United in Christ

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As Christ followers we are united around one thing. That Jesus, Deity wrapped in flesh, was crucified for all mankind for the forgiveness of our sins, and that He conquered death by being raised from the dead. Evangelicals agree that we can surrender our lives to God, and that He transforms us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Believers in Corinth believed in the Risen Christ as well, but they found themselves disagreeing and taking sides about other issues. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians addresses this and reminds them that “Christ crucified” is central to faith and unity. Any deviation or doctrine teaching that Christ didn’t die for all mankind is unbiblical and at that point divides us. Paul would not have tolerated misconstruing the message, life, and death of Jesus and neither should we. When Paul uses the phrase, “Christ crucified” in 1 Corinthians 1:23, he is portraying the entire message of God in just a few words. That message is John 3:16 which the late Billy Graham proclaimed when He said “God loves you”.

How can we stay united to the central message of Christ crucified?

  1. Know the entire message of the Bible which is that God loves you and provided redemption for all humans through the cross of Christ. Anything less is false doctrine.
  2. Know the person or speaker. Often we read, listen or watch national or local speakers. Research what they write, their beliefs, their affiliations and endorsements.
  3. Open your Bible. A good life-long practice I use is to always open my copy of the God’s Word when someone is sharing. The Bible is our authority.
  4. Stay united by abiding in Christ. When we are not daily abiding in Christ we tend to succumb to our own desires, thoughts and opinions. Reading the Bible and praying each day keeps us centered in Christ.
  5. Proclaim Christ crucified as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:23. When we work together to speak of this truth we unite ourselves as the Body of Christ. Share Jesus in your conversations as well as your actions and lifestyle.
  6. Keep focused on the main truth which is God’s redemptive love for all. We can have differing opinions about some things, but we must stay united on the key truths of the Biblical message.
  7. Give grace. Live in grace. Speak the truth in love. Overlook non-essential petty issues. Build bridges with people and not walls.

People are going to have opinions especially in our day when it comes to things of faith. Believe what the Bible says. Live in such a way that contributes to unity and not division.

Let the Spirit rule in your life.

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How to plan a year of training in 20 minutes

Great article by Ken Braddy on the need for training our Bible Study leaders.

Ken Braddy

I’m a big fan of training group leaders. In fact, one author I just read in the last 30 days says that if you aren’t going to train your leaders, you shouldn’t bother enlisting them in the first place. He says that a commitment to lead (on the part of the volunteer) calls for a reciprocal commitment on the part of the church to provide training. I agree.

I have just begun a part-time ministry on a church staff here in the Nashville area. One of the first things I did was to create a year-long training plan for the group leaders. I used a new resource from LifeWay to do this quickly and easily. In fact, I had a year-long plan in just 20 minutes. We begin our first training event on February 11!

The Georgia Baptist Convention surveyed over 2500 churches there, and learned that if churches conducted…

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Value People….Value Life

-Bible-On-A-Picnic-Table-With-T-36856169I have experienced the joyous birth of babies.
I have been with people as they took their final breath.
I have talked with people who were victims, violated and exploited.
I have ministered to people who perpetrated violence and aggression against others.
I have been around people who were geniuses and people who were mentally challenged.
I have friends who have different skin color or who are from another country entirely.

The Lord is the One who enables us to accept people as He sees them. Throughout the Bible we read the message that God values human life and calls for justice and dignity for all.

This weekend many in our nation are studying Acts 16 and Psalm 139 as churches and our nation observe the sanctity of life. In the New Testament passage, the apostle Paul encounters a slave girl owned by people exploiting her for ability to fortune tell.  In Acts 16 ff we read that Paul called out her demonic spirit and that her owners were infuriated by this act. They were just using her for their own gain. It is sad to say that many girls and children are used by other in hideous ways.

Psalm 139 reminds us that we are wonderfully made by God. The psalmist says that God knits us together as babies in our mother’s womb. The words of this psalm are truly inspirational as they depict a loving God who in His omniscience knows all and everything about us. He cares from the moment we are conceived to the time of our final breath…and beyond!

What can you do show you value life?

  1. Take care of yourself.  Value your own life. You are wonderfully made. Live to your created potential.
  2. Take care of others. We all need community, friends and a helping hand. Reach out to someone who needs a word and/or act of encouragement.
  3. Speak up!  When you see injustice, do something. Act on behalf of those who cannot do for themselves. You may know them or know about them. Do something.
  4. Be sensitive!  Your words and actions are impacting someone every day that you are around. Value the people that are in your circle and lift them up!
  5. Pray and Respond.  Talk to God about the value of life and then do something. Love God…Love People.

In my Evernote folders I have one that says “I Value Life”.  In this folder are documents, articles, blogs that help me to organize and encourage me in my life journey.  It is my prayer that we will value life as much as Jesus does and be willing to give all of ourselves to demonstrate love to others as we value them.

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Sharing Christ with Family

-Bible-On-A-Picnic-Table-With-T-36856169We all want our families to know the Lord and to live for Him.  How do we create an environment where our families know Jesus?  How do we share Jesus with family or extended family members that see us every day?  What can we do?

As we explore the Bible we find an interesting encounter in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas are spreading the Gospel in Philippi.  City officials chose to have them beaten and thrown into jail.  Later that night, a miraculous earthquake occurs in which the chains worn by Paul and Silas were sprung loose. In fact the doors of the jail were opened but all the prisoners remained inside.  The Philippian jail keeper thinking that the prisoners had escaped was about to take his own life, when Paul called out and told him there were no escapes.  This was the turning point for the jailer as he then spoke with Paul and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”  The jailer and his whole family accepted the salvation of Christ that night.

What about your family?  What can you do to make sure they know Jesus?

  1. Pray specifically for each family member. This helps keep you aware of circumstances in their lives.  God knows. You need to know too.
  2. Remain faithful.  Our kids and other family members are watching our actions perhaps more than listening to our words. While perfection eludes us, consistency is within our grasp. Stay faithful in your prayer life, studying the Bible and living a Spirit filled life.
  3. Speak truth in love.  Share about your walk with Christ or insights from Scripture as normal conversation.
  4. Be real…not religious.  Genuineness is easy to spot and appreciated by all. Your trials, issues, problems are seen by all. Your reality and how you allow Christ to work in and through you is evident.
  5. Read the Bible with those in your home. Reading Scripture uplifts and encourages and often challenges. Seek the heart of the Author.
  6. Attend church.  Children, students and well all of us, need to be around other believers. Surround your family with like-minded people who can support you in your desire to see your family know Jesus.
  7. Take responsibility. Spiritual development is not something we leave to others. It is your responsibility to do all you can to help your family know the Lord.

The Philippian jailer and his family all came to know Jesus through a crisis event. They continued to live for Jesus as later Paul would write the letter to the Philippian church which included this family, Lydia and countless others.

May the Lord bless as you seek to be consistent in your walk with Christ so that your family will respond in faith to Him.

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Christmas Dedication

-Bible-On-A-Picnic-Table-With-T-36856169Dedicated.
It is something we do. It is something we are.

Baby dedication is a worship event that occurs frequently at church. Proud parents are eager to present their child to the church and to the Lord.  Such was the case with Mary and Joseph who took baby Jesus to the temple to dedicate Him. They encountered two people, Simeon and Anna, who like them, were dedicated to the Lord. The story as described in Luke 2:22 ff continues to fill our hearts with joy as even then the Messiah is declared to have come for all people.

Dedication involves…

  1. Being a parent (or grandparent) who raises their children to be dedicated to the Lord. Speak and live out Truth
  2. Being consistent with matters of faith.  Mary and Joseph were committed to taking Jesus to the Temple. Simeon and Anna also were people who worshiped daily.
  3. Being filled with the Spirit.  Three times, Simeon was described as Spirit filled.  It was “upon him”, “revealed” things to him and “guided” him.
  4. Giving God the praise.  Luke describes the amazement, the worship, the gratitude and the witnessing that occurred upon realizing the reality of the Messiah.

Christmas is about the coming of the Messiah.  It is also about our reaction to His coming as a “light for revelation to all the nations.”  Luke 2:32.

Be dedicated to Christ!

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Bridges or Barriers

-Bible-On-A-Picnic-Table-With-T-36856169How can we build bridges with people instead of putting up barriers, especially when it comes to  knowing Jesus?

In Acts 15, which many of us studying this week, we find a great example of how to build bridges.  The context of this passage is that some were teaching that a person had to go through the ritual of circumcision if they were to be a Christ follower.  Paul, who you remember to be a “Pharisee among the Pharisees” was at one time a strict religious law follower. Now we find him dialoguing and even demonstrating that the way to Jesus was not through ritual but relationship.

Paul and Barnabas engaged in healthy dialogues between the Gentile and Jewish Christ followers.  They took it one step farther in that Paul and Barnabas traveled back to Jerusalem with the Jewish Christians emissaries back to Jerusalem to continue the discussion at its place of origin.

Notice the route they took…right through Samaria…
and what they did…shared the Gospel.

Paul and Barnabas along with the Christian Jews went to places where a good Jew would never travel. They shared that Jesus died for all mankind and that faith/grace results in salvation. There was much joy among those being freed from sin, guilt and the hopelessness of death. Imagine what the Christian Jews experienced as they saw multitudes of people receiving the Holy Spirit into their lives.  It cut them to the heart!

How can we build bridges with the Gospel of Christ?

  1. Discuss in healthy ways the things of God. Don’t polarize people with arguments.
  2. Demonstrate the power of Christ.  Give them opportunities to see Christ at work through acts of service, uplifting conversations and ultimately your life.
  3. Do build bridges, on ramps, pathways for your friends, family, co-workers to access the things of God.  Ask the Lord what that looks like for them.
  4. Disassemble barriers and walls that you have put up or that others have erected that block people from seeing who Jesus really is.
  5. Do pray and ask God to give you insight and wisdom as to how you can deliver His message through word and deed.

The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus loves all humanity as demonstrated by His death on the cross.  Death could not hold him and we have the promise of eternal life with Him in Heaven.  Let’s do all we can to make sure that we share this message to everyone.

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Evangelize to Disciple…Disciple to Evangelize

-Bible-On-A-Picnic-Table-With-T-36856169“After they had evangelized the town and made many disciples…” is how Luke summarizes the ministry of Paul and his companions in Acts 14:21.  They shared the Gospel and then discipled the new believers.  Paul told them “about Jesus” and then helped them to “abide in Jesus”.

Evangelizing is easy to define because you see the results of a changed life.  Defining a disciple is harder as there are so many definitions as we seem to have different criteria.  The purpose of a believer is to share the Gospel.  A disciple is ready to do that.

  1. Are you telling others about the forgiveness of sin that Jesus offers?  A disciple who is abiding in Christ would be led by the Spirit to share.
  2. Does the Lord speak to you through His Word daily? Are you talking to God each day and sense His presence living in and through you? A disciple is committed daily.
  3. Are you serving the Lord by serving others in some capacity? Being missional is both evangelistic as well as an expression of living for Jesus.
  4. Do you have people speaking truth into your life…and are you investing in the lives of others?  We are always growing and should be helping others in their faith journey.

Discipleship and Evangelism go hand in hand.  It’s hard to be a witness if you are not walking with Christ. And it’s hard to walk with Christ and not want to tell others about Him.

We Evangelize to Disciple.  We Disciple to Evangelize.

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