How the Bible Defines Worship

April 23, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

By Scott Aniol | 

      Many of the “worship wars” today are fueled by, I believe, differing views of the nature of worship itself. Clearly differences over what worship is and the function of various worship elements would lead to significant differences over what kind of music we might use in a worship service, for example, and so I believe that a fundamental step toward resolving these debates is to seek to understand how the Bible itself defines worship.
At its most basic level, worship is drawing near to God in fellowship with him and obedience to him such that he is magnified and glorified.

This idea of drawing near to God in worship permeates the storyline of Scripture. It is what Adam and Eve enjoyed as they walked with God in the cool the day (Gen. 2:8). It is described in Exodus 19:17 when Moses “brought the people out of the camp to meet God” at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He had told Pharaoh to let the people go so that they might worship their God in the wilderness, and this is exactly what they intended to do at Sinai. It is what Psalm 100 commands of the Hebrews in Temple worship when it says, “Come into his presence with singing and into his courts with praise.” It is what Isaiah experienced as he entered the heavenly throne room of God and saw him high and lifted up. To draw near to God is to enter his very presence in fellowship and obedience.

Ultimately, this is why God created people. God created the world to put on display the excellencies of his own glory, and he created people therein that they might witness that glory and praise him for it. In Isaiah 43:6–7 God proclaims,

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

Likewise, Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”

Worship—magnifying God’s worth and glory—is the reason God made us.

Adam and Eve’s fall into sin—their disobedience of God’s commandments—was essentially failure to magnify the worthiness of God to be their master and bring him glory, and thus it was a failure to worship him acceptably. This broke the communion they enjoyed with God and propelled them out from the sanctuary of his presence. After they sinned, and they heard God walking in the garden, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God” (Gen 3:8)—they recognized their unworthiness to walk with him. Their sin created a separation between them and their Creator, and they were forced to leave the sanctuary (Gen 3:23–24), never again able to draw near to the presence of God.

However, worship is possible through a sacrifice, the vicarious, substitutionary atonement of the Son of God. Sacrifices in the Mosaic system pictured this kind of atonement, but they were unable to “make perfect those who draw near” (Heb 10:1).

But this sacrifice can perfect those who draw near. Jesus is fully man, and thus he can stand as our substitute, and he is fully God, and thus he can pay an eternal punishment to an eternal, holy God that no normal man could. And because of the perfection and eternality of this sacrifice, it need not be offered day after day after day to atone for sin; it is offered one time and the complete wrath of God is fully appeased.

This is what God pictured when he slew the animal in the garden and covered Adam and Eve’s guilt. This is what was pictured when Moses offered a sacrifice at the foot of Mt. Sinai so that the elders of the people could approach God. This is what was pictured each year in Israel on the Day of Atonement when an animal was sacrificed and the high priest entered the holy place to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. This is what was pictured when the seraph took a burning coal from the altar and placed it on Isaiah’s lips, saying, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And this is pictured no more beautifully than with what happened at the moment of Christ’s death. The gospel accounts of the crucifixion tell us that Jesus cried out with a loud voice and gave up his spirit, and at that exact moment, the veil of the temple was torn in two, as if that veil was the body of the Son of God himself prohibiting entrance into the presence of a holy God, and that access that had been lost by the fall of man is now restored! There is now a new and living way (Heb 10:20) to draw near to God, and that way is his Son.

Thus those who repent of their sin—their failure to worship—and put their faith and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf are saved from separation from God and enabled once again to draw near to him in worship.

What should be apparent is that the essence of worship is itself the language of the gospel—a drawing near to God in relationship with him, made impossible because of sin that demands eternal judgment, yet restored through the substitutionary atonement of the God-man for those who place their faith in him. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes worship possible.

Why We Must Reclaim the Meaning of ‘the Unreached’

April 10, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

 

By Marv Newell ,  

 

 

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Your neighbor across the street does not believe in Jesus.

Your brother-in-law is still unsaved, though he has repeatedly been presented with the gospel.

Your church has an outreach to Haiti, with a full-time couple serving there.

Though none of the people referenced here have come to faith in Christ, contrary to popular thinking among many Christians they are not “unreached.”

How is this so and why does this matter? The short and simple answer relates to gospel access and opportunity, and the church’s mission.

Just because someone does not believe the gospel does not mean they are unreached. “Unreached peoples” are actually those who have no opportunity to hear the gospel at all. They don’t have a chance because they don’t have a Jesus follower nearby to explain the good news of Christ to them. In most instances there is no church, no Bible, and no way of hearing about the love of God and His redeeming work through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

 To better understand who are considered reached and who are not, we can divide the 7.6 billion inhabitants of the world into four segments:

Reached and Saved (11%). These are Christians who believe in the Bible as God’s Word and have received by faith alone the gracious atoning work of Jesus on their behalf. Approximately 1 billion people across the planet fall within this category.

Reached but not Saved (23%). They have some knowledge of the gospel but with no or nominal acceptance. They are “Christians” by tradition rather than by conviction. They have access to the gospel – it is all around them – without believing it. About 1.7 billion people are in this category.

Under-reached and Unsaved (33%). They have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel, although it is nearby. They have some access to the gospel through various means, such as a nearby believer, through media, or the internet, but it is woefully sparse. About 2.5 billion people around the world fall within this category.

Unreached and Unsaved (33%). They sadly have no witnessing community within their people group or in their geographic area – no access to the gospel. They have no opportunity to hear, no chance to believe. Tragically, 2.5 billion people fall within this category and it’s increasing every year.

It is calculated that there are 6,926 unreached people groups scattered across the world. Some of them consist of large ethnic blocks of millions of people. Others are small groups of under 10,000, together totaling less than 8 million individuals. But all have no access to the gospel.

These gospel-deprived individuals must be seen with compassion on the personal level. Not only do they not believe in Jesus but they do not know there is a Jesus to believe in. That opportunity has been denied them.

What are the implications to us who are compelled to follow Jesus’ command to bring lost souls to faith in Jesus? It means that gospel messengers are needed to either go and personally witness or use means that will. This can be done by way of personal encounters, broadcasts, podcasts, printed material, recordings, films, blogs, electronic communications, and many other innovative means that are channels of penetrating witness.

The previously mentioned non-believing neighbor, the brother-in-law, and even the Haitians – 20 percent of whom are Protestant – all have access to the gospel and have opportunity to believe in Jesus. Just because they are indifferent, unresponsive, or resistant does not mean they are unreached. They each have a chance to understand their spiritual plight and need of a Savior. The good news is within their reach.

But the 2.5 billion gospel-deprived “Unreached and Unsaved” do not have any of these advantages. They are unaware, clueless, and hopeless, without a chance of hearing the gospel message even if they so desired. The good news is not within their reach.

 Only by reclaiming the real meaning of “unreached” will the church grasp the size of the challenge that still lies before us in responding to Jesus’ Great Commission, and be inspired to commit to its fulfillment.

This is why the International Day for the Unreached on May 20, 2018 is so important: prompting the church to be true to Christ’s command to reach the lost … striving to make the gospel accessible to all peoples … providing those who have not heard, the opportunity to respond … focusing on making the unreached, the reached.

 

There’s Always a Time for Prayer

April 10, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

 

We’re living through a moment in American life unlike any many of us have seen before. Nearly every week some new controversy erupts, some evil act of violence wrecks our daily routine or some international event fills our minds with images of impending war and catastrophic destruction. In fact, quiet weeks — when life doesn’t seem to be spinning out of control — have become an oddity.

Seasons of unrest like the one we’re in pit us against the wall and demand we respond to what’s going on around us. Some Christians take the activist route. Quoting James 2:26, “Faith without works is dead,” they call fellow believers to take up arms, get involved in the public debate and change things for themselves. Others, seeing all the evil and pain around them, quietly determine to make a change in their own lives, families and communities.

If you’re wondering if there’s a wrong or right approach, let me offer you Solomon’s wisdom: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven … A time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7)

But you know what Scripture never sets a time constraint for? Prayer.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

There’s always a time for prayer.

But our culture doesn’t seem to think so.

Nowadays, our culture dismisses prayer as useless, and accuses Christians who turn to prayer, especially after a tragedy, of using it to escape reality or ignore responsibility. But we turn to prayer because that’s where we must always start if we want to find a way forward from our pain. We turn to God because we need Him to help us make sense of the mess we’re living in and to guide us toward healing.

Yes, we must confront head-on the issues we’re facing, seek solutions to our many problems and vote for men and women who will work toward unity, but we must acknowledge that, apart from God, all our efforts fall short. No human plan will accomplish more than God’s intervention. No human words will comfort the hearts of those who are hurting the way God, through His gentle whispers, can comfort them.

Imagine what could happen if every Christian and every church in America committed to pray every day for our country, our communities, our families, our schools and our leaders. I believe America would be a different place.

But please understand, praying for ourselves is also important because it begins with our response to God. You see, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is call to God’s people individually and corporately. It says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Prayer begins with you and your personal response to God. Prayer moves to the church and her response to God. Then, when these things occur, prayer can change a nation.

On Thursday, May 3, millions of Americans will gather in our nation’s capital and throughout all 50 states for the National Day of Prayer. Millions of voices will rise in unified prayer for our nation, asking God to heal and unite us as a people.

I hope you and your family will join us, and together pray for a new fresh movement of God in America.

 

 

What Was the ‘Crime’ of Jesus That Got Him Crucified?

March 28, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

 

By Jerry Newcombe 

The week began in a humble, triumphant sort of way. That may seem like an oxymoron. Jesus was hailed as a king, but rode in on a donkey—a humble way to begin His public entry into Jerusalem. Of course, He was fulfilling what Zechariah the prophet had foretold about 700 years before.

 Jesus’ entry into the Holy City on the eve of the Passover on that very first Palm Sunday: the donkey “was the common beast of burden of the time, in contrast to the superior horse of gilded chariot used in Roman triumphs.”

The city was bustling and filled with people. There were over three million pilgrims that visited the city on this occasion. 256,000 lambs were slain for the Passover.”

Of course, the climax of Jesus’ entry was His death (on Passover) and resurrection.

Why was Jesus crucified? What crime did He allegedly commit?

Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. It was so bad that no Roman citizen could be crucified. It was an execution reserved for slaves and bandits. How amazing then that the Son of God become man would allow Himself to be so degraded by people whom He Himself had created.

Crucifixion was invented in the Near East and perfected by the Romans. It was not uncommon for a crucified victim to suffer for days. Pontius Pilate was surprised Jesus had died in only a few hours—however, He had been scourged so horribly that He could have bled to death, had He been released after the whipping.

The crucified victim had the crime he committed posted above his head. Crucifixion was like a living billboard—do what this fellow did and you too could end up like this.

In the case of Jesus, we’ve all seen the crucifixes with INRI above His head. This stands for Iesus Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm, Latin for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, as recorded in John’s Gospel.

His “crime” was claiming to be a king, a treasonous act in ancient Rome.

It’s a tragic fact that in 2000 years of Christian history, there have been anti-Semitic professing Christians who blamed the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.

But the fact is that Jesus laid down His life as fully God and fully man, who alone fulfilled the Ten Commandments, on behalf of sinners—so that those who believe in Him might be saved. As Jesus Himself said, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18). If there were any “crime” committed for which Jesus was dying, it was the crime committed by sinful people against our holy Creator.

Christians believe that Jesus is the King, whose kingdom was foretold by Daniel the prophet about 500 years before He came, who said that in the “days of those kings”—which kings? The Roman kings—the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will smite the Roman Empire.

It begins as a small stone but that stone goes on to become a mountain that fills the whole earth. Christianity began very small, but has grown to where about one-third of humanity claims to be Christian.

And so during this Holy Week, Christians celebrate the coming 2000 years ago of the King, who came the first time in humility, who will one day ride a white horse as the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords.

Holy Week: 7 Last Sayings of Jesus

March 28, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

By Eric Metaxas And Roberto Rivera 

Welcome to Holy Week. Today we offer reflections—and music—on the seven last sayings of Jesus.

In 2012, the English poet Ruth Padel accepted a commission from Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra to write poems that would be read between the movements of Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross.”

Writing about her experience two years later in The Guardian, Padel called her acceptance of the commission “rash.” Her father was a psychoanalyst, her mother was a great-grand-daughter of Darwin—what could she have to say on this subject?

Well, that’s a good question.

By her own admission, Padel had “no idea if what [she] did works theologically, but musicians find it OK to work with.” Thankfully, we don’t have to settle for “OK to work with.”

In 1783, the Cathedral of Cadiz, Spain commissioned the great composer Joseph Haydn to write a musical setting for what are known as the “Seven Last Words (or Sayings)” of Jesus on the cross.

 For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Seven Last Words,” they are “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do;” “Today you will be with me in Paradise;” “Behold your son/Behold your mother;” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “I thirst;” “It is finished;” and finally, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Haydn’s opus consists of nine parts: an introduction, followed by a musical meditation on each of the seven sayings, and then completed by a section entitled “Il Terremoto,” which is “earthquake” in both Italian and Spanish. Il Terremoto, of course, refers to the earth quaking in Matthew 27 when Christ “yielded his spirit” and died.

At the original performance at Cadiz Cathedral, the Bishop spoke one of the sayings of Jesus, “delivered a discourse thereon,” and this was followed by Haydn’s musical meditation on the words.

Since Haydn never specified what, if anything, should be said between movements, subsequent performers have felt free to add, or not add, whatever was “OK to work with.” But, as the Vermeer Quartet learned, paying heed to what works theologically is the way to go. In 1988, they won a Grammy nomination for their performance, which featured excerpts of sermons by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Billy Graham between movements.

 Haydn, who typically began his manuscripts with the phrase “in nomine Domini,” “in the name of the Lord,” and ended them with “Laus Deo,” “praise be to God,” would, no doubt, approve.

 

 

How to Pray for Your Child Who Is Away From God

March 8, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

Parents and grandparents are watching their kids pull away from God. What can one do?

By Melanie Redd | 
      I had the chance to be involved in a couple of Christian parenting events this past week.
Much great information was shared, and lots of good discussions took place. It was a joy to be included in these events.

However, there was something I heard over and over that broke my heart.

Parents and grandparents are watching their kids pull away from God.

Children who once walked closely with Jesus are now out in the world frolicking and playing.

They’ve walked away from the Lord.

And, these parent’s (and grandparent’s) hearts are breaking.

Most of us have a family member who doesn’t walk closely with Jesus anymore—maybe a child, maybe a grandchild, maybe a parent, or maybe even a spouse.

We’ve watched these loved ones drift away, fall away, pull away and even run away from God.

Our hearts are broken over them, but we aren’t exactly sure what to do about it.

Can I suggest that you begin to super soak this person in prayer?

  • Invite your friends to pray.
  • Invite your family members to pray.
  • Ask your Bible study group to pray.
  • Pour out your prayers for this prodigal soul.

How should you pray?

I’d like to suggest seven ways you can powerfully pray for that one who is away.

First, pray that they will NOT ENJOY the pleasures of the world.

Verse – “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father.” (1 John 2:15, MSG)

Prayer – “Father, I pray that _________ will not love the world or the world’s ways. I pray that they will not love the world’s goods. Lord, don’t allow this world to squeeze out Your love in _________’s heart. Instead, open _________’s heart back wide to You.”

Second, pray that they will find the world to be EMPTY.

Verse – “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG)

Prayer – “Father, as _________ is out in this world seeking fun and pleasure, would You help them to come up empty? Make things so empty, so meaningless, so dry, so desolate, and so hollow to _________. Make them absolutely miserable in their sin and in their pursuit of this world.”

Third, pray that they will TASTE THE KINDNESS of the Lord.

Verse – “if in fact, you have [already] tasted the goodness and gracious kindness of the Lord.” (1 Peter 2:3, AMP)

Prayer – “Lord, would You allow _________ to really get a taste of Your goodness? Would You give _________ a sweet taste of your gracious kindness? Send into _________ ‘s world a great sense of how kind You really are.”

Fourth, pray that they will EXPERIENCE THE LOVE of God’s people.

Verse – “A friend should treat a troubled person kindly, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty.” (Job 6:14)

Prayer – “Father, would You send some loving Christian friends into _________ ‘s life? Would You allow _________ to experience the kindness of God’s people especially now as _________ has pulled away from You? Like never before in _________ ‘s life, he/she needs godly people around him/her. Place these people in _________ ‘s world and use them to impact him/her.”

Fifth, pray that they will know HOW MUCH God loves them.

Verse – “May you have power together with all the Lord’s holy people to understand Christ’s love. May you know how wide and long and high and deep it is.” (Ephesians 3:18, NIRV)

Prayer – “Oh, Lord, would You allow _________ to understand Your love? Would You help _________ to know how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Your love is for him/her? May _________ began to grasp how very much You love him/her?”

Sixth, pray that they will BE DRAWN BACK to their first love.

Verse – But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4-5, NLT)

Prayer – “Father, would You bring _________ back to his/her first love? I remember when he/she first came into a relationship with You. They were so excited. Would You encourage them to repent, turn back, and do the works they did at first? Would You bring _________ back into a close relationship with You?”

Seventh, pray that they will FALL DEEPLY in love with Jesus.

Verse – “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NLT)

Prayer – “Lord, would You draw _________ to Yourself? Would You encourage _________ to fall deeply in love with You? Inspire _________ to love You with all of their heart, their soul, and their strength. Put people around them who sincerely love You. Use these people to prompt _________ to love You more.”

Special word… it may take awhile for your loved ones to come back to the Lord.

Pray on!

Don’t lose heart.

Don’t give up!

In James 5:16, the Bible reminds us…

“The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”

 

The World Is Watching and So Is God

February 21, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

The world’s alarm clock is ringing but are we as Christians ready to wake up?

By Kathleen Cooke | 
 The world of high school students has changed since I attended, and it has even changed since my two daughters who graduated in the early 2000′s attended. I knew high school students well then, as my husband and I were Booster Parent Presidents and often chaperones for almost 150 students for our daughter’s high school choir program. However, students today are much different because of the latest cultural disruption — the smartphone. This age is one of instant and unrelenting technology that beams terrorism, radical political division, financial and environmental destabilization at us 24/7 in the palm of our hand. We can’t escape seeing and knowing. Young minds can’t escape bullying or the threat of becoming ostracized as texting and social media overpower their ability to be individuals. So most teens isolate their own thoughts and in a world (one that is escalating in violence) they dare not express themselves until they can’t. Then they implode committing suicide or explode using gunfire and taking many with them. What’s truly scary is that they’ve been able to practice using video games.
The world as we know it has not just changed for high school students, it’s changed for all of us. In her book, researcher of kids born after 1995, Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. and author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, said, “Cultural change also has many causes, not just one — it’s not just parents, but technology, media, business, and education working together to create an entire culture that is radically different from the one our parents and grandparents experienced. Cultures change, and generations change with them, that’s the important point. It’s not a contest to see which generation is worse (or better), the culture has changed, and we’re all in this together.”

The world is watching. Christians are being called to be “seed planters” of hope. To do that we must be willing to not separate ourselves from the culture but to stand in the midst of the chaos and demonstrate a life of Godly choices and actions.

The world of Chloe Kim must have been explosive as she left the gate to roar down the half-pipe on an Olympic stage with millions of people watching. Her focus and endless hours of training brought her to that pivotal moment. Nothing in our efforts is ever certain until it’s proven and seen by the entire world. In my devotional, Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture, I wrote about becoming a “Hope Rebel.” Paul had this attitude in Romans 12:12: ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’ He wanted us to know how to grow our hope and see the future, and that the one and only Hope was coming – Jesus.

The question is, are we as Christians willing to show and prove to the world with our daily choices and actions the power and hope of Christ Jesus?

 

Losing Our Young People: How Can We Attract the Next Generation and Keep Them

February 21, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

Our youth are looking for a church that isn’t contained in four walls.

By Sarah Parham | 
      We have all read the reports, the gloomy news that young people are leaving the church in masses. A Fuller Youth Institute study shows that roughly 50 percent of young people who grow up in the church leave the church behind, along with the piles of caps and gowns and high school sports trophies. No one needs a news feed to tell us this. It’s visible in the pews we sit in. It can cause us to lose hope.
But after more than a decade in college ministry, I can say with confidence that many Christian young people I know who are exiting the church are actually in pursuit of the kingdom. They are looking for a church that isn’t contained in four walls. They are looking for something more expansive, more missional. They are seeking a church to go to on Sunday that would be with them Monday through Saturday as well—touching the things they touch, loving the people they love. And this gives me hope!

But how might these young people stay connected to church? How can we, as church members, be an ally in helping them discern how God might use them in His mission in the world?

Don’t have the answers

Young people’s experience of the world is different than any other generation. They cannot stay uninformed of issues and tragedies in faraway places. The problems of other nations are being tweeted and broadcast in their pockets every day. Terrorism isn’t something that happens on foreign soil, but in New York City. Young people want to know what Jesus says about these things.

It can be rather intimidating. Their questions can be hard ones: “Is Jesus serious about taking care of the poor? He talked about that a lot. What is the church doing to help?” We might be tempted to squelch such questions because we don’t have the answers.

But that’s just it. We often don’t have the answers. And that’s not even the point.

In my experience working with college-age youth, I noticed that when they asked hard questions, so often they weren’t trying to figure me out or to pin me or the church to the wall. They were trying to figure themselves out. They were trying to understand where their place was in this big, beautiful and very messy world.

So how can we respond to their questions in a way that satisfies the questions beneath the questions?

Listen to the heart

The transition young people go through is so subtle, adults can miss it. Of course, young children ask why about everything. At some point, though, the why starts to be asked for a new reason.

The question goes from “Mommy, why is that man asking for money?” to, years later, “Why is he sleeping outside when I go home to a nice bed?” In other words, as a person grows into adulthood, the question shifts from “Why is the world this way?” to “Why am I in the world this way?” When we miss the twist in the question, we miss the opportunity to speak into the lives of young people about that most precious thing- a calling.

So at this junction, keep engaging. Listen to what Jesus is doing in this person. What breaks her heart? What inspires him to do more? What are his talents? What are the things that make her come alive—or the things that keep her up at night? What are the things that make him question?

It gets tricky when we hear hard questions over and over again. But be encouraged. So often, when God is moving in people to do something—like calling them to missions, for example—His call may be experienced as a holy unrest. In other words, there begins a stirring in the spirit that things aren’t the way they should be.

So when young people come to us with their questions, what if we return the questions back to them by asking, “What do you think God is saying in these questions? What if the answer lies in you?” By our questions, we might help them see that the things they notice that are not right could be the very things God is calling them towards. As we do this, we might actually help them discover their place in the mission of Jesus.

And, says the Fuller Youth Institute, we might also help them stay connected to the church. The Institute released a study on the phenomenon of young people leaving the church post high school. They found that there is one X-factor for keeping young people engaged in the church. When young people have a non-related adult who knows them well and is actively engaged in their lives, the chances of their keeping the faith and staying engaged in a church/campus group throughout college and beyond increases dramatically.

Set them free

If church people ask me what they can do to attract young people, the first thing I ask is what their missions program is like. I often get quizzical stares. Some proceed to tell me about their church’s youth program, or how much money they give to missions. But that’s not the heart of my question.

The reason I ask about a church’s missions program is because young people don’t want to sit on the sidelines and observe. They want to get involved with something meaningful. They want to be involved in missions and outreach.

And their doing this might actually mean that they will leave our churches to go elsewhere, even to some other part of the world.

So instead of losing our young people, let’s launch them. Let’s listen to their questions. Let’s help them discern how God desires to use them in the world. Let’s resource them, and then let’s set them free to join Jesus in His mission.

This, after all, is the ultimate goal of a missional church.

 

There Is a Pharisee in All of Us

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

How many of your sins has the Lord washed away over the years?

By Dan Delzell | 
One group of folks in the New Testament who had an extremely high opinion of themselves were the Pharisees. These religious leaders were good at seeing the sin in others, but somehow oblivious to their own sins. And so one day when a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to have dinner at his house, it provided a teachable moment of such significance that it ended up being recorded in the Bible.

You see, this event in the earthly ministry of Jesus actually helps to diagnose “the Pharisee in all of us.”

“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:37,38)

It is obvious from the text that Jesus welcomed this woman’s adoration and love. In fact, the Lord went on to commend her for both her manner and her motives. Simon, on the other hand, took issue with the interaction between this woman and Jesus.

“When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39)

What a stunning display of arrogance and audacity! And yet the unpleasant truth of the matter is that there is at least “a little Pharisee” in all of us.

“Prove it,” you say. OK. If you are open to a little self-examination, then feel free to administer this test by asking yourself these 5 questions:

1) Is there any category of people who are “bigger sinners” than me?

2) Does the story of Simon the Pharisee have relevance for others, but not so much for myself?

3) When Scripture identifies examples of sin, do I tend to think about the sins of others rather than my own sin?

4) Is there anyone I am mad at right now who needs to change more than I do?

5) Would I be shocked to see Jesus accept certain sinners if they came to Him in repentance and faith?

If you answered “Yes” to one of these questions, then you have identified “a little Pharisee” in you. And if you answered “Yes” to more than one question, then the Pharisee in you is probably a lot more active than you realize.

So is there hope for us, even in the midst of pharisaical tendencies? Of course. Just look at the woman who came to Jesus that day. The Lord declared that “her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

What about you? How many of your sins has the Lord washed away over the years? Do you love Jesus much, or little? Perhaps you have never experienced love for Jesus after first having your sins forgiven through faith in the Messiah. Spiritual conversion involves turning away from sin and turning toward Christ in sincerity and truth.

The apostle Paul described repentance and “godly sorrow” this way: “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” (2 Cor. 7:11)

Godly sorrow is what the woman was experiencing as she wept at the feet of Jesus. Meanwhile, Simon had no such sorrow for his pompous attitude and his judgmental spirit. Rather than weeping over his own sins, he smugly looked down on this woman and even questioned the legitimacy of the Savior’s ministry. It’s a perfect example of what pride does to the human heart. It makes Pharisees out of all of us.

Whenever you or I, like Simon the Pharisee, are self-righteous, we tend to see the sin in others but not in ourself. On the other hand, when we are like the woman in the story, we bring our sin to Jesus in a spirit of repentance, humility, and gratitude. And if that describes your heart today, you are probably spending little if any time focusing on the sins of others. After all, you have more than enough on your plate confronting and confessing your own sins.

Jesus said to the woman that day, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48) And then the Lord told her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

If we will learn from this woman’s humble heart, we too can know that our sins are forgiven and that the Lord has saved us through faith. But once forgiven, we must continue to be on guard against our pharisaical tendencies. These self-righteous attitudes can come out at a moment’s notice and when we least expect it.

Good thing for us that Jesus is a friend of sinners.

Where Is the Power for the Church Today?

February 12, 2018 by  
Filed under In The News

The Gospel doesn’t need us.

By Darin Smith | 
After a month of tumultuous political discussion on my social media feed, I had to ask the question:

Where is the power for the church today?

Clearly, if this month proves anything, it proves that it does not find its power in politics. We must discard the budding belief that power politics are what it is all about. I’ve been reminded lately that politics and political parties aren’t where Christ-followers look for hope. Instead, I am thankful that we have an all-sovereign, all-powerful King to find hope in times such as these.

Romans 1:16says that “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

Practically, in today’s modern church landscape, what does this mean for us if politics aren’t the answer? Here are nine brief reminders for us:

1. We need to stop trying to make the Gospel relevant—it’s always relevant.

To center on and proclaim the Gospel is to be as relevant and powerful as the apostolic early church (Rom. 1:4).

The Gospel doesn’t need you. The Gospel doesn’t need bright lights or a fog machine. The Gospel doesn’t need the government or politics.

The Gospel doesn’t need us. It saves us, captures us, equips us, compels us, and trains us. It wants us.

It doesn’t need my help or yours—we need not worry. The Gospel will be just fine. The Gospel ultimately wins.

2. When we lose the magnificence of the Gospel, we substitute icon, formality, and allegory.

The power of the Gospel is complete. Nothing “poses a threat” to the Gospel. The Gospel is God’s power loose in the world. It will not be prevailed against. Ever. R.C. Sproul said, “You can’t improve upon the Gospel because God put His power there.”

3. An excess of P.R. & church-growth schemes won’t save Christianity from being irrelevant.

Can you show me in the Bible that we need more ingenuity and creativity? Only the Gospel has such power. We can have the best music, the best performers, the best communicators, the best programs, but without the Gospel properly shared and lived, there’s no power of God.

Christ said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Thus, we must trust the Gospel means he’s ordained to build his church.

4. Don’t let techniques, transitions, and technology replace the Gospel.

When it comes to excellence in the worship service, there’s a difference between adorning the Gospel and trying to help it. A church’s increasing attempts to excite me in the worship service become increasingly boring.

Pastor, if you’re dreading corporate worship Sunday, it may be due to the entertainment standard you’ve set for yourself. It’s called “corporate worship” and not “individualistic entertainment” for a reason.

Idol makers rioted against the church because business tanked (Acts 19). This wasn’t accomplished by protesting, but by the spread of the local church and Christians with the Gospel.

According to 1 Cor. 2:2, our vision is the Gospel. Our strategy is the Gospel. Our method is the Gospel.

5. Our Christian subculture’s obsession with spiritual fads and religious hoaxes distract from the only power stewarded to us: the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:7).

To infer from Jesus’ get-together with big crowds that churches must focus on consumer-driven tactics is to have selective-hearing in the Gospels. The pillars of Paul’s mission strategy were verbal witness and evangelism, personal and corporate discipleship, and church planting (Acts 14:21-23). What is your strategy?

1 Thessalonians 1:5 reminds us: “Our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” What was God’s strategy for making the church bold? According to Paul, it was to imprison her leaders (Phil. 1:14).

The Gospel changed me, rescuing me from shame, sin, hell, depression and hopelessness. No advertising stunt can do that. I’ve found that in all my pastoral care for aching people in the local church, nothing cheers, emboldens, & transforms like the Gospel.

Christian, programs will never make a church evangelistic. Only the biblical Gospel will mutate an ice-cold church into an evangelistic church.

What great news! The power of God isn’t in us but in his Gospel. Our job is to preach, proclaim, and propagate it. The Holy Spirit will take it from there.

7. Let’s stop supposing the Gospel’s power ceases at one’s conversion.

The Gospel is God’s divine power for justification through glorification. It’s the power of God for a conversion experience and for total life transformation. The Gospel clarifies the eternal worth that we need to know. The Gospel doesn’t change, but neither does our need for it.

8. Fetching “the Gospel” out twice a year for special occasions reveals something about a church.

Even the most caring, loving, and kind church will lose people who love their sin if it preaches the Gospel and true repentance.

When the Gospel is truly preached, people are brought to the church without entertainment, events, or promises beyond those given by the Gospel. The Gospel isn’t a platform, trick, stage, or merchandise to me. It is sustenance, liquid, sunlight, and protection for every church conversation, gathering, prayer, program—and everything in between.

9. Pastor, preach as if you yourself are the greatest sinner in the congregation in the greatest need of the Gospel. It’s probably true anyhow.

Our daily evangelistic endeavor is to proclaim the Gospel to our spouse, our children, our friends, our church, our neighbors, our world, and ourselves. And we repeat this process.

Luther’s counsel to pastors in modern terms was simple: “First we need to get the Gospel into their heads and then just keep pounding it down into their hearts.” If those who believe the gospel you preach aren’t being altered by that same Gospel, you might need to reconsider what you’re preaching.

Christian, let’s not lose hope, lose heart, or lose our nerve. Let’s boldly pray that through the simple-yet-fathomlessly-eternal message of the Gospel, God will continue to use our churches to reach those without Jesus as Savior (2 Tim. 2:24-26)—and that without the power of politics.

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