What does faith cause?

There are certainly many answers to that question, as faith causes many things to happen (or not happen). Sincere faith, especially, leads to corresponding attitudes and actions.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing through our Who’s Your One? sermon series, taking a look at Luke 5:17-26 and talking about how “Believing Is Receiving.”

As I prepare for that message, I would like to challenge you to consider the faith of the men in that story – the man Jesus forgave and healed and the man’s friends, who lowered him down to Jesus from a roof. Jesus saw their faith (verse 20), and as a result, he both forgave the paralyzed man of his sins and also healed the man.

From that story, I believe we can learn a couple of important lessons about sincere faith in Jesus Christ.

1. FAITH LEADS TO SEEKING JESUS.

Why were the men in that story so persistent that “they went up on the roof and lowered him on the mat through the roof tiles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus” (Luke 5:19)? That is a lot of effort. That is persistence in the midst of great obstacles!

These men and their paralyzed friend obviously had faith. They believed there was something special about this Jesus, and so He was worth their effort and persistence. Their faith led to them seeking Jesus.

What about your faith? Are you seeking to get closer to Jesus? Sincere faith leads to seeking Jesus.

2. FAITH LEADS TO LOVING OTHERS.

Today is Valentine’s Day, so we will probably hear a lot about love this weekend. What kind of love, though? The Bible tells us that “love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). In fact, we cannot know love apart from God. “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Furthermore, “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).

The one with faith in Jesus has love for God and love for others. There are no exceptions to this. Again, see 1 John 4:7-21. I am not saying this to take away from Valentine’s Day and the romantic love between a husband and his wife, as that is certainly included in the Word of God. Rather, I am challenging you to consider how your faith impacts your love. Your love says a lot about your faith.

The men in the story in Luke 5:17-26 cared enough about their friend to go to great lengths to do what? Well, they wanted to get their friend to Jesus! Is there a better way for us to love others than to bring them to Jesus?

Genuine faith leads to seeking Jesus and loving others. Is there proof of genuine faith in your life? Do you love others enough to do whatever you can to bring them to Jesus?

Of course, before you can truly seek Jesus and love others in any lasting way, you must come to know Him. The good news is that you do not have to figure that out on your own either. You simply have to BELIEVE that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again for your salvation, turning from your sins and trusting in HIM. If you want to learn more about this good news, check out The Story.

To Follow Is to Fish

Can you love something and not talk about it? Perhaps, but rarely. Is it not true that the things we are most passionate about, we talk about? Faith is no exception. In fact, life-changing faith is the epitome of this reality – sincere faith leads to commitment leads to passion leads to boldness.

The Bible does not speak of a faith that does not speak. Rather, disciples of Jesus are all about making more disciples of Jesus. Jesus made this clear in His great commission to His followers (Matthew 28:16-20), which is to be the great commitment of our lives.

From the very beginning of Jesus’ discipleship ministry, disciples making disciples was His emphasis. “Follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fish for people!” (Matthew 4:19). To follow Jesus is to fish for people… to make disciples… to help people know and follow Jesus.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new 5-week sermon series called Who’s Your One? In this series, which includes some helpful resources from the North American Mission Board, I hope to challenge our church family to have at least one person for whom they are praying and seeking to introduce to Jesus.

If you know and follow Jesus, who are you telling about Him? How is your fishing going? What changes need to be made in your life so that discipleship (growing closer to Jesus and helping others to grow closer to Jesus) is a growing commitment and priority?

You cannot follow what you do not know. If you do not yet know and follow Jesus Christ, would you consider turning to Him today? He loves you. He died on the cross for your sins. And, He rose from the dead to win your eternal victory, if you will simply trust in Him. Learn more by checking out The Story.

Read the Word

Joshua read aloud all the words of the law – the blessings as well as the curses – according to all that is written in the book of the law” (Joshua 8:34).

If you read the end of Joshua 8, you will notice that Joshua was honoring God with an altar after a great victory God had given His people. Joshua was following God’s instructions, and then read God’s instructions – God’s Word – to all the people of Israel. He read all of it to them – “the blessings as well as the curses.”

How can we honor God like Joshua did and help others to do the same? By reading His Word, declaring His Word to others, and following His Word. Like Jesus said, we prove ourselves to be disciples by going and making disciples and baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything He has commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20). Oh, and He promises to be with His disciples “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

Do you know the Word? Are you reading the Word? Are you obeying the Word – all of it? With all of the incredible resources available to us in the English language (and in so many other languages), we have no excuse not to engage God daily through His Word.

Read the Word and pray for God’s help to obey.

If you have no desire to read God’s Word, perhaps you have not yet received God’s rescue from sin and death through His One and Only Son. Would you consider the Story and turn to Jesus today?

Success is the Lord's

And the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land” (Joshua 6:27). Notice what is not said – The Bible does not say, “And Joshua’s fame spread throughout the land, so the Lord decided to be with Joshua.” Joshua’s fame was a result of the Lord’s presence in his life.

Joshua had just led the Israelites, at the Lord’s direction, to the capture and destruction of Jericho. God brought down the walls of Jericho and fulfilled His promise. Joshua grew in fame because the Lord is faithful and powerful. Joshua grew in fame because the Lord did what He said He would do, and He chose to use Joshua to do so.

This reality is true for us, too. Success is always the Lord’s, whether we recognize and admit this truth or not. All good that we have is from Him, just as was the case with Joshua.

Do you recognize God’s sovereign hand in your life? Are you giving Him the credit and the glory? Are you trusting and depending on Him in humility? Let us realize we are nothing without the Lord.

This reality is of no greater importance than it is in regards to our eternal status. Have you trusted in God’s One and Only Son to make you right with Him for all of eternity? Please read the Story and make sure.

What is a Christian disciple?

When Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20), His command of focus is “make disciples of all nations.”

The going, the baptizing, and the teaching are underneath the emphasis of making disciples. What is the meaning of “make disciples,” though? What is a disciple of Jesus?

A disciple is a follower of Jesus who helps others follow Jesus. In our church, we say often (and have been emphasizing the past few weeks during our 2020 Vision series), “Our passion is the gospel. Our church is our family. Our world is our mission.” That is a purpose and vision statement, I believe, that is true of someone who is a Christian disciple.

A Christian disciple is someone who has been changed by the gospel and thus is passionate about the gospel. As a result, a Christian disciple is part of an eternal family and longs to be actively involved in a local church – a church that preaches the gospel. Then, of course, that passion for the gospel drives the Christian disciple to help others know and experience the new life that is only found in and through the gospel.

A Christian disciple goes on mission so that others can become disciples and be baptized and learn to observe everything that Jesus has commanded.

Gospel. Family. Mission.

Go. Baptize. Make disciples. Teach to obey.

What is a Christian disciple? A Christian disciple follows Jesus and helps others to follow Jesus. Are you following Jesus? Are you helping others to follow Jesus? If you are a Christian disciple, you will either answer those questions with a yes, or you are convicted that something needs to change in your life.

As a Christian disciple, you have the Holy Spirit. You have Jesus “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 20:20b). And, He will not allow you to live contently without being a disciple who makes disciples.

If you are not a Christian disciple, what is holding you back? Will you turn to Jesus today?

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The Blessing of Church as Family

Whether you feel like attending your church services Sunday morning or not, be there. Gather with your church because you need your church, and your church needs you. Perhaps you are discouraged and overwhelmed with life; if so, you need others to build you up and encourage you. Perhaps you are doing well spiritually; if so, others need you to build up and encourage them.

I don’t need to go church to worship,” some might say.

Well, I have a few responses to that common excuse I hear from people who claim they do not need church.

  1. Yes, you and I can worship God anywhere, but we cannot experience the fulfillment and satisfaction God created us to experience apart from corporate worship and fellowship. I love to sing songs of praise to God, and I do so when I am driving down the road or walking down the hallway (alone), but those times alone do not even come close to worshiping God with my church family. Lifting up my voice in unison with others seeking to praise Him has no equal.
  2. No one goes to church, but rather we gather with the church. If you are stuck on the idea of “going to church,” you are missing the point that church is not a place but a people. Church is not a building but a body. Church is not a fabrication but a family. And every single person on this earth does better when living, as God intended, with a healthy family.
  3. What a selfish and foolish response it is to claim no need for the church. God created us to be in relationship – in relationship with Him and in relationship with one another. Furthermore, He commands us to gather regularly with the church, to serve the church, and to love the church. Thus, claiming you do not need the church is not only wrong but a selfish rejection of God’s plan for your life to love and serve others (and to be loved and be served).

No, you do not need the church to worship God, but what are you missing without the church? And, what is the church missing without you? We need one another.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our 2020 Vision series and talking about the great blessing that “Our Church Is Our Family.” Looking at Romans 12:3-8, I hope to share three things church family ought to do continually. Do you value the church as family? Do you see the great blessing in this gift from God?

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another (Romans 12:3-5).

Members of a body rely on one another and simply cannot function properly on their own. So, the church. The church is the body of Christ, with Him as our Head. We are all under His leadership and authority, and we work together to honor Him and build up one another.

Do you see how, in light of that truth, we do need the church? If you have no desire to be a part of a Bible-teaching church, perhaps it is because you have not come to know the Good News. Please realize how much God loves you – so much so that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and rise again for your victory over sin and death, if you will simply turn to Him.

If you make that decision to surrender your life to Jesus, I believe you will not only gather with the church; you will love and serve her faithfully.

Sunday is also “Youth Sunday,” meaning our youth praise band will lead our worship music, and various youth will pray and serve during the service. We will also have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Preston, our association’s director of missions, about his recent trip to Central Asia.

Passion Is Priority

Our kids opened a few presents last month. They received Christmas gifts about which they were seemingly excited. Of course, some gifts were received more gladly than others, while some have probably already been forgotten. The gifts about which our kids were sincerely passionate, though, are still used and talked about each day. They play with them. They care for them. They protect them. They declare their greatness.

They prioritize these gifts with their time, efforts, and energy because they are passionate about these gifts. Passion is priority.

Now, the reality is that all of these gifts are temporary, meaning they will not last forever, nor will the passion had for them last forever.

WE ARE PASSIONATE PEOPLE

Everyone is passionate about something. God created us this way, and we declare that passion in and through our priorities. You give of your time, your care, and your resources to that which you prioritize. Or, you end up prioritizing the thing(s) to which you give of your time, your care, and your resources (see Matthew 6:21).

We are passionate people, whether our personalities are outwardly charismatic or more reserved. So, what are you most passionate about?

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can you possibly be more passionate about anything than you are about the gospel? Nothing is even close to as great as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and if you have experienced that salvation, you are surely passionate about it.

HAVE APPROPRIATE PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a 3-week sermon series on 2020 Vision. My hope is to challenge our church (both as a body and as individuals) to have the right (biblical) purpose and vision in 2020 and beyond, beginning with having appropriate passion – passion focused appropriately.

Our passion for the gospel ought to be greater than our passion for anything else. Is your passion the gospel? If not, why? Have you experienced new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you prioritizing your relationship with Him?

Micah, who received plenty of Christmas gifts about which he is passionate (at least for now), opening a gift with Papa and Mema.