Skip to main content

On Praying

By Pastor's Blog No Comments

Years ago, I grappled with how to pray for my neighbors and others within my community. Some I knew personally, but many were strangers to me. I didn’t want to offer a generic prayer but one deeply rooted in biblical truth. I yearned for my prayers to bear the fruit of people entering into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, for the resources of heaven to be poured into their lives, and for a greater witness for the Lord. I then discovered the power of praying for blessings on others. Prayer, I realized, is a potent tool for invoking God’s blessings upon others.

For believers, praying prayers of blessing on someone involves invoking God’s favor, guidance, and protection upon that individual. It’s an expression of love and care, asking for spiritual, emotional, physical, and material well-being for the person being prayed for, in alignment with biblical teaching. It’s often seen as a way to demonstrate God’s love and grace in action.

Praying for blessings over others is not just a duty but a privilege that offers numerous benefits. It provides spiritual encouragement and support for the person being prayed for, reminding them of God’s love and desire to care for them. For the person praying, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate love and compassion, reflecting the Christian value of caring for one another and bearing each other’s burdens. Prayers of blessing align the desires and aspirations of individuals with God’s will, fostering trust in His wisdom and sovereignty to bring about the best outcomes. In essence, praying blessings over others is a way to actively participate in God’s work of blessing and transforming lives.

The most profound prayer of blessing a believer can offer for another is that they find salvation in Christ. This prayer encapsulates the very essence of Christianity, as it seeks the eternal well-being of the individual’s soul. It underscores our foundational belief in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and the transformative nature of His love. As John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse highlights the centrality of salvation through Christ, making it the ultimate blessing we can wish upon another.

There are various ways we can pray blessings over others. There are prayers for strength and encouragement, such as that of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” There are prayers for healing and restoration: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise” (Jeremiah 17:14). We discover in God’s Word examples of how we can pray for guidance and direction, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Corrie ten Boom wrote, “God’s guidance is like a small lamp in a dark forest. It doesn’t show everything at once but gives enough light for the next step.” How could we and others not be blessed by having such guidance from the Lord as we place our trust in Him?

As we journey through life, let us remember the privilege and responsibility we have to pray blessings upon others. May these prayers be a source of comfort, strength, and inspiration, drawing us closer to God and one another. Let me write these words from Numbers 6:24-26 as my prayer of blessing to each of you, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Resurrection Revolution

By Pastor's Blog No Comments

Most people, even those who haven’t placed their faith in Christ, would admit that He has impacted our world. Jesus Christ has brought about a revolution and an entire change in the lives of people and societies. When I speak of revolution, I am mostly speaking of a personal revolution brought about by placing genuine faith in Christ, where a profound and transformative change occurs, altering one’s life and eternal destiny.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ holds paramount significance, representing the cornerstone of our faith as Christians. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This statement underscores the centrality of the resurrection in Christian faith.

The Apostle Paul argues that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christians are to be pitied above all people. Why? Without the resurrection, Christianity loses its foundation, hope, and promise of eternal life. Believers would have devoted their lives to a faith that ultimately offers no ultimate victory over death or hope beyond this life. Therefore, if the resurrection had never happened, Christians would have lived their lives in vain, with no real hope or purpose beyond earthly existence.

The good news is that the resurrection is a reality; Christ is alive. Through Christ’s resurrection, believers are assured of their own future resurrection and eternal life. The resurrection validates Jesus’ claims of divinity and victory over sin and death. Billy Graham, the renowned evangelist, proclaimed, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single greatest event in the history of the world. It is so foundational to Christianity that without it, there would be no such thing as Christianity.”

The resurrection shapes our understanding of salvation and offers hope for all who place their faith in Christ for salvation, emphasizing the transformative power of Christ’s sacrifice – dying for our sins and resurrected for our salvation. Simply put, the resurrection of Jesus Christ sparked a revolution of transformation in the lives of believers.

In Matthew 28:1-10, an account of the resurrection unfolds with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary going to Jesus’ tomb after the Sabbath. As they approach, an earthquake occurs, and an angel of the Lord descends from heaven, rolling back the stone from the tomb’s entrance. The guards are struck with fear. The angel announces to the women that Jesus has risen, instructing them to go and tell the disciples. Overwhelmed with fear and joy, they run to obey the angel’s command, encountering Jesus along the way. He reassures them, instructing them to tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. The women leave the tomb with a mixture of fear and great joy, eager to share the astonishing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Here is the gospel truth, encountering the risen Christ through placing our faith in Him is where transformation begins, and our response to His profound work of love for us is to share His love and message with others.

There are a few ways the transformative power of the resurrection works in a believer’s life that I desire to share with you. First, the transformative power of the resurrection leads a believer from despair to hope (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Death is defeated! The believer can anticipate the return of Christ when their corruptible bodies will be replaced with incorruptible bodies, putting on immortality, and death will face its final defeat. Tim Keller, who is now with the Lord, wrote: “The resurrection gives us hope that what we face today is not the final word.” Keller is fully experiencing the truth of these words today.

Then, I would share that the transformative power of the resurrection leads a believer from sin to redemption (Romans 6:4). Believers have new life in Christ! The believer experiences union with, and incorporation into, Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit. As a result, they now have the power to live in newness of life. The “glory of the Father” is shown by His power in raising Christ from the dead and by transforming the lives of Christians. John Stott wrote, “The resurrection gives us confidence that God can bring victory out of apparent defeat.”

This is not an exhaustive list, but finally, let me share that the transformative power of the resurrection leads a believer from brokenness to wholeness (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians are made new! Through belief in Christ and His resurrection, individuals can experience a profound change, leaving behind their old ways and embracing a new life characterized by wholeness and spiritual renewal. Christ’s resurrection is not only a historical fact but a present reality. Through faith in Him, we experience a spiritual resurrection, a new birth, and a transformed life. In Him, we find forgiveness, redemption, and the promise of eternal life.

Allow the transformative power of God’s work to breathe new life into every aspect of your being. The resurrection power of Christ offers us hope, redemption, and the promise of new life. In the midst of our brokenness and sin, Christ offers us a way out—a way to experience true transformation. By receiving Him as our Lord and Savior, we open ourselves up to His resurrection power, which can break the chains of sin and set us free.

Imagine the joy of experiencing the same power that raised Jesus from the dead working in your life today. It’s not a distant dream but a present reality available to each and every one of us. All it requires is a humble heart willing to surrender to Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

If you have never made this decision or if you have drifted away from your faith, I invite you to reconsider today. Let the resurrection power of Christ breathe new life into your soul. Let Him wash away your sins and give you a fresh start. Let Him guide you on the path of righteousness and lead you into abundant life.

Accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not just a one-time event but a lifelong journey of discipleship and growth. It is a decision that will change the course of your life for eternity. May each of us open our hearts to the Resurrection Revolution, the transforming power of Christ’s resurrection, and experience the fullness of life He offers. I pray that our resurrected Lord will revolutionize our lives and world with hope, redemption, and love. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Revolutionary Sacrifice

By Pastor's Blog No Comments

The events of Holy Week, including Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His Last Supper, crucifixion, and resurrection, hold great significance for all humanity. For believers, these events shape the foundation of their faith. The sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus are the central events that offer redemption, hope, and eternal life to believers, impacting their personal lives and influencing the course of history through the enduring message of God’s love and the forgiveness and salvation found in Christ.

As we embark on this Holy Week journey, let us fix our eyes on the revolutionary sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. From the jubilant shouts of Palm Sunday to the triumphant resurrection on Easter Sunday, let us delve into the profound significance of Christ’s finished work on the cross. I pray that as we take a bird’s eye view of the events of Passion Week, we will grasp the transformative power of Christ’s revolutionary sacrifice and share the message of redemption with others.

Let’s begin with a look at Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, as described in the Gospels. Jesus rode into the city on a donkey. At the same time, crowds greeted Him with palm branches, shouting “Hosanna” (Matthew 21:9). This event marks the beginning of Holy Week, leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It symbolizes Jesus’ role as the Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Zech 9:9). This moment foreshadowed the revolutionary nature of Christ’s mission.

Picture the scene. Jesus comes as a humble king riding on a donkey, welcomed with adoration by the crowds. Little did they know, He was on a mission far greater than earthly conquest. Prominent 19th-century English preacher and theologian Charles Spurgeon explained, “Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a declaration of His kingship, but not in the earthly sense. He came to establish His kingdom in the hearts of men.”

Many events occurred during Passion Week leading up to the cross. However, Let’s take a moment to focus on Jesus’ Last Supper. The Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples before His crucifixion. During the meal, Jesus predicted His betrayal by Judas and instituted the sacrament of communion (Luke 22:19-20). The significance of the bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s body and blood foreshadows His sacrifice on the cross and is a reminder for believers today. When Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion at the Last Supper, He set a practice for believers to engage in that reminds us of the profound cost of our salvation as well as His profound love for each of us.

After sharing the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, where Judas later betrayed Him and He was arrested. I can still remember the emotions I felt when I visited this site. Gethsemane is a garden outside Jerusalem. Jesus prayed here on the night before His crucifixion. He experienced profound anguish, praying to God the Father and asking if it were possible for the cup of suffering to be taken from Him, yet ultimately surrendering to God’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus, in Gethsemane, was confronted with the call to carry the full weight of all of our sin, and He willingly chose to endure the cross, demonstrating perfect obedience to God the Father and profound love for each of us. After being arrested in Gethsemane, Jesus endured a series of events leading up to His crucifixion. He was taken before Jewish religious authorities, subjected to multiple trials, accused of blasphemy and sedition, and eventually handed over to Roman authorities. Jesus faced interrogation by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, who ultimately sentenced Him to death by crucifixion. Along the way, Jesus endured being mocked, beatings, and the carrying of His cross before being nailed to it and left to die.

I want to draw our attention to Jesus’ last words on the cross, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). The phrase “It is finished” uttered by Jesus on the cross, carries profound significance. These final words of Christ on the cross declared the completion and fulfillment of His mission on Earth; specifically, Jesus accomplished the atonement for all our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross.

This declaration is a testament to the completeness and sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins for all who believe in Him.

R.C. Sproul rightly explained, “The cross is the ultimate expression of God’s love for humanity. It is where justice and mercy intersect, and where sin is atoned for once and for all.” When Jesus declared, “It is finished,” He proclaimed the ultimate triumph of God’s love and grace over sin and death, providing hope and redemption for all who genuinely believe in Him. In light of all Christ has done, how can we do anything less than receive Him as Savior and Lord, experience His transformative power provided by Him through His revolutionary sacrifice, and share the message of redemption with others.

Imagine you’re stranded in the middle of a vast ocean, surrounded by turbulent waves and unable to find your way back to shore. You’re exhausted, hopeless, and desperate for rescue. Suddenly, a sturdy lifeboat appears, manned by a compassionate captain who offers you a lifeline to safety. Accepting Christ as Savior is like grabbing hold of the lifeline and allowing Him to pull you into the safety of the boat. As you come aboard, you experience His transformative power firsthand – your fears are replaced with peace, your despair with hope, and your emptiness with fulfillment. You become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), transformed by His love and grace. But there is more. Just as you’ve been rescued and brought to safety, you are now responsible for sharing the good news with others still lost at sea. You become a beacon of hope, guiding others to the lifeboat of salvation and inviting them to experience the transformative power of Christ for themselves.

As we journey through Holy Week, may we be deeply moved by the revolutionary sacrifice of Christ. Let us cling to the cross, knowing that through His finished work, we have been redeemed, forgiven, and made new. May His love compel us to share this message of hope with a world around us where we live, work, go to school, and play. Christ dying on the cross is a sobering reality, but wait, Sunday is on the way, and believers have much to celebrate. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Looking to the Future

By Pastor's Blog No Comments

I came across this principle, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” It really got me thinking. To expect is the prospect of good to come. As believers, we can certainly look to the future with hope. Our future does not solely rest on us. After all, God is not looking for big people but people who desire a big God. In other words, as followers of Christ, when we surrender to the Lord and walk in step with His Spirit, He will do big things in and through us. God’s workings are not limited by our personal limitations but by our willingness, participation, and desire for the workings of a loving, all-powerful, and limitless God in our lives.

Training speaks of the skill, knowledge, and experience acquired by one who trains. Training takes effort on our part. We can expect to become physically strong, but if we don’t work out, it won’t happen. We can desire to be awake and alert, but if we don’t get enough sleep, it won’t happen. We can expect to live with peace, power, and wisdom, but if we don’t study and apply God’s word to our lives and rely on and follow Christ, it won’t happen.

Yes, Our Lord is the one who has promised abundant flourishing lives for those who come to faith in Him (John 10:10). Further, it’s true that God never lies (Hebrews 6:18). However, this does not negate our part in cooperating with Him. In other words, there are promises of God conditioned on our faithfulness and trust in Him.

Our expectations rest on who God is and our partnership with Him. Therefore, we need to keep a soft heart. We read in Mark that the disciples did not understand the miracle of the loaves because their heart was hardened (Mark 6:52). We don’t want to miss what God has for us or have the ability to see what He is doing by having hardened hearts. We need to maintain a submissive heart towards God. This entails desiring God’s will to be our will and living accordingly.

We also need to believe, trust, have faith. Hebrews 3:12-13 speaks of the devastating effect of a heart of unbelief. Such a heart deceives us so that the truth seems like a lie, and lies seem like truth. If we live in unbelief, we cannot expect to see the promises of God in our lives. This does not mean that we are perfect, but that we are being perfected. We grow in belief. There is an ancient proverb that states. “Don’t fear growing slowly; fear standing still.” Be honest with God. Sometimes, we need to pray, “I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). He will answer that prayer.

We need to act in faith. Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I have heard it said, “Faith believes that you already have what you’re hoping for; it’s pulling God’s promises from the spirit realm into the physical realm.” Therefore, we walk in the promises of God as we follow Him. After all, “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). Genuine faith is evidenced by obedience to God.

We need to grow in Christ through practicing the spiritual disciplines. We are called to step out in faith as we grow in knowing God and make Him known by sharing His love and message with others. We must focus on what we can do while trusting in what God has done, is doing, and is yet to do in and through us. We don’t expect to rise merely to a certain level because we expect it, but also because we train, growing in our knowledge of God through His Word, developing our gifts and abilities so graciously provided for us by our Lord, and gaining experience of being faithful and of God’s faithfulness as we obediently walk with Him. Then, just wait and see the heights our Lord will take us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Growing in the Grace of Testimony

By Pastor's Blog

How does God’s grace manifest itself in the believer’s life? God’s grace is infused in us as we enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and walk in step with His Spirit. Growing in God’s grace involves various aspects, and the role of our testimony can be a significant part of spiritual growth. Remember, spiritual growth is a lifelong journey, and the role of sharing our testimony is one facet that aligns your heart, obedience, and resources with God’s purpose and grace. I love this statement about God’s grace. “In the vast landscape of our brokenness, God’s grace is the radiant sunrise, transforming our darkest moments into a canvas of redemption and hope.” It’s no exaggeration to say that God’s transformative power is seen not just in our lives but also in the lives of others when we share our testimonies; it’s that powerful.

Revelation 12:11 establishes the importance of our testimony. “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” This verse is found in a section of Revelation that describes God’s protection of His church. How does the church find victory over the enemy? Satan is overcome because Christ has died and been resurrected for our salvation, and because of the testimony of Christ’s church (believers) to their faith in Him, others are drawn to the Lord and receive Him. Historically, Christians have been willing to maintain their testimony even to physical death – martyrdom (Hebrews 12:2-4). To grow in the grace of testimony, we must first recognize its power.

God calls us to share our testimony. Consider Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” This verse encourages those who have experienced God’s redemption to openly acknowledge and proclaim gratitude for being saved from adversity or challenges. When believers share their testimonies, it’s a powerful way for them to reflect on personal experiences, foster gratitude, and reinforce faith. It also provides a sense of closure or healing from past challenges. Also, those hearing their testimonies are offered inspiration, encouragement, and a sense of hope. It creates a community bond as people realize they are not alone in their struggles. To grow in the grace of testimony, we must recognize its power and actually share our testimony with others. It’s true that our testimony’s power lies not in its secrecy but in its shared revelation.

We are challenged by these words found in 1 Peter. “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). This verse encourages Christians to be ready to share their faith when questioned, emphasizing the importance of doing so with kindness and respect. It reflects the idea of being ambassadors for one’s faith and promoting understanding through thoughtful communication. We discover these words in Colossians. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). This passage highlights the importance of Christians conducting themselves wisely and graciously, especially when interacting with those outside the faith. It emphasizes the idea of being good representatives of Christianity, engaging in conversations with love and wisdom to positively impact others.

Notice that in our verses from 1 Peter and here in Colossians, we are to be people who reflect God’s love and show respect to those we share with. Also, our story needs to point to the Savior. It’s important to keep in mind that our testimonies need to glorify God, not ourselves, be established in truth, covered in Christ’s love, and shared in the hope that other believers are encouraged and those yet to receive Christ will do so. To grow in the grace of testimony, we must recognize its power, share it with others, and do so by glorifying Christ and respecting others. It’s been said, “Our testimonies are not about showcasing our achievements but magnifying God’s grace at work in our lives. It’s not the story of our strength, but His transformative power.” In fact, our testimonies are not ours by His; they are to be used as our Lord desires.

In John 4, we have Christ’s example of sharing with others. I would encourage you to read the account, but let me summarize it for us. Jesus has a profound conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well. He begins by asking her for a drink, breaking societal norms. As the conversation unfolds, Jesus reveals his knowledge of her life, discussing her past and highlighting the spiritual water he can provide. The Samaritan woman recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, and the encounter serves as a demonstration of Jesus’ transformative power and the inclusivity of His message beyond cultural boundaries. The Samaritan woman gives her testimony to the people of her town, who, by the way, had probably treated her poorly. As a result, not only does the Samaritan woman come to Christ. But so too many in the town.

There are several lessons we can learn from Jesus’ example. First, Jesus looked for ways to share the gospel. Second, Jesus engaged others to share the gospel without discrimination. Thirdly, Jesus engaged in spiritual conversations in sharing the gospel. Jesus, the divine catalyst of spiritual transformations, engaged in profound conversations, unveiling the depth of God’s love. Fourth, Jesus dealt lovingly and respectfully in sharing the gospel. Jesus, the purest example of love and respect, spoke the gospel gently and compassionately. Lastly, Jesus possessed an enduring commitment to others in sharing the gospel. Jesus, with an unwavering commitment to humanity, shared the gospel as a beacon of enduring love. His relentless pursuit of hearts exemplifies a commitment that transcends time, urging us to emulate His dedication in sharing the transformative message of salvation with a world in need.

Over my formative years as a believer, I have had several people model the grace of testimony, one I met in college – Keith Drury. I took a class on Evangelism and Discipleship in college from Keith. He was a new professor and taught very practically. He invited us to go with him as he had spiritual conversations with people in the community. I learned so much from Him, such as to keep it real. I remember when we walked up to a home, and he turned to me and said, “You are ready…take the lead.” That moment profoundly impacted my life of growing in the grace of testimony. I have used this you watch, I do, we do, you do, I watch method to help others experience the joy of sharing their testimony.

Let me encourage you with this verse Paul writes to his young protégé Timothy in sharing his faith. “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Let me use this verse to pray over us as we share our faith with those around us. Lord, may we embrace the spirit of power, love, and sound judgment that Paul writes has been bestowed upon us as believers in 2 Timothy 1:7. Grant us the courage to authentically share our faith story, uplifting fellow believers with love and guiding those distant from You, yet close to Your heart, towards the light of Your grace and salvation. Amen! Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Growing in the Grace of Treasure

By Pastor's Blog

When we speak on growing in God’s grace, one topic we must address is growing in the grace of treasure. First, let me explain what I mean by God’s grace. God’s grace is an attribute of God, His goodness expressed to each of us who do not deserve it. God’s grace manifests itself in the believer’s life as we enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and walk in step with His Spirit. As we explore growing in God’s grace of treasure, we will specifically explore growing in grace through biblical tithing. Growing in God’s grace involves various aspects, and the role of tithing can be a significant part of spiritual growth. Remember, spiritual growth is a lifelong journey, and the role of tithing is one facet that aligns your heart, obedience, and resources with God’s purpose and grace. Return God’s tithe to Him, and He will bless you.

Tithing is the biblical practice of giving the first ten percent of one’s income to support the work of the church and ministry, reflecting obedience to God’s commands and a heart of gratitude for His provision. It’s important to remember that, as John Maxwell notes, “Tithing is not about the money. It’s about the heart surrendered to God.” Tithing is exemplified by Abraham (Gen 14:20) and commanded by God (Lev 27:30). It’s an act of obedient trust in God. It’s an act of obedience, which brings blessings since we are walking according to God’s plan. Consider Malachi 3:10. “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” This verse was spoken to God’s people who had returned from exile and failed to acknowledge God as the true owner of everything. They weren’t expressing an obedient trust in God. As a result, God made a challenge and timeless promise that remains true today. The promise is not one of mere personal financial prosperity but one of deep blessings of various kinds. It’s important to point out that tithing is an act of obedience and trust in God in response to His love, not motivated by personal gain. Of course, this is true of every step of obedience we take with Christ.

For those who might question the New Testament validity of tithing, I would point out Christ’s affirmation of it (Matthew 23:23). Jesus is clear that to tithe is good and right, but not to be done ought of legalism, but as a reflection of spiritual growth and reflection of God’s grace and love, along with “justice,” “mercy,” and “faithfulness.” Tithing is an act of obedient trust in God in response to His love, not motivated by personal gain, and reflects spiritual growth. The Bible teaches that the tithe is from our firstfruits, emphasizing foundational principles of faith, obedience, and gratitude. By instructing believers to offer the firstfruits, the Scriptures underscore the acknowledgment of God’s ownership over all aspects of our lives, including our resources. Tithing prioritizes God in our finances, urging us to give Him the initial and best portion rather than what remains. Doing so becomes a tangible expression of trust and dependence on God’s continual provision.

God’s ownership of everything and tithing as an act of worship is addressed throughout Scripture (Psalm 24:1). God is the owner of the whole of creation. We enjoy it simply by His permission. The believer’s body is indwelt by God’s Spirit, bought through Christ’s death on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Therefore, we are the Lord’s and need to glorify Him with our whole being. Consider Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” The Bible instructs believers to honor the Lord with their wealth by offering the firstfruits of their income. We are to acknowledge God’s ownership over our possessions and, in so doing, trust that faithful giving will result in blessings overflowing from God.

In 2 Corinthians 9:7, believers are encouraged to give cheerfully and willingly without compulsion or reluctance. The passage emphasizes that God values a heart that delights in generous, joyful giving, reflecting a positive attitude toward stewardship. Offering the firstfruits is a timeless act of worship, cultivating a spirit of gratitude for God’s faithfulness. Therefore, tithing is an act of obedient trust in God in response to His love, not motivated by personal gain, and is a reflection of spiritual growth as an act of worship to the Lord.

Tithing enables the local church to bless others (Galatians 6:10). Tithing to a local church serves as a powerful means through which the church can extend blessings to others, aligning with the biblical principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. As believers faithfully contribute their tithes, the local church is empowered to carry out its mission to know Him and make Him known. Financial resources derived from tithing enable the church to provide for the needs of those within and beyond its congregation. This act of giving mirrors the essence of loving one’s neighbor as instructed in the Bible, demonstrating tangible care and support for the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual well-being of others. In honoring God with our tithes, we actively participate in the church’s ability to be a source of blessing and positive impact, reflecting the core Christian values of selfless love and compassion toward our neighbors. Therefore, tithing is an act of obedient trust in God in response to His love, not motivated by personal gain, and is a reflection of spiritual growth as an act of worship to the Lord, allowing us, His church, to be blessed and bless others.

Our act of giving is a profound expression of obedient trust in God, a heartfelt response to His immeasurable love. Tithing is not about personal gain; it’s a spiritual journey of surrender and worship, reflecting our growth in grace. Consider the image of a river. A river begins as a small stream, just like our individual acts of obedience in tithing. It gathers strength and depth as it flows, much like our journey of trust and worshipful giving. Picture the river nourishing the land it passes through, providing life to the surrounding vegetation. Similarly, our tithing, when done with obedient trust, nourishes the spiritual landscape of our church community and beyond. It becomes a river of grace, sustaining and transforming everything it touches. Now, envision the river eventually merging into a vast ocean. Our collective tithing, offered in love and obedience, merges into the boundless ocean of God’s grace. It becomes a part of something far greater than ourselves, a testimony to the generosity and love of our Heavenly Father. Simply put. Our individual acts of worshipful giving, prompted by love and trust, collectively create a powerful force that not only blesses us but reaches far beyond, leaving a lasting impact on lives and communities.

Let us continue this journey of growing in grace together. Embrace the joy of obedient trust in God, recognizing that your tithes are pivotal in shaping a community that not only receives blessings but becomes a source of blessing to others. Remember Charles Swindoll’s words, “God doesn’t need our money, but He desires our hearts expressed through obedient giving.” May our tithing be a symphony of worship, harmonizing with the grace that has been poured upon us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Little Christs

By Pastor's Blog

I can get geeked out about history, especially about redemptive history. I don’t feel bad about it, but I realize that not everyone gets a kick out of the same things I do. However, I think this documented historical event is quite fascinating and, when considered, is quite challenging.

In Acts, we read, “When Barnabas had found Paul, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). Barnabas had been sent to Antioch to instruct the new Gentile believers. The church grew rapidly, so he went to Tarsus to invite Paul to come serve with him in this growing and vibrant ministry.

We are told that they invested a year teaching a large number of people. Then, we read, “In Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.” This was around AD 45. We know when and where the term Christian was first adopted by followers of Christ. I say adopted because, more than likely, this label was applied by the unbelieving public in Antioch. It quite possibly could have been a derogatory name. Christian means “belonging to Christ” or “follower of Christ.’ The Greek word can also mean “little Christs.” In this sense, the unbelievers of Antioch could have been mocking the believers as “little Christs” going about their city. The believers in Antioch considered the term and its meaning and decided it was a great way to describe them. Over time, the term “Christian” became widely used to identify individuals and communities who professed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Here is what I find challenging. The term’s first use, although possibly meant to degrade, also showed that the believers were actually reflecting Christ. The idea behind “little Christs” is like a man named Brian walking around with his son, who shares many of his characteristics, and calling the son “little Brian,” when Brian is not actually his name. The son is so much like his father that the term is affectionately given to him. Although the intent of calling the believers in Antioch “little Christs” was not positive toward the followers of Christ, being identified with their Savior was received as a badge of honor. The challenge for me then is to live in such a way that others see Christ in me, and now, about two thousand years later, I present an accurate picture as one “belonging to Christ” or as a “follower of Christ.”

Unfortunately, over the past two millennia, the term “Christian” in certain places has been corrupted or commandeered. It has been corrupted by groups who have professed to be Christian, yet rather than reflecting Christ, have done great atrocities. Those who have commandeered the term profess to be followers of Christ but do not see the Scriptures as absolute truth and, therefore, live and teach contrary to the Word. This has marred the term “Christian” in the minds of many in our time.

Let me be clear. I am not perfect, but I am being perfected. I am still growing, and I want to be found guilty of actively desiring, with the Spirit’s help, to genuinely follow Christ and reflect Him to the world around me – to know Him and make Him known. This is the mission of Crosswinds, and as a church family, we are committed to helping each other be Christian for God’s glory and our blessing so that we can bless others in the name of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Difference Between Average & Normal

By Pastor's Blog

As I considered spiritual formation, becoming more and more like Christ, I began to consider the difference between average and normal. Average speaks of what is typical. Normal is conformity to a standard. If you were to visit a hospital wing, the average temp in that wing may be 102. However, the normal temperature for humans is 98.6. I ask you, “Do you want the average or normal temp?”

When considering spiritual formation, I ask, “Do you want average or normal Christianity?” One poll I recently came across noted that while 63% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, only 11% of U.S. adults read their Bible daily. This is problematic. R.C. Sproul recognized, “There is an inseparable relationship between affection for Christ and our affection for the Word of God.”

Prayer is a dynamic dialogue with the Lord. Through prayer, we are offered the opportunity to partner with Christ in His mission. It releases the resources of heaven in and through our lives. Keep in mind that 63% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, but one poll found that only 30% of U.S. adults pray for over 5 minutes daily. Prayer does not seem to be a high priority for the average believer.

We have been created to live in community. In fact, we are hardwired to do life with God and other believers. Yet, the Pew Research Center found in a recent poll that 30% of U.S. adults attend a worship service once a month or more. If all 30% were Christians, it would seem that nearly half aren’t. If this poll is remotely accurate, the average Christian does not attend church even monthly.

I am not a big fan of stats and polls, but they paint a picture. I find myself questioning the accuracy of some stats. Still, if the above polls present even a general picture of those who claim to be Christian in America, the average Christian is not studying and applying God’s Word to their life. They are not engaging in prayer in any significant way. They do not fellowship with other believers regularly. In short, average Christianity is a recipe for disaster.

Here’s the good news. We believers don’t have to settle for average. We can experience normal Christianity. As we conform, with the Spirit’s help, in an ever-increasing manner, to the standard of the believer found in Scripture, we experience what God desires for us. Jesus describes this life when He says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus’ promise of fullness of life begins for the believer in the here and now. Jesus calls us His followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential but to a rich, full, joyful life that overflows with meaning. This is normal Christianity and made available to all who are saved by Jesus, following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and are on mission with Jesus. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Embracing God’s Word

By Pastor's Blog

We need to understand that change is an opportunity for spiritual growth. When a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis into a butterfly, it undergoes profound change. In fact, change is the transformative process that propels its growth. Likewise, to grow, we must accept the importance and profound impact of change in our personal development. As Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The word “transformed” comes from the Greek word metamorphosed. Meta means radical, and morph means change. Therefore, transformation means radical change. This radical change comes from God.

We are called to leave behind the past and embrace the promise of new beginnings in the Lord. This entails embracing God’s Word. As believers, we must receive Scripture as God intends and dedicate ourselves to mastering it as we allow it to master us through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It’s important to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s role in helping us understand and apply the Bible to our lives. The Spirit guides us and illuminates God’s Word, helping us comprehend the scriptures’ meanings and relevance to our lives. The Holy Spirit empowers us to apply biblical principles in daily living, fostering spiritual growth and alignment with God’s will. When I approach God’s Word, I pray, “Lord, help me understand what I am about to read. I want to learn what Scripture teaches about You, myself, and others. Assist me in seeing where there is a command to follow, a promise to claim, or a sin to avoid. Lead me to understand what you would want me to do as a result of this reading and how I can share the truths that lie within with others. As I seek to master Your Word, let it master me. Amen!” The good news is that we can embrace God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we engage in Scripture, the Spirit mentors us through the Bible’s teachings and accounts of people like Abraham, Moses, David, and the Apostle Paul.

We discover in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the divine origin of Scripture as well as its purpose. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “All Scripture is breathed out by God” literally means inspired. The purpose of Scripture is to teach true doctrine (sound God-given truths), correct false beliefs, and teach what we ought not to do and what we ought to do so we can live full and flourishing lives in Christ, serving and worshiping Him as His church. Consequently, we can embrace God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit, learning how to live according to God’s purpose. Consider the Bible as a divine blueprint for a flourishing garden. Each verse is a seed that, when planted in the fertile soil of our hearts, grows into vibrant expressions of service and worship, creating a thriving garden where we each flourish as part of Christ’s church.

God’s Word has transformative power in the life of a believer. We read, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). This verse underscores the dynamic and penetrating nature of God’s Word and its ability to profoundly change a believer’s life. “The word of God is living” emphasizes its effectiveness and accomplishes God’s purpose.

God’s word penetrates the deepest part of the human soul, knowing our true selves, and, when applied by the Spirit’s power and leading, does the supernatural work of transforming us into an ever-greater image of Christ. It’s vital we understand that we can embrace God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit, learn how to live according to God’s purpose, and be transformed into an ever-greater image of Christ. Picture the Bible as a sculptor’s chisel used by the Master to meticulously shape a block of marble, us, into a masterpiece. As we engage with Scripture, it becomes God’s primary tool to transform us by carving away our imperfections and molding us into an ever-greater reflection of Christ’s character and love.

When we embrace God’s Word, we flourish in Christ. Here’s a powerful passage from Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3). These verses express that individuals who delight in and meditate on the teachings of the Lord (the Bible) experience a flourishing and prosperous life. This is illustrated through the metaphor of a tree planted by streams of water, symbolizing spiritual vitality and sustained growth. The key message is the connection between embracing God’s Word and the resulting flourishing and success in one’s life. This is good news because we can embrace God’s Word with the help of the Holy Spirit, learn how to live according to God’s purpose, and be transformed into an ever-greater image of Christ while flourishing in Him.

We believers must embrace God’s Word as God intends and dedicate ourselves to mastering it as we allow it to master us through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. We’ll never master God’s Word on this side of paradise; it’s a lifelong journey of growth and exploration where more and more God’s Word masters us. Cultivating a heart for God’s Word takes developing a habit of regularly studying and applying it to our lives and prayer. We need to encourage one another to prioritize Scripture and help new believers learn how to do so.

The fruit of a Scripture-driven life is spiritual growth and maturity that impacts our relationships, character, and how we live our lives. Let’s return to our garden imagery. Imagine a well-tended garden where each plant is nourished by the purest water and basks in the sunlight. In the same way, a Scripture-driven life is like cultivating the fruits of patience, kindness, and wisdom.

Think about it. The more one immerses oneself in the teachings of the Scriptures, the richer and more abundant the harvest of virtues becomes in one’s life. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can embrace God’s Word, discovering how to align our lives with His purpose. This leads to a transformation as we progressively reflect the image of Christ and thrive in Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Embracing Evangelism & Discipleship

By Pastor's Blog

Spiritual growth is a continual process of becoming more like Jesus. We discover in 2 Peter 3:18, “ …grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Here, we find emphasized the importance of continual growth in both grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ for believers. It highlights the ongoing process of spiritual maturity, encouraging Christians to deepen their understanding of God’s grace and to develop a more intimate relationship with Christ. In essence, it underscores the idea that spiritual growth is a lifelong journey marked by an increasing awareness of God’s grace and a deepening knowledge of Christ. This is why I’ve adopted as my definition of a disciple as a person who is saved by Jesus, follows Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is on mission with Jesus.

Spiritual growth involves prayer, studying and applying God’s Word, practicing virtues, and seeking a closer connection to God to navigate life’s challenges with faith and resilience. Further, spiritual growth is embodied in our call to share the love and message of Christ with others and our being disciples who make disciples for Christ. Jesus declares, in Matthew 28:19–20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Simply, the central task of the church (all believers) is to “make disciples of all nations.”

There is no doubt that The Great Commission gives a mandate of evangelism to all believers. Author and theologian Elton Trueblood rightly explained, “Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.” Engaging in evangelism benefits not just the recipient but also our spiritual growth. Sharing our faith requires understanding the gospel message, encouraging us to delve into Scripture, and fostering personal spiritual development. Also, evangelism involves relying on God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit, promoting a dependence on Him. This reliance on God’s guidance deepens our trust in God, contributing to our spiritual maturity. Furthermore, sharing the Gospel allows us to witness the transformative power of our beliefs in the lives of others, reinforcing our own convictions and providing a sense of purpose in our spiritual journey. Therefore, we need to understand that evangelism is not only the responsibility of every believer; it’s a crucial aspect of God’s plan for our spiritual growth.

Not only is evangelism mandated for all believers in The Great Commission, but so is discipleship. Not only is evangelism important to our spiritual growth, but discipleship is, too. Discipleship is nurturing others in their faith journey. Paul writes to his protégé, Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This verse instructs believers to teach biblical teachings to others, who will teach others. We are to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples. In fact, within this verse, we discover four generations of disciple makers (Paul, Timothy, faithful believers, and others).

Now, keep in mind that discipleship is not just a calling for a select few; it’s the sacred responsibility of every Christian to invest in the spiritual growth and journey of others, guiding them toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Not only is it our responsibility, but it reinforces our own spiritual growth. Discipleship involves guiding others in their faith journey, but it also significantly contributes to the spiritual growth of the one doing the guiding. Teaching and mentoring others requires understanding our beliefs, leading to a more profound comprehension of God’s Word. Additionally, the act of discipleship encourages the mentor to embody and model Christlike character and love, fostering personal accountability and a commitment to living out one’s faith authentically. Helping others grow spiritually often prompts self-reflection and a continuous effort to align one’s life with the teachings of Christ. Ultimately, discipleship becomes a reciprocal process, benefiting both the mentor and the disciple, as both parties actively participate in the shared journey of spiritual growth and transformation. Therefore, we need to understand that discipleship is not only the responsibility of every believer; it’s a crucial aspect of God’s plan for our spiritual growth.

Evangelist Billy Sunday proclaimed, “Evangelism and discipleship are not two things; they are one thing: making disciples.” Evangelism and discipleship are interconnected in Christianity as they both play crucial roles in the process of spreading and deepening the Christian faith. Evangelism focuses on sharing the message of the Gospel, inviting others to accept Christ, and initiating them into the Christian faith. The discipleship process begins once individuals respond to the evangelistic message and become followers of Christ. Discipleship involves nurturing and guiding new believers in their spiritual journey, helping them grow in their understanding of faith, and encouraging them to live according to Christian principles. Evangelism initiates people into the faith, while discipleship ensures that they continue to grow and mature spiritually. The connection lies in the continuum of introducing individuals to Christ through evangelism and then supporting their ongoing development as committed disciples through intentional teaching, mentorship, and community involvement.

Note that to the world, you might be one person, but to one person, you might be the world. I came across this powerful truth years ago. “I am only one, but still, I am one. I cannot do everything, but still, I can do something, and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” When one person invests in another for Christ, it’s not merely a temporal exchange; it’s a profound commitment to eternal significance. Through evangelism and discipleship, the transformative impact echoes through time, fostering spiritual growth not only in the one being poured into but also in the one sharing the love and message of Christ. This shared journey for Christ leaves an indelible mark, shaping destinies and paving the way for an eternal legacy of faith. We must accept that every believer needs to be active in evangelism and discipleship; it’s the responsibility of every believer, and it’s a crucial aspect of God’s plan for our spiritual growth.

Our spiritual journey is like a flame that, when shared, does not diminish but multiplies in brightness. Just as a candle can ignite countless others without losing its own glow, our call to make disciples is an invitation to spread the transformative light of Christ. In igniting the hearts of others, we not only fulfill the Great Commission but stoke the eternal flame of spiritual growth, ensuring that the warmth of discipleship continues to radiate in our lives, the lives of those we touch, and the generations yet to come. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!