One Reason It’s Hard to Serve in Church

A small cross of twigsChurches generally struggle to get people to be involved in service, and to live out the truth that everyone is to be a minister and use their gifts to serve God. The common teaching is that this is to be done in a local congregation, within an organized church.

However, it’s almost always a struggle to get people involved, despite repeated encouragement. This is often chalked up to apathy, or distractions, or people not prioritizing kingdom work appropriately. However, maybe there’s more to it, and the reason has more to do with God leading people to serve in ways not on the church list, but people don’t know how to do that. Or perhaps they don’t have a clear leading, don’t feel like committing to something without one, and don’t know how to seek the Lord about service. Continue reading

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The Spirit of the Antichrist in Today’s World

A small cross of twigsIn today’s world of fake news and alternative facts, discernment is increasingly important. This is no less true in the spiritual realm, where it is even more important for eternal matters. Scripture gives guidance to practice discernment in a number of places, but one of the most direct is in 1 John 4. The common view of that verse seems to limit its application today, but careful examination reveals additional details that are very helpful. Continue reading

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The Difference of Christian Discipleship

A small cross of twigsAs Christians, we are to make disciples of Jesus, forming a growing group of people who become more and more Christ-like each day. To be successful at this, we need to understand what making disciples involves. Of course, it starts with evangelism and proclaiming the Gospel, but that is only the beginning of the lifelong activity of discipleship. To really be successful, we need to understand the difference between Christian discipleship and secular discipleship.

The discussion in this essay considers these things from a new perspective, and reveals something important that is often forgotten. Continue reading

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Innovating in the Spirit

In high-tech businesses, people labor in a world dominated by technology and finances. Because profit is the primary goal, it’s easy to become distracted. Yet we are still to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). Some businesses have Christian newsletters, and that can help, as do prayer groups and Bible studies at work, and opportunities to minister to others. We are also to work diligently at our jobs,  but is there a spiritual basis of the work itself? Continue reading

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Learning to Walk with the Mind of Christ

There are many aspects to one’s walk with the Lord, but knowing the Word is centrally important. Understanding the truths of Scripture is an example of having spiritual discernment in general, because the important things in Scripture are spiritual truths. There are many resources about interpreting the truths of Scripture as intellectual exercise, but these may not apply to all cases where one needs spiritual discernment. There seems to be something missing, and I think we can see that when we look at the New Testament’s teachings about discerning truth. For example, Paul had some wise words that can be applied to interpreting Scripture with the proper mindset: Continue reading

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Proclaiming the Kingdom with Prayer

In an earlier post, I discussed the reality and significance of God answering the early church’s prayer for boldness. In this post, we will look at another aspect of their answered prayer: their request for signs and miracles. We will see a strong relationship between God’s actions in providing such miracles, and the spiritual response of those who see them. Today, while we often pray for miracles within the church for our comfort, the picture in Acts is predominantly that of miracles occurring outside the church resulting in salvations. Is this significant? By looking at the passages in Acts, we can gain some insight into God’s heart for working miracles. And perhaps, if we are also open to reaching out boldly, we will find an approach that can be used today, in our own communities. Continue reading

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Seeking a Fresh Look at the “Welcoming Time”

The “welcoming time” has become a fixture at churches across America, with the goal to make visitors comfortable and to give regulars a time to visit during the service. Time before the service is often hectic as people arrive late, are jostling to find seats, and perhaps reading the bulletin. Afterwards, it’s common for people to leave quickly, heading out to lunch or other activities. Although both of these times could, and perhaps should, be times for the same kinds of activity as the welcoming time, the reality is that it generally doesn’t happen. So, the structured time within the service provides a time to visit when everyone is settled.

However, anyone who pays attention during this time, and especially anyone who has experienced it as an uncomfortable visitor, knows that not everyone experiences it the same way. The meek visitor full of questions has a much different experience than the gregarious “old timer” who seems to know everyone there — they clearly are not equal in their ability to interact and benefit from that time.

Such differences bring to mind a passage from James that, although focused on money, may offer some insights to make this time even more effective. Continue reading

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Holidays like Easter give us a great opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to reflect on the importance and reality of that historical event. It’s obvious to Christians that His resurrection is the most significant moment in history, but even non-Christians acknowledge the impact of Jesus. Celebrating the resurrection helps us remember it, however it’s also important for us to remember that the resurrection wasn’t the end of Jesus’ ministry, but the beginning.

Since it was at the beginning of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), the resurrection involves more than a single moment in time — its importance continues through history because He continues to work through history, both among and through His people. He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), so His defeat of death doesn’t just mean that He rose two thousand years ago, it means that He still lives and is still with us. (Colossians 1:27)

We can count on the fact that, especially in days of uncertainty, we are not alone, for the One who overcame the world is with us. (John 16:33)

Paul was given this understanding on the road to Damascus, when Jesus told him that he would be a witness not just to that single experience, but to all that Paul would see Him do. (Acts 26:16) Paul would go on to see Jesus work miracles through him, provide support for him in Corinth, provide guidance on his mission trips, and more. Paul was able to personally witness to the reality of the resurrected Christ because of his own experiences with Him.

Just like Paul, we are witnesses to all that we see Jesus doing in and around us. The reality of His ongoing life and presence makes Acts 1:8 an ongoing truth — we not only testify to the fact that He changed our life some time in the past, but also to the difference His presence makes every day.

The resurrection was not just a one-time defeat of death, it released an ongoing source of abundant life. Look around at all that He is doing in your life today, so you can testify to the reality of His resurrection, the reality of everything we have to celebrate this season.

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Understanding Gideon and the Fleece

The story of Gideon’s fleece is well known. For a long time I didn’t really understand it, because it seemed like Gideon was testing God. But I recently re-read the account, and noticed an earlier encounter between Gideon and the Lord that provides valuable context for the later episodes of the fleece.
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On the Plains

Our spiritual walks have many ups and downs. We speak of mountaintop experiences, where God’s presence is especially manifest to us. During such times we feel as if our spiritual batteries are being recharged, and we’re ready to face the valleys of life. We think of those valleys in terms of the “valley of death”, and know that our Lord is with us. These are the times of Job, when we find that God’s presence is especially close during times of trial.

So we see the Lord walking with us on the mountain tops and valleys, and even carrying us from time to time. But what about the boring, featureless, daily plains of life? Continue reading

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