The Church is Essential

In every generation since Jesus walked on earth, there has been a spiritual battle surrounding the church of Jesus Christ. satan hates the work of the church because it is a work that directly opposes his purposes. satan wants nothing more than to seduce as many people into thinking they can live life as they please and apart from Jesus Christ and yet spend eternity in the presence of God. satan desire for people to be convinced that sin is not that bad, hell is not real and there is no real judgment day coming.

The work of the church is simply the continuation of the work of Christ while He was here on earth. Mark 1:38 says,  “And he [Jesus] said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.”

After Jesus arose and before He returned to Heaven, He instructed believers to preach the Gospel everywhere. Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Contrary to what some in high offices are saying, the church, the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is essential work. Whether that happens in a safe drive-in service, over livestream, via video, via text, letters, phone calls, Zoom or FaceTime, the church (believers) must preach the Gospel in our day. Why? Jesus told us in Mark 8:36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” What good is your achievements (status, health, financial) in this life if you spend your eternity apart from Christ in hell.

In the book of Acts, the church began to get comfortable. Rather than taking the Gospel into all the world, they stayed in Jerusalem. They were not motivated. The were had become stagnant. God allowed persecution to scatter them and the Bible tell us in Acts 8:4 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

This is not a time for the church to wring its hands, to be silent or to draw back in fear. While we must honor those who are in authority over us, we must continue the work of Christ—preaching the Gospel. We must be faithful to deliver the Good News in every way available.

satan thinks he has slowed the spread of the Gospel through COVID-19. Jesus has promised that in every season that the church of Christ will continue to be built by Christ and upon the deity of Christ in face of opposition and persecution. Matthew 16:18  “And I [Jesus] say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

There is no doubt in my mind that more opposition to the work of Christ will come in our day. 2 Timothy 3:12 assures us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” However, because we are on the side of Christ, nothing will prevail against the church of Christ…we have His promise. satan thought he had won the victory over Christ at Calvary, yet on Sunday morning our Savior stepped out of the tomb in divine demonstration of His overwhelming power over sin, death, hell and satan.

May the church of the living God take courage. Our Savior is risen and we partner with Him in His essential work in the world today.

Eye-Opening Experience

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Josiah and Shiela with two graduating seniors at South India Baptist Bible College

Sheila and I have arrived back from an extraordinary trip to India. Our hearts are full with all that God did and taught us during our short time there. We are so thankful for the opportunity we had to travel with WorldView Ministries and to have a part in the Pastor’s Conference on the campus of South India Baptist Bible College. This Bible College is the home of the WorldView Institute of India where men and women are trained to translate the Bible. Here are a few thoughts and pictures I would like to share from the trip.

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2020 WorldView Pastors Conference Team—Benjamin Christopher (India WorldView Representative), Ken Fielder (WorldView Director), Harely Snode (Pastor of NorthLife Baptist Church), Jeremy Rands (Pastor of Monaclova Baptist Church), Josiah and Shiela Kagin, Dan Outler (Pastor of Hope Baptist Church), Howard Casey (WorldView Representative), Bob McQueary (WorldView Church Planting Director), James Overton (Director of WorldView Institute of India)

Prayer is an essential part of all effective ministry.

We are so thankful for the prayer support from our church family and others! They were felt and are deeply appreciated. It was evident that God gave His strength and power to minister. Many of the Indian pastors and Christian leaders are serving the Lord in incredibly difficult circumstances. Nearly every one of them that we talked with had a story of being persecuted or facing persecution. They spoke of the sacrifices they and their families were making to preach the Gospel. For me, the thought of preaching God’s Word to them, as an American who has never faced persecution, was overwhelming. I remarked to one of the other American pastors on the first morning of the conference, “I have never had such a sense of inadequacy.”  Our team’s prayer was that the Spirit of God working in and through us would ignite the working of the Spirit of God in and through them. We believe God answered that prayer. For those that prayed for us, thank you for supporting us in prayer. Your prayers were essential!

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The delegates attending the 2020 WorldView Pastors Conference in the SIBBC Auditorium

God is actively working to advance His kingdom in ways and places unknown to us.

Before this trip, I had no real knowledge of what God was doing in India. India is predominantly Hindu and Muslim. Those two religions make up 97% out of 1.3 billion people. All the rest of the religions, including Christianity, make up just 3% of the population. This makes India a very spiritually dark land. You can see it in the eyes of the people. It is truly amazing to me how in the midst of such darkness, the light of the Gospel is shining. Being on the campus of the South India Baptist Bible College and in the Pastor’s Conference was like a spiritual oasis. The difference was as stark as midnight and noonday. Every believer I spoke with described their present efforts to take the Gospel to their people. It did not matter if they were young or old, they were passionate about taking the light of the Gospel into the darkness. I spoke with a ten-year-old young man whose desire was to be a pastor. I spoke with three young men who were working together to preach the gospel in every village. Many gave testimony of where they were preaching the Gospel, pastoring people and training others to do the same. In reality, it is hard for me to put it into words. God is not dead. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not jeopardized by the threats of rulers and religions. The church of Jesus Christ is being built by Jesus and the gates of hell are not prevailing against it.

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Indian pastors walking on the SIBBC campus during the 2020 WorldView Pastors Conference

The spiritual sacrifice of one generation provides stepping stones for the next generation. 

This is the lesson that seems to be dominating all the other lessons that God taught me and I am trying to absorb. An oasis is a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.  In 1983, Dr. P. D. Cherian and his wife, Thankamma, founded the South India Baptist Bible College. The piece of land they purchased was undesirable, dry and infested with snakes. Before going, a pastor friend of mine, who teaches often at the college, told me that it would be like going to the Garden of Eden. I found this to be true. The campus is an oasis both physically and spiritually. As I heard the stories of faith and God’s provision, I was struck by this thought. What I am seeing and enjoying, along with the students and pastors, is the product of great spiritual sacrifice. This sacrifice provides wonderful stepping stones to take the Gospel further into the darkness. This is a reality in every generation. The spiritual sacrifices I make today for Jesus and the Gospel enable my children and others to go further tomorrow. This reminds me of the truth found in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

This trip was worth all the expense and effort! God taught me more than I feel I can absorb. Sheila and I are prayerfully reflecting on this incredible opportunity knowing God is using this experience shape and grow us for the work He has called us to do.

 

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Preaching main session from Psalm 13 on Wednesday of the Pastors Conference

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Teaching split session on Tuesday of the Pastor’s Conference

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Teaching split session on Thursday of the Pastors Conference. The pastors were eager to learn from God’s Word!

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WorldView Institute senior students preparing to take their final exam

Why? Why? Why?

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In the days following a weekend of horrible acts of murder in El Paso, Texas and my own city of Dayton, Ohio, the common question everywhere is “Why?” “What is the motive?” “Why did the two murderers do what they did?” “What are the specifics?”

While most of the specifics will eventually come out in the investigations as the fantastic men and women in our law enforcement communities wade through the evidence, likely there will be some questions that still remain. Questions like: “How could they let themselves do this?” “Why would someone kill his own sister?”

To get some answers, consider the very first murder that was ever recorded for us in human history. We find the story in Genesis chapter four. Remember, this is before there were fatherless homes, a culture of glorifying violence in video games and movies, guns or weapons of any kind. Before this murderous act, a murder had never been witnessed. We find two brothers named Cain and Abel. Abel had a heart to obey God and worship Him by obeying God’s instructions. Cain went through the motions of worshipping God but did not listen to God’s instructions.  Cain’s actions revealed a heart that had rejected the authority of God in his life. His actions were rebellious toward God because his heart was rebellions toward God.

Cain did not appreciate God’s blessing on Abel’s obedience, and so in jealousy, he murdered his brother. Genesis 4:8 tells us, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”

Remember, Cain had never seen a murder before. Where did that idea come from? In order to understand, we must go back one chapter to read about how sin entered into the world. Adam and Eve were created by God and placed into the Garden of Eden. They lived in a world that we have never experienced, a completely perfect world. They enjoyed daily interaction and conversation with God, their Creator. God had created them for relationship. He did not force a relationship but gave them a free will to choose to fellowship with Him. God gave ONE instruction to them that they needed to obey. In Genesis 3, Eve and Adam chose to disobey, and by that single act of disobedience, sin entered into the world. Romans 5:12 comments on this, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This meant that the relationship between the holy God and man would now be severed and separated.

There would be many consequences of this separation from God. Sin of every kind imaginable would now be thought of in the human heart and carried out in actions. Sin of any kind always has its root in the heart. Jesus talked about this in Mark 7:21–23,  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness [unrestrained sinful behavior], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” 

That is quite a list that Jesus gives us, and it is so true. So as we look at the murders that have taken place in these two cities and ask why, let us remember that it is the sinfulness of man’s heart that makes him capable of doing such wicked things. As long as man lives in rebellion against his Creator, sins like this and more will continue to be committed.

There is HOPE! Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile us (mankind) to our Creator. John 3:16–17 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Every man and woman alive needs to be saved from their sin and the consequences of it. The only hope of changing our actions is dealing with the problem of the heart. It is sinful and needs to be reconciled to God. Have you been reconciled to God? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You can today!

Yes! I want to know more!—Salvation Explained

 

Related message preached on Sunday, August 11, 2019

Being the Best

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Our God is an excellent God! The Bible tells us that His work is perfect. When you pause to meditate on His excellence, it is not hard to conclude that the service that we give back to Him ought to be excellent as well.

Stop and think about the ministry that you have. Maybe you are a Sunday School teacher, a deacon, an usher, a janitor, a coach, a director, a choir member, a nursery helper or a sound tech. Regardless of your ministry for Christ, one thing is for certain is that He deserves our best. After all that Jesus has done for us, He deserves excellent service.

Best does not happen on accident. If you think of a co-worker that is the very best in their profession, you know they had to work very hard to get there. Sadly, some Christians will give 110% in service to their earthly employer and then give 65% in service to their heavenly Master—Jesus Christ. Every believer ought to desire to serve Jesus in the best way possible. Here are several thoughts that might encourage us in being our best as we work for Jesus.

  1. Our Attitude in the Work
    Romans 1:1 “PAUL, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,”  Before anything else, Paul remembered that He was a servant of Jesus Christ. If we give Jesus our best, we must remember we are His servants. We must remember to serve for His glory and not our own. The best servants are humble and willing to be instructed without taking offense. They are cooperative with other servants and avoid a critical spirit. They are willing to take initiative even when it is not their job. They are Christ-ward remembering they serve Jesus and by serving Him they serve others. They are eager to serve not waiting to be coaxed or prodded. They have a sort of wide-eyed intensity about their service to Jesus.
  2. Our Attention in the Work
    If we have the attitude of a servant, it will impact the attention we give to the work Jesus has given us to do. It will not be half-hearted but we will be fully engaged. One person said, “Mediocrity is the enemy of excellence.” This is so true! What sets Chick-Fil-A apart from so many other quickness’s service restaurants is their determination to “Be America’s best quick-service restaurant.” We love their product, but the process behind it where it all starts. It an excellent process. From how the employees talk and dress to how the food is prepared and served, the process is excellent! From the moment you walk in the door you have a sense that every employee exists to serve you and it shows in the attention they give to their work. 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”  We must give our attention to give Jesus excellent service.
  3. Our Awareness in the Work
    We must remember, if we plan to serve Jesus with all our focus and attention, the devil will plan to fight us. Ephesians 6:12–13 instructs us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Satan does not fight the mediocre servants, they are no threat to him. He will fight against those that strive to be the very best servants for Jesus. Those that engage in the work of the LORD. One of the ways that satan fights us is by tempting us to get focused on the problems we will face as we serve rather than staying focused on the Problem Solver. If we focus on people and problems, we will become discouraged in the work. Sometimes people will say unkind things. They may do something or make decisions that are disappointing. However, if our eyes are on Jesus, we will be able to continue to serve with excellence.

Regardless of where you serve Jesus, recommit to giving Him the best service you can give. Don’t forget to yield yourself daily to His Spirit so that you will be empowered in your service.

Don’t Be Distracted by Objections

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Many times we are hesitant to share the Gospel because we fear the objections that people put up. Our church is going through “Take It Personally,” and we discussed seven common objections to the Gospel. These are ideas that the lost often raise when we are sharing the truth of the Gospel with them. We should not allow objections to distract us from the central message of the Gospel. However, we must be ready to answer them.

First, let’s be sure to use Scripture. Our words are weak, but God’s Word is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. God promises that His Word will accomplish its purpose. We must use it! Secondly, let us always remember that our goal must always be to bring the conversation back to the Gospel. Answer every objection with Bible truth and then continue to share the Gospel.

  1. I have always been a Christian.
    • No one is born a Christian. The Bible teaches we are born sinners.
    • Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me.
    • John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
  2. I’ve asked God to forgive me many times.
    • It is a prayer of faith, believing in Christ’s ability and willingness to save, and is a one-time decision.
    • Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
    • John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
  3. This is too simple. I need to do something to earn it.
    • If you could earn it, it would not be a gift.
    • Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  4. I’m good enough. I am not a very bad sinner.
    • By comparison to others we might look good but, God sees our lives differently.
    • Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
  5. Doesn’t death end everything? How do we know there is a real Heaven and Hell?
    • The Bible clearly teaches the reality of Heaven and Hell.
    • Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
    • Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
    • Luke 16—Rich man and Lazarus
  6. I don’t want to give up my friends and lifestyle.
    • There is nothing more valuable than an eternal soul. When you trust Christ as your Savior, He will give you the grace to desire a new life and be able to live a new life.
    • Mark 8:36–37 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
  7. I think that as long as I’m sincere in what I believe, that’s all that matters.
    • Sincerity is not what grants forgiveness or eternal life, rather a relationship with Christ.
    • Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death.
    • John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
    • John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
    • Acts 4:12  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
    • 1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

*List of objections taken from Take It Personally available from strivingtogether.com

Why I Attend Outreach Conference

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The work of the ministry calls for frequent sharpening.  One of the ways I sharpen myself each year is by attending the Outreach Conference at Faith Baptist Church in Avon, Indiana. Here are some reasons I make this conference a priority.

  1. Solid Preaching—As pastors, we need to hear preaching. I have enjoyed hearing men like R.B. Oullette, Mark Monte, Kurt Skelly, Doug Jackson and Cary Schmidt. God has used these men to challenge me to keep growing spiritually.
  2. Meaningful Fellowship—I enjoy reconnecting with pastors that I don’t get to see throughout the year. Whether it is sharing ideas or just talking about the ministry, I am encouraged by the fellowship we have together.
  3. Genuine Motivation—Sometimes you get the sense that conferences are hosted in order to show off rather than to give sincere help. This conference is born out a genuine desire to just be a blessing. I have observed this over and over again.
  4. Encouragement for My Wife—Some conferences focus so much on the pastor that they forget the pastor’s wife. Every year my wife has been encouraged and leaves refreshed and charged.
  5. Helpful Workshops—Practical workshops give an opportunity for pastors and ministry leaders to sharpen themselves on multiple subjects. The workshops are about a half hour in length so that you can get more information in a short amount of time. No doubt you will leave with useful material.

Would you take the time to participate in the Outreach Conference March 6-7, 2017?  You will be glad you did!

Register today!