Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Give God Praise

As we reflect on this past year and look forward to what God will do in us and through us in 2009, we must remember that it is important to give God praise for the wonderful things He has done. We must give Him the glory due His name. 
21On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." 23Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24But the word of God continued to increase and spread. - Acts 12:21-24
1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. 2 Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. 3 Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, 5 praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. - Psalm 150

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We must be worshippers

In my last small group curriculum, I wrote the following:

"Worshipping God helps direct our hearts and our minds away from ourselves and toward God. Worshipping God helps kill selfishness, jealousy, and the desires of the flesh. Intentional worship of God prevents the unintentional worship of other things."

Here's the bottom line... we must be worshippers. We must intentionally direct our focus onto our Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ. This cannot be something we only do on Sunday morning. It must be who we are. We must be worshippers!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Want success?

In the first chapter of Joshua we see several promises made by God to His children.  Two of the promises involve success and prosperity. Before I continue, let me be clear that prosperity as defined in the Bible isn't about getting stuff here on earth, but rather storing up treasures in heaven. It is about being rich in God's kingdom, not the kingdom of this world. 

With that said, let's get to what I really wanted to point out in these passages. We clearly see a correlation, a dependency, between kingdom of God success and obedience. An obedient child of God will find success. Doing the will of God leads to success and prosperity. Living for ourselves and entertaining sin leads to defeat and destruction.  

Check it out:
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. - Joshua 1:7-8

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Going after God’s heart

This week, my small group curriculum has us examining our hearts.

Big Idea:
Like King David, we are called to be men and women whose hearts are fully given to God. Life is no longer about our will, but instead we seek God’s will and lay it all down for His purposes as we obediently follow His plans. 

Summary:
King David is the poster-child of what it means to have a heart for God. The life of David is a beautiful picture of love, forgiveness, faith, and the complete abandoned pursuit of God. There are three things that we can learn from David’s life about what it takes to be someone after God’s heart. First, we see that David had a sincere desire to be close to God. Like any relationship, closeness occurs when we spend time with someone. How can we become close to God without spending time with Him? God has given us His Word, prayer, meditation, and fasting as means of growing closer with Him. Scripture shows us that having a heart after God can actually be cultivated. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you and your heart will be changed. If you are sincerely open, God will renew a right spirit within you. 

A second thing we learn from David is the importance of integrity. Integrity is who we are at the core of our being; it is about doing the right thing for the right reason. Integrity before God is about freely doing His will out of love, respect, and obedience. This can never be faked because God judges the heart of man. So, chase after God with a pure heart. Finally, David shows us the immense value of being a worshipper of God. David was consumed with the need to be in God’s presence. Therefore, he delighted in worshipping God. Worshipping God helps direct our hearts and our minds away from ourselves and toward God. Worshipping God helps kill selfishness, jealousy, and the desires of the flesh. Intentional worship of God prevents the unintentional worship of other things. 

You can become a David. You can become a person after God’s heart.  

Discussion Questions: (read the scriptures & discuss)

James 4:7-8
What are ways in which we can draw near to God? How does sin and disobedience pull us away from God? 

1 Samuel 16:7
Ultimately, where is integrity measured? Give examples of how you can do something that looks right, but actually lacks integrity. How does obedience to the commands of Christ relate to a Christian’s integrity? 

John 4:24
What do you think it means to worship God in spirit and in truth? How is this similar to the greatest commandment found in Mark 12:30? Discuss different ways we can worship the Lord. 

Taking Action: Like David, ask God to search your heart and reveal any selfish and wrong motives. Be open to what the Holy Spirit reveals and be willing to change. Remember, a person after God’s heart is a repentant person. Finally, become a worshipper and spend time in God’s Word where He will reveal Himself to you and you can become close to Him. 

Ministry Time

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace has come

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." - Luke 2:14

Those who glorify God by accepting the gift of His Son as their Savior and Lord, will live at peace with Almighty God and receive good will from Him. Peace between man and God comes only through Jesus Christ - the Savior of the world. 

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Jesus came, He saw, and He conquered. He is the King!

Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our African Experience - the video

This short video provides just a taste of what we experienced while living and ministering in Ghana, Africa for 30 days. We are in awe of God's incredible goodness and power. In our short time, we made lifelong friends, we saw people make the decision to follow Christ, children were fed, miracles happened, the lame walked, demons were cast out, fresh water ran through a village for the first time, people were baptized, hearts changed, and our "normal" American perspective was forever ruined for the glory of God. You can also find more information about our ministry time in Ghana HERE.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Your attitude toward the Word of God is your attitude toward Jesus

So many people say that they love Jesus and that their relationship with Him is the most important thing in their lives. Yet, they spend little to no time studying the Bible. How does our time in the Bible relate to our relationship with Jesus? Well, in the gospel of John we see that Jesus Christ is the Word of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1 

The Word of God is the very presentation of Christ. It encompasses and displays Jesus to the world. If you love someone, you will want to spend time with them, you will want to know everything about them. That is why, "Your attitude toward the Word of God is your attitude toward Jesus."

Spend time with Jesus... spend time in The Word.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Having a birthday in Ghana, Africa

Thursday was my birthday. I turned 41 while in Africa. We had a wonderful party and dined on the local cuisine of banku, pepper sauce, and whole roasted tilapia - head, tail, and all. (Notice: no silverware - you eat it with your hands.) Velvet made some brownies which we enjoyed with some "ice cream". I was blessed with songs from the children at the compound and several rounds of "Happy Birthday". 

Earlier in the day, I attended a Life Christian University class held here at the compound with several local pastors. The topic of study was "The Ministry of Helps." We got into some lively discussion. I was blessed when this group of Christian leaders prayed blessings over me and sang Happy Birthday to me. 

Early that evening, I preached at Pas
tor Ken's church in Sasieme. It is a recent church plant located in a small village about 3Km from Efife. Pastor Ken is also the Headmaster of The King's Voice Academy - the Christian elementary school in this area. The congregation was very kind and eager to hear God's Word. I preached from the third chapter of the book of Joshua and discussed how God goes before us and He also stays with us. 

Before the church service began, we took a short tour of the village. There was a funeral going on and we found ourselves driving right through the middle of the processional. It is very different in Ghana - the cars have the right of way and they simply honk and the pedestrians must get out of the way - even when they are part of a funeral processional. It was an odd experience. The other interesting aspect of the funeral was that it was a funeral for a young person (teenager) who was an idol worshipper. I am told that you can tell this from the colors and outfits worn by the mourners. 

It was a good day filled with memorable moments. After all, it's not every day that you have a birthday on Africa. If you want to read many more details of our time here in Ghana, you can visit http://jonesteamupdates.blogspot.com/. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God’s plans are best

Some time after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Israelites approached Jericho (Read Joshua chapter 6). It was time to take the first city of the Promised Land. How would they do it? God had a plan. God had a specific way by which He wanted to take the city and it was a strange way. It was far from a normal battle plan. In fact, it seemed rather foolish to most:
Walk around the city quietly each day and then on the 7th day walk around it 7 times. On the 7th time around that last day, they were told to shout. How would this work?
You know the story, the Israelites obeyed the Lord, followed His plan, and the walls of Jericho fell. “The victory is ours, when the battle is the Lord’s.” I find it interesting that the final instruction from the Lord was to shout. They were told that the victory would be theirs when they lifted up their voices in unison and shouted. Throughout redemptive history, we see the power of the spoken word. “The tongue has the power of life and death” – Proverbs 18:21. It has the power to bring down walls. Do you have walls in your life that need to come down? 

God’s plans for taking the land are not always our plans. But, His plans are best. When we follow His plans, we will find great success. When we ignore God’s way and do it our way, we will encounter poor results and often experience total defeat.

Remember the story of Gideon’s army? You can read about it in Judges 7. God’s plan didn’t make a lot of sense to Gideon and his people. It wasn’t a military strategy that had been used before. They had tens of thousands of soldiers, but God wanted to send only 300. And He wanted them to go to battle with candles placed in clay jars. Gideon’s army followed God’s way and experienced total victory, while the enemy turned on each other and destroyed themselves. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

Saul decided to not follow God’s plans. (1 Samuel 13) He was told to wait for Samuel to make the sacrifice before going to battle. However, because of fear and to keep his men happy, He didn’t wait and instead took it into His own hands. He disobeyed God’s plan. That was the day the anointing was removed from him and his family. He did it his way and lost everything: his kingdom, his son, and his own life. 

What can we learn from this?
We need to seek God’s plan for our lives. We are not promised victory on our terms. We are promised victory when we do it God’s way. Are you listening for His plans or are you just doing it your way, the way you’ve always done it, the way the world does it? I recommend spending time in prayer, seeking God’s face and His voice. Seek God’s plans and His ways before going into battle, before tackling the issues of life, before moving forward into your future, before ministering to others, before making big decisions. God has a plan and you need to follow it. 

There’s a popular song from a few decades ago called “I did it my way”. This should not be the theme song of a Christ follower. Instead, we should be singing the song, “I did it God’s way.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

God stays with us

In my last post, I discussed how God goes before us. He told the Israelites to put the Ark of the Covenant, which was the earthly representation of God Himself, into the Jordan first. He also told them to leave the Ark in the river until all of the Israelites had crossed over. God remained until His children were all safely on the other side. GOD STAYS WITH US. He won’t leave us. He won’t abandon us. 
Joshua 3:17 “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” 
This is a timeless characteristic of God. Check this out:
  • “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) 
  • “For the Lord your God will go with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) 
  • “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”(Hebrews 13:5b-6)
  • “Surely I will be with you all the days of your life.” (Matthew 28:20b) This is part of the Great Commission and is the last thing Jesus said He ascended to the right hand of God. 
When we give our lives to Christ Jesus, we are not alone. He is with us everyday of our lives. And He sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, lift us up, educate us, and empower us. We are not alone. God is with us! God leads us and He stays with us! Hallelujah!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

God is the ultimate leader

God understands leadership. He is the author of leadership. God shows us that leaders lead. They don’t just tell people what to do. No. They lead. They go before. Leaders are in front. You can’t take someone someplace you haven’t been. 

For instance, you can’t lead someone to Jesus if you don’t know Him yourself. Additionally we see that a good military leader doesn’t lead from anywhere accept from the battlefield. They lead their troops into battle, not simply command them into battle. They lead!

In Joshua 3, we see how God leads. He once again led the way for His people. God went into the river before His people. He put Himself in the place of perceived danger first. 

Before reading these passages, I want to point out the fact that the ark of the covenant in those days represented the very presence of the Lord. It was His seat. It was the place where His Spirit dwelled. 
Joshua 3:5-13 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves (purify yourselves), for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river’.”
Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Gebusites. See the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord – the Lord of the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” 
Not only was God the first to enter that place of danger, but He stayed in that place until all of Israel had crossed the Jordan safely.
Joshua 3:17 “The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”
Lo
ok, God didn’t simply point the Israelites in the right direction and tell them to go for it. I’ll see you later guys. You’ll be fine. Have a nice journey. No, God Almighty led the way and remained until all of His people were safe. The ark of the covenant was first to enter the water and the last to leave. This is leadership. This is the leader I follow today and the one I will follow all the days of my life! 

We follow the greatest leader in the universe. We follow the King of kings. We follow the ultimate commander. We follow the LORD Almighty! God goes before us and He doesn’t call us to go anyplace He hasn’t already gone.
Check this out:
  • He tells us to say no to sin – He was tempted in everyway, yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
  • Be holy as He is holy – just as He who called you is holy, be holy in all you do. (1 Peter 1:15  )
  • He calls us to forgive others. God led the way and has forgiven us. “Forgive as He has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)
  • God calls us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength … and to love others. Well, God first loved us with His everything. He gave His all for us. (Mark 12:30-31)
  • He commands us to make disciples. Jesus was all about making disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
  • He tells us to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal the sick. (Matthew 10:7-8)
  • He tells us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:29)
  • He calls us to pray & fast – when you pray & when you fast – not if… (Matthew 6)
  • He says that we must die to self and live for God.
You name it, God has gone before you and has led the way. He is THE LEADER! Let’s be people who follow our leader, Christ Jesus, with confidence.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Where are the signs?

Most Christians are familiar with the Great Commission that is recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. However, the gospel of Mark also records a "great commission" given by Jesus before He ascended. Here is how it reads: 
15He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." - Mark 16:15-18
This passage of scripture is almost a combination of the "Great Commission" in Matthew 28 and the instructions given by Jesus when He sent out the disciples in Matthew 10. But, why don't we see much expression of these signs today? In fact, why does there seem to be such a noticeable lack of expectation of these signs in the modern church? If these signs are supposed to accompany those who believe, then why aren't they commonplace in the church and in the lives of Christians today? I don't know about you, but I sure see a need and a relevance for driving out demons and healing the sick. 

Are we selling ourselves short? Have we settled for a watered-down Christianity? Have we become so accustomed to eating only the crumbs that we have missed the feast which has been prepared for us? 

I say, let's live out the fullness of the Great Commission by making disciples, teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus, and also taking real ground from the enemy today by driving out demons and healing the sick. Let's expect the signs and wonders to accompany us because we are children of God, follows of Christ Jesus, and people who believe.