Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Who Do You Want To Be?

Submitted by Lara Cook
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  Romans 6:16

It’s Halloween.  Today, millions of people, old and young, will be dressing up in costumes, and many of those costumes are an extension of something we really wish we could be.  We sometimes use the excuse of Halloween to let our wild side show.  We dress up like pirates, rock stars and super heroes.  It’s sometimes fun to pretend to be something we are not, but it’s also a horrible trap we can fall into when we allow sin in our lives to make us something we don’t want to be.  Satan lies in wait and he loves it when we step into roles that God never intended for us to assume. 
It is so easy to allow ourselves to be taken to a place that changes us completely.  It may be our choice that takes us there, but before we know it, we look in the mirror and we don’t know who we are anymore.  We don’t recognize the face we see. When you don’t like who you are, and look at all you are involved in and realize that you wouldn’t want to ever be that person, it is time for change.  Sin makes us into people we don’t like, doing things we would never want to do.  Why live with that weight on your heart? 
Satan is the great deceiver and the father of lies.  He wants us to forget who we are in Christ. He whispers hopelessness in our ears – unworthy, sinful, underserving, stained, unfit, and so much more.  He wants us to permanently wear the costume of unworthiness, believing we are never again deserving to don the crown of grace we deserve in Christ.  This costume we are wearing is not who we are or who we want to be.  When we peel off the mask and begin to peel away the layers, underneath we find our true identity – who we are in Christ.  We are sons and daughters of our Father, the King of Kings.  We are princes and princesses.  This eternal costume of our identity is permanently etched on our being.
Who are you?  Who do you want to be?  Important questions.  Remember who you are in Christ.  If you have lost your way, if you have forgotten who you are or you have become someone you don’t want to be, He will restore you.  He has not forgotten who you are. 

Scripture to Claim:

For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. … What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Romans 7:19,24

Monday, October 30, 2017

This Is a Test

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Faith.  It is the essence of a Christian’s existence.  By faith we are saved… that is just the beginning.  Faith is the way we come to know God and the way we develop our spiritual strength and knowledge of God.  The way we began is the way we continue.  However, faith is not always easy.  A faith test is when our concept of God and the reality of our lives conflict and we can’t understand why something is happening. 
Faith is like a muscle and when it’s stretched and it’s pulled then it develops. Your faith develops as it is tested.  You don’t develop your faith just attending church once or twice a week, even throwing in a Bible study.  God builds our faith by testing it.  If we had really had our way, our faith would never be tested…but God would never have the chance to prove that faith worked.  Our declarations of faith would ring hollow. We would simply be echoing empty religious clich├ęs learned in church and Sunday School.  No skeptic is ever convinced or won over by that kind of false faith. 
The testing of your faith is more about who God is than who we are.  God’s desire is that we know Him and experience His goodness in our lives.  The positive end of a test of faith may not be a change in circumstance but a greater knowledge of God and His love and power in our lives.  That is when faith gets hard.  It’s easy to understand that God may not answer every prayer by giving us everything we ask for. That, we can wrap our minds around, but it is hard to realize that sometimes God’s will is that everything stays the same for a while.  Maybe nothing changes.  That’s not the answer we want to get when we are in a difficult or painful situation.  Faith becomes a fragile Paper Mache shell when everything inside is withering away as we seek relief from a painful situation.  In those times, faith is stretched thin, but it is there. 
If you are waiting… if you are wilting and waiting… I challenge you to drink the living water.  It is hard and exhausting, but there is a reason.  If we simply exist in our suffering, we will miss the point.  What a fruitless effort to just suffer through and completely miss what the Lord is doing because we are so focused inward.  There is something working, something is happening.  It is never His purpose for us to understand His ways, just to understand Him.  Hold fast, trust in the Lord as He is developing and strengthening your faith. 

Scripture to Claim:
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.  Psalm 39:7

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Body of Christ

Adapted from Jim Garner’s sermon – Authentic Churchianity
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved. Acts 2:41-47

The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. It is where we have opportunity to express our worship and exercise the gifts of the Spirit the Lord has given us.  We are many members working together for a common goal.  We all have different strengths and God has designed us all to fit together so we can work as one for His glory. 
Just what should the Body of Christ look like to the world? Below are seven characteristics of an “Authentic Church”:
                Motivated by the Gospel (v.41)
Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power of salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew and also to the Greek (Gentile).”
                Meaningful membership (v.41-42)
Ephesians 4:15-16 > “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
                Mentoring leadership (v.42)
2 Timothy 2 > “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
                Moved by God's power (v.43)
Mark 5:19 > “And He did not let him, but He said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you."
                Minister to one another (v.44-45)
When God’s power moves in people’s lives, people move their lives under the presence of God.  Our stories are all a part of God’s story and no matter what the details are, God can use our stories for His glory and to help others.  God has redeemed you from your past so you can grow and live for Him in the present which will someday impact someone else’s future.
Titus 3:5-7 > “…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
                Meet together regularly (v.46-47)
Hebrews 10:23-25 > 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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.
Community - unity with a common purpose. Our service (ministry) is an indication of what or who is a priority in our lives. This is evident by the emphasis we place on how we sacrifice our time, energy, and resources.
                Mobilized to multiply (v.47)
2 Corinthians 5:20 > “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

We are the body of Christ, an extension of Him. He is able to work through us to take His gospel beyond the foundations of the buildings in which we meet. He can work through us,  each and everyone but woven together into one, in which we become a unified body to bring light and hope to a hurting, dark world.

Scripture to Claim:  

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. I Corinthians 12:24b-26

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