Friday, August 30, 2013

Evangelism in a Post Modern Culture: Responses

"Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, 'We shall hear you gain concerning this.'  So Paul went out of their midst.  But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them" (Acts 17:32-33).

When Paul finished his sermon in Athens in Acts 17, there were several different types of responses.  Some people sneered and mocked Paul.  Others said, "We will think about it." But some believed!

Let's remind ourselves that Paul was in a pioneer area where no one had ever heard the gospel and this message was brand new to the Athenians.  It was in fact "strange things to their ears" (Acts 17:20).  However, God is  not limited to a certain method nor is he bound by time.  Relationship evangelism is great and is certainly a wonderful way to find ways to share the gospel with people, but we have to trust that God is working in places that may not have even ever heard the word "God" or "Jesus" before!  There are no rules that state you have to know someone for a month or a year, get to know them and then share.  There are no rules that you have to use a certain gospel tract or method.  God is God and we are not!  All He wants is for us to be faithful to do whatever He has called us to do!
Sharon Beougher

Spurgeon once stated to preachers to "Take your text and make a beeline for the cross."  In our conversations we need to make a beeline for the cross.  The cross is what provides hope for the heart as people Hope, Believe, Turn and Call.

Lord, let us learn from Paul and let us be faithful to do WHATEVER you want us to do and to never lose the wonder of who You are and the wonder of our salvation!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Looking Forward

"For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13, HCSB). 

What motivates you? Lately, pictures of Corpus Christi have been motivating me keep up my runs, since I will be running in a long distance race there soon. There is this feeling within me that can emerge, though - a feeling that routine runs will wear away at me and drain my energy. When I remember why I am excited about that run in the future, my mind shifts. My heart lifts. I remember why I love to run, and even what may seem like a purely mechanic routine is a good time as I remember the end goal with its purpose and meaning.

As believers, we have this future hope that Jesus will return one day. This hope comes from God's promises. He is an unchanging promise keeper. God is Lord over all and Jesus, our Redeemer. With help from the Holy Spirit, we can seek to live our lives as His people, representatives for Him until He comes again to restore His kingdom on earth. My hope is that as we seek to follow God, we shift our eyes from obedience that can look like routine and see the underlying love for our Savior that can drive all of that.

Kelli Martin
Let's be a people who love Him from the inside out. Let's share with others and pray that they see that our obedience is a work of the Holy Spirit. Let's pray that God renews our hearts daily so we can reflect Him more.

"So we must not grow tired of doing good" (Galatians 6:9a, HCSB). 

"God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit in me" (Psalm 51:10, HCSB). 

Recommended song: "Absent from Flesh" performed by Sojourn Music. You can see a YouTube video here or listen to the audio version here. This song was inspired by the hymn written by Isaac Watts, and you can find the words to that here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Sin of Selfishness

Kari Beougher
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

This past weekend I kept my sisters 4 kids, ages 6 and under. I absolutely adore my nieces and nephews and above all other career choices desire to one day be a mother. However, this weekend was a strong indication for me of my selfishness. I am convinced that being a mother is one of the most selfless endeavors tin existence. Every moment of parenting is spent serving, cleaning. feeding and caring for another. This past weekend, I realized how pervasive selfishness is. It is so easy to be selfish with time, money, plans, relationships- and yet that is not the mindset or attitude Christ calls believers to.

The passage in Philippians goes on to say, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Phillippians 2:5-8. Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world, exemplified the most selfless attitude and actions of all time. And because He dwells inside believers, we are able to choose to love others above ourselves.

Today may we pray with the psalmist, "Incline my heart to your testimonies and not toward selfish gain!" (Psalm 119:36). May we actively look for opportunities to serve others and put their interests above our own.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Evangelism in a Post Modern World: Man is a Sinner

"Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.  Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:29-30).

In Acts 17, Paul continues to tell us how to approach people in our culture.  After explaining to the men in Athens who God is, he continues to reveal the true nature of man.  Idolatry is not innocent.  It is rebellion against God Himself.  God is "declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent" (Acts 30).

In our culture there are too many people who believe that there is no absolute truth and that every person is right in their own inner being.  The theological term for that is:  BALONEY.  Romans 1:18-32 clearly tells us that ever man has a conscience and that every man has violated his own moral conscience.  Sin is a reality in every person's life. 
Sharon Beougher
Judgment day is coming whether people believe it or not.  We have the only cure to escape the wrath that will come to unbelievers.  If we worked in a medical laboratory and found a cure for a disease that would 100% for sure kill 100% of people, what would our responsibility be with that cure?  It would be to share it!  If we put a steeple on that medical laboratory, knowing that there is a disease out there that will kill 100% of the people (SIN) and we know the cure (JESUS CHRIST), what is our responsibility to do with it?  Share it! 

Let's go!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trust in the Moment

"And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You" (Psalm 9:10, NASB). 

Have you heard of a quarter-life crisis? It may sound like a stretch compared to the more widely known mid-life crisis, but I used it when I graduated from college. It made me laugh. After spending most of my life in school, I was trying to make sense of just what I was to do with myself. So, since I have already claimed the term for another time in my life, I am left with having to identify the current place I am in as I face another fork in the road.

There is something to be said of a quarter-life crisis. Moments will come and go. Yet - there is something about those moments. There is a purpose for each one.

As God's, He has a purpose for our lives and for life in general. As I think back on the times that I thought were meaningless, confusing or simply a mess, I remember Him being there. He has always been there, even if I didn't seem to want Him there. If I wasn't close to Him in those moments, then He was there to bring me closer to Himself. I just had to respond, lean in and trust Him. He was there to forgive me, or to point me where to go or to give me strength for the next step.
Kelli Martin

So, I don't know what to call this fork in the road, but that's okay. I've found peace remembering God is in control. He's got this.

Child of God, no matter what moment you are in, remember He is Immanuel, God with us. Not only that, but He's given His children the Holy Spirit to help us here on earth.

Let's lean in and look through heaven's eyes today and trust in Him. Let's see a world that also needs His forgiveness, presence and peace and be there to point them to Him, our life-giver.

Monday, August 19, 2013

strengthening souls

"After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.'" Acts 14:21-22, NASB.

Jaye Martin
The souls of many I know need strengthening today. It seems at every turn, I hear of faithful servants who have incredible challenges because of death or serious illness. I have no problems, I just sometimes think that I do.

On Friday, I learned of the passing of an incredibly gifted man, Stacy Taylor. Known for his generous spirit and vibrant personality, I knew him as one who jumped into every task with great enthusiasm. I laugh as I recall the times he volunteered to visit for the church, teach children's Bible study and do other things only to learn that these were not his first calling. More than once, he said he just knew how to make and raise money. Wow, what a gift!!! Stacy was always smiling and strengthening the souls of those he knew. Pray for his wife, Janet, and for his family and friends. Today they need to be encouraged through the tribulations. We all do.

It was Friday evening that I ran into Arthur Craig, pastor of Woodhaven Deaf Church in Houston. I was shocked when he said that just two weeks ago, his wife Barbara had died. Arthur and Barbara started the first deaf church and have been faithfully serving for decades. What a blessing to have served alongside of them in ministry at Houston's FBC. Barbara was a kindhearted and gentle soul who cherished her husband and children and loving consoled everyone she met. She was a true servant and we will all miss her. The world is a better place because of her ministry.

Regardless of your call in life, whether it be in the business world or quietly and faithfully serving behind the scenes, your life counts. Gifted in leading or gifted in following, all are necessary. This scripture in Acts reminds us that, in the early church, each person and all gifts were needed to work together for the cause of Christ. Today, let's decide to lay aside all the things that we think are problems. Instead, strengthen the souls of disciples and encourage them to continue in the faith.

May we be found faithful.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A lasting promise

"We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain." -Hebrews 6:19

Have you been in a boat before? Quite a few years ago, I remember sailing with some friends and my friend's grandfather near Kemah, Texas. We left the shore mid-afternoon, planning to come back to land in time to eat dinner. It was a beautiful day, but as the sun started to set, we realized something may be wrong. We had drifted into waters that seemed too deep for an anchor, and the wind seemed to have stopped. After a while of searching, we found a way back and my friend's grandfather was able to find a spot to anchor the boat. We were hungry and tired, so we were relieved to have a spot to eat and rest before nightfall.

There is this rock solid, anchor-like hope we find in God's promise, when we come to Him by faith in Christ. When we believe in His sacrifice, ask for forgiveness and turn to Him for guidance, we are forgiven and considered a part of His family. We are able to be a part of God's family because of His great love for us.

Christ is our intermediary high priest. He is the way we can have a mended relationship with the holy God the Father, because Jesus has paid the price for our sins. Let us praise God that He has forgiven us like that, as if
Kelli Martin
we are white as snow.

Let us praise God in light of this promise, and let us walk by faith because of it. Let's look for ways to share this hope that we find in Him, our rock, and pray that others come to embrace Him as Savior and Lord.

A great song: "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong United (a YouTube lyric video link)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hope and Hide

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You. When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139: 13-16

Read that last line again. God has all of your days planned out for you. That means that you still have choices with your life but that He has your direction planned. He even knew you before you were born, because He decided how He would fashion you. It is no wonder that there is hope for you. The Creator of the universe not only made you, but also He knows what will make you happy and desires that you have a wonderful, hope-filled life.

Hope is found in God
Hope can come from a lot of different places. Hope can come from just anticipating an event or even from something much more important like finding hope in what your job will be.

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. Psalm 62:5-8

When you acknowledge Him alone as your salvation, the Word of God says that He will be your hope and that you cannot be shaken. You may feel shaken and bounced around a bit, but the good news is that it won't have a lasting effect. You can depend on Him as your secure and mighty rock, your very foundation for all that this life on earth holds, as well as the life to come. The Bible says to pour out your heart to Him and trust in Him. When you do, He is your refuge and you can hide in Him.

Some days I have so many choices that I would like to crawl back in my mother's womb and hide. Anyone with me? God hears and understands. Let's pour our hearts out to God. We can hope and hide in Him.

Part of today's post comes from HeartCall New Heart. It will be available for shipping at the end of the week! Order one for yourself, one to give and a case for your church.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Evangelism in a Post Modern Culture: Focus on Who God Is

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every  nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God if perhaps they might grope for Him and fine Him, though He is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and exist" (Acts 17:24-28).

Paul focuses on who God is as soon as He starts preaching to the peole in Athens.  In this passage we see that God is:
  • The Creator of the universe (v. 24).
    Sharon Beougher
  • The Sustainer of all life (v. 25).
  • The Sovereign Lord of all the nations (v. 26).
  • The Self-revealing God (v. 27-28).
Sometimes I get so busy in life that I forget to stop and just meditate on how GREAT God truly is!  He absolutely is the Creator, Sustainer, Sovereign Lord, and Self-revealing God in my life and in the world.  Nothing is imposible with God.  He can do ALL things.  He has even determined the exact location of where I live.  God is awesome and magnificent, but He is also a very personal God who cares about you and me.  And He cares about those around us.  We must not forget how powerful He is and be obedient to the Great Commission to "Go and tell!"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Now Publishing: Peace + Salvation

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns'" (Isaiah 52:7, ESV). 

This version stood out to me, because of the word "publishing" and because it is mentioned twice. In this verse, the Hebrew form of the word used means "to hear of man" (NAS Exhaustive Concordance). So, this news is from someone's voice. God can speak through us to bring news of salvation and peace to others.

The neat thing is is that we are meant to bring this news with full trust and remembrance of its truth. Remember how you have found peace and salvation:
  • How have you found peace with God?
  • When were you saved? What did He deliver you from? 
  • How has the peace and salvation that you've found in God changed your mind, perspective, heart and soul?
Let's pray we get the chance to share this peace and salvation, and the root of it, with someone else this week.
Kelli Martin

Let's pray God gives us boldness and wisdom to "publish" the salvation and peace that last - the kind we find in Him.

"And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:15, ESV). 

Recommended song: "Rooftops" by Jesus Culture - you can listen to it on YouTube here

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wisdom in Worship

"Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures....  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Romans 1:22-23;25.

Kari Beougher
Upon first reading this passage of Scripture, my mind immediately goes to Exodus 32 and the Israelite people creating and worshiping the golden calf. It can be easy when reading Biblical passages to criticize or condemn the Israelites for their foolishness. After all the Lord had done for them, how could they turn away from serving the Lord to serving a mere symbol? Right?

Before I can even finish my critique, I am immediately convicted by the countless times idolatry has marked my life. After all the Lord has done for me- forgiveness, salvation, redemption, sanctification (to name a few)- how could I turn away from serving the Creator to serving the created? 

And yet, there are countless distractions, relationships, pursuits and objects that can easily steal our affections if we are not careful. Finances, careers, family, success, possessions, ourselves- any and all of these can easily become the object of our affection, devotion, time and worship. In his book, Instruments In the Redeemers Hands, Paul David Tripp says:

"Sin leads us to believe that life can be found away from the Creator, and so we, in subtle and obvious ways, forget the Creator and deify the creation. Our behavior is ruled, not by worship and service of the Lord, but by a ravenous desire for something in the creation." 

The worship of anything other than God is futile, empty and unsatisfying. As St. Augustine has famously said, "God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

What/who is occupying your heart and mind today? What/who is receiving your attention and devotion? Today, may we set our heart and our mind on the greatness of our God. May we wholeheartedly pursue our glorious Creator and allow nothing to deter our worship for Him.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Taste + See

"Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). 

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, 
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Psalm 18:2, ESV).

Are you a fan of sundaes? A few weeks ago, my friend shared her birthday sundae at Bucca di Beppo. Its towering layers were mouth-watering. I definitely recommend tasting it to see for yourself.

It's refreshing to dig in and "taste" Scripture like Psalm 18:2, because it reminds me of God's identity. I love that in this one verse, David just went on and on about God.

What do you think of, when you hear these words?
  • fortress, refuge, shield
  • rock, stronghold
  • deliverer, salvation
David - a lyricist and a warrior, a shepherd who was anointed king -  went through many battles. Through it all, he saw that God is worthy of praise and devotion.

This is what I've been thinking about in this verse:
  • Deliverer. God saves. Jesus died for our debts on the cross, so He could forgive us. When we believe this and receive it, we are saved. It's a gift. He is a giver.
  • Rock. Our Lord is strong and present. Jesus defeated the grave. God's forgiveness frees us from staying bound by sin, and the Holy Spirit works within His people to make them a better reflection of His influence on us. He lives.
  • Refuge. He brings peace. Believers can rest in that their identity is a part of God's family that He watches after like the good shepherd. Remember, He's the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father.
Kelli Martin
This weekend, let's praise God, overwhelmed with thankfulness for all He is.
Let's invite others who don't know him yet to dig in - to taste and see that the Lord is good.

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (Luke 1:68-69, ESV).

You can read the rest of chapter 18 here.
Recommended songs:
"My Redeemer Lives" by Nicole C. Mullen 
"Never Would Have Made It" by Marvin Sapp 
"Stronger" by Hillsong Chapel (live)