Suffering: The Servant of our Joy

I recently read something very encouraging from pastor/author Tim Keller, he writes this:
“Years ago I had a terrible nightmare. In my nightmare, every member of my family was killed in terrible fashion. I woke up at 3am panting from the nightmare. It was if I had lost my family and awakened to discover I had them back. I wanted to wake them all up and hug them. I loved them before the nightmare, but not like I did after the nightmare. That nightmare taught me something valuable, and it was this: the joy of finding them wasn’t a joy in spite of the nightmare, but a joy enhanced by the nightmare. Because of the nightmare, my joy was intensified. The nightmare was taken up into the joy of having them back. The nightmare actually punctuated my joy!”

Keller went on to say, “If heaven is a compensation for all the stuff we wanted that never had, that is one thing. But if the New Heaven and New Earth is our hope-and it is-it will make everything horrible we’ve experienced nothing but a nightmare. And as a nightmare, it will infinitely, correspondingly increase our future joy and glory in a way it wouldn’t have been increased if we’d never suffered.”

Keller concluded by saying, “To say that our suffering is an illusion or to say we will be compensated for our suffering is one thing. But to say that the suffering we experience now will one day be a servant of our joy does not just compensate for it, it undoes it! As the Apostle Paul said, ‘Our light and momentary afflictions ARE ACHIEVING/PRODUCING for us an eternal glory that FAR OUTWEIGHS them all.’ There has never been an understanding of suffering that was more hopeful or encouraging.”

Isn’t that encouraging my friends? The evil, pain, and suffering (nightmares) that hurts us now will be the eventual servant of our joy and glory eternally! Pain never gets the final word on believers…God gets the final word! As the Scripture says, “Death is swallowed up in victory!” Beloved, enjoy the hope that our suffering is going to be engulfed, swallowed up. The evil that hurts us now will be the eventual servant of our joy and glory eternally! PRAISE BE UNTO GOD!!!

For many, like me and my family, we are still living our nightmare though…and it can seem that it will never end. We grieve and hurt, but we have to keep it all in proper perspective. All of our hurts are wrapped in the hope that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).” Yes, the pain of loss is so real every day and it hurts beyond description, but in order to endure the pain, we must realize that one day, the nightmare that consumes us now, will be the servant of our joy, which will consume us then. Because I of the pain we experienced on earth, the joy of heaven will even be that much sweeter.

To all my fellow grievers out there…hold on…the nightmare will end…and it will be the servant of our joy! Even so, come Lord Jesus! 

When Cost Becomes Privilege in Suffering

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles on the subject of suffering. I hope to bring encouragement through these writings. Every person I know is suffering in some form or fashion, and I want to speak to God’s perspective, purpose, and provision in the midst of life’s hardships. I will, of course, use the Bible, but I also plan to draw on the experiences and perspectives of others who have suffered well for the glory of God. I pray God ministers to every person who reads these words.

I recently came across a story about a woman named Helen Roseveare. Helen served as a medical missionary to the Congo from 1953 to 1973. In 1964 she was taken prisoner by rebel forces and remained a prisoner for five months, during which she was beaten and raped. Her life of service was portrayed in the 1989 film, Mama Luka Comes Home.

As I read Helen’s story, I was captivated and moved to tears, not primarily by the severity of her suffering, but by her perspective in the midst of such severe suffering. Helen says that the night she was taken captive, she was “beaten, flung on the ground, kicked, teeth broken, mouth and nose gashed, ribs bruised, and held at gun point.” She said that she knew if the rebel guard did not pull the trigger, all that awaited her was more and more severe suffering. She said, “It was a dark night and I felt utterly alone. For a brief moment, I felt God had failed me.”

Helen went on to say that in her dark loneliness, God met her there. She quickly remembered her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the suffering He unjustly received. She said she realized very deeply that “His love for me cost Him His life. He gave Himself in the most significant of all ways, and His sacrifice was the expression of His great love.”

She said, “Suddenly the ‘Why?’ dropped from me, and an unbelievable peace flowed in, even in the midst of the wickedness taking place.” She said that God came to her and spoke a new word into her heart, and it was the word “privilege.” She said, “He offered me the inestimable privilege of sharing with Him in the fellowship of His sufferings. And it was a privilege.” She went on to say, “For that night, cost became swallowed up in privilege.”

As I read these words, I wept. Only God could be so loving and gracious to give someone such perspective and such strength to endure such suffering. Helen powerfully stated, “God wanted my body, in which to live, and through which to love those very rebel soldiers in the height of their wickedness.” She continued speaking of the incredible privilege of showing her accusers the love of God, just as Christ had shown His. After all, it was Jesus who declared from the Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

As angry as we get thinking of those rebel soldiers brutally attacking this sweet woman, we must understand that this is a real picture of what all of humanity has done to Jesus. We are the soldiers and we are the ones who nailed Jesus to the Cross. We are the ones who shouted, “Crucify Him!” The Bible teaches that every human being has sinned and it was our sin that caused Jesus to have to go to the Cross. Yes, there was a cost for Jesus, but I’m convinced He saw His suffering as privilege, because He knew that by His stripes and wounds, people would find forgiveness and salvation. Helen understood that Christ had died in her place, and that her sin had put Jesus on the Cross, therefore she was glad to show forgiveness to others, the way Christ had shown forgiveness to her.

Helen knew, as all Christians should, that her life was not her own. She had been bought at the highest of all prices, with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. She knew that her suffering, while severe on earth, would not even come close to comparing to the glory that awaited her in heaven. As theologian D.A. Carson says, “The more Christians live in the consciousness of God’s presence on earth, the easier it is to anticipate the indescribable delight that will be experienced in God’s presence in heaven!” My friends, it was this reality that caused Helen to set her sights on her Lord, allowing her to see her suffering not as cost, but as privilege. May all believers live with that perspective.

Four Words Every Pastor Needs to Hear

Being a pastor is hard work. Much of what makes the pastorate so difficult is dealing with the many challenging issues people face in their lives. From marital struggles, to addictions, to significant health issues, to tragedies and heartaches of all kinds, and of course, to deep spiritual issues, the work of ministry never stops. As I was reminded this week, the calling to be a pastor is a demanding calling, one that is three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. It is never-ending, all-consuming work.

There are great rewards to the pastorate as well. In the ministry, pastors get to see marriages healed, addictions overcome, healing take place, new life come to families, lives restored, and most importantly, people giving their lives to Christ. There is nothing greater than celebrating the goodness and grace of God with the congregants in your church. Even though the work of ministry is never-ending and demanding, it is also filled with unbelievable benefits and joys.

Just a few weeks ago, I was having breakfast with a church member, which I often do, and this man and I were talking through a difficult issue he was having with another person in our church. Conflict in our church is rare, but it does happen, and when it does, I seek to help church members resolve it as soon as I am aware of it. This conflict was deep and sometimes with such deep conflict, people can take the easy road and just choose to leave the church. I, of course, did not want to see this happen. Every pastor is concerned about his church members, but pastors also recognize that they cannot force people to do what is right, and sadly, sometimes people just choose to leave. Having people leave your church for no good reason, especially without making attempts to resolve things, is very discouraging to pastors.

But, this man said something to me that really ministered to my heart. As we got started in the conversation, he said, “Now pastor, I just want you to know, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’” Did you catch those four words, “I’m not going anywhere?” He went on to say that he loves the Lord, his pastor, and the church too much to let anything cause him to leave. This was such a breath of fresh air to me, and knowing the desire of his heart made our conversation go much better. We talked, worked toward a resolution, and things are fine now between him and the person he was in conflict with, because they have resolved it.

As I reflected on my conversation with my friend, I did not realize how much four simple words would mean to me. Sometimes when I am unsure what a person will do, it creates anxiety and has the potential to make me approach things from a more defensive perspective, but when I know that a person is committed to the Lord, the church, and the church’s leadership, it is amazing the freedom it gives my heart. When two people are on the same team, they need to be on the same page, but if you are not sure you are on the same team, it is easy to never get on the same page. There is simply something refreshing and encouraging when you know, that no matter what, a person is not going anywhere. As in all relationships, when there is deep commitment and trust, those relationships will flourish and grow.

This week, out of the blue, send your pastor a message, whomever he is, and just say, “Hey pastor, I just want you to know, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’” These four words will encourage your pastor’s heart greatly. Now, do not just say them, really mean them. In good times, or bad times, and easy times, or challenging times, make sure your pastor hears these words from you, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Be About the Mission: A Good Follow Up to Easter

I recently went on a mission trip to New York City with twenty-nine students and adults from our church. Spring Break gave our team the incredible opportunity to serve the wonderful people of this great city. Our mission team spent much of our time in Queens, but was also blessed to see many of the other surrounding boroughs. 

 As I have reflected on the week and some of the great things God did on our trip, I realized that while New York City and Newcastle are very different, there are also some similarities when it comes to reaching people in both areas for Christ. Here are three simple, but critical, components of effective Christian living of which God reminded me:

 First, Christianity is relational. We worked with several different churches on our trip, most of which are relatively new churches. The pastors of these churches face the daunting task of reaching people in the most unreached city in America. We discovered that their approach has to be about building relationships with people in their communities. All of these communities are very diverse, and each presents the unique challenge of connecting with all different types of people.

 As I evaluated these churches and communities, I was reminded that whether you are in New York or Newcastle, it all comes down to building relationships with people right around you. When we walked on the streets of New York, there were many “street preachers,” shouting at people. While God can use anything and anyone, most people are turned off by such approaches. But, when we connect with people personally, there is greater receptivity to the Gospel. Christianity has always been about bringing people to Christ, and the best way to do that is by genuinely loving whomever God puts in our path and pointing them to the truth. Truly, the best way to reach the world for Christ is one person at a time.

 Secondly, Christianity is intentional. In order to build the relationships mentioned above, life must be approached with great purpose and intentionality. I was amazed at how these pastors approach their daily life. They are deliberate about everything. From where they shop, to where they eat, to where they live, and everything in between, they are highly intentional. When you are desperately trying to reach people, every conversation matters, and therefore, no opportunity can be wasted. This is how every Christian, no matter where you live, should approach life. As I often say at our church, “Life is too short to live accidentally. Christians must live intentionally.” As Christians, our approach every day, whether in New York or Newcastle, should be that everything we do matters. What if we approached life like that? What if we were intentional about every conversation we had? The impact would be significant. 

 Finally, Christianity is missional. The word missional means “to be on mission.” The last words Jesus gave His Church was to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” In short, be on mission. The consuming thought in every Christian’s mind every day should be the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Gospel consumes the mind, a missional life is sure to follow. 

 The mission is the most important part of the Christian life, but it must be approached with great relational and intentional attitudes. However, it does no good to be relational and intentional without the Gospel. All three of these things go together, and when put together, incredible opportunities to make a difference for Christ are created. Think of it like this: a missional Christian must be relational and intentional if they want to make an eternal difference. Let that thought seep into your heart and life. 

 If you are a Christian, how you are approaching your life? Are you on mission for Christ? Are you being relational and intentional? If not, what changes and adjustments do you need to make? Identify them and do what is necessary to be the person God wants you to be. This week, no matter where you are, seek to approach life with the right perspective. Pray for people. Love people. Point people to Jesus with your words and your actions. As you do this, watch how God uses you for His glory. Being on mission is both the greatest privilege and responsibility a Christian bears, and truly, the absolute best way to change the world for Christ is by living this way. Whether you are in New York or Newcastle, the approach remains the same: relational, intentional, and missional. This week and every week, let’s be on mission.

15 Reasons to Attend Easter at First Baptist Church of Newcastle

1. You will hear the Word of God preached verse by verse! No games, no half-truths, no gimmicks…just the truth!

2. You will see a church that is centered on the Gospel. We often say that the Gospel is what drives and unites us, and that will be evident when you visit. We never tire talking about who Jesus is and what He has done!

3. You will be challenged! There will be a call to action. Life is too short to sit in the stands. You will be called to get in the game and come make an eternal difference with us!

4. You will be welcomed! Not only will you be greeted at the door, but you will receive a nice gift with important information about the church!

5. You will be and feel safe! FBCN has an incredibly gifted security team. From the parking lot, to our state of the art check-in system for your children, you and your family will be safe!

6. You will be ushered into the presence of God through biblical, excellent, and moving music. You won’t get a concert or smoke and lights, but rather a meaningful time of worship of the one true God!

7. You will meet some of the most incredible people on the planet! The members of FBCN are amazing people: humble, gracious, passionate, servant-hearted, focused, loving, and so much more! You will enjoy the people you meet.

8. You will leave longing for more and be eager to come back! FBCN is not a “one and done” kind of church. You will experience God and want to come back again and again! We are not a hipster church that seeks to entertain. We are a biblical church that seeks to truly hear from God and connect with Him! You will want to come back to FBCN for the right reasons

9. You will see that we are a multi-generational church! FBCN has lots of children, youth, and adults of all ages! From little babies to senior adults, our church has a place for everyone.

10. You will meet the best church staff on the planet! Our ministry team loves Jesus and loves people. They work tirelessly for the Lord and you will love those God has called to lead out at FBCN!

11. You will see just how much is happening at FBCN every single week. Ministries and activities for all ages, as well as mission projects all over the world, are going on year-round at FBCN.

12. You will see a unified church that truly loves the Lord and one other! FBCN is family. We do not believe the church is a building, but rather a people, and we love being together.

13. You will see a church that is alive! In a day and age when so many churches are dead, you won’t find that at FBCN! From the moment you step foot on our campus, you will see life!

14. You will discover that FBCN is just a bunch of sinners saved by grace! Yes we have a lot of great things going on, but that’s only because we recognize who we are apart from Jesus and how much we need Him! If you’re imperfect, then you will fit in great at FBCN. We are just a bunch of imperfect people serving the one true perfect God!

15. You will see a church that has a vision to change the world! FBCN is not interested in wasting time or doing things we are capable of doing in our own strength. We walk by faith and believe that our sovereign God can absolutely change the world through His people. If you want to change the world, come help us do it one life at a time! As we often say, “True disciples make other disciples!”

We hope you will join us this Easter!

What I Learned When My Wife Left Me For Three Days!

A couple of weeks ago, my wife (Emily) and her sister went to visit their grandmother in Arizona. While this was a great opportunity for her, it presented a great challenge to me. What was the challenge? Being left to tend to six children, ranging in age from 15 years to 4 months, all by myself. The very thought of this overwhelmed me and still overwhelms me, even as I write this after it has already happened. If you are a woman reading this, do not throw the paper down, or call me a whiny baby just yet. Read the entire column and then decide your response.

As a pastor, I am very busy. I realize many people do not understand the demands placed on a pastor, but the pastorate is very demanding and never-ending work. I always say that being a pastor carries with it the greatest of all blessings, but also the greatest of all burdens. My wife helps me to be a successful pastor. She frees me up to do the things God has called me to. That means many early mornings, late nights, 24/7 accessibility, mission trips, etc. She has never once made me feel guilty or bad about answering the demands of the ministry. She handles much of the day-to-day stuff with the kids and truly allows me to focus on ministry. Do not get me wrong, I help in lots of ways at home, but she simply does so much I do not have time to do. I am beyond grateful for her.

As she prepared to leave for her trip, the challenges of ministry did not stop, but the added responsibilities mounted up, as I had to maintain my regular duties, as well as all the things she normally does. Let me just say this, while we survived without her, I would never want to have to do that on a consistent basis. I thought I knew all the things that Emily did, but there was a lot I did not know.

As I have reflected on the three days I had to be both “dad and mom,” here are a few things I learned from my wife’s absence:

First, moms are a true gift from God. God has wired women so differently than men. That unique design is essential to the health of the home. Dads can try to do what moms do and be what moms are, but it is clearly not the same. There is simply no substitute for the woman’s role in the home. Both my children and I saw firsthand how much we need Emily in our lives.

Second, parenting was never designed to be done alone. I have a great deal of respect for single parents and what they deal with on a daily basis, but we must remember how important it is for moms and dads to stay together. God has designed the marriage and the family in a special way, and both parents are needed. There are things I do that Emily cannot, and things she does that I cannot. Satan has attacked the family and continues to divide it. We must fight for our marriages and our homes and seek to follow God’s design for the family.

Third, ministry requires me to be gone much, as do many men’s jobs. I knew this, but was made glaringly aware of how hard it is for my wife when I am gone. This reality has caused me to be more selective with my travel, recognizing the burden it places on her. I have several upcoming trips, and will be more aware of how my absence affects her, and will be more conscious of encouraging her when I am gone.

Fourth, it is the little things that often go unnoticed, but are so essential to peace and harmony in the home. I normally do not think about the kids’ homework, lunches, laundry, etc. I was made aware of how many little things Emily does that I am unaware of, that simply keep things running smoothly at home. I will be more attentive as to how I can help and more encouraging to her because of what I have discovered.

Finally, and there are many other things I could say, but I was made aware of how much having my wife in my life makes me better in every way. The Bible says, “He who finds a good wife, finds a good thing.” I have found one and I am hanging on to her with all I have. Emily, if you are reading this, I love you and thank God greatly for you.

Three “Loves” to Avoid

Recently, I preached a message from Second Timothy about the danger of having “self” on the throne of your heart instead of God. As I studied for my sermon and preached it, God spoke some tremendous words of encouragement and warning into my own heart. Here are three loves all people should avoid.

First, we are to avoid the love of self. This is called narcissism, and a narcissistic person has the desire “to be.” The way Christians combat the love of self is with a denial of self. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” The antidote for narcissism is humility, which leads to a true love for God and others. Jesus said that the two greatest commands are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Second, we are to avoid the love of things. This is called materialism and a materialistic person has the desire “to have.” The way Christians combat the love of things is with the giving of self. Jesus said, “What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?” He was in essence saying, “You find your life as you give it away.” Narcissism and materialism often go hand in hand. When self is in the throne of the heart, a desire for things naturally follows. The antidote for materialism is generosity, which leads to a detachment from the things of this world and a proper focus on the eternal.

Finally, we are to avoid the love of pleasure. This is called hedonism, and a hedonistic person has the desire “to feel.” The hedonist says, “If it feels good, do it.” This is a dangerous way to live. A Christian does not seek pleasure, rather, they seek God, who is the source and supply of true pleasure. The way Christians combat the love of pleasure is with the control of self. As the writer of Proverbs said, “Guard your heart, for from it flows the issues of life.” The antidote for hedonism is integrity, which leads to a life of self-control and self-discipline.

In our day and age, the world is full of narcissistic, materialistic, and hedonistic people. What is needed are humble, generous people, who seek God and live lives of integrity. This week, do not let anything replace love for God in your heart. Crush the love of self, things, and pleasure by putting Christ and a genuine love for Him at the center of your heart. See you next week!

 

Ten Laws for Leaders

While I was preaching one time, I accidentally made a funny statement that my congregants will never let me forget. I made the profound statement, “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be hard!” Yes, I know, such tremendous wisdom in that statement. What I meant to say was, “If it was easy, everyone would do it,” but somehow those words did not come out of my mouth. The truth is, easy things are, well, easy, and if they weren’t easy, well, they would be hard.

This is the case with leadership. If leadership were easy, it wouldn’t be hard. In other words, leadership is not for the faint of heart and not everyone is a leader or can handle leadership. As I have been reflecting on leadership, there are ten things that mark true leaders:

First, leaders lead from the heart. A quality of every leader is that they have a passion to make a difference. True leaders take action and action comes from within.

Second, leaders see the big picture. One of the great differences between a leader and a follower comes down to how they see things. Leaders do not have the luxury of looking at things from one dimension. Leaders have to have vision, and vision comes from seeing the big picture.

Third, leaders surround themselves with people who compliment their weaknesses. All great leaders are aware of their shortcomings, and seek to not only make their weaknesses stronger, but also surround themselves with people who make them better. True leadership is never a one-man show, but rather the collective brilliance of a team.

Fourth, leaders do not compromise their integrity. Leaders lead with character and integrity. There might be shortcuts to the top, but if moral compromises are made to get there, it will be a short-lived mountain top experience. There is no substitute for integrity, and true leaders understand and live by that reality.

Fifth, leaders have thick skin. It is true that if you wear your feelings on your sleeve, you will never make it in leadership. Leaders must have passion, but cannot let their feelings dictate their responses to people or situations. True leaders will never make everyone happy, and understand that criticism and attack will always come with the territory.

Sixth, leaders make good and tough decisions. At the end of the day, someone has to make a decision. Leaders are not afraid to make decisions, or live with the consequences of their decisions. True leaders are not “off-the-cuff” gunslinger decision-makers, but rather make sound decisions that may not be the most popular, but are best for everyone involved.

Seventh, leaders train up other leaders. One of the best markers of a true leader is that they are always looking to duplicate themselves. True leaders make other leaders. The success of any organization should not die when a leader dies, rather, it should flourish because of all the other leaders that have been trained. A leader’s legacy is best seen by his influence on future leaders.

Eighth, leaders are self-motivated. No one has to motivate leaders. Leaders push themselves to be the best they can be. True leaders wake up looking for opportunities and seize them as they come forth.

Ninth, leaders do not quit leading. Much of leadership is about sheer endurance. It is one thing to have a vision, and a completely different thing to see a vision to completion. When everyone else wants to quit, a leader perseveres. When others only see impossibilities, leaders find a way. Leaders press on no matter what.

Tenth, leaders are servants and filled with compassion for those they lead. The greatest leader of all time was the Lord Jesus Christ. He poured His life into a small group of men who changed the world. Jesus was a leader, but He was also a servant and cares deeply for those He led. The best leaders in the world are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Leaders serve and make a difference as they lead by example. True leaders do not seek power, they seek to serve, and as they serve, they make a profound difference in the lives of those around them. Humility and service go hand in hand. Pride is often the deathnail of many in leadership. As the Scripture says, “Pride goes before a fall.” True leaders are humble servants who have genuine compassion for people. 

This week, seek to be a leader! There are plenty of followers in this world, and what is needed is leadership. Be one who leads from the heart and who leads by example.

Three Essential Qualities for Deeper Friendships

I recently began thinking about people in my life with which I spend quality time. As a pastor, I am always with lots of different people, but there are a few that I have noticed I am around more consistently. As I reflected on those people and relationships, it made me look at why I enjoy being around them so much. You would think it is because we are of the same age bracket, life stage, personality, and have common interests, but that is not the case with all of them. Yes, there are a few that I am very much alike, but there are some that are very different than me.

As I began to evaluate my “inner circle” of friends, I realized that what made me close to these individuals was not common interests or personality, or even age or life stage. What makes me want to be around these people is their character. In light of that, I discovered three qualities that my closest friends possess that make we want to have deeper and more meaningful friendships with them:

First, my closest friends enjoy talking about deeper things. Yes, we chit chat about life and have fun together, but there is a bond that causes us to talk more deeply. Everyone needs people in their life like this, but men especially need these kinds of deeper relationships with other men. For many guys, the extent of their friendships generally revolves around surface issues, and therefore they never experience the joy of true Christian brotherhood. Deeper friendships are formed when you open yourself up and learn how to talk about the more important things of life. My core friends make me want to be a better Christian, husband, father, and all-around person, and for that, I am immensely grateful!

Second, my closest friends have an eternal perspective. This might be the single most important quality I look for in people with which I want to develop a deeper friendship. Now, throughout my life, there have been people I have spent time with that often have petty issues they want to address from a temporal perspective. Approaching life like this tends to make people negative and spending time with such people is draining. Interestingly, I discuss both major and minor issues with my closest friends all the time, but we discuss them with an eternal perspective. My best friends are positive, hopeful, joyful encouragers. Do not get me wrong, we differ at times and sometimes differ greatly, but what keeps us close is the foundation of our friendship, which is a real relationship with Jesus Christ, causing us to think eternally. I love spending time with these men, because I know they are seeing things with the bigger picture in mind. This is a true blessing.

There are other things I could mention, but the final thing is that my closest friends live in a world of reality, not theory. Who would you rather go to battle with: Someone who has read about war, or someone who has actually been to war? I want to be with the guy who has been to war. There is nothing more frustrating to me than people who love to diagnose problems, but offer no solution to fix them. Anyone can identify an issue, but very few are willing to do whatever is necessary to fix it. I love being around problem-solvers. I love being around people who think outside the box and work creatively to accomplish a task. I often say that my favorite people in the world are those who are self-motivated, people who take initiative. My closest friends do not need me to motivate them. When we get together, we motivate each other just by being together. Every time I leave, I am refreshed and encouraged. Those kinds of friendships are absolutely irreplaceable.

Why did I share all this with you? Because we always need to be thinking about the kind of friend we are and the deeper friendships we want to develop. If you struggle to have meaningful friendships, take some time and do a little self-evaluation. Make sure you are willing to be the kind of friend you are looking for in others. Often times, the problem is not with others, it is with us. Ask the Lord to help you see your blind spots and weaknesses, and then work to be the kind of person that is helpful to others. I believe that healthy people attract healthy friends. Look back at the things I have mentioned above and ask: Am I just a surface person, or do I enjoy thinking and talking about meaningful things; do I approach this temporary life with an eternal perspective; and do I live in a real world, where I seek to be a part of the solution instead of the problem? This week, seek to be a good friend and choose your closest friends wisely.

This is how we change the world…

I think most people would agree that the world is not in good shape. All you have to do is turn on the television to see all the depravity running rampant in the world. What we are seeing is what happens when sin rules in the human heart. Evil is a result of the condition of the heart, and when the heart is controlled by sin, wickedness will follow.

The question then arises, “How do we change the world?” Someone might say, “With all the evil happening, is there any hope?” The answer to that is absolutely. As Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” The only way to overcome evil is with the life-altering, heart-transforming power of the Gospel. Sin can only be removed by the grace and forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ. In short, the world needs Jesus!

That all sounds fine and good, but how do we get the Gospel to a world that desperately needs it? The answer? God’s church, His people, must awaken and see the privilege and responsibility of taking Jesus to the world. The problem is two-fold: 1. Many Christians do not feel the burden to share the Gospel, and 2. Many Christians have never been trained to share the Gospel. The church must address these two issues if there will ever be change.

When it comes to feeling a burden for unbelievers, this begins with a heart change. Pastors and teachers of the Scripture must teach to penetrate the heart. Actions will never change if the heart does not change first. For a burden to be felt for the lost, Christians must get their hearts right with God. A Christian should love what God loves, and we know that God loves the people of the world!

Once a Christian’s heart is right, what should follow next is a passion to take the Gospel to others. Jesus said in Matthew 28, “Go into the all world and make disciples of all nations…teaching them all that I have commanded.” In other words, the way we change the world comes through people investing their lives in others for the explicit purpose of introducing them to Christ. 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Mature Christians need to disciple younger Christians so that they can lead people to Christ and begin teaching them to teach others. This is how we change the world…one life at a time! Simply put, we need disciples who make other disciples!

If you are a Christian, do you feel a burden for those who are not Christians? Do you feel a responsibility to pour your life into younger Christians? If no, why? If yes, look around and see who God has placed in your life and begin investing in them. Show Jesus with your life and share Jesus with your lips. This world will only change as Christians seek to make a difference in it, and that happens one person at a time. Together, we can change the world.

Tomorrow at FBC Newcastle, we will talk about this very thing and call one another to get busy making disciples! Join us on Sunday, February 14 at 8:15 or 11am if you can!

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