Many strive to become great today. It may be in knowledge, sports, career, politics, or wealth—many strive for greatness. There is nothing wrong with striving to become the best that you can be. Hard work is always honorable, and it is oftentimes rewarded with success, including the monetary gains that come with it.
Citizens of God's Kingdom, which Jesus is currently ruling over, do not strive for greatness in the Kingdom. They simply obey Jesus and His Word as they follow Him.
In my book, The Kingdom According to Jesus, I write about how Jesus revealed His Kingdom through His words and actions. The Kingdom revealed by Christ includes love, grace, peace, and life with race equality, gender equality, health equality, and economic equality for all. Citizens of the Kingdom make it known today through their words and actions. They are totally obedient to Jesus. They do not strive to become great in the Kingdom. They are called great because of their obedience.
Beloved, obey Jesus. He came, fulfilling the Law, establishing His Kingdom. As you follow Him with your whole heart, continuing His point-of-need ministry, you will be called great in His Kingdom.
Jesus said: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19 ESV).
Jesus, I thank you for coming to this earth and fulfilling the Law. I have accepted your grace and answered the call to follow you, allowing you to lead me on this journey from earth to glory. Help me today keep my eyes fixed on you, revealing your Kingdom through my words and actions. Show me ways today that you would have me serve you. Emulate your love, grace, and peace to others through me today. I pray this in your precious name. Amen.
I wonder if we sometimes get so wrapped up in our situations that we forget who we are walking with on our journey from earth to glory. Martha did when her brother Lazarus got sick. They sent word to Jesus, but He did not come. In fact, He intentionally waited. When He finally came, Lazarus had been dead and in the grave for four days. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21 ESV).
Like Martha, our faith is tested by what we go through, and there are times when it's easy to loose faith even if it is only briefly. We may question God. Where is He in my time of need? Why is He not answering my prayers? Why do I or those I love have to go through this? Please know today that through it all, and in His grace, mercy and love, Jesus is perfecting your faith.
Martha quickly recovers and in the next breath she says to Jesus, "But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you" (John 11:22 ESV). In all appearances this seemed like a full recovery of her faith. After all, didn't she say the right thing? Maybe she did. Maybe those around heard her comment, and they thought, "What a person of faith!" Sometimes we can say the right words but be dying inside with lack of faith. Despite her words, Martha's faith was still deficient, and Jesus would need to perfect it a bit.
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:23-26 ESV)
Jesus got right to the point; He wanted Martha to see that no matter how bad the situation, He is the resurrection and the life. Nothing changes that -- absolutely nothing. Jesus spoke a word that day and called her brother out of death and back into life. Lazarus came walking out of the cold, dark tomb in response to Jesus' command. Death was defeated, and life came forth out of the darkness.
Beloved, no matter how dark your situation may be today and no matter how little faith you may have, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life. He walks with us, and He talks with us. He leads us, and He guides us. He is our shepherd, and we know His voice. It's the voice that brings calm in the storm and calls life out of death. May we say as David said, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalms 23:4 ESV)."
Let Jesus bring comfort to you today in the midst of your crises. In His grace, mercy, and love, He is perfecting the faith that He has already deposited within you. He knows just what you need and the time that you need it. He is never late. He is always right in time.
The good news of God calls all people, regardless of race, to obedience that comes by faith. Concerning Jesus, Paul says, ”through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:5-7 ESV) “
Sad to say today, people discriminate. You find discrimination all around you. It’s in the work place. It’s in school. It’s even in churches and denominations. A big issue right now in America is immigration. You may have very strong feelings on immigration. Let me share a perspective with you that you may not have thought about. America was founded as a Christian nation or a “good news of God” nation. God has made it possible for people of all races to come to America to have opportunity to hear about God’s good news and to see it lived out by example. They think they are coming for a better life. God is bringing them and placing them next to you in the work place, in the school house, in the market place and in your neighborhood so that you can share the good news of God with them through your actions and through your words.
May we never close down a door of opportunity that God has given us. May we constantly be reminded by the Holy Spirit that there will be those from all nations around the throne of God, worshipping Him for all eternity. It’s a dream that Martin Luther King had that has now become a reality to him around God’s throne. Let’s pray and live as Jesus taught: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Many years ago as a child in church camp, I was taught a song that I have never forgotten. It goes like this:
Father Abraham had many sons
Many sons had father Abraham
I am one
So are you
So let's just praise the Lord!
Many think today that God only blesses one nation.
In my country, America, you always hear people say "God Bless America."
Some believe that Jesus is returning for one physical nation.
Some believe that Jesus is returning for a physical piece of land in the middle east.
Check out what God promised Abraham:
Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (Genesis 17:4-5 ESV)
According to the Bible, God is for all nations.
God's heart is that none should parish, but that all have everlasting life through His son, Jesus Christ.
Color of skin does not matter to God.
Language does not matter to God.
Gender does not matter to God.
Economic status does not matter to God.
Physical location does not matter to God.
Jesus is not returning for one physical nation.
Jesus is not returning for a piece of land in the middle east.
Jesus is returning for His faithful followers who have denied self and taken up the cross.
Jesus' return is the consummation of His Kingdom here on earth that is already within His followers and He is ruling over it.
His Kingdom is full of love, grace and peace with race, gender, economic, and health equality for all.
His kingdom already consists of people from all nations.
On November 7, 2010, I ran the Marshall University half marathon in honor of my sister, Ramona G. Runyon, and to raise funds for the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). I logged 420 training miles between July and November preparing for this one race and had to press through painful injury, but that is nothing compared to what my sister and others with lupus go through every day. I want to thank those who have already donated to this vital cause.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of lupus.
As of today, we have been able to raise $790 in donations to LFA in honor of Ramona. We need continual research that will produce medical breakthroughs leading to lupus specific medications, treatments and eventually a cure. I can’t thank those enough who are partnering with us in this endeavor.
Please know that this is just the beginning. You can find more information on our website at http://LovingGodFellowship.org/lupus . We will keep that page updated with our efforts. I hope and pray that more will join us on this journey of love, hope and healing.
Thanks again to all those who have already donated to this vital cause. As we all utilize our time, talent and treasure in making a difference in our day, many will be helped and we will fulfill our purpose on earth in loving God and people.
It is not the product of a victory or a command. It has no finishing line, no final deadline, no fixed definition of achievement. Peace is a never-ending process, the work of many decisions by many people in many countries. It is an attitude, a way of life, a way of solving problems and resolving conflicts.
I am running in honor of my sister, Ramona Runyon who has battled lupus for 26 years. In July of this year I started training to run the Marshall University Marathon on November 7, 2010 to raise funds for the American Lupus Foundation in her honor.
I have not ran a marathon since the fall of 2007 when I completed three marathons in 9 weeks in raising funds for the American Heart Association in honor of my dad, Elmer Johnson and in memory of my good friend Cat Cavazos. Needless to say, I have had my work cut out for me in getting back into running shape.
I have battled running in the heat and humidity of central Kentucky all summer and developed tendinitis in my foot just a couple of weeks ago. The tendinitis will keep me from running the full marathon, but not the half marathon! I’m going to get out there and press toward the finish line as my temporary pain is nothing compared to the pain that lupus victims go through day by day in their battle against this disease.
Please go to http://www.LovingGodFellowship.org/Lupus and read more about this disease and how you can join me in making a difference. Always remember that you can do things that I can not do. I can do things that you can not do. Together we can do great things!
I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea.... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed.... I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
A key problem of evangelical churches worldwide is the unilateral emphasis on numerical growth. For the sake of it, the gospel is watered down, church services are turned into entertainment, and Jesus' commandment to make disciples is replaced by a strategy to enroll as many converts as possible. In my frequent travels, I find an increasing number of megachurches with a high rate of numerical growth but a low degree of concern for faithfulness to the whole gospel and the ethical dimensions of whole-life discipleship. Read more....
Beloved, in the world there is sin, sickness, disease and disability. As Christ followers, we have citizenship in God’s Kingdom that Christ is ruling over.
Our citizenship is not of this world and we are to utilize our remaining days on earth putting our faith in action so that those in need can have opportunity to experience Jesus’ forgiveness of sins while seeing the Kingdom in action and desiring to be a part of it. In God’s Kingdom there is love, grace, peace and freedom with race, gender, health and economic equality for all.
Beloved, as we put our faith in action within our cities and communities, Jesus will do the rest. As we minister at the point of need, people will sense the love of Christ as our motivation and many will come to Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins. We will reach more people for Christ this way than by telling them that they are going to hell as sinners. If you go to the marginalized in your city and tell them that they are going to hell unless they come to Jesus, they will not understand because they are already living in hell. But, if churches meet the needs of the marginalized in their city, people will experience the kingdom of God in action and want to be a part of it.
I thank God for the Christ following churches who are bringing people out of the hellish conditions in their city and introducing them to the love, grace, peace and freedom of God’s Kingdom through point of need ministry.
The religionists who got there early for the best seats in the house (Mark 2:6-12) did not take kindly to Jesus forgiving this man’s sin, but I don’t want to focus entirely on the behavior of these religionists and miss the message proclaimed through Jesus’ actions. The first thing we need to notice is that Jesus was moved by the faith of the paralytic and friends. It took faith for the paralytic to allow these friends to take him to Jesus and his friend’s faith is obvious as they used their expendable time to minister to their friend and take him to where his needs could be met.
Beloved, faith without action is dead faith and nothing will come of it. Putting our faith in action will yield abundant results as we utilize our expendable time helping people and getting their needs met. What would happen in our cities if everyone who attended church on Sundays would put their faith in action during the week utilizing their expendable time to help others? It may be as simple as taking an elderly person to the doctor, coaching a little league team, providing a meal for a shut in or volunteering at a homeless shelter, hospital, nursing home, prison or jail.
It seems that in our day, churches pride their self on getting parishioners to volunteer their expendable time within the walls of the church building in programs and events designed to bring people to the building. I think we have missed something vital in this strategy and people in our cities are suffering as a result. If we put our faith in action throughout the week, Jesus will do the rest and the needs of people will be met in our cities.
Let's always put our faith into action and see Jesus do wonderful things outside the walls of a church building and beyond the confines of a service.
Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the paralytic-- "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
(Mark 2:6-12 ESV)
Jesus’ message of the Kingdom and demonstration of it was attracting large crowds of people, including the religionists of His day. We can’t help but notice that the religionists had seats in the crowded house and did not give them up for those who were in obvious need, such as this paralytic. Could this mimic our houses of worship today? Are the needy being taken care of or are they being crowded out?
May we in our day take note that Jesus treated all people equal.
The church in Florida that is hosting a "burn the Quran day" on 9/11 may be Christian, but it is of my opinion that they are not following Christ. Christ taught His followers to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and to love our neighbor as we do our self (Matthew 22:37-40). Christ, from the cross, prayed for those who had violently nailed Him there and asked the Father to "forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:32-34).
It would be naive for me not to think that there will be some who read what I just stated and say that I am being judgmental, but I am not judging this church and it's leadership. I am simply inspecting their fruit as Christ encouraged His followers to do (Matthew 7:15-23, John 15:1-6). So, is this good fruit of a church or is this bad fruit?
Quran burning will not portray the love of Christ to the world and is not how citizens of the Kingdom of God are to respond. It is acts such as these that fuel the hate of America in other parts of the world which lead to extremist activity spreading death and destruction. Acts such as these also stereotype the Christian church and makes it harder for the numerous Christ following churches to make a difference in their community through displaying the true nature of God's Kingdom which includes love and peace.
I pray that this church and it's leaders repent, change their plans and react to those of the Islam faith in love and peace, praying for them and showing the world that citizens of God's Kingdom live recognizing that their allegiance is first to the Kingdom of God, and after that, to their nation.
While many non-profits have went under during this great economic recession, Becky and I are still committed to live by faith and obey what God has placed on our heart for Loving God Fellowship (LGF) while steering it through these difficult times. Launching the LGF mobile site last week is testimony of this.
I'm excited about taking LGF mobile because it allows us to potentially reach 3 more billion people with the Gospel of Christ in support of our point of need ministry model. People will be able to listen to Christ Centric Bible Messages while they are on the go with their mobile devices. Our potential on the Internet is 1 billion people, so this now raises our potential to 4 billion out of 6 billion people in the world. I'm excited about this opportunity and feel that LGF needs to take full advantage of it.
Although our mobile site just has the basics now, more and better functionality will be provided as we go. Please take a look at http://mobile.lovinggodfellowship.org . If you like it, be sure and check the "like" button.
The next thing we need to add to LGF mobile is a signup for SMS texting. To provide this functionality will cost $19 per 100 users that sign up to receive text messages such as Be Encouraged! and notification of new Bible Messages on their mobile devices. Would you consider a monthly donation? A donation of $19 per month will enable us to reach 100 people around the world through their mobile device. If you desire to do more than that, each $19 will enable us to reach 100 people with the Gospel of Christ on their mobile devices.
Please know that all donations are an answer to prayer as we are not endowed by any group or denomination and we don't pass an offering plate in any church service. LGF functions only on what is donated by loving Christ followers from around the world who believe in what LGF is all about.
Beloved, we are to advance the Kingdom in our day. It has already been established in Jesus. He is now ruling over His Kingdom and has called us to follow Him and make His Kingdom known to the world through, not only words, but more importantly actions. In the Kingdom there is love, grace, peace and freedom with race, gender, health and economic equality for all. The need is the call. As we minister at the point of need, we are not only ministering as Jesus did, but we are also ministering as unto Jesus. Advance the Kingdom Beloved. Advance the Kingdom.
Beloved, ministry is to take place at the point of need. Ministry is not restricted to within the walls of a church building or the confines of a service. The need is the call. When we see a need, and we have the ability to meet that need, we are to minister as unto Jesus.
Jesus said "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)”
It is unfortunate that not everyone has equal and affordable access to heath care in our day. I believe that this grieves the heart of God because every person, regardless of location and finances, are God’s children. He loves each one and expects us to make available to each one, the same opportunities for healing and ease from suffering. Beloved, as we do, more people will realize the kingdom that Jesus is ruling over.
There are still some in our day who believe that going to a doctor or taking medicine is a lack of faith. It is not. There have been many parents who have been tried in court because they prayed, but they refused to take their child to a doctor or give them medicine when it was an option to them, only to result in the child’s death. That is not faith. Faith is taking full advantage of every process of healing that God has made available to us. Medical professionals, medical procedures and medicine are instruments of healing that God has made available to us in our day and we can exercise our faith by allowing God to bring healing to us through these processes.
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mark 1:29-31 ESV)
Notice what Simon, Andrew, James and John does. When they leave the synagogue with Jesus, their faith in Jesus and His kingdom that He was revealing was enlarged. They go to Simon and Andrew’s house which must have just been a short distance from the synagogue as revealed through the words “and immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” When they get there, Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Upon the news of her illness these Christ followers had a heart to provide this lady the care she needed for her health and they tell Jesus about her fever. Their faith had grown and they now knew to take their needs to Jesus.
Beloved, we all have needs and we must take those needs to Jesus knowing that He cares for us and desires for us to place all of our cares and anxieties on Him. Jesus desires to help us and as He does, His kingdom is revealed and faith always grows.
In Mark 1:23-28 Jesus is in the synagogue with Simon, Andrew, James and John who where fishermen that He had just called to follow Him. These four who left everything to follow Jesus witnessed the power of Jesus’ Kingdom that He was revealing through His words and actions. In these five verses, Satan’s kingdom is interrupted by Jesus’ Kingdom and the victory over evil is a glimpse of many victories to come in leading up to the ultimate victories at the cross and the empty tomb. Can you imagine what these four new followers were thinking after witnessing this first victory over evil? Perhaps a sense of confirmation was consuming them over the decision that they made to forsake all and follow Jesus. Undoubtedly their faith was growing as they were hanging out with Jesus and experiencing His Kingdom firsthand.
Jesus helps us so that we can help others. As we follow Him, our faith grows in His ability to meet not only our needs, but also the needs of others. As our faith grows, we are quick to reveal His kingdom to others through our actions. We pray and have faith, but we also put our faith into action.
Beloved, evil has been defeated through Jesus Christ. Each of us has been called to deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus. As we do, the felt needs of others will be met through our actions. God blesses us so that we can bless others. Every time we meet a felt need, we are revealing what God’s Kingdom is all about – grace, love and peace with race, gender, health and economic equality for all.
I was fortunate to be raised by Christ following parents who used their God given abilities to minister at the point of need and take care of felt needs just as Jesus did. I grew up seeing them do without and give of their time, talent and treasure so that the needs of others would be taken care of. I’m glad that they did not teach me to leave the needs of others in the sovereign hands of God. I am glad that Jesus did not teach us to leave the needs of others in the sovereign hands of God. I am glad that so many people get it and are continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus and not just merely attending a church service expecting God to take care of people.
Mom and Dad are now in their senior years of life and I will take care of them and their needs. I will do it out of my love for them and in obedience to Scripture, just as they taught me by example.
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV)
Some Christians today feel as though we should leave the care of others in the hands of a sovereign God. Some believe the care of others should be left up to the government, but yet they get upset at government if they raise taxes due to providing social programs. What is the answer that Christ gives us? What is the answer that Scripture gives us? I’m often reminded of this Scripture found in James 2:14-18 that helps us with the answer: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV)”
Beloved, if God reveals a need to us and if He has given us the ability to meet that need, it is His expectation that we do so. We don’t have to pray about it. The need is the call. God takes care of the needs of people through us.
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" -- Matthew 25:37-40
In Acts 8:14-25 we see Jesus changing three individuals as they make the right choices to believe, repent and follow Him. And if Jesus changed these people, He will change whoever decides to follow Him.
Peter was a fisherman who decided to follow Jesus. At the cross of Christ, Peter denied knowing Jesus although he had followed Him for three years. Jesus didn’t give up on Peter though. After the resurrection, Jesus went looking for Peter, not to condemn him or judge him, but to renew and restore him. After the ascension of Jesus, Peter stayed in Jerusalem to wait for what Jesus had promised – the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, Peter was used to deliver a basic message (Acts 2) and three thousand people decided to become Christ followers that day. But Peter still has some prejudices in His heart that have to be eliminated so He is one of the Apostles that goes to Samaria to see if it could really be true that Samaritans and not just Jews could become Christ followers. As He sees that it is true, the racial prejudices that have gripped his heart begin to loosen and His heart becomes more like that of Jesus, the One he follows.
The apostle John joins the apostle Peter on this trip to Samaria. John like Peter, had prejudices in His heart that have to be eliminated. It was John who had wanted to call fire from heaven to destroy a village in Samaria when they had rejected Jesus during Jesus’ ministry on earth (Luke 9:51-56). Of course, Jesus rebuked John’s actions teaching John an important lesson at that time and directing his steps to Samaria this time to further purge the prejudices of John’s heart.
It was not by chance or accident that these two men were chosen as the delegation of the apostles to test the authenticity of the new non-Jewish Christ followers. They were following Jesus once again to Samaria. He was directing their every step and was going to bring more change to their heart and way of thinking that would impact their behavior.
Simon was a Samaritan entertainer who had just decided to follow Jesus. He had much to learn and it would require the rebuke of a fellow Christ follower to straighten his walk with Christ. Simon witnessed the effect produced by the laying on of hands, practiced by the apostles Peter and John, and offered them money in order to acquire the same power. Ever since that day, the attempt to turn the spiritual into the commercial has been given the term “simony”. Peter gave Simon a stern rebuke for his actions (Acts 8:23-24) and Simon’s motives were checked. He learned a lot about humility and repentance that day.
As Peter and John witnessed the authenticity of non-Jewish people who had become Christ followers, prejudices were broken down in their hearts. Their way of thinking toward others changed impacting their behavior toward others. On their journey from Jerusalem to Samaria, they did not bother preaching the word to the villages in Samaria. As they left Samaria to return to Jerusalem, they did preach the gospel to the villages of the Samaritans (Acts 8:25). Jesus had brought more change to them. They now were looking at people through the eyes of Jesus instead of the eyes of the prejudices that they had learned all their life.
As we follow Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to use us in continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus, we will discover that Christ is for the entire world. We will put faith before country and develop a worldview that includes all of God’s children no matter where they live. May God bless the world!
During the days of Christ and His early followers, the Jews did not like the Samaritans. The hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans had lasted a thousand years. It began when the 12 tribes of Israel broke up in the 10th Century BC. Ten tribes made Samaria their capital and the remaining 2 tribes made Jerusalem their capital. In the 7th Century BC, Samaria was captured by Assyria, thousands of people were deported and their land was re-populated with foreigners. The Samaritans intermarried with those of other races. They had lost their racial purity and that, for the Jews, was an unforgiveable crime. In the 6th century BC, the Jews refused the help of the Samaritans in rebuilding their temple. In the 4th century BC, the Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. This really upset the Jews.
But, Christ came into our world and specifically reached out to the Samaritans (John 4). In the paragraph of Scripture found in Acts 8:4-8, we find that the early Christ followers are discovering that Christ is for all the world and we see them reaching out to the Samaritans just as Christ had done.
Note in Acts 8:4-8 what Christ followers brought to these people:
Some believe that Christ favors one group of people over another or one country over another. Here in America, people always say "God Bless America". I love my country and I want God to bless where I live, but what about the rest of the world? Christ is for the entire world!
I am a Christ follower and I believe that immigration reform is a moral issue.
I have proclaimed to church congregations for 19 years now that God is bringing immigrants to America to experience the love that flows out of Christ followers as we love God and ALL people. He is allowing them to be our neighbors. Will we love them?
I pray that in these days the church steps up and does not act like many American white churches did during the days of slavery and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. What a negative piece of church history that was. Although we have made many strides towards racial equality in this nation, the church on Sunday mornings continues to be the most segregated place in America. May God help us in our day. And may immigrants experience the love of Christ through Christ followers as we stand for faith and justice while loving God and ALL people.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that "bad laws are worth going to jail over". I'm sure that you would agree with me that segregated buses, restaurants, bathrooms, water fountains and schools were bad laws. Nevertheless, they existed in the 1960s and prior. Dr. King and others took a stand against these bad laws and led the African American community in nonviolent protests against them. Dr. King was placed in jail many times over these bad laws, but as a Christ follower, he took a stand for faith and justice in his day and we must do the same in our day. “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24 ESV)”
The Federal immigration laws need to be reformed to be more compassionate. Until they are reformed, states are left to do their own thing and each state could develop their own laws concerning immigrants like Arizona has already done. I believe Arizona's law is racist in heart and will lead to results in that state that will not be good.
Jesus said (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'  "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'  "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Welcoming the stranger in our midst (Matthew 25:35) is the direction of Christ, the One we follow.
To put it spiritually, much of our political discourse today dishonors the image of God in each other and in the fragile process of human beings trying to govern themselves in peace. An honest political search to find answers to serious problems has been replaced by a politics of warring factions, where winning and losing become the only considerations. We must do more than simply change our language; we must learn to honor the process and its participants by treating disagreement with respect. When we disagree, we should do so respectfully, without falsely impugning the other’s motives, attacking the other’s character, or questioning the other’s faith. We ultimately need a moral debate.
Political debate, even vigorous debate, is a healthy thing for a democracy. But to question the integrity, patriotism, and even the faith of those with whom we disagree is destructive to democratic discourse. And to threaten or even imply the possibility of violence toward those whose politics or worldview differs from ours is a sign of moral danger and, indeed, a sign of democracy’s unraveling.
This fundamental disrespect in the political debate has harmed the public square.
Putting faith into action is the right thing to do. Putting faith into action costs us something. Putting faith into action will advance God’s kingdom.
As we follow Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to use us in continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus, we will put our faith in action advancing God’s kingdom beyond any ethnic, racial and gender boundaries and extend it to ALL people in our sphere of influence and beyond. It will cost us something, but Christ followers counted the cost when they denied their self, took up their cross and followed Jesus.
Religionists hang on to the status quo, lie, spread fear, grow angry and even kill, but not Christ followers. Christ teaches His followers how to live and how to die, not how to kill. He teaches His followers how to stand for faith and justice. He teaches His followers how to pray, even for those who mistreat and abuse them due to their Christ exalting stand.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and allow Him to perfect your faith on your journey from earth to glory (Hebrews 12:2). It is an exciting and rewarding journey.
In the paragraph of Scripture as given to us in Acts 7:54-60, the religionists break the Roman law which prohibits them from executing a death sentence. As a mob, they react to Stephen’s stand for faith and justice. They kill the messenger and God’s instrument of grace. Instead of making the right choice, repenting of their religious ways and following Christ, they make the wrong choice and choose religion over Christ. Their actions show how religion is full of anger and leads to death and not life.
As I read this paragraph of Scripture, it is Stephen’s reaction that catches my eye and speaks volumes into my life. Notice with me:
Stephen the Christ follower, even in death, kept his eyes fixed on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of faith (Acts 7:55).
Stephen the Christ follower left this world praying to Jesus and releasing himself to Jesus’ care (Acts 7:59).
Stephen the Christ follower prayed for his enemies as they violently attacked and killed him (Acts 7:60).
All through Acts chapter 7, Stephen is giving a defense in response to the religionist of His day trying desperately to hang on to the status quo. They feel threatened that Jesus and His followers were going to bring change to their religious structures including the Temple and the Law. Instead of embracing the change that Christ brings, they resort to lies and the spreading of fear in order to hang on to what they are accustomed. Stephen takes a stand for faith and justice. He lives and dies for Christ and Christ alone.
Religious people will never be used of God to bring about change for all people.Those who follow Christ will stand for faith and justice and be used of God to bring much needed change for all people.Scriptures declare this truth through and through.
God is everywhere. He is with us through all periods of our life. He is with us through the good times and the bad times constantly molding and shaping us to enter into our destiny. Some will refuse to ever change with us and some will reject us because of our stand for faith and justice, but God will be with us. He will never reject us or forsake us.
The church today should represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of the community. When the church is segregated, the community becomes segregated and this breeds an unhealthy environment that bares the fruit of injustice and all of the racial, gender, economic and health inequality that come with it.
Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous-- therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
We are entering into the March madness time of year when college basketball has their conference tournaments and then the big dance – the NCAA tournament.
You will hear coaches and commentators commenting on a team’s ability to play offense and defense.
During this time of year, I’m always reminded of teamwork and how championships are won by teamwork and good coaching.
Christ followers belong to a team.
They have been selected by Christ alone.
He is their coach and He is a good coach.
He simply asks them to deny self, take up their cross and follow Him.
He showed them how.
They don’t need a popular sports drink.
Their thirst is quenched by the Holy Spirit who empowers them to continue the point of need ministry of their coach.
A lot of defense has been played, but coach showed them by example how to play offense.
It’s time rise up as a team and play offense in our day!
Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear... Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We are living in a day where some churches devote more finances and time to buildings, programs and events than they do in taking care of the felt needs of the people in their community and encouraging their attendees to continue the point of need ministry of Jesus within that community during the week. Here in America there are churches that are thousands, millions, and some are billions of dollars in debt for facilities and building projects. There is church finance institutions in place that are thriving on helping churches go into dept. For a fee they will consult, loan funds and develop payback plans that will entice the church members to pay for the building projects that are oftentimes the fruit of the church leaderships pride and ego.
Some church facilities are only used a few times per week at the most. Pride is taken in accumulating maximum volunteer hours from church attendees for church activities that take place within the walls of these facilities instead of within the community at the point of need.
It’s amazing that the church thrived for over 3 centuries without building projects. From the beginnings of the church as recorded in the book of Acts until Christianity became popular when Constantine became Christian, the focus was on continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus. When the buildings started going up, the focus shifted off of needy people and onto needless buildings and the methods to pay for them.
We at Loving God Fellowship are seeking to help change this mindset that has held the church captive for way to long. In doing so, we have implemented what we call “building the church without a building” or “church without walls”.
May God help us in our day keep our focus on people and not on buildings. May we never put the needs of a building before the needs of people within our communities. Christ took care of people at their point of need. Christ died for people. Christ is returning for people.
Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Expediency asks the question: Is it politic? Vanity asks the question: Is it popular? But conscience asks the question: Is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular -- but he must take it simply because conscience tells him it is right.
It is important to know what we believe and why we believe it. I personally believe that God’s Word is the authoritative guide for all all of a Christ follower’s beliefs and actions. That is why it is so important to read, study and know the Scripture as a Christ follower. It’s very important in our day because there are many false teachers, authors, prophets and preachers among us. Jesus said it would get this way in the last days. We must learn God’s Word and contend for faith and justice in our day based on what Scripture tells us.
Don’t rely solely on what someone tells you or you read in a book. A Christ follower strives to be so familiar with Scripture that they know if what they are hearing in church, through a ministry or in a book is correct or not. And when someone asks them “what do you believe?”, they are able to tell. And when someone asks “why do you believe that?” they are able to point them to the Scriptures.
I was online today and visited one of today’s popular authors and pastor of a very large mega church. I went to their “What We Believe” page to try to figure out what they believed and found a few very general statements with no Scripture reference at all. It left me wondering if they really know what they believe and if they believe that God’s Word is the authoritative guide to all of our beliefs and actions.
At LovingGodFellowship.org, it’s all about God’s Word. We know what we believe and why we believe it. We love God’s Word. We read it. We study it. We learn it. We point people to it. We preach it. And we live it.
Twenty years ago, corporations developed mission and vision statements.
Ten years ago, churches saw the value of publicly stating and promoting mission and vision statements to describe what they are all about.
When we established LovingGodFellowship.org in December 2005, we saw the importance of putting what God laid on our hearts to accomplish in words utilizing a mission and vision statement and making it known. We took it one step further than most churches do though. We placed the mission and vision statement in our founding Constitution and Bylaws so that it could not be easily changed. With the mission and vision statement being in the Constitution and Bylaws, it will take a 75% vote of the Board of Directors to change what LovingGodFellowship.org is all about.
What are the mission and vision statements of LovingGodFellowship.org?
Loving God Fellowship is an interdenominational fellowship of believers desiring to reach, equip and empower people to fulfill the Great Commandment of loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:36-39, Luke 10:25-37) and to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
What does that tell us about LovingGodFellowship.org?
We are interdenominational – we are made up of Christ followers from all denominational backgrounds and do not allow doctrinal beliefs, which are manmade, to stop us from our Jesus mandated mission of loving God, loving people and making disciples.
Our mission is simplified to the two commandments that Jesus left all of His followers to accomplish until He returns.
How can we love God who we can not see when we do not love people whom we do see? If we love people whom we do see, we will stand for justice and equality for all. We will use all of our available resources to care for the needs of people and thus continue the point of need ministry of Jesus. Along the way, we will show others, by our example, how to follow Christ just as Jesus has shown us by His example.
That’s our mission. That’s what LovingGodFellowship.org is all about.
The purpose of the vision statement is to dial in on how we will go about accomplishing the mission.
The vision of Loving God Fellowship is to impact cities and communities through believers ministering at the point of need just as Jesus led, commissioned and empowered His followers to do until He comes.
Most churches have set goals in obtaining as many volunteers as they can for their church and its activities, programs and events. Our goal is to facilitate volunteers to minister in the community, at the point of need as Jesus did.
Please pray with us that God will lift up men and women in 2010 that will facilitate these weekly LGF gatherings in their cities and that God will attract to these gatherings those who desire to utilize their life to make a difference in our day. This is vital in fulfilling our vision and accomplishing our mission.
By God's grace, we are called to pick up our cross, deny self and follow Jesus.
We choose to follow or not.
He does not choose for us.
If He did, He would not be a just God.
And He is just.
So the choice is ours.
As we follow Him, a wonderful and supernatural work happens within us on our journey.
We develop His mind.
We develop His heart.
He changes the way we think.
Our behavior toward others change.
His love develops within us and extends to those in need around us.
We stand for faith and justice no matter what it costs us.
That's true religion my friend... that's true religion.
Henry Scougal said "True religion is a union of God with the soul, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or in the apostle's phrase, it is Christ formed in us."
Just $1.92 provides a complete meal for one hungry, homeless person or helps provide shelter or other vital care. Your gift of $67.20 helps 35 people. $86.40 feeds or cares for 45. And if you can give $124.80, you'll help 65 people.
Please join us in helping the homeless this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
I’ve seen so much suffering and so much lack of compassion in our day, but I stay full of hope.
Half of this world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day.
Many go hungry daily.
Many die daily of preventable and treatable disease.
Some say that government is the solution.
Some say that the institutional church is the solution.
What does Jesus say?
What does Jesus expect?
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." (Mat 14:14-16 ESV)
Jesus teaches His followers that they are the solution.
They are to use what He gives them in time, talent and treasure, however little it may seem, to take care of needy people.
This is the life of the Christ follower.
What would happen in our world if the 2+ billion Christians became Christ followers?
This, I believe, is the solution and I choose to receive my hope from Jesus, the Blessed Hope.
I wonder if we at times base our understanding of God’s willingness to help us on man’s willingness to help us. Let me give you some examples of what I mean. There is the job interview. The interviewer is able to hire, but is the interviewer willing to hire you? There is the loan process. The loan officer is able to give a loan, but is the loan officer willing to give the loan to you? There is that house that you want. The seller is able to agree to your offer, but is the seller willing to agree to your offer? There is your education. Your teacher is able to take your late assignment because your dog ate your homework, but is your teacher willing to take your late assignment? The police officer that pulls you over for going just a little over the speed limit is able to let you go with just a warning, but is the police officer willing to let you go with just a warning? People are able, but are they willing?
You may be thinking, “I don’t get it. What’s your point and how is it relevant to me?” My point is this: we can not base our understanding of God’s willingness to help us on people’s willingness to help us. We must base our understanding of God on the Bible. The Bible is our authoritative guide to all of our beliefs and our actions.
At the end of Mark Chapter one, we meet a man that has a need. A job is not his primary need. Neither is a loan, a house or an education. This man needs health care. "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, If you are willing, you can make me clean." (Mark 1:40 NIV)
Leprosy is a terrible disease. In Jesus’ day, leprosy is incurable. Lepers were separated from society and considered to be outcasts. With the disease, skin decays off of the bones. Once a person was diagnosed with this disease, they were separated from their family and could no longer touch or be touched. Can you imagine living the rest of your life and not being able to touch and be touched? - A child no longer feeling the touch of a parent and a parent no longer feeling the touch of a child, a husband no longer feeling the touch of his wife and a wife no longer feeling the touch of her husband. The disease itself brought much physical suffering and disability, but the mental and emotional suffering due to being an untouchable was just as continually tormenting.
To make matters worse, the leper was required by law to walk through the crowded walkways of the city declaring at the top of their voice “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN, LEPER, UNCLEAN.” Upon hearing this, the crowd would part and allow the leper to come through making sure that no one touched the outcast. That pretty much describes this man’s world that we read about in Mark chapter one; untouchable and a social outcast.
This man brought his need to Jesus.
In the midst of his physical suffering and mental anguish; in the midst of emotional devastation, this man did the right thing. He came to Jesus with his need. In the first part of Mark chapter one, we see Jesus healing people and setting captives free from the bondages of sin and evil. The whole city of Capernaum in the providence of Galilee is impacted. Can you imagine the crowds that are now following Jesus? This man with leprosy, void of any self esteem or respect from others presses through the crowd to bring his need to Jesus. His steps to Jesus were humiliating as he shouted “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN, LEPER, UNCLEAN.” As the people moved out of the way to let him by, he could undoubtedly feel the stares and hear the whispers. But he pressed onward knowing that he had to get to Jesus with his need.
Beloved, we have to press through whatever life deals us and get to Jesus just like this man did. What are you going through right now in your life? What are your needs? What are you struggling with? Do you need a miracle? I encourage you to press through until you get to Jesus. He is able to help you.
Expectations shaped by human treatment.
I imagine that this man turned to many people that were able to help him in some way or fashion, but they were not willing to help him. Listen to his words to Jesus as he says "If you are willing, you can make me clean." (Mark 1:40 NIV) I believe this man went to many people that could help him, but were not willing to help him. His expectations were shaped by others actions and reactions to him. You can hear in his words that he had great faith in Jesus’ ability to help him, but he was not sure if Jesus was willing. This man with leprosy knew that Jesus could help him, but he was managing his expectations based on how others had treated him.
As I meditated on the words of this man with leprosy, God began to show me that our expectations in our day have been shaped by human treatment. We live in a world where others have the ability to meet needs of people, yet they are not willing. In our day, there seems to be more concern over oil in the Middle East than genocide in Sudan. It spills over to our understanding of God and it diminishes our level of faith. We approach God, not doubting His ability, but doubting His willingness to meet our need. That’s why we pray prayers like “God, if it is your will, please heal my body…..” We are not questioning God’s ability to heal, we are questioning His willingness to heal. Our expectations have been shaped by human treatment.
Jesus reveals His heart to us in the way He responds to this man.
Jesus responds to this man’s request, which was conditioned by his experiences of denial for help. "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"" (Mark 1:41 NIV) Notice that Jesus does not condemn this man for lack of faith in Jesus’ willingness. No, instead Jesus reaches out and touches the man. This is very significant. Jesus touched the one that was untouchable showing physical evidence that He was willing to help this man. Can you imagine? Who knows how long it had been since this man had felt someone’s touch and here the Son of God reaches out and touches him.
Not only does Jesus physically touch the man, but He verbally tells him that He is willing to meet his need. With a spoken command of “Be Clean!” Jesus demonstrates not only His ability to meet needs, but also His willingness to meet needs. The result of the man coming to Jesus and Jesus touching the man was supernatural. "Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured." (Mark 1:42 NIV)
Beloved, this has great relevance to us in our day. As we press through whatever we are going through and we take our needs to Jesus, He has compassion on us and works miracles in our life. Please know that according to the Word of God, Jesus has not changed. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) Not only is Jesus able to meet your every need, He is also willing. Continually bring your needs to Jesus Christ. Jesus will have compassion on you. Jesus will reach out and touch you. Jesus will defy the natural and will work the supernatural in you. In these days that we live, refuse to let human treatment shape your expectations in what God can do. Expect a miracle each time you come in contact with Jesus!
As Christ followers, we are to minister at the point of need as Jesus did. I call it, "getting our hands dirty." As Jesus leads us to where the need is and has given us the resources of time, talent and treasure to meet the need, we are to be willing. The recipient of point of need ministry will see Jesus in us and experience His love and willingness to help through us. His point of need ministry will continue.
Does the compassionate life not demand that we be present to those who suffer; does it not require that we enter into solidarity with the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden; does it not motivate us both to move into the thick of life and to experience the hardships of existence in solidarity with the outcasts?
- Henri Nouwen,
Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life
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