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  1. Before Watching The Shack Movie, Read This – The “Inspiration” Behind the Movie and Eugene Peterson’s Connection By Warren B. Smith I was drawn into the New Age Movement years ago by books and lectures containing parabolic stories that were not unlike The Shack. They felt spiritually uplifting as they tackled tough issues and talked about God’s love and forgiveness. They seemed to provide me with what I spiritually needed as they […] The post Before Watching The Shack Movie, Read This – The “Inspiration” Behind the Movie and Eugene Peterson’s Connection appeared first on . View the full article
  2. We know that God is more interested in the spiritual health of a church than its numeric growth. A spiritually thriving church will be reaching people with the gospel and seeing people added to the church, but a church focused only on growth may be seeing people added without true conversion or spiritual maturity. But what does a healthy church look like? What are its defining characteristics? No church “arrives” in spiritual maturity. Even as we as individual Christians must guard our hearts against coldness to the Lord or backsliding, so entire churches can become lukewarm spiritually. (See Revelation 3:14–16.) This is one reason why at Lancaster Baptist Church we begin each year with a winter revival in January. This year we are calling the meeting a “Week of Awakening” as we ask God to stir our hearts for Him by His grace. Our remaining services are this week (January 22–25), and we invite you to join us—in person or via live stream. (Click here for a schedule.) So what does a healthy church that is experiencing revival look like? Here are ten characteristics: 1. A Biblical Purpose Many modern-day churches have a consumer mentality in which attenders think the church exists to meet my needs. But the church isn’t about me or you. It exists to bring honor to Christ. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.—Colossians 1:18 A healthy church has a clearly understood purpose, and that purpose is clearly affixed to biblical mandates. At Lancaster Baptist, we’ve expressed this purpose in three ways: Loving God—“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the LORDLordthy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). Growing Together—“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14–16). Serving Others—“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). We reiterate these often so our church family knows why we exist as a church and what our purpose is on a week-to-week basis. 2. A Spiritual Passion Only the Holy Spirit can develop a passion in people’s hearts for the things of God. Leaders may be able to encourage (or coerce) people in spiritual activity, but without the Holy Spirit’s work, there is no abiding change in people’s lives—no overcoming habitual sin, no ongoing walk with God, no being transformed into the image of Christ. A healthy church is one in which people enjoy a walk with Christ! Relationship with a religion or with a spiritual leader rather than with Christ does not bring joy. Paul pointed this out to the Galatians who had fallen under the yoke of the Judaizers. In trying to please the demands of the law and find their righteousness thorugh the law (Galatians 2:21), these Galatian Christians had lost their “blessedness”—their joy (Galatians 4:15). Spiritual passion takes place in the hearts of people who are saved and are led by the Spirit of God. Thus, healthy churches teach Christians what it means to walk in the Spirit. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.—Galatians 5:16–17 3. An Uncompromised Position A healthy church takes an uncompromising stand for the faith. It is a church willing to “earnestly contend for the faith.” Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.—Jude 3 A biblical, New Testament church stands on the sole authority of the Word of God. It should be distinctly biblical from the surrounding culture, and it should make no apology for that. People should hear God’s Word preached, and questions should be answered from Scripture. I love the quote by John Adams, “It is the duty of clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against sins as are most prevalent and to recommend such virtues as are most wanted.” Biblical relevance isn’t about adjusting our position to the changing culture; it is about boldly stating the truth that is relevant to the needs of our culture. A healthy church isn’t afraid to take a strong position for truth. But because it is filled with people who love the Lord and are growing in Him, it takes such a stand graciously—like Jesus, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 4. An Endowment of Power A healthy church is not one where every Christian is frantically trying to do the work of God, but one in which God’s power is working through Christians diligent in their witness and service. As Charles Spurgeon said, without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds.” Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.—Zechariah 4:6 God has chosen the foolishness of preaching through which to make his power known. A healthy church, then, puts a priority on the preaching of God’s Word. For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.—1 Corinthians 1:21 Throughout the book of Acts, we see that God’s power, especially for witness, also comes through prayer. A healthy church is one in which members faithfully pray—privately and corporately. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.—Acts 4:31 5. A Growing Leadership Just as a church doesn’t “arrive” spiritually, neither do its leaders. If the pastor and leadership are not continually growing, they will spiritually stagnate, become cold to the Lord, and be vulnerable to temptation. To lead a healthy church, a pastor must have a personal and growing walk with God. He must have an attitude like the Apostle Paul of reaching forth and pressing forward in his walk with God—not just settling in and content with simple Bible knowledge. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13–14 In part 2, coming later this week, I’ll list five more characteristics of a healthy church. But would you take a moment now to review these five? If you are a pastor or church leader, ask yourself, “How can I lead my church family in these areas? How can I place a greater emphasis on nurturing spiritual health within the church?” If you are not the pastor, ask yourself, “Am I supporting my church in these areas? Am I seeing my church as a resource for me? Or am I seeing myself as part of a spiritual body and helping to strengthen the health of that body?” Related posts: Growth Points 40: Characteristics of a Healthy Church, Part 1 Growth Points 41: Characteristics of a Healthy Church, Part 2 10 Characteristics of a Spirit-Led Church View the full article
  3. “And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.” (1 Kings 10:1) A thousand years after the famous visit of Sheba’s queen to the court of King Solomon, Jesus made a remarkable spiritual application of her experience. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgme... More... View the full article
  4. “I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:2) This marvelous psalm of life and security follows a psalm of frailty and death (Psalm 90) written by Moses, who may have been the author of this psalm as well. For our devotional study today, attention is called to the ch... More... View the full article
  5. Greetings Blogger Phyllis Blickensderfer View the full article
  6. “And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:21-22) In the “holy of holies” of the tabernacle, God would meet with Israel’s high priest once a year to commune with ... More... View the full article
  7. Review of The Good Shepherd Calls by a Calvary Chapel Pastor The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message for the Last-Days Church – Lighthouse Trails I am blessed to have read this book, it’s refreshing. It is so good to hear the truth being told. This man, Roger Oakland, is the watchmen on the wall, and he is crying out, “WAKE UP AMERICA, BEFORE ITS TO […] The post Review of The Good Shepherd Calls by a Calvary Chapel Pastor appeared first on . View the full article
  8. “And Jacob went out from Beersheba. . . . And he lighted upon a certain place . . . and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:10-12) Prophetic dreams were uncommon even in ancient times (View the full article
  9. “Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” (Genesis 25:27) Jacob has often been given a bad reputation for his deception of Isaac. He is branded a liar and worse, while the Scriptures describe him very differently. To begin with, the Hebrew word translated “plain” in our text is tam, everywhere else rendered as “perfect” or &ld... More... View the full article
  10. Certain Men Crept In LTRP Note: Please pray for Roger this week. This week he entered India where he will be speaking to pastors and also deciding if the Bryce Home project will open up in India. Pray for his safety and health and also that the pastors he is speaking to will receive the messages he brings to […] The post Certain Men Crept In appeared first on . View the full article
  11. Do you need grace today? Do you desire to grow in grace this year? I suppose these are questions with self-evident answers. We know we need God’s grace, and we know Scripture commands us to grow in grace. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.—2 Peter 3:18 This is what we desire for our lives as well as for the lives of those to whom we minister. But how? How do we grow in grace? And what does growth in grace look like on a practical level? God’s grace is not static; it is dynamic. It brings real change in our lives and compels us to increased growth. If you want to grow in grace, here are three areas where grace works: Grow in His Love Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.—Ephesians 6:24 God’s love is a fruitful love. Love itself is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a yielded Christian (Galatians 5:22), and it is this love that compels us to continue in service for Christ. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.—2 Corinthians 5:14–15 A grace-filled Christian is a loving Christian—someone who rests in God’s love for him, does not neglect truth but is bound to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14–15), and is constrained by God’s love to serve others. So, if you want to grow in grace, begin by growing in God’s love. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.—Ephesians 3:19 Grow in His Likeness God’s grace makes us like Jesus. It is the grace of God working within us that is responsible for a lifestyle (conversation in the verse below) that represents Christ to the world. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.—2 Corinthians 1:12 Of course, we know that God’s ultimate plan for us is to conform us to the image of Christ and that He will make every detail of our lives work together toward that goal. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…—Romans 8:28–29 But God’s grace also gives us comfort through the seasons of difficulty that are part of this path. Even as Jesus was full of grace, He imparts His grace to us. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9 You’ve heard it said: “Nearness is likeness.” If we are walking near Jesus, His likeness will become evident in us, by His grace. Grow in His Labor God’s grace moves us to action. Yes, it begins with growing in God’s love and likeness, but it doesn’t end there. It moves us to labor in the work of God for souls. This requires that we are ready always to share the gospel and that we purposefully go to others with the gospel. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:—1 Peter 3:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:15 It also means that we labor in transferring truth to the next generation of Christian servants. Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:1–2 We can only remain faithful in God’s work by God’s grace. The Alternative to Growing in Grace Sometimes we subconsciously think that the alternative to pursuing growth in grace is just taking a break. We think it’s a moment of rest and that we can pick up again whenever we feel ready. Yet, the verse we all know—2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in grace…”—is preceded by a verse of warning. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.—2 Peter 3:17 We will either grow in grace, or we will fall from faithfulness. Being stagnant isn’t an option. Could I encourage you then, will you make a commitment to grow in grace this year? Related posts: 4 Results of a Grace-Based Approach to Ministry Growth Points 006—Religion, Grace, & the Local Church 4 Ways You Can Promote Grace in Ministry View the full article
  12. “And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:27-28) Isaac’s early life became the biblical picture of Christ (Genesis 22:7-9). Not only d... More... View the full article
  13. Paris Peace Conference Spectacular Failure With No Visible Results By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz Breaking Israel News In what should have been an all-out Israel hate-fest with possibly disastrous consequences for the Jewish state, 70 nations gathered in Paris for a “peace” conference on Sunday – but at the end of the day, the results were lackluster and failed to accomplish anything significant against Israel. […] The post Paris Peace Conference Spectacular Failure With No Visible Results appeared first on . View the full article
  14. “And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had . . . go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.” (Genesis 24:2, 4) Abraham required a most sacred vow from Eliezer (Genesis 15:2) to secure a bride for Isaac from the line of Shem rather than from... More... View the full article
  15. Caryl Matrisciana Memorial Service on YouTube Caryl Matrisciana’s memorial was held January 14th at Calvary Chapel Cypress with Pastor Chris Quintana. The following video is the service. It begins at about the 9 minute mark. Share This! The post Caryl Matrisciana Memorial Service on YouTube appeared first on . View the full article