Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Refreshing Your Faith – “Survey Says!” - Part 2

Thanks to all the subscribers to this “Serving and Sharing” blog who responded to my question! I asked, “How can we avoid – or recover from – a stale, dry, and weak spiritual life? What works for you that may help others of us? What does the Word of God tell us about refreshment? I’d like your ideas for ways that Christians might refresh their faith or even prevent it from becoming stale.”
Jesus often slipped away to the mountain to pray alone, and He instructed His disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:15-16; 6:12; 22:39-46; Mk 6:30-32).
The video of the sermon I presented after hearing from you is available here:
Refreshing Your Faith - Cory Collins
Though I did not have time to share all the responses in that message, all of them are included in two posts, this one and the previous one with the same title. I have edited several, partly for clarity and partly for anonymity.
Service to others.
Vacation with family taking time to rest, read, pray and refocus.  Also going somewhere quite to fish, pray and refocus.
For me it takes praise songs and sharing in small groups. 
Fellowship with Christian friends (there is so much “out there” to keep your eyes off God). --- Bible study - every time you see something you have not noticed before or maybe thought of it in a different way.  Man has not changed since the beginning of time and evil is all around us in such subtle ways (TV programs, advertisements, movies, newspapers and newscasters, modern novels and yes, schools)  We are being told the Bible is no longer relevant and whatever makes you happy is ok and that God loves us.  Yes, God loves us, but He is not going to put up with unrepented sin.  Even some churches here have gay couples worshiping with the congregation.  Young people are living together without marriage, not attending worship and not bringing their children to worship.  Churches do not want to “step on toes”, not be “politically correct” and have the Word of God as written in the Bible preached to them.  People want “feel good” sermons. Sin has no stigma in our world.  What will be for the future of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  We can only pray, pray and pray.  God is in control and we can only trust in Him and his Word.
We attend Polishing the Pulpit in August, spend a couple weeks in the summer door knocking, go on foreign mission trips, go to singings and work VBS. Just trying to attend each service with Christians keeps us going.  Don’t know if this will help!  Hope so!  My most difficult part is maintaining the discipline to study every day!  Any ideas for that???  I will do great for a week or two, then miss days!!!
I try to pray and meditate through trying times in a quiet, peaceful environment when possible, even if it is just sitting on the back porch listening to the sounds of nature and enjoying the beauty of the handiwork of God. Regardless of how doubtful I may become at times, I always reflect back on how fortunate and blessed I am and when things seem really down, I try and put myself in someone else’s place and that helps put things back in perspective. My Granddad, who was uneducated and worked hard as an auto mechanic, used to always tell me, “Son, you think you have it bad.........well, just look around yourself long enough, and you’ll realize just how blessed you truly are.”
I pray, I act, and I pray and give thanks. I ask my wife what we should be thankful for. It never gets old. It never gets stale. I talk to faithful people. They share their secrets for great marriages, financial maturity, and spiritual maturity.
Use the words of a hymn as an outline for prayer and thanks. I was looking at the words by Wm Mackay, who gave us the hymn, “Revive Us Again.” He praised the Lord for: The Son of Thy Love, The Spirit of Light, The God of all Grace ... then concluded with the prayer: Revive Us Again; fill each heart with Thy love; May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah! Thine the glory; Hallelujah! Amen! Revive us again.
I refresh my faith through devotionals using the Bible app, I sometimes make weekly plans to have prayer at the same time daily and going to conferences has helped to refresh or restart my spiritual journey. 
1) Having a meaningful ministry to be involved in and/or look forward to.  For me, it’s my writing and teaching Ladies’ Bible Class at _______ and occasionally speaking for ladies’ retreats, etc.  For [my husband], it’s his teaching in the schools throughout the world, knowing he’s contributing to the training of preachers and building the kingdom; also, he’s teaching a regular class on Wed. evenings at ______.  He also stays energized by the correspondence with teachers he works with via the phone and with those throughout the world via email. 2) Thinking back over our life/ministry and remembering the challenging situations God has brought us through as well as being extremely thankful for the amazing work He has brought us to be able to do in His kingdom.  We both think gratitude to Him and giving Him the glory for whatever has been accomplished through us keeps us from being too self-centered, which can definitely hurt our faith.  So, we try to remain God centered--astonished many times at what He has allowed us to do when we think about where we came from, etc. 
I am a preacher/teacher, and I have a friend who is a preacher/teacher.  When I discover something interesting in my Bible study, I just stop by his office and we talk about it.  We both find that enjoyable, and in sharing our perspectives, it helps our scholarship.
My best resource is the people around me.  Two of the elders and I fish together on a regular basis.  I can spend a day on the water with them and come home physically tired — but spiritually refreshed.
Simple things. Visiting the sick and shut in. Having INFORMAL breakfast, lunch or dinner with the Brethren. Surprise text of encouragement. Brother or sister emailing a Biblical question and seeking wisdom. Men and Lady teacher sharing lesson plans and ideas. Getting into a disagreement and the reconciling together. Simple things. Makes me feel like we are progressive and “forward planning”. Looking towards Heaven in our actions of UNITY. 
Going to church and hearing your sermons.  I am reading a devotional book that refreshes my faith. I wake up every morning knowing Jesus saved my life during my surgery.
You know, God is right all the time.  Romans 10:17!  When my faith wavers, I know I have not been in His word as I should.  So, I have to dedicate time and effort to get back into studying my Bible.  It really is that simple for me.
As you may well imagine, each of us is going to find different ways to renew our Spiritual Energy and Vigor, using the talents and skills the Lord has seen fit to give to use to His Glory, helping the lost to find Salvation, and sustaining us  in a world of temptation and darkness. --- As you know, for the past 7+ years I have been blessed to have an avenue to extend my Lord’s Day morning worship by bringing a full service to the residents of a senior living facility. I can tell you, even when I was facing my serious medical issues over the past 1 ½ years, when I stood before them on Sunday at 12:30, the Lord sent down a burst of energy and power that enabled me to preach His word, Lead Songs praising His name, and offer prayers on behalf of those attending our worship. This opportunity to refresh my Spiritual being has been expanded through God’s power, by being able to tach a bible class every Thursday morning at the Conservatory as well. --- Words do not express how much better I felt, in the midst of my illness, seeing the residents’ smiles, watching the tears flow down their cheeks because God’s word touched their souls, feeling their hugs and hearing their words of Love expressed at the end of the service and bible class. It was as if I am plugged in to a Giant Heavenly Battery that gives me all I needed to make it through. --- Much like the closing verses of Romans 15, the church at Keller and those who are saints at the facility, enable me to find new energy and strength every time we are together to carry on in His service preaching the Gospel even though many times it is to those who do not believe, or even oppose the word, that we can all enjoy mutual refreshing and enjoy God’s peace because we have done what we have done according to His will.
One way is to do something that I am somewhat fearful of. For example, the first time I went to ______ Prison to teach, I had some reservations and anxiety. But, I said, “ I had rather die trying to do what I should than to face God having not even tried.” Now I look forward to going, and say, “I tried my best.”
Perhaps one of the most noticeable things that refreshes my faith is fellowshipping with like-minded Christians. Spending time with, talking with, hearing good brothers and sisters own passion for the Lord or even their struggles ignites a deeper concern for the work I’m involved in. We need the brethren’s encouragement and that is certainly one effective way that helps my faith feel refreshed.
As for ‘refreshing’ our faith...I meditate on the faithfulness of God to His promises. I recall the apostle’s words that ‘while we were enemies...while we were sinners’ Christ died for me. I read the psalms and listen to people like David express their frustrations in life yet manage to hold on to their faith as they remember God’s faithfulness. I look at the congregation around me and I see so many people suffering in ways I can only imagine and I see their faith, their perseverance, their determination to make it through another day. It is humbling.
When my faith weakens, I try to recall the many ways God has blessed us thru the years. When God seems to ignore my cry for mercy, He opens a door I did not know was there. These stories have happened many times in my 75 years. He is faithful to those who love and obey Him.

Refreshing Your Faith – “Survey Says!" - Part 1

Thanks to all the subscribers to this “Serving and Sharing” blog who responded to my question! I asked, “How can we avoid – or recover from – a stale, dry, and weak spiritual life? What works for you that may help others of us? What does the Word of God tell us about refreshment? I’d like your ideas for ways that Christians might refresh their faith or even prevent it from becoming stale.”
Jesus often slipped away to the mountain to pray alone, and He instructed His disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mk 1:35; Lk 5:15-16; 6:12; 22:39-46; Mk 6:30-32).
The video of the sermon I presented after hearing from you is available here:
Refreshing Your Faith - Cory Collins
Though I did not have time to share all the responses in that message, all of them are included in two posts, this one and the other one with the same title. I have edited several, partly for clarity and partly for anonymity.
• Every morning I say to myself, ”What if this is the last day of my life?” And I feel that helps me stay grounded in fellowship with God the holy trinity. I hope it does. 
• I find getting involved in a new in-depth Bible study (KSBS* classes, different Bible class, online Bible study), challenging myself to dig deep in a particular book of the Bible that I’m not as familiar with / or haven’t studied in a while. Reading Psalms and personalizing it, and/or reading the gospels at the same time in as close to chronological order as I can get. Keeping a prayer journal, especially noting the various ways and means God answers every prayer. Also, preparing Bible lessons to share with others is a great way to freshen my faith, you can’t teach what you don’t learn and practice. *KSBS – Keller School of Biblical Studies
• Take a mission trip.  If you can’t take one, help fund one. Pray for one.  Write a missionary an encouraging letter. Make a list of people who need a visit. Get a partner and see them one by one. Audit a course at a Christian university. Read a biblically-based book. Start a prayer journal. Start your own quiet encouragement ministry. Commit to one encouraging act toward another believer each day. Give yourself permission to go beyond one per day. Make a list of the 10 most encouraging people you know. Take each to lunch or do something to spend a bit of time with each of them. Help someone. Doesn’t matter at what level. Just help someone who needs help.
I like listening to old gospel quartet music while I research church history and think on how hard it must have been for those who sacrificed so much in the past.
• Here’s what seems to work for me – teaching. I’m on the teaching rotation at ___ church, and I teach adults classes as well as a class for those who are either non-Christians or those new to faith.  Teaching keeps me in the Word.  Honestly, when I don’t teach, I tend to get lazy in my quite times.   Teaching keeps me engaged in God’s word and continues to challenge me in my Christian growth. However, I do know that most Christians do not feel qualified to teach (that’s another sermon; teaching has many, many faces).  To broaden the teaching scope, I would expand this thought to “serving” others.  Serving others gets us out of ourselves and into the lives of others.  It takes the focus off of me and places it on someone else, and for most, that feels really good and gives the sense of purpose.  Eph. 2:1-10 provides wonderful encouragement on the mercy, grace and riches of God, reminding us we were “created for good works”.
There are several ways that I try to keep a fresh faith: regular Bible reading and study, fellowship with other Christians, and working in various church events, such as leading in Bible camps and youth activities. However, the most effective way to keep a constant faith is prayer. My faith is never stronger than when my prayer life is at its best. Prayer keeps me in tune with God directly, and puts my faith in Him above all else.
Have Bible studies with other Christians so we can be strengthened by the Word and each other. Being involved in evangelism. Seeing others being transformed by the gospel is the biggest one in my opinion. 
I have found that teaching 6 months on and 6 months off (to study) works very well. Going on mission trips with other members will inspire growth and also cause you to count your blessings. 
I take Sunset classes for credit to ensure I’m in the word deeply, always learning and growing. I grow tremendously from men who mentor me and men whom I am now mentoring. These relationships include personal evangelism studies with friends, coworkers, and neighbors; men from support groups; and men from church. The power for me comes from fostering deep, transparent relationships that go beyond the small talk, sports, and politics to our most intense struggles. Being in the trenches of the battle ensures I am always being stretched and maintain awareness of the reality of the spiritual warfare all around us. I seek out people who have specialized knowledge like Christian counselors, successful evangelists, and worship leaders and glean whatever I can from conversations with them. I take advantage of intensive training opportunities like Singing Schools and hymn writing workshops to grow in skill and ministry.
When I get “Spiritually Dry” I do a study of the miracles and parables of Jesus. I also read Philippians to pep me up. 
Two things — I sing hymns and other Christian songs. I have difficulty memorizing Scripture locations but can sing practically any song a leader might select without needing a book. It encourages me to really know and think about the words. Also, I often think about Christians in North Korea. The nature of the country fascinates me (in a sad way), and makes me “get with it,” realize how good I’ve got it and how much has been given so much is required.
Truly the Word, read it, calms my soul and refreshes it at the same time.  I am so thankful for the Bible and how it has everything I need for life.
1. It takes conscious effort. I get so caught up in day-to-day work that it’s quite easy to lose perspective. That’s why going to worship is so important. It’s why being conscious of the significance of communion is so important. 2. Read the Bible. It’s amazing what’s there when I dive in. 3. Pick your friends carefully. Solid Christian friendships will feed the soul. 4. Don’t forget to pray. It is probably the most refreshing thing I do. 5. Get out in nature. I spend too much time cooped up inside at my desk. But when I get out in Percy Warner Park and take a walk, the evidence and beauty of God is all around. Those are just some simple thoughts that came to mind. I hope it helps.
I keep a constant response of thanksgiving to God for various wonderful ways He has blessed me - for the beautiful morning, the gorgeous colorful plants I have growing on my patio, the beautiful butterflies that have been drawn to my yellow flowers. And I thank God continually for the answers to prayer I have received - that my sons love God, love their families, and are using the talents He has given them in their church congregations. If I receive a prayer request, I immediately go to God in prayer for that person or for a family. I praise God continually for the blessings my families bring me. --- When my oldest son was 4 or 5, one of our dogs got out and couldn’t be found. My son and I prayed that God would help us find Marty. Afterwards I prayed to God that his answer would be “yes,” that Marty would be found and that would help build my child’s faith and love for God. Two weeks later, some men mowing the fields north of Addison Airport in Dallas found Marty in that field, a long way from home.  They responded to the ad we had placed in the newspaper, and we got Marty back. He was hurt but was taken to the vet, and he recovered. We all praised and thanked God for His answer to our prayers. I am so very thankful for the strong faith my sons have in God, and for the faith they are instilling in their children, my wonderful grandchildren. --- I try to have Bible reading and continued thanksgiving to God. These are essential to keeping me focused on God and my faith. Looking for ways to help others and/or encourage others. 
One of the best ways to keep faith from growing stale and to stay alive in the Lord is through teaching the Good News to others. There are few experiences more satisfying, more invigorating, than to be a part of someone’s conversion, to look anew at the faith through the eyes of someone who is just now discovering it. Being on the front line of the gospel keeps us sharp spiritually, helps us deal with the real-life issues that others are facing, and helps us to give the proper value to the precious blood which purchased our salvation at so great a cost.
To be continued in Refreshing Your Faith – “Survey Says!" Part 2.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hello, I am a Christian!

It is a clear, biblical truth that is very basic, liberating, and exciting! In fact, it underlies everything we are and do as God’s people. Yet it can also be difficult to maintain and explain, especially in our confused, divided religious world.
It is the idea that we can be and must be just Christians.
That’s it!
How blessed we are to wear the name of Jesus Christ!
When those among us repented of our sins and were baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, the Lord gave us that name. He added us to the body of Christ, the family of God, the church of God, the church of Christ, as described and defined in the New Testament. That’s all we became, all we are, and all we ever will be – just Christians.
“Christian?” What’s that? Let’s go back to where it all started and let the original Christians speak for themselves.
Let’s see what happened in Acts 26, when Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Festus and the Jewish king Herod Agrippa II.
First and Always – Christ
As we outline the chapter, we note that it’s all about Christ.
26:1-11      Paul’s Opposition to Christ
26:12-18     Paul’s Encounter with Christ
26:19-23     Paul’s Message about Christ
He had to suffer and rise.
He would proclaim light.
26:24 Festus: “Paul, you’re smart but crazy!”
26:25-27     Paul: “Agrippa knows and believes!”

From “Christ” – to “Christian”
Now let’s consider the conversation that followed.
Ac 26:28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
Paul pled with Agrippa to become only what he himself was – a Christian. If he had, the Lord would have added him to His same one church as all the disciples. He would have followed the apostles’ inspired teaching regarding faith, worship, and service. That’s all we aim to be and to do!
Let’s ask some simple yet profound questions.
What did Paul try to get Agrippa II to become?
Just what Paul himself was (except for his chains) – a Christian.
If he had said yes, what would he have done?
He would have confessed Christ, repented and been baptized for the forgiveness of his sins.
At that point, what would the Lord have done?
He would have forgiven him and granted him the gift of the Holy Spirit.
To what would the Lord have added Agrippa?
To the body of believers, the congregation of Christians, the church belonging to Christ.
Which church would that be? With whom?
There was only one body (church), just as there was only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, etc. (Eph 4:1-6)
What would he have been taught to believe?
The apostles’ doctrine, as given to them by the Holy Spirit.
How would he have worshipped and lived?
According to the teaching given to the early church.
How important was the name of Christ in the NT?
“The Name of Jesus Christ”
The frequency in Acts is overwhelming.
2:21, 38 Call on, repent and be baptized (---).
3:6, 16; 4:7-18 Crippled beggar healed (---).
4:12 No other name by which we must be saved.
4:17 Forbidden to speak in this name.
5:27-28, 40-41 Teaching, suffering shame (---).
8:12 Kingdom of God, name of Jesus Christ.
Name That Name!
9:14-16 Saul / Paul to bear My Name to Gentiles.
10:43, 48 Forgiveness, baptism (---).
11:26 Disciples called “Christians” first in Antioch.
19:17 (---) was being magnified.
21:13 Paul ready to die (---).
22:16 Baptized – wash away sins – calling (---).
26:9 Before conversion, Paul was hostile to (---).
Our Simple Plea
Let’s teach what they taught …
Believe what they believed …
Do what they did …
Be added to what they were added to …
Worship as they worshiped …
And be what they were. Just Christians.
Let’s Be Clear
“Churches of Christ” (Ro 16:16) – “congregations of Christians,” as the church is defined in the NT.
Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Mt 16:18).
We can be Christians, added by God to that same one church that belongs to Christ, without joining anything man-made!
We must stick to NT teaching, pure and simple.
We must offer its pure message to the world.
Not, “Follow us,” but, “Together let’s follow Jesus Christ!”
The fact is that, when some people hear “church of Christ,” they think it refers to some man-made body, with its own creeds and doctrines. They will ask about “church-of Christ doctrine.”
Sometimes I hear a person say, “I’m church-of-Christ.” Some will mention a “Church-of-Christ preacher, church, program, preschool, university,” etc.
Such language would have been foreign to those in the first-century church. In fact, “church of Christ” is never used as a denominational name in the Bible. It is simply one designation given in the New Testament to describe the body of Christ.
Instead of using “church of Christ” in that way, how can we biblically answer the question, “What’s your religion?”
I might say, “I’m a Christian, working with a thriving non-denominational congregation of Christians seeking to follow the faith, teaching, and practice of the first-century church. We wear the name of Christ, and so we are part of the body of Christ or church of Christ that we read about in the Bible.”
If I am asked, “What does your church believe about ___?” or, “What does the church of Christ believe about ___?” I will change the question and ask, “Could we study what the Bible says about that? After all, that’s all that really matters.”
Let’s Reject Man’s Names & Claims
Man’s names reflect human founders, specific doctrines, church structures or methodologies, types of theology, scope, or targeted communities. Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Reformed, Catholic, and Community are among these terms. In addition, some churches have trendy names that forego all “religious” terms entirely.
I found a website titled, “What Should I Call My Church? Best Practices for Naming Your Church.” It noted that there are actual churches called Rhythm Church, Pulse Church, Beat Church, and Dynamic Church. Of course there are many more with “cutting-edge” names. In fact, there is a church called the “Edge Church.”
Recently on a neighborhood website someone was looking for a church. Others responded by saying, “I belong to _____ Church. You should come to our church because …” The great majority of those responses omitted any mention of Jesus Christ. What a contrast that is to the message of the New Testament.
By definition non-biblical names and claims are …
non-biblical names and claims.
… and they minimize or omit the name above all names: Jesus Christ!
Also, a church named for a biblical doctrine must obviously omit other important but less appealing doctrines. One may often see a “Grace Church” but perhaps never see a “Repentance Church,” though both are vital parts of the gospel message.
Let’s Heed God’s Prohibition
The problem started very early. Christians in Corinth began to divide the one body of Christ, wearing the names of men. They distinguished themselves from each other based on their preacher preferences.
Note the very strong rejection of such behavior.
1 Co 1:10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
According to Scripture, the church or body of Christ must not be divided. One should wear the name, not of Paul, but of the One who was crucified to save us, the One in whose name we were baptized.
That’s the name of Jesus Christ!
If Paul forbade others to wear his name … how opposed we must be to any name that adds to, detracts from, minimizes, or removes the name of Jesus Christ!
Because We Wear Christ’s Name
We Sing Christ’s Praise.
We Remember Christ’s Cross.
We Preach Christ’s Word.
We Pray for Christ’s Glory.
We Give for Christ’s Cause.
as directed by nothing but the Word of God.
Maybe Reviled, but Never Ashamed!
We find the “name of Christ” and “Christian” again in 1 Peter.
1 Pe 4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
The Offer Still Stands!
As at the beginning, so it is today.
Ac 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Ac 2:40 … he kept on exhorting them …
Ac 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
Will you accept that invitation?
I am a Christian. You can be, too!