Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

John 17 is commonly known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. It is a beautiful scene of the Son of God praying like never before. It takes place just moments before Jesus is betrayed by one of His closest followers, arrested by the mob, taken through a mock trial, and sentenced to crucifixion.

This prayer can be broken up into three sections: Jesus praying for Himself (v 1-5), Jesus praying for the disciples that had followed Him while He walked the earth (v 6-19), and Jesus praying for believers that would come as the current disciples shared the gospel (v 20-26).

It is interesting to me to think that while Jesus prayed here in the first century, He was praying for me. Not only was He praying for me, but Jesus was praying for every single person who would hear and respond to the gospel from that time forward. Long before I was a thought in my parents’ minds, I was on Jesus’ prayer list.

Another intersting point of this prayer is that it was prayed long before I became a follower of Jesus. It is easy to pray for those who are “in the family.” How do we do in praying for those who do not yet know the Lord? As followers of Jesus, we should do as our Savior did for us. We should be praying for those who do not know (or yet want to know) the Lord.

The 3 Things That Jesus Prayed For Us

1. Unity (v 21)

Jesus prays that those who place their faith in Him would be a unified people. Though they would come from different walks of life, they would have a common bond in Jesus. Just as the the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are individual in person, they are one in nature and make up the Trinity (Along with the Holy Spirit) that we know as God. Jesus prays that believers would share in this unity, and a result of this unity would be that others would see the truth of the gospel.

2.  Tools For the Mission (v 22-23)

Jesus knows that the future of the mission of God would be carried out by these believers. This mission of telling others the good news of the gospel would need tools to be carried out. Jesus prays and shares His glory with those who trust in Him. This glory is the strength that we need to carry out the mission. Every believer is given everything they need to take the gospel to those who have not heard it.

3.  Security (v 24)

Jesus prays that those who would come to believe in Him would be held and kept secure by the power of God. We do not have to worry about losing our salvation if we have truly received it. If we have been saved by God, then our lives will demonstrate it by taking part in the mission that God has given His church to do. There may be bumps in the road and moments where we fall short, but we will never fall out of the grasp of God’s gracious hand.

It should be an encouragement to us to know that Jesus Himself was praying for us before we were thought about by anyone else. If that’s not enough, then know this: Jesus is still praying for you.

Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and Hd is sitting in the place if honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:34 NLT)

May we as the church be encouraged to be faithful and carry out the mission that God has given to us – to take the gospel to those who need it in word and deed.

I recently shared a message with the church I serve as pastor on Matthew 25:31-46. In this passage, Jesus tells about an event that will take place in the future. It is a wonderful event for those who have faithfully followed Christ. It is also a traumatic event for those who haven’t.

Jesus says that those who are welcomed into heaven are not just those who say that they are followers but show it by their actions. He gives some pretty specific ways that people either demonstrate their faith or don’t.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:35-36)

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. (Matthew 25:42-43)

Jesus said that the demonstration of our faith will determine whether we are in or out. This is not to be mistaken as salvation by merits. The Bible is clear that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).  But that faith is also one that will show itself to be true through actions in our lives (James 2:14-26).

I found this scene that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 very sobering. We can talk a big game about believing in Jesus and being associated with Him. The truth is (from His mouth) the proof is in the fruit. We can say whatever we want, but it is only true when you can back it up.

I had wondered why this was the only place where this was talked about in such detail… that is until I read Job 31.

In Job 31, one can see this man who was having a “rough week” making a final appeal about why the trouble he was experiencing was not a result of sin in his life. In his appeal, Job exclaims…

if I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused eyes if the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep… (Job 31:16-20)

The sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler (Job 31:32)

After reading this chapter, my mind was blown. There it was in plain sight. The ways in which Jesus said that true faith is demonstrated was done by Job in his life.

God’s standards never change.  The Bible tells us that He is an unchanging God (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).  When it comes to His standards, we should not be surprised when He says that those standards do not change either. God still demands that His followers be those who are transformed by the love of God to the point where it effects their actions.

2016 is coming to a close rather quickly. There is not much time to finish up those “to-do” lists. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those lists that had things you wanted to do or accomplish in 2016.

I’m not one that is big on New Year’s resolutions. I am growing more on the making goals and working towards them though. There is something that is motivating and productive about having some things that you want to see in your life.

I’m learning more and more each year that as a year comes to its end, there are some things that are left undone. I don’t like to leave things unfinished, but sometimes it is just the way it goes. Those certain items get moved on to the next year’s goals.

Jesus gave us an example 

I remember hearing early in my walk with Christ that “Jesus is our example.” That is a good saying. As followers of Jesus, we should look to Him as an example (Hebrews 12:2).

When Jesus came to earth, He came with a pretty hefty “to-do” list. Among those things He had to do was:

  • Live a sinless life. Jesus would walk this earth for some 33 years or so. He was to remain sinless every minute of every day. I don’t think that I made it 33 minutes in life without sinning.
  • Remain obedient to the Father’s will. While Jesus was here on the earth, He didn’t seek out His own will. Over and over again, Jesus laid His will down to accomplish the Father’s. We see it when Jesus honors his earthly parents by obeying their wishes (Luke 2:41-51). We also see it moments before Jesus was arrested when He begged for another way but willingly laid His desires aside (Mark 14:32-42).
  • Die in a very specific manner. Jesus knew that He had come to earth to die for the sins of the world. His death would not be in just any fashion. His death would have to be exactly like it happened in order to fulfill the many prophecies that had been given for centuries by God.

With all of these things (and many more) on His “to-do” list, Jesus was able to say with His final words before His death, “It is finished!”(John 19:30)

Jesus finished the tasks that He came to earth to do. He did live the sinless life. He was obedient to the Father. He did fulfill all the prophecies about the Messiah’s death. He did arise from the grave to put an exclamation point on His work.

Jesus is still our example 

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t go into retirement. He started His next work: perfecting His followers.

Paul would state boldly in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

If there are undone things in our lives, it is not because Jesus quit. He is faithful to the task that lies before Him. His timetable may not be the same as ours, but it is always on time.

Get out of the way

If the undone things in our lives are not because Jesus quit, then what could be the cause of them? It might just be that we are in the way and need to move.

As we took down our “live” Christmas tree, I asked my youngest son to hold the front door open so I could take it out. He ran over and held the door open, but we had a problem: he was standing in the middle of the doorway while he held the door open.

I had to tell my son that I couldn’t take the tree out because he was standing in the way. He thought that he was doing what was right. He had a proud look on his face because he was “helping Daddy.” He was still in the way.

Could it be that the one thing keeping us from seeing God move and do what we thought He would in our lives is us? Are we standing in the way… doing what we think is right… trying to help God get His plan done our way… when what He needs is for us to step to the side or fully let go of something?

As 2016 comes to a close, I would encourage you to take an inventory of the past year. Are there things left undone? Are there things that you need to let go or step aside from to see God finish that work in you?  Do it and await that day when you stand before Jesus and hear Him say again, “It is finished!”

discerning-your-call-to-ministry-how-to-know-for-sure-and-what-to-do-about-it-by-jason-allen-0802494633

Discerning Your Call to Ministry

I received a copy of Discerning Your Call to Ministry by Jason K. Allen recently.  I had heard about this book while listening to the Rainer on Leadership podcast.  I was intrigued by what I had heard on this book.  I believe that the content of this book covers some thoughts that those who are wrestling with what God is wanting to do in their lives wrestle with.  Below are some of my thoughts about this book.

At the beginning, Allen jumps right into definition mode.  In the introduction, he shows the difference of being called to minister, called to ministry, and called to the ministry.  This is an important distinction that I believe many do not see.  Allen does a good job of showing the difference and importance of each term.

The meat of the book is divided up into 10 chapters.  Each chapter deals with a question to help the reader better see what God may be doing in his or her own heart.  He uses Bible verses, thoughts from Christian ministers of the past, and personal stories to help the reader wrestle with each question.

The conclusion of the book helps the reader by giving points to pursue in relation to what the reader has discovered about himself or herself through the questions.  It is good that Allen not only helps those who come through the questions still feeling that God is calling them to the ministry of the gospel, but he also shares encouragement for those who do not sense that call.  Allen does not devalue those who are not called to the ministry, but he encourages them to be faithful to what God is calling them to.

As one who has felt the call to the ministry, I remember the times of wrestling and trying to figure out what that meant.  I also remember hearing the stories of many who wrestled much longer with what God was doing in their lives – those who were called to the ministry and those who were not.  I am grateful to Dr. Allen for the work that he has put forth here in Discerning Your Call to Ministry.  I believe that this small book will have a big impact on many men and women going forward who are wondering what God is up to in their lives.

If you sense that God might be up to something and calling you to a deeper service… if you find yourself wrestling with what God is wanting you to do with your life… I would encourage you to get a copy of Discerning Your Call to Ministry and let this great tool help you discern what God is doing in your life.  It will be money well spent.

rapture

There may be one event that Christians are looking forward to more than any other.  It is an event that is called the rapture.  This event in history is unlike anything that has ever taken place.  This event takes place as Jesus keeps His promise to return and take every believer to be with Him for eternity.  What an event!

While this may be one of the most anticipated moments in all of history, it has shocked some to find out that the term “rapture” cannot be found in the Bible.  If the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, why do we expect it so much?  We look forward to this event because while the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, the teaching of the rapture is all over the New Testament.  It is interesting that the terms “Trinity” and “missionary” are also not found in the Bible, but the teaching of both of these terms is saturated throughout the Bible.

The term “rapture” actually comes from the Latin term rapio meaning “to seize or to carry away.” One of the clearest references to this event is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  It is this event that brings great hope to the people of God.  I want to look at four “hopes” that the rapture brings to those who trust in God.

4 Hopes of the Rapture

  1. The hope of reuniting.

At the rapture event, there is a great reunion that takes place. First (and foremost) there will be a reuniting with our Savior face-to-face.  Can you imagine it?  In the blink of an eye, all of our hopes and questions about Christ will be revealed and made plain.  I know that it has not been common practice of a Baptist to dance, but I just have to believe that there will be a little “cutting of the rug” going on at this moment.  We will see Jesus face to face and experience His fullness like never before.

If that weren’t enough, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone on before us into glory.  I’m sure that we all have someone who has been dear to us that we have had to let go far too early. The beautiful hope that a Christian has is that there is never a “good-bye” for believers.  It is simply a “see you later.”  There is coming a day when we will be reunited with our loved ones who have trusted in the Lord and gone before us.  What a day that will be!

2.  The hope of God’s revenge.

Revenge is a strong word and seen by many to have some negative connotations to it.   We are taught from an early age that we should not be vengeful… that we should not seek out our vengeance against another.  Romans 12:19 tells us “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

There may be times when we are wronged and want to get even. Our vengeance will never bring about the result that God desires.  This in no way says that we are to be anyone’s doormat, but rather we have One that will take up our cause and bring about the perfect result in due time.

The rapture event is not just a deliverance for us as believers, it is an indication to creation that the holy God of the universe is not going to let sin go unpunished.  In the rapture, God removes His chosen children out of the way of where His wrath will be poured out.  We should praise God for the ways that He looks out and cares for us.

3.  The hope of release from a troubled world.

This world in which we live is filled with trouble.  It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that we face trouble around every corner in this world.  Jesus told us that it would be this way in John 16:33 = “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are times that our hearts seek out relief from the troubles of this world.  You may be at a point where all you see around you is trouble.  That is one of the effects of sin that entered in the Garden of Eden.  We seek deliverance because something in our hearts tells us that this isn’t right… we weren’t created for misery … there has to be relief.  There is, and that relief is found in Jesus!  When a person comes to faith in Christ, the troubles may not evaporate before them, but the sting of our troubles vanishes before the peace that comes through the Holy Spirit.

The rapture event is a reminder that the troubles that we face here in this world are for but a moment. There is strength for the battle today, but there is coming a full deliverance when our Savior splits the sky and calls us home, and no trouble will ever be able to touch us again.

4.  The hope of unending life.

When a person places their faith into Jesus Christ alone, he or she is promised what the Bible calls “eternal life.”  This is a life that never ends.  This body may one day stop breathing and the heart may stop beating, but this is not all that there is.  Life goes on past the grave.  Each and every person who has ever lived is still alive today in heaven or hell.  Now hell is called the second death because it is the eternal experience of God’s judgment on our sin.  But for the one who has chosen to allow Christ to pay their penalty, and trusted in His going through hell on behalf of us, that person experiences life forever in heaven.

The rapture event is the reminder to all who place their faith in Christ and follow Him only that eternal life is not just something that we sing about or talk about in church services… it is a reality.  Paul taught about this event in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.

The Rapture for Today

Is there any wonder why Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 that we should “comfort one another with these words?”  The rapture event is a hope-filled event that will take place in the near future.  To know that we have not been forgotten… that we have not been abandoned… Praise the Lord!

But what about today?  The rapture event has not taken place yet.  We look forward to its coming.  The hope that the rapture brings us, we are to comfort and encourage one another with these words as 1 Thessalonians 4:18 tells us.

As these words, straight from the heart of God, come to us, we are not only to “pick our heads up” but we are to have courage build up within us to carry out the mission that God has given us as His children.  That mission is to take the gospel that makes this all possible to those who need it.

Just as Christ will one day come and call us out of this sinful world, He has already called us out of the world to be shining lights in the darkness. For those who have already placed their faith in Christ, He has seized you out of the kingdom of darkness and brought you into His kingdom of light.  He has commanded that each of us to live out the reality of His power through word and deed before others so that they can experience it for themselves.

There is no sitting and waiting. There will be no opportunities after the rapture to share your faith with someone so that they may receive the gift of eternal life.  That is a task for the here and now.  Jesus is coming back, and when He does, our opportunities to do what He has commanded will be over.  Those opportunities that bring about the words that every Christian should long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” are only found prior to the rapture event.

While we anticipate the return of Christ and our hopes made sight, there may be some who for the first time realize that they aren’t ready.  Larry Norman (Christian musician of the 1970s) had a famous song, “I Wish We All Been Ready” that spoke about this event.  They are not ready because as they examine their hearts, they realize that they have never truly followed Jesus Christ.  They have not called out to Him in confession and with repentance given themselves to Him wholly.  The beautiful thing about this is that you have been given another opportunity to respond.

For others, you might have made that decision already but you realize that you have been lazy with your faith.  You have answered the call for you to come and receive God’s salvation, but you have turned a deaf ear to what God is calling you to do now.  You know that you should be sharing your faith… you know that you should be following Him in all areas of your life, but you haven’t been.  God has graciously called out to give you another opportunity to answer His call of “follow Me.”

This post was adapted from the sermon that I shared at the South Calhoun County Revival at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Calhoun City, MS on October 26, 2016.