Are You a Believer or a Disciple?

Are you a believer or a disciple? Jesus showed the difference between a believer and a disciple in the book of John.

John recorded three times Jesus focused on discipleship:

Definition of a disciple

Distinctive mark of a disciple

Proof of a disciple

Definition of a Disciple

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples (John 8:31).

Jesus was talking with believing Jews. He wanted to lead them on to greater grace. The key for believers to become disciples is to continue in His word. His word, of course is primarily the Bible. It can also be His spoken word, or the word of the Holy Spirit. Either way, disciples are those who abide in, continue in, stay in, spend time, remain in, live in His word. In a practical sense, this means having a daily time in the Bible and doing what He says.

I often say to people, “It doesn’t matter how much you read; just that you read something every day.”

Are you a believer or a disciple? Jesus is filled with grace and truth. His speech to the believing Jews was meant to lead them to become true disciples.

Many believers struggle and fail to establish a daily time in God’s word. Here’s a promise: His grace (His power) will give you the ability to cross the threshold. He will help all who struggle to have a regular devotional time because this is His will.

God definitely desires to have a daily appointment with you in His word.

Choose a definite time and place to meet with God. He loves this.

Choose a definite place, for example, a favorite chair. Then choose a definite time, for example just before bed, or just after breakfast. It’s best to hook this time to something you do regularly every day. Then agree to meet with God at that appointed time.

Within the past 10 days I have prayed with six adults who chose a definite time and a definite place and agreed to let God meet them there. In following up with 5 out of the 6, each had met regularly with God at the scheduled time and place. God’s grace is powerful to turn believers into disciples.

Distinct Mark of a Disciple

By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

Love is the hallmark of a true disciple. His word empowers us to do what love requires–forgive, protect, serve and help other believers. Notice this command of Jesus is to love “one another,” not necessarily outsiders at this point.

Proof of a Disciple

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples (John 15:8).

The Bible speaks of various kinds of fruit. Literal fruit (apples and bananas), figurative fruit (souls for the kingdom,etc.) and fruit of the womb (children).

Much fruit provides evidence that we are disciples of Jesus. In the context, much fruit is based on prayer. He said, If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you John 15:7. He trusts this amazing promise–not to everyone–but to those who continue in His word!

Why is Discipleship Important?

Believers go to heaven; disciples get rewards in heaven. Believers get to heaven; disciples get treasure in heaven. Let’s not take this lightly. Jesus referenced reward (treasure) in heaven nine specific times in His famous Sermon on the Mount. Moses was motivated by reward (Hebrews 11:26).

Grace is Here to Help

At one point in my life, I wanted to meet with God at 5 am. It was “no can do” morning after morning. Finally, I started asking God for help. Still couldn’t wake up to keep the 5 am goal. But I sensed grace was building. It was like a glass was slowly filling. I kept praying for God’s grace. A few more days of waiting and praying ensued. I could feel the time was coming. I became excited.

As I kept calling out for grace to meet the 5 am hour, one day I sensed the glass was full. From that day onwards, worked! It seemed easy to wake up and get up. It was grace poured out,

I am reminded, Apart from Me, you can do nothing (John 15:5).

Are you a believer? Or a disciple?

9 Bible Reasons to Have More Kids

Why have more kids? You might be surprised. Here are 9 Bible reasons to have more kids.

1 What is the Great Commission?

Many would say, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations . . .Matt 28:19

Yes; however, that is the Second Great Commission.

The First Great Commission is found in Genesis 1:28: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.

This first, great command from God to all mankind takes precedence over all others. It has never been rescinded, removed or changed. It is the original great commission to all humans and still tops God’s priority list.

2 Why does God want married couples to have more babies?

Babies fulfill God’s nature. Is that a surprise? Immediately after making humans into His image male and female, Gen 1:27, He happily commands, Be fruitful and multiply Gen 1:28. In other words, Make more babies–a lot more babies! God, the great Father appears emotional about this. He doesn’t tack on procreation as an afterthought. No, It’s right there at the forefront. He is clearly passionate about this. Multiply, and fill the earth. He’s not just saying add; rather, multiply! and don’t stop until all the earth is filled!

God’s nature is expressed as male and female. God’s nature is shown by His command to make more human babies. God’s nature is revealed in our human sexual drive.

Why have more babies? Because when we do, we are fulfilling God’s nature. We are satisfying the God Himself who created us. His twin aims? Populate earth and populate heaven.

Why have more babies? Because when we do, we are fulfilling God’s purpose for us. This is the reason He created us.

3 Why More Babies? Because to him who has shall more be given

Not just more babies, but more everything!

Want more blessings? Of course you do.

Kari and I learned this principle long ago. When someone offered to give us clothes for the family we said, “OK, thank you!” But if we said, “No, we don’t need any more clothes,” they probably never offered us anything in the future.

This is a Godly principle of Kingdom living: For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away (Matt 25:28).

Let me make this principle clear. We are not talking only about more children, but about more of every blessing of God.

Under God’s provision, we are either gaining or losing each day. Either growing or shrinking. God is a Giver–a superabundant Giver. When He finds someone willing to receive in one area, He willingly gives in all other areas.

It has been hard for me to learn to receive. One of the secrets of faith: Learn to freely receive. The result? We will never lack something to give.

I could not write this except for my wife, Kari. She wanted 12 children. Due to my past, I thought 3 was enough for us. We had a strong disagreement. I could see trouble brewing. Kari challenged me to read the Scriptures. I did, and was convicted.

4 Children are a gift of the Lord Psalm 127:3

If the Governor of your state wanted to give you a gift, would you turn him down?

Let’s Pause for a Moment

Some people want more children but are not married, unable to conceive or bring children to birth. Some of us are past the childbearing stage. We can’t go back. What we can do, however, is encourage young couples to submit child-bearing decisions to God. Who is Lord in this matter?

My pastor was our pre-marital counselor. If he had shown us these Bible reasons to have more kids, it would have been a huge help to our life and marriage.

This message–reasons for married couples to receive more babies–should not be controversial. It’s Bible living 101.

5 The fruit of the womb is a reward Psalm 127:3

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth; Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate
Psalm 127:3-5.

A singular cause of male insecurity is not doing what the Bible says. A remedy for a married man who does not feel successful is to have more children. Children are part of our manly weaponry. Think about it. . .

6 Having many kids glorifies God John 15:8

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit John 15:8

In Scripture there are several kinds of “fruit.” Fruit of the Spirit, fruit for our labor, natural fruit (think apples), and fruit of the womb (as in Psalm 127).

This is shocking. I’m still trying to process this. We all want to glorify God. And one way to do it is simply to have more kids!

7 Having many children is a proof of discipleship John 15:8

. . . that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples John 15:8.

Strong language!

For some couples this may offer hope: The Greek term used here can be translated become instead of prove. In other words, a young couple who are striving to become disciples of Christ can do so by having more babies, thus fulfilling the original great commission.

8 Why have more kids? So you can be happier!

But don’t take my word for it. Jesus claims These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full John 15:11.

Jesus’ promise is sandwiched between two sentences about following His commands. Many men and women could have happier lives by simply slowing down and having more kids. Are you fully satisfied with life? Are you feeling like there’s more to life?

9 God never intended to spread the Gospel by the Second Great Commission alone

God always intended to cover the earth with the original Great Commission as well as with evangelism. Both are part and parcel of God’s plan of redemption.

Whenever a church or people group practices Genesis 1:28, God multiplies their influence.

The Roman Catholics before the widespread acceptance of birth control

Present day Hispanics

Muslims world wide

China

What will happen when evangelicals, charismatics, and Pentecostals begin to practice the First Great Commission and teach our children to do the same? All of the above groups say, “We believe the Bible.”

There are additional Bible reasons to have more kids. Do any come to your mind? Or do you have Bible reasons to disagree? If you wish, use the comment box below.

Bible reasons to have more kids

Let’s think big–

What a renewal! What a movement! What a cultural phenomenon! America will change. Europe will be transformed. No nation will ever be the same as Christian married couples accept Bible reasons to receive more babies..

The planet will be transformed!

Photo credit from CafeMom.com, the story off Britni Church, “A mother of 11 who is ready for more.”

Prophetic Word: New Day has Dawned

For behold, the [covid] winter is past,
The rain is over and gone. A new day has dawned.

The blossoms have already appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for singing
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.

The fig tree has ripened its fruit,
And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!

Song of Solomon 2:10-13

The [covid] winter has passed, A new day has dawned. True for the whole earth? Don’t know, but in our part of Iowa, USA, we are praising God afresh. We are smelling fresh fragrance, feeling the beauty of His love, and seeing the first fruits of His produce.

What Does the Bible Say?

Not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near Hebrews 10:25. But we have been told to “stay home and shelter in place.”

They will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover Mark 16:18b. But we have been told to stay 6 feet apart.

We are honest men; we are not spies Gen 42:31. As Christians we place high value on authenticity. We try to be open with each other. Yet we have allowed the mask mandates.

Fear not occurs 55 times in the Bible in that exact form. What will it take to help all of us, including me, to be free from fear?

There may have been a reasonable time and place for mandates, social distancing, and quarantines as “the experts” and all of us were trying to figure out how to cope with the virus.

But the seasons have changed. Now is the time to smell the flowers. The Turtledove [the Holy Dove] invites His beloved:

Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!

Come along out of your seclusion. Come out from fear and isolation and walk through His vineyard [His church]. The time has arrived for singing.

The [covid] winter has passed, A new day has dawned.

This is not saying that the virus is unreal. I had a friend who died, at least partially caused by the virus. What I am saying is this: A New Day is Dawning. What may have been good for yesterday is no longer the program for today.

Did You Hear the One about the Pastor at the Organ Recital?

After a long days work with his parishioners, a pastor arrived at home.

“Hello dear,” his wife greeted him at the door. “What did you do today/”

“I attended an organ recital,” announced the pastor. I went to visit Mrs. Peabody and heard all the problems with her heart, her lungs, her kidneys, her liver and nearly every other organ she could think of.”

Let’s Quit Praising the Devil

People love to talk about sickness, especially their own. Have you noticed how covid comes up in nearly every conversation? Jesus addressed the problem clearly: Why make a commotion? Stop the toxic talk and let life-giving virtue flow.

“The times they are a’changin,” sang Bob Dylan in his prophetic voice in 1964. True then, and now the prophetic voice of the Turtledove is heard across the land. This is the time for new fruit, new songs, new fragrance, new topics of conversation.

No more devil talk. No more talk about what the devil is doing or has done. That season is past.

Let’s talk about what God is doing! How He is healing. Fresh vitality is on the Divine menu. Fresh vision is the order of the day. Let’s talk about how He is charging us from the inside out. He has brought a whole new atmosphere to the church! Can you smell it in the air? It’s party time in the ecclesia!

Are we open to a fresh heart for the lost? Open to fresh hope? Jesus is issuing a call for happy intercessors. Joy is a fresh ingredient at His table. Miracles and humor are part of His spread. The carte de jour includes gaiety and spice.

The winter is passed. A new day has dawned. Let’s celebrate!

Photo by Mason Dahl on Unsplash

Confession is Good for the Soul

Confession is good for the soul. It is healthful, but not easy.

So here goes . . .

About the year 2000 my wife Kari and I were walking in Zamboanga, a city in the southern Philippines. On the sidewalk lay a man in apparent need. We saw him and continued on, heading toward a marketplace or wherever we were going.

A couple hours later we returned, backtracking on the same route. There we saw the man, this time motionless and mostly covered with cardboard.

He was dead.

We stopped and stared. The bystanders noted our attention and tried to reassure us. “Don’t worry,” they said. There was no shooting, no violence. He only died of starvation!”

We were shocked. No big problem: “He only starved to death.”

What could we have done? We were only visitors in the city. But could we have helped? Could we have carried him someplace before he died? Could we have brought food?

My wife’s reaction was Christ-like. She immediately determined to never again bypass a person like that in need.

But when I had seen him on the sidewalk covered with cardboard, I had felt like kicking the obstacle out of the way and stepping over it not realizing the man was dead.

To my grief and shame, the incident revealed my hardness of heart.

There is none righteous, not even one;

There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;

All have turned aside, together they have become useless;

There is none who does good, there is not even one.

Romans 3:10-12

I was the man of Romans 3.

So there you have it–my confession. I feel bad about it. The worst part is the hardness of my heart. Groveling in shame helps not a bit. Regret changes nothing.

“Godly sorrow and confession–Come in! Come in and change me to become like Jesus.”

I”m thankful to Jesus Christ and His blood for forgiveness. I’m thankful to my church and close friends and family that I can share this confession and know that you will still love me. You give me confidence.

I have never forgotten that incident on the sidewalk in Zamboanga. As I confess it to God and to you, may God grant me greater compassion to become like Jesus. Yes, confession is good for the soul.

Nick Gavrilov on Unsplash for the sinner photo.

Crisis in Early Church: What is Salvation?

Crisis in Early Church: What is Salvation?
Crisis in Early Church: What is Salvation?

What does it mean “to be saved?” This question caused a crisis in the early church twenty years after the crucifixion and resurrection. The question also threatened the unity of the church.

There was no instruction manual to answer the question “What is salvation?” They had no Luther’s catechism. Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches (in modern day Turkey) had been written a few weeks earlier, but the people in Jerusalem had not read it. The Letter to the Romans was still in Paul’s mind and was not written until about AD 57, eight years from the onset of the crisis. John’s gospel was not yet available.

In AD 48 and 49 what was the church to do? Many were proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. They preached that all who believed in Him were saved.

On the other hand, some especially dedicated believers were convinced that everyone who joined the faith needed to keep the laws of Moses. Circumcision (removal of a layer of skin from the male penis) and adherence to Old Testament dietary regulations became key issues (Acts 15).

Those specific issues are generally not problems today, but the underlying question remains: Is a person saved as a gift by faith alone? Or are we saved by faith in Jesus plus something we do?

In time, the truth of the teaching of justification by faith became clear. But It was by no means clear at the outset. The apostles and elders came together at a Jerusalem Conference in AD 49 to look into the question. They made a momentous decision that determined the course of history. Together the early church determined that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:11) plus nothing.

What is Justification by Faith?

Justification is an instantaneous act of God that takes place in heaven by which He declares a sinner righteous in His sight.

Let’s break it down.

Justification (Greek word dikaiosune) is a legal term used in a court of law.

It takes place instantaneously, in a moment, as opposed to sanctification, which is a process over time. Granted, the process leading up to the sentence of justification may take months or years, but the act of justification is immediate.

Justification is an act of God. God justifies, not man. He alone can do it. Yet is based in part on a man’s decisions.

Justification takes place where God is, in heaven. This is to say, it does not take place in the heart of a man. It is an act of God, not an act of a man. It takes place in heaven, far away from a man. It will impact a man, but it does not take place in any man.

God makes a fiat decision. He is the Judge who delivers the sentence, You are righteous! and bangs the gavel down. He alone has the power to declare someone righteous. God Himself makes the decree based on a man’s faith in Jesus.

He justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). God’s decision is apart from the law (Romans 3:21), not based on a man’s morality or condition of sin or sinlessness.

It is based on faith and faith alone (John 5:24, John 3:16, Romans 3:28)

“Righteous” is a standing before God that is ultimately superior to innocence. God does not say, “You are innocent.” Nor does he declare, “You are not guilty.” Rather, He knows we are neither innocent nor not guilty. He knows we are in fact guilty. His declaration, “You are righteous” is based solely on His determination that the humbled sinner has accepted Jesus Christ’s payment in total for his sin.

“In His sight” is key to understanding justification. It indicates God’s own view of a person, not how the person nor anyone else views him. A justified person may still feel guilty or unworthy. He may still be accused and sentenced in a human court of law to crimes he has committed. But God views the humbled sinner through the lens of Jesus Christ. God sees him as perfect as His Jesus Christ Himself.

This is the miracle of justification!

Let’s pursue justification by faith a bit further

The crisis in the early church involved this question: Is faith in Christ enough? Or does something else need to be added?

Some sincere believers asserted circumcision was necessary to complete faith.

Today, some churches teach we must believe in Jesus Christ as our Substitute plus we must add our own contribution.

Here are some additions I’ve heard. All are good and well-intended. But are they scriptural?

Must keep the 10 Commandments

Must get baptized in water

Must speak in tongues

Must show a good life

Must make Jesus “Lord”

Must not drink, smoke, dance or (fill in the blank) ___________________.

How the Early Church Solved the Crisis

Apostles and elders met the early church crisis head on in AD 49 by calling together the Jerusalem Conference. At that conference of leaders, they debated the issues. The Council concluded that justification by faith alone plus nothing was sufficient for salvation; neither circumcision nor anything else was required for salvation. Graciously, they also encouraged new converts to stay away from practices abhorrent to the Jews. The president of the council summarized the conclusion. They wrote down the decision and published it by means of church representatives.

The decision of the Jerusalem Conference preserved the unity of the church and determined the course of history.

Why Make a Commotion?

The Situation

Jesus had just healed a “crazy” man and more recently, an incurable woman. Both were “impossible situations.” 

Now He was at home in Capernaum and an elder in his home synagogue requested He come immediately to deal with a twelve-year-old daughter who was either dying or already dead. 

The situation was dire. Which was worse? Death, fear, or unbelief?  

Death didn’t faze Jesus. He saw fear and the surrounding atmosphere of unbelief as the greater obstacles. 

The Problem

Why make a commotion and weep? (Mark 5:39). Jesus came to restore life. But as He entered the house of the synagogue leader, he observed a commotion with people loudly weeping and wailing.  

In our lower nature, we are attracted to sickness. As soon as we hear the report “someone is in the hospital,” we want to know more details. Often times, people get attention when sick. Statistics, doctor’s diagnoses, who else is sick–all these add to the mounting conversation.

Some of this may be necessary, but in the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus came to heal. 

The Solution 

Jesus cut though the commotion: Jesus spoke the word of truth. Even though the girl had been pronounced dead, Jesus saw the reality. The child is not dead, but sleeping.  

Healing requires the accurate set of data points. Natural observance is not always accurate. Doctors’ statements offer the doctor’s perspective.  

The Word of God offers reality. Sanctify us in Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).  

Jesus’s first action was to stop fear in the father, who was the authority figure in this case. Do not be afraid, only believe.(Mark 5:36). He replaced fear with faith.

Next, Jesus cut off all unbelief. He allowed no one to follow Him except His three companions (Mark 5:37). He was adamant about no doubters to come to the house. Only those who could push faith over the top could come to the house with Him.  

Can you imagine what a stir this made among His disciples? Among His supporters?

The line had been drawn. Jesus was steeling Himself against doubt, skepticism and unbelief. Emotion was focused on health and resurrection. Adrenalin raged in His body and He would let nothing interfere. 

Suddenly, the crisis went south as Christ and His compatriots approached Jairus’ house: The whole house reeked of hopelessness and death. The din of death was resounding throughout the neighborhood.  The atmosphere of death had grown and prevailed. After all, people were simply facing “reality.”

Jesus immediately challenged the commotion, the attention, the emotion, the wailing, the weeping. He put an end to all of it. He put them all outside. 

To put them all outside is an understatement. The Greek word is ek-ballo. It is a strong word, the same word used to cast out demons. 

Then He altered the atmosphere. He displaced the attention and the noise in the room with His presence and some young believers learning grace.  

Do you think this action was easy for Jesus? No, there is strong tradition to surround the sick with sympathy. In fact, well-meaning friends and sympathizers began laughing at Jesus. The laughing was mockery and ridicule, not humor. King James translation says, they laughed Him to scorn. 

But Jesus proceeded to put them all out. He insisted on exclusive focus on health and resurrection. 

How I Was Healed From Stage 4, Inoperable Cancer

I understand what Jesus was doing. I had to do the same. 

I shut out all negative and neutral influences. I was in the hospital when I realized I could not take in the news. The oncologist gave me a 10 % chance to survive. I could not accept his prognosis. When I got home from the hospital, I asked that no one be allowed to call. I could not allow sympathy. I allowed no movies of people suffering from cancer.  

I requested a singer to come to the house and sing hymns to me. I got a hymnbook and began to absorb the choruses. The Bible became my diet book and my textbook. Hope and faith only were allowed to enter my room. 

Conclusion

Mark 5:35-43 is Jesus’ playbook for local church healing. Jairus, which may mean “shining one,” was the name of the the synagogue leader of Jesus’ home town.  

When the local church concentrates positive faith and love on a sick person, God acts. When the local church piles on the positive expectation of healing, God acts. When the local church isolates a person in the cocoon of redemptive faith and hope, the power of God swings the needy into the supernatural realm. 

Few understand the power of disproportionate faith and prayer. Desperate conditions require desperate accumulations of action.

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise. . . These are the voices of the local church surrounding the needy. This is the resounding roar of the redeeming church in action. This is the triumphant cry of the army of God engaged in battle. This is the militant church fulfilling her destiny. May we surround the sick with such a chorus! 

Does Your Church Shout “Grace!”

What does your church shout?
What does your church shout?

Every church has a certain “shout.” By that I mean a noticeable feel or impression. It’s that sense that people remember when they leave. It’s what children–and adults–take home after the service.

That impression becomes part of your church’s reputation, what you are known for.

People may or may not be able to put it into words, but it’s that unmistakable feeling that doesn’t go away.

What “shout” does your church deliver?

One family visited our church recently; their children went away calling it the “donut church.” (Presumably because we have a generous supply of all sorts of donuts on our fellowship table.)

Every church shouts something. Hopefully, no one calls our church “the boring church.”

When visitors drive away from your Sunday meeting, what’s their lasting impression?

What is grace?

Grace is God’s power poured out on us from start to finish. It is His power upholding us when we “blow it.” It is His favor lavished upon us unceasingly, even and especially when we don’t deserve it.

My wife and I once visited a church in a neighboring town. After the singing, testimony time began. One man stood up and began to talk. He confessed that he had been skipping church for weeks. He said he needed to confess: he had made a wrong moral decision. He had repented. He was there to ask forgiveness and hoped that people would accept him again.

I did not know the details, but based on the people’s response, it seemed like “grace in action” to me. Then the pastor responded kindly. Unaware, we had walked into a prodigal elders homecoming! The church was shouting “grace, grace” on him.

Three thoughts about grace to help churches give a good shout

One, Grace smiles

In other words, grace invites. Grace forgives. Grace warms people’s hearts. Grace lifts tired souls. It’s light-hearted and happy. People like to be around gracious, happy people.

Friendly, yes, and more. Are we letting the sunshine in?

Does your church feel more like Moses is in charge–or Jesus?

Two, Grace is how Jesus rules His Kingdom

We live in the Age of Grace. The 21st century is not a a throwback to the dispensation of Law. Our churches don’t need to be a throwback to the disposition of Law either.

Grace is the operational principle by which Jesus rules from start to finish in this epoch. He begins with this invitation. While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).

Throughout our lives, grace reigns. In fact, grace abounds (Romans 5:20-21). God lavishes grace on His family. He was adamant to start a grace relationship with us and grace will be brought to us at the final revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

Three, Grace is more an attitude than a doctrine

Do the altar calls in your church beckon folks to do more, work harder? Or do you leave church expectant of what God Almighty will do for you?

Do we leave looking up, sensing God is at work in us both to will and to do His good pleasure? Or do we leave sensing I’ve got to do more, pray more, give more this week?

Grace is all about Him, who He is, and what He will do. Works is about us, what we do, and must do.

The church, the spiritual house of God, will be built amidst shouts of Grace! Grace! (Zech 4:7).

Here are a couple of stories about churches I’ve visited

It was a long time ago, but I still remember it. I came alone and sat near the back. I think someone gave me a bulletin, but I’m not sure. When the meeting was over, no one approached or talked with me. I remember the color of the pews and walls, but nothing else.

That church shouted, “We don’t like people here!”

Another story. On vacation, my wife and I visited a church across town. The parking lot was filled with heavy-duty pickup trucks, and we had a little trouble finding the door. Once inside, the sermon seemed true, yet was too long (in my opinion) and kind of boring.

But during prayer requests, a couple of the people asked prayer for their ailing horses! And about half the people, men and women alike, wore cowboy boots!

When we described our experience of that church, we said, “They really like horses!”

My wife and I call them “the Cowboy Church!”

Now, all joking aside, What does your church “shout” to visitors?

The 7 Purposes of New Testament Prophecy

7 Purposes of New Testament Prophecy
7 Purposes of New Testament Prophecy

The 7 purposes of New Testament prophecy according to 1 Corinthians 14 are shown here:

To Build People Up

To edify or build up (v3). Oh, how the church and church people need to be built up in our day. No more tearing down, putting down or pulling down even if it’s true. No need for criticism or complaining. Rather, our great need is to build up the body of Christ.

To Encourage People

To exhort or encourage (v3). Encourage is a better term here. We all understand and respond to encouragement. The outstanding hallmark of NT prophecy is simply this—to give courage and strength to people.

How do we discern true prophecy? If it encourages, it’s most likely a word from God.

Pastors especially need encouragement. It’s not easy to shepherd people. When I travel to speak at churches, I try to find something from the Holy Spirit that is true about the pastor that will encourage him in front of the congregation.

Before I spoke at a church in Romania, I labored nearly all Saturday night in prayer. When I gave the Sunday morning message, people received it well, but I had no idea of the far-reaching impact. Hours after the meeting, the pastor and the lead elder each confessed they had planned to resign at church that very morning. However, after receiving the message, each took courage and decided NOT to resign. In months that followed, that pastor became a significant leader of ministers in his entire region.

To Comfort Hurting People

To console or comfort (v3). Some prophecies are specifically designed to comfort bereaved or suffering people. The Holy Spirit is the most gentle Person among us.

To Convict, Call to Account, to Reveal Secrets

To convict or reprimand, rebuke, admonish, chide, expose unbelievers and outsiders (v 24).

To call to account or discern, sift, question unbelievers and outsiders(v 24).

To reveal or disclose hidden secrets in unbelievers and outsiders (v 24).

God gives these revelations at times so that skeptics or private persons will humble themselves, become worshipers in awe of God, and confess That God is present (v25).

Jack Deere, a former professor and self-confessed skeptic of pneumatika at Dallas Theological Seminary, explains that prophecies in his church frequently accomplish these goals. Deere is the author of Why I am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.

To Teach People

To increase knowledge (v31). Literally, the text says “that all may learn.” This is the origin of the thought that there are “teaching prophecies.”

The Bible says, You can all prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:31). If you give a message that fulfills one of these 7 purposes of New Testament prophecy, you can be confident you are fulfilling God’s desire and accomplishing His purpose.

Gallop Poll Tells Good Reason to Attend Church Each Week

The Gallop Poll released a December 7, 2020 report entitled

Americans’ Mental Health Ratings Sink to New Low.

Americans’ latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades. Only one group of Americans showed an improvement in mental health during the pandemic.

Which Group Improved Mental Health During the Past Year?

Gallop asked various demographic groups across the US to rate their own mental health status. They asked men, women, Republicans, Democrats, various age groups, various economic groups, religious attendance participants, and those who had college degree and those who had no college degree.

Nineteen demographic groups were involved in the survey. Participants were asked to evaluate their own mental health to see how it had changed during the time from November 2019 to November 2020.

The Results are Significant

Every Demogrpahic group suffered a drop in mental health exept one–Regular Church Attenders!

Americans’ Rating of Their Mental Health as Excellent, by Demographic Groups. 2019 vs. 2020

20192020Change
%%pct. pts.
Gender
Male4941-8
Female3727-10
Party identification
Republican5641-15
Independent4432-11
Democrat3029-1
Religious service attendance
Weekly4246+4
Nearly weekly/Monthly4735-12
Seldom/Never4229-13
Race
White4535-10
Non-White4032-8
Marital status
Married4941-8
Not married3727-10
Age group
18-293728-9
30-494032-8
50-645142-9
65+4434-10
Household income group
Under $40,0003327-6
$40,000-$99,9994331-12
$100,000 or more5745-12
GALLUP

Those who attended church services every week improved mental health 4% during the year. Note the +4 in the chart.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

The Great White Throne Judgment—Who Gets Judged and Who Doesn’t?

What is the Great White Throne Judgment?

As I share my faith and listen to people, I find almost everyone believes in some kind of judgment at the end of life. A sense of “final reckoning” seems to be written into the conscience of every man of every culture whether or not he is religious. In fact, the Bible is filled with stories of judgment from Genesis to Revelation.

Please see some of the judgments that relate specifically to the Great White Throne Judgment listed here.

Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city (Mathew 10:15).

. . . the LORD, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness (Psalm 96:13)

And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42).

Act 17:31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.

Rev 14:14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.

The events of the Great White Throne Judgment are written in Revelation 20:11-15:

Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.

I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.

Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works.

Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15

This is the Final Judgment, an eternal judgment, and part of the doctrine of eternal judgment taught in Hebrews Chapter 6.

Who is the judge?

At first I understood Him to be God the Father, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe to be the judge. But not so fast. According to John 5:22 and 27, the Father has given all judgment to the Son in order that all may honor the Son.

Notice that all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior will escape this judgment (verse 24)!

Who are the subjects?

Who must appear? All those who have rejected Christ Jesus and the salvation He offers must stand before this throne to be judged. All the unsaved must appear. Not one who has refused Jesus’ offer of salvation can escape judgment at the Great White Throne. All the dead, both great and small, shall look up into the Face of God. The term “dead” is used seven times in these five verses and refers to the spiritually dead.

No believers of the church age will be judged. Believers in Christ will, however, be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (not the same as the Great White Throne Judgment) to be repaid for their deeds, whether good or bad.

When will the Great White Throne Judgment take place?

At the end, after the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth, and before the advent of the new heaven and the new earth.

What is the basis for the judgment? Why is anyone there? 

Unbelievers are at this judgment because of their rejection of Christ as Substitute for the guilt of their sin. Their disbelief is demonstrated by their works.

What is the outcome? 

There is only one result—eternity in the lake of fire with the devil. All who are there will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

Remember God did not intend for anyone to be sentenced to hell. Hell was not prepared for humans, but for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

That’s enough bad news. Want some good news?