Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Born Again...


Yesterday, in my post about repentance, I mentioned the words “Born Again.” These words can sometimes be a stumbling block to people. They tend to carry a great deal of baggage because they aren't really understood.

Today, I'd like to share a couple of verses that I hope will help us understand what it means to be “born again.”

We know from John 3:3 that being “born again” is necessary. “In reply, Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'” But what does it really mean to be born again. If we have to do it, how do we do it? Here are some verses to help you understand this better...

John 5:24 - “'I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” If you must be born again, and by hearing Jesus' word and believing God who sent him, we have eternal life, then by doing this, we must be born again! So according to John 5:24, hearing the words of Christ, and believing, brings about this re-birth.

1 Peter 1:22-23 - “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” Hearing the Word of Truth, the Scriptures, the Word of God, purifies us. And by believing and obeying that Word we are born again.

James 1:18 – “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” Again, it sounds like being born again happens through the word of truth, which is reading and obeying the Scriptures

Colossians 2:13 - “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcised of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” We were dead, now, through Christ, we are alive!

Romans 6:4 - “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” This speaks not only of our new life, our re-birth through faith in Christ, but also of the need for repentance. We life a new life through Christ, we don't return to the old...

I hope that in reading these passages, you can better understand the phrase “born again”. More importantly, I hope that you realize that because of your faith in Jesus, you already are “born again” and don't need to fear that term any more!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Repentance...


Did you know that the word repent is found in the Bible about 70 times? 70 times! I've always said that if something is important, it will be repeated. If repentance is repeated some 70 times, it must be really important!

What is repentance? Essentially, to repent means to turn to God. To make yourself right with God. The Greek word for repent has four basic meanings – all four bring about a dramatic change in our life.

Perhaps the passage that states that “all things shall be made new” includes us! We, too, must be made new. We must repent of our ways and be made right with God. Even the idea of being “born again” is consistent with this. We are born again, born of the Spirit after repentance.

Repentance means turning away from ourselves as the center of our universe, and turning to God as that center. And yes, repentance really is required. Believing in Jesus but not repenting leaves us a step short. Have you taken that step? Have you truly repented?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Evangelism for today...


I just finished a book called Evangelism Without Additives: What if Sharing Your Faith Meant Just Being Yourself? By Jim Henderson. It presented a very different idea of evangelism for church members.

Too often, we think evangelism is requires memorized scripts and canned speeches. What if we just talked to people? If we show a genuine interest in them, and they see our faith and our convictions, they will naturally want to know more. As they ask more and more, we can share about times when our faith has helped us along, and we can invite them – not preach to them – to come with us, won't they be interested?

That's the premise of the book, and I personally think that Henderson is right on. I think of the early church, and how they grew so fast. Especially after the stoning of Stephen at the end of Acts 7. Chapter 8 opens with the words, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”

It strikes me about this passage that the leaders of the church at the time, the apostles, stayed in Jerusalem. The lay people all left. Yet, years later, when Paul went on his journeys, he always found churches in the towns he visited. Why? How did these churches get there?

It was these lay people who moved to these towns and lived their faith and attracted others by simply living their faith. And they did all this without any evangelism programs or seminars or canned speeches or memorized scripts. Jesus made a difference in their lives. And others saw it, and wanted that difference, too!
If we can just live our lives of faith, so others can see the difference Jesus made in our lives, people today will want that difference, too.

If you want to know more about the book, we will be doing a book study on it at the Almond Union of Churches, you are welcome to join us. Stay tuned, I'll let you know when...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blessings...

Blessings...

Each day as we walk through life, we are surrounded with blessings.

Remember the movie, The Lion King, and the circle of life that sort of formed a code that the animals of the jungle lived by – certainly the lions. They ate the other animals of the jungle, that is true, but if they killed more than they needed, the balance was disturbed, and the entire jungle suffered.

I think there is a circle of life in blessings. Sometimes, people do things that we don't expect, or we might receive something we didn't expect, and we are blessed. Blessings can come in any number of ways. Kind acts, gifts, sometimes even a smile from a stranger can lift our spirits and be a great blessing. Those we know best can be blessing in their friendship and love. People can cross our paths and bring us great blessings.

Sometimes, we cross paths with others and bring them great blessings. Perhaps we do a kind act for someone else, we might just give a smile to a stranger and lift their spirits. We might give a small gift that means so much to someone, especially if that someone has a particular need that we might meet. We are blessings to those special people we consider friends, and share our friendship and love.

So each day, we both bless others, and are blessed by others. A circle of life...



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is our role in Church Growth...

I came across some old notes from a meeting I had attended on Church Growth some time ago. One of the things that I had written was "we aren't growing a church, we are simply creating an atmosphere where people can respond to God's call."

It can be frustrating sometimes, especially this time of year when the weather is not very cooperative, to see many of our church family not with us.

Are we creating an atmosphere where they can respond to God's call? How can we do this better? I would appreciate your comments...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Defacing a Holy Temple...

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
1 Corinthians 6:19

What does it mean that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?

Is it possible, that though we are believers, we might possibly deface that holy temple when we do things that don't glorify Christ?

In our sermon message, we look at this passage, and a lot of the context that the letter to the Corinthians was written in, and what particular struggles were they facing at the time.

If you would like to read the message, click here.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

God is still good...

Lately, we've been struggling with a lot of fairly serious issues.

A friend was diagnosed with leukemia. When I visited her in the hospital, I had just started home when my car broke down, leaving me stranded on the the interstate an hour from home.

By the time I got a price to fix my car, my wife's car began making a terrible noise - the diagnosis is transmission problems. That can be a really expensive diagnosis.

Another good friend winds up in the hospital in Rochester, and I can't get up to see her because of the lack of transportation.

This probably doesn't seem like a post talking about how the goodness of God touches us, but it is. Because through it all, we lean on God, we trust in God to bring us through these trials. And we signs along the way that He is doing just that.

We have other friends that share their vehicles as we need them the most. Phone calls to hospitals bring good news. God is still good. He is still working.

There is a tendency in our lives to be in control, to take of everything that comes our way, and not to seek help. It's a sign of strength to take of things without help. It's a sign of weakness to seek help. Yet, it's by sitting back and letting God work that we see his goodness, and we experience his mercy in our trials.

So while I have no idea what trial might come next, I know that I will stick with God, and that He will show His goodness to me. Because God is good.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The True Light

In Isaiah, the great prophet prophesies of a light coming into the world. That light would be the messiah.

Flash forward seven hundred years. John writes in his gospel about the Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning..." (John 1:1)

John also brings these two images of Jesus together. "In him was life, and that life was the light of men." (John 1:4)

In this weeks message we looked at the Light of the World, the Word, to see what we might learn of him from these passages...

To read the message in it's entirety, or to hear an audio recording, please click the title below:

January 4, 2009 - The True Light

Thanks for reading.

God's Omnipotence and Omnipresence

Food for thought... Last Sunday we had a visitor in services.  After service he came forward and introduced himself and told me he had h...