For the Love of Truth

Deut 4 29

What is going to keep you in your church or in this movement – Church of God General Conference?  The nice people that go there?  The music?  The youth group?  Fuel?

If you really think about it, I can pretty much guarantee that most churches in your neighborhood have nice people in them, maybe they even have bigger bands and bigger youth groups.  But, do they have biblical truth?  Unfortunately, I have seen many people leave our movement for “better” music and bigger youth groups.  They sacrifice the truth that will save them for temporary pleasures and personal preferences.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 says that people refused to love truth and so be saved. “and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,”

If people do not love truth enough to genuinely seek for it, then God will allow them to keep believing what is false.

But, God promises to be found if we truly seek Him! “… from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”   (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Is our attitude that of Daniel’s?  “… I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)

Hosea 4:6 tells us that the Israelites were destroyed for lack of knowledge.

The road is narrow that leads to life, and truth and righteousness are what that road is paved with.  Most likely your church or this movement will not be able to provide all that other churches or mission’s organizations can provide, but please never forget what they do provide.  Truth is a treasure and if you have to choose between popularity, great worship music or bigger youth groups, never settle for less than that which can save you!

Don’t take the easy road and leave when something “better” comes along.  If you want different music or bigger, more active youth groups, then don’t compromise truth, just do something about it!  No organization or group will be perfect, but if there is solid truth as a foundation, you can build anything you want, as high as you want.

Here are a few more verses to consider and meditate on.  Read them and consider the result of seeking God with all your heart.  Psalms 63:1; 2 Chronicles 15:12, 31:21

Will you make a covenant to always seek God?

-Tracy Zhykhovich

 

Tracy went to Oregon Bible College and then spent 17 years in Russia as a missionary.  She is passionate for biblical truth and that is why she went alone to Russia and not with another mission organization.  Upon returning to the United States she remains very active in evangelism and global missions and continues working as a missionary through internet evangelism and partnering with indigenous missionaries that are doing mission work overseas.   She currently partners with people in Russia, Pakistan and the Middle East.  She is president of the MN Missionary Society and is a member on Lord’s Harvest International missions board, and is the co-founder of Kingdom of God Ministry & Missions.  http://www.kogmissions.com

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ON PURPOSE – Evangelism

Luke 15 6b

The past five days we have been looking at how to live our lives on purpose.  We don’t want to drift through life not accomplishing what God has prepared for us to do.  We don’t want worldly goals that pull us away from what really matters.

First, we looked at the Greatest Commandment and said that to love God is to worship God.  Next, we discussed the importance of following Christ by being a devoted disciple: the on-going process of becoming mature in Christ (discipleship) which begins with time in God’s Word – and will include other godly habits as well.  And, a disciple remembers they are not alone but are connected to other disciples as the body of Christ so they are eager to fellowship with and encourage one another.  Life in the encouraging body leads to seeing other’s needs and being willing to use our God-given gifts in ministry to others.

So far, we have created an individual who deeply loves God, is growing in their walk with God’s Son, has healthy connections to the church family and seeks to serve others.  That is a GREAT and beautiful start!  But, too often, we are content to stop right there and remain committed to just these 4 purposes – and stay inside our safe little church bubble (myself included).

When church members were surveyed, 89% said, “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs… Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” (Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren – p 82).  And we wonder why the church isn’t growing.  This selfish, inward focus is not healthy, and is not what God intended for us as individuals, or as the church.

The Great Commission did not tell us to just go and BE a good disciple – it commands us, “Go and MAKE disciples of all nations.”  It is not enough to only be concerned for my own salvation.  To truly love God and others includes a desire to share a great and glorious God with those who are lost and hurting and oblivious without Him.  God wants His lost sheep found and most often he chooses to use people to do that.  Only God can save the lost, but He relies on us to share the good news.  Read Luke 15 to see God’s heart for the lost – and pray that becomes your heart, too.

When Jesus said, “Come, follow me” he wasn’t just inviting you to his church pew on Sunday morning.  He said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19.).  He is asking you to invite others to your church pew.

Who do you know who needs to know God’s saving power and plan?  Who do you know who is not ready for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of God?  Start by naming them and then praying for them and watching for God-given opportunities to speak and act with God’s love and truth.  Then, jump in there and do it.

For Him,

Marcia Railton

 

ON PURPOSE – Fellowship

1 Cor 12 27

We have been looking at living our life on purpose – choosing goals that are pleasing to God and then striving to live by them.  So far, we have covered the purposes of Worship and Discipleship.

 

Today, we consider the exciting fact that we are not the only disciple of Christ.  Rather, we are a part of a body of believers – the body of Christ.  It is God’s desire that we remain connected to the body of Christ in order to be more effective and to better fulfill the 2nd Commandment: love others.  This purpose can be called Fellowship.

 

Hebrews 10:25 gives great counsel to the family of God: “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.”   Unfortunately, sometimes the church body fails at this.  In a survey of people who have stopped attending church, 75% said they gave up meeting together because they didn’t feel like people cared if they were at church or not.  They failed to get encouragement from the body of Christ.  This should not be!   As disciples of Christ we have a responsibility to each other – to encourage, to listen, to greet, to show concern, to value the other members of God’s family.  The church is no place for cliques or loneliness.  And each one of us can be part of the solution.

 

Take a minute today to read Acts 2 (particularly verses 36-47).  Look for what the early church was doing together.  How were they creating a powerful body of believers that were on fire for God’s truth and a love for one another?   What will you do today and throughout the week to strengthen your bonds with God’s family?  They need you – and you just might find out you are better off with them, too.

 

A Part of His Body,

Marcia Railton

 

A Lesson from Africa: Leadership

Missions Spotlight: Africa

africa church inside

400 CoG Churches spread across the plains and mountains of Malawi, Mozambique and Kenya.  This past year alone, there have been 23 new church plants in Mozambique and 7 in Malawi! This year, new Church headquarter buildings will be established in Mozambique and Kenya. God is moving in Africa! Pictured is a new church building in Kenya.

 

How did Jesus set up the church to work? Well I’m so glad you asked that question because that is the perfect question to help us lead into today’s topic which is leadership. Christ designed the church around a leadership, evangelism, and then discipleship model. This work begins when a leader who is strong in the faith and well educated on the gospel talks to people about it – a.k.a evangelism. So once this leader has effectively spread the gospel to someone and they decided that they want to become a follower of Christ they start down the path of discipleship. Discipleship is a Christianese word that means to train and grow someone in their faith. Once a person has spent a sufficient time studying the word and learning about Jesus they themselves become leaders and the cycle starts all over. This is how the early church went from 12 people to the official religion of Rome in 300 years! Jesus was our first leader who trained his 12 disciples and then they took it from there. Now that is a simplified version of the New Testament record but that is essentially what happened. The amazing thing is that this model of church has overcome persecution, death, plagues, famine, and time to reach us today. We can be proud that some 2,000 years later we are still carrying out Jesus’ great commission, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matt. 28:19-20.

 

A perfect example of this leadership are the pastors of Africa bringing the gospel to their people. About 25 years ago a missionary from our conference discipled a single individual and today there are over 400 churches in Malawi, Mozambique, and Kenya. That is amazing – from 1 person to 400 churches in 25 years! God must be blessing these pastors and no small part of their success is due to their understanding of Biblical leadership. Even though these pastors don’t have the resources we have here in the states they still get the job done. They walk miles on foot to spread gospel, they live morally righteous lives, and sacrifice of themselves to spread the good news. If that isn’t a perfect model of leadership, I don’t know what is.  When I saw them in Africa, I saw Christ in them. I saw them spreading the gospel, making disciples, and empowering believers to be leaders themselves. I saw their undying loyalty to the truth and devotion to live righteous lives despite famine, war, death of children, and poverty; they do not give up and they effectively spread the gospel.

 

Let’s learn from and be inspired by our African brothers who spread the gospel with no fear or hesitation. They are living proof to one of my favorite scriptures Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The best part of talking about all of this evangelism and leadership is realizing that the mission field is just as big here, in the USA, as it is in Africa. We need leaders now and in the next generation to come and speak truth. We also need to support our leaders now to continue to carry the truth.

 

If you would like to support our brethren in Africa with new church buildings along with fertilizer and seed for crops, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

My Highlighter Went a Bit Crazy

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 36

Hello Everyone!

Wow, what a great chapter!  If you’re anything like me you probably highlighted a third of the verses for today!  Because there was so much I really enjoyed about this chapter I wanted to share just a few thoughts for the verses I liked the best.  I strongly encourage you to be an active reader for this chapter… sit down with a highlighter (or hop on your Bible App!) and highlight the verses you feel really speak to you today!

Vs. 4 and 10- I like these verses in combination because one sets up the other.  Verse 4 is explaining yet again that the previous sacrifices could not atone for the sins of the Hebrews or for us for that matter.  Verse 10 is just a great reminder that God sent his Son, and through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been made holy.  The author is again and again trying to drill into the reader’s head that JESUS is the one who saves.  It is JESUS who can atone for the sins of the world, and there is no more need for sacrifices.

Vs 14 and 18 – Again, I think these verses pair together wonderfully!  Sometimes I think the author may be repeating himself one too many times, but then I remember the original purpose for the letter.  These people were being told about a dramatic life style change, the author can’t reiterate enough the new deal!  Jesus made one sacrifice, and because of it there was no more need for them to sacrifice animals anymore.

And from here on is where my highlighter went a bit crazy…

Vs. 22-23 – What powerful language!  We have full assurance that our faith will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and wash us with pure water.  We need to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He is faithful!  If you were looking for a faith booster today, this is it friends!  We have a faithful God, and by having faith in Him we know that we can become pure.  What a wonderful reminder of His love and power.

Vs 24-25 – Application verses for the day!  As a body of Christ, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to continue to have fellowship with one another, and to encourage one another as the Day of Jesus’ return draws closer.  It’s almost as if this verse is calling you to attend an amazing COG event like Family Camp or FUEL….    So let’s put these verses in action a bit; How can you spur on a brother or sister towards love and good deeds today?  Are you going to best encourage them through a kind note, through a coffee date, by helping them clear out their garage, doing a Bible study?  There are so many ways we can show God’s love to our Christian family, pick one and try it out this week!

Vs. 26-27 and 31 – These verses are a little hard to swallow.  Deliberately choosing to continue in a path of sin will lead to raging fire that consumes God’s enemies.  I’m not going to sugar coat this at all.  By making a conscious decision to live in sin after knowing truth, you are becoming an enemy of God and should fearfully expect judgement.  Notice how it specifically mentions “after knowing truth”.  Especially for those who grew up in the church like myself, we know truth and we have been taught what sin is.  I fully recognize that this can make daily living more complicated, and according to this verse, more dangerous for our salvation.  As verse 31 states, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”  We should only live in fear of judgement day if we are consciously choosing sin in our life.  I think it is ok to let that fear motivate you sometimes!  If you’re struggling with decisions in your life, maybe you need a little fear to keep yourself in check!

Vs. 36-37 – After those previous verses this verse is a nice reminder as to why we choose righteous living.  It is so that we can receive what has been promised!  I think the author intentionally uses the word ‘persevere’ in this verse because they recognize that it is something we have to work at, and that doesn’t come naturally.  If you read the few verses before this you see that the author is describing suffering, so the language of persevere makes sense here.  Thankfully, we are not suffering in prison as was mentioned, but we certainly have daily sufferings that make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But if you move on to read verse 37 you see that in just a little while, Jesus will return and he will not delay.  We can handle our present sufferings because we know that someday soon Jesus will return and we will receive that promise!

And finally, Vs. 39 – We belong not to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  We have a heritage.  We have a family and a foundation.  It’s easy to feel alone at work, school, or maybe even in your own family.  But through Jesus, we have a sense of belonging.  And we are on the winning side!

I think each of these verses could’ve been pulled into a mini sermon today, but I tried to keep it short… I promise!  I hope today some of my thoughts got you reflecting and thinking on God’s word.  I also hope that you found some encouragement in the truth that we hold to, especially if you are in a season of persevering.  I love being a part of this body of Christ, and I hope you feel our history and the fellowship we have!  Life is so much easier when you have people to live it with that can encourage you in your walk of faith.  Today, seek those people out!  Or, be that person to a member who needs some encouragement!

Have a great day brothers and sisters!

Sarah Blanchard

 

Increasing Fellowship with Other Christians

1 Corinth 12 19,20 revised

Has your faith or walk with God ever felt like it has fallen in a rut? Have you ever questioned whether God is listening? Have you ever questioned your faith in general? I will be completely honest; I can say yes to all of these things, but I have moved on from them, and I know God is listening, I am strong in my faith and I feel like my faith is constantly growing. You might ask what got me to this point, and truly it is my fellowship with other Christians. Being surrounded by other people who believe in what I believe and know how to comfort me and support me in my faith is so incredibly important for me, but why does God say fellowship is important, and why should it be added to your list of resolutions?

Todays’ verses are Ephesians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-31

Ephesians 5:19-21 tells us to share psalms and hymns, sing together and give thanks for everything God has done for us. These verses tell us to worship God together, not only because it will bring joy to God, but because it will bring joy to me and to those believers around us.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31. These verses talk about the body of Christ; we as believers and followers of Christ are the body of Christ and we are all a part of his church. We are all important and we all have a purpose. These verses say that no one part of the body can say that there is no need for another. Each piece has a specific purpose, and this was done intentionally. We are given spiritual gifts from God, and these verses also touch on that. Some people are teachers, some are apostles, some are prophets, some do miracles, some know many languages, some are good at administration and planning. None of these are more important than the other, they are just different and they are necessary for a fully functioning body. This is fellowship. When we spend time with other believers we begin to see their strengths and their gifts, when we spend more time with them, our own faith and relationship with God can be strengthened. When we spend more time with each other we are supported in our faith and our walk. We work as a team in many different aspects, and we know that we are not alone. Fellowship with each other is incredible important.

Now that you know the importance of fellowship and working together, you may be wondering how you can be more intentional in this area of your life. My suggestions are to attend church if you do not already. If you do, see if your church has a weekly bible study or youth group. If they do not have these ministries already, talk to your pastor about how to start one and how to organize one, you may not be the only person interested in creating more fellowship opportunities amongst the people in your community. I truly hope you have a supportive community, and if not I pray that one is given to you soon. Thank you for reading today, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.

-Jana Swanson

Connected

bred.png

As a soldier, you would never storm the enemy by yourself. You need a team standing beside you to support you, uplift you, and challenge you.  Spiritual battles are the same; you cannot stand alone. There is always safety in numbers, as the enemy hunts for those who are outcast. Connection, both to each other and to God, is the best defense against the enemy.

Yesterday’s devotion was about how the people of the early church were persecuted, yet stood in boldness. They were able to stand so boldly because they stood together. In Acts chapter 2, we are given an inside look into just how connected the Church was:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

The early believers were an impenetrable front. They ate together, prayed together, performed miracles together, gave generously together, met in the temple together, and praised God together. The Church, being the people and not the building, is the Bride of Christ. If Jesus was so passionate about believers meeting together, I think we should be, too. The depth of this connection that we have with each other is ultimately dependent on the depth of our connection to God.

“The Kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God.” –Duncan Campbell

Connection to our Creator is the first priority. Connection to God, like connection to the Church, doesn’t come without effort. Building a strong relationship takes time and an open line of communication, prayer. Your prayer life is the biggest factor of your connectedness with God, which then strengthens your connection to your fellow believers.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

~Mackenzie McClain