Photo: Orlova Maria
Some time ago I made this statement in our church: The older I get, the less I am impressed.
Trends and ideas usually show up in different ways from one decade to another. Powerful spiritual figures come and go. Sometimes their ministries flourish and sometimes they are short-lived. However, what really inspires me is how Jesus Christ can change one’s life.
Recently, Pastor David Ogren, from Great Commission Media Ministries (GCMM), spoke at our church. He led a training session explaining their media campaigns in mega cities throughout the world. The title of their evangelism ministry is The Power to Change. This slogan captures the interest from all cultures.
People from all walks of life are bound by a dynamic power that the Bible calls sin. It reveals itself in what Galatians 5:19-21 says are the acts of the sinful nature.
…Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like…
Verse 21 emphatically states, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In other words, regardless of the culture, people are bound by behaviors that are rooted in sin. The only power that is greater than sin is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul states in Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. [Includes all ethnic groups.] For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
II Corinthians 5:17 says that when we receive the forgiveness of our sins we become a new creation. Other portions of scripture identify believers in Jesus as children of God. (Galatians 3:26-29, 4:6-7)
Therefore, the power of sin is broken and we have the power to change because Jesus Christ is working His life in us (Philippians 1:6); His character becomes our character.
The GCMM campaign lasts for 30 days, where they blast the city with a symphony of media: television programming and advertising, fliers in every home, banners, billboards, bus advertising, newspaper and radio ads. They touch about 90% of cities with life stories from people who have been changed by Jesus.
All media has a telephone number that is directed to a call center where people receive counsel and prayer. Their names are forwarded to churches who follow up the visit with a 100-page Power to Change booklet featuring real life stories, a clear explanation of the gospel and answers to life’s questions.
Bible studies are started, churches assimilate the new believers and the atmosphere of the city changes. People become receptive to hear the gospel.
After the training session, Crossfire attendees buzzed with excitement. Why? Because life produces life. Every believer in Jesus wants others to experience this life-changing power.
Participants were asked to write down ten names of people they want to come to Christ. They were asked to pray for an opportunity to share the gospel with them. Without Jesus, there is no power to change.
If you would like this power to change, I invite you to pray this prayer:
Jesus, I know I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I can’t change myself because the power of sin has ruled my life. I now invite You into my life as my personal Lord and Savior. Live Your life through me and give me the power to change. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo: Lizzy Gadd
It seems like every day I hear of someone going through not just difficult, but horrible circumstances. We hear of the sufferings of Christians in other countries and even on our own home soil. We visit loved ones in hospitals and weep over their pain as they struggle to be freed of disease, healed of broken bones, or restored from mental disorders.
People everywhere are fighting to survive in the midst of tragic situations. Many are dealing with financial ruin, while others are trying to hold their marriages together. Still, some are literally fighting for their lives or those they love. I've spent time with young people fighting the battle of drug addiction and other abusive vices. I've prayed with many who seem to be losing a grip on life, as they fight off the influence of negative and destructive thoughts in their minds.
We will all at one time or another face a situation that is out of our control and we will have to make a choice. Will we use our mental...physical....and spiritual strength to the fullest measure to survive or will we just give up and let go?
Tests and trials are for our benefit...not our demise. They are in our lives to teach us how to rise above fear and hopelessness and to become dangerous to the kingdom of darkness, as we persevere to be examples for the children of light. We are in the school of 'Hard Knocks' and I look forward to the day when I finally graduate.
Until then I am determined to continue to grow in strength and wisdom with each trial I face. I have learned that preparation is not only the key for survival...it’s imperative in order to experience the joy of revival. We all know that it's logical to study and be prepared when taking a test in school, so why wouldn't it be just as logical to study God’s Word in preparation for the times our faith and endurance will be tested?
All successful runners prepare before running the race. They have run the distance in practice and have built up their endurance. Now, after stretching their muscles...they focus on the goal line with confidence...Not to just survive the race...But to thrive by winning it!
Isn't it time to start stretching your spiritual muscles and look at the race set before you with confidence? You can do this!
Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and compete, not lacking anything.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Recently, Pastor Judy asked this question to our elders and deacons: What does the word commitment look like?
My immediate response was, “The people in this room.”
I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 describe the qualifications for elders and deacons. There are many that pertain to only elders and some to deacons, however, there are shared qualifications for both: above reproach or blameless, faithful to his wife, temperate, respectable, not given to drunkenness, manages his own family well, sees that his children obey him, does not pursue dishonest gain and holds to the truth.
These are qualities of commitment. Each has a track record of loving people to the point where they give their lives away to serve others. I am absolutely humbled when I am in their presence because their example of commitment, fueled by love, pulls me to be a more passionate follower of Christ.
What makes this group of leaders special?
First, they prioritize their lives by making time for Bible reading, reflection, prayer and worship.
Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.
Regular daily time communing with the Holy Spirit keeps our focus on God and not ourselves or our circumstances.
Second, Crossfire leaders understand the importance of the local church.
I Corinthians 3:16-17
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
The pronoun “you” is plural, meaning that church (called “temple”) consists of many members. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says that the Holy Spirit occupies our bodies, which are called the temple of God. Individual temples make up the corporate temple that the Bible calls the Church.
The apostle Paul clearly warns those who try to destroy this divine group will in essence be annihilated themselves. The church with all of its imperfection is God-ordained to reach our lost world for Jesus Christ. Therefore, our leaders are committed to Crossfire’s success and highly protective of their church family.
One of the greatest challenges church leadership faces is to raise up committed people. Our mission statement is “Loving God, Loving People”. Basically this is a commitment statement. Today’s society is highly self-centered. The internet has created an information culture and relationship vacuum. Therefore, we have a fragmented church with attenders but not committed members.
Many in our church culture tune into the radio station WIIFM – What’s In It For Me. They are excited about spiritual truths and practices until they come to an understanding of commitment and sacrifice. Some disappear, searching for a fantasy church that never disappoints or requires anything from them.
Mature believers see the importance of committed relationships and service.
Leaders at Crossfire church deal with weaknesses and disappointments like any other Christian. What makes them leaders is commitment. All of them have been offended, misused and disappointed in their ministry roles, but they have chosen to grow rather than retreat. Each has a deep sense that God has called them to Crossfire Church so they have made a covenant with God that overrides their disappointments in life.
They also have committed themselves to our church body because people are depending upon them for leadership and support. A husband and wife often work out hurts and disagreements in their marriage because the kids depend on both of them for their security. Our leaders realize their presence brings peace and security to the church family.
Every Christian needs to be planted in a church; we were made for community. Get committed and watch how your spiritual life will soar with excitement!
Aaron and Pastor Keith with their fish!
Many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. They knew everything there was to know about finding, attracting and catching fish. Their livelihood depended on their fishing skills.
Jesus used their common knowledge to help them understand spiritual truth. In Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17 and Luke 5:10, Jesus told his disciples to fish for men.
What is the parallel between fishing in the wild and fishing for people?
Recently, Jesus’ words became clearer to me. My son Aaron and I went fishing out of Pentwater, Michigan, on a charter boat for King Salmon, Cohoe Salmon and Steelhead. The charter boat captain and his helper knew exactly what they needed to do to catch fish.
The time of day is extremely important.
We had to leave home by 4:00 am to get to the fishing boat on time. Big fish especially feed in the early morning when the sun is down. The dark water camouflages the larger fish from the bait-fish they prey upon. When the sun comes up the smaller fish are able to see the shadow of the larger prey fish. When the lures are in the vicinity of the bait-fish the larger prey fish are more likely to pursue and attack the lure. Result: fish on and the fun starts.
The charter boat crew sets out between ten and twelve lines with different bait at different depths. This allows fish at different depths to see the lures and be attracted to them. Fish can only be attracted to bait if they can see it.
The captain has a device that marks fish at various depths and measures the upper and lower water speeds along with the water temperature. His goal is to fish in waters that are about 50° because this temperature causes the fish to be more active and aggressive.
The captain marks hot spots in his GPS and saves the location directions in his computer device so he can return to that spot. Then the captain relies on radio communications with other charter boat captains to locate fish.
Our captain was a seasoned veteran, so our trip was very successful. We caught thirteen fish; eleven ranged from 5 – 7 pounds and two King Salmon weighed 15 pounds each.
The fish in our freezers remind us of this wonderful trip.
Angling for people has a parallel with fishing. We need to be where people are congregated and can see the bait we put before them. We can’t expect people to adjust to our schedules, but rather we have to be willing to adjust to them. We need to study the conditions and environment of those in our sphere of influence to attract them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For example, Crossfire Church is focusing on reaching people for the gospel in the month of October. Our theme is, “Preparing to bring in the harvest.” We have events planned inside our church and in the community that are designed to attract people to Christ.
The sacrifice of time, energy and money is worth it when people come to Jesus.
Who are the people you interact with on a regular basis? This is your fishing spot, the one where God has called you to angle for people.
Pray over them and ask God for ideas on how you can attract and catch them for Christ.
Reading about fishing does not make you a fisherman, fishermen catch fish.
Photo: Steven Spassov
I decided to have more flowers around the house this summer. We have some bright pink ones in the front along the pathway to the house. You know, there’s just something so inviting about the sight and smell of beautiful flowers lining a pathway to the front door. Then I added some purple ones that hang over our front porch.
On one side of the porch the flowers looked stunning. They were full and vibrant as if to say, "Hey look at me everyone! I am so fruitful and pleasing to be around; I make this place look great!"
But on the other side of the porch hung a very sad looking basket of the same type of flowers. I babied it ... fertilized it ... watered it ... trimmed it ... pulled the dead flowers and leaves off of it, but it didn't look like it would make it another day.
Well, I have a very hard time giving up on anything. So, as silly as it sounds, I spoke to it and then prayed for wisdom on how to keep this plant from dying.
It seemed like our guests noticed that sad hanging plant more than the pretty ones. When they'd ask me why I wasn't watering it, my reply was "I am, but it doesn't help." So the thought came to me to put it on the back porch.
However, the strangest thing happened about a week later. The plant was starting to bud and the lifeless stems were starting to rise up and reach for the sun. I slowly added water and watched it fill out and it actually made our back porch look cheery and much more appealing. It needed to be in a different place, in order to survive and be fruitful.
People may be unfruitful or barely surviving in life, because they are simply in need of a change. It may be a job, an attitude, a relationship, a location, or even a ministry.
If you find yourself just surviving in life, maybe it's time to speak encouraging words to yourself like David in Psalms 42:5. Then trust the Master Gardener, Our Heavenly Father, to prepare that perfect place that will help you grow and thrive.
Why are you down cast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, was recently interviewed by Fox News concerning the terrorist threat in the Middle East. He was asked how peace could be achieved in this volatile area. His response was this:
You can't negotiate with terrorist groups. They only know and respect strength. Their goal is to convert you to their religion or kill you if you resist. As long as you are stronger than them you will be able to control them. Once they become more powerful than you they will kill you.
A well equipped battle-ready army is essential to engage this type of enemy.
The Bible says Satan is the ruler of this world and he roams the earth like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour. When a person gives their life to Jesus Christ, they are dropped into a war zone.
Matthew 10:34 echoes these stern words of Jesus to His disciples:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
The sword represents a symbol of dividing, or warfare.
[Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Satan has two plans of attack:
1. He wants to bring as many people to hell with him as he can by blinding them from the saving power of Jesus Christ.
2. He bombards followers of Christ with self-centeredness and undisciplined lives so they cannot affect others with the message of salvation.
II Corinthians 10:4 - 5 tells us that our weapons are not like the world’s weapons, but they have power to destroy spiritual forces of darkness that assault us on a daily basis.
Ephesians 6:11 instructs us to put on the whole armor of God so that we can stand against the devil’s schemes. Our weapons are the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship and witness to the world.
A war is won with more than one of the armed forces. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard all work together, coordinating their battle plans to bring a decisive victory. We must use all of our weapons to bring about spiritual victory in our lives and in the mission of the church.
Soldiers cannot be taught to fight battles only in the classroom, they must learn how to fight on the battlefield. It’s more fought than taught.
The war siren is sounding. People of God, prepare yourself to fight against an enemy that is out to kill you physically and spiritually. Let’s be like David in I Samuel 17: when all Israel was afraid of Goliath, David volunteered to fight him. Before he faced the giant, he confidently said, “I will kill him and cut off his head, because he defied the armies of God.”
David was prepared for war early in life. His abilities were tested against a lion and a bear. The giant was no match for him because the God of the universe lived in Him. He ran to the giant to fight him because his focus was on God’s greatness, not on the size of Goliath.
We are in a war every day, Goliaths are constantly taunting us.
Let’s run toward them and defeat them because I John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
Photo Credit: Probiotics.org
Recently I listened to Christian doctors explain about their cancer research and what they found out about the disease.
They talked about its ability to hide from detection under a covering of protein. When the white blood cells (our physical army of defense) patrol our system, it sees protein as a normal presence in our body and ignores it. The white cells are on the lookout for foreign or dangerous cells in our body. When they detect them, they attack and destroy those cells before they can reproduce and multiply. Disease is from the pit of hell and is characteristic of its source. It robs the body of strength - destroys the body from the inside out and its goal is to literally kill the body.
When these cancerous cells hide under protein in the blood, the white blood cells are deceived by their outward appearance and allow them to remain. The doctors found that the answer in dealing with this problem effectively was twofold. They needed to expose the hidden danger, while building a strong enough immune system to eliminate it.
This is such a clear picture of how Satan and the forces of darkness work to destroy the body of Christ. His strategy is to deceive the unsuspecting church, organization, or individual into believing that everything is fine and healthy, when they're literally being destroyed from the inside out.
I began to think about my own spiritual life. Was my spiritual immune system strong enough to fight and eliminate unhealthy thoughts, actions or even relationships? When was the last time I asked Holy Spirit to reveal anything hidden or deceptive in my life? Could deadly influences surrounding my life be hiding under a covering of what appears to be godly?
Holy Spirit, I ask that You would strip away any deceptive form of godliness and expose the plans of darkness. May The Word of God, our true defense system, move through the cleansing blood of Jesus to seek out, attack and destroy any ungodly presence in our lives.
Psalms 18: 28-30
The LORD my God lightens my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. His way is perfect; the Word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
Build your immune system! Ingest God’s Word and stay healthy in every way!
I pastored for a number of years in Marquette, Michigan. I remember reading a story at that time about a young man who was killed in a car accident not far from Ishpeming, Michigan. He arrived at Marquette General Hospital brain-dead.
A short time before his accident, he filled out an organ donor’s card; his organs were immediately harvested from his body and distributed to teams of surgeons from Pittsburgh and Minnesota.
One of this young man’s kidneys was implanted into a 17-year-old man at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the other kidney was implanted into a 43-year-old lodged in the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis. His heart was implanted into a 50-year-old man at the University of Pittsburgh Hospital.
This tragic death brought a new quality of life to two men in need of a kidney, as well as a middle-aged man’s ability to continue life.
The Christian life parallels this noble deed. Jesus said, “One does not find life until he loses it.”
And, “Unless a grain dies in the ground, no fruit can be obtained.”
This principle goes against the world’s philosophy: Get all the gusto in life! You owe it to yourself. Climb to the top no matter how many people you hurt. If it feels good, do it.
The ultimate investment is to give your life away to others.
What is the motivation for this type of self-sacrifice? Love is the primary reason why we sacrifice our lives for others.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Love is a tremendous motivation!
A young man was trapped behind enemy lines with his wounded brother. His love prompted him to carry his brother on his back to safety. The wounded brother slowed him down and put him in harm’s way. However, love trumps fear and self-protection.
Matthew 9:36 – 38 expresses pointedly the compassion Jesus had for people to have eternal life:
When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Mathew 5:13 – 14 also emphasize that we as believers are to be salt (preservative) and light (give truth) to those without Jesus in this world.
The Scottish Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to live for God and glorify Him forever.”
We do this first by becoming a part of God’s family by inviting Jesus Christ into our lives. Once we’ve done this, we are given a life’s mission to make disciples from all nations for Christ. (Matthew 28:19 – 20)
The mark of the Christian life is giving our lives to others out of a grateful heart for what God has given to us in Jesus.
It is necessary to prepare for what is and will be coming our way. We face enormous problems and pressures that cannot be solved with human effort and ability.
Our country is being systematically dismantled from its Christian foundation and the world is being controlled by hatred and anger. We live in perilous times that put a demand on Christians to arise with courage to stop this onslaught of evil.
Why is the Christian church so silent and unable to stop this army of darkness that is invading America and the world? There are three reasons.
1. Christians are not familiar with their weapons.
We cannot fight a war if we do not know how to use our weapons. We are engaged in a spiritual conflict that identifies itself with the fruits of sexual immorality, impurity, a party spirit, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. (Galatians 5:19-21, acts of our sinful nature.)
This is a spiritual conflict that can only be won with spiritual weapons: prayer and God’s word.
II Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
II Corinthians 10:4-5
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Knowing the Bible and praying its truth over people and circumstances will create an atmosphere for people to make right choices to follow God rather than their own destructive ways.
2. Christians have been silenced because their members have taken the path of least resistance.
The easy way often has a horrible result. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. Difficult people and issues must be dealt with head on.
In the movie, Courageous, Javier Martinez was asked by his employer to participate in unethical behavior. He needed his job to support his family, however, his behavior and decisions were guided by an authority higher than mere self-preservation.
His response was: I am very grateful to have a job here, but I cannot do what you have asked me to do, because it is wrong. I cannot dishonor God or my family by lying on this report.
He was ready to give up his job in order to obey Christ and live with a clear conscience. The owners responded positively to him and offered him a management position because the entire event was a test. They were looking for a man of integrity and trustworthiness.
3. Christians have been silenced because their members are waiting for others to fight the battle rather than taking the initiative to engage the culture themselves.
The only cure for our decaying culture is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
II Samuel 23:8-12 describe three of the best fighters and leaders in David’s army.
Phrases like these describe them:
He raised his spear against 800 men whom he killed in one encounter. [Josheb-Basshebeth]
He stood his ground and struck down the Philistines until his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. [Eleazar]
He defended a plot and struck down the Philistines. [Shammah]
The result of the engagement of these heroic men was that the Lord gave the Israelites great victories.
Where are the men and women of courage? God is calling us to act on His behalf so we can experience the victories of David’s three mighty men.
In the days in which we live survival is not just a word in a fictional storybook or a new program on TV, it's a part of life.
It can be a financial struggle to keep from losing everything we have worked so hard for, or it can be an emotional storm that just seems to carry us farther away from the peaceful shore. Many of my closest friends and loved ones, including myself, have been faced with fear and discouragement as we fought the battle of sickness and disease.
Some clergy friends were ready to leave their ministries or churches, because the people they poured their life into turned on them. I have personally learned that I can't focus on circumstances, the bad news reports, the doctor’s scary diagnoses, physical limitations or the abandonment of people. I must keep my eyes on Jesus, the One who gives me hope in hopeless situations.
Fear and discouragement are powerful, destructive tools of the enemy. They can cause us to imagine the worst and try to get us to believe that we should just give up without even trying to go on. Fear can actually paralyze a person, making them powerless and unable to function. However, fear when confronted by the Word of God, becomes powerless and the truth of His word fills us with renewed courage.
In the first chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy to remain faithful. He reminds him that God has not given him a spirit of fear, but instead He has given him a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Paul states that he was abandoned by those close to him...those he trusted, but then he focused on those who were faithful.
He encouraged Timothy to guard, with the help of Holy Spirit, what Paul had entrusted to him...the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
If you have been fearful...betrayed...abandoned...discouraged...and you feel like giving up, let me encourage you today. Put your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. You will not only survive this trial, you will finish well, for within you is the spirit of God, developing the heart of an overcomer!
Study His Word like a training manual for surviving in the wilderness, exercise your faith like an athlete preparing for the Olympics, and believe in the depths of your being that Jesus loves you and that He is with you.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.