Archive for: January, 2012

Today’s Christian: Living in a state of oblivion?

Jan 30 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

by Isaac A. Olivarez

Many Christians today are walking around in a state of forgetfulness, as if we were left to conquer the rigors and unexpected challenges of this life—and ministry—alone. It’s like we have simply forgotten how much power we have been given access to through Christ. We have forgotten what we are capable of.

We know the stories, such as when Jesus turned water into wine. Or when He walked across the Sea of Galilee. Or the one where Jesus used spit to heal the blind man. I especially like reading about the numerous times when Jesus commanded demons to leave people alone and when He raised the dead. We know the stories, yet somehow it has become taboo for Christians to believe—I mean really believe—that we have access to this same power. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and one I am certainly familiar with. We try to excel in life and ministry under our own power, forgetting along the way that we are capable of nothing apart from the grace and power of Christ.

It’s easy to identify people who are caught in this trap. Dreams are rational, goals are minimal, and time and energy are consumed with survival rather than advancement. And if there is temporary success, egos begin to grow. But perhaps the most devastating repercussion of living a life apart from God’s power is that, unfortunately, along the way we render the many promises of God’s Word useless.

I was reading through the Gospel of John recently, and one particular verse hit me right between the eyes:

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

Do we realize what this means? After thinking about this verse for a while, here’s what I came up with:

1. We know God is powerful because we read about it in the Bible.

2. But we don’t know just how powerful God is, because John 21:25 tells us we currently have only an overview. We know only a fraction of how great and powerful God is.

3. We have access to this same power!

I quickly remembered reading John 14. Verse 12 is very clear:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

The same works. Jesus gave us authority to do the same works He did when He walked on this earth. Do we understand what this means? In light of this promise from God’s Word, is it too far-fetched to believe we can see the sick healed and even the dead raised today, in our culture and context? Christians are called to walk this earth in power and authority. When we remember and believe that we have been called to display God’s power all over the earth, it will influence the way we conduct our life and ministry. After all, that’s what believe means to me: to be convinced of something and act accordingly.

To keep it all in perspective, Jesus included verse 13:

 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

 You see, we don’t desire for God’s power to be displayed in our lives so we can accumulate blessings, wealth, or status. We do it because in the process of seeking His will, living according to that will, and reaping the rewards of seed sown in obedience, God’s name is glorified. He gets the credit—all of it. This means when we have opportunity, we defer and deflect the credit to Him.

That’s the journey I am on. I want to see the fullness of God’s power displayed in my life and ministry like it was in the time when Jesus walked on this earth. Not because I doubt this power still exists, but because I want to point to these miraculous works when I talk to people from all walks of life. I want to show them that the God of the Bible is the one true God.

 But we’ll never have the platform to do that effectively unless we work hard to remember—remember who God is, what He has authorized us to do, and the power He has given us to do it. Then, we act accordingly.

Isaac A. Olivarez is an Inner-city missionary in Denver. For more information about Isaac’s mission, visit www.lovedenver.org. Twitter: @IsaacAOlivarez

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2012 Focus Challenge

Jan 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

 By Janet S. Wolff

 Going into this new year, with two more states approving “civil unions,” we can see the challenge of reaching this mission field called home. What an exciting opportunity presented to us! People need the message of the gospel now more than ever!

 It would be easy to get caught up in staging protests and shaking our fists, but our mission to reach the lost and how to do that hasn’t changed. Throughout His ministry, as He walked among us, Jesus demonstrated how we are to spread the gospel:

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35).

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them’” (John 7:37–38).

The world teaches that we should embrace our differences (including sexual immoralities), yet so many who have embraced these diversities are left wondering why the divide between people and relationships looks more and more like the Grand Canyon. People continue to search for unity and harmony through various spiritualities and world religions and try to include Christ in the equation—because, in their minds, all roads lead to heaven. As Christians, our public debates on doctrinal differences are often perceived as football players’ tackling their own teams. To hear many people tell it, this is the very reason they have sought sanctuary in the rapidly growing religions touting “peace and harmony” rather than a personal relationship with Christ. Generally, the message on the streets regarding Christianity is that we are divided amongst ourselves and people would rather avoid the bickering and politics found in a traditional church.

The apostle Paul could have been walking the streets of a city like Seattle when he wrote to the Corinthians: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Paul tells us to focus not on differences but on unity.

In the face of sins that people seem to wear with pride on their sleeves and pop culture’s teaching that these things are “right,” it’s easy to become defensive of our position of truth. But as missionaries and ambassadors of Christ in our neighborhoods, it’s important to remember to be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18). Personally, I find an approach of respect and open dialogue—“Why do you believe what you believe? Tell me more about it. I’m interested in you!”—opens more doors to share my faith.

So many people have been beaten up by the “religious” focus on the “big, bad, bully God,” who’s going to strike them down where they stand, that they don’t even want to grace the doorway of a church. They are convinced we are haters and don’t care about them. It’s not enough to preach at people. If we aren’t willing to get to know people on a personal level and love them the same way Jesus had dinner with tax collectors and spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well (the societal heathen rejects of His time), then we can’t expect anyone will want to actually hear the message of hope that will save their lives for eternity. The good news of Jesus is who He is and what He did—and what He continues to do today.

Throughout history, nations have been transformed by the simplicity of the love of Christ and the basic message of the gospel. Let us remain unified among ourselves in Christ and focused on the many hearts looking to us for answers to the questions they don’t even know how to ask: Yes, Jesus loves you! Yes, Jesus came to set you free from sin and death! Yes, Jesus came to give you life and that more abundantly! You and I needed answers to all of these questions before we were introduced to Christ.

Do not let the circumstances of the world bring you down, but let your mission be renewed with even greater strength and vigor to preach Christ’s message of love and forgiveness in a lost world.

Janet S. Wolff is a Berean School of the Bible student from Lakewood, Washington. For more information about Berean School of the Bible, visit www.globaluniversity.edu/berean

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Religious Freedom Day

Jan 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

By Dr. Mary Logan

 Did you know January 16 has been proclaimed Religious Freedom Day by US presidents since 1993? January 16 is the anniversary of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that was penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and became law in 1786. The principles set forth in this statute are thought to have been influential to the principles set forth in many of the state constitutions as well as the US Bill of Rights.

 On this Religious Freedom Day, let’s not only reflect on the freedoms we have in America but also remember people in our world who live without many of the freedoms we enjoy.

 For instance, I am currently reading the book Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who spent fourteen years in Communist prisons during the aftermath of World War II. His crime? His belief and public witness of his faith in Jesus Christ. He spent three of the fourteen years in solitary confinement. During his imprisonment, he experienced unspeakable physical torture. Upon his release, he and his wife began the Christian organization The Voice of the Martyrs. The Wurmbrands wanted the families of imprisoned Christians to know they were not forgotten (Wurmbrand 1998, 172).

 While writing this blog, I received an e-mail describing letters Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood recently sent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Islamic Republic Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. In his letters, Wood explained that they were “born out of concern for followers of Jesus who are being detained for reasons that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Iran has signed.” Wood then personally requested “the release of several Christians currently being held by the Iranian government” (Van Veen 2012).

 In observance of Religious Freedom Day, the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom seeks to promote “religious freedom as a core objective of U.S.foreign policy” (U.S. Observes Religious Freedom Day 2011). Meetings are held with foreign officials at various levels to address problems of religious freedom. In her 2010 report, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton commented, “We . . . believe that religious freedom is . . . a fundamental human right. . . . This is not only the American view; it is the view of nations and people around the world [and] is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (US Observes Religious Freedom Day 2011).

 As we reflect on religious freedom, let’s remember the Iranian Christians and other believers in similar situations. Wurmbrand (1998) reflected that his “joy was in knowing that [brethren from abroad] had come and that [he was] no longer forgotten” (50). May the persecuted church always be in our prayers! James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Mary Logan, Ed.D., is a Course Development Specialist and Professor of Business and Education at Global University. For more information about Global University, visit http://think.globaluniversity.edu.

sources:

U.S.Observes Religious Freedom Day. 2011. US Department of State Official Blog. January 16. http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/religious_freedom_day(accessed January 11, 2012).

 Van Veen, Dan. 2012. Wood Personally Requests Release of Iranian Pastors, Church Members. AG News 2042 (January 11). http://ag.org/top/News/index_articledetail.cfm?targetBay
=c97d4d5c-a325-4921-9a9e-e9fbddd9cdce&ModID=2&Process=DisplayArticle&RSS
_RSSContentID=21228&RSS_OriginatingChannelID=1184&RSS_OriginatingRSSFeedID=3359&RSS_Source
= (accessed January 13, 2012).

Wurmbrand, Richard. 1998. Tortured for Christ.Bartlesville,OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company

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Stay off the Treadmill!

Jan 09 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

RonandDorene2012CROP

by Ron Bontrager

As a runner I have learned to stay off the treadmill. I love to run outdoors, especially on those cold, crisp mornings of winter. It’s so invigorating! Maybe it’s because I’m actually running for my life just to stay warm, but I think mostly it’s because of the beautiful outdoors. You never know what beauty you’re going to see. Yet for me the treadmill is totally the opposite. It is so monotonous. It feels like I’m not making any progress even though I actually am. It can actually make me want to quit running altogether.

 It occurred to me that’s exactly how it is with other areas of my life. I can easily get on the treadmill of ministry, family, pastoring, or whatever and lose my focus in the process. When that happens, I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing and I no longer see my progress.

 As we begin another year, I have a piece of advice: Stay off the treadmill!

 How can we make sure of this? First, we have to reassess. To reassess means to measure the value of something, to try and determine its actual worth. When I’m on the treadmill, I forget how important the people whom God has put into my life are. The treadmill causes me to underestimate how valuable my ministry is and, most importantly, how important my relationship with God is. The holidays are a gift, given so we can step back from the treadmill of life and reassess our relationships, our gifts and calling, and, most of all, our walk with God. The New Year’s song “Auld Lang Syne” comes from a Scottish poem and means “old times fondly remembered; old friendships tenderly rekindled.” When we reassess, we begin to rekindle the value of the life God has so generously given us.

 Second, we have to repent. The most important part of the reassessing process is telling ourselves the truth about the condition of our lives. If we have fallen into a mindset of drudgery, if we’re on the treadmill and have devalued some of what God has entrusted to us, it’s time to repent. We may need to repent to our family for robbing them of our best effort. We may need to repent to God for treating His gifts casually. The church of Ephesus was on the ministry treadmill. They were still doing all the right things; they were working hard; but they had lost something very precious. They no longer valued God or people the way they once had. Jesus said to them,

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works. (Revelation 2:2–5 NKJV)

Finally, we have to rest. There is a rest that transcends physical sleep. There is a rest we enter into by faith. This is a deep rest that strengthens the soul for the long journey. Jesus invited people to come unto Him and find rest for their souls. He said His yoke is easy and His burdens are light (Matthew 11:28–30). If life for you has become difficult and heavy, you may be on the treadmill. God promises a heaven-sent rest for your soul. I pray you find it!

 Ron Bontrager is Lead Pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information about Lakeview, please visit www.lakeviewchurch.org

 

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