I am thankful that we are one day closer to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Media has utilized the date setting false prophets of our day to desensitize society to the reality of the return of Christ, but that does not negate its truth. I feel the Holy Spirit compelling me, more and more, to remind people that Christ is returning as He promised, and we are to always be ready.
So many in our day, both inside and outside the walls of the church building, base what is right from wrong on what feels right instead of on Scripture. They are not hearing much different coming from behind the pulpits, and they are not reading the Bible on their own. I often ask myself what Jesus would be preaching in our day. Would Jesus preach on love, grace, and joy, but neglect preaching against sin? Would He preach only about heaven or would He include the reality of a place of eternal torment for unrepentant sinners to reside? Many go to church and only hear about receiving God's blessings; this message mimics many of the popular books written today by popular pastors. What would Jesus preach? Beloved, His message has not changed. Yes, Jesus preached about the blessings of God, but He did not leave out the reality of hell for unrepentant sinners -- He preached about the consequences of sin.
Jesus preached, "Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 13:40-43 ESV).
The glorified Christ delivered a fiery message near the conclusion of Revelation that spells out some specific sins that will send unrepentant hearts to an eternity of torment. This message is a balance of God's grace and the consequences of sin: "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:6-8 ESV).
Jesus has given us everything we need to conquer our sin problem; He has given us His life, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. To live ready for His return, which Scripture declares is imminent, we must allow Jesus to live through us; we must know and obey Scripture; and we must rely on the strength of the Holy Spirit to overcome each temptation to sin that comes our way.
In our day, may we echo the message Jesus preached from village to village -- "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15 ESV). I pray, "Father, lift up those in our day who will preach and live this timeless message. Amen."
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.”
In over two decades of teaching, preaching, and pastoring, I have taught parishioners that any time you read a promise in the Bible, you need to start looking around for the conditions to obey in order to receive the promise. If you do your part in obeying the Scripture, God does His part, and the promise will be realized in you. It's a central theme throughout the Bible. The "Bible Promise" books that have been so popular over the years leave the conditions of the promises of God out, leaving people standing on the promises, but ignorant to the conditions to obey in order to receive them.
Now we have a book that explains how to read and understand Scripture finding the conditions that lead to fulfilled promises, and it is written by a friend and mentor of mine, Robert P. Holland, who has been pastoring since 1965. First a word concerning Pastor Holland, and then I will talk more about his book which I have completed reading and highly recommend for all those who are serious about understanding and receiving the promises of Holy Scripture.
Pastor Holland is one of my heroes of faith. I have known him for two decades and had opportunity to sit under his ministry for a short season prior to pastoring my first church in the early 1990s. Pastor Holland has a keen understanding of Scripture that is reflected in his life. He portrays the image of Christ more than any other person I have had the privilege of knowing. His ability to communicate and teach the Word is a gift given to us by God. Those who have had the privilege of sitting under his ministry have not experienced a famine of the Word under it, and have instead been given a bountiful feast that brings growth in the Lord.
I just finished reading his book, Some Understand 1 + 6 = 7, and highly recommend it. The book begins with an explanation of the title which is fundamental to the 44 chapters which follow. In each chapter, which Pastor Holland refers to as "Wisdom and Promise workshops", a Scripture promise and its conditions (Pastor Holland refers to as "Wisdom") are identified and proper exegesis, application and exhortation is given.
For those who will read the book, I believe that the Holy Spirit will bring attention to the areas of life where proper wisdom is not applied, and where promises are not being realized, allowing for proper application of Scripture to take place. I"m sure that every reader who has a desire to please God and live for Him will be able to properly apply wisdom and receive promises as they prayerfully read and glean from each chapter.
There have been some great books that I have read that I commit to reading again. With this book, I plan to incorporate it into my daily discipline of reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture, by reading a chapter each day for a while to come. In the days ahead, I will also be tweeting (@Gregory_Johnson) some quotes from the book and posting some quotes on my Facebook page (GregoryAJohnsonPage).
I encourage you to get a copy of the book today, read it, and let God speak into your life as you discover the wisdom and promises that God would have you receive. The book is available as a paperback and as an ebook on Amazon. Click here and get your copy today - Some Understand 1 + 6 = 7: Finding Wisdom and Receiving Promises.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Many in our day are falling for a different gospel. We need to be careful to line up every thing that we see and hear in church and every thing that we read from Christian authors with the teachings and actions of Christ. If it doesn't line up, it is a different gospel and we, as Christ followers, are to stay clear.
The apostle Paul sums it up best:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8
Beloved, be careful. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John over and over again to be familiar with the teachings and actions of Christ. Don't accept anything less or anything other no matter who is teaching, preaching, writing or doing it. Be careful.
Beloved, please give me the freedom of asking you some questions. What are you doing with your life today? Are you denying self daily? Are you following Christ daily? Is your life a reflection of His life? Are you a part of the kingdom of God that has been established in Jesus that He is currently ruling over? Have you been baptized into His body by the Holy Spirit (referred to as regeneration or born again)?
Please do not confuse church membership or walking an aisle and repeating a prayer after a minister as a replacement for any of these. These acts of the modern church are not found in Scripture. Following Jesus and continuing His point of need ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit is found in Scripture and is the fruit of those who have been birthed into His Kingdom through the Holy Spirit.
Follow Jesus today Beloved. Follow Him. He will take you on a wonderful journey from earth to glory and many people will be touched along the way as you reveal His kingdom to them through following Him. You will befriend people along the way that you never imagined as you see them through His eyes instead of through the eyes of society. Many will sense His love through you and desire to be a citizen of His Kingdom. That is how His Kingdom grows. We are given opportunity to not only participate in His Kingdom now, but also to help it expand. What a wonderful opportunity. Do not pass it up. And never go back.
Jesus said “For many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14 ESV).” Through my years of ministry, study of Scripture and my personal experience with our Lord, I am convinced that the difference between the “called” and the “chosen” is obedience.
Many hear the call of Jesus to follow Him, but few are willing to deny self and follow Jesus. They count the cost and it is too costly. Levi counted the cost that day and he made the right choice. Levi, like the fishermen earlier, decided to give up everything to follow Jesus. But for Levi, there would be no turning back. Levi, also named Matthew (Matthew 9:9), would later give us the Gospel of Matthew as another God inspired writing of the life and teachings of Jesus.
Many in our day confuse going to a church building and attending a service as following Christ and serving Him. There is absolutely nothing wrong with attending church, but I fear we have missed the whole meaning of following Christ and I have dedicated the rest of my life to help people around the world understand what following Christ means so that they can count the cost and make the right decision as Levi did. There are so many in our day who have fell for a different gospel that is not based on the life and teachings of Christ. We must get back to following Christ and His teachings. It’s an imperative from Him that we must obey to be among the “chosen.”
He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. (Mark 2:13-14 ESV)
There is a deep bowl of evangelical identity and heritage from which we all need to eat. This bowl is filled with diverse gifts contributed from the ends of the earth. Some of the best and most interesting foods on the menu come from newcomers in the evangelical family. Read more...
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, 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.
What we are in need of today is the word of Christ. Many are proclaiming a different gospel and many listeners are confused, lacking faith and developing a misguided concept of the Kingdom of God that Christ is presently ruling over. The word of Christ leads to repentance, faith and the forgiveness of sins resulting in revelations of His Kingdom that He is currently ruling over.
I will be writing more on my blog concerning this in the days ahead. Your comments are encouraged!
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.
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.
I received the following email that I feel led to share:
Just wanted to let you know that I am enjoying the study of Mark. It is so convenient how you have set it up that the student can view the discussed scriptures right as you are teaching them. How you did that is beyond me! Also another plus to the study is that you can progress at the rate you want. Some of the studies have been so good that I have listened to them several times and each time I gain benefit!
Each study in Mark is only 9-13 minutes long. If you are not yet following along in Mark with us, please join us . Please take a moment to invite your friends to join us also. Each study can be listened to individually or in a group setting. You can even facilitate a LGF gathering right where you are at!
Beloved, we don't have to wait for God's kingdom to come in some future event as we are already a part of His kingdom and He has imparted it into our lives through the Holy Spirit. We are to spend our lives revealing to the world His kingdom in us.
The apostle Paul taught that the supreme gift is love. Christ said that the world will know that we are His followers by our love for one another. As we love God and ALL people ministering at the point of need, His kingdom is revealed to the world and many will desire to be a part of it. That is so much more than mere church attendance.
Church attendance is not bad unless we replace serving Christ and revealing His kingdom with serving the institution. It then becomes an idol and the fruit is communities not realizing that the kingdom of God is at hand and Christ is already ruling supreme. There can be a church on every corner in the city with the city not realizing the kingdom of God. They see the church buildings in their community, but don't see the kingdom of God in action. I believe that we can change that in our day and have been called to do so as Christ followers. Be free in Christ! Know that you are loved,
In Mark 1:15, we hear Jesus say "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." After making His message simple and clear, He began to call those who would follow Him and continue His point of need ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. They immediately started to follow Christ, learn from Him and serve Him (Mark 1:16-20)
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:21-22 ESV)
Capernaum was a village on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is possible that the fishermen whom Jesus had just called to follow Him (Mark 1:16-20) lived and worked near or in this village. We do know that there was a synagogue there and, on this occasion, Jesus and the called fishermen went to it on the Sabbath (“they went”, 1:21).
The Temple was in Jerusalem, but the Jewish law required that wherever there were at least 10 Jewish families there must be a synagogue. In the synagogue there would be no music, no singing and no sacrifice. The synagogue service would consist only of prayer, the reading of God’s Word and the exposition of it. The synagogue was a teaching institution. At the service on the Sabbath of each week, the ruler of the synagogue would call on any competent person to read the Scripture and give exposition on it so that the people in attendance could learn.
In the synagogue there was no professional minister. Scribes were experts in the Jewish law and the title of the leader among them was “Rabbi.” Scribes used the Torah which is the first five books of the Old Testament and they would develop rules and regulations for every possible situation in life. They reduced the principles of the moral law given in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to hundreds of manmade rules and regulations which was legalism. Their religion became a matter of obeying these rules and regulations that they taught in the synagogues.
Jesus had a message to deliver and the synagogue in each community provided a forum in which to spread that message. Mark did not find it necessary in these two verses of Scripture to repeat Jesus’ message that he communicated earlier. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15 ESV). Instead, he gives us the response of the people who heard the message and that response describes a contrast with the Scribes. Jesus was telling them about the kingdom of God that was being established through Him. He was not reinforcing the teachings of the Scribes which demanded obedience to their rules and regulations.
Following manmade rules and regulations is religion and religion binds, but Christ sets us free. Obtain your freedom in Christ today! Allow Him to set you free and establish His kingdom in you. Those who Jesus sets free are the church; the true Bride of Christ that He is coming for. He is not coming back for a building or an institution. He is coming back for His followers who have faithfully served Him.
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.
Beloved, we are indwelt by the same Spirit that indwelt Christ. Christ walked this earth as the Son of Man, full of the Holy Spirit, heading to the cross as the Son of God to die for our sins so that we can have fullness of life in Him now and for all eternity. It is the Spirit that births us into the Kingdom of God. The church does not birth us into the Kingdom, nor does church membership. Walking an aisle and repeating a prayer does not birth us into the Kingdom. Being religious does not birth us into the Kingdom. The Spirit and the Spirit only births us into the Kingdom of God. And as we deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus, the same Spirit that indwelt Christ indwells us.
We are to follow Christ in water baptism. In the early church, people were baptized as soon as they denied self, took up their cross and started to follow Jesus. In the modern church, baptism is often put off for weeks, months and even years. I’ve pastored some people through the years that came to church every Sunday, but were never baptized. They didn’t see the need for it. Maybe, they just didn’t want to get their hair wet. I don’t know the reasons why people put it off, but I have found out that while it may be possible to be a Christian without experiencing water baptism, it is impossible to be a Christ follower without following Christ in water baptism. And if one can not follow Christ in water baptism, what can they follow Him in? Well, I choose not to be a Christian only. I choose to be a Christ follower. There is a big difference. Follow Christ today Friend. Follow Christ.
God’s Word emphasizes that Saul and Barnabas were sent out from the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) by the Holy Spirit. Instead of doing what they wanted to do, they were doing what God called them to do. It would have been a much easier life to stay within the confines and comforts of the Antioch church, but the good news of Jesus Christ is to be taken wherever the Holy Spirit directs. And when the Holy Spirit directs, you can rest assured that He is busy on the other end preparing ears to hear the gospel and hearts to believe it.
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.
As in Jesus' day, we still have religionist trying to contain and confine God to a specific place or a set of rules and regulations.God is the Creator; how can the maker of everything be confined within man-made structures?Jesus came and replaced the Temple and fulfilled the Law.He has made God’s children the dwelling place of God and everywhere they go, God is there.
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.
Even when our faith is immature and deficient, God does a work that only He can do. And through it all, God still loves us and is perfecting our faith as we focus our attention on Jesus and follow Him.
In Acts 12:1-11 we are told of how the Apostle James was killed and Peter was placed in prison awaiting his death. After Herod Agrippa I saw that beheading James pleased the people, he decided to do the same to Peter and He had him put in prison. Because Herod was now observing the Jewish law and trying to win favor with the people, he would not put Peter to death during the Passover season. He would wait until afterward and do to Peter in front of all the people what he had already done to James. In the meantime, he would hold Peter prisoner and make it impossible for him to escape or be freed by assigning four squads of soldiers to guard him. Each squad consisted of four Roman soldiers and each squad would have a six hour shift. Two soldiers would be chained to either side of him and two soldiers would guard the door. There was seemingly no way Peter would be able to escape, but God sent an angel to deliver Peter out of the prison in the middle of the night. As Peter followed the angel, he was set free. Peter was still in a daze from it all and when his mind finally cleared, he realized that he was supernaturally delivered by God and saved from death.
When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, "You are out of your mind." But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, "It is his angel!" But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Tell these things to James and to the brothers." Then he departed and went to another place. Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there. (Acts 12:12-19 ESV)
The church survived without a church building for three hundred years. There were no building funds. There were no campaigns to pay down building debt. There were neither maintenance invoices nor utility bills to pay. Instead, Christ followers met in houses and existing facilities. At this time in Jerusalem, the church had grown to large numbers and was meeting in many houses in the city. Upon his supernatural deliverance from prison, Peter went to John Mark’s mother’s house. Many believe that this was the house that held the upper room where Jesus had His last supper with the disciples the night before His crucifixion. This was probably the house where Peter met with other Christ followers regularly and was the people he was most familiar with as Rhoda knew his voice. In any case, Peter went to where he knew people would be meeting in the middle of the night to pray for His safe release.
Prayer has always been a quality that identifies the church. Christ followers are praying people and follow the example that Christ gave as He walked this earth ministering at the point of need. Jesus took the time to pray and the disciples, seeing that this was a priority in Jesus’ life, asked for Him to teach them how to pray.
Faith is exercised as one communicates to God and asks for his help, guidance and intervention. A person prays believing in God and believing that He can do the impossible. Those who met in this house knew that Herod had beheaded the Apostle James and was planning to do the same to Peter the next day at the conclusion of the Passover. They were praying earnestly for him day and night knowing that God could deliver and in this case, it would take God.
Peter knocked at the gate indicating that this house had a courtyard which was typical of the bigger homes of that day that could accommodate many people. Rhoda goes to see who is knocking. Upon recognizing Peter’s voice and without opening the gate and letting Peter in, she goes back inside tell the people it was Peter. The people thought she was out of her mind! Anyway you look at this it is humorous. Their prayers had been answered. Evidently they had enough faith to pray knowing that God could deliver Peter out of this seemingly hopeless situation, but their faith was deficient in realizing that God was willing to deliver Peter. Even though their faith was deficient, God moved on their behalf and supernaturally delivered Peter from the chains of bondage and certain death.
Beloved, we have been supernaturally delivered from the bondage of sin and saved from death by Jesus Christ. Some may doubt our deliverance and that doubt may come from some who have prayed for our deliverance, but nevertheless we have been delivered! We didn’t do anything to deserve it. It was all God pouring our His amazing grace upon us. We were bound in the chains of sin and held captive in its prison. But Jesus set us free. And when Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed!
Not only is God able to deliver and set the captive free from the power of sin, God is willing. All Peter had to do was follow the angel the Lord sent out of the prison he was held captive in. We have been given Jesus to follow. All of those friends and loved ones that you are praying for, God can and he will deliver as they follow Jesus out of their prison. Keep praying for them. Pray earnestly for them. God will do in an instance what no person could do in a lifetime.
If you are held captive by the power of sin today, I encourage you to follow Jesus out of that prison. As you fix your eyes on Him and follow Him, He will break every shackle that binds you. He will lead you out of darkness and despair. He will take away your hopelessness and give you a reason for living. He will truly set you free!
Beloved, as we follow Christ and keep our eyes fixed on Him, our faith will grow because He is the founder and the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). When our faith is immature and deficient, God still loves us. He does supernatural things in our life and in our circumstances regardless of the size of our faith. And as He does, our faith grows. It is simply Jesus perfecting our faith.
If you are obedient to God and include all people in your sphere of influence, regardless of who they are and what they have done, you will be criticized by those who still don’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do. And those who criticize you may be a part of your community of believers.
Acts chapter 10 begins with Peter being partial to those of his own race and belief system. The chapter concludes with Peter obeying God and making those outside of his own race and belief system a part of his sphere of influence. He does not condemn them or judge them; he simply associates with them and points them to Jesus. As he does this, the Holy Spirit does the rest. Acts chapter 11 begins with Peter being criticized by those in his community of believers for including those who were different.
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
(Act 11:1-3 ESV)
Peter was criticized for obeying God and including those in his sphere of influence who were different. You would think that those in his community of believers would be rejoicing over his obedience to God, but they were not. Instead, they were upset. They just didn’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do.
Take a moment and consider who you have included in your sphere of influence. Are they different from you? Or are they just like you? There are a lot of people in our day who go to church, but only include people who are like them. Most churches are segregated and do not fairly represent the racial diversity of God’s Kingdom.
There are those in our day who only include people who:
Vote like they do belonging to the same political party
Are of the same faith
Are of the same denomination
Have the same color of skin
Are of the same economic status
Have the same sexual orientation
They exclude others who are different than they. I feel sorry for these people because they just don’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do. There is hope for these people though. If God could change Peter, God can change them. That is what gives me great hope for change in our day.
Beloved, I encourage you today to look at all people through the eyes of Christ. Christ died for all people. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have become, God loves them as much as He loves you. Don’t try to change people and make them just like you. Instead, obey the direction of the Holy Spirit. He will broaden your sphere of influence and speak God messages through you. He will do the rest. When criticism comes from those who don’t get who God is and what He has left us here to do, you will know that you are right on course as a Christ follower.
God is not partial and He does not show partiality to one group of people over another based on status or race. God loves all people and He has sent the Holy Spirit to baptize us all into one body.
Peter was preaching a simple but yet powerful Christ centric message as recorded in Acts 10:34-43. His audience was of a different nationality, but Peter had learned that God shows no partiality. God loves all people and desires that all people come to Him through Jesus Christ. As Peter told this house full of foreigners about Jesus, faith rose up within each hearer. And we know that God’s word declares that faith comes from hearing the Word (Romans 10:17) . It was saving faith springing up within them like a gushing fountain and they were receiving the forgiveness of sin that Peter told them would come through believing (Acts 10:43).
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (Act 10:44-48 ESV)
As Peter was speaking, there was a holy interruption. He did not conclude his message with a story and a prayer, nor did he precede his message with a joke to break the ice. He didn’t ask for a show of hands of those who would like to receive Jesus into their hearts. He did not ask people to come forward to receive Christ. He simply spoke God’s message and the Holy Spirit did the rest.
The six Jewish brothers (“the believers from among the circumcised”) that he brought with him were “amazed”. They could not believe that God was pouring out the gift of the Holy Spirit on these foreigners as He had poured out on the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). And they would have never believed it if they had not come with Peter and witnessed what God was doing at this God gathering. They were witnessing God baptizing believers into one body by His Spirit. It is as the Apostle Paul would write in 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks”.
When Peter realized that these people had just received the Holy Spirit as He had earlier, he immediately pointed them to water baptism which is an outside indicator and testimony of what God has done on the inside. All through the book of Acts and early church history, Christ followers did not wait to baptize a new Christ follower in water. When a person was baptized into the body by the Spirit, they immediately looked for a hole of water deep enough to follow their Lord Jesus Christ in water baptism.
Beloved, in this paragraph of Scripture, some of the heart of God is revealed to us:
He desires to use preachers to communicate the good news of Christ to all people.
He has ordained the preaching and hearing of the Word to produce and grow saving faith in people.
He does not need manmade gimmicks that produce “converts” or “church members”.
He is not partial.
He loves and desires for all people to be baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ regardless of race, regardless of status, regardless of what they have done and regardless of what they have become.
God is no respecter of people. What He does for one, He will do for another. May He lift up preachers in our day who will deliver God messages and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in baptizing all people, Jews and Gentiles, into the body of Christ. And may we be quick to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in water baptism as an outward testimony of a spiritual rebirth.
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.
Some today have irregular work hours that keep them from faithfully attending a local church.
Some have no transportation.
Some are shut in because of health reasons.
Some attend a local church, but want more during the week that fits their schedule.
Sad to say, some do not feel welcome in a local church.
In some countries there is no freedom to attend church.
In some countries, churches are few and far between.
Since founding Loving God Fellowship in 2005, we have endeavored to make church available to these people 24 hours a day, 365 days a year utilizing Internet technology. We exclude no one. They can come just as they are, no matter where they are located. They are ministered to and encouraged by God’s Word, Praise and Worship, Prayer and much more.
People attend from all around the world. The site receives over 50,000 hits each month. Currently there are people who attend online from the US, Germany, China, Canada, Israel, UK, Russia, Brazil, Sweden, France, Thailand, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, India, Mauritius, Moldova, United Arab Emigrants, Japan, Denmark, Panama, Yemen, South Africa, Poland, Philippines, Netherlands, Indonesia, Norway, Spain, Singapore, Vietnam, Italy, Latvia, Iran, Czech Republic, Chile, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Hungary, Turkey, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kenya, Venezuela, Fenland, Portugal, Australia, Nicaragua, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Romania, Peru, Lithuania, Ghana, Argentina, Jamaica, Bosnia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Guam, Kuwait, Greece, Puerto Rico, Oman, New Zealand, Byelorussia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Austria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Qatar, Macedonia, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Ireland, Bolivia, Bermuda, Morocco, Nepal, Syria, Namibia, Bahamas, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cot d’Ivoire and Taiwan.
We truly are a worldwide church without walls that God is adding to daily! To God be the glory!
What would happen in America and around the world if every existing church would encourage their attendees to volunteer time helping people in the community instead of spending their time in church activity or just attending church?
What would happen if church leadership would teach attendees that according to the New Testament, ministry extends beyond the walls of a building and the confines of a service?
What would happen if a church spent the same or more on helping the poor of their city as they do on buildings and the programs/ events designed to draw people into those buildings one or two times per week?
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.
The mission statement defines in words what an organization is in existence to accomplish.
The vision statement defines in words how an organization will go about accomplishing its mission.
Core values define the values in which an organization will operate within in everything that it does. These values form the very foundation in which an organization will perform work and conduct itself. Core values are always constant and define the environment in which an organization will abide in an ever changing world.
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.
Becky and I founded LovingGodFellowship.org in December 2005 with nothing more that the call of God on our heart and our personal savings as financing. It was a huge step of faith. Now, many around the world consider Loving God Fellowship their church and we their pastors.
The response to our obedience has been amazing. The number of people around the world being ministered to daily has grown exponentially. In December 2009, LovingGodFellowship.org had 46,000 visitors from 63 different countries. The top ten countries that we had visitors from for the month were the US, Germany, China, Canada, UK, Israel, Russia, France, Brazil and Sweden. These people received free Bible messages, Bible resources, prayer, encouragement and much more ministry through LovingGodFellowship.org. Becky and I receive daily email from those around the world being impacted for Jesus through LovingGodFellowship.org. It’s that encouragement that keeps us moving ahead.
I have not written much on my blog about this worldwide ministry and many that follow are not aware of all that LovingGodFellowship.org is about. I feel led to take the beginning of 2010 to share on my blog a little about LovingGodFellowship.org including what we are about, where we are going and the ministry made available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. So for the next couple of weeks or so, daily I will be sharing vision and information concerning LovingGodFellowship.org. God is building the church without walls!
I hope that you will follow along on my blog, comment and ask any questions you may have. Discussion is always welcome.
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 have had to do a lot of unlearning as a follower of Christ. I was raised in the church and have been a Christian all of my life. But I have not been a Christ follower all of my life (1 Peter 2:21). When I decided to follow Jesus, I had to unlearn a lot that the modern church had taught me that is not found in Scripture.
There is a big difference between being a Christian and being a Christ follower. Christians believe in Christ. Christ followers deny self and follow Christ continuing His point of need ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is possible and most probable in our day and within our culture to be a Christian while not being a Christ follower.
Matthew was a tax collector in Jesus’ day. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were considered to be worse than sinners. They oppressed the people. Caesar would declare a tax to fund his luscious life style and it was up to the governors of provinces to collect the tax. The governors were allowed to add a tax to that tax in order to support their life style. They would hire tax collectors to collect these taxes and the tax collectors would be allowed to add onto the tax they collected an amount they desired to fund the way that they wanted to live. And they lived nice at the expense of oppressing people. That was Matthew. In Matthew 9:9-12, Jesus calls Matthew to follow Him.
I notice some interesting facts concerning Jesus’ contact with Matthew:
What Jesus didn’t do:
Jesus didn’t ask Matthew to go the synagogue with Him the next Sabbath
Jesus didn’t ask Matthew to repeat a prayer after Him and ask Him to come into his heart
Jesus didn’t ask Matthew to attend some evangelistic event
Jesus didn’t ask Matthew to participate in a synagogue designed and led program that would help him change his behavior and become a good person
What Jesus did:
Jesus went to where Matthew was (point of need ministry)
Jesus did not point out all the things that Matthew was doing wrong and did not condemn nor judge Matthew for what he had did in the past or what he had become
Jesus showed Matthew that he cared for him just as he was
Jesus spent time building a relationship with Matthew that included Matthew’s friends who were all sinners
What the religionists of Jesus’ day did:
Avoided all people who did not believe or act as they did
Only associated with people that attended their service at the synagogue
Questioned why Jesus was hanging out with sinners
Jesus only made one request of Matthew and that was “follow me”. Jesus makes the same request to us today. Yes the culture has changed, but not Jesus’ request or His methodology. He still is asking people to simply follow Him. He doesn’t ask them to join a church and utilize all of their expendable time volunteering for church activity designed to attract people into the walls of a building and the confines of a service. He just simply asks us to follow Him. As a person answers that call, they begin an exciting journey that will lead them from earth to glory and on the way, they will touch many people at their point of need as Jesus did. They can’t help it. It’s the fruit of following Jesus.
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