Friday, August 26, 2016

Draw Near to God in Times of Crisis

Photo by Jeff Kubina
It has been an interesting few days for me. Many things have transpired that have not caused my heart pleasure. They have ranged over a gambit of subjects. Some of the subjects have dealt with misunderstandings, legalism, family crisis, health issues, an intimacy with the Father. When seasons as these come crashing in like this it makes one question the intent and purpose of life. 

 These situations have driven me to my knees and I have turned my face to the One and only One who can fix the situations. In no way am I comparing my life to St. John of the Cross, but I am experiencing my own version of a dark night of the soul. As a result, I have pulled out this classic book in order to refresh my heart. Today I wish to give you a paragraph from the forward of this great classic.

“As the sole emerges from the dark night it has had to endure, a brilliant light awaits it, and the properties of this light include cleansing, purity, renewed vision, spiritual understanding, deep wisdom, and the warmth of union with God's love. This was what Saint John of the Cross was seeking, and it is what he ultimately found. In this since he represents every one of us who wants to experience the fullness of God's glory and leave the ways of the world behind. The Apostle Paul wrote: ‘Giving thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son’ (Colossians 1:12–13). As you read Loves Living Flame, and Dark Night of the Soul, you will experience this same spiritual deliverance and be translated into the Kingdom of the Son of God—a glorious kingdom of light and love (Lloyd B. Hildebrand).

My heart longs for this “cleansing, purity, renewed vision, spiritual understanding, deep wisdom, and warmth of union with God's love.” Beloved, there really is a spiritual battle raging for the hearts of God’s people. Satan desires nothing more than to have us caught up in our own self or with the pettiness of this world. Let me encourage you to fight against the adversary. Do not let him have ground in your life, but rather draw near to God and He will draw near to you. The more intimate you are with the Father the more capable you are of resisting the devil. When you have indeed drawn near to God and the devil has fled because of God's presence, you will then experience and feel the presence of God's good embrace. It is my prayer that we the church learn to rely solely on the Lord God to be our defender and provider of our faith. May we then give Him all praise, honor and glory.


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Thursday, August 25, 2016

9/11 First Responder Remembrance 5K Run/Walk

We at First Baptist Church of Bowling Green we'll be hosting a 5K run/walk in the month of September. The reason for the run/walk is to remember and to honor our first responders. Fifteen years ago on September 11 the United States experienced a terror attack in multiple locations in our country. Many first responders gave their lives that day in order to save others.  Fifteen years later these brave men and women are still risking their lives every day. As a result, First Baptist Church of Bowling Green is hosting this 5K run/walk in remembrance of our first responders. All the proceeds from this event we'll be going to the four first responder organizations of Hardy County. Those organizations are the Bowling Green Police Department, the Wauchula Police Department, the Hardee County Sheriff’s Department, and the Hardee County Fire and Rescue Department.

I would like to take a moment to challenge you to participate in this event. There are a couple of ways in which you can become involved. Firstly, you could actually sign up to be a runner or a walker in the event. Secondly, you could actually be a sponsor of the event. Even though at this point we cannot put your logo on any of our material, we would still like you to give financial support to our first responders of Hardee county.  There’s literally no amount that is too small. Every bit of the profits will go to these four organizations as a way of acknowledging their work and the sacrifices they make for our community.

Personally I think it is absolutely vital we share with our law enforcement and fire personnel that we appreciate them and respect the work they do. Would you please rally around this event and show your support for these organizations. If you'd like more information, please feel free to call the church office at 863-375-2253. We thank you in advance for your participation in this worthwhile community event. One less thing I wish to ask of you and that is to go and share this event to as many people as possible from now until the race.

For more information regarding this race please visit our Facebook page at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/events/698398003633292/


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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We Endure Hardships for Jesus

Photo by 7 july :-)
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:3
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Insights:  Our final point from this weeks sermon comes from today’s verse. We are to endure hardship for Jesus. There is a watered down gospel being proclaimed around the world. In this watered-down gospel we are told God wants us to be healthy, wealthy and wise. If we would just come to Jesus all of our worldly problems would disappear. This version of the gospel is not the gospel at all. It is in complete opposition to what the Scripture teaches about our life in Christ. Verses like today’s and many others point to the difficulties and hardships we face as Christ-followers. Think about Jesus' very own words, he said broad is the road that leads to destruction and many go that way. Narrow is the road that leads to life, however, and few find it. I share this statement because if indeed the gospel is about being healthy, wealthy, and wise, then many people would pursue that kind of gospel.  We were told, however, that few will follow the path that leads to life. In fact, Jesus even tells us to count the cost before being a disciple of His. When we read through the rest of Paul's writings we see persecutions face Christians at every turn. Somewhere along the way we Christians in the Western world have gotten the gospel confused. We think if we have success, power and pleasure, then somehow God is blessing us. At the same time we think if we are enduring hardships, then God must not be pleased with our lives. This mentality is so wrong. Paul says it even more strongly when he states if we are going to be followers of Christ, we will be persecuted. Beloved, let us stop the moaning and crying over our hardships, and let us instead start praising God for counting us worthy for suffering for His gospel. As today's verse says may we endure hardships like good soldiers. It is my prayer when the Lord Jesus comes He find you faithful.

Questions:
1. How would others characterize the way you have endured hardship?
2. What hardships have you encountered for being a Christ-follower?

Prayer: Father, I do not long for hardships, but I pray I would endure them well for your namesake. I desire to be loyal and honorable to you as I undergo hardships.  May Your strength guide me.  Amen.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

We Make Disciples of Believers

Photo by Citizen Schools Photo
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:2
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Insights: I fear one of the greatest challenges facing the church today is found in today’s verse.  This Thoughts by Scott is not the first time I have written on this subject.  Rather, it is a theme about which I have often written.  In Luke 10, which I wrote about last week, we observed Jesus’ concern was the church not entering into the harvest field.  The Great Commission tells us to go and make disciples.  In today’s verse we are also instructed to pass on to faithful men what we have been taught.  This passing on process is the disciple making plan.  I think we are failing in this area as the church found in the United States.  Beloved, let me encourage you to be intentional about being discipled by someone more mature in the faith than you are.  At the same time, let me also encourage you to come along side someone who is more immature in their faith than you.  This concept of discipleship must be reclaimed in the church.  We must intentionally start sharing the gospel, growing new believers, and walking by faith all for the glory of God.  If the church can reclaim this foundational purpose of the church, we could literally change the face of the world just like the early followers of Jesus did.

Questions:
1. With whom are you entrusting the gospel through the discipleship process?
2. As you reflect on your life, who invested into your life?

Prayer: Father, thank You for those who have invested into my life and who have taught me more about Your grace.  May I be just as faithful and disciple those who come after me.  Amen.


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Monday, August 22, 2016

We are Strong in Jesus

Photo by Carlos Varela
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Insights: I had the amazing privilege this week to preach in Ecuador.  I preached from 2 Timothy 2:1-3.  Verse one provided the first point of the sermon which was we are strong in Jesus.  Grace is the favor of God which we do not deserve.  We were sinners and enemies of God and yet, Jesus died for our sins.  When we enter into that relationship with Him we are then born again and receive the promised Holy Spirit who enables us to live life from the point of strength.  This strength is super natural and not something we can manufacture ourselves.  In and of ourselves we are weak and escapable of change, but in Jesus, we are strong and courageous.  We are valiant and bold.  We can affect the lives of others because of God’s work in and through us.  Beloved, it is my fear we who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus do not live life from this perspective.  We live life from a faithless and ineffective position.  We belong to Christ.  We are His, and because of our redemption, He is ours.  Our lives ought to look differently from that of those still lost and bound in this world.  It is my prayer others around you are able to notice and recognize the difference Christ Jesus makes in your life.  You are to be truly transformed.  May your life reflect this powerful distinction.

Questions:
1. Are you a son or daughter of God?
2. If you are a son or daughter, do you live in the strength that is your right as His child?

Prayer: Father, all too often I live in weakness and fear.  I ask You to strengthen my heart to live life by faith and in the power which is mine as Your child because of Jesus’ work.  May my life of faith bring You glory and honor.  Amen.


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Friday, August 19, 2016

Patterns of Ministry, Part 2

Photo by Dan Zen
Scripture: Luke 10:8-9
“Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Insights: The fourth principle for effective ministry is recognizing patterns of ministry. In the passage we have been looking at this entire week there are four patterns. Today we are going to look at the last two patterns. The third pattern is that we sacrifice personal preferences for the greater good of God’s kingdom. Notice in verse eight it tells us we are to eat what is set before us. I have eaten food in numerous places across the United States and in various countries. I can tell you I have not enjoyed everything I have put in my mouth, but I have eaten it. When it comes to sharing the gospel, our personal preferences are not up for discussion. Unfortunately, in the church we often times get wrapped up in our personal preferences and miss about what the whole purpose of church is. Our focus ought to be the pattern which is found in verse nine.  The fourth pattern found in effective ministry is the sharing of the gospel.  The verse uses the phrase the kingdom of God. In other words, we are supposed to be sharing the gospel with the world in order for the kingdom of God to grow. At FBC Bowling Green our mission statement says we are to be gospel driven. This part of our mission statement is what is being emphasized in these two verses which is all about the kingdom of God. Beloved, if we will follow these four patterns of ministry which are: be financially dependent on the Lord, look for a person of peace, sacrifice personal preferences for the greater good, and share the gospel we will see effective ministry taking place. As a remember these four patterns for effective ministry are also in conjunction with the first three principles which we looked at earlier this week. Again, just as a reminder, those principles were, we partner together for ministry, we pray for ministry to happen, and we recognize there are perils found in ministry.

Questions:
1. In what ways have you sacrifice personal preferences for the greater good of God’s kingdom?
2. Are you intentionally sharing the gospel with other people?

Prayer: Father, I am such a selfish person. I desire my pleasures more than I do Your glory and I asked for forgiveness for this deplorable self-idolatry. But let me be strengthened to sacrifice in order that the gospel maybe better shared with a world desperately in need of Jesus.  Amen.


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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Patterns for Ministry, Part 1

Photo by ∿ Izee ∿ not-really-all-here
Scripture: Luke 10:4-7
“Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.  “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’  “If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.  “Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.

Insights: The fourth principle for effective ministry is recognizing patterns of ministry. In the passage we have been looking at this entire week there are four patterns. Today we are going to look at those first two patterns. The first pattern is we need to financially depend on the Lord. Notice in verse four that Jesus instructed His followers to not carry money belts, bags, and shoes. In other words, we are to be completely and utterly dependent upon the Lord for our financial provisions. I must tell you I truly struggle in this pattern. There are Scriptures that describe us as being good stewards which count the cost, and then there are other passages, like this one, that show we must step out even when we don't know from where the provisions are coming. Balancing these two truths is often a difficult task for me. The second pattern we see in verse is 5 through 7 is we need to be looking for a person of peace. The penetration of the gospel into a community is much easier when there is a person of peace within the community. A person of peace is one who was able to be a mediator between us, Christ followers, and the individuals within the community. It is even better, in terms of the gospel, when this person of peace receives Jesus as his/her Lord and Savior. Our job, As Christians, is to seek out this person peace and pray they become receptive to the gospel. Beloved, let us follow these two patterns as we desire to share the gospel with a watching world.

Questions:
1. Do you truly trust God with your finances?
2. As you engage in ministry, do you intentionally look for a person of peace?

Prayer: Father, all too often I do not live my life as if I trust You. Please forgive me for my lack of faith and increase my faith as I do seek You out. Also, as I continue to serve You, help me to fined people of peace with whom I may share the gospel.  Amen.


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