Church and Community Working Together

Northside Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, has joined together with other faith organizations, civic leaders, and businesses to serve God by serving the community in which they live.  Together they have formed an organization called CORE, Community Organized Renewal Efforts.  Essentially their concept is to connect people in need with people who have the talent and resources to help.  In addition, Northside has developed several ministries based on the talents and skills of their congregation, leveraging those gifts into a platform to serve the community.  Here are a few of the service projects that have evolved out of this commitment:

Community Center

Using local talent, they have developed free arts, crafts, and sewing classes for children and adults.

Community Cleanup

About 40 CORE volunteers took part in the annual Metro Nashville cleanup project.

Community Baby Shower

When a local pregnant woman was tragically shot in the stomach by a drive-by shooter, leaving her unable to work, the community came together to provide her with the essential needs to raise her new baby boy.

Community Development

Northside partners with several other churches and local businesses to develop needed programs for the community.

Trail Life USA

Trail Life USA is an outdoor adventure program for children designed to build character and leadership skills.

Art Classes

CORE volunteers provide free art classes with some free supplies for beginners.

Craft Classes

Free craft classes for adults include knitting, crochet, floral wreaths, scrapbooking, and more.

Sewing Classes

CORE volunteers provide instruction to beginning and intermediate students with free project supplies and sewing machines to be used in class.

This community outreach service is still evolving and is designed to be flexible, responding to the community as the needs arise and as talents and resources present themselves.  When churches and other community partners come together, there truly is no end to what can be accomplished.

Click on this link to visit the Northside CORE website for a more detailed look at this grand example of serving God by serving others.

 

How might you use your talent and resources to serve God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why you cannot Serve God and Money

You were placed here on this earth for God’s purpose, not your own.  This is fundamental to your Christian faith.  Every minute of every day, your goal should be to please God and not yourself.  This is not because God needs your service to Him; it is because God knows this is the path that will supply you with an eternal reward rather than a fleeting moment of pleasure. God wants you to understand and experience the difference between a bought and paid for joy and the overwhelming undying honest joy of serving the Lord.  God wants you to understand why you cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:24 (NASB)

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

This World is focused on Money

Most of us are in a daily struggle to pay the rent or mortgage, cover the utility bills, make the car payment, and pay for insurance, food, medicine, health care, and any number of other regular and unforeseen expenses.  The Bible makes it clear you cannot serve God and money; however, our lives depend on a large part of our day being devoted to earning the money we need to survive.  In a real sense we are in service to our employer or our business to earn the money to pay for our necessities.  But what happens after the necessities are paid for and our savings begin to grow?   Understand that it’s not the accumulation of wealth that is the problem.  In fact, it could be argued that having a large stash of money in the bank is a good thing.  Money becomes a problem when you are more enamored with what it can buy than you are with your relationship with God.  The reason you cannot serve God and money is because the devotion to money can inflict serious harm to your life.

1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NASB)

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

You cannot serve God and Money

When you are in service to God, your focus is on those things that cannot be bought or sold.  Spending time with those in need, helping someone grow in the Lord, providing assistance to the elderly; these and similar endeavors provide a wealth that carries through this life into all eternity.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Wealth is an enormous temptation that can quickly push you away from God.  When there’s plenty of money in the bank it’s easy to forget about serving God and start serving yourself.  This is why Jesus said it would be so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:24 (NASB)

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The devil’s temptation is a powerful force and money can fuel that fire better than anything.  Keep in mind, God’s ideal for you is to live exclusively for Him serving others.  If your life is centered on accumulating more and more cash in the bank, you will lose sight of Him.  You will be blinded by the devil’s temptation – because you cannot serve God and money.  While it may not be practical in the world we live in, God’s ideal is that we give everything away and simply follow Jesus.  Our mission today should be to believe with all our heart that everything we have comes from God and therefore no longer belongs to us.  God wants us to use our income to take care of our family’s needs; after that – follow Jesus.

Matthew 19:21 (NASB)

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

Step Eight – Go into all the World

Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven he told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  These were essentially the last words of Jesus here on this earth.  The disciples follow the command to spread the gospel and part of their teaching was the understanding that we too are obligated to share our faith with others.  Ironically, in today’s world, with the power of the Internet, we are each individually more capable of following the command to go into all the world with the gospel than the disciples were at that time.

How did You come to Know Jesus?

Who was it who told you about Jesus?  Most of those who came to know Jesus as a child were introduced to Him by a parent.  That introduction was likely reinforced by a Sunday school teacher.  Many teens were brought to church by a friend, and over time, likely with the help of a youth ministry pastor, the gospel was revealed, and a desire to know Jesus followed.  Those who came to faith in Christ as an adult likely had a more convoluted journey.  You may have had some early childhood exposure to the gospel that never truly took hold, then throughout your life subtle influences continued to nudge you toward a deeper understanding, and at some point, one or more of your friends or family guided you to a relationship with Jesus.  In all of these scenarios there was one or more believers acting as a guide.  If you are a believer, it is likely you are guiding someone right now.  You may be guiding someone without even realizing the role you are playing.

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.”

How You can Go Into All the World

You don’t need to be a trained evangelist to share your faith.  You simply need to live a life dedicated to following the teachings of Jesus.  In so doing, others will see God working in your life and naturally want to know the source of the hope that is in you.  Simply answering a question about where you go to church may be all that is needed to nudge someone toward a closer look at the gospel.  You don’t have to go knocking on doors, or passing out Bible literature on a street corner, to share your faith.  You only need to live your life in a manner that displays the love of God through your actions.  When you serve others unselfishly, you are serving God and that will be noticed by those around you.

It’s important that you are diligent about studying the Bible and constantly growing in your knowledge and understanding of the scripture.  When the Word of God is in your heart it will be easy to answer questions from unbelievers that will guide them toward Jesus.  In addition, you will find yourself pointing people toward Jesus in a natural unrehearsed way.  You don’t need to memorize any special instructions; all you need to do is share what you know about Christianity and provide a good resource for anything beyond your expertise.  When God sees that you are ready He will present you with opportunities to share your faith.

We are greatly blessed with technology that can make it easy for us to go into all the world.  The Internet offers many different avenues that lead to connecting with people across the globe.  You can use your social media accounts to proclaim your faith in God by simply letting people know you attend church on Sunday, or you can post Bible verses on a regular basis.  Let your heart guide you to the appropriate level of Christian content for your online presence.  Sharing your efforts to spread God’s love by serving others may be all that’s needed to spark someone’s interest in learning more about following Jesus.

Finally, we all have friends for whom we feel have an urgent need to know Jesus; but keep in mind pushing them in that direction won’t help – you are to be a guide and teacher with the help of the Holy Spirit carefully leading the way to salvation.

Mark 16:15 (NASB)

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

 

More Steps

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Soul Surfer

Soul Surfer is the true story of a teenage girl from Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton, who is destined to become a professional surfer.  She’s winning contests and sponsors are ready to sign her up.  Unfortunately, while surfing with a group of friends, waiting for a wave with her arm dangling in the water, a shark attacks and bites off Bethany’s left arm.  Some quick action from the father of her best friend who is surfing with the girls saves Bethany’s life; however, she is now left with her dream to be a professional surfer crushed.  Not one to give up, Bethany gets back in the water as soon as she’s allowed and she has to relearn how to surf with one arm.  When paddling with one arm proves too difficult, her father devises a way to add a strap to Bethany’s surfboard to help her gain control.  This new device quickly has Bethany surfing like she did before her injury.  When she returns to competition she is again frustrated by her inability to paddle as quickly as her competitors.  Bethany can surf better than all of them but it’s difficult for her to catch as many waves with only one arm.  In the end, Bethany does well in the competition but not well enough to win.  Nevertheless, Bethany is reborn with a new spirit knowing she has the power to overcome her injury and ready to continue her life embracing this new challenge.

This is truly an incredible story of a remarkable recovery from a traumatic injury followed by the will and determination to overcome a major disability.  If you’re a surfer you’ll enjoy some good surfing footage in this film, but you may cringe at the over-use of cliché surf lingo most of which is no longer used.  Those who are not into surfing will still find this story intriguing because it’s not a story about surfing as much as it is a story about overcoming tragedy.  The shark attack is not graphic and is fairly easy to watch.  You may want to turn your head for a few seconds if this kind of trauma troubles you.  The faith element in this film is fairly superficial and plays a minor role in the storytelling.  This is clearly a Christian family who work through their problems with God in mind but that is not the main focus of this story.  Overall, this is an enjoyable film to watch with the family.  There’s something for everybody in this movie.

 

Click on the Category Link below for more faith-based Movie Reviews

Step Seven – The Parables of Jesus

When Jesus was asked by the disciples why he taught in parables He essentially told them because not everyone was ready to hear what he was teaching.  We can therefore surmise that the parables of Jesus were some of his most important lessons for believers to hear.  If our goal is to serve God we most certainly need to read and understand the parables of Jesus.  To that end, I suggest reading “The Parables of Jesus: Lessons from the Master Teacher” by J. Dwight Pentecost.  Reading this masterful work, will bring you to a full understanding of each and every one of the parables of Jesus.

Matthew 13:15-17

“You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;

You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;

For the heart of this people has become dull,

With their ears they scarcely hear,

And they have closed their eyes,

Otherwise they would see with their eyes,

Hear with their ears,

And understand with their heart and return,

And I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

What follows is a summarized version of what I learned studying the parables of Jesus with Dwight Pentecost.  This abbreviated version will give you a quick overview of the parables of Jesus; however, don’t let it take the place of your own personal study.

Teaching in the Parables of Jesus

Jesus lived a sinless life.  He was perfect.  This is only possible because He was not simply another human; He was and is the one and only human manifestation of God Himself.

Religious leaders at the time of Jesus wanted Him to follow rules and regulations established by God for previous generations, but Jesus made it clear He had come to establish a new path to the kingdom of God.

Those religious leaders were too consumed with maintaining their own religious authority to see the obvious demonstration of God’s power in Jesus, and therefore became useless in their ability to lead others to God.

Salvation from death as a result of sin can only be achieved by following the teachings of Jesus, not by following the teachings of misguided religious leaders.

Religious leaders who go their own way rather than following Jesus are lost.

Salvation from death as a result of sin is given as a gift from God to those who believe and put their faith in Jesus; there is no requirement to follow any rules or regulations; therefore, those who are the most sinful are the most grateful for their salvation.

Jesus demonstrated the ability to drive out demons proving His power was stronger than Satan.

You can come to know and understand the teachings of Jesus by opening your heart.  If you open your mind in an attempt to comprehend His teachings, you run the risk of misguided religious teachers filling your head with lies that will ultimately keep you from truly knowing God.

The kingdom of God is comprised of all those who believe in Jesus Christ and all those who will one day put their faith in Him as well.

Jesus came to plant seeds of understanding and the knowledge of God in the hearts of all humanity.  In order for those seeds to take root, one must seek help from other believers in order to grow in the faith; one must avoid Satan’s distractions; one must avoid the distractions of this material world.

Good deeds are not a requirement of salvation, but a result of salvation made possible through the Holy Spirit that resides in your heart once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.

While Jesus is here to plant good seed, Satan is here planting bad seed at the same time.  It is not up to us to separate the good from the bad; that will be taken care of by Jesus when He returns.

Christianity started as the seed of just a few men and rapidly grew; now there are over 2 billion followers of Jesus Christ in the world.

By believing in Jesus Christ and placing your faith in His death and resurrection as salvation for your sin, you have placed yourself in the kingdom of God; that eternal destination is irreversible.

Everyone who comes to Jesus will be granted eternal life and He considers all those who come to be precious.

There will come a time when the wicked will be separated from the kingdom and only believers will remain.

Even though the rules and regulations from the Old Testament of the Bible are no longer applicable now that Jesus has come, it is still important to know and understand that teaching.

If you are a true believer, you will forgive others as God has forgiven you.

Jesus wants to lead you to the eternal kingdom of God.  There are others who want to lead you in the opposite direction.

Your neighbor is anyone who is in need and whose need you are able to meet.

Persistence in your faith demonstrated through prayer will be rewarded.

Wealth comes from God and should not be spent on your pleasure but His.

Believers who remain faithful will be rewarded when Christ returns.

When you place your faith in Jesus Christ that faith will manifest itself in good deeds fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit living inside your heart.

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

There are some who are so caught up in the pleasures of this material world they will never be able to know Jesus.

Placing your faith in Jesus means you are willing to completely submit to His will in your life.

God loves sinners.  God searches for sinners.  God restores sinners.  Everyone who wants a relationship with Jesus must confess their sinful nature.

By serving God rather than money you store up rewards in heaven worth far more than anything you have in this world.

If wealth is used selfishly it is ultimately of no value; if it is used as a means of showing mercy it can gain eternal reward.

To serve God you must go beyond obligation.

Persistent prayer will bring justice from God.  Persistent faith will bring the ultimate reward.

Sinful people cannot approach God by accomplishing good deeds; but only through the benefit of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross as payment for those sins; therefore, when we seek God in prayer we do so in the name of Jesus.

The Lord is just, gracious, and generous; and He will do what is right.

The faithful will be received into the kingdom that the King establishes, and the unfaithful will be rejected.

Your actions, not your words, will identify your faithfulness.

Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ will escape judgment and be received into the kingdom of God.

Only those who hear God’s call and accept the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ will be part of the kingdom of God.

God has a specific path to the kingdom of God for all believers.

Even though Jesus is no longer with us on earth, He expects us to act as though He is watching our every move – which of course He is.

Those who are unfaithful and ignore the teachings of Jesus will be kept from the kingdom of God.

The prepared will be received into the kingdom of God but the unprepared will be excluded.

Rewards for faithfulness and judgment for unfaithfulness will be administered when Jesus returns.

Jesus wants us to follow this example:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Matthew 25:35-36

 

More Steps

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

 

 

 

Building a Christian Church

Essentially all followers of Jesus Christ are part of the Christian church; however, many of us are also part of a local Christian church.  Local churches range from small meetings in private homes to enormous mega churches with auditoriums that seat thousands and a television broadcast that reaches millions.  Broken down into denominations and sub-denominations and all the various independent denominations, we end up with tens of thousands of different ways to build a Christian church. How did the Christian church become so fractionalized?  I’m absolutely certain this was not God’s design.  Could it be our enemy the devil has waged an ongoing campaign to divide and conquer the Christian church?  What might be possible if we were all going in the same direction, dedicated to the same goals?

Finding a Home in the Local Church

Regardless of this division, there are certain things most Christian churches have in common.  First of all, they are a place for followers of Jesus Christ to meet and worship God together.  If you’re a member of a local church, that may be your primary reason for attending – worshiping with other believers.  Singing praises to God, praying together, listening to a message from the Word of God, are all ways we worship in the local church.  Most of us have these things in common.  Beyond these basic worship practices your local Christian church experience may also include some kind of dedicated Bible study, special programs for children of all ages, and more informal gatherings simply for fellowship.  The local church can be a very comforting place and a solid anchoring point for your spiritual well-being.

In the book of Acts we find the following example of the early local Christian Church:

Acts 2:41-47 (NASB)

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Today’s Local Christian Church

In many ways the above scripture sounds a lot like the local Christian church today.  They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, there was fellowship, and they were sharing meals together.  Of course, when we read that many wonders and signs were taking place we have to stop and consider the miraculous things they were witnessing that added a great deal to their worship experience.  Some churches today believe the miraculous is still possible and others believe that time has passed.  Still, I believe most of us agree that God is indeed working around us and while we may have to look a little harder for examples of His work – it is there.

One thing presented in the above example of the early Christian church that may not be prevalent in all local churches today is the willingness of church members to sell their property and share the proceeds with the other church members.  I suppose when the collection plate is passed in most local churches that is a form of sharing your possessions, but paying the mortgage and utilities on a church building, and meeting the staff payroll was not the point of this early church example.  In this example, church members were supporting the needs of other church members.

When we consider how the local Christian church might best serve God, I don’t think there’s any question that providing a worship venue and a dedicated team of men and women devoted to teaching the Bible, and providing spiritual comfort, is essential.   It may well be the case that the early church is teaching us that beyond these basic worship needs, the local Christian church would do well to focus more precisely on meeting the material needs of its members.  Your local church may already be doing that, and I’m sure most local churches do as much as they can, but would it be possible to do much more if all Christian churches were pointed in the same direction, dedicated to the same goals?

Anyone Who Might Have Need

Right now there’s someone in this world who has a problem that you have the resources, talent and desire to solve.  The only problem is you don’t know who that person is.  Followers of Jesus Christ all have an inborn desire to help others, but we can’t help if we don’t know who’s in need of that which we have to give.  When I turn on my computer I see many wonders taking place.  I’m able to communicate with the entire world!  If there was a collective will among all Christian churches, a method could be devised to use the power of the Internet to put those in need in touch with those who have the ability to help.  We could all be sharing all we have with anyone who might have need.

Who knows what the future will deliver?  Perhaps someone is working right now on a way to connect those in need with those willing and able to help.  Maybe your church is more devoted to serving God in this way than others and can share their passion with other churches.  Without question, building a Christian church should definitely include a dedicated effort to do everything possible to provide as anyone might have need.

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Step Six – Put on the Armor of God

If you’re going to serve God you need to be ready for an attack from the enemy.  The devil is real and he has demons roaming the world looking to block God’s work.  This is why you need to put on the armor of God and prepare yourself for battle.  You cannot overcome the devil with your own power and strength – you need the strength and power of God.  This is a spiritual battle and needs to be fought with the spiritual tools God provides.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The Devil has an Army

The above verse talks about our spiritual battle against the rulers, powers, and world forces of darkness which are the devil’s demons lined up like an army.  The rulers are likely the foot soldiers working in the hearts and minds of individuals like you.  The powers are likely their commanders directing the operation.  The world forces of darkness are likely the generals overseeing the master plan.  And finally we are told about the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places, which are likely the architects of the worldwide assault.

It’s Time to put on the Armor of God

Ephesians 6:13-17 (NASB)

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Belt of Truth

Jesus Christ told us in John 14:6 that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.”  Before we even think about standing toe-to-toe with the devil’s demons, we need the belt of truth which is Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Breastplate of Righteousness

There is no way for us to acquire righteousness other than salvation through Jesus Christ. Having washed away our sin by his death on the cross, Jesus, supplies us with the breastplate of righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Boots of Peace

We are told in Luke 1:79 that the Jesus came “to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  The boots of peace are our foundation for battle.  We need our steps guided by Jesus Christ as His committed follower.

1 Corinthians 3:11 (NASB)

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Shield of Faith

The shield of faith will be used to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  We have seen faith playing a major role as we put on the armor of God.  Jesus is the belt of truth that provides us with the breastplate of righteousness through salvation – the salvation which is a product of our faith.

Ephesians 2:8 (NASB)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Helmet of Salvation

Now we are told to take that salvation granted to us by the grace of God and wear it as our helmet.  The helmet protects your head where your mind resides.  Wearing the helmet of salvation will protect your mind from the devil’s attacks.

Sword of the Spirit

We are clearly told that the sword of the spirit is the Word of God.  As we put on the armor of God we are preparing ourselves for battle.  Up until this point everything has been for defense.  Now we go on offense with the Word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Finally, after we put on the armor of God we are told to pray.  We are to pray for ourselves and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  There is great power in prayer and it is another major offensive tool we are to use against the devil.

Ephesians 6:18-20 (NASB)

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

The apostle Paul who wrote this section of scripture was himself a prisoner in Rome but he does not ask for prayer for his release from prison, but prayer for his ability to preach the gospel. Paul was standing firmly in is armor ready to swing the sword of the spirit – the Word of God.

When you make a decision to focus your life on serving God you become a target of the devil.  If you are walking with Jesus you have nothing to fear.  Your faith, by the grace of God, has brought you salvation and righteousness, allowing you the opportunity to put on the armor of God and stand firm with the Word of God and prayer just as the apostle Paul did a few thousand years ago.

John 4:4 (NASB)

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

 

More Steps

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

 

Working Together to Serve God

Church Community Service

The Lord’s Church Baptist, in Chesterfield County, VA, (upper left) has been focused on serving God through community service for a long time.  One of their missions is to bring community members together with law enforcement to discuss their concerns.  Like many churches they operate a clothes closet to help those who are struggling.  Over a few months in early 2018 they distributed twenty thousand loaves of bread to those in need.  They also have a college scholarship program for deserving high school graduates.  The County Board of Supervisors was so impressed with their commitment to service, they invited a group from the church in to present them with a community service award.

Read more here.

Teen Community Service

A group of teens from Saint Stephen Lutheran Church in Marlborough, MA (upper right) spent some of their school vacation time serving God by serving others.  Some volunteered at the local senior living facility playing games with and getting to know the senior residents.  Others took part in maintenance activities at a summer camp facility. Finally, another group assisted in packing food boxes for distribution at the local food bank.  Praise God for the Lutheran Inter-Parish Youth program that organized this community outreach.

Read more here.

Team Community Service

A group of churches from Texas came together in Port Arthur to assist those affected by Tropical Storm Harvey (lower left).  Several youth groups consisting of middle school and high school students, guided by adult volunteers, pitched in to paint and make minor repairs to damaged homes. This program was started by adults and the kids didn’t want to be left out, so they were brought in to serve as well.  Along with the volunteer labor, many of the building materials were also donated.  This is a wonderful demonstration of a team effort to serve God by serving others.

Read more here.

Coalition Community Service

In St. Louis, MO, over 150 churches have joined together to serve God by serving others through dedicated community service with the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition (lower right).  Their goal is to find solutions to spiritual, social, and economic issues that plague their local community.  Working together in these large numbers they are able to generate funds to implement programs focused on spiritual enrichment, education, youth development, health care, economic development and much more.  This is a grand example of how to leverage the power of God by bringing all those with a heart for services together moving in the same direction.

Read more here.

 

How might you use your talent and resources to Serve God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Verses About Love

In many ways, the Bible is a love story.  It’s a story about God’s everlasting love for us and how our love for Him is the key to living a fulfilled and complete life on this earth; and how to continue that life into eternity.  That’s an amazing story and if you’ve never read the Bible from cover-to-cover, I suggest you set aside some time to do just that as soon as possible.  For now, let’s take a close look at some of the most revealing Bible verses about love.  When asked about the most important commandments, Jesus said there are two things that when put together, fulfill the whole law.  First we must love God and second we should love our neighbor.  He was really quoting from the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 6:5 (NASB)

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 

Leviticus 19:18 (NASB)

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” 

As we study more Bible verses about love, we discover that love starts with God.  God first loved us and we connect to that love by loving God in return.  As a result of our love for God, we will then love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  This is a chain reaction akin to an electrical circuit that gets plugged into the main grid and spreads out to cities and towns down the line.  The main source of love is God and we can tap into that awesome power and share it with others.  This is important, because the Bible tells us that those who lack love are in trouble.

Psalm 145:20 (NASB)

“The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.” 

God is a loving father and will make attempts to push people in the right direction before he seeks to destroy them.  Elsewhere, in the New Testament, Jesus tells us to love our enemies.  This indicates that God is ready to love the wicked if they respond to His discipline and turn from their wicked ways.

Proverbs 3:12 (NASB)

 “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” 

Tough love was not invented recently; God perfected this method of training a long time ago.  I dare say we all need a little tough love from God on occasion.  I know my God is fair and gives the wicked every opportunity to turn away from their wickedness and seek a loving relationship with God.  The Bible tells us that anyone who wants to partake of God’s love has that option if they are sincere in their effort.

Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)

 “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.” 

The above Bible verses about love confirm  that God is the source of love and that God loves those who love Him.  But what exactly is love?  How does the Bible describe love?

Song of Solomon 8:7 (NASB)

“Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.” 

Love is of enormous value and immense in size.  Love is not something we should take lightly.  This is very different from the ordinary human love we may have experienced apart from God.  God’s love is pure and undefiled, far more powerful that anything we humans can conjure up.  Consider the most well-known Bible scripture of all:

John 3:16 (NASB)

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

What an extraordinary act of love that was.  There is no greater love!

John 15:13 (NASB)

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” 

We will never match the love God has for us.  Yet the power of God’s love is available to us if we simply love Him in return as best we can.  Love is the one thing there is no Biblical law against because it does no wrong.

Romans 13:10 (NASB)

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” 

These Bible Verses About Love Point the Way

Love is truly the most important thing we can take away from the Bible.  If we don’t have love, nothing else is of any importance.  And when we take hold of God’s pure love, we take on a force that endures all things and nurtures everyone in every situation.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (NASB)

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ” 

What a beautiful world we would live in if everyone was able to walk with this kind of love each and every day.  We as mere humans will never be able to live a purely loved filled life but the Bible tells us this has to be our goal.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB)

“Let all that you do be done in love.” 

The Bible offers us some practical steps to achieve this goal.

2 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 

Jesus Christ gave His life on the Cross for us and the Bible offers that as an example of how a husband should love his wife.

Ephesians 5:25 (NASB)

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” 

The Bible tells us that love brings people together like nothing else.

Colossians 3:14 (NASB)

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

The Bible tells us that sincere love can even protect us from the wrongs we do in our life.

1 Peter 4:8 (NASB)

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 

Even though love is a constant theme in the Bible and Jesus teaches to love unconditionally, we are told that this world we live in is not worthy of our love.  The love of money, power, and personal pleasure found so common in this world is abhorrent to God.

1 John 2:15 (NASB)

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 

Love for the things of this world is a sure sign that you are not yet connected to the pure love of God.

Bible Verses About Love Point Us to God

Perhaps one of the most important distinctions the Bible makes about love is that it is not just a feeling  – it is an action.  Love is something you do, not something you feel.  If you are connected to the pure love of God, you will be finding ways to act out on that love every day.

1 John 3:18 (NASB)

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 

The Bible has much more to say about love than what I’ve presented in this brief study.  It’s difficult to paint a clear picture of love without a careful reading of the entire Bible.  When you study the Bible from cover-to-cover, you will come to realize a more vivid understanding of this extraordinary force.  If you truly know love, you have been touched by God.

1 John 4:7 (NASB)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 

The source of love is God.  All we have to do to tap into that source is reciprocate.

1 John 4:19 (NASB)

“We love, because He first loved us.” 

Indeed the most profound statement made about love in the Bible is the simple understanding that God is love.  Know God and you know love.  Seek God and you will find His pure love.

1 John 4:16 (NASB)

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 

 

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

God Wants to Meet With You

The Bible is all about YOU.

God provided you with the Bible so that you can know Him.

The Bible says God is your perfectly loving heavenly Father.

The Bible says God wants you to grow spiritually and become like Him.

The Bible says God wants to give you everything you need to live eternally with Him.

The Bible is not just a book.  It is the living Word of God.

When you read the Bible with an open heart and mind, you will feel God with you.

God wants to be with you.

Your perfectly loving heavenly Father wants to always be with you.

Your perfectly loving heavenly Father wants this to be your choice, not His.

Satan is opposed to you meeting God and will do everything possible to keep you away.

Because you are reading this, Satan is probably communicating with you right now.

Satan will provide you with a million reasons not to meet with God.

God could stop Satan but He doesn’t want to.  He wants you to make a choice.

Satan wants you to make the choice to serve him and not God.

Satan doesn’t want you to meet God because God is far more powerful than Satan.

Satan is in a battle with God.  Satan already knows he will eventually lose, but he keeps fighting anyway to try and humiliate God.  Satan wants to be God, but there can only be one God and Satan will not accept that, because his ego is so big he can’t face the truth.

God has created this battle, and all the battles since the beginning of time, and all the battles going on inside of you right now, as tools to help you grow spiritually.

God allows all the ugliness of the world we live in so that you can know the difference between good and evil, so that you can feel rage, and experience joy.  God protects the spirit of those who believe in him no matter what pain they may endure in this world.

God is ultimately in control, but for now, for this moment in all eternity, God is allowing Satan to manipulate this world.  God will one day stop Satan and destroy him.

God wants to meet you so that He can explain His plan for your life personally.

Satan doesn’t want you to hear God’s plan.

Satan wants you to believe God has left you in this world alone to fend for yourself.

The Bible teaches that God is an all-powerful spirit being and can be everywhere always.

God is with you right now.  He’s waiting for you to meet with Him.

The Bible teaches that God is all knowing.  He knows if you will meet with Him today, or if you will wait for another day, or if you will continue to avoid Him forever.

Satan does not possess the powers of God, he cannot be all places at once, and he does not know what you will choose; and he doesn’t want you to know that if you choose to avoid God you have by default selected to follow Satan to total destruction.  Satan is going down and he wants to take as many people with him as possible.

The Bible tells you that Satan is the grand deceiver.  While he cannot be everywhere at once, he has many demons all over the world that do his work for him.  They get into your mind and point you in the wrong direction.  They deceive you into believing you will be happier without knowing God.

Satan wants you to believe that knowing God means you will have a restricted life.

When you meet God you will discover there are no restrictions at all.

Satan wants you to believe that there are many requirements to truly know God.

God wants you to know there are only two requirements: that you love God with all your heart and that you love your neighbor as yourself.

Satan wants you to believe that it is humiliating to love God with all your heart.

When you meet God and discover He is your perfect, loving, heavenly Father that wants nothing more than your love, so that He may bestow upon you His perfect love, you will understand why Satan is so jealous.

God loves you so much he created a way for you to wash away all the wrongs you’ve done in your life.  God wants you to be perfect like Him, and He has created you in a way that you cannot be perfect without God’s help.

God sent His Son Jesus Christ to walk the earth and teach you all about God.  God wants you to know Him as well as He knows you.  By studying the life of Jesus you will come to know God fully.

God allowed His Son Jesus to die on a cross as payment for all the wrongs you’ve done in your life.  God wants you to know that you can be perfect and blameless like Him by simply accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Satan believes he can become perfect like God in his own power.  He’s wrong.

God wants you to know you can become like God by simply believing in the work of the Cross.  There is absolutely nothing you have to do to receive this gift from God other than believe.

Once you receive this gift from God you will immediately become a natural follower of Jesus and turn from your sin toward the light of Jesus.

The Bible tells you that Jesus and God are one and that if you believe in Jesus you will receive the Holy Spirit of God to live inside you.  The Holy Spirit is also God.  God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God.

If you meet with God and accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus, you will come to know God in a profoundly personal way.

Once you know God, Satan’s lies will just seem like silly nonsense.

If you don’t know God, Satan’s lies seem like absolute truth and everything the Bible says about God seems like silly nonsense.

Take the time to meet with God and then decide for yourself.

He’s waiting to meet with you now.