This morning as I continued to read through scripture, I found a little gem in the midst of all of the goings-on between Joseph and his brothers. It is the blessings and curses that Jacob gave to his sons. This is more than a dying man’s words, these words are the words of life. Here’s what he said:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him. He ties his donkey to a vine, and the colt of his donkey to the choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine and his robes in the blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:10-11 CSB).
These words are clearly a prediction of the Christ! Look at it again: the scepter will not depart from Jesus, there’s a prophecy of the donkey and the colt. Even more, we have the sacrifice of Christ as seen by the washing of his clothes in wine, language that suggests the coming atonement. What a blessing to see that this prediction would be fulfilled almost 2000 years later and still applies to us today!
What’s the point? We can remember that God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. His promises of yesterday are true today, and they are true for your future.
This is the gospel according to Jacob, a gospel more fully revealed as we get closer to the cross. Most of all, however, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ that can change your life.
Thank you, Lord, for your wisdom in Your one big story of the Bible. ☺️
Since transitioning from my church to a new ministry that serves the church in her mission of making disciples, Teresa and
I have embarked on an unexpected journey: trying to find our next church family to join together with in order to serve Jesus. This is the first time that we have had to do this in 25 years, so you can imagine how intimidating this has felt!
However, through this we’ve seen a wide variety of worship styles and I am encouraged for the church as a whole! Its been a very rich experience and we’ve met some wonderful people and faithful belevers. Yet as a result of this search, I’m reminded of some essentials to look for and hope that three principles might be helpful for you if you are in the same boat. As I heard someone say once, approach a church with a critical eye, not a critical spirit. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list:
Four characteristics to look for in a Church:
They are Christ centered and Bible focused. This is a non-negotiable. If the church does not preach, teach, or show a concern for Christ and His Word, there’s no sense being there. Thankfully, we saw that most churches were serious about the Bible.
They are caring and friendly to others. We were shocked, yes shocked, that in one case, no one said a word to us. I did have a moment when I thought a woman was going to shake my hand, that is, until she reached around me to grab a bulletin next to me! We were not looking for an overwhelming outpouring of attention, just a friendly hello or two would have sufficed from someone other than the pastor.
They are concerned about the gospel. We exist to glorify God, and we glorify God by living and loving the gospel on a daily basis. When we are challenged by the gospel of Jesus Christ, it can result in an amazing, beautiful time of praise and glory to His name. This is shown when a church emphasizes missions, ministries, and daily personal evangelism.
- They are unified with one another. Every church has negative Nates and Nellies, but there’s a difference between a person or two who can be cranky a church who has a culture with many of them. When personal preferences disrupt unity in a church, there is a spirit that permeates everything. This can become obvious to a guest.
That’s all I have for now, and I realize that there’s only four characteristics here, but these are essential. Personal preferences in worship style, preaching style, driving distance and other items might come into play, but these, in my opinion, are secondary. Over all of this is the overriding leading of the Holy Spirit, so prayer and discernment must come into play.
That’s what I have, would you add anything to the list?
Over the years, I have seen incredible, vibrant Vacation Bible Schools, complete with biblical teaching, gospel responses, and life altering experiences. I mean, it’s just awesome to see families, workers, and leaders with nothing but smiles as the week is finished and Sunday worship approaches. Now, if we can only find ways to connect the people from the past week with Sunday morning, right? Well, sure, we all want that!
There are many, many creative and enjoyable ways to reach those who have experienced one of the greatest efforts that you and your church family have made all year. Here are a few ideas, in no particular order:
- Host a post-VBS Family Day. Several churches that I have visited have done this. In some cases, they have a Sunday morning worship featuring the children, followed by a church-wide picnic. Personally, I have seen whole families come to Christ through this sort of personal touch.
- Visit with a thank you gift. To connect your Vacation Bible School with your Sunday School/Small Group, how about a thank you gift, delivered to their home? I know, it sounds old fashioned, but you wouldn’t believe the great reception people give when you show up and have a conversation at a doorstep! Some ideas: bring a small gift, a plate of cookies, a flyer advertising the classes for the child, and even a Sunday School Personal Study Guide for the parents.
- Send a thank you card or letter. Children love getting mail, and a card to a child would make their day as well as show parents that you care. Consider sending a card or letter once in a while advertising the next big event and the regular activities.
- Start an email newsletter. This doesn’t have to be hard. Remember this: MailChimp is your friend, MailChimp is your friend. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Build a good address list and email them great info in a newsletter monthly. It’s a great way to build familiarity with the parents. And don’t forget to include stories of changed lives in your newsletter!
- Call to set up a follow up on decisions made. This is the single most important task that you need to do. It’s a command and a pleasure to have a discussion on the gospel. Be sure to make an appointment and clarify the key points of the gospel story with child and adult alike.
All of these ideas are for one purpose alone: to be a catalyst to conversations so people can know Christ personally. After all, isn’t this what we want to do with this giant outreach? Please share if you have used other ideas that have worked.
Just a few words on why Jesus is always going to be better than what the world offers:
- He created the world and all in it (Gen 1:1, John 1:1-4, Col 1:16-17)
- He loves the world (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9)
- He died for the sins of the world (Rom 5:8, 1 John 2:2)
- He will return again (Isaiah 62:11, Matt 24:30, Rev 22:12 & 20)
- His glory will be forever (1 Cor 15:57, 1 John 5:12-13, Rev 21:7)
There’s no comparison to the empty,
temporary things of the world. Remember that as you go about your day.
- Christianity without the resurrection is dead. Literally. Paul wrote plainly, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Death without a raising of the dead would have made Christ a liar and a fraud, however, life after the cross makes Him Lord.
- The resurrection resolves the death of the Messiah. This is why we place so much effort on Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday must have Resurrection Sunday, for Christ’s victory over death is shown to the world. Just as the second to the last note on a song needs to be resolved by the final note, so did the cross.
- The resurrection fulfills prophecy. Our Jesus was predicted to bear our stripes and atone for the sins of the world. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22-24, and others point us to the cross and the resurrection. No one could intricately plan these events apart from God.
- The resurrection is our power. We have a great High Priest in heaven preparing for us (see John 14:1-6). He was raised by the power of God, will be returning in power, and will raise His people as He promised by this same power. Imagine this: if you are in Christ, God’s power is graciously going to raise you to be with Him!
- The resurrection is our hope. Our hope is entirely dependent on the resurrection. A few days ago, I got to speak with a dear saint in her 90’s just before she passed. Her words: “I’m at peace and waiting for my golden chariot to come get me.” She is now with Christ. Without the resurrection, none of us can have this hope as we have no example of the raising of the dead.
- The resurrection is our life. While pagans serve dead gods made of stone, wood, or their imagination, our God is a living God. Over 500 witnesses saw Christ after He arose, and these eyewitnesses were willing to tell of what they saw, even if this meant death. Because for them and hopefully for you, death means life.
Think over these things as you enter worship this morning. His resurrection is powerful as He is risen, indeed!
They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish day of preparation and since the tomb was nearby. (Jn 19:42, CSB)
The work was done, death had come. The chaos and calamity of the most barbaric and horrendous death ever imagined gave way to silence. Emptiness. Incompleteness. The red-hot fire of the piercing spear, the flesh pressed nails, the mocking crowds were finished when it was finished. The cold stone of the tomb, sealed and guarded, now housed the body of the victim of scorn and the object of wrath.
But what was to come of this? How long will the silence continue? After all, the last time a prophet spoke, 400 years had passed before more revelation came from God. What was God to do? These were no doubt the questions in the mind of those on Saturday, that Saturday after THAT Friday.
But Sunday was about to come. The chaos of Friday and the uncertainty of Saturday were soon overshadowed by the victory of Sunday. The future of Saturday was THE triumph, when all power, majesty, and glory shone in the resurrected Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords! He was silent no more, He was no longer dead, He was alive: now and forever more, our Jesus is alive!
May your silent Saturday make way for the joy of His resurrection!
Like several people I know, I track my steps on my phone. The reason for this is so I can make sure that I don’t sit too long and miss out on a daily routine of staying active. I also work out, and though my schedule has changed, I am working on trying to get a routine where I can can get into my favorite place on a regular basis and sweat for an hour or so. These are important things to me, because being physically fit will in theory let me be around longer to enjoy life, my family, and worship here on earth.
To love God with all your strength means to be present with Him daily. It means that you are willing to physically follow through with what your head and heart has said is true. I come to worship, I read my Bible, I pray, but I don’t just do it, I do it with all my attention and focus. In other words, being present with God is an intentional, disciplined act of love.
I think that this is seen so much in scripture. Think about Abraham’s sacrifice in moving his family to a land God was to show him. Think about the physical love shown by Rahab as she hid the spies then hung the thread out her window. Think most of all, about the example of Jesus, hung on a cross willingly, in agony, in glory. Think about it and your physical sacrifice that you can do for Him as an act of love.
Pray for God to show you a way to focus on Him today. I know that He can show it!
Jesus, in answering a lawyer’s question, affirmed in Luke 10:27 that you are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” These two great commandments, He would also say in Matthew 22:40, “depend all of the Law and the prophets.”
This is huge, to say the least! I see so many different dimensions to these commands. First, we interact with God on the four levels of heart, soul, mind, and strength. In the same way, we interact with people on these four levels. For example, when one of these four levels in a marriage relationship is broken, the relationship suffers like a four-cylinder car running on three. This is why every relationship should be healthy emotionally, spiritually, physically, and even cognitively (the mind).
For my next few posts, I am going to spend time on how you can love God and people more in each of these areas on a daily basis. Keep in mind that no one is going to perfectly love God and people, but if you sincerely desire to put on love, you can do this greater today than you did yesterday, and tomorrow more than you did today!
Next: Love with All Your Heart
Romans 16:20 (NASB95), “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Ever since the curse was pronounced by God to those awaiting his sentence in the Garden, all eternity was waiting for the time when the head of the serpent was to be crushed by the seed of the woman. Decades of waiting turned to hundreds of years, hundreds turned to thousands, and soon man’s hope in the great battle to come would fade away in favor of the many worldly pleasures offered instead. Sin had run its course.
God’s people would even miss the point of the Exodus and the Law that was given. No one would be righteous to stand, no, not one, and it was clear that all were transgressors of the Ten Commandments and all the rest of the commands. Isaiah would proclaim “woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,” and Jeremiah would preach with tears in his eyes as he saw the lostness around him. Yet no one listened, no one seemed to care, and the arrival of the Great snake crusher finally came, but without the fanfare afforded a King.
Jesus came to give us life. Your salvation was purchased by a snake crushing, cross bearing, nail wearing, man of all men. His gracious offer to you came with a price. Our debt was paid on the cross in full, where this sinless, God-man Savior died for our sins, and not for our sins only, but that of the whole world (1 Jn 2:2). His disciples were chosen to share with everyone and anyone. His Commission was for the church to do the same. What Christ has started in His all-out assault on the forces of evil, His Bride is to continue until He returns. As you are going, make disciples of all men.
Go crush that snake with an all-out gospel-powered assault on the gates of Hell. Your King awaits.
Over the 22+ years of ministry, I have had many opportunities to minister to people while they’ve gone through various issues and difficulties of life. I’ve had people ask me for spiritual, marital, parental, and even financial advice (yikes!), and in every case, I have taken them to seek a bigger picture from God through His Word. You see, it doesn’t matter what I or any other person thinks, but what truly matters is what God thinks.
But how do you know what God thinks? Here are a few ways to seek God’s Wisdom by running to His Word:
- Read His Word. Daily. Take part of your day to read through the Bible. I read through it at least once per year, trying for more than once this year. Wisdom doesn’t come in spurts- it comes from a daily, regular commitment to being in His Word.
- Study his Word. Frequently. Like gold in a deep mine, so is the wisdom of God for those who take the time to truly seek and study it. Get into a study with other believers who take the truths of God seriously.
- Apply His Word. Uncomfortably. Don’t fall into the “check-box” mindset for your time in the Word. Everything you read and study needs to be focused on a life application, even though it may be uncomfortable for you at the present time.
- Pray His Word. Fervently. Check out Dr. Don Whitney’s post on praying through the Bible and do it. You won’t regret this.
- Share His Word. Generously. Be sure to be a part of making disciples by sharing the love of Christ with others. It can mean giving away pocket New Testaments, sharing the gospel in a personal witnessing opportunity, or even offering an in-home Bible study. The point is that you have a terrific chance to change lives with the power of the Word of God.
These are some thoughts. Do you have anything else to add?