Everywhere we turn there are people who are in need of the Savior—Jesus Christ. For certain, there are people who have rejected Him completely. People like Stephen Hawkings who completely denied the existence of God. However, that is not the average condition of the people we pass day after day. In fact, atheists only make up about 3% +/- of the American population. More than 96% of the unchurched have admitted that they would attend church if they were invited. The overwhelming majority of people are simply wandering aimlessly through life oblivious to the severity of their need. In reality, they are simply blind. They do not see their own sinfulness. They do not see the pending judgement that is only a breath away. They do not see their need for Jesus even though they will dutifully go to church to celebrate His birth and resurrection. They are blind!
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Christ commissioned us to be lights to those who walk in darkness around us. We live to illuminate Jesus for those whom the devil desires to keep in darkness. He does not want them to see their need. He does not want them to see that they are dangerously close to an eternity of fiery consequence for their sin against a holy God.
I find that many believers are very content to be assured of their own salvation from hell, but paralyzed in fear to witness of it to others. Even more, I find that believers can produce only a few names that they are regularly praying for to be saved. One thing is sure, those who neglect to pray for the lost are not likely to witness to the lost.
I have a WHAT IF question for you today. A question that came crashing into my mind and caused me to think. What if God only saved the people that are on your prayer list and for whom you are praying daily? How many people would be in heaven with you?
May God enlarge our vision for the lost all around us.
Recently, my wife and I were walking through our local Books and Co. in Beavercreek, Ohio. We were not really there for books as much as for the yogurt shop. We sat down to enjoy our personally concocted yogurt mixes among aisles and aisles of books. Looking up there was a grand stair case that led to another floor with aisles and aisles of more books. It seems that Barnes and Noble, Books and Co., the Kindle store, Half Price Books and many more offer endless reading options. Solomon stated of the making of books there would be no end. With so many options, it is vital that we choose reading material that will be good for us—good for us spiritually. Let me tell you about a book that I recently chose and would like to encourage you to do the same.
It was on social media that I first saw a post about a book being release entitled, Experiencing Jesus. The title grabbed my attention. It sounded refreshing and encouraging. I had a phone conversation with the author, John Van Gelderen and asked him to give me a quick summary. He did and my interest was further piqued. That day I bought the book and began to read it. I finished the book while on a couple of day retreat with my wife. Really, my heart was reminded, refreshed and reinvigorated about truth that I had heard preached by Bro. John when I was about 18. This book brought it all back to mind. Here are three reasons this book will be a life-changing read for you.
It is Biblical
The basis of many books are far from Biblical and have no aim of encouraging a walk with God. The basis of Experiencing Jesus is Galatians 2:20. This powerful verse says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” It is very easy to read over this verse and miss the much-needed truth to successfully live the Christian life as Christ intended. Each of the four chapters progressively work through this verse with clarity.
It is Simple
Many authors will take simple truth from scripture and make it complex. Experiencing Jesus is simple truth kept simple. I love the visual diagrams of scriptural concepts. I was inspired to see what happened to me the moment I received Christ by faith. The daily provision of Christ for a victorious life over sin is described in vivid detail. You need not be an intellectual to read this book. I certainly am not.
It is Needed
As a pastor, I am faced with the reality of defeated, discouraged believers. Sometimes I see it in the eyes of those listening. I can almost hear them whisper under their breath, “Sure Pastor! I tried to say no to sin this week and failed. Why try again?” The book concludes with this statement, “Experiencing Jesus makes it possible for us to be regularly victorious.” Jesus did not save us to live a life regular defeat and occasional victory. Truly, there is Victory in Jesus. The Bible truth explained in Experiencing Jesus will help even the most defeated Christ follower discover this victory that Christ alone provides.
Before you buy and read that novel or history book you been looking at, pick up Experiencing Jesus and be encouraged in a way that will be life-changing.
“As long as we are content to live without revival, we will.” —Leonard Reavenhill
Revival is a return to life. Right now, here in Ohio, the hints of spring are being seen in some of the flowers budding. Spring time is sort of like revival. After the cold, dark months of winter, there is a return of life. A refreshing. The Psalmist prayed for this to happen in Psalm 85:6 where it says, “Wilt thou not revive us again: That thy people may rejoice in thee?” We must first realize that revival, life again, in our spiritual lives is a work of God brought about by the earnest prayer of God’s people.
Why Revival Meetings?
Some may wonder why a pastor would plan a week of revival meetings. However, when one looks around at the wicked condition of our world and the ever lessening impact of the God’s people on the world in which we live, the question is fully answered. Revival meetings provide an opportunity for the Spirit of God to work in people of God through the Word of God to refresh their walks with God. Revival gives a concentrated exposure to God’s Word and preaching of it, which God promises to bless. One of the most important reasons a discerning pastor would schedule a revival is that it helps to brighten the witness of believers in the community. When God’s people are right with Him, they will be bright and burdened witnesses wherever they are.
Is Revival Possible?
Yes! Revival is not a dangling carrot that is never intended to be reached. God longs to revive His people. He awaits true humility and a realization of need. Isaiah 57:15 say, “For thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Many believers are like those of Laodicia who were rich, increase with goods and had need of nothing. Revival will never come to those who have this mindset.
Take This Step
Pause and pray right now. Give God permission to revive your heart. Ask Him to reveal anything in your life that dampens your sense of need for Him and any pride that hinders His grace from flowing into your life. He will meet you there!
In my next post, I will talk about how to prepare for Revival meetings.
Your spiritual heart is the real you—your thinking, will and emotions. The parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-20 shows us that Jesus was very concerned that his followers would have a heart that was ready to receive the His truth. Today, Jesus is just as concerned that we would have that kind of heart. Consider some ways to develop a fertile heart for God’s truth.
- Honor God’s Word. One of the most obvious signs of a hard heart is a casual approach to God’s Word. It is seen in the take-it or leave-it kind of attitude. When we begin to convince ourselves that daily reading of the Bible is really not that important. Hearing your pastor preach God’s Word is good and needful for my children, but its not a big deal if I miss church or am distracted at church. Honor God’s Word by giving time and priority to both reading it and hearing it preached.
- Plan to Respond. Every time our Bibles are opened, God intends to guide us into all truth and we must respond to that truth. We can respond positively or negatively. As a preacher, I am often burdened at the hesitance of believers to respond openly to God’s Word. We have, seemingly, bought into the world’s thinking that our relationship with God is completely a private issue, so we keep it to ourselves. The problem with that is, we begin to present ourselves as never having the need to progress in our relationships with God. We give the impression that we have nothing about which to be humble before God and others. Let’s keep a fertile heart by planning to respond to the truth that God reveals to us.
- Choose to be Real. We all want to appear well. In church, we want to appear as spiritual. Sure, we would not admit or say that. If we are honest, this desire can be nothing more than cleverly packaged pride. When you or I come to God’s Word, we must come realizing that we are broken messes in desperate need of God to fix us. Why? Because we are human. We have flesh. Let’s learn to admit it and simply be real so that we can have a fertile heart that is ready to be fixed.
- Eliminate all Distractions. God’s truth cannot have an affect on your heart if it does not have access to your heart. Much of the reason God’s Word does not have access to our hearts is the constant barrage of distractions. Life will give you 101 alternatives to being in your Bible or in church—lawn care, shopping, sales, events, extracurricular activities, sport schedules and fatigue etc.. Even when you go to church, there will be a host of distractions that would keep you from being in the Word. Go to church to hear God’s Word for yourself personally. If this will happen, distractions must be eliminated.
Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life.” Our hearts will only remain fertile as we choose to guard them from becoming hard. The propensity of every heart is to harden. Praise God, that with His help, it is possible for every heart to remain fertile—ready to hear, accept and apply God’s truth in our daily lives.
Listen to A Responsive Heart
The Insanity of God. An eye catching title, I know! When this book was first recommended to me, I have to admit, it didn’t sound like a book I would read. You can never judge a book by its cover! From the first pages I was struck with the powerful testimony of God’s guidance in the life of Nik Ripkens who sought God earnestly. Here are some of the lessons I learned from the book and why you need read it as well.
- God is a Rewarder: “…he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Nik’s heart to seek God and to do His will is obvious throughout the book. There is a progression of growth in the author’s life that makes one thirsty to seek God also. By the last chapter, there a sense that Nik had experienced enormous growth in both the knowledge and love of God. It is time that American believers seek God in sincerity.
- God is Working in the Midst of Persecution: Much of the world does not know the freedoms that we experience in America. Persecution is a daily occurrence for many believers around the world. As Americans, we think restriction and persecution limits the work of God, but the opposite is true. God’s power is revealed in the most amazing ways in the most heavily persecuted countries. Persecuted believers in Somaliland, Russia, China and in Muslim lands are seeing God work as He did in the pages of the New Testament. Though we ought not seek persecution, we ought to embrace living for and serving Christ with same focus and passion as our persecuted brethren. As Stoyan said, reference American believers, “I took great joy that I was suffering in my country so that you could be free to witness in your country.” He went on to say, “DON’T YOU EVER GIVE UP IN FREEDOM WHAT WE WOULD NEVER GIVE UP IN PERSECUTION— AND THAT IS OUR WITNESS TO THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST!”
- God uses Dedicated Disciples: I discovered that these persecuted believers knew by experience what Jesus meant in Luke 9:23 when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” I was left asking myself, “Do I know what that means.” They serve Jesus gladly even in the face of death because Jesus is worthy. Reading of their dedication, I have no question why God used them as He did. Let us decide to be dedicated to Jesus no matter what happens. He is worth it!
- God is the Same: The Bible tells us that God is always the same. We read the Biblical accounts of God’s powerful works and conclude, “That was just for Bible times.” Nik asks, “Is the resurrection power that the New Testament describes still real and available to believers in our world today? Nik discovered that the God of the New Testament had not changed and was still able and ready to show Himself strong. Our God is not limited by governments. He is not limited by evil. I was personally convicted of my lack of faith in the unlimited power of God. How we need a fresh realization of the grandness and power of our God.
After reading this book, I plan to recommend it to everybody I can, simply because it was a huge help to me. I am hungry to see God work in America and more specifically in my own community. This book challenged me not to get sidetracked by the thrills of life, but to seek to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Available on Amazon
I am sure you are like me and shaking your head as you watch the news. There seems to be a spirit of lawlessness rising in our country. I do not claim to know all the details of the Dallas shooting, however I do want to just give a couple of thoughts that followers of Christ ought to practice in these days.
- Pray for Americans to Turn to Jesus
Those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ will be peacemakers. Jesus taught His disciples to seek peace. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” One cannot be a peacemaker without possessing the Peacemaker Himself. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Let’s pray for a great awakening in America to the person of Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers to all.
- Respect Authority
It is always right to obey the authorities that are in place over you. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Followers of Jesus ought to be bold examples of respecting police officers. If you get pull over, do what he or she says. Be submissive and if you were doing wrong (like speeding), be humble enough to admit it.
- Appreciate Local Law Enforcement
Everyday the police officers in your city show up to roll call and wonder quietly if their shift will go without a violent situation or a socially charged attention getting incident. They get into their cruisers wondering if they will return to their homes safely. The vast majority of officers simply want to keep their communities safe, no matter the races represented. They wear a uniform and a badge, but behind it is a heart that needs encouraged and appreciated. Find a way to appreciate your local police officers.
My heart hurts for what I see in my country. The Bible tells us that in the last times things would get worse and worse. We are experiencing that on many levels! Let’s be sure to shine for Jesus brighter than ever in everything we do.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.