The Underestimated Gospel

November 9, 2011


Power. Power to change. Power to start anew. Everyone is looking for power.  Political campaigns point to the power of people. Advertising agencies exploit the power of appetite.
But Churches have something different and better.  Something seemingly implausible. Something that comes in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Churches have the Gospel.
 

Though we live in the world, we must not wage war as the world does, or fight with its weapons. On the  contrary, we have divine power to demolish strongholds. To redeem sinners.  To  create life. To transform and remake the universe. Talk about power.

Witness the underestimated Gospel.

The Gospel

The Gospel is the joyous declaration that God is redeeming the world through Christ (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:68; Eph 1:7; Col 1:20), and that He calls everyone everywhere  to repent from sin and trust Jesus Christ for salvation (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38;  17:30).

Each of us has sinned against God (Rom 3:23), breaking his law  and rebelling against his rule, and the penalty for our sin is death and hell  (Rom 6:23). But because He loves us, God sent his Son Jesus (John 3:16; Eph 2:4;  1 John 4:10) to live for his people's sake the perfect, obedient life God  requires (Rom 8:4; 1 Cor 1:30; Heb 4:15) and to die in their
place for their sin  (Isa 53:5; Mat 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45; 14:24; Luke 22:20; John 11:50-51; Rom  3:24-25; 4:25; 1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 5:2; Heb 10:14; 1  Pet 3:18). On the  third day, He rose bodily from the grave (Mat 28:6) and now reigns in heaven  (Luke 22:69; 24:51; Heb 8:1), offering forgiveness (Eph 1:7), righteousness (Rom  5:19), resurrection (Rom 8:11), and eternal blessedness in God's presence (Rev  22:4) to everyone who repents of sin and trusts solely in Him for salvation.



Three Words That Bring God’s Displeasure

August 17, 2011


They are: “But,” “If only,” and “Why?”
 

As the Israelites approached the Promised Land, Moses commissioned 12 spies to go
in  and scope out the territory. Upon their return, they reported that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey!

“But the people who live there are  powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large…” (Numbers 13:26a)  By this report, ten of the twelve spies gave evidence of the
fact that they were paralyzed by fear, rather than mobilized by faith. Sadly, they had allowed their perception of the facts, rather than the promises of God to dictate their response to the situation. In their minds, God was not big enough to surmount the obstacles.

• When we allow “but” to dominate our vocabulary, we question God’s power.

“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!” (Numbers 14:2b)

Clearly, God had led the Israelites across the desert, assuring them of His presence in providing the pillar of fire by night and the cloud of protection by day. Wonderfully, He had furnished them with manna from heaven, water from the rock, and clothing that did not
wear out.  Yet, the moment they were faced with adversity, they cried out, “if  only.” By that lament they signaled their preference to living in bondage under  their Egyptian oppressors over living in freedom under God’s sovereign care.  (Numbers 14:2)

• When we entertain the “if only’s,” we question God’s goodness.

“Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall  by the sword?” (Numbers 14:3a)

Faced with formidable obstacles in  conquering the land God had promised them, the Israelites whined “why,” rather  than believing God could and would help them overcome the barriers.

• When we ask “Why,” we question God’s wisdom .

When God calls us to  Himself, He calls us to a life of faith: “But my righteous one will
live by  faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”  (Hebrews  10:38)

QUESTION: So tell me, fellow pilgrim, as you trek across your own  God-assigned desert, are you shrinking back from the barriers with “but”, “if  only”, and “why”?  Or are you choosing to forge ahead, trusting in His power, His  goodness, and His wisdom?



The Numbers Are In …

June 26, 2011

The numbers are in….USA Today reports the stats from the Southern Baptist Convention… 

“Baptisms fell to their lowest number in 60 years among Southern Baptists, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“This is not a blip,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “This is a trend. And
the  trend is one of decline.” This marks the eighth time in 10 years that baptisms  have declined and the lowest number of baptisms since the 1950s.  Membership also  dropped for the fourth year in a row. Giving to overseas missionary also fell  short.

The latest decline comes a year after Southern Baptists approved a  major restructuring of their denomination, known as the Great Commission  Resurgence. The new program is designed to channel more into attracting converts.”

What are we to make of this?

I am not an “expert” but I  have a few thoughts on the matter.

• The average “church  member/attendee” today in America is very casual in his or her
commitment level  because of their lack of biblical understanding of Christ’s expectations of  those who would follow Him; their understanding of biblical salvation is  inadequate (they have often been taught inadequately). American “Christians” are  consumers (old and young alike) – church is all about their “needs” being met  and their preferences being catered to (this relates to musical styles,  programs, dress, preaching/teaching content, etc). Worship is “music that I like  and a talk that makes me feel positive”. Sacrifice, commitment, ministry to the  Lord and seeking to make genuine followers of Jesus  at the individual level is sparse.

• A Biblical illiteracy characterizes many (dare I say most?)  “cultural” Christians. There is a famine in the land!  Many professing Christians  do not know (rational, scriptural confidence) what they so-called believe or why  (the ability to rationally, scripturally articulate and give reasons) they  believe it. 75% of all church young people are leaving the church when they  reach 18 to never return. Academia is teaching them that it is all myths; that  they are just a product of natural selection and no different from an animal,  and this no real truth. They don't have enough convincing examples in the church  that is teaching them the truth in word and deed. They need more than “ask Jesus  into your heart” and “be a nice person”!
They need more than moralizing Sunday  School stories, and a repeated “sinner's prayer” so they can get a ticket to  heaven. They need real truth that produces real faith in a real LORD while  living in a real world! And so do we, by the way.

I would suggest that if  we, as individual Christians and churches, would love and glorify the Lord Jesus  instead of ourselves and would serve and be committed to Him instead of  ourselves … and would truly know what and why we believe in Christ and the  authority of the Word of God … and with meekness and reverence share that truth  in Holy Spirit power with our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors…and  live a life that lends credibility…then God the Father would mightily use  local churches and denominations for His purpose to
build the Body of Christ by  saving sinners and making followers of His Only Begotten Son!

I thank God  for what He is doing in the life of Providence Church. I pray that each one of  us takes our individual responsibilities to the Lord and His church very  seriously. I pray that each one of us will take the commission of making  followers of Christ seriously. I pray that each one of us will realize the great  importance of thoroughly knowing what and why we
believe.

“But  sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to  everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and  fear…”
1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)



The Difference A Year Can Make

May 8, 2011

 

Many things can happen and much can change in one year’s time. That certainly has been the case for me this past year. My life is markedly different from a year  ago and I praise God for it (I would praise God anyway – but I am happy for the  blessings!).

Some of those blessings – but not all – include: my  relationship with my wife is sweeter than it has been in a few years; I am  enjoying ministry more than I have in a long time; I am
more free to preach and  teach the Bible; I am leading a church that in is unity, follows my leadership,  and desires to only honor Christ; I am enjoying peace, contentment, and personal growth and I have a new grandson! In short, I am happy!

A little over a  year ago, I resigned my previous pastorate.  While that was not an easy decision,  I know that it was a God-lead decision. I believe, more than ever, in the biblical doctrine of Providence. There is no such thing as luck, chance, or  happenstance.  We love and trust the Lord in whatever He gives us or allows into our lives.

Even though the “big reason” for me resigning my previous  church was God-directed, and while there was a small group who knew the  circumstantial reasons that God used to lead me to that decision, most did not  know those circumstances and wanted to know the
“why” behind why I resigned. I  have not publically given those reasons because I did not believe that it was  helpful and I will not do so now; however, over the past year, my silence has  been filled by others and stories have been passed on. I think it is time for me  to set the record straight about what was not the reason that I resigned my  previous pastorate. I did not resign because I had to…nor did I resign because I  was guilty of something immoral or unbiblical. Any story that suggests otherwise  is false. I hope that statement is clear to all.

In about a month, we  will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the church of which God has  allowed me to be the founding Pastor. The past year has been spiritually  refreshing and exciting as we have seen the Lord provide for the work that He has directed!

I am a blessed man!  I have a supportive, gifted and loving wife, a new grandson, a fulfilling
ministry assignment from the Lord, and a  renewed strength from the Holy Spirit.  God has always been good to me, my wife  has always been supportive and loving, and I have always been grateful for the  privilege to serve the Lord Jesus…but what a difference a year can make!



The Heart of Church Ministry

April 4, 2011

Proclaiming the  gospel message of redemption for sinners and teaching the Word
for the maturing  and holiness of believers should be the heart of every church's ministry. If the  world looks at the church and sees an entertainment center or a country club, we're sending the wrong message. If Christians view the church as an amusement park or a super-center department store, the church will die.

Nothing in Scripture indicates the church should lure people to Christ by presenting  Christianity as an attractive option. In the first place, nothing about the  gospel is optional. In the second place, the gospel is not meant to be  attractive in the sense of modern marketing (Rom 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8).  It is  disturbing, upsetting, confrontive, convicting, and offensive to human pride.  Those who try to erase the offense by making it attractive or entertaining  inevitably corrupt and obscure the essential aspects of the message. The church  must realize that its mission has never been public relations or sales; we are  called to live Jesus-following, holy lives and declare God's raw truth – lovingly but uncompromisingly – to
an unbelieving world.



Priority Convictions of Pastor Timothy Mann

February 21, 2011

 

Biblical Conversion and Assurance
A biblical understanding of regeneration and conversion has been lost by the modern church.  Salvation requires hearing the Gospel accompanied by the supernatural work of  the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8, Ephesians 2:5). This supernatural work, called  regeneration, produces repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ  (Acts 20:20-21). The truly saved person perseveres in faithfulness  (Philippians  1:6, Matthew 7:16-20). This perseverance is the basis of assurance. The man who walks in a continual state of carnality with no divine discipline can have no assurance of sonship (Hebrews 12:8), no matter how adamantly he professes Christ.

Biblical Evangelism
It is the duty of every believer to  evangelize the lost. I adamantly stand against cold, unevangelistic  hyper-Calvinism on the one hand and “hoop-jumping”
easy believism on the other.  We are committed to preach the Gospel to every creature and to implore ALL men  to repent and believe. I believe that whoever believes in Christ will be saved.  At the same time, I recognize that neither repentance nor faith can be produced by manipulating the emotion or coercing the will. They are the result of the  supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

Personalized World Missions
The Great Commission is a great command.  Personal involvement in world  missions is not a suggestion or an option, but it is demanded of every true  believer. The entire local church family should be personally and strategically involved in world missions, mobilizing laborers, prayer, and finances to the end  of glorifying God among all peoples. We are either called to go down into the well (be a missionary) or to hold the rope for those who are going down (support  missionaries). Either way, our dedication must be costly and enduring.

Bible Saturated/Thoroughly Biblical
It is my desire to be  thoroughly biblical in the totality of my life and in the life of the church  that I lead.  Our purpose, our methods, and our goals must be from sound,  biblical teaching.  I reject the modern concept that biblical goals can be achieved by man-centered, man-empowered methods. Our theology must dictate our  methodology.

Christ-Honoring
God is most glorified through the Person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By His unrivaled character and work (merit), He has redeemed for Himself a people (the Church).  As His church, we strive above all things to know Him, love Him, praise Him, and serve Him. It is by, through, and for Him that we exist. It is my goal to keep Him the  honored center of all that we say and do! “In all things He must have the   preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

Glory of God Focused
The glory  of God is everything! The centerpiece of the universe for time and eternity is  for God to be seen and praised for His matchless perfections!  For all eternity,  those in hell will bring Him glory as they suffer eternal wrath under His  perfect justice (Revelation 15:1-4). Those in heaven will bring Him glory as  they inherit paradise as trophies of perfect grace. Every individual Christian  and every local church family must have a continual, intentional, and passionate  focus on the glory of God! (1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 3:21)



The Love of God

February 9, 2011


“For I am persuaded  that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created  thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ  Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)
 

God’s love is beyond measure. These words were written to a church that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years, Paul’s hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for his people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to his love. Suffering should not drive us away from God; it should help us  to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.

God’s love is eternal. These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death. These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ. But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop Christ’s constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that  whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John  3:16 (NKJV)

God’s love is sacrificial. The entire gospel comes to  a focus in this verse. God’s love is not
static or self-centered; it reaches out  and draws others in. Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all  love relationships—when you love someone dearly, you are willing to pay dearly  for that person’s responsive love. God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the  highest price he could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for  our sins, and then offered us the new life that he had bought for us. When we  share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus’. We must be willing  to give up our own comfort and
security so that others might join us in  receiving God’s love.



Sanctity of Life

January 8, 2011


January is recognized as Sanctity of Life Month by  those who hold to a “prolife” worldview and specifically those who oppose a  woman’s “right” to choose an elective abortion.
 

The basis of the  “prolife” position is largely, but not exclusively, grounded on divine
authority and the belief that human life is a gift of God.

The so-called opposing “prochoice” position does not see the fetus as possessing rights
independent of  the mother, who alone has the right to decide the fate of the fetus. This  maternal right is in turn grounded in the principle of autonomy or self-determination, which provides the mother with freedom to make reproductive choices. The prochoice position also views access to abortion as necessary for women’s complete social equality. They see reproduction as the major obstacle to  women’s competing successfully with men, and hence control of reproduction, including abortion, is necessary for equality. Any restriction of the availability of abortion is interpreted as coercing women to carry pregnancies to term against their will.

While it is seldom disputed that a conceptus or a fetus is human, there is hardly a consensus as to when a human person begins. Personhood is still a crucial and practical issue, since modern society accords a person certain moral rights, such as the right to life. General philosophical criteria for personhood include any one, a few or all of the following: rationality, consciousness, self-consciousness, freedom to act on one’s own reasons, capacity to communicate with others and capacity to make moral judgments. Some hold that only when one or all of these qualities have been actualized should a human being be considered a person (actuality principle). Others feel that these qualities of personhood only emerge gradually  in the course of fetal and early childhood development, so what counts in  defining personhood is the potential that the human life possesses (potentiality  principle). In this view fetuses and infants are recognized as having different  degrees of personhood and therefore are given different measures of right to life.

The Bible does not use specifically the words person or  personhood, but a biblical view of personhood can be established on the basis of  a Christian doctrine of the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 reads: “Then God said,  ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,
and let them rule.’ . . . So God  created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and  female he created them.” Because God exists as three persons in communion, we  also believe that human persons are created in His image to live in community.  The most fundamental attribute of being in the image of God and human  personhood, therefore, is relationality. God creates every single human person  in order to relate to him or her as Creator and, by His grace, as Father. In  response, every created human person relates to the Creator (even if it is to  rebel against Him!) and other fellow creatures. Since each human being is  created uniquely by God, every single human being is God’s image bearer, although the image is marred by sin. This is the ground for
personhood, uniqueness and the sanctity of life.

Life is sacred because God creates a  particular life for relationship between Him as the Creator and us as His  creatures. This relationship begins when a conceptus is formed as God permits a  human sperm and ovum to unite in the creation of a new unique life.  How that  life unfolds and whether all the inherent potentialities are actualized or not  do not take away the intrinsic value of that life as God�s image bearer, a human person.

The sixth commandment in the Bible (not to murder; Exodus 20:13)  carries the positive mandate of stewardship of all lives as sacred to God. This  means not that the value of life is absolute (Matthew 24:9) but rather that no life is to be taken without an absolutely and unequivocally justifiable reason.  As the Creator and Giver of life, it is God who ultimately has the sovereign right to take away life. Thus each person has a God-given source of value and dignity beyond any mere physical well-being and social utility and we must  recognize that value and dignity. Life is the fundamental and irreplaceable condition for the experience of all human values, and we have an obligation to  nurture, respect and promote the integrity of life, rather than harm or destroy it.



From the Pen of A. W. Tozer

December 16, 2010

Great is the  mystery… God was manifest in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16 

The birth of Christ was a divine declaration, an eternal statement to a race of
fallen men and women.

The advent of Christ clearly established:

First, that God is real. The heavens were opened, and another world than this came into  view.

Second, that human life is essentially spiritual. With the emergence into human flesh of the Eternal Word of the Father, the fact of man’s divine origin is confirmed.

Third, that God indeed had spoken by the  prophets. The coming of the Messiah Savior into
the world confirmed the veracity  of the Old Testament Scripture.

Fourth, that man is lost but not  abandoned. Had men not been lost, no Savior would have
been required. Had they been abandoned, no Savior would have come.

Finally, that this world is  not the end. We are made for two worlds and as surely as we now inhabit the one, we shall also inhabit the other!



Consider What Great Things He Has Done For You

November 23, 2010

 

“Consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24)

There is a remarkable scene near the  beginning of the book Never Cry Wolf. The author is standing alone in the midst  of the Alaskan wilderness as the plane that brought him fades into the distance.  Overwhelmed by the rugged beauty, he finds a voice within him struggling to cry  out for expression. “I wanted,” he says, “I wanted to shout thanks to  someone.”

History
The first recorded celebration of Thanksgiving in North America was in Newfoundland in
1578. An English minister  named Wolfall presided. There are records of another held in Maine in  1607.

In December 1619 thirty-eight men landed safely on the banks of the James River near Jamestown in Virginia. The English captain, John Woodleaf, read  a directive from his charter declaring that the day of their arrival “shall be  yearly and perpetually kept as a day of thanksgiving to God.”

It was the  Pilgrims’ settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts, that is most often remembered  as the site of the first Thanksgiving. Governor Bradford ordered a three-day  celebration in October

1621.  In keeping with the biblical instructions in  Leviticus 23:39 for the Feast of the Ingathering, its purpose was to give  prayerful thanks to God for the blessing of the harvest. The Christian  commitment and spiritual motivation of this little group of people are   inspiring.

Importance
The desire of an individual to offer thanks to God goes back to the early chapters of Genesis: “Noah found favor in  the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 NASB). And God said, “I will establish My  covenant with you” (Genesis 6:18 NASB). When Noah left the ark, having been  saved by God, he “built an altar to the LORD . . . and offered burnt offerings  on the altar. And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma” and promised, “While the  earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:20-22 NASB). Noah modeled the  importance of saying, “Thank you.” And God blessed Noah and said, “Be fruitful  and multiply, and fill the earth. . . . Every moving thing that is alive shall  be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:1, 3  NASB).

The experience of corporate thanksgiving finds expression in the  annual harvest festival, that is, when Moses directed the people of Israel to  observe a full week of thanksgiving
after the ingathering of the harvest: “When  you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the  LORD for seven days” (Leviticus 23:39 NASB). David and Solomon continued the  tradition, declaring special times of celebration and thanksgiving to God. After  years of captivity the great leader Nehemiah called the people together to thank  God, thereby reinstituting the instructions from Leviticus regarding the harvest  festival. It is recorded that there was great rejoicing (Neh.  8:17).

There are at least 140 passages of Scripture that deal with the  subject of thanksgiving from a personal or corporate point of view. The word  praise is used many more times.  Praise means “to appreciate,” “prize” and  “consider precious and worthy of honor.” Thanksgiving is a combination of words  joined to express thanks to God.  It is gratefulness followed by expressions of  that gratitude. By far the most familiar passages of praise are found in the  Psalms: “With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD” (Psalm 109:30  NASB); “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations  what he has done” (Psalm 105:1); “Enter his gate with thanksgiving” (Psalm  100:4).

In the New Testament we read how Jesus constantly gave thanks to  the Father and one year risked his life to celebrate the thanksgiving festival.  Paul began nearly every one of his
letters with an expression of thanks and  urged us to give thanks in everything (1 Thes. 5:18). In Romans 1:21 he  describes those under the judgment of God as people who “though they knew God,  they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks” (NASB). The writer of Hebrews in  Hebrews 13:15 tells us to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise�the  fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Celebrating
The Bible  tells us to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks;  for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:16-18 NASB). There  are many ways to give thanks; a number of ideas follow.

As a Hebrew proverb tells us, “Put something where you can see it so your eye will remind  your heart.”  Hang a cluster of Indian corn tied with an attractive bow on the front door. Remember the thankful spirit  of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

Lovingly assemble a harvest display with seasonal produce as your centerpiece.

Place a colorful leaf at each person’s place  at the holiday meal. On each leaf  sprinkle several kernels of dried corn. Before  the meal is served, take time to remember the hardships of the Pilgrims’ first  winter in the New World and how with God’s help they overcame great  difficulties. Take turns expressing your own gratitude for God’s mercy.

Encourage children to make lists of all the  things for which they are thankful.

Through a church or Christian agency, discover local needs. Decide together how you will help. This is the season to share with others.

The real celebration of Thanksgiving is thanksliving. The best way to thank  God for the gift of life is to live your life in a spirit of gratitude.

Deut. 8:10 says, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you” (NASB).  The chapter warns that when everything is going well, there is a tendency for your heart to become proud and thus forget the Lord. Take time to thank God for all of the good gifts that you enjoy. Live out the words of Deut. 8:18, “But you shall remember the LORD your God”  (NASB).

References
G. Gaither and S. Dobson, Let’s Make a Memory (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983); J. Santino, All  Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life (Urbana: University  of Illinois
Press, 1994);
S. W. Shenk, Why Not Celebrate! (Intercourse, Penn.:  Good Books, 1987); D. Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer (New York:  Paulist, 1984);
M. Zimmerman, Celebrate the Feasts (Minneapolis: Bethany House,  1981);
M. Zimmerman, Celebrating the Christian Year (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1993).