Recasting The Vision Part 2

More About Vision Recasting At River Recovery Church

Last week we described the vision for River Recovery Church. For purposes of review I put the River vision into this blog. Here it is:
We believe God has called the “River” to make disciples (followers of Jesus) by teaching them to obey all of His commands.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Why the “River”?

• We believe Jesus has the answers to life’s problems. We all have problems that impact our lives. Often, when these problems get out of control, they can cause more serious problems. We need answers, and the answers are found in Jesus’ commands. We ask you to come and find out what He says and try it out. If it works — GREAT! YOU ARE ON THE ROAD TO HEALING! If you come away unconvinced that the answers work, you haven’t lost anything except a little time.
We implement what Jesus says is true. At River Recovery Church we believe that Jesus created the universe and everything in it. He knows how things work. That puts Him in the best position to fix things that are broken, and He wants to do that. We just need to give Him a chance. Jesus said,

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20
Jesus is knocking. Do you hear Him? He wants to come in and spend time with us. So, open the door and invite Him in!
We know that Jesus heals. One of Jesus’ favorite questions was, “What can I do for you?” Many people said they wanted to be healed. Jesus always responded, and He healed everyone who asked. You can expect the same from His as well – all you need to do is ask Him.
• We ask you to come to the “River”. We meet every Sunday at 11:00 am, and we also offer Celebrate Recovery every Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Our Core Values

• We love God and we love our neighbors
“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your NEIGHBOR as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
We meet needs
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:34-36
OK, that’s the vision. Let’s talk about our plan to fulfill the vision.

We plan to identify needs in the community that we can meet. We will start in the immediate area around our church. There is a senior center located nearby, so we believe this is a good place to begin. To help identify ways to serve the people in this center, we are going to do the following:

1. Form a community outreach team. Members will be from River Recovery Church as well as people from the community who are interested.

2. Meet with the management of the center and tell them of our interest in helping the people in the complex. We will ask for their recommendations of what we can do.

3. We will ask permission from the management team in the center to send a letter to each resident. The letter will introduce our church and ask them to tell us areas where they need help.

4. As the seniors let us know about their needs, we will mobilize to meet them through our community outreach team.

5. And as we meet needs of the seniors, we will tell them about Jesus and invite them to the “River”.

At the “River” …

• We will preach the gospel.
• We will explain the commandments of Jesus.
• We will talk about how to be blessed by obeying them.

That’s our simple plan. If you have any comments or are interested in participating, let me know.….

Recasting The Vision Part 1

Recasting The Vision at The River

There is an interesting story in the Book of Nehemiah about the dynamics of accomplishing tasks.

Nehemiah was a Jew in the Assyrian court of King Artaxerxes. He was the cup bearer to the king. This job was a very responsible and prestigious position.  In those days it was common practice to assassinate a head of state through poisoning, so the cupbearer would taste the king’s wine before the king would drink it. As a result of this position Nehemiah and the king became close.

One day Nehemiah learned that the walls of his beloved city, Jerusalem were torn down and were in shambles. Walls around a city were the most important means of defending a city against marauders. Nehemiah became visibly distressed, and this was noticed by the king. The king asked Nehemiah why, so he told him. He told the king about the condition of the walls in Jerusalem, and he told the king that he a plan to rebuild the walls. He asked the king for the necessary time off from his job — as well as all the resources he would need to accomplish his plan.  The king granted his request.

So, Nehemiah recruited some fellow Jews and journeyed to Jerusalem. When he arrived, he implemented his plan to rebuild the walls. About halfway through the project the people started getting tired and discouraged and wanted to give up. They lost their sense of purpose and, as a result, became overwhelmed with fatigue, frustration and fear. The people were concerned that they would be attacked by their enemies while they were working on the wall, So Nehemiah did two things:

  •  He reorganized all the work crews by appointing armed guards in each crew.
  • And re-energized the people by recasting the vision.

Alright, we can understand setting up armed guards, but what does recasting the vision mean? Well, very simply it’s reminding everybody in an endeavor about the goals of that endeavor. It’s reminding them of the purpose of the organization and why they are doing what they are doing. In Nehemiah’s case, he reminded the people of the importance of rebuilding the walls. The walls were necessary to defend God’s city from invaders.

This story has great application for the River church. It occurred to me that we have not talked about our vision in a long time. The River vision is what we are appointed to do and how we are going to do it.

So, I decided to “recast the vision”.

Here is the River Vision:

We believe God has called the “River” to make disciples (followers of Jesus) by teaching them to obey all of His commands.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Why the “River”?

We believe Jesus has the answers to life’s problems. We all have problems that impact our lives. Often, when these problems get out of control, they can cause more serious problems. We need answers, and the answers are found in Jesus’ commands. We ask you to come and find out what He says and try it out. If it works — GREAT!  YOU ARE ON THE ROAD TO HEALING! If you come away unconvinced that the answers work, you haven’t lost anything except a little time.

We implement what Jesus says is true. At River Recovery Church we believe that Jesus created the universe and everything in it. He knows how things work. That puts Him in the best position to fix things that are broken, and He wants to do that. We just need to give Him a chance. Jesus said,
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends”. Revelation 3:20

Jesus is knocking. Do you hear Him? He wants to come in and spend time with us. So, open the door and invite Him in!

We know that Jesus heals. One of Jesus’ favorite questions was, “What can I do for you?” Many people said they wanted to be healed. Jesus always responded, and He healed everyone who asked. You can expect the same from His as well – all you need to do is ask Him.

We ask you to come to the “River”. We meet every Sunday at 11:00 am, and we also offer Celebrate Recovery every Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Our Core Values

  • We love God and we love our neighbors
    “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and your entire mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your NEIGHBOR as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
  • We meet needs
    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:34-36

 Our plan

We identify needs in the community that we can meet.

  • We mobilize to meet them.
  • We tell people that we are doing it in the name of Jesus.
  • We invite people to come to the “River”.

At the “River” …

  • We preach the gospel.
  • We explain the commandments of Jesus.
  • We talk about how to obey them.
  • The result is changed lives.

Next week we will talk about how we implement the vision. Until then, have a good week …

The Day Of The Lord

In this blog we are going to talk about a future event known as “The Day of the Lord”. This event occurs during the last the last seven years of earth’s history which is often called the “end times”. During the “end times” God does several things:

• First He removes the Jesus’ entire church from the earth, and He takes it to heaven. That’s called the Rapture.
• The second thing God does (AFTER THE RAPTURE) is pour out progressive judgements on the world. His goal is to motivate people (who are left after the Rapture) to repent.

During his second missionary journey Paul went to Thessalonica. He was there a short time, but he preached the gospel and taught basic Christine doctrine to the Thessalonians. Unfortunately, he had to leave prematurely due to severe opposition from the Jews. However, he maintained contact with the Thessalonian believers through his letters. He would write to them and they would write him back.

In one of their letters the Thessalonians expressed concern that they had missed the Rapture and were in the period of God’s wrath, because they were experiencing heavy persecution. Paul responds to their concerns. Let’s look at what he said in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you.
2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.
5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.
6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.
7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk.
8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger (wrath) on us.
10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.
11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 NLT

In verses 1-2 Paul assures the Thessalonians that the Rapture had not occurred.

Paul says nobody knows when the Rapture will happen. It will come unexpectedly – like a “thief in the night”.

The problem was the Thessalonians misread the signs. They thought the Wrath of God was underway, because they were experiencing persecution. And since they were still on earth, they thought they missed the Rapture.

Now the Bible does teach that Christians will have troubles and difficulties in this life. It’s part of the daily walk. Jesus told us that in John 16:32-33.

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me (He is talking about when He will be arrested). I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus says since He had trouble in this world — His followers (Christians) can expect the same. However, Jesus said He overcame the world – meaning He prevailed over His troubles – so we can do the same. The Thessalonians were having troubles to be sure, but they were not God’s wrath. They were experiencing the trials and sorrows that Jesus had predicted.

In verse 3 Paul talks about another sign of the “Day of the Lord”.

He says there will be a general feeling of peace and security on a worldwide basis. That makes sense because the “Day of the Lord” is a worldwide event. So, that raises a question. How can there be peace and security all over the world? We know how much strife is in the world is right now. There are wars — rumors of wars — natural disasters — pestilence – poverty — death – decay – and so on. How can that all change to an environment where everyone is feeling comfortable and secure — on a global scale — if you can imagine! That seems impossible.

However, the Bible teaches that there will be a one world government at that future time. There will be no more superpowers like there are today. There will still be large groups of people – like the Russian bloc and the Chinese bloc – and others.

The Bible teaches that the leader of this one world government will be a person known as the Antichrist, and the economic system of the world will be under his total control. So, it’s conceivable that there could be worldwide economic stability. And wars (which are normally economically driven) will be less likely since military power will also be under his control.

Paul says that’s when disaster will come – he says it will come like a woman’s labor pains.

I am sorry to have to do this — but I am going to stop our discussion right here. That may seem a bit arbitrary, but there is so much more to discuss. So, I have decided to cover it in our next blog or blogs. Next week we will get into labor pains and how they fit into the end times scenario.

Until then, have a great week …

Living To Please God Part 3- Living The Quiet Life

Live the Quiet LifeLove Them Even More

In our last two blogs we have talking about how to please God. Today we are going to finish up our discussion, and to help us do that we are going to look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.

9 But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.
10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.
11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
12 Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

In verses 9-10 once again Paul is talking about love. In our past blogs we said love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit. For that reason many Bible commentators think that it’s the most important fruit.

Paul himself has commented on the three cardinal virtues – faith, hope and love, and he said love was the greatest. Jesus told us that love was the salient characteristic of His disciples. So, it seems appropriate that Paul would come back to love, and exhort the Thessalonians to keep on loving – more and more.

The Apostle John told us that GOD IS LOVE, so if we want to become more like God — we must learn to love like God. In verses 11-12 Paul gives some general advice on how to do that. In verse 11 he says, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands.”

I think most people would agree that our lifestyles in this country have become generally frantic. People are constantly coming and going — moving and doing. Very little time is devoted to reflection and quiet contemplation. Paul says we need to slow down and focus on our own lives.

Do you know that God wants us to be quiet? He tells us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. It’s not God’s way to compete with a din of noise and distraction. He wants us to slow down, so we can hear Him.
In verse 12 Paul says, “Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” Paul is talking about one of the keys to evangelism., which is being a good witness to non-believers. When Christians exhibit lives full of love — lives that are under control — lives that are self-contained — they present a powerful testimony for Christ.

Let me close our discussion today by asking you a question. If you were to summarize Paul’s suggestions for pleasing God — with one sentence — what would you come up with? Just one sentence to summarize everything we have discussed thus far in our last three blogs.

Here’s what I would say would be a good summarization:
“Submit to the Holy Spirit in everything I do.”

I believe if we consistently did that — we would please God. Why? Because He would be directing our lives. How could we go wrong with that?

Today I would like to close our three blog series with prayer:
Lord, Thank You for these blogs. We now have the keys to pleasing You. We desire to do that. Please bring to mind our need to depend on You for everything as situations come up. Thank You for all that You have done and are doing in our lives. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen

At this time I would like to remind you that we have our Sunday service every Sunday at 11:00 am at 890 Fargo Street in San Leandro. This Sunday we will be talking about prayer. Specifically, we will be talking about how to pray in such a way as to get our prayers answered. Why not check us out?

Sanctification- or Living To Please God Part 2

Sanctification

Last week we started a discussion about living in a way that pleases God. We talked about pursuing sanctification which is the process of allowing God to change us into His image. We said this was a lifelong process, requiring daily submission to the Lord’s leading.

This is a good description of the Christian walk. It’s a moment by moment – circumstance by circumstance – focusing on what the Lord wants us to do, AND at the same time appropriating power from the Holy Spirit to do it.

Today we are going to talk about a specific area of the Christian walk where obedience is difficult but essential. We will be talking about sexuality.

In First Thessalonians 4:3-8 Paul focuses on sexuality.

3 God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.
4 Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—
5 Not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.
6 Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.
7 God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.
8 Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 NLT

Sexual immorality was a huge problem in Paul’s day – perhaps even more than it is today. We know the Thessalonian society was pagan. The city was rife with sinful practices such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, transvestism and many other sexual sins. In addition, the multi-theistic religions that were practiced in Thessalonica advocated ritual prostitution. It was believed that people could connect with the gods through the prostitutes that represented them — so it was generally felt that promiscuous sexual activity in all forms was permissible.

Paul knew that many of the newly converted Thessalonian Christians had been involved is these sexual sins, and it was necessary for them to abandon them. However, he knew that it was going to be difficult. So he addressed this problem in the verses we just looked at.

In verse 3 Paul says it’s “God’s will for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.”

We know God invented sex, but He wants it confined to the marriage relationship. He is not pleased when sexual behavior is expressed in any other way. This idea is discussed throughout the Bible. For example, let’s look at Hebrews 13:4.

“Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.”

This passage is talking about sexual acts. However, sexual purity involves more than just physical acts – it also includes our thought life. Let’s look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28.

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

That raises a question — how does one maintain sexually purity? Well, fortunately, Paul gives us the answer in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The Holy Spirit controls the sanctification process in Christians, and He does it by producing the fruit listed in the Galatians passage. So in the case of sexual purity the primary fruit that’s needed is love.

This kind of love is called agape love, which is the way God loves. AGAPE LOVE IS THE ANTIDOTE TO SEXUAL LUST. If I loved my wife as God loves her — I would not cheat on her. I would not look at other women, and I would not look at pornography.
If I loved my brother as God loves him, I would not have sex with his wife.
If I loved my family as God loves them, I would not engage in incestuous relationships.
And so on.
OK so how do I get the Holy Spirit to implement the fruit of love? Let’s say I am having a problem with sexual lust. Since I know agape love is the antidote, I talk to the Holy Spirit. Here’s an example of such a conversation:

Dear Holy Spirit. I am struggling with sexual lust. Here’s what’s going on _________________. I need Your help. In Galatians 5:22-23 You promise to produce YOUR fruit in my life as I need it. I know this fruit is godly behavior. I don’t have the ability to produce such behavior, but I know You can and will. Please produce in me YOUR fruit of love for this particular situation. Please produce any other fruit that I need as well. Thank You for doing this. I look forward to victory over this potential sin. Amen

That’s a prayer that He will always answer, so I recommend you memorize it and use it often.

Let me close by giving you a startling fact. Paul says in verse 8 that when we ignore these teachings – WE ARE REJECTING GOD! Wow! I can’t think of anything more serious than that…. So give it some careful thought.

Next week we will finish our discussion on pleasing God.

See you then ….

Living to Please God Part 1

How To Excel in Your Christian Walk

Living the Christian walk.

How to excel in your Christian walk

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Paul encourages the Thessalonians to excel in their Christian walk. He says,

1. Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.
2. For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Paul is telling the Thessalonians, “You guys are doing a good job in your Christian walk. However, you need to take it to the next level. You need to pursue sanctification.”

OK, so what is sanctification? That’s a good question, because many Christians today don’t fully understand what it is. They know they’re saved. They’ve accepted Jesus’ payment for their sins. They know the Holy Spirit lives within them, but they don’t know why He is there.

So let’s talk about it.

The Holy Spirit lives in Christians to change them and make them perfect. That’s God’s plan for all Christians. The problem is Christians can’t achieve perfection on their own, because they have a sin nature. So they need God, the Holy Spirit, Who can deal with the sin nature and make perfection happen. However, it’s a lifelong process. Let’s look at what Paul says about it in Philippians 3:12-14,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me (Jesus desire is to make us perfect). No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Two times in this passage Paul says, “I press on”. Paul is talking about cooperating with the Holy Spirit in everything he does. He says he’s only looking forward. He’s only looking at what he has to do — and how he is going to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in doing it. That’s pressing on, and Paul’s point is we need to do the same thing.

Let’s go back to the verses at the beginning of our blog. In these verses Paul outlines two essential elements in the pursuit of perfection. He talks about the priority of pursuing perfection, and he talks about the reason for pursuing perfection. Let’s talk about each one — starting with the priority of pursuing perfection.

In verse 1 Paul asks the Thessalonians to do even more.

He starts the verse with the word, “finally”. This is because in the past he has given the Thessalonians a lot of doctrine. This doctrine is covered in the first three chapters of the book of 1 Thessalonians. Now he’s saying, “Finally – after giving you all this doctrine — I want you to put it into practice”. In other words, “I want you to live in a way that’s pleasing to God, and I want you to do it more and more.”

Paul is being gentle. His only focus is pleasing God. He knows that can only happen when Christians are obedient to what Christ has commanded them to do. Jesus told us the same thing in John 14:23.

“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”

This is an astonishing passage. It says when we are obedient — the Father and the Son will come to indwell us! That’s amazing! Not only do we have the Holy Spirit, but we also have the Father and Son! We actually have the Triune Godhead living in us! Now if that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t what will!

Paul also talks about the reason for pursuing perfection.

He says, “We urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that PLEASES GOD…”

So based on what we have said so far, we can conclude that spiritual growth (pursuing sanctification) is LIVING IN A WAY THAT PLEASES GOD. However, it’s important to understand that this is a lifelong process. That means we have to walk in DAILY OBEDIENCE.

That describes the Christian walk. It’s the moment by moment – circumstance by circumstance – focusing on what the Lord wants us to do. AND appropriating power from the Holy Spirit to do it.

Next week we will zero in on a specific area of the Christian walk where obedience is difficult but essential. We will be talking about sexuality.

Until then have a good week …

Open To The Gospel or How to Talk to Non-Believers

How to Talk to Non-Believers

How to Talk to Non-Believers

How to Talk to Non-Believers

Last week we talked about non-believers who are open to the gospel. We said these are people who are willing to listen to the gospel message, and we called these people, “receptive non-believers”.

Today we are going to talk about people who are not receptive to the gospel. They hear the gospel message – perhaps over and over — but are not receptive to it. A question that is often asked is why. Why are some people receptive and some are not? I believe we can get the answer to this question by looking as several passages in the Bible. First let’s look at Ephesians 4:17-18.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

Darkened Understanding and Hardened Hearts

They have darkened understanding, and they have hardened hearts. That leads to another question. How does this happen? 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan is behind this.

“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 (gospel).”

OK, this brings up the BIG question. How do we deal with this situation? We are no match for Satan, so what do we do?

Once again we can find the answer in the Bible (THE BIBLE HAS ALL THE ANSWERS). The answer is very simple – we must rely on God and specifically the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at 1 John 4:4.

“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people (people under Satan’s control), because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

Wow! This is really good news! John says Satan is no match for the Holy Spirit! And since the Holy Spirit lives within us, we can depend on His powerful resources to defeat Satan. Let me show you how to do that.

How to Witness to a non-Christian

Let’s say we are preparing to witness to someone who is not a Christian. We don’t know if they are a “receptive non-believer” or a “non-receptive non-believer”. However, the Lord knows, so we pray. Here’s a model prayer that we can use.

Dear Holy Spirit, as You know, I am going to witness to _____________. I am not sure if this person is receptive. It may be that Satan has blinded this person to the truth. I know that You are greater than Satan, so I ask You to remove any blinders or any other barriers that may be in the way of understanding. I ask You to protect me. I ask You to strengthen me. I ask You to guide me. I ask You to keep me from failing. I ask that YOUR WILL BE DONE. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

That’s a prayer that Holy Spirit will always answer. I recommend that you memorize it and use it whenever you suspect Satan is opposing you. That can be in any area of your life – not just in witnessing to other people.

Lord, thank You for saving us. Thank You for the Holy Spirit. Thank You that He is greater than any adversary we could face. Please help us to remember this truth and to use it every day of our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

Open to The Gospel or How to Witness to Others

Open to the Gospel

Open to The Gospel

How To Witness to Others

In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul says they were open to the gospel. Let’s look at what he says in chapter 2, verse 13.

“Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us (the gospel), you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.”

The word, “received” is a key word in this passage, and it means BEING OPEN to what is heard or presented. Evangelists often call these open individuals — “receptive non-believers”. Generally, these people believe that God exists, but they often don’t know much about Him. However, they are willing to learn — so they are called “receptive non-believers”.

Jesus alluded to this in His parable of the sower. Let’s look at Matthew 13:1-9.

“Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.’”

The seed in this parable represents the Word of God – specifically the gospel. The sower is the one who dispenses the Word of God. Sowers could be pastors or teachers or even you. The soils represent the dispositions of the people who hear the Word of God. Three of the soils were either shallow or rocky or thorny and did not produce lasting crops. These soils represent NON-RECEPTIVE NON-BELIEVERS.

However, the soil that produced a good crop was the fertile soil. This represents people with open hearts. They are classified as a RECEPTIVE NON-BELIEVERS. They take in the Word of God – they let it grow deep – and they let it influence their lives.

The Thessalonians — who quickly became Christians — were RECEPTIVE NON-BELIEVERS. Their hearts were fertile soil, and all they needed was to hear the truth – to have the seed planted. In verse 13 Paul said, “You accepted what we said as the very Word of God—which, of course, it is.” The expression, “The very Word of God” literally means, “A Word heard from us – which came from God.”

So Paul is saying — he spoke the words, but they all came from God. They were not his words. They were God’s words, and God’s words did the work. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

“All Scripture (God’s words) is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

Let’s go back to verse 13. Notice that Paul uses the word accepted, which is a second key word in this passage.
Acceptance is the process of transferring ideas from the mind to the heart. We can see an example of this in Romans 10:9-10.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (this is the idea that’s in the mind) and believe in your heart (this idea is transferred from the mind to the heart) that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”

That’s what the Thessalonians did, and that’s how they quickly became Christians.

OK, so how can we use this?

Well, knowing that the Word of God does the work when we are witnessing to other people — puts things into proper perspective. Most of the time we don’t know if the person we are witnessing to is receptive or not. It really doesn’t matter, because God knows, and He is the One doing the work. We are simply vehicles for God to use. This takes the pressure off. The results are not up to us. Many times when we witness to others, we think that we need to get commitments right away, but that is simply not the case. We need to what we can — and let God do what He does — and not be confused between the two.

OK, hope this helps. See you next week…

You Belong To God

Belong To GodThe Christian Walk:  You Belong To God

You Belong To God.  Paul wrote two letters to the Thessalonians. He started his first letter by discussing their Christian walk. Let’s look at what he says in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3.

1 This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May God give you grace and peace.
2 We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.
3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul acknowledges that the Thessalonians are Christians, because he refers to them as “you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.

And then he says he prays for them, as he thinks about their faithful work, their loving deeds and their enduring hope. These are the three qualities which describe the characteristics of the Christian walk. I would like to talk about each of these qualities, and how we can use them to evaluate our own Christian walk.

Let’s start with faithful work.

What exactly is faithful work? Well, faithful work is the performance of good deeds that are inspired by saving faith. OK, so what is saving faith? Well, saving faith is believing and accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel teaches that the penalty for all our sins was paid in full by Jesus when He died on the cross — and when we accept His payment for our sins — two things happen. First our sins are completely removed, so we are pure in God’s sight. That allows the second thing to happen — the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. He’s God and He can’t live within us with all our sin present — so it has to be removed.

Once the Holy Spirit is in us, He starts changing us — with the goal of making us like God. In this process He equips us with the ability and the desire to do good works. Paul said that’s what happened to the Thessalonians, because, in fact, they were faithfully doing good works.

A second quality for which Paul commends the Thessalonians is their loving deeds.

Christians are motivated by love for others. That’s what Jesus told us in John 13:33-35.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Love is the hallmark of Christians, and Paul said the Thessalonians were exhibiting such love.

A third quality for which Paul commends the Thessalonians is their enduring hope.

One of the salient characteristics of Christians is they have hope, and their hope is based on the promises of God. There are over 7000 promises of God in the Bible, and each one provides great hope and assurance. For example, one of the greatest promises of God is eternal life. Peter talked about it in 1 Peter 1:3-7.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation (hope), and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead (hope), even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.”

The Christian hope that’s described in these passages is the assurance of eternal life with God in heaven. Paul said the Thessalonians had this kind of hope.

So these three qualities – faithful work, loving deeds and enduring hope — describe the Christian walk. This is useful to know because Christians can us these qualities to evaluate their own Christian walk. In next week’s blog, I will show you how to do that.

In the meantime, I recommend that you meditate on the passages we have presented today. This will give you the proper mindset for next week’s discussion. See you then…

Solid Ground

Solid GroundSolid Ground or:  Spiritual Warfare part 3

On Solid Ground:  In our last two blogs we have been talking about spiritual warfare and the armor of God that protects us from the evil one. The passage that we are using for our discussion is Ephesians 6:14-17.
14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.
15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.
16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Last week we talked about the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Today we will move ahead and talk about the rest of God’s armor.

The next piece of armor that Paul talks about is the shoes of peace.

Footwear was very important to the Roman soldier. He had special shoes which protected his feet from the perils of the environment, as well as blows from the enemy. Christians also have special foot ware. Paul calls this foot ware shoes of peace – which he says comes from the gospel.
So what are the shoes of peace and how do they come from the Gospel?
Well, the Bible teaches that Christians are at peace with God because of what Jesus did for us. That is the essence of the Gospel. Let’s look at Romans 5:1-2.

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us (the Gospel). Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”

So Christians are on solid ground. They have a relationship with God that will never change. It doesn’t matter what Satan or anybody else does for that matter.

The next piece of armor that Paul talks about is called the shield of faith.

The Roman soldier used two different kinds of shields depending on circumstances. One shield was small and was used for close in fighting – hand to hand combat. The other shield was much larger and was carried by soldiers on the front lines. These front line shields were made of wood and metal and were soaked in water. They were designed to extinguish flaming arrows.

Paul likens Christian faith to this kind of shield. In this case Christian faith is believing what God says is true and acting on it. Satan wants to get Christians to forsake their trust in God, and he does it through temptation. Paul calls these temptations fiery arrows from the devil, and he says faith in God’s Word is a shield. Let’s look at Proverbs 30:5.

“Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.”

OK, so let’s say we are confronted with a very difficult situation and we very afraid. Satan will come along and say, “Where is God now? You are on your own.” THAT’S A FLAMING ARROW. Satan is trying to get us to doubt God and go back to trusting ourselves. But we can use the Word of God as a shield of faith.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say we realize Satan is tempting us with discouragement. We use Scripture as our shield. So we say to Satan, I resist you. It is written in Isaiah 41:10:
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Satan cannot stand up to the truth of the Scripture. GOD WILL ALWAYS DO WHAT HE SAYS HE WILL DO, AND SATAN CAN’T DO A THING ABOUT IT. That’s how we use the shield of faith.

The last piece of armor that Paul talks about is the helmet of salvation.

Roman soldiers used helmets to protect their heads from injury in battle. These helmets were perfectly shaped to deflect blows. Paul says a Christian also has a helmet, and it’s called salvation.

Why does he refer to salvation as a helmet?

Well, as we have said, Satan hates Christians, so he tries to discourage them. He will point out failures, sins, unresolved problems and whatever else he can use to cause discouragement. Salvation is the antidote to this problem. Salvation provides hope and confidence that our present struggle with Satan will last a short time, and our reward is in heaven. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

We are in a race we cannot lose.

Paul concludes his discussion about the armor of God by talking about our weapon.

He calls our weapon “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”. This weapon is spiritual and can be used to defend ourselves against Satan’s attacks.

Let’s say that we not being treated fairly on the job, and we are tempted to slow down and do the minimum. We realize this is coming from Satan, so we decide to use Scripture as a weapon against him. We pick 1 Peter 2:18, and we say the following:
I resist you, Satan. It is written in 1 Peter 2:18, “You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.”

Once again when Satan is confronted with Word of God, he will leave. He will come back later, but we can resist him each time he does in the same way.

Well, that’s a quick overview of the armor of God. Here are the take away points that I want you to remember.

1. When we put on the armor of God, we never take it off.
2. The armor of God is really a lifestyle for resisting the devil and his temptations.
3. I recommend that you review this passage every day for the next 30 days.
4. At the end of that time – not only will you have memorized it – but you will find that you will be using it consistently, and it will be changing your life.

See you next week …