Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fruitful Faith

During our 4th week studying the Book of Mark we discussed Fruitful Faith. In Mark chapter 4 Jesus describes the laws of sowing and reaping in a parable about a farmer. A farmer goes out to sow seed...just as we are to go out and sow the Word of God. The "seed" we sow can be received in many different ways.

Mark 4:14-20
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

We need to ask ourselves what type of soil we are right now. Are we bearing fruit, living for Christ? Are we tilling our soil? Are we removing thorns? Are we continually aware of the fact that 24/7 we are sowing some type of seed?

In order to sow the type of seed that will bear fruit, we need to know and share the Word, serve others in the name of Jesus Christ and cultivate relationships that give us the opportunity to sow over time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Book of Mark

We began our new series on Sunday entitled, Living Authentic Discipleship. Over the next five months we will journey through the book of Mark.

Though the author of the book of Mark is anonymous, it is assumed that it was written by John Mark, an apostle of Peter, around the early to mid 60's for Christians in and near Rome. At the time is was ascribed, Rome was ruled by Emperor Nero. Nero was known for his severe persecution of Christians after the fire that ravaged Rome in 64 A.D. It is believed that Mark escaped from Rome with written stories of Jesus' life, and with his knowledge of the culture, compiled the stories partly to simply preserve them.

After reading the entire first chapter we focused on Mark 1:14-22. Jesus calls to Simon and Andrew who are in their boat casting nets. He calls to them, "'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him." His request is significant because he appealed to their trade and said they would go after a much bigger, more important catch. In Mark 1:19-20, Jesus calls out to James and John who choose to leave their father with hired servants to run the family business and follow him. Sometimes to be an authentic disciple we may have to leave everything we think is important behind.

As we continue through this study, remember the five points of Authentic Discipleship...Put Jesus First, Follow His Teachings, Be Fruitful, Love Other Disciples, and Make Disciples of Others.

The ultimate goal of living as an authentic disciple is to become like Christ in every area of life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

UFC: Staying Alert in the Last Days

According to Scripture we will all face death and judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." It is not just enough to be saved. Unbelievers will be punished based on their works, just as believers will be rewarded for theirs. The great white throne judgment (Rev 20:11) will take place at the end of time and the beginning of eternity future. Only those who are not written in the Book of Life will appear before the Great White Throne. They will not be found written in the Book of Life because, in their lifetimes, they failed to believe God. The clear message of Revelation 20:12-13 is that all unbelievers will be resurrected, all will face the condemnation of God because of their unbelief, and all will be judged based on their works. The basis upon which each resurrected person, whether resurrected from the sea or the ground will be judged will be by what he has done (works).

We threw around the idea of what standing in judgment before God may look like. Mr. Clifton described it as driving on the Tollway with a can speed on through the booth, but you are still accountable for your actions. My mom is a Bible teacher and when she described meeting God for the first time, she told me to imagine standing naked before His throne, all of the works I had accomplished on earth that glorified His name were represented by jewels around His feet. As He began to run through my life, mentioning my self-serving nature, lies I had told, blasphemy, the floor began to grow thicker as He threw hay and stubble at His feet...all of the things I had done on earth to glorify myself. And an instant He reminded me that my sins had been forgiven when He sent His son to die on the cross. A great fire arose, torching the grass around me to reveal the beautiful gems designated for my crown.

As believers, we will enter into our eternal home because of our faith, but will be judged and rewarded based on our works. Folks, there is plenty of work to be done.

Live expectantly with the hope He will return, live differently, live evangelistically.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

UFC: Improving Your Home

Improving Your Home was the final lesson in our series, Ultimate Faith Challenge.

From the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis 2:18, God tells us, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." He created the union of marriage as a sacred bond, leaving our parents and cleaving to one another. One key point stressed is that a Christian marriage demonstrates the relationship between Christ and the church. We are one flesh, willing to give up our rights for the other, unified through the Holy Spirit.

It is then our duty as followers of Christ to show our children the devotion the Lord has to our church played out in our marriages. Psalm 127 states, "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." Children are a gift from God and we must teach them the Bible (Deut 32:46), discipline them properly (Prov 22:13), and show them to love, obey and hold fast to the Lord (Deut 30:19-20). Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

God ordained marriage, between a man (as the loving authority) and a woman (as the submissive compliment), which produces the blessing of children.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

UFC: Becoming Holy

What does it take to live a holy, set apart life in an unholy world?

Becoming Holy was the topic of our discussion this Sunday. 1 Peter 1:13-16 tells us that we are to prepare our minds for action, be self-controlled, not conform, to set our hope fully on the grace of Christ. As God's people we should strive for moral purity. Romans 12:1-2 shows that we should live transformed lives. We who are partakers of this glory are gradually being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We are in the process of sanctification.

But truly living holy takes obedience. We should present ourselves as slaves to righteousness, conforming to God's standard of right and wrong. Wow...what a picture. Fortunately, God gives us the confidence we need to follow Him through 1 Peter 2:9. We are chosen, a royal priesthood, a holy nation...we belong to God. He called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. Thank you Lord for not leaving us in the darkness...for choosing us to do your will.

I challenge you this week to live out the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.

Monday, October 27, 2008

UFC: Mastering the Message

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
(Mark 16:15, KJV)

As we proceed in our series, Ultimate Faith Challenge, Mastering the Message was the topic of Sunday's study.

The Gospel gives us an optimistic message of hope and good news. As 1 Corinthians 15 lays out the "good news", we must believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, rose on the third day, and was seen by many witnesses. We are saved! He died for our sins...He conquered DEATH.

The goal for every believer should be to become more like Christ. And because we are saved, we will suffer, we will be persecuted, but we MUST persevere through this spiritual journey so that one day we will be glorified.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

God providentially works all things in our lives towards the ultimate intended good of our conformity to Christ. We must trust that God will bring His work in us to completion...He has declared us righteous (justified), He has set us apart and made us holy (sanctified), and He will bring us to complete maturity (glorified).

So...what is the message? Grace. God's grace toward sinful mankind.

Monday, October 20, 2008

UFC: Accepting by Faith Alone

Accepting by Faith Alone was our topic of discussion in ABF this week. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." But exactly what are grace and faith? Grace is simply God's unmerited favor shown to mankind. Faith is abandoning all trust in our own resources and casting oneself on the mercy of God. How do grace and faith work together in salvation and where do works come in to play? Salvation is a gift of God's love, grace and mercy. The definition of salvation is the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil. We can only be delivered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 clearly demonstrates that salvation is through faith alone.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Though the basis of salvation is not works, the goal of salvation is good works (Eph 2:10). We were not saved by works, we were saved for works. Once we have been saved, we are re-created into a “masterpiece” of God’s grace in order to do the good works that God had designed for us to do