Come In 

1 Corinthians 16:9
“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

As Paul comes to the conclusion of this letter, he writes to his friends in Corinth about his future plans. Notice, his plans all centered around serving the Lord and bringing the Gospel to others. He mentions a number of places that he will be traveling, including Ephesus, where he has “an open door.” This is a common phrase, both in our vernacular, and in the New Testament writings. We understand it to mean a way in, and use it with a wide variety of applications. We may refer to an open door for a new job, new house, or even a new relationship. When the term is used in the New Testament, it is restricted to speaking of opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul explained this clearly when writing to the Colossians,

“. . . meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3-4

The term “open” is used throughout the New Testament to refer to things that were closed until the Lord opened them. We read of eyes, ears, and graves being opened. We also read of the heavens being opened, and even the sealed scroll in Revelation was opened by the Lord. When Paul speaks of an open door in Ephesus, he is referring to an opportunity to minister where there was none before. Ministry is like that. There are people in your life who you have attempted to reach out to, and been rejected, but as you continue to walk with Jesus and pray for them, the Lord will open up a future opportunity to reach out to them.

One of the difficulties we face, is how to recognize when we have an open door. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas began their missionary campaigns. As we read the accounts, it was clear they had a wide open door to bring the Gospel to their world. Thousands of people were won to Christ, and dozens of churches were planted throughout Asia Minor and Europe.

But, how did they know it was the Lord who was sending them out? Two key elements in determining the will of God are revealed in their story. First, we are told, while they prayed and fasted, the Lord spoke to them. If we want to see doors open to minister to others, we need to seek the Lord. Jesus told us to ask, seek and knock. Perhaps now would be a good time to revisit your prayer list and add praying for an open door to share Christ with family and friends.

Second, Luke records, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went” (Acts 13:4). Once they heard from the Lord, once they recognized they might have an open door, they began to walk through it. The only way to be sure we have an open door into someone’s life to bring them to Jesus, is to take steps in that direction. Make a call, text, email, tweet, IM or meet them face-to-face and simply invite them to come with you to church. Or meet for coffee and share the great things that the Lord has done for you.

Keep in mind that with an open door comes adversity, but the difficulties are more than worth the treasure of seeing our friends come to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Come With Me 

Psalm 122:1
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us not to forsake the gathering together of the brethren (Hebrews 10:25). In other words; get to church! That is the heart of what David is singing about in this Psalm. He begins by declaring what a blessing it is to have someone invite him to the house of the Lord. Even as the king of a nation, David was still a man, and as a man, it would be wonderful to receive an invitation from someone to attend worship.

Recently, I met a woman at our church who began attending because of an invitation from someone she met at a park. While they were chatting about the kids and the weather, her new acquaintance began to talk with her about the Lord, and invited her to church. She was ecstatic! The idea that someone cared enough about her to invite her to church amazed her. She could not wait for Sunday to arrive. She got up early, dressed up for the occasion, and at the service she made a decision for the Lord. We are all, at times, stirred by the Lord to invite a neighbor, friend, family member or perfect stranger to church, or an outreach of the church; and we are all, at times, intimidated. I think it is of great value to keep in mind the joy David expresses from a simple invitation to attend worship.

David goes on to express why this invitation filled him with such joy. He speaks of the House of the Lord being the home of the Testimonies of the Lord. He knew when he arrived, he would hear from the Word of the Lord, and in doing so, he would hear the ways of the Lord. Paul called the church “The pillar and ground of the truth…”(1Timothy 3:15). In other words, he was declaring the primary purpose of the church is the proclamation of the Word of God; for it is the Word of God that will transform the lives of people. He also speaks of the tribes gathering to give thanks to the Lord. That thanks was often expressed in song. As a musician, David had established quite a worship team around the Temple. Skilled musicians would lead the people in praise as they celebrated the goodness of God. I love when we gather for worship. I love to join with those who are able to express praise with such beauty. At times in our services, the worship team will stop playing instruments and the whole room is filled with the sound of the voices of God’s people declaring His highest praises. Finally, David declares that the house of the Lord is a place to pray for the work of the Lord. During Old Testament times, the work of God on earth was centered in Jerusalem. When Israel was walking with the Lord, the city of Jerusalem would experience peace, and like a brilliant light, they would declare to the nations around them that Jehovah was the true and living God. It was under David’s reign, the nation had its greatest effect upon the nations around them. We still need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. God is not done with the Jewish people or the Nation of Israel. We also need to pray that God will further the work of the local church, that it will impact the lives of the people in our community. It is my prayer that our church becomes more like a city set on a hill, shining brightly the Gospel message to our community.

Let’s make it a point today to pray for someone this week, then go out of our way to invite them to church. Be praying for the worship team, that they would lead the congregation into the presence of the Lord. Pray for the pastor, that the Word of God would be clearly declared with the empowering of the Spirit of God. Pray for the work of God to take place in the heart of the one whom you have invited.

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”

Pastor Jim

 

Story Of Redemption

Joshua 2:12-13

“Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

 

The story of Rahab is a story of redemption. It is nothing short of a miracle. The Spirit opened Rahab’s eyes to understand that YHWH is the true and living God. This happened as a result of the Word of God reaching her ears long before the spies ever set foot in Jericho. For decades, her people had been hearing stories of a people whose God had parted the Red Sea and given them victory over Egyptian bondage. Now those same people were at her doorstep, and Rahab wanted to join the people and the God of Israel. She had come to realize,  salvation would be found in God alone, but she did not want to follow Him alone. In what is a beautiful example of intercessory prayer, Rahab pleads not only for herself but for her loved ones. 

 

“. . . spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, . . .”

 

This seems to be a relatively common phenomenon; when a person truly meets God, they are burdened with a desire for others to meet him as well. It was true of Paul, who wrote ,

 

Romans 10:1

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”

 

Perhaps Jesus was referring to this when he promised that we could exchange our burdens with His. He said we should take our heavy load and give it to Him, in exchange for his burden, which was much lighter (Matthew 11:28-30). That burden certainly includes a desire for others to come to know Him. One of the missing elements in the church today is people who are burdened with a desire for others to come to Christ and grow in Him. We seem to be consumed instead with a desire for personal prosperity and to maintain a political status quo. 

 

Perhaps it is time we look at the great judgment the world is under and begin to pray for those within our sphere of influence to come to Christ. Perhaps, it is even time to pray that our sphere of influence would widen, and that we might actively seek to meet people with the purpose of sharing the love of Christ with them. 

 

Keep in mind, that although time is running out, there remains plenty of space in heaven for all who will trust in Christ.

 

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

 

Invitation To Come

Luke 14:15
“Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Jesus tells a story to reveal His desire for all men everywhere to be saved. The cast includes God, played by the man giving the feast; the Christian, played by the servants sent out to invite people to the feast; and the population of planet earth, played by those who receive the invitation. Notice the excuses given by those who reject the offer. Two of the three who reject the invitation use business as an excuse. Perhaps they were driven by a sense of responsibility. Thinking they did not have time for spiritual things, but must provide for their families. Or perhaps, they were caught up in the desire for more. I believe it was Rockefeller, who, when asked how much money was enough said, “Just a little more than you have.” The third person refused to come, using His family as an excuse. Perhaps he even desired to come, but thought his wife would not be interested. Notice he said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” He may have been thinking, I will eventually come, but now is not a good time for me.

These excuses are as common today as they were then. God has sent His church with a message for every man, woman and child, inviting them to Heaven’s banquet. Sadly, for many, an unwillingness to let go of the things of earth is keeping them from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Finally, notice how God responds.

“Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.”

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

God’s heart breaks for those who refuse, but that doesn’t stop His desire for reaching the world with the invitation to heaven.

Pastor Jim