What does it mean to follow Jesus?

I sometimes wonder what the responses would be if I asked the church I preach for, or any other church for that matter what it means to follow Jesus?

Would I get a religious response? Would it be an emotional response? Would it be something that they heard a co-worker say or saw on the internet? Would it be a Biblical response? What would it be?stock-photo-religious-word-cloud-314485148

Would they say it means to be happy? It means we need to be serious? It means to obey? It means . . . ?

I must be honest, I don’t understand the Trinity of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Three-in-One. I believe the Bible accurately reveals this truth to us. But understanding and explaining the reality is hard. But one thing I understand, that the relationship each member of the Trinity has with each is one of joy, love, respect, and unity. They trust each other. They trust each other implicitly.

Given that we are helpless sinners, saved by grace through our faith in Jesus, what does it mean to follow Jesus?

I see it comes from the relationship of Jesus with the Heavenly Father. It comes from the love and unity they have. Jesus always obeyed the Father. It was because of love and trust. Jesus tells us, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:25).

And the best way to keep Jesus’ commands is to do as he does. It is to become like him in character and trust God with all our might, or as Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 33:37 and 39).

blogingthechurch

New Ministry, New Vision

In July I accepted a new ministry. I moved from the church and ministry I was serving at FCC big logothe Lake of the Ozarks, to a ministry with the Forsyth Christian Church.

I could talk about what happened in which God led me away from my previous ministry to this ministry. Let me save that for one of the next posts.

With a change in ministry, location, and even variances in job description, comes new focus, purpose, vision, and goals. Here we have about a 12-year-old congregation whose minister retired and they realize where the direction they need to go. The congregation is mostly older folks, in fact, the town has an average age of 51. They sense the need to reach younger families with children and for several reasons. First, those people need the Lord too. They need to have Jesus offered to them. Second, they realize that young people are the future . . .  of anything. They grow up to be the church and the leaders in the church and the outreach for the church. So we need young families and so we have a vision of a children’s program with a support program to their families.

They want to bring their music into a contemporary model. Add newer songs and do the music in fresh ways. I know some feel this will draw the younger crowd, and it might, but it is a refreshing that can be a game-changer for all the folks in our church.

And, they are looking forward to a Biblical elder-ship to lead the congregation. Godly, Spirit-filled men leading with love and grace.

We are carrying out the great commission and discipleship development. We are seeking the Spirit’s empowering and guidance to fulfill our role and responsibility in the kingdom of God. We will stand faithful and true to Christ and his Word no matter what.

I have a new ministry focus. Pray for me.

bloggingthechurch

The Challenges of Belief

download1“Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God.” I learned that verse very early in Vacation Bible School and Church camp.  Romans 10:17. Yet, people struggle with belief.

The “word of God is living and active” as Hebrew 4:12 indicates, and faith comes through the word, but not all people who read or study the Bible come to faith in Christ, or even belief in God.  One past atheist knew the Bible so well she would use the Bible as a tool against Christians.

A lot of people read the Bible and begin a journey of faith as they search for truth. All their questions and doubts may not be answered as they travel the road to belief, but often, it is so clear to them that what the Bible reveals is true and truth, it is real and vibrant, and they follow the Word of God into belief and salvation.

Others like the atheist I mentioned above can read and study the Bible, experience the faith of loving Christians and yet never believe. It is impossible to believe without the Word, the Bible, but the Word is not the only part of belief.  God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit is involved and some people resist him and reject his work and never come to belief.

As a Christian, a believer in Jesus and caring about what Jesus cares about: people lost in sin (Luke 19:10), it is difficult at times to share faith with others. Not fear, but how do I relate to so many different people from so many different circumstances that I may not be able to speak too from experience?

Well, a couple of things are evident. First, a Christian’s responsibility is not the conversion of another person, but to be faithful and faithfulness includes sharing Jesus. Second, God through his Spirit is responsible for the work of conversion. He works in their heart and mind and soul and leads them to the point of choice. In other words, we share to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and the Spirit does his job. Some believe and some do not.

I was raised by godly, Christian parents and was part of a conservative church, faithful to God and the Word. I accepted Christ and was baptized at 9 1/2. I have known Jesus a long time. It seems simple to me, but it is not simple to all people.

Knowledge is not belief, but it informs belief. Understanding is not belief, but it guides knowledge. Assent, acceptance leads to belief. I pray that you believe in God and Jesus and that your faith is solidly placed in their hands.

bloggingthechurch

Quote by F.C. Conybeare

I read this somewhere a few months ago and have forgotten the source.

F.C. Conybeard (d. 1923), an Oxford scholar (and not a Christian) has characterized some of the reconstruction made by contemporary anti-Christian writers as more miraculous than the history they are trying to correct.

It is still the same today, almost a century later.

bloggingthechurch

I Believe in the Impossible

THE IMPOSSIBLE

How many people do you know who have come back from the dead?  I don’t know of a single person who has.  Not since the events in the Bible happened and were recorded for our benefit.

Let’s see, Elijah raised the widow’s son, and didn’t Elisha raise someone also.  There is the widow’s son in the city of Nain, the young daughter of the synagogue ruler, and Lazarus, and of course Jesus.  Anyone else I missed?  Maybe, but I have not heard of a verified raising of the dead since New Testament times.

The story of Frankenstein is about getting life back into a dead body, and the story goes all wrong.  Cryogenics is meant to preserve until a cure for whatever killed the person cryogenically frozen is found, than they are supposed to be revived after they are thawed.  The only problem is, there is no cure for death other than God’s miraculous intervention and that hasn’t happened since Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and Paul was revived by God after being stoned to death.

Jesus is the death conqueror.  He overcame death not by being raised by Peter or Paul or Elijah or someone else, as God he raised on his own.  He possesses the power of God, for he is God, and was even when he was in the flesh as human.  Revelation 1 paints the picture of Jesus in the same imagery that Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah do in describing God in heaven.

The impossible, coming back to life is only possible by God’s power.  Anyone who lives again has returned to life by God’s power, not by science, not by medical means, not by voodoo, nothing but God’s power can overcome the one thing that is certainly impossible for humans.

I believe in the impossible.

bloggingthechurch

PS: I hope you have enjoyed this series :I Believe in the Impossible

Where Does Faith Come From?

Ken was from Connecticut, blind, raised in a foster home with a foster dad who abused his wife. He has lived in poverty most of his life. He always wanted to go to Oklahoma, be a social worker and work with native Americans. He was accepted at a junior college in Oklahoma and one day, in the lunch room, the lunch lady who usually helped Ken get to a table was unable to assist him, so she asked a couple of students to help Ken and they gladly did. They were friendly and a part of a Christian campus ministry. They invited Ken to a pizza party and he agreed to attend.

Ken admits that the only reason he went to the party was for free pizza (he believes it is one of the foods on the basic food group). He made some friends, he played volleyballible, pretty good for a blind guy (you should see him play basketball), and agreed to return for their regular Bible studies. After attending several Bible studies and events with the campus ministry, Ken was invited to a weekend retreat and accepted Christ and was baptized.

Where did Ken’s faith come from? Where does your faith come from? Where does faith come from?

I have read and heard countless stories and every one of them has one element that is the same, the word of God. Ken, and you and I and every person encountered God’s word and it effected our hearts and mind and we believed in and obeyed Jesus.

I found an interesting blog relating many stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, http://tony-tate.com/whats-your-story/. The stories with enough detail show God’s word at work.

The word of God is the common denominator in every conversion. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” God’s word produces faith.

Remember the Gideon Bibles you were given in fourth grade at school, or were in the drawer in a motel room. A lot of people picked up the Bible and read some of God’s word for the first time and were brought to faith. Remember the campus ministry Ken encountered. Their goodness and kindness was God’s word in action and coupled to some Bible studies, Ken, like many others came to faith through the word he witnesses in their lives.

God’s word is related in so many ways, reading, hearing, and seeing faith in action.

There are times I want a particular food or flavor and only certain foods provide the taste I desire. God’s word is like that too. When a person that actually wants that taste, and is looking for it, the only thing that fulfills the desire is God’s word, and many times, it ultimately leads to that person’s salvation.

The faith that is produced comes from God’s word being read, spoken, shared, exhibited, felt, experienced etc. That is one of the ways that God’s word is living and active Hebrews 4:12). It is not just words on a page. It is truth that is lived.

bloggingthechurch

Where Are We Going?

With the advent of the affordable Health Care Act in a week or so, we, as a nation, will quit asking, “Are we there yet?” and begin to ask, “Where are we going?” The whole thing seems to be very confusing and most of us just don’t know what to expect. Please note that I am not endorsing or condemning the new government health care, just noting for the sake of illustration we that we are confused about it.

The books of prophecy in the Bible give us the same uneasiness. Are the prophecies for the people who heard them, or for us today to look forward too. We might ask, “Where are we going?” based upon our lack of knowledge and understanding and doubts.

The books of Daniel and Revelation are probably the most relevant to this question. What do they mean? Who do they affect? How do I understand them? How should I react to what they reveal?

God questions and questions that we can answer. I say that knowing full well that a lot of people believe we cannot understand them completely, that the meaning of their message is hidden to us. But, the fact is, that God gave us his word so that we can understand, so that we will know the truth and ways of God.

There are essentially three views about the books of eschatology. If you don’t know, eschatology is about end times, the final days of the earth. Though the word carries a more present meaning then the future, that is the current definition.

The three main views are:

  1. Post-millennialism (Jesus will return after the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ).
  2. A-millennialism (Jesus will return during the millenium, the Christian age, the era of the church beginning on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2).
  3. Pre-millennialism (Jesus will return before the millennium begins).

The post-millennial view has almost completely been abandoned.  The pre-millennial view is the most common, and there are variations within the pre-millennial view. The a-millennial view makes the most sense to this author. But the point is, not what do the prophecies mean, but how are we take them? How are we to live?

Revelation is a book of encouragement and hope for Christians and the church in the crisis of persecution as the devil attacks it from a social, political, and religious standpoint. God is telling us in the time of eschatology not the events that are taking place and the things to look out for (though we learn a lot here), but that we are to remain faithful to him throughout the difficulty. He will overcome, he will defeat the devil and those the devil has deceived, the cultures we live in, the governments who govern our world, the religious leaders who buy into a gospel that does not honor the revealed word of God, especially the truth about Jesus Christ.

“Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you life as the victor’s crown” Revelation 2:10.

Are we in the end times. I believe we have been since the church began. We have seen the events of Revelation play out in the 350 years after God gave Revelation to John. But, the reality of what happened with the Roman Empire and the church, is replayed again and again as Satan works to destroy the church, to stop its missionary influence and take as many of us with him to hell as he can destroy.

Be faithful to God and you will receive the reward he has in store for the faithful.  Read Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and see the many descriptions of eternal life God uses for those who remain faithful.

bloggingthechurch