CHURCH SIGNS

I am often confused or just outright irritated at the messages that I see on church signs , whether I see them as I’m driving or on pictures that I see online. Have you taken notice to how ridiculous and even blasphemous some of them are? I guess I should title this post ”Venting,” because that’s what I am doing.

Below I am simply going to post a few pictures of some I have found. What are your thoughts?

It is my personal opinion that church signs DO NOT help us draw people into the church, many most likely turn away people because of their foolishness and oftentimes irreverent tones. Why aren’t local churches using their signs to show the community that they are different because of Christ, rather than trying to be cute and loose with religious slogans?

Ok, ok, I am finished venting, LOL. I know that there are good and proper uses for church signs, I just wished more churches would understand that and use them accordingly. Below are a few I have found that trouble me as a believer. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Some of these are silly, but some go way beyond what is proper.

OH, how I wish we could find a more appropriate use for our church signs!

THE VALUE OF ONE ON ONE BIBLE READING

I hope that you are involved in a small group bible study. If not, why not? List your valid excuses here:

1.

2.

3. 

(Please use the back of the paper for additional excuses)

Yes, I m being a bit facetious in hopes of helping you see that there is NO excuse for not being a part of a group bible study that is already formed or creating one yourself!

At this point in my post, I know you are feeling some emotions that you probably wish you didn’t—feelings of anger, fear, and perhaps conviction. I am not apologetic for that. However, I am thankful for these feelings because they might help me get my point across in a more meaningful and helpful way.

My purpose in this post, what I hope comes across as you read it, is simply this: There is great value and blessings in our spending time reading the Bible with someone else (I know, that’s the scary part).

Perhaps you have had some bad experiences in bible studies that you never want to repeat; I get it. I had several myself. I will share one of those with you now.

Back in the day (26 years ago, ahem), I began a ministry in my workplace to bring together and encourage other Christians in their walk of faith in the workplace environment. After about a year, I started a small group bible study, once a month, with several men who joined my ministry. It wasn’t long before I became discouraged with the group. 

If I remember correctly, all but one never took the time (throughout the month) to read over the scriptures for that study, much less think about them. The conversations always seemed to turn into “what do you think it means?” One person thought this, another that. Often, what these men brought forth had nothing to do with the text! And what really troubled me was that they did not appreciate an exegetical study of what the verses in their context meant. Eventually, I ended the study, discouraged and a bit bitter. 

Blessings become numerous when we gather together to seek, above all else, what God says about things, and willingly submit to it! So, I understand your reluctance to pursue such a thing again. But I want to lay out several reasons and blessings that come from a small group or one2one bible study when it functions under the premise that God’s word is sufficient.

So, let me begin sharing with you several reasons I think this is true in the hope that you will “circle back” on your current view and pursue, once again, something that our Lord means for our good and desires to bless us and others with.

God’s word is profitable for all things, and ours are limited (training).

Yes, I am stating the obvious here, but it needs repeating. 16 “All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [b]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness;17 so that the man or woman of God may be [c]fully capable, equipped for every good work.”

The Book that we have in our possession is a divine wonder, given to us so that we may know our God, ourselves, and How He expects us to live. We can only “Know truth” by being in His word, which is truth (John 17:17). Our desire as “Christ followers” should be to have our “eyes open, that I may behold wonderful things from thy law (Word)” (Psalm 119:18). Not just for ourselves, but others as well!

God’s Holy Word trains and equips us to “walk by faith and not by sight,” and as “iron sharpens iron, so one man to another” (Proverbs 27:17). 

  1. People get to read it for themselves with others (relationships)

Interaction is the breeding ground for conversation! People are more comfortable within a small group in a less formal setting than in broader contexts. Within a small group or one2one, there are opportunities to question and discuss scripture and its meaning honestly. Such an interchange of thoughts on a particular passage within a group can often lead a person to think on it in far more profound ways than they would have otherwise. This helps them grow in Christ OR move one step closer to Him (sanctification)!

  1. An excellent and powerful way to evangelize (salvation)

Small groups or one2one bible reading affords a more incredible opportunity to share the gospel with someone else (evangelism). Rather than witnessing being so dreaded or being the “one thing” so feared by the vast swath of Christians, this setting naturally leads to deeper spiritual conversations without struggling with how to get someone else to talk about spiritual things. 

The conversations happen naturally because you are already in the word of God together! God’s word not only instructs, rebukes, and corrects us along the way; it is the mechanism by which God saves sinners (Romans 10:9-17)! We read it together, discuss what it says, and His Spirit convicts, gives understanding and leads sinners to repentant faith!

So, there it is, my reasons to challenge and encourage you to rethink the value and purpose of a small group or one2one bible study. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can go on Amazon and purchase a small book by David Helm entitled: ONEtoONE Bible reading, a simple guide for every Christian.

CHRIST’S MINISTRY AMONG MEN BEGINS

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Mark 1:14-15 

BRIEF INTRO: In our study of Mark’s gospel so far, we have been introduced to John the Baptist, his message, his purpose, and then his baptism of Jesus (1-11). Mark begins telling his story of Jesus at the beginning of God’s preparatory works for God, the Son, to minister among men, not at the incarnation as Matthew and Luke do. This is only one “obvious” difference from Mark’s message compared to the other gospel writers.

Another striking difference relates to Mark’s lack of any information regarding John the B’s ministry after the baptism of Jesus, so, for that layout, I included this chart to help us with a “timeline” of sorts relating to what we read in v.14 of John being taken into custody. 

In these following two verses (14-15), I have a few things that I want to emphasize. The first is Jesus starting to proclaim “the Gospel of God” and what that is. Second, I want to think through what “time” has been fulfilled and what it means that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And, lastly, I want to focus on the only response to this preaching of the gospel of God that saves!

Are you ready to jump in with me? Let’s begin!

14 Now after John was [a]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [b]preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [c]is at hand; repent and [d]believe in the gospel.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus came preaching (v.14)!

Mark doesn’t share anything about John’s ministry. He just moves on to his imprisonment. But what he does share with us is the emphasis of Christ’s ministry: the preaching of the gospel of God (Mark 1:38; John 18:37). For that information, look a John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36; Matthew 14:3-5.

That verse above, Mark 1:38, clearly expresses that Jesus intended to proclaim this gospel in Galilee and other places. Yes, He did perform many miracles, but those, as much as they helped people with physical maladies and removed demons from some, were meant to provide validity of His authority, and also His message. One commentator notes as much: 

“In spite of all the miracles evidenced in Christ’s life, the predominant characteristic of His ministry is described by the words Jesus came . . .preaching.

What did He preach? This is probably a more important question to answer than you might currently think. Why? Because it has implications for us today and all succeeding generations if the Lord tarries! Such as:

  1. Is the gospel of God for the Jew only or gentile as well?
  2. Is the gospel of God the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the Kingdom or the gospel of the grace of God, and other “gospel” uses throughout scripture (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 20:24)?

So, let’s begin by addressing these questions in order. Is the gospel only for the Jews or only for the Gentiles? The answer:

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe; for there is NO distinction; for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. . . (Romans 3:21-23; vv. 28-30).

I could cite more references, but I won’t at this time because I want to encourage you to search the scriptures and see if these things are so.

The next question could have severe implications for humanity if the references I cited above are different gospels. Romans alone uses the phrase “gospel of God” approximately 60 times, and its definition is good news! It is the message that God will forgive sins, deliver from sin’s power, and give eternal hope” (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

The next term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is used often in connection to the Lord Jesus and His work on the earth. We already know from above that the word gospel means good news and hear; the word kingdom (basileia) implies the realm in which a sovereign king rules. “Throughout the New Testament, the word kingdom consistently refers to the rule of Christ in the hearts of believers, since, for the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

So, to sum this definition up with the help of one commentator who is more precise than I could be: “The gospel of the Kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. It is by grace alone that this offer is available to those who will receive it! Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal Kingdom (John 1:12).”

Our last term to look at (I am aware that I am not citing Paul’s “my gospel” in this section) is the gospel of the grace of God. Excitingly though, we find Paul’s concise definition of that very term my gospel in Acts 20:24. 

2But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.

This makes me reflect on what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9. It is by His grace that we are saved. He imparts to us the gift of faith to believe in the finished atoning work of the king of the Kingdom, Jesus. And he draws us near the father by His shed blood (v. 13). 

All of these terms speak of the same gospel and its effect on those who receive it! I hope you have.

FOCUS TWO: The time is fulfilled

When we read these words, the question that should arise in our minds is: what time has been fulfilled? How exactly is the “kingdom of God at hand?” So, let’s begin by answering the first question.

Mark is emphasizing a point in time of God’s decisive action, in which, in the past, He foretold what would happen and by whom. In this case, the coming of the Messiah, the king of the eternal, heavenly Kingdom! In the gospel of Luke, Luke testifies to an event in Christ’s public ministry, in which He went to Nazareth and into the synagogue, as His custom, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He opened it to where He wanted to read from, and read this: (Luke 4:16-21)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are oppressed,

19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Paul rightly understood what was meant by the statement of Mark “fullness of time,” He used it as well. Take a look at what he says: And then, so as not to be misunderstood, He say’s: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under [a]the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under [b]the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! [c]Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir [d]through God.

There was a God-appointed time in history for the preparation and expectation of a people to be fulfilled. The Old Testament era was that time. When that appointed time, according to His providence, was complete, Christ came into the world, the incarnation! And He would fulfill all things (Ephesians 1:9-10). Don’t. Miss Paul’s usages of “fullness of the times” in those scriptures as you read it!

Hopefully, the above makes sense to you as you read scripture. But along with that question is another; how is the “Kingdom of God at hand?  The Kingdom is a big slice of Christ’s message, and this statement is a key feature of that message. Remember that word kingdom (Basileia)? We touched on it early on in this study. It means “kingship” or “royal rule.” This term also involves the sovereign authority of a ruler, the activity of his ruling, and the realm and rule, including its benefits (Theological Dictionary of the NT).

The concept of Kingdom was familiar to the Jews of His day. In light of all the Old Testament prophecies they were aware of, they expected a future messianic (Davidic) Kingdom to be established on earth (Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37). Jesus’ statement in verse 15 informs them that the long-awaited king, the Messiah, has arrived. Jesus, the king of the Kingdom, the one with authority, has come, as John states in John 1:1!

FOCUS THREE: Christ” s imperative: repent and believe the gospel.

Repentance and faith are not as hard to understand as some people make them out to be. Repentance is when we come to understand that we are not as good as we thought we were, which can be very troubling to our hearts. This “acknowledgement” of our sinfulness before God is not merely a cognitive reality but involves the heart and will as well. 

The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt, danger, helplessness, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. When a sinner understands and agrees with God regarding their sin and turns to Christ, the only one who can save them, for His mercy and grace, they receive it because God does not lie or change His mind!

8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

The word believe in this verse is (Pisteuo), meaning to believe or to put our whole trust in something. In this case, the text directs our belief, our faith, to be in the good news of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith can be seen as two sides of the same coin. They can not be separated. “Both these must go together: we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without he reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ has joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder (break apart).”

This is the message Jesus proclaimed. This is the message Peter proclaimed, Paul proclaimed, and preachers, missionaries, and everyday Christians declare today. 

This work is a supernatural work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinful creatures. A “new nature” is given by Him a divine nature (John 3:3-8). Genuine salvation is manifested in the lives of those who proclaim faith in Christ. The way they now live their lives, the way they think, talk, and act, will evidence that they genuinely have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit within. And such a walk of faith and obedience will cause the believer to be increasingly like His savior: “conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

But the simple fact remains that sin fallen people cannot respond. In some manner, divine revelation must be made known to us before we can respond to it and agree or reject it. Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-17 of this very truth. God uses people like you and me to share the gospel that saved us with others. Just like us, they need to hear this divine truth before responding to it. And friends, there is only one thing that God uses to do this work of bringing repentant faith into our lives: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17).

ONCE FOR ALL

I had a conversation with a new acquaintance a while back, and this part of the conversation was troubling: “So, I do believe that if he (his friend) was a true follower, he relinquished his faith and trust in Christ and will pay the price of that rejection.”

Ugg, this grieves my heart. Within the belief system that fosters such an erroneous theology is an evident misunderstanding of the extent of the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

How many sins did Christ’s death atone forThe answer according to Romans 6:10: “for the death He died, He died to sin, once for all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 “the Lord caused the iniquity (all of it) of us all to fall on Him (Christ.)” And in 1 Peter 3:18, we read: “for Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God.”

Some people struggle with scriptures like Hebrews 6:4-6 and Revelation 3:5 for example. But this is unnecessary! According to the scriptures mentioned above, there is NO sin that Christ has forgotten about or refused to die for! 

Dear Christian, in order for you or I to be able to lose are salvation these scriptures would have to be false. We know they are not. We also know that Jesus is not coming again to do it all over on the cross to pay for that one sin you think damns you. All your sin was paid for, ALL OF IT, so be encouraged with the promise of Jesus that He will lose none! 

THY KINGDOM COME

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O Christ my Lord and king,

This is the prayer I bring;

This is the song I sing,

Thy kingdom come.

Help me to work and pray,

Help me to live each day,

That all I do may say,

Thy kingdom come.

Upon my hearts high throne,

Rule thou, and thou alone;

Let me be all thine own;

Thy kingdom come.

Through all the earth abroad,

Wherever man has trod,

Send forth thy word, O God;

Thy kingdom come.

Soon may our king appear,

Haste, bright millennial year;

We live to bring it near;

Thy kingdom come.

By: A.B. Simpson

THE SPIRIT OF TRUE WITNESSING

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EXTENDED READING: ACTS 5: 12-32

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: Verse 32

” And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

When you have the opportunity to be a witness for Christ and share the Gospel with someone, who do you think is the “soul winner?” I ask this question because there has only been one soul winner in all of history, contrary to some modern-day teaching, and it isn’t you or I. It is and always has been the Holy Spirit.

Ray Stedman said it well, “we are not salesman for God, with a mandate to talk people into buying something. . . No salesperson is dependent upon a person working within him to do the job properly. Yet that is who we are as witnesses for Christ.”

“Our witness as a believer is vitally related to the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit would be a witness and that the apostles would be witnesses. He had shown them how the Holy Spirit would not testify of Himself but Christ. 

In this verse, the fulfillment of that promise is evident. The apostles were conscious that the Holy Spirit of God indwelled them. They recognized that they were instruments of God to the degree that that Spirit possessed them.

There is a tremendous lesson here for every believer. No one can be a witness for Christ and a herald of the Gospel by individual initiative. It is only as one follows the direction of the True Witness that he can communicate to others the divine testimony.”

Empowerment for witnessing comes from Him.

PRAYER: Father, help us trust that your Spirit within us is the only one who can save sinners. Grant to us encouragement to witness for Christ and boldness to speak the truth in love to those who desperately need to hear it. Amen.

*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible

THE GOSPEL OF GOD Devotional

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Long reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13

Quoted verse: 1 Thessalonians 2:13

“And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (NASB).

The Open Air Campaigners have an evangelistic ministry that has at its core the burden of preaching the gospel to lost people anywhere and mobilizing the body of Christ to do the same. I had the pleasure of learning from these men, many years ago, the skills that were needed to do well in open air evangelism. Using a sketch-board, painting a gospel message, rope tricks and other illustrations; as well as spiritual discipline, faithful study of God’s word, earnest prayer, teamwork, and compassion for the lost. But there is one thing that I learned from them that has affected my gospel witness more than anything else, and that is this: God working through His word performs His will in those who hear and believe!

You and I cannot save anyone. Our flattering speeches, or supposed superiority with words; our perceived wisdom or persuasive rhetoric, never did and never will save anyone. God uses people to proclaim His word, this is true, but He uses weak people led by His Spirit, so that when He opens up minds and hearts to His truth’s, it will always be a demonstration of the working of His Holy Spirit and power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)!

This truth should be encouraging and reassuring to God’s people. Just as the word of the Lord sounded forth from these believers in every place they went (1 Thessalonians 1:8), so too it should from us. You and I can faithfully share the gospel of God with others (vs 9), confident that He will do what He will in those peoples lives that have heard the truth from us. This means that you and I can share the gospel and then go home and sleep in peace. If people are to come to faith in Christ, such faith cannot rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God!

                                                                                                                                    Larry Stump Jr.  

Daily prayer: Help us O God, to trust in your Spirit and power in the salvation of the lost. Grant to us thy peace which surpasses all understanding as we pray and seek to win souls for Christ. Amen.