Friday, December 20, 2013

Best of Because He Lives 2013

I'm going to be taking the next couple of weeks off from posting here. I'll be taking it easy, doing some reading, and spending some time with family. Even though I won't be posting here, I will still be posting on twitter. Feel free to follow along over there.

For now, I'll leave you with the most popular posts from 2013 (in no particular order).
- Reading and Writing Goals 2013
- The Message of Pioneer Missions
- 30-Day Giving Challenge 2013
- The Target Audience of Pioneer Missions

Until January 7th! Merry Christmas and happy New Year, dear readers!

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lifting Our Eyes to the Hills

Often when life gets hard, or busy, or both, we are tempted to to focus on these problems that are in our life, and we take our focus off of God. However, this is not how God wants us to handle such situations. In Psalm 121 we find the biblical way to deal with those obstacles, those mountains in our lives.

What is our initial response to the mountains in our lives?
We tend to focus on those problems, those mountains. This in turn brings us no relief, but rather brings forth a cry of despair. Where are we going to find help to overcome our difficulties?

We need to respond in faith.
Instead of focusing on our problems and trials, we need to focus on God. He is the only one who can help us. We can trust God because we can see His power. It is on display for us every day as we look around at the beauty and intricacies of the universe He made. We can also trust God because He cares for us.

As we trust God, He holds us together.
He watches continuously over us. He protects us No harm will come to us by day or night. He will keep us from all evil. He will keep our souls - pure, clean, and focused on Him. He will watch over us as we go about our daily lives.

Since God is watching over us with such tender love and care, we need to focus on Him, even when we are surrounded by insurmountable problems. For, when our focus is on Him instead of those mountains, we will mount up with wings as eagles and soar over those mountains of difficulty.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Else Influences Church Growth?

The Effect of Signs and Wonders Upon Church Growth
Church growth happens primarily through the means of the proclamation of God’s word. Although God did allow the apostles to perform many signs and wonders as a confirmation of His power and His presence in their ministry, those signs and wonders were not the key impetus behind the growth of the church. Rather, the pattern that emerges in Acts, beginning from the events of Pentecost in Acts 2 and continuing with Peter’s interaction with Cornelius (Acts 10) and Paul’s ministry throughout the Roman empire, is that God’s word is preached, the gospel message of Christ is proclaimed, and unsaved individuals come to Christ.
That, in fact, is the greatest miracle of all – that God can work the redeeming act of salvation in the lives of individuals. Also, the key thrust of the signs was that Jesus would be magnified. This was seen specifically in the events that transpired at Ephesus. Never did the signs center merely around a human. Even though Paul was the key spokesperson for Christ, the main emphasis was on Christ, not on Paul.

The Effect of Organization Upon Church Growth
Church growth cannot take place in a vacuum. There needs to be the establishing of a local assembly of believers that can first of all help believers to grow in Christ and secondly work to bring unsaved individuals to Christ. This is the pattern and the method that Paul adapted. Although he moved on from city to city after local assemblies of believers were established – or after he was kicked out of a city – the ministries he had established continued to carry on. This was due to two factors. First of all, Paul built each ministry around Christ, not around himself. His key was to preach Christ and Christ alone.
Alongside of this concept is also the fact that he placed the leadership of each local assembly into the hands of local believers. The second key factor is that Paul followed up on each assembly that had been established, either in person, through representatives, or through his letters. He provided accountability for them, he gave them advice, and he rebuked them as necessary.

The entire book of Acts is the narrative of the expansion of the Christian church. The movement starts out as a fledgling group of believers assembled together at Pentecost and then rapidly explodes into a full-blown network of believers with members scattered around the entire stretch of the Roman empire. The impact the believers had was tremendous and far-reaching. There was no doubt that their lives had been transformed, and as a result, they transformed their world. In Acts 17:6 the Thessalonians accused the Christians of being those that “have turned the world upside down.” This is an incredible testimony of the impact the first century Christians had on their society. This growth of the church took place by means of the proclamation of God’s word, through the agency of individuals, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of individuals, in the name of Christ, and to the glory of God.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Who Causes Church Growth?

God’s Part in Church Growth
Church growth ultimately happens because of the work and grace of God. God alone is the One Who can work salvation in the heart of a man and Who can cause that man to grow to become more like Himself. It is His power alone that can work such a miraculous change. This is seen in His statement to Paul in Acts 18:10, “For I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” God is the only One Who can actually cause church growth. Furthermore, it is the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of individuals, both in salvation and in sanctification.

Man’s Part in Church Growth
However, church growth does not happen without the proclamation of God’s word. That proclamation calls for saved individuals to tell the gospel to those who are unsaved. Both after Peter’s preaching in Acts 2 and Paul’s preaching in Acts 17, the Scriptures state that individuals were added to the church. God used these men to proclaim the message of truth and as a result individuals were saved.
There also needs to be a commitment to proclaiming the word of God. Paul had a deep-seated, heart-felt concern for the churches he planted. This is seen in his tireless toil (II Corinthians 12:15; I Thessalonians 2:9), his fervent prayers (Ephesians 1:15:23), and his determination to preach the word (Acts 14:19-21). His determination, his passion, drove him to do what would seem to be the impossible. He continued spreading God’s word despite beatings, imprisonments, and hardships. He persevered. He strove on. He pushed on for the sake of the kingdom of God. He was – through God’s power and grace – unstoppable. He used every opportunity to preach the word: imprisonments, trials before officials, a stop-over in a city. The message of the gospel overflowed in his life. It was the driving force in his life.
As a result, he turned the world upside down and is known to this day as one of the greatest preachers of all time. It was this passion that God used to grow the first century church. Paul’s example demonstrates that bringing souls to Christ must be the main thrust of the church.

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Sunday, December 01, 2013

30-Day Giving Challenge 2013 - Week 4

Here's a recap of my last week in the 30-Day Giving Challenge. As this month comes to an end, I'm reminded that I am thankful for the opportunity to give to others.

Sunday - helped with my church's music ministry
Monday - made a donation to a Kickstarter project
Tuesday - paid for coffee for the person behind me in the drive-thru
Wednesday - volunteered at a local library
Thursday - spent time with family
Friday - donated clothes to the Salvation Army
Saturday - spent time with family

What opportunities have you had to give? If you need some ideas, check out this Pinterest board or follow #30DayGive on Twitter.

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