Giving It Your All 

Isaiah 20:2
“At the same time the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, ‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.”

Sometimes, the Biblical message is so important it is presented along with an unforgettable illustration. This is one of those cases. Isaiah’s warning, regarding the coming destruction of world powers by Assyria, was so critical, that he undressed and walked the streets of Jerusalem to declare it. While I do not recommend that exact approach, and we recognize that the true power behind the Gospel is the Gospel itself, we might want to at least consider how we might better illustrate the truths of Scripture, as we seek to share them with others.

If you are involved in teaching the Bible, it is important to use illustrations that are age and culture appropriate. Things that interest adults might not catch the attention of children, and things that excite children might be a bit crass for the elderly. It is the message of Christ which is most important, but a little creativity in expressing it can prove to be extremely helpful. A basic approach to teaching the word of God is to read the text, explain the text, illustrate the text (this can be done with other Bible passages or personal experiences), and finally, applying the text.

One more thought, If you are involved in street witnessing, one of the most effective tools in witnessing to others is to ask them questions about themselves. If we take a few minutes to get to know someone, we will find we are more effective in addressing the issues they are facing, and it will cause us to truly care about them and their situation.

Pastor Jim

 

Then He Said Go

Isaiah 6:7-9
“Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.’
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’
And He said, ‘Go…’”

Isaiah 6 is perhaps most well known for what Isaiah saw. He records, in the year of King Uzziah’s death, he had a vision of the throne of God. He describes how he saw the Lord enthroned and surrounded by angelic beings, who ever live to give Him praise. What perhaps, is sometimes missed, is what Isaiah heard. He records hearing the voice of God in two distinct ways.

First, an angel took a coal from the altar, touched Isaiah’s lips, and declared God had taken away his sin. In order for Isaiah to receive pardon from God, he had to first recognize he was a sinner, and then allow God to touch him with the coal from the altar. Those coals would have been stained with the blood of the sacrifices. The most important words you will ever hear are, your sin has been taken away. That happens the moment you realize you are a sinner, Christ is the Savior, and you choose to trust in Him. At that moment, all your sins are washed from you. No longer do you have to carry the burden of the guilt from sin, because He carried it for you when He hung on the cross. No words could ever be sweeter than when heaven declares “your iniquity is taken away and your sin is purged.”

Second, once cleansed, Isaiah heard God speak again. This time he was commissioned by God to go into the world with a message. The remaining chapters of Isaiah have to do with that message. Essentially, God is using Isaiah to call others to the Lord. It is important to realize God wants to commission each of us. Something happens to a person who has truly met God, they begin to be filled with a desire for others to know Him as well.

Have you come to Christ and heard Him say “Your sin is taken away”? If not, take this moment to confess you are a sinner, and trust Him as the Savior.

Have you responded to the great commission, where you realize He not only saved you, but is sending you? Before you head out the door, pray God would give you opportunity to invite someone to come hear about Christ, or perhaps He would grant you the chance to tell them yourself.

Pastor Jim

 

Let’s Talk 

1 Chronicles 16:23
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.”

Over the years, I have met Christians who seem crippled by uncertainty. They struggle with every decision they make, because they don’t seem to be able to determine God’s will. It is true God has a perfect plan for our lives, and to understand it, we must get alone with Him, and listen to His still small voice. But it is equally true, God has already laid out much of His will for us in the pages of His Word. In the text before us, we learn what we should be doing with our mouths.

First, we should be singing. Privately and publicly, at home and in church, our mouths should be expressing praise to God. This praise will serve at least three vital purposes in our lives. One, It will draw us closer to God. Praise is like a gateway into the throne room of heaven. The Psalmist declared we should walk through the courts with praise. Second, praise will increase our confidence in God. Too often, we magnify our problems while neglecting to magnify the Lord. The more we focus on God, the easier it will be to handle the situations of life. Third, praise is a marvelous witnessing tool. I can remember my first encounter with Christians and being amazed by the joy they expressed as they worshipped the Lord.

David gives us a second charge. We are to use our lips not only to praise God, but also to declare the good news of salvation, every day. It is the will of God that we tell others about Christ. There are many different ways to share the message of salvation. We can straight-up share the simple message of salvation with them, and invite them to receive Christ. We can invite someone to join us at church. We can even invite them to a meal afterwards, and discuss what they just heard. We can have someone over for a meal or take them to coffee, and ask them what they think about Christ; giving ample time to carefully answer any questions they have. We can pass on copies of a Bible study, or invite them to tune into an online message. The opportunities to proclaim the good news of salvation are endless, the only question is are we taking advantage of them.

Take a moment to consider, when was the last time you declared the good news of salvation with someone? Facebook and twitter are wonderful tools, but they don’t replace the need for one-on-one conversations with others. Take a moment now to pray for someone who you will invite to church, or to sit and discuss the way of salvation with this week.

Pastor Jim

 

Secret Weapon 

2 Kings 14:25
“He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.”

The Northern tribes of Israel reached the zenith of their strength under king Jeroboam II. Here we are given insight into the secret behind their success:

“. . . according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah. . .”

Most of us are familiar with the story of Jonah. He was the reluctant prophet who went through great difficulty because of his refusal to obey God. When he finally surrendered to the Lord, he delivered God’s message, and the inhabitants of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, were saved.

When we put the pieces together, we find the nation of Israel was experiencing peace and growth because the Word of God had impacted the Assyrians, who were their mortal enemies. The true force that had the greatest impact upon the nation was not their military, but preaching of the Word of God.

There is little doubt today, in anyone’s mind, that the nations of the world are facing great difficulty. Economic crisis is the norm in many western countries, the rising threat of civil unrest runs rampant in the Middle East, the fear of terrorist activity is the plight of all nations. What we fail to see, the greatest weapon in any battle is the Word of God. What our nation needs, more than anything else, are individuals who will commit themselves to Christ, and live according to the teaching of His Word. Individuals who will share the love of Christ with their neighbors and friends.

Don’t hold back. Take time today to pray for opportunity to let someone know about the hope of heaven found in relationship with Jesus.

Pastor Jim
 

 

Unsung Heroes 

Acts 8:5

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.”

 

Philip was one of the men selected to serve tables at the church in Jerusalem. Now we find him heading out to Samaria as a missionary and winning many souls to the Kingdom. His ministry became so effective, it drew the attention of the apostles, who came to aid him in discipling those who had been saved. As quickly as he arrived in Samaria, Philip leaves.  God calls him away from the masses, to reach an individual with the message of salvation through faith in Christ. After a muddy baptism in the desert, he headed out once again, this time making his way to Caesarea, where he settled down and raised a family of followers of Jesus. 

 

Philip’s story is a fascinating one, filled with application for our daily lives. One of the most important lessons he teaches us is, in God’s economy, all service is the same. When Philip was serving tables, raising children, or leading revivals, he was simply doing what God had called him to do. Sometimes, I think we lose sight of how God wants to use us today, by being overly consumed with what the future holds. Spending all my time thinking about how God wants to use me tomorrow, will cause me to miss the opportunities He has placed in front of me today. 

 

Keep your eyes open! Perhaps, today, God may lead you right into an opportunity to share Christ with someone like the Ethiopian, a man who God had prepared in every way for Philip’s arrival.

 

Pastor Jim  

  

Reach Out

Numbers 10:29
“Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite . . .”

Hobab is the father-in-law of Moses. Notice, we are told that he is a Midianite, not an Israelite. Listen to what Moses says to him:

“We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.”

In the midst of all the hurrying to get ready to go, Moses searches out his father-in-law and invites him to join Israel in their journey to the Promised Land.

Remember, Hobab is a Midianite, he’s not a believer, he’s not a follower of the Lord. Yet, Moses says to him, “Hobab, we’re going to the place the Lord has been preparing for us for 400 years. God promised it to Abraham, and He has been getting it ready all this time.” Moses asks, “Do you want to come to the land the Lord is preparing for us?”

I think Moses is setting a very good example for us. I think we can learn a little bit regarding how to reach the lost from his example. Israel was heading for Canaan, but where are we going? We’re going to the place that Jesus has been preparing for us, not for 400 years, but for 2000 years. Like Israel, we are waiting to hear the trumpet sound.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us how to be ready for that trumpet sound. He told the parable  of the ten virgins, exhorting us to be certain we are, in fact, saved. Then he told the story of the talents, exhorting us to be involved in serving the Lord. Jesus Christ is coming back to take us home, and I don‘t think he wants us to come home alone.

So, in a sense, Moses is evangelizing. He’s trying to reach out to his father-in-law. He implores Hobab, “Come on, man, come with me.” That is a great way to approach evangelism. I’m going to heaven, do you want to come? A friend of mine was going to be baptized at her church, so she put together very formal invitations and sent them out to friends and family who were not believers. She made it clear in the invitation, this was a very important event for her, and she really wanted them to be a part of it. When the day of her baptism arrived, her pastor explained what baptism represents, then he gave her an opportunity to address the congregation. In short she said, “I have trusted Jesus and I am going to heaven, but I love all of you so much, I do not want to go alone. Will you please accept Jesus so you can come to heaven with me?” I have to tell you, it was one of the most powerful evangelistic messages I have ever heard. If you have received Jesus Christ, then you are saved and going to heaven; seek to bring as many along with you as you can. I recall a song we used to sing when I first got saved, one line went, “. . .with one hand reach out to Jesus with the other bring a friend. . .” Moses is not so consumed with packing for the trip that he neglects to invite Hobab.

Pastor Jim

 

The Harvest Is Great

Luke 10:2
The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; . . .”

IMG_1504Sadly, the world has no shortage of those who are in need of Christ. Our population has reached the seven billion mark. Seven billion souls walking this planet, many of whom do not yet know Christ. We recognize certain places in the world as being unreached. Places where many, or even most, of the citizens are yet to hear the good news of salvation, through faith in Christ. We need to pray, send, and provide for those who go to the uttermost parts of the earth with the Good News of Christ. However, we cannot neglect to remember the many unreached souls in our own backyard. Here, in Luke 10, as Jesus sends the seventy, we have some practical instruction on how to reach the lost.

Two by two he sent them. Fellowship and accountability are crucial to effectively serving Jesus. When we get discouraged another can lift us up, when we get stuck, another can aid us with a timely word. Team up with a friend, or friends, and commit to serving the Lord together.

Pray! No ministry can be effective without constant, continual, and corporate prayer with your team. PRAY! Pray for opportunities, and for specific people who matter to each of you. Don’t stop praying, God will answer.

Go! Sometimes the very thing keeping us from seeing God work in our lives is just getting involved. Service is not something we should only know about and talk about, but it is something we must be doing. Who can you share Christ with today?

Carry nothing. While it is not wrong to have, it is wrong to put confidence in what we have. It is usually what we lack that keeps us from telling others about Christ. “I don’t know what to say”, or “What if they ask a question and I don’t know the answer?” When we let those things stop us, we are not trusting Jesus.

Say peace to this house. Be a blessing to those who don’t know Christ, yet. They are not the enemy, but the object of Jesus’ love. Think about the behaviors of those Jesus to whom reached out. They were sinners in every way, but Jesus loved them and reached out to them. Do the same.

Tell them the Kingdom has come near. Let people know that salvation is a call away. Paul said it is not far from us, but so close that all a person needs to do is believe and receive. That message is easy to remember and you have been equipped by Jesus to share it.

Let’s team up, and go out with the glorious message of salvation through faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Evangelism

Mark 2:3
“Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.”

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There are so many fascinating aspects to this story: the crowd that gathered to listen to Jesus teach the Word, the healing of the paralytic, the fact that Jesus put a higher priority on the man’s spiritual condition, than upon his physical suffering, and the claim and proof that Jesus is God. All are worth noting and taking time for more careful observation. However, in the midst of all of that, it might be easy to look past one of the most important lessons in this text. Did you notice the actions of those who brought the paralytic? The effort these men went through in order to bring this man to Christ really struck me.

First, notice the value they put upon Jesus; they would seek to bring others to Him. They must have truly believed that the most important thing for this man was an encounter with Christ.

Second, notice the value they placed upon the man; they would risk missing out on getting a good seat, to carry him to Jesus. Keep in mind, in ancient times, a paralytic would have very little chance of doing anything but beg. In some cases, it was thought illness was attributed to sin, causing some to think that perhaps he deserved this condition. Certainly, there was no monetary or social benefit gained by associating with this man. Instead, the four men simply knew a man who was in need of Jesus, and they did whatever they could to get him there.

Third, notice they would not let any obstacle get in their way. When they arrived at the house, there seemed to be no way in; yet these men found a way. We are not told how, but they found a way to get up on the roof, they found a way to hoist the paralytic up with them, and they began to tear off the roofing, in order to get the man to Christ. This becomes even more striking when we realize it was not their house. They were taking a huge risk. To them, the cost was not greater than the prize of getting this man to Christ.

Finally, notice they did not complain when Jesus responded differently than they expected. Jesus was more interested in the man’s spiritual condition, than his physical suffering. This upset the religious leaders, but we hear no complaint from the four men. It is as though they understood that Jesus knew what was best for the paralytic, and they trusted the man into the care of Christ.

As a result of the actions of these four men, one individual had his life changed. He was healed, but more importantly, he was saved. I think we can learn a lot from the actions of these men. I think we need to put a greater value upon Christ, and upon each and every person, and be willing to risk more to bring people to hear about Jesus. Perhaps now would be a good time to pray for some of your friends who don’t know Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Famous

Mark 1:28
“And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.”

IMG_1394In the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus encountered a man with an unclean spirit. While there is no way of knowing what lifestyle he had lived which led to his condition, we can surmise from other accounts of dealing with demons, he was living in great darkness and difficulty. Whatever turmoil he faced, the solution was encountering Jesus. What the world could not do, Jesus did with seven simple words,”be quiet and come out of him.”

The Word of God has been overcoming darkness ever since. The Bible records many cases where people’s lives have been forever altered by the Words of God. We read of prostitutes, tax collectors, insurrectionists, religious zealots, as well as common everyday men and women, who encounter the Word of God, and are forever changed. The Word of God is still driving out darkness and changing lives.

A number of years ago, a plot of land, more than 20 acres, was given to the Calvary Chapel Bible Training Center in Ghana, West Africa. This pristine plot of ground, on a mountain overlooking the Volta river, was the perfect site to build a facility for the school, and later a church. We were amazed that it was gifted to us, and could not understand why it had not been developed earlier. Since that time, the facilities were erected, others have built homes, and established farms in the area. We recently heard, the reason it lay dormant all those years is, the people believed the area was filled with evil spirits. When the Training Center was built, and the Word of God taught, they saw that the evil of the area was driven away. The whole village has been impacted by the teaching of God’s Word, and Jesus is continuing to make Himself famous.

What we need, more than ever, is for the Word of God to be proclaimed so darkness can be overcome, and lives can be transformed.

Pastor Jim