By now all the wrapping paper is put back in storage. The tree and decorations are safely put in bins until next year. Whew, it was great, but now on to 2019. But wait. What if you forgot to give a gift? Maybe some of us are forgetting a very important gift. This gift would benefit the recipient in immeasurable ways, while also liberating the giver from increasing bondage, providing vivid testimony to the gospel, and showcasing Christ-like love to the unsaved world. What gift could do all this? It’s the gift of forgiveness.
In his book Unpacking Forgiveness, Chris Brauns helps us understand that forgiveness is not only right (in that it glorifies God by obeying His will), but it is also best. God, as the standard of holiness and goodness, will only require of His people those things which are best for them. Our joy is completely full only when we live in submission to God’s design for our lives. And part of God’s good design for us is forgiveness to those who’ve sinned against us. Forgiveness is not a bitter pill to swallow; it is the doorway to maximum joy and peace.
Our ability to forgive others is a result of God’s forgiveness of us, and our desire to forgive others is based entirely on His forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Brauns highlights three ways in which our forgiveness must mirror God’s forgiveness of all those who’ve been redeemed:
1. Forgiveness is gracious (Eph. 2:8,9; 2:4; I John 4:10).God’s forgiveness toward us is a gift motivated by His love for us (Eph. 2:4). But though this gift is graciously offered to all, this gift wasn’t free: God paid for it with the blood of His Son’s death (I John 4:10). In the same way, our forgiveness of others must be freely offered even though it is costly. There is nothing that we have done or ever could do to receive God’s forgiveness; He graciously offers it because He is gracious. Our offer of forgiveness toward others must not be dependent upon their efforts, their remorse, or anything else we want them to do, feel, or say. And it will be costly. We will need to die to ourselves, our desire for revenge, and our pride.
2. Forgiveness is conditional.God’s forgiveness is graciously offered to all, but it’s only given to those who repent and believe (Acts 20:21). God’s forgiveness is dependent; it is conditional. Like any present, God’s gift of forgiveness in Christ must be accepted, or “opened.” As we graciously offer forgiveness to those who have legitimately wronged us, we pray and plead that they will accept it by humble repentance, just as God pleads with all to accept His forgiveness by repentance. Forgiveness is conditional in that both parties involved must be committed to the new life together. Forgiveness is not possible where humility is not present.
3. Forgiveness is a commitment. When God’s gracious offer of forgiveness (that is motivated by His love and costs the death of His Son) is accepted through repentance and faith, God justifies that person. He commits that He will no longer hold that person’s sin against them. There is a legal transaction that frees that person from the condemnation and punishment that was deserved. When we forgive another individual, we make a similar commitment. We enter into an agreement that, though wrong was done, we will no longer hold that sin against that person. Our forgiveness has freed them from the debt that they had accrued.
And this commitment is not temporary or insignificant. True forgiveness means that we are committing to never bring up the offense again – not to that person, not to another person, not to God, and not to ourselves. This is the commitment that God makes to us in Christ. He commits to remove our sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). What tremendous hope is found in this truth! “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…” (Psalm 130:3,4a)
Of course, forgiveness does not mean that all consequences of wrongdoing are immediately eliminated. Because sin affects others, consequences of sin must sometimes be carried out. And it is in this very process where forgiveness can be most sweetly displayed: Those who are truly repentant and have been forgiven are most ready to accept the consequences of their sin.
Forgiveness frees us from the captivity of revenge. This world tells us that revenge is our right, and that we ought to get even with those who’ve wronged us. But this is in direct contrast to God’s Word. See, in God’s economy, those who forgive others are carrying out the very essence of the gospel. Those who have been forgiven are to be the ones who forgive, and they are to forgive in the very same way they’ve been forgiven. As a result, joy and peace will flood into our lives.
So, what is forgiveness? As author Chris Brauns has said, it is “a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.” This Christmas, consider giving that gift to some family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. You just might be the greatest benefactor of the gift you give another.
It is here. 2019 is a fresh start. It provides a clean slate to write your story. Here are some biblical ways of doing so to consider as you begin. Of highest importance is knowing for sure you have a vital real relationship with Jesus Christ through the simple plan of the Gospel. If you are unsure of your relationship with God, we would invite you to contact us to talk in person. In the meantime, click here to help understand more about your relationship with God.
Here are 7 practical ways to begin 2019 in a biblical way.
1. Begin With an Over-all Renewed Commitment to the Priority of God in Your Life
Some things to think about as you consider the place of priority God has held in your life and how you might improve.
- What do I spend my time doing each week? Remember, time is life and life is time. How you spend your time is how you are spending your life. Sure there is time to relax, watch the game
- What do I look forward to doing most in a week? Does your answer have much to do with God or your service to him?
- Create and pray for the opportunities to serve in ways you enjoy. The way you serve him will be according to the spiritual gifts and opportunities he has given you.
2. Begin with a Renewed Commitment to the Priority of Prayer
It is interesting how large a portion of Sacred Text of the Bible is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob-there a Daniel who prayed three times a day-and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? – Charles Spurgeon - 19th Century Preacher.
“God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly. He does not bestow his gifts on the casual or hasty comer and goer. To be MUCH alone with God is the secret of knowing Him and of having influence with Him.” E.M. Bounds
“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results. The power of God is lacking in our lives and in our work. We have not because we ask not. It was a master stroke of the Devil when he got the church and the ministry so generally to lay aside the mighty weapon of prayer/ The Devil is not afraid of machinery, he is only afraid of God, and machinery without prayer is machinery without God. When due to lack of teaching or spiritual insight, we trust in our own diligence and effort to influence the world and the flesh, and work more than pray, the presence and power of God are not seen in our work as we wish.” R. A. Torrey
3. Begin with A Renewed Commitment to the Word of God, The Bible.
· Read the Bible – Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or a week or a month….
· Listen to the Bible preached – take notes, MP3, online sermons…. www.oneplace.com or even on our website. See sermon are in the menu above.
· Memorize the Bible
· Consider it in daily actions – remember that as a Christian it is “written on your heart.” What does that mean to you?
4. Begin Without the Nagging Paralyzing Effect of Fear, Dread and Worry
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isa 41:10)
Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ… Peter 1:13
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2Co 10:5)
Great Faith is not an irrational leap. It is a reasonable trust in the revealed truth about God. It is a process of thinking. John MacArthur
Faith is primarily thinking. The trouble with a man of “little faith” is that he doesn’t think. He allows circumstances to beat him up. Faith is not purely mystical. Christian faith is essentially thinking (by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) on the truths of God’s Word. “Look at the bird, the grass, the lilies, –consider them…think about it and draw your deductions based on logic. Faith is a man determined to think on truth when circumstances tell him not to. Martin Lloyd-Jones
The essence of “little faith” is that a man’s thoughts are controlled by circumstance and not by the man girding up the loins of his mind and bringing them captive to the truth. The man of “little faith” is the man who is not allowing the Spirit to fill him with the truth of the Word of God, but is being filled with his own thoughts of fear, worry and suspicion based on circumstances. He then does not think, but goes round and round in circles. Worry is not “thinking too much” it is not thinking enough about the Biblical truth that you know. It is not letting the Word of Christ “dwell in you richly” and being “filled with the Word of God by the Holy Spirit” Faith is not optimism, wishful thinking, or dreaming. It is a reasoned response to the revealed truth of the Bible with or without emotion. Lloyd-Jones
5. Begin Without Conviction from Sins of the Past Which You Have Confessed and Forsaken.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Pro 28:13)
If you haven’t confessed and forsaken your sin. Do so today. Would you rather have a year of failure or a year of mercy?
6. Begin with A Renewed Commitment to Spiritual Disciplines in the Pursuit of Godliness.
God makes us Godly!!! We “put ourselves in the way.” Remember:
· Discipline brings Freedom to reach your goals
· Discipline is based on principle and commitment -not feeling
· Discipline without direction is drudgery. – Donald Whitney
Examples of areas to develop disciplined routines for godliness.
A great resource for ideas in the book, Spiritual Discipline by Donald Whitney.
· Bible intake
· Confession to God
7. Begin with The End in Mind.
What do you want the end of 2019 to be like? What do you want to have accomplished, how to you want to be better? Different? This means you’ll need to set and accomplish goals. Here are some ideas on how to do so.
Quick steps to getting where you want to go…
· Review your roles (What roles do you play? Mom, Dad, Employee, Christian, Husband, Wife…?
· Realistic reflection in each area of how you can and should improve.
· Righteous reach forward (God ordained Goals). Set goals for each role.
· Reinvented routine. Determine to change your life’s routines in order to reach your goals.
· Revitalized rigor. Get excited and motivated by envisioning how your life and the lives of those around you will improve as you reach your goals.
If you do not have a church you feel at home in or that teaches the Bible in a truthful practical way, we invite you to visit us some Sunday.
Here is more you may find helpful on our site.
The most popular Christmas special of all time next to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It has been shown every year and often twice a year since 1965. It is the only Christmas special to clearly present the true reason for Christmas and point us to God.
Here are 5 facts about the show you probably didn’t know AND
5 Truths About God that Linus’ quote from the Bible teaches us about God.
1. The show was developed in less than 7 weeks on an extremely small budget.
2. The show almost never aired. CBS executives originally didn’t like it for reasons ranging from not having a laugh track to the Biblical passage recited by Linus.
3. The first special was commissioned by the Coca Cola Company as an exclusive advertising opportunity.
4. The final program was finished just 10 days before the premiere.
5. The negative view of aluminum trees presented in the show ruined the aluminum Christmas tree market. They were no longer manufactured after 1967.
As mentioned above, the Bible quotation has caused some controversy over the years. However, Charles Shultz, the creator, said that it had to be included since it was the true meaning of Christmas. The inclusion of the passage from Luke chapter 2 reminds us that the perfect answer to the question “Who is God?” is found in the Christmas story.
Here are 5 key truths about God’s revelation of himself through Jesus’ birth and what practical significance that has for our lives.
1. God wants to be known.
The entire Bible is filled with hundreds of accounts and stories of God revealing himself to people and communicating with them. Many people wrongly believe that God is distant and inactive in the world or in our lives. They believe that he is real, maybe even that he created the world and set it in motion – but that he has been “hands off” ever since (Deism). This is false. Scripture teaches us that God is actively involved both in world affairs and in our personal lives. He is both transcendent and immanent. That is, he is above and beyond all that we can comprehend and imagine, and yet he has chosen to be active among us and communicate with us and seek relationship with us. God wants to be known. He wants humanity to know him and has proved himself willing to go to extreme lengths in order for that to happen.
2. Through Jesus, God reveals his identity.
We know that God wants to be known because of the many ways that he revealed himself to his people throughout the Bible. God walked with Adam and Eve. He spoke to Noah. He called Abram to uproot his life and move to the place he had for him – and so on and so on throughout the Old Testament. He spoke through visions and dreams. He spoke to Judges and through prophets. He gave his written Law. He spoke in a still, small voice; and he spoke through thunder on Mt. Sinai. The Psalms declare that God can be known by the great things he has done in our lives and Romans even tells us that creation itself proclaims the identity of God to the world. And the list could go on for hours, but none of these, NONE of these – even if you added them all together, come even close to the fullness of God’s revealing his identity that exists in the person of Jesus Christ. God wants his identity to be known and Jesus’ is the ultimate proof of that.
3. Through Jesus, God reveals his character.
Throughout the Gospels, we see God’s character made vividly clear in the person of Jesus. The Old Testament gives us a taste of God’s character and heart – but Jesus is the perfect and complete picture of God’s character. Sometimes it can be difficult to read through books like Leviticus and Numbers that contain chapter upon chapter of laws. But even these laws, along with the entire rest of the Bible, give us a glimpse into the character and heart of God. But Jesus himself is the ultimate revealing of God’s character. In Jesus, we find the heart of God. We find him caring for people, loving people, rebuking the hypocritical religious people, healing the sick, setting the demon possessed free of spiritual oppression, letting children come to him, bringing people back from the dead, and much more. In each teaching of Jesus and in the life of Jesus; in every story and every parable; every healing and every exorcism; we see the character of God clearly made known. As we read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, we see the heart and character of God on display.
4. Through Jesus, God reveals his purpose.
There is perhaps no clearer description of Jesus own mission and purpose in this world than we find in Luke 4:16-21 – Jesus’ mission statement:
Though many of the people of Jesus’ day thought his purpose was to set them free from Roman oppression, Jesus came to set them free from something far more powerful and far more oppressive – sin, evil, and death – an oppressor that only God could conquer and overcome. Jesus came to set humanity free from enslavement to sin once and for all. He didn’t do this just to do it. He didn’t set us free for freedom’s sake – he set us free so that we might be in relationship with him and know him and love him. In short, Jesus’ purpose in coming was to do what was necessary to set us free from sin so that we could enter into a loving relationship with him. In Jesus, God made his purpose known, not only for the world at large, but also in our individual lives. His overarching purpose was to set each person AND all of humanity free from enslavement to sin and to provide a way for his people to be in healthy and holy relationship with him. Through Jesus’ teaching and his death and resurrection, we have the perfect revelation of God’s purpose.
5. Through Jesus, God reveals his love.
The love that Jesus exudes throughout the Gospels is the perfect display of love. Jesus himself said that the greatest and purest form of love is to lay down one’s own life for the sake of others (John 15:13). In Jesus life and especially in his death, God’s deep and unfathomable love was perfectly revealed as he laid down his life, not just for his friends, but for his enemies – those who hated him (Romans 5:8) – and for all of humanity. Even though we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that we could be made right with him – so that we could know him and commune with him forever. He was willing to endure the punishment we deserved and die the death we should have died, simply so that we could know and love him. His birth, his life, and his death are the perfect revelation of God’s love to humanity.
Christmas is an important time for believers to reflect on these truths and their importance for their faith. Christmas reminds us in ways that few other things can, about the true identity, character, purpose, and love of God. Only in the person of Jesus can we see all these things in their full and complete form. During this Advent season, as we approach Christmas Day, there will be nothing more spiritually meaningful than to reflect on and grow in our understanding of who our God is and what he has done for us.
We hope you affirm these truths and celebrate Christmas not only as a special time of year but in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you have questions about these truths or about a relationship with Jesus Christ, please contact us here or visit us for a service.
We also have some wonderful Christmas events this month at our church. Follow the links below for more information and we hope you enjoy a very Merry Christmas.
Information on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” gathered from Wikipedia. Read more at this link.
It is Halloween and time for spooky stories and scary costumes. Whether it is your local haunted mansion event or a sinister parent trying to scare his kids silly, the best fearful pranks and scares use tricks or “smoke and mirrors” to cause us to be afraid. Since it is all in fun, we wouldn’t call it lying but the double-dealing less than straight forward actions certainly can spook people and cause real fear.
In real life, we can often live in fear and anxiety because of the same type of “smoke and mirrors.” Although these tricks really are lies and come from a sinister foe. Jesus said that the devil is a liar—and the father of lies. The devil cannot “make” us do anything, but he is a master deceiver who is very much experienced at making people believe anything that interferes with God’s plan. Jesus Christ, in contrast, is called “the way, the truth, and the life,” and his plan is for each person to experience life “more abundantly.”
Here are five lies that cause us to fear and the Biblical truth that sets people free from those fears if they will believe and trust God’s word.
The worst thing about the “I can’t” lie is that it stops us before we start. It fills us with fear as we face our biggest obstacles and challenges. “I can’t overcome alcohol.” “I shouldn’t expect to have a good marriage.” “Everything I touch turns out wrong.” “I’m a failure.” “I can’t follow God.” “I can’t start that business.”
In contrast, God is the creator of potential—and the completer of fulfillment. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Yes, that verse is specifically about Paul’s learning to handle both plenty and poverty without being distracted from his life’s purpose by either. Still, if God is the great creator, if he knows us, if we will one day be rewarded for what we have done, then we may assume he has a plan for us—something we can do. No, we can’t do everything, but we can do anything he wants us to do. That includes overcoming our sins and failures by his grace and with his help and accomplishing his will for our lives.
Whether it is something people consider to be great or small, God looks on the heart, and the very act of seeking to serve him is a success. And failure is an essential part of success. “ For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.”  The only way to never fail is to never attempt. So don’t be afraid to attempt that which God is leading you to do through prayerful and Biblical wisdom. Don’t fear and believe the lie of “I can’t.”
“God won’t help me.” “God won’t forgive me again.” “God won’t hear me.” God won’t love me.” These are real cries of the hurting heart. And God is ready for that: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”  God is not frustrated at our weaknesses and failing. Ask Peter after his denial of Christ. Ask the woman who was so ashamed that she could not even look up, but washed the feet of Christ with her tears. But he is severe to those who stubbornly persist in rejecting his grace. It’s Okay to be weak, but we must guard our hearts against being willfully and stubbornly resistant of God’s grace. The key differences? Sincerity and repentance. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.” 
This is a lie from Satan, “the accuser,” much too close to the first recorded lie. His approach to Eve was that God did not have her best interest at heart. She could have more than God was offering. Although she had known only good, she could know both good and evil. And that experiential knowledge of evil brought pain and misery.
God cares. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” 
And people care. It is natural to retreat from people when we hurt, to hide, to isolate ourselves. It is natural, but it is counterproductive. The healing comes as we choose the supernatural, God’s plan. And God’s plan involves accepting the provisions God has made, including people. That is one function of the church: “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting [encouraging] one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” That may take letting some people inside your life, opening yourself up, sharing your hurts when you just want to hide. But God intends to use his people. Will everyone respond rightly? Maybe not. In fact, probably not. In any group of people, some will let you down, but in a good church, there will be someone with whom you can connect. One function of pastoral leadership is to help people make those connections. If you are in our area, we would like to help. Please feel free to contact us or come for a visit to a service soon. We are here to listen and we care.
I don’t matter
You matter to God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  You are worth God assuming human flesh, dying on a cross to take the punishment for your sins, and rising again.
You matter, not because of what you can do, not because of who you are, but because of whose you are, if you are a child of God. A loving parent cares for the child, even in the child’s failures. Your own parents are, or were, fallible. But your heavenly father is not.
Yet we know by observation and by scripture that God’s children—and all people—suffer. The “why” behind suffering is a topic of its own, and has been a lifelong passion of Phillip Yancey, who wrote the book Where Is God When It Hurts.” This is a good source for deeper consideration of this topic.
It’s too late
This is a powerful lie of the devil. The feeling of urgency which should prompt us to action becomes his tool to intensify despair and fear. The feeling of guilt which should prompt us to repentance, this the devil uses to make us hide from God because of fear instead.
But what does God say? The mercy of God is “new every morning.”  I love Psalm 103:8—“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy—because it begins and ends its description of God with his mercy.
And lost opportunity? True, yesterday cannot come again. But should we throw away today because of that? You might be surprised at how encouraging it is to do something rather than to stagnate in yesterday’s sorrow.
This has all been written for the perspective of a person who has a relationship with God. It’s never too late to start. The first step in truly dealing with fear based on the lies of Satan is to begin a relationship with God. For more about knowing for sure of the forgiveness of God, having a real relationship with him that can bring peace and relief from fear, Click here to learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
 John 8:44
 Philippians 4:13
 Proverbs 24:16
 Psalm 103:13-14
 Psalm 34:18
 Romans 8:32
 Hebrews 10:25
 John 3:16
 Lamentations 3:23
Often we enjoy Christmas more than Easter. There are many reasons, but in reality Easter is more important. True that we wouldn't have one without the other, but if Jesus had just been born, died for sin and never rose to life again, he would be just like any other man. His resurrection from the dead proved he was God in the flesh. It proved his blood was sinless and could atone for our sins. Yes, we still love Christmas, but Easter is vitally crucial to the story.
Here are 15 life-altering results of the resurrection (which we celebrate at Easter) from 1 Corinthians 15. We know that these results are forever valid because Jesus Christ conquered sin and death.
Because Christ rose:
1. We know that the sharing of the Gospel is not in vain, because it is true and truly effective for all who accept it.
2. We know that our reliance and confidence in Christ for salvation from hell is not in vain.
3. We know that we do not have to live a miserable life, even in the face of bleak circumstance and trials.
4. We know that the results of Adam’s sin, such as evil, sickness, hurt, and harm, are only temporal; and the end for those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ is always victorious.
5. We know we are legally justified before the Judge of the Heavens and Earth.
6. We know that the eternal Christ is the eternal substitute who took our punishment before God the Father. Since Jesus has conquered death, there is no chance in eternity that the fact of His substitutionary punishment for us can ever change. We know that we have eternal, secure, abundant life through Jesus Christ.
7. We know that we have complete forgiveness of our sin, covering for our shame and guilt. We do not have to expect God’s wrath or punishment for our sin.
8. We know this is the one true God and Savior of mankind, since He is the only God who can claim resurrection from the grave. Although He was most certainly killed by the brutality of Roman crucifixion, since he was God, He rose up from death and lives again. He was seen by over 500 people in various places - people who, for the rest of their lives, testified to seeing the risen Christ bearing the scars of crucifixion.
9. We know that those who die with faith in Christ are not dead but alive with Him in Heaven. Those who, while living, accept the Gospel will see them again and live with them for eternity.
10. We know there is hope for victory over our temptations, sinful struggles, and spiritual death.
11. We know there is a new body awaiting us in Heaven, a body without the results of sin. This is an immortal body, one with no pain, disease, or sickness. It is a body that never dies or deteriorates.
12. We know that death, that great enemy, is defeated. It is swallowed up in victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
13. We know that, although some Christians are tortured and killed for their faith, our future hope is sure. As an alternate translation of Martin Luther’s hymn states: “And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; The kingdom ours remaineth.”
14. We know that we can be steadfast and unmovable in our beliefs, conviction, and doctrine.
15. We know that we can be aggressive and encouraged with our service for the Lord, because our labor is not in vain.
As in the case of Isaiah, recorded in Isaiah 6, the death of a leader can certainly be used by God to cause those of us still living to stop, breathe deeply and consider our own lives.
Billy Graham has died. He lived 99 years on this earth. While none of us may fully agree on every point regarding his ministry, there is little disagreement with the fact that he was an international public figure that caused millions of people to consider their relationship with God. He was used by God to be a royal ambassador for God to this world.
As we read the news stories and see his biography played out in media in the coming days, may God use this to cause us to consider two main questions in our lives regarding the Gospel.
1. Have I Accepted the Gospel for Myself:
Are You Ready to Die When Your Time Comes?
First, do you have a real and vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Have you repented of your sin, come to God for forgiveness based on the death, burial and resurrection Jesus? Have you called on the Lord Jesus Christ and invited him to come into your life and change you for eternity? If you have been considering starting a relationship with God and want to learn more, we invite you to contact us here today. Just let us know you have questions about a relationship with God. If you aren’t ready for a conversation just yet, click here to watch some short videos that will help you understand the Gospel better. Stay in touch if we can help.
For those who have a real and consistent relationship with God, may the death of Billy Graham be used to inspire us to consider our personal responsibility to share the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. The news articles talk about how Billy Graham used all the new technology of the 20th century to spread God’s word. What are we doing with the powerful free tools of social media? How can we personally spread the Gospel more effectively and be a royal ambassador for Christ?
2. As a Christian, How Are You Doing With Your Responsibility As an Ambassador for Jesus and His Gospel Message?
How often do you think of yourself as a representative of King Jesus? How much of your life is spent on the mission that he has given to you?
Throughout the Bible we see many powerful metaphors to help us understand what it means to be the a Christian, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. One of the best and most unsung metaphors is that the church (We are talking about the whole saved family of God here.) is the embassy of Christ and we, like Billy Graham are royal ambassadors.
Consider, an embassy is:
Where is this concept found in the Bible? In Philippians and Ephesians, Paul refers to himself as a “citizen” of heaven and an ambassador for Christ. And perhaps most clearly, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul reminds the church that they too are ambassadors and that God is “making his appeal” to the world through the church.
God has called Christians to be his ambassadors, his authorized representatives; and he has called local churches to be embassies; groups of ambassadors that all have the same objective. Churches ought to be little localized outposts of the kingdom of God. Churches are supposed to look like, act like, and function in the same way that the kingdom of God does. Christians, as ambassadors, are likewise called to live the same kind of lives that we will when our citizenship in the future kingdom becomes complete. So, what exactly does that mean for us to be an ambassador of Christ and his Gospel?
Who and what do we represent? Where is our “homeland”? How long are we on this mission? How are we supposed to go about it?
1. We represent a King and a kingdom
As Christians, we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ and his kingdom. We should look different, act different, speak different, and live different than the culture in which we live. We should be representing Christ’s character, his love, his commands, and his purposes to the world around us. We have been sent to the foreign land of this world in order to represent our King and our kingdom’s interests. The problem is that most of us look just like everyone else. We spend our money the same way, we dress the same way, we talk the same way. But that isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Just like you can tell when someone isn’t a native to where you live, the world should be able to look at Christians and say, “That person clearly isn’t from here. Where are they from?” Would people say that of you?
2. We have the King’s authority
Jesus sent his disciples out with his own power and authority in Luke 9. He has given the church the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16) and told us that the gates of hell will not prevail against us and that it is through us that the “manifold wisdom of God” becomes known (Ephesians 2). He has gifted us with his Spirit so that we might possess his power and authority. He has not sent us out on this mission empty handed, for he has given us his very own authority.
3. We have the King’s protection
We have been granted asylum as refugees. We fled from our former lives of slavery to sin and to the kingdom of God where we were granted access because of Jesus’ love and sacrifice on the cross. We have been given protection through our citizenship. Though we may be afflicted in every way, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, we will never be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, destroyed, or totally overcome. As citizens of heaven, no matter what happens in this life, we have been given the promise that God is with us and our citizenship is secure.
4. We are on temporary assignment
Like Billy Graham, we are resident representatives, but only for a while. This foreign land is not our home, for our true homeland is the city that God is preparing for us while we are away on the mission. We are always waiting and longing for the return of our King and our entry into the completed kingdom of God. Because this is true, we shouldn’t get too comfortable in this life because we won’t be here for long. If you were going on vacation, you would pack light. In the same way, we should “pack light” in this life and instead store up for ourselves treasure in heaven. This treasure is accumulated through obedience to Christ’s mission and message.
5. We are not to isolate from culture
While the people of Israel were in Babylonian captivity, they were not called to isolate from culture but to seek the good of their neighbors and captors. Though we are called to represent Christ’s kingdom and interests in this world, that does not mean that we are to totally isolate from culture. We cannot possibly be successful ambassadors for Christ if we are not involved in, familiar with, and connected to the culture around us. We should understand, contribute to, and strive to better the culture while we are here in this land. We have a different King, a different mission, a different drive in life – but in order to represent our King and his kingdom, we must be a visible part of our culture. We are living in the culture, but not of the culture. We should not allow the evil culture of the world to live in us as God’s ambassadors.
6. We have the King’s mission and message
In Matthew 28 and Mark 16 Jesus commissioned his disciples and believers everywhere of all time for a specific task – to go, baptize, teach, and declare the message of reconciliation to the world. Our mission is to declare the gospel message to the foreign land around us so that they too might become citizens of the kingdom. God has entrusted to us, as stewards, the treasure of the gospel that we are to share with the world. We are to be a city on a hill, a light in the darkness, drawing people toward Christ.
So, as you watch the news and consider Billy Graham’s life, perhaps you will ponder your own short time on this earth. Do you have a real relationship with God yourself? Where will you go when your death day comes? If you do have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, what does it mean to you to be an ambassador for Christ? How often do you embrace your role as an ambassador? Do you think you and your church do a good job of representing Christ and his kingdom to the world?
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Often during times of heart-rending events that involve mass casualties and national grief, our leaders will say that “our thoughts and prayers are with those who were touched by the tragedy.” Perhaps you are wondering how to pray. You can pray for the people touched by this terrible school shooting in Florida based on the following ideas presented in Psalms 25 and Lamentations 3
If you are wondering how God could let something like this happen, click the link at the bottom to see our article that was posted after the church shooting in Texas.
In the meantime, when thinking of the families and friends of those dear people in Florida, pray:
Take some time to read through Psalms 25 and Lamentations 3 and let these passages help guide you as you seek to pray for those who are suffering and hurting in unimaginable ways. Pray for America as a nation as well. Tragedies such as this raise many deep and difficult questions about God, his love, his control and his goodness. While no human can answer all these questions, we believe the Bible has answers for the problems of evil and suffering. We would be glad to talk further with you or have you join us for a service soon. We all wrestle with these issues and we would be happy to point you to the truths we have learned in years of studying God’s word the Bible. In the meantime, take some time today to pray for these hurting people and our nation.
Biblical love is often thought of in isolation from romantic love. Biblical love may seem stoic or shallow compared to the romantic love of husband and wife. Is this an accurate picture of the Biblical love God intends for husband and wife? Dictonary.com defines romantic as passionate, fervent and ardent – fierce and vehement.
Certainly there are various types of love described in the Bible with the Greek word Agapedescribing God’s love and the ultimate of what we should strive for in our relationships with others. However, Biblical love seems to go even further especially when describing the type of love husbands and wives should have for one another by the will of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Here are four reasons biblical love is truly romantic love.
1. Biblical love between husband and wife is romantic because it encompasses all three words the ancient Greeks commonly used for love and then adds a fourth not so common word to describe the ultimate love of God. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. They commonly used these three words to depict several elements of what we include in our one word love. The Bible mentions or alludes to all three of those elements in talking about true Biblical love between husband and wife, then adds the foundation of Biblical love “agape” which is the most powerful of the four words for love and describes God’s own love for us.
From “phileo” to “eros” to “storage” these words depict a love that includes friendship and the mutual enjoyment of sharing life together then add a physical intimate sexual component along with an intense family bond. Far from demeaning women to simply an object of physical desire or leaving love as a one dimensional friendship in the marriage bond, Biblical love crowns the love relationship between husband and wife with high respect and regard as well as deep sacrificial ramifications on many levels. Adding the fourth word for Biblical love, “agape,” elevates love to more than feelings, physical elements and family relationships to a decisive bond empowered by God’s Spirit that is as strong as death. It incorporates traits such as unending patience, unbelievable forgiveness, long suffering and even eternity itself. (See 1 Corinthians 13)
Note: the word “eros” is not actually used in Scripture to describe love probably because it was derived from the name of a Greek god. However intimate physical love is referred to many times in the Bible between husband and wife. (Song 1:13, 4:5-6, 7:7-9, 8:10; 1Co 7:25; Eph 5:31; and Heb 13:4).
2. Biblical love between husband and wife is romantic because it exposes common cultural substitutes for what may seem romantic and exciting as actually selfish and sinful. The Bible clearly defines the difference between true romantic love that does whatever is best for the cherished object and its sinful impostor, lust. So many of today’s popular music hits, movies and media portray romance as what the Bible actually describes as lust. The Bible warns of the long term devastation of lust thus spotlighting true love and guiding people to that instead. The Bible goes on to promise God's blessing on love that flows from His Spirit.
3. Biblical love between husband and wife is romantic because there are pages of sacred Scripture dedicated to its example. Read the PG rated book of Song of Solomon or the story of Ruth and Boaz. (Both by the way are also pictures of Christ's intense and sacrificial love for his church.)
4. Biblical love between husband and wife is romantic because the greatest love story of all time is that of Jesus, God's son, sacrificing all for the love of his people. In a captivating way the Bible presents Christ's love for his people as the love of a bridegroom for his bride. The Bible presents true love by showing Jesus Christ’s willingness to leave his throne, come to Earth, live without shelter and then be beaten and murdered to forgive and save his bride, the church. Isn’t this the stuff epic love stories of all time are patterned from?
More could be said about fervent fierce romantic Biblical love that includes forgiveness, mercy, and sacrifice. More could be written on how the Bible depicts God singing and rejoicing over his bride, the church, but for now during this season of Valentine’s, understand that the Bible is applicable to today’s culture. Romantic love is not the invention of man, but the gift and example of a loving gracious God. Look to the Bible for your examples of what true romantic love between husband and wife is really all about.
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We see often see in Scripture the saints of God in times of suffering. Adam and Eve suffered the murder of their son by his own brother. Job suffered the loss of almost all he had. The faithful Christians in Revelation suffered and even in Heaven seem to question why they were not being avenged for their suffering. Hebrews 11 has a whole list of suffering saints. We are faced with the question of why God’s children suffer if an all-powerful God loves and cares for them. Though that seeming dilemma is not the point of this article, a few quick notes may lead you to further help and study.
1. Sin. We live in a sin-cursed world. Romans 8:22 reminds us that all Creation groans because of sin. In addition, the consequences of our own personal sin often bring pain. The sins of others can bring heartache, too.
2. Strangers. We are strangers in this world. Hebrews 11:13 reminds us that this world is not our home. This is not our place of rest. We can’t expect to be too comfortable here. Heaven is our resting place.
3. Sons. We are sons of God. Therefore God, as a loving Father, brings suffering at times to discipline us in order that it may yield the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Hebrews 12).
4. Satan. Job 1 allows us to see that Satan and his minions are allowed by God to bring about hard times for God’s children in order to bring glory to God. Always remember though, that God’s glory and the good of his children are eternally bound together. Our good does not suffer to bring God glory.
5. Selfishness. Although a derivative of #1 above, it still should be mentioned, because the selfishness of those we love (as well as those we don’t even know) can cause great pain.
So, Here Are The 5 Ways We Can Learn to Give Thanks Even When Life Is Hard
1. Relinquish control to God’s sovereign plan, knowing that He is never out of control. Even with the problem of sin and evil, God overrules and works all things for our good as we become more like Christ.
2. Rest in God’s wisdom and love. God is all-wise. He knows the end from the beginning and is always acting in love toward us, His children. We often cannot see that when in suffering, yet we can understand it when we compare parenting to God’s love. As a parent allows a non-understanding, crying baby to undergo surgery, an immunization shot, or other pain for ultimate healing or good, so God does the same. As the parent would not love the child if he/she stopped the pain, so God would not fully love us if He did not allow what was best.
3. Run to His Word. God’s Word, the Bible, contains “all things that apply to life and godliness.” We open it to find the truths we need, and we depend upon His Spirit to lead us in applying it to our situation and to our hearts personally. Click here for a topical reference to various Bible verses or download our Bible Promises e-book below.
4. Reach out to others. In the midst of our pain, it is helpful to serve others. Serving helps us get our focus off of our suffering. It is an encouragement to know that we have helped others and been used by God to bring joy to them. Even during Jesus’ suffering on the cross, He was mindful of His mother’s needs.
5. Share your burden. Don’t substitute fellowship with others for time with God; but if at all possible, find a close Godly friend who will faithfully listen and point you back to God’s truth when your faith begins to waiver. Confide in your church family to find healing and strength. God works through the body of Christ, the church. If you don't have a church home, we would love to fellowship with you and strive to encourage you during these hard times.
Download a Free PDF of Bible Promises Divided into Categories for Easy Reference.
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Why a Christian Worldview Works Even in the Face of Unspeakable Evil
On Sunday November 5, at approximately 11:30 am a man walked in to the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX and killed or wounded at least 46 people. Many questions arise in the aftermath of tragedy. In the early hours and days, the questions are often answerable. How many died? Who was the killer? What did the authorities do in response? What was the killer’s motive? However, these questions quickly give way to the deeper questions that seem to be unanswerable. We all wrestle with questions like these about tragedies.
We all have some sort of worldview if we realize it or not, and it matters!
A worldview is best described as the glasses through which we see and interpret all that is happening around us in the world. It attempts to tell an overarching story, to explain the universe in both grand and detailed ways. The story attempts to bring clarity and understanding to every part of existence.
We all seek to understand the world around us, especially in the midst of confusion, pain and tragic situations. From scientific questions to questions of good and evil, and why there is suffering we wonder why. We seek guidance for decisions and meaning to life’s trials. We seek true beauty in art and wonder at the hate we see between human beings. These answers and more can be found through the glasses of our worldview.
God has provided an undistorted worldview through his word, the Bible, by communicating basic truths that are fundamental to every aspect of our life. This worldview brings clarity, purpose, and guidance for all of life.
Although there are many many worldviews that people follow, there are only two basic worldviews, a true one and a false one. The true one has only one definition. The false one takes on many forms. Let’s look at these two worldviews.
Firstly, let’s look at a non-biblical and false worldview summary. Remember, there are many versions of this, but they all include the same fundamental points.
Secondly, let’s look at a Christian worldview. You can watch this short video summary of a Christian worldview and then we’ll give you some reasons why this view works and makes sense even in the face of tragedy to the very people who hold this worldview.
So how does this make sense in the face of tragedy even to those who believe this worldview? How does it bring hope to despair and meaning even to hardship?
1. In a Christian worldview, God is creator and therefore he is the authority over all his creation. He sets the rules for his creation. He sets both natural law i.e. gravity which cannot be broken, and he sets moral laws which can and have been broken. The reason we even know right and wrong and that murder is evil is because God created life, gave it value and gave us moral law. Non-Christian worldviews cannot adequately account for these facts.
The reason we know what happened in Texas was a tragedy is because precious life was taken and the Evolutionary answers of survival of the fittest doesn’t add up! In the depths of our soul, in our emotions and conscience, we know it was horrific evil because we know what good and evil are thanks to God
2. In a Christian worldview, God has not left his creation to suffer under evil indefinitely. At great cost to himself, he sent his only son, Jesus, who is God as well, to suffer and die in order to conquer evil and provide salvation from evil. Jesus entered into our suffering. He himself was tragically murdered. However, His death and resurrection from the grave prevents evil from ever conquering good completely. In a Christian worldview, God always overrules evil with good even though for the moment, as with Jesus’ death, evil may seem to win.
3. In a Christian worldview, there is hope because of salvation in Jesus Christ. He conquered death, rose again from the grave and now provides eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. Not only is evil like that in Texas overcome, but our own sinful heart can be forgiven and our relationship with God can be restored. We personally can have victory over evil and sin in our own life. We do not have to be captive to our own sinful condition.
4. In a Christian worldview, we have the hope of eternal life. For those who have accepted God’s gift of salvation which is free to us but came at great cost to him, it is not death to die. Yes, that is right, it is not death to die. When God speaks of death in the Bible, he speaks of eternal death which is separation from God in Hell for those who reject Jesus’ gift and do not believe in him. For those who do accept his gift of salvation such as those at the First Baptist Church, death is not eternal. It is a passage way to eternal life. The Bible says that for those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ to be absent from this earthly body is to be instantly present with the Lord in Heaven.
5. In a Christian worldview, evil such as we saw in this situation is punished. Perhaps the killer supposed in his worldview that his ticket to freedom from the carnage he had caused by his evil actions was to kill himself thus ending life and entering a state of non-existence. No jail, no remorse, no guilt, no dread, he felt as many who commit such atrocities do, that killing themselves was the end. However, in a Christian worldview, this man went to Hell. He will stand before God in the final judgement for his sin as we all will someday and then he will be condemned to eternal death in the Lake of Fire. There is no hope for him, no second chance. His fate is sealed. His worldview was horribly wrong in so many ways and at so many levels. Worldviews do have consequences.
What is your worldview? What are it’s consequences for your future? How do you process events such as these terrible tragedies? Do you believe that the universe happened from a “Big Bang?” Do you believe in the evolutionary process, the survival of the fittest, that life is random, futile, and meaningful only for the strong who survive? Do you believe that good and evil are simply cultural norms? Do you believe there are no moral absolutes based on a moral absolute being who is designer, creator and ultimate authority, GOD? May we ask you to consider the Christian worldview. Use the resources below to learn more and consider God.
For those who have a Christian worldview, do not be discouraged even in the face of hard questions. God is in control. He does overcome evil with good. We are part of his plan in doing so. Share God’s good news contained in the Christian worldview with others. Share God’s love by reaching out to others and loving them. Pray for God’s help and strength for those touched by this and other effects of man’s sin, and look up for the Lord can come at any time.
Do you have questions? Would you like to talk about your spiritual life and relationship with God? Contact us by clicking here or visit us for a service soon.
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Author & Editor
Articles are written or selected by our Pastor Keith Carnahan