Unification of the Church

Unification of the Church

 

“A house divided against itself will fall.” Luke 11:17Cross.3.jpg

            When the Lord Jesus taught all who listened for his three year ministry on earth, he never once said, “And after lots of people accept the truth of the gospel, it is important that you build many church buildings and split up into thousands of denominations. Don’t worry about unity, I’ll fix that later!”

            The followers of Jesus were known as “The Church.” Not the churches! From the beginning, those who believed in the message of salvation taught by Jesus and then the apostles were changed into unified believers who met in different places. They were also referred to as followers of The Way—Acts 22:4 and the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).

            Today there are thousands of Christian denominations in America and all over the world. Men of God who guide these church organizations are content to be separate from their fellow believers, to maintain multimillion-dollar budgets as they “build bigger barns.”

   John 17:20-23  I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—I in them and you in me.  Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me
. The Message

  Romans 12:3-5  Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.

   Ephesians 1:22-23  God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.  

   Ephesians 4:1-6  Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over all, through all, and in all.

   Ephesians 4:11-16  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

   Colossians 1:18  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

            In the secular world, people greet new acquaintances with a question formed something like this, “And what do you do?” or “What line of work are you in?” We do this to determine something about the person. Are they clever? Are they talented? Are they wealthy? Should I feel intimidated?

            But in the church world, we ask, “What church do you attend?” This is the fatal division question. Are you charismatic? Pentecostal? Formal? Conservative? Do you believe in the gifts of the Spirit? Are you baptized in the Holy Spirit? Once saved, always saved? Does your church use musical instruments during worship? What day of the week do you meet? DIVISION!

           

  

 

 

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Weekly Bible Study-Determination

Weekly Bible Study-Determination

Weekly Bible Study

Determination

August 19, 2017

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.” 1 Cor. 15:58

How do we remain steadfast in our faith when our lives seem to fall apart? Sitting in church, surrounded by people of like faith, singing songs of worship to God, our Savior and listening to the encouraging words of men of God, our faith seems reasonable and steadfast. Yes, we proclaim, we will overcome and be victorious. Glory to God!

But then, later in the day or perhaps the following day, our problems begin to creep back in and slowly take away that previous victory we proclaimed. Mountains of debt, illness, death, failure in life, business collapse and more tear at our faith, shredding the very foundation on which it is built. What will I do? Where is God in the midst of all this?

Deeper and deeper we fall, grasping for a handhold that speaks of God and His promises to provide and care for us in every situation. Where is the light at the end of this very dark, dark tunnel? There must be an answer.

There is. The answers are all waiting for us in His words to all mankind, the Bible. Unfortunately, when we focus on the problems mounting all around, our feelings take over and guide us down a path of discontent, fear, insecurity, doubt and frustration. We want God to give us a break and solve the problems…even though we may be the cause.

Perhaps living in a time when everything seems possible, every want seems likely to be fulfilled and every person seems promised to have it all, confuses and derails our faith in Christ. However, He has warned us in the Bible that our lives may have suffering, trials, enemies, and even imprisonment, for the sake of our faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:58 So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.

2 Peter 3:13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

If we had joined a group of people dedicated to protecting our city against enemy foes who promised to destroy all of us, we would prepare for the impending battle. There would be classes teaching everyone how to stand firm against the foes. We would be prepared to possibly give our lives for the cause. We would take it seriously, keeping an eye to the horizon, ever-watchful, ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

The fact is, we are in spiritual warfare, facing the enemy of our soul, Satan, who desires to destroy everything good. Without our faith intact, we are defenseless to defeat our greatest arch-enemy. Since he cannot take away our promise of eternal life, he can make us useless with fear, discouragement and despair. This is war and we are in the fight of our lives. Even so, God is now and will always be, victorious over Satan.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Romans 8:31 What is there left to say? If God is for us, who can be against us? He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need?

A squad of Navy Seals were gearing up to rescue two journalists from certain death, even though their top secret orders seemed to have been leaked to the enemy. If true, this meant these men would be facing certain death. When asked why, then, would they go ahead with the mission, the leader said, “We’re Navy Seals, that’s what we do.” No backing down, even in the face of death, the mission must be carried out.

As followers of Christ, that should be our attitude no matter the circumstance. With Jesus as our leader and Savior, we should not back down, allow fear to rule, feel inferior or hopeless. “He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind”-1 Timothy 1:7.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.

How Do I Know I’m Saved

How Do I Know I’m Saved

 

Perhaps you have already trusted Jesus Christ as your own Savior, yet . . . you’re not sure if what you did took hold in your life. God loves you and wants you to fully experience the peace and life that only He can give, including knowing without a doubt that you belong to Him. So, let’s start from the very beginning and review the steps you took when you turned your life over to God.

Being at peace with God is not automatic because human beings by nature are separated from God. The Bible says, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (Romans 3:23). Romans 6:23 adds: “sin pays its wage — death; but God’s free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” Humanity has tried to bridge this separation in many ways — through good deeds or religious acts, for example — but none of these things are enough to close the gap between God and humans.

God’s love is the only way to bridge the gap of separation between God and humanity. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for our sins. In the Bible, Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). It also says, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ and accepted His death on the cross as payment for our personal sins, we now belong to Him. The Bible says this about those who received Jesus and believed in Him: “He gave them the right to become God’s children” (John 1:12).

Sinning doesn’t mean we lose our relationship wit God. If it did, then every little slip-up would put us in jeopardy and Christ’s death, which covers all our sins, would be useless. Nor does waking up one morning “not feeling saved” mean that we’re in spiritual danger. While feelings are a part of life, they are not an indicator of truth. Compare our relationship with God to a marriage. Any married couple will have to admit that sometimes they just don’t feel in love. Their feelings, however, don’t mean that they are no longer married.

Again, good deeds and religious acts don’t give you salvation. However, wanting to serve God and to change your actions are indicators that you belong to Him (see Galatians 5:22-24). The Bible strongly states that true believers have a clear desire to live in a way that honors the Lord: “If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions” (1 John 1:6). Jesus Christ gives us this promise, “ I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28). If you know in your heart that you have committed your life to Christ but you doubt your salvation, look to God’s Word for assurance:

God accepts everyone who calls on His name (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).

God will never push us away (John 6:37).

God’s love endures forever (Psalm 136).

We cannot be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).

© Starting Point Study Bible

Do All Roads Lead to God?

Do All Roads Lead to God?

“You must be born again”  John 3:7

Years ago, down in the South, two children were going at it on the grassy front yard; yelling, scratching and pulling hair. After several minutes of this mayhem, the front door opened and their mother called to them in a melodious, magnolia-infused voice, “Y’all play sweet now.”

Many people seem to think that this scenario represents God’s attitude toward us. After all, He wouldn’t want to offend or insult any of His creations would He? Or would He?

“God helps those who help themselves” is one quote attributed to God which, if followed, makes us equal partners with God. We work hard at helping ourselves and God comes along to give us a reward and a pat on the back. God becomes our buddy, our helper, who is anxious that we should have whatever we want. This idea of God is non-threatening and easy to get along with. After all, God is love! Right?

John 3:16  For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is an old quote not heard much anymore. However, it speaks truth to most relationship situations. For example, when we read the Bible verse, John 3:16 over and over, year in and year out the words lose their power. We become contemptuous of what God is saying through this easily spoken series of words: “God loved the world so much he gave his only Son, so if we believe in him we won’t die!” Cool.

If all roads lead to God then why in the world would God have given His only Son to die for all people everywhere? What would be the point of such a drastic measure if every religious belief system leads people to God?

Consider the harsh reality of the words in John 3:16—He gave his only Son. Gave his only son? Did God give Jesus something? How serious is this? If you know history at all then you probably know that Jesus was falsely accused, arrested, beaten nearly to death and then forced to drag his own cross through the streets—to the place of his death—where nails were driven through his hands and feet, attaching him to the cross. Yes, large spikes driven through his already torn, bloody and ripped flesh. A sledge hammer was used to pound the spikes through his hands and feet. This represents God’s love!

Because the world is so familiar with those words, “God loved the world so much…” we have come to a place of treating them with no respect or understanding. God loves you and I so very, very much that He put the sins of all the world on His only Son, Jesus. Jesus became sin for you and me. My sins are forgiven when I understand that Jesus died for them which defies human logic.  However, I have faith that it happened. And my faith has transformed my life…both now and forever.

So, is God our buddy who is not really too worried about what road we take to heaven? Not really. Why would God bring Christ to the world to die as a sacrifice for sins and then casually say, “Hey, don’t worry about your faith or belief. It’s all good.” All roads do not lead to the same destination. Neither in this world or the next.

Matthew 7:13-14  Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.

Acts 4:10-12  But there is something we must tell you and everyone else in Israel. This man is standing here completely well because of the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth. You put Jesus to death on a cross, but God raised him to life. He is the stone that you builders thought was worthless, and now he is the most important stone of all. Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8-10  Because of [God’s] kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.

Romans 10:9-10, 13  For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation. Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Acts 2:36  “Therefore I clearly state to everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus you crucified to be the Lord, the Messiah!”

So then, do all roads lead to God? No! However, God has done everything possible, including the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, to provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. Faith in Christ brings forgiveness and eternal life.

Is God’s Will A Mystery?

Is God’s Will A Mystery?

 

 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” ~Mark 3:35

 

Many Christians spend countless hours on their knees, begging God for an idea as to His will for their lives. Thousands of sermons have been preached, books written and website columns produced, advising believers of the 10 best steps to finding His will (often there is a fee for the book or website subscription).

Considering the extreme measure God has taken for our forgiveness and eternal salvation, is it reasonable to think He would hide His will for our lives? Would God take a perverse pleasure in watching us grovel around begging Him to reveal His purpose and direction instead of happily and joyfully directing our lives to follow a path He alone has created just for us? No secret password needed fellow Christians, God reveals aspects of His will sprinkled throughout the Bible—His love letter to us.

Just as a building needs a foundation for support, God has provided the necessary spiritual support to guide us into all knowledge and understanding of His will. He gave us the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16-17, 26  ~And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

John 14:26  ~But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

1 John 2:27  ~You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

Romans 12:1-2  ~And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  ~Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:9-10  ~So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

So you see, God has provided everything we need to hear His voice, and live according to His will. Romans establishes steps that open the door for the realization of His will in our lives: 1. Give our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice which is true worship. 2. Don’t copy the world (be separate). 3. Let God transform our thoughts which gives birth to the understanding of His good and pleasing and perfect will for our lives.

I call out to God, “Oh God, show me your perfect will for my life.”

God replies, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances!”

Deep Under Cover: Review

Deep Under Cover: Review

Well-written, well-told true story of an enthusiastic young East German Communist willing to risk his life for the propagation of what he thought was the ultimate socialist life for the world.

Jack Barsky, with the assistance of writer Cindy Coloma, recounts with vivid detail, his double life in America living out the assignment of gathering useable information to exploit the weakness of capitalism and democracy as played out in America. Much to his eventual surprise, American life was far from despicable but enviable. And, as he was forced to see with clarity, Communism fell far short of the model government and guide for the world. It was clearly the opposite, favoring those in the upper levels and ignoring the masses.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

David Nelson

Mind or Spirit?

Mind or Spirit?

“The mind of man plans his way”  Proverbs 16:9

“It is quite plain in the scriptural revelation that spiritual things are hidden by a veil, and by nature, a human does not have the ability to comprehend and get hold of them. He comes up against a blank wall. He takes doctrine and texts and proofs and creeds and theology, and lays them up like a wall – but he cannot find the gate! He stands in the darkness and all about him is intellectual knowledge of God – but not the knowledge of God, for there is a difference between the intellectual knowledge of God and the Spirit-revealed knowledge.”  ~A.W. Tozer

Isa. 55:8-9  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

1 Cor. 2:14 , “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Jn. 16:12-14  “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

1 Cor. 2:6-9  “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.”

1 Cor. 1:18-29  “I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God. For God says, “I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.”

“What about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. But God has opened the eyes of those called to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, to see that Christ is the mighty power of God to save them; Christ himself is the center of God’s wise plan for their salvation. This so-called “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest plan of the wisest man, and God in his weakness—Christ dying on the cross—is far stronger than any man.”

“Notice among yourselves, dear brothers, that few of you who follow Christ have big names or power or wealth. Instead, God has deliberately chosen to use ideas the world considers foolish and of little worth in order to shame those people considered by the world as wise and great. He has chosen a plan despised by the world, counted as nothing at all, and used it to bring down to nothing those the world considers great, so that no one anywhere can ever brag in the presence of God.”

Often we struggle to seem clever, smart, self-contained and able to tackle any task that comes our way. The result, when successful, is pride. Humans want to elevate people, to praise them and admire them. Large churches are filled with followers of a person. God has clearly explained He wants us to be dependent on Him, not ourselves. Many years ago, Billy Graham went on the Dick Cavett Show to be interviewed. Cavette was not a believer. Each time he asked a question to belittle Graham, Billy replied with a smile, “Dick, the Bible says. . .” After a few such answers, Cavette was visibly uncomfortable, wishing for the show to end. Billy chose to be weak in his flesh to be strong in the Spirit.