Main Mission of The Church: Why does it matter to me

fzv8esa7gkc-lee-key-2Read Acts 1 on your own. (should take about 3 min. or less)

The first simple truth we learn is that Jesus is still alive (v.3)!! Physically gone, spiritually present.

He leaves his disciples a mission before he died, to spread the gospel (Matt. 28:19).  The book of Acts is a continuation of this command,  it is a book about the acts of God during the formation of the 1st body of believers after Jesus ascends to heaven, the essentials of the 1st church and an example to us within the body.

Truth 1: Meeting together is essential.

Church was God’s idea (not mans), being part of a church was Jesus’ hope for us.

Doing the ‘Christian thing’ is part of a unity that can not be substituted with anything else.  Is it a sin not to go to church? Absolutely not! But we are better together.  The church is a place to grow, to be sharpened (yes, the uncomfortable blending and mixing of different and difficult personalities) and to do the spiritual things that can only be done in groups.  There is a reason Jesus chose 12.  There is credibility in numbers, there is accountability in numbers, there is unity and strength in numbers. Different personalities,  weather complementary or clashing, that was God’s plan and when you’re missing it isn’t the same.

Truth 2: The discipline of prayer is essential.

What is your prayer life like?  I know I can’t say I am in constant prayer like his faithful few  in v. 14.  But in order for us to grow and to hear the Holy Spirit (referred to as The Advocate by Jesus in John 15:26) we must pray (more on that later).

Truth 3: The main mission of every church and every believer is to spread the good news about Jesus.

Jesus came to tell people that He loved them and that there is way to forgiveness, a rescue and savior from their sins.  He wants to us to carry on that message (per the commission given by Jesus in Matt 28:19 and the words he told Peter in John 21:17).

“…Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matt. 28:19-20

  1. Where do you stand with the church?  Do you attend church?  What are you thoughts on church?
  2. What is your prayer life like?  On a scale from 1 to 10 where are you? (1 do not pray at all, 10 I pray constantly)
  3. In what ways does the commission given to the disciples effect you?  Is it still relevant today?

 

 

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Pursuing Your Spouse For Christ: A Higher Calling

If you read my testimony page you’ll discover that Chuck and I are a reconciled couple, as in, we were once married to each other, we divorced and now we are remarried, God’s way.

I have been asked to share some encouragement with a group of divorcees at a big church on Thursday night. I have been praying and remembering the dark time I walked alone, the time I reunited with the Lord and then the time when my Chuck found us both.

I searched scripture for the right words and God’s insight on this topic.

When a spouse leaves and the other is left behind there is a tempting nudge to chase, pursue, to call, to beg, to plead with your spouse not to leave and at times to seek revenge.

So if you are that girl who has just been left or you are that wife who has the burden of pursing your husband to Christ here are some steps that might guide your through this tough journey.

In God’s power and strength I hope you can find rest and the desire for holy things.

If you are in the process of separation, divorce, or anything in between start your journey with:

Prayer

Although it sounds like the obvious it may be a hard thing to do, the way God wants us to do it.

1 Corinthians 7:5 tells us that if we are separated from our spouse (and it is referring to sexual separation) that we should only be separated for a time for prayer. Now, I understand that when we are in the situation of being left behind it is not a choice. I am suggesting that we treat the separation the same way we would as if it were; for our behaviour to be as if we are only separated for a time and that we indeed devote ourselves to prayer.

The NIV version uses the word “devote,” in greek the same word is to: empty our selves. What’s interesting and revealing about this word is that it’s definition is only used once in the entire Old and New Testament, at least I could not find it repeated anywhere else no matter how hard or how long I searched. There are many definitions for devotion but only once it is defined as “emptying” our selves.

If the definition infers to emptying ourselves than there is an assumption that we are full of something.

God is calling you to empty yourself of anything that is hindering your relationship with Christ such as:

-Obsession/idolatry of your spouse (is he/consuming more of your thoughts, anxiety, time etc. than God) or anything else.

Although I was brought up in a Christian home, I went to church and loved God I was obsessed with the idea of being married to my husband. I didn’t know it at the time but I was. It was everything to me. When my husband and I divorced my world shattered because I had given him a position in my heart that was meant only for God.

Some women I talk to about this topic have made an idol of the lifestyle their husbands have provided for them and are unable to reconcile the idea of living a life separate from the lifestyle.

-Unconfessed Sin (is there something you contributed to the departing of your spouse, an act, a lifestyle, forsaking of God’s principles in your marriage, anything…

-Unforgiveness

-Hidden sin

-Bitterness and anger

-Resentment

Other things to pray about may be: salvation for your spouse and prayer for yourself and God’s direction for your new life.

In The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it defines “emptying” as imagining yourself on a vacation or holiday.

Picture yourself at your favorite vacation spot, the beach, the lake, mountains, some peaceful place, sitting there with absolutely nothing on your mind. NOTHING! Your heart, light, content, well, rested, peaceful. Let this time apart be like that. Unmoved in Christ. If you don’t know Jesus get to know him.

Our heart’s were designed to be filled, filled with Jesus, but in order to give it to the proper recipient we must empty it of its current holder.

Freedom,

we can pursue our spouses by giving them freedom.

It means giving them the freedom to leave. By saying, “ok” in your heart. You’re not saying you like it or even that you’ll be happy about it but you’re giving him/her the freedom to give in to his/her own sin.

Scripture tells us in Romans 11:32 that “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

Wow! What a plan. If I had only read and believed that while I walked life alone, separated from God and divorced from my spouse my life and decisions would have been so different.

I made some regrettable choices while I was a divorced woman. I dated ungodly men, I choose to seek revenge, I wanted my husband to see what he was missing by allowing him to see me with other men. Boy did that back fire. My husband and I were in battle to see who could hurt the other next. I could’ve changed the course of our divorce or separation by actions to believe quickly that God had a plan to show Chuck mercy and ultimately me too.

If you are praying for your spouse and believe in reconciliation I am telling you, your relationship will be even sweeter if you allow God’s plan to pan out in your spouse’s life.

This calls for the good ol’ Christian cliché: “Let go and let God.”

Do not call him, text, tweet, face book, social media him in any kind of capacity If you have children talk only children and as little as you possibly can.

In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul tells us that if the unbelieving spouse leaves to let him do so.

I held on to my husband emotionally for a very long time after our divorce, it plagued me, near paralyzing the girl the Lord was trying to reinvent in me.  God was trying to do a work in me (and in Him) but I “kicked against the goads” by refusing to let him go in my mind. This doesn’t mean to forget him/her, or even to “move on with our life,” it means to refocus your thoughts and desires on Christ.

The question in our minds should be, ‘Is my passion for reconciliation greater than my passion for his/her need for salvation?’ If your heart’s desire is greater for reconciliation with your spouse than God is trying to use this time in your life in a  much different way than you imagined.

The 3rd and most important thing a divorcee can do (on her/his own) is…

Reconciliation with God

I wasn’t necessarily bad. I was a Christian when my spouse left but I wasn’t on fire for God. I was walking a fence of giving into the world and merely going to church. Although I wanted my spouse to become a Christian and live a “Christian” life I wasn’t obedient to things God was trying to call me out of completely, I was half-hearted at best.

God bounded me over to my sin (even though I didn’t consider it to be sin at the time) so that he could show me mercy.

And mercy he showed me!

Remember that God is the master of reconciliation, he wants you and your spouse together. He hates divorce, Malachi 2:16 (read 2:10-16 on unfaithfulness)

Also, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.

God hates divorce so much that he would ask us to remain with an unfaithful spouse than to leave. Read the entire book of Hosea and you’ll see a perfect and holy example of how to pursue your spouse.

Now, I am not going to be the person to tell you to stay seated and “put up” with a cheating spouse (it’s not my place to say) because I believe in boundaries and consequences when they are broken but I equally believe in winning over our spouses by our obedience and love and passion for Christ and ony through that can we survive these circumstances. Only when Christ is your passion, front and center will it make sense to pray, to let go, and reconcile with your first love, Jesus.

How to reconcile:

  1. By being transformed by the renewing of your mind as it says in Romans 12:2. (If you are a Christian this is for you too, even a small hint of worldliness is sin. Think belief systems, materialism, obsession, pride etc.)
  2. Pursuing holy things, I don’t mean wearing long skirts and humming prayers all day long. (You can still chase after Jesus in high heels;) It’s a heart issue. In all situations search your heart and think how your actions affect God’s point of view.

Use this time for eternal things not temporal.  Paul compares marriage to temporal things (although it is a Holy thing, why?) because when we marry our focus is now on our spouse. When we battle with our spouse the focus shifts to earthly things and how to gain favor with our spouse and not necessarily how to gain favor with the Lord.

Be busy with things of God.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His rigdead-rosehteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Matt 6:33

There can be no true reconciliation without Christ. You can try to and it will fail again.

Man’s heart, when in the flesh is bound to give into the flesh time and time again. Only trust a man’s heart when it is bound to Jesus.

In the mean time bind yours over to Him

Grace Defined

grace-cloulds-and-rainI am sure you hear it every where too, the 5 letter word thrown around in Christian circles, the one that makes your shoulders less tense, drop, relax, makes you take a deep sigh of relief, the famous little word, most delightful, feel-goodish, excusing little word, written in pallet board that adorns our homes, the one used to calm the chocoholic inside all of us, when we’ve indulged way too much and need just a little grace on the calories (wink, wink).  It’s the little word that excuses you when you’ve just bought your 61st pair of shoes that you DIDN’T NEED.

The word grace is a word that contains power and honor and authority.  I’ve been bothered by the humdrum way we use it and throw it around.  So I decided to probe and dig deep and see what grace really means.

In scripture we see 2 types of grace.  In Esther 2:17 King Xerxes finds grace {favor} in Queen Esther.  This type of grace is man-given and man-earned.  It has two criteria, one is subjective and the other objective.  The king found favor in the queen because of her beauty (subjective) and she met the kings criteria (objective).  She earned his grace.

In the New Testament we see a new type of grace. A grace that is God-given, impossible to be man-earned.

In John 1:17 we see the definition of grace and the difference between earning grace and it being given to us despite our condition.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We received the Ten Commandments through Moses that revealed we can not earn grace because we aren’t “good” enough.  Hence, addictions like shoe shopping and chocolate eating. And fill in the blank with your own issues (we all got ’em). The grace that Jesus brought was this:His favor (taken from the greek work used in John 1:17:charis pronounced har-es) for humanity because of simple, unadulterated, love.  Not earned- given simply because He made you.  You are His even if you don’t accept that yet.  It is His spirit impressed on our spirit that influences us toward Christ and the Christian faith- the enabler of strength that pushes us to live out love even when people don’t deserve it, nor ask for it, nor think they need it.  It is the spiritual stuff that has hands that support us  from behind as we trudge through this life in the darkness, as we walk through quiet deserted valleys, and high mountains without jumping off a cliff.  And yes the stuff that that changes a shoe addict into a recovered shoe addict.

There is one small but big caveat to this grace.  And it is accepting it.  Grace is a noun.  It’s a {spiritual} thing.  It is something you can accept or you can reject.  But you gotta do something with it.  It’s the gift that keeps on showing up, like the image of the fruit cake except good tasting.  It’s the gift that will keep on popping up on your door step that you gotta figure out what to do with, cause it ain’t going away. You either make fruit cake turn into filet-mignon (and if you’re a Christian walking in grace already you know exactly what I mean) or you throw it in the trash.

Grace is played out in John 8:1-11. The adulterous woman got more from her experience with Jesus than she thought she’d ever get. She not only got forgiveness (she thought she get condemnation), she got grace.  His last word to her was ‘go and sin no more’.  He didn’t just want to forgive her he wanted to change her.  Here, we see the impact of God’s grace…change.  We become different.

Grace is a gift of forgiveness and change.  He didn’t tell her “Go on girl I forgive you, keep on doing your thing” or “It’s all good do what makes you feel good”. No, because its impossible for grace to reside in our hearts without change. A good Father never encourage us to live a life that is harmful or destructive or dishonoring to Himself.  Change is the evidence that grace lives in us, that we have put this beautiful little noun on our backs and it now clothes us from head to toe, inside and out.

The take home (in a shoe box), God-given grace is forgiveness and change.

So, how are you doing in the grace department?  Are you living in the true grace of God?  What does grace look like in your life?  What have you misunderstood about grace?