How Can We Know if We Are a Christian? – April 29, 2022

We live in an age in which feeling determines authenticity. If you feel something, it must be real. Therefore, if you claim something, it must be true. If I feel that I am a different gender, I can claim it. While we look at this with dismay, the same attitude has infiltrated many churches today. For many, simply claiming to be a Christian makes you a Christian. However, this is not the case. Christ informed us in Matthew 7 that many who claim to be Christians will discover in the final day of judgment that they are not Christians.
How then can we know if we are Christian? How can we have confidence? The Apostle John wrote his first epistle to clarify the answer to this question. In 1 John 5:13, he informs us that he wrote the epistle so that we can know if we have eternal life. Over the next several weeks, we will walk through the tests found in 1 John to help us determine if our faith is genuine.

However, before we can examine the tests, we must lay the foundation. The first four verses of 1 John 1 remind us that the foundation of our faith must be Jesus Christ. James Boice stated it this way, “The most important thing John has to say in his preface is that Christianity is Jesus Christ.” This message of the Gospel is not new. It is from the beginning. Christ, our Creator, existed eternally. John began His Gospel with the same reminder. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John is also pointing out something important beyond Christ’s eternality. He reminds us that God’s plan of redemption was not secondary. This was God’s plan before He created anything. This is the perfect plan. So, we cannot change it to fit what we want. We cannot claim that there is something better. Instead, we must understand that there is only one plan. We follow it and find life, or we reject it and find death.

This eternal plan of redemption is the Grand Story Line of the Bible. From the beginning of Genesis in the Garden of Eden to the end of Revelation in the Garden of Heaven, the theme of the Bible is the redemptive work of God through Christ. As we wonder how we can know if we are Christians, we must start with God’s redemptive plan. This plan informs us that we are sinners alienated from God. We cannot earn or declare our way to God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Instead, Jesus Christ (God Himself) took on human form and took our punishment on himself. Only through faith in Christ can this be applied to us. True faith involves complete surrender to Jesus as our Lord. It requires repentance of sin. And it results in a desire to please God in everything. Over the next few weeks, we will look at John’s tests to determine if our faith is genuine.

Good Friday – April 15, 2022

Today we celebrate Christ’s death. Two thousand years ago, on that fateful day, Christ suffered and died for our sins. As you meditate on Christ’s death today, here is a rough schedule of that day Christ purchased our redemption:

4:00-6:00 am – Jesus was brought before Caiaphas and Annas for trial. They could not find anything to convict Jesus, so a false witness was brought. Asked if He is the Christ, Jesus responded, “You have said it yourself.” He was then beaten and spit on.

As Jesus stood before Caiaphas and Annas, Peter made his way to the courtyard outside. Confronted about being one of the Jesus People, he flatly denied it. By the third confrontation, he began to curse. Then the rooster crowed; Peter saw Jesus leaving the compound and wept in shame.

6:00-8:00 am – Daylight appeared, and the Jewish leaders dragged Jesus to Pilate for sentencing. However, Pilate had no desire to become involved in what he perceived to be a no-win situation. He stated, “I find no guilt in this man.” Asking if Jesus is Galilean, Pilate found a jurisdiction loophole. So, he sent Jesus to Herod, who oversaw Galilee.

Herod attempted to question Jesus, but Jesus kept silent. Finally, Herod allowed his soldiers to abuse Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate.

When Jesus arrived back before Pilate, Pilate continued to question Jesus. However, Jesus continued to remain silent. Marveling at Jesus’ composure, Pilate offered the gathering crowd the opportunity to release Jesus. However, with the urging of the religious leaders, the crowd demanded that Pilate release a thief and murderer named Barabbas instead. They then demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus. After symbolically washing his hands, Pilate turned Jesus over for death.

After Jesus was condemned, the soldier renewed their abuse. They whipped Him, beat Him, jammed a crown of thorns on His head, and put a purple robe on His bloody and tattered body. After humiliating Jesus, they removed the robe and prepared a bloody and battered Jesus for death.

8:00-8:30 am – Jesus began the trek through the city and outside the walls to Golgotha for crucifixion. Having endured so much abuse, He could not carry His cross. The soldiers grabbed a man named Simon from the crowd and forced him to take Jesus’ cross the rest of the way.

As Jesus made his way to Golgotha, a crowd followed him weeping. Jesus turned and told them not to weep for Him but for themselves. For, if the leaders did this when Jesus was with them, what would they do when He was gone?

9:00 am – The group arrived at Golgotha. They stretched Jesus’ arms across the beam and nailed his wrists to the wood. They then nailed his ankles to the vertical piece and hoisted the cross in place. The process of procuring our redemption had begun.

9:00-9:30 am – Jesus was offered a drink to numb the pain, but He refused. Having completed their work, the soldiers settled in for a day of watching the criminals die. They began to cast lots to determine who got to take home the various items of the criminal’s clothing.

The soldiers placed a placard over Jesus stating His “crime”: He was the King of the Jews. He cries out, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do!”

9:30-11:00 am – The Chief Priests, Scribes, and soldiers begin to abuse Jesus verbally. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.” “He is the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe.” Of course, they wouldn’t believe it. Jesus had done various miracles, but they only cared for their power. “He trusts in God; let God rescue Him. He claims to be the Son of God.” The two thieves began to get in on the verbal abuse through the pain. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

11:00 am -12:00 pm – One of the thieves fell under conviction and rebuked the other thief. He then turned to Jesus and asked to be remembered when Christ came to His Kingdom. Jesus responded with forgiveness, “Today you will be with Me in paradise!”

Through the pain, Jesus looked down and observed a group of women, His mother, and John. He instructed John to care for Mary. And from that day forward, John took her into his house. Even in death, Jesus continued to show compassion.

12:00-3:00 pm – an eerie three-hour darkness fell across the land. The sun would not shine on the death of its Creator. After hanging on the cross all morning, Jesus’ body began to dehydrate from the loss of fluids, and his lungs screamed out for oxygen. Pushing up against the nails, He struggled for a breath. But the dehydration would cause his muscles to cramp, and he would drop back down and begin to suffocate.

The darkness continued, and our sin was placed on Jesus. The Father turned His face away from His Son for the first time. Jesus cried out, “My Father, My Father, why have You forsaken Me?” He was made sin for us!

Suffering from intense dehydration and suffocation and knowing that only one Scripture remained which He needed to fulfill, Jesus cried out, “I thirst!” Someone brought a sponge dipped in sour wine.

Redemption had been paid. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” Paid in full! He paid a debt he did not owe and placed righteousness on the accounts of the elect. Jesus then cried out again with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” And the Savior died. Earth raged. A great earthquake struck, rocks split, the veil in the Temple ripped, and tombs opened. The Centurion stated in awe, “He was the Son of God!”

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that  brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Make the Most of Your Life for God – April 1, 2022

Eighteen years ago yesterday, I walked to my college’s dining hall to serve my shift as a resident assistant. Students would use the dining hall as a place to study, play games, and otherwise entertain themselves. My role was to make sure the dining hall remained standing. As Heather and I walked over that particular Sunday night, we noted that the weather was getting colder again.

Meanwhile, several of my friends traveled back to college in Pembine, Wisconsin, from serving at Central Baptist Church in Stephenson, Michigan. They did not realize that the rain and melted snow had turned to ice. When their van hit the ice, then the dry pavement, it rolled several times. Two young ladies were partially ejected from the car and passed away. One was a fellow resident assistant who was weeks away from graduating. She desired to serve God on the mission field.

In the aftermath of the accident, several life-changing principles became evident. These principles continue to resound 18 years later. First, you have no guarantee of tomorrow, so live your life entirely for God today. Proverbs 27:1 instructs us not to boast about tomorrow. We don’t know what will happen. You just might stand before God today.

Second, living for God is never a waste. While these ladies were young, their lives were not wasted. They spent their time in college ministering to others and fostering in them a love for God. Their desire to serve God with their lives continues to motivate countless friends today. Living for this world is a waste. Eternity does not care about your leisure, toys, job, prestige, or finances. Only what you have done for God matters. A life lived for God is never a waste

Third, value your relationships. You never know when they will end. All too often, we allow petty things to divide us. We hold our opinions so firmly that we damage our relationships. This is foolish. Instead, we would be wise to humble ourselves and value others are more important than ourselves. Don’t waste your life. You are not guaranteed a tomorrow.

What is the Gospel? – March 25, 2022

Christians need to be clear about the gospel. If you were asked, “What is the gospel?” How would you answer that question? That question often receives blank stares from many who claim to be Christians. But this is the most critical question we must answer. If we can’t answer this question, we offer nothing to this world.

The Apostle Paul answered this question in 1 Corinthians 15 by stating that the gospel consists of four essential aspects. First, we are sinners. He says that Christ died for our sin. We must recognize that people are not basically good. Romans 3 informs us that we are all bad, completely evil. Our sin is more than a mistake, an error, or an illness. Our sin is a crime against God, condemning us to eternal wrath.

But second, Christ died for our sin. God himself became a man. He lived a perfect life without sin. And yet still suffered the penalty of sin for us. He died on the cross and took our sin on himself. We must note that he really died. Paul states that he was buried. For three days, he lay dead in the grave. Only through suffering death for us could he free us from sin. Through this death, God can justly forgive our sin.

Third, Jesus conquered death. He rose from the dead after three days. Through this resurrection, Christ accomplished several things. First, Romans 4 informs us that this resurrection accomplished our justification. Because Christ rose from the dead, he proved that his work is sufficient for our forgiveness. God is just to forgive us. Second, Christ’s resurrection proves that he is indeed God. Only God can conquer death and grant life. Third, Christ’s resurrection ensures that one day, all who place their faith in him will rise from the dead as well. His resurrection guarantees our future.

Fourth, we must respond to Christ in faith. This means more than simply agreeing with the previous three things. This means that we surrender everything to God and give Him our life. Many Christians refer to this as asking Jesus into their heart. They mean that they have surrendered their heart (the very center of their life) to God. All their actions, thoughts, beliefs, and desires now belong to him.

This is the Gospel. Do you believe it? Have you surrendered your life to God? Or are you relying on your morality for a relationship with God? Do you depend on your church attendance for a relationship with God? Only surrender to God saves us. Consider your life to see if you are indeed a child of God.  

Our God is a Mighty Fortress – March 11, 2022

These days are certainly interesting. Everyone feels the financial strain of inflation. The old Soviet Union is attempting to rise from the dead. Many friends are experiencing significant physical challenges. And as a result, it can be easy to fall into frustration and even depression. Over the last couple of weeks, as I have been thinking through these things, a song has come to mind continually.

In the late 1520s, Martin Luther faced extreme danger. The Pope and the Roman Catholic church searched diligently to kill him for the reforms he sought. The alliances between the Pope and state rulers meant that he was wanted in virtually every country. While in hiding, he contemplated the faithfulness of God and penned these impactful words:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Staying on Task and Target, Part 4 (February 25, 2022)

Over the past few weeks, we have looked at the need to stay on task and target in the church and in our Christian life. Today we turn to the final aspect of this topic in Philippians 1. When we maintain the proper perspective in life, we can stay on task and target by responding the right way. Often the church and the Christian veer away because we respond wrongly in challenging times.

Although Paul had a legitimate reason to be angry or hurt, he wanted the Philippians to understand that he rejoiced because the Gospel was preached. When faced with difficult circumstances, we can be tempted to become frustrated, bitter, and depressed. When facing difficult people, we can be tempted to become angry, vindictive, and bitter. However, the proper perspective keeps the church on task and target by responding the right way. Paul begins this verse by asking a question. What then? What does it matter?

What does it matter that some preached the Gospel to hurt Paul? Paul did not view his life or reputation as something he needed to protect. His focus instead was on Gospel advance. So what did it matter if the Gospel’s advance came at the cost of his reputation or life? Whether through good motives or sinister motives, the Gospel advanced. In this, Paul rejoiced. The proper perspective allowed Paul to respond the right way.

You may feel as though God asks the impossible. Responding with joy in difficult circumstances or while facing difficult people is impossible. Perhaps super Christians can respond with joy, but not you. However, Paul reveals that the secret lies in your perspective. If we are genuinely working towards the right goal, what does it matter if we get the recognition for accomplishing the goal. If we care more about recognition, then recognition is our goal. What does it matter if we face hardship and trial? If we care more about ease and security, our goal is ease and security. The way to respond right in every situation is to keep the proper goal in mind. We are all driven by goals. Our response to circumstances reveals our goals. The key then to the correct responses is the right goal. When we seek first the Kingdom of God, we can rest assured that all will be fine. When we set the advance of the Gospel as our goal, we understand that tribulation aids the advancement of the Gospel. Therefore, we welcome the tribulation; we don’t run from it. When we keep the eternal kingdom as our perspective in life, all we face will be worth the struggle when we see Jesus. This perspective allows us to respond with joy. The proper perspective keeps the church on task and target by responding the right way.

Remind yourself that God sometimes uses Christians whose motives are suspect. This does not mean that we must approve of their motives but must rejoice in the advance of the Gospel and trust God to guard His reputation. The proper perspective keeps the church on task and target by responding the right way.

Paul sat imprisoned because he dared to preach the truth of the Gospel. Some took advantage of his imprisonment to demean him. He may have been tempted to give up. He may have been tempted with depression. However, he maintained the proper perspective by focusing on God’s eternal goodness and the advance of the Gospel. He remained on task and target. You will face intense struggle and conflict in life. You will be tempted to turn your back and God and the church. You will be tempted to seek your comfort. Despite these temptations, you must seek first God’s Kingdom.

Some of you are facing challenging circumstances. All of us will face them at some point. Some of you are considering turning your back on God. Some of you are being maligned and criticized for doing what is right. God has called his children to be faithful to his cause. To remain faithful, you must develop a proper perspective. You must build your view of God. Building this view of God involves several essential steps. First, you must confess sin in your life. Sin impairs our relationship with God. It steals our perspective and hinders our joy. Yet, when we confess our sin, 1 John 1:9 informs us that he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Second, you must speak the truth to yourself. Throughout the Psalms, we observe the Psalmist speaking the truths of God to himself. Although he struggles to believe God’s promises, he preaches the truths to himself to believe them. So, you must speak the truth to yourself even when you don’t believe it. Third, you must consume the Word of God to learn about your God and gain the proper perspective. As you read God’s Word, note the way God describes himself. As you begin to understand who God is and what God is like, you will see your perspective change.

Stay focused on the eternal plan of God and maintain that proper perspective. Remind yourself continually that God works all things for his glory and your good. Build your view of God. If you have not surrendered your life to Christ, do so today. Gain a proper perspective so that you can stay on task and target

Staying on Task and Target, Part 3 (February 18, 2022)

Very little moves a person or a church off task and target than disunity with difficult people. How are we to respond when someone begins to serve the church for self-centered reasons. They are not serving out of humble love for others or a desire to serve God. Rather, they serve so that people will notice them, for the power that comes with the position, or for financial gain? Paul faced a very similar circumstance in Philippians 1.

While many gained boldness and preached the Gospel out of love for God and Paul, some in Paul’s life were seeking to discredit Paul through taking over the leadership positions he held in the church. They preached the Gospel but to minimize Paul. Galatians informs us that a group of individuals from Jerusalem followed behind Paul, seeking to undermine all the work Paul had done in their midst. They preached the Gospel out of envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition.

Because Paul was imprisoned, he could not return to address the situation. Yet, Paul recognized that the kingdom was not about him. As a result, he was able to stay on task because difficult people were advancing the cause of the Gospel, which Paul was also working to advance. God sometimes uses people we don’t get along with or agree with to advance the work he has called us to do.

As we ponder the idea that God would use people who seem like our enemies to advance the work he has called us to do, we need to look no further in the world at secular examples than world war 2. As Hitler and the Axis powers threatened to enslave the world and eliminate ethnicities the Nazis viewed as inferior, three unlikely allies stood shoulder to shoulder in opposition to the axis power. Roosevelt (a liberal from the United States), Churchill (a staunch conservative from England), and Stalin (a heinous communist dictator in Russia) formed the allied alliance to free Europe from bondage. One could not find more unlikely allies. Roosevelt held very progressive political views, as seen in the New Deal. In contrast, Churchill fought tirelessly for conservative values. Both held firmly to capitalist economics and personal liberty, while Stalin worked tirelessly to advance communism. He did so by murdering millions of opponents. Yet they came together for the common cause of defeating the axis power. Even in their motivations for victory, they differed. Roosevelt did not want to enter the war and came only due to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Churchill warned for years of the Nazi threat in Germany. And while Stalin sought to protect Russia from the Axis powers, the end of the war revealed he viewed victory as a way to expand the Soviet Empire. Yet, all worked together because the need for victory in the war outweighed their differences. The perspective of victory kept them on task and target despite difficult people.

When we focus on ourselves, we cannot overcome our anger with difficult people. However, when we keep the goal in mind, we are willing to work with anyone to see the goal accomplished. When working towards an important goal, feelings must take a back seat to the outcome. When we see the Gospel and Kingdom as the focus of life, we are not sidetracked by difficult people making life hard for us but advancing the Gospel.

As the difficult seasons of relational conflict with your fellow church members arise, we must remember the task and target to which we are called. Sometimes you question the motives of others in the church. You see their pride, selfishness, and pettiness, and you question why they are even in the church. However, we must remember why God brought us all together. The church is not a club where everyone comes with the same characteristics. This gathering is a church into which God brings various people and personalities. This reality must cause us to choose which battles to fight. When the ones whose character you question advance ministries or make decisions, we find difficult, we should joyfully support the ministry as long as they line up with the Word and advance the Gospel. When we lose perspective, the church splits. We have seen and felt this. However, when the church leans into the Word of God and the Gospel of God, the proper perspective keeps the church on task and target when facing difficult people.  

We all have “that guy” in our church with whom we struggle to get along. They steal the glory and platform. They rub us the wrong way. Sometimes, it is simply a personality difference. A name just came to your head. We are tempted to become bitter or angry when they walk into the room. However, if they are working to advance the Gospel, we can walk past their mistreatment of us and work together. When we focus on the Gospel, the Gospel reminds us that we also are sinners saved by grace. This truth allows us to respond with grace and mercy. Maintain a proper perspective on the Gospel.

God sometimes uses people whose Christian commitment is self-serving and insincere to advance the cause of the Gospel. A proper response does not mean that we approve of their motives or methods, but it does mean we believe that God can protect his work and keep the insincere proclamation of the Gospel from hopelessly confusing unbelievers or tainting the faith of people who sincerely believe as the result of these hypocritical preachers. We rejoice that the Gospel advances. The proper perspective keeps the church on task and target when facing difficult people.

Staying on Task and Target, Part 2 (February 11, 2022)

Last week we began to examine Philippians 1:12-18. In the middle of a world which demands our full allegiance, how can we stay on task and on target as a church and individual believers. We stay on task and on target by maintaining the proper perspective of the gospel and eternity. Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell, imprisoned for the Gospel. The phrase in verse 12, “What has happened to me,” most likely includes all the events of struggle Paul faced. It contains the riots in various cities caused by anger at his preaching, the two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea, the appeal to Cesar, the threats on his life, the multiple shipwrecks he faced, and his impending trial. Paul had been stoned, imprisoned, and mistreated throughout his ministry for the Gospel. He had lost much for the Gospel. In chapter 4, we learn that he had suffered need and hunger. At the core was the fact that Paul was wrongly imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel. Many were attempting to kill Paul. Further, the Philippian church was founded through difficult circumstances. In Acts 16, we learn that a demon-possessed girl in Philippi harassed Paul and Silas. Finally, they cast the demon out of the girl, and she was miraculously saved. However, this action angered her masters, seeing the money they gained from her slipping away. As a result, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to court, where they were sent to prison. While sitting in the stocks, they sang praises to God. God caused an earthquake that opened the prison. Fearing that he had lost his prisoners, the jailer panicked. Yet, when Paul and Silas ensured him that no prisoners were lost, he recognized the difference in these men and also came to Christ. God founded this church through the persecution of Paul. Yet, Paul stayed on task and target through all the trials. Here Paul informs us of his secret. When the church and the believer maintain a proper perspective, they will stay on task and target. From a human standpoint, all seemed to be lost. Yet, the proper perspective allowed Paul to remain on task and target in the middle of difficult circumstances.

Trials are a reality of life. Just because you have trusted Christ does not mean that life is going to be a bed of roses. And just because you are facing some difficult circumstances in life, does not mean that God has forsaken you. Paul informed Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). You will face trials in your life. Some of you may even be facing them now. Whether it trials in your family (Relational troubles with your spouse, difficulty with your children or grandchildren), trials in finances (lost his job, or the job you have just doesn’t pay), trials at work (can’t get it right, co-workers or boss making life difficult for you), trials in relationships (with friends or significant other), trials in health; God has not forsaken you, and you can still live a life of joy even in the midst of that. How? How is that possible? The key is a proper perspective.

Paul observed this reality repeatedly in his ministry and now pleads with the Philippian church to observe it as well. He states, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” The term “advance” was used in the Greek-speaking world to characterize blazing a trail before an army. Paul saw these events as forging new territory for the Gospel. While others may have seen the end of a ministry, Paul saw new ways for the Gospel to spread. And he informs the Philippians that indeed the Gospel did spread. It spread to the emperor’s inner circle. Roman military officers and Roman soldiers heard the Gospel in Jerusalem and Caesarea. Two Roman governors (Felix and Festus), King Herod Agrippa, and their wives heard Paul speak about faith in Christ Jesus. One of these governors, over two years, often sent for Paul to converse with him. What appeared at first to be the end of Paul’s ministry turned out to be the means of its advancement. These trials allowed Paul to preach the Gospel before governors and kings and ultimately to the Imperial house.

Further, we observe that some responded with boldness to fill in the gap left by Paul’s imprisonment. Interestingly, Paul uses the word “most,” meaning a great many or majority of Christians responded to Paul’s struggles with boldness and bravery. When believers heard that Paul used his chains as an opportunity to express his faith in Christ, even to the palace guard, they were emboldened to proclaim Christ fearlessly even when they might have been intimidated to keep their mouth shut. Courage is contagious—the timid catch boldness from the brave. Years later, when facing his inevitable death, Paul encouraged Timothy to carry on the task. He informed him of the secret, the needed perspective to stay on task and target in the direst of circumstances.

As this church faces the pressures of COVID and the variety of opinions, we must keep the target and tasks in mind to carry on in unity. Some would have the church close the doors for protection, and others would have the church never close. The divisions threaten the church’s viability. Some desire all to mask, and others see masks as a form of oppression. The divisions threaten the church’s viability. Some fear the ongoing threat of COVID, and some see it as a thing of the past. The divisions threaten the church’s viability. We must maintain a proper perspective. The church is not about the political views of COVID but the advancement of the kingdom. Our mission must be to press forward with the Gospel. The sufferings of today are working for us an eternal weight of glory. So don’t allow the perspective of the world to infect your mind and cause you to quit. As fellow citizens of the kingdom, we must seek to love and care for one another. This proper perspective will allow us to stay on task and target in the middle of these unusual and challenging days.

Many of you face the financial pressures of employment shortages in your work and inflation. You are tempted to question God and his work in your life. You are tempted to quit sacrificially giving to the church. Do not quit on the church. The church is about the Kingdom of God. Christ informs us in Matthew 6 that when we seek the Kingdom of God first, he will care for our every need. The proper perspective will keep you on task and target.

Staying on Task and Target – February 4, 2022

What would it take for you to turn your back on God? What would it take for you to quit the church? In the 17th century, a tinker named John Bunyan trusted in Christ. Before long, he recognized that error had infiltrated the church of England. Desiring to restore the church to its proper focus, he began to hold services in his hometown of Bedford. He was an ordinary man with little education. But he longed to serve God and do what was right. However, the church of England did not agree. They had him arrested and thrown into prison, where he spent the next twelve years. He tried to do what was right; he tried to serve God. Yet, he spent years in prison away from his wife, young children, and friends. Put yourself in that situation. If you were punished for doing right, if you faced criticism and persecution for doing right, if you couldn’t see your family because you did right, how would you respond? Would you be tempted to turn your back on God? Would you be tempted to give in to the sinful demands of others? Would you be overcome by bitterness or depression? John Bunyan spent twelve years in prison because he did what was right. But Bunyan did not turn his back on God. Bunyan did not give up on the church. Instead, John Bunyan continued to preach every day from his prison cell. People would gather outside the cell window and listen to him preach. He also took the time to write a book that for centuries became the second-best-selling book only to the Bible: Pilgrim’s Progress. He and his church stayed on task and target. How was this possible? Every believer and every church will face challenges that will cause them to question their faith.

Our church sits in the middle of a confused culture. The battles of the culture easily draw the Christian and steal their focus. In turn, this lost focus drags the church down with it. Further, over the next year, our church seeks to expand our impact for the Gospel in several ways. Without staying on task and target, these advances can threaten the unity of the church. So we must examine how we can stay on task and target in every situation.

Philippians 2:12-18 contains Paul’s secret to staying on task and target in every situation. Take a moment to read the section. Over the next few weeks, we will walk through this text and seek to understand how we can stay on task and target. For this week, simply read through the text several times and ask the question, “What was Paul’s secret to maintaining a proper focus?”

As you examine the text you will discover that a proper focus keeps the church on task and target when facing difficult situations, difficult people, and when we respond properly. Keep the Kingdom first!

The Importance of Truth – January 21, 2022

Again, this week we are reminded of the importance of absolute truth. Lafayette, Indiana, seeks to pass a regulation against counseling individuals towards Biblical morality. Across the border in Canada, the same law passed. Next week, Dr. Phil will air a show featuring a debate between those who hold to the concept of gender fluidity and those who hold to Biblical morality.

In each situation, the debate surrounds the concept of truth. One group claims that truth is relative and fluid. The Bible demonstrates that truth is absolute and centered in God himself. For the past decades, society has deserted absolute truth. Since the enlightenment period, society sought to find truth through science instead of God. However, the World Wars and advances in science shattered this thinking. Now society has moved to a post-modern age where everyone determines their truth.

Society would believe that gender fluidity and sexual immorality must be celebrated because truth lies with the individual. Simple definitions are no longer absolute. When asked to define what a man or a woman is, society balks at the question. Instead, claiming that it is whatever each individual feels it is. However, this chaos cannot lead to freedom. It can only lead to despair.

Consequently, society must find ways to anesthetize themselves from the despair they feel. Drugs, alcohol, and many other things keep individuals from feeling the despair surrounding their lives. Yet, when the anesthetic wears off, the despair returns.

The answer lies in the absolute source of truth. God holds the keys to satisfaction and joy in life. Absolute truth anchors our lives. And the Gospel declares that truth. Christians cannot afford to respond to the current societal situation with false answers. Anger, frustration, worry cannot exemplify hope. Politics does not provide actual change. Entertainment and comfortable lives cannot last. Only the absolute truth of the Gospel can change anyone. Christians must stand and proclaim the truth of the Gospel regardless of the cost.

The question remains, will you stand on the Gospel? Or will you settle for lesser answers which do not provide hope? Will you anchor yourself to the Word of God, or will you drift aimlessly with the culture? The day has come for the Christian to choose. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.