professor at Princeton University. Bart Ehrman is the leading skeptic scholar we spoke about in our sermon yesterday. That's far more than we have of any other ancient document.

Second, we know that the New Testament authors were men who gave us accurate accounts of the stories they shared, by the standards of their time, because they weren't afraid to share embarrassing stories of themselves.

And finally, the preservation of scripture itself testifies to the power and authenticity of the Bible as God's word. Though many Kings, Emperors, and governments have attempted to destroy the Bibles we have in our hands, their kingdoms have faded into history, but the Bible remains.

So if our brothers and sisters of the past could work toward the preservation and language translations of the Bible, we can and should, see to it that the Bible is preserved for many more years to come. But, how can we do that? Simple. We need their level of commitment and devotion to scripture (see Acts 2:42). Your devotion to the Bible will make all the difference.

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

Are you hiding God's word in your heart? Are you sharing God's word with others? If not, let's start today. And in faithfulness to God and to others who will come after us, let's work toward its continued preservation.

Click Here if you'd like to see my kid's manuscripts of John 13:1-10. Also, see how I recreated it, and see if you can do the same.

Have more questions? Check out this site - http://ehrmanproject.com

Do you love loving people?

From cover to cover, the Bible is a book of love. It describes the love that God has for us, and we as his children are taught to live out this same type of love. In yesterday's message, we taught that love must be Real, Relentless, Reassuring and Restorative.

Let's examine those again. First, is God's love real? Absolutely. God doesn't love us because we provide him with some benefit. Instead, he loves us period. He loves us without hypocrisy.

Second, is God's love relentless, constant, incessant? Romans 8:38-39 tells us that Nothing can separate us from God's love. God consistently outdoes us in his love toward us.

Third, is God's love reassuring? Does God remind us that things will get better? He reassures us that he'll be there in our time of trouble. He'll never leave us or forsake us.

And lastly, is God's love restorative? Yes, and we should be forever grateful. A restored relationship changes, and it should if it's going to be healthy.

How will you love people? Will you do it God's way or will you continue to love in the tainted ways of our world? Love people for real, love people consistently, be hopeful of them and seek peace and restoration in every relationship.

It's different and challenging at times, but you serve a God that can help you through it, so let's do it.

What's your gift?

Romans 12:6-8. Says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

These are the gifts outlined;

Prophecy
Serving
Teaching
Encouragement
Giving
Leading
Mercy

All our gifts may center on one or two of these, but ultimately our gifts are a combination of all. While God may want you to focus on one or two of these categories, all are important for us to cultivate on some level.

But where is your giftedness? What's your uniqueness? I don't know, but God does. Further, God wants you to know. So you might ask, "so why doesn't he tell me?" Here's why; because he wants you to start where you are. To learn what God wants you to do, you must start with Romans 12:1 - "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." After you've done that, and while you're doing that, Paul says, in verse 2, "Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

The formula is easy, but the process takes a while. I'll take that back; the formula is easy to understand but challenging to live out. Why? Because a living sacrifice it means SACRIFICE. Sacrificing an animal is a breeze, but sacrificing our own lives is much harder. Until we lay down our desires before God, God will not show us what he wants us to do for one simple reason; we probably won't do it.

My encouragement again today is simply to start where you are. You may not know the fullness of all God wants for and from you, but start where you are and be faithful. As you move further, God's word guarantees to show how he's gifted you. As you go, he will show you how you fit in. When you know what part of the body he's created you to be, then you'll be able to live out in the fullness of all God's intended for you.

What's his will?

We all want to know the will of God, but discovering his will starts with doing the parts of his will that we already know.  According to Romans 12, recognizing God's will begins with presenting our lives as living sacrifices.

After our service this week, someone jokingly said they wish they could go back to the old sacrificial system because sacrificing their own lives is much harder.  I couldn't agree more.  Offering up our lives as living sacrifices is difficult, but it's also rewarding.  

Let's face it, we all want to live in the fullness of God's will for our lives.  But living in the fullness of God's will starts with surrendering to God, rebelling against the world, and renewing our minds through the study of His word.

My encouragement to you today is that you start where you are.  As you begin obeying God, He will slowly reveal more of his will.  And focus your life on aligning your will to his, instead of trying to align God to your purposes.

Psalm 51:16-17 says, "For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.…"

Start living in his will and see God unfold his plan for you.

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What are you believing God for?

Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

This has got to be one of the most baffling verses in the entire Bible.  Faith and assurance seem like complete opposites.  We assume that if we believe something by faith, we do so because we're unsure.  And further, how can we have a conviction of what we don't see?

In yesterday's message, Missionary Dave Goldschmidt asked, "What are you believing God for?"  Another way to put it is, "What do you have faith for?"  If faith is assurance, then it's not as obscure as we make it out to be.  If our faith is assurance, it's rock solid; it's firm, it's stable.  

How can our faith be stable?  The answer is quite simple.  Faith is not empty hope.  Faith is trust.  And the question is not, can we have empty, unprovable hope, but rather, can we trust God?  Therefore, the follow up is, has God proven himself to be faithful and trustworthy?  If you're alive today and able to read this, the answer is ABSOLUTELY.  

Therefore the question becomes, what are you TRUSTING God for today?  The problem isn't, "can he do it?"  The question is, "can we trust him"?  Today, I want you to know that God can indeed be trusted.  We must ask for things that are following his will and believe that He'll work on our behalf.

1 John 5:14
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Let's trust God today!

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Fireproof Faith

Every few months a fire inspector comes to our church building to inspect our fire safety.  His job is to ensure that our facility is prepared to face the challenge of a potential fire.  Fires are deadly and destructive.  Fires can take good structures and reduce them to ashes.

As you head off to school this year, your faith will be tested like gold is tested, through fire.  If it's genuine, you'll survive the fire, and if it's not, it can be figuratively reduced to ashes (nothingness).  

Sadrach, Mishach, and Abednego's faith were tested in Daniel chapter 3.  They had every excuse to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar's statue.  After all, they were captives in Babylon. They weren't free to choose their actions.  Nevertheless, they decided to remain faithful to God, in spite of their circumstances.

Today, I want to remind you that you can also stand in opposition to the world.  While the world bows to the idols of sex, drugs, infidelity, hatred, discord, and rebellion against God, you can stand in opposition.  You can rebel against the rebellion.  However, you'll need to "A" - Ally with other believers, "B" - Believe God over man, and "C" - Commit to a life of holiness.

Students, make 2018 the year where you drew closest to God, even in the face of a culture that seeks to move further away.  Their decision to bow down, is merely that, their decision.  Let your choice be to stand.  You have a church family that is praying and rooting for you this year.

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