The Power of a Personal Invitation

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You wield great power. Although you may not feel very powerful, you are. In fact, you hold in your hands the future and eternity of the people in your circle of influence. How so, you ask? It is in the power of a personal invitation.

Research shows that most people say they would come to church if someone would simply invite them. Some research suggests that as many as 9 out of 10 people say they would go to church if they were invited. Whether you believe in the research or not, Jesus told us that we receive power to proclaim the gospel through the Holy Spirit. When you invite people, and bring them to church, they can come and receive Jesus. Think about the people in your life. How many of them would come and receive Jesus if you simply invited them? For people to be saved at church, they must first be at church.

I was youth pastor at a church in Florida for eight years. One of the pastors at that church was great at inviting people to church. He met a sailor who was far from God. He invited the man to attend church. The guy said he would think about it. The next Saturday he invited him again. He did so the next week and the next and the next. The sailor did not come to church, but the pastor kept inviting him every week for over ten years! Finally, he came to church and got saved. He eventually went to Bible college and became a pastor. That is the power of the personal invitation. Never give up! Inviting is evangelism! 

Living Out of the Overflow

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Several years ago, Kim and I went with our family to an amusement park. While we waited for our turn to ride on a scary ride (it wasn’t scary but it had air-conditioning so who cares), we saw a frazzled mom with her two whiny, tired kids. Perhaps it was the heat, or the unbearable waiting, or the sugary treats that had long ago worn off, but they had reached the level of cantankerous grumbling that pushes sane moms over the edge. She grabbed them by the arms and with steam coming out of her ears she screeched, “I paid a lot of money for these tickets! You are going to have a good time whether you like it or not!” Sounds like some Christians.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 100 that we are to “serve the Lord with gladness.” It is easy to forget that serving the Lord and living the Christian life is supposed to be filled with joy. There are too many people that seem to think God told us to serve the Lord with madness, weirdness, or sadness. I don’t know about you, but I want more gladness and less sadness. Here are a few things to consider.

1. The Christian life is a happy life at its very essence.

You can’t justify wrong behavior just because you think, “God wants me to be happy.” Christians, however, have much to be happy about. As a pastor, I have observed many who think that sinful behavior leads to happiness, but is does not. The happiest people I know are Christians who have committed themselves completely to God. The gospel means “Good News.” Never forget that Jesus came to give us good news.

2. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your attitude.

Joy is contagious. It is not based on your circumstances but on your relationship with Christ. One of the signs of being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit is that you have joy. Joy prevails despite bad news when you know that Christ is with you. He has already won! You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad, grumpy, unthankful, angry, or bitter. Your choice.

3. Delight leads to gladness.

I love what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 37. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Contentment. Satisfaction. Fulfillment. These all come from delighting in the Lord and serving him with gladness.

4. Smile and watch what happens.

Cheerfulness is a good thing despite how some Christians act. It is OK to smile and be nice. You do not need to be a rock thrower. You don’t have to be mean and angry. Serve the Lord with cheerfulness! It may shock some people, but God came up with the idea of pleasure. It is OK to enjoy life. Think of all the pleasures God created for us to enjoy so that we would worship him more. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting are not meant just for survival but for our pleasure. Enjoy the wonder of beauty and serve the Lord with gladness!

 

 

What is Heaven Like?

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We are talking about heaven for the next several weeks at Avalon Church. If you miss any of the messages or want to hear them again, make sure to listen to the podcast at www.avalonchurch.net or on iTunes. This also presents a great opportunity to invite people to church! Invite someone to listen to these messages. Each message will be posted on Wednesday after I preach it on Sunday.

 

This past Sunday I talked about what heaven is like. Heaven is a real place but it is not just a place. It is a fulfillment of God’s promise that Jesus will restore the cosmos to its original purpose to bring glory to God. God created everything for his glory. Sin interrupted that natural order. Because of Jesus, heaven ends up on earth as a new heaven and earth, where he reigns, and gives life abundantly. The Bible is one coherent story about God’s creation of a beautiful garden and it ends with God’s beautiful garden-city coming down to earth. The bloody and violent war in between is won by our warrior-king-priest, Jesus Christ!

Jesus will return! He will rule over the earth. After he gives everything back to the Father and completes what Adam could not do, we will enter the eternal state of the New Heaven and the New Earth and will be with the Father, Son, and Spirit for eternity.

God is going to renew the earth and refresh it. It will be different than we currently know it. God will purify the earth and remove any signs of decay, disease, sin, and the curse. There will be no sorrow, pain, or death. There will be no more sea – ¾ of our planet is currently covered in salt water. Salt prevents decay. There will be no more decay. Here are just a few reminders of what heaven will be like:

·      It is a place where God is with us.

·      It is a place of unimaginable joy and happiness. Paul said eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, and no one can imagine it. There will be no pain, sorrow, sin, curse, or tears.

·      It is a beautiful and perfect place. Walls of clear jasper, streets of pure, clear gold, a city of pure gold. The craftsmanship is beyond anything we can imagine. Imagine gigantic gates made of a single pearl.

·      The New Jerusalem. It is only a part of heaven. There will be the renewed heaven and earth. The heavenly city described in Revelation is 1500 miles cubed. That is large enough for 250,000 times the world population to have a 50,000-square foot house each in the city! Needless to say, it will be awesome!

·      It is a place of perfect relationships. It is being prepared like a bride for a wedding. We are the bride of Christ. We will have perfect relationships and perfect love in heaven. I will talk about seeing our loved ones in the next few weeks.

·      It is a place of perfect worship. God and Jesus are our Temple. A temple is a place of worship and a place to meet God!

·      It is a place of eternal light. It is lit by God’s glory. There is no night there.

·      It will have The River of Life and The Tree of Life. The river is refreshing and the food is perfect. The river flows from God and represents the Holy Spirit and the refreshing eternal life that flows from God. What life it is! It also represents perfect, eternal fellowship.

·      Heaven is eternal. It is outside of space and time. Christ will literally return to earth and set everything back to its original order and purpose. The whole earth and universe will be renewed and we can’t even imagine how great it is.

Over the next few weeks, I will talk about what we will do in heaven, what our bodies will be like, and why children will be in heaven and what they will be like. Heaven is a place where we will work without the curse. We will use our gifts. I believe the greatest art, literature, music, architecture, food, creativity, organization, and discoveries will be made. God is a creative God, and we will be with Him for all eternity, worshipping, praising, serving, ruling, feasting, and receiving His grace and love.

Jesus Understands Your Pain

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Did you know that the shortest verse in the Bible contains only two words? It is found in The Gospel of John 11:35. “Jesus wept.” Concise. Touching. Insightful. Comforting. Deep. I use the word “deep” because it is theologically rich. It gives us insight into the heart of God, the comfort of a Savior, and the empathy of our Lord. It tells us that he understands, he has been where we are, and he knows exactly how to comfort us.  

If you are not familiar with the story, allow me to give you the nutshell version. Jesus was very close to Lazarus, his sisters Mary and Martha, and the rest of their family. Most likely, they funded much of Jesus’ public ministry through financial contributions and providing food and shelter for Jesus when he needed them. Word was sent to Jesus that Lazarus was near death. Jesus continued ministering, purposely delaying so that God would get the glory. That is just like Jesus, isn’t it? Delaying for our good and God’s glory. Operating in a way that we sometimes question, but when we trust him, it always turns out for our good.

Four days later Jesus finally shows up. Lazarus is dead and buried. Everyone thought that Jesus was insensitive and uncaring. After all, you always respond quickly to your biggest donor. Then Jesus does the unthinkable. He tells them to remove the stone covering the grave where Lazarus was buried. He was told, with a mildly sarcastic and rebuking tone, that was not a good idea. If he had not delayed in Lazarus’ time of need he could have seen his friend. He might even have saved him. But Jesus tells them to do it anyway.

Then he wept. Weeping is not a single tear or a mild, suppressed cry. It is open, raw emotion. It is a rending of the soul. It is open, flowing tears of grief and remorse.

Then he raised Lazarus from the dead. A man wrapped like a mummy, lying in a cold grave, dead as a doorknob, came back to life. It was a miracle. But if Jesus knew – and he did – that he would raise Lazarus back to life, then why did he weep? Why was he not smug? Why did he not just smile, like he knew something everyone else did not? I think this is where we learn so much from two simple words. Jesus wept.

Jesus wept because he was human. He had real human emotions. He felt pain, sorrow, and grief. He knew what it was like to feel alone, abandoned, and abused. He experienced loss and the deep emotions associated with it. He knows how it feels to lose a friend. He knows how empty it feels when someone close to you dies. His humanity empowers him to relate to us, comfort us, and be with us.

He wept because he was human. He gave life to the dead because he is God! As God, he knew that Lazarus would not stay dead. He would be resurrected! Jesus knows how to comfort us because he has experienced the pain, but he also knows that one day we will be resurrected. Believers will be reunited in heaven. Death is temporary at best! It will be over soon because Jesus defeated sin on the cross. Because he conquered sin he also crushed the wage of sin – death. He overcomes! He brings dead things to life!

There is no pain that you can have that Jesus has not experienced. That is why he understands and can bring comfort to you. He knows. He feels. He experiences what you experience. No matter what pain, sorrow, or loss you experience, he can comfort you because he has felt it too. Because he became human, he understands. Because he is God, he will take you through it.

Hebrews 4:15-16 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (NLT)

 

Is Your Christianity a Burden or a Blessing?

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Few Christians would ever say that Christianity is a burden, but many live that way. Consider how many non-believers think that Christianity is nothing more than keeping a list of rules by a group of people who are judgmental and unhappy. Maybe the reason they think that is there are so many Christians who are guilt-ridden, and live under the power of shame. The Bible is very clear that we can’t earn our salvation, Jesus paid for it and offers it as a gift. But many Christians live as if the way to spiritual maturity is through their good works, as if their “goodness” earns them a gold star with God. The Bible teaches that this kind of living is “a ministry of death.” You get into a spiral of failure because you try to do your best, but you fail often. As a result, you do not experience the joy and freedom that Christ offers through his grace. Christianity then becomes guilt-driven and shame-driven.

Guilt and shame have a purpose – to bring us to God. Before you are saved, you are guilty. Your sin covers you with shame. But when you receive Christ, He removes the shame and guilt and covers them through his finished work on the cross. God promises that he “will remember your sins no more!” You are no longer guilty because you have been justified and declared not guilty. This is central to the gospel. It is fair? No, but Jesus paid the price for us! It is beautiful!

Living in shame affects your attitude, your outlook, and your behavior. It stifles your creativity and impedes your progress in the Christian life. Shame can be so subtle. Yet it has great power in our lives if we do not embrace our freedom in Christ. I remember when Kim and I started Avalon Church, we had to overcome feelings of shame because of how we were trained in church. The churches we went to all had Sunday night and Wednesday night services. We could not have those for several reasons, including that we had no place to meet. We felt guilty because we had never done church that way before. If something so simple, benign, and innocent as that can make you feel guilt, then what about the sins and failures of your past? Many people in bondage to guilt over simple things that are not even sinful.  

Does this mean that we are free to sin? No, it does not. Paul wrote, “How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?” God’s grace frees you from shame AND the power of sin.” Paul also wrote, “Sin no longer has any power over me!”

I love this passage in Romans because it teaches us how to overcome the power of shame and receive the blessings that God has for us through Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:15-18 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph (reign in life) over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. (NLT)

It can be difficult to receive this because of the power that shame has over us. But when you begin to believe and receive these promises given to us through Christ, then Christian living is no longer a burden. We begin to reign in life and in triumph. Christin living becomes a person, not a process or a list of rules. You experience freedom. Christianity then becomes the greatest blessing imaginable!

Pray this prayer: Dear Jesus, I believe that your sacrifice on the cross was for me. I receive your grace today. I ask you to help me believe it every day. Help me to see that you are sufficient for me. Because of You, I am the righteousness of God and I trust in your grace.  

How to Renew Your Strength and Finish Your Race

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Runners have a saying for finding the energy they need to finish a race. They call it finding their “second wind.” There is supposedly a second wind or “runner’s high” that gives you a new burst of energy to finish your race. We all need more of that. Whether as a parent that has settled into the new school year that slogs by at the speed of a glacier, as an employee that hangs on by your fingernails between vacation days, or as a Christian whose Bible reading habits have gone the way of the dodo bird, you need something to renew your strength. The good news is that God has given us a promise that will do just that.

Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (NKJV)

Patient Faith

The word “wait” in the original language paints a word picture of the tension caused by twisting or stretching a rope. To wait on the Lord requires a patient faith. There is sometimes tension and stretching involved because God wants to renew you and make you stronger. Perhaps you feel the tension of a delayed answer to prayer. Maybe you feel like God isn’t answering your prayer at all. Maybe things have not turned out like you thought they would. You must exercise patient faith. Continue to trust God. Continue to believe His promises. When you feel the tension, and stretching of the moment, wait on the Lord.

Resting Faith

Waiting requires you to rest, to be patient, to turn it over to God, to allow Him to do His work, and to wait passively. This is ultimately what faith requires. I must rest and wait on Him. I must trust that God sees more, knows more, and is more powerful than I am. God can do more in a moment than I can do in a lifetime.

Active Faith

Faith does not mean that I play no part in God’s plan. The act of renewing my strength means that I play an active role. “They shall renew their strength.” I must actively pursue waiting on the Lord. I must participate in His plan by fully trusting Him. I must take part in the renewal process.

Mounting up with wings like eagles gives us a mental image of soaring. We can soar above the problems, the things that drain us, the things that cause us stress. God can make us fly above these things. Some believe that molting is what the writer had in mind. Molting is a process in which the bird sheds its old, weak, and damaged feathers, and grows new feathers that are strong and agile. This is a beautiful picture of what God does when we trust him. He can take the tired, old, scarred, beat-up things in our lives and make them new. He gives power and strength. He rejuvenates. He brings new life to things that were dead. He gives endurance. He will give you your second wind.

We all need a second wind from time to time. We need new energy and new focus. Patiently waiting on the Lord will give you the strength you need to finish your race.

 

 

How to Stay in Love for a Lifetime

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Last Sunday marked the seventh and final message at Avalon Church for the message series, A Better Marriage. You can listen to all seven messages at www.avalonchurch.net. I encourage you to share these messages with a friend. As a way to reach friends, family, or co-workers, you can buy the book, “Marriage in the Nude: A Man’s Guide to Love and Grace,” and give it as a gift. It is quite possible that God will use you in this way to save a marriage and point people to Jesus. The following is an excerpt from the book.

 

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25, ESV

A fascinating thing about the first marriage in the Garden of Eden is how completely open and honest they were with each other. Of course, this was before they ate the forbidden fruit. But think how remarkable that statement is: "The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." That statement contains some beautiful truths and opens a few principles to help us foster a lifelong love.

… the man and his wife

There was a sense of equality between husband and wife. They both were acutely aware of their value to God and each other. They formed a strong team. A team commits to each other, watches out for each other, and sacrifices for the greater good. God designed marriage to be a place of self-sacrifice rather than a place of self-service. Teamwork makes the team work. Teammates do not envy the role of others. They recognize their contribution as valuable and make the team stronger by accepting divinely prescribed roles.

…were both naked

Marriage in the nude gave birth to humanity. Nakedness reveals more than a physical reality. They were completely open with each other. Openness leads to oneness. Absolute acceptance marked their union. Unconditional love underpinned their relationship. Until you build a sense of consummate openness and vulnerability with your spouse, you will not experience that kind of God-ordained unity. They did not cover up with each other. There was no shame or embarrassment, but a genuine sense of freedom with each other. Can you imagine that? No jealousy. No striving to get the upper hand. No manipulation. No hurting each other. Openness about struggles and successes, trials and triumphs.

Although it is possible to be uninhibited with each other, the only way you will truly be open is when you rest in the grace of Jesus. Once you understand His grace, then you will give grace more freely. Let's face it, when you are keenly aware that you have done nothing to earn, deserve, or merit His grace, then you can release forgiveness, live with understanding, and love with no strings attached. It mirrors God's love for us. What would happen if we truly began to live by God's grace in our marriage? There would be much less worry and stress. We would be able to communicate more clearly and share our burdens more fully. It would totally revolutionize your marriage.

…and were not ashamed

Shame has vast power. Some suggest that it significantly influences how we act, whom we accept, and how we see ourselves. That is why it is so important to remember that when Christ saves a person, he completely removes the shame of our sins and our past. We must rest in the perfect work of Jesus if we want a Christ-centered marriage. His grace transforms.                                                  

Because you are an image-bearer, you can live by grace. You can give and receive grace in your marriage. You can rest in the knowledge that God knew what He was doing when He made you. He makes no mistakes. Resting in Him helps you accept each other. Oddly enough, we often create an illusion of the idealistic partner, rather than embracing the real person. You can’t have a perfect spouse, but you can love the one God is sanctifying He continues with his makeover. Women often marry thinking their husband will change. Men often marry thinking their wife will never change. The more we rest in Jesus and his grace, then the more we depend on his finished work to empower our marriage! Resting in him helps you not be ashamed.

Once again, that is not to say that we can expect our spouse to be sinless.  No person is without flaws and blemishes, but we can grow and become more like Christ. Although there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, you can have one that is perfect for you!

Don't fall prey to the "soul mate" myth that pervades our culture. Many fear that the person they marry may not be their soul mate, whatever that means. That belief leads to thinking that marriage is a transaction designed for self-fulfillment rather than a biblical relationship requiring love, commitment, sacrifice, and service. A flawed theory like that leads to disappointment because your spouse becomes your idol. You expect your husband or wife to be the answer to all your problems. He or she will fix all that is wrong with your life. You see him or her as the source of your contentment, fulfillment, meaning, security, and hope. Only God can give you those things.

Start Praying Now for Our Annual Miracle Offering

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Our annual Miracle Offering will be held on December 3rd. Every year we hear stories of the miracles God does in so many people’s lives. I want to encourage you to get the date on your calendar so you can start praying about what God wants you to give this year. You can get in on the blessing! Your giving makes such a difference for our church and we can’t do it without you.

God clearly promises to bless us when we are generous. He blesses our work, our relationships, our health, our finances, and every part of our life. Deuteronomy 15:10 “Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God’s blessing in EVERYTHING you do, in ALL your work and your ventures.” (MES)  

What is the Miracle Offering?

If you are new to Avalon you may not have heard about the Miracle Offering. It is a special offering that is over and above your regular giving. We ask everyone to bring his or her best offering of the year. Giving a special gift expresses our love and thankfulness, stretches our faith, and positions us to be blessed. I hope that you will pray and ask God to bless you in an area where you need it most. It may be a lost loved one you are praying for, or a new job, or a health issue, or a broken relationship, or your marriage. Whatever miracle you need make sure to sow this seed in faith and ask God to bless it. People have told stories in the past of how God saved a family member, provided a promotion, gave them children, blessed them financially, or answered an urgent prayer.

The Miracle Offering positions our church to grow and unleashes ministry. Over the next few months I will cast the vision for our future and talk about a plan for this year’s offering. I am very excited about where God is taking us!

I am asking every person at Avalon Church to give in the Miracle Offering as an expression of love to God this year. We are better together. When everyone does his or her part, we accomplish BIG THINGS for God. I can’t wait to see what God does through us this year!

 

 

 

 

What Does the Bible Say about Disciplining Your Children?

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This week in our series A Better Marriage we talked about Grace-Centered Parenting. You can check out all the messages in this series on www.avalonchurch.net. This coming Sunday, September 10th, we will talk about Finding a Grace-Centered Sex Life. I encourage you to attend and invite a friend. 

                             

The Bible has a lot to say about how we teach, train, and discipline our children. This primarily involves teaching or instructing and applying discipline. Of course, discipline corrects a child, instructs him or her in the way to live, and provides the positive outcome of wisdom. The purpose of all discipline is to teach.

A parent receives his or her moral authority from God. The best way to teach your children how to live is to begin with a relationship with God. There is also a great emphasis on teaching and instructing. You can discipline without instructing properly. We have all seen this happen. We teach our children with our own lives, by our own example, and by pointing them to a relationship with Christ. While you can’t force your children to have a relationship with Jesus, you can create a positive environment that makes a relationship with Him a normal part of life. Being faithful and completely involved in the life of the church is a critical component of teaching and instructing. It is impossible to impart to them something you don’t have yourself.

Consider the following verses about instruction and discipline:

Proverbs 1:8 My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. (NLT)

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your children and they will give you happiness and peace of mind. (NLT)

Proverbs 22:15 A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away. (NLT)

Proverbs 13:24 If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them. (NLT)

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them to destroy themselves. (GN)

Proverbs 23:13-14 Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death. (NLT)

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (NLT)

Here are a few biblical tips on discipline that will help you know what to do:

  • There is a wrong way and a right way to discipline.
  • Discipline and instruction are biblically-mandated.
  • The purpose is to produce responsibility.
  • Spiritual involvement bolsters discipline.
  • Don’t ever compare your children to each other.
  • Prioritize the most important things and then build margin into your life and schedule.
  • Say yes whenever possible. Be positive. Affirm often.
  • Don’t be manipulated by the attitudes of your kids.
  • Draw clear lines and be consistent.
  • Praise character, good deeds, hard work, responsibility, and accomplishments rather than beauty, talent, ego or pride.
  • Partner with the church.
  • Start early. What you think is cute when they are toddlers can turn ugly as they get older.
  • Foster respect and responsibility.
  • Be flexible, but not in parenting absolutes.
  • When it is over, drop it.
  • Speak blessings over them.
  • Laugh as much as possible.

There are challenges involved with raising a child. Do not despair or lose hope about the culture in which we live. God has promised to be with you and help you. He has given an instruction manual that will guide you to the end of your journey and will empower you to raise champions for His glory.

How to Have More Money and Enjoy Life More

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God has a financial plan that will make you successful. The Bible teaches God-breathed principles that transcend all cultures and eras. His economic blueprint does not depend on how much money you make. Nevertheless, the burden is on you to make the decision to live by His principles or by your feelings. God's laws work no matter how high or low your income level is. His truths are transcendent.

Every person possesses unique abilities and passions. God, in His wisdom, has given us distinctive personalities, different levels of giftedness, and personal yearnings. God's plans work for every personality and gift type. Whether you are a business owner and desire to make enough money to travel the world, or you work for someone else, want to live a simple life, and plan to retire early, His principles work the same. Here are a few things He teaches us about our relationship with money.

 

Begin with the Tithe

 

God says that He MUST be first. He is the priority in our finances. How do I put Him first? God says the first step is tithing. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. (Deuteronomy 14:23) This makes sense because tithing is an exercise in faith.

The Bible teaches us that the tithe is the first ten percent of our income. Notice it is the first part, not the leftovers. God has always demanded to be first in every part of our life. Once I prioritize God in my finances, it is easier to begin to prioritize other aspects of my spending.

 

Cultivate Contentment

 

Be thankful. It sounds simple, but it works. Be thankful for what you have. Learn to be content, and it will quell lots of unnecessary spending and unwanted debt. How many times do we buy something that just hangs in the closet or gathers dust in our basement? Thankfulness and contentment simplify your life and bring a margin to your finances. If you don’t get this principle, then all the financial planning in the world will not be enough, because no matter how much you make or how much you have, it will never be enough. The Apostle Paul said, “For I have learned to be satisfied with what I have.” (Philippians 4:11)

 

Manage Your Spending

 

Once you put faith in your finances and manage your contentment, then you can effectively manage your money. Save and invest in yourself. Wise people do not live at or above their means, but they keep some margin in their lives. King Solomon wrote, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” Follow a budget. Once you have done that, then you can fully enjoy life for a long period of time.

God does want you to enjoy life. Some feel guilty about this and don’t enjoy God’s blessings. Others miss out on real joy because they seek it in the wrong things. God desires to bless you! Following His plan opens the possibility of fully enjoying our time here. Jesus said He came to give us life to the fullest.

King Solomon was a wise man. The Bible says that he was the wisest man who ever lived. When he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he wrote from the perspective of one that did not live for God's purposes. That is why the book has such a depressing theme about the meaninglessness of life. However, even in his depressed state, he observed that God's ways are always the best ways. Consider his thoughts on money and work. “And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19

Life is indeed a gift from God. Enjoy it!

 

 

 

Overcoming the Poverty Mentality

This coming Sunday I will teach on How to Get Supernaturally Blessed Money.  There is a way to get God to work supernaturally on your behalf. You won’t want to miss this helpful message. One of the things I will talk about is overcoming a poverty mentality. The following is on the same subject I will talk about on Sunday at Avalon Church. 

The poverty mentality has nothing to do with how much money you have. You can be rich and have a poverty mentality. The poverty mentality means that you perceive there is never enough. Even in a time of amazing abundance we tend to convince ourselves that there are not enough resources to accomplish our God-given dreams. As a pastor, you can limit your faith by believing in scarcity rather than abundance. As a follower of Christ, we have no right to believe – ever – that there is not enough. The Bible is abundantly clear that God owns it all. Jesus is not short on resources and everything in the universe has Jesus as its goal and belongs to him. He has laid claim to it all because the Father has given it to him. All the resources. Both human and financial. It is all his and he has the power to supply ALL OUR NEEDS. According to Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

 The uplifting truth is that there are more than enough resources. God is the one who owns the resources and he has the will to provide. He loves you. He has promised to supply all your needs. Notice that he supplies “according to” not “out of.” If you were to ask me for money because you have a need and I decided to give you some money because I have the ability and desire to help you, then I have two options. First, I could supply your needs “out of” my resources. That means there is a limit. I have decided that there will be a limited amount of money I will give you because I am giving to you “out of” my bank account. On the other hand, if I agree to help you “according to” my resources, then I have just given you carte blanche or a blank check. It means that you can expect that I will meet your needs all the way to the limit of my resources. God promises to meet our needs “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He has no limit on his resources. 

So if you struggle – and we all do – with a poverty mentality from time to time I hope you will consider these things to help you overcome and start believing in God’s abundance. 

·      God owns it all. He has more than enough to meet your needs.

·      God loves you and wants to bless you. If an earthly father loves to see his children have their needs met how much more does our perfect, righteous, amazing Heavenly Father love to meet ours?

·      I must act in faith. I must trust his promises and goodness.

·      I must willfully begin to center my focus on God’s loving nature and realize that he will supply.

·      I must willfully begin to stop living in fear with a scarcity mentality and begin realizing that there are more than enough resources to meet my needs and to accomplish my God-dreams. 

When I begin to acknowledge, practice, and believe this I will slowly but surely allow my faith to transform my thinking. And when that happens there is nothing you can’t do!

Improving Communication Between Husband and Wife

This is an excerpt from Marriage in The Nude: A Man’s Guide to Love and Grace, by Ritchie Miller. You can order it here. 

When God created Eve, He took her from Adam’s side. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s creation of woman means, “to build carefully and skillfully or to fashion her.” God seemed to take a little more time and care in creating woman. God created Eve to be considerably more refined than Adam. Women cherish beauty and cleanliness. They communicate differently. They admire cute things. They are tougher on the inside than a man because they are more emotionally connected than a man. Although a wife's emotional makeup is entirely different from her husband's in most cases, it is equally important. In fact, it may be more important. Women are the emotional glue that holds the family together. They are more in touch with their emotions because they need to be. Wives bring beauty and romance into marriage. Moms provide a unique emotional expression to their children that is critical to their well-being. Women have a God-created skill set that men do not have. It is beautiful and necessary for a Jesus-centered marriage. Women are emotionally stronger, more intuitive, and softer on the outside than men. Thank God! It is a part of His design.

As a pastor, I have observed that these differences are a part of what makes marriage a beautiful mystery. They bring delight and joy. However, these differences in emotional expression, communication, and instinct can also be a source of marital conflict. Many marital conflicts stem from not understanding these differences. Only when Jesus is at the center of your marriage can you navigate these differences and live in joyous union the way God intended.

By trusting God’s design for us, we can celebrate the differences between husband and wife and embrace them as a part of the blissful, yet mysterious union. The Apostle Peter admonished husbands and wives to live together “in an understanding way.” Learning the subtle differences between the ways men and women communicate will go a long way in helping your communication with each other. Females tend to use many more words in a day than men. Males tend to use fewer words. Women have an innate desire for intimate communication. They love details! Men, on the other hand, tend to think that their actions speak for them, and usually require fewer intimate details.

I learned this early in our marriage. Kim is a naturally outgoing person. She loves to meet people, and she quickly empathizes with them. She meets total strangers and quickly discovers details about their family, children, where they are from, and things I don’t even know about some of my friends! I once played basketball with a group of men for about two years. One day Kim asked me about some of them, and I realized that I did not even know some of their last names, much less any personal details about their families. I knew their first names and what they did for a living. I knew who had a good jump shot and who played the best defense, but that was about it. It blew her mind that I never had any deep conversations with any of them. I think that illustrates the difference between the way men and women communicate. She has had to learn to understand the way I communicate. She has learned to be patient with me and has extended a lot of grace to me. She understands that just because I tend not to be detailed, does not mean that I don’t care. I have had to learn to pay more attention and grow in communication skills. Engaging in deeper and longer conversations ministers to her needs in a Christ-like manner. She naturally craves conversation, and I have been mandated by God to understand her and love her as Jesus loves the church. We have both learned to know each other better, and as a result, our marriage is stronger. We are learning to celebrate our differences.

You Can Have A Better Marriage!

 

God used a naked woman to show men how to have a great marriage. In the Genesis creation story, we see how God demonstrates His love, blessing, and purpose for our lives. It is a picture of God's grace to us. Grace is all of God's doing. It is undeserved, unearned, unmerited kindness and favor from God. Adam certainly did not do anything to deserve God's favor, but God richly and freely poured out his grace on the first humans, because that who God is. Before there was any sin, there was grace! That was God's original foundation for marriage and all human relationships. A marriage that is grace-centered functions the way God intends all marriages to function – centered on a relationship with God and built on his grace. Join us at Avalon Church for A Better Marriage as Pastor Ritchie Miller teaches what the Bible says about how to have a blessed marriage.                             

Here are the messages for each week:

  • August 6th – Marriage Begins with Grace
  • August 13th – Learning to Communicate with Grace
  • August 20th – Achieving Success at Home and Work
  • August 27th – Learning God’s Financial Plan for Your Home
  • September 3rd – Grace-Centered Parenting
  • September 10th – Achieving a Grace-Centered Sex Life
  • September 17th – How to Stay in Love for a Lifetime

Don’t miss out! Join us each Sunday for the messages and join a small group for the series. You will be glad you did!

 

 

Marriage in the Nude

Marriage in the Nude is a different kind of book because men love to read it. It is designed for couples to read together and will help husbands and wives learn the secret to a better marriage – God's grace. When you build your relationship on God's grace, you make a deeper connection, improve communication, understand each other better, get better at work, handle money better, manage conflict, and improve your sex life. You can't have a perfect marriage, but you can have one that is perfect for you! Rooted in powerful biblical principles of God’s grace found in the Creation Story, Marriage in the Nude will serve as a guide to help you discover a deeper love and a stronger bond than you ever imagined. You can have a happy marriage filled with love and grace. But first, you must get naked!

Purchase it here for $14.95 https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Marriage+in+the+Nude%3A+A+Man%27s+Guide+to+Love+and+Grace

Or at Avalon Church for $10. The Kindle version will be available next week.

How God Will Turn Around Your Circumstances

 

Faith is the most critical component of the Christian life. The Bible states that, “It is impossible to please God without faith.” God gave us many promises that come through Jesus. Jesus is the source of love, life, healing, supply, provision, forgiveness, redemption, deliverance, protection, blessing, and purpose. Jesus is not just a means to an answered prayer, he is the goal and purpose for our lives. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you will fall in love with Him and the more your faith will grow.

Most of us fall victim to the lies of the enemy. Jesus tells us that, “We will know the Truth and the Truth will set us free!” When we begin to believe all that God says about us because of Jesus and all that He promises us because of Jesus, then EVERYTHING in our lives begins to change. The lies of the enemy will disrupt, deceive, discourage, and manipulate you. The truth of Jesus will set you free. So stop believing the lies of the devil that say, “I can’t; I’ll never; I’m not smart enough, good enough, or strong enough; I’ll never get out of debt; He will never; She won’t get better; or I am just unlucky or cursed.”

Declare in faith what is true. You do this by declaring God’s promises over your life in faith. I believe that faith that is spoken is faith that is enacted. You don’t really have faith until you declare it. Romans 10:17 tells us that the Bible strengthens our faith when it says, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (NKJV)

Here are a few examples of Bible verses and declarations of faith that will change your circumstances.

  • When you need to forgive or to be kind, quote Ephesians 4:32. “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Declare, “Through Jesus I have the power and ability to forgive and be kind, even to those people who challenge me most.”
  • When you feel discouraged or like giving up, quote Philippians 4:13. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Declare, “Through Jesus I have the strength to endure every circumstance and overcome every challenge.”
  • When you need to guard your language, quote Psalm 141:3. “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” Declare, “Through Jesus I can guard what I say, speak in wisdom, and speak truth.”
  • When you need peace or an attitude adjustment, quote Colossians 3:15. “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Declare, “Through Jesus I possess peace and reject worry and stress.”
  • When you are afraid, quote 2 Timothy 1:7. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Declare, “Through Jesus I will not fear but I will be bold, loving to others, and disciplined in my life.”
  • When you need financial help and the faith to give, quote these promises. 2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Declare, “Jesus is my source and my provider. He gives abundance, not poverty. I will commit my money to Him so that He will bless my finances.”
  • When you need healing, quote these verses. Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Jeremiah 30:17 “’I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,’ says the Lord.” Declare, “Jesus is my healer. Through his divine power I am healed.”
  • When you need help with your children, claim Psalm 115:14 “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children!” Also quote Psalm 128:3. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”

When we declare God’s promises and His Word over our lives, the He begins to respond to our faith and turns things around for us. Try it! You will find that your life is much better when you trust in Jesus!

 

 

 

 

You Can Make A Difference By Praying!

 

Did you know that God answers prayer? It is true. God wants you to pray and ask him for guidance, direction, protection, and supply. He loves it when you pray! The Bible tells us that our prayers are like a sweet fragrance to God.           

Psalm 141:2 Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

He hears our requests and keeps track of our sorrows and petitions to him.

Psalm 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Why should we pray? Here are a few verses that tell us why.

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.

1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.

Jeremiah 32:27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Ephesians 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Matthew 21:21-22 (NLT) Then Jesus told them, “I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May God lift you up and throw you into the sea,’ and it will happen. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV) Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Philippians 4:6-7 (MES) Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Join me in praying for these things this week:

  • Pray for Avalon 365 – we want to reach people with the gospel and be an every day church!

  • Pray for the growth of Avalon Church.

  • Pray that God supplies our financial needs.

  • Pray for our student ministry Beach Retreat. We have more than ever before going this year. Pray for our students to have an encounter with Jesus!

  • Pray for the Avalon HOPE event – Back Pack to School. We want to show the love of Jesus to our community.

  • Pray for Avalon Kids. Pray for Brian Tatum and our leadership team as they gear up for the new school year.

Prayer works! I hope you will pray this week and believe God for answers!

Take the Control Freak Test

 

The summer school break is nearly finished. Time flies by so quickly it seems out of control, doesn’t it? Here is a little humor for all the control freaks in the world. Enjoy!

 

You Might Be a Control Freak If…

  • You get sweaty palms when you don’t have a list.

  • When you ride instead of drive it increases the likelihood of a divorce.

  • You think, “If you want something done right, then do it yourself”, should be a Bible verse.

  • You will gladly admit you are wrong in the unlikely event that ever happens.

  • When other people talk, you hide your boredom by sighing a lot.

  • You have made an agenda for your family vacation.

  • You actually do know what's best for other people.

  • If someone touches your stuff you will most likely “un-friend” them on Facebook.

  • You sent your wife over 1000 texts last month asking when she will be home and what’s for supper.

  • It genuinely bothers you that your favorite celebrity changed hairstyles without consulting you.

  • You enjoy surprise parties thrown for you as long as you get to plan them.

  • You have actually considered leaving a 12:00 lunch appointment at 12:01 because they were late.

  • When people call you stubborn you actually think they are complimenting you.

  • Taking orders from someone else is like a roundhouse kick to the face.

  • When people disagree with you it only proves how stupid they are.

  • Watching an episode of Hoarders makes you think of how messy everyone’s desk is at your office.

  • You always have to have the remote.

  • You’ve actually yelled at an old lady driver and felt justified.

  • You lose sleep when someone you barely know doesn’t take your advice.

You are Only One Choice Away from a Different Life

 

I heard a good friend make the statement, “You are only one choice away from a different life.” I have spent much time pondering that statement and I believe it is true in both a negative and a positive way.

I have known many people who have experienced the truth of that statement through a bad choice. The choice to have an affair, to drive drunk, to take illegal drugs, to steal something when you think no one is watching, and so many other bad choices can lead you to a completely different life. It can ruin your reputation, your family life, your finances, and so much more.

When you think about it from a positive standpoint, however, it has even more power to change you and lead you to a different life. That is the power of the gospel. One choice can change you forever. You can choose to receive Christ, to get baptized, to start tithing, to get in a small group, to begin serving and your life will be forever changed. The positives and possibilities are endless. You can choose to live on a budget and manage your money. You can choose to live a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise. You can choose to start that business, to finish your education, to read the Bible regularly, to pray, to extend forgiveness to someone who wronged you, to be kind, to be generous, to love, to be positive; the possibilities are endless and the difference one decision will make in your life is amazing.

You are just one choice away from a different life. What will you choose?

Finding A Place Where You Belong

 

 

Many people resist the idea of church membership in our culture. Part of that may be because people distrust institutions and part may be because they misunderstand what it means to be a member. If you see the church as a corporation, then you probably don’t see the need for membership. But if you understand the biblical picture of a church as a place of belonging, as a family, as a place where you grow spiritually and a place where you can express your God-given gifts, then your view of church membership is different.

The first church I served as senior pastor is a wonderful church with a strong core of committed believers. Soon after I became their pastor, however, I made a shocking discovery. There were lots of people who claimed to be members of the church but they never attended, served, or gave. They were members in name only. They signed a piece of paper saying that they had received Christ and been baptized and that they wanted to “join” the church. That was pretty much all that we required of them. Doesn’t that miss the point entirely?

Many Christians treat church membership like they treat a gym membership. They sign on the dotted line. They show up occasionally. They are usually sore for a while afterward. They like the idea of being a member but they do not ever fully experience the benefits of being a member because they never fully participate.

The biblical model of church membership is not as much about joining as it is about participating. That is why at Avalon Church we emphasize participation rather than membership. Does signing a piece of paper make you a member of the local body of believers? No! Participating with a group of believers makes you a part of the group. Signing a piece of paper is about exclusion but participating is about inclusion. You only really belong when you participate.

So how do you participate? We emphasize taking your next step in your relationship with Christ. No matter if you are a new believer or a mature believer, you must always take your next step. I believe these steps are necessary for “membership.” Notice that these steps are all about participation and are foundational to growing into a committed follower of Christ:

  • Identify – We must identify with Christ through salvation and baptism. Only then can we truly be a part of a church. You identify with a church when you attend regularly and hear the teaching of God’s Word so that you can grow in your faith.

  • Involve – Getting involved by serving is vital to the Christian experience. God has gifted you and you have something to contribute. Getting involved with a group of believers for fellowship, support, and growth is critical for spiritual growth.

  • Invest – By giving to spread the gospel through a local congregation you are helping fulfill the biblical mandate to take the good news to everyone everywhere. You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. Generosity is a big part of obeying Christ’s command to love others.

  • Invite – You play a huge role in bringing others to Christ. By simply inviting others to church you are also inviting them into a relationship with Christ. You play a role in God’s story. God wants us to share that story with others.

What about you? Are you a paper signer or a participant? Lots of church members are not really church members yet – but you can be by taking your next step today! Make sure to participate in our Next Step class at 9:30 each Sunday in August. 

 

 

 

 

What Jesus Said About Unity in the Church

Did you know that Jesus prayed for you? You can read about it in John 17. One of the big things he prayed for was unity in the church. Nothing will derail vision faster than disunity in the ranks. It is true of a business, a basketball team, a family, and a church. How many times have we seen the movie where a less talented but determined team pulled together and toppled the more talented, better financed, more popular, but ego-centered team? It is such a popular idea that it has become a cliché.

Why is unity important in the church?

1. Jesus prayed for it.

 John 17:23a “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity."

 If Jesus prayed for unity in the church, then it must be important. He prayed that the church would follow the example of the God the Father and God the Son. What could the primary reason for this unity be? Point two answers that question.

2. Unity is necessary for the most effective presentation of the gospel. 

John 17:23b “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Notice how this kind of unity is tied to the spreading of the gospel. “Then the world will know…” I believe a church that is unified around the mission of spreading the gospel will model the kind of unity that the Father and Son have. I also believe that Satan knows the best way to keep a church from fulfilling its mission is to get people arguing over non-essentials. This kind of disharmony causes the church to become inward-focused and to lose its evangelistic passion. 

3. Unity is necessary for the power of God.

2 Chronicles 30:12 “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.”

When God’s hand is in a church or a group of people, his power rests on them. This power is necessary for the unity of mind and purpose needed to fulfill God’s plan. A church must not focus on the minor things but on the major thing! Too often we divide ourselves over things that do not matter. Don’t mistake diversity for disunity. We can be wonderfully diverse while being totally in harmony over who we are in Christ. If God created over 400,000 species of beetles, why would he not want churches with unique personalities and abilities to reach people!

4. Unity keeps the church body growing, maturing, and working at its fullest potential.

1 Corinthians 12:12 “…just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”

 Ephesians 4:3 “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Some Christians think that spiritual maturity is achieved through amassing knowledge about the Bible the Bible. But spiritual maturity is achieved through obeying what the Bible says and fulfilling the mission of telling everyone everywhere about the gospel.

5. Unity flows from love and love unites the church in its mission.

Colossians 3:14 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Without love, there is no unity whatsoever. This love must be focused on and received from Jesus Christ. There is no other way to keep harmony and stay on mission.

 6. Unity keeps Christ at the center instead of us.

Ephesians 1:10b “…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

It is not about you but it is about Christ! My plans, my desires, my preferences, my agenda, and my feelings are nothing compared to the gospel. When we become unified around that mission it changes everything and makes our churches more effective in fulfilling God’s mission for our lives.

The Psalmist said it well when he wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 131:1