Is Church Membership Important?

This Sunday we will be receiving several new members into the fellowship of our church.  I thought this would be a good idea to ‘cheer lead’ the cause of church membership.

We live in a time in which many professing Christians regard church membership as optional.  I’ve heard statements and questions such as: “Where does the Bible say ‘Go join the local church?’” or “I’m a Christian but I don’t believe in the institutional church.” Some think “My relationship to God is a very private and special matter. It is between me and my Savior. I don’t want to impede this relationship by joining a church with all its problems.” Or even “I’m part of the invisible church. Therefore, there is no need for me to join the visible local church.”

When examining the biblical evidence for church membership one must keep in mind that there are no explicit commandments in the Bible which says, “Go join the local church.” But, even though there are no explicit statements on this issue in Scripture, church membership is clearly a priority.

When Christ instituted the church He set up church officers and laws for the government of His church. Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd of His sheep (cf. John 10:7-18), has placed under-shepherds (pastors) over His flock for their protection and edification (1 Pet. 5:1-4).  These under-shepherds are given authority over a specific group of people. Pastors are “over you in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:12). They “rule over you…. they watch out for your souls” (Heb. 13:7, 17).

Believers are commanded to “obey those who rule over you, and be submissive” (Heb. 13:17). They are “to recognize” and “highly esteem” their own pastor. Are Christians supposed to submit to anyone who claims to be a pastor? No, only their own pastor.

A church function that presupposes church membership is church discipline. Can a person be cast out of an organization without first joining and being a part of that group? Of course not. A person who is not a member of a church cannot be disciplined by that church.

The biblical study of the church proves that the New Testament church was not a mere voluntary association, or merely a loose group of individuals. It was created by God with a definite form of government and strict rules of discipline for its own health and growth.

The New Testament speaks of pastors (Eph. 4:11), shepherds of the flock (Ac. 20:28), and  teachers (1 Cor. 12:28). There are also deacons (Ac. 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13) who handle some of the affairs of the church.

Pastor are responsible to teach (Eph. 4:11-12), exhort (1 Tim. 6:2), admonish (1 Thess. 5:12-13), “rebuke with all authority” (Tit. 2:15), and preach (2 Tim. 4:2).

Church leaders receive their authority from Christ to edify the church and not to destroy it (2 Cor. 10:8). As guardians of the flock they have a responsibility (after following the necessary levels of admonition) to “reject” (Tit. 3:10), “put away from” the church (1 Cor. 5:13) and regard as “heathen” (Mt. 18:17) those who do not repent of immorality and heresy. They also must re-admit into church membership all those who repent (2 Cor. 2:6-8).

I really believe that church membership is important. It doesn’t save you, and you can’t trust your church attendance or membership to get you to heaven.  Just because you live in a garage doesn’t make you a car.  But, a car is supposed to stay in a garage… that’s where it belongs.  And a Christian belongs in the membership of a local church.

Jesus is Alive – My Easter Message (including a note from my mom)

Every Christmas we gather in amazement that Jesus would leave the splendor of heaven and come to earth, become human, and experience life on earth. A few months later, we gather on Good Friday in humble amazement that Jesus would die on the cross for our sins.

Then we come to Easter Sunday, to the climax, to the highest point. And now we celebrate! Not just that Jesus came to earth. Not merely that He died. But that He rose from the dead!!!

If Jesus had only come to earth, He would merely have been a visitor. God on a holiday. If He had only died, He would merely have been a religious teacher. But He didn’t just come to earth, and He didn’t just die on a cross. He rose from the dead!

We’ve heard the story many times. I hope we never tire of hearing the words – He Is Risen! I hope we never cease to be amazed at the incredible fact that death couldn’t hold the Lord of Life. And, most of all, I hope we never miss this simple fact – Jesus is alive today.

What does it mean for you and I that Jesus is Alive? Let me suggest three things  I see in the resurrection

1. There is Love in the Resurrection

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)

We see love in a painful way on the cross. We see the extent of God’s love for us as we reflect on Jesus’ death. But it doesn’t end there! The love of God did not only send Jesus to the cross, it also raised Him back to life!

Love hates death. Love struggles against death and in favor of life. And in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, love overcomes death.

That is what the resurrection calls us to – to receive God’s love and love Him back. If you are searching, striving, dying to be loved – come to the empty tomb. Go first to the cross, of course, and see the love and forgiveness on the face of Jesus. But don’t stay there- come and meet the resurrected Jesus, the God who is risen and is alive today. And you will discover love beyond what you could imagine.

2. There is Life in the Resurrection

“… like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

We are united with Jesus in His resurrection life. In fact that is exactly what happens at the moment we respond in faith to God. That is what God freely offers to us – new life. He offers the chance for us to participate with Jesus in the life that comes through resurrection.

Jesus is alive today. And He brings with Him the gift of life, His hand outstretched at this very moment offering it to you. He won’t force it on you, stuff it down your throat – but He will freely offer it. Life eternal.

3. There is Hope in the Resurrection

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3)

We have hope because Jesus rose from the dead. One of the recent hymns of the faith says, ‘Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, I can face uncertain days because He lives.¨

The resurrection gives us hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity. Hope that things can change. Hope that even if they don’t change, and the worst happens and death comes, that is not the end! There is more life after that, better life after that – life without sickness or pain or tears.

Seven months after my mom’s death, I received a letter in the mail – from her. I thought it was a joke. But when I opened the envelope, there indeed was a personal note in her handwriting & a check made out to me. Upon further investigation, I discovered the letter had been mailed two years before. However, it was stuck in the mail system and wasn’t delivered until after she died. But it was a reminder, that my mom’s not dead. Because she trusted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, she has eternal life. She is alive. So is everyone who has died in Jesus.

Today my prayer is that you would know the Risen Lord Jesus. That you would know the love, the life, and the hope of the Resurrection. That is the simple message of our faith – Jesus is Alive!

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!

It’s Good Friday. I usually don’t use a quote for an entire post, but this is special. This is my favorite Easter story from Tony Campolo. I hope it encourages you today.

I belong to a Black church in West Philadelphia. I’ve been a member of that church for decades, & for me, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church is the closest thing to Heaven this side of the pearly gates. I preach to a lot of congregations, but I have to say that no other group of people fills me with excitement like the congregation of my home church. People in my congregation always let me know how I’m doing. Whether I am good or bad, they let me know how they feel about my message.

One time when I was preaching, I sensed no movement of the dynamism of God. I was struggling, as you have seen ministers struggle, & seemed to be getting nowhere. I had gotten about three-quarters of the way through my sermon when some lady on the back row yelled, “Help him, Jesus! Help him, Jesus!” That was all the evidence I needed that things were not going well that day.

On the other hand, when the preacher is really “on” in my church, they let him know that too. The deacons sit right under the pulpit, & whenever the preacher says something especially good, they cheer him on by yelling, “Preach, Brother! Preach!” And I want to tell you that when they do that to me, it makes me want to preach!

The women in my church have a special way of responding when the preacher is “doing good.” They wave one hand in the air & call out to the preacher, “Well, well.” Whenever they do that to me, my hormones bubble. But that’s not all. When I really get going, the men in my congregation shout encouragement by saying, “Keep going, Brother! Keep going!” I assure you that you’d never hear “Keep going!” from a White congregation. They’re more likely to check their watches & mumble, “Stop! Stop!”

One Good Friday there were 7 of us preaching back to back. When it was my turn to preach, I rolled into high gear, & I want to tell you, I was good. The more I preached, the more the people in that congregation turned on, & the more they turned on, the better I got. I got better & better & better. I got so good that I wanted to take notes on me! At the end of my message, the congregation broke loose. I was absolutely thrilled to hear the hallelujahs & their cries of joy. I sat down next to my pastor & he looked at me with a smile. He reached down with his hand & squeezed my knee. “You did all right!” he said.

I turned to him & asked, “Pastor, are you going to be able to top that?”

The old man smiled at me & said, “Son, you just sit back, ’cause this old man is going to do you in!”

I didn’t figure that anybody could have done me in that day. I had been so good. But the old guy got up, & I have to admit, he did me in—with one line. For an hour & a half he preached one line over & over again. For an hour & a half he stood that crowd on its ear with just one line:

“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” That statement may not blow you away, but you should have heard him do it. He started his sermon real softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday & my Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday, & Sunday’s comin’!”

One of the deacons yelled, “Preach, Brother! Preach!” It was all the encouragement he needed. He came on louder as he said, “It was Friday & Mary was cryin’ her eyes out. The disciples were runnin’ in every direction, like sheep without a shepherd. But that was Friday, & Sunday’s comin’!” People in the congregation were beginning to pick up the message. Women were waving their hands in the air & calling softly, “Well, well.” Some of the men were yelling, “Keep going! Keep going!”

The preacher kept going. He picked up the volume still more & shouted, “It was Friday. The cynics were lookin’ at the world & sayin’, ‘As things have been so they shall be. You can’t change anything in this world; you can’t change anything.’ But those cynics didn’t know that it was only Friday. Sunday’s comin’!

“It was Friday! And on Friday, those forces that oppress the poor & make the poor to suffer were in control. But that was Friday! Sunday’s comin’!

“It was Friday, & on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin’ around, laughin’ & pokin’ each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things, but they didn’t know that it was only Friday! Sunday’s comin’!”

He worked that one phrase for a half-hour, then an hour, then an hour & a quarter, then an hour & a half. Over & over he came at us, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”

By the time he came to the end of the message, I was exhausted. He had me & everybody else so worked up that I don’t think any of us could have stood it much longer. At the end of his message he just yelled at the top of his lungs, “IT’S FRIDAY!” & all 500 of us in that church yelled back with one accord, “BUT SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”

That’s the Good News. That is the word that the world is waiting to hear. That’s what we have got to go out there & tell the world’s people.

When they are psychologically depressed, we have to tell them that Sunday’s coming. When they feel that they can never know love again, we’ve got to tell them that Sunday’s coming. When they have lost their belief in the miraculous so that they no longer expect great things from God, we must tell them that Sunday’s coming.

We must go to a world that is suffering economic injustice & political oppression & tell them that Sunday’s coming. The world may be filled with 5 million hungry. Half of the planet may be under the tyranny of communist domination. Dictators may rule in Latin America. People may find their rights abridged & their hopes under attack. But I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, because to all of those who are on the brink of despair, I can yell at the top of my lungs, “IT’S FRIDAY, BUT SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”

Heaven is for Real, the Book is not

A few years ago I read the book, Heaven is for Real. It’s an account of a 4-year-old boy, Colton, who claims to have had a near death experience, visited heaven, and later returned to talk about it. After I read the book, I thought, ‘That’s entertaining, but not much spiritual value.’ I doubted the event actually took place.

Now that the movie version is coming out this week, I must speak up. Everybody is entitled to their position – right or wrong. My opinion is the book should be in the fiction section of the bookstore. I’ll give you the  three reasons that convinced me.

1. A Unique Experience of Life, Death & Heaven.

The only completely reliable book about life, death, and Heaven is the Bible. In the Bible a number of people died and returned to life (Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, etc). But none of them talked about it. A few people ‘saw’ Heaven in a vision, came back, and wrote about it (Isaiah, Paul, John). But it is unsure if these three actually went to Heaven, or just had a vision of Heaven.

Paul’s account of his ‘journey to Heaven’ is in 1 Corinthians 12. Four things must be noted about his reaction to his experience: (1) He talked in the third person, even though it was likely him. (2) He was not for sure if he was ‘in’ his body or ‘out’ of his body. (3) He was not permitted to talk about what he saw or heard. (4) He was given a ‘thorn in the flesh’ to keep him humble after what he saw. ‘Heaven is for Real’ is an opposite reaction to all four of Paul’s reactions to a visit to Heaven.

If Colton actually went to Heaven, it a completely unique experience that is not verified in Scripture.

2. An Unbiblical Vision of Heaven.

The only people in the Bible who described Heaven were ‘prophets.’ Prophets were people who spoke authoritatively for God. The test of a true prophet was 100% accuracy. If a man claimed to speak for God, and proclaimed something that was untrue, he was to be rejected (Deuteronomy 18:30-32). God’s prophets were to be 100% accurate when speaking for God.

The book’s depiction of Heaven has some unique and bizarre claims (Jesus’ rainbow horse, the Holy Spirit is blue, angels with swords protect Heaven from Satan, Gabriel sits beside God, etc). But it is the false descriptions of Heaven that bother me.

  • Colton was so afraid while sitting on Jesus’ lap, that the angels sang to comfort him (p. xix). Heaven is a place of no fear, especially on Jesus’ lap. Nowhere does the Bible say angels sing.
  • Jesus had a crown with a pink diamond (p. 66). Jesus does not currently wear a crown (Rev. 1:12-16). However, He will wear many crowns when He returns.
  • Jesus’ robe was white with purple sash (p. 65). Jesus is dressed only in white (Rev. 1:12-16). The only time He wore purple was before His crucifixion (Mark 15:17, 20).
  • Everybody has wings (p. 72). Only archangels are described with wings. Angels and people don’t have wings. Christians will be like Jesus (Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2) and Jesus doesn’t wear wings.
  • Colton prayed for his father to have the Holy Spirit (p. 102). If his father was a Christian he already had the Holy Spirit in him (John 14:16-18; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19).
  • The Holy Spirit is in Heaven shooting down power to preachers (p. 126). The Holy Spirit is on Earth now (John 16:7-15).
  • A final war between Jesus, angels and good people vs. Satan, monsters & bad people (p. 136). Christians will be in Heaven during the Tribulation time of God’s wrath. Jesus fights the final war, not angels or Christians.

Because of these and other inaccuracies, I cannot endorse the truthfulness of any of the book.

3. An Unlikely Journey

Proverbs 30:4 asks us several questions: “Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name–and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!” The answer to these questions is ‘only God and His Son, Jesus.’ Not a 4-year-old boy.

Some may argue that God is using this story of Colton and other similar stories to help people in their faith. However, in Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who went to Hell and wanted someone to return from the dead to evangelize his family. His request was denied. He was told the Scriptures were sufficient. If people will not believe the Bible, they will not believe someone who returned from the dead.

Believe the Bible!

3 Ways to Get Ready for Easter

Today I want to talk about how to prepare for Easter.  Maybe you haven’t given that much thought.  After all, we all lead busy lives.  We do a good job of preparing for Christmas.  But Easter?

To Christians, Easter is the most important day of the year.  It’s the day we celebrate the central event of history, the day Jesus rose from the dead in order to make eternal life possible for you and me.  So let’s give some thought to what we can do this  week to prepare for Easter.

When you read the Palm Sunday story in Luke 19:29-44 & Matthew 21:10-11 you will find three things you can do:

1. Do What Jesus Says.

Jesus sent two of His disciples on a strange little mission, ‘Go to this little village up the road, untie the colt you’ll find, and bring it to me.’ The Bible doesn’t tell us which two went nor does it say what they talked about on the way.  But those disciples, whoever they were, did what Jesus said.

That’s a good model for you and me this week before Easter.  You could do no better than to follow the example of those two disciples who, though they had no way to know what the future would hold and what their actions would bring about, they simply obeyed.

2. Feel What Jesus Feels.

Something happened on the ride into Jerusalem that we don’t talk about too often.  In fact, you may never have even noticed this event as part of His ride of triumph. We tend to get so caught up in the crowd, the shouts, the emotion, the excitement, that it slips right by us. Don’t worry, you are not alone; from every indication, the crowds didn’t notice it, either. Matthew, Mark or John didn’t mention it. Luke is the only Gospel writer who records this event.  So don’t let it pass you by.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it. That, too, is a good model for you and me this week before Easter. You could do no better than to let yourself feel what Jesus feels, by letting your heart be broken for those who are hurting, those who are wandering, those who are searching, those who don’t even know they’re searching.

3. Tell Who Jesus Is. 

Matthew reports that when Jesus came into the city it was ‘stirred.’ He uses the Greek word, ‘seio,’ from which we get our word ‘seismic.’  It’s the same word he used later in Matthew 27:51, where he said that at the moment Jesus died on the cross ‘the earth shook’  The city was stirred as an earthquake ‘stirs’ the ground.

That’s what will happen if you and I begin doing what Jesus says and feeling what Jesus feels; our whole city will be stirred!  That’s what they’re waiting for. They’re waiting to see…

…if there really is a God,

…if He really does care,

…if the people who fill the churches, sing His praises, cry out to Him and claim to know Him are any different,

…if their God can really be trusted,

…if their faith can really do anything.

And you can do no better to prepare for Easter than to tell who Jesus is, to find ways to expose your friends, neighbors, family members, classmates, coworkers, anyone for whom you can feel what Jesus feels to the news that we proclaim next Sunday when we tell each other “He is Risen.”  
Your mission, if you would prepare for Easter in a way that will bring a smile to God’s face and true and lasting joy into the lives of others, is to find a person and invite him or her to be your guest to a church that’s going to talk about the resurrection of Jesus in a way that’s designed to give them hope for this life and for eternity without condescending, condemning, pushing or pressuring them. 
And when that happens, guess what may just happen next? The same thing it did for many in that Palm Sunday crowd: it will bring joy to others when they discover Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, the Prince of God, the Risen Christ. 

A Glimpse of Heaven

Have you ever wanted to know what Heaven looked like? Those who are Christians will spend eternity there. It would be nice to know what it’s like. The book and movie, Heaven is for Real, tries to appease our curiosity. But beware the adage, ‘Curiosity killed the Cat.’ God has given us all He wants us to know about Heaven in the Bible. You can trust what He says.

In Revelation 4, the apostle John is given a vision of Heaven. He sees several things that help us understand what’s there.

Lightning and Thunder (v. 5).

Lightning and thunder always precede a storm. This shows us that the judgment to follow (the Tribulation in Revelation 6-19) comes from the Lord.

The Seven Lamps/Spirits (v. 5).

The last time John describes these ‘lamps’ he tells us they represent the churches (Rev. 1:20). They are on earth. Now the lamps are in Heaven. This may be an allusion that the churches will be in Heaven during the Tribulation. These lamps are also described as ‘seven spirits.’ These are not seven separate spirits, but the Holy Spirit described in Isaiah 11 of having seven attributes. When the church is removed from the Earth, the Holy Spirit will be removed.

The Sea of Glass (v. 6).

This would be compared to the ‘sea of brass’ in the Tabernacle and the ‘brazen laver’ in the Temple. These items were for the cleansing of the priests before they entered the Temple. Since it is as still as glass, it means that nothing has stirred it. There is no need for cleansing in Heaven since all its citizens have been cleansed for eternity. This sea went around the throne.

The Four Beasts (v. 6-9).

The word used for ‘beast’ is zoon in Greek. It is where we get the word zoo. It means animal. Many believe these beings are responsible for overseeing God’s creation: Lion (king of beasts), Cow (king of domestic animals), Man (greatest creature), Eagle (greatest bird).

These creatures are strange-looking. Some have viewed them as symbolic. However, it is possible (I believe this) they are actual creatures around the Throne of Heaven. If so, there will be animals in heaven.

These ‘cherubs’ are also mentioned in Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6 and two were sculptured to sit on the Ark of the Covenant, the altar of Israel. Each had four faces (Ezekiel 1:5-11): lion, calf, man, eagle.

Their many faces explain why they were ‘full of eyes.’ Evidently, the man-like face was always directed toward the presence of God, judging from the two cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 20:17-22). From John’s sight, he only saw one face of each. They can go in any direction without turning (Ezekiel 1:12).

These four represent the four Gospels and their description of Jesus:

  • Matthew = Lion – the King of the Jews
  • Mark = Ox = the Servant of God
  • Luke = Man, the Son of Man
  • John = Eagle – the Son of God.

These creatures continuously praise God for His holiness and never get tired or bored. The three-fold ‘Holly’ describes not only he eternity of God (past, present, future), but also the trinity of God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).

There are only five cherubs mentioned in the entire Bible. Four are mentioned here around the throne. Ezekiel 28:13-16 tells us what happened to the fifth cherub. It was Lucifer, Satan. He is not a fallen angel, but is a cherub who transformed himself into an angel of light. He was the cherub who covered the throne.

Two practical lessons to learn from this vision of Heaven:

1. Never tire of true worship of God. He is worthy of all our worship.

2. Be careful that your ‘worship’ does not lead to pride (as it did to Satan). True worship always brings the worshiper into greater sense of humility.

She Did What She Could

She did what she could.  Five words with unthinkable power.

She saw Jesus across the room and worked her way through the group that had gathered around Him.  When she reached Him she opened her bottle of perfumed oil and tipped its contents on His hair.  One of His disciples remarked, ‘What a waste!  Think how many hungry people could have been fed with what it cost!’

But Jesus’ reply resounded in the filled room, ‘She has done a beautiful thing.  Yes, her gift was expensive, but she meant this as an offering for Me, to prepare Me for what I am facing.  She did what she could. And because she did what she could, what she did will be remembered for as long as I am remembered.’

She did what she could.  She acted. She didn’t just think about acting – I’ll do something sometime. She didn’t act out of obligation, or let others act for her, or wait to be invited. She did something.

She did what she could. She acted out of what she had, not what she wished she had.  She did what she could, not all she could.

She did what she could.  She was a specific woman with a specific story who acted out of the particulars of her life.  She acted because she knew she was loved by Jesus and wanted to love Him back.

She did what she could.  She acted with what she had (a bottle of perfumed oil), where she was (in public) and when it mattered (prior to Jesus’ death).  Her public expression of commitment to Christ invited others to decide what they would do with Him.  Her action forced the hands of all present and moved them either to relationship or rejection of Jesus.

As a result of her action she was ridiculed by others.  But as a result of her action she was honored by Jesus.

What if you did what you could? What if you acted?  What if you didn’t just think about acting but actually acted?  What if you didn’t act out of obligation? What if you didn’t let others act for you? What if you didn’t wait to be invited?  What if you didn’t just wonder about what difference you could make but actually took a step?

What if you quit focusing on what you don’t have and considered instead what you do have?  What if you let go of the pressure to do everything you could and instead did the one thing you could do now?  What if you started right now, in this moment, in this season of life, to do what you could?

What if you offered your story and your skills?  What if you didn’t wait until you had it right or finished or perfect?  What if you believed God loved you so much that you wanted to love Him back by doing what you could?

What if you acted with what you have?  What if you acted right where you are?  What if you acted because it might matter?

As a result of your action, someone might be helped.  As a result of your action, you would be a better person?  As a result of your action, the world would be better.

Today, do what you can do…

3 Qualities of Real Friendship

Friends often come in threes. The Three Little Pigs, The Three Musketeers, The Three Stooges, The Three Amigos. While I was in high school I was part of a trio that did everything together.

Jesus told a story of three men who were friends in Luke 11.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. (Luke 11:5-8)

This is a story of three friends. One friend was on a journey. His friend was his host but ran out of food. This friend went to a third friend who reluctantly shared his food with him.

We discover three principles of friendship from this story:

  1. A friend is a person you can go to at whatever hour you need help.
  2. A friend is a person who will intervene for you.
  3. A friend is a person who will give you what you need.

These three qualities are often found between good friends. Today it seems like you can have hundreds of friends on FaceBook, but have very few real friends like this. Appreciate your true friends. Be the kind of friend you want others to be to you.

While this story helps us understand true friendship, its main purpose is to illustrate God and His friendship toward us.

1. God is someone you can go to at whatever hour you need help.

You not only an pray to God anytime, you can pray to God anywhere for any reason. Unlike the man who is in bed, God never sleeps and is never inconvenienced or annoyed by your prayers.

2. God is someone who will intervene for you.

The greatest intervention God did was to send His Son to die on a cross for the sins of the world.

3. God is someone who will give you what you need.

The greatest need of mankind is forgiveness of sins. Our problem is not politics, or health, or finances… it is sin. God does not always give us what we want, but He does provide for what we need. And our greatest need is forgiveness.

How does a person become God’s ‘friend’? By surrendering their life to Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to be your friend, whether you recognize Him as a friend or not. He has already displayed how much He wants to be your friend by dying on a cross. He sacrificed Himself for you before you even knew He existed. If you will turn to Him He will save your soul.

You can trust Jesus to be your forever friend. Turn to Him today.

For Here or To Go?

This article is provided by Noah Radtke, young adult in our church who desires to work with youth…

If you are not promised another second, what are you doing right now to live your life to its fullest?  The way the Holy Spirit has convicted me of it as of recently is by this question:

If God sat you down and told you that He was calling you Home in the next ten years, what would you be pursuing?

I think that this question honestly has the potential to reveal our passions, our callings, or more fearfully–what our gods are.  What are you putting your time into?

Robin Williams mentions in the movie, The Dead Poets Society, we are food for worms. Robin Williams takes his class to a photo of previous graduates who are long dead, and challenges them to make the most of today, proclaiming “Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)!” The one thing I found lacking in that scene is that it does not look to a Savior or eternity.

You see, we have an eternity, though being created beings, our time’s expiration on Earth does not conclude our expiration of existence.  Therefore, what we do in life on Earth affects our eternity.  In a presentation done by ACSI’s president, Dr. Dan Egeler, he challenged Christians to rather “Carpe Aeternitatem (Seize Eternity).”  So here’s the crux of my message:

The Gospel Does Not Just Secure Your Eternity…It Gives You True Life NOW!!!

Read what God has to say about Israel in Jeremiah 2:12-13…“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

God did so many miraculous things for His people; saved them from Egypt, parted the Red Sea for them, guided them by pillars of fire and dust, provided for them in the desert wanderings.  Yet despite all of the things He poured into them, they still turned around and looked back to Egypt.  They still turned from God, and it broke His heart.

But you and I are not much different.  Here He has lavished His love on us, not that we first loved Him, but He loved us and sent His Son to die for us (I John 4:10). But what do we do? Where do we put our stock and time?  Relationships? Work?  Money? Provisions? Church? Media? We have tasted the feast, and yet more often than not, we look back to our Egypt.  We leave the feast in favor of the desert.  My friends, this cannot be our end.  So here’s my final question:

Is It For Here?  Or To Go?

Just like the cashier consistently asks us when we order our beloved fast food.  Is your life for here (Earth)?  Or is it to Go (Eternity).  It’s Carpe Aeternitatem!

What are you doing now to affect your eternity?

Matthew 6:19-24 lays it out pretty clearly, calling us to not lay up treasures here on Earth, and saying that we can only have one Master…one priority…one end.  I love Paul, and I love his passion for the Gospel in Philippians, and in chapter 3 he is challenged with his authority to teach (the boasting in the flesh).  He then goes on a long list of why he has reason to boast in his earthly authority, but then what is his conclusion?

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…(vv. 7-9)”

That was the level of his resolve.  Anything deemed of high value on this Earth, he counted as rubbish compared to Christ.  And guess what, he wrote all of this while he was locked up in prison!  His mindset was eternity-bound, saying “for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).”  In other words, “I’m going to keep preaching the Gospel until my time here on Earth is done, and when I die, I win!  You’ve got nothing on me, world!”

Is that the mindset we have?  Are we so consumed with God and what Jesus has done, that EVERYTHING in this world seems small?  I’m not just talking about the problems in this world, but also the good things.  Is it for here?  Or to go?

We may not be perfect yet, but it doesn’t mean we can’t strive for perfection; in fact, we are called to pursue it!  But that righteousness is not our own; it comes from Jesus Christ.  Forget what is behind, and press on!  Keep Moving Forward! Live today as if you are preparing for eternity, and if you stumble, pick yourself up and PRESS ON!

Are You For Here?  Or To Go?

Read the full article HERE

Don’t be a Fool on April Fools Day

Today is affectionately referred to as April Fools’ Day. It is a day we typically carve out to play practical jokes on one another.

But in the Bible, a fool is someone who lives life without a conscious thought about God. The Scripture says: Psalm 14:1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

God is saying that it is foolish for anyone to claim that there is no God while they  depend on Him for everything.  We did not make ourselves and we do not sustain ourselves. We had no control over our birth, and in most respects will have little control over our death. We live a short life here on earth, completely dependent upon our gracious God for the impartation, sustainment and enjoyment of life.

To say there is no God is like the man swimming underwater pulling out the oxygen tubes from his face mask, and gasping for air, to assert, “I don’t need these tubes!”

This is ridiculous, it is foolish! For no man underwater would be so foolish as to say he is not dependent upon oxygen for life.

But what about the person who says he believes in God, but lives like there isn’t a God?  He is a ‘practical atheist’ or a ‘Christian Atheist.’  Craig Groeschel has written a great book about those who believe in God, but whose lives don’t reflect who He really is. It is called, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist.

We are Christian atheists when we know God answers prayer, but we don’t pray.  Or we know God cares about us, but we still worry. A Christian atheist is one who puts their whole faith in God but still lives as if everything was up to them.

My desire is that my life reflects that I believe God.  I hope it is your prayer. Let’s live today so no one thinks we are an ‘April Fool.’