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Religion & Spirituality
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Life Center

Updated 10 days ago

Religion & Spirituality
Christianity
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Jesus came to make you more alive! He said, “I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the full!” That’s what we’ve found in Jesus and want others to find. We help people find and follow Jesus.

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Jesus came to make you more alive! He said, “I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the full!” That’s what we’ve found in Jesus and want others to find. We help people find and follow Jesus.

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42 Ratings
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Amazing Podcast

By Austin Damon - Sep 19 2018
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I’ve never not been challenged by one of these sermons. And I’ve never not been encouraged. I love this church and this podcast. They exemplify what it looks like to point people to Jesus.

Absolutely wonderful

By Twolagit2qwit - Aug 31 2012
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Joe always delivers a well thought out and tangible teaching. I love the podcast for those days that I miss hearing him in person.

iTunes Ratings

42 Ratings
Average Ratings
42
0
0
0
0

Amazing Podcast

By Austin Damon - Sep 19 2018
Read more
I’ve never not been challenged by one of these sermons. And I’ve never not been encouraged. I love this church and this podcast. They exemplify what it looks like to point people to Jesus.

Absolutely wonderful

By Twolagit2qwit - Aug 31 2012
Read more
Joe always delivers a well thought out and tangible teaching. I love the podcast for those days that I miss hearing him in person.
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Life Center

Latest release on Sep 20, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 10 days ago

Warning: This podcast data isn't working.

This means that the episode rankings aren't working properly. Please revisit us at a later time to get the best episodes of this podcast!

Rank #1: Your Life Says Something

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The way we treat others, talk and spend time all message something about Jesus.

The post Your Life Says Something first appeared on Life Center.

Sep 20 2020

35mins

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Rank #2: John 1:1-18

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Jesus didn’t come to make you more religious; He came to make you more alive!

The post John 1:1-18 first appeared on Life Center.

Sep 13 2020

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Rank #3: Sturdy Faith: A Sturdy Investment

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God will not waste your suffering.

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Transcript

We are in a series called Sturdy Faith! The early Christians faced great persecution and Peter wrote a letter to them to encourage them when they face trouble and suffering. We do not have it as bad as these early Christians, but there is still a lot we can learn about how we respond to adversity because of our faith in Jesus.

1 Peter 4:12-19
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” z

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

On April 1, 1976, Ronald Wayne typed up an agreement to be signed by him and two young entrepreneurs who had invited him to join them in starting up a new tech company. Wayne was given a 10% share of the company for his partnership. The 21 and 25 year old entrepreneurs brought on Wayne, who was in is early forties, for his experience and hoped he would be able to be the tiebreaker in any disagreements they may have.

Ronald Wayne’s business partners didn’t have any money and took out a loan to fulfill some orders for the business. Wayne began to get nervous that the businesses debts were going to fall on him personally if something went wrong because he had some assets and owned a house, unlike his partners.

Twelve days after signing the contract Ronald Wayne decided to leave the company and sold his 10% stake back to his partners for $800.

When asked about leaving the company he said, “I felt the enterprise would be successful but at the same time there could be bumps along the way and I just couldn’t risk it.”

In its first year of operations, following Wayne’s departure, the company’s sales reached $174,000. The next year sales rose to $2.7 million, in 1978 to $7.8 million, and in 1980 to $117 million. However, Wayne never saw any of this because, after leaving, he accepted $1,500 for forfeiting any claims against the company.

Today, Apple Inc. is worth over $1 Trillion. Apple’s current largest shareholder, The Vanguard Group, owns a 7.2% stake in the company, valued at around $131B give or take a few hundred million dollars. Ronald Wayne owned 10%. He sold it for $800.

Ronald Wayne actually hung on to the original contract he signed with Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs. In the 90’s he sold it for $500. In 2011 the same contract sold at auction for $1.6M!

If Ronald Wayne would have just held on he would have been richer than Bruce Wayne. Because he was concerned about the bumps in the road along the way and the risks before him, he missed out on unimaginable riches.

In the scripture we are reading today Peter talks about a different investment and way bigger and better riches! Peter wants to encourage Christians not to give up! When your life is invested in Jesus there are unimaginable riches of joy on the other side of the difficulties being thrown at you. Don’t give up! Invest your life in Jesus and hang on when things get difficult.

God will not waste your suffering.

The Christian life is not promised to be an easy life. In fact it’s quite the opposite.

John 16:33
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

These are the words of Jesus. The first part is not my favorite promise in the Bible.

Jesus was right, though, this is a troubling world.

I am troubled by the current events in our own country. I am troubled by the longstanding racial tension and inequality that is being uncovered. I am grieved and confused by the shooting of Jacob Blake and the ensuing violence around our nation. I am troubled for our brother’s and sisters in Christ who are people of color. I am troubled by the disunity and lack of generosity toward each other I see among Christians. I long for peace and justice, and as a Christian I need to be an active participant with Jesus, seeking his peace, justice, and grace on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus is the one who has already overcome this world. My allegiance is to Him no matter what! When the world is dark, Jesus calls us to be the light. And as we shine for Jesus and stand with him and for what he stands for, there will be trouble because of it.

Peter tells us this shouldn’t be surprising.

1 Peter 4:12
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Just above the passage we are looking at today, Peter tells writes that the world will be surprised by the way they live.

1 Peter 4:4
4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

The world may be surprised when we live for Jesus, but we can’t be surprised when the world acts the same way to us as they did to Jesus.

ILL: What did you think was going to happen? Have you ever had someone say that to you?

John 15:20
20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

Now, I have to say, it’s pretty great to live in a country where we have religious freedom and we can pray and assemble and worship God together. I’m not trying to feed a Christian victim mentality in us. But not all Christians have this same experience around the world. And it’s not to say that you may not be treated differently because of your faith. You may experience opposition because of your trust in Jesus. I hope we can learn to trust Jesus when we face small persecutions so that we may be ready to trust him if we face larger persecutions. I want to trust Jesus no matter what!

Peter tells the believers that this “fiery ordeal” they are facing is there to test them.

God can use our suffering because of him for his will and purposes. In suffering we can actually learn what it means to be like Jesus. God can use our suffering for Jesus for our good.

God will not waste your suffering when you suffer for him.

ILL: The word Peter uses for test is a word that was associated with the purifying of metal. Like in a crucible. Metal is heated up to a liquid state and the impurities are revealed as they rise to the top where they can be removed as slag.

Suffering for being a Christian acts as a crucible for refinement and has a way of encouraging us to examine our lives to see what needs to be removed.

Peter actually says we should rejoice in suffering!

1 Peter 4:13
13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

We can rejoice because we will be overjoyed when Jesus’ glory is revealed, speaking of his second coming.

Rejoicing when suffering. hmmmm….

That doesn’t sound intuitive. Should Christians just grin and bear it? Fake smiles? Pretending we don’t hurt? “I love hurting. It’s great!” Do I look more Christian now? It can’t mean that. Does it mean trying to see how much suffering we can take? No.

This is not the type of rejoicing Peter is talking about. You know the truth is, in my life many of the good memories I enjoy have obstacles that needed to be overcome in them. I suspect the same is true of you. It’s why in sports we say, “everyone loves a comeback.” We love to see people overcome difficulties.

ILL: I read a book a while back written by a former Navy Seal and Seal trainer. During SEAL training recruits are put through heavy loads of physical and mental stress. Beyond what I can imagine enduring. And that is the precise reason they do it. The training teaches the recruits something about themselves—they are capable of more than they think. This painful training produces a knowledge that they can overcome more than they think they can.

I think this is similar to what Peter is suggesting. We can rejoice in our suffering because it’s revealing Godliness in us.

ILL: I have three daughters and I was there for all of their births. My wife was there, too. Did you guys know childbirth is no joke? I was there watching Jenese, the person I love most in the world, go through the excruciating pain and mental exhaustion of labor. It was intense! An absolute labor of love. I was blown away. But when the labor was finished and the baby was there, it was complete joy. It was worth it.

Our suffering also gives birth to something in us and it’s a cause for rejoicing. God is using our suffering to birth something in us.

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

We can glory in suffering knowing that it is producing perseverance, character, and hope!

We get better at going through trials, too.

ILL: Do you remember your first heartbreak? “I’ll Never recover from this! How could I love someone ever again as much as I loved them?!” That’s not to belittle 6th grade heartbreak, it’s the biggest heartache they’ve felt, that’s valid. But we don’t stay there. We grow. We are able to handle more.

We learn to trust God. Do you remember your first trial as a Christian? “OH, GOD HOW CAN YOU LET THIS HAPPEN?!” We mature.

In suffering for Jesus we get to see a greater glimpse into who he is. We see Jesus more clearly. Jesus suffered for us, so when we are in a place where we are suffering for him this should bring joy. Not because Jesus wishes us to suffer, but because if points to the day when there will be no more suffering, because of Jesus. Peter tells us our joy now will grow into us being overjoyed at the second coming of Jesus.

In suffering for Jesus we are reminded that Jesus is making us more like him and he will complete that work!

It is not promised that being a Christian will be easy, but it is promised that it will be worth it! This is the wonder of Jesus, he takes what is meant for evil and he uses it for our good. He can take your pain of suffering and turn it into the joy of the hope we have in Jesus.

Will you trust him with the situation you are facing? Can you pray, God don’t waste this difficult moment of my life. I trust you to turn it for good.

2. God is near you during suffering.

Jesus doesn’t just use our suffering for good, he’s also with us in it!

1 Peter 4:14
14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Christians were being mocked, insulted, and talked poorly about because of their trust in Jesus. But Peter says they are actually blessed in this.

When you are persecuted because of Jesus God blesses you with his presence. God promises your ultimate deliverance from the trouble of this world, but he also promises you his current presence through his Holy Spirit.

There can be a temptation when things get difficult in life or when people speak poorly of us or our faith to move away from God, but Peter says that God is near you in suffering. I want my default when I’m face trouble to look for Jesus. The Spirit of God’s glory and of God rests on you. What a beautiful thing to say to those who are suffering for Jesus. To those who are under persecution for following Jesus, The Spirit of God’s glory and of God rests on you.

Now, I have to say, Peter is not just talking about any suffering, he’s talking about suffering because of the name of Jesus. In fact he clarifies this.

1 Peter 4:15-16
15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

There is a difference in being a Christian and being insulted and being insulted for being a Christian.

There is a difference between suffering with Christ and being insufferable.

Just because you are a Christian and a jerk doesn’t mean people are persecuting you for the Christian part.

Peter says there is no glory in suffering for being a murderer or a thief or any other kind of criminal, that’s not persecution. I love how he adds meddler into the list. Maybe you’ve killed people, or burgled property, or lived a life of crime, or just got all up in someone else’s business. When people insult you because of these things you aren’t being persecuted!

However, if you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed but praise God that you bear that name.

God is walking us through our suffering and as he does his is purifying us and making us more like him. This is what his judgement looks like, the eradication of sin.

1 Peter 4:17-18
17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

We will all sit under the perfect judgment of God—both Christians and people who don’t follow Christ. For Christians this judgement is having a purifying effect on us as our sin is finally dealt with and we are made holy as Christ is holy. God is using our current suffering in this way.

This is not a judgement that says we are getting what we deserve for all the bad stuff we have done, it’s a judgement that is a test revealing to us our iniquities. Yes the test is hard but don’t run away! You think you are running to comfort, but you’re actually running to a worse judgment that will come later. And this is not God’s will for you.

Without Jesus we are left to the repercussions of our sin and sin leads to death. Jesus has dealt with our sin through his resurrection and he is dealing with its repercussions in his grace through suffering in this life so that we may have abundant life in him! The stakes are high and you do not want to face this judgement apart from Jesus. He is the one who turns our rebellion against God into adoption into God’s family and God’s likeness in character.

Put your trust in Jesus!

So what do we do if we face trouble in this life because we follow Jesus?

3. Trust God and do good.

You will not always be accepted by the world because you are Christian. But the thing we can learn to do is trust Jesus no matter what’s going around us.

1 Peter 4:19
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

When Peter writes to commit yourself to God he is using a greek word that means to entrust in the care of someone (paratithēmi). This word was used when someone was going on a trip they would entrust their belongings back home to someone they trusted.

They didn’t have banks to keep their stuff so they had to really trust the person with everything they had.

This is what Peter wants us to do with Christ. To trust him with our everything. With your whole life! We invest our life in him! And because of the resurrection we know that he’s good for it.

Ronald Wayne could have unimaginable riches if he would have trusted his shares to Apple.

This is nothing compared to the surpassing glory of knowing Jesus christ.

The apostle Paul would say it this way:

Philippians 3:8
8 …I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ

Following Jesus is a longterm investment. As in eternity! It may cost you in the short run, but even that is for your good and his glory. So don’t give up!

As Christians we trust God. Not matter what is happening around us, we trust God in the good times and the bad time. And as we trust God we do good. In both of these things, our trust and our doing of good, we tell the world about our God!

When you feel frustrated and attacked and insulted and looked down upon, remember these words from Peter, trust God and do good!

This is the way we respond to suffering and persecution.

We live for Jesus and we live like Jesus!

Trust God and do good. This is the way. And on the other side is the unimaginable riches of his glory. Don’t give up! God won’t waste your suffering. God is with you! Trust God and do good!

The sermon is over but the discussion is still happening. Take some time this week to connect with a person or a few and discuss what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.

If you are wondering what your next step with Jesus is, head inside the Welcome Center for a Next Steps Meeting right now to meet with someone who can talk with you about what that looks like and what your next step might be! The Welcome Center is just inside the commons to your left of the main doors.

If you need prayer, we have members of the prayer team up front ready to pray for you.

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The post Sturdy Faith: A Sturdy Investment first appeared on Life Center.

Aug 30 2020

46mins

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Rank #4: The end is near

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Jesus is coming again. No one knows when. Be ready. .fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .panel-title a .fa-fusion-box{ color: #ffffff;}.fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .panel-title a .fa-fusion-box:before{ font-size: 13px; width: 13px;}.fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .panel-title a{font-size:17px;}.fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .fa-fusion-box { background-color: #333333;border-color: #333333;}.fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .panel-title a:hover, #accordion-25399-2 .fusion-toggle-boxed-mode:hover .panel-title a { color: #9e9e9e;}.fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .panel-title .active .fa-fusion-box,.fusion-accordian #accordion-25399-2 .panel-title a:hover .fa-fusion-box { background-color: #9e9e9e!important;border-color: #9e9e9e!important;}

Transcript

August 22-23, 2020
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Sturdy Faith
1 Peter 4:1-11
The end is near!

Introduction:

Have you ever seen one of these sandwich boards?  “The end is near.”  I have.  This is one of my favorites.  Or this one.

As much as people have made fun of this, the end is near, whether it is the Lord’s return or the end of your life.  I have two friends who learned this week that they have weeks to live.  The end is near, and Peter writes to tell us how to be ready.  Let’s read.

1 Peter 4:1–11

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Let’s pause for a moment.  These verses are difficult—lots of commentary has been written about them.  For our purposes today, I’m going to point out one very clear and important idea and then move on.

Peter tells his readers that they have spent enough time in the past living like pagans—in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and idolatry.  “Enough of that!” he says.  “You’ve changed.”  Your friends may be surprised that you don’t join them in wild living, and may even abuse you for it.

ILL: When I came to Jesus, my friends noticed the change right away—I stopped my “reckless, wild living.”  But they still continued to ask me to join them in our old behaviors.  I said no over and over, until finally they stopped asking.  We were still friends—but I wasn’t joining them in wild living anymore.  I was different.

Christians are different.  We are not living the way we used to, before Jesus.  We are not living the way unbelievers do.  Enough of that!  We are different and the difference is noticeable to everyone around us.  Christians live to do the will of God—“Whatever You want, Lord”—and this makes them stand out like lights in darkness.

Does that describe you?  If not, Peter is telling you that it’s time to stand out.  Enough of the old life!  Would you say this with me: “Enough of that.”  When you’re tempted to live the old way, say, “Enough of that.” And get on with the new life of doing God’s will.

Let’s continue on…

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

“The end of all things is near.”

Did you know that there are over 300 references to Jesus’ second coming in the New Testament?  Thousands of books have been written, charts and graphs have been drawn, and predictions have been made.  Unfortunately, most of them are about the when and the how, and the one thing they’ve all had in common is that they’ve all been wrong.

ILL: In 1988 a book was published called 88 reasons why Jesus will come in 1988.  By the way, 1988 was a favorite year for many eschatology buffs because it was 40 years, or one generation, after Israel had become a nation again, something that many considered a key fulfillment of biblical prophecy.  Well, 1988 came and went and the guy was wrong.  But he was undeterred, because the next year he published 89 reasons why Jesus will come in 1989!  He was wrong again…and happily he didn’t come out with “90 reasons why Jesus will come in 1990.”

This is not a new phenomenon.  For 20 centuries, Christians have been fascinated by the second coming of Christ (as we should be), and have wondered when it will happen (which is ok), and have tried to figure it out by interpreting Scripture in light of current events (which hasn’t worked out well for anyone).  As I said, they’ve all been wrong—no one has gotten it right yet!

Christians are all over the map on subjects like the rapture, the tribulation, the millennium. So when it comes to Jesus’ second coming, what can we know and be sure of?  What really matters?  Here are three things you need to know (give all three).

A. Jesus is coming again.

Mark 13:26-27 “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Jesus is coming again.  Christians believe in a literal, physical coming of Christ.  The first time He came humbly; the second time, He will come in “great power and glory”.  The first time He came quietly, almost unnoticed; the second time, every eye will see him.  Jesus is coming again.  This is the essential that every Christian believes.

B. No one knows when.

Mark 13:32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

No one knows when.  No one means no one.  This is why I think all speculation about when Jesus is coming is a waste of time.  No one knows when Jesus is coming.  There is something else we ought to be spending our time on: being ready.

C. Be ready!

Mark 13:33-34 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Jesus is coming back, we don’t know when, so we ought to be ready.  If you knew you had a day, a month, a year to live, you’d get ready to meet God.  None of us knows the day of our death, and none of us knows the day Jesus will return.  We’re going to meet God one way or the other, and either way, none of us knows when.  So we’d better be ready.

How do you stay ready to meet God?  Peter gives us four things to do in v. 7-11.

1. Pray: If the end is near, I want to be good with God.  I want to be on good speaking terms with God.

ILL:  In the movie, Pearl Harbor, Jimmy Doolittle is leading his famous surprise bombing raid on Tokyo.  As he is about to take off, flying a B-25 bomber off the deck of an aircraft carrier, his co-pilot begins praying.  “When did you get religion?” Doolittle asks him.

“When I was assigned to this mission,” the co-pilot answered.

“Do me a favor,” Doolittle says.  “Pray for both of us.”

Even irreligious people pray when facing death.

Prayer is talking with God.  It’s a conversation with God.  There are lots of reasons to pray.

The most common reason to pray is to ask God for something that I want or need. The Bible is clear that God welcomes this kind of prayer.

Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

What does Jesus invite us to do?  Ask!  Why?  So we’ll receive!  Billy Graham says, “Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.”  Prayer is asking for what we need or want.

Another reason to pray is to say thanks, or tell God that we love Him. The Bible says that should ask God, but also that we should thank Him.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Paul tells us to ask—to present our requests—but to do it with thanksgiving.  We talk with people for that same reason: to express thanks or tell them we love them.  Prayer is thanksgiving or worship.

Another reason to pray, and the one we overlook most often: We talk to know each other. We talk to be close.  We talk to build our relationship.  Maybe what God wants more than anything else is a relationship with you.  Maybe that explains why He created you, and why He became a man and died on a cross for you.  Maybe He did it all because He wants a relationship with you.

This is what Christianity is all about: a love relationship with God.  It’s not primarily a creed or set of doctrines that you believe—although that is important.  It’s not primarily an ethic or a set of rules that you obey—although that is important too.  It is primarily a love relationship with God.  I can believe things about God without knowing and loving Him; I can try to keep all the rules and still be far from Him.  And if that happens, God is sad, because more than anything, He wants me to know Him and to love Him.  He wants a relationship with me.

So Peter says, “The end is near…therefore, pray.”  Why?  So that when the end comes, we’re ready to meet God, a God who has become our friend, a God that we know and love.  I want to be on good speaking terms with God.

Action step: Set aside some time each day this week to PBJ—Prayer, Bible and Journal.  Let God speak to you through His word, and then take time to speak with Him—to have a conversation.

The end is near, so pray!

2. Love: If the end is near, I want to be good with people.

If you knew that tomorrow was the last day of your life, you would want to be good with God (you’d pray), and you would want to be good with people, especially those closest to you.  In fact, I think you would do whatever you could to let those people know how much you love them and to mend any broken fences.

ILL:  One evening a man suffered a heart attack and after being admitted to the hospital, asked the nurse to call his daughter. He explained, “I live alone and she is the only family I have.” The nurse went to phone the daughter. The daughter was quite upset and shouted, “You must not let him die!  Dad and I had a terrible argument almost a year ago. I haven’t seen him since. All these months I’ve wanted to ask for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was ‘I hate you.”‘ The daughter cried and then said, “I’ll be there in thirty minutes.  Don’t let him die.”

The father went into cardiac arrest, and was coded. The nurse prayed, “O God, his daughter is coming. Don’t let it end this way.” But the efforts of the medical team to revive him were fruitless.

A few minutes later, the nurse saw one of the doctors talking to the daughter outside the room. She could see the hurt in her face. The nurse took the daughter aside and said, “I’m so sorry.” The daughter responded, “I never hated him, you know. I loved him.” The nurse took her into the room, and the daughter went to the bed and buried her face in the sheets as she said good-bye to her dead father. The nurse, as she tried not to look at this sad good-bye, noticed a scrap of paper on the bed table. She picked it up and read: “My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know that you love me. I love you, too. Daddy.”

When he knew the end was in sight, this dad did whatever it took to make sure his daughter knew that he loved her.

When the end comes, you not only want to be good with God, you want to be good with those you love.

You don’t know when the end will come!  So why wait?  Why not tell that person today that you love them?  Pick up the phone, write the letter, make the visit and look them in the eye and say it with feeling, “I love you.”  Say it as though it may be your last chance to say it, because it might be.

Can you see why Peter put this one in his list of things to do to be ready for the end?  Love one another deeply.  Make sure that your relationships are healthy and that people know you love them.

“Love each other deeply.”  The word “deeply” literally means “stretched out.”  The word is used in Philippians 3:13 of a runner stretching out toward the finish line in a race.  Fully extended.  Love each other deeply—fully extended, stretched out.

There are some people…it’s a stretch to love them.  Do you know what I mean?  Some people are easy to love—they’re nice, they love you, you love them back.  Easy peasy.  But some people are stinkers—they’re not nice, they don’t love you, and if you’re going to love them, it’s a stretch!

This love that God commands is not easy.  It’s a stretch.  It will require all the mental and spiritual energy you can muster. It means loving the unlovely and the unlovable; it means loving in spite of insult and injury; it means loving even when your love is not returned.  It is not easy.  It will stretch you beyond your comfort zones.

That’s why we need His help—and we can ask Him.

Action step: Who do you need to stretch out and love?  Is there a broken relationship you need to repair?  Go do it this week.

The end is near, so love.

3. Show hospitality: If the end is near, I want to use my resources for God.

If I knew that my life was over soon, that I would stand before God soon, I would want to use my resources for God, to advance God’s purposes.

“The end is near.”  That cry has been used to motivate people to withdraw, to head for the hills and prepare to meet God, and forget about everyone else.  Remember the big Y2K scare?  Some Christians were preparing for the end by stockpiling food and water and weapons!  I guess they were going to shoot people in Jesus’ name! Or even now in Covid, some folks are hoarding and hiding.  Instead of withdrawing, Peter tells us to serve others.  Instead of hiding away, he tells us to open up: open your homes, your hearts and your hands to others.  Instead of hoarding my stuff to make sure I’m taken care of, I’m supposed to share my stuff to advance God’s work.  Offer hospitality!

The Bible places a high value on the virtue of hospitality.  For example:

Romans 12:13 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Why was hospitality so important?  The early church couldn’t have survived without it.  God’s work depended upon the hospitality of Christians for two reasons.

First, the early church met in homes. Larger groups of Christians gathered at places like the Temple in Jerusalem, or in the lecture hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus.  But the most common and universal meeting place for the church was in homes, and that was true for several centuries, and is still true in many places around the world.

Acts 2:46 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”  This verse tells us that the very first Christians in Jerusalem met at the Temple and in homes.  Meeting at the Temple was “Big Church” where the apostles taught.  Meeting in homes was “micro church.”  Both were church!  Notice two other things about these home meetings.  First, they were meeting every day.  When the church first started, they didn’t just meet once a week, or twice a week, but every day!  And second, notice what they did in the homes: they ate!  They ate together!  There is nothing that brings people together like food!     

Imagine having church in your home every day…with a meal!  Now that’s hospitality!  As far as we can tell, the habit of meeting every day slowed down, but the habit of meeting and eating in homes didn’t.  Usually, it was the only place the church could meet.  The church was dependent upon her members for survival.  No hospitality, no church.

The same happens to be true right now!  It’s difficult if not impossible for all of us to meet together “at the temple” in Big Church, but we can be hospitable and meet in small groups in homes or backyards—micro-church.  (Please follow Covid precautions in both.)

So the first reason that God’s work depended on hospitality was that the church met in homes.

Second, the missionary work of the church was dependent on hospitality. There were no Holiday Inns!  Public inns were rare and usually were dens of iniquity—not exactly where missionaries wanted to stay.  All of the apostles and missionaries of the early church were guests in homes.

We all know the names of Peter and Paul, great apostles who took the story of Jesus across the world.  But do you know Simon the tanner and Mnason?  In Acts 10:6, Peter stayed at the home of Simon the tanner.  In Acts 21:16, Paul and his friends stayed in the home of Mnason, described only as “a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.”  Who are Simon the tanner and Mnason the man from Cyprus?  Unknown disciples who made it into the Bible because they did one thing: offered hospitality!  They made it possible for Peter and Paul to do their work.  They “worked together for the truth.”

3 John 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

So can you see why Peter might have put this on his end-times list?  “The end is near; therefore, offer hospitality.”  Use your resources—your home, your food—to work for the truth, to build the church, to move God’s work forward.  Start seeing everything you own as ministering currency, stuff that can be used for God’s purposes.

Action step: How could you show hospitality this week to advance God’s cause?  Do it!

4. Serve: If the end is near, I want my life to count for God.

Use your gifts to serve others.  Each of you has been gifted by God with unique abilities, spiritual gifts, temperament, passions and experiences.  What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of your life is your gift to God.  Use whatever God has given you to serve others.  Make your life count!

ILL: One of my favorite books is Halftime, by Bob Buford.  The subtitle is Changing your game plan from success to significance.  By midlife, Bob Buford was a very successful businessman. As the founder and owner of one of the largest cable television operations in the nation, he was rich, powerful, famous, and influential.  But he began to wonder if his life was making a difference, an eternal difference.  When his 24-year old son, Ross, drowned in the Rio Grande, Bob determined to do whatever it took to make sure that his life counted.  He devoted himself to achieving significance, not just success.  Bob became, among other things, the director of the Leadership Network, an organization that networks Christian leaders and trains them for greater effectiveness.

What are you doing with the one and only life God has given you?  Are you making a difference for good, for God, for eternity?

The closer we get to the end of our lives, the more clearly we see what is important.  It comes into focus.  So Peter says, “The end is closer than you think.  Don’t wait to make a difference.  Don’t wait to live significantly.  Don’t wait to use your gifts to serve God and people.  Make your life count.  Do it now!”

Action step: What could you do to serve others this week?  Do it.

The post The end is near first appeared on Life Center.

Aug 23 2020

34mins

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Rank #5: Sturdy Faith in Suffering

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Do you want to have sturdy faith in the struggles you’re facing? Maybe you’re struggling with relationships, emotions, finances, or fears Whatever your struggle is, strong faith in Jesus will help you to experience God’s blessing in the mess of life!

The post Sturdy Faith in Suffering first appeared on Life Center.

Aug 16 2020

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Rank #6: Sturdy Marriage

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A sturdy marriage is built on the foundation of Jesus’ self-giving love. As wives and husbands put the other person first, the world will see the love of Jesus through your marriage.

The post Sturdy Marriage first appeared on Life Center.

Aug 09 2020

35mins

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Rank #7: Next Steps: A conversation about what to do now

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What actions can we take to become the sort of people God intends us to be—united in Jesus?

The post Next Steps: A conversation about what to do now first appeared on Life Center.

Aug 02 2020

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Rank #8: One Blood: an Interview

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Pastor Joe and Pastor Michael engage in a conversation with friends about race, unity, and justice.

The post One Blood: an Interview first appeared on Life Center.

Jul 26 2020

35mins

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Rank #9: One Enemy One Lord

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When Christians are united against one enemy and by our submission to one Lord, we become a picture of God’s intended future of divine unity.

The post One Enemy One Lord first appeared on Life Center.

Jul 20 2020

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Rank #10: The Divine Intent of Diversity

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Uniformity is not a prerequisite for unity. Sameness is not the only pathway to
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The post The Divine Intent of Diversity first appeared on Life Center.

Jul 13 2020

39mins

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