Evangelical Church in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Worship Service:   Sunday 10:00 a.m. 

Agape Christian Fellowship

Loving God & Loving People

Ponder A Little (Blog)

Pondering the questions of Christianity, Christ and God's love for mankind.

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WHAT IS A GENEROUS LIFE?

Posted on June 20, 2019 at 1:40 PM

There are plenty of wealthy philanthropists in the world who share their wealth with various charities.  This is obviously a good thing!


But one does not have to be wealthy to live a generous life!  There are many other things to give generously, besides money.


Author and Speaker, Brad Formsma wrote a book entitled, “I Like Giving” and he says that a generous world is a better world for all of us.  Who can argue with that?  He suggests 5 key ways of living a generous life, without giving money.

 

The first way is by giving of our time.   It involves being willing to invest in people and not living only for our own pleasure.  How we spend our “spare time” each week is a choice.  And when we choose to spend some of that time investing in others, we are living generously.

 

The second thing that we can give people is our attention.  This often involves just listening.  We live in a fast-paced society with fast conversations and rushed schedules.  To be generous with our attention, we need to slow down and listen.

 

We are not all wealthy but many of us have things we can share.  This is another way to live generously.  So, what are some things we can share? How about inviting a friend over to watch a big sports event on your 60-inch television?  Or maybe loan your kayaks to friends for their camping trip.  What about your power tools or sewing machine loaned to someone in need?   Sharing is a simple opportunity to be generous.

 

Something we can all give that will cost us nothing is service.  Opportunities to serve are endless.  Jesus tells us to take care of the poor and widows and orphans so why not start there?  To live a generous life, we all need to find an avenue of godly service that we enjoy, and make it a regular part of our lives.

 

And how about the words we speak every day?   Words of encouragement and compliments and gratitude can be given generously with a huge impact for the recipients.


So, here are 3 facts about living generously:

 

1. It does not require wealth to give generously but it does require effort!  If we don’t begin a habit of looking for opportunities to live generously, we simply won’t.  Good actions don’t become good habits without planning and practice.

 

2. It is inevitable that when we live generously, we will be blessed in return.  It is always rewarding and meaningful to bless others.


3. If we lead by example, our lives of generosity will become contagious.  Others will want to get in on the action.  So, let’s get started and make this world a better place for all of us!


LIVE GENEROUSLY!

 


WHAT IS THE SECRET TO CHURCH GROWTH?

Posted on June 1, 2019 at 1:10 AM

Doesn’t every pastor and elder want to know the secret to church growth?  Absolutely!


There are many good answers to this question.  But let’s only focus on the key steps.  Each of these are important but they are still not the #1 secret. I’ll save the best for last.


Here are 6 commonly agreed upon essential components for church growth:


       1. Follow God.  Always be praying and seeking His leading and calling for every decision.

       2. Delegate responsibilities.  Allow many people to be involved to use their gifts and talents in serving. Too often pastors try to do too much and this is unfortunately a recipe for failure.

       3. Set goals.  After all, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” right?  So, dream big, pray big and get everyone involved.

       4. Reach your community.  This is where one of those goals from #3 comes in.  Figure out what a need is in your community and make a plan to meet it.

       5. Focus on small groups.  This is where relationships are built and authentic community begins.  It starts with an interactive Bible study.  And time praying together.  Be willing to be vulnerable.  And socialize with each other too.  Also, serve together on a chosen small group project.  God intends for us to be a family and support each other on the journey of life but how can we if we barely know each other?

       6. Train leaders.  Let them come along beside the leadership and learn.  Then gradually give them their own responsibilities while continuing to mentor them.  Churches will not grow without many strong leaders to take on ministries and help accomplish goals.


So, what is the #1 secret to church growth?  These 6 steps are all important but there is one crucial ingredient for success… It’s God.  Only God. Always God… Don’t forget God!


Let me explain… Without the Holy Spirit moving in the church and in the daily lives of those who attend, there will be little church growth.  After all, the people are the church and the power is the Holy Spirit in the people.  Don’t get hung up on buildings or programs or strategies.  Get hung up on people.  That’s what Jesus cared about the most.


Make sure that the focus of your church is the spiritual growth of the people.  Implementing the 6 steps above will help them grow.  Solid Bible teaching that is engaging and relevant is of obvious importance.  But also, pray that the Holy Spirit is moving in hearts to stir people to action in ministry, in giving, in service, in fellowship.  Spiritual growth happens on the inside but is visible on the outside by the things people do and say.  Once believers are eagerly growing spiritually, the church will grow numerically!   Why?  Because Jesus shines in the lives of passionate Christians and the beauty of Jesus has a magnetic pull.


Churches grow when the people in the church are involved and passionate about all the things Jesus is passionate about.

 

Churches grow when the Holy Spirit is active and evident in the lives of God’s children!

 

 




WHY DON'T PEOPLE WANT CHURCH?

Posted on May 4, 2019 at 2:00 PM

According to statistics church attendance in North America is declining and many churches are closing their doors as a result.  So, what’s happening?  Why is church not relating to people today and as a result taking a downward dive?


Most teens and young adults today, see no need for church or religion.  In fact, many believe that religion is causing the decline of society as a whole.  Events such as 9-11 and the many suicide bombings since, all in the name of “religion”, have left a bad taste in the mouths of many.  To them, it seems that religion has only been a source of evil, not good and is detrimental to our survival.


Unchurched people do not see church as helpful or having a positive impact on our communities.  Many of today’s Millennials truly care about “caring”, so if a church is not seen to be actively doing so, they simply have no interest.  Sadly, an image of arrogance and hypocrisy is often envisioned, of so-called “Christians”.


Plus, Christians oppose what many view as a right to personal choice in sexuality, abortion and more.  Biblical standards do not match today’s common definition of freedom and personal rights.  So, any religion that does not sanction these rights is not easily accepted or wanted.

 

Of course, there are those who also reject Christianity on the basis of science or lack of evidence to support its validity.  Yet there are many Christian scientists and historians who believe that those who hold to these arguments have simply not done enough personal research.  Otherwise, they would have discovered that science and Christianity can coexist and that many events recorded in the Bible are in fact, historically proven.

 

Others believe that religion and Christianity are irrelevant and illogical.  For those who submerse themselves in an existence of narcissism and existentialism, there is no need or room for a God of love which is the essence of Christianity and evidenced in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This is the sad conclusion of those choosing to live in a self-absorbed society.


So, what is the solution?  How do we persuade people to not give up on church and Christianity?  Certainly, we need to be aware of the statistics and the many reasons that influence them.  We are challenged to know how to defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15b – 16a).  But it must always be done with love and kindness.


As we seek to grow our churches these beliefs that threaten our growth need to be clearly understood if we want to succeed.  We should never allow the church to be viewed as irrelevant, outdated or unfounded.

 

But be encouraged.  Despite the gloomy statistics, Christianity is currently the number one religion in the world with over 2 billion people professing faith in Christ.   While western society is departing from their Christian roots, other countries are embracing the Christ of Christianity.


 


WHERE WERE THE ANGELS ON GOOD FRIDAY?

Posted on April 14, 2019 at 9:35 PM



While growing up as a child, my mother would often sing an old hymn on Good Friday entitled, “He Could Have Called 10,000 Angels”.


The words of the title are based on the following Scripture verse when Jesus said to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? (Matthew 26:53 NLT)”


The chorus for the old hymn has these lyrics:

                      He could have called ten thousand angels

                      To destroy the world and set Him free.

                      He could have called ten thousand angels,

                      But He died alone, for you and me.


“He could have” but Jesus never did call the angels to help Him while he endured the brutality of the cross. And crucifixion is historically believed to be the most torturous death known to mankind. Jesus suffered on the cross for six hours and each time He needed to take a breath, He would have to painfully raise Himself up on the spike in His feet.


But before Jesus arrived at the cross, He was already half dead because the soldiers had just finished scourging Him. This was customary before a crucifixion and some did not survive the repeated strikes of the whip that tore away chunks of flesh with each blow.


Jesus, however, did survive and He was then expected to carry a cross with His tortured body nearly half a mile to Golgotha. The cross is believed to have weighed approximately 100 pounds. Jesus became too weak to carry it all the way, so another man was ordered to carry the cross the remainder of the distance.


The horrific torture Jesus endured for our sin on that “Good” Friday is well portrayed in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” filmed in 2004.


Every year on Good Friday, plus each time we participate in the Communion Table, we are to ponder again the great price Jesus paid for our sins. It should never be taken lightly because each of us, due to our personal sin, took part in nailing Jesus to the cross and allowing Him to suffer. He bore the sins of the entire world, even our sins today.


Jesus went to the cross willingly with no help or comfort from the angels. He chose to be obedient even in death (Phil. 2:8). It was a price He knew had to paid for our salvation.


So, celebrate again the gift of love offered for all of us, when God gave His only Son on that first Good Friday so long ago! And rejoice that we serve a living God who conquered death. The story did not end on Good Friday. The empty tomb on Easter morning gives us hope in an all-powerful God who offers us eternal life with Him.



COMMON MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT WORSHIP. WHAT ARE THEY?

Posted on April 6, 2019 at 9:55 AM

Many church goers commonly view worship as something that occurs on Sunday mornings when they are singing or praying. Don’t get me wrong, these are two very important parts of a church service. But what people perhaps don’t realize, is that worship is actually a whole lot bigger than that.


I think we all know what worship generally means. To be clear, the dictionary defines it as, “to honor with great or extravagant respect or devotion” (Webster). Worship is all about glorifying God!


The Bible teaches 2 different aspects of worship.


The first part involves our “acts of worship”. These are obviously the things that we do. But worship is not just done on Sundays, it is an everyday event. And there is more than one or two ways to do it. In fact, there are countless ways to worship. Our lives are meant to be an ongoing instrument of beautiful worship to God. This would include not only singing and praying, but also serving, giving, encouraging, loving, joyfulness, peace-making, gratitude and so much more. Anything we do that gives glory and honour to God, is worship (1 Cor. 10:31, John 15:8, Heb. 13:16).


The second aspect of worship is explained in Romans 12:1 where it says,

                         “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,

                          to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God

                          - this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV)

As Christians, the only true purpose of our lives is to glorify God. And the best way to do that is to give Him our very lives in complete devotion. It is a natural response of gratitude to God for His boundless love for us and His gift of salvation (Matt. 16:24-25, Gal. 2:20).


When we understand more fully all that God has done for us, we cannot help but love God above all else. And our loving response to Him is with “acts of worship” and a surrendered heart that wants to live for God and not ourselves.


That’s worship!


Jesus said our worship is worthless if we only honor God with our words, while our hearts are far from Him (Matt. 15:8-9).


How is your worship today?


HOW DO YOU REACT?

Posted on March 23, 2019 at 9:45 AM


What’s your knee-jerk reaction when someone hurts you with lies or gossip or ridicule?  If you are human, it would be to retaliate.   Fortunately, as believers we have the Holy Spirit, to help us overcome our human nature.   It takes a great deal of humility and faith to trust God and not retaliate when we are under attack.  When we are wounded, God tells us to trust Him to handle it, in His way and in His time.  Not always easy!


But letting go is clearly the teaching of Christ.  When is the last time you read the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5 to 7?  This is not any typical sermon.  And it was not preached in a church.   It is simply Jesus teaching to a crowd of followers, on a hillside.


The sermon can be summed up as being a message of what it really means to follow Jesus.  Simply put, it means to live a life of love and selflessness just like Jesus did.  There are a lot of "hard to swallow" and hard to follow teachings about the exemplary conduct expected of Jesus’ followers.  We are to live from a much higher standard than what the world teaches and expects.  In fact, sometimes what is expected is completely opposite to the teaching of society.


For example, Jesus said to love and pray for our enemies.   When is the last time you did that?  It just doesn’t seem normal does it?   And it isn’t for the unbeliever.   But when we truly have the character of Jesus shining in our lives, it is very normal indeed.


In this sermon, Jesus addresses our common human frailties of pride, anger, worry, jealousy and greed.  He challenges us to not blend in with the crowd, living for ourselves with no desire for godliness.  Instead, we are to stand out as a follower of Jesus, reflecting His values and obeying His teaching.  We are to turn the other cheek, give to those who ask and always forgive!  This is all so contrary to our natural human tendencies.


But Jesus entered our world and showed us how to live.   And He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us succeed.  Matthew 5 to 7 are words well worth reading over and over again.   Because once the words are embedded in our minds we will know each day and in each situation, “What Jesus Would Do”, so that we can do it too.



HOW IS YOUR HEART TODAY?

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 9:35 AM

The Bible makes it clear that the condition of our heart is very important to God.

 

       Matthew 6:21   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

       Proverbs 4:23   Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.


       Matthew 5:8    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 

       1 Samuel 16:7   Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

 

There is nothing more important than who you are on the inside. The world teaches us that what we own, what we accomplish and the image we present is what is important. But God teaches us that none of that matters. God only looks at the heart. That’s where our life is.

 

Jesus gave some powerful teachings about the heart. He said that lust is the same as committing adultery and that hatred is the same as committing murder. Why? Because it is a matter of the heart. Sin always starts in the heart (Matt. 15:19) and God wants our hearts to be pure.


Our actions, attitudes, words and desires all originate in our heart and become who we are and how we live (Matthew 15:18,19)

 

So how do we guard our hearts? How do we keep our heart pure?

 

It certainly doesn’t come without some effort and struggle. Even though as believers, the Holy Spirit lives within us, we will at times fight with our sinful nature. Paul talks about this struggle in Romans 7.

 

There are 5 key tools that God provides to help us guard our hearts. But we need personal diligence and discipline to be truly effective.

 

       • The power and ministry of the Holy Spirit living within us

       • The power and truth of God’s Word in the Bible

       • The power of humble confession of sin in prayer

       • The trials we experience that test our faith and grow our character

       • The ministry of other believers to each of us

 

Our character is found in our heart. Our true success in life is found in our heart. Our love for God and others is found in our heart. Never underestimate the importance of the condition of your heart!



ARE YOU TEMPTED TO BE DISCOURAGED?

Posted on February 2, 2019 at 1:05 AM

None of us are immune to times of discouragement.  It’s a common poison that quickly weakens our faith in God.   It is perhaps Satan’s favourite tool because even mature Christians can easily succumb to its temptation.  Well known pastors even admit to struggling with discouragement when their idealism and enthusiasm is not shared by the church leaders and members around them.


Our Bibles tell us of great men of God who became discouraged.  Job, Elijah, Peter and Jeremiah each became discouraged with people, life’s circumstances, themselves and even God.  And these men did what each of us tend to do.  They gave in to their feelings and for a time felt sorry for themselves.


But God does not want us to give in.   Instead, God commands us, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, Believe in Me” (John 14:1).  God wants us to fight back with faith.   Discouragement can have a positive outcome if we allow it to strengthen our faith.

 

Here are some helpful steps:

     1. Honestly and fully express your hurt feelings to God in prayer.

     2. Examine your thoughts because it is always our thoughts that lead to our feelings and sometimes what we tell ourselves is not true.   Both         Elijah and Jeremiah were discouraged by faulty thinking (1Kings 19, Lam. 3).

     3. Seek God’s eternal perspective for your discouraging situation.  Believe that He has a plan and knows what He is doing.  Job had no idea what was going on between God and Satan in regards to his circumstances.   And sometimes we will never know either.  But God expects us to still trust Him and believe in His eternal goodness.  This is where the fire truly refines us and makes our faith strong and mature.

     4. Soothe your soul with the Word of God.   Meditate on and claim God’s promises.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

     5. Keep serving God.  When we get discouraged we tend to withdraw.  But there is healing in service.  When we give we are blessed.  Elijah was told by God to get back to work and ministry soon after asking God to let him die (1 Kings 19).


Life is not always fair or fun!   But we are not alone!  Jesus is walking beside us and He has experienced every hardship and discouragement we have ever known (Heb. 4:14-16).  1 Peter 5:7 says to, “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you”.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!   I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


When you are down, look up and see Jesus!



ARE NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS OK?

Posted on January 1, 2019 at 11:20 AM



The top 3 New Year's Resolutions are to eat healthier, exercise more and lose weight.   There is certainly nothing wrong with these resolutions.   I have even made them myself.


So what does God have to say about them?   Read 1 Timothy 4:8 which says, "Training your body helps you in some ways but serving God helps you in every way by bringing you blessings in this life and in the future life too."


I am frequently reminded that the Bible, which is God's very own words to us, has something to teach us on a vast number of topics - even New Year's Resolutions.   After all, the Bible is the #1 best seller of all time and has survived 2000 years, despite the efforts of many to wipe it out of existence.


God knows that eating healthier, exercising more and losing excess weight are all good things.   But God is quick to point out what is most important in life... serving Him!   And how do we do that?  By serving others!  Jesus taught a parable saying, "I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me". (Matthew 25:40)


So perhaps we should make our New Year's Resolutions about doing good things for the people around us?   Perhaps we should work hard this year at learning the heart of Jesus!   He came to earth, "not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many". (Matthew 20:28)


The world likes to repeatedly teach us that life and happiness is all about putting ourselves first.   This is the exact opposite of the teachings of Jesus.


Let's start the year 2019 with resolutions that put other people first as we keep our eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve one another.



WHY ARE PEOPLE SAD AT CHRISTMAS?

Posted on December 12, 2018 at 8:40 AM

For many, Christmas is a much-anticipated season of celebration and festivities.  But for some it is a dreaded season of loneliness and despair.


Suicide rates are highest over the Christmas season.   Why?   Because many are alone for Christmas.   Or are missing the loved one that died recently.   Or are struggling financially and are unable to afford the typical Christmas traditions.


We sing Christmas carols about good cheer and good will towards all men.   Those words can sting in the hearts of those who are sad at Christmas.


But we can bring hope and love to those who are struggling through the Christmas Season.  First we have to find them.   If we each keep our eyes and ears open and pray that God give us an opportunity to brighten someone’s heart this Christmas, we can make a difference.


A simple way to help, is to give financially to charities that deliver smiles every Christmas.   They are easy to find in our communities and even online.


But even better is a personal touch.  Visit a family in need just before Christmas with a large gift basket.   Or invite someone who is alone to your Christmas dinner.   Go Christmas carolling at a Senior’s home or hospital.   Dress up as Santa for kids at an orphanage.  The ideas are endless.  And the blessings for them, and even you, will go into eternity.


Christmas – good cheer and good will toward all men!



WHO IS THE CHRIST OF CHRISTMAS?

Posted on December 6, 2018 at 1:30 PM


Most people celebrating Christmas do not celebrate the Christ of Christmas.


Christmas has become a very secular holiday full of commercialism and traditions that have nothing to do with Jesus. There is nothing wrong with the gift giving, Santa Claus and family celebrations.


But for Christians, it is a day to primarily celebrate the best gift ever given… The baby Jesus. God incarnate. Emmanuel, meaning God with us!


God in His immense love, took on human flesh with a plan to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can be reconciled with Him and have eternal life. Christmas is the beginning of a true story of amazing love. The love of God for all mankind. Including YOU!

 

Most people will celebrate Christmas without giving Jesus a single thought. But at Christmas, believers ponder the enormity of that gift, celebrate it and give thanks!


What will you do with the Christ of Christmas this year? Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Have you personally accepted the best gift ever given? If you would like to, then please email us at info@agapesancarlos.com. Your life will never be the same!

 

Merry Christmas!



HOW TO LIVE IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY

Posted on November 27, 2018 at 1:35 AM

Rick Warren has said, “When you live in the light of eternity, trouble just doesn’t bother you as much anymore!”


The Bible clearly teaches that we will face many trials. God knows that it is in trials that our faith and character grow.

 

The trials of life are inevitable but discouragement with the trials is not. How we respond to trials is solely up to us. It is our perspective on trials that is crucial. This involves having an understanding of their purpose and viewing them in the light of eternity.


We need to have a heavenly perspective, to live in the light of eternity.


A heavenly perspective is a mind-focus. We are told in Colossians 3, to keep our mind and spirit focused on our eternal home with Jesus. The benefit is more peace and less stress. More joy and less despair.


Col. 3:1-2  says, "Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth."


A heavenly perspective involves reflection. When the troubles of this world cause discouragement and despair, it is time to ponder the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. There we will find hope.


Heb. 12:2 says, " Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne."


A heavenly perspective requires faith. Faith is fundamental in our relationship with Jesus. It is a faith that is rewarded with an eternity in heaven. And it is a faith that gives us peace and courage to persevere while here on earth.


2 Cor. 4:18 says, " We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever."


Only when we focus on the Prize – eternal life with Jesus – are we living in the light of eternity!



HOW DOES SATAN TEMPT US?

Posted on November 9, 2018 at 12:35 AM




I’ve always been told that Satan likes to attack us the most, at our weak spots… areas in our lives where we tend to fail again and again.   Perhaps in our spending habits, or personal bitterness, or misplaced priorities, or a tendency to gossip or a critical spirit.  The list goes on.  We all have sins we are most prone to succumb to.


But recently I heard a pastor teach the opposite.  He said that Satan is most likely to attack us at our strengths, not our weaknesses.  Why?  Because our strengths lead to pride. So, he said we need to beware of our successes because it is in those successes that we are most likely to forget God (J.D. Greear)


Pride can be so subtle, can’t it?   Nobody tends to see themselves as being prideful.   Yet with a closer, more honest look, we all know that we have experienced times of personal, sinful pride.


Do you know why God does not bless many of us with wealth?  Because with prosperity most people become self-sufficient.  Clearly God often tests each of us with times of adversity and those times are hard but we usually make it through.  However, the test of prosperity is not so easy for many.   It is this test that most of us will fail.  Because prosperity makes life easy.  So, we don’t need God and we quickly forget about Him.


Thank God today for a life that is not easy and keeps you dependant on Him, seeking Him and loving Him!





ARE YOU LIVING IN FEAR OR FAITH?

Posted on October 31, 2018 at 11:05 AM


God doesn’t call the brave. He makes brave the called!


God doesn’t need your abilities. He needs your availability!


Time and time again the Scriptures speak of ordinary people that God made great!  Men like unheard of Gideon, shepherd boy David, mistreated Joseph, fishermen from Galilee and an orphan named Esther.


God made leaders out of stuttering Moses, denying Peter, adulterer David, youthful Jeremiah and persecuting Saul.


Even a woman named Deborah, a prophetess, God equipped to lead the Israelites in battle, while the leader of the army, Barak, would only go to war if she went with him.


God repeatedly teaches us in the Bible that it is not about who we are - but about who He is!


God says He will never leave us and with His power we can do great things.  We all face fears.  But do we live daily with the full realization of God’s promise to always be with us?  Do we ever need to be afraid if we fully believe in His presence and amazing power in our lives?


When you hear God’s calling, you will experience fear.  Be ready for it and respond to it with courage grounded in the assurance of God’s promise to be with you and the realization that God is always bigger than our fears!


Ask God what He is calling you to do because God has placed a calling on each of our lives.  Most of us choose the easy path.  We stay in our comfort zone and fail to live out God’s calling.  And then we miss out on God’s perfect plan for us.   But it’s never too late!


Step out in faith and obedience to God’s voice!



HOW TO LIVE OUT CHRIST'S LOVE

Posted on September 27, 2018 at 1:20 PM



Christian author, Gary Chapman, writes the following in his book, “The Love as a Way of Life”:


In the later centuries of the Roman Empire – and the early centuries of the Christian era – the once-proud empire suffered a series of                     setbacks.  Wars, waves of invasion by Germanic tribes, and devastating epidemics led to a fractured, failing society.   


In the face of terrible conditions, political elites and their non-Christian priests fled the cities. T he only functioning social network left was the church, which provided basic nursing care to Christians and non-Christians alike, along with hope that transcended death.   Even pagans acknowledged that early Christians were as kind to their neighbors as they would be to family.  What made the church so powerful during that time was not artful persuasion but serving others with love….


As history shows, entire cultures can change as a result of the Christian community practicing the love of Christ.


Ponder how you can influence your community by practicing the love of Christ through random acts of kindness.  Then begin!

 


HOW CAN GOD BE JEALOUS?

Posted on September 22, 2018 at 3:20 PM



The Bible repeatedly tells us that God is a jealous God. What does this mean? Isn’t jealousy a sin.? So, if God is holy and perfect, how can He be jealous?


There is a righteous jealousy just as there is a righteous anger.


The answer to this conundrum is found by looking at the context of the use of the word in the Bible. When God describes himself as jealous in the Bible, it is when his children, the Israelites, chose to follow other gods and worship idols.


Jealousy is only a sin when it is over something that does not belong to us. As believers, we commit our hearts and lives to God. And we belong to Him. He is first in our lives and the object of our primary devotion. God is jealous for our love that belongs to Him.


So, when we mix up our priorities and put other people or things or goals at the top of our list, God becomes jealous. When we make for ourselves earthly idols in place of God, He has a righteous jealousy for us to come back to Him.


God’s jealousy is actually a rich display of His endless and devoted love for each one of us!


God is jealous for you! Are you jealous for Him?


HOW DID JESUS INTERACT WITH UNBELIEVERS

Posted on September 16, 2018 at 7:45 PM


I recently read the book, “Jesus Outside The Lines”, which gave me a fresh perspective of Jesus and how he related to the culture of His day that was strongly opposed to His message. Jesus did very well at what I and many Christians today find so very difficult.


Daniel Darling said, “A certain ugliness accompanies the way evangelicals often do cultural engagement. It is a gospel-free, score-keeping partisanship long on fear and short on hope.”


Modern society with multiplying and widening cultural divides can be disheartening for the evangelical Christian. How do we introduce the gospel in such an anti-Christ environment? It seems difficult at times to co-exist in a world that sometimes opposes the core of our being so strongly.

So, as Christians we sometimes choose to seek safety in our little cocoon of Christian fellowship. But is this what Jesus did? Reading our Bibles, we learn that Jesus made a habit of socializing with the unbelievers and the sinners. His words and actions are full of love, not divisiveness.


Even within Christian circles, opposing views on politics, money, the poor and worship are held, and divide us as believers. Division was never the way of Christ. Jesus led with compassion. It is, indeed, possible for two Christians to hold opposing views on a topic without either of them compromising their faith.


In his book, “Jesus Outside The Lines”, Pastor Scott Sauls addresses these ongoing conflicts of our modern day, resulting from people choosing sides. Sauls asks, “Is it possible to profoundly disagree with someone and love that person deeply at the same time? Is it possible to hold convictions and simultaneously embrace those who reject your deep convictions?”


His answer in the book, is an overwhelming, Yes! He encourages the believer to, without compromising his faith, try to understand the thoughts of those with differing views to establish healthy communication. He encourages compassionate dialogue, not critical. Sauls uses countless Scripture to present his conclusion that we can, in fact, lovingly co-exist in a society full of people with opposing views. After all, that is exactly what Jesus did.


Sauls, courageously and compassionately challenges even difficult subjects in his book, like sexual ethics and the reality of hell. There is no Christian compromise in this book, only Christ-like compassion!


Christian Ethicist, Andrew Spencer says, “This book represents the beginning of a deep conversation that needs to happen in the gospel community whose ideas are increasingly demonized.”


I wholeheartedly recommend this book for any Christian who chooses to be more and more Christ-like in their everyday interactions with both believers and non-believers that Jesus deeply loves.



HOW TO BREAK BAD HABITS

Posted on September 3, 2018 at 7:05 PM



Personal anxiety is a bad habit that is paralyzing for some, annoying for others and practically non-existent for a few.  We are all wired so differently.


As Christians, the Bible tells us to not be anxious.  We are also told that when we are anxious we are lacking in faith.  Whoa!!  Wait a minute!  Who needs a guilt trip like that, right?  After all, isn’t it normal and simply human to sometimes be anxious?  Of course, it is!  But as Christians, we are taught to immediately take that anxiety to God in prayer and release it.   And why?  Because God knows how harmful anxiety is for our body and our well-being.


For each of us, there are harmful traits we have that are deeply rooted.  Anxiety is one but how about a critical spirit, a selfish spirit, pride, anger and bitterness, procrastination, negativity and perfectionism.  The list goes on.  Because we are human.  But it is important for each of us to recognize and acknowledge our weaknesses so we can then work to overcome them.  It’s not impossible.  Nothing is impossible with God!

 

But it does involve work on our part.  I have to replace my bad habits contributing to my harmful trait, with good habits.  With time and daily practice, I will become more of the child God calls me to be, full of the fruit of His Spirit.  It is my habits that define my character!

 

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”


As believers, our goal is to daily display the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  And with God’s help we can do this and overcome the harmful human traits we all naturally possess.   Join me in building more good habits today.


I AM A CHERISHED CHILD OF GOD?

Posted on August 22, 2018 at 8:35 PM


Do you know how valuable and precious you are to God?


The Bible has lots to say about this.   1 John 3:1 says, “The Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are His children!”


The Bible talks about God’s children being the apple of His eye.  It also tells us that our names are engraved in the palm of God’s hand.   And the Bible tells us that God carries us, like a father carries a child when we are weak and tired.   Even more, God knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.  Jesus says we are more precious than the countless sparrows God cares for.   Best of all, the Bible teaches that there is no greater love than someone laying down their life for another.


Well, guess what?  That is exactly what God did for each of us!  Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sins, in our place, a horrific death on a cross, all because of love!   That’s how precious we are to God.  That’s how much God loves us.   That is a fatherly love that would do anything for his child.


Picture the beauty of His love for you right now.   Ponder the wonder of His grace, that God Almighty would value you and I that much.  He so deeply desires an intimate “Father and child” relationship with each one of us.  Even if you were the only person on planet earth, God would have died for you alone to show you His immense love!


Know and celebrate God’s personal and intimate love for you today!   Recognize how valuable and precious you are to Him.  It’s a gift!  It can never be earned by anything you do!  It is always freely given!   That’s just who God is!  Amazing, right?



WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT GIVING?

Posted on August 16, 2018 at 4:15 PM


Why are tithing and Christian service hot and sensitive subjects for some people?   Was it in the early church?   Not that I can see.  People gave generously to make sure needs were always met.  Today, it seems people want to hoard most of their extra time and money for themselves.  I hear some Christians getting offended by any preaching on giving, yet the preaching is straight from the Bible.

 

Stewardship often reveals our beliefs about God and ourselves!  If we are generous in giving of our time, our works and our money, then we likely have a good understanding of who we are, compared to the Almighty God; and a good recognition that everything ultimately comes from Him.

 

If we are hoarding our time, our works and our money for our own good pleasure then we are ultimately saying that we are self-sufficient, we don’t need God and we don’t owe God anything.  Giving of our time, our works and our money is a demonstration of our love for God, our humility before God and our acknowledgement that all that we are and have is only because of Him.


God multiplies whatever we give Him.  Whether it be our time, our money or our energy.  We won’t run out. (Mal 3:10, Luke 18:29-30).


Remember - You can never out-give God!

 




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