Think the Word
June 11, 2009 · Print This Article
by Paul Ruzinsky
Resurrection Life Church, Newaygo
Doubt despairs, complains, and is sad. Faith rejoices, gives thanks, and is glad. During a trial, which one sounds more like you? To deal with a trial successfully, you need to walk in faith, not in doubt. And to walk in faith, you need to make yourself meditate on the Word of God. In the middle of a trial, meditating on the Word and making yourself pray doesn’t come naturally. However, meditating on God’s Word is the way to keep in faith, and not in doubt. It also helps you to keep taking your thoughts captive, to keep from reeling your cares back in once you’ve cast them onto the Lord and to cut the line.
I love the Old Testament story of Joshua. Talk about an opportunity to get into doubt! Joshua was about to take the place of Moses, the greatest leader who ever lived. Moses experienced the burning bush, faced down Pharaoh, and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea parted. Moses met God on Mount Sinai. Moses received the Ten Commandments. Then, Joshua was supposed to step into his shoes (sandals) and carry on, leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.
Joshua must have been under some pressure to figure out how to follow an act like Moses, but the Lord ministered to him and helped him out. First the Lord told him, “Be strong and very courageous,” (Joshua 1:7). That’s great advice for anyone facing a trial. Keep up your strength and courage, because the Lord is with you! Then the Lord instructed Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
In other words, the Lord told Joshua to meet the challenges ahead by doing a couple of vitally important things. One thing was to make sure the Book of the Law-God’s Word-did not depart from his mouth. He needed to speak God’s Word continuously. You and I need to do the same when we’re challenged…speak the Word all the time. You don’t speak the trial, you don’t speak what you’re facing, you speak the Word of God.
The other thing was to meditate on the Word day and night, so that he and the people could be careful to observe it and do all that was written there. Again, you and I need to do the same. If you base your thoughts and actions on what the Word of God says, you’ll know how to deal successfully with whatever challenges come your way. That’s exactly what the Lord promised in Joshua 1:8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
The word prosperity here doesn’t mean money; the word prosperity means, success in all things. Going through life’s challenges with prosperity and success in all things sounds good to me! The Lord gave Joshua detailed instructions on how to be prosperous while facing huge challenges. But notice, the Lord didn’t tell Joshua, “I will make your way prosperous.” The Lord said, “This is how you will make your way prosperous-you meditate in the Book of the Law day and night . . .” It’s what Joshua chose to meditate on-and what we choose to meditate on-that could mean the difference between success and failure, between faith and doubt, in a trial.
Check out at what times the Lord told Joshua to meditate on His Word: day and night. When you’re dealing with a challenging situation, what two key times does Satan use to attack us? When does he try the hardest to fill our minds with fear, doubt, and unbelief? You guessed it-the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night!
As soon as you wake up in the morning, Satan tries to put dread in your heart so that your whole day starts off wrong. He tries to put despair in your heart, right from the start, so that no matter what God tries to bring you for the day, you won’t be willing to receive it. He doesn’t want you to receive any of God’s encouragement and instruction, because he doesn’t want you to come through your trial successfully!
So in times of trial, I like to wake up in the morning and start the day worshiping the Lord. I speak out the Scriptures that I confess on a daily basis. I pray for other people and make myself think about others instead of about my trial. I keep up my daily routine of praying for others, praying for the church, praying for those who are dealing with sickness, and praying for those who are dealing with poverty. Then I start confessing God’s Word over other people. Why? Because when I petition heaven for others, I quit focusing on me. They say if you’ve got problems, one of the best ways to fight depression is to reach out and help somebody else. That’s true! So first I pray for others, then I meditate on Scriptures dealing with the promises I need for the trial I’m going through.
I’m not about to let Satan dictate the course of my day right from the start (or at any other time), and I’m not about to let a trial dictate the course of my day either. I let God’s Word and God’s promises dictate the course of my day, trial or no trial! If I’m in faith, no matter what the trial is bringing, I’m looking to the answer. That way, Satan can’t get to my emotions or my joy or any other part of me, because I’m meditating in God’s Word right from the start, and all day long.
The other time Satan attacks is when you lie down to sleep at night. Where does your mind go? It will try to picture a disaster coming, especially if you’re in a trial. Whatever your trial might be, Satan tries to make you plant a seed in your mind so that at night you’re dreaming about your trial. If you’re in financial trouble, Satan wants you to fall sleep with a picture of complete poverty in your mind. He’ll show you a snapshot of yourself dressed in filthy rags, begging on a street corner. If it’s a trial in your relationships, he wants you to picture yourself growing old all alone, without a friend in the world. If it’s a trial in your health, he wants you to picture yourself emaciated in a hospital bed with tubes running everywhere, and then in a casket. If you allow your mind to run away with negative thoughts at night, Satan will run you a slide show full of all kinds of sorry mental pictures of yourself. You’ll go to sleep despairing about where your trial is taking you, and it won’t be anywhere good!
At night, meditate in the Word of God instead. This is great habit even when you’re not going through trials. Take in the Word before you go to sleep so that your mind is set on thinking and dreaming about the things of God. This will build your faith and make you doubt-proof in a trial. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” right? (See Rom. 10:17.) So tell yourself the Word of God at night, and picture yourself coming through your trial successfully. Picture the ways God could move to make your trial work out for your good. Picture God’s promises coming to pass in your life so that you have prosperity and good success. Joshua 1:8 says that that’s the result of meditating in the Word day and night and doing what it says. Some people think, Man, I don’t know if I need to be that radical, meditating in the Word day and night, all the time! If that’s their mindset, they’re a lukewarm or casual Christian-and probably not very successful at dealing with trials. God says that lukewarm believers make Him puke. That’s not my translation, that’s the literal Greek translation. I don’t want to make God vomit when he thinks about me! I don’t want to be a casual Christian in any way!
Casual Christianity isn’t much help in a trial anyway, and lukewarm Christians are a hindrance to the Body of Christ. That’s why God says, “You’re not cold, you’re not hot-far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit” (Rev. 3:15-16, nlt). A lot of unbelievers aren’t Christians today because they’ve seen lukewarm Christians in action (or inaction). They don’t see the victory in lukewarm Christians’ lives, and they don’t see them getting a handle on their troubles. It makes unbelievers think, Why would I want to be a Christian like that? It’s not doing anything for them, and being like them isn’t going to do anything for me! Meditating in God’s Word transforms your life from the inside out and that will attract unbelievers as they see you dealing with trials, and getting victory.
As Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The only way you’ll be transformed is by the renewing of your mind. The only way you’ll know the perfect will of God is by renewing your mind. You have to make the effort to renew your mind in the Word so that you think like heaven thinks. Renewing your mind is a key to learning how to deal with trials. Also, you don’t want to go into culture shock when you get to heaven, because they do things so differently than we do here on earth. You’re better off learning to think like heaven now. It’ll do you good now and later.
Excerpt from Pastor Paul’s book titled “Deal With It, When Life Deals You a bad Hand – Play to Win!”
May 28, 2009 · Print This Article
The first thing we need to do to deal with a trial successfully-and I guarantee that you probably won’t feel like doing it-is to make ourselves pray. We need to follow Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
In the first part of this Scripture Paul says, “Don’t be anxious!” But what’s the first thing we do when a trial hits? We become anxious. We worry, and we ask ourselves, How’s this ever going to work out? I just can’t see how God can come through this time! I don’t know if I’ll make it. The more anxious we feel, the more we worry, and the more we worry, the more anxious we feel. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t do us any good. It doesn’t solve anything, either!
Instead of feeling anxious, wouldn’t it be amazing to have the peace of God guarding your heart and mind? You can have that peace even in the middle of a trial, because that’s what happens when you pray in faith. Bring your requests to God with a thankful, trusting heart-then the peace of God can come in.
A thankful heart, you might think? Who’s crazy enough to be thankful for a trial? Nobody I know! But Paul didn’t mean we should be thankful for everything-he meant we should be thankful in everything. There’s a difference.
Nobody is thankful for someone they love getting sick or for something they’ve worked for falling apart or for some huge financial problem coming their way. As a believer, though, you can be thankful in the middle of any of these things-even if what you’re facing is the worst trial of your life.
I always underline, circle, and highlight the words “with thanksgiving” in Philippians 4:6 to remind myself that no matter what I face, I can be thankful in it. I’m thankful that when I endure, I learn how to be strong and draw closer to God. In spite of facing the worst of trials, you and I can pray, “Lord, thank You that Your Word is true and that You are more than enough to get me through this (Ephesians 3:20). Thank You that You always lead me in triumph, that You make me more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), and that I’m the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13). Thank You for the things You’re teaching me about how to deal with major challenges!”
Trials are a great time to know who you are in Christ. Knowing who you are in Christ helps you be able to give thanks even in a bad spot. Because of who I am in Christ, I know that trials are places I go through, not places I set up camp. I know that trials are temporary. And I know that God will lead me into a better place beyond the trial than the place I was in before it came. But first, I need to make myself pray. I need to deal with the trial correctly, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.
Cast Your Cares and Cut the Line
First Peter 5:7 is a great Scripture to follow when you’re praying in a trial. It says you ought to be “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (italics added). The first instance of the word care here comes from a Greek word meaning all your worries, all your anxieties, and all your fears. Cast all of those onto the Lord, for He cares for you. That second cares is from a different Greek word that means to tend to or minister to, the way a doctor or nurse cares for a patient. Patients who can’t take care of themselves need a doctor or a nurse to help them. The doctor or nurse tends to them and tries to get them back to a place where they are healed and can function well again. Another example would be if you were carrying a heavy load and you were able to cast that load onto a horse or a mule. Then you wouldn’t be carrying it anymore.
That’s exactly what God wants to do for you. At the time of trial, He says, “Don’t worry, I’m here. I’m your Great Physician. I’m the One who will tend to your needs. Whatever your struggle, give it to Me and I’ll minister to you.” When you follow 1 Peter 5:7, strength comes into your life because strength comes from the Lord. God will “grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
You can be honest with God when you pray. Tell Him how you feel. I’ve done that. I’ve prayed, “Lord, this trial…it’s got my emotions. It’s got my mind, and it’s got me worried. I don’t know what to do! But Lord, I give it to You because I need Your direction. I need Your help.” I’ve had to truly give my emotions over to Him before I could start to pray with thanksgiving, “Lord, I thank You that You’re going to help me and You’re going to speak to me because Your sheep hear Your voice.”
Truly give it all over to Him-be gut-level honest about your worries, anxieties, and fears. Once you do that, the Lord can minister to you. He’ll strengthen you, give you wisdom and guidance, and guard your heart and mind with peace.
You don’t want to hang on to things and try to work them out all by yourself, without giving them to the Lord. If you do that in a trial, then you’re on your own without God’s help or peace. You’ll have plenty of care and anxiety to keep you company, but they are poor company to keep! Better to cast them off, as 1 Peter 5:7 says.
The Greek word for cast in that verse means to literally throw off. Casting is not gently tossing something aside-it’s throwing that thing as far away as you possibly can. That’s the literal meaning of casting your cares onto the Lord-throwing them as far away from yourself as you can and letting God handle them.
Casting your cares can be hard because your mind wants to keep reeling those suckers back in. Your mind wants to keep dwelling on them, and the devil wants you to keep stressing over them. You need to just get rid of them once and for all! How do you do that? Practice your casting technique. It’s not automatic. It’s part of our human sin nature to worry, become anxious, and dwell on the negative, but you need to train yourself to cast your cares onto the Lord and leave them there.
Have you ever watched anybody learn to cast a fishing line? They toss the line out a little way, then reel it back in, then toss it out a little farther, then reel it back in, over and over again. Eventually, if they stick with it, they become experienced fishermen who can throw a line halfway across the river and place it just where they want it on the first cast. Then they can leave it there, in the perfect spot, without having to cast over and over again.
You need to practice the same technique, mentally casting your cares off, onto the Lord, and then leaving them there, in the perfect spot for them. With practice, you’ll become experienced enough that you’ll deal with your anxieties this way every time you face a trial. And once you’ve got it down, take it a step farther than the fishermen. Cut your line and let those cares float on downstream without you! Then you won’t be tempted to reel them back in again.
Capture Your Thoughts
Practice 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Whenever a thought like, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this, crosses your mind, take it captive to the obedience of Christ. Renew your mind by replacing your thoughts with God’s thoughts. In every trial ask yourself, What does God’s Word say about this situation?
You already know several things His Word says: Be anxious for nothing, present your requests with thanksgiving (make yourself pray!), cast all your cares on the Lord, and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. By doing these things, you’ll establish the mental focus you’ll need for the duration of the trial.
Make a commitment to follow these words from the Word and whatever else God shows you. Decide that these thoughts-God’s thoughts-are the only thoughts you’ll dwell on in regard to your trial. Remember, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Excerpt from Pastor Paul’s book titled “Deal With It, When Life Deals You a Bad Hand – Play to Win!”
Preach the Word
May 14, 2009 · Print This Article
by Pastor David Ferranti
Senior Pastor, Bay Valley Christian Church
As pastors, we need to evaluate the preaching of the Word in our churches. Looking at Paul’s four instructions to Timothy, he says “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT). Let’s focus on the last instruction Paul gave Timothy: Fully carry out the ministry God has given you. Across the centuries, a consensus has emerged among theologians that all the vital duties of the pastor(s) of a local church can be reduced to three items: Word, Sacrament, and Discipline. As we focus on the Word, keep in mind a faithful pastor will present God’s Word three ways: explanation, revelation, and the prophetic.
The Explained Word
The first time in scripture that we see a man stand behind a pulpit to read and discuss the Word of God is in Nehemiah 8:1-3. “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” This is amazing to me. Ezra stood from morning until midday reading the Bible and that whole time the people were attentive. Not only that, but the leaders had to send the people away. They didn’t even desire to go! Why? Because the Word was being given with explanation and the people were listening intently. As Dr. Ken Chant author of Building the Church God Wants and pastor in Sydney, Australia says, “The poorest speaker can be lifted to eloquence if he is faced by an enthusiastic and attentive audience. We preachers need to teach our people how to be devout hearers of the Word of God, rather than listening to clever sermons. It is substantially our own fault that the people have “itching ears”, and only want to hear “good” preachers. We have exalted the preacher above the pulpit; the messenger above the message; the worker above the Word. The people must learn, not just to hear a sermon, but to listen for the voice of God.”
The Revealed Word
The second part of the pastor’s duty lies in bringing his people the revealed Word of God. In Ephesians, Paul is praying for the people in the churches he’s founded. He prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:17-19). Paul wanted the people’s spiritual eyes to be opened so that they would not merely have knowledge of God and His Word, but also revelation of them. When we go beyond knowledge of the scriptures into a revelation of them, we understand the power we can operate in and the great calling we have through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Prophetic Word
The last way a faithful pastor presents God’s Word is through the prophetic. In other words, we need to seek God for the strategy He has for our church. One thing is true about the Lord, He seldom repeats a strategy. Therefore what may work for one church may not be the same for another. We must seek God for His fresh strategy for our church. And over time, the strategy may change. Take Israel for example. As they marched through the wilderness toward the Promised Land, they had many battles to fight in order to capture the territory. Before going into each battle, they sought the Lord for His strategy. And when they sought the Lord and followed His plan, they had the victory. It is the same for us. If we will seek the Lord for His plan, we will see the victory in our church and in our community.
In conclusion, I encourage us as the Church to take the Word of God seriously. We need to be a people who are attentive to His word and attentive to His voice.
Reference: Building the Church God Wants by Dr. Ken Chant
Stand Up and Fight!
April 30, 2009 · Print This Article
by Pastor David Ferranti
Senior Pastor, Bay Valley Christian Church
There are times when out of nowhere, we get blindsided with trouble. The source of this trouble can be our flesh, the world, or even the devil himself. When the enemy comes in like a flood, God wants us to raise up a standard against him. Many times, we respond to this pressure in our normal, usual way that doesn’t avail much. But God has provided us instructions to overcome in these trials. As Ephesians 6:10-18 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
In order to stand up and fight, we need to discern the source of the attack. An attack could be from our flesh, the world, or the devil. We must recognize enemy involvement, reject the world system, repent of known sin, and submit to Christ’s lordship.
Discerning the Source:
I. The Flesh
Mark 7:20-23 “He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
II. The World
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
James 4:4 “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
III. The Devil
John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
As Christians, we need to understand and learn to recognize the tactics of the tempter “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Ask the Lord to sharpen your discernment. Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Build authoritative prayer into your lifestyle. Prayer should not be a last-minute combative move against the enemy.
A good swimmer will tell you when the waves get rough, dive into the waves because you can’t outrun them. This is true in our walk with the Lord. The attacks will come. We cannot outrun them. But we don’t have to let the waves of life push us down and drown us. Dive in. Stand up and fight! Put on the amour of God!
In closing, I want to encourage you to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Stand up to your flesh! Stand up to the influence of the world! And stand up to the devil! Tell him to get behind you. He is defeated by the blood of Jesus Christ. In the end, we win!
Add Orthopraxy to Your Orthodoxy
April 16, 2009 · Print This Article
by Pastor Duane G. Vander Klok
Senior Pastor, RLC Grandville
Learning is fantastic. Along with reading the Bible every day, I always read some other book from which I can learn something new. My wife, Jeanie, and I are often in the middle of several books at once, and we like to read them aloud to each other and discuss them. We want to be lifelong learners who keep growing all the time.
Do you know the difference between a lifelong learner and a lifelong student, though? A lifelong student is always signing up for another class, another semester, but he or she never graduates. Lifelong students can wind up being long on academics but short on application. They seldom get around to applying what they’ve learned to a real job in the real world.
Some Christians get the two learning styles mixed up and wind up short on application, too. You’ve probably heard the phrase “so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.” That describes Christians who have become lifelong students-always reading and talking about spiritual things, always listening to new audio teachings and watching Christian television for hours every day-but never applying the sound spiritual principles they learn about to daily life. Often what they talk about and say they believe doesn’t line up with what you see them doing.
That’s called talking the talk. Anyone can learn how to talk the talk. It’s easy to speak “Christianese” and sound super spiritual. But what Jesus really wants us to do is walk the walk. He did not come simply to give us academic information. He is not impressed at all if you and I know all the right answers on a theology test. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew all the right answers-they just weren’t doing the right things.
Jesus doesn’t just want you to know something. Jesus said His teaching would not benefit you at all if you knew it but didn’t do it! Jesus wants you to do something with what you hear, and by doing that to become something, an effective witness and worker for the Kingdom of God.
The Christian life is not about knowing some facts, although knowing the facts is good. It is important to have your facts straight about God and His ways. That’s what orthodoxy is. The Greek word ortho means correct or straight (for example, an orthopedic surgeon corrects problems with your bones). Dox comes from the Greek word for thinking. To have sound orthodoxy, we need to think correctly about God.
Studying God’s Word, the Bible, helps us know God better and develop sound thinking about Him. In fact, Joshua 1:8 says to meditate on God’s Word “day and night,” but that’s not just so you’ll know the facts. It’s so that “you may observe to do according to all that is written in it” (nkjv).
That’s what the Christian life is truly about-doing what God said. In other words, you need to put some orthopraxy behind your orthodoxy. The Greek word praxis means action, or more specifically putting your beliefs into practice. So orthopraxy is correct living-having your lifestyle line up with your words. It’s putting your money where your mouth is spiritually, so to speak, and practicing what you preach.
Jesus was an expert at orthopraxy. When He walked the earth, He was a Man of action. Yes, He taught about the Kingdom of God. Everywhere He went, “people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority” (Luke 4:32, nlt). He was often called Teacher or Master in the Gospels, yet He was not a sort of ancient religion professor. He didn’t teach on the subject of religion; He taught on the subject of life.
Jesus went far beyond teaching, though. He was long on application-He applied Kingdom principles to everything He did, and He showed us how to live productive, fulfilled lives that make a difference in this world and the next. John wrote in his Gospel, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, nkjv).
Imagine, Jesus was such a Man of action that there wouldn’t be enough room in the whole world to contain a written account of all the things He did! Think about how He saved you. You were not saved by a philosophy or a religious idea or a teaching; you were saved by Jesus’ actions. He came as a real baby born in a real manger to a real woman. He suffered a real crucifixion with real nails driven through His flesh into a real cross. He really was buried, and on the third day He really rose again. It took real action on His part to save you-that’s what He came to do, not just preach about.
Walking out our Christianity in the real world takes real action on our part, too. We cannot confine it to the few hours a week we might spend in church or the few minutes a day we might spend reading the Bible. That’s not how it works, yet all kinds of people compartmentalize their spiritual lives. They say, “I have a religious side. I believe in God! I pray, I go to church (never miss a Christmas or Easter), I sing, and I even write checks to the church! I keep up on my religion, but it doesn’t take over my whole life.”
People who say that usually mean they keep up on their duties or obligations to a denomination they’re part of, and that’s as far as their spiritual life reaches. I think that’s the attitude Jesus was talking about when He said, “Why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, nlt). He meant for you and me to reach the world, not confine our Christianity within the walls of a church. He wants to be Lord of your whole life, not just the “church” part!
The Christian life is about totally surrendering with all abandon to Jesus in every single area of your life. That’s how it will make a difference in your life, and how you will make a difference in the lives of others. Remember the story of Jonah and the big fish? Jonah learned the hard way to surrender in every area.
God is the best communicator in the universe, and He gave Jonah very clear instructions about what to do. The first words in the first chapter of Jonah say, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me’ (Jonah1:1-2, nkjv). But instead, Jonah decided to flee from the presence of the Lord.
You already know that’s not going to work well, right? God tells Jonah to go one direction, and he goes the exact opposite. Running from God didn’t work for Jonah, and it won’t work for us either. You cannot get away from God, but Jonah still tried. He headed to Joppa, found a ship bound for Tarsus, and got on board. Jonah went down into the lowest parts of the ship, laid down, and went to sleep.
Whenever you or I run from what God is telling us, we wind up going the same direction as Jonah-down, down, down! That’s the only direction you can go when you’re not living the spiritual life God wants you to live or doing what God told you to.
God didn’t say anything else to Jonah right away. He sent a terrible storm, though, that threatened to sink the ship. That got everyone’s attention. The sailors cast lots to see who was responsible for the storm, and the lot fell to Jonah. When they questioned him, he admitted he booked passage to flee from the presence of the Lord. As soon as he said that, his shipmates were “exceedingly afraid” (Jonah 1:10). Even hardened sailors knew running from God sounded like a bad plan! So they threw Jonah overboard to calm the sea.
Throwing Jonah overboard worked for them, but not for him. God had a big fish swimming alongside to swallow Jonah whole. And again Jonah went down-down into the belly of the fish, then down into the depths of the sea. He finally hit bottom and cried out to God, and that’s when things started looking up again. The fish spit him out alive on dry land, and God started speaking to him again.
If Jonah hoped God would say something new or different the second time around, though, he was mistaken. God didn’t open a huge theological discussion about Jonah’s sin and repentance or rehearse the important reasons someone needed to take His message to Nineveh. Look what God told Jonah: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:1-2).
God gave Jonah the exact same instructions the second time around, and Jonah found out that it’s not about picking and choosing what you want to do for God. Walking with God means unconditional surrender and obedience to Him-24/7.
The same goes for you and me. If God put something on your heart and you’re not doing it, then you’re running the opposite direction. There’s nowhere to go from there but down, down, down like Jonah into a deep, dark, and no doubt awful place. That’s why when someone seems spiritually in the dark and says things like, “I just can’t hear from God” or “I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is telling me to do,” I ask them if they did the last thing God told them. God won’t give you or me a new or different set of instructions if we haven’t obeyed the last thing He told us.
The Christian life is not about selective hearing, and it’s not about feelings, either. Many Christians make that mistake by making Jesus their “drug of choice.” They want to go from spiritual high to spiritual high, always seeking a newer, bigger experience with God in prayer or worship. And afterward, they ask, “Wow, did you feel the Holy Spirit moving? It felt like we’d be raptured any minute!”
Experiencing God is awesome, and while such times are special, they’re not what Christianity is all about. I think our Western culture has been more influenced by the drug culture of the sixties than we realize. In some Christian circles you’re considered spiritual only if you go from high to high in prayer or worship, yet what you’re doing with your life and time to advance the Gospel outside those highs is a poor second. Nobody who lives on the mountaintop all the time will get much work done in the valley. Accomplishing anything eternal for the Kingdom takes work. Jesus just isn’t a drug of choice you use for a boost whenever you need Him, and you can’t inject some Scripture verses into your life in a crisis or when you want a blessing, and then forget to obey God’s Word the rest of the time.
Living for the Kingdom means laying down your life. You forgive when you’re wronged, you love your spouse (lovable or not), work hard for your employer, serve your church, fast, pray, give, and have compassion for the poor, the lost, and the broken . . . You don’t live by feelings or experiences. You walk out your Christianity 24/7 and build your life on the Rock, not the sand.
Sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? Think about laying your towel on the sand at the beach. The sand is nice and comfortable; it conforms to your shape. When you get up, your imprint remains. If you lay your towel on a rock, though, when you get up, you’re dented. You conform to the shape of the rock, not the other way around. Rock is solid and immoveable, so wise builders build their house upon the rock, not the sand.
Jesus talked about that in Luke 6:47-49: “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great” (nkjv, italics added).
Jesus was saying that to build a solid Christian walk, we need to both hear and do what He says. We need to add some orthopraxy to our orthodoxy and combine some right living with our right-sounding words. As I said earlier, orthodoxy certainly has its place. Psalm 119:15 says, “I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways” (nlt). Continually understanding more about God’s ways is vital-yet we don’t stop there.
Moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxy is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the walk lines up with the talk. As Psalm 119:34 goes on to say, “Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions, I will put them into practice with all my heart.”
The Family Channel
April 2, 2009 · Print This Article
by Pastor David Ferranti
Senior Pastor, Bay Valley Christian Church
“How do we raise a ‘G’ rated family in an ‘R’ rated world?” I believe it is very do-able, but certain principles and practices must be put into place in order to develop a happy, holy, and humble home.
Think back with me for a moment to how media has changed the scope of the family through television. In the 50’s, we had “I Love Lucy” and “Leave it to Beaver.” In the 60’s and 70’s, we had “The Brady Bunch” and “Happy Days.” In the 80’s, we had “The Cosby Show” and “Full House.” By the 90’s, we had shows like “Married with Children,” “The Simpson’s,” and “Roseanne.” And today, television gives us the “Family Guy” and “Two and a Half Men.”
Now, if you noticed – clear up through the 1980’s there was always at least a remnant of shows that shared family values we could model our homes after. But by the time we got to the 90’s, it became more difficult to watch TV with our families and find a “good role model.” And now today, most every show has a skewed perspective on the family. In fact, the “Family Guy” has taken to advertising itself as a “G-Rated” show. The “G” they say, stands for “Grown Up.” In reality, of course, the show is less about being “Grown up” than it is about being infantile and offensive.
Because media is displaying the dysfunctional family as normal and healthy, many families are growing accustomed to thinking this is normal. However, God did not intend for the family unit to be disconnected, argumentative, and dysfunctional. As Christians, our objective is to become more and more like Jesus because we are part of the family of God. When people look at us…they should see a family resemblance.
Let me ask you a few questions. Do you take communion in your home? Do you pray together as a family? Do you testify and speak the Word in your house? Have you consecrated your home to the Lord?
Remember, this world is not our home and ultimately, it has nothing to offer us. Jesus put it fairly harshly: “For what shall it profit a man (or his children, or his grandchildren, or great grandchildren, or his nephews and nieces), if (they) shall gain the whole world, and lose (their) souls?” Mark 8:36
A healthy home is a home centered on Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not the Lord of you and your family’s lives, than all is for naught.
I encourage you today; make serving the Lord your top priority. Set the spiritual temperature of your home; don’t allow the world to influence it.
Reference: Raising A G-Rated Family In An R-Rated World by Jeff Strite
Unforgettable Children’s Church Sermons
March 19, 2009 · Print This Article
by Pastor Clarke Clemens
Children’s Pastor, RLC Grandville
People often feel that when teaching kids, creativity and content can’t coexist. Either you have to go all-out in being fun, energetic and creative, at the expense of really teaching good content, or you have to hammer home Biblical points in a way that sacrifices creativity and inevitably leads to a room full of bored kids.
In RezKidz, we feel that you need to do both. We encourage our children’s church volunteers to teach solid, Biblical lessons, and to do so in as creative a manner as possible. In fact, we often state that it is the sin of children’s ministry to not use props, stories or other means by which to make the Biblical truths you’re teaching unforgettable.
Below are some ideas that can help your lessons come alive:
- Props – Most of the props you can use are free! Bring items from home to illustrate points – from the garage, your basement, kitchen, whatever – kids love to see you holding stuff while teaching. It focuses their attention on an important point you want to make, plus it gives you something tangible to hold as you teach and seek to make a point memorable.
- Family Photos – Bring photos of yourself – especially when you were a kid – your family, pets, vacations, etc. These are especially useful when telling a story about yourself that you’re applying to a Biblical truth.
- Google Images – Whether you have an overhead projector or a more expensive mounted projector – use free photos from Google Images to illustrate your points. You can download photos of Biblical sites or simple items like animals, vehicles or people. Whatever topic you’re teaching on – simply type that in the Google Images search window and see what turns up. As you teach, put those photos up on the screen behind you. (Whenever I’ve taught in rooms without a projector, I’ve simply printed the photos and held them up in my hands for the kids to see.)
- Google Earth – Check-out this resource and load it on your laptop to allow kids to see that cities, rivers, oceans and nations in the Bible are actual, real-life places. Kids and adults who haven’t seen this before will be amazed to see a ‘map’ come alive in front of their eyes. And it’s free!
- Stories – Kids love stories, especially about yourself when you were their age. Even if you don’t consider yourself a storyteller, jump in and try out something and see how effective it can be. When telling a story, try to mix the different points of the story with your teaching points. End a ‘phase’ of your story right at a moment of suspense – then talk about a lesson point you want the kids to learn. Then, when you feel they are getting restless, go back to your story and you will have the kids attention immediately! Continue stopping at moments where the kids really want to know what’s going to happen – talk about another point from the teaching – then jump back to where you left off. You will be amazed at how well you’ll be able to hold the kids attention – even those not known for listening quietly.
- Video Clips – One of the best things I taught myself to do a couple years ago was to learn the Windows Movie Maker software that comes pre-loaded with most PCs. All you need is a basic camcorder from home and your PC to make basic – yet creatively powerful – videos of your own! Windows Movie Maker is about as basic as you can get with editing software – though some patience will be needed as you learn how to use this. But the rewards will be great and you’ll soon find yourself eagerly desiring to make more videos. Typically, I’ll make a 3 – 5 minute video to illustrate a point – sometimes by making it at home, outside, around church, in your car, wherever – just get creative. Kids will stay engaged and it gives you a few minutes in your teaching to get a breather, look at your notes, then jump back in. You’ll get hooked on this teaching resource in no time!
These are just a few examples we’ve used to good effect over the years. We’ve discovered that by making a children’s church lesson that is both chock full of good content, and creative and exciting, you will get and keep the kids attention, while helping them grow closer to Christ. You will also expand the vision of your volunteer team of what they can do to bring the message the Lord has given them to new heights of effectiveness and fun!
For many more ideas, plus alot of other information about children’s ministry, I highly recommend the book The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School by Aaron Reynolds.
Dare to be Different
March 5, 2009 · Print This Article
by Pastor David Ferranti
Senior Pastor, Bay Valley Christian Church
In the world we live today, the standards that Christians have set in place for their lives are becoming bleaker and bleaker. Slowly, the difference between believer and unbeliever is becoming unnoticeable.
Take a look at a few of these observations:
What Is the Difference . . .
- Between the atheist who would not dream of financially supporting the church and the Christian who will not financially support the Lord’s church?
- Between the skeptic who does not believe the Bible and the negligent Christian who never reads it?
- Between those who do not believe in Bible classes and those who choose never to attend a class?
- Between the atheist who does nothing to build up the Lord’s church and the Christian who finds fault with others but does nothing himself?
- Between a man of the world and a person in the church who lives like a man of the world?
These are tough questions for Christians who live in a tough world. The fact is that Christians make no difference until they are different.
The word “Christian” actually means “little Christ or Christ-like.” So if we are calling ourselves followers of Christ, shouldn’t we model our lives after His and not after the world? If we’ve truly surrendered our life to Him, then there should be evidence of that through the change in us. Christians are meant to be different. Our character, our actions, our words, and our attitudes should be different.
Ephesians 5:8-9 says, “For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”
In addition, the Lord tells us that even though we are in the world, we are not to be of the world. John 15:18-19 reads, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
I want to encourage you to live your life after the One who truly stood out from the rest. Jesus dared to be different. I encourage you today to follow His example.
Read Me My Rights!
December 30, 2008 · Print This Article
By Todd Staal
Associate Pastor Men’s Ministry, Resurrection Life Church
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights?
Hopefully not too many that read this will have had this statement recited to them by a man or woman in a uniform of authority. Nevertheless men and women battle to be certain their rights are protected in homes all across this nation. Allow me to clarify.
One of the largest complaints my wife, Cheryl, and I hear in our time spent with countless troubled or broken couples, married or preparing to do so, is that they believe their rights to proper treatment by the other has been compromised. Inevitably they come to a point where this violation has led to a complete silence in communication, breaking off of physical interaction, and loss of any hope of a satisfying life together. Perhaps as you are reading this article it is describing your exact situation. Your rights have been stomped on, disrespected, and you are sick and tired of it! I encourage you, read on.
There is something intriguing about our 21st century Americanized sense of entitlement. You needn’t look far to see headlines about union strikes, constitutional boundaries, or special interest groups waving a flag regarding their outlined rights. So after hundreds of years of indoctrinations of this manner it is no surprise that it would bleed into our personal relationships. It arrives under the camouflage of lifestyle expectations, service mandates, and even prenuptial agreements. So then, how did an institution created by a loving, merciful, self sacrificing God, become occupied by such a self preserving attitude? A one word definition works…focus.
Only one time in history have I seen God show partiality in the relationship between a man and woman. It is found in Genesis 2 when He said, “It is not good that man should be alone”. Ever since then He has expressed an extreme desire for unity through preferential love and unconditional service towards one another.
Men you are admonished to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph 5:25), “dwell with them with understanding” (1 Peter 3:7), and “not be bitter toward them” (Col 3:19). Likewise women you are instructed to “be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1), and “let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:33). I would say these job descriptions are quite plain to understand, and if combined with proper motives and heart conditions, could make for a beautiful marriage. In my last sentence lies the key to making or breaking the deal.
If; a conditional word that leaves success or failure hanging in the balance. You have heard it before; if I invest a dollar a day, I will be…If I only had…If My people who are called by my name… The God who framed the world with words is not one that accepts “ifs” as a condition to obedience to His instructions. This is where the plan broke down. We decided somewhere that we could no longer trust God to vindicate us as David did and we would have to create an escape route to our job description. Thus enters statements like, “If she can’t respect me, then she can get out!”, “If he won’t pay attention to me, I’ll find someone who will!”, and they all arrive at one conclusion…what about my rights?
If you are still with me, here is the heart of God’s plan that He wants us to see. He loves each of so much, He desires our hearts to be knit so closely with His that we see through His eyes and trust Him completely. His original marriage agreement never included prenuptial agreements or a bill of rights, but only a hope that in giving an outline of instructions and the ultimate example through Jesus Christ, we would love Him enough to keep our end of the deal till death separates us. It’s not easy to return love for disrespect or honor for ill treatment and in 18 years I have violated those instructions plenty. But one day I came to understand that my wife’s gentle and quiet spirit is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4) and He would not tolerate me ignoring that forever and that all my prayers were silent in my disobedience. That, my friends, broke my heart when I understood that it broke God’s. Then there was no room for me any longer.
Take the “me” out of your marriage today. Allow God to see your obedience to His instruction as husbands and wives. Cry out “how long?” if you must but don’t waver. Things will change…oh yes, things will change
Staying on Course
December 2, 2008 · Print This Article
By Dorie Meendering
Associate Pastor, Women’s Ministry, Resurrection Life Church, Grandville
What a challenge to stay on course through all the emotion of life! It’s important to remember that we are here because God designed us and put us here. We were God’s idea in the first place and He has a special place for us!
However, I Peter 5:8 tell us we have an adversary trying to devour us. He will try to make you feel discouraged and want to give up. But you have the ability to persevere because you have a personal guide, the Holy Spirit, who leads you every step of the way. So, why would you give someone else more power over your life than the Holy Spirit? If some situation has made you want to give up, you are led by the situation and not by the Holy Spirit.
Outlasting the Devil
You can always outlast the devil’s attack by “doing” the Word. The “Word” is usually quite different than how you feel but, it works! And, if the ‘Word’ works, why not do it?
Rom. 12:21 – overcome evil with good
I Peter 3:9 – bless so you receive a blessing
Matt 6:14 & 15 – forgive so you are forgiven
Phil 4:6 & 7 – pray and be thankful with your request
Rom. 15:13 – believe in the God of all hope and receive peace and joy.
Matt. 5:44 & 45 – do good when there’s opportunity
Prov. 2:1-7 – seek God for Wisdom
You do not have to understand everything that happens. “Wondering” can keep you from believing. If you have a divided mind, the Bible says don’t plan on receiving from the Lord. (James 1:6)
There is a Way of Escape
Remember, there is a way of escape so you will be able to bear what you are going through. (I Cor. 10:13) However, several things can block your escape. Take time to examine how your life is lining up with the Word of God. One of the most common things blocking our victory is a lack of forgiveness, or holding on to offense. Since God has forgiven us we are able, and expected, to forgive others. Sometimes the hurt took only 5 minutes but we give it the right to hurt us 10 more years. Why would we be so stubborn and continue to punish ourselves by making the choice to disobey God and not forgive? You should love yourself more than that!
Attack with Tenacity and Perseverance
Recognize who is trying to pull you off course. (I Peter 5:8). If you don’t recognize your enemy, you won’t know how to fight and take your authority to use the power of Jesus’ name. God, in His wisdom, has already laid out the only battle plan that will work and it is found in Ephesians 6: 10-18. Use these tools and choose to be immovable in your faith. Stand firm and don’t let your faith become shipwrecked!
You can outlast the devil!