Discipleship Articles

Baptism

Water: We drink it, cook with it, swim in it, and bathe in it. We also use it in a Christian ritual, Baptism. But the value of water in Baptism is in symbol, not substance.

BAPTISM IS A SPIRITUAL RITE-OF-PASSAGE
Spiritual life involves constant progress. That progress is marked by transitions from one level of faith to another. Baptism is the mark of our most important transition. The ritual of Baptism duplicates the model of Jesus Christ when He was crucified, buried, and returned to life. When Christ rose, His body was different than before. He was free from the limitations and pain of mortality. This is the transition from death to life. The Christian life follows His pattern. We “sacrifice” our lives by giving them to God. Our old lives, with their wrong actions and evil desires, are “buried.” God then gives us a new life, inspired and energized by His Spirit. Baptism represents this three-stage process. We believe in Jesus and join Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism is our rite-of-passage into the Christian life. If we’re willing to be baptized, we’re ready for the sacrifices and joy of following Jesus.

THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE
Something happens in baptism we cannot see or control. It is the invisible work of God’s Spirit in the person being baptized. We tend to exaggerate the external rite of Baptism and miss the more important spiritual part. Baptism is a physical act, but isn’t “magic.” When people of genuine faith are baptized as an act of obedience to Jesus, they are “initiated” into the Church, God’s spiritual community on earth (1Corinthians 12:13). Their Baptism becomes a powerful witness of God’s forgiveness, the end of their old life, and the beginning of their new life in Christ.

THE PHYSICAL RITUAL
The act of Baptism involves being submerged in water—or sometimes sprinkled—to symbolize the death, burial, and resurrection, which we share with Christ (Romans 6:3-7). As the person being baptized is immersed, the minister pronounces the words, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” In this way we “act out” our new allegiance to God and identify ourselves with His people.

WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?
Every Christian needs to be baptized and should try to make it one of their first spiritual acts. (Matthew 28:19) The rest of our Christian life depends on our willingness to abbey Jesus and go with Him through death into new life. Jesus commands us to be baptized because He wants to mark us as His own, fill us with His Spirit, make us members of His church, and have us grow in God.

BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE
Jesus does something special for you in Baptism by recognizing a point in time when you leave the old life and enter the new. Through Baptism He brings you another step closer to God’s design for you. Our church celebrates Baptism as an act of worship. The whole church is involved. We sing, pray, and seek to draw close to God. When you’re being baptized, it’s good to know God is near and, on the other side of your Baptism; the church welcomes you into a more complete, Christ- ordered life. If you have questions, please give us a call.

Heaven

Would you get excited about a vacation if no one could tell you where you were going, what you would do there, or how to get there? If we’re going to be happy about visiting a new vacation site or moving to a new city, we have to have some basic information. Christians would be more excited about Heaven if the information they had wasn’t so vague. Our lack of enthusiasm for Heaven shows in our low level of spiritual growth. Why strive to go to Heave or give up earthly pleasures if we don’t know what Heaven is all about? Jesus said, “ Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19- 21). Too many Christians store up their treasures here on earth.

WHAT HEAVEN ISN’T
The popular picture of Heaven is people in white robes, sitting around on fluffy clouds, playing small harps. The Christian picture of Heaven as an eternal church service is even less appealing. Heaven isn’t an amusement park or a retirement home; it isn’t boring or silly. People get the wrong idea when they interpret metaphors of Heaven literally. Heaven isn’t “up” above the sky. In fact, Heaven doesn’t occupy space in the physical universe. Theologian J. Buswell said, “ I do not think that Heaven is any great distance away. If it were the will of God, we could see the face of our Lord Jesus Christ at any moment.” Heaven lies in the very real, spiritual universe, which God also occupies.

WHAT HEAVEN IS
Heaven is a city (Revelation 22:1-2). Heaven is a busy city where the gates are open and the lights are on twenty-four hours a day (Revelation 21:25; 22:5). Heaven is a secure city-no death; crime, grieving or pain exists inside its walls (Revelation 21:4, 8). Evil and occultism are banished from Heaven (Revelation 21:27; 22:14-15). A pure river flows through the city, and its waters are life giving. Trees with medicinal leaves grow on each bank of the river (Revelation 22:4- 5). We shouldn’t think of Heaven as a castle in the clouds; it’s solid and real. Though Heaven isn’t imaginary, we may use our imagination to fill in some of its inexpressible beauty (2 Corinthians 12:4). The best news about Heaven is God live there (1 Kings 8:30; Revelation 21:2-3). The inhabitants of Heaven enjoy the pleasure of seeing His face (Revelation 22:4). Heaven has no temple “because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22). Jesus promised to prepare a place for His followers in Heaven, and then return for them so they could be with Him (John 14:3). Jesus is Heaven’s treasure and there we will worship Him with unrestrained joy (Revelation 4:6-14). Even now, every encounter with Jesus is a taste of Heaven.

WHAT WE’LL DO IN HEAVEN
In Heaven we’ll be busy doing a lot of the same things we do now. There will be all the activities associated with city life as well as travel, social interactions, and magnificent worship. Imagine the joy of music, singing, feasting, and loving without threat of violence, theft, or broken hearts. We will have “spiritual bodies” adapted for Heaven and eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:35-49; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). In the resurrected body of Jesus we have a preview of what our new bodies will be like (Philippians 3:20-21). Jesus ate, held conversations, explained, instructed, and traveled in his glorified body (Matthew 26:29, etc.). He was still interested in relationships, but He wasn’t bound by physical restraints. Our life in Heaven won’t be completely different from our present life. You will be the same person you are now, and you will still be making progress in your knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6).

YOU’RE INVITED
Revelation 22:17 is a universal invitation. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”…Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” You’re invited to Heaven, but the question is, what does it take to get there?

Joy

Baptized in lemon juice!” Some Christians have been described this way. Crabby dispositions, sour expressions on their faces, and a cranky outlook on life. They’re not only miserable to be around, they misrepresent God.

The true effect of Christianity is joy. The lessons Jesus taught were meant to make the joy of His followers “full” or complete (John 15:11; 16:24).

DIVINE JOY
God is the source of pure joy. Jesus referred to “rejoicing in heaven” (Luke 15:7), the Psalms talk about God “rejoicing in His works” (Psalms 104:31), and prophets go so far as to say God “rejoices with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). God’s joy is spiritual and transcends every human feeling or experience.

Christians derive their joy from God. God is a “well of salvation” from which we draw water with joy (Isaiah 12:2-3). In the presence of God, believers find “fullness of joy” (Psalms 16:11). Every Christian virtue that brings us joy, such as faith, hope and love, is from God.

JOY IN WHAT GOD DOES
God takes pleasure in His handiwork, and we are filled with His joy when we discover and meditate on all He has done in creation (Psalm 92:4) and for us (Psalm 5:11). The joy of God’s salvation is especially intense (Psalm 51:12) and finds its fullest expression in the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:9-11). Joy breaks out wherever the good news of God’s love is proclaimed and people open their hearts to the life and power of Jesus (Acts 8:8).

Our anticipation of God’s work in the future produces a joy that helps sustain us through grief and pain we have to endure now (John 16:22; 1 Peter 4:13; 2 Corinthians 4:17). Being able to see a future joy is what enabled Jesus to beat the shame and torment of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

JOY IN GOD HIMSELF
The ultimate source of joy isn’t what God has done, but God himself. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). We can’t always rejoice in our circumstances, but we can rejoice in the Lord who transcends our circumstances! Our joy is located above the ups and downs of life. We don’t have to see God to rejoice in Him. Just believing can fill us with “an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

Joy can come to us as a sudden, spontaneous pang of emotion, but it is also a constant attitude we carry deep within our hearts. At all times, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Paul listed first love, then joy, as the fruit of the Spirit (qualities produced in us by God’s Spirit, Galatians 5:22). Thus, joy is the result of God’s Spirit working in our lives and not something we struggle to “feel” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The Holy Spirit is constantly working to maintain joy within us as individual believers and within our spiritual community (Acts 13:52).

Though joy is a key feature of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17), we won’t always have smiles on our faces or float through joy to follow (Psalm 126:5-6; John 16:20-22; 2 Corinthians 4:17). However, in a comforting and real way, the Christian can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Everyone experiences moments of happiness. The human capacity for pleasure is as great as its capacity for pain. But happiness is different from the divine joy God places in our hearts, which is unknown to the world apart from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14). The joy of being loved and cared for by God, of having all guilt washed away, of becoming a member of His family, and growing in Christ is all wonderful. But the greatest of all joys is found only in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11). If you would like to know more about the joy of knowing God, please call us and we will be happy to help you any way we can.

Prophecy

Predictions! Which do you trust? The weather report? Tabloid headlines? Whether silly or serious, predictions are intriguing. Why? Because our knowledge of events is normally restricted to the past and present. The future is a mystery. Prophecy isn’t prediction. Prophecy is divine communication, the revelation of God’s truth. Some Bible prophecies contain predictions, which fall into four categories: fulfilled in the past, fulfilled in the present, fulfilled in the future, and dual fulfillment (partial fulfillment with more yet to come).

THE “LAST THINGS”
Eschatology is the “study of last things;” events which have to do with the end of human history. Since earliest predictions have been fulfilled with astounding accuracy, the remainder seems certain (2 Peter 1:19- 21). Prophecy has been called, “history written before it happened” because God knows “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10).

A PROPHETIC CALENDAR
The prophecy of Daniel contains a time-line of prophetic events. Within the framework of “seventy sevens,” an outline of history moves toward the fulfillment of all “vision and prophecy” (Daniel 9:24-27). This time- line depicts a succession of world governments up to God’s eternal kingdom under “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 7:13-14). But the time-line is broken by a space Jesus called the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 24:21) during which salvation is offered to the world (see Romans 9-11, especially 11:25). When the time-line resumes, God will return His favor to Israel and history will quickly come to a close. When Israel became a nation in 1948, many people felt it marked the beginning of the last period of history.

END TIME EVENTS
The Great Tribulation. The Old Testament refers to a final “judgment day” bringing an end to evil but, also salvation to God’s people (“The Day of the Lord,” Joel 3:14-17). Though judgment days occurred in history (Isaiah 13:6,9), an ultimate day became a central theme. During this day of darkness and disaster (Ezekiel 30:3; Amos 5:18-20), described by Jesus as “great tribulation” (Matthew 24; 2 Thessalonians 2: Revelation 6-13 & 15-18), the whole world suffers and God’s people are severely persecuted. Another feature of this time is widespread deception (Matthew 24:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), culminating in a blasphemy called “the abomination of desolation” –a shrine to the evil world leader, or “Antichrist”(Matthew 24:15; Revelation 13; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

The Rapture. Christians who are alive when Jesus returns will be “caught up” to meet Him “in the clouds” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is a sudden event and instant transformation (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; Philippians 3:20-21). Much speculation shrouds the “rapture” and there’s debate among Christians as to when it will occur. Biblical evidence supports a “pre-tribulation” rapture.

The Return of Christ. Jesus’ promise to return for His followers is the New Testament hope (John 14:3; Acts 1:9-11;etc.). This is His parousia (“coming” like the arrival of a king), apokalupsis (“unveiling,” Revelation 1:7), and epiphania (“appearing” in which He “shines forth,” 2 Thessalonians 2:8). It is also the day of resurrection for all believers (1 Corinthians 15:21-23) and judgment on unbelievers (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

The Millennium. When Jesus returns He will begin a thousand-year reign. The earth will be a paradise without violence or sorrow. At the end of the millennium sin resumes briefly, and then is abolished forever (Revelation 20:1-10).

The Judgment. At the end of time, all humanity appears in God’s court (Revelation 20:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Those who know Jesus as their Savior are listed in His “Book of Life,” but the actions of everyone else are found in His “books” (Revelation 20:12). Though believers in Jesus escape judgment, the quality of our work is tested (1
Corinthians 3:11-15).

APPLICATION TO OUR LIVES
When studying prophecy, it’s easy to misuse and misinterpret scripture. Too often people believe they’ve found a match between predictions and specific, current events. We shouldn’t be dogmatic about our discoveries and we shouldn’t exploit the fear people fee when hearing about these thins for the first time. Christians need to be humble; there’s more to the end times that we don’t know than what we do know.

Peter asked, “What kind of people ought you to be,” knowing the world will come to an end? He answers, “ You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God…”(2 Peter 3:11-12). This is the message of prophecy; worship God (Revelation 19:10), live “upright and
godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-14), and keep watching for Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:42-44).

We have more information available on Bible prophecy and would be happy to share it with you when you call or write.

The Bible

The most important book anyone could read or study is the Bible. Some books help us understand subjects like human behavior, science, and history, and other books are simply entertaining. But the Bible takes us outside our physical universe into the heart of God.

THE BEAUTY OF THIS ANCIENT BOOK
The Bible is like a mobile library containing sixty-six different books. The two main divisions of the Bible are the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament tells the history of the nation Israel. The New Testament tells the story of Jesus Christ. But the Bible is more than histories and stories. It is the only book God has ever authored. God is a communicator: He wants you to know Him, to know His ways and what He has for you.

Because God is spirit, we can’t see Him or touch Him. We can’t peer at Him through a telescope or run experiments on Him in a laboratory. But God has spoken to us. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. The truth about God, His nature, thoughts, and will are revealed in the Bible. It bridges the gap from the invisible God to our tangible world.

THE VALUE OF READING THE BIBLE
Your Creator had a design in mind when He made you. As you study the Bible, you not only discover God, but you learn what He wants your life to be, and what He demands from you.

Reading the Bible is important because it holds the key to meaning and purpose. Sometimes you look at your overbooked agenda and say, “ There’s got to be more to life!” There is. The Bible tells us what that “More” is and how to find it.

HOW THE BIBLE CAN EMPOWER YOU
The Bible makes promises to those who read it. For instance, it says it will revive your soul, make you wise, give you joy, enlighten your eyes, provide warning, and great reward (Psalms 19:7-11). In another place the Bible promises its readers hope, encouragement, and comfort. Best of all, however, the Bible tells us the truth about God and how to know Him. Through its message we can meet God, experience Him, and discover a relationship with Him.

EXPLORING THE BIBLE
In our church, we do exhaustive research into the history, language, and meaning of the Bible, so we can apply its lessons to the practical issues of our lives. We work hard at knowing God as He has revealed Himself to us. We take the teaching of the Bible seriously, and use it as a guide for living.

We try to structure our personal lives and our church community life around the truth of the Bible. Our commitment to God and to you is to do our best to help you really understand the Bible, and its place in your life.

ENJOYING THE BIBLE
Do you look forward to going to your mailbox and looking through your mail? How about playing back the messages on your answer-phone? Maybe you’re hoping for a call from a friend, or a letter announcing that you’ve won a million-dollar sweepstakes.

The Bible is like a mailbox. God has placed messages in it for you. You can go to the Bible everyday to see what He has to say to you. We are here to help you understand God’s message. We provide Bible studies, outlines, cassette tapes and other material to help you understand the Bible. We also have a research department that would love to answer your questions and assist your study of scripture. Various services offered at our church will enable you to read, understand, and enjoy this most important book ever written, the Holy Bible.

If you have question, please give us a call.

Community

“Are you lonesome tonight?” If not tonight, then sometime in your life you’ve been lonely, and it’s likely you’ll be lonely again. God’s remedy for loneliness is “community.”

WHAT IS COMMUNITY?
Community is a collection of individuals bound together by common interests, beliefs, or a cause. Though we use the word “community” to describe a “group,” it also describes what people experience within the group. This experience provides its members a sense of belonging, acceptance, and strength.

BIBLICAL COMMUNITY
The best biblical examples of community occur in the Book of Acts; the main features being unity, concern for each other, sharing of belongings, frequent meetings, shared meals, and worshipping together (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35).

In the church, the whole community bolsters each individual’s strength. They not only pool their resources to solve problems, but they combine their prayers and ideas as well (see Acts 6:1-5).

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
Churches tend to become rigid institutions, but their true design is community. The individual talents and gifts of its members strengthen the whole community. Thus we have to exercise a high level of tolerance for diversity because the “gifts” others have are different from our own (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). The Christian community accepts everyone. The community is a safe place; people can laugh or cry, ask for help or give help, be strong or be weak. Here our relationships go deeper than the social masks we usually wear (Romans 12:9-16).

COMMUNICATION
Community thrives on honest and open communication (fellowship). Here people can admit they have unmet needs. We are accepted without others trying to “straighten us out” (Romans 15:7). The community exists to listen, help and pray, but not to “fix” people’s lives. Only God can fix us.

God’s Spirit inspires a love and unity within the Church, which Christians are to help maintain (Ephesians 4:4). Close relationships form between people who have learned to be realistic about their strengths and weaknesses, and are willing to work at encouraging others.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH
John Donne captured the true sense of community when he said, “ No man is an island.” Community is a place where individuals become whole people. No one becomes a “whole person” living in solitude. We need other people to develop our full strength.

For this reason, it’s not surprising to find a variety of support groups within the church community. In these smaller environments-home Bible studies, substance abuse groups, etc.-we learn the importance of trust, commitment, and love. Without them, we fall apart.

BEFORE GOD
The Christian community meets together for two purposes: to glorify God (1 Peter 4:11) and to edify-or strengthen-each other (1 Corinthians 14:26). We worship God and give Him our needs through prayer. We also minister encouragement to each other through the personal care we have to offer.

If you would like more information about our community, please call.

Holiness

Look at my holey jeans!! My brother held his pants with the holes in the knees as if they were sacred! Neither one of us knew what “holy” meant. If you wonder whether you need to know what holiness means, consider this: “Make every effort…to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Though holiness is essential to our relationship with God, it is difficult to define because its meaning is several layers deep.

THE PERSONAL LAYER
Holiness has to do with a Person: God. Holiness is not an attribute of God, it is His nature. Angels in the presence of God continuously sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Why aren’t they chanting “Love, love, love,” or “Good, good, good”? What are they saying about God? Here is the key to understanding the first level of holiness.

The angels are saying something about the central feature of God’s nature: His otherness or transcendence. God’s awesome majesty is unparalleled by anything we can know or experience (Exodus 15:11). His splendor (Psalms 96:9), truth (Revelation 6:10), and moral perfection are beyond human comprehension (Isaiah 5:16). God is the “Holy One” (Isaiah 43:15).

THE RELATIONAL LAYER
God alone is the source of all holiness, so other things become holy only as they relate to Him. Therefore, at the next level, holiness is a relational word meaning “something that belongs to God.” The Sabbath was holy because it was God’s day. The temple was a holy building, Zion a holy mountain, Israel a holy people-all because they belonged to God.

Belonging to God meant they were “marked off, separated, withdrawn from ordinary use” (W. Eichrodt) because of God’s exclusive ownership.

The New Testament word “saint” or “holy one” simply means a person who belongs to God. The words “sanctify” and “hallow,” mean to make holy. Through the sacrifice of Jesus we’ve been made holy so we can live in God’s presence.

THE MORAL LAYER
If being holy means we belong to God, it also means we recognize His ownership and obey Him. This moral level of holiness requires us to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1). In the Old Testament, holiness includes ceremonial purity as well as right moral behavior (Leviticus chapters 11 and 19). The motive behind these regulations is, “Be holy because I, the LORD, am holy.” Only by moving into God’s sphere of holiness can we hope to relate to Him. Therefore, holiness has religious as well as daily application (1 Peter 1:14-16).

THE SPIRITUAL LAYER
Here is where many people distort their faith. The command of God is to “be holy,” not “do holy things.” You won’t become holy by doing holy things-even “unholy” people can do holy things. Only after God has made us holy by His Spirit, word, and sacrifice of Christ are we really able to do what’s right (Romans 15:16; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:10). R. C. Sproul reminds us we aren’t supposed to conform to the world. But he says the answer isn’t nonconformity – like wearing different styles of clothing or boycotting entertainment. The biblical response isn’t to be non-conformed, but transformed (Romans 12:2). Holiness is a work of God that transforms our hearts leading us to integrity and complete devotion to His will.

Some Christians think holiness means flawless perfection. They tend to be legalistic and judgmental. But every church Paul addressed, as “saints” also had to be told to give up anger, greed, theft, lies, gossip, and immorality. Like other aspects of Christian growth, becoming holy is a process that is worked out in our daily actions as we walk with God. Our holiness is important enough to involve God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 10:10; 13:14; etc.). Because Moses underestimated the importance of standing up for God’s holiness, he was barred from entering the promised land (Deuteronomy 32:51).

Holiness-which is also related to health and wholeness-affects our whole being: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). God’s goal is for your life to be wholly His.

If you would like to learn more about holiness, please call.

The Lord's Supper

In a sense, every meal is sacred. We “bless’ God each time we sit down to eat. But in the Bible, one meal is more important and meaningful than all the rest.

TALKING ABOUT THE LORD’S SUPPER
Formal churches refer to the Lord’s Supper as “Eucharist”-which means “to give thanks.” This describes what we do when we receive the Lord’s Supper.

Independent churches call the Lord’s Supper “Communion” in reference to our communion with Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:16). This word describes what occurs during the Lord’s Supper.

It is in 1 Corinthians 11:20 that we find the term “The Lord’s Supper.

THE USE OF SYMBOLS
Worship makes use of rituals and symbols to represent spiritual truth. Symbols put within our reach invisible and intangible realities. They’re powerful tools for worship.

The ingredients of the Lord’s Supper are simple; bread and wine. Jesus gave them new meaning. They are symbols of His body, which was “broken for us,” and His blood, which was “poured out for us.” Thus the cross of Jesus is the key to our relationship with God.

THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE LORD’S SUPPER
Throughout history, God revealed Himself through great acts. As wonderful as these great acts were, they raise a problem for later generations. How can we have the same relationship with God if we haven’t experienced the same events?

The answer is worship. Rituals re-present those events. Through rituals we bring into the present, events from the past. In this way, all the benefits of those events become ours. We don’t try to relive the events, but encounter the God of those events.

The Lord’s Supper enables us to receive the benefits of Jesus’ death. We encounter God and seal a covenant relationship with Him (see Matthew 26:28).

THE TIMELESS ELEMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Today we stand between two great events-Jesus’ first and second coming-and we’re to live in the dynamic power of them. Somehow the Lord’s Supper connects us to both.

Jesus designed the Lord’s Supper for us who live in the middle of His two comings. He told His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” but He also told them “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Paul makes the same point when he says by receiving the Lord’s Supper we “proclaim his death until He comes.” We don’t have the resurrection or return of Christ in our grasp, but we do have the Lord’s Supper. This is how Jesus presents Himself to us now and nourishes our spiritual life.

THE MYSTICAL ELEMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
It isn’t enough for followers of Jesus to hear His teaching. His life must somehow enter us. This is what happens when we receive the Lord’s Supper. Jesus enters us, not through the bread and the wined, but through faith.

The Lord’s Supper provides us with direct access to God. Whenever we observe it, we treat it with reverence.

But remember, the Lord’s Supper is for people who need help. It’s for us who have weaknesses, pain, trouble, and fears. The Lord’s Supper renews our hearts and refreshes our spirits. And it helps us become intimate with Jesus.

If you have questions, please give us a call.

Repentance

Repentance Have you ever seen someone carrying a sign that says, “Turn or Burn” or with the words “Repent or Perish” written on their t-shirt? Even if these messages look comical, they capture an important truth. Repentance is the first step of a genuine relationship with God (Acts 3:19).

THE CONCEPT OF REPENTANCE
The Old Testament’s favorite term for repentance is turn (Ezekiel 33:11). There are always two sides to turning; there is turning away from sin and turning to God. The Greek word metanoia is used in the New Testament for repentance (meta means “change” and nous means “the mind”). The concept behind repentance is change; a change of mind about sin, God, and the direction of our lives.

Repentance is also a change in our perspective, leading to a change in values, attitude and behavior.

There’s no repentance where there’s no change in behavior.

REPENTANCE AND CHRISTIAN LIVING
Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries with the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). The Christian message and the Christian life begin with repentance (Acts 11:18). Turning “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” is a sure sign of new life in Christ (1Thessalonians 1:9). Even after we are well on our way, repentance still plays a role in our Christian life because it helps us return to God whenever we’ve done wrong and to improve our behavior when we discover there’s a better way to live. Godly people aren’t sinless, but they always come back to God after they’ve sinned (1 John 1:8-10). We go through many changes as we’re “transformed into his likeness” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Repentance helps to carry us forward in spiritual maturity.

MORE THAN BEING SORRY
The motive for repentance is frequently sorrow over our failure. But there’s a “worldly sorrow” that brings death. Some people are sorry they did wrong, others are sorry they got caught, but repentance is being sorry enough to quit. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation…” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Change is normally difficult for humans, so it isn’t surprising that repentance is sometimes preceded by pain. If we’re comfortable with our current behavior, why improve? Pain and grief compel us to examine our lives, to face what is wrong, and to work at fixing the problem. “Come, “said the prophet Hosea, “let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us” (Hosea 6:1; 2Corinthians 7:11).

HOW TO REPENT
Repentance begins with your confession of sin (Psalms 51; 1 John 1:9). Without admitting we’ve done wrong or need God’s help, we can’t repent. God gives us powerful resources for change, but we have to confess our sin and weakness. Through confession we make our problem His problem.

Secondly, we need to really receive forgiveness. Think of Jesus personally telling you, “Your sins are forgiven, leave your life of sin.” Pray, “Lord, I receive Your forgiveness in the depths of my being.”

Thirdly, we ask God to help us change, to turn closer to His ideal. Sometimes we need the prayers of others so we can be completely “healed” (James 5:16). Then begin some specific actions that demonstrate your intent to change (Matthew 3:8). Paul’s message was that people “should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20). This may mean you pour your booze down the sink, make restitution to someone, apologize to a friend, or join a support group for accountability.

If you would like to know more about repentance or have someone walk you through it, please call us. We want you to discover the joy of God’s forgiveness and the freedom of a genuine relationship with Him.

Tithing

Jesus gave excellent advice on financial investments-though we don’t usually think of His teaching this way. He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

TITHING IS AN OLD TESTAMENT CONCEPT
In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to give ten-percent of their income. This included any increase in flocks, herds, or crops. The old English word for one-tenth is “tithe.” Besides the tithe, God required His people to make “offerings” for the maintenance of worship, care for the temple, and the salaries of the priests. Other offerings given out of love were also accepted. When Israel failed to tithe, God accused them of “robbing” Him (see Nehemiah 13:10-13 and Malachi 3:8-13).

Some Christians feel tithing doesn’t apply to them. But tithing to the priesthood of Jesus existed long before the law was given (see Hebrews 6:20; 7:4-10).

CHRISTIAN GIVING
Christians are to be free from the “love of money,” and every earthly attachment. (1Timothy 6:10)

Whether Christians are suppose to tithe is debatable, but there’s no doubt we’re to be givers. Jesus said if we’re generous with others, God will be generous with us. He is our model of generosity. (Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 8:9).

Collections in the New Testament were given to help the poor and supply the needs of ministers.

TITHING AND STEWARDSHIP
Some Christians claim tithing has boosted their income, and you may hear stories about businessmen who started giving ten-percent; as they prospered they gave twenty-percent, then thirty, and so on. But there’s no magic to tithing.

The real issue is stewardship. Stewardship implies that everything we have belongs to God. Being a good steward is managing our resources well, using them in ways that please God, but not wasting them or striving to become rich. Tithing is one aspect of good stewardship.

PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN GIVING
First, Christians are to give themselves. Giving “self” is more important than giving money (2 Corinthians 8:5).

Secondly, giving is similar to planting and reaping. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly” and “whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). The reaping, however, may not occur in this lifetime.

Thirdly, you have to determine in your own heart how much you can give “cheerfully.” The Bible forbids forcing anyone to give. You are to give only within your means (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7).

Fourth, God will bless “givers” to do even greater things (2 Corinthians 9:8-15).

Fifth, Paul tells Christians to first give to the ministry meeting their spiritual needs. Afterwards one may consider other worthy causes (2 Corinthians 9:7-14; Galatians 6:10).

Sixth, God wants us to be “rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:17-18). He wants us to be personally involved in helping others and not merely anonymous donors.

GIVING IS WORSHIP
For us, giving is worship. It’s spiritual sacrifice, an expression of gratitude, because everything we have and enjoy comes from God. It’s a free expression of our love for God, whose gift to us infinitely outweighs anything we could ever give in return. If you have questions, please give us a call.

Worship

Imagine watching your team fight their way to a major victory. What is a normal response? We jump to our feet, applaud, cheer, and shout. We consider this perfectly natural. Worship is a perfectly natural response to God.

THE GOD WE WORSHIP
There is something about God that inspires worship. The more you study the universe or the human brain, the more your sense of wonder grows. What a God of wisdom, skill, and power! We worship God because of the splendor of His being.

But we also worship God for personal reasons: He loves us, answers our prayers, and watches over us. So we worship God for who He is and what He’s done.

WORSHIP IS A RESPONSE
Worship doesn’t begin with us but with God. We respond to our Creator. We give expression to feelings we have regarding Him, feelings of awe and love. The more we focus our concentration on Him, the greater and deeper our response of worship.

HOW WORSHIP EXPRESSES ITSELF
Worship finds many means of creative expression. For instance, we worship God with words as in prayer, poetry, and song. We worship God through rituals (e.g., Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and meaningful gestures (kneeling or lifting our hands, Psalms 141:2). Music is also an important expression of worship.

We also worship God in quiet wonder: a spiritual expression from deep within our hearts, something beyond words.

SPIRITUAL SACRIFICE
In the Bible, sacrifice was a major component of worship. People gave God something of value. Christians are to “offer their bodies as living sacrifices.”

In other words, we present-or yield-our whole lives to God when we worship. Surrender to God is the heart of worship. This form of worship includes giving every action of our daily lives to God, whether our occupation, education, hobby, or play (Colossians 3:17). Anything you do can be made an act of worship.

PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT
Unlike spectators at a game, you can’t worship God as an observer. Worship requires participation. Our experience of God in worship grows in proportion to our involvement.

FORMS OF WORSHIP
Praise: Creative, outward expression of God’s greatness.

Exalt: Speak of God’s superiority over anything else.

Thank: Acknowledge God-the source of help and blessing.

Bless: Give God the richest part of our lives.

Proclaim: Tell others about God and His works.

Adore: Inward contemplation and devotion.

ENCOUNTER WITH GOD
God has chosen to manifest His presence to us in worship. It’s not surprising for people to have a powerful experience of God during worship. He often comes to us in the middle of a song or prayer. An encounter with God is different from feeling emotionally moved by music or drama. Real encounters empower us and help us to make important life changes.

If you would like to learn more about worship, please give us a call.

God's Will

A prophet sat before a large church and called out a name. A young man stood with his wife. After proving he had divine insight into their lives, the prophet said, “God wants you to move to Kansas, start a farm, any your agricultural innovations will attract international attention, giving third-world governments the means to feed their people.” Wouldn’t you like to hear God’s voice that clearly? Usually God isn’t specific about the details of your life. In fact, it’s a good idea to be a little skeptical of people who tell you what God wants you to do (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). Still, we could use a simple guide to God’s will.

KNOWING GOD’S WILL- IN GENERAL
God has taken a lot of the guess-work out of knowing His will. For instance, His commandments define right and wrong behaviors. All His rules can be reduced to two commands, “Love your God with all your heart,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:20-31; Romans 13:8-10).

There are also specific Christian behaviors we know God wants us to adopt. The Bible says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” and we’re told to “be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:16-18). Christians aren’t to be “foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17).

We can be certain of God’s will in these matters because it is universal.

KNOWING GOD’S WILL-SPECIFICALLY
According to the Bible each person has a “calling” or destiny. God’s calling gives every human life a purpose, but it also involves us in some kind of service to other people. Having a calling doesn’t mean God tells us the exact career we’re to choose, what company to work for, or how to spend our retirement years. The Bible stresses the importance of using wisdom to make sound decisions. The responsibility of decision- making lies in our hands.

For most of us, God’s will isn’t something we know from birth, but unfolds as we go through life. Even if we have a good idea of what He’s designed us to be, there are still many questions that are answered only as we obey Him.

MOVING FROM GENERAL TO SPECIFIC
The key to fulfilling God’s call is to obey the part of His will we know for certain. By cooperating in what we do know, we develop a greater awareness of His complete design. Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).

We can relieve ourselves from the stress of trying to figure out God’s will if we realize it is already active in our lives, and as we do what we know is right, He will entrust us with more.

USING WISDOM TO MAKE DECISIONS
The best decisions are made when we have a good view of our whole life. The book of Proverbs frequently tells us to look at the consequences of issues and choose character and integrity over greed and laziness.

The following steps might help us get a whole-life perspective:

Prayer opens up God’s will (Colossians 1:9).

Scripture gives us insight into God and His ways.

Wise counsel gives us an advantage over our own knowledge (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15).

Review your life; what you enjoy, what you do well, important turning points and where they may be leading you.

Non-conformity to the world and transformation in Christ opens our minds to the will of God (Romans 12:2). Your best wisdom and common sense are necessary (Proverbs 4:7; 24:3).

Your best wisdom and common sense are necessary (Proverbs 4:7; 24:3).

Divine leading is also sometimes given to people through the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2). On the other hand, don’t try to read God’s will from your circumstances (i.e., “What was God trying to tell me through that car wreck?”).

Living in God’s will is more important that knowing every detail of it (which we can’t know anyway). As long as we submit out lives to His control and obey His commandments, we will successfully do His will (2 Peter 1:5-11). A simple, daily prayer might be, “God, I surrender to Your will. Guide my steps and direct my life.” If you would like further help understanding God’s will, call us and we will provide our best counsel and insight.

The Holy Spirit

When you pray, you’re instantly in touch with God through His Spirit. God does His work in your life through His Spirit. God’s Spirit is powerful yet gentle, invisible but real, hidden yet inescapable. He is as close to you as your breath.

IS HE SCARY?
Some Christians are afraid of the Holy Spirit, and who can blame them? Perhaps they’ve been mauled by fanatics who sat them in a circle, “laid hands” on them, then shouted gibberish in their ears. Or we’re apprehensive because of the way radio preachers refer to the “Holy Ghost.”

There’s no need to fear God’s Spirit. He’s neither a ghost nor a cosmic force. The Holy Spirit is a person.

WHAT’S HE LIKE?
The Holy Spirit is like Jesus, Jesus promised His disciples “another Counselor,” the Spirit (John 14:16-17). The Greek word translated “another” means “another of the same kind.” Jesus promised us a supernatural Counselor who is just like Himself!

We know we can trust Jesus. He is loving and kind. The Spirit is like Jesus, and is, in fact, called “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7).

THE SPIRIT “WITH” US
Jesus told the disciples the Holy Spirit “lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). The Spirit is with us before we turn to God. He works on our hearts, stirring up thoughts and feelings, so we’ll want God. He also “convinces” us of our need for Jesus (John 16:8-11). THE SPIRIT “IN” US When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit moves inside of us (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14). This is how Jesus “indwells” Christians, and it would be correct to say “Jesus lives in us by His Spirit” (Romans 8:10-11).

The Spirit works within us to promote Christian growth, new life (regeneration), enlightenment, changes in our nature, and help in prayer.

THE SPIRIT “UPON” US
Jesus told the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” The Holy Spirit lives in us to help us become strong Christians, but He comes on us to do God’s work in God’s power. This is also referred to as being “filled” with the Spirit (Acts 4:8).

The “filling” is supernatural and enables Christians to work beyond their own capacities. This experience was known in the Old Testament as well, but the main feature of the New Testament is that it applies to all Christians and not just a select class of prophets, priests, and kings (Acts 2:16-33).

FRUIT AND GIFTS
The Holy Spirit living in us promotes the formation of Christian character. Qualities He produces are called “the fruit of the Spirit” and include love, joy, peace, and patience (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we’re ready to serve God, whether to people inside or outside the church, the Spirit comes on us to give us power to succeed. The Spirit gives every Christian “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Whenever the need arises, the Spirit enables us to use these gifts to serve others.

If you would like to learn more about the Holy Spirit, please give us a call.

Prayer

Prayer A twelve-year-old boy decided he didn’t like the way the postal service handled his mail, so he wrote a letter to his congressman. He was shocked when two federal agents showed up at his door! He didn’t anticipate anyone taking him seriously and he didn’t know his letter had such power.

Most Christians have never guessed the tremendous power they have when they touch God through prayer.

THE BASIC IDEA BEHIND PRAYER
Prayer is a spiritual conversation. Our prayers aren’t helped by making them sound religious or eloquent. Prayer is a conversation, we speak and listen. Through prayer we reach God, who can change our lives and circumstances. That’s why people pray.

CONFESSION
The first prayer we need to learn is confession. Wrong actions create blockages in our prayer life. We confess our sin to be rid of it. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The Bible assures us of forgiveness if we confess our sin to God.

We also confess weaknesses and the tendency to sin. God transforms our attitude and behavior to promote our spiritual development.

PETITION
A petition is a request for yourself. It covers basic needs. Through petition we ask God for help in all the affairs of our lives. No request is too small. God would rather have you relying on Him for everything, than not trusting Him for anything.

Jesus taught us to make our requests “in His name.” He provides us access to God. He is the “one Mediator” between God and humans.

INTERCESSION
Intercession is a request for someone else.

We are able to help people by praying for their physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being. We can pray nearby or from miles away. We’re to pray for Christian leaders too, and members of the church, so their lives will be always oriented to Jesus.

The secret of intercession is to pray as seriously and energetically for someone else as you do for yourself.

PRAISE
Praise is an acknowledgment of God’s goodness, greatness, and “loving kindness.” The Bible tells us to give God thanks for everything. And it is very important to thank God when He’s answered your prayers.

FRIENDLY CONVERSATION
Perhaps the most satisfying prayer is when you want to communicate with God without asking for anything. This is sometimes called “fellowship” or “communion.” It is a form of prayer that is intimate and satisfying.

OPPORTUNITY TO PRAY
We believe anyone can develop an effective prayer life. We want you to feel comfortable talking to God, and pray so well it becomes a “second language.”

If you have questions please give us a call.

Salvation

Salvation “Jesus Saves!” This two-word message can be found everywhere; printed on plaques in Christian homes, shining in neon letters over inner city churches, scribbled in the margins of old Bibles, and painted on walls as graffiti.

Some Christians like to tell their friends, “I’ve been saved,” or “Jesus saved me!” Or they ask their friends, “Have you been saved?” What does it all mean?

THE TWO MEANINGS OF “SALVATION”
The New Testament word translated “saved” has two meanings: “rescue” and “heal.” In the Bible, God is the Rescuer and Healer, and we are those to be rescued and healed.

What are we rescued from? Because we’ve done things we knew were wrong, we owe a debt to justice. Until it’s paid we bear the guilt of our wrong actions.

We also need to realize the natural human condition is separation from God. No one can see or touch God. He lives in another realm–a spiritual realm. If we go on living without God, we’ll die and spend eternity without Him.

These two problems converge. Our wrong actions are ultimately self- destructive, because they intensify our separation from God who is both just and good. So we need to be rescued from our wrong actions (sin), but also from its guilt and consequence (hell).

What is it that needs to be healed? Simply, our natural tendency to do wrong, and our broken link with God.

HOW ARE WE “RESCUED” AND “HEALED”?
Separated from God, we’re in spiritual darkness. However, God shined a light into our darkness, showing us the way to rescue and healing. Jesus Christ, the light of the world shows us the path to God’s door. The life and teaching of Jesus tells us everything we need to know about God. By dying on the cross—a death He did not deserve—Jesus made it possible for us to be rescued from our sin, guilt, and punishment. When our sins are forgiven, we’re enabled to see God in Jesus, and our relationship with Him is healed.

Jesus is the center of salvation. His name means “The Lord’s Salvation,” and He is called “The Savior.”

THE PROCESS OF SALVATION
Salvation is a process affecting our past, present, and future. We “have been saved” because Jesus died and our sins are forgiven. We “are being saved” because God is working in our lives. We “will be saved” when we’re physically resurrected to enjoy eternal life with God. This process is described by these theological terms:

Atonement: sins are atoned, “covered,” “put away” by the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Justification: to be declared “right” in God’s court because Jesus paid our penalty.

Sanctification: “to make holy” or “make saints.” This is what God is currently doing in the lives of those He saves.

Reconciliation: changed from God’s enemies into His friends through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Regeneration: birth of a new and spiritual life, “born again.”

Substitution: Jesus taking someone else’s place: their sin, guilt, and punishment.

ACCESS TO GOD’S SALVATION
If you were drowning in the ocean, wouldn’t you scramble into a rescue boat? The Bible assumes we need rescuing and will eagerly reach out for God’s salvation. The first step is to recognize our spiritual condition.

God’s salvation is free. Our staff is trained to introduce people to Jesus Christ and lead them into salvation through loving instruction and prayer.

If you have questions, please give us a call.

The Trinity

Would you like to understand the doctrine of the Trinity? You can’t! That’s the conclusion of hundreds of theologians for the last 166 years. The Trinity is a mystery. So how does this doctrine improve our faith in God?

WHAT IS THE TRINITY?
In the words of the Athanasian Creed, true Christians “worship one God in Trinity, and trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons; nor dividing the substance.” There is only one God who is revealed in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But how can that be?

“I DON’T GET IT”
No doctrine has created more confusion for Christians than the Trinity. Try to explain it to a class of fourth graders, or even adults! Our ordinary, logical skills breakdown when we try to understand it. On the one hand, we’re encouraged by the uniqueness of Christianity. No other religion or philosophy ever suggested such a concept, and it’s doubtful the human mind would invent something so opposed to its own capacities. On the other hand, we’re still baffled by the Trinity.

HOW THIS DOCTRINE DEVELOPED
The Bible makes clear there is only one God. This is the major struggle of the Old Testament, convincing Israel that other gods are “not gods at all” (Jeremiah 2:11). The many gods of the heathen were merely human inventions (Jeremiah 16:20); there is only one true God (Isaiah 45:6).

But when we come to the New Testament we find God fully revealing Himself through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 14:9). In fact the “fullness of the Deity lives” in Christ, and Jesus is God and “one” with God (John 1:1; 10:30).

However, in other passages Jesus is mentioned separately from God the Father (Matthew 3:17), and even says the Father is “greater” than He (John 14:28).

There are verses that describe the Holy Spirit in such a way that He is seen as a Person (John 16:7, 13, etc.), but He too becomes distinct from God the Father at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16).

SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM
The doctrine of the Trinity developed as the solution to a problem. Scriptures teach that there is one God, and the Father is God (Isaiah 63:16), Jesus is God, and the Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). The solution?

The one God is revealed in three persons.

The word “persons” has a different meaning for us than the theologians who first used it. It didn’t mean God had separate identities. God is one, but to accomplish His purpose among humans He reveals Himself to us in three distinct ways.

The Father is forever exalted above all creation. The Son is human like us, revealing the Father’s nature and love, and reconciling us to Him (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Spirit communicates to us the heart and mind of God while inspiring and energizing our spiritual lives (1 Corinthians 2:9- 12; Romans 8:9-11).

WHERE DO WE STAND?
We are face to face with a mystery, but it’s a wonderful mystery. When you embrace Jesus, you embrace God. When the Spirit moves within you, it is no one less than your Creator.

The concept of the Trinity is ideal for meditation. Because we can’t understand it, we are forced to go beyond the realm of our comprehension into the realm of God Himself.

You no doubt have questions still, so please call us if you would like more help or information.