Church Pillars

Your PART in Prayer

We believe firmly in the power of prayer.  In fact, that is the third pillar in The Four Pillars of Harvest Bible Chapel.   We believe that God wants to hear from us.  We also believe that God answers prayer because we've seen Him answer them in so many amazing ways!  Whether we have been praying for years or we're new at praying, we can all improve in our relationship with the Lord through this wonderful means of communication.  There are really no formulas for talking to God, but when we 'order our prayers', as David says in Psalm 5:1-3, our alone time with God can be much more fruitful.   Ordering our prayers means that we should not just wonder aimlessly through our prayer time, but rather be organized in our thoughts as we talk to the Lord. 

You may have heard of the acrostic ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication).  This is a really good method to help us order our prayers!  What follows is a similar acrostic that I created that was helpful in our own family teaching time.  I called it ,"Our PART in Prayer".  Praise, Agreement, Requests and Thanks make up this acrostic, each component having some corresponding Bible references and also a sample of how we might pray.  

I hope you find this to be useful in your family and that it ignites a new flame of passionate prayer in your lives. 

PRAISE (Matthew 6:9, Psalm 145) 

God is worthy of my worship and adoration.  He loves to hear how much I love Him for who He is.  God never grows tired of hearing praises from His children.   I can praise God in my prayers by declaring His worth and greatness and majesty. 

"Lord, You are awesome and amazing.  You alone are holy and mighty and powerful.  There is no one like you, God.  All glory, honor and praise belongs to You, O Lord" 

AGREEMENT  (Proverbs, 28:13, 1 John 1:9) 

I need to regularly confess my sins to God in prayer.  Confessing is not telling God something he doesn't know.  He knows everything.   Confessing is actually telling God that I am in 'agreement' with Him about my sins.  I need to tell God about my specific sins.  Being specific is helpful in gaining victory over them.   

"Holy God, I am unworthy to come into your presence.  I have sinned against you.  I have spoken  in ways that are not pleasing to you and I have had a rotten attitude.  I have not trusted you and I  have not been content.   I have not loved You God, with all my heart.   I confess these things before you Lord because I know that you are a forgiving God and I need to be cleansed from my sins".

REQUESTS (James 4:2, Phil 4:6, Matthew 7:7) 

The Bible says 'we do not have because we do not ask'.   Our Heavenly Father wants to provide for me like an earthly father wants to provide for his own children (only infinitely more so!).   I should tell God what my needs are.  These could be material needs, spiritual needs or health concerns.  I can also make requests on behalf of others too.   After I make requests of God, then I should eagerly watch and wait expectantly to see how God will answer. 

"Heavenly Father, because I am totally dependent upon you, I ask for your help in many things. I haven't felt well this week and I need your healing touch in my life. I have a test at school tomorrow; please help me to understand and recall everything I've learned.  I need your help in resolving a personality conflict at work.  I have a friend who lost his job.  Please provide for his  family's every need".

THANKS (Psalm 100:4, Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18) 

Telling the Lord how thankful I am is so very important, regardless of the circumstances I may find myself in.  I should not only thank Him for the good things in life, but also for the difficulties and trials.  Because I am utterly dependent upon God for absolutely everything, showing my appreciation and gratitude is well pleasing to Him.  Thankfulness glorifies the Lord!

"Thank you, Lord, for all you are and all you have done.  I am so grateful for the gift of your Precious Son who purchased my salvation on the cross.  Thank you for how you always provide  for me:  my food, my clothes, my house, my family.  Thank you so much for the stability in my life and for the people who care about me.  Thank you even for the hard times I am going through because I know that you will teach me something through it”.

Dead to Sin!

One of the most encouraging passages in the Bible about having victory over sin is found in Romans 6:2.  The Apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question, "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (NASB). If we're a blood-bought believer in Christ, having confessed and forsaken our sins, and surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ, then we DIED to sin. To continue in it would be unthinkable!

The phrase "died to sin" refers an act or event that happened once in the past and is now completed.   We died to sin the moment we placed our faith in Jesus Christ.  Because of His finished work on the cross, the reign of sin has been crushed in our lives and replaced by the reign of grace.  The cords of the enemy that held us in bondage were broken and we were set free. This is fantastic news! 

Dying to sin does not mean that we are perfectly sinless now.  Even despite our heightened vigilance against sin and temptation, we will still continue to succumb to our human nature and commit sin.  But what this passage is saying is that sin does not have a death grip on us anymore. This means that we are no longer slaves of sin.  We are no longer under sin's dominion. Sin no longer controls us. The sin that once terrorized us and defeated us has been rendered powerless in our lives.  When sin controlled us, we had no option but to sin.  Sin was our master, and slaves must obey their masters. But things are different now!  We have a different Master!   

Yes, we're going to sin. We are going to blow it. We're going to stumble and fall sometimes.  But when this happens, we confess, repent and get back up. Why?! Because we died to sin.  Sin doesn't reign over us anymore, God's grace does.

Top Ten Things You Always Need to Remember About Evangelism

Nothing fires me up like evangelism. By no means is that a commentary on me. That is just what God has put in me. I love to tell the story of Jesus, I love to wrestle through tough questions with skeptics, I love seeing the lights come on when it seems like someone is beginning to understand. Love love love love it.

And I have since 1995. Christ changed me so radically, that I remember praying to God and saying, “I just want to tell everyone about you.” And in an act of magnificent grace, He has given me the opportunity to be in ministry and do just that.

So not only do I get fired up about evangelizing, I get fired up about encouraging God’s people in evangelism. In preparing for last Sunday’s message, I went through some evangelism notes on courses I have taught in the past - 97 pages of notes! All that to say: the sermon could have been much longer!

I am not quite ready to get off the topic just yet. If you are born again, you are Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). You represent Jesus, who He is and what He is about, to your family, friends, coworkers, enemies… everyone you come into contact with! And as it is on your heart to be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ, allow me to put a PS on Sunday’s message by sharing some encouraging principles of evangelism:

  1. Evangelism is most often a process, not a sudden event. Generally, the Holy Spirit works over time in a person’s life. When someone actually receives the Gospel, there is usually much that precedes that, both in circumstances and other believers. (1 Corinthians 3:1-11)
  2. Evangelism must begin with a holy lifestyle. 1 Peter 2:12 says Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

    The “day of visitation” means the day God shows up to save them! But notice how Peter encourages us to make sure our conduct displays we are authentic followers of Christ, because that is what is going to attract people!

  3. Evangelism is especially effective when strong relationships are built. I am all for sharing the Gospel with strangers. (I was a stranger to the person who shared the Gospel with me!) However, once a relationship is established based on mutual love and trust, the foundation is laid for that person to really hear what you are wanting to share.
  4. Apologetics (evidence and reasoning to defend the faith) is critically important in penetrating the skepticism of many people today. Some people have “studied” enough to learn a few “objections” that they believe have no answer. (I have a short list of these, another blog, perhaps?) Learn the answers, respectfully give them, and learn to ask questions of your own!
  5. Once a person sincerely checks out Christianity, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll discover the truth about God. That is, according to God (Proverbs 2:1-5, Jeremiah 29:13). Be encouraged. God is faithful to make this happen.
  6. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. Again, be encouraged. Your job is to tell the story, God does the heavy lifting as He is the only one that can work on a person’s heart. (John 16:7-11)
  7. Nobody wants to be your “project”. People can sense your motives. Love people, but don’t make them your “project”, that is, “Getting this guy to go to church is at the top of my bucket list.” Loving someone doesn’t have an end-goal of making them feel obligated to you.
  8. There is no substitute for prayer. Pray big things. You are not alone in this work, you are partnering with the Almighty Sovereign of the Universe. (James 5:16)
  9. Many times unchurched people are willing to visit a church if they are invited by a friend. Reminder from Sunday: just invite people. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs is an invite to church. And make sure your Pastor is preaching the Gospel. That’s important.
  10. The church must objectively examine how they will be perceived by an unchurched visitor – without altering the message! Many people have bad thoughts toward the church in general, whether it is from a previous personal experience or an experience heard about second-hand. The church must be ready to love, welcome, and accommodate everyone who comes through the door - without prejudice or a spirit of judgment.

Many people are intimidated about witnessing to someone. Don't be! Let it be natural and authentic. Pray, love people, and take every opportunity God gives you to encourage someone one step closer to Jesus.

p.s. - Is just a nobody telling everybody about Somebody that can save anybody.

Cut and Paste!

Last Sunday's message was very important to me, and it should be important to you. 

If you missed it, or heard it but completely forgot it, I was sharing from God's Word the mission of the church. Read the end of every Gospel account - none of them end with "And they all lived happily ever after..." or "And then Jesus said, 'Look me up when you get to heaven.'"

They all end with a command, a charge, marching orders... the mission. Actually, the Great Commission. Go make disciples. Jesus gave the church one thing to do, and sometimes it seems like the church just can't get around to it. 

I wanted to cut and paste a couple of portions of the message. Why? Because many of our people were out of town for holiday. And because if we stop focusing on the mission, we will soon be off-mission!

Here is what the Bible says the early church was doing: 

Acts 2:42-47 - And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. 

And if Luke chronicled the activity of the church today, it would look quite different. I suggested it would look like this.

Acts 2:42-47, version 2013 - And they devoted themselves to the cute pep talks and the potlucks, to the secular music to be culturally relevant and the talking about prayers. And indifference came upon every soul, and many creative gimmicks were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and occasionally felt badly for people in need. And they were hoarding their possessions and belongings and closed their ears to the needs of all, as any had need. And occasionally, when absolutely nothing else was going on, attending the temple together and hoping no events were asked to be held in their own homes, they received their food with ungrateful hearts, pretending to bepraising God and having favor with all the people they preferred to be around. And the Lord added to their numberoccasionally those who were being bored

God, rekindle the fire in us that the early church had. Passion for the things you are passionate about. On task for one thing: making disciples. 

I also shared the story of the Life Saving Station. I hardly ever use stories like this in a sermon, but it is such a great metaphor for the church:

On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew. 

Some members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as sort of a club. 
Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club’s decorations, and there was a miniature lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held. 

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. 

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities, since they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did. 

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Getting back to the mission - and the why and how - is our focus this month. Come and join us!

p.s. - This mission, if you choose to accept it...