National Day of Prayer and My Prayer for You…
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
BE the Church!
A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting London England for a week. It was a wonderful time and I love the British. While at a local restaurant to order my first ever serving of authentic fish and chips, I said “Hello” to my waitress. It was just one word, but she responded with a big smile and, in a loud voice she proclaimed to everyone in the joint, “By jove we have a colonist with us! What can I getcha yank?”
What gave me away? Apparently I had given away that I am a “Yank” by saying just one word - “Hello.”
In the first century, Christ’s followers were recognized immediately. What gave them away?
It was not their buildings. They had none.
It was not their programs. They had none.
It was not their political power. They had none.
It was not their freedom. They had none.
It was not their slick publications, TV networks, bumper stickers, or celebrities. They had none.
It was not their wonderful children’s programs. They had none.
It was not their professional music and arts program. They had none.
What was it then? The apostles and the first real disciples of Christ continuously testified of the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus, and they grew exponentially as God added daily to the number of those who were being saved. Read Acts 2:41-47 and you will encounter the church as it existed in the first century. Consider how these early followers did life together as believers.
The world had never seen anything like it before. It still hasn’t.
Church Growth Formulas and Traditions that have become “normative” for us today have done much to damage the church by failing to make disciples who make disciples who follow Jesus; learning to become like Him. To become like Christ requires just two things. Jesus is described by two simple words. See John 1:1 and 1:14 and learn that the Word - God the Son - is described as being full of grace and truth.
To become like Jesus, be filled with grace and truth. I encourage you to study these two simple words and discover the depth of meaning that comes from truly understanding them. Learn what it means to live the kind of life, in relationship with other believers, that shows “Grace and Truth” to a dying world, and God will respond by adding to your numbers daily, those who are being saved. Let us please stop trying to grow the church and, instead, let us be the church by following in His way.
 Randy Alcorn, “The Grace and Truth Paradox,” Multnomah: 2003, Pg. 12
[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
Over against the terrifying news that we have fallen under the condemnation of our Creator and that He is bound by His own righteous character to preserve the worth of His glory by pouring out eternal wrath on our sin, there is the wonderful news of the gospel.
This is a truth no one can ever learn from nature. It has to be told to neighbors and preached in churches and carried by missionaries.
The good news is that God Himself has decreed a way to satisfy the demands of His justice without condemning the whole human race. Hell is one way to settle accounts with sinners and uphold His justice.
But there is another way. The wisdom of God has ordained a way for the love of God to deliver us from the wrath of God without compromising the justice of God.
And what is this wisdom? The death of the Son of God for sinners!
“We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23–24).
The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, all the while upholding and demonstrating the righteousness of God in Christ.
Desiring God, Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, CO), pages 61–62
Reading for October 8 from Desiring God’s Daily Devotional app, which features the best of over 30 years of John Piper’s teaching to your everyday life and satisfaction in Jesus. Download it for free in the app store.
What is Church for?
Consider a beautiful and fully rigged sailing ship as an analogy for a local congregation. A ship like this is safe while anchored in the harbor, but that is not what ships are for. The owner is Christ, and He most certainly desires to see the ship out on the open sea at full sail, taking risks, relying upon Him even when the weather is rough and the waves are frightful. The world is full of people who are lost at sea. They are living without regard for God and unaware of the salvation available through Christ. The sailors on board the ship are responsible for search and rescue operations as lost souls are encountered along the way, as they go about their daily lives. It is dangerous work, to be sure. The crew can experience and endure long hours and hardship. The work takes them outside of their comfort zone but is highly rewarding!
Pastor Jim Kirkland, Elders and Deacons and Saints, Oh My! Crossbooks:2011, Pg. 83
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Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.
All scars tell a story. God’s scars tell of unending love.
The Price of Non-Discipleship
“Nondiscipleship cuts you off from abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, a faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, a hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, a power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, nondiscipleship costs you exactly the abundance of life that Jesus said he came to bring.”
-Dallas Willard, The Great Omission
The Rewards of Discipleship
Jesus told us to “Go therefore and make disciples….” which implies so much about how He expects us to live. Recently I had the privilege of sharing Christ with a person who, at first, did not even want to talk with me. Because I sat and listened, we became friends and she began to ask questions about talking to God. She asked me,
“Pastor, can you talk with God and does He listen? Does He talk to you too? How can this be? How does it work? I want to talk to God.”
Over several days I shared with her about Jesus and how He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts when we confess Him as Lord and believe He was raised from the dead. One day I encouraged her, “Believe, just believe and be saved and know that Christ will carry you into heaven so you can live with God for eternity.” She did just that and it was exciting to watch. With great emotion and excitement she said,
“Pastor, I do believe, I really do! I am saved! And you need to promise me something Pastor, you need to promise me that you will tell people about this! People need to know about this! Maybe you should have a card or something, maybe on your business card, that asks “Are you saved? If not, then talk to me!”
I laughed out loud with great joy! Today she gave me something new. Being bed ridden she was unable to write it out for me, but she dictated this little thought that she believes is a mission statement that I should have on a plaque in my office. She said,
If you feel like running, run to Jesus and I will be there to help you!
Perhaps it should become part of every disciples mission statement. This will, someday soon, be part of my office. The rewards of discipleship are out of this world!
I love being a Pastor! I love being saved! I love my Lord! Praise God!
Just listen, just be there for Jesus
As a pastor it is always my desire to have the right words to encourage, the right words to guide or instruct or help someone in need. I provide pastoral care for hurting people and have had the privilege of sharing the gospel with many, leading them into the knowledge and receipt of salvation.
But as a chaplain I have learned that it is often more effective to shut up and listen. Just sitting with someone and listening to them can be a powerful healing balm that the Holy Spirit can use to guide someone toward Jesus.
For all of you who are disciples of Jesus Christ, pastors and chaplains and believers who have a heart for pastoral care, I encourage you to learn how to sit quietly and listen. Do not let periods of silence cause discomfort. Learn to ask questions and encourage people to talk, while you listen to their story, hear their hurt and pain and fear. Learn about the power of listening, just being there for Jesus. And when the time is right, the Holy Spirit will guide you with His words when it is time to speak.
Listen much. Speak little. Love always.