Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

Spiritual gifts is a topic that has intrigued many throughout the ages. There are various thoughts on how they work, are they still around, when a Christian gets them, and more. As the jacket of the books states, “pastor and author Sam Storms offers practical steps to understanding and exercising spiritual gifts in a way that remains grounded in the Word and centered in the gospel.”

I was interested in seeing what stance this book was going to take on the subject of spiritual gifts. In my experience, spiritual gifts is one of those topics that is very polarizing.  The forward written by Matt Chandler (whom I respect greatly) made me want to see what this book was about. 

The topic of spiritual gifts has interested me for some time. I have heard the arguments about how some spiritual gifts are no longer needed or in use today (cessationist view). I have also heard of those who believe that the gifts are all still in use today among the church (continuationist view). 

Sam Storms is one who holds the continuationist view, but presents his convictions with a strong use of Scripture.  He writes in the conclusion, “The foundation for the experience of spiritual gifts is and always must be inerrant truths articulated in the Bible. Any attempt to move forward apart from the parameters set for us in the [New Testament] will likely lead to experiential excess, theological error, and an unbridled fanaticism that will serve only to bring disgrace on the name of Christ and do damage to those very people you are trying to serve and help” (237).

The manner at which Storms takes the Word of God and uses it as the starting platform and guardrails makes this book and great and reliable tool.  The words and thoughts that are presented in this book are ones that are backed up with Scripture. 

One of the only issues that I had was that there was not equal attention given to the gifts mentioned in the book. I know that to write a full work on each gift would be too much for one book. I even get why Storms chose the gifts that he did in this book. I just didn’t get why three chapters were devoted to “prophecy” and one to the others. 

Recommendation

As for a recommendation, I would highly recommend Practicing the Power by Sam Storms to the Christian that is looking for answers to the question of whether some particular spiritual gifts are still at work today. I believe Storms gives some great insight and uses Scripture to show that you do not have to check solid, grounded in the Word theology at the door to believe that the Holy Spirit is still distributing the gifts that some think are long gone. 

Palm Sunday
Today marks the beginning of what Christians call “Holy Week.” This is a remembrance of the week leading up to the two most significant events in all of history: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

I cannot think of a more crazy week that has ever been. It is the ultimate emotional roller coaster. It starts out at a very high point and plummets to the lowest only to rise again even higher than before. I am going to attempt to blog each day this week with some thoughts tied to what is believed to happened on this corresponding day long ago. 

Palm Sunday

“When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her foal. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its foal; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar, saying, “Who is this? ” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21:1-2, 4-11‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

This is the account from Matthew’s gospel of when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time. What a day that was! The long-awaited Messiah was entering into Jerusalem to take care of the business that He was sent to do. 

We see the people standing along the road singing and shouting praises to God at the mere sight of Jesus. In my humble opinion, this should be a picture of what every Sunday looks like. As we recognize the Lord, we respond in the only appropriate manner: praise and worship. 

It is hard to praise the Lord when you do not see Him though. The only people that we see participating in this praise event are those that get a glimpse of the Savior. We do not read about those in their homes or busy running their errands of the day joining in this praise. 

Do you see Jesus at work around you? If He were to pass by through your city/town, would you be able to give Him the praise due Him, or would you miss it?

May our eyes be open today to see the work and presence of the King of kings. May we join in with others singing His praise: “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

The Southern Baptists of Mississippi are pushing a campaign to get their members more involved in evangelism. This campaign is called “Tell Me, Tell Someone.” It is a good campaign in my opinion. It is one that any Christian can get on board with not just Southern Baptists. 

Along with this campaign, the leaders of the Mississippi Baptist Convention are hitting every county and prison in the state spreading the message of the campaign. This past Monday, the county that I live in hosted this rally. 

Dr. Jim Futral shared with the crowd that gathered at the Bruce town square about the importance of sharing our faith with others. In his message, Dr. Futral also shared some interesting stats with the crowd.

  • Mississippi has the most churches per capita of all the United States. 
  • Calhoun County has the most churches per capita of all counties in Mississippi. 

Honestly, I was not surprised at these stats. The state in which I have lived for some time now has churches scattered all over. The county in which I live has a population of around 14,000 (+\-), and there are 44 Southern Baptist churches along with many other denominations. The editor of our county paper shared that there are almost 100 active churches in our county. The joke of “a church on every corner” about rings true where I live. 

Dr. Futral also shared another stat with the crowd. I wish that I could say that this stat shocked me, but it didn’t. What was the stat?

  • No county in the state of Mississippi (including Calhoun County) has more than 1/3 of the population reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The reason that this stat didn’t shock me was that I shared a similar stat with the Southern Baptists in our county a couple of years ago. I shared that a demographic study showed that 65% of our county’s population is considered “unreached with the Gospel.” 

While there may be a church on just about every corner, it doesn’t always mean that things are well. Our county has the most churches per capita over any county in the state, yet we also have over half of the population that is not being reached with the Gospel. We are really doing no better than those counties that have the fewest churches in the county. 

Just because there are groups that meet in a building and have a sign that shows their name has “church” in it doesn’t mean that things are happening. There should be an impact made on the community because of the presence of the church. I have often posed the question to our church that if our church was gone tomorrow would the community care or just go on about life as usual?

I pray that the numerous churches in our area will recognize the important task that we have to share the Gospel with those around us. A county that has close to 100 active churches should not have an unreached population of 65%. 

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.