5 Truths a Church Must Wake Up to So Revival Can Happen

July 10, 2017 by  
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BY GREG STIER Jul 10, 2017 | 7:28 AM

 Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:14

“The Christian world is in a deep sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can waken them out of it!” — George Whitefield, 1739

It’s time to wake up our churches to the need for revival and spiritual awakening. It’s time to answer the Holy Spirit’s wake up call!

Think about the potential of a fully awakened church. There were just 120 members of the original church in Acts chapter one. But these believers were calling out to God for his Spirit in a ten day, non-stop prayer service!

God answered their prayers in Acts 2. The Spirit came and their little church exploded from 120 to well over 3,000 in attendance in an instant!

And unlike the early church in Acts 1 we don’t have to pray to receive the Spirit…we already have Him (Ephesians 1:13,14.) The question is does He have us? Are we yielding ourselves to him in full surrender? If we were our churches would be exploding with new disciples!

The indwelling Holy Spirit is calling us and giving us His wake up call! Will we answer that call?

Here are 5 truths a church must wake up to so that revival can happen.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

When prayer becomes the engine, not the caboose, of our ministry efforts then our churches become an unstoppable train that advance the Gospel in unimaginable ways!

To experience this we must learn how to pray with passion, focus and faith. We must pray for the lost. We must pray for each other. We must pray for this nation. We must pray for the world. We must pray that God intervenes to break up the hard soil of unregenerate hearts and send forth seed chuckers who will spread his message everywhere to everyone!

Let’s wake up to the need to pray!

2. Wake up to the need for holiness!

“‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’ In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” 2 Timothy 2:19-21

God only serves revival on clean plates so we must purify our hearts! If there is sin in the camp we need to address it. If there is sin in our lives we need to confess it.

We need to have people in our lives that keep us accountable in these areas so that, together, we can walk in purity. As James 5:16 reminds us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

As my old youth ministry professor used to say, “We confess to God to be forgiven. We confess to each other to get healed.” May we have churches that encourage this kind of relational reality checks so that we get beyond the surface of “everything’s fine” to the raw struggles underneath that all of us have. As we do we can live an increasingly holy life that leverages the power of our prayers with heaven! Again, as James reminds us, “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Let’s wake up to the need for holiness!

3. Wake up to the necessity of faith!

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

“…without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) and without faith no one will ever experience holiness! Living a life of true holiness that increases our prayer impact is not a matter of keeping a list or trying to erase our sins in our own human strength. It’s a matter of living a life of faith in Christ who can live his already-conquered-sin-through-the-cross resurrection life through us!

Our churches can be revived as, together, we live a life of faith that God uses to purify our hearts (Acts 15:9.) And when we live like this our prayers will have an ever-increasing impact ! Like Daniel, the angels who deliver the answers to our prayers could say to us, “As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” (Daniel 9:23.)

Faith in Christ purifies our hearts and propels our prayers. And it also opens our mouth to proclaim the Gospel!

4. Wake up to the urgency of the Gospel!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

A revived church is a Gospel Advancing church. It is a church that unashamedly brings the Good News of Jesus to a world in desperate need of it.

We must wake up to the need to share the Gospel!

Can you hear the voices of those who have passed on to the next life? Some are leaning over the banister of heaven calling down. Others are looking up from the flames of hell screaming out. But both have the same message, “Tell others so they can experience hope in the next life.”

Gospel urgency requires Gospel fluency. In other words, if the people in your church are motivated to share the Good News of Jesus but can’t articulate that message in a clear and compelling way then it will lead nowhere.

5. Wake up to the potential of youth!

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

Since there’s nothing more “foolish” than the typical American teenager we shouldn’t underestimate these young people as a potent agent of revival. God loves to use the unlikely to accomplish the unimaginable because it brings unbelievable glory to him!

Teenagers come to Christ quicker and can spread the Gospel faster and farther than adults. So the quickest way to revive a church is through the youth! That’s why I challenge you to unleash their potential by getting them to make and multiply disciples.

Youth ministry is strategic. Every Great Awakening in the history of the United States has had teenagers on the leading edge.

It’s time.

It’s time for revival!

It’s time to pray to God, purify our hearts and proclaim the Gospel!

It’s time to unleash the next generation to make and multiply disciples until everyone everywhere hears the Good News of Jesus!

The Holy Spirit is giving us a wake up call. Let’s answer it!

 

 

How to Guard Against Funeral Scammers

June 19, 2017 by  
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BY CHUCK BENTLEY Jun 16, 2017 | 7:26 AM

 An acquaintance at work recently shared the trauma a close friend experienced planning a sudden funeral then discovering criminals had accessed his deceased family member’s bank accounts. How can we protect ourselves and prepare for the inevitable?

It’s hard to believe, but there are scammers who prey on the vulnerability of those grieving the death of a loved one. To protect your family members and others facing the same scenario, I’ve gathered some helpful tips on a variety of issues.

Guard Personal Information

Criminals are experts at retrieving personal information from hospitals and funeral homes. They study published obituaries.

So, when writing an obituary, do not give the decedent’s birthdate, address, mother’s maiden name or any other information thieves can use to their advantage. Unfortunately, criminals can purchase a Social Security number online for as little as $10, and with little information, access accounts, open new ones, file taxes and even collect refunds. Even family members, favorite pets, and memberships in organizations are pieces of info they can piece together to hack your accounts. Shocking, but true! The less information you give, the better you are protected.

Guard Against Imposters

Criminals may also pose as Debt Collectors, calling and threatening legal action if you don’t pay fees they say you owe to release important documents. They sound legitimate and are armed with information, but you should never, ever make payments or release information over the phone. Ask for their name, phone number, and company so you can return the call. They usually hang up. If you suspect this is a legitimate debt, you should still wait and call them back after getting legal advice, because you may not be responsible for the debt.

Thieves may pose as Insurance Agents claiming a loved one left you a large insurance policy. Their ploy is to wire the money AFTER you pay the final premium payment. Some pose as lawyers, claiming you need to pay a fee to process the inheritance. ALWAYS ask for details and refuse to pay fees. Sometimes a secret inheritance or policies are left, just be discerning.
People have also been targeted by fake IRS Agents who demand information by phone or email. But the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers to request personal information or call with threats of lawsuits or arrests. Block and delete these numbers if they continue.Sometimes long lost relatives attend funerals — some may be legitimate but others may be posing. Screen them thoroughly, confirm identity with other relatives, and ask imposters to leave. If they insist they are owed inheritance, money, or property, call your attorney.Funeral and Burial Pricing

A federal regulation called the Funeral Rule protects consumers by requiring funeral businesses to give clear pricing information. A general price list helps people choose only what they want to purchase. Funeral homes cannot require services that are optional by law, like embalming. You should not be charged extra if you choose to buy a less expensive casket elsewhere.

Ask for any legal cemetery or crematory requirements. Don’t give in to sales pressure, manipulation, or guilt. Costs add up quickly, so take a discerning friend or relative with you to help you make decisions and stay within budget.

Request that someone stay in your home during the service. Burglars can easily find out funeral arrangements and your home address.

Who to Notify

Get at least 12 certified copies of the death certificate. Provide copies to the IRS, VA, DMV, Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, banks, brokerages, credit card and mortgage companies, insurance firms, etc. Use certified mail and keep track of where certificates are sent. Immigration agencies, public libraries, fitness clubs, and private organizations will need to be notified as well. Cancel the driver’s license to prevent fraudulent duplicates from being issued and used in criminal activity.

Request “deceased alert” on the decedent’s credit report. Arrange with each credit bureau to get a copy of his/her credit report to review lists of accounts and credit card activity. Check the credit report in six months for any suspicious activity and notify the police if anything looks odd.

Documents proving you’re the spouse or estate executor will be needed if someone asks you to demonstrate authority in representing the deceased’s estate. This is where a binder of all necessary paperwork needed upon death is a gift to your family.

File your loved one’s tax returns for the year in which they died and as early as possible.

Surviving Spouse’s Checklist

Crown and Bare Wealth Advisors have prepared a checklist of actions we advise for the first 48 hours and the following weeks of a loved one’s passing. It’s an easy guide to follow for a very difficult and emotional time.

Remember — you can be a wise steward when facing life or death. Nothing can separate you from His love. David wrote in Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

 

 

6 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Holy Spirit

June 12, 2017 by  
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BY SHANE PRUITT

Jun 11, 2017 | 8:29 AM

I’ve heard other leaders say that as evangelical Christians we typically treat the Holy Spirit as that weird uncle or cousin of the family. We know He exists, and we know that He is a part of the Trinity of God, but because we don’t  know what to do with Him, we tend to ignore Him.There can definitely be a lot of confusion, emotionalism, and flat out abuse of the Scriptures when it comes to the doctrine, presence, and work of the Holy Spirit. However, if we don’t desperately depend upon the Holy Spirit while living our daily lives, then we can never expect to walk and live in the freedom and victory that only comes from the Spirit of our great God!

One of the most important things we can do as Christians is to constantly remember the job descriptions of the Holy Spirit. The résumé of the Holy Spirit could literally fill large libraries! However, I am going to use this brief moment of your day to point out at least six truths about the Holy Spirit that we simply can’t ignore in faithfully walkng with Jesus:
1. The Holy Spirit authored the Scriptures.Anything that we know about God and how to live with God comes from the Bible. We are thankful that the Holy Spirit authored the Scriptures through the pens of men!

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16

“…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” – 2 Peter 1:20 – 21

2. The Holy Spirit exalts Jesus.

Any kind of work of the Spirit that puts more focus on “giftings,” “expressions,” and “fillings” than it does Jesus, you can be sure that work is not from the Holy Spirit. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to exalt Jesus. The Spirit has come that we might be deeply impressed with the person of Jesus Christ and go away excited about His work.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” – John 15:26

3. The Holy Spirit makes us the church.

The church is a not a building, but rather the church is a people. When the Spirit of God makes His home inside of us as believers, we become the church. We are now the temple of the Holy Spirit sent to tell the world that Jesus is alive!

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

4. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin.

First, the Spirit awakens us to the reality of sin and the need of a Savior. Second, as a born-again child of God, the Spirit in us will awaken a heightened sense of sin. Where things may not have bothered us before, now there is a grieving that takes place when there is sin.

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” – John 16:8

5. The Holy Spirit guides us in everyday life. We’re completely dependent on the work of the Spirit to help us understand His Scriptures, to accurately guide us to live according to the Word, and to direct us in the ways of righteousness and holiness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22 – 23

6. The Holy Spirit seals believers until the day of redemption.

One of God’s great desires is for His people to feel secure in His love and power as they go out to be witnesses to the world. Everything else in life may be unpredictable and unstable — our health, job, relationships, and the world. However, our identity in Christ and eternal destination are completely sealed, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38 – 39

Lord, make us Spirit-filled Christians who faithfully proclaim the Spirit-authored Scriptures to a people who are being Spirit-awakened for the glory of God to be witnesses to a lost world that’s in desperate need of the Spirit’s work!

 

8 Major Changes in Churches the Past 10 Years

May 16, 2017 by  
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BY THOM S. RAINER May 16, 2017 | 7:40 AM

 Such has been the reality of too many congregations the past ten years as the rate of church closures has accelerated. Many have died; others are on life support.

But what are some of the major changes that have taken place in congregations that are doing relatively well? What are some of the ways these congregations have adapted to new realities? Here is a hint: None of the changes in healthy churches have compromised doctrine, diminished the centrality of preaching, or abandoned sharing the gospel.So what changes have occurred in healthy churches in the last decade? Here are eight of them:

1. Today: Smaller worship gatherings.
 Ten years ago: Larger worship gatherings.
There are several factors impacting this change, among them more multi-site churches, more non-traditional worship times, and a desire among the Millennials to be a part of a smaller gathering rather than a larger gathering.

2. Today: Smaller church facilities
 Ten years ago: Larger church facilities
There are three major issues at work here. First, church leaders are more hesitant to spend funds on largely unused facilities. Second, churches are building with less space for adult small groups or Sunday school, and are choosing to have those groups meet off-site or on non-worship days. Third, the smaller worship gathering noted above means smaller worship centers.

3. Today: First priority staff person hired: children’s minister
 Ten years ago: First priority staff person hired: worship leader
This shift is largely influenced by the large Millennial generation and their children. Millennials are looking for a church that is safe, sanitary, educational, and fun for their children.

4. Today: Ministry degree optional for church staff members
 Ten years ago: Ministry degree strongly preferred for church staff
Churches today are more likely to call someone on staff from within their congregations. That person may not have a Bible college or seminary degree.5. Today: Emphasis on congregational singing
 Ten years ago: Emphasis on performance singing
Healthy churches are seeing an awakening of congregational singing today. Ten years ago, contemporary churches emphasized the performance of the praise team and band, while traditional churches emphasized the performance of the choir and soloists.6. Today: Community focus
 Ten years ago: Community myopia
Too many churches the past two decades all but abandoned their communities and are paying the price for their shorts-sightedness today. Healthy churches realize that the community is their place of ministry, their “Jerusalem” of Acts 1:8.

7. Today: Vital importance of groups
 Ten years ago: Marginal importance of groups
Healthy churches today make groups (community groups, home groups, Sunday school, life groups, etc.) a high priority. Ten years ago, many church leaders did not see how groups could enhance the health of the church in discipleship, evangelism, prayer, ministry, and fellowship.

8. Today: Church leaders are continuous learners
 Ten years ago: Church leaders were “degree and done”
For several decades, church leaders essentially ended their education process with a college or seminary degree. In today’s ever-changing world, leaders of healthy churches have intentionally established a discipline of continuous learning.
These eight major shifts took place in a relatively brief period.

 

 

5 Common but Unreasonable Requests Church Members Make of Pastors

May 4, 2017 by  
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BY THOM S. RAINER Apr 30, 2017 | 9:32 AM

 ”I need you to do a funeral for my cat.”

Yes, that is a request made to a pastor by a church member. And here’s the stranger reality. I have heard from dozens of pastors who have had this very request.

I assume the cats in question were dead.

Though I have heard hundreds of strange and unreasonable requests made to pastors, five of them are common. In fact, most pastors will encounter all five of these requests in the course of their ministries.

1. Ask certain people to leave the church. The common theme is the request to get people who are not like us to leave the church. A church member asked one pastor to have a separate church service in the trailer park for “those people coming to our church.” Yes, really.

2. Accept a gift with unreasonable expectations. The most recent was the offer of a $10,000 gift if the church signed a document agreeing to keep fresh flowers on his grave in perpetuity. I assume he meant the request to be posthumous.

3. Do a pet funeral. A recent example was the request to do the funeral of a turtle. Can we really know if the turtle is dead? I guess our olfactory senses will confirm its death.

4. Travel out of town to minister to a distant relative. I lead a pastors forum called Church Answers and get a lot of great input and questions. One pastor in the forum asked me about a request a church member made for him to visit a cousin in the hospital. But the surgery was minor and outpatient. The one-way distance was 225 miles. And the cousin was active in a church in her hometown. The church member left the church because the pastor declined.
5. Leave the church. Many pastors are asked to leave the church for the most outlandish reasons. I remember the first time a church member asked me to leave the church. She said, “God told her” I was supposed to leave because I was bringing too many unbelievers and new Christians to the church. And then she said the cringe-worthy words, “They are just not like us.”Keep in mind, these five unreasonable requests are common. These are not the outliers. In fact, they are so common that I am now suggesting seminaries add a course for every one of them (tongue in cheek, of course).

You just have to love pastors. Their lives are often stressful, but never boring.

 

 

Indianapolis Diocese Installs First-Ever Black Female Bishop in Episcopal Church History

May 3, 2017 by  
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BY MICHAEL GRYBOSKI

May 3, 2017 | 11:23 AM

 

The Episcopal Church has officially consecrated the first African-American woman to head a diocese in the mainline denomination’s history.
 


(PHOTO: DIOCESE OF INDIANAPOLIS)The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, receiving the Bishop’s Crozier from the retiring The Right Reverend Catherine Waynick, 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, who was elected last October, was officially consecrated Saturday as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

Kathy Copas, coordinator of Communication and Evangelism at the Diocese of Indianapolis, told The Christian Post that approximately 1,400 people attended the consecration service, which was held at Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University.

“Bishop Baskerville-Burrows was elected at the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis annual convention in October 2016. She was elected on the second ballot by a simple majority of both clergy and laity,” explained Copas.

“The Episcopal Church is where I found my relationship with Jesus some 30 years ago … It teaches me that the world is filled with incredible beauty and unspeakable pain and that God is deeply in the midst of it all loving us fiercely,” explained Baskerville-Burrows in an entry on the Indianapolis Diocese’s website.

“So each day, nourished by the sacraments and stories of our faith, the beauty of our liturgical tradition, the wide embrace of this Christian community, I learn over and over again how to live without fear.”

Dozens of bishops were in attendance for the ceremony, which included multiple processions featuring church leadership.

The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the first African-American presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, served as chief consecrator for the Saturday service.

Diocese of Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee preached the sermon, telling those gathered that “you have called a strong, loving and wise pastor to be your bishop.”

“She will love you, challenge you, tell you the truth as she sees it and invite you to tell it as you do,” said Lee, as reported by Episcopal News Service.

“She will pray with you at the drop of a hat and care for you in ways that will not diminish your own agency. She will empower you. She will lead. Count on it.”

 

What Is the Gospel?

April 13, 2017 by  
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BY DAVID LIMBAUGH

Apr 10, 2017 | 9:35 AM

 

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

The Gospels tell the story of the Son of God Who became a human being, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, was resurrected from the dead, and ascended back to the Father, offering salvation for all who believe (trust) in Him. The “good news” of the Gospel is the availability of God’s salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Not everyone is open to the message, of course, and to some it sounds absurd. As Paul observes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). He summarizes the Gospel message in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1–4).

Pastor Cliff McManis posits that the Gospel comprises five main themes:

  1. Who Jesus is.
  2. The meaning of His death.
  3. The reality of His resurrection.
  4. A call to repent.
  5. A call to believe.34

Let’s briefly explore each of these in turn.

a) Who is Jesus? This is the most important question a person could ever ask. We must know Who He is, and the Gospels provide the answer.

Herod, the tyrannical tetrarch who had John the Baptist beheaded, is perplexed by Jesus and by reports of His works because some said He was John the Baptist raised from the dead, others that He was Elijah, and others that He was some other Old Testament prophet who had risen. Herod declares, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” (Luke 9:7–9). Even Jesus’ mortal enemies ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” After reporting Herod’s perplexity, Luke—as if to answer the question by showing Jesus’ supernatural power—tells the story of Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, with an abundance of food left over (Luke 9:10–17).

Luke immediately returns to the question, but this time Christ Himself is the questioner. Christ asks His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They respond with the same options that puzzled Herod: John the Baptist, Elijah, and other risen Old Testament prophets. Jesus asks Peter pointedly “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:18–20).

The disciples have been slow to grasp fully Who Jesus is, and His earthly ministry is coming to a close. He is about to head to Jerusalem where He will suffer and die.35 Jesus must drill into them Who He is because, as His allies, they’ll need strength to face the coming challenges and attacks. Peter’s confession seems sincere, but he obviously isn’t yet wholly committed to Christ, as he would soon betray Jesus three times. But Peter would later remember this conversation, among many others, and it would strengthen him. Note that Jesus isn’t addressing this question only to Peter. He died for all of us, and we have to treat the question as if directed to each of us individually—because it is. Who do I say Jesus is? Who do you say He is?

b) What is the meaning of His death? Jesus’ death served many purposes, some of which are interrelated. It was substitutionary — He died for our sins so that we will be freed from death, which is the penalty of sin. It is an atonement for our sins — though we were separated from God through sin, we are now reconciled to Him (Romans 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18–20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 21), thereby reuniting God and man in a personal relationship; thus the term “at-one-ment.”36 It is a propitiation — it appeases God’s wrath37 (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) and expiates our guilt.38 It redeems us. We are ransomed ”with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without a blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18–19; Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28), and are forgiven (Col. 1:14) and redeemed or delivered from the curse of sin (Eph. 1:7). Through His death we are adopted as children of God, having been born again through faith in Christ (John 1:12), and we are justified, as we are declared righteous legally (Romans 3:21–26).39 Charles Spurgeon argues that when God sees saved sinners, He no longer sees sin in them but instead sees His dear Son Jesus Christ covering us as a veil. “God will never strike a soul through the veil of His Son’s sacrifice,” says Spurgeon. “He accepts us because He cannot but accept His Son, who has become our covering.”40

c) The reality of His resurrection. Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The Christian message that Jesus conquered Satan, sin, and death is not allegorical. As previously mentioned, Jesus allowed Satan to “strike His heel” by voluntarily dying on the cross, but in the very process of dying (and being resurrected), Jesus “crushed [Satan's] head” (Gen. 3:15 NIV), thereby defeating Satan, sin, and death. “Death stung himself to death when he stung Christ,” notes William Romaine.41 William Plummer adds, “The death of Christ was the most dreadful blow ever given to the empire of darkness.”42 Christ’s resurrection consummates God’s salvation plan for mankind. The historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection is pivotal to Christianity. Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17–19).

d) A call to repent. Repentance is not a separate requirement for salvation. We are saved through faith alone, but repentance goes hand in hand with believing. “Repentance and faith are Siamese twins,”43 writes Walter J. Chantry. Sinclair Ferguson comments, “Faith and repentance must be seen as marriage partners and never separated.”44 Repentance is a change of attitude and action from sin toward obedience to God. The Greek word for repentance is derived from a word meaning “to radically change one’s thinking.” It signifies a person attaining a divinely provided new understanding of his behavior and feeling compelled to change and begin a new relationship with God (Heb. 6:1; Acts 20:21).45 Walter Elwell declares that it is “literally a change of mind, not about individual plans, intentions, or beliefs, but rather a change in the whole personality from a sinful course of action to God.”46

e) A call to believe. To believe in Jesus Christ requires more than mere intellectual assent that He is the Son of God. Saving faith is not merely accepting certain propositions as true (“even the demons believe— and shudder!” James 2:19), but trusting a person—the Person of Jesus Christ47—for the remission of your sins. It involves an act of the will. We can think of it as a faith-union with Christ, in which the believer cleaves to his Savior. We need only to believe in Christ for our eternal salvation. Nothing else is required. The Bible is clear on this. When the Philippian jailor asks Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they respond, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30–31). We cannot earn our way to salvation. It is solely a gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” Paul proclaims in Ephesians. “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8–9).

 

 

What Is Holy Week?

April 13, 2017 by  
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BY BRANDON SHOWALTER

Apr 13, 2017 | 10:27 AM

 Each year Christians around the world, particularly in liturgical traditions, reenact the final moments of Christ’s life on earth as part of a weeklong observation now known as Holy Week.

This week’s origins can be traced back to the earliest Christians who saw the need to commemorate these last days of Jesus to anchor believers in their faith.According to EarlyChristians.org, the death of Jesus was considered so historically significant that the Church “sought the need to celebrate liturgically this salvific event,” installing a formal rite for this to be sacramentally renewed every year.The days of this week are Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

 

When Should Elderly Pastors Retire? Ten Diagnostic Questions

March 9, 2017 by  
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BY THOM S. RAINER
Mar 5, 2017 | 8:52 AM

There are a lot of us Baby Boomer pastors and Christian leaders around. And it’s cliché, but we aren’t getting any younger. It’s a quiet question that many are asking, but they are asking it nonetheless: What age should I retire?

Instead of responding with a specific number, I ask my Baby Boomer peers a series of ten diagnostic questions:

1. Are you physically and emotionally able to continue to lead at a high level? If not, you probably should retire.

2. Are you still highly motivated in your place of leadership? If you don’t wake up each morning excited about your ministry, you might consider stepping down.

3. Are you a continuous learner? Are you reading, listening to others, attending conferences, learning new technologies, and staying current in key areas?

4. Are you hanging on primarily for financial reasons? If that is your dominant reason for staying, you are doing your church or ministry a disservice by staying.

5. Do you have a clear and compelling vision for your ministry’s future? If not, you may be coasting and ready to retire.

6. Is the church’s health deteriorating under your leadership? It’s not always the fault of the pastor, but you need to ask if new leadership could bring new life.

7. Does the word “change” cause you to feel threatened or angry? If you are not happy with the way the current generation is leading churches, you may be too change resistant to lead your own church.

8. Do you empower others regularly? If you are not taking time to equip others to do the work of ministry and to become leaders, it could be an indicator you are coasting.

9. Is your family supportive of you staying in your current ministry position? Your spouse or children may really know what’s best for you and the church, and it may be retirement.

10. Do you find yourself longing for the good old days? If so, you might be living in the past, ineffective in the present, and unable to lead toward the future. It might be time to step down.

I know. You never retire from ministry. I know. Our current president was inaugurated when he was almost 71 years old. Those facts do not change the reality that it might be time for some pastors to retire now and find other ways to serve.

So, at what age should a pastor retire? It really depends. Every situation is unique. You may have many years left in your current church.

Or you may need to retire now and allow new leadership an opportunity to take the church to a new level.

Be honest with yourself. Above all, be honest with God.

If it is truly time for you to retire from your church, He will be with you just as He has throughout your entire ministry.

Are You Affecting the World or Infected by It?

March 9, 2017 by  
Filed under In The News

BY SHANE IDLEMAN
Mar 5, 2017 | 8:53 AM

Society’s influence on the church is very alarming. In times past, the hero was the father, not Edward (from Twilight). The greatest influence was the mother, not Bella. Kids once quoted Scriptures; now they are casting spells. What a sad commentary on the state of the family today. Hollywood, not the Holy Spirit, is guiding us.

An important question for all Christians to ask is, “Are we ‘affecting’ the world, or is the world ‘infecting’ us?”

A.W. Tozer reminds us: “Where does Christianity destroy itself in a given generation? It destroys itself by not living in the light, by professing a truth it does not obey.”

The church should not reflect or imitate the world, but lovingly confront it. We do the most for the world when we are the least like the world. We are to love them but not learn from them (cf. Psalms 107:35-37). No other decision will impact our lives more than who or what we choose to follow … what we choose to love.

Americans give approximately four billion but spend over one hundred and fifty billion a year on pleasure. A serious misplacement of priorities.

In Biblical terms, fulfilling unhealthy pleasures (or pushing healthy ones to the limit) leads to poverty — financially, relationally, and spiritually. He who loves the things of this world will destroy his own soul.

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

When pleasures, even good ones, draw us away from God … when they crowd Him out … we are in danger of “loving the world.” God is in the background while pleasure and self focus are in the foreground. Granted, finances, relaxation, and healthy balanced entertainment are God-given resources that aid in rest and recuperation. This is not the problem; it is the “love” of pleasure and entertainment that leads us away. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve the god of this world and the one true God.

John Owen, the prolific Puritan author, wrote, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

Carnality and lukewarm living wage war against the soul. The carnal person wants to live without God’s restraints. Do you struggle in this area? Here is a test: “Does this article anger or convict; are you upset or repentant?” The old adage reminds us, “When a rock is thrown into a pile of dogs the one who yelps was struck.” If this article upsets, it applies.

Trusting God’s Character When We Don’t Understand His Actions
J.C. Ryle in his book on holiness wrote that we must stand guard as a soldier on enemy ground. The problem is that many who profess to be Christians love the world and have a hard time separating. They believe in heaven but they don’t truly long for it. They “say” that they fear God but they don’t live like it. They indulge temptation rather than fight it. They enjoy sin rather than confront it. The lukewarm church avoids the heat of conviction. They don’t like many of these articles. Holiness, to them, is outdated … old-fashioned.

Please don’t misunderstand, we all fall short, but our lifestyle should reflect our faith. It’s not about perfection, but direction. Galatians 5:16 reminds us that if we “live by the Spirit,” we will “not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

What we feed grows, and what grows can quickly become the dominating force within our lives. Sin is never static — it either grows or withers depending on whether we feed or starve it. A daily diet of violence, lust, anger, and depression will fuel those very things in our lives. Pay close attention to what you watch and listen to…what you take pleasure in — the force controlling it ultimately controls you (cf. Ephesians 2:12).

What entertains you? Are you drawn to things honorable and excellent or dark and depressing? Do you prefer programs about vampires, witches, zombies, the occult, illicit sex, and perversions? Do you listen to music that stirs and motivates ungodly lusts and attractions?

This isn’t rocket-science: “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

“The more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil” (Matthew Henry).

A Christian should not be entertained by darkness. If we are entertained, our heart needs spiritual resuscitation.

We, like the mighty Roman Empire that collapsed centuries ago, are crumbling from within. Historian Edward Gibbon once wrote about the conditions of Rome before her fall. The spending of public funds on food and entertainment, and the mad craze for pleasure and sport, topped the list. Sound familiar today?

I believe that anyone who suggests that carnality and lukewarm living are not propelling us in this same direction does so in sheer ignorance or is in denial because they love the things of this world more than the things of God.

“The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand” (R.A. Torrey).

We cannot feed the flesh and be filled with the Spirit.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

You and I cannot serve both God and the god of this world.

Are you willing to do what it takes to protect your relationship with the Lord? It all begins here … “as a man thinks, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).​

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