A church of Jesus Christ can only be as healthy as its members are emotionally healthy. And we are all growing more and more like Jesus Christ, including the elders and pastors of a church. We are all in this sanctification process together. Acts 2:42 implores us to be "devoted to fellowship" and it implies that it is healthy fellowship. How can we be devoted to fellowship in an emotionally healthy way that brings honor to God and allows the Lord to nourish one another's souls through spiritual relationship. We must grow emotionally and God will help us!
The people of Pergamum were known as the "Temple-keepers of Asia", with multiple temples of pagan Gods drawing worshipers from the entire region. The church in Pergamum was under tremendous pressure to adhere to the dominant pagan culture. Some Christians gave in to the pressure and co-mingled their faith in Christ with pagan worship, which drew sharp condemnation by Christ and a call to repentance. But what about us? Are we allowing the neo-pagan culture of our day to seep into our lives and even influence our faith? We will discuss how to guard against assimilation with the world, and how to access the empowering grace of God to walk faithfully in Christ.
The first century church in Smyrna experienced severe persecution under emperor Domitian, with many being martyred for their faith. However, rather than weakening the church, the opposition they experienced only served to make them stronger. Today we find ourselves in a culture that is increasingly hostile to those who want to live for Christ. What can we learn from the Church of Smyrna so that we too can grow stronger in our faith even in the face of opposition? We will explore this and more in part 2 of our series on The 7 Churches of Revelation.
This begins a series based on Jesus' messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation in chapters 2 and 3. As Jesus evaluates these churches, we see seven different spiritual conditions represented. Christ’s admonition to these churches provides great insight into how to be successful not only as a church body, but also as individual Christians. Jesus said to these churches, “He who has an ear let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. Let’s listen carefully to the words of Jesus and apply them tour lives so we can live healthy, effective Christian lives for the glory of God!
True wealth, harmony with God's creation, and providential care, all result from learning and acting on the wisdom of the Lord (Proverbs 3:13-26). The entire Bible, and the book of Proverbs in particular, is loaded with wisdom that our loving, heavenly Father desires to share with us.
Do you ever feel like your life is unimportant and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things? I bet Esther felt this way as an orphaned peasant girl living away from her homeland in Persia around 475 B.C. Yet, if you remove Esther from the history of Israel, the whole nation would have been eradicated, and the Hebrew lineage would have stopped short of the birth of Jesus Christ. Your life too has significant meaning and purpose in God's plan of redemption. Without you fulfilling your God-given role in life, many people may never know the love of Christ.
Interpersonal communication is often the front line in the battle between light and darkness, especially within families. Ephesians 4:1-3 implores believers to communicate with humility, gentleness, patience, and love, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Our homes can become the places of love, encouragement, and honor we desire them to be.
After multiple plagues and confrontations with Moses, Pharaoh agrees to let the Israelites go but refuses to allow their children and flocks/herds to go with them. From a spiritual perspective, the same struggle is present in our own lives as Christians. Having lost the battle for our soul, the enemy shifts his focus to trying to limit our effectiveness as believers. As we leave Egypt behind, let's determine to take back everything that has been stolen from us through deception. Like Moses, we must remain resolute that everything God has promised us in Christ is ours and will not be left behind on this journey of faith!
Sometimes when we are at our lowest point in life we are tempted to give up and start to believe the lie that God has abandoned us. It's important in these times of trial and vulnerability, that we are listening to the right voices. In the 5th chapter of the gospel of Mark we read of two individuals facing the most desperate of circumstances. While others had written them off as hopeless, one encounter with Jesus changed everything. No matter what difficulty you are facing today, you are never hopeless. One touch from Jesus can radically change your life!
The resurrection of Christ is the single most significant event in human history. It was the culmination of God's plan to save His people from the deadly consequences of turning away from Him, extending all the way back to the garden of Eden. When Jesus arose from the dead roughly two thousand years ago, he defeated death and broke its power over those who would place their trust in Him as savior. This message is broken into two components; the significance of the cross in atoning for sin, and the importance of the resurrection in accomplishing redemption for mankind.
All four gospel accounts record Jesus's "Triumphal Entry" into the city of Jerusalem as the prophesied Messianic King (Zechariah 9:9)! Jesus stirred up the city with this humble, yet spiritually dramatic entry (Mathew 21:10). Will we acknowledge Jesus as King moment by moment today, and "throw our coats on the ground and waive palm branches" as He rides into every area of our hearts.
"Do you ever get a vague feeling that something feels off in your soul? Psalm 142:5 says, "I cried out to you , O Lord; I said, You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living." God promises to "supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). If we'll let him, Jesus will show himself to be Enough for sure!
Romans 13:4 says that Government "is a minister of God to you for good." And Theologian Wayne Grudem writes, "….if pastors and church members say, ‘I’m going to be silent about the moral and ethical issues that we face as a nation,’ that will leave a moral vacuum, and it will not be long until the ultimate adversaries of the Gospel –Satan and his demons – will rush in and influence every decision in a way contrary to Biblical standards. And if that happens, then governments around the world will increasingly use their tremendous power to silence the church.” How is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ to respond?
As we look to the New Year with hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God exhorts us to walk no longer in futile thinking and darkened understanding, but to instead lay aside the old self and "put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Ephesians 4:17-24). As citizens of heaven, we have been given vision and power to see and move in a reality that transcends this world and allows us to walk faithfully in the way that Jesus compels us to go for His glory!
The birth of Jesus Christ is "good news of great joy which will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). This message encourages us to rely on the Holy Spirit and to be sure we "recognize" Jesus for who He really is this Christmas season. The book of Hebrews is explored, highlighting the promised Messiah as the Mediator of a new and better Covenant. There is so much to be joyful about the coming of humanity's Savior King Jesus!
Last week we examined 4 bible characters who lived life in the overflow of the presence and power of God. This week we are going to go a little deeper and see how this overflow works and operates in our lives. The scripture speaks of three different kinds of people in this world. The natural man who cannot understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), the carnal man controlled by his own passions (1 Corinthians 3:3) and the spiritual man walking in subjection to the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:15). We will explore what it means to be a mature spiritual man or woman, governed and led by the Spirit of God.
Lasting transformation doesn’t result from a new year’s resolution. Most of our self-efforts to change are short-lived and end in disappointment. We will be examining 4 bible characters who had a life-changing encounter with God that was followed by an ongoing inner renewal that lasted a lifetime. Each of these people was “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). The psalmist here describes a person that is continually being filled up and energized by the grace of God, and as result is overflowing with spiritual fruit. Let’s determine to live continually in the overflow of the presence and power of God in our lives!
1 Peter 2:21 says, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." This scripture leads us to an important truth as we endeavor to catch the "little foxes" that are spoiling the vineyard of our lives. When you decide to stand against attitudes or behaviors that get between the loving relationship you have with Jesus, there is often a great pressure placed on the soul that can be described as suffering. We can endure this suffering though in God's strength, and go on to realize the victory we have in Christ Jesus!
The phrase "take courage" is a powerful one and used throughout the Old and New Testaments by God to encourage humans in many different situations. Could you use more courage in your life as you face the challenges of life in a fallen world? You are not alone and the Lord desires that you "take courage," as we obey Him and come to His precious son Jesus.
Fear can dramatically hinder our walk with God, tempting us to become discouraged, distracting us from Kingdom truth, and challenging our faith to stand on the promises of God. The Lord understands this struggle and desires to encourage us in the same way He strengthened the Patriarch Issac declaring, "Do not fear, for I am with you" (Genesis 26:24)!
John Chapter 15:1-17 is intimate Scripture capturing Jesus's heart and vision for His disciples on the evening before His crucifixion. His words tell us that we must "abide" in Him. How is this done and what does it mean for victorious Christian living, friendship with Jesus, bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God, and loving one another? We are shaped by the Lord to function as branches in the True Vine, Jesus Christ!
In their quest to posses the promised land the Israelites would have to fight many battles. However, one of their enemies changed tactics and instead of aggression, they turned to cunning deception to negotiate a peace treaty that would allow them to remain in the land. We too face many enemies in our walk with God, but none are so dangerous or insidious as those that gain access to our soul through deception, becoming entrenched in our lives over time. These "thorns in the flesh" are often not defeated easily, and we can find ourselves engaged in an on-going battle. However, If you continue to trust the Lord, He can turn your struggle into fuel for the grace of God in your life, providing new strength to walk in victory!
After an incredible victory over Jericho unmistakably accomplished by the hand of God, the Israelites decided in their next battle that they did not need to consult with God for guidance, wisdom and strength, and the result was utter failure. We often experience the same pattern at work in our own lives as believers. We cry out to God in the midst of difficulty and He answers us and delivers us. Then we slowly begin to take the favor and power of God for granted and stop seeking Him, tragically thinking we can have success walking in our own strength. Yet even when we have failed miserably and find ourselves in “The Valley of Trouble”, God provides a Door of Hope!
How does God call us to think about the time he has given us on earth after we have been redeemed, restored and born again? Where can godly motivation for living be found and in what context are we called to live lives pleasing to God, "no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 provides much insight.
You are shaped for an eternity with a loving God, but there are competing ideas about where we came from, the meaning of life, and where we are headed after this life, if anywhere. And the prevailing view of our age in the West is that you can’t know because there are so many different paths. Any if there are so many paths, then they must all be right in some way, or somehow lead to the same place. But we know that Jesus himself said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mathew 7:13-14).
Today's message looks at several people in the Bible whom God used to bless others through their ability to hear God, and their willingness to obey God. And it is not so different in our own lives today. God is still speaking, calling us to the Truth of the Scriptures, and encouraging and empowering us to be used to bless others by walking in the vision and plans He has placed on our hearts.
As the Israelites continued their journey through the wilderness, God was teaching them to walk in total reliance upon Him. However, they quickly learned that surviving the harsh conditions of the wilderness required not only reliance on God, but also reliance on one another. They had to be willing to bear one another’s burdens and share the responsibility of protecting and building their new community, which would ultimately be forged into a mighty nation. Similarly, if we are to be successful in our walk with God, we must be committed to serving one another and carrying one another’s burdens. In doing so, we “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), and we demonstrate the kind of love that bears witness to the love of Christ (John 13:35).
Jesus said, "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again'" (John 3:7). He also said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). John the Baptist, Jesus, and His 12 disciples all began their earthly ministries proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God is a real place, and unlike this world which will pass away, the Kingdom of God is eternal, and begins with the born again experience. Pastor Craig shares how he was introduced to the Kingdom of God 13 years ago as well.
Multiple times God said to Pharaoh through Moses, “Let My people go so that they may serve WORSHIP Me”. Other times He would say “Let My people go so that they may serve SERVE Me”. We learn then that God’s purpose for delivering His people from bondage is so that they can be free to worship Him and serve Him. But deliverance did not come easy as Pharaoh was not willing to let them go without a fight. One thing is as certain for us as it was for the Israelites. The forces of darkness that would try and hold us captive are no match for the power of God at work in our lives. God has purchased your freedom through Christ so that you may be free to WORSHIP Him and SERVE Him all the days of your life!
Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm my own worst enemy?" Galatians 5:17 tells us, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." Regular bible interaction, activated by prayer and faith, can supernaturally prepare us to win the war with our sinful nature.
Coming into the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out all those who sold merchandise; But why? When Jesus entered the temple His first priority was to forcefully cleanse it from all forms of idolatry and evil practices. In the same way when we are born again Christ comes into the temple of our hearts and immediately begins His cleansing work, driving out all forms of idolatry so He can take His rightful place of preeminence in our lives. This process can be challenging and even painful at times, but it will ultimately produce the peaceful fruitful of rigorousness in our lives.
There is a song in your heart. Did you know that? Metaphorically speaking, the song in your heart celebrates and gives expression to that in which your soul delights. Sadly, many celebrate those things that starve their souls and will ultimately drive them to their eternal death. However, when you are born again, God puts a new song in your heart, and you can't help but give expression to that in which your soul delights; Jesus Christ! As we will see in scripture, myriads of angelic beings and countless redeemed souls throughout history will sing the song of heaven for all eternity.
Is life really “all about me?” Has the Self Esteem movement convinced you that loving yourself is foundational to living a full life? Yet the Scriptures teach us that the greatest commandment is to love God, and to love others (Luke 10:27); not ourselves. Overemphasizing “Self” can have a devastating effect on our walk with Christ, without us even being aware of it.
Throughout the old and new testament God would repeatedly remind His people of all that He had done for them. They were to celebrate feasts and set up memorials so that throughout the generations they would remember how God supernaturally redeemed them and saved them from their enemies. At times He would allow testing to remind them of their weakness and powerlessness without Him. It is a dangerous thing to forget what God has done for us. The exhortation Moses gave the Israelites still holds true for us today: Beware lest you forget the Lord Your God!
For the Christian, life should not be focused on self, but rather on knowing God and making Him known. The amazing thing is as we focus on growing in our relationship with Christ, we naturally develop a heart for those that do not know Him. Reaching out to our friends and neighbors in love with the gospel of Christ is something that all Christians are called to do.
How as Christians are we able to "walk by the Spirit," as Galatians 5:16 implores us to do? Is there a way that we can be "absorbed" in the kingdom of God in a way that allows us to live in the world, but not be of the world? "Spiritual Disciplines," many of them as old as the church itself, can be powerful tools, helping us to walk intimately and victoriously with Jesus moment by moment.
There is an unseen cosmic battle being waged all around us for the the souls of men and women. As Christians, we need to be equipped to fight in this spiritual battle. One of satan's greatest weapons is discouragement. His goal is to get us to give up the fight, and surrender the idea that we can live a life of righteousness and victory through Jesus Christ. There is much at stake: our marriages, our children, our testimony, and our calling to reach the lost for Christ. Let's resolve to Never Surrender the fight for these things, knowing that Christ is with us and will not let us fail!
Two spiritual forces symbolically represented as rivers in scripture, are relentlessly at work to capture you and sweep you away in two very different directions. One river leads to enslavement and destruction, while the other brings life, healing, and liberty wherever it goes. The River of God is wild, unpredictable and involves great risk. Those who are willing to trust in the goodness of God and jump in, will experience great peace, joy and freedom, even in the midst of life's trials.
Christians are, "the salt of the earth, and the light of the world" (Mathew 5:13-14). Ultimately it is an act of love for Christians to "significantly influence" the political process, and yet our hope is not in politics, but in the Lord Himself. There are some that want to "Make America Great Again," but the question is how? Are we to expect that America will be great without following the Lord and His ways?
This world is designed to wear you down, and occupy every moment of your attention on earthly preoccupations so that you won’t have the energy to access the source of your true strength in Christ. If we are not careful we can find ourselves in a place of spiritual exhaustion that leads to hopelessness and despair. What are the traps that lead us down this dangerous road? God didn't design you to just endure life, you were created to soar in the Spirit with Christ!
When we come to grips with our own weakness, we can humble ourselves before God and pray for the strength we need to face challenges in life. As we will see, throughout history God's people have often turned to prayer and fasting when there is a need for repentance, spiritual breakthrough, or in preparation for effective ministry. When men begin to call on the name of the Lord, nothing is impossible!
God wants to take up residency in your life and walk in close fellowship with you, so He can empower you to live an effective, abundant life in Christ. But what are the qualities that attract the presence of God to certain people? Abraham was called the "friend of God" because of the way he responded to God's call, and the way he interacted with the Lord in divine visitation. Let's explore the qualities that attract the presence and power of God to our lives, so we can become a Holy Habitation.