Life is Hard,God provides

Posted on by Thomas Smith

The 23rd Psalm is one of the most quoted verses at funerals. It’s beautiful imagery of rest and still waters is what we long for. Can we get an Amen to “All I want is a little peace and quiet”! But it should be a life verse for us.

But there is little peace in the land and sadly people choose to escape through drugs, alcohol and suicide. 1 in 25 Teenagers has attempted it. 1 in 8 think about it. It is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 yrs. The elder rate is rising rapidly as well.

Life is hard. Life is overwhelming. We do get more than we can handle and the Bible no where says you wont. It does record Jesus telling us “ give it up, turn it over, stop worrying, trust me, cast your cares upon me, and many other similar things. But we just dont or wont.

We have a lot of bad habits which take us to bad places. Psalm 23 :5 says “you prepare a table for me..” Not in the palace, not in the peaceful park by the stream, not in your favorite place. In the presence of your enemies!

How can that be good? Its all good if you know that the one who is throwing the party is able to throw the enemies out as well. It is a picture of protection of God. Rest in that picture.

David continues “goodness and mercy shall follow me”…… because God is goodness and mercy and He not only follows, he goes before us. When life assails(it will), when enemies slander and gossip(they will) that is your time to recall the peaceful stream, the green pasture and remember that God has placed a watch over you and over your life and when you get to the point when you cant bear it, choose to let him bear it. Its how He made us.

Contemporary Perspectives on Relgion

Posted on by Thomas Smith

The following  gives us a perspective on contemporary religious views vs traditional Christianity.One of the best and clearest I have read.
Pastor Tom

Contemporary Perspectives  on Religion
by Ben Edwards
Recent decades have provided Christians with an increasing evaluation of and interaction with various world religions. The growth of immigration from non-Christian nations combined with a greater global awareness through travel and communication have confronted Christians with the reality of diversity in faith and practice. Protestant Christians have responded in different ways to this reality. Often, these responses are grouped in three broad categories. However, with the rise of postmodernism a fourth category has appeared. I will endeavor to explain and evaluate these four approaches below, concluding with the approach I believe best adheres with biblical Christianity.
Universalism
The first approach to world religions may be classified as universalism. Universalism proposes that all religions are more or less equal, with no one religion able to claim supremacy. Two common illustrations are used when explaining this approach, but provide slightly different nuances. The first is to picture salvation or truth as a mountain top and various religions as paths up the mountain. At points along the way these paths may appear different, but when followed to the end they lead to the same place. Thus, all religions ultimately teach the same thing. If adherents merely took the time to interact with one another they would discover how much they actually agreed. This perspective would eschew proselytizing, opting instead for simple dialogue.
Another picture is of a group of blind men approaching an elephant, with each man grabbing a different part of the animal and concluding partially true statements about it. However, none of them fully understands the elephant. In this illustration, no one religion has a claim to all truth. Instead, one must recognize that all religions have part of the truth, so the best approach is to incorporate beliefs from different religions.
Though this approach is popular among more liberal Protestants, attempts to defend it biblically are scarce. This scarcity is not surprising since there is little to no biblical support for universalism. Throughout the Old Testament, the God of the Jews is set in opposition to the gods of the surrounding peoples. The first commandment in the Decalogue places Yahweh as the supreme God. The nation is called to abandon other gods for the true God. In the New Testament, Jesus points to himself as “the way,” claiming that “no one comes to the Father except by [him].” Paul refers to the worship of idols as the worship of demons and applauds the Thessalonians for turning from idols to serve the true and living God. Nor are believers called to look to other religions to gain a better understanding of God. Jesus claimed that those who knew him knew God and that those who rejected him rejected God.
Universalism also creates logical difficulties. A thorough study of the different religions reveals that they do not all teach the same thing but often proclaim explicitly contradictory truths. Some religions are monotheistic, while others are polytheistic or pantheistic. Some believe that life is cyclical, while others hold to a linear view of history. Clearly all religions are not teaching the same thing. Arguing that all religions only have part of the truth does not ultimately solve this dilemma, for the only way to know that each religion has part of the truth is to have access to all of the truth. Those who hold universalism may have a laudable goal of reducing conflict by emphasizing unity, but they do injustice to the Bible and to other religions.
Relativism
With the rise of postmodernism a modification of universalism has emerged that could be classified as relativism. Whereas universalism claims that all religions lead to the truth or contain part of the truth, relativism says that all religions have their own truths. In essence, a relativist would say that religions are not different paths up one mountain but different mountains altogether. This approach recognizes the clear differences between religions, but states that these different truths are not ultimately contradictory because they are true in themselves. There is no universal truth by which to judge the truths of the various religions. Again, the relativist sees no need for proselytizing, since no religion could be judged as better than another.
The relativist approach runs into the same biblical problem as the universalist approach. Christ not only claimed to be “the way” but also “the truth.” He called his followers to go throughout the world making disciples, which entails conversion to the truth. God is never portrayed as one choice among many but as the only God.
Ultimately, a relativistic approach to religions crumbles under the same difficulty as relativism in general—it is a self-defeating philosophy. Relativism proceeds on the idea that ultimate or universal truth is non-existent, but the claim that there is no universal truth is itself a universal truth. Further, relativism is incapable of condemning any action or attitude, since there is no standard by which to judge. In relativism, acts of terrorism and acts of charity are equally valid ways to demonstrate one’s commitment to religion. However, most people easily recognize these acts are not equally valid because of their universal sense of right and wrong. Though some may argue for a relativistic approach to religion, they never fully embrace it because of these difficulties.
Inclusivism
A third approach to religion is inclusivism. In inclusivism, one’s own religion is the supreme religion, but other religions have truths that will ultimately lead to the truth found in the supreme religion. From a Christian perspective, that means that one can only be saved in Christ, but the Bible is not the only revelation of Christ. On the more liberal end of this perspective, proponents argue that sincere worshippers in other religions may be saved if they follow their religion and never have a chance to hear of Christ and Christianity. They believe the Quran has truths in it inspired by the Holy Spirit, so a devout Muslim who never hears of Christ may be saved by following these inspired truths in the Quran. On the more conservative end of this approach, proponents believe that someone may become a Christian by believing the gospel of Christ but continue to worship in their original religion. Thus, a Muslim may put faith in Christ but continue to practice as a Muslim because of the inspired truths in the Quran. An inclusivist would practice proselytizing but may not consider it an urgent matter.
Inclusivism does take seriously the biblical teaching that salvation is in Christ alone. It also recognizes the biblical teaching that some revelation of God has gone out to all people, i.e., general revelation. However, it fails to incorporate the Bible’s teaching on how an individual is saved through Christ. There are no biblical examples of a person being saved without knowledge of Christ. Rather, Paul states that people cannot believe in someone of whom they have never heard. Jesus’ command to go and make disciples would be less significant if salvation were possible apart from the proclamation of the Gospel. Inclusivism actually makes general revelation salvific in nature when the Bible never indicates that general revelation is able to lead to salvation. Romans 1 and Romans 2 both point to general revelation as important for the condemnation of all people, since people universally suppress the truth God has revealed about himself and his moral law, leaving unbelievers with no excuse.
On the more conservative end, proponents fail to incorporate the biblical teaching of conversion. Though they rightly recognize that salvation comes through faith in Christ, they minimize the transformative effects of that salvation. Salvation includes regeneration, which enables believers to turn from their sinful ways and turn to serve Christ alone. One of the evidences of regeneration is a rejection of false religion to embrace biblical Christianity. The proponents also distort the teaching of inspiration. The Bible claims inspiration for itself but does not extend that inspiration outside of itself. Any truth in other religions can be traced to general revelation and common grace rather than inspiration.
Exclusivism
The final approach to world religions is exclusivism. This approach teaches that there is only one true religion and only one way of salvation. For a Christian, Christ is the only way of salvation and the Bible is the only source of saving revelation today. Other religions are sourced in man’s rebellion against God and/or demonic influence. Though other religions may have some truths in them, they are not saving truths. Exclusivism encourages proselytizing since it is the only hope for adherents of other religions to be saved.
This approach best lines up with the teachings of Scripture and of the beliefs held by the majority of Christians in church history. A potential danger in this approach is that one may develop an arrogant attitude that assumes possession of the truth entails superiority. However, a true understanding of salvation in Christianity minimizes this danger. Since the Bible teaches that salvation is a work of God graciously given to unworthy sinners, those who have been saved have no grounds for boasting. They do not have the truth because they have greater intelligence, morality, or wealth. Rather, they have the truth because they received grace and mercy and should desire to see others experience that same grace and mercy.

 

Quit Church!!! Guest pastor editorial

Posted on by Thomas Smith

Sometimes we need someone to shake us out of our complacency!


Quit Church ! by Pastor Chris Sonksen
At a time when church attendance is shrinking in America, I, a pastor, am encouraging people to quit church. Why?
The answer is birthed out of conversations and research I’ve been a part of over the last several years.Regularly, I meet and train pastors and church leaders from all over the country through my leadership platform, ChurchBOOM. The conversations carry a common theme – a lot of people who attend church are passive towards serving, giving and community outreach.

In most churches, 80 percent of the work is being carried out by 20 percent or less of the people. We’ve become a church of spectators and the pastoral staff is getting burned out.According to my own personal research, the problems are even bigger than the 80/20 principle.
Only 39 percent of active believers consider the Bible as the literal word of God. Less than 20 percent of professing believers follow the biblical principle of giving. Only 5 percent have shared their faith with a non-believer. More than half of all church members attend church once a month or less.
Something has to change.
Casual attendance and the belief that others will serve, give and share the Gospel are tearing down churches across our country brick by brick. As believers, it’s time that we are either all in or we get out. The solution is simple: quit!
That’s right – quit! If we quit the casual way we approach God’s principles can you imagine what would happen in our personal walks of faith and in our community of believers?
What if every believer exercised generosity? What if every Christian fought for loyalty in the local church? What if everyone served in their God-given purpose? What would happen if we stopped simply believing and started belonging?
If we would only quit the way we approach our relationship to Christ and our local church, the blessing, the reward, the joy, the fulfillment, the purpose, and the increase would radically transform our lives and the world. Together, we can revolutionize the church!
But the only way we can do this is if we quit.
My conversations over the past several years revealed the spiritual habits necessary for personal and church growth and revealed the “why” behind disengagement in the church.
The truth is, if we don’t feel passionate about something we don’t do it. If we don’t like something that happens in the church, we find another one. If the spiritual practices don’t fit our lifestyle, then we don’t do them.
This mindset permeates our “I want it now and I want it my way” culture and is only enforced through social media, website choices, TV options and countless other platforms that have risen in prominence in our lives. This is not the way God intended the church to live.
The local church isn’t a building – it’s a body of believers fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives. When these believers approach their individual involvement and commitment in a casual manner it weakens the entire body of Christ and the impact we are called to have.
As a result, we lose and so does the local church. God wants us to win, to thrive, to fulfill our potential in him. We will not experience the abundance he desires for us until we quit our current approach and we are all-in.
Once you go all-in on generosity, serving, outreach, discipleship and the other biblical behaviors laid out in his word then look out, because God will rain on your life with his blessings like you have never experienced.
Jesus felt the church was worth dying for – it should be our mission as Christians to value living for it.
Adapted from the book “Quit Church.” by Pastor Chris Sonksen

8 Keys to Tramsformational Spiritual Growth- Phiilip Nation

Posted on by Thomas Smith

8 Keys to Recognizing  Transformational Spiritual Growth(Lifeway Research)

An assignment without a means of measuring success normally ends in frustration or abandonment. In the church, our work is to make disciples. But can you really measure discipleship?
The research revealed eight factors at work in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity. We refer to them as the attributes of discipleship. They are not necessarily new ideas, but they stand out as key ideas in the lives of North American Protestants.
1. Bible engagement
It should go without saying believers will be engaged in studying the Scriptures. However, leadership must often begin restating the obvious. Transformation can be recognized in people when their minds are sharpened by the Bible, their perspectives are shaped by the Bible and their actions are directed by the Bible.
2. Obeying God and denying self
Discipleship is the process of obedience to one who is in authority over you. In our study, we found people progressing in their faith prioritize God’s desires over self-will. Transformation can be seen in them, because they progressively set aside earthly delights for Kingdom priorities.
3. Serving God and others
Just as Jesus said He had come to serve and not be served, so must believers. The choice to serve others is just that—a choice. It highlights a maturity of soul that we allow the needs of others to trump our own. Transformation is evident when personal needs, and even life goals, are set aside for the needs we see in others.
4. Sharing Christ
Inherent in being a disciple of Christ is the making of other disciple makers for Christ. Even with the need to live out the effects of the gospel, maturing believers know speaking about the message is a necessity. Transformation is evident when we talk about the source of it.
5. Exercising faith
Can you measure a person’s faith? Probably not. But you can see it when it is put into action. Believers participating in the research noted they knew the importance of living by faith as opposed to living by personal strength. Transformation is seen in believers when risk aversion is set aside and lives are characterized by faithful obedience to God’s will.                                      6. Seeking God
People become disciples of Christ because they intend to follow Him and become like Him. A continuous hunger should arise from this life. It is referred to in Scripture as our “first love,” and believers are commanded to return to it.
Similarly Prayer is another transformational tool that connects us vitally to the source of our spiritual vitality. There can never be a true Christian who does not believe  that prayer is a priority in their life. Transformation is seen when our desire is to know God more deeply and experience His work more fully.                                                                                                        7. Building relationships
Our faith is personal, but it is not intended to be private. Jesus established the church for our collective good and our collective growth. After all, humans are naturally relational. Spiritually, we are no different. As believers, our horizontal relationships with others should develop just as our vertical relationship with God does. Transformation is occurring when relational maturity is evident in our lives.
8. Unashamed
The research noted believers felt it appropriate and even necessary for others to know them as Christians and be held accountable for a life exemplary of that name. Transformation is evident when a believer is unashamed in presenting his own life as being aligned with Christ.
The adage is “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” At the very heart of Christianity is the work of making disciples for Christ. It should never sit at the fringe of our lives or the church.