Discipleship as a Way of Life

On March 24, Scott Chafee brought a message that followed up the lesson from March 10, on Discipleship as a Lifestyle. This message looked at three biblical examples on how the rhythms of life were used to reach people trapped in doubt, darkness, and deception.

Luke 18:31-34 (Jesus predicts his death, as the Suffering Servant)
DOUBT – the disciples did not understand
The Rhythm of Story – Luke 18:31-33
The Rhythm of Listen – Luke 18:34

Luke 18:35-43 (blind Bartimaeus, receives his sight)
DARKNESS – the man could literally not see
The Rhythm of Listen – Luke 18:40-41
The Rhythm of Celebration – Luke 18:43

Luke 19:1-10 (public sinner Zaccheus is transformed)
DECEPTION – the enemy had deceived him and his behavior followed
The Rhythm of Eat – Luke 19:5-6
The Rhythm of Bless – Luke 19:8

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Whenever You Fast – Isaiah 58:1-8

Matthew 6:16-18 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face

18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

We have come to the section in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus decides to talk about fasting. At the beginning of Matthew 6, Jesus says, “But WHEN you give alms…” (Matthew 6:3). Sounds like he is expecting his people to be givers. He didn’t use the word, IF you give. Then he moves to prayer and says, “And WHEN you pray…” (Matthew 6:5, 7). We can all agree that Jesus expects his people to pray, since he also did not use the word IF. Then Jesus moves to the topic of fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. In good Jesus form, he again uses the word “WHEN you fast…” (Matthew 6:17 – WHENEVER is used in Matthew 6:16).

The first place we need to stop is to ask the question, “What in the world is fasting and why is Jesus talking about it?”

Usually, fasting is the abstaining from food for a certain period of time. There are different types of fasting in the Bible, however, and not all of them involve food. Many people in the Bible fasted, including Moses, David, and Daniel in the Old Testament and Anna, Paul, and Jesus in the New Testament. Many important figures in Christian history affirmed the value of fasting, as do many Christians today.

Biblical fasting is often closely linked to repentance, as in the examples of David, the nation of Israel, and the city of Nineveh. Fasting is also related to passionate prayer, as in the examples of King Jehoshaphat and Queen Esther. Biblical fasting comes from a humble heart seeking God (Isaiah 58:3–7).

In Matthew’s context of the Sermon on the Mount, apparently Jesus noticed something in the way the religious leaders exercised their spiritual disciplines. They seemed to fast with impure motives, seeking the attention of the people around them more than the God for whom they were fasting. But, before we get too hard on the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, let’s go back about 700 years before Jesus to see what the people were doing in their fasting.

Isaiah 58:1-8 – (NLT) – “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins!

2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.

3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.

4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.

5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.

7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.

Did you get all that? Perhaps you already checked out because this chapter is all about fasting and you are not a fast-er, so this is all about OTHER people. But I want you to exchange the word FASTING with WORSHIP and see if any light bulbs come on for you.

These people in Isaiah’s day were playing church, they were not really committed to their God. They showed up because of tradition and habit, not because they were seeking the face of God. To put it bluntly, as we learned in the Communication Experience on April 1, these people were seeking the HAND of God rather than the FACE of God. They were chasing after what God would GIVE them rather than chasing after the God who redeemed them, and therefore, giving to God what he desires the most, a people who were sincerely and holy devoted to God for WHO he is rather than for WHAT he can do for them.

Wow, that seems harsh to say all that about God’s chosen people some 2700 years ago. But maybe, just maybe, we feel it is harsh because we see OURSELVES in this indictment, and these words are making you very uncomfortable right now. When we finally “get it,” WE feel guilty because we are not as sold out to Jesus as we first believed or have come to realize.

While I am not an expert on the topic of fasting, I am quite diligent at research, so I created a booklet on Prayer and Fasting, and updated it for this occasion.

I am also going to share with you a few things that I discovered while reading a book on fasting by Elmer Towns (pastor, writer, educator, and co-founder and past vice president of Liberty University in 1971).

THE FASTS GOD CHOOSES:

From the beginning people have sought after God. They wrongly built the Tower of Babel to reach Him (Genesis 11:1-9). They rebelliously carved images to please God. They arrogantly conceived and lived by legalistic laws to impress God. They constructed monasteries and isolated themselves to please God. They even fasted wrongly in an attempt to divert His attention from other things they should have been doing but were neglecting.

Religious practices such as fasting have always been less important than actually doing God’s will. Micah 6:8 tells us what the Lord truly requires of us: “To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Fasting is not an end in itself; it is means by which we can worship the Lord and submit ourselves in humility to Him. We don’t make God love us any more than He already does if we fast, or if we fast longer. Even if we wanted to, we could not manipulate God. We fast and pray for results, but the results are in God’s hands.

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR FASTING:

I already read a well-known and often quoted passage on fasting (in Isaiah 58), which gives a veritable laundry list of warnings as well as positive results that can occur when we submit ourselves to the discipline of fasting.

It is very important to learn from this passage the kinds of fasts that do NOT please God as well as those fasts He wants. God’s people in Isaiah’s day had been fasting, but without results. The reason, God says, is that they ignored the way fasting should change their lives, treating it as an empty ritual:

3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.

4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. (Isaiah 58:3-4, NLT).

Like so many Christians today, God’s people considered worship to be merely a private and inward act. All of the focus on fasting was on the personal dimension. Listen to God’s rebuke:

5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? (Isaiah 58:5, NLT).

The purpose of all worship, including fasting, is to change the WORSHIPER in ways that have social and interpersonal impact. We worship not just to please ourselves, but also to become empowered by God to change ourselves and the world! God goes on to specify the kind of fast He DOES want:

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.

7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. (Isaiah 58:6-8).

God wanted the people to continue fasting, but to extend the result of their fasting through their actions in everyday life.

I discovered in Isaiah 58, a model for the FRUIT that God expects to see from genuine faith and devotion and fasting. Rightly used, fasting can help us present God with those fruits.

Therefore, as I learned from Elmer Towns, Isaiah 58 presents NINE kinds of fasting Christians should rediscover today–not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of other people.

NINE FASTS GOD CAN USE:

To better illustrate and reveal the significance of these nine reasons for fasting, Towns shares (and I want to pass on to you) nine biblical characters whose lives personified the literal or figurative theme of each of the nine aspects highlighted in Isaiah 58:6-8. Each fast has a different name, accomplishes a different purpose, and follows a different prescription.

1. The Disciple’s Fast

Purpose: “To loose the bonds of wickedness” (Isaiah 58:6, NASB) – freeing ourselves and others from addictions to sin.

Key Verse: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21, NASB).

Background: Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus cast out a demon out of a boy whom the disciples had failed to help. Apparently, they had not taken seriously enough the way Satan had his claws set in this young man. The implication is that Jesus’ disciples COULD have performed this exorcism had they been willing to undergo the discipline of fasting. Modern disciples also often make light of “entangling or ensnaring sins” (Hebrews 12:1) that could be cast out if we were serious enough to take part in such a self-denying practice as fasting, so, the term used here is “The Disciple’s Fast.”

2. The Ezra Fast

Purpose: To “Undo the bands of the yoke” (Isaiah 58:6, NASB) – to solve problems, inviting the Holy Spirit’s help in lifting burdens and overcoming barriers that keep ourselves and our loved ones from walking faithfully with the Lord.

Key Verse: “So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:23).

Background: Ezra the priest was charged with restoring the Law of Moses among the Jews as they rebuilt the city of Jerusalem by the permission of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, where God’s people had been held captive. Despite this permission, Israel’s enemies opposed them. Burdened with embarrassment about having to ask the Persian king for an army to protect them, Ezra fasted and prayed for an answer.

I have discovered three causes of problems that might need an Ezra Fast:

(1) Change causes problems – the early church had to change their strategy and sent out missionaries, so after they fasted and prayed, they appointed Paul and Barnabas to the work (Acts (13:2-3)

(2) Differences cause problems – people are different ethnically, doctrinally, politically, socially… Ezra gathered the people at the river to show them the threatening wilderness; then they could have a united front to work on the problem.

(3) Circumstances cause problems – whether these situations are personal, family, marriage, small group, community, or church problems that arise out of circumstances.

3. The Samuel Fast

Purpose: “To let the oppressed (physically and spiritually) go free'” (Isaiah 58:6, NASB) – this is about revival and reaching a lost world, to identify with people everywhere who are enslaved literally or enslaved by sin, and to pray to be used of God to bring people out of the kingdom of darkness and into God’s marvelous light.

Key Verse: “They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” (1 Samuel 7:6).

Background: Samuel led God’s people in a fast to celebrate the return of the Ark of the Covenant from its captivity by the Philistines, and to pray that Israel might be delivered from the sin that allowed the Ark to be captured in the first place.

This is a formal fast that has necessary steps to carry it out:

(1) Call the body together – Samuel had to gather the people from 12 tribes, who were are divided on many topics (spiritual, internal, political, military, social)

(2) Demonstrate true repentance – Samuel used the word IF in 1 Samuel 7:3, “IF you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods … from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”

(3) Separate from secret sin – this is more than being convicted of sin while you’re here at church but being convicted that the sin you’re doing is really wrong, that it goes against God’s Word, and that you repent of it.

(4) Have a corporate confession of sin – the people in Samuel’s day cried out, “WE have sinned against the Lord.” They didn’t cast blame onto someone else.

(5) Acknowledge the power of God’s Word – earlier 1 Samuel 3:1, we are told that the Word of the Lord was rare (or precious) in those days. Last weekend at the presentation of the play about Jonah, we were reminded of that 1-line message from God (40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown). The power of God’s Word would bring the entire wicked city to repentance.  

4. The Elijah Fast

Purpose: “To break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6, NASB) – conquering the mental and emotional problems that would control our lives, and retuning the control to the Lord.

Key Verse: “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He arose and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights” (1 Kings 19:4,8).

Background: Although Scripture does not call this a formal “fast,” Elijah deliberately went without food when he fled from Queen Jezebel’s threat to kill him. After this self-imposed deprivation, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah in the wilderness.

In Elijah’s case, his mental health was in crisis, so maybe this fast is for those needing to break negative attitudes and bad emotional habits. We know that Don is skilled at dealing with the emotional and mental health of people, but we all can read about Elijah and notice his fear and depression.

Although Elijah had a tremendous victory over the prophets of Ba’al, he was exhausted ran for his life when Jezebel said he was going to be a dead man. Perhaps he had some insecurities and chose to run away.

Noah preached against the drunkenness of a whole generation yet his own children were judged and cursed because of his drunkenness. Abraham trusted God by faith, yet lied about his own wife. Moses was the most humble man on earth yet was not allowed to enter the promised land. Peter experiences the Last Supper and within 24-hours, he denies he even knows the Lord.

I guess the moral to this story is, be careful after a spiritual victory, because the enemy will come at you without remorse. As Paul tells us, “If you think you’re standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

5. The Widow’s Fast

Purpose: “To divide your bread with the hungry” and to care for the poor (Isaiah 58:7, NASB) – to meet the humanitarian needs of others.

Key Verse: “The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.” (1 Kings 17:16, NLT).

Background: God sent the prophet Elijah to a poor, starving widow–ironically, so the widow could provide food for Elijah. Just as Elijah’s presence resulted in food for the widow of Zarephath, so presenting ourselves before God in prayer and fasting can relieve hunger today.

This poor widow was willing to go without food to feed the prophet of God, basically, she met a humanitarian need in the life of another person. While fasting is not specifically mentioned here, the spirit of giving is consistent with that of those who deprive themselves of something for the benefit of others.

Paul experienced this with the churches in Macedonia: “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, (2 Corinthians 8:1b-4)

Since I brought Paul into the conversation, let’s go there next…

6. The Saint Paul Fast

Purpose: To allow God’s “Light [to] break out like the dawn” (Isaiah 58:8, NASB), designed to bring clearer perspective and insight as we make important decisions.

Key Verse: “And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:9).

Background: Saul of Tarsus, who became known as the apostle Paul after his conversion to Christ, was blinded by the Lord while in the of persecuting Christians. He not only was without literal sight, but he also had no clue about what direction his life was about to take. After going without food and praying for three days, Paul was visited by the Christian Ananias, and both his eyesight and his vision of the future were restored.

God provides guidance through reading his Word and hearing it preached, and studying it in a group context. Here are a few Scriptures on God’s guidance:

(1) He directs through the counsel of friends (Proverbs 11:14)

(2) He sovereignly guides his people (Romans 8:28)

(3) He directs us inwardly (Acts 16:6, Romans 8:14)

(4) He directs us by opportunities (1 Corinthians 16:9)

(5) He directs when we have a yielded spirit (Romans 12:1-2)

(6) He directs through our spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 7:7)

(7) He directs through our common sense (Proverbs 16:9)

(8) He guides us through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2-3)

The point is, when you have to make a big decision, perhaps we need to add fasting into our prayer life.

7. The Daniel Fast

Purpose: So “your recovery will speedily spring forth” (Isaiah 58:8, NASB) – to gain a healthier life or for healing.

Key Verse: “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank;” (Daniel 1:8).

Background: Daniel and his three fellow Hebrew captives demonstrated in Babylonian captivity that keeping themselves from pagan foods God had guided them not to eat made them more healthful than others in the king’s court.

When we pray and fast for healing, we must always remember that it is the Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26). The Daniel Fast might be done for two reason: (1) as therapy when we are sick and need healing, and (2) as prevention to keep us from getting sick.

Preventative fasting might be abstaining from certain “bad” foods, like sugar, fatty foods, desserts, alcohol, salt, or most anything found in the center area of the grocery store.

Curative fasting can affect the fast-er or someone else, like in James 5:15, “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”

8. The John the Baptist Fast

Purpose: That “your righteousness will go before you'” (Isaiah 58:8, NASB) – that our testimonies and influence for Jesus will be enhanced in front of others.

Key Verse: “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15, NASB).

Background: Because John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, he took the “Nazirite” vow that required him to “fast” from (or avoid) wine and strong drink. This was part of John’s purposefully adopted lifestyle that designated him as one set apart for a special mission.

The believer’s righteousness (which comes from the righteousness of Christ) or the believer’s testimony will extend far beyond physical limitations. A John the Baptist Fast enables us to ask God to reach those who do not know him. Perhaps seeing us (or the Jesus in us) they might be drawn to God. If we want this sort of influence on other people, the Holy Spirit needs to be prominent in our lives.

How can we be filled with the Holy Spirit?

(1) Empty sin from your life.

(2) Yield yourself to God.

(3) Ask the Spirit to be evident in your life.

(4) Have faith that God will come through.

(5) Obey God’s revealed Word.

(6) Walk consistently in the Spirit.

(7) Allow the Spirit to empower you.

It only makes sense that God wants us to influence the world toward salvation in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Pray that we can surrender, submit, and sacrifice ourselves to allow Jesus to shine through our lives.

And finally…

9. The Esther Fast

Purpose: That “the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. (Protecting us from the evil one) (Isaiah 58:8, NASB).

Key Verses: “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) AND “When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight;” (Esther 5:2).

Background: Queen Esther, a Jewish woman in a pagan court, risked her life to save her people from threatened destruction by Xerxes, king of Persia. Prior to appearing before the king to petition him to save the Jews, Esther, her attendants, and her cousin Mordecai all fasted to appeal to God for His protection.

We go through many dangers in this life, many are just because we are followers of Jesus. There are places all around the world where it is illegal to preach the gospel or even have a Bible. When Satan attacks, perhaps the Esther Fast is in order.

This fast is not designed to exorcise demons or break a bondage of sin, although it could be used as a protection against demonic forces.

This fast is not for daily protection from the temptations of life. The protection here is similar to the protection God provided as the children of Israel fled Egypt (the armies of Egypt chasing after them) and wandered through the desert for 40 years. Peter reminds us that the devil is out to get us (1 Peter 5:8 – the roaring lion).

Something to remember in this Esther story:

(1) Fasting did not change the decree (so your fasting may not produce any magical wonders).

(2) Fasting did not make the king call the queen into his presence.

(3) Fasting did not guarantee her life would be spared.

(4) Fasting did not solve the crisis.

But we know the end of this story, the Jews were saved from extermination.

SO, PRAYER AND FASTING, AND A GUIDE TO HELP YOU:

I mentioned this guide earlier. In this guide you will find various articles about fasting and other teaching on the topic. It is to be a resource for you in case you want to experiment in the spiritual discipline of fasting. By the time you get to page nine, perhaps you will be ready to commit to this spiritual exercise for any of the nine reasons and types of fasts that I mentioned today.

  • What are you being asked to do?
  • What is the conditional nature of prayer?
  • What promises can you embrace?
  • What are the conditions to answered prayer?
  • What is prevailing prayer?
  • What is a plan to begin or grow your prayer time?
  • What can we pray over? Included is a list of specific things for which we can pray.
  • What are some good prayer Scriptures?
  • What are the seven steps to fasting?

As we conclude here, what is God impressing upon you? What changes need to be made in your life? Or will you just check worship attendance of your list and not even remember what was talked about today?

Let’s pray…

Lord God, we are your children, those who have chosen to walk on the path of discipleship and spiritual maturity. Forgive us of our complacency and apathy in our spiritual lives, May we NOT be those people of whom Isaiah writes in chapter 58. Don’t allow us to play games in your church. May we continue working toward living the Great Commandment and fulfilling the Great Commission. Convict us of sin. Mend our broken relationships. Listen as we cry out to you. May we fulfill the vows we have made to you and recommit ourselves into your service. As we stand and sing these words, Lord Jesus, have thine own way Lord. Amen.

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Leaders Who Are PROVEN

Leaders Who Are PROVEN

There is talk all the time about leadership. Leadership in the government (having just come out of an election year), leadership on the football team (listening to commentators talking about various players each Saturday), leadership in the home (that whole marriage roles conversation), even leadership in the church (like the role and function of a pastor, the staff, deacons, and teachers). Leadership is not necessarily all about control and authority, because leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell says that leadership is influence. When you have influence over a person, group, a company, or a church, you are a leader.

It’s about influence that moves people to do things that they likely could not have done without leadership. I suppose a glaring biblical example of the lack of leadership may be found in the Book of Judges. There are two verses that tells us that everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25, it’s even found in Deuteronomy 12:8). By the way, Proverbs offers a little commentary when it comes to people doing what is right in their own eyes… “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15) and “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

In the Titus 1:5-11 passage we read earlier, Paul is coaching Titus on leadership. We can learn much from what we read in Scripture, if we only we take the time to read it, understand it, and seek ways to apply it. Here is how Paul describes church leaders:

Blameless (above reproach) – Their work for the church, as well as their interactions with others outside the church, are to be of such moral quality that they do not bring shame or in any way disgrace the body of Christ or the name of Jesus.

Above reproach, however, does not mean without sin. No Christian lives an entirely sinless life, nor will we until we get to heaven. Above reproach means that the leader’s life is free from sinful habits or behaviors that would hinder his setting the highest Christian standard and model for the church to imitate (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3). Remember that leadership is influence.

In the same way, the leader must not give reasons for those outside the church to challenge its reputation or integrity. Being above reproach means that no one can honestly bring a charge or accusation against the Christian leader (Acts 25:7; 1 Peter 3:16).

Husband of one wife – this does not mean that a church leader must be married, or even male, but probably means the person is faithful to the vows he’s made to his wife, and not a polygamist.

Has children who believe – this does not mean that a church leader must be a father or have children walking with the Lord. How many of us have raised our kids in the church yet they today have nothing to do with the church, maybe even nothing to do with God? At some point all human being must make their own decisions about who they will serve. What I mean is that since children have soul competency before God, their rebellion and wild nature cannot disqualify a church leader from effective service to God and this church.

Paul throws in some negative qualities:

Not accused of dissipation (which is indulgence, immorality, depravity, corruption) or rebellion – basically the leader is not overbearing, quick-tempered, given to drunkenness, violence, dishonest gain.

Then on the plus side:

The leader is hospitable, he or she loves good, is self-controlled, holy, and disciplined, holding firmly to sound teaching and doctrine.

So, as we look at leadership today, leaders are to be PROVEN. I am going to share with your six qualities of PROVEN leaders…

PASSION = Passion of Jesus, his mission, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission:

Passion is not a word often used in our culture, unless it is in the romantic sense of being passionate with or about your spouse, but the word is very accurate when it comes to our connection with Jesus.

This word passion fits right in with God’s greatest commandment, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, to love our God with all of our being (heart, mind, soul, and strength). Let me share some guidance from Scripture about how to awaken that in your life:

1) Get to know God. It goes without saying that we cannot love someone we do not know, so the place to start is to get to know God and understand what He has done for you. Before the command to love God is given in Deuteronomy 6:5, the statement is made, “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God is one LORD.”

One aspect of this statement is that the God of the Bible is unique, and the better we get to know what He is like, the easier it will be for us to love Him with our whole being. This also involves getting to know what He has done for us. Again, before the first command is given in Exodus 20:3, God states what He had done for Israel in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. Likewise, in Romans 12:1-2, the command to offer our lives as living sacrifices is prefaced with the word therefore–a word meant to remind us of all of the mercies of God toward us recorded in the previous chapters.

To grow in love with God, a person needs to get to know Him. God has revealed Himself in nature (read about that in Romans 1), but so much more through His written Word. We need to make daily Bible study a personal habit—as much a part of our lives as eating food every day. It is important to remember that the Bible is more than a book; it is actually God’s love letter to us, revealing himself through the centuries, especially through the ministry of Jesus Christ, His one and only unique Son. We must read the Bible, asking His Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about what He wants us to learn from it that day.

2) Pray like Jesus did. When we examine the life of Jesus (as well as that of Daniel and others who had a passion for God) we find that prayer was a vital ingredient in their relationships with God. You cannot imagine a man and woman growing in love without communicating, so prayer cannot be neglected without expecting your love for God to grow cold. Prayer is part of the armor we use against our greatest enemies (Ephesians 6:18). We may have a desire to love God, but we will fail in our walk with Christ without prayer (Matthew 26:41).

3) Walk closely with God NOW. Daniel and his three friends chose to obey God and refused to compromise in even the food they ate (Daniel 1). The others who were brought from Judah to Babylon as prisoners with them caved in, and are never mentioned again. When the Jewish prisoners of war had their convictions challenged in a far greater way, it was only these few who stood alone for God (Daniel 3 and 6). In order to ensure that we will be passionate for God LATER, we need to walk with Him NOW and begin to obey Him in the smallest details of life!

Peter learned this the hard way by following God “at a distance,” rather than identifying himself more closely with Christ before his temptation to deny Him (Luke 22:54). God says that where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also. As we invest our lives in God through serving Him and being on the receiving end of persecution for Him, our treasure will increasingly be with Him, and so will our hearts (1 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 6:21).

4) Eliminate the competition. Jesus said it is impossible to have two masters (Matthew 6:24). We are always tempted to love the world (those things which please our eyes, make us feel good about ourselves, and gratify our earthly desires – 1 John 2:15-17). James tells us that embracing the world and its friendship is enmity (hatred) toward God and amounts to spiritual adultery (James 4:4). We need to get rid of some things in our lives that compete for our alligience (friends who would lead us the wrong way, things that waste our time and energy and keep us from serving God more faithfully, pursuits of popularity, possessions, and physical and emotional gratifications). God promises that if we pursue Him, He will not only provide for our needs (Matthew 6:33) but will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4-5).

So, leaders are to be people who are passionate about Jesus and his mission and spiritual disciples.

RELATIONSHIPS = Relationships resulting in accountability and application in small groups:

A small group at church consists of a handful of believers who are connected by our common faith in Jesus. They meet together for Bible study, service projects, encouragement, prayer, and fellowship. As churches grow larger, these small groups keep people connected with one another. The goal of a biblically faithful church is to create authentic community through our small groups ministry, which fosters discipleship, prayer, connection, and accountability. The number of participants in each small group is generally limited so that deep and long-lasting relationships are cultivated and maintained.

The model for small groups is found in the book of Acts when believers met together in homes to eat, fellowship, and take communion (Acts 2:41–42, 46). They would read the apostles’ letters, discuss them, pray, and challenge each other to keep the faith (Acts 20:7–8). A small group that functions correctly is a little church within a larger congregation.

It is within these small groups that the “one anothers” of Scripture take place. When the Bible tells Christians to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), pray for one another (James 5:16), accept one another (Romans 15:7), and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13), it implies that we are in close relationship with other believers. On a practical level, in a church of several hundred, the pastor cannot visit every sick person or take a meal to every new mother. Regardless of how friendly or outgoing a member may be, he or she cannot personally know an entire crowd seen only for an hour on Sunday morning. Community doesn’t happen when we are looking at the back of someone’s head. Community happens in circles, not in rows. So, the pastor and staff rely on small group leaders to take care of the members of their groups. They are the shepherds of the small flock of members who are in their charge.

In many ways, the first-century church was a series of small groups. They all studied the same Scriptures (Acts 17:11), read the same letters from the apostles (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27), and obeyed to the same standards for community lifestyle (1 Corinthians 11–14). They met in homes throughout the week (Acts 2:46) and established close, personal relationships with each other (Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 2:17). When modern church groups strive for the same unity (Ephesians 4:3; Psalm 133:1), they are fulfilling the expectations Jesus has for His church (Matthew 16:18).

OBEDIENCE = Obedience to the Commands of Christ and the Teachings of the Bible;

The Bible has a lot to say about obedience. In fact, obedience is an essential part of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). For Christians, the act of taking up our cross and following Christ (Matthew 16:24) means obedience. The Bible says that we show our love for Jesus by obeying Him in all things: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). A Christian who is not obeying Christ’s commands can rightly be asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Obedience is defined as “dutiful or submissive compliance to the commands of one in authority.” Using this definition, we see the elements of biblical obedience. “Dutiful” means it is our obligation to obey God, just as Jesus fulfilled His duty to the Father by dying on the cross for our sin. “Submissive” indicates that we yield our will to God’s will. “Commands” speak of the Scriptures in which God has clearly presented His instructions, these “commands of Jesus, which I have studied over past decade. These are grammatical imperatives that must be obeyed, because they are not suggestions. The “one in authority” is God Himself, whose authority is total and unmistakable. For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded. It is our duty and privilege to do so.

Having said that, it is important to remember that our obedience to God is not solely a matter of duty. We obey Him because we love Him (John 14:23). Also, we understand that the SPIRIT of obedience is as important as the ACT of obedience. We serve the Lord in humility, singleness of heart, and love.

If we love God, we WILL obey Him. We won’t be perfect in our obedience, but our desire is to submit to the Lord and demonstrate our love through good works. When we love God and obey Him, we naturally have love for one another. Obedience to God’s commands will make us light and salt in a dark and tasteless world (Matthew 5:13–16).

VICTORY = Victory over sin through ongoing sanctification and integrity:

The key to victory in our struggles with sin lies not in ourselves, but in God and His faithfulness to us: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18; see also Psalm 46:1).

There’s no getting around it: we all struggle with sin (Romans 3:23). Even the great apostle Paul grieved over his ongoing struggle with sin in his life (Romans 7:18-20). Paul’s struggle with sin was real; so much so that he cried out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).

Yet in the very next breath, he answers his own question, as well as ours: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a).

Our key to victory in our struggle with sin lies in the promise of God Himself: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If God provides a way of escape, it seems to me, that victory over sin is a matter of making better choices with the help of the Holy Spirit, who dwells inside every believer.

The Proven disciple (and the Proven leader) will have this desire to please God in his or her life and victory will come over a lifetime of obedience to God’s Word. When we understand the battle and the enemy’s battle strategy, we can better live victoriously in this fallen world.

ETERNAL FOCUS = Eternal focus resulting in Evangelism and the Example of Jesus:

Personal evangelism appears to be a scary thing for a lot of believers. It is simply the act of a person sharing the gospel, the good news, with someone else. There are many different methods of personal evangelism, and it is a hot topic within Christianity. Books, classes, and seminars are dedicated to the subject of witnessing, soul-winning, and helping others find salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Not every method is effective or biblically supportable; according to Bible teacher Dr. John MacArthur, “Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know.”

According to a 2016 Barna survey, 73 percent of Americans claim to be Christians. However, after applying scriptural tests to those claims, only around 31 percent actually qualify as practicing Christians. The Bible knows no other kind of Christian (Matthew 7:19–21; 1 John 3:7–10). Clearly, what has passed for personal evangelism for the last several generations has not been effective. It’s time for something new. Not a new message, but a new method of reaching people for Jesus.

I’ve shared this before, but I like the BLESS strategy; I call it “How to BLESS your neighbors.”

  • BEGIN with Prayer. Helping someone come to faith in Jesus is a God thing, don’t leave home without prayer.
  • LISTEN to the people around you. Discover their needs, hopes, dreams, cares, problems, frustrations, joys, and desires by simply having a conversation and listening to them.
  • EAT with them, sharing a meal. Find a time to share a meal. People will open up when they are across the table of fellowship.
  • SERVE them in some way, meeting a need. After all this listening to them, how can you make a practical difference in their lives? Serve them.
  • STORY means earning the right to share YOUR story or HIS story. After you have earned the right, find a way to share one of two possible stories: YOUR story, which is your testimony, or HIS story, the plan of salvation in the Bible.

In our personal evangelism, it is good to remember that we are only responsible to God for our obedience, not the results of that obedience. We may present the gospel thoroughly and lovingly, and the person to whom we witness may hear and understand, but still choose to walk away. We are not responsible for that reaction, but only for the level of obedience involved in our presentation. Acts 1:8 tells us that we will be his witnesses, the only choice we have is will we be a good witness or a poor witness?

NURTURING = Nurture others in the faith through example, teaching, and leadership:

As I think about nurturing others, I think about family and parenting. While the Bible has much to say about physical parenting, we are also called to spiritual parenting.

When God led the Israelites out of bondage, He commanded them to teach their children all He had done for them (Deuteronomy 6:6–7; 11:19). He desired that the generations to come would continue to uphold all His commands. When one generation fails to teach God’s laws in the next, a society quickly declines. Parents have not only a responsibility to their children, but an assignment from God to impart His values and truth into their lives.

While the home is primary place for raising children (Sunday School and VBS is not enough) the church is also a place to nurture those around us. And it is not just for kids. Women get together on Tuesdays. Men of Steel gather at Denny’s on Wednesdays and the Noble Men meet in the fellowship on various Saturdays. Leaders are nurtured and actively nurture others. The growth never ends, not until Jesus calls us home.

So, these six characteristics will help us to be a PROVEN leader, and a PROVEN disciple of Jesus. A lost world is watching us, ad waiting for us to prove that we are who we say we are. We expect more out of our leaders. Remember that being above reproach does not mean we are perfect, but that we live in such a way that no one can honestly say that our behavior would bring shame on the name of Jesus or his church.

Maybe you heard something today, and you need to make some changes in your life. We’re here to help, no one does this Christian life thing on their own. At King’s Grant, we are first of all, a community of faith. You can grow into the disciple and leader God desires for you to be, and the church can help, you’re not alone.

Let’s talk to God about it…

PRAY: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. You know our hearts, motivation, and attitudes. You know where we fall short better than we know ourselves. May we rekindle our passion for you, your Word, and the mission you have in our lives. Help us to live a life of significance and influence. Help us to know your will and your ways and give us the courage to stand up for the cause of Christ. Lord Jesus, may you be glorified through your PROVEN people. AMEN.

Thank you for being a part of this worship and study time. If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us through the church website (kgbc.us/more). If you live in the Virginia Beach area, we invite you to stop by for a visit on Sundays at 9:30am or 11am or join us for midweek activities on Wednesday evenings (kgbc.us/midweek). Until next time, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you soon.

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Setting Our Priorities for 2022

Welcome to this last Sunday of 2021, as we look forward to and make plans for 2022. My message starting point is Acts 20:22… and you may be thinking, I see what you’ve done there… 2022, anyway, let’s look at what Dr. Luke writes. Paul is addressing the Ephesians elders in this chapter…

Acts 20:22 – And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

Just as Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago, we are also setting out on a journey into 2022, not knowing what is in store, other than we continue to be a part of a world that doesn’t care much about the God we serve or want him to be found anywhere in the public square. Christians are prime targets for negative press, especially after there has been some sort of public failure done by some mega-church or a high-profile popular pastor. Sometimes the church gets a black eye because of how church people behave. I pray every day for my integrity and Christian witness to match my personal faith.

For much of the world, the gospel still is illegal or brings significant persecution in many parts of the world. According to Open Doors USA, their World Watch List for 2021 has information on the top 50 countries where it is difficult to follow Jesus. Most of the persecution comes from communist oppression, local clan oppression, and Islamic oppression.

So, to put this into context, Paul set his priority to go to Jerusalem in spite of what awaited him there. But for most of us, we just want to be a faithful witness for the Lord making a difference in our circles of influence. Basically, we want to bloom where we are planted. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, we will never make a difference in our culture if we don’t embrace the mission of Jesus with intentionality.

The Great Commission and the Great Commandment will not manifest itself in our lives by accident. So, in this week of making resolutions, what commitments are we willing and ready to make for the cause of Christ, and to demonstrate our faith in Christ?

Paul writes these words and includes what I call a mission statement. Perhaps you have chosen a Bible verse to reflect your desire to live life on mission with God.

  • Some people have chosen Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
  • Others might choose Matthew 6:33 – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  • For me personally, I have chosen Acts 20:24 – But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

At the end of all things in this life, may people remember that I chased after God with my whole heart and took seriously the calling he has on my life to faithfully testify to the gospel of God’s grace.

What about you? I challenge you to find a verse that sums up your desire to follow Christ with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Here we are at the very end of 2021, so, what changes can we make for 2022? I’m going to help you consider adding a few things to your New Year’s resolutions, or at least modify your life-priorities list. And yes, there’s an acrostic… F.A.I.T.H.

I have chosen this acrostic because faith appears to be an important part of the Christian experience. For example…

  • And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Notice the word, “impossible” to please him.
  • Or how about Second Corinthians 5:7, that says, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

So, with my acrostic FAITH, let me suggest five ways we can set priorities for 2022.

Faith in God

I think most of us would like to be remembered as a person of great faith. A couple of times in the New Testament, Jesus was amazed at the faith of the people.

One time Jesus was entering Capernaum and was approached by a centurion whose servant was lying paralyzed at home and racked with pain (Matthew 8:5-10). Jesus tells him that he will come and heal him, only to hear the Roman officer tell him that he is not worthy for Jesus to enter his home, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed because he had not seen such great faith in all the land of Israel. He tells him to go home because what he believed has happened. Jesus marveled at this man’s faith. I want to be that guy, that Jesus would say, “of all the people following me, that Chafee guy has great faith. He believes what is written in that book we call the Bible. He trusts me with his life, his future, his salvation, and his daily decisions.”

But, there was also another time when Jesus was amazed at people’s faith. It was also in Galilee, in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). He was teaching in the synagogue and the people were astonished, saying, “where did he get these things, his wisdom and the miracles? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” At the end of this story, Mark tells us that Jesus was amazed (or he marveled or wondered) at their unbelief. It appears that familiarity really does breed contempt. They were so familiar with Jesus and his earthy family that they couldn’t see him for who he was, the Savior of the world, the Messiah, the promised Deliverer.

Great faith was found in a Roman centurion Gentile while among the chosen people of God, the Jews, there was a deafening lack of faith that even prevented Jesus from doing many miracles in their midst.

Which guy do you want to be? In 2022, will you grow into a person of great faith, or will Jesus be unable to do anything through you because of unbelief?

Remember that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). So, our first priority in 2022 is to develop into a person of strong faith. But faith cannot stand on its own. Faith must be acted upon, or it is simply a belief. So, here is our next priority…

Action for God

James is very specific when it comes to faith and action. In James 1:22, he tells us, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. Did you catch that? Faith must be proven, and it is proven through actions. He goes on to write in James 2:17-18, Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith WITHOUT the works, and I will show you my faith BY my works.”

On a practical level, faith that is not proven is not really faith. Think about it. I may have faith that this chair will hold me up but unless I am willing to sit down on it, there is no faith, there is only belief.

I’m sure you have heard this story at some point in your life but there was this high-wire walker who stretched his wire across Niagara Falls and walked from one side to the other, and back again. The crowd was amazed at what this guy could do. He then told the crowd he would do it again, but this time pushing a wheelbarrow, all the way across, and back again. He then asked a question of his raving fans, “Do you believe I can go one more time with someone sitting in the wheelbarrow?” and they all cheered that he could. Then came the tough question that separates faith from simple belief, “Who will get in this wheelbarrow and go with me?”

This next year, how will you grow your faith and step forward in action? What is God asking you to do by saying, “Just trust me. Have faith. Walk in obedience and let me take care of you.” This action step will move you from simply believing the right stuff about Jesus, to trusting him with your life and future. Let’s grow in 2022.

The next priority helps us to develop credibility among the people in our circles of influence. Nothing will honor God more than his people BEING the disciple we are called to be, rather than just CLAIMING to be his disciples. This involves living for God and walking in obedience even no one is looking. It’s about walking in integrity with God…

Integrity with God

How often do we slide into sin simply because we know that no one else is watching? This is about a businessman traveling in a strange city and knowing that no one will ever know what he might be doing after hours. It’s about the movies we stream or the images we see on our smartphone that no one will ever know about. It’s about flirting with someone not your spouse knowing that your work life and personal life will never intersect with church people.

I’m reminded about the story of David who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and made the wrong decision. We read about this episode in King David’s life in 2 Samuel 11. The king was not where he was supposed to be, off at war with his troops. He was at home, on his rooftop, and discovered a beautiful woman next door. After a series of poor choices, this “man after God’s own heart” walks down the path of lust, adultery, and eventually conspiracy and murder.

Remember that no one ever starts out to destroy their life or family or marriage, but like David, we make a series of poor choices and lack the necessary accountability to someone else, that essential relationship we need to keep ourselves on the narrow path of God’s will.

Why am I such an advocate of men’s ministry? Because deep inside every one of us is the potential to compromise our beliefs. There is strength and safety in numbers. Why would I not do everything in my power to keep myself on the right path?

And this is not just about men’s ministry, because our women get together on Tuesday morning and Tuesday evenings (as well as at other times through the year) to grow in faith, support one another, pray for one another, love on one another, and to bear one another’s burdens.

  • Here is a great verse that supports personal accountability, Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. The Men of Steel embrace this verse and want to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Sharp knives don’t happen by accident, it takes work.
  • Remember that this godliness doesn’t happen by accident. Check out the foundation of our Noble Man Group, Isaiah 32:8 – But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands.

So, do you desire to stand when all those around you fall? It’s about being intentional with your spiritual growth. This passage tells us to devise a PLAN. And how can we devise a plan without using good material? That’s where the Bible comes in. We walk with Jesus by allowing his Word into our heart; we must embrace teaching about God.

Teaching About God

The Bible is our only source for faith and practice, so how effective can we expect to be when we don’t get into God’s Word? Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the Bible. When I stand before a holy God, I’m not sure that saying, “I never knew” will be a good excuse.

We have more access to God’s Word than any previous generation. We have multiple copies of God Word in our homes. We have access to dozens of different translations in the palm of our hands. The YouVersion Bible app has been installed on over 500 million devices worldwide – and it’s totally free (as of November 2021).

Will this be the year that you get involved in a small group? There’s nothing like getting together to open the Bible and discuss what it means and how it applies to life. Spiritual truth is so relevant to life.

A lot of people generally avoid Bible study because they don’t know much about that mysterious book, but I submit to you… does that argument make any sense? If you DON’T know that much about the Bible, why would you NOT get involved in a small group.

It’s almost like saying, “I’m not going to college because I don’t know much about my chosen major.” Students go to college to learn. They’re not there because they’re an expert. Same thing about being a disciple of Jesus. The word disciple literally means pupil, learner, student, not master or expert.

The point of our life in Christ is to conform to the image of Jesus over a lifetime. That’s what we call, the process of sanctification. If we say YES to Jesus, get baptized, and join the church, and the only thing we do from that point is sit on a pew a couple of times a month (or for some, a couple of times a year) we are missing the point of being a Christian.

Christianity is not just a belief system but it’s embracing another worldview. Now that our faith is in Christ, how we view the world comes from what we read in the Bible. It’s called having a biblical worldview. We take everything we learn from the world and hold it up to the teachings found in the Bible. And with a biblical worldview, we trust what the Bible says over what our present culture teaches. God’s truth does not go out of style; he doesn’t change with the times. We don’t make God into OUR image; we are made in HIS image.

Teaching from God happens best in the context of a small group of believers who are on the same journey in life, together. We read, learn, discuss, and seek to apply the teaching we receive from God’s Word. If you’re not a part of a small group, you are not in a position to be all that you can be as a follower of Christ. Maybe this is the year when you surrender to God’s will and get involved in a small group.

If you’re already involved in a small group, maybe your next step is to teach others about God. It is an interesting fact that when you teach others, God opens up your mind and heart to learn so much more than you could ever teach to your class. It really is a blessing to teach others, a privilege, and a responsibility.

Hey, none of us is an expert on the Bible, but every time I open this book, I put myself into a position to hear from God through his Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Which leads us to the final priority for 2022…

Hearing from God

The Scripture is full of language like, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 15, 16), “He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2-3), and “For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.”’ (Acts 28:27).

It is totally possible to have a keen sense of hearing and still not hear from God. Often times we are just satisfied to live on the fringe of God’s influence and involvement in our lives. If heard it said, “If you can live without revival in your life or church, you will.” How much time do we spend on chasing after God? Like, if we don’t hear from him, we are ruined?

Sometimes we settle for a casual glance in God’s direction and feel that is all God wants from us. But there is so much more if we would only chase after him. And he’s NOT playing some cosmic hide-and-seek game because his Word tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”

Not everybody gets it. When you hear from God, you know it. People around you may never understand you stepping out in faith, but from God’s perspective, you will be a success in the kingdom of God, even if those around you can’t see it. God wants our faithfulness, so we leave the definition of success up to him.

So, how will we be successful in 2022? Perhaps setting a few priorities will help us journey toward exercising greater faith… have…

  1. Faith IN God
  2. Action FOR God
  3. Integrity with God
  4. Teaching ABOUT God, and
  5. Hearing FROM God

What area do you need to grow in faith right now? How can your church family help you? What commitments are you ready to make right now? Let’s talk to God about it…

PRAY: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. You know our hearts, motivation, and attitudes. You know where we fall short better than we know ourselves. As we enter this new year, may we rekindle our passion for you, your Word, and the mission you have in our lives. Help us to live a life of significance. Help us to know your will and your ways and give us the courage to stand up for the cause of Christ.

Thank you for being a part of this online service. If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us through the church website (kgbc.us/more). If you live in the Virginia Beach area, we invite you to stop by for a visit on Sundays at 9am or 11am or join us for midweek activities on Wednesday evenings (kgbc.us/midweek). Until next time, thanks for joining us. We hope to see you soon.

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How to BLESS Other People

On November 7, Scott talked about how we can be a blessing to other people. The base passage was Genesis 12:1-3 but we found a lot of Scripture to support this blessing lifestyle.

1 Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. – Genesis 12:1-3

The B in BLESS means Begin with Prayer – make a list of those for whom you are praying on a regular basis – And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” – Luke 10:2

The L in BLESS is for Listen – discover who they are and where they are by asking questions and listening – This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; – James 1:19

The E in BLESS is for Eat – share a meal with someone each week in hopes of getting to know them better – And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. – Mark 2:15

The First S in BLESS is for Serve – seeks ways to serve them in some way, demonstrating your love for them – For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45

The Second S in BLESS is for Story – you have two stories to share: YOUR story (which is your testimony) and HIS story (which is the gospel, the plan of salvation) – but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. – Acts 1:8

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The Masks We Wear

On October 31, Scott talked about the Masks We Wear, from Romans 12:9-13. It’s fun to pretend to be something we know we are not in real life. However, pretending to be someone or something we are not must never be a way of life, especially in the church. We tend to hide behind the masks we wear, because if you knew the real me, you wouldn’t like me, and I’m not ready to take the risk of the pain of rejection.

M is for MEETING – we must be connected to one another relationally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually, and this is best done in the context of a small group experience.

A is for ACCOUNTABILITY – we must be connected to other followers of Christ who will hold us accountable for our spiritual life, marriage, and integrity.

S is for SACRIFICE – we know it will cost us something to live out our Christian faith. We live out our faith inside the church and outside in the community.

K is for KNOWLEDGE – we must seek to know all we can about living faithfully as a member of the body of Christ rather than believing that old saying, “ignorance is bliss.”

S is for SALVATION – we must embrace the fact that when we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we now have a responsibility to act on that faith (to live it out) in front of a lost and dying world.

We showed this video at the beginning of the message:

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Strengthening Your Mind


As Ken has been teaching in this series, we are reminded that the mind is the ultimate battlefield in this life. The Lord, our own flesh (that negative base side of who we are) and the enemy (the devil or Satan) are all battling for control of our mind. Why does the battle rage here in the mind? Because the Bible says, “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, NASB.

We need to understand that the battle that’s raging in the mind is a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it’s a battle between good and evil for the control of our lives. Since this is a spiritual battle, we cannot fight in our own strength or use the common weapons of warfare, we must fight with spiritual resources, like what we find in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18.

Today, I want you to know that…

  1. You don’t have to LOSE this battle for your mind!
  2. You don’t have to be DEFEATED in your walk with Christ.
  3. You don’t have to BE A SLAVE of worry, anxiety, your thoughts, feelings, or fear.
  4. You don’t have to BE CONTROLLED by the desires of the body!
  5. However, you CAN live your life under the control of the Holy Spirit, which allows you to win this battle for your mind!

How, might you ask? The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t happen automatically! You have to take certain steps that will ALLOW IT to happen in your life, (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:13).

As we take the steps in 1 Peter 1:13 to “think clearly and exercise self-control,” we put ourselves in a position where the Lord can renew the mind. The word “transform” in Romans 12:2 and the word “renewed” in Ephesians 4:23 are both in the passive voice. They are something done TO and IN the child of God.

Secondly, we need to know that we don’t have to do this alone. We have the Lord’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, (or discipline). So, today, I want to take these few verses in Philippians 4 to show you Paul’s plan for victory in the battlefield of the mind.

I want to share with you five simple steps that teach us all about Strengthening the Mind. If followed, these steps will help us to build a wall of protection around our minds. These steps will help us to achieve victory in the daily struggles that we all face.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4) – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

This repeated phrase in Philippians is Paul’s command for believers to “rejoice.” He uses this word in the imperative form, and it’s also important to note that he immediately repeats the command. This word means, “to be glad.” While not a Greek scholar, I discovered that this word is in the present tense, active voice, and imperative mood. All that means is, the believer is commanded to “keep on being glad in the Lord.”

Now, let’s face it, life is tough, and the events of modern life don’t bring much happiness! But let’s put this into context. When Paul penned these words, he was chained up between two Romans soldiers while in a prison cell. Even in the midst of this hardship, Paul knew that regardless of the circumstances of life, God never changes, God never leaves, and God never forsakes us. That’s why we are told to “rejoice in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice in the circumstances, he says to rejoice “in the Lord.” You see, people will change, circumstances will change, and life constantly changes, but the Lord never changes! He is constant, he is faithful, and he will always walk through this life right beside us.

Since this is true, we can learn to rejoice in who He is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives. Even if the road is hard, remember these facts…

  1. God has a detailed plan for your life, Psalm 37:23.
  2. God has promised to make all things work for good, Romans 8:28.
  3. God has promised to go with you through everything in life, Hebrews 13:5.
  4. God has promised you abiding victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37.
  5. God has promised you that the destination will be worth every step of the way, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Therefore, even when you can’t be happy about your life, learn to be happy in the Lord! Build this wall of praise around your mind! So our first step is to build a wall of PRAISE.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5) – Let your gentle spirit be known to all men...

The word “gentle” literally means “considerate or gracious spirit.” It has been translated in a variety of ways:

  • New Living translates the word “considerate”
  • Holman translates the word “graciousness”
  • King James translates the word “moderation”
  • The ESV translates the word “reasonableness”

This word has the idea of being patient with other people; or yielding to the rights and wishes of others. It does NOT mean we make compromises in our doctrinal beliefs in the name of tolerance, but it does mean that you have a willingness to take the back seat in favor of other people. This is the same idea that Paul introduces back in Philippians 2:4 – thinking of others as more important than yourself.

Paul is saying that the reality of our faith should be demonstrated in how we treat other people. If the focus of our lives is all about US, then when people hurt us, we’ll have a desire to retaliate and get even.

Paul wants us to take the focus off ourselves and put it onto other people. When we are focused on the people around us, we’ll be less likely to be hurt by what other people do. What they say won’t sting us so badly because we are not focused on ourselves. How they act can be passed over more easily when we focus on THEIR hurts, their situation, or their well-being. It has been said that “hurting people hurt people.” So, when people hurt us, we ought to seek to discover what is happening in THEIR life to have behaved the way they did. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the right thing to do.

When we adopt the mentality of self-love (which is all around us) we will always look at the things people do and say, as a personal attack. It will cause us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and to be more easily hurt by the words and actions of others.

This will also cause us problems in the mind because we dwell on WHAT was done or WHAT was said. If we can learn to accept other people just as they are and overlook what they have done to hurt us, it will protect our mind from dwelling in negative areas. It will build a wall of protection around the mind that others cannot penetrate!

The bottom line is this, if we can learn to live in genuine contentment, as in Philippians 4:11, then it won’t matter what anyone says or does to us. The mind will be protected from the evil that it likes to find in others. The devil loves nothing better than to get your eyes off Jesus and onto the faults of other people! The flesh loves nothing better than to go along with the devil in accusing others and judging others. When this happens, the mind is in danger! So, our second step is to build the wall of PATIENCE.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7) – The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 warns us against the dangers of worry. The word used for anxiety in the NASB, is translated in other places as “careful” or “worry.” The idea of “anxiety” comes from the term, “to be troubled with cares.” It refers to a state of mind that is agitated over the events and circumstances of life. There is nothing wrong with HAVING concerns (we all have them) but it’s when your concerns have YOU, that’s when the problems begin to spring up!

Worry is so dangerous because it allows the mind to create false ideas about God, others, and the world around us. Worry says, “God is dead!” or, “If there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about me and my situation.” Both of those statements are false! God is certainly alive, Hebrews 7:25, and God does care, Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7.

When the problems of life come our way, we are given some wonderful help in these verses.

  1. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5b) – This refers NOT only to his second coming, but that He is always near to His children – Hebrews 13:5-6.
  2. Exercise the tool of prayer (Philippians 4:6) – Paul speaks of prayer, supplication, and requests. These might be thought of as, 1) general praying, 2) specific praying, and 3) detailed praying. The main point of this verse is that instead of worrying, the believer is to demonstrate his faith in the POWER and the WILL of God by seeking the Lord in prayer!
  3. Develop a thankful heart (Philippians 4:6) – Regardless of the situations you face in life, learn to praise the Lord through ALL of them. Nothing brings God nearer (or drives the devil away any faster) than a genuinely thankful heart!

The Lord’s promise to us is that He will replace our worries with HIS PEACE when we come before Him in trusting, humble prayer. The word “keep” or “guard” in Philippians 4:7 means “to garrison, or build a fort around, or to post a military guard.” The Lord promises to post a guard around the heart and mind of the person who trusts Him with the needs of everyday life. Instead of worrying yourself sick about things you can’t change, learn to lean on the Lord in prayer! Build this wall of prayer!

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8) – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Ken talked about this verse at the beginning of this series, so I won’t go too far into this point, but all of these words Paul uses in this verse are a clear picture of the Word of God. God’s Word is true – John 17:17. Since the Bible is true, everything it says fits within these categories mentioned by Paul. It is honorable, it is right, it is pure (holy, clean), it is lovely, it’s of a good report (good reputation), it is full of virtue (excellence) and worthy of praise (meaning, that which leans toward worship).

We must fix our minds upon the things of God. The SOURCE for discovering these things worthy of filling our minds is the Word of God. In other words, if we will fill our minds with the Words of God, there will be no room left for evil, no room for worry, no room for fear, no room for vengeance, no room for immorality, no room for confusion or trouble. A mind filled with the Word of God, and a mind led by the Word of God, is a stable, fortified, and strong mind!

So, if you want a stable, strong, and godly mind, the best place to get it done is with the Bible. We must take the initiative and challenge our mind to dwell on God’s Word and what it says, instead of allowing the mind to run toward evil, or gossip, or slander, or sexuality, or immorality, or other people and what they are doing, or even our problems. A mind saturated with Scripture and fixed upon the Word of God is a strong mind.

This is something that you have to do for yourself!

  • The church cannot strengthen your mind.
  • The church cannot keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.
  • A Sunday School class or a small group cannot build a wall of protection around you.

No one is ever transformed when the motivation is external. Just like running a marathon, I can surround myself with encouragers cheering me on toward the finish line, but if I am not inwardly motivated to finish the race, I will give up, and will stop short.

The Christian life is very similar. If I am told what to do in order to grow spiritually yet fail to have the inward motivation of pleasing God in all that I do, or if I fail to walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God, I WILL live a mediocre life.

How long will I be obedient to God if my motivation for Christianity is to avoid hell rather than loving and serving God out of a grateful heart and renewed mind? Strengthening your mind is something that YOU do to yourself, it is not something done TO you or FOR you. So, build the wall of PURITY.

  1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9) – The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Do you notice how relational this verse is? Sometimes we think it reads, “If you want the peace of God, do the things I taught you.” This is not like a class or a sermon where we take notes; it involves walking through this life with other people. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught. We grow and live within a faith community.

Paul tells the Philippians to practice the things they had seen and heard in his life. For us, it’s NOT that we have it all together, like we’re perfect in this life. Perfection is a goal, because it will never happen this side of heaven.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, that statement is wrong. If you practice it wrong, you will NOT get it right. Ask any musician. The real truth is in a modified phrase, “Practice makes permanent.” As you practice the rift on the guitar or the violin, you may start out slow, even at half speed, but you HAVE to get it right before you practice, practice, and practice some more. If you learn it wrong, you will always play it wrong.

If you want permanent change in your life, you may start out slowly, but the more you practice it under the accountability of a trusted mentor or friend, the more permanent the transformation will become.

So, we have spent the past few minutes building walls in order to strengthen our minds:

  1. THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4)
  2. THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5)
  3. THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7)
  4. THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8)
  5. THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9)

So, let’s have some time for reflection. Maybe bow your head in the quiet of this moment and let God’s Spirit speak to your heart and mind. What are your next steps?

NEXT STEPS: Consider these questions…

  1. Which wall is needed most in your life right now?
  2. Name a person who is spiritually mature that you will seek out this week to help you grow in that area.
  3. How will you begin to make changes in your life so you can strengthen your mind?
  4. WHO will you tell about this personal commitment, and the need for accountability?
  5. WHEN will you seek out this accountability person?

Your mind is a precious gift from God. It can be used for good or for evil, and all the forces of good and evil are battling for your mind all the time. Who wins the battle is always determined by YOU! No one can control your mind, but YOU. We are told in the Bible that we need to strengthen our mind, it is OUR job, individually, and it cannot be passed off to another person. We are in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of Christ. We can’t outsource that responsibility.

This is a very critical matter, because how you THINK determines how you will LIVE your life, Proverbs 23:7 (As a person thinks within himself, so is he, NASB). Until the mind is settled, all of life is out of control – remember the words of James 1:8. (a double-minded man is unstable in his ways), so I challenge you to strengthen your mind!

Let’s Pray About It: Lord Jesus, you know better than anyone that I need a stronger mind. I recognize that apart from you, I can do nothing, so please, help me to grow in my faith, renew my mind, and become more effective in my Christian walk. I confess my failures and seek your forgiveness. Lord, help me submit to your lordship, embrace your ways, and do your will.

Father, for those who have not yet begun their journey of discipleship, let them seek you earnestly, because your Word tells us that you WILL be found when we seek for you with all out heart.

Father, this time is yours. Help us to make commitments and give us the strength to follow through, especially when life get hard. We pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN

CLOSING: Thank you for joining us today. If you made any commitments this morning, let us know about it. You can contact us using the church website (kgbc.us/more). Know that your staff prays for you, and we hope that you’ll make prayer for one another a regular activity each week.

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Anticipate Eternity

2 Corinthians 4:13-15

Pastor Ken’s series, Beyond the Faint Heart, is all about this challenge from the apostle Paul to live life to the fullest, in God’s will, being a part of the Lord’s calling and commission, and to not lose heart or become faint when life gets difficult. At times we feel that following Jesus ought to be rewarded by God and that life could be a little easier, with less struggle, after all, we are doing what God’s desires. We’re the one following Christ! We’re the ones who are seeking to please God in everything we do. We’re the ones trying to sin less. We’re the ones seeking to live in obedience. And because of this, life can be hard and we can easily get discouraged.

Hard times ought to be for those who refuse to follow Jesus. We totally understand the Proverb, “the way of the transgressor is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15). But in real life, it seems the transgressors have it easier than those who have been adopted into God’s forever family. There’s little wonder why many of God’s people might lose heart.

Down through the ages, God’s people have been persecuted, for nothing else than for just being God’s people. As it was for the Jews, so it is with the church throughout the centuries. In the grand scheme of things, it really has little to do with the church and more to do with sinful humanity rebelling against any authority that God has over their lives. If people want to eliminate an invisible God from the public square, the next best thing to do is to attack his visible representation, his church. People may attack us, but deep down, their hatred is for God more than it is for us. Remember the words of Jesus when he spoke to Paul of the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

So, how do we NOT lose heart when life gets difficult? When the world seems to go against us at every turn? We all tend to get discouraged at times, but what are we supposed to do?

Ken has been addressing this topic over the past 6 weeks, but today, I want to challenge you to anticipate eternity. It really is amazing what people can endure when they have hope that something in the future will make our life experiences worth it. Remember our Savior, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2). We ALSO can endure a lot when we have our eyes fixed on Jesus, fixed on eternity.

Let me tell you a story about hope…

When I was in college, I read a book written by Viktor Frankl called, Man’s Search for Meaning. I pulled it out again a few years ago and was reminded of its significance in my life.

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy which describes “a search for a life meaning” as the central human motivational force.

I personally admit, as a high school student so long ago, it was this search for meaning in life that brought me to Jesus, but THAT is a story for another time.

Frankl’s book is about survival. Like so many prominent German and East European Jews who thought themselves secure in the 1930s, Frankl was cast into the Nazi network of concentration camps. Miraculously, he survived, but his story in this book is less about his own struggles, (what he suffered and lost), than it is about the sources of his strength to survive. Several times in the book, Frankl quotes the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a WHY TO LIVE FOR can bear almost any HOW.” He vividly describes fellow prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future, and were inevitably the first to die. They died less from lack of food or medicine than from lack of hope, lack of something to live for. By contrast, Frankl kept himself alive and kept hope alive by summoning up thoughts of his wife and the prospect of seeing her again, and by dreaming at one point of lecturing after the war about the psychological lessons to be learned from the Auschwitz experience. Clearly, many prisoners who desperately wanted to live did die, some from disease, some in the crematoria. But Frankl’s concern is less with the question of why most died than with the question of why anyone at all survived.

Now here we are. Ken has been teaching us over the past 6 weeks, Paul’s spiritual lessons on how to not lose heart, how to overcome discouragement, and today the lesson is on anticipating eternity.

For Christians, we are people of hope. When Jesus was born into this world through the incarnation (God becoming Man), the first Sunday of Advent is all about Hope. God’s people patiently waited for the promised Deliverer, the Messiah to come. He would be that person who would act like a great hinge on the door of history, finally making right all that had gone wrong in the world. God’s people would be set free forever, no longer in bondage to any other nation or power. Christians get this because we recognize that this world is not our home, as it says in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Eagerly waiting for our Savior… that is anticipating eternity… knowing that heaven awaits us. This life is not all there is. The best, really is, yet to come.

So, what are a few ways in which we anticipate eternity? Our passage for today reminds us that, He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:14)

To help us remember what I talk about today, let’s use the acrostic HEAVEN. Let’s get to it…

H – is for Heaven itself. Heaven is a real place described in the Bible. The word “heaven” is found 276 times in the New Testament alone. Scripture refers to three heavens. The apostle Paul was “caught up to the third heaven,” but he was prohibited from revealing what he experienced there (2 Corinthians 12:1-9).

If a third heaven exists, there must also be two other heavens.

The first is most frequently referred to in the Old Testament as the “sky” or the “firmament.” This is the heaven that contains clouds, the area that birds fly through.

The second heaven is interstellar or outer space, which is the home of the stars, planets, and other celestial objects (Genesis 1:14-18).

The third heaven is apparently the dwelling place of God. Jesus promised to prepare a place for true believers in heaven (John 14:2). Heaven is also the destination of Old Testament saints who died trusting God’s promise of the Redeemer (Ephesians 4:8). Whoever believes in Christ will never perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

In heaven, the paradise of the Garden of Eden is restored: the river of the water of life flows freely and the tree of life is available once again, yielding fruit monthly with leaves that “heal the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). However eloquent John was in his description of heaven, the reality of heaven is beyond the ability of finite human beings to describe it (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Heaven is also a place of “no mores.” There will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow, no more separation, because death will be conquered (Revelation 20:4, 6). The best thing about heaven is the presence of Jesus (1 John 3:2). We will eventually be face to face with the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and because of HIM, we can enjoy His presence in heaven for eternity.

E – is for Evangelism. This is how we secure our ticket into heaven. Paul tells us in Romans 10:13-15, for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent?” Evangelism is nothing more that telling others about the good news of God’s salvation. As believers, we all have a story to tell of what Jesus has done for us. We are his witnesses (Acts 1:8) and have the awesome responsibility and privilege of telling others how to find the life that we have experienced.

A – is for Anticipation. It’s not that we are ready to pack our bags and head off to heaven right now, after all, we have a life to live here and now. The Bible has many references to “eagerly waiting” for the Lord’s return. A few moments ago, I mentioned Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Did you catch that? Eagerly waiting.

The return of Jesus Christ will be like the coming of a thief in the night. Two passages use the wording “a thief in the night”:

Matthew 24:43, “Understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into,” and

1 Thessalonians 5:2, “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

How is the second coming going to be like a thief in the night? Just as a thief catches a household by surprise, Jesus will catch the unbelieving world by surprise when He returns. Before they know it, Judgment Day will be upon them, and then, it will be too late.

As believers we don’t fear, but rather anticipate his coming, so it should not catch us by surprise. Christians are in a separate category: (1 Thessalonians 5:4) – “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.

These who are unsaved should listen to Jesus’ warning: “Be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44). How can you be ready? Well, God has provided the way for you to escape the coming judgment. The way to the Father and everlasting life in heaven … is Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” By accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are guaranteed forgiveness of sins, mercy, and salvation.

V – is for Victory. If we plan to overcome discouragement, the Bible tells us point blank how to be an overcomer… in Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him (the devil, Satan, the accuser) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony …” We have victory through the blood of Jesus, by what he did on the cross to provide salvation. We also have victory by the word of our testimony. When the accuser comes after us, we SPEAK UP to remind him of OUR salvation, and the devil’s ultimate destination. As we share our testimony with other people, we also remind ourselves what God has done for us, and that we have made the conscious decision to follow Jesus. The enemy really has no power that we don’t give him.

E – is for Entreaties. I know, that’s a weird word. But take a look at 1 Timothy 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” King James translates this word “entreaties” as supplications. It’s an old-school word meaning “asking God for stuff” but I’m seeing this point in the outline as communicating with God. When we communicate with God through prayer, we are developing our relationship with him, and because of THAT, we are preparing ourselves to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior.

We need to “be a praying people,” more than just “people who pray.” Let me explain the difference. We can easily become people who pray. We pray at mealtimes, during church services, and when we find ourselves in a jam needing God to bail us out. Christians pray. But we know plenty of people who are NOT Christians, they also pray. The next level for believers is to “be a praying people.” This is when we stop and pray for those who ask for prayer. Right then and there. I’ve been with people who hear my prayer concern and the next thing I know this other person is talking to Jesus! I want to be that person. We need people who will spend the hour of 9am and 11am each Sunday praying for our pastor, his message, for the congregation as we engage (or for some, disengage) with the service; let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to move among us. May we be a praying people, and not just people who pray. Finally…

N – is for New Birth. If you really want to anticipate eternity, you have to be born again. This new birth is not automatic simply because of John 3:16 (that God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son) or because of Romans 5:8 (that God demonstrated his love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us). At our physical birth, we are all born with a sin nature that separates us from our Creator. We were designed in His image (Genesis 1:27), but that image was tarnished when mankind fell into sin. As sinners, we cannot fellowship with a holy God the way we are. We cannot be repaired, restored, or rehabilitated. We need to be reborn. No one makes it to heaven without this new birth through Jesus. Paul reminds us that we are saved by grace through faith, it’s not about any good works that we might do. We cannot earn our salvation but must receive his grace and the gift of salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. The shed blood of Jesus brings forgiveness from sin and reconciliation with God.

Maybe you just today have come to understand that in order to overcome discouragement and move beyond the faint heart, is to anticipate eternity, but you realize that you are in no way prepared. Let’s talk about how you might respond to the message you’ve heard today.

It may be that you’re responding to God’s offer of salvation.

You may be making a decision to change and allow God to transform your life into what he desires.

Maybe you sense God leading you toward membership in this church. Let God have this time as we consider what he has to say to each of us today.

Let’s pray about it…

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, this time is yours. Many of us have entered this place with heavy hearts, ready to give up in discouragement. Through your word you have reminded us that our best life is yet ahead of us. The joy we have in this life is that we do not go through this life alone. Thank you for walking with us, giving us meaning in life, giving us a community of faith, and preparing us to one day spend eternity with you in heaven. Help us to keep our vows of transforming into the image of Christ. Forgive us when we have failed you. Help us to repent of our desire to go in our own direction rather than allow you to lead us through life. May we submit to your lordship and the mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a lost and dying world around us. Forgive us for not keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. It is in his holy name we pray, AMEN

Thank you for joining us today. If you’ve made a commitment to Jesus, we’d love to hear about it. Check out this website and use our digital connection card or prayer request form. We’d love to hear from you. Ken is back next week to finish this series “beyond the faint heart” – don’t miss it.

If you have not yet done so, maybe consider joining us for live worship on Sundays at 9am or 11am. We’d love to see you in the house.

If you’ve not found a small group, I can help you find one, after all, life change happens in small groups.

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Raising the Next Generation

Conversations With Jesus – Luke 6:40

Welcome to part 5 of Ken’s teaching series called Conversations. Today I am going to talk about The Greatest Teacher – Jesus’ conversation about raising the next generation. – Luke 6:40 (this is also my tribute to moms on Mother’s Day)

Let’s take a look at what Jesus is teaching his disciples in Luke 6. Beginning in verse 20, Luke records his equivalence of the sermon on the mount, with his version of the beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26).

And THEN Jesus spoke a parable to them in Luke 6:39-40, when he tells us that the blind cannot guide the blind. Why? Because they will both fall into the pit. You know what this tells me? Since I am all about discipleship, I think that it is accurate to say that we CANNOT lead someone in discipleship to a place that we have not yet gone. That’s not an excuse to never attempt to disciple someone but it IS a strong challenge to lead by example. As followers of Christ, we are called to lead people to greater depths of devotion to Jesus and to spend our lives in the pursuit of conforming to the image of Christ. We must be willing and committed to do whatever it takes to look more like Jesus. It doesn’t happen by accident but on purpose with determined intentionality.

OK, let me get to my intended verse because Luke 6:40 is the starting point for my message today… “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

So, this message today is going to focus on what Jesus said about raising the next generation. In context, Jesus is talking about the rabbi-follower relationship, discipler-disciplee, mentor-mentee, but on this Mother’s Day, I think this verse can speak to us about what parents do for their children. If we don’t do anything else, our kids will generally turn out much like us. They follow our example, it’s NOT just what we SAY but what we DO.

I remember a commercial when I was a kid, a dad and his son were in the front yard washing the car. The little boy of 5 or 6 does exactly what the dad does… washing the fender, scrubbing the tires, wearing the baseball cap, all with the narrator repeating the phrase, “like father, like son.” Then they sit down at the base of a tree in the front yard and dad grabs a pack of cigarettes, and as the son reaches for the pack that daddy just laid down, the narrator asks the question, “Like father, like son?”

Our kids are watching us. Moms and dad not only have the awesome responsibility of raising the next generation of citizen in America, but they are raising the next generation of Christians in America. As we look around our country today, what sort of followers of Jesus are we producing? Are we making disciples or do we settle for making good little church attenders? Are the kids in the church today just learning moral lessons from the Bible or are they encountering and learning about the God of the Bible? Do they know the reason they were created and the responsibility they have for reaching those who are far from God and even those who have little or no access to the gospel?

Remember what I said a moment ago, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to take someone to a place we have not yet gone ourselves. We cannot pass on that which we don’t embrace. Our kids will never learn how to have a quiet time if they don’t see us having regular times for devotional reading and praying. They won’t learn how to share the gospel if we don’t share the gospel. They won’t learn how to disciple someone else if no one ever discipled them.

Maybe this sounds familiar… when asked in a social situation, “what do you do?” I’ve heard some moms say something like, “I’m just an at-home mom.” Well, let me remind you what mom’s do at home…

  • First, let’s give mom a creative title. Domestic engineer? Household CEO? Director of child development? And how about the activities an at-home mom does?
  • Teacher: Mothers teach children their first words, colors and shapes. They continue to enrich their learning by helping them with their homework and school projects.
  • Chef: The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the role of a chef as one who develops recipes, plans menus, orders food inventory, and ensures sanitary kitchen conditions. That certainly sounds like a mom.
  • Event Planner: Even the busiest mom squeezes in time for fun. Whether it’s planning a themed birthday celebration, coordinating schedules with extended family for the holidays, or signing kids up for recreational activities, moms constantly have something to do and somewhere to be.
  • Housekeeper: Maintaining an orderly house can be quite the daunting task for a mother. There is no shortage of things to clean or organize, whether the children are toddlers or teenagers.
  • Accountant: In most households, moms perform many accounting functions such as creating and balancing a budget, paying bills and identifying cost-saving opportunities.
  • Chauffeur: Moms also serve as chauffeurs by providing hours of transportation for kids to and from doctor appointments, school, shopping, and play dates.
  • I read a statistic that if moms received an annual salary for all of their responsibilities, they would earn an estimated $78,000 a year.

But, let’s refocus on Christian moms and dads. Luke 6:40 reminds us that a pupil (or child), after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. How do we as parents invest in our kids for the kingdom’s sake. Aside from any teaching and training that will turn our kids into socially acceptable citizens and productive members of our community, let me suggest these 6 things to be a part of ANY parental curriculum. Here is my acrostic for the day. M.O.T.H.E.R.

Mission – Acts 1:8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Think about your goal as a Christian parent. It’s not about raising a socially acceptable and productive member of the community. Your goal is not for your kids to have a great education. It’s not to be a great athlete. It’s not to have them participate in wholesome dating. It’s not to have a great career. It’s not about getting them out of the house on their own, making lots of money.

The goal of Christian parenting is for your kids to embrace the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and live out the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). We teach our kids to love God with their whole being and to love others as themselves. The Great Commandment leads to the Great Commission and the fact that God uses ordinary people like US to spread the love of Jesus to those with little or no access to the gospel.

I love Acts 1:8 because we don’t do any of this alone, we have received the power of the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses. This verse reminds us that our mission field is in our own city, state, country, and the world. It’s not about one place over another but doing all four at the same time. Notice Jesus used the word, “both” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We tend to see the command as a buffet line… Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria, or the ends of the earth. Pick one.

Jesus told the disciples, and tells us, that they WILL be his witnesses,” meaning if you carry the name of Jesus, you are his witness. We don’t go out and DO witnessing, but we ARE witnesses. If you’re a believer, you’re a witness and can tell others what Jesus has done for you. The only choice we have is between these two options… will we be a GOOD witness or a BAD witness?

As parents, our first priority is to instill in our children that we are on mission with God, no matter what our vocation, marital status, or personal hobbies or interests. Once we understand our mission, it leads us to the next part of raising the next generation…

Obedience – John 14:21He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.

We teach our kids about obeying us (as parents) and obeying teachers, and those in authority (like police) but we often find ourselves telling our kids that obedience to God is optional. Perhaps we justify it by thinking like this… the standard of Jesus is perfection, we can never be perfect, so why try? Or maybe we say, my salvation is not based on my performance (like my obedience) but on the work of Christ on the cross, so obedience must therefore be optional.

Read John 14:21 again… keeping his commandments is a sign of our love for God. If you love God, you WILL keep is commands. When we love God, we will be loved by the Father. Jesus said that if we keep his commands, HE will love us and he will disclose himself to us. If you don’t feel like Jesus is revealing himself to you, try obedience! When we obey his word, Jesus will disclose himself to us.

Walking through life in obedience is something that is caught more than it is taught. We have heard the phrase, “do as I say and not as I do” but our kids see how we are living. They know if we simply put on the mask of Christianity on Sundays or they see that we’re fully committed to Christ and his mission throughout the week.  

Teaching – Matthew 7:28-29 – When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

If parents don’t do anything else, teaching is the thing that they do the most. It seems that day after day, all we do is teach our kids about life, relationships, dating, work ethic, trade skills, vocational skills, study skills, sports skills, coaching, board games, fishing, household chores, homework, you name it. We teach all the time.

But how do we prepare our kids for life’s ultimate final exam? When you stop learning, you stop growing, and all living things grow. Parents must make it a priority to teach their children the WILL and WAYS of God. Nothing will draw a child closer to God than seeing mom and dad taking steps of faith, walking in obedience, especially when it is difficult or uncomfortable. Actions really do speak louder than words.

You’ve heard it said that we should never let a crisis go to waste. It is through the crises of life that we find the greatest teaching opportunities. Take advantage of difficult times to help your kids walk in faith and trust God. Lead by example. Set the pace for your family.

Humility – Mark 10:45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

The culture and the world will teach your children to look out for Number One. They justify this type of teaching to emphasize and develop a positive self-esteem in children. Now, if YOUR kids were anything like MY kids, I didn’t have to teach them how to be selfish, that seemed to come naturally. Kids think the world revolves around them. It’s part of the fall of mankind. We make ourselves to be most important and we desire to be the master of our own destiny, the center of the universe, and sit upon the throne of our own lives. But is that the example of Jesus?

Our Lord and Savior did not seek power, prestige, or position so he could manage or rule over others. Jesus taught that we are supposed to serve others rather than serve ourselves or have others serve us. This is the essence of humility.

We must teach our kids to look out for the interests of others more than themselves. Just how do kids learn this? By seeing the example of their parents. Again, set the pace for humility in your household. Give your life in service to others.

Evangelism – Mark 3:13-14And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach

Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before he called his 12 closest men to be his disciples. We often think of these guys as super-Christians and we can’t expect to live up to the standard they set, especially in the areas of ministry and mission. I love this Mark passage because of what Jesus called them to do.

We often focus on the last section, that he called them to send them out to preach, which is an important part of their mission, but notice the phrase just before that. He called them “to be with him” and THEN he sent them out to preach. This is the “with him” principle.

We need to walk through this life with Jesus, learn from him, and then pass on what we have learned to others, especially to our kids and those within our circle of influence. We learn from him, then we go out to make a difference in the world around us. Make a difference for the kingdom of God. All this leads up to our final point, which is…

Relationship – Luke 24:14-15And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.

Christianity is nothing if not about relationships. First there is our relationship with the Father through the Son. This relationship is all about salvation. Our next relationship is with other believers. This relationship is all about fellowship. Our third relationship is with a lost and dying world. This relationship is all about evangelism and mission, which we have previously covered today.

We can teach our kids to be successful in the world but unless they understand these key relationships in life, they are no different than your average lost person. Notice what is included in the Luke 24 passage…

In context, this story is part of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Look what takes place…

They were talking with each other about the things that had taken place. How often do you talk with your kids about spiritual matters? About how you came to faith in Christ? About how God has moved in your life this week? About how Jesus gave you opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life? About ministry opportunities or a mission experience? Faith is caught more than it is taught, and it is caught by talking about life together.

Along with talking about and discussing spiritual matters, Jesus approached them and began traveling with them. He took the initiative. The Christian life is not so much about the destination (heaven when we die) as it is about the journey and the path we walk. We go through life as a family, whether in our physical family of blood relatives or our family of faith (or what I like to call them, my forever family).

In Christianity, there are no “lone ranger” disciples. We are in this thing together. The body is made up of many parts and we all work together for the body to function properly. Christianity is about community, and at its core, this means relationships. We need to be connected with one another.

I think this has been the hardest part of this year of COVID. Our relationships have suffered. We have drifted apart. I feel many people have come to the conclusion that gathering together as the church or a small group or a Sunday school class was not really as important as we had made it out to be all these years.

“I have made it just fine without getting together.” I can have my “worship on demand,” any time I want; when it’s convenient for me. I don’t need for my class to get together; e-mail is just fine for me to keep up.

So, what does Jesus teach about raising the next generation? Look over these 6 areas. Which one do you need to focus on first? What can you do this week that will help you get back on track? How will you pray differently this week?

When we realize that the life we have been given is not about US, then we find freedom. We are called to be a good steward of the life we have, as one who will give an account for what we have done with that which we have been entrusted.

On this Mother’s Day, let us all remember why we are on this planet. If you are a follower of Christ, your life is NOT about YOU, but it’s all about being an ambassador for Christ and being his witnesses locally, and even around the world. Let’s reflect on what God may be saying to us right now.

PRAY: Lord Jesus, we recognize that life is hard, and without question, it is distracting from what you have called us to do for the kingdom’s sake. Father, open our eyes to the opportunities all around us as we go through this life. May we see you at work and seek to join you in in your mission to reach through who are far from you. Help us to seek the one who is lost. Help us to raise the next generation to love you extravagantly. May we set the pace for our families and our community. May we run the race set before us and not grow weary. May we fight the good fight and finish well. Father, we know we fall short but plead your mercy and grace, to encourage us to stand strong in our calling to salvation and our calling to be your hands and feet in this world. May we be salt and light. In Jesus name. Amen.

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The Knowledge of God – F260

2 Peter 1:2-4 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.” 

Today I want to focus on knowledge, the knowledge of God which is a foundational principle of our spiritual growth. So, how do we gain knowledge about God? That’s where the Bible comes in. 

1. George Muller, who established many orphanages throughout England, said… “I believe that the one chief reason that I have been kept in happy useful service is that I have been a lover of Holy Scripture. It has been my habit to read the Bible through four times a year; in a prayerful spirit, to apply it to my heart, and practice what I find there. I have been for sixty-nine years a happy man; happy, happy, happy.” 

2. Ronald Reagan said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe.” 

3. Missionary Amy Carmichael said, “Never let good books take the place of the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the Well.” 

4. And this may be the most direct, author unknown, “A Bible in the hand is worth two in the bookcase.” 

If you don’t hear anything else I say today, get this: Let’s make 2021 the best year ever in your spiritual growth by reading the entire New Testament. That is the reason I have organized this Foundation 260 initiative. Let’s read the New Testament together. 

I don’t think there is anything more basic to knowing and loving Christ, and obeying him, than to hear God speak to us though his Word and then to speak back to him with the prayers and praises and obedience which flows from our hearts. 

The reason for that is because it is so plain that today God reveals himself to us by the Word.  

  1. The living Christ in his bodily form is not here. He has ascended and taken his place at the right hand of God.  
  1. Neither are his inspired prophets and apostles here. God has ordained for himself to be known primarily by the Word that was recorded from those prophets and apostles—especially those who knew the Lord himself in his physical form—and preserved what we need to know in this book. 

But let’s face it, reading through the entire Bible or even committing to reading a daily portion can be difficult. It can be a struggle to stay with it every day. That’s the way it is with most new things that we make a commitment to start; fitness, exercise, college, dieting. We begin with enthusiasm but somewhere along the way we give up. We lose focus, the excitement wanes. 

We may feel that we don’t have the time for reading the Bible every day.  But Dr. Tony Evans reminds us that we always have time for what is first on our list. The question then becomes: Is the Bible first on our list? 

Why is the Bible important? 

1) The Bible is enduring and lasting. (Because God is enduring) – Psalm 119:89 says: “Your Word, Oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.” 

We live in changing times. Fads come and go, social mores change and we tend to drift away from God’s Word and lean more toward society and the culture around us.  

But the Word of God is enduring! Isaiah contrasts it with flowers and grass. Flowers and grass may be here today and we enjoy them, but we know that they are short-lived. Their beauty is fleeting. The same is true of us, our time on earth is short. Our earthly “wisdom” is usually shortsighted. God’s Word endures and stands firm in the ups and downs of life. 

The purposes of God, as published in these sacred writings, will never be stopped (cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:25; Mark 13:3; Luke 16:17). Remember the words in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” So, the Bible is enduring, but it is also trustworthy… 

2) The Bible is trustworthy (Because God is trustworthy) – Psalm 111:7 says, “All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy.” In Ezekiel 12:25, “For I am the Lord! If I say it, it will happen.”  

God will fulfill what he says. He will honor his promises. He is faithful and just and we can depend on what he says. You can build your life upon the foundation of the Bible. 

In our world it can sometimes be very difficult to find a trustworthy and reliable person. Whether a car mechanic or a doctor or a plumber, a trustworthy person can be hard to find. People often go back on their word. They fail to live up to their commitments. Have YOU ever been burned by an unreliable person? Have you put your trust in something or someone and they let you down? Most of us have and that makes us a little hesitant to trust. But God has always been and always will be faithful, and because he is faithful, his word can be trusted. Since he has been faithful in the past, he can be trusted to be faith in the present.  

Why am I challenging you to read the Bible? 

Let’s start with the negative: we don’t want to be ignorant of what God has told us.  

  1. Paul often warned his readers that he did not want them to be ignorant about important subjects, like when he wrote to the Romans in 11:25 pleading with them not to be ignorant regarding the dealings of God with Gentiles and the nation of Israel. 
  1. He warned the Corinthians repeatedly about not being ignorant of several different theological subjects. He said in 1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” He was also disappointed with them regarding their divisions in the church and he was saddened that they were still needing milk like infants when they should have been pressing on to more substantial “meaty subjects.” 
  1. He warned then not to be ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11).  
  1. He warned the Thessalonians to not be ignorant concerning Christ’s second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

The writer to the Hebrews grieved over their lack of spiritual progress in Hebrews 5:11-12 – “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” 

Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their lack of Bible knowledge, like in Matthew 22:29 – “Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” 

Likewise, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 12:3 by saying, “Have you not read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” 

God speaks to us through his Word and we dont want to be unaware of what he is saying to us. That is why it is important that we spend time reading His Word. 

Now let’s look at some positive reasons: 

Reading God’s word gives us: Education, Endurance, Encouragement and Hope. 

Look at Romans 15:4 – “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” 

The Scripture is given for our EDUCATION. That presupposes that we will not only be reading the Bible regularly but that we will also be studying it for ourselves. We can’t rely exclusively on the teaching of others. We need to be in the Word ourselves. Reading, meditating, and memorizing, and digging into the parables and the narrative sections and the doctrine and the theology. We need to be listening to God speaking through his Word. 

The Bible is given for us to ENDURE – We need to read God’s Word in difficult times. When the news is bad. When things are not working out like we had hoped. We don’t need endurance when times are good. Contained within the pages of the Bible are stories of endurance. Check our Hebrews 11 and read about the Hall of Faithfulness.  

These are stories of men and women whose faith endured in the midst of difficult times. We have wonderful records of the prophets who endured all sorts of treatment and lack of results for their effort.  

And coming to the New Testament we see Jesus who endured ill-treatment and abuse and yet he endured. And going further we observe the Apostles and the early church who through faith in God and his Word, they were able to persevere when the whole world seemed against them. 

Knowing the Bible gives us ENCOURAGEMENT – Many times I have been encouraged by the Scriptures and I’m sure that you have as well. There have been times when it seemed like just the right verse came along at the right time to lift me up and to help me keep going. I don’t see how lost people are able to deal with tragedy and difficulty. How does a person who does not know God deal with loss, suffering, and hardship? Many turn to alcohol or drugs or other forms of abuse to deaden the pain. But those things don’t solve the problems, do they? In fact, they make the problems worse. 

When I am feeling down, I know that I can turn to God’s Word and be lifted up out of that pit. But I need to be regularly in that Word in order for the Holy Spirit to bring out the help that I need.  

Finally, knowing the Bible gives us HOPE – You can live for weeks without food. You can go for days without water. But how long can you live without hope? Ken recently reminded us of the words of Dostoevsky who said, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” Shakespeare said, “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope”  

Theologian Ken Boa wrote, “People cannot live without hope. Throughout history, human beings have endured the loss of many things. People have lost their health, their finances, their reputations, their careers, even their loved ones, and yet have endured. The pages of history books are filled with those who suffered pain, rejection, isolation, persecution, and abuse; there have been people who faced concentration camps with unbroken spirits and unbowed heads, people who have been devastated by Job-like trials and yet found the strength to go on without cursing God and dying. Humans can survive the loss of almost anything – but not without hope.” 

We live by hope, and when hope is gone, endurance and joy and energy and courage just evaporate. Life itself begins to fade. When hope goes, we start to die. One of the most profound proverbs of the Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). 

Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit..” 

Maybe you agree that having the habit of daily Bible reading is a good idea. Maybe you struggle with being able to carry it out long term. In the past maybe you have started out well only to struggle somewhere along the path. 

In previous years, we have challenged you to read the whole Bible in a year. That may be nothing new for you; I’ve begun to read the whole Bible in a year on many occasions… the emphasis is on “begun.” But with all the best intentions, we sometimes aren’t able to finish the whole Bible in a year.  

This year, let’s try something different. Rather than focusing on reading through the Bible in a year, let’s focus on getting to know the God of the Bible. Let’s not read these chapters to check it off our reading list but focus on what God wants to teach us through our daily reading.  

Foundation 260 is all about reading a chapter a day, focusing on that one verse a day that jumps off the page for you, reading Monday through Friday. The New Testament has 260 chapters, and when we read 5 chapters a week, we cover the entire New Testament in the 52 weeks of 2021.  

You can do this on your own, if you choose. I have a few helpful tools in the foyer.  

Or, you might prefer the accountability of reading with other people who will challenge and encourage you to keep up with your reading, and also rejoice with you as you share how God is speaking to you through reading the Bible. Here is a link to join my Monday group.

There is a YouVersion App with an F260 reading plan, what could be easier? You can invite your friends to read with you and to hold each other accountable. I have also developed a few tools to help you succeed. 

1) This one explains the process and gives a lot of information to help you dig into the text.  

2) This one is the reading plan itself, reminding you what you will read each week to stay on track, and  

3) This one is the monthly reading and application guide to record your reading and actually write down what God is teaching you each day.  

This next year, won’t you join me in reading through the New Testament? We all understand that Bible study is so important, but hearing God speak is even greater.  

Let’s do this in 2021. Will you make the commitment to be a part of Foundation 260? Will you read the text each day? Will you join or start a group to discuss what God is teaching you?  

Let’s pray about it. 

Lord Jesus, we need to hear from you. We confess that we have not advanced toward maturity as we first hoped, and that we have become distracted and stagnant in the worries and cares of this life. Father, help us to make this commitment in good faith, and help us to trust you to keep us on track, because you have said through your Word that, “…I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Father, we cannot do this on our own, and it would be futile to try to make it happen, but with all praise going to YOU, we can do this together with your help. Lord Jesus, speak to us, and make our lives useful to you. AMEN 

During this next song, seek God’s direction about your involvement in the challenge. 

I won’t shame anyone who is not ready to make this commitment, but perhaps you have been waiting for such an opportunity to do something like this. So, if you are on board with F260, would you stand up right now and show this congregation the desire of your heart to take on this challenge.  

Seriously, if you’re not ready to do this, I understand, people around you understand. Please don’t stand up if you need more time to consider this commitment.  

Closing Remarks: Find out more at the church website, come up and talk to me about it, join the group through the church groups app, and let’s make 2021 the best year ever for your spiritual growth. 

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