You Are God’s Greatest Hope

Somewhere around you right now is a person who needs your help.  Somewhere within your sphere of influence, within that group of people who weave their way in and out of your life, there is someone that you have the ability to help.   In that person’s life, another word for help could be YOU.

Help Yourself by Helping Others

Consider the feeling you have after going out of your way to help someone.  For most, there’s an immediate sense of satisfaction, a sense of joy for having the ability to solve someone’s problem. You carry that positive energy with you at least for the next few minutes and it likely lingers for most of the day.  Another word for help might be love.  When we go out of our way to help someone it is usually out of love.  Even when we help a stranger we are likely helping out of love for our neighbors as Jesus commanded.  When we share our love with others we are instantly rewarded by that peaceful feeling that flows through our body; in addition, God promises an even greater reward for those who give out of a pure heart.

 Luke 6:38 (NASB)

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Another Word for Help is Sacrifice

Without question, when we take the time to help someone we are sacrificing some of our time, and in many cases some of our money. The above scripture is suggesting there is a grand reward for that sacrifice; nevertheless, if our goal in helping is to receive a reward we are not helping at all – we are only attempting to serve ourselves – God is not fooled.  When we help others out of love, expecting nothing in return, that is when our help rises to the level of service to God.  These opportunities to help others are not at all hard to find.  God provides you with these opportunities every day.  In fact, in many cases you are God’s greatest hope for service to individuals who happen to be in your life.  In these cases, another word for help might be opportunity.  Look around, watch for God’s nudging, grab hold of opportunity, and give of yourself whenever God’s calling presents itself.

Hebrews 13:16 (NASB)

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

 

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.

The Parables of Jesus

In his book “The Parables of Jesus: Lessons in Life from the Master Teacher,” Dwight Pentecost makes the point that Jesus used parables to instruct believers and to hide these truths from unbelievers who would only be burdened by the knowledge; a concept further developed in the book.  Dr. Pentecost goes on to make the point that the parables are not exclusively for the church; however, one could conclude that these teachings were foundational understanding for the followers of Jesus.  The fact that Jesus singled out these teachings to deliver in this manner seems to suggest they are among the most important messages believers are to absorb and understand.  In any event, Jesus highlighted these teachings in this special way and for that reason alone they deserve careful study.

I found this study to be transformational.  My understanding of the teachings of Jesus grew enormously as a result of reading this work.  Pentecost breaks down each parable by first introducing the setting in which the parable was delivered, followed by the problem addressed by the parable, and then the solution given by the parable.  This simple three step process is presented in easy to understand language while at the same time delivering all the detail needed to fully understand each parable.  Reading this book is truly like sitting at the feet of Jesus as he expounds on what are the most significant aspects of His teaching.

“The Parables of Jesus: Lessons in Life from the Master Teacher,” is in my mind essential reading for any follower of Jesus Christ.  Pentecost gets right to the point without adding any more commentary than is necessary for us to fully absorb that which is most important – the teachings of Jesus.

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Woodlawn

“Woodlawn” is the true story of one of the first high schools in Alabama to become integrated.  This initially caused a lot of friction, especially among the football players who did not want black players on their team.  In an effort to stop the fighting, a local evangelist makes a request to speak to the Woodlawn football team and the coach reluctantly agrees.  After an hour long talk the evangelist, Hank, is able to convert the entire team into followers of Jesus.  At this time in the early seventies, what was known as the Jesus Movement was in full swing and this is a grand example of that movement’s power.  The evangelist, Hank, continues to mentor the team with Bible studies after practice and the black and white players work together to turn in an unexpected winning season.  One black player, Tony Nathan, who is an amazing talent, turns out to be the star and is courted by legendary university of Alabama coach Bear Bryant.  The following season starts with a summer practice that includes the cross-town rival team and all the members of that team end up being converted to followers of Jesus as well.  In the end, the Woodlawn coach is threatened with termination if he continues to pray with his team before games but in the play-off game with the cross-town rivals who are also believers, they recite the Lord’s Prayer with the entire stadium in defiance of the school board.  Tony Nathan goes on to play for the University of Alabama and the Woodlawn High School coach ends up selling insurance; however, before the credits roll it is revealed he later returns to coaching.

This is a story well told.  For believers, this is a joyous celebration of what God can do: The whole team is converted, they then have a winning season, a star player is born, the bitter cross town rivalry is dissolved into respectful sportsman-like play – all because of Jesus. If I didn’t know it to be a true story I would say it’s too contrived – but it’s apparently all true. Keep in mind this is a story about football; so if you’re not a football fan it might not be for you.  Ultimately, this is a story about God working in the lives of a group of young people and how that empowerment changes a community.  Overall, I think most followers of Jesus Christ will find this story inspiring.

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Step Three – Fellowship

Living out your faith in isolation is a bad idea.  An essential part of being a Christian is to have fellowship with other believers.  As we look through some of the scripture on fellowship, it will become clear how important it is to support, encourage, and engage other believers in Christian fellowship.

Fellowship in the Early Church

In the earliest days of the church, after a sermon by the apostle Peter, thousands turned to Christ and were baptized.

Acts 2:41-42 (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.

Essentially, this scripture on fellowship is telling us that Bible study, fellowship, and prayer were central to the development of the early church.

Indeed, the concept of fellowship extends down from God, through His Son Jesus Christ, and by way of the Holy Spirit into all believers.  It is our duty to extend that connection of fellowship to those believers around us, thereby bonding together the body of Christ.  Fellowship with other believers is another step in Serving God.

We can follow the scripture on fellowship and track this progression in these three verses:

1 Corinthians 1:9 (NASB)

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NASB)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

1 John 1:3 (NASB)

What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

As we follow Jesus it’s important for us to stay connected with other believers in the way a scuba diver needs to remain connected to his air supply.  The world we live in is full of distraction and we can easily be pulled in the wrong direction, away from our faith, if we neglect our fellowship with other believers.

The Danger of Going Without Fellowship

Some of the scripture on fellowship is, in fact, a warning to us regarding the danger of hanging out with the wrong people.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NASB)

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

The above passage is not telling us to avoid unbelievers, but not to be “bound together” with them; in other words, don’t let their unbelief cloud your vision of the truth.

1 John 1:6 (NASB)

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

Again, the above scripture on fellowship is telling us that first and foremost our fellowship is with God.  Having regular fellowship with other believers fuels our fellowship with God, and helps us maintain a steady stream of spirit-filled joy.

1 John 1:7 (NASB)

If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

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.

Courageous

“Courageous” is the story of five men who come together to make a commitment to be better fathers.  Four of the men are police officers in a small town and one is an immigrant worker who is befriended by the group.  Early in the story, the leader of the group, Mitchell, loses his nine year old daughter in a fatal car accident.  As a result, Mitchell turns to the Bible for comfort and guidance on how to be a better father to his remaining son.  Through his study, Mitchell develops a set of Biblical guidelines for fathers and presents it to the group to ask them to hold him accountable to these standards; instead, they each decide to join Mitchell in his commitment to the Biblical guidelines and hold a formal ceremony to establish the resolution.  The film follows these men through their daily lives as they attempt to live out their new focus on fatherhood.  In the end, Mitchell is asked to share the details of his resolution with his large church congregation and all of the men in the audience stand in support of the strong Biblical standard for fathers.

The Biblical resolution for fathers presented in the film is a powerful document that all fathers should consider carefully.  I get the feeling the resolution was written first and then a story was developed around that concept.  The story telling was a bit too simplistic for me, but nevertheless did a good job dramatizing the importance of fathers in the lives of children and as a stabilizing force in a family.  Single parent families are also considered in this work and overall I believe it is a great starting point for a deeper discussion about parenting in general.  If you watch this film with the understand that nothing terribly unique is going to happen and settle into the deeper message of how important it is for parents to consider God every step of the way, you’ll come away satisfied and inspired.

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be Atheist

One of the best books ever written defending the Christian faith is “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.  With meticulous detail, this book makes the clear argument that believing in God is far more reasonable than believing in nothing at all.  Building on a long list of logical step-by-step arguments and evidence, they develop a case that should convince any reasonable mind of the existence of God.  Continuing in this same process they further establish the deity of Jesus and our path to salvation through His death and resurrection.

This is a great book to share with someone who is on the fence about pursuing a relationship with God and is the perfect resource for believers who wish to build up a solid foundation of answers to questions often asked by unbelievers.  This is an encouraging read that will reinvigorate your faith and your ability to share your faith with others.

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Three Stories of Service to God

Every day people are venturing out to share God’s love and finding new ways to serve Him by serving others.  Here are three stories that may inspire you to use your talents and resources to do the same.

Providing Free Transportation

Stephen Bentley, a deacon at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stockton, is using his talent for repairing bicycles to serve God in his community.  Along with a group of volunteers and a good deal of donated bikes and tools, they have created the HUB – Helping Urban Bicyclists program.  They are providing free bikes and bike repairs to those in need.

 

Community Repair Work

A group of people from the Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan, have combined their talents to help a group of high school students serve God in their community over their spring break.  A local contractor, Bruce Modde, provided the know-how, and youth minister Dave Frank, used his organizational skills to put together a group of adult leaders to assist the students.  Together that took on several community projects, including fixing leaking roofs, installing a deck, and doing some painting.

Read More Here

Feeding Those in Need

Tanya Murphy, in Athens, Tennessee, went through a difficult time in her life; as a result she felt called by God to help others.  She began feeding people out of the back of her truck; others saw what she was doing and offered to help.  Grace and Mercy Ministries grew out of her effort and is now feeding thousands every year.  Partnering with over 50 churches and a lot of volunteers, Tanya has sparked an outpouring of God’s love – serving God through service to others.

 

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

 

 

 

Do You Believe

“Do You Believe” is the story of twelve people and how their lives intersect.  Some of these people are followers of Jesus Christ – they believe – and some do not.  Some who do not believe come to believe.  Some who do believe have their faith impacted by those who do not believe.  The story ends with a dying man miraculously coming back to life and a voice over narration that lets us know God is at work in all our lives and it’s up to us to believe or not.

I truly love the concept of this story; however, the complexity of telling twelve different stories at the same time takes its toll on the authenticity of the events depicted.  Much of what we see is only a caricature of the real world and fairly unrealistic.  As a result, you may be pulled out of the story and left unfulfilled.  My suggestion is that you watch this film with the understanding that it is not “real life” but a concept of the intricacies of our world and how God is working in each and every one of our lives on a daily basis.  If you watch with that point of view, and with those lowered expectations, I believe this film will have a powerful deep impact that will touch your heart.

There is some good acting in this film from Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, and Delroy Lindo who plays my favorite character in the film – a street preacher.  This is a darker story about how difficult life can be; punctuated by the understanding that God is ultimately in control.

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Reborn to be Wild

Ed Underwood, pastor of the historic Church of the Open Door in Southern California, became a Christian in the late 1960s as a result of the Jesus Movement.  Starting sometime in the late 60s and continuing into the 70s, young revolutionary minded Christians began spreading the Gospel outside of the institutionalized church, on the streets, at concerts, on the beach and wherever young people were hanging out.  If you were around during the Jesus Movement you will remember it was difficult to go anywhere without encountering what became known as “Jesus Freaks.”  This derogatory term later became a badge of honor for these committed, on fire for Christ, young evangelists, as their numbers increased and they began building their own churches.

In his book, “Reborn to be Wild,” Ed Underwood describes the Jesus Movement in engaging detail and concludes it was in fact a true revival, “a powerful movement of God sweeping through a culture, accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and deep awareness that your life counts for Christ,” which we have not seen the likes of since.  But what happened to those revolutionary believers and why don’t we see any dramatic evidence of the Jesus Movement today?  Of course, many of these new believers went on to work in ministry; but revival – that powerful movement of God sweeping through our culture – diminished long ago.  In fact, the Christian church in America is on the decline today and Ed longs for those glorious days of revival.

“Reborn to be Wild” tracks the aftermath of the Jesus Movement by carefully considering how it dissolved into what we have today.  What’s compelling about Ed Underwood’s assessment of the Jesus Movement and revival is his considerable knowledge of the Bible and the way he pulls the reader into a deeper understanding of Biblical truth.  When Ed points out that to rekindle revival we need to bring Jesus back to the center of our lives and focus on His Grace by way of our faith in Him, it’s not only a logical point of view; it is well supported by the Word of God and developed in a manner that opens up a clear understanding of our mission as followers of Jesus Christ.

I highly recommend reading “Reborn to be Wild” to uncover cover a clear Biblical perspective of revival and how every follower of Jesus Christ is called into service.  You will come away with a renewed focus on Jesus and His love for you and my prayer is that you will also come to realize how important you are in the Body of Christ.  God is counting on each and every believer to participate.  This book will help you understand exactly what your role is to be in God’s master plan.

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What does God Want from You?

You can’t serve God if you don’t know what He wants.  Is it more church?  Is it more family?  Is it more volunteering?  Is it more faith sharing?  When you look at your life, how much consideration do you give to God along the way?  We can all do better I’m sure; if only we can find room in our schedule.

 Joshua 22:5 (NASB)

“Love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

 

Is this World Pushing You Around?

A lot of us have a list of things we intend to do for God that might center around helping more at church or becoming more active in a local aid organization.  We may even have a list of friends or family members who we’ve been meaning to talk to about Jesus, or visiting church, or just have a conversation about spiritual things.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way.  It could be work, school, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, staying in shape, shuttling the kids around, or trying to figure out how to get that special someone to take notice.  Chances are this world has you going in circles trying to keep up with keeping up leaving you very little time for anything extra.

Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

Leave the World Behind

The truth is God is not asking for any more of your time.  God is asking you to take Him with you every step of the way. Central to the teaching of Jesus is the concept that a loving heart is more important than anything else (1 Corinthians 13).  When you act out of sincere love, you can do no harm.  If you take your loving heart with you to the grocery store, to school, to work, and even when you go out to mow the lawn, you’ll be armed with a tool that will help you find ways to serve God wherever you are.  Serving God is not as much about making time as it is about changing your mind.

Take this moment in time to separate yourself from this world and center your focus on your loving heart.  Whatever you have to do next, start from that center of focus.  When you step forward with a loving heart you are serving God no matter what you are doing

John 13:34-35 (NASB)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

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.