In our culture, spiritual conversations are happening all around us. Though the world seems to be set on rejecting historical Christian values and principles, there is still a void in people that is being shouted out through music, novels and movies. Many of the most popular movies of our day deal with these issues by depicting a classic, historic and ongoing battle between a “good” god and a “bad” or “evil” one. We seem incapable of writing a script that does not allude in some way to God or spirituality, even if it’s just to try and reject these concepts.
As believers, we need to be ready to enter into these conversations. But we also need to understand that language has changed meanings and the concepts that we will talk about need to avoid “traditional,” Christian language, at least at the beginning stages. In other words, these will not be easy pitches across the plate.
In the world’s language today, though God may be spoken of, often the things that we may associate with “God” are suspect or outright rejected. Rather than becoming defensive we need to understand that this may become the open door we have been praying and looking for, though not exactly where we thought it would be!
Eric Metaxes, author of the notable biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, spoke once at the National Prayer Breakfast. He began his address by saying, “Everything I rejected about God wasn’t God.” He talked of his journey to belief that began with a deep exploration and ultimate rejection of his traditional faith and upbringing.
But God, in mercy, led him back. Recently I had a conversation with a gentleman who was searching spiritually. As we spoke, he told me of the things that he had rejected about Christianity; you know… the usual… “Christians are hypocrites….” “I can be good on my own….” I shared the thought that Metaxes had spoken and said, “It sounds like everything you have rejected about God isn’t God at all.” He grew silent and said, “I think you’re right.”
I’m not sure that our culture has rejected God as much as some false ideas about who He really is. As you speak to friends and coworkers and neighbors and family about their faith, don’t be put off by their rejection of non-essential things.
The primary thing is not that they have faith exactly in the same shape as yours. IT may not be. Our job is not to convert them to our WAY of seeing and expressing it…
… but to truly having a faith that saves!
FOR MEMORIZATION: Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. Romans 1:19 NKJV
FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever rejected things about God that weren’t really God at all? Think about what those were and remember them when you speak to a person struggling with their faith!
Note: The following was shared yesterday with the Fruit Cove Baptist congregation
By the year 2020, I would like for Fruit Cove Baptist to attempt to follow Jesus’ Great Commission in the following ways:
- By having 2,020 in attendance. We can accomplish this through an intensification of our evangelism (expansion) and our discipleship (deepening) efforts. These numbers will include on and off campus attendance totals.
- By launching and supporting multi-campus ministry sites located in the growth corridors around us (e.g. Rivertown and Aberdeen) These will reflect diverse worship styles and will be staffed with worship teams and campus pastors. These properties may be purchased, leased or rented for use.
- By partnering in the planting of 20 new churches in St Johns, Florida; North America; Haiti and Cuba. (This number to include those with whom we are already partnering and will not include churches we currently support through Cooperative Program giving).
- By participating in the revitalization of 20 declining and dying churches in the Jacksonville Baptist Association (JBA). These will include churches we are already partnering with in conjunction with JBA through coaching and consultation as well as one-on-one revitalization agreements.
- By maintaining an amount equivalent to 20% of our church budget total through Cooperative Program and Great Commission giving to reach the nations. This total will include budgeted amounts and items outside of normal budget offering given (e.g. Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings)
- By developing a Family Enrichment and Counseling network to serve families in our community related to mental health, crisis counseling and enrichment ministries. The ministry will include the Celebrate Recovery ministry also.
This will be a challenging goal in roughly a 3 ½ year window. It will require God’s supply to make it a reality. And it will require the best we have to give of our time, our energy, our enthusiasm, our encouragement and our prayers. This is not all inclusive list of every program, nor of everything I would like to see us accomplish. This is basically a growth strategy and not a thorough-going ministry plan that will surround and grow up around Fruit Cove as we work together toward these goals. But hopefully we can together rally around this plan to move forward and become all that God wants us to be… for such a time as this!
The debt 18-year-olds get into today to attend their dream school or just “go away to college” – will keep them from living for the glory of God.
Today, the average 18-year-old will go into major debt to attend college away from home just to get “the college experience.” This “experience” could cost them more in the long-run than they ever imagined.
Let me share with you a common story of today’s 18-year-olds. Today, an 18-year-old will get into a college that takes them away from home. This young person will take out college loans for living expenses, food, books, and probably classes as well. This will not include the credit card they carry that buys them Chick-fil-A and new shoes when they don’t have the cash they need to get it.
After year 1, they will be in debt to the tune of about $10,000. That’s one year in, and one year of college courses under their belt. Don’t forget that credit card they are carrying.
After year 2, (still no degree) they will be over $20,000 in debt with no job and no degree. Oh yeah, that credit card they carry is almost maxed out and they are just paying the minimum balance.
After year 3, they have declared a major have an associate’s degree and are excited about the future they are planning towards. At the end of year 3 they are $30,000 in debt. They are on track to get a degree in communication (because truthfully they don’t know what they want to do). They also now have 2 credit cards. The first one is now maxed out.
After year 4 they feel a call to the mission field. They are excited about this calling, and need only one more semester to get their degree. So after four-and-a-half years of college they have a degree in communications, over $45,000 in student loans, and 2 credit cards nearly maxed out. Oh yeah, and they want to be a missionary.
5 years after high school, with a college degree and a calling to the mission field they are now stuck working a 9-to-5 job just pay off that school loan. Now the plan is in 13 years to head to the mission field- because that is how long it will take to pay off the school loan. They will then be 35 years old…
The point is, the decisions an 18-year-old makes about college now, is going to impact their future and the future plans the Lord has for them more than they will ever know.
The average school loan debt is $30,000, for an undergraduate degree.
The average school loan debt is $57,000 for a master’s degree.
1-in-4 students with a master’s degree have debt of more than $100,000.
1-in-10 students with a master’s degree have debt of more than $150,000.
Years ago Pastor John Piper claimed that the very thing that keeps young people from going to the mission field is the guilt that comes from sexual sin. While this may still be true, there is now something else creeping in, preventing missionaries from heading to the mission field, student loan debt.
Parents, you will be held accountable along with your 18-year-old.
Josh Glymph is the Pastor to High School Students at Fruit Cove Baptist Church. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Post written by Linda Warne
From Genesis to Revelation, God has chosen to reveal His character and nature through His many names. Whether Elohim, Yahweh, Abba, or Bridegroom, Advocate or Comforter…
God invites us to approach and enter the throne room of the Almighty, where we can experience through prayer the presence of our Father, God.
As a young believer, I learned to pray the names of God as a part of my personal worship time. It wasn’t long before I realized that not only was my prayer time greatly impacted by knowing Him by His many names, but I was being changed. It was impossible to spend time in His Presence and not come away conformed & transformed to be more like Him. As I prayed using the names of God, I found myself becoming less concerned with my own needs as I became surrounded by His power and majesty and experienced His faithfulness. I came to know an intimacy with God that made me long to be in His Presence, to discover at new depths who He was and who I was in Christ.
To this day, I pray the names of God, realizing that there are days I need Him to be my Prince of Peace, to calm my spirit and keep me focused. Sometimes I ask Him to be my Shepherd, to guide me and protect me. He is always my Advocate and Helper, dwelling within me and keeping me close. He is the Lord who Heals, My Rock, the God who Sees me, the Lord my Righteousness, my Shield, my Refuge, my Hiding Place and so much more.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (TLB)
In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now,
as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror;
but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face.
Now all that I know is hazy and blurred,
but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.
In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes about spiritual markers. He says “a spiritual marker identifies a time of transition, decision, or direction when I clearly know that God has guided me.” My first big spiritual maker happened in the summer of my eleventh year while I attended church camp. The theme for the camp was on prayer. My counselor, Aunt Peggy (all the counselors were called aunts or uncles) lead daily devotions on prayer and our relationship with God. It was there in that primitive camp cabin that I learned that I can have a personal relationship with God and Jesus and that relationship is strengthened through prayer.
Up until that camp, my prayers mainly consisted of a recited mealtime blessing and a bedtime prayer of asking God to bless my parents, my sisters, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and a boatload of cousins. After camp, I realized I could talk to God about anything! I had two sisters, and I had always wanted a baby brother. So beginning at camp, I prayed for a baby brother. Philippians 4:6 had become real to me as I let my requests be known to God.
After coming home from camp, I announced to my parents that I was praying for a baby brother. My parents said, “That may not happen,” but I kept on praying for a baby brother. Eight weeks later my parents announced that my mom was going to have a baby, but it would probably be another girl. On February 23, 1966, my baby brother was born. When Daddy told me mom had a boy, I said, “Of course. God heard my prayer and answered me.” What a powerful lesson God taught me that year!
For many people it is a very hectic season of life right now. Christmas breaks have just ended for students and families are once again juggling the busy schedule between working all day and juggling multiple family schedules. I know because I have been there! With all this being said it makes me wonder…?
With our busy lives, I wonder what type of fruit are we producing? Also, what kind of vine are you drawing nutrients from?
Read the passage below…
GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
Jesus, the True Vine
1 Then Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. 2 He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of what I have told you. 4 Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me. 5 “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me. 6 Whoever doesn’t live in me is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Branches like this are gathered, thrown into a fire, and burned. 7 If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours. 8 You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples.
Few musicians have impacted my life spiritually like Keith Green. Keith was Brooklyn born and raised and came to Christ at the zenith of the Jesus movement. His death in the early 80’s hit me viscerally as though I knew him personally. The songs he sang challenged me and changed me and spurred me to live for Jesus like few sermons I’ve ever heard. Recently, I was playing back through some of his earliest songs, and one simple chorus captured me again. It is a song of honest confession. It says,
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
But I know how I ought to be
Alive to You, but dead to me.
How often do our prayers get voiced around our hearts but not through them? How often do we echo words…even good words….but they come from a heart that has grown hard and cold? Perhaps Green’s words were inspired by the Psalmist David, who first gave human voice to these words-
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones
You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all
Create in me a clean heart
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your Presence
And take not Your Holy Spirit from me
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And uphold me with a willing spirit.
What is the cure for a heart that is hard and eyes that are dry? A fresh encounter with the living Lord who wants desperately to help you find the joy of your salvation once again!
But I know how I ought to be,
Alive to You, but dead to me.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
FOR REFLECTION: As 2016 begins, what steps can you take toward praying more authentically and less automatically?
At the beginning of December I began a personal study of the book of Psalms. I expected it to be awesome and super encouraging. The idea was to read through the book of Psalms in a month for my devotion time. First of all I didn’t finish, I have a few chapters to go but am hoping to finish by the end of this week. Fingers crossed. As I have read through the Psalms, I have started to take notice of the different prayers that David prayed and how different they look than mine.
Take for instance Psalm 110
1 The Lord says to my Lord:
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 The Lord sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4 The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
My prayers so often are about me, my needs and my wants; sometimes speaking of God’s greatness but more about me. David though, a man who loved God deeply and personally talks about God’s holiness and Him being just as a way of prayer and worship. David in this Psalm describes a battle that needs to be fought; a battle against evil, for God, for good and for God’s glory. I also want to be a part of this battle fighting for the Kingdom of God. Which leads me to a new kind of prayer, one that is less about me and more about HIM.
My prayer: “Lord, with your Spirit overcome my lack of generosity and my obsession with my own needs and security, so that I can truly be part of your work in the world.”
“The only hope in making a long-lasting difference for God is to learn to pray”* How do children learn to pray? They first learn to pray by hearing their parents pray. Children as young as one and two can be taught to pray.
Prayer is talking to God. When praying with preschoolers, use simple words and phrases your child can understand. As parents integrate prayer as a natural part of the day, preschoolers learn to turn to God to heal their booboos, pray for their sick dog, and express thanks to God for the macaroni and cheese at dinner.
Avoid teaching preschoolers memorized prayers. While the “Superman Blessing” and “Now I Lay Me” sound cute when preschoolers recite them, they do not teach children to talk to God about the concerns of their hearts. Encourage your child to use his/her own words. Give them a sentence prayer to complete such as, “Thank You, God, for …. “, “God help my friend ….”, or “God help me to …” Model praying spontaneous prayers throughout the day. Prayer is not just for mealtime and bedtime. God’s creation gives you many opportunities to express thankfulness to Him. When you are outside with your child, pray, “Thank You, God, for the pretty flowers” or “Thank You, God, for eyes to see the rainbow.”
Pray “on the spot” prayers. When your child comes to you with a problem or a worry, pray right then. Integrate prayer into discipline by praying for God to help your child be kind to his/her sibling or for God to forgive your child for wrong choices or actions. Teach older preschoolers the different kinds of prayer: praise, thanksgiving, prayers for people who are in need, prayers for oneself and family.
God instructs Jeremiah to “call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12). By modeling and teaching children to pray, parents are laying the foundation for a lifetime of calling out to God through prayer.
- Ronnie Floyd, How to Pray
I’ve just finished reading the book, Fervent – A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. This book was inspired by the War Room movie, and I can tell you if you enjoyed the movie, you’ll enjoy reading this book.
Pricilla Shirer gives a glimpse of ten strategies Satan might use to attack us. Of course his goal is to see us passionless, powerless, and especially prayerless. She says. “In prayer you gain your strength – the power to gird yourself with armor that extinguishes every weapon your enemy wields.” We pray because our own solutions don’t work and because prayer deploys, activates, and fortifies us against the attacks of the enemy.”
I’m so thankful that God didn’t leave us without His strength, which we access in prayer, through the power of His Holy Spirit, who indwells each of us as believers in Jesus Christ. I’ve personally been so encouraged knowing that all my strength is rooted in who I am in Him and in the WORD of GOD. In that relationship, as a child of God, I have access to the very throne room of God, and all of the resources of heaven.
When Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesians 3, he prayed that they would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith. He asked that they would have power to grasp the depth of God’s love in Christ, and that they would know that love to the fullest. And then he proclaims, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”… what a statement!
The battle has already been fought and won-We pray from victory not for victory!