The importance of sharing the gospel of Christ with those who are lost cannot be over-emphasized. Jesus wants everyone to hear the good news of salvation (Mk 16:15-16), and has provided the gospel as God’s power to save all who believe it (Ro 1:16-17).
But what is the most effective way to reach people today? The Institute For American Church Growth asked over 10,000 people this question: “What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” Their replies were: Read More
Getting Christmas Right Part 2
Isaiah 9:1-2 (ESV)
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Have you ever trusted in the wrong thing? Have you ever trusted in someone only to be disappointed, betrayed, and even severely hurt? The Book of Isaiah is all about a people who were placing their trust in the wrong thing. We must be very careful that our hope is not placed in people, even ones who look to be trust worthy. People fail us and are very poor vessels for trust. Read More
Advent Reading Guide
Advent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”) is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus; in other words, the period immediately before Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on Advent Sunday. The Eastern churches begin the liturgical year on 1 September. The Eastern Christian equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast but it differs both in length and observances.
The progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic calendar, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25; in other words, the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive.— Wikipedia
Getting Christmas Right
Luke 2:1-20 (ESV)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
From the beginning, God has related to man by covenant. Read More
Thinking and Living Christ
Ephes. 4:17-24 (ESV)
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ!-  assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
When challenged with the thought of dying for the Gospel, Paul replied:
Philip. 1:21-26 (ESV)
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
In other words, Read More
Church Growth…God’s Way
Ephes. 4:7-16 (ESV)
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  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.
In recent years, there have been countless trees give their lives for the purpose of producing books on church growth. This is one of the dominant topics in the Christian bookstores. As one walks the aisles, one can amass an armload of these supposed foolproof processes to pastor a mega-church. If you simply follow the principles given within the pages one will wake up one day in the Crystal Cathedral, every pastor’s dream. Read More
STAY OUT OF THE CHURCH GROWTH QUICKSAND!
By Phil VanAuken
Many a congregation has learned the hard way that church growth is a two-edged sword. The benefits and advantages of growth– more members, more ministries, more money– are obvious and inviting. Less obvious are the potential costs of overextended facilities and resources, possible staff/volunteer burnout, and the climate of disruptive change. Church growth is a complicated phenomenon that raises new problems and thorny issues not all congregations are ready for. Let’s turn our attention to some of the tougher questions raised by church growth. Read More
Walking in Unity
Ephes. 4:1-6 (ESV)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The first three chapters of Ephesians are behind us. They were mostly doctrinal in nature. They taught what things we are to believe. If one is to behave correctly, one must believe correctly, otherwise one is engaged in a religion of works not obedience from the heart. Paul is going to show us in the remainder of the book how it is we are to live out these great truths. He moves from theology to practicality. Proper theology (orthodoxy) should always lead to proper living (orthopraxy). If it doesn’t then there is something wrong with the theology or our understanding of it. Read More
Ephes. 3:14-21 (ESV)
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Have you ever started to pray and before you were finished, you were thinking about something else? The other day someone called me on the phone and asked me to pray for a young lady they knew who was struggling. As I prayed for her I was also thinking about some useful counseling resources. That led me to think about seminary where I received my counseling degree…that led me to think about where we lived and our daily routine…that led me to think about walking across the railroad tracks to class…and that led me to think about smashing pennies on the tracks…Oh how we get distracted.
Paul began a prayer in Ephesians 3:1 but was quickly led to contemplate the riches of Christ. His distraction was much better than mine. Now he is back to his prayer and he sort of picks up where he left off. From verses 3:2-3:13 he was lost in the riches of Christ. Now he is back on planet earth and busy praying for the churches. Read More
The Mysterious Gospel
Ephes. 3:1-13 (ESV)
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-  assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.  When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Four times in this passage Paul uses the word mystery. I love a good mystery. I love to watch movies that don’t unravel till the end. It’s a good movie if you’re kept on the edge of your seat and then at the end it all makes sense. That’s what the word means today. However, that’s not exactly what Paul means by the word mystery here in this text. For Paul, he uses this word to express something beyond natural knowledge, but has been opened to us by divine revelation through the Holy Spirit. Read More