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Archive for the tag “Church”

Five Hundred

Are you a numbers person? I am. When I hear numbers, I perk up – so to speak. It happened the other Sunday while I listened to my Pastor speak about getting our act together – well, he didn’t actually call the message that… but that’s the jest of this message series.

The number 500 came to my attention when Pastor Jimmy spoke about the last message Jesus gave to those gathered. The message was to go out and tell the Good News. Pastor Jimmy said the crowd hearing that message was less than the ones sitting in the warehouse that morning hearing Pastor Jimmy’s message.

Five hundred. That’s all it took to get the message to us today. Isn’t that amazing?

Five hundred men and women were called to tell the Good News to the ends of the earth. They heard the proclamation to go and tell in Jerusalem (city), in Judea and Samaria (region) and to the ends of the earth (world). But it took persecution to get the message to go beyond the borders of Jerusalem. When those believers felt the heat, they took off to parts unknown. But as they went, they told the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Five hundred.

The small crowd of followers listened intently to the message that day. These were the ones who stayed when others had left because of Jesus’ hard teaching. Their eyes were focused on the Risen Lord. I can imagine them sitting with their gaze – eyes wide; ears attentive and tuned in to His voice. They would hang on His every word. After all, this One was dead then He was alive. Who wouldn’t believe after that? Well, besides the religious leaders.

The last thing Jesus said would be the thing that would be engraved on their hearts. “Write it down; we need to remember this – it’s important.” The Gospel writers did so we could be there with them to hear the message they heard. The message changed their lives. It could change ours too – if we listened and tuned in to His voice.

Five hundred.

Peter helped increase the number with his first message. The followers numbered three thousand five hundred on Pentecost. Jesus said those assembled would increase with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. And they did. The Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind. Tongues of fire lit something within them and they were never the same. Jesus said the assembly – Ecclesia (Greek) or Church (English) – would be built upon the foundation of Jesus’ message – His Truth – He is the Son of the Living God who died for our sins and was raised to life so that we could be in relationship with God the Father as was the Plan from the beginning.

This message was passed down from generation to generation. For centuries, it endured because of the testimony from those who had been changed by its message. Throughout the world and across generations, lives have been changed because of the first five hundred. The five hundred didn’t have an easy road to travel. They endured many hardships. Persecution kept them going. And the message spread because of it.

What would it take today to get us motivated to tell others about this Good News? The message hasn’t changed. The Holy Spirit is still at work today as He was when the Church was first formed. Jesus said the Church would never be destroyed. And it hasn’t been, although it’s not because of the enemy’s lack of trying. One day, the Church will be snatched away and the world will fall into a great darkness.

The only thing keeping the darkness at bay is the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Church. It may not be apparent today in the US as it was in the past, but the Church is still a guiding force by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still looking for those willing to risk it all, just as the first five hundred did for the message of Christ. The first five hundred experienced persecution for the Church to grow.

Today, the Church is growing in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, they experience great persecution as well. The decline of the church in the US may be caused by our “freedoms” and lack of persecution. What’s it going to take to wake up the church in the US today? Is it going to take persecution in the US to bring about a renewed interest in this old message? Will the church dwindle down to 500 faithful believers who will risk it all for the sake of the Good News? Time will tell… the church is still here – are we awake?

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NLT)

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New Vision

What’s your image of Jesus? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? Do you see Him as just a man who happened to live long ago? I grew up in a Christian home. There hasn’t been a time in my life where I questioned who Jesus was (is). However in the last few years, I have found a new vision of Jesus. I have a new appreciation for who He is in my life. He is not just my Lord and Savior; He is my source of life and light. I have taken the time to get to know the real Jesus, not the image I have in my head, but the one that is forming in my heart through His word. Scripture tells us that the Word took on flesh and dwelt among us.

I no longer see Him as a meek soul wandering around healing people or forgiving them of their sins. He was a Jewish man, in a Jewish community, doing Jewish things like going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He upheld the strict laws given to Moses found in the first five books of our modern-day Bible. He went about His business each and every day. He was a carpenter by trade until His ministry began at the age of thirty. When His journey started toward the cross, He had the body of a carpenter. He was a strong man. His appearance would have been as any Jewish man of His time. He would have worn His hair long and had a beard. He would have worn a turban and long garments with sandals on his feet. I can imagine He exuded joy from His every pore. I see Him laughing and excited to see His friends discover something new. His face would have expressed peace. I would think His whole demeanor would have shown love pouring from His heart.

Even now, His attitude is still love and passionate for us. Even though we can’t physically see Him, I know His heart is poured out on us. His love envelops us. His comfort wraps His arms around us. He is passionate about me; about you. His heart longs for us to know Him as He knows us. Scripture tells us He knows the number of hairs on our heads – and for me, it changes daily (even hourly)! He laughs when we laugh. He cries when we cry. And when we ignore Him, I’m sure He feels the same thing we would if we were ignored by someone we love.

Jesus knows our circumstances. He longs to help us with them. He wants to share in our burdens. He wants to chase the darkness away. He is the light and there is no darkness around Him. Jesus is passionate about His people. And He is passionate about every lost soul walking this earth without a hope. He died for each and every person. And He is passionate about His church. Do I have the things of Jesus in mind? Am I as passionate as He is about lost souls or His church? He is creating a new vision in me. How about you? What is your vision of Jesus?

When I turned to see who was speaking, there behind me were seven candlesticks of gold. And standing among them was one who looked like Jesus, who called himself the Son of Man, wearing a long robe circled with a golden band across his chest. His hair was white as wool or snow, and his eyes penetrated like flames of fire. His feet gleamed like burnished bronze, and his voice thundered like the waves against the shore. He held seven stars in his right hand and a sharp, double-bladed sword in his mouth, and his face shone like the power of the sun in unclouded brilliance. Revelation 1:12-16 Living Bible

Be Ready

I am getting married! Are you shocked? I was totally unprepared for that emotional elation, that after all this time I might actually want to get married! I read in Revelation 19 that Jesus is preparing His church (people not a building) for the wedding feast that will be happening in His kingdom. His church is His bride and even today, He is preparing us for that day. I have been on the reading adventure through Revelation since September through the Community Bible Study group. It’s been a wild ride through all the symbols and wraths of God, but in chapter 19 there is a continual celebration of all that is taking place. It’s a breath of fresh air.

In chapter 19, John sees the celebration of the wedding ceremony. As I was reading, I pictured the readiness of a bride-to-be and all the preparations that take place before her big day. As the bride-to-be begins the process of dressing for the event – her big day, she wears the dress of white (typically). In Revelation, we see the attire being fine linen, bright and clean (verse 8). John was instructed to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” As I was reading this particular section, the commentary suggested looking at Matthew 22.

Jesus tells a story in Matthew 22 about a wedding banquet. Several groups were invited to come, but they all had excuses why they couldn’t make it. Eventually strangers were asked to attend, and they came wearing their wedding clothes, except for one fellow. He was put out because he didn’t have the right clothes. Every other time I had read this passage from Matthew 22, I thought that was a bit harsh to throw him out just because of the clothes. However, I am reminded that when Jesus told stories it was for a spiritual purpose. Since reading Revelation 19, I see the clothes now as the righteousness of those who attend His wedding feast. Not everyone will be allowed in and those who are not clothed in righteousness will be thrown out. Wow – what a powerful word.

I get it. I understand I need to be in preparation for that big day. But also, the church needs to be ready as well. I believe time is growing short, and there’s much to do to be ready for that big day. I want to be a part of the ceremony, don’t you? There is nothing in this world worth losing that wedding invitation. Revelation 19 begins with “Hallelujah!” which means Praise to God! Yes, I am excited to be wed to Jesus. It’s going to be a glorious day! Amen!

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Revelation 19:6b-8

Foundations and Buildings

I have recently heard two messages on both the foundations of God and Jesus building the church. I don’t believe in consequences. I believe God is giving us a word. Jesus said over two thousand years ago that He is building His church. He is still doing it today. The church has grown from 120 people when Jesus started to millions today. The foundation was laid through Jesus’ ministry. His words came from God. He spoke the truth of God. Then He laid down on a cross. He is building on the foundation that cannot be shaken. It is the Truth spoken by Jesus and through Jesus.

I listen to several sermons a week through different ministries. God is building a firm foundation in me. I am hearing the truth through scripture, the spoken word and the written word. God is building a church through each person that is willing to listen, learn and put the Word into practice. God is not a god of duplication but multiplication. His church is not dying but thriving. There are multiple churches out there in the world that are bringing the Truth to light and people are responding. God is at work.

I am in the process of becoming ready to join the movement in whatever role I am to play. God is preparing my heart. He is preparing my mind. He is preparing my body. He is at work. He is not preparing me for a ministry that is duplicated but is unique to what He is calling me to. Beth Moore recently spoke about rebuilding the temple in Ezra 3. She spoke about the same foundation was used to rebuild temple, the same materials, same architectural plans, but the temple came out different. God didn’t dwell the same in the second temple as He did the first. We are in the temple age where He now dwells in us. He doesn’t dwell the same with everyone. Whoever is ready, let him receive the Holy Spirit for the greater work God is doing. Join the movement – build the church. Others are waiting to be introduced to Jesus.

For those that have ears, let them hear.

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Revelation 3:5,7

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