Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Living the Gospel Together: The Priority of the Church


Timothy 2:1-15                   March 23, 2014                 Link for audio/video/manuscript

Prayer is to be the preeminent priority activity in the life of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Prayer realizes the great purpose that God desires men and women from every people, language, tribe and nation might come to know the joy and the glory of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the way we conduct ourselves in prayer has everything to do with the cause of the gospel. Our attitude in our prayer and in our conduct must be one of humble respect. The impact of the church upon the world comes about when men and women walk in the character, in the conduct, and in the roles that God has prescribed for them. The power of the church is dependent on the priority of prayer of the church - which is dependent on the priority of how we each fulfill our God-given roles in our marriages, in our families and in our church

Freedom to Pursue Joy in God - Matt Chandler

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Living the Gospel Together: The Message of the Church

1 Timothy 1:1-20                  March 16, 2014               Link for audio/video/manuscript

Times of testing reveal the depth of our spiritual roots. The strong winds of life expose if we are like a tumbleweed or like an oak tree. One main root of a true spiritual oak of the church is the deep and strong root of accurate beliefs in the Word of God. Acute and accurate understanding and beliefs about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, about the church, about our world, and about ourselves are essential to putting down deep spiritual roots. If we have inaccurate understanding beliefs we will live out our lives like tumbleweeds. Preaching and teaching God’s Word is the most important aspect of the ministry of the church; it is the source, the heart, the root of everything else that happens in the church. The central task of leadership in any church is to see that the preaching/teaching of the church is in line with the apostolic revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church should be living the gospel together. That’s our message.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saeed Abedini Denied Treatment After Prison Beating

Saeed Abedini, US pastor held in Iran, denied treatment after prison beating
By Lisa Daftari/March 13, 2014/FoxNews.com
An American pastor being held in one of Iran's most brutal prisons is in serious danger, after initially being refused medical treatment following a beating at the hands of his jailers, supporters of Saeed Abedini said.
The 33-year-old Abedini, whose wife, son and daughter are at their home in Boise, Idaho, was taken to a hospital after the attack at Iran's Rajai Shahr prison, but once there was shackled to a hospital bed and ultimately refused surgery for internal bleeding, according to his wife. On Thursday, a relative of Abedini complained to prison officials and was told a “mistake” had been made and that surgery would be performed. Although the relative was allowed to see Abedini, no procedure had taken place.
"This development is of great concern to me and our children," Naghmeh Abedini told FoxNews.com. "Saeed needs medical care and treatment and for the Iranian government to withhold the surgery he so desperately needs is deeply troubling.”
Abedini, who has served just one year of an eight-year sentence meted out to him for allegedly evangelizing in his homeland, was taken to the hospital a little over a week ago, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, the attorneys representing the pastor and his family here in the U.S.
Abedini suffers pain in his abdomen and internal bleeding -- the result of a number of prison beatings, according to his attorneys.
Abedini's supporters say he has been beaten and tortured in the prison, and that he was only in Iran to try to start a secular orphanage. President Obama, Washington lawmakers, the European Union and a host of international humanitarian groups have called on Tehran to release Abedini, but the Iranian government has so far rebuffed them.
Abedini's relatives in Iran told ACLJ officials prison guards told them Wednesday they had an order from the court banning visitors and stating that Abedini must remain shackled at all times. Despite spending a week at the hospital, Abedini was denied treatment and test results.
Naghmeh Abedini has been working tirelessly to keep her husband and his plight in the international spotlight. She has often left her children back home to travel around the world making her husband's story known. She continues to pressure the Iranian government for her husband’s release.
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow believes the temporary transfer of Abedini was due to a visit to Tehran of European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton. By moving him to a hospital, the regime might have been able to deny her permission to visit him while creating the impression he was getting care, Sekulow said..
"It appears the Iranian government is interested more in public relations than in human rights and providing medical treatment to a U.S. citizen who is imprisoned because of his Christian faith,” Sekulow said.
Abedini had been making one of his frequent visits to see his parents and the rest of his family in Iran, his native country, where he spent many years as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts.
On this last trip, the Iranian government pulled him off a bus in September 2012, and said he must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran.
“The Iranian government is wrongfully imprisoning him and denying him needed medical care because he is a Christian,” Sekulow said.
“Just reiterates that we need to keep pressure on Iran. As soon as pressure is let up, the situation gets worse.”
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.." (Matthew 5:11-12)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Giving to God: The Joy of the Spirit

Luke 10:1-24                          March 9, 2014                         Link for audio/video/manuscript

The disciples had much to be joyful about. In giving of themselves to God by following Jesus they had joy of knowing the power of God through Jesus Christ in their lives, the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives, and the joy of knowing that God is absolutely sovereign in and over and through everything in life. And because God is sovereign in and over and through all things, they were blessed to see what many wanted to see but were not able to see. We are blessed in the same way. Like the disciples we are called to graciously give of ourselves as God sacrificially gave to us through Jesus Christ. And when we do give of ourselves to God, we will know the joy of the Spirit of seeing people coming to faith in Jesus Christ!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Enjoy the Gift of Having God’s Ear - David Mathis

He is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10). Not only did he choose us before the world began, and give his Son to save us, and cause us to be born again, but he also sustains the whole of our Christian lives, from day one to that Day, in his matchless grace. He covers our lives with his unexpected kindness through people and circumstances, in good times and bad, and showers us with unforeseen favor in sickness and health, in life and in death.
But he doesn’t always catch us off guard. He has his regular channels — the means of grace — the well-worn pathways along which he is so often pleased to pass and pour out his goodness on those waiting expectantly. The chief thoroughfares are his word, his church, and prayer. Or his voice, his body, and his ear.

The Speaking God Who Listens

First sounds his voice. By his word, he reveals himself and expresses his heart, and unveils his Son as the culmination of his speaking. By his word, he creates (Genesis 1:3) and recreates (2 Corinthians 4:4), not just individual members, but a body called the church.
And wonder of wonders, not only does he express himself and bid us hear his voice, but he wants to hear ours. The speaking God not only has spoken, but he also listens — he stops, he stoops, he wants to hear from you. He stands ready to hear your voice.
Christian, you have the ear of God. We call it prayer.

A Conversation We Didn’t Start

Prayer, very simply, is talking to God. It is irreducibly relational. It’s personal — he is the Absolute Person, and we are the derivative persons, fashioned in his image. In a sense, prayer is as basic as persons relating to each other, conversing, interacting, but with this significant caveat: In this relationship, he is Creator, and we are creatures. He is Lord, and we are servants, but because of his amazing love and extravagant grace, he invites us to interact. He has opened his mouth. Now he opens his ear.
Prayer, for the Christian, is not merely talking to God, but responding to the one who has initiated toward us. He has spoken first. It is not a conversation we start, but a relationship into which we’ve been drawn. His voice breaks the silence. Then, in prayer, we speak to the God who has spoken. Our asking and pleading and requesting spring not from our emptiness, but his fullness. Prayer doesn’t begin with our needs, but with his bounty. Prayer is a reflex to the grace he gives to the sinners he saves. It is soliciting his provision in view of the power he has shown.
Prayer is the glad response from the Bride, in a happily submissive relationship with her Groom, to his sacrificial and life-giving initiatives.

The Great Purpose of Prayer

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, to find that prayer is not finally about getting things from God, but getting God. Born in response to his voice, prayer makes its requests of God, but is not content to only receive from God. Prayer must have him.
It is not wrong to want God’s gifts and ask for them. Most prayers in the Bible are for the gifts of God. But ultimately every gift should be desired because it shows us and brings us more of him. . . . When this world totally fails, the ground for joy remains. God. Therefore, surely every prayer for life and health and home and family and job and ministry in this world is secondary. And the great purpose of prayer is to ask that — in and through all his gifts — God would be our joy. (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 142–143)
Or, as C.S. Lewis says so memorably, “Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine” (The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 8).

Prayer’s Practices in Perspective

So, prayer — having God’s ear — is ultimately about having more of God. And having God’s ear (like hearing his voice) is not first and foremost about our particular practices and postures, but the principle of continually relating to him, privately and with others. He is holy, and so we worship (adoration). He is merciful, and so we repent (confession). He is gracious, and so we express appreciation (thanksgiving). He is loving, and so we petition him for ourselves, our family, our friends (supplication).
Because prayer is part and parcel of on ongoing relationship with God, Luke doesn’t highlight the particular times or places of early-church prayer, but tells us, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). And Paul charges the church not to specific prescribed habits, but to “be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12), to “continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2), to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).
Such a pervasive call to prayer is not the stuff of impersonal achievement and raw discipline and boxes to check, but intimate relationship. It has underneath it not an iron human will, but an extraordinarily attentive divine Father who is eager to “give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).
Not only is he a Father who reveals his bounty in words, and “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8), but he wants you to ask. He wants to hear. He wants to interact. He means to have us not in a hypothetical relationship, but in reality.

In Jesus’s Name We Pray

All this is possible only through the person and work of his Son. Not only did Jesus die for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), and to show God’s love for us (Romans 5:8), but he rose from the grave and ascended to heaven as “a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:20), appearing in the very presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus is “at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Having conquered death, the God-man, stationed in his glorified body, “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Our having God’s ear is as sure as our having God’s Son.
And so in this light, we make general intentions into specific plans. We find a regular time and place. We pray by ourselves and with others. Scheduled and spontaneous. In the car, at the table, in bed. We pray through Scripture, in response to God’s word. We adore, confess, give thanks, and petition. We learn to pray by praying, and by praying with others, and discover that “praying regularly with others can be one of the most enriching adventures of your Christian life” (Don Whitney, 77).
Christian, you have the ear of God. Let’s make the most of this.
© 2014 Desiring God

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Resurrected from the Dead!

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. . . . But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 20

Dead Mississippi man begins breathing in embalming room, coroner says
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN, February 28, 2014
Even in the Bible Belt, coroners don't use the word "miracle" lightly.
But Holmes County, Mississippi, Coroner Dexter Howard has no qualms using the word for the resurrection, as it were, of Walter Williams, who was declared dead Wednesday night.
Howard received the call from Williams' hospice nurse, who told Howard that the 87-year-old had passed away. A family member called as well, saying the same, Howard said.
Howard and Byron Porter from Porter & Sons Funeral Home in Lexington, Mississippi, drove to Williams' home to collect the body for funeral preparations. Howard checked Williams' pulse about 9 p.m. and pronounced him dead.
"There was no pulse. He was lifeless," Howard said.
The coroner completed his paperwork, placed Williams in a body bag and transported him to the funeral home, he said. There, something strange happened: The body bag moved.
"We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking," Howard said. "He also began to do a little breathing."
They immediately called an ambulance. Paramedics arrived and hooked Williams up to monitors. Sure enough, he had a heartbeat, so they transported him to the Holmes County Hospital and Clinics.
"They were in shock. I was in shock. I think everybody at the hospital was in shock," Howard said.
Neither in his 12 years as county coroner nor during his decade as deputy coroner has Howard seen anything like it. Howard was absolutely certain Williams was dead.
The only reasonable explanation he could think of, Howard said, is that Williams' defibrillator, implanted beneath
the skin on his chest, jump-started his heart after he was placed in the body bag.
"It could've kicked in, started his heart back," Howard said. "The bottom line is it's a miracle."
Overjoyed family members are thanking God for saving the life of the longtime farmer they call "Snowball."
"So it was not my daddy's time," daughter Martha Lewis told CNN affiliate WJTV. "I don't know how much longer he's going to grace us and bless us with his presence, but hallelujah, we thank Him right now!"
Nephew Eddie Hester told CNN affiliate WAPT he was at Williams' Lexington home when Howard and Porter zipped up the body bag, so he was more than a little stunned when his cousin called at 2:30 a.m. Thursday and told him, "Not yet."
"What you mean not yet?" Hester recalled asking his cousin. "He said, 'Daddy's still here.' "
"I don't know how long he's going to be here, but I know he's back right now. That's all that matters," Hester told WAPT.
Howard visited Williams on Thursday at the hospital and said he was still "a little weak" but was surrounded by family members and talking.
Mike Murphy, the coroner for Clark County, Nevada, and past president of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, said he couldn't comment on this specific case without knowing all the details, but he's read news reports of people returning to life at funeral homes "from time to time."
Asked if he'd ever heard of a case in which a defibrillator played a role in bringing someone back to life, Murphy said he hadn't, "but just because I haven't heard it doesn't mean it hasn't happened."