Tag Archive | Sharing the gospel

Not of This World

Linking up today with Five Minute Friday. Today’s writing prompt: WORLD

I woke up this morning with the following verses from Romans 8 on my mind, probably partly because I was reviewing them yesterday on my Bible Memory app. When we stand for Christ in the midst of a world that is hostile to His message, we will experience suffering.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans‬ ‭8:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When Paul wrote these words, he knew from personal experience what it was to face opposition and suffering for simply sharing the message the Lord Jesus Christ had called him to share. Before coming to Christ, he had been one who persecuted followers of Christ, and now he was one of the persecuted. Sharing the good news of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus does two things. It changes lives for those who believe, and it stirs up opposition from those who reject the truth.

As the Christian message in our nation becomes less and less acceptable, we need to be prepared for the fact that standing for Christ will sometimes mean ridicule, slander, and emotional pain in our lives. For some in our nation, it is now meaning loss of their businesses and even being put in prison for standing for the truths Jesus taught. But we need to learn to see that suffering in light of eternity. As Peter said in 1 Peter 4:6, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

Today, I want to encourage you to stand strong in your faith, to be a witness for Christ regardless of what it costs you. You are not of this world. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, you are now in a different kingdom… one that makes no sense to unbelievers. Opposition to the truth has been a part of the Christian life since the early church, and we live in a time where it is again becoming a fact we need to be prepared to deal with.

Religious Lifestyle or Living Relationship?

1 Peter 3:15 instructs us as Christians to always be prepared to share the reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ – in other words, to be ready whenever the opportunity arises to share our personal testimony of how we came to know Christ. I especially like the New Living Translation wording of this verse.

“… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

During recent weeks, our iConnect Bible study class members have been taking turns sharing our personal testimonies of how we came to know Christ. The goal has been for each of us to prepare and share a brief, two to three minute testimony of our life before knowing Christ, how we came to know Him, and how receiving Christ as our Savior and Lord has changed how we live. Then, when God opens the door to  share this with someone who does not know Christ as their personal Savior we’ll be prepared to explain what God has done in our lives and what He is able and willing to do in their life.

This is my personal testimony.

I was born into a Christian family. My father and my mother had both accepted the Lord as their personal Savior at an old fashioned camp meeting revival before they were married, and by the time I came along over 20 years later, our family lived a Christian lifestyle.

Two of my earliest childhood memories are of my father sitting in his red leather rocker every morning before leaving for work reading his Bible, and of my mother kneeling beside her bed each night praying. And going to church was simply what we did – every time the doors were open. It was as much a part of my lifestyle as a child and teenager as going to school.

We attended a Methodist church that was at the end of the block where we lived, and I remember walking to the church early every Sunday morning. During the week, I also spent lots of time at the parsonage which was next door to the church, visiting with some of my best friends, our pastor’s daughter and another friend who lived next door.

My father was a deacon in our church, my older sister who still lived at home a children’s Sunday School teacher and choir member. And by the time I was in high school I was either working in the nursery or teaching the youngest class of children most Sundays.

When I went away to college in 1966, I continued to attend church. A large local Methodist church sent a bus to the campus to pick up students, and I seldom missed a Sunday.

When I graduated from college in 1970 and moved to the town north of Baltimore where I had a job teaching kindergarten, one of the first things I did after my roommate and I got unpacked and settled in an apartment was to start looking for a church. I found a nearby Methodist church and started attending. And this church is where my life changed.

At this church, my life changed when Christianity became more than a religious lifestyle. It became a relationship, a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It was in this church that I first understood that the only way to be a real part of God’s kingdom is by being born again. For the first time, I understood that my religious lifestyle wasn’t enough. I understood that my sin separates me from God, but that God had provided a way to bridge that gap.

Even though I had attended church all my life, even though I considered myself a Christian, for the first time in my life I recognized this wasn’t enough.

For the first time, I understood why Jesus had to die on the cross, and the steps I needed to take to benefit from His sacrifice.

  1. I now saw myself as a sinner who needed salvation.
  2. I understood that the just penalty for sin is death.
  3. I acknowledged that Jesus paid that penalty for me when He died on the cross.
  4. I recognized that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, one we accept by faith.
  5. I received that gift by faith, as I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. And I was born again – and since that day my life has never been the same.

My life as a new Christian began me down a new road, one that definitely hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve never regretted the decision I made so many years ago. Jesus has been with me, walking at my side, through every trial I’ve faced, and my relationship with Him has been my source of strength.

Do you have a similar story you can tell? If not, now is the time to take these same steps I took. Moving from religion to relationship has the power to transform your life.

If you’ve already received this free gift of salvation by faith, are you prepared to share the reason for the hope you have found in Christ Jesus? Have you taken the time to prayerfully prepare a brief testimony of the work of God in your life to bring you to salvation? Acts 1:8 says the Lord has called us to be His witnesses, to our Jerusalem (the city where we live), our Judea and Samaria (the area nearby), and to the ends of the earth. Are you prepared to be His witness whenever He opens the door for you to do so? If not, don’t wait another day to get ready.

 

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 3

Since the recent Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study on 1 John, one verse has come to mind repeatedly. 1 John 3:1 in The Voice translation says, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children.

This week’s Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge begins with a passage that tells us about one woman’s act of love that could rightly be described as an act of extravagant love.

Day 11: Matthew 26:6-13

The woman in this passage, identified by John in his gospel as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, was first described in Luke 10:39 as one “who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Her heart was filled with love for the Lord, and what takes place in today’s passage springs forth out of that love.

Jesus had explained to His close followers that He would be crucified, buried and raised from the dead on the third day. Mary had embraced this truth that the Lord Jesus was on His way to the cross, and her desire was to do one final act of expressing her love for the Lord, through anointing Him in anticipation of His burial. This was a costly act of worship, the account in John 12 tells us it this expensive perfume was worth a full year’s wages. But because of her love for Jesus, the cost didn’t matter.

The disciples, especially Judas, were critical of Mary’s act of adoration. Their response: “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Matthew 26:8-9) Jesus’ words are a sharp contrast to these.

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew‬ ‭26:10-13‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

Day 12: Romans 10:11-16

As believers in Christ, we are called to not just be disciples who are growing personally in our faith but also to share the message of salvation with others to start them down the same path. Are you making an effort to take the great message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to others who don’t know Him? If so, God’s Word says you have “beautiful feet.”

Day 13: Acts 3:1-10

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. The words following the actual miracle stood out to me this morning, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”

It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those entering the temple. According to several extra-biblical sources, this was as close to the temple as the lame or blind were allowed to go. (Scripture does not actually say this, but in Leviticus 21:16-23 we are told that the offspring of Aaron who were blind or lame were not allowed to serve as altar priests, offering sacrifices and food offerings to God.)

Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

If you’re interested in a more in-depth article on this Scripture, check out my full post at: https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/walking-and-leaping-and-praising-god/

Day 14: Isaiah 61:1-11

I love this passage that not only speaks of what Jesus came to do – to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, and to proclaim the favor of the Lord – but also of what He has done for us. All of this and so much more was accomplished at Jesus’ first coming. Because of what He did, we are now clothed with a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, with garments of salvation and righteousness. How can we not rejoice on what He has done for us! We are His bride, and when He returns we will be a part of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Day 15: 1 Peter 1:20-25

Isaiah spoke of a voice of one crying out in the wilderness with these words:

“A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah‬ ‭40:6-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Quoting these verses, Peter reminds us as believers in Christ Jesus that this world and the things in it are not to be our focus. Everything in this world will eventually fade away. Only God’s Word, His will, and His work will last forever. Are you putting your focus on the temporary or on the eternal?

Day 16: Psalm 135:1-7

As I read today’s passage which encourages us to praise the Lord, a different verse from Psalms came to mind. Psalm 33:1 (NASB) says, “Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright.” Praise is becoming to the upright, because it acknowledges that the Lord is good, that He is greater than all gods, that He and he alone is the true God. To sing praises to God’s name is to commend Him for who He is and to thank Him for all He has done. I’d say that makes praise a beautiful thing

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Day 17: Job 5:8-18

As I read the final passage for this week and prayed about how to tie all of these verses together, an old hymn I haven’t heard for many years came to mind. Take time to read the words and as another week comes to an end may they be your prayer.

There shall be showers of blessing:

This is the promise of love;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:

Showers of blessing,

Showers of blessing we need:

Mercy-drops round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead.

There shall be showers of blessing,

Precious reviving again;

Over the hills and the valleys,

Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing;

Send them upon us, O Lord;

Grant to us now a refreshing,

Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:

Oh, that today they might fall,

Now as to God we’re confessing,

Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,

If we but trust and obey;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

If we let God have His way.

Jesus, Head of the Church

When Hurricane Harvey stalled out over Houston, Texas, and our part of the city was deluged with over forty inches of rain, our church campus received major flooding, leaving several of our buildings unusable. But the Church was not damaged. How is that possible? Simply because the Church is not a building or group of buildings.

While most churches meet in physical structures, the Church itself is made up of people who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who meet together in a locality to worship their Lord, study His Word, be trained to do the work God has called His people to do and have fellowship with one another. And this week, we will be examining several names of Jesus that relate to the church, beginning with His headship over the church.

The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ Jesus is its head. The word translated church in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly or called-out ones.”

The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church in a certain locality.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that He Himself would build His church, and the “gates of hell” would not prevail against it. Acts 2:47 explains that Jesus was the One who was building His church, and that it was being made up of “those who were being saved.”

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus is its governing, ruling authority. According to Matthew 28:18, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given by God the Father to Jesus, and one area where His authority is exercised is in the church.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus nourishes and cherishes His body.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus desires to see His nature and character expressed through His body. Ephesians 5:25-27, using His love for the church as an example of how husbands are to love their wives, explains His plan for this to happen. Christ gave Himself up for the church, He is the Sanctifier of the church, cleansing her by washing her with the word, and His end goal for the church is that He might present her to Himself without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:25-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus continues His work and ministry on earth through His body. What Jesus did while He was on earth, His church is now called and empowered to do.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke‬ ‭4:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While each church will have its own local leaders, the ultimate leader of any church is to be the Lord Jesus. The church belongs to Him. He is the head and the only One equipped to adequately lead the church. He is to be given the preeminence, the highest place in rank and influence. And that’s a good thing, because Who better knows how to lead the church than the One Who laid down His own life for her members.

As 2017 comes to an end, our church campus still hasn’t fully recovered from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. But our Church is thriving, under the Headship of Jesus Christ and the skilled leadership of its local leaders. And that is something which fills my heart with gratitude.