Monday, April 27, 2009

The Most Important Thing A Christian Can Do While Texting (HINT: Not enough will people talk about this)

Nope, it isn't imbibing in some really juicy gossip of say the high and mighty of your school. You know, the trendsetters, and it's not in merely keepin' updated with all your lofty and lowly peep's regarding their hobby and other interests. It isn't in merely listening to all their family conflict issues either.

The most important thing for you to do while texting is for you to properly rep the King of kings as His witness consistently. Yes, the Christians around you ..need you to listen up and then build them up ..in their faith. Does that mean that God only wants you to text "Christian speak" and religious platitudes at people until they want to take you Bible and baptize you with it unto death? Don't be silly; of course not. You can inject truth from God's Word in when the time is right, but just be yourself.

Unbelievers around you will really need your ears at times too! There will be times when they need for you to boldly tell them your testimony and the whole nine yards. They need to hear you bravely witnessing to people and hearing people in love. Sometimes it's the meanest ones that are really begging for you to tell them of Christ's saving grace (yup, wisely with the right tone and definitions of those preachy sounding words. We've all also got to be so sensitive about timing and how long we carry on with each person--I like to give them an easy out, so they'll want to come back for more later).

On the man-ward communication level, being a real friend with say a social network, with your cell phone by calls or texts, or even better ..by your presence and candidly sharing your faith.. is the most important things you can do. Because you will be addressing the greatest need that way. I say use what ever God has given you to get the Good News out.

The cool thing about Texting is that it is so brief kind of like shorthand. The conversation you get in with a friend can litterally go on for months with large pauses in between so they can digest the truth that you've been sharing.

The writer of Hebrews wrote short messages to build people up.. "I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I have said in this brief letter" (Heb. 13:22, nlt). John did too, "I sent a brief letter to the church about this.." (3 Jn. 1:9, emphasis mine).

Hey, but why would we even want to Text brief messages about the Lord to anyone? That is so risky in our anti-Christian culture these days and besides, they might reject me as their friend.

Well, it's because we really care about them and because life is very brief that we must get the Gospel over to them. The Psalmist said, "Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away" (Ps. 39:4).

Considerately building relationship by being brief in communication, by being loving, accurate, attentive and very to the point in a tactful way is so important today ..as well as earning the right to be heard by them through clean, integrous, consistency and holy living.

Anyways, here are some ideas that might help you when texting…

* Be very courteous and consistent with your worldview, always using clean language that points to the Word and how to know Him better. Your blood might start to boil at times when your old buddies cast insults at you for "going and gettin' religion on em" but your anger at their scoffing won't help the situation, so please get a grip on your emotions early by praying silently. Your holy response should never show that you are frazzled, in a fleshly frame of mine or irritated at all!

* Validate their point of view when it is only right to do so (you can do this without agreeing with them on every issue or stance).

* Truely empathize with people. Let them know that you hear what they are saying.

* Offer to pray with them about their hurts and needs (you can even do this while Texting or chatting with each other).

* Provide a reasonable, biblical and transparent explanation for why you believe what you do (yes, do your Bible and prayer homework well in advance so you will be ready). Offer them thee Solution, or the right passages from the Word that address their needs. Man's opinions won't hold a lot of authoritative weight—they're not worth much, but God's Word won't return void.

* Be genuine, sincere and personal, but lighten up and inject humor from time to time as well. People want to know that your relationship with Jesus is 24/7/365 and can really be enjoyed. With Him are pleasures forever more, though we aren't in it for the pleasures.

* Ask them if there is anything that would prevent them from coming to the Lord as they are right then and there.. right now (coming as they are but being willing to change as Christ grants each one repentance and then changes them from the inside out).

* Remember, you might not be able to win them all, but you can win some of them as the Lord leads you and gives you the words to send ..or as you call them.

I really challenge you young people and older people alike ..who Text often or a little, to pray fervently in faith and then to get the Gospel out to your unbelieving cell phone friends via Text Messaging or maybe even through Twitter. Really, any micro-blogging tool with lots of traffic can be good to use for this purpose. We need to use ever tool we can while we still have time. Jesus said, "I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (Jn. 9:4).

"We have a whole generation being raised without communication skills!"

~ Author/Teacher Jacquie Ream

"Text Messaging represents and expansive new linguistic renaissance."

~ Linguist Sali Tagliamone

In June 2001, cell phone users sent 30 million Text Messages in the U.S. One years later, that number had jumped to nearly 1 billion. It is estimated that over 60 billion messages will be sent this year--2009. ~Turtle Creek News

Viral promotions if you will.. of Christ and His Gospel can take the form of cool video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames (and I don't mean that we are selling the truth here or trying for some personal gain—the Message and God's Salvation must be free).. ebooks, brandable software, imprinted clean images, or again, even text messages today can be anointed of God as the Christian steps out in faith and love.

Do you want to be about something much bigger than you are—about something bigger than all the pleasure-seeking activates of those around you.. who seem to be throwing their years or youth away? Go for it in Christ and He will be with you!

Just so you can be aware of today's TextM Abbreviations and interpretations (if you don't have a teenager around to help you), here is a basic, Text Messaging Glossary.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Warmth Of His Gentle Nature, Says We Return To Authentic Nurture!

Do you desire to become truly successful and fruitful spiritually? To be frank, it will never happen independent of you being in heart-to-heart fellowship with Christ (where you are obedient to Him) and with His body. Does your church have small Bible study groups that are Word-centered? Are you saved and in one ..somewhere? Have you had trouble finding a place of more intimate fellowship where you fit in? Is your church growing, loving, non-compromising, exciting, and making an impact on your community (perhaps they need small study/prayer type of groups)? Perhaps they need a spiritual pastor who knows the Lord personally (on a first name basis) and also leads God's people in this direction of true fellowship. I'm not trying to be offensive or disrespectful at all, just frank for your good and the good of the Kingdom. No Christian needs to stay in a flock with dead leadership ..who refuse to submit to the Word after they clearly hear the Gospel.


By "fellowship" I do not mean merely showing up at a religious looking building or home with say crosses and ugly glittery banners hanging on the wall.. so that you can enjoy doughnuts, coffee, small talk ..about sports or christian TV programing.. or even friendships and then engage in religious church talk so that you can make your way around the denomination better. Too many people, even real Christians today, often have wrong ideas about what fellowship is all about. Non-Christian religious people and irreligious people outside of Christ cannot enjoy true fellowship--it's impossible. Fellowship is about getting to know God better first-hand. It's also about sharing truth (from the Bible), practical aid, God's love, insight, ears, life-experiences all for the purpose of buiding up Christians until they reach maturity and effectiveness in ministry (ministry to God, to saved people and to lost people who are willing to recieve it). 


Those in the early church enjoyed compassionate fellowship with each other often--they were likeminded due to prayer and faith. They were in one accord and simply good friends with each other (and of course with the Lord first) even if they as mortals didn't have anything in common outside of knowing Jesus. They were more "family" with each other than their own biological lost family members. Today, like never before it seems, we have young people watching several different TV show and movies where the friends (actors) are the family in the shows and where the coffee shop, the bar, the bookstore etc is the clan's new family room where they all can enjoy the warmth of understanding, love, honesty, empathetic-tender-caring, an elixer of comfort (we Christians have the Comforter-the Spirit for that), listening and close comaraderie. In our hightech world people seem to be more and more disconnected and craving fellowship, but they are having a hard time finding it as they look everywhere except in decent churches (and their are lame churches that unfortunately do not foster fellowship as God wants them to).


I find the pure passion of Christ in a more intimate non-religious fellowship setting, where the Word of God is honored, openly adored and thoroughly studied with an aim to properly apply it in our everyday lives …most attractive! Maybe that is what you have been looking for year after year. People are really hungry for Christ and what He offers by way of gentle nuture, Friendship and fellowship. That's the kind of place where believers grow strong for sure! Are you a true believer? I would never say you are not, but God knows. 


How about you? Do you crave small group fellowship with real friends? 


After being raised in a cold dead church for 18 years (I don't need to say the name of the congregation here, but), I remember being drawn into an exciting, vital relationship with Jesus Christ. And where was that? It was in a warm-hearted, very much ALIVE Newport Beach home Bible study group that was all about practicing what was being taught. After that I got plugged in at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa! Huge kicking church with a smaller intimate church feel. 


Small group Bible studies somehow make any large church that might seem impersonal to many ..seem not in any way too large but very personable. Yes, without being involved in such a close community of genuine love, I (or anyone) could soon feel like a lost face in an uncaring crowd. 


Did you know that you indeed are God's special beloved? Did you know that He wants to guide you into close-knit fellowship with His Church (please don't envision stain glass and a steeple, I'm talking about His Church not religious people or stuff. We are His church—us—and the church meetings I'm talking about don't have to meet in a sanctuary building per se)? I know one church fellowship that met on the beach at a lifeguard tower for years and grew.


Fellowship is so important! You are too! But why would Jesus Christ love you, me, and His Church so much? Why would He die to save us sinners and pour his love in and through us? 


Could it be that when you and I are washed by Christ's blood.. when we are walking and abiding in Him (along with His other servant-hearted believers), we become so saturated in Jesus that when the Father looks at us, He only sees His own precious Son.. and then He envelopes us in His agape love for Jesus' sake! Yes, the Bible clearly teaches that God loves you as much as He loves His own Son! He loves us enough to change while we fellowship.


As you and I grow and mature in this love relationship with God, we will grow to love the other believers a whole lot. We will want to be interdependent with them, looking upwards rather than inwards. As we abide tight with Christ through meaningful fervent prayer and regular meditation upon His Word, daily getting to know the Lord on a deeper level (not merely by head-knowledge-acquisition) but as we practically live out what we say we believe within the context of warm community, Christ keeps filling us over and over with Himself. 


Do you have such a love for fellowship with growing believers? Christian, isn't this what you've been craving? The Bible says, "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:16, nkjv). It says, "Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1 Jn. 4:7). 


As you and I are filled up with the Spirit of God, we will be filled with His love too, not only for God Himself, but also for those lost and saved sinners around us. This includes loving our spouses, our kids, our strange and not so strange relatives.. our pastors, our fellow students and coworkers etc. God wants to even love those incompatible abrasive people through us, that we keep struggling to get along with. He does this supernaturally as we depend upon Him. He has even promised to pour out "his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." How wonderful is that? 


I feel all churches still need to grow larger and smaller simultaneously.. by love and truth! I mean that the positive nurturing that comes from facilitating Spirit-led small uplifting fellowship groups is irreplaceable for any growing church that wants to be real. Yes definitely, if they want to keep growing healthy, and especially if we Christians desire to reach the next generation for Christ. For it's the healthy sheep that reproduce. Sick ones don't (ask any rancher). We each reproduce what we are spiritually. And strong koinonia fellowship ministry is an outgrowth from honest fellowship, first upwards and then outwards! 


We can't take people where we ourselves haven't first been. 


God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. —Romans 5:5, niv 


Biblical soul-winning first springs from our intimate relationship with Christ as we spend time alone with Him and then from fellowship with His on-fire body. If you merely hang out with lost people or lukewarm Christians (and there is a place for some time spent with both), you won't grow strong.


For me personally, it was the joyful simple worship of God in a small group.. it was the practical verse by verse Bible teaching through the entire Book ..where the Old and New Testaments and the specific context for each passage was helping me to interpret the text that we were looking at.. it was the Christ-centered practical service as we constantly helped each other.. it was the transparency—the brutal honesty, confession, purity, ardor.. it was the prayers and humble candor ..that all showed me Christianity was for real! 


Great small group fellowship still makes me want to know Jesus well and boldly make Him well known! 


Hey, the Apostle Paul was really into fellowship! He was out to give sacrificially to help others find and grow in Christ. He was all for small groups where the truth was zeroed in upon. He said, "..I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Act. 20:20-21). 


He and the early church taught and evangelized in the temple (the larger setting) and from house to house (the smaller settings)! We Christians need to return to this pattern again, if we want to see God do what He did back then. Close up face to face edification with thirsty love-starved people does make a difference! 


I remember how my old pastor, Chuck Smith, taught through the entire Bible putting a hook in every Message. He's done this at least eight times now. He continues to do this and has followed Paul's principal diligently. From his own experience he exclaimed, "In the sixties and early seventies, the most successful and rewarding part of my ministry was my Monday-evening classes for young people. I'd sit and talk with them from the Word of God, and kids started getting excited about Jesus and about serving the Lord. We'd have an amateur-hour kind of concert in which the kids shared their music. Out of it came the talent we eventually showcased through Maranatha! Music. The ministry grew, and other agendas pushed at my time. I got so busy I eventually dropped the Monday-night studies, letting others handle them. I was essentially out of that ministry. A couple of years ago, however, I looked around and realized many of the "kids" I had nurtured in the first wave had teen-age kids of their own. I'd been so busy developing their parents that I had neglected the young people. So I decided to become involved again with the Monday-night studies. I patterned the evenings as I had in the sixties, and the ministry has caught on once more. We have from fifteen to eighteen hundred kids on Monday evenings. It's exciting; a whole new generation is getting turned on. A while back, a couple of high school boys came up to me and said, 'We're interested in going into the ministry. Can you talk with us about it?' 'I'd love to,' I said, and I set up an appointment..." 


At the end of the day, not many pastors or ministers today can honestly say that they are innocent of the blood of all men ..that they have not failed to deliver all the counsels of God to feed God's flock.


Paul finished his course with joy and yet, he could truthfully say that. Paul had a nurturing fatherly heart and near the end he confidently said, "I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God" (Act 20:25-27). 


Wanna get real strong? Sow aggressively to the Spirit (not to the flesh or to the world) in fellowship. Do this more often (in Bible-based fellowship led by blazing people of integrity and holy character). 


Some times we've got to return to doing the early-church-basics if we want to reach younger or older people. Paul got that tenderness of heart from Jesus who was gentle. Christ was Spirit-sensitive (not girly-sensitive) and made Paul that way, totally excited about the things of the Father. Christ made Paul a soul-winning nurturer—a disciple-maker, who loved Christ most, and then fellowship with committed believers. He can make you like that too!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Husbands, Check It Out...

Guys, here are some simple but great verses that both challenged and encouraged me today and might even you as well ...if you want. I purposely wanted to keep my own blah, blah commentary out pretty much (you certainly don't need me preachin' at cha..), but I would encourage you to meditate upon these verses within their own context in the Bible.

 

"Love is (or you could of course say, "Jesus is" or "_______[<-inject your name here] is".. just to see how you are doing..) patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance" (1 Cor. 13:4-8, injected emphasis mine).

 

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1Jn. 4:8).

 

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.." (Eph. 5:25-26).

 

"Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Pet. 3:7).

 

"Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding" (Prov. 14:33).

 

"The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge" (Prov. 15:14).

 

"Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly.." (Prov. 16:19).

 

"For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth" (2 Cor. 12:6).

 

"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:23).

 

"Wine produces mockers; liquor leads to brawls. Whoever is led astray by drink cannot be wise" (Prov. 20:1).

 

"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit" (Prov. 29:23).


"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Cor. 15:33).

 

"Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:22).

 

"Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another" (Rom. 14:19).

 

Let's face it, if we (any of us husbands and wives..) aren't strong, unified, and prayerful in Christ's love ..together, our marriages certainly won't be a good witness for a watching wayward world. How can they even last?

 

You know that it's the couple that prays together in Christ—that's continues on in applying His teachings, committed and actively apart of a thriving Bible teaching church—that generally stays together and makes an impact on this lost world.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On The Verge Of Losing It All ..Or Have You Already?

Rainy days and Mondays never get me down. And that's what we had early this week together ..a rainy Monday. How 'bout you? It's been raining a lot here in Dallas lately. The plants, lakes and trees really need it too--they've been very thirsty. How has it been there where you live? What's the weather like there? What's your favorite thing to do or see in the area where you live ..when you get time off with your friends there? Just curious. Anyways, Liney and I trust that you are doing well spiritually. How can we pray for you? Please do feel free to let us know how we can better add practical value to your life, or challenge you, or simply minister to you with this blog etc. Please do pray that we can help more people as well. Thanks! Oh.. about that photo I attached above. No, Liney and I didn't start drinking to escape troubles or anything, but I simply scratched out a quick devo this morning at home (see below) that deals in part with people who are struggling under cruel habits and addictions that will sooner or later make them lose out and we do not want anyone to lose anything good that God plans to bless them with, or already has blessed them with. 

Ready To Lose It All?

I hate loss… don't you? It's so needless and obviously some things hurt to lose more than other things.. they have far more value than other toys and junk that are easy to replace.

A week or so ago after returning from California, my wife lost her diamond wedding ring right down the bathroom sink accidentally. She cried real tears and I just felt sick for her.. and for me. How would I be able to save up enough to replace that temporal thing that had sentimental value to her? We did what we could to recover it, but no use.

It was totally gone ..we thought ..until a week later when she pulled it out of the dryer with some clean laundry. Don't ask me how (We both remember praying about the matter though).

Are you currently on the verge of losing something valuable and have you even prayed about whether God wants you to lose it? Sure some destructive relationships need to be cut off at different times, but are you about to lose your spouse due to their sin or yours? Are you willing to fight spiritually to keep this from happening? Now you know that God hates divorce but allows this in certain instances, but please don't under-value your spouse! There can be grounds for forgiveness there due to what Jesus already accomplished.

Maybe you are about to lose a job, some commissions, or a car that you've had trouble paying on ..and then subsequently your good credit.

Perhaps you are clinging to your own life of pleasure or you idol (that which you have put number one ahead of everything else).

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. —Jesus, John 12:25-26, nkjv

What are you so tightly holding on to today? Jesus Christ basically encouraged His followers not to cling to their own life, to their own stuff, to their own way, to their own agenda, to their own ingenuity, plans or lifestyle, but He was promising life everlasting to anyone who would follow Him completely.

I'm talking about life during life here and then some ..a lot more, with no end.

In the context of those verses, Jesus was talking about dying so that life could come forth and help others. Man, He was and is our greatest Example of this type of thing.. when He chose to do the Father's will instead of His own even to the point of dying on a cross for our sins. And to prove the validity of those words He said, He is alive today!

Yes, Jesus said, "where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." Have you been looking for acknowledgement, approval, respect and honor in all the wrong places? Jesus indeed wants the closeness with you and to meet all your needs as He leads you, not visa versa.

He desires to be your Lord and Savior… not just Savior alone as you insist upon living as a bullheaded carnal Christian that refuses to trust. May I ask.. is He either to you? You might have thought that you've been a real Christian for a long time now, but is there evidence to back this up? Sure, maybe you've served in a church, sung in a choir, given to some charity, but all that can be worthless-chaff and doesn't save anybody.

Maybe many of your friends think you are a real Christian too. Will it all stand up under the fierce light of the soon coming Judgment Seat of Christ?

Is there fruit from a biblically born again experience in Christ? I know those terms have been over used and misused, but Christ was the One who said you must be born again (see John 3:3). Do you even desire the things that a real Christian desires? Going to church regularly, prayer meetings, evangelism, fellowship with growing believers, meditating and memorizing Scripture, worship, talking and listening to the Lord while all alone and all through the day, intercession for others in need? Do you have your priorities in the proper order today?

Jesus commanded, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). And a literal rendering of that in the original language means, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!"

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