Posts Tagged Jesus Christ

True or False?

by Rev. Rick Robinson

In this information age we live in, social media groups like Facebook, Twitter, and so many others, are used daily by millions. Sometimes I see some pretty off the wall statements on these networks. In fact, if you do a Google search on a particular subject, it is likely you can turn up multiple answers for your subject. Where do you get your information today? How can you know if something is true or false? I could write about government, automobile history, or any number of other subjects that interest me here at length. The subject I choose to present here is relevant to all. It is of the spiritual nature. No, not just religion, but a genuine relationship with God. Religion is man’s attempt to reach out to God. That’s why there are so many different ones. Jesus Christ is God’s attempt to reach out to man through a meaningful relationship–and there is only one way to have a relationship with God.

John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

When people think of religion or spiritual life, they most often relate the subject to a church. There is a major false concept of what the church is and what the role the church in your life is. Most Americans (even Christians) really don’t understand what the relationship between the organized church and the members (the real church) should be. Six out of ten people drop out of church for at least two years of their life. Why does church become so “not relevant” to so many? One of the top reasons people drop out of church is because they have unmet expectations. Even people who attend church weekly, and get involved in the ministries, can get so wrapped up in church programs or producing ministry results that they lose sight of living in a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

43% of Americans say it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons. Where did all these experts come from, and where did they learn that? 50% of Americans believe that God loves everyone and all people will go to heaven no matter what they do. I talk to a lot of people door to door, and most people think to get to heaven, your good works must out weigh your sinful acts. When I ask them where the line you cross to tip the scale in your favor is, they don’t know, yet they think they are going to make it to heaven because they never did anything that bad. For those who don’t know where the line is, it takes just one sin to tip the scale against you.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are those who think to get to heaven, you have to live by the Ten Commandments, yet most of them cannot name the Ten Commandments, or even tell me where they are in the Bible, so we can look them up together. You are betting all of eternity that you are right about what happens to you when you die, don’t you think it’s time to stop taking opinion as fact, and discover the truth for yourself?

1 John 5:13

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

We must look to the original source to discover what is true. Do not take the word of a pastor (including me) over looking to the Bible for yourself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In a 2011 survey, 26% of people who have been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another 25% described it as “somewhat” life changing. 46% said their life had not changed at all as a result of going to church. Not going to church is not the obstacle to having a genuine relationship with God. Attending church is just religious activity by itself.

Out of the Americans that claim to be a Christian, 78% strongly agreed that spirituality is very important to them. On the other hand, only 18% of those same people claim to be totally committed to investing in their own spiritual development. This is the first real obstacle to Jesus Christ becoming real in your life. Be honest with yourself. Do you have a genuine commitment to investing in your spiritual life, or do you just attend church?

The next real obstacle I will list here is sin. This is second on the list not because it is not as important, but because if you do not have a commitment to developing a relationship with Christ, you will not take sin serious.

Out of those in America who consider themselves to be a Christian, 56% say they have not experienced the life God wants them to have. Only about 3% of these people say they have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people. Are there areas in your life that need to be surrendered to God? Are there areas where you need to trust Him more? The word repent does not mean to quit sinning; it means to have a change of heart. Simply showing up at church will not deal with these matters of the heart. You must have that commitment previously discussed when it comes to sin.

This brings us back to the obstacle of religious activity. 39% of people who claim to be a Christian have participated in a combination of three religious activities in the past week such as, attending church services, praying, and reading the Bible.

I am not saying that these are not important, but when it comes to the deeper expressions of a walk with Christ, participants are far and few between.  Less than 10% of these same people have talked about their faith with a non-Christian, fasted for religious purposes, or had an extended time of spiritual reflection during the past week.

Hebrews 10:25

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 Most people who claim to be a Christian say that they feel comfortable and connected within their church. 80% of people first attended church because someone personally invited them. Over 70% say the reason they stay in church is because of the relationships. Only 21% of those who attend church on a regular basis believe that spiritual maturity requires a vital connection to a community of faith. Only 35% claim to have confessed their sins verbally to another believer at some point during the three months. They are just there for the fellowship. If you go to church, why are you there? If you do not, what keeps you away? Isn’t it time to look to the source for real answers for your life instead of opinions formed by experience, or taking another persons word for it?

Acts 17:11

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

God has more for all of us all to enjoy, no matter where we are in our walk with Him today. Going to church is a good start, but working on these obstacles will put you in a position for Christ to become more real and personal in your life every day.

If you want to know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, click here.

Copyright 2012 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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Are Looks Everything?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Many people would say that looks are not important. Most people spend more time evaluating looks than they might think, but is it important? Have you ever wondered how a certain guy ended up with a certain beautiful woman? On the other hand, companies spend millions of dollars each year to research how to make packaging for their products more attractive. So are looks really important, or not? Before you judge your looks, not including grooming and hygiene, let me say God created you just as you look, unless you didn’t like His taste and changed something. I want to give you three ways God says you can change the way you look.

1. Look Forward
Change the way you look forward. Are you worried about something in the future? Do you have anything to look forward to? When you have lost hope it may seem useless to look forward. God has wonderful plans for you even when you don’t have them for yourself.

Jeremiah 29:11
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
NASB

Proverbs 23:18
Surely there is a future, And your hope will not be cut off.
NASB

Proverbs 23:17-18
Don’t envy evil men but continue to reverence the Lord all the time, for surely you have a wonderful future ahead of you. There is hope for you yet!
TLB

When the past seems irreparable, the future does not appear irresistible. The sense of failure seems always to corrupt perception of the future. If allowed, the past will constrain your actions until failure repeats itself.

2. Look Back
For this reason it is important to change the way we look back. Some may think if only things were the way they used to be, if only I could go back. Things are not generally as great as we romanticize them. The people of Israel wanted to go back to the past, and it was foolish.

Numbers 14:1-5
Then all the people began weeping aloud, and they carried on all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron. We wish we had died in Egypt,” they wailed, “or even here in the wilderness, rather than be taken into this country ahead of us. Jehovah will kill us there, and our wives and little ones will become slaves. Let’s get out of here and return to Egypt!” The idea swept the camp. “Let’s elect a leader to take us back to Egypt!” they shouted.
TLB

The Bible is full of contrasting stories about how people looked at the past. There are also stories where people gained encouragement from looking to the past. Isaiah wrote that we should remember all the good things God has done in the past and not doubt Him for the future.

Isaiah 46:9-10
Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
TLB

3. Look up
The only way we can keep the future and the past in proper perspective is to look up. Looking around at the things in this earth will never bring lasting peace. We have to keep our focus on Jesus Christ who is our fortress and our deliverer.

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

When it comes to finding peace in troubled times, looks are everything. Where are you looking for this peace?

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Getting the “I’M” out of Impossible

By Rev. Rick Robinson

I don’t discount the value in hard work and strategic planning but there comes a time when no matter how hard you try, some things still seem impossible. You wonder if a thing will ever be complete to your satisfaction. Will God ever help me to accomplish this or that, or is it impossible for me? The “im” in impossible stands for I’m—or “I am” in the way of what God can do. We must learn to be partners with God instead of working against Him.

Matthew 19:26
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 1:37
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Satan wants to steal from you and keep the “im” on the front of possible. It is only through Jesus Christ that you will be able to get the im out of impossible.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

I am going to show you four ways that are effective in Satan’s mission to steal from you. The methods used to steal kill and destroy are usually subtle enough to go un-noticed or even seem attractive to us.

1. Ignorance

The lie is the first method ever used to steal from man. It was effective then, and it is equally dangerous today. The lie is used to keep you ignorant of God’s will and direction for your life. Even when you get a clear directive from God, it is the lie that is used to steal it from you and keep you in ignorance.

Genesis 3:1-6
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

2. Impatience

You may be thinking God needs a little help delivering his promise or expects you to figure it out on your own. Satan wants to keep the im in front of possible by making you impatient with God. (Get the im out of impatient too!) We can see a great example of this when Abram was promised a son and then he and Sarai decided God could use some help.

Genesis 16:1-2
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

The weapon of suffering is also used to keep you impatient with God. Your suffering may be real, like pain in your body, or it may not be as bad as all that, but you are convinced how bad you must suffer while others live carefree.

1 Peter 5:10
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

3. Independence

Pride is a tool Satan will use to keep the im in impossible. When you are filled with pride you become independent of God. You don’t care if He says you must forgive, or anything else for that matter, because your circumstances justify your actions. You are independent of His will and pride has shown you a way to elevate yourself from victim to judge. You have come up with a brilliant strategy to hold the door open for Satan while he steals from you.

Proverbs 16:18-19
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

4. Indictment

The last weapon I will remind you about is the indictment Satan brings against you. Satan will accuse you and tell how much trouble you are in. This directly opposes faith, by causing you to focus on yourself. Why would God give you a miracle when you are so not worth it? The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin and compel you to get things right. He does not want you to live in guilt. You need to focus on God and the power He gives you to walk in freedom from the sin that binds. This story is a great example of Satan bringing accusations while God brings hope.

Zechariah 3:1-4
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”

If you have accepted the work of Jesus to forgive you of your sin, then you too have festal robes as opposed to filthy garments.

If you are living in ignorance because you believed a lie, then study God’s word.

If you are impatient with God while you’re waiting on answers or results then accept God’s grace and peace.

If you are living independent of God, trusting in yourself (or anyone else) for anything, then turn your life and emotions over to God for restoration.

If you feel accused about your sin and failures in the past, Make certain you are trusting in Christ alone for your salvation. If Jesus Christ is your Lord then remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://www.MyChurchGrowth.com

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Do I Really Need An Education?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

We have become discontent with so many things in life. Preparing dinner took too long, so frozen TV dinners were introduced. When I was a kid in the 1960’s it was exciting news to hear the traditional family meal at the table would be replaced with a TV dinner for the evening. Yes, we ate them on TV trays, in the living room in front of the TV set. If we were lucky, we had something called a fizzy to drink with it. If you don’t know what a fizzy was, it can perhaps be best described as sweet flavored alka seltzer that fizzed when you dropped it into a glass of water, dispensing the purest of artificial flavors science could deliver.

The discontent we experience today can lead to such a troubled heart. The pressure sometimes seems like it is just too much. We are not only discontent with our situation; we are discontent with the time required to change our circumstances. When a person decides to place their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, that re-birth takes place in an instant. Learning to trust in Christ for the future is moment by moment with a little here and a little more there. Don’t expect to become mature instantly, you must study.

Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Working out your salvation should not be confused with working for your salvation. The word used for work as in “work out your salvation” is katergazomai, which means to perform. The word used for work as in “God who is at work” is energeo, which means put forth power. All your work can have the power of the Holy Spirit working according to His good pleasure. You are not alone; the power to help you through any situation is available to all that trust Christ.

Galatians 3:24-26
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word for tutor here, is paidagogos (pahee-dag-o-gos’). Among the Greeks and the Romans, a tutor was a guardian and guide of boys. They were trustworthy slaves with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The tutor would take the boys to school everyday. (School did not become mandatory for all boys until A.D.65) In this illustration, Paul is saying the law was the slave (tutor), and Christ is the teacher. God is able to teach us how to have a better life, but He will educate us only as much as we will allow. Bring all your cares to Him, and work out your salvation with His power.

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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The Power of One

By Rev. Rick Robinson

When everything is going your way it is easy to feel proud of yourself and have hope for the future. Our confidence in our ability to accomplish something can lead us to be proud of where we are going or how far we have come. Our pride can also cause us to put other people down, overlook our own faults, and lift us to a position that may not be a reality. This is caused by ignorance of the future as we arrogantly predict how life will turn out—good or bad, based on the power of one—that is ourselves.

On the other hand, doubting our ability to accomplish all that we hope for can lead us into the feeling of everything being against us. Maybe you feel you don’t have the talent, skills or the right contacts. You’re in good company; many godly people in the Bible felt that way. Who was Moses trusting in when he had this conversation with God.

Exodus 4:10-13

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Maybe you are one that feels God will do things for other people but not for you. What do you base that on? No matter what is taking place in your surroundings it may be time to re-asses priorities. When pride overlooks our failure, it may overlook many of our sins. It is easy to point out sins that are committed, but it is much easier to overlook the sins of omission, that is—the things we ought to do but yet do not. It is easier to detect wrong than the absence of right. For example, our plans should demonstrate our dependence on the Lord, not ourselves. When we do not trust in the Lord it is a sin of omission. Likewise, Christ calls every believer to be a witness for Him. When we do not share our faith, it is a sin of omission. When we avoid doing anything our Lord has asked us to do, it is just as much a sin as any sin committed.

James 4:13-17

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.  Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

James not only tells us we must be watchful for the sin of omission, but we also see that a man who brags about future plans while ignoring God’s sovereignty is foolish. I am guilty of this more frequently than I like to admit, for my pride hides it well. God may determine that at the present time, tribulation is a greater need than attaining certain goals.

Romans 5:1-4

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

When we consider the power of one, it is important to understand that it must be Jesus, not ourselves. If a relationship with Christ were automatic, we would not have been given the great commission to share our faith. If it could be done without God’s word, we would not need the Bible. If we could do it alone, we would not need prayer—or the church. Being a Christian is all about a relationship with Jesus Christ. It only happens when we transfer our trust in the power of one from ourselves—to Jesus Christ, regardless of our surroundings.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Acquainted or acquitted?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Once when Jesus went to the region of Caesarea Philippi, the question was raised in conversation with the disciples about whom the people were saying that he is. Simon Peter spoke up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If you were asked that question, how would you answer? Would it be an intellectually learned answer, or would it be a life-changed testimony to the fact? There are many people today who are confused about the question of who is Jesus. Some say he was created, just like Lucifer. That would make the two of them brothers. Some have a form of Godliness in their life, but yet all the testimonies of what they claim God has done for them is used to point to a particular “true church”. Some believe he is the Son of the living God–but then so does the devil.

James 2:19
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

If we have met the real Jesus Christ on a personal basis, then Jesus is the infinite God-man and there is no other that he could be.

John 1:1,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Does your life express a life changed meeting with Jesus Christ or just an intellectual understanding of who Jesus is? There is a real difference between the two. What is your testimony when you answer the question about who is Jesus? Are you acquainted or acquitted?

Now let me pose another thought for you here. Suppose people were asked that same question about you? Who would the people say that you are? I am not talking about being famous or popular here, but about your character. Is the joy of being acquitted from your sin bringing genuine change to your life? If there is no difference in your you life, is it because you are simply acquainted with who Jesus is? Your circumstances will give you a difficult path to walk at times. When that happens who would the people say that you are? When you are walking through difficult times, you may feel all alone–deserted by the one who saved you as though you are only acquainted. I am guilty of that many times over. Jesus will not always make your difficult times to go away, but you will not have to walk that difficult path alone, if you are acquitted.

Matthew 16:13-16
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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That’s No Way To Act!

By Rev. Rick Robinson

This week on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly had an atheist as a guest on his show. The atheist claimed the church today has many atheist worshipping in it, they just don’t feel comfortable admitting it. I guess he wanted to encourage atheist to “come out of the closet” and out of their churches. I think the church is full of people that act like atheist much of the time. I am guilty of that sometimes just like you are. We don’t share our faith, we don’t believe God will provide our needs, we don’t spend time in prayer, reading the Bible and having fellowship with God. Neither does the atheistic guest that appeared on O’Reilly this week.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

It has been my experience in talking to atheist; they don’t usually come to be atheist by studying the facts. Genuine hard fact research (not opinion) will lead you to Jesus. The self-proclaimed atheist I have talked to, come to the belief there is no God through a hurt usually inflicted by a church member. Once when I was going door to door sharing Christ, an 83-year-old woman told me she did not believe in God, or heaven or hell, when you are dead it is over. While I talked with her I discovered that when she was a little girl, her parents got a divorce. The church they attended told them they were going to hell and could not be members anymore. At that point this woman decided it was easier to believe there is no heaven or hell, and no loving God, than to believe her parents are in hell. Friends, nobody is going to hell for getting a divorce. It is only possible to get there by not accepting the gift God gave us through Jesus Christ.

You are not all that likely to have a conversation with the rare atheist, but you are very likely to come into contact with another people group, called the un-churched. It is usually much harder to detect if This group of people are saved or not. (That word “saved” means “rescued from certain death.”)

The latest numbers on church attendance reveal that 60% of the people in Florida don’t attend church on a regular basis. (The national un-churched rate is about 58%) Florida is not even in the top ten states where people do go to church on a regular basis. Here are two positive things for the Florida church attendee to think about. First of all, we are not at the top of the bottom of the list. Vermont is the number one state in the U.S. for people who do not go to church with 77% un-churched. The second thing is–six out of ten people you come in contact with in Florida, are prospects for you to invite to church. Don’t proselytize, there are plenty of un-churched people to go around.

I have had a lot of conversations with un-churched people about spiritual and religious things. I also came up with a survey I use to find out how the un-churched are thinking. To the question, “If you were looking for a church to attend, what would you look for?” The number one answer is “Someplace I could feel accepted just like I am.” Now, this could indicate an un-willingness to change a lifestyle, but I think it is something those of us inside the church need to take to heart. I have lived in Florida all my life, and I have never seen workers picking oranges with a baseball bat. When we don’t take the time to talk with people who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are doing just that. It is like fishing with a scaling knife. Trying to clean the fish before you catch them only scares the fish away. Charles Roesel, (the man who led me to Christ) told me something a long time ago that has forever stuck in my mind. He said “Rick, I only catch the fish–I let God clean them.”

Are you guilty, like I am, of acting like an atheist at times? Do you live your life daily like the majority of un-churched, allowing a need to be accepted by the people around you to control your decisions? Are your picking fruit with a baseball bat and fishing with a scaling knife? There should be something very different about us that will speak clearly to the atheist and the un-churched around us. It will speak clearly to those of us inside the church to encourage us all to live the new life we have been given. It is the love of Christ. May it be evident to all that are around us.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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The Farm of Your Life

By Rick Robinson

There once was a farmer who had a son who watched him plow in the fields. Each day as the son grew; he would ask his father to allow him to take the reigns of the plow. As time passed, the father grew weary of his son begging him to learn the art of farming. So the farmer gave the reigns over to his son, and he explained to him the secret of plowing the field comes down to the art of focus. If you will simply pick something off in the distance, and focus on it, you will be able to master the art of plowing the field in perfectly straight rows. So he gave the reigns over to his son, and made his way to other chores waiting on the farm.  Later, when the farmer returned to inspect his son’s work, he was dismayed to find all the rows crooked and crossing over each other. The father asked his son, why have you not followed my instruction? I told you to simply focus on something in the distance and plow a straight line toward the target. His son answered back, I followed your instruction exactly as you explained father. I focused on the cow in the next field and followed it to plow my rows.

The farm of your life may look like a mess if you are focused on the wrong things.
God wants us to be productive and fruitful. Our Father in heaven has given us the reigns to the plow and instructed us to focus on Jesus Christ so that we may plow in straight rows. When you are trusting in your own strength to accomplish things, you have taken your focus off Christ.

Hosea 10:12-13
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,

There is also a warning about trying to reap a harvest on sun baked soil that allows growth of mostly weeds, or sin. It is essential not only that we do not rely on our own strength, but that we do not allow our heart to become hardened, and our actions to sow seeds of destruction. God calls this type of farming sin.

Jeremiah 4:3
This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up our unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.

Plowing only prepares the soil for sowing the seeds that bring forth the harvest. On the farm of your life, the soil is our heart, the plow is the word of God and the seeds we plant are our actions. Your actions will produce a harvest of peace or destruction according to what was sown.

Galatians 6:7
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Is God calling you to have a radical change in your life? If you are focused on things other that Jesus Christ then you have plowed crooked rows in the farm of your life, even if they look straight to you.

Proverbs 14:12
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

If you have not put application to the things God has shown you in His word, you are bound to reap a harvest full of weeds. If you have not plowed the soil of your heart at all, the sun baked hard soil will produce a harvest by chance instead of by God’s design and perfect plan. What kind of fruit are you harvesting with the farm of your life? No matter the mess you feel you or circumstances beyond your control may have made of your life, Jesus Christ has already provided solutions. Nothing is too difficult for God.

Copyright 2010 Church Growth Associates
http://mychurchgrowth.com

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Sanity Takes a Holiday

by Rev. Rick Robinson

So they don’t want us to call it Christmas anymore? The caravans did not travel following OnStar to their destination for a holiday. The angels did not announce glad tidings of vacation time and great shopping discounts. All right then, I want to wish you a very Merry Jesusmas! I know it has extra syllables, even for those of us who are from the south–but if you get a running start with it, you can make it fit in most of those songs that offend some people.

Well, if I can’t change the name legally, then why can someone else? At least I left the “mas” in my revision; they aren’t suggesting Happy Holidaymas. When is the last time you asked someone if they accepted a Holiday as their personal Lord and Savoir? If you don’t like Jesusmas, you are not alone. My spell checker wants me to change it. Add it to the dictionary…argument over. Maybe there should be a Sanity Clause in all of this legal mumbo-jumbo.

While we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th, and many are working to remove reference to Christ from the day of celebration, let’s look to the Bible to see what information we can get about the birth date of Jesus Christ.
Many Christians acknowledge that no one knows the exact day Jesus was born, but the Bible gives us some good information about the event. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is not as critical as not losing focus of the greatest gift given to mankind. Let’s look at the series of event recorded in the book of Luke, and break it down into a time frame.

Luke 1:5-17 (NASB)
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And aan angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

We see from this passage, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was serving in the course of Abijah in the temple. The “course of Abijah” was a specific time when priests served in the temple. King David had divided the sons of Aaron into 24 groups (1 Chr 24:1-4). This would set up a schedule by which the Temple could be staffed with priests all year round in an orderly manner. Lots were then drawn to determine the sequence in which each group would serve in the Temple (1 Chr 24: 7-19). Zechariah served in the course of Abijah, the eighth course, which started in early June.

Luke 1:24-37 (NASB)
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of  the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, ‍The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

As we continue exploring the timeline in Luke, we see the angel announcing the birth of Jesus, to Mary six months later. The Jewish calendar was different than the one we use today, but this would have been sometime around our December, when Mary conceived. If I was teaching this in a classroom environment we would dig deeper into this, but this is not a course on calendar conversion. We know this was six months after the conception of John, because the angel told Mary that fact. Assuming that both Mary and Elizabeth were normal in terms of length pregnancy, John the Baptist would have been born in March, and Jesus probably sometime in the month of September.

The Bible also gives more evidence that Jesus was not likely born in December.

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Shepherds were not in the fields in the winter, they were in the fields early in March until early October. This would place Jesus’ birth in the spring or early fall. It is also known that Jesus lived for 33.5 years and died at the feast of the Passover, which is at Easter time. He must therefore have been born six months the other side of Easter – making the date around the September/October time frames.

Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Palestine is very cold in December and much too cold to ask everyone to travel to the city of their fathers to register for taxes. This would also support the evidence of the shepherds being out in the fields.

If Jesus started His ministry at the age of thirty, as was customary for the Jews (Numbers 4:3) and was crucified at the feast of the Passover, which is Easter time, then He was about thirty-three and one-half years old. Six months the other side of Easter would make His date of birth around the September time frame.

Regardless of when Jesus was born, our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving that God chose to send his Son into the world for our redemption and salvation. I hope this information does not ruin your Christmas, but makes it more special. If you have not received this gift of Christmas (eternal life) you can do it now and make This Christmas the best ever.

The gospel does not require the celebration of Christmas, but there is no time that is “off limits” for us to meet together to celebrate the good things God has done for us through Jesus Christ. We celebrate Christmas in our home every year, but we are aware that the thing that is sacred, is the birth of Jesus Christ, not December 25th.

Copyright 2010 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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What Are The Chances?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

What are the chances things happen by chance? I think perhaps, chance is the answer some give to explain the way one event in life falls in line with other events. Our desire of knowledge as to why certain things happen to us can then be explained by either demon everywhere, or by chance, or by a divine call of God. If we are in communion with God, as we ought, we must remember to trust the knowledge of God, and not concoct our own explanations.

These unexplained events could be a chance for us to grow in our trust of Christ. They could also be seen as a chance for God to be glorified by our deliverance, but they may not be any chance of coincidence at all. The simplicity of faith will rise up when we have been knocked down–but we must give it the chance. The Greek word for faith (pistis) used in the Bible means “conviction of the truth”. It is more natural to have conviction of the facts, than it is to have conviction of the truth. Conviction of the facts can be written off to chance, or other human thinking. Conviction of the truth comes from trust in Jesus Christ alone. There must be a discipline to read God’s word and meditate on it, to receive conviction of the truth.

Romans 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It really is a simple thing when you understand it does not require more of an explanation. Imagine how much peace and true explanation of things would come if equal time were spent reading God’s word, as were consumed with worry, wondering and wrong thinking.

If we strive to accomplish a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity of trusting God. You will not be set aside while God has to deal with the war, world hunger, or the mass of people in line to receive an answer to prayer. When you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your prayer life becomes that of a conversation with God. You are now related. Do you spend more time talking to God about the direction of your life, or to other people who cannot help, and will probably give you bad advice anyway? That may be where you are fortifying the conviction of the facts.

If you never took the initiative to dig into His word for your answers, your chances are slim to have the comfort you may be seeking, or should I say, “fat chance?” On the other hand, chances are you will have many things come upon you unexpectedly. This is a chance to make a decision to fortify your conviction of the truth, or conviction of the facts. Give God a chance, you will never be the same.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.

Copyright 2010 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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