Billy Graham Evangelical Leader 99th Birthday

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

By Michael Gryboski , | 

One of the most famous preachers in American history, if not world history, the Rev. Billy Graham is 99 today.

For decades, Graham has preached to large crowds and written many advice columns and books, contributing a vast wealth of spiritual wisdom.

How Your Church Should Prepare for an Active Shooter

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

 

By Thom S. Rainer 

 I hate the title of this article.
I hate that I even feel compelled to write about the topic. But many of you contacted me after the tragic murders at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Here are some basic issues:

1. Don’t be in denial. Church shootings are increasing every year in America. And while the percentage of churches with shootings is relatively small, this issue is one where we must be prepared. The downside is just too great.

2. Have a church security plan. This plan should include all issues of security, from active shooters to child abuse. Local law enforcement is almost always very willing to work with churches and make recommendations.

3. Remember that church security is a ministry more than an expense. I have little patience with church leaders and members who say they can’t afford church security. The church doors should not be open if it can’t afford to keep members safe and secure. The church or leaders may have to spend money to go to a training seminar, or to retain a local police officer every weekend. Those are investments in security, not expenses.

4. Keep church security as a matter of prayer in your church. While we should work as hard as possible to make our churches as secure as possible, let’s never forget that we should seek God’s power, strength, and protection.

6. Keep your facilities secure. Too many churches have too many members with keys and access to the church buildings. It is not unusual for doors to be left open and security to be lax because of the nearly unlimited access. I know one church where a former member had a key and decided to have a meeting at the church without asking anyone. Your church needs clearly controlled hours of operation and clear guidelines on access. If the locks have not been changed in a while, it’s probably time to do so. Ideally your church can move to digital access that can be changed at anytime.

7. Strive for total member awareness. Remind your members from time to time that they should watch for anything unusual at the church. Greeters at different places in the church facility, from the parking lots to the worship center, should be trained toward awareness as well. Those with keen eyes and discernment can save lives.

Continue to pray for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. And as we pray for them,  pray for wisdom and protection for all other churches.

Active shooters are a harsh reality of church life today.

We can be prayerful.

And we can be prepared.

 

FROM THE PASTOR’S HEART

October 24, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

 

By Charles F. Stanley

 

Have you ever considered what activity or pursuit should be the top priority in a believer’s life? Some common answers might be prayer, reading the Bible, serving the Lord, or worship. But how would you determine which one is the most important? In reality, there is one phrase that encompasses all these essentials—fellowship with Christ. It’s a time when we sit before Him in His Word, worshipping, praying, and then responding in obedience to serve Him.
Fellowship is a sense of closeness and communion with someone because of mutual interests. We usually think of it in terms of our relationships with other believers, but our fellowship is first and foremost with God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 13:14).

The only qualification for fellowship with God is salvation. If we have not received Christ as our Savior, we have nothing in common with Him because our sins have separated us from Him. But after salvation, we become part of His family, and He calls us into intimate fellowship with Himself. Yet despite this wonderful privilege, many believers don’t make time of fellowship with the Lord a priority or even comprehend why it’s important.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand fellowship is to see what it looked like in the life of Mary of Bethany. When Jesus traveled to Jerusalem, He often stopped to rest and relax at the home of His good friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). On one of those occasions, Martha was busy preparing the meal, but her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him.

Mary wanted fellowship with Christ while Martha focused on serving Him. When Martha became upset that Mary had left her to do all the work, she came to Jesus saying, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40). However, Jesus’ response may have surprised her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

There are several lessons we can learn about fellowship from this story. First of all, fellowship must be chosen. Mary had two options—she could stay busy in the kitchen, or she could take time to be with Jesus. And each day we face this same choice. If we don’t carve time out of our busy schedule, having private communion with Jesus probably won’t happen.

Second, fellowship includes listening, learning, and loving. Mary’s love for Jesus moved her to humbly sit at His feet listening and learning from His words. Although today we cannot audibly hear Christ’s voice, He still speaks to us through His Word. As we sit with our Bibles open, reading and talking to Him about His Word, He teaches us His ways and guides us in applying His truths to our lives. The result is a growing love for Him, which in turn increases our devotion to Him.

Third, fellowship with Christ demands that we leave some things undone. If we wait until there are no other pressing needs, we’ll never be free to be alone with Jesus. There will always be one more thing to do. That’s why we must be like Mary, who left the kitchen before the meal was served in order to do what was more important—be with Jesus. Serving Christ is essential, but if we rush to serve without spending time listening, learning, and loving Jesus, we may be serving with the wrong attitude, and the result might not be as fruitful.

IF WE WAIT UNTIL THERE ARE NO OTHER PRESSING NEEDS, WE’LL NEVER BE FREE TO BE ALONE WITH JESUS. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ONE MORE THING TO DO.

The fourth lesson is that prioritizing fellowship with the Lord may result in misunderstanding. Instead of seeing what Mary did as the best choice, Martha felt abandoned. She didn’t understand Mary’s desire to be with Jesus when there was so much to do. In the same way, other people may not understand why we set aside time to be with the Lord. To them it may seem like we’ve gone overboard on religion or are foolishly wasting our time. Sometimes those close to us may even feel jealous because of our devotion to Christ.

Fifth, negative consequences result if we neglect fellowship with Christ. There is quite a contrast between the peaceful disposition of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha’s agitation. Martha was distracted, worried, and bothered, and this is what happens when we take our eyes off Jesus. But fellowshipping with Him in the morning helps us trust Him throughout the day, knowing that He’s working in our lives to enable and guide us in whatever situation we may face.

Many of us are more likely to sit in front of a television, computer, or cell phone than at the feet of Jesus. That’s why we must re-evaluate how we use our time by asking: Is there anyone or anything that is more important to me than Jesus? Other things may seem more pressing, but there is nothing more necessary or rewarding than being with our Savior. Spending time at His feet will enrich our relationship with Him and bring us deep peace and satisfaction. Every such moment is a moment well spent.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

 

Approaching Jesus With Humility

October 24, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

 

By Dan Delzell  

If you hope to gain an understanding of Jesus Christ and the purpose of the Savior’s life, death, and resurrection, it will be necessary to approach the Lord in a spirit of humility. You know, an attitude that is opposite of how many religious leaders in Christ’s day approached the Messiah. Their hearts were full of pride, and they often tried to prod the Lord into saying something erroneous.

But no matter how hard they pressed, those religious leaders always came out on the short end of the stick. They never succeeded in getting the Lord to contradict Scripture. In fact, Jesus responded to their insincere comments and questions with far more wisdom than they were capable of grasping due to their dark hearts and evil intentions. And so those religious “big wigs” were typically left with their mouths hanging open as they stood there dumbfounded.

What about you? If you were to approach Christ today, would it be with a humble heart? There are many today who approach Jesus out of pride, antagonism, and even some resentment toward the Savior of the world. But what about you? How humble are you in Christ’s presence?

The bottom line is that “pride goes before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18) and the pride of man remains a dominant feature of the human heart. This is why many people today do not view Jesus with an attitude of humility. Instead, they look at the Savior as being on their level, or even a little bit below them.

Most of the religious leaders of Christ’s day saw themselves as being superior to Jesus. And in their arrogance, they looked down on the one person who could have delivered them from their sinful pride, and even from death itself. But they wanted no part of it. They were too good for such a thing, or so they thought. And this stubborn refusal to humble themselves before the Messiah is what secured their demise, both in this life as well as in the world to come. Other than a few of them who escaped their self-made prison of pride, the vast majority of them became victims of an inflated ego.

Well, that is an interesting question. You see, Jesus died, but then the unthinkable happened: He rose from the dead. Can you name another king who has been able to pull off such an amazing feat, or another religious leader who has risen from the dead?

And is there another prophet or religious leader, other than Jesus, who has the ability to enter the human heart and actually live there? Of course not, and this is one reason a wise person approaches Jesus with humility.

Many people don’t realize who they are dealing with when, for example, they use the name of Jesus as a curse word. Such behavior is the opposite of humility. It demonstrates a total disregard and complete disrespect for the Messiah.

And when people treat Jesus the way many religious leaders did 2000 years ago, it leaves a person with a cold heart toward Christ. Obviously, there are even plenty of people who go so far as to hate Jesus. This of course is why the Lord told the disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

Arrogance and hatred, or humility and a gentle spirit. Which of these attitudes describes the way you approach Jesus? It’s not natural to trust Christ as Savior and follow the Messiah as Lord. This is why a person must first be spiritually reborn. It brings a person into a supernatural and eternal relationship with the King of Kings. Once the new birth takes place, a person’s relationship with God is secure. And you wouldn’t dare approach Jesus with pride once the King has come to take up residence in your heart.

After coming to know Jesus, you start to see where you fit in the grand scheme of things. And you recognize that it’s not all about you. It’s all about the King. It’s all about “Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16) which is exactly what Peter said when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15)

Without humility, it’s impossible to see Jesus in the correct way. The human heart is not capable of being ruled by both pride and Christ. There can be only one King on the throne of your heart and soul, and only one captain at the helm.

Who do you say Jesus is today? How are you approaching Him? And if I may be so bold as to ask one more question: How is that working out for you?

If your current approach isn’t working, then it may be time to try a different approach. And this is where history is so critical to the quest. Throughout history we can see who actually made a connection with Christ, and who didn’t. For example, compare the attitude of the religious leaders in Christ’s day to the attitude of those fishermen who became the Lord’s first disciples.

And if you, like those first disciples, want to become a beneficiary of the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, then humility before God is needed in order to get there.

As you humble yourself at the foot of the cross and admit your sins to God, you are heading in the right direction. And then simply trust Jesus to wash away your sins. After all, this is why the Lord died on the cross. It was because of our sin, our pride, and our separation from God. No matter how great your sin may be, the blood of Jesus and the cross of Christ is far greater.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

The gap between you and God can be closed today. Simply cross the bridge of Calvary so to speak by placing your confidence in the Savior’s sacrifice for your sins. And then walk humbly with Jesus everyday as you seek to do His will and serve others with God’s love. This is why you were created, and this is the only place you will find ultimate peace in this world and in the world to come.

A proud and self-righteous attitude, or the humble faith of a child. Two different ways to approach Jesus, but only one of them leads to a loving and lasting relationship with the King of Kings.

In the words of the prophet Zephaniah: “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land; you who do what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3)

As you decide for yourself how you will approach Christ, just remember: whatever you do with the Lord today won’t change the fact that you will definitely stand before Him on Judgment Day. He came in as a lamb, but He is coming back as a lion. The “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) is also the “Lion of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5)

Will you receive Christ today as your Savior, and then walk with the Lord daily in a close personal friendship? You won’t regret it if you choose to approach Jesus with humility. Today is the day. Now is the time. Seize this moment as you come to Christ with a humble and repentant heart, and as you believe for yourself the wonderful promises of God contained in the Gospel.

The most famous Jew to ever accept Jesus as Messiah was Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul. And this apostle who wrote much of the New Testament boldly penned these words: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

With that same miracle of salvation being available to you right now, this could be the day you humble yourself before your Creator as you repent of your sins and believe the good news.

Church Must Unite to Pray for the Next Great Move of God in America

October 4, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

 

By Ronnie Floyd 

The entire church of Jesus Christ in our nation needs to convictionally come together in unified prevailing prayer for the next great move of God in America. There is no greater need in America. What will it take to wake us up, die to ourselves, and come together under the banner of the cross?

There is no great movement of God that has ever occurred that does not begin with the extraordinary prayer of God’s people. Regardless of our denominational identity or independence, the time is now for us to come together before God in clear agreement, visible union, and extraordinary prayer for the next great move of God that will catapult us into reaching the world with the life-changing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that unified prevailing prayer will lead to these results.

Learn from History

Jonathan Edwards was a man who believed in the absolute sovereignty of God. As a catalyst for America’s first and second Great Awakenings, Edwards called upon God’s people to act. He believed God would listen to the promptings of His people. Edwards called for prayer and fasting, both in secret and with one another.

George Whitfield was used by God to shake America. His powerful preaching of the need to be born again was used by the Lord to bring thousands to Christ. God used both Whitfield and Edwards in a supernatural way in the mid-1700s.

In the early 1800s, the second Great Awakening occurred, and God used men like Charles Grandison Finney, Timothy Dwight, and others to become instrumental preachers of the gospel.

God used these great movements of God to further impact leaders like Charles Haddon Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, and William Booth. These men and others were shaking the world for Christ.

Sadly, it has been since the Jesus Movement of the 1960s – early 1970s since we have seen such a movement of God upon our land. Churches were exploding in size as thousands were saved and many were called into gospel ministry.

In each of these great movements of God, unified prevailing prayer was occurring.

Prevail in Unified Prayer

If the churches and spiritual leaders of America cannot unify around the need to pray for the next great move of God in America, then we need to repent of our pride and our personal preferences. Stop ignoring history! Learn from it! Take action to pray for spiritual awakening in a compelling way that is unified around the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. James 5:16 (CSB) says, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” This is prevailing prayer. This is what the Church must learn to do together.

Regardless of what we see with our human eyes, we must be faithful to cry out to God in our desperation, appealing to Him with all we have. God, we cry out to You with all we have and are: Wake up Your church in America! By Your grace give us the next great move of God in our nation.

The world is growing desperate for answers to everything going on today. The church must grow desperate for God to usher in the next great move of God in America!

Three Actions to Take Beginning Today

1. Pray Extraordinarily: This means praying for spiritual awakening even more than you have been. Create ways to unite with other people, leaders, and churches in prevailing prayer for spiritual awakening in America.

2. Awakening Brings Evangelization: Billy Graham asked the question, “Can Revival Come?” He believed firmly that, “An awakening can bring about evangelization of the world in our generation.”1 While denominations and churches try to fix their lack of genuine evangelism, they need to realize that a true spiritual awakening is the ultimate answer to this problem. While we must equip others and practice evangelism personally, we need to believe that God can do more in a moment than we can do in a lifetime. This is why we must prevail in unified prayer for spiritual awakening.

3. Maximize Prayer and Minimize the Rest: As we maximize the need for unified prevailing prayer for the next Great Awakening, we need to minimize the rest. It is a call to understand that only God is the One who can change the hearts of Americans from the inside out. While we work with our hands to make a difference in every way in this world, we bow our knees to the One who can change everything immediately.

We Can Do This

We, the churches and spiritual leaders in America, can humble ourselves and unify in prevailing prayer for the next great move of God in America. We can come together in clear agreement that this is our greatest need. We can become a visible union, standing together in prayer. We can pray more than ever before, and practice extraordinary prayer for the next great move of God in America that will catapult the message of the gospel nationally and internationally. We can believe God in faith that He alone is able to do it! I believe God can do it. I am trusting God to do it.

Keep your perspective: Our greatest need in America is the next great move of God.

 

Working Out Your Salvation

September 30, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

By Dan Delzell , | 

A famous bodybuilder once said, “Health and fitness is who I am. It’s what I do.” Well, what about you? Where do health and fitness rank on your list of priorities?

In order to be fit, working out is a necessary component. Likewise, if your soul has been saved through faith in Christ, then it is incumbent upon you to “work out your salvation” by living everyday for the Lord. A person can only work out his salvation if he has actually received this free gift from God.

“The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9)

A believer receives God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15) at the moment of conversion, and this fills a person’s heart with thanksgiving and praise. New believers immediately begin to work out their salvation through a variety of spiritual exercises and disciplines. There is a desire to pray and to start feeding your soul with the Word of God. (1 Peter 2:2) A Christian also begins living for others rather than just for yourself. Simply put, you start to do things God’s way out of your love for the Lord.

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

The Holy Spirit within the believer leads us to take our life of discipleship seriously. No wonder the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12,13)

Paul never instructed Christians to doubt their salvation, but rather, to cherish it with all earnestness. “Fear and trembling” is a reference to the holy awe and respect that a Christian should always have for the Lord. The opposite approach would be to take the whole thing lightly, or even to be flippant about it. Such an irreverent approach would be highly offensive to the Lord. After all, our Savior suffered and died for our sins and is worthy of the highest respect in everything we do.

“We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) We have been justified by the blood of Jesus, (Romans 5:9) and God now sees me “just if I’d” never sinned.

Believers in Jesus place their trust in what Christ did for us on the cross. And when you rely upon His sacrifice rather than your own works, you are given the gift of everlasting life in heaven.

Some people rely upon the Law in hopes of earning their salvation, while others rely upon the Gospel. One approach is effective, while the other is deadly. “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse.” (Gal. 3:10) Paul also wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” (Gal. 2:21)

Man’s pride leads him to assume he can work his way into God’s good graces. But man is foolishly mistaken to make this erroneous assumption. Christ died because it was the only way we could be saved, period. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Your works, or Christ’s work on the cross? Which of these two paths leads a person into heaven, and which of these two options brings a person into an eternal relationship with the Lord of the universe?

You cannot exercise without a body, and you cannot work out your salvation unless you are already saved, redeemed, born again, justified and forgiven. Only then can you work out the salvation God gives to every believer.

Would you like to receive this free gift from God? If so, you will need to repent of any “works righteousness” by which you are trying to build your own little bridge to heaven. Throw in the towel on that deadly approach. It will never save your soul, but only keep you separated from the One who loves you so much He died to save you from your sins.

The good news is that Christ already built the bridge when He laid down His life on the cross. (1 John 3:16)

And if you have been justified through faith, then be sure to appreciate your salvation everyday. If you find yourself starting to take your salvation for granted, confess your sin of spiritual apathy to God. He will breathe upon you once again with His life-giving power and grace.

God not only saved you by grace through faith, but the Lord also “works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13) We owe everything to Christ because Jesus is our life, our King, and our salvation. It would be utter foolishness to take God’s amazing grace for granted.

Perhaps you spend hours every week exercising your body. If so, good job. But what about your soul, and what about your salvation? Are you as a believer in Jesus Christ working it out, or neglecting to maintain healthy spiritual disciplines?

A Christian disciple without spiritual disciplines doesn’t look much like a New Testament believer. Followers of Christ work out their salvation through godly living and a vibrant relationship with Christ. And healthy Christians hunger and thirst for the Word of God and prayer.

Scripture declares, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

So be encouraged as you “press on” (Phil. 3:14) in your faith as a follower of Jesus. The Lord will be your strength every step of the way, (Psalm 28:7; Phil. 4:13) and your daily workouts will definitely result in a healthier you.

Parents Responsibility

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

In Touch – September 11, 2017

Words are but a small part of parental communication. Now let’s look at two types of messages we should purposefully model for our kids.
First, boys and girls need affirmation that they are loved, accepted, and competent. God the Father spoke those very things to His Son. It is essential that our children gain a sense of security and belonging at home so they won’t seek acceptance elsewhere. And the way we care and provide for them will help them grasp the heavenly Father’s love.
Second, parents are responsible for presenting the principles needed for living a godly life. One way to do so is by reading Scripture aloud and sharing stories of the Lord’s involvement in our lives. But actions must match what we say. For example, we cannot expect children to truly understand the golden rule if we act with selfishness, arrogance, or insensitivity.
Modeling a godly life is oftentimes an intentional pursuit, like reading Scripture or serving as a family on a mission trip. It can also be as simple and unplanned as picking up a piece of trash on a neighbor’s lawn. But keep in mind that actions and words aren’t always perceived correctly. Check that your children’s understanding matches the message you hope to communicate.
Your words and actions are teaching lessons. Do your children know, beyond any doubt, that they’re treasured and capable? Are you giving them the tools they need to follow Christ? Remember, God doesn’t expect perfection. He will guide the willing heart—and cover missteps with His grace.

10 Unfair Expectations of Pastors’ Wives

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

By Thom S. Rainer | Sep 10, 2017 9:28 AM

The pastor’s wife in many churches carries heavy burdens.

Sometimes they are impossible expectations.

So what are some of these unfair expectations? Here are the top ten expectations imposed upon these ladies.

1. “I am expected to attend every function at the church.” One wife told us that church members resent it when she is seen doing anything outside the church.

2. “Many church members expect me to know everything that is happening in the church.” In other words, they should know everything their pastor/husband knows.

3. “We have several church members who feel free to complain to me about my husband.” So her church has several members who are lacking in emotional intelligence.

4. “Church members utilize me as a de facto assistant to my husband, giving me messages for him.” One wife shared with us that she received eleven messages to give to her husband after a specific worship service.

5. “I am still amazed how many church members expect me to function as an employee of the church.” Some are expected to lead music or play piano. Others are expected to act in a specific ministry employee role such as student or children’s director.

6. “Some of the members expect our children to be perfect and act perfect.” One wife explained that she and her husband were new to a church when a church member confronted them about their misbehaving children. Their outlandish sin was running in the church after a worship service.

7. “I am always supposed to be perfectly made up and dressed when I leave the house.” A church member expressed her dismay to a pastor’s wife who ran into a grocery store without makeup. You can’t make this stuff up.

8. “I have no freedom at our church to be anything but perfectly emotionally composed.” This story really got to me. A deacon chastised a pastor’s wife for shedding tears at church four days after her dad died.

9. “I think some of our church members expect my family to take a vow of poverty.” She was specifically referring to the criticism she received for purchasing a six-year-old minivan after her third child was born.

10. “So many church members expect me to be their best friend.” And obviously a pastor’s wife can’t be the best friend to everyone, so she disappoints or angers others.

These are some of the comments we have received at this blog over the years from pastors’ wives. And it seems as though these trials are more gender biased. For example, the husband of a children’s minister commented that he rarely has the pressure and expectations that he sees imposed upon female spouses.

But more than other staff positions, the pastor is naturally the focus of attention and, often, criticism.

And the pastor’s family, by extension, becomes the focus of unfair and unreasonable expectations.

Why Many of Our Churches Are Still One Color

August 21, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

By Thom S. Rainer , Aug 20, 2017 10:02 AM

“What’s wrong with our church?”

It was a sincere question. The elder wanted to know why there seems to be a steady erosion of attendance, discipleship, and evangelism at his church.

Then I showed him the demographics of the church’s community. Over 40 percent of the area was non-white and growing, but the church was above 95 percent white. My response was simple. “You are not connecting with your community. The ethnic and racial diversity of the community is not reflected in the church.”

This church is one of tens of thousands of congregations that are one color, one race, or one group. Why? Why is this reality still taking place today? Let’s look at six reasons.

1. Racism still exists. Racism has not gone away. The events of this weekend in Virginia remind us of that tragic reality. Some pastors are still fired because they encourage racial and ethnic diversity in their churches. Other forms of racism are more subtle, but no less toxic.

2. There is no intentionality. Churches that are evangelistic have leaders and members who are intentional about reaching people for Christ. Churches that better reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of our world are more intentional about praying, seeking, and acting upon their desire to reach people who may not look like them.

3. The leadership of the church is not diverse. If the ministry staff and lay leadership do not reflect the diversity of the community, the church is sending a clear message. The diverse community cannot have a true voice in the church if it is not represented in the leadership of the church.

4. Many church leaders and members do not know what takes place in their own communities. Many times when I have met with church leaders and shared the demographics and realities of the members of their community, they express total surprise at what is taking place. Their church is a bubble. Or to use another metaphor, the congregation is an island of sameness in a community of diversity.

5. There is no planned effort to connect with the community. Sure, it’s helpful to have events on the church property for the community. But it’s even better to go to the community where they are. The “go” approach is much more meaningful and biblical than the “you come” approach.

6. The current church members do not intentionally connect more deeply with the diverse members of the community. When I met with the leaders of one church, some of the leaders expressed frustration they were not connecting well with the diversity of the community where they were located. They told me that the community members were welcomed and received well when they came to a worship service. I then asked if they were ever invited to their small groups or to the church members’ homes. Silence. To their credit, they got it, and they are doing much better reflecting the community they serve today.

“After this I looked and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, CSB).

Such is the diversity of the Kingdom.

And so should be our churches.

How Valuable Is Your Soul?

July 29, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

 

BY DAN DELZELL Jul 29, 2017 | 9:29 AM

What if you owned a diamond worth millions of dollars, but you thought it was just a worthless piece of glass? Would you do anything to protect it from being lost or stolen if you were unaware of its true value?

And what if you assumed that a painting you owned was an original worth $250,000; but it was actually just a copy worth less than $100?

Obviously, our perception of an item’s value is not the same thing as the actual value. Sometimes human beings get it wrong, and are shocked to eventually learn the true value of a particular item. These surprising revelations often come as a result of an appraisal by an expert.

Now who do you suppose is the world’s greatest expert when it comes to man’s immortal soul? Does anyone understand the value of the human soul more than the One who created it in the first place?

God certainly has impressive credentials, to say the least. “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

And yes, God did indeed make visible and invisible things. Angels are invisible to the human eye, as is man’s soul; and yet both were created by God.

And it was Jesus who placed tremendous emphasis on man’s soul when He said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

The bottom line is that a person can definitely be wrong about the value of a diamond in his possession, and a person can also be wrong about the value of his soul.

While losing millions of dollars is a huge financial loss in this life, losing your soul is an eternal loss that brings agonizing pain to a person forever. In other words, believers will never leave heaven and unbelievers will never leave hell. And you will spend eternity in one of those two places. This is why Jesus stressed the value of your soul. He wants you to understand its value while there is still time to do something about it.

When Jesus died on the cross for sinners, He demonstrated once and for all the eternal value of man’s soul.

Without Christ’s death, you and I would have no access to God and no entrance into heaven. If we only had Moses and God’s commandments but not Jesus, we would be lost forever. The apostle Paul wrote, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)

So do you think Christ died for nothing?

The truth is that Jesus died to redeem your soul. God wants to live with you forever in heaven. But if you refuse God’s gracious invitation, He won’t force you to appreciate the priceless value of your soul. Instead, He will allow you to perish if you are determined to do so, even though He wants you to “repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

One of the worst things sin does is blind man from seeing the true value of his soul. And when this happens, men live like animals who are destined to perish, rather than like the special creation God made us to be.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

God is three in One: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And you also are three in one: body, soul, and spirit.

These three components are spelled out in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

You might think everyone would jump for joy when hearing this wonderful news, right? Wrong. Many people choose to live for the temporary pursuit of sin rather than the eternal welfare of their soul. And those who make this deadly decision “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” (Romans 1:25)

It’s not as though God’s majestic power and glory are hidden from our sight. In fact, “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3)

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:20-22)

How devastated would you be if you threw away a diamond that you later came to learn was actually worth millions of dollars? And how distraught will you be if you lose your soul in the pursuit of materialism? What do you think will be of greater value to you once you leave this world: expensive diamonds, or the health and comfort of your immortal soul?

Jesus Christ will always be the King of Kings, regardless of whether or not you receive Him by faith and accept Him as your Lord and Savior. (John 1:12)

The “real you” will exist forever in one of two places; whether you go to heaven and joyfully worship the King, or go to hell and hate the way things turned out for you.

So make your choice in this world, and then be prepared to reap the outcome in eternity. Don’t believe the lie in our culture today as men and women proudly proclaim that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” The truth is that our actions have consequences. You see, what happens on earth definitely has repercussions in the world to come.

So just how valuable is your soul? And what, if anything, are you doing to help keep it protected in a safe place so that you don’t lose it?

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