Hey church family,
Mark your calendars for 1 month from today! I'm excited to let you know that we are going to have Christian music artist Josh Wilson live in concert at our church on Tuesday, March 22nd at 7:00pm. Alliance Berean hosted him last year and my family really enjoyed his concert. I think some of his songs will really move hearts and I need your help to get the word out. We want as many as possible to come! The admission will be free but you will have the opportunity to give a free will offering to Josh.
Here are some of his songs that you hear regularly on the radio:
"Dream Small" https://youtu.be/dOBaLrItEyc
"I Refuse" https://youtu.be/6B1Lv8k5pEc
"Before the Morning" https://youtu.be/New8i_eX3x8
Thanks for praying for this event to be a special time of worship!
Have you ever noticed how there’s some people from the Bible that we tend to name our kids after and there’s some people that we don’t? We would never knowingly name our kids Jezebel or Judas or Cain. My wife thought that Mara was a nice name until she learned the biblical meaning and setting meant “bitter”. How many people do we know that are named after the heroes of the Bible like Paul, John, Matthew, Jeremiah, David, Abigail, or Esther? There are plenty of people named after the courageous spies Joshua and Caleb, but nobody names their kids after the other 10 spies who invoked fear in the hearts of Israel (Numbers 13). Most Christians can’t even name one of those other spies!
Tabitha from Acts 9 is one of those people whom many have named their kids after. She is an exemplary person of faith and the only woman in the Bible to specifically be called a disciple (not that there weren’t many others!). Last week, I mentioned how we need more Barnabas’s in the church – his name means son of encouragement. I did devotional a while back on “Being a Barnabas”. But I think it’s safe to say that we could certainly use more “Tabitha’s” as well. She was known for her continual deeds of kindness and charity. She was abounding in them! If there was a care ministry in her church, it certainly seems like she was all over it! She was serious about showing the love of Christ in practical ways. She was willing to give her free time and energy to helping others – being willing to step outside of her comfort zone – no doubt crossing social barriers that others weren’t willing to cross. She got her hands dirty to see hearts washed clean in Christ!
Her continual deeds of kindness and charity remind me of the book of Titus that we studied not too long ago. Titus is all about adorning, or beautifying, the gospel by the way we live our lives (Titus 2:5, 10). Just as we decorate a Christmas tree and adorn it, so our lives can adorn the gospel. Our lives either support or supplant the gospel. Either prove salvation or doubt it. People are more willing to hear about our Redeemer when they see the power of a redeemed life. Tabitha’s life was one that supported and beautified the gospel. Christ had served her and now she was serving others. Check out these great verses from Titus:
Titus 2:14 says that Jesus, “…gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
Because we live in a fallen and sinful world, there are many today who are broken, hurting, and needy. Since we have experienced so much of God’s grace and provisions for our own hurts and brokenness, let us be the ones who stand out by the way we help others in theirs. We have been justified and renewed with the life of Christ so that we can help bring that same hope to others (Titus 3:4-8). Below are all of the challenging verses on good deed in Titus. Do these describe us?
1:16 – Be fit for good deeds.
2:7 – Be an example in good deeds.
2:14 – Be zealous for good deeds.
3:1 – Be ready for good deeds.
3:5 – Remember, deeds are not the basis of salvation. Christ’s cross-work is!
3:8 – Be carful to engage in good deeds.
3:14 – Meet pressing needs and be fruitful.
Praising God for the “Tabitha’s” in our church!
A PRAYER RENOUNCING FEAR
Father, help me to agree with You that I am not subject to fear, but am a child of Your love.
I reject the fear of the future, for I believe that the future is in Your hands.
I reject the fear of evildoers, for Your Word says, “Though an enemy encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident… For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will left me high upon a rock.”
I renounce the fear of rejection, for David wrote in Your holy Word, “For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”
I renounce the fear of witnessing about Christ, because as Your Word warns, “The fear of man brings a snare.” Therefore, I choose to fear You more than I do any human being. I affirm, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? I renounce the fear of losing my property and possessions, for Your Word says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… I know the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I renounce the fear of Satan, for Your Word says he has already been conquered “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.”
I renounce the fear of saying “goodbye” to a terminally ill loved one, for Jesus promised, “Let not your heart be troubled… in My Father’s house are many rooms; I go and prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”
I renounce the fear of death, for I affirm with the Apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Thank you for the promise, “death is swallowed up in victory.”
I renounce the fear of martyrdom, for Your Word declares, “Do not fear those who are able to kill the body, but fear Him who rather is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
I renounce the fear of loneliness, for we are promised, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” And also, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And again, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
I renounce the fear of intimidation, for Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I renounce the fear of false accusations. I accept this promise, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and say 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.”
I renounce the fear of being mistreated unjustly, for of Jesus we read that, “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return, when He suffered, He did not threaten but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”
I renounce the fear of ideologies like radical Islam and cultural Marxism which desires to intimidate us.
I renounce the fear of curses, either known or unknown, spoken against me or my family.
I renounce the fear of manipulation and control.
I renounce the fear of being involved in public or political activity.
I renounce the fear of political correctness.
I declare that “The truth shall set me free.” I choose to live as a free person in Christ Jesus. I shall speak and not be silent.
I declare that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. I submit to Jesus as Lord in my life. Jesus Christ is Lord of my home. Jesus Christ is Lord of my relationships. Jesus Christ is Lord of my city. Jesus Christ is Lord of my nation. Jesus Christ is Lord above all false gods and religions. Jesus Christ is Lord over all the nations of the earth. I commit myself to be a living witness to Jesus Christ as Lord. I am not ashamed of His cross. “God forbid I should glory except in the cross of Christ.” I ask now that You fill me with Your Holy Spirit, and pour upon me all the blessings of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Grant me the grace to understand the truth of Your Word clearly, and to apply it in every area of my life. Give me words of hope and life, as You promised. Open and bless my lips so that I can speak to others with authority and power in Jesus’ name. Give my the boldness to be a faithful witness for Christ. Give me a love for all people, and a passion to share the love of Christ with them. Grant that I shall carry Your cross as a badge of honor, trusting Your providence no matter what.
This prayer is adapted and slightly edited from Erwin Lutzer's material at the Engage Conference.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says,
"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day approaching."
Maybe nothing in our natural environment is more fascinating than the various forms of animal life. Animals are both beautiful and complex, especially the mysterious world of marine life. Maybe that is why I was interested in watching a documentary on life in the Red Sea while I was out of commission with illness recently. I think I also just wanted to know more about what was in that large body of water that God made a way for the Israelites to pass through! What were some of those fish thinking when God parted the water, anyway?! Interesting thought, right? Ha-ha!
Turns out, in the Red Sea there is a plethora of coral life which attracts many different types of fish. Because there are many fish, there’s also many predators. To protect themselves, some of the fish will school together. Quoting from the documentary,
“If one member is left alone, they seem stressed, confused, and disoriented. Quite the contrary, if they are in the company of the rest of the group, everything is well coordinated. They stay organized due to communication between each other. That’s why the distance between the fish and the speed always stays the same.”
They also said that by sticking together constantly, regular swarming fish have a better chance of survival against predators and spot predators faster. As soon as I heard this, I found myself hitting the rewind button several times because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I thought, “This is exactly why we stick together as believers in Christ and gather regularly!” When we aren’t faithfully connected to a body of believers, we become easy, isolated prey for the enemy to pick on and are more likely to become stressed, confused, and disoriented just like the fish. And it happens fast without realizing it. When we’re not connected to a body of believers, we also lose the encouragement and accountability of other believers in a church body that God has designed to minister to itself through its many members. The local church is a body and each member has an important function in ministering to the rest of the body (1 Cor. 12:12-27). This means that when you don’t gather, others also miss out on the function you provide to them.
Back to this fish now… get this: there’s two different types of swarming fish. We’ve talked about the regular swarming fish who stick together at all times. The other type is the irregular swarming fish that gather only when there is danger. Their chance of survival is not as good as the regular swarming fish. This is a good reason why we don’t want to wait until we’re in danger before we decide we need the church. Being a regular helps protect and maintain spiritual health. We’ve got to be more like the regular ones who always stick together. It’s a survival trait for the believer and can help us immensely.
This time of year, many struggle with seasonal depression (SAD) and gathering regularly with other believers is critical to our health spiritual and emotional health. In the movie We Bought a Zoo, Duncan Mee (Thomas Haden Church) is encouraging his brother, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), who recently lost his wife. To keep the current from sweeping him out into the dark sea of depression, Duncan reminds his brother of a lesson he learned on one of his painful, but insightful journeys:
“You’ve got a let a little sunlight in. Human interaction is a good thing! Take it from a man who spent six months on a fishing boat in Bali trying to find himself... You know what I found? I missed people man! Sunlight. Human interaction. Joy.”
Make sure you’re letting a little sunlight in this time of year, both literally and figuratively. With such a moderate winter as we’ve been having, make sure you get out and enjoy that beautiful sunshine when you can. It really does help. But also, let the golden rays of regular fellowship with other believers into your life as well! Oh yeah, one last encouragement: Spring starts in 36 days! Praise the Lord!
In His hands with you,
The following material is from Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary on Acts, called “EXCURSUS: CAN I GET A WITNESS?
“I've seen a lot of evangelism methods used in my fifty-plus years of ministry. Some are better than others. I don't think there's any single method of sharing the gospel that works for all people at all times, but there are at least three models that everyone should avoid.
The Bounty Hunter
The bounty hunter wakes up in the morning all excited about explaining the basics of Christianity to anybody and everybody, regardless of the circumstances or people’s interest level. Everybody he meets, he tells: the guy at the gas station, the woman in the grocery store, the delivery man at the office, the friend of a friend, the person in the next booth at the restaurant or sitting next to him on the plane. Ready or not, here he comes!
On the upside, the bounty hunter definitely gets results. By sheer force of numbers, a percentage does hear the gospel and respond. On the downside, how many are pushed away and become more resistant to the gospel as a result? That doesn't matter to the bounty hunter. He feels the end justifies the means and feels relieved of any guilt. In fact, many bounty hunters dismiss any concern for being offensive. They rationalize that "the message of Christ is offensive to an evil world” without stopping to think that they might be the offending element, not the gospel.
My friend Bob told me that the first person he ever saw witnessing was a girl he knew in high school. She wore out-of-date clothes – dark, long dresses, thick hose, and a little hat-and carried 4-ton Bible. She used to hide behind the lockers and, whenever someone would walk by, she'd jump out, shove a tract into their hands, and say, "Don't blame Jesus if you go to hell!" Bob said, "I thought, fine, I won't blame Him!" Bounty hunters care more about decisions and numbers than changed lives and relationships.
Eggheads like what I call "the Ivy League approach." An egghead is the opposite of the bounty hunter in most ways. Rather than appear too eager or overly zealous, the intellectual witness says, “Let's discuss the world's religions.” The egghead is an expert in apologetics but never gets to the bottom line: a decision to trust Christ. The Ivy League approach has a few advantages. This method recognizes the broad spectrum of human opinions, seeks to understand other points of view, and cares to communicate the point through dialogue. It's educational. It's even stimulating to discover how one religion differs from another and how they're similar. Eggheads find more information to fill their already-crowded heads. The disadvantage: It's reason-centered and rarely works. People don't generally come to know Christ because they lost a debate. The problem of sin isn't an intellectual problem; it's the result of rebellion against God. A decision for Christ is a crisis of the will. That's not to say apologetics doesn't have its place in evangelism. The effective use of reason helps demonstrate that Christianity is a reasonable faith. That helps keep the entrance uncluttered. Then, once a person's heart becomes receptive to the gospel, apologetics can help clear away intellectual obstructions from the path to Christ.
The Secret Agent
Truth be told, most of us are secret-agent Christians. These believers rationalize their lack of initiative by declaring themselves silent witnesses for God. They hope their lifestyle will do all the talking. They're waiting for somebody to walk up and say, 'Friend, I've been watching your life. And I'm interested in knowing how to receive Christ as my personal Savior. Do I receive Him by faith?" When that happens, the secret agent will tell the individual all about Christ and how to know Him personally. Problem is, that never happens. I've heard people say, "Wait-which is more important to God, your life or your message?" That's like asking a pilot, “Which wing is more important, the left or the right?" A plane must have both, or it will never get off the ground.
The advantage of being a secret agent is that you never offend. This method also keeps you accountable to maintain a life of authenticity, integrity, kindness, and generosity. But this approach comes at the cost of a terrible disadvantage. It's a self-centered means of easing your conscience while shirking a solemn responsibility given by Christ. Clearly, the best approach brings together the most effective elements of all three. Be transparent about your relationship with Jesus Christ and talk openly about your spiritual growth. Study other religions and engage people in thoughtful, respectful, and calm conversations, taking care to listen and to offer rational responses to questions. By all means, let your life do the talking--but not all the talking! At some point, once you have gained trust and have darned a fair hearing, get to the issue at hand: the need to repent of sin and accept Christ's gift of eternal life.”
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 5 (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016), 153-154.
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