Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How To Experience the Fullness of Joy by Paul Tripp

 I live in Philadelphia, and in 2008, the Phillies (our baseball team) won the World Series. Nine years later, the Eagles (our football team) won the Super Bowl. In the aftermath of these victories, the city of Brotherly Love was filled with delight. It was a fantastic feeling and sight to behold.

I love sports and celebrating with my family and neighbors, but as powerful and intoxicating as the emotions were in the moment, it was “faux joy,” and it evaporated quickly. It didn’t take long for the franchises to struggle again, and merriment was replaced by other, less pleasant emotions in the fanbase.

Maybe sports aren’t your passion, but you don’t have to look very far for other sources of faux joy. We careen from thing to thing, hoping the next pleasure will give us the emotional high that is mistakenly called joy.

Faux joy makes you smile for a moment but leaves you empty and searching again before very long. Here are a few examples:

  • We spend more than we should chasing the temporary high that purchasing and possessing give us.
  • We eat more than we should, craving the short shelf-life of the mental and physical buzz that food gives us.
  • We entertain ourselves too much, hoping that the numbing joy of fantasy worlds will help us cope with the real world we live in.
  • We work too much, hoping that achievement will make us feel good about ourselves and our lives.
  • We depend on people too much, searching for an inner sense of well-being in a relationship.

Real joy, however, is more than a temporary elevation of your emotions. In fact, you could say that real joy is fundamentally more than an emotion.

Joy is an inner peace and rest, based on what you know to be true, resulting in a life of thankfulness and expectancy.

Real joy is not just a feeling; it is a lifestyle. It is not the result of things that are happening around me, but a sturdy rest and peace that I bring to the things around me that change the way I think about and interact with them.

Real joy is vertical. It results from being in a personal relationship with the Creator and Ruler of the universe and resting in his plan for the world. Real joy is rooted in a belief that what God has told you is reliable and accurate.

Real joy is rooted in a radical recognition that God is working his unstoppable, wise, and gracious plan and that he will not relent until his will has finally been done.

Real joy recognizes that God’s victory is your victory.

Real joy looks up to God and beyond to eternity, resting in the certainty of his power and his plan, even though things at the moment may be confounding and hard.

And when nothing appears to make sense, you can awake with the confident joy that his plan is marching on and that he will win!

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

An unwavering joy that does not melt in the face of difficulty is found only in knowing God.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Thoughts About Money - Keith A. Craft

 

Rule #5: Seek to give 10%+ of your income to advance God’s Kingdom.

– Keith A. Craft

Biblical GIVING doesn’t start until AFTER we have Put God first by RETURNING to Him the first 10% of our income and increase. Biblically speaking (Think…Be…Do with a Biblical Worldview), we are NOT giving when we tithe! We are RETURNING to God what He says is HIS. Our giving actually begins AFTER we have returned to God His tithe (our first dollar of every ten we make). Many Christians and even some Christian leaders do not understand this.

God established the first margin of 10%. He has given us everything we have, and God said, “prove Me in this and see if I will not open the heavens over your life…” God did not say He wanted a particular AMOUNT. The amount of money you have doesn’t matter to God. He wants your HONOR and obedience. He wants THE FIRST 10%. But He is also honored by our OFFERINGS! People who don’t put God first in their finances AND who don’t give God offerings are, according to God, ROBBING HIM.

Robbing Him of what? His ability to Open the Windows of heaven over your life and bring His SUPER into your natural! And we also ROB GOD…from being able to rebuke the devourer on our behalf.

Returning our first-fruits to God and giving over and above offerings not only honor God and His place in our lives but also empowers us to be the most like God!

“When we are generous, we are the most like God.” @leadershipology

““Yet from the days of your fathers you have turned away from My statutes and ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings [you have withheld]. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, this whole nation! Bring all the tithes (the tenth) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you [so great] a blessing until there is no more room to receive it. Then I will rebuke the devourer for your sake…”” – Malachi 3:7-11

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Does Scripture Say Baptism Is Necessary to Be Saved? by Randy Alcorn

 

Someone asked me if I could address the relationship between salvation and baptism in Scripture, because they have a friend who believes that you cannot be saved unless you are baptized. In this person’s view (and they are part of a denomination that believes this), the physical act of baptism washes you from your sin. They cite Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

For years I taught biblical interpretation at a Bible college. One of the things we discussed is that Scripture must always be compared with other Scripture. God doesn’t contradict Himself. The Bible is its own best interpreter. If a particular text, in this case Acts 2:38, seems to violate what many other texts teach, we need to question our interpretation of that text.

The many biblical texts insisting that we are not saved by works, but by faith, should lead us to seriously question an interpretation that says being baptized—or any other work we can do—is part of what saves us. Acts 10:44-48 is a key text because it’s so clear that these people were saved first, had already received the Holy Spirit, and only THEN were baptized.

First Corinthians 1:14-17 ends with “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel...” This clearly demonstrates that baptism is not necessary to salvation, because if it were, Paul would not separate it from the gospel message.

Acts 2:38 makes it clear that baptism is important, and it certainly is. But other passages show repentance involves placing saving faith in Christ. Granted, if Acts 2:38 stood alone, without taking other verses into consideration, you could conclude baptism is necessary for salvation. But there are many texts that call on people to repent and believe in Christ that make no mention at all of baptism.

Baptism is something we do, or choose to have done to us, and is therefore a work. Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:4-7, and Romans 5:1 are just a few of the verses that demonstrate salvation is by faith alone, not by works. Think of the thief on the cross who placed his faith in Christ and was promised by Jesus he’d go to Heaven. Obviously baptism wasn’t necessary, or even possible, for him.

As circumcision was a sign of the Old Covenant, baptism is a sign of the New Covenant. God makes clear that circumcision doesn’t save. Circumcised people can be lost; uncircumcised people can be saved. God says there is an inner circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit (Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 2:29). Likewise there is an invisible baptism of the heart into Christ that happens at conversion. Water baptism is an outward symbol of the inward reality that preceded it. The relevant point related to baptism and circumcision is that salvation is always a matter of the heart, not an external action.

If I had a friend who believed baptism is necessary for salvation, and is deeply ingrained in a denomination that believes this, I would gently challenge them to look at what Scripture actually says—ALL of Scripture, not just a few isolated verses.

While there are many things out there on this subject, here are the best three online resources I could find in terms of clarity and helpfulness:

First, if you share only one resource with a friend, I would go with this first one. It has a clear and accurate handling of the Greek language used in Acts 2:38: Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

One of the main points, which I know from studying New Testament Greek, is that the Greek preposition EIS does not always mean “for/resulting in/to get” but often means “because of/as a result of.” Hence Acts 2:38 can be translated, as the Amplified Bible renders it, “Repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways, accept and follow Jesus as the Messiah] and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ BECAUSE OF the forgiveness of your sins…”

Second, this next article is good, but I would skip his handling of the Greek text at the beginning because he gets technical and confusing. But after that, it gets very good: Baptism and Acts 2:38

Third, this 10-minute video is helpful, though it would be better without using the King James Version which most people don’t use these days. Still, he makes some excellent points: Acts 2:38: Baptism for salvation? No!

Finally, here’s a blog I wrote on the meaning and importance of baptism. It was part a devotional series and includes a video of NFL linebacker Demario Davis talking about baptism. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Do You Have a Mother Who Prays For You?

 

Sabina Wurmbrand (1913-2000) and her husband, Richard, founded The Voice of the Martyrs.  Sabina was imprisoned for three years in Communist Romania, forced to work as a slave laborer on the Danube Canal.  

One of the stories she knew first hand was when the Soviets invaded Romania they deported all the Christians to Siberia where they were forced to cut a specific number of trees each day.  If they did not meet their quota, they did not receive their soup that evening.

There was a Christian lady in the work camp named Lidia. One day thieves stole her work that day so she was not permitted to have soup that evening. Hungry and knowing that she could not sleep, Lidia left her cell and walked out into the prison yard. As she was walking, praying and weeping, she heard a man's voice calling her, 'Hey, hey, do you have a mother?"

As if awakening from a dream, she looked behind her and saw a Soviet officer with a revolver in his hand. "Hey, do you have a mother who prays for you?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, I have a mother who surely prays for me," she replied.  "Why do you ask me?"

"For half an hour, I have been running after you with this revolver to shoot you because you are where you are not allowed to be," he told her. "But now I cannot move my arm.  It is surely your mother who prays for you. NOw run back immediately, because it someone sees us here he will shoot us both."

This story appears in The Voice of the Martyrs January 2021 magazine.

Do you have a mother who prays for you?  I sure did and according to Revelation 5:8, they are still going to the Father for me.  If you have a mother who prays for you, then you are truly blessed. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Assurance of Salvation by Charles Stanley

 

The Assurance of Our Salvation

1 John 5:1-13

Many Christians struggle with doubts about their salvation. As they look at their failures, they question whether they’re truly saved. The apostle John wrote his first epistle to assure believers of their eternal security. Throughout the book, he gives three tests by which professing believers can evaluate themselves to see if they are truly in the faith. 

1. The Word Test. Genuine Christians believe what Scripture says about Christ—that He is God’s Son, who came in the flesh to die for mankind’s sins. 

2. The Witness Test. The Holy Spirit indwells true believers. They experience His transforming work, and He gives them a deep, abiding conviction that they belong to Christ.

3. The Walk Test. Christ’s life flows through His followers and will be evident in their words, attitudes, and actions. The sins they once loved are now repulsive to them, and obedience to Christ is the new direction of their life. 

While we can’t be 100 percent certain about the authenticity of anyone else’s faith (Matt. 7:21), God doesn’t want His true children wavering in uncertainty about their own. That’s why John’s first epistle says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, emphasis added).

Monday, March 8, 2021

Is It Necessary for Me to Join a Local Church? by Josh Buice

 Every so often, I run into people who want to debate the matter of church membership. It’s typically when I’m speaking in a conference that someone will approach me and want to talk about the different aspects of church membership. Perhaps I attract this debate because I often press the necessity of church membership in articles and through sermons at various conferences throughout the year including the G3 Conference.

Several years ago, I met a young man who was not looking to debate me on the matter. In fact, he was discouraged and needed to talk. He showed up at our church the week prior to the G3 Conference and then at the event he approached me again and wanted to grab coffee one day. Since he was local to Atlanta, after the dust settled on the G3, we met for coffee one afternoon.

In the conversation, he described his journey and talked about how he had served on the mission field for a season and had returned home to the Atlanta area. He described himself as discouraged, battling sin, and even doubtful of his own salvation. When I began to assess his situation, it turned out that he was sitting in coffee shops and watching YouTube while avoiding the regular gathering of the local church. He was not part of any meaningful church membership at the time.

It was at this point that I explained that the reason for his discouragement and rebellion was very much related to the fact that he was avoiding the local church. I went on to explain to him the necessity and value of biblical church membership.

The Necessity of Church Membership

We find the early disciples in an upper room waiting on the Spirit of God as Jesus had promised (Acts 2:1). The number of the early church is given to us in Acts 1:15. They totaled 120 people. After the Holy Spirit came upon them, they went out into the streets and began to proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus. It was there that a great multitude of people believed and were baptized. We are likewise given a specific number in Acts 2:41. The number was about 3,000.

As the early church continued to grow and evangelize, we see other places where the Scripture details a specific number of new converts. For instance, after Peter preached in Solomon’s Portico, we are told that 5,000 new men came to faith in Christ. In other words, the church was growing rapidly and with such rapid growth would come friction and a need for organization.

In Acts 6, we see that the disorganization was solved when the church chose and the apostles affirmed seven men who would oversee the practical ministry needs of the church which solved a dispute between the Hellenists and the Hebrews in the local church.

When Christians in the book of Acts went into the marketplace, they could distinguish between a Christian brother or sister and a general neighbor in their community. They understood who was “in” and who wasn’t. This is critically important. Church membership matters.

Why do you think we see all of these numbers given to us in Scripture regarding the growth of the early church? The point that’s being made is that as the early Christians understood the distinction between church and the general community. When Christians in the book of Acts went into the marketplace, they could distinguish between a Christian brother or sister and a general neighbor in their community. They understood who was “in” and who wasn’t. This is critically important. Church membership matters. It’s not enough to be part of the Catholic (universal) church. We must be identified with the Christian community who gathers together in a local body of believers.

The Value of Church Membership

When it comes to church membership, not only is it necessary and mandated in Scripture, there are many benefits to being joined together in a family of faith. Consider the words of Wayne Mack:

Church membership is not an incidental or optional matter for the Christian. Rather, it’s an essential and important aspect of the Christian life. According to Scripture, being a part of a local church brings with it tremendous privileges, and serious responsibilities, that can be fulfilled in no other way. [1]

The Relationship Between the Shepherd and the Sheep

An agrarian culture readily understands examples regarding sheep and shepherds. That’s why you see so many examples of that language used in Scripture (Matt. 7:15, 9:36, 10:6, 16, 12:11-12, and all of John 10 just to name a few). If the shepherd doesn’t know his sheep and the sheep don’t know their shepherd—that’s a recipe for disaster. The same thing is true in regard to the local church.

In Hebrews 13:17, the text clearly speaks of the leaders overseeing the church and how the church should properly submit to authority.  If there is no such thing as church membership, exactly who are the people being called to submit themselves to in Hebrews 13?  Do we submit to random pastors on YouTube or in our community?  From a leadership standpoint, exactly who are the pastors in a community to be overseeing and leading if there is no real formal church membership? One of the great values of church membership is that the people recognize their leadership and the leadership recognizes God’s sheep.

Mutual Accountability and Encouragement

Another great value to church membership is the ongoing mutual accountability and encouragement that takes place between the members of the local church family. In Hebrews 10:24-25, we find these words:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are literally called to “stir up” one another to love and good works. This term “παροξυσμός” translated “stir up” has a literal meaning of “provoking” or “stimulating.” It’s the idea of not allowing one another to remain lazy and unprofitable in the Christian journey. The writer to the Hebrews goes on to warn the church about neglecting the gathering of God’s people. The point is clear—we need one another and we are not to remain little islands in the community. We are called to come together in a covenant family of faith where there is mutual love and accountability in the faith.

Love and Discipline

It’s one thing to claim that your church is full of love, but another thing altogether to have a body of believers that demonstrates such love by a willingness to correct those who persist in sinful patterns of life.

Finally, one of the great benefits of membership in a local church is the genuine love that is demonstrated through accountability resulting in biblical correction. It’s one thing to claim that your church is full of love, but another thing altogether to have a body of believers that demonstrates such love by a willingness to correct those who persist in sinful patterns of life.

Jesus himself provides us the marching orders pertaining to church discipline in Matthew 18. The obvious goal of church discipline is not to excommunicate someone from the family. The goal is to lead a person to a restored relationship with God and a restored relationship within the church family. However, if someone persists in sin and rebellion to the point of resisting all attempts of correction by the church in both private and public meetings—the loving thing to do is to excommunicate the person from the membership of the church.

That may seem harsh and lacking in love, but it’s actually one of the most loving things a church can do. In fact, I’ve written elsewhere there I would never join a local church that refused to practice biblical church discipline. Our sinful souls need to know that we have a church that will confront us and break fellowship with us if we continue to rebel and drag the name of Christ through the sinful mud in the community.

Church membership is a necessary privilege of the Christian life. Never underestimate the value and gift of the local church.

In the end, not only is church membership mandated—it’s one of the greatest gems that God will grant you this side of eternity. Church membership is a necessary privilege of the Christian life. Never underestimate the value and gift of the local church. If you are not a member in a faithful loving biblical church—make that an urgent priority.

_____________________

  1. Wayne Mack, To Be or Not To Be a Church Member, (Greenville, SC: Calvary Press, 2004), 70.

The post Is It Necessary for Me to Join a Local Church? appeared first on G3 Ministries.


Monday, March 1, 2021

3 Ways We Parents Wrongly Teach Kids to Earn God’s Approval by Eric Geiger

 As parents we hate to see our kids live with the burden of trying to gain approval. Or worrying if they are going to be accepted by their looks, their dress, their performance. Or struggling with the pain of wondering if others will love and accept them.

As Christian parents we know we have a message of approval, so we declare that message to our kids. Messages like, “God loves you period. There is nothing you will do that will make me love you more than I already do. You don’t have to earn God’s love or my love. You already have it.” Those are the messages we so badly want our kids to hold tightly to in a world filled with the pressure to achieve and fit in.

We declare those messages because we believe them. We know those messages personally. We know we are loved. We know we stand right before God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The glorious good news of the Christian faith is that because of Jesus we are approved by God and don’t live with the impossible burden of earning God’s approval. We now live because we have already been approved not so that we will be approved.

Yet even in the midst of our good and true declarations, there are subtle things we can do as parents that undermine the message we are declaring. There are things we can do that contradict the message of grace; things we can do that cast doubt on the good news that our kids are already approved. Here are three ways we wrongly teach our kids that they have to earn God’s approval.

1. By finding our approval in their performance

If parents find their worth in how their kids perform on a field or in the classroom then how can those kids be expected to find their worth in something else? If parents find approval from their peers based on what college their high school senior gets accepted into then how can we think those high school seniors aren’t going to find their approval in their college acceptance process? Our kids often mirror back to us our own struggles and if we are still seeking to earn approval through the things of this world, that message is heard loud and clear by our kids.

2. By needing their approval

If we need the approval of our kids to feel alive and important and as if our lives matter, then our kids will inevitably sense that in us. They will sense our striving for their approval and wonder what is lacking in our lives that causes us to need them to like us. One of the best ways to teach our kids to live from a posture of already being approved by God is for us to parent from a posture of already being approved by God. When we parent with the humble confidence that our identity is secure no matter how our kids behave we give our kids a picture of resting in the approval that has already been given.

3. By teaching character over Christ

If we approach the Bible with our kids as a moral guide to learn character traits, we teach them the Bible wrongly. The Bible is fundamentally one story about God coming to rescue us because we cannot rescue ourselves with our moral character. Yes, there are great lessons in the Scripture but the main hero of the Scripture is Jesus.

Sadly, people can use the Bible to teach kids to behave rather than teaching them the beauty of Jesus. And teaching our kids to behave apart from their hearts being transformed by Jesus is to enslave them with commands they will be unable to follow and character traits they will be unable to emulate. They must meet Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. They need to see that Jesus came here for them, and did not give them a map on how they could earn His approval.


This article was first published on Christian Parenting’s website. Visit their webpage for great insight and articles on parenting.

To help parents teach their kids that they are already approved because of Jesus, I am excited to introduce a kid’s book that I wrote with my daughter Evie. The name of the book is The Quokkas, the Snails, and the Land of Happiness. It is a parable about the grace and approval we receive when we trust Jesus and the freedom we now enjoy by not living for approval. You can pre-order the book on Amazon here.