Marks of Christian Unity: Weep with Those Who Weep

Growth in unity as believers is shown in how we respond when others go through joyous moments or are enduring trials. As believers, we know that we will face trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Jesus even warned us with the truth that in this life we will face tribulations but we can take heart because He has overcome this world (John 16:33). Going through trials is nothing new, it is matter of when we will face them not if we will face them. We should not be surprised when we face trials and suffering as though something strange is happening, as Peter reminds us (1 Peter 4:12).

As believers, we know that we will never face trials alone. There is something refreshing and encouraging to know that when we face different trials, we have the Lord, who will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We also have the physical presence of fellow Christians, who will weep with us as we weep (Romans 12:15). I am so thankful for the body of Christ! I personally have seen the unity of the body of Christ as they have wept with me as I wept. Their presence and love bring a whole new level of comfort that I did not know. Continue reading

Be…Like Aquila and Priscilla

As a pastor, there are many times that I am thankful for those who have gone out of their way to assist me, and see that their way of serving the Lord is by blessing me and my family. They are special to me and I can say I thank the Lord for them!

God establishes the body of Christ to help one another. Each person in the body of Christ has a part to play in God’s overall plan in this world. Paul wrote, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12 esv). We see when hospitality is given in the body of Christ that there is unity. The apostle Paul knew a couple with that trait: Aquila and Priscilla. Continue reading

Marks of Christian Unity: Rejoicing with One Another

 As a parent, there are certain things that I am less desirous of doing than others, such as going to Costco as a family. Don’t get me wrong; I love being with my family and I love spending time with them. But Costco is usually busy, and when you have three young children, it’s just not that easy. I always tell my wife, Alyssa, that it is like trying to herd cats.

There have been successful trips to Costco and that is when we are all moving together with the same goal. We get in, have fun, and get the items we came for. Plus, the kids get to eat all the free samples!

In the same way, the church is made up of more than individual Christians; we are a body of believers that is called a family. We can easily start going our own way and doing our own thing. That is why Paul urges the church to be unified. He writes to the Philippian church, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2 esv).
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Be…Like Onesiphorus

The Bible is full of encouragement and direction in pointing the Christian to look to Jesus. One of those ways is through the example of Bible characters. We get to see the good and the bad, the celebrations and the warnings, all which points us to God’s unmerited grace in the lives of the saints.

“Be” is a new series that will focus on different characters of the Bible and will highlight either their Christlike character or we will see the warning from how they lived. It’s easy when one reads Scripture to put themselves in certain texts and want to be like Paul or David or Peter. Though this may not be bad, the Christian’s ultimate goal is to put on the character of Christ (Colossians 3). The “Be” series will focus on those people mentioned once or twice in Scripture that were a help or a hurt to the church. Continue reading

Can Trials Be Our Opportunity?

FIND YOUR REAL PURPOSE IN LIFE. 

I got another e-mail—a friend who is facing a trial. I thought, “Wow, another person, Lord!”

Yes, I know that we will face trials. The Bible reminds us that we will face trials of various kinds (James 1:2). We will face opposition and suffering (John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12). This is part of living in a fallen world—I know that. But, the question is not so much how to fight through trials but how one can thrive in trials. Throughout the New Testament, we read of apostles who thrived in trials. One particular story is found in the book of Acts and it changes our perspective of trials.
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Jesus is the Triumphant King

Jesus the Triumphant kingIt is Palm Sunday and we can go through the traditional mindset of Passion Week. But, let us not treat Palm Sunday like an event on rotation on the calendar. This event in history is huge. It was prophesied many many years before Christ and of  the Old Testament prophet Zechariah prophesied by saying,

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foul of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).”

Zechariah was writing of what we read Jesus did to fulfill this prophecy as he entered into Jerusalem at the beginning of passion week, riding on a colt as the Triumphant King.

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The Art of Patience

untitled-designHave you ever been asked by your children for the same thing over and over again? You start getting frustrated, your eye starts twitching. Or, maybe it’s me. I have this tendency to show patience to others but can be very impatient to those who are close to me.

Maybe it’s not your kids but you have had to endure the abuse from some authority or peer at work. Maybe it’s a neighbor and your patience for them is growing thin. They keep doing that one thing to annoy you. Or, maybe it is a physical ailment. Something that seems to be consuming your thoughts and it doesn’t look like it is going away.

The apostle Paul writes, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12–13 ESV).

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A Good Conversation

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The other day I met a gentleman for coffee who was interested in serving in ministry. I wanted to hear a little about himself and his heart in ministry. I left that conversation excited about ministry, desiring to reach the next generation, and realizing that time is precious. It was one of those conversations that I walked away thankful for men like the one I just talked with.

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Being Thankful in All Circumstances

We have much to be thankful for. If we just take a moment, there are several blessings that we can be grateful to God for. But what about those moments when life is hard?

In the list of one-liners that Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we find that we are called to be thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.

Paul uses the inclusive word all. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be thankful in all circumstances. John MacArthur says, “Thankfulness should be the fabric of your life as a Christian.”

Being thankful to God is more than just saying thank you with your words; it is the attitude behind it. David wrote in the Psalms, “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart” (Psalm 138:1).

Really, there is no excuse for the believer to be ungrateful. Yes, we will face hardships and trials. Yes, there are the realities of sin which we are not thankful for. What Paul is saying in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is that we as believers are called to be thankful in all circumstances, and even in tough circumstances we can be thankful.

How can we be thankful in all circumstances?

1) A heart that has been impacted by the gospel is a heart that gives thanks.

Being thankful is not just one for Thanksgiving once a year. Thankfulness is a reflection of a heart that has been transformed by Jesus Christ.

The gospel changes us. We are not the same. We are a new creation and the old has gone (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have received a new heart; the heart of stone has been removed and we’ve received a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). You were dead in your trespasses but as a believer you are made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2). Because of Jesus Christ, we do not stand condemned for our sin but forgiven (Romans 8:1).

No matter what happens, no matter what circumstance we are facing, we can always be thankful because of the work done on the cross through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

2) We need to reflect and remember God’s goodness and sovereignty.

Paul writes that we have this special relationship with God because of what Jesus has done for us. He says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).

The word Abba is endearing. It is equivalent to us saying Daddy. I love being a father and I love when I come home and my children run out screaming, “Daddy’s home!” There is this closeness; they are my children and I am their father. They can run up to me and say, “Daddy!”

Because of Jesus we are adopted into the family of God, sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16). As sons and daughters, we see God as our Father (Daddy) and we know He is good and in charge.

Paul speaks of what Christ has done, how we are set free from the bondage of slavery (sin), and are free in Christ. We don’t understand what is going on in the world but we do know this: we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

In this statement Paul points us to two things: God is good and He does good. What does good mean? Is it just the blessings and fruit when life is going well? No, even in the bad, God is still good. Even in the hardships, we know God is good. Even at the hands of evil, God can use all things for good and His glory.

I love the reminder that Corrie ten Boom shares in her book The Hiding Place. She and her sister Betsie were placed in Ravensbruck, the notorious concentration camp in northern Germany, because they were arrested for helping the Jews flee Holland during World War II. Eric Metaxes, in his book 7 Women, retells the story of when Corrie and her sister Betsie were placed in the horrific living conditions and barracks:

It was a foul-smelling barracks with overflowing toilets and no beds—just wooden structures on which they slept. The straw that was atop these structures was rancid and swarming with fleas.

Corrie was horrified but Betsie, as usual, responded with patience. She reminded Corrie of the Scripture they just read that morning, which was 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18. Betsie urged Corrie to do what the Bible says and to give thanks to God for everything in the barrack, their secret Bible, for the fact that they were hemmed into a building that was designed for four hundred people but now housed 1400 and to even thank God for the fleas.

Corrie’s response to Betsie was, there is no way even God can make me grateful for a flea. As Betsie insisted, Corrie relented and they thanked God even for the fleas.

After their hard day at the concentration camp they would always hold worship service in their barracks. The guards were present but never came in to stop them from their worship service. Corrie and Betsie always wondered why they never got in trouble for having a worship service and it turns out the guards would never enter into the barracks because of the fleas.

Even the fleas were used for good despite the tough situation. God does show His love and goodness to us because He is a good Father who is in charge of every situation.

3) No matter how bad things may get, God’s love is everlasting.

At the end of Romans 8, Paul gives us the reminder that nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. He writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35; 37–39).

What a great truth which motivates our gratitude; God’s love will never be separated from us. I can always be thankful because no one and nothing can rob me of His love that is found in Christ Jesus.

When we think about these truths, we can be thankful in all circumstances.