Tuesday, January 26, 2016

We Need to be Taught!

As we go through our series “Where Are You?”  we are learning that whatever stage we are in now, we are in a process of growth.

It’s impossible to imagine the possibility of becoming a successful doctor or lawyer without education. I wish Christians had the same understanding concerning spiritual growth. Becoming a Christian begins with surrender and a decision to believe that Jesus is God and that He did indeed die for our sins. He took the punishment we deserved, paid the debt we owed as sinners, and He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven to be seated at God’s right hand. He is alive today and has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of those who receive Him by faith.

That is the beginning of our faith and our Christian experience, but it is far from the end. We need to be educated concerning what belongs to us by virtue of our relationship with Jesus, how to live the new life He gives us, and how to align our thinking with the truth of His Word, We need to learn to think and then behave according to the new nature we have, rather than the old nature that officially went to the cross with Jesus. It’s so important to realize at the beginning of our journey that success will require time and effort — probably more than we would like! To think that this type of radical change will take place quickly and with no effort is pure foolishness. WE have to be disciplined about it. God gives us great freedom; He allows us to choose what we want to think, say, and do. If we will be wise enough to put good limits on our freedom, we will see great results.

The mind must be renewed. We must learn to think as God thinks if we want to have what He wants us to have. I frequently hear people say, “I am just not a disciplined person.” or “I just don’t have any self control” and they name a certain area like eating, exercising, or keeping things organized. If you are one of these people who believe you are not disciplined, then why not change your thinking. The Apostle Paul stated that God hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind, and a spirit of discipline and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7) It is time to start renewing your mind by meditating on this thought: “I am disciplined and self-controlled.” You will never rise above what you believe, and as long as you believe you are not a disciplined person, then you wont be one. Say to yourself, “I have already decided that I will never give up on learning how to think properly. I am not where I want to be, but I am making progress!”

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Transcendent Life!

What, you may ask, is the transcendent life? Transcendency means you rise above the situation! Matthew 5:38, 39 says “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also!” Jesus tells us here that you don’t just bite your teeth and let someone strike you. You don’t just reluctantly give your shirt to him who asks for it. You do not just warily walk a mile because you are compelled to do so. If you do any of these, it is useless, for then you have not transcended.

Who, then, can transcend? How then do you transcend? Here is the answer: It is he to whom the Lord has given a life so rich that when disgraced he can turn the left cheek. This is the person that has a life so big that he can walk the second mile when only compelled to walk one mile.  In other words, the Christian reaction is neither forced nor meager! I heard someone say the other day, “I nearly lost my temper!” When he said it, he looked as if he was victorious. But this is not the Christian reaction: genuine Christian reaction must be abundant, with more to spare! You must be able to stand more. This is called the second mile. If you bear someone treating you badly, this is the right cheek. But if you go beyond and treat that person well in return, you are more than a conqueror before God - this is the left cheek. The left cheek means fullness; it means having more to spare. Christian victory is always running over; it is never “barely enough”.  A Christian has more than enough to spare. He always transcends what he himself can do. So his victory is not forced. He doesn’t need to bite his teeth and reason in order to preserve himself. He overcomes easily before the Lord. He allows the Lord to enlarge him time and time again.

Our transcendency is before the Lord. The most people can demand is only one mile, but what the Lord requires is the second mile. What man may compel me to do is limited to the first mile, but what I give him is something more. I add to it, for my transcendency is with the Lord. This is the transcendent life - this is the abundant life! This is the life that I desire to live - high and above! Let’s rise above in 2016!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Blessed to be a Blessing!

“The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” Proverbs 11:25

This scripture is simply implying that generosity prospers a person. The New Testament counterpart to this verse is found in Luke 6:38 - “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into our bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

I am a pastor who loves my people and loves to see all of them blessed. But to be blessed, we will have to become bless-able. I want to help God’s people live lives of blessing, purpose, peace, and eternal impact for God. Linda and I have had a very blessed life throughout our years in ministry. I believe it is because we have cultivated a culture of stewardship with our time, talents, and treasure. When we first started out we adopted a lifestyle of generosity because we were immensely grateful to God for saving us and because He had birthed in our hearts a genuine desire to help people—not because we were looking for a great return on investment for our money.

I believe that one of the keys to a blessed life is when we see that blessing is a by-product, rather than the motivation, for giving. Giving is all about the heart. The blessings that we have received through life does not just result from sharing our material possessions, but God’s true blessings come from being generous and also obedient to God. We must be willing to hold with an open hand everything God has entrusted to us to be able to bless someone when God puts them upon our hearts.

Many people ask me how it is possible for a rural church in Shell Lake to raise an unexplainable amount of dollars to bless missionary works and touch the poor all over the world. I tell them that it is because we have the heart to bless the missionaries. Are we suffering impoverishment because we give so radically and extravagantly to bless others? I think not! We are only enriched in our joy and love toward one another because we have found the secret that “it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” Generous giving is proof of our love. (2 Corinthians 8:24; 9:6,7,13) It is also proof of your faith and maturity.

We want God’s people to have a blessed life. The Bible teaches that when we give willingly and cheerfully from a spirit of generosity, that we will reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Wineskins For 2016

I heard a preacher once say, “God started the church the way He wanted it, now He wants the church the way He started it.”

What did the church look like in its early form? First of all, church buildings were not existent in the Book of Acts. Only the Jewish Temple was in use at that time. Christians did not begin to build church buildings until about 200 A.D.

There were two qualities that produced the greatest period of vitality and growth during the first two centuries up until recent times. The first quality was their worship. The second quality was their fellowship (koinonia). It was in homes that early Christians met for worship, but worship without fellowship would become something cold and divorced from reality.

The church of Acts is described in Acts 2:42 - “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (vs 46) “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” In Acts 5:42, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

Let me say that I am not against church buildings as long as they don’t limit our mobility to get out and “seek the lost” and share the good news of Christ. Also, as long as the church building does not limit our fellowship and ability to communicate our faith, prayers, and love for one another.

Several years ago I read about Juan Carolos Ortiz who pastored a very large church in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He told of how he shut down the church building for a month to see if the church could survive under persecution conditions. What happened? The church continued to function normally. Why? Because it was structured like a body, made up of a whole network of informed contacts and small home groups. During the month financial contributions were handled through the small groups. Says Ortiz, “More money came in during that month than ever before!”

I ask myself, “Would we be ready to take such a risk?” I do believe that we are a church that does not attach our time, money, and life only to the church building that we attend. Over half of our church budget annually is given to foreign missions, social ministries, evangelism, and helping the needs of others.

Small groups that begin this month will be something essential to our Christian experience and growth. You can experience true, rich, deep Christian soul-fellowship, or “Koinonia.”  Join us today and become a part!