Are Your Expectations Fulfilled?

Scripture Reading:  1 John 1:1 thru 2:11                                                                                           March 29,2020

Today my thought revolves around the relationship we have with our God.  At no point in any of our lives will we fully know the breadth and depth of God, yet at times we can find ourselves content with the level of knowledge and relationship we have with Him.  We can become satisfied with the moments of emotion we sense during a song or two at church service, or an interesting point or two heard during a message or sermon, but there is so much more to experience with our Lord! We know of Him, but do we genuinely know Him?  We know of what He has done for us, but do we actually know what drove Him to do it? We may spend time thinking about Him, and even devoting time telling Him our wants and cares, but do we truly have communion with Him?  Life with its demands can easily burden our lives with so many activities and pressures that we can crowd out the most important person we have ever been invited to commune with, our Lord.

Here is a short word picture.  A water kettle on the stove with a little water in it boils quickly but fills very view teacups. It also cools down quickly and needs to be heated frequently or it will get cold.  A Believer that gets excited and feels fulfilled with an enthusiastic song or song service or a rousing sermon or message can be quickly cooled off and does not have much to give others. To keep the kettle full and hot so many can benefit from your hot water, you need to fill it up and keep it full,l and continually keep the heat on.  In your life, we keep our kettle full by a sincere and surrendered life offered to God as we seek to commune with Him and have a deep-rooted relationship with Him.

  • Joh 4:13-14  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,  (14)  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
  • Joh 6:35  And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
  • Joh 15:7-12  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  (8)  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  (9)  “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  (10)  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  (11)  “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  (12)  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
  • 1Jn 1:2-4  the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—  (3)  that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  (4)  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Here is how the story goes for many Christians.

They have felt a pulling from God, then had the Gospel shared with them.  They believe that Jesus is the Messiah, repent of their sins, and even start going to church.  Some even begin reading the Bible.  They got religion and found Jesus!  People around them notice a difference because they start attending church weekly, start listening to the music on the Christian station, and they may even start wearing a cross or placing Christian ornaments in their home, car, or office.  They put effort into living what they feel is a Christian life.

They have heard and read about all the great things they can expect to occur in their life now that they are a Christian.  They hear that Jesus is their friend and anything they ask of God in the name of His Son will be given to them.  They have also heard that they will be given the desires of their heart.  Peace and joy are said to be inexpressible!  “If God be for us, who could be against us” rings in their heads and lets them know they are on the right team, and they are special.

But at a point down the road they begin feeling something is missing, even though they are trying their best to be a Christian and living how they are expected to live.  Unfortunately, they begin feeling life is now what they expected it to be.  They sense something is missing, but what?  Have you ever felt this way?  Are you feeling this way now?

For a while the demands on life were satisfied with the relationship they had with the Lord.  The little water in their kettle to heat up was fine, but now they find the are running low or out of hot water.  Maybe the enthusiasm created by the weekly church service with music and preaching has been interrupted, and they find the water cooling because that was the heat they depended on to keep it warm.  It could be a life situation that demands more faith and trust in God but they find they are overwhelmed.  It could also be frustrations are building up because the expectations they had about the Christian life seem to be falling short.  What is the answer for all of these?  The answer is to seek Jesus Christ and communion with Him, sincerely!

  • Mat 7:7-11  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  (8)  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  (9)  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  (10)  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  (11)  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
  • Joh 6:67-68  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  (68)  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

What is it you want and looking for in your Christian faith?

  • To understand what life is all about and your purpose?
  • To have a life filled with peace and joy?
  • To have a helping hand as you go through life?
  • To find out how you can serve Him?
  • To become part of His army and fight to free the lost from the deception of Satan, who has imprisoned your friends and family?

The above list of expectations are great to have, but will never be fulfilled without having a real and heartfelt relationship and communion with Christ.  You must want an intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior.  Many fail to have their expectations fulfilled because they never had honest and intimate communion with God.  Their view of being part of His kingdom misses the mark.  Simply put, they see God as the government and themselves as citizens.  Being a citizen, they feel these expectations should just be given to them.  Any of us that have ever had this view realize it does not work this way.  Having a title as Christian or Believer and being part of an organization called a church will not:  1. Fill your heart with joy and peace 2. Will not power your life to be bursting with purpose, 3.And it will not give you the supernatural love needed to drive your actions and make a difference in the lives of those you love.  What will provide you with all these and more?  A  sincere and surrendered life offered to God as we seek to commune with Him and have a deep relationship with Him.

Here is the greatest thing I believe I have ever heard and believed.

The Creator and Lord of all we see and know wants a relationship with you and me!  He has initiated the connection and wants us to want a relationship with Him.  Our Lord wants a close-up and intimate relationship where we commune with Him.  He is not a theological concept but a real live person who wants a real live relationship with you!  Imagine having a relationship with God, the Creator, where we can call Him Abba, Father.  Is this the relationship we want with Him?  Will He accept anything less?

  • When I was eight years old, I was being trained to be a catholic altar boy. I was taught that Jesus was literally present in the locked cabinet at the back of the altar area.  One morning after the service the priest was walking off the altar area to head back to his home and I asked him if Jesus was really in that cabinet.  He answered, “yes, Jesus was there.”  I then asked with all seriousness, “why do you want to leave?  Why would you not want to stay here in front of Him?”
    • The question I asked back then is still valid today. Is this scripture true? John 14:23  Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
    • If it is, how often do we want to spend time with the Lord?
  • Envision Adam and Eve in Eden; Gen 3:8-9  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  (9)  Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
    • Imagine having a relationship with God that is this real!
    • Unfortunately, sin interrupted and effected that relationship and caused death and judgment, which still is with us today. But God so loves us that He made a way to heal that broken relationship that allows every one of us to commune with Him now, and have eternal life with Him.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Christ and pay the price for your sin, my sin, so that the door could be opened once again for a close and intimate relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

Do you see this relationship as a treasure and personal or merely words and theology?

The Bible tells us the Lord wants to have an intimate relationship with you, is it a treasure, the ultimate treasure?  Or do you find yourself having other treasures that have grabbed your heart ahead of Him?  Consider the following scriptures.

  • Luke 10:25-28  And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  (26)  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”  (27)  So he answered and said, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND,’ and ‘YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'”  (28)  And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
  • Mat 6:19-21  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  (20)  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  (21)  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • Rev 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
  • Luk 12:16-21  Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  (17)  And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’  (18)  So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  (19)  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘  (20)  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’  (21)  “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

If you were to ask those who know you what they thought your greatest treasure is, would they say it was your relationship with Jesus Christ?  If not, what would they say was more important?

A saying Michael Ginn would say was “Christianity is Christ and Christ is Christianity.”

It is all about Him!  We are allowed to have communion with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Another preacher I heard years ago shared a message called, “You gotta have the want to.”  Do you see the cornerstone of your salvation and relationship with God as being the relationship you have with Jesus Christ? Do you want to make that relationship the greatest treasure of your life?  If not, is anything less than this acceptable to God?  This is a serious question that all of us need to settle once and for all in our life.   The answer is found in His Word.

Do you want your relationship with our Lord to grow deeper?  Do you want to experience more profound joy and peace? Do you want to have a clearer understanding of life and purpose?  Do you have the “Want to” and place God first, and seek Him as you would pursue the greatest treasure you have ever heard about, and given a map to find it?  Here is the map.

  • Read the Bible. Find out about Him, what He is like, what He wants, and what He has done by reading and spending time reading the Bible, the Word of God.  Get to know what the Word truly says, because without it a person can easily be deceived.
    • Read the Old Testament and learn what God’s goal was for His chosen people, what they did, and how God reacted to it.
    • Read the Gospels and learn what Jesus said and did. Everything He said and did was from God and nothing of himself.
    • Learn the Christian instructions shared in the epistles, and what is to come in Revelations
  • Pray – take time to pray, by yourself and with others. Pray with purpose, to share your heart, inquire of Him, lift up the needs of others, and be quiet so you can hear Him.  The Lord wants to hear your heart and have you share it with Him; He does not want a bunch of words.  He does not want you to merely sacrifice some time to talk to Him, but wants you to surrender your heart and your will to Him in prayer and deeds.  It is not your ability to pray for half an hour each day that He is looking for, although this is great if your heart accompanies it.  He wants to commune and talk with you throughout each day, through the moments sharing your heart and mind with Him.
    • Psa 46:10  Be still, and know that I am God;
    • 1Th 5:16-18  Rejoice always,  (17)  pray without ceasing,  (18)  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • Allow the Spirit to lead you in doing what you have learned and heard.
    • Jas 1:22-24  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  (23)  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;  (24)  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
    • 1Jn 3:23-24  And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.  (24)  Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

In closing

I am praying we all take time to give Jesus Christ preeminence in your life, sincerely.  The preeminence you would give a king as you stand in front of Him in His throne room.  What a treasure to have our King call you and I  into His presence, not to judge, but to talk, share, and love each of us!  Yet, some in fact turn it down, even some that know who He is! (Luk 14:18-20  But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’  (19)  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’  (20)  Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’) I pray I am never foolish enough to pass on spending time with my King, my Lord, my Savior, my God.

In this present pandemic, we find ourselves constrained in our ability to gather as a family, but don’t let the water in your kettle cool.  Take this time to fill it up with time spent with Him in His Word and prayer.  Heat it up with the fire of His Spirit.  Dig into the Word, pray often and sincerely, and stay in touch with one another, letting them know you love them and care for them.  Can you think of anything better and more important to do?

God Bless you all, and I am lifting you all up in prayer for health and happiness.  Pastor John

How do we Act in Public?

. She thought a short moment and returned with the statement, “They need to learn that they should not be so rude when they come in and eat after church.” When I dug a little deeper into why she responded with this comment she stated the consensus of the server staff feels the church crowd that comes in on Sunday are some of the pickiest and demanding people they see all week, almost rude.

This morning, my wife and I were having breakfast at a local restaurant and our server was a young lady that we knew pretty well.  She knows I am a pastor at a local church, so I asked her if there was a message that I could share at church that she felt Christians need to hear.  She thought a short moment and returned with the statement, “They need to learn that they should not be so rude when they come in and eat after church.”  When I dug a little deeper into why she responded with this comment she stated the consensus of the server staff feels the church crowd that comes in on Sunday are some of the pickiest and demanding people they see all week, almost rude.  Ouch, what a reflection of Christ that some are leaving on others!

I worked for years in the restaurant industry running restaurants, and as a whole the church crowds are great, but there are enough self-centered and rude ones out there that call themselves believers and go to church to leave a bad taste in the server staff of Christians when they dine after church.

Note to Pastors:  Share with your congregations that the teaching and commands of our Lord Jesus regarding how we treat others does not end when we leave the church building.

  • Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV)

Note to Believers that carry and share the love of Christ to others when out in the world:  If you see a brother or sister in Christ acting rudely in public, gently find a way to share correction.  It would not hurt to follow-up with the person being treated rudely, and apologies for your brother or sister without bad-mouthing them.

  • I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—(Ephesians 4:1,2,15 NKJV)
  • By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NKJV)

Why were people attracted to Jesus?  Because they felt He truly cared for them.  How did He show He cared?

  • Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJV)

Wouldn’t it be great if every believer acted as Jesus Christ when we are both fellowshipping with believers and when we are out in public?  I believe the impact the church would have on the lost would improve.

Pastor John

Our Kingdom at War

Here is a truth that many times gets forgotten in our daily lives and the lives of those within the body of Christ here on earth.  WE ARE AT WAR!    Image result for image of trench warfare

Let me set the stage

When Jesus came to earth, He was the fullness of the Godhead bodily. ( Col 2:9 NKJV  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;)  When Jesus was here on earth in His ministry the kingdom of God was here on earth.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent His Spirit to indwell men which means we are His body here on earth now. (Eph 5:30 NKJV  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and His bones.)  This means the kingdom of God is on earth right now alive within His body, the church, the ekklēsia.  The early church understood the Kingdom of God they were members of literally was a real present tense kingdom and their allegiance and energy was fully given to the defense, battles, and health of this kingdom (the church, the body of Christ).

The early church fought off divisions and teachings that minimized Jesus and His Soveigness and Kingship.  The kingdom they fought for and died for with Jesus as King sought out the freedom of the truth and sharing the light, the Gospel.  The first-century believers seemed focused on the truth of who God was, sin, heaven and hell, and that Jesus was their King, literally.  (Not in a religious sense)

Present time setting

Being part of His body means that we have died to self and have been born again into Jesus Christ’s body.  Being born again into His body means we have become a citizen and a soldier in the Kingdom of God with Jesus Christ as our King, present tense!  (this is not the fullness of the  kingdom that will exist when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back and physically rules the entire earth)  The spiritual war spoken of in the Bible is occurring right now.  Battles are being fought and not just by angels, but by saints as well. You and I should be active in protecting one another from attack by praying and caring for each other.  We should be actively fighting to help the lost around us and those around our brothers and sisters, seeking to free them from the lies and delusions that Satan has them imprisoned.

I find myself asking the following; if we were literally under attack from another country and we were in the military, would we treat the attacking enemy with the complacency and nonchalance as we presently are treating Satan and his army in this spiritual war that we are involved?  How long would it take that enemy nation to overwhelm us?  If we were physically being attacked how important would the weapons and armor that have been given to us be?  Would we treat them with the same priority or awareness as many treat the weapons and armor of war that our Lord has made available to us? How would w look at the soldiers around us that are in the battle with us?

Would we be seen as soldiers fighting in the battle or AWOL?

Realizing that we are fighting principalities and powers allows me to look at my brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow soldiers and fighters in this war.  It is more important than ever that I become active in this battle.    We are fighting for the greatest cause the world will ever know.  We are fighting for the greatest Kingdom in all of creation.  We are being led by the greatest King the world will ever know!  If you are a born-again believer,  you’re in His Amy.  Don’t hide, allow the Lord’s Holy Spirit to lead you and give you boldness to attack the gates of hell and give the lost that are imprisoned a chance for freedom and eternal life! Matthew 16:18b  … I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

 

A simple thought from John, a simple pastor

Are they fooling themselves?

Ok, I will come right out and say it! 

Many that go to church each weekend, most weekends, and some weekends are fooling themselves if they think they are Christians. Image result for Raising hands in church pictures

Why would I say this?  Christians are followers of Jesus Christ.  Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ.  Christians are active members of His Body that are led by Him; He is the head.

  • Can you be saved and not be a disciple of Christ? Can you be a disciple and not be part of the body that is fit together and directed by Jesus Christ?  Can you be saved and not be part of the body of Christ?
    • If you said yes to any of the above, I challenge you to look at all the scriptures and not just the ones that seem to support your view. Look into them and pray for understanding on how they all fit together.  I believe you will find as I do that the answer to each question is “no.”

I have several friends who are pastors, and we talk regularly and have had many discussion on what we see as a major issue that affects the churches in the area.  We survive in a society that is becoming more and more self-centered, has less respect for authority, less respect for other’s viewpoints, and less feeling of responsibility to and for others.  These aspects have infiltrated the hearts of many in the church body.  (Read 1 John)

The mindset of “what is the church giving to me.”I see this becoming the norm and replacing the biblical base of “how can I be used of God to help those in His Body, the church?”

  • It this the heart and mindset of a person that truly believes in Jesus Christ? A mindset of one who truly understands how their sins are forgiven?  A mindset of one who knows the door to eternal life and to live in the presence of our Creator has been opened?  The mindset of one who understands this all was possible because of what our Lord Jesus Christ did through His death, resurrection, and ascension?  That our salvation is only because of His Grace and Love?
  • To attend church without these foundational beliefs operating in one’s life I have to ask, “Is that person save?”
  • To be “In Christ,” to be part of “His Body,” to be “Born Again,” to be “Saved,” are all much greater than simply attending church!

You may be asking “Pastor John, what is occurring that has stirred you up to write this?”

Well, it is not an incident that has occurred but a general change in attitude I have been witnessing in those that attend church over the past thirty years.

  • Less interest by many that attend church in the Scriptures, Gospel, and Truth and more interest in music and programs.
  • Worship is becoming more of an emotional environment lead by excellent musicians and singers and less on worship from the heart for Who God is and what He has and is doing.
  • Involvement in church, body, activities are becoming optional based on what a person perceives they will get out of it instead of looking at each activity is an opportunity to share with and edify others in the body that are present.
  • The internet and numerous Christian TV networks are creating an army of self-proclaimed These experts are parrot out the theological flavor of the month or some other personal belief they found support for on the internet. The teaching of the elders, teachers, and pastor become minimized, and the experts’ unstudied belief is preeminent to the point they will not listen to another’s viewpoint even when the scriptures are behind the different view.

When you read the books in the New Testament, the picture of the church body as a tight community, caring about each other and being responsible to one another stands out loud and clear.

What I am seeing develop in the churches today is the replacement of this biblical view with one that places more value on the numbers that attend, music, programs, and priority of church involvement have dropped close to the bottom.

  • Biblical priority as I see it: 1) God, our Lord Jesus Christ 2) Spouse and family 3) Church body 4) Personal time, work, community…
  • The Priority that I see developing: 1)Self & personal time 2)Work 3)Family 4)Church 5)God

What can be done?

Now is the time for those truly committed to Christ to live their belief like never before.  To talk and encourage those coming to church but not committed to Christ to take the step into seeking Jesus Christ in prayer and the scriptures.

The purpose for this post has been mostly to vent, and more on what true believers can do to encourage the church going lost will be shared in later posts.

In Jesus Name, John

Do We Really Want Unity?

The Challenge of Unity in the Face of Denominationalism

You may agree with my view or not and that is fine, but seeking unity in the church within the denominational backdrop seems very contradictory.

I am a pastor of a non-denomination church.  A frequent question asked deals with my thoughts on denominations versus non-denomination and unit of the body of Christ.

Let me first state I have developed great friendships and relationships with several pastors in my area who lead denominational churches.  Baptists, Assemblies, Vineyard, and others.  We have a bond of brotherhood that has turned into a true strength for each of us.  We meet each week to pray and talk, sharing lessons we are teaching, bible discussions, issues we may be having and prayer.  Over time many the walls that have separated us because of our denominational associations have slowly disappeared brick by brick. We have come a long way in our overcoming division in our move toward unity.

As a non-denominational pastor, I do see the benefit of being part of a denominational organization.  Denominational pastors have available to them and the church they lead resources over and above what is available to a non-denominational church.

  • Financial availability, advice, and direction
  • Discipline issues regarding the pastor or other church leaders
  • Teaching support programs
    • Seminaries and universities
  • Coaching support for new or young pastors and leaders

Being part of a denomination does have its strengths, but it also creates a real challenge to unity in the church within a community.  I love my fellow brothers who pastor denominational churches around me, but no matter how sincere hearts are, divisions exist within the body.  There are formal and informal rules that create these divisions.  Think about why there are denominations in the first place.  They were not created to advance the Christian influence and ministries but created because of differences in beliefs. (1Co 1:10 NKJV Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.)

I am sure all believers and disciples of Jesus Christ would love to see a powerful body that works together strengthening and edifying the entire body.  For the church to show the unbelievers the love of Jesus Christ by our love one for another. (Joh 13:35 NKJV By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”)
I cannot see how the unity of the body of Christ will occur with denominationalism in place as it is today.  Why keep the denominational names and ties unless there is a need to keep some semblance of individual identity.

My brother pastors are awesome men and smarter than me for sure.  I am a simple pastor and a believer in Jesus Christ and the simplicity of the Gospel that struggles with the whole notion and concept of denominations.

I can only imagine what our Lord Jesus Christ would tell us if He physically visited us here in the United States.   Would He start with the moral decay we are witnessing in our society, or rebuke us in the church for our thought process and lack of unit?  I am thinking the latter, for if we were as unified as the early church was, we probably would not have the problems in the church we presently have.  It is hard to influence society when the church is not that much different many times.

  • Divorce
  • Drugs
  • Pornography
  • Love of money
  • Love of self

Shall I go on?

You may agree with my view or not and that is fine, but please do not forget to pray that His Spirit influences the hearts of the leaders God has placed in His Body here in America, to do His Will and create the unity in the church body that glorifies Him and effectively does His Will. (1Co 12:25 NKJV that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.)

God Bless, John, the simple pastor

The Church’s Greatest Opportunity

What do I see as the greatest opportunity presently in the Christian church in America?

  • To fulfill this commandment given by Jesus: John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

It is because of the present situation within the church that presents such barriers to attempt to accomplish this that I say this.

To start with let’s look at some present challenges I see that are symptoms or the real problem:

  • Sectarianism and division caused by denominationalism.
    • To start with, Non-believers are confused when looking at our divisions. It becomes challenging to determine who is correct.  The Bible even comes into question because denominations and churches profess they base their belief in the it, yet there exists so many differences among us.  There even seems to be variations of denominations within denominations!
      • They ask themselves “is there actually a truth?”
    • Judging one another stops the interaction of God’s Love among us. There is judgement as one denomination or group places themselves as “more right” than the others.
      • This judgement of one another must stop if we wish the commandment given by Jesus to be fulfilled.
      • This is also a stumbling block we place in front of the lost. Christians are seen by non-believers as being judgmental not just because of our beliefs and stands on present social issues, but it is confirmed by how churches and denominations judge one another.
    • The actual and perceived hypocrisy occurring in the church.
      • How we preach that God is King, to live a righteous life and follow what He commands but to the non-believer we appear to say one thing but live and act just like them.
        • Saying the words “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior” without supporting them with a life dedicated and lived for Christ has a very hollow echo in a lost world.
        • John the Baptist said it best in Luke 3:8 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance”
      • We can leave out what Jesus commanded yet have no problem believing we are believers. Do we believe or not, it is 100% or nothing the way I see it.
    • Materialism! This can be several sermons or blog posts all by itself.  All I will say on this item is most churches and believers are held within its grasp and we don’t even recognize it.  What decisions do we make that the thought of how it will affect us financially does not come into play?  For most it is hard enough just giving out of our abundance and could not imagine giving sacrificially.
    • Church services have become performances, activities, programs and times of receiving. Feelings have replaced the Gospel.  The Gospel is offensive, exposing sin, stating one must die to self, Jesus in the only way to eternal life.  This truth is how the early church grew and is the core of how churches presently are growing in areas Christians are experiencing severe persecution.  Here in America I read that people choose the church they will attend based on; Parking lot, chair comfort, music quality and does the preaching make them feel good.
      • It seems overall the interaction between brothers and sisters in the Lord is becoming less and less important.

Lack of biblical love

After considering each of these issues and their effect on the church body the answer that I have come up with as to what the greatest challenge facing the Christian church in America is the lack of biblical love shown by believers to one another. I see the lack of love, actions driven by love, as the major hurdle.  Tying love to a “feeling” is extremely shallow and does not connect with what Jesus and the Holy Spirit have shared in the Word of God.  Love is an action.

Here are some scriptures to consider and set the stage for my answer:

  • John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
  • 1 John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
  • 1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,
  • 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. (2)  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  (3)  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Overall what I have been witnessing within the church community is a move towards church services that:

  • Greater dependence on music to create a value
  • Greater dependence on “feeling” to establish relationship with our Lord
  • Greater dependence on visual presentation of materials to establish validity and impact

As the church seems to have moved towards greater dependence of the above items when Christian are judging the value of belonging to a particular church or if a church service was impactful or not, the following have tended to become less important:

  • The actual Word of God. Scriptures are cherry picked to promote the preachers message or belief and not taken in context of full text or situation the text was initially written.
    • Example: Isa_53:5  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. & 1Pe_2:24  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.  These versus are often used to support physical healing when the actual context is spiritual healing.
  • Basing the value of a church body or service on Biblical truth being taught, environment where discipleship grows, and full functioning body (member literally all working together to perform the will of God for the body).
  • Personal interaction between members of the body that allows each person the environment to care for help other members, to edify one another.
    • What drives a saint to assemble together for a church service it the feeling of responsibility for the other members, that you can give and not receive.

We have been commanded by our Lord to love one another as He loved/loves us.  Example of what God tells you and I to:

  • To look around the church body you are presently attending and allow the Spirit of God to flow through you in a way that whatever face you look into, you are able to prefer their needs over your own.
    • This becomes a challenge for churches as we tend to hang and interact with our friends and minimize our involvement with the others. This especially a challenge for churches over 100 people.
      • Involvement in small groups can help.
    • Treat all those within the body in a loving way that stands apart from the way the world treats one another. Joh_13:35  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
      • Ask yourself what could a brother or sister in the Lord do to or for you that your friends, family or neighbors would take notice of. Then when in this mindset begin placing faces of those you go to church with and what you can do.

What the lost are seeing in the local church is we often are not fulfilling what God has commanded.

They see us as acting just like them and in turn they do not witness the power of God active in a person’s life.  Not only are they not witnessing our love in the local assembly, but what do you think the non-believers think when the see absolutely no love between churches.  They see the judgement and competition between us, not the love.

To conclude, please consider praying on how to love one another, care for one another.  If Jesus literally was in the flesh in the church you attend, would you feel and know that He would be their when you needed?  Well, He said we were to love others as He loved us…for us to be Christ like then how should we live and act with those around us.

We need to grasp this commandment more than ever as the times and society are becoming more challenging by the day…

May God Bless You, John

Persecution by 1000 stones

The messages I have been sharing at church recently centered on the persecuted church.  Here in the U.S. we look at the persecution we see our brothers and sisters face in other parts of the world and pray it does not come here to greet us.  But, has it not already visited us?

The purpose of persecution is to accomplish:

  • To create fear in our hearts, to fear the ones that can injure our body or our status in society.
  • Intimidation through this fear to hinder the sharing and spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Demonizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through lies, misstatements and half truths and in effect minimize the words Christian will share.
  • To physically kill those that will not stop sharing the Truth

Here in the U.S. we presently do not fear prison, torture, or physical death, but there are key elements of persecution that are occurring.  We may not fear the bullet or sword, but we are fearing the stones that are being thrown.  We are being persecuted by 1000 stones instead of one big element as a bullet or beheading.

Is persecution by a 1000 stones actually occurring?   (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16)

  • Intimidation – Look at the increase in fear and anxiety we have regarding sharing our faith in public, work, and school.  Just sharing the name of Jesus Christ in public will make many people wince.  We now often fear what people say about us when we share our belief and faith.  We are told it is “unlawful” to share.  We are told that if we disagree with teachings of evolution, homosexuality and gender issues we have no right to share our views or even believe in them, and in many cases are told we are breaking the law.  Have we have moved closer to acting as an “underground” church in many respects keeping our faith and beliefs out of the public eye?
  • Demonizing- You would be hard pressed not to agree that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word have not been demonized and minimized over the past several decades.
    • Share your belief and faith, share the truth of what God has written to us in His Word, and many times what are we told?  We are called haters, small minded, weak minded, brain washed, judgmental, intolerant….the list can go on.
    • The political process has entangle the Gospel and made it a part of a political system…something it was never intended to be.
    • Our news media, History channel and other venues on TV and the internet have done all they can to share manipulated information to minimize Jesus, His Word, and His church.

There are more examples that can be drawn out, but just looking at the two items above is it not clear that persecution by a 1000 stones is occurring?

If this is persecution, is it effective?

This type of persecution has been tied into a society that has worked for 60 or more years to rid itself of belief in God.  Add to this the belief that man is in charge and more recently the earth is in charge and man is the problem.  Compounding this with our lives of materialism and this has created a perfect scenario for the type of persecution we see here in the U.S. to be extremely effective!

Here is some data that supports this thought:

Christian growth

These are the annual growth rates (AAGR) of those claiming to be Christian in countries where severe persecution of the Christian belief occurs.

Here in the U.S. the number of people claiming to be Christians has declined by over 7% from 1990 until 2012.  I am sure that the decline has increased in the six years since 2012.  The enemy’s plan of tactics and persecution are showing to be more effective here in the U.S.  than the outright brutality of persecution used in the 10 countries that have shown the greatest increase in Christianity in the world.

So, what should you do?

  • Read 1 Peter (Peter’s letter to the persecuted church on how the body should act)
  • (Mark 8:38) Determine in yourself and your heart if you are truly a citizen in His Kingdom that will not deny his/her citizenship.
  • (Romans 12) Find a body of believers that truly care for one another, support one another.  The number in the congregation is not important, but are the fruit of the Spirit of God occurring among those in the body.

And stay tune, I am sure I will share more on this in the near future.