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.


Christian Movies Rising!

Posted on by Thomas Smith

I dont often post 'Hollywood type" stuff but this was indeed good news! I encourage you all to see the recent " I can Only Imagine". I look forward to seeing the movie "Paul" mentioned in this. Pastor Tom

Christian movies are on the rise.
Just this weekend, I Can Only Imagine — a religious indie film about the best-selling Christian music single of all time — stunned observers by raking in more than $17 million, good for third-place at the weekend box office.
This is hardly a random occurrence. In 2015, the Christian publication Movieguide charted that the number of films with "strong Christian content" had steadily risen from 16 in 1996 to 65 in 2015. Annual box office receipts from these films during this period skyrocketed from $200 million to more than $5 billion. And it's only getting bigger.
Throughout the '90s, Hollywood didn't think much about religious audiences. Few religious films were produced during this era, and the handful that made it to the big screen were made on miniscule budgets and featured mostly obscure actors. But something shifted in our cultural consciousness in the early 2000s. With terrorism fears spiking, many Americans became more consciously religious. Church attendance even spiked for a brief period.
As the frothy frivolity of the '90s receded, and the world got darker, many Americans found solace, meaning, or escape in faith and film.
Famously, Mel Gibson shocked the world with a blood-soaked film retelling the final hours of Jesus' life. In 2004, The Passion of the Christ earned more than $611 million worldwide on a $30 million budget and became the highest-grossing faith film in history.
Since then, America has experienced something of a faith-film renaissance. Many have been produced by major Hollywood studios and have featured A-list actors such as Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Garner, and Joseph Fiennes. Though none of these films have been able to recreate The Passion of the Christ levels of financial success, many have performed very well.
In 2014, Darren Aronofsky's Noah starred Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson. It grossed more than $362 million at the box office. Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings starring Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton pulled in more than $268 million. And TV pioneer Mark Burnett (Survivor and Shark Tank) produced Son of God, a film about Jesus' life. Burnett's wife, Roma Doney of Touched by an Angel fame, starred as Mary. The film grossed $67 million.
Last year, moviegoers flocked to see religiously themed movies such as Same Kind of Different as Me, starring Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger, and The Shack, which featured Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer. The latter film grossed more than $96 million.
Given the relative success of films within this genre, it's not surprising that Hollywood shows no signs of letting up when it comes to religious flicks. Last month, Samson retold the tale of the biblical strong man. And now I Can Only Imagine, about one of the most popular Christian songs in modern times, is a bona fide hit. Dennis Quaid, who costars in the film, has a theory on why faith-based films are succeeding.
"When people — adults, kids, families, couples — go to the movies, it is a chance for them to escape from the everyday shenanigans of life," he told me. "People want to feel good when they leave the theater."

This weekend, Paul, Apostle of Christ will be released. The film is the first major cinematic retelling of the life of the first century disciple of Jesus who wrote nearly half of the New Testament. Actor Jim Caviezel, who famously played Jesus in Gibson's Passion, will star in the lead role.
Additionally, Caviezel has just announced that he will reprise his role as Jesus in the sequel to The Passion of the Christ, which will tell the story of Jesus descending into hell for three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Caviezel predicts it will be "the biggest film in history." He may not be far off.
In our bleak moment of alternative facts, fake news, and flat-out lies, many Christian moviegoers hunger for stories that feel authentic and true. In a time during which we are constantly assaulted by headlines telling of scandal and misdeed, they desire films that feel wholesome and uplifting. And in a moment rife with uncertainty, they want stories that feel familiar and time-tested.
To be sure, Hollywood, so long a bastion of secular liberalism, has no desire to evangelize theatergoers. But they know a good opportunity when they see one.

You can overcome the hard knock life by becoming "Resilient"

Posted on by Thomas Smith

I have been reading a book and sharing some with you all, called A Resilient life by Gordon MacDonald. It is really a transformative read.

I just want to share his "Resilient People..." defining statements from the book. I hope you will get a copy and fill in the meat for these>

Resilient People have a sense of life-direction. Resilient People forsee great questions of life. Resilient People cultivate their Christian Character. Resilient People listen for Gods call. Resilient People are confident in their gifts from God. Resilient People live generous lives. Resilient People know the importance of repairing the past.Resilient People respect the power of their memories. Resilient People practice repentance. Resilient People are quick to forgive. Resilient People overflow with gratitude. Resilient People squeeze the past for all its wisdom. Resilient People prepare for Life's emergencies. Resilient People know what has to be accomplished. Resilient People keep themselves physically fit. Resilient People grow their minds. Resilient People harness their emotions. Resilient People trim their egos. Resilient People open their hearts to God.

So I'm about 2/3 of the way down the list. I said transformative earlier but that's a small word.

Again I hope you will agree with God's desire to bless and grow you up in faith by reading it.

The tag quote on the cover says "you can move ahead no matter what" and that says it well about resilient people.

Why did Jesus come to us at Christmas?Ray Pritchard answers in Dear Sarah

Posted on by Thomas Smith

Church in my study today I found this and felt compelled to share. It is the most common affliction that robs our Joy so needlessly.

Unforgiveness. I pray  "Dear Sarah" will help those that struggle with that self inflicted pain. Pastor Tom


Why Christmas? Why did Jesus come? For people like Sarah....
Dear Sarah: A Letter About Forgiveness at Christmastime
Pastor Ray Pritchard

(A few days ago I received a letter that took over a month to finally reach me. It came from someone I have never met. Because of the unusual nature of the letter, I began to think about the question, “What does forgiveness mean at Christmastime?” This week’s message is actually the letter I wrote to her. To protect her privacy, I have changed her name. I am passing it along because many people struggle with hard questions of forgiveness. In this case, “Sarah” waited too long to forgive. What do you do then?)

December 14, 2006
Dear Sarah,
Although you wrote me over a month ago, your letter did not reach me until a few days ago. Thank you for writing and sharing your story with me. It is quite unlike any other letter I have ever received. After I read it, I thought about it for a while because the question you raise is very challenging:
How can you let somebody know you still love them and forgive them, and you’re sorry and live with it every day, when they’ve gone to be with the Lord?
I know from your letter that you are over 80 years old, and that your husband died eleven years ago. The two of you were married for 49 years. But there was an issue of forgiveness that stood between the two of you. This is how you put it:
There really wasn’t anything to forgive, only a little white lie he told over 48 years ago.
And then you add: “We had a great marriage.” I do not doubt you when you say, “I loved him dearly.”

You didn’t say what the white lie was, and after so many years, perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Perhaps he did something foolish and then tried to cover it up. Or maybe he didn’t tell the whole truth about something. But whatever it was, it must have really bothered you because as you said, “I didn’t let it go.” You made a very human mistake, one that all of us have made many times. You held on to whatever it was. Forty-eight years is a long time to hold on to a “little white lie.”

But the hardest part, the saddest part, comes next:
“He asked me to forgive him two weeks before he passed, and I wouldn’t say the words. I grieve every day that I didn’t forgive him. I would have but he passed suddenly.”
Now your dear husband has gone to heaven to be with the Lord. And you are haunted by the memory, not of his “little white lie,” but of your unforgiving spirit. As a result, you are still carrying the burden of what you wish you had done but didn’t do. That brings me to your bottom line:
“I know that at over 80, I could go any time. I just need to know the Lord will forgive me. And where to look in the Bible. This is urgent.”
You are right on all counts. You could die at any moment. And you do need to know if the Lord will forgive you. And you need to know what the Bible says about this matter.

Finally, I note that you even enclosed a stamp so it would be easy for me to answer your letter. That touched my heart. I would have answered anyway, but I’m going to use your stamp when I send this letter back to you.

Self-Inflicted Wounds
Your letter illustrates a truth that is as old as mankind. Generally speaking, as we look back on life, our greatest remorse comes not from the things we did, but from the things we didn’t do that we should have done. I have often thought that there is no pain greater than a self-inflicted wound.
Others rarely hurt us as deeply as we hurt ourselves. And sometimes the pain comes, not from foolish things we did or said, but from a time when we could have shown kindness but didn’t, when we could have shown mercy but were harsh instead, when we could have reached out to someone in need but turned and walked away. As we journey through life, all of us end up with a long list of things that we wish we had done differently.
Often our deepest pain comes from knowing that we should have forgiven when we had the chance, but we didn’t do it, we let things fester, we nursed our grudges, we hung on to remembered hurts, and we ended up the loser because the time comes when we can no longer say to someone we loved, “I forgive you. It’s over. By God’s grace, I have put it behind me. Let’s move on from here together.” I know you wish you had said that to your dear husband.

Your letter is like a modern-day version of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. It’s all about a man who had been forgiven an enormous debt being unwilling to forgive a small debt owed to him. The shock of the story is that he was so unforgiving after having received such mercy himself. The man ended up being thrown in jail until he paid all that he owed. Jesus applied the story to his disciples in verse 35: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
You have already experienced this at a very personal level.
Jesus told this story in order to impress us with several truths: First, the greatness of God’s forgiveness. Second the enormity of our own sins. Third, the relative lightness of the sins of others against us. Fourth, the simplicity of forgiveness. Fifth, the danger of an unforgiving spirit.You see, we are like the unforgiving servant. We stand before Almighty God with our sins piled up like a mountain. The mountain is so tall we can’t get over it, so deep we can’t get under it, so wide we can’t go around it. That’s every one of us. Our sins are like a $25 million dollar debt we could never pay in our lifetime or in a thousand lifetimes. We come as debtors to God, come with empty hands and say, “I cannot pay.” And God who is rich in mercy says, “I forgive all your sins. My Son has paid the debt. You owe me nothing.”