A little bit of controversy has come up from this poster from a local mall which promoted our church’s Southern California outreach . Harvest, my church has done this outreach for last twenty-nine years.
Different news outlets have reported on this where you can read more here. We as a church were first asked to modify it due to different complaints and one “threat” which the church complied because of the Bible that Pastor Greg Laurie is holding (Even though it is a Bible, the poster depicts more of a black book). Eventually, we were asked to remove the banners completely from the mall.
The Bible has been a staple in our American culture with families having one in their living rooms to finding a Gideon’s Bible in every hotel room. Times have changed! The Bible which points people to the freedom from sin found in Jesus Christ alone is not valued but considered offensive. We should not be surprised by this. Continue reading “Does this Offend You?”
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose,” wrote Jim Elliot as a college student in his journal in 1949. These words were deeply seated in his heart. He did not just write a pithy phrase; he believed what he wrote and was willing to live and die by these words. These same words have also encouraged and inspired so many other men and women for the cause of Christ.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Jim Elliot lived to be 28 years old, a life the world would call short-lived and wasted. That would be farthest from the truth. Jim Elliot’s life, though short, was not wasted. God, who directed Jim every step of the way, would direct him to serve the people in Ecuador. God directed Jim and fellow missionaries in taking the dangerous journey to a native Indian tribe that had the potential to be violent. They boarded a plane and landed on a beach head to make contact with this Indian group. It was the end of Jim’s life as he and the fellow missionaries, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian, were killed at the hands of the Huaorani people of Ecuador, whom they went to win for Christ. It may have been the end of their life on earth but it was the beginning of God’s grace and outpouring on that people group.
The world called it a nightmare, a tragedy, wasted life, but what the world did not know was that through tragedy, God does great and mighty things. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, who would share Jim’s story with the world, said, “To the world at large this was a sad waste of five young lives. But…the Auca story…during all the years since as I have recounted it…has pointed to one thing: God is God. If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” Through Jim’s death and Elisabeth’s faithfulness despite tragedy, God would use Elisabeth Elliot to minister to the same tribe that killed her husband. The murderous tribe would become a tribe of forgiven men and women who looked to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Jim Elliot is a world changer as he shows us God uses those who are willing to be spent for Him. Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life, for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25 ESV).” He was willing to lose it.
Jim Elliot was born in 1927 in Portland, Oregon, in a God-fearing family. He, at a young age, desired to follow Christ and live for Him. Where we see a lot of spiritual development is when he went to college.
Within the first two years at Wheaton College is when he realized that he was called to be a missionary. The Great Commission was directed at him. His black journal that he would carry around in college, which later would be found on the beach of the Curaray River where his body was found, was filled with sermon notes in different languages such as Spanish, English, and Quechua. He had notes on the Auca language, and several pages of mission statistics. It contained several hundred names of people that Jim was praying for and he even had a recipe on how to make a bar of soap as if he was preparing for the pioneer life of mission work.
This was a commitment that he was willing to stick with. He was so passionate about mission work that he hitchhiked during one of his summers to Mexico to visit a friend’s parents who were missionaries. There he was amazed and in love with mission work. This confirmed his calling by the Lord.
Jim would graduate from college, where he took the time to prepare for the mission field of Ecuador. He was not idle and spent his time preparing properly.
The story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot is quite remarkable and could be another article in and of itself. They met in college and were quite good friends. Yes, Jim was interested in her but he took his time to know what exactly was the will of the Lord for their relationship. They both had the same desire: to reach the lost in Ecuador. They would eventually be married in Ecuador where the Lord directed both of them serve.
He had a strong focus on his calling.
Jim Elliot was very mature for his age and what helped in his maturity was his focus and confidence in his calling. Jim would write in his journal,
“Men who live and never understand what they were created for may be said indeed to be ‘dead,’ As the Scriptures say, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’”
This means the decisions of what classes and even his extracurricular classes were made with this objective view in mind. He would have this single-focus vision as he spent his free time and studied Scripture and prepared his body for mission work.
We can learn how important it is to have a strong focus in our lives. We can easily get distracted from the things of this world. He wrote how important it is to have quietness to help with determined focus.
“‘And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever (Isaiah 32:17).’ ‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.’ I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds.…But he will not allow quietness. For he believes Isaiah where we do not. Satan is quite aware of the power of silence. The voice of God, though persistent, is soft.”
It is easy to get distracted with the busyness of this world. If the devil can’t have you, he will distract you. Christians should have a singular focus, and that is making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Obedience is costly.
At age 20, he said somewhat prophetically, “I seek not a long life but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” He may not have known that the Lord would call him home at the age of 28, but he did desire to live a full and faithful life to the Lord.
He knew in Scripture it shares that obedience to follow after Christ can be costly, but it is worth it. He would write out 2 Timothy 2:4: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”
Jim Elliot is a world changer as he was willing to count the cost and take the risk, which cost him his life, to seek the lost and share Jesus with them. Through his death and the death of his fellow missionaries, we see that God did not waste their deaths. Many were saved by faith through God’s grace. We may not even know the extent of their impact as their story continues to be shared to the world. May we be like Jim and say, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
 Elliot, Elisabeth. Shadow of the Almighty. Pg. 54
 IBID. Pg. 182
 IBID. Pg. 112-113
 IBID. Pg. 68.
 IBID. Pg. 44
It’s a new year with some new goals that you may have as a family. What are they? Maybe it is eating better as a family. Or, being a better steward of all that God gave you. Maybe one of those New Year Resolutions would be being better at doing family devotions. Maybe last year you wanted to do it and you had all of the best intentions but it just never happened. All resolutions are tough to keep going but I would argue the spiritual ones seem to be even harder because we have an enemy, the devil, that wants to distract you and destroy you. You may start out strong but stuff happens throughout the year and you find yourself asking, “we didn’t really keep it up, what happened?” Why are family devotions so hard? Here are a few reasons why.
Continue reading “Why are Family Devotions so Hard?”
What are some things that make you say, “That was awesome”? Maybe it is standing on the beach and watching the waves crash, hearing the thunderous sound and feeling the cool spray of the ocean’s mist on your face. Maybe it is sitting in an airplane and looking out the window at 40,000 feet and seeing how big the world is as you fly high above the ground. Maybe it is looking up at night and seeing the moon in the sky like a big pizza pie and the stars and everything that displays God’s handiwork. You can’t help but say, Awesome! These are just a glimpse or a snapshot of God’s glory and power.
Why is it important for us to be reminded of God’s glory? Continue reading “Being in Awe of God”
It is that time again when we spend a few moments reflecting on what we did this year and what we didn’t do. Sometimes we come to a new year with a wave of regret, wishing we would have done a few things differently. Sometimes we come to the new year with a spark of excitement, looking forward to what God has for us. Maybe it is a little bit of both. What have you thought about when it comes to 2016? What are some goals you have for you and your family with this new year?
Let me encourage you with the following thoughts.
- Everything we do is for God’s glory.
The Bible says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36 ESV). Everything we do in this life should point to the Creator. We were created so God could receive glory from us and through us.
This is way bigger than any accomplishment or goal we have in mind. In fact, through our goals and accomplishments we can give God glory. How do we do that? Through good works. Good works aren’t just sharing the gospel or going to church. Good works would be doing whatever we do in life and whatever we say to point to who God is and what He is all about. Our good works bring attention not to us but to the God who created us.
- Our time is short.
Ephesians 5:15–17 reminds us to be careful how we live and to make the best use of our time because the days are evil. The Bible tells us that our life is like a vapor, here one moment and gone the next (James 4:14). If our goal is to do everything for God’s glory, then we do not want to waste our time on meaningless tasks. Part of using our time is knowing where it is going, (planning helps in this area), but we also need to think about where our time is not going.
Take a moment and reflect on how you spend your time. What areas can you grow in? Are you resting and getting enough sleep? What ways can you grow to be better with your time?
- Heaven is our home.
We should not want to waste our time on earth doing meaningless things, and I think if we have our eyes on eternity we have a different perspective. Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 ESV). Our permanent place of dwelling is heaven. This place where we are now is just the staging area for eternity. When you live with heaven in mind, it changes how you live.
With these points in mind, what are some goals that you have personally or as a family? What are some things that the Lord is putting on your heart for a new year and a fresh start? Let me encourage you in a few areas:
Growth as a Christian
Bible reading is key for us as believers. A helpful link in regard to picking a Bible reading program that is right for you and for your family is faithlife.com. You can set up a free account and choose a Bible reading plan.
Another way to just grow in wisdom and knowledge is to read good books. Reading is a struggle for many and the only way we can get better at reading is to read. Here is a helpful blog post that I came across for setting up a reading goal for 2016: Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge.
Getting into God’s Word as a family is not only precious but also needed. Here are a couple of ideas:
- The Family Worship Book by Terry Johnson is a great resource with many suggestions for the family about gathering together and doing worship together. You can purchase this book online or at the Harvest Bookstore.
- Old Story New and Long Story Short by Marty Machowski are devotional books intended for the family. Click on the titles to purchase on Amazon (which you could buy as a digital book) or pick them up at the Harvest Bookstore.
Probably one of the biggest goals that families have is getting out of debt and budgeting properly. My wife and I have been tremendously helped by going through Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. You can find out more by going to FPU.
Paul told Timothy that bodily exercise is of some value, but godliness is profitable for all things. Paul was not dismissing the importance of exercise. There are many great things that come with eating right and exercise, such as longer life, more energy, and less money spent on doctors for poor health, but the greatest is to be used by God more and more.
Pastor Jonathan M. Lee
There are countless books, articles, and even teachings on how to prepare, teach, and preach a biblical sermon, but there is not much out there on how we are called to listen to a sermon. In fact, I can scarcely recall a time where someone said, “Let me teach you how to listen to a sermon.” The Good Book Company came out with a booklet entitled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash. Here are some helpful thoughts that have been adapted from that booklet.
Come Expecting God to Speak Through His Word
Preaching is more than just someone reading Scripture. Preaching is more than someone talking about the things of God. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The purpose of preaching is to humble the sinner, exalt the Savior and promote holiness.” Preaching is the task given by God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, to the pastor, to point people to Christ (1 Peter 4:10—11).
How often do we come to church with the mindset of “What do I get out of this?” or we judge the sermon based on the entertainment value: “Did it keep my attention?” or “Was it funny?” We should be saying, “God, speak through your Word right now.” “Convict me of sin. “Show me Christ.” “Lead me in holiness.” “Help me to take this time seriously.” “Help me to not get distracted.”
God is speaking through His Word and we should look at the preaching time expecting that we are going to hear life-changing truth. When Ezra the preacher opened the written Word to read and preach it, all the people stood up as a mark of respect and attentiveness (Nehemiah 8:5). God’s Word is holy (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s Word is soul-piercingly powerful (Hebrews 4:12). We shouldn’t take the sermon lightly.
How can we listen to a sermon expecting God to speak through His Word?
- We can come expecting by first praying.
I have noticed a difference when I pray before I hear the sermon, askin the Lord to help me to pay attention. I also pray that I would listen from the mindset that God’s Word is going forth.
Start by asking God to help you to approach the sermon the right way and value God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin so you can confess it and desire to be holy. Ask that the Holy Spirit would help you understand the life-changing truth that is going to be spoken. Ask for help in seeing Jesus Christ in the passage (Luke 24:27).
- We come expecting by being prepared.
I know that sometimes coming to church can be hectic. You are just happy that you made it to church! But let me encourage you that coming to church with the right expectation is being prepared.
You can come prepared by bringing your Bible. Not just any Bible, but your Bible! You know, the one that you are most comfortable with and the one you will keep going back to? That one!
Bring something that you can write in, such as a notebook. I have learned that if I bring a notebook instead of just a sheet of paper I am more likely to hold onto it and go back to it. Bring something to write with. You do not need to bring your arsenal of Bible reading pens and highlighters but at least bring something you can write down notes with and things you want to remember and reflect upon.
- Come expecting by listening well.
Though listening to a sermon may seem one-sided, it is not. You can participate during the message by listening well. How can we listen well?
One way of listening is taking notes. Writing down notes from the sermon will not only help you pay attention to the sermon but also it will be useful when you spend some time to reflect throughout the week on what the sermon was about and how you need to apply it to your life.
Another part of listening well is checking the biblical passage against what the pastor is going over and verifying that what the pastor says is truth. The Bereans in the book of Acts were commended for searching the Scriptures to see all that Paul was saying was truth (Acts 17:11).
Listening well would also include putting away things that would distract you, such as your phone. I know some use their phone or tablets for their Bibles, which is a great use of technology, but if you find yourself distracted and opening up different apps because your device is right there, put it away so that you can listen better to the sermon without getting distracted.
Let’s all come expecting to hear from God through the teaching of His Word this Sunday!