Tag Archives: pray

Powerful Gospel

Have you ever not trusted in the power of the gospel to bring people to Christ?

Written by Malcolm Riley


Does the gospel have the power to save anyone?

Have you ever been tempted not to trust in the power of the gospel to bring people to Christ? Sometimes, we as Christians apologize for the message of Christ when talking to those who don’t believe. Romans 1:16 should be a life verse for every Christian! Paul says at the beginning of his letter to the Roman Christians, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of others.” The same gospel that has been saving people for thousands of years is still saving people today. This gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, can change any hard heart—if we will tell it! Our job is to pray and tell people about Christ. For as Paul went on to say, “How will they know if someone doesn’t tell them?”

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

We need to tell people about the whole gospel and not leave out the difficult bits like sin, judgment, and Hell, and only talk about the amazing forgiveness that Christ offers at the cross. This means we will really have to trust the Holy Spirit when we tell people of the gospel. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Me.” The power is not in our “sales pitch” of the gospel; the power is in telling the truth about Jesus.

Bring Them to Jesus

We also want to be the kind of people who, like Billy Graham, “Call people to decision!” A great prayer is that we might be like a crossroad in the lives of those we meet: that meeting us would draw someone in one of two directions—either towards Jesus Christ or further away from Him. We don’t want our lives to leave people ignorant about the gospel or comfortable with being neutral. The great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon said we should preach “the whole gospel with a call to decision.”

Push Past the Awkwardness

Every time I come to a point when I am going to challenge someone to pray to receive Jesus Christ, it never feels right. It always feels awkward. But so many have come to Christ when I have felt like this and chosen to go past the pain barrier and preach the gospel with a call to decision. We’ve got to challenge people in spite of being nervous or feeling awkward. It’s so important to not just tell people the gospel but to also challenge them to receive the greatest news in the world! Ask them, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Do you wish to follow Him?” If their answer is yes, lead them in confessing their faith in Christ and assure them of their salvation. Ask the Holy Spirit today to make Romans 1:16 your life verse: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation others.”

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

What is a Cult? How to tell the false from the true

 

How to tell the false from the true

 

Written by Dan Lee on 11/07/2017

Series: Weekly Devotional

Tags: Church, Cults, Discernment

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 

2 Timothy 4:3-4

Do you remember the “People’s Temple”? Started in Indianapolis in 1955 by the Reverend Jim Jones, it moved to San Francisco in 1971. The headquarters was just a few miles from my house, and mere blocks from the hospital where I was born. As a teenager I often rode the bus right past it.

 

In 1974, the People’s Temple established a settlement in Guyana, South America. It promised a tropical paradise, free from the wickedness of the outside world.

 

By 1978, the population of Jonestown, as it was called, had grown to over 900. And in November of that year, the residents of Jonestown were forced at gunpoint to drink poison. Nine-hundred and eighteen people died that day, the largest deliberate taking of American lives before September 11, 2001.

 

The people tasked with cleaning up found a shocking discovery: Not a single Bible was found in Jonestown. This “church” turned out to be one of history’s most dangerous cults.

 

As a follower of Jesus, you need to be regularly involved in a church, or local fellowship of believers — “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

 

But you must choose your church carefully, avoiding false teachers, and making sure you don’t end up in a cult. Here are some characteristics of a cult, or a church or group that has gone the wrong path:

 

Authority Other than the Bible

Sometimes it is writings, such as Mormonism’s The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. Often it is the teaching of an individual, such as Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who claimed that historic beliefs of the church were wrong (the Trinity and the deity of Christ).

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses took this a step farther with their New World translation of the Bible, which is “the first intentional, systematic effort at producing a complete version of the Bible that is edited and revised for the specific purpose of agreeing with a group's doctrine.” (gotquestions.org)

 

Additional Revelation

Many cults are based on new discoveries or so-called revelations. For example, Joseph Smith’s founding of the Mormon church was based, he claimed, on his discovery of golden tablets. Other cult leaders simply declare that they have received direct revelations from God, which cannot be proven or disproven.

 

Paul warned in his very first epistle about those who departed from the established truth of the gospel: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)

 

The Mormons make their stand very clear: “We do not believe the Bible to be inerrant, complete or the final word of God.” (From an address to the Harvard Divinity School in March 2001 by Robert L. Millet, former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University.)

 

Incorrect view of Jesus

Both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons deny the full divinity of Jesus. They cite isolated passages to prove their point, rather than looking at the totality of teaching about the Lord. They ignore passages that show the eternal nature of Christ, such as John 10:30, “I and the Father are one” or John 17:5: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Also, Hebrews 1:3 says of Jesus, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

 

Salvation by Works

Most cults do not teach that one is saved by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, but by following the rules and teachings of that particular group.

 

For instance, the Mormons add “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” to the requirements for salvation. But the Bible makes abundantly clear that works cannot save us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Also see Titus 3:5, Galatians 5:4.

 

Authoritarian Leadership and Excessive Control

If a church, or even a fellowship group, is led by someone who has complete rule, whose authority is never to be questioned, watch out! Pastors and elders are to lead gently and lovingly, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3)

 

Another warning sign is when group members are required to submit their daily lives to group control – to quit their jobs, or give all their money to the group. This was definitely true at the People’s Temple.

 

Other possible reasons for caution include:

 

Exclusivity / Denunciation of other groups – “Everyone else is wrong”

Secret rituals or doctrines

Bondage – you cannot leave, and if you do you are shunned.

 

Jeremiah 23:1-2 gives a dire warning to pastors who lead their people astray: “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: ‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.’”

 

One of life’s most important decisions is choosing your church family. Ask Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (Hebrews 13:20), to help you find a church and a shepherd who will be true to God’s word and lead you and help you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

 

Pray this week:

Lord, guide me by Your Holy Spirit to know when a church or group is one that I should participate in, or avoid as a cult. Lead me to a true Christian fellowship that honors and glorifies You, and where I will grow in my faith and witness for you.

 

Do you have doubts about the group you’re involved in? 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Worshipping God Through your Work

Opportunities to worship Jesus fill our daily lives.

Written by GodLife on 09/03/2013

Series: Weekly Devotional

Tags: GodJesusWorkWorship


 

"I Am the True Vine, and My Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5)

 

Opportunities to worship Jesus fill our daily lives. A few years ago I witnessed a great example of seizing the moment to love and honor our Savior through work.

While my son was putting away the dishes, he broke into praises to our King, singing along with the worship music on the radio (or the stereo – whatever it was). He danced around the kitchen, utensils becoming percussion instruments in his hands. His joyful face reflected his enthusiastic heart for Jesus, and for his appointed task.

What an encouragement to me and a great reminder to take advantage of every opportunity given to us, and in every task before us, to lift up worship, praise and thanksgiving to our King!

Jesus asks us to humble ourselves and become like children, for those who do will be the greatest in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-4) .

Now whenever I am putting away dishes, the image of my little one, who is so precious to our Father, fills my heart. I rejoice in the strength Jesus has given me for the task at hand. I adore Jesus and praise Him Creating me and our amazing Universe. I thank Him for the blessings of day. And sometimes, I too, turn on worship music and sing my praises to our Great Giver of Life.

When I turn work time into worship time, joy fills my spirit. I now look forward to it as a time of intimacy between my Great Counselor and me. Work is a time to honor my Prince of Peace by giving my best. For all I have was given to me by Jesus, and I want to surrender everything I am for His Glory and His Kingdom.

Abiding in Jesus through worship, prayer and His Word brings me in to His Holy Presence. And in His Presence there is fullness of Joy (Psalms 16:11)!

May we bear much fruit for Jesus today by abiding in Him: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Thank You, Father, for the work and time of worship You have given to us today. May it be a sweet-smelling aroma to You.

Prayer, Care and Share Jesus

The Hebrew term "avodah" combines the words for "work" and "worship." Many people wrongly think of work as a curse; a result of the fall. But work came before the fall! From the beginning, God gave people work to do for Him (Genesis 2:15). In serving God, we are to worship Him. So let us start and end every task by asking God's blessing on it, and thanking Him for the chance to worship him through our work.

This week, we expand our daily prayers to include prayers of blessing on every task we do, as well as thanks when the task is completed. This includes:

•Preparing and eating meals, and cleaning up
•Traveling and commuting
•Each task or meeting at work
•Studying or doing assignments — especially if you are a student!
• Exercise, sport and recreation
• Social activities
•Serving at church or in the community
•Going to sleep

Jesus states clearly in today's scripture that we can do nothing apart from Him. Our work only bears eternal fruit if it is done in fellowship with God. So let us do it!


Pray this week:

God will fill your heart with love for the community you live and work or move in daily.


What is your attitude toward work? How can you worship God while you're working? 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Sharing Jesus with Everyone

How can I show everyone God's love?

Written by Hope on 29/09/2013
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Evangelism, Jesus, Salvation
“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6

I had the opportunity to make friends with several non-Christians and atheists when I attended university. Since graduating, I mostly keep in touch with them through social media. Many of these friends don’t want to hear a single word about God. They think most Christians are self-righteous and ignorant. They don’t understand how one supernatural Being could actually be responsible for ALL Creation. Why do I remain friends with these people, and how can I show them God's love?

God Loves Everyone
God "wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). He loves the whole world and "does not want anyone to be destroyed" (2 Peter 3:9). I want to love my friends with God's love. I care about them and pray that they will choose to develop a relationship with the Lord. We should not allow our non-Christian friends to influence us for evil, but if I never communicate with them, I would lose the chance to influence them for good — and for God.

Love with God's Love
So I pray for my friends, because "my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved" (Romans 10:1). How can I communicate God's love to them, "showing [myself] to be [His] disciple" (John 15:8), when they do not want to hear about the Lord? On social media, I write about God and His Salvation. I think of these friends when I write posts that could appeal to them, that acknowledge their worldview. I pray that what they read will make them realize that God could be real and that they will want to learn more about the One Who loves them more than anyone.

Live with God's Love
As Christians, we want to share God's love, especially with people we care about. We should "live such good lives among the [non-Believers] that… they may see your good deeds and glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12). We pray to be guided by the Holy Spirit when we approach our unsaved friends, so we can "be very careful how [we] live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Prayer, Care, and Share Jesus
On average, 96% of believers never share Jesus Christ's message of hope and salvation (evangelize) with a non-believer. That means 4% do share their faith (or evangelize).

You may be someone who doesn’t usually share about Jesus with people. But, if you’ve been following the steps in this guide, then you really are sharing Jesus with people by praying and caring for them. You’re an evangelist. That includes praying blessings on people, building relationships and helping the needy.

Hopefully these steps will help you be wise and make the most of every opportunity when ministering to people who don’t know Jesus. Your conversations should be full of grace, allowing you to be ready with an answer to people asking about the faith (Colossians 4:5-6).

As you live out these biblical principles and asking God to bless and save the lost, you’re drawing people to Jesus.

Remember, it’s not your actions or prayer that make the difference. It’s what God does through your prayer and action that changes lives. Jesus pointed out to the 72 disciples in Luke 10:1-24 that they should not be prideful of what happened through their work, but instead to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. And so should we.

Pray this week:
You will live wisely and graciously as a godly example to non-Believers

Do you ask people if you could pray for them? How can we pray for you?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

While I Kept Partying My Parents Kept Praying:

eryone has to decide for themselves whether they are going to be followers of Christ.

Tags: SalvationTestimony


This article was written by Andrew Palau.

Like all people, I had to decide for myself whether or not I was going to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My parents had hoped and prayed that I would make this decision as a child, but I did not. It took 27 years for me to finally decide for myself.

I grew up in a great Christian home. Mom and Dad loved me and were truly gentle parents. We went to a great church. Regardless of the tremendous blessings in my life, I wanted what the world had to offer. Although my father, international evangelist Luis Palau, preached to millions, he had no words that could humanly change my heart.

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, a friend’s older siblings introduced me to stuff that even the wilder kids weren’t doing. As time went on I began building a reputation of being the wildest and craziest kid around. I just loved to party… and drink… and smoke marijuana, which some say is the biggest cash crop in my home state of Oregon.

When my parents learned what I was doing, they couldn’t believe it. They were wise because they sought biblical counsel, and they understood that they could not convince me to live a godly lifestyle. They decided that the only thing they could do was to trust the Lord, model faith in the midst of trying circumstances, and do their best to live lives filled with the joy of the Lord.

It was very convicting as I watched them release me to God. “We love you,” they told me. “We’ve done our best, but we trust the Lord… The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin and unrighteousness.” Dad and Mom kept praying for me; I kept partying.


Is there a loved one in your life who is far from God? Are you asking God how He would have you relate to this person, and relying on Him? What have you learned so far that may help others in this difficult situation?

Or is this a story that you can relate to?

Whatever your situation, talking to someone about what's going on can help. S

 

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

The Peter Promise Sin in our lives is not inevitable

Sin in our lives is not inevitable

Tags: Help, Holiness, Sin, Temptation
"If you do these things you will never fall" (2 Peter 1:10).

"He knew so much about the Bible; he had such a great ministry. How could this happen to him?"

People often have asked me such questions when a Christian leader has fallen because of money, sex, or pride.

The unasked question is left hanging in the air. "Since this happened to such a spiritual man (or woman), am I going to fall, too?"

I used to answer, "We’re all vulnerable. It could happen to anyone," echoing what other Christians have said in the past.

Some time ago I knew a middle-aged man in South America who was one of the most winsome evangelists that I have ever heard. But he had an attitude toward money that was unholy. He put away money that wasn’t his. Now he is no longer an evangelist. He is doing something else when he ought to be winning souls in the harvest field of Latin America.

As well, I was deeply grieved when I learned that a respected American youth evangelist with whom I had worked in the past had left his wife, his children, and his ministry for the passions of the flesh. It turned out that secretly, for years, he had been feeding a pornography addiction while preaching up a storm against immorality. Then, the inevitable happened. He started committing adultery. He had affairs going in city after city. Finally, the truth came out, and he walked out on his family.

When the truth came out, it shook me. It seemed to only prove the point: "We’re all susceptible to moral failure, right?"

I’m not so sure anymore. I now believe such thinking leads to fatalism, smacks of false humility, and flies in the face of Scripture.

Failure Is Not Inevitable
"We’re all vulnerable" isn’t true…if we’re staying in God’s Word, if we’re walking by the Spirit, if we’re obeying Jesus Christ. "If you do these things," 2 Peter 1:10 says, "you will never fall."

Peter isn’t using flowery language; he isn’t simply trying to make us feel better. These words are from the Bible; God Himself tells us, "If you do these things, you will never fall." What a wonderful promise!

Earlier in the same chapter, Peter tells us, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).

"All power" has been given to us through Jesus Christ, and His power is what enables us to live a godly life.

God doesn’t want us to shipwreck our faith, shatter our home, disgrace our church, or destroy the ministry He has entrusted to us. Instead, He has given us His indwelling presence and designed the Christian life so that we’ll succeed.

Walls of Protection
To keep us safe in His hand, God has established several strong walls of protection around us: the Word of God, including His moral laws; the Body of Christ, especially our local church; and His indwelling Holy Spirit, who is ever sensitive to sin in our lives.

But we can’t just sit around, hoping God will protect us when temptation comes our way. As John Wesley recognized during the Great Awakening, it is as Christians grow in grace and go on to maturity that they will be kept from falling.

"Paradoxically," Wesley biographer A. Skevington Wood reminds us, "to stand still is to be in danger of slipping back."

I encourage you to take action. First, don’t gossip and gloat when someone goes ahead and blatantly sins. We dare not secretly get a kick out of seeing someone else fail. Since temptations are common to us all, Scripture calls us to walk humbly in the fear of the Lord.

Second, make a radical decision to be holy as God is holy. Pray to God about your area of weakness. I did this early on in my ministry. I told God, point by point, how I behave in certain situations. I was embarrassed and recognized that God already knew how I acted, but it did me good to tell Him. Then I took Galatians 2:20 and reaffirmed with God my resolution to be crucified with Christ. I made a radical decision to be holy under every circumstance, without exception.

Third, begin a prayer group with one or more of your Christian friends. Let them know about your area of weakness–you don’t have to share in great detail. Ask them to hold you up in prayer before God as well as to hold you responsible for your actions. I meet each Wednesday with a group of respected, godly leaders in my city and have discovered great benefits.

Fourth, get back to reading the Bible. Several years ago when a rash of leaders were falling one after another, I asked my mentor, Dick Hillis, founder of one of the world’s leading missions organizations, "Why are all these guys falling away?"

Dr. Hillis thought and thought about my question. After walking with the Lord for sixty-some years, he’s no fly-by-night. Finally, he told me, "I think it’s because they were reading a lot of books about the Bible, but not the Bible itself."

The more I thought about it, the more I could see his point. Nothing can take the place of God’s Word, not even the best biblical commentaries. Sure, an evangelist or preacher or teacher needs to do his homework. He needs to read widely and deeply. But we need to saturate ourselves with God’s Word so, as the Psalmist wrote, "I might not sin against [God]" (Psalm 119:11).

As we read the Bible, associate with godly men and women, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, we are protected and kept safe in God’s hand.

Beware of Temptation
That’s not to say we won’t be tempted to climb over these divine walls of protection. For this reason we must beware of two seemingly innocent mistakes that make us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks: carelessness and opportunity.

Maybe we begin to hurry through our daily Bible reading or prayer time since we really don’t have much time. Perhaps we place ourselves in a tempting situation. Maybe we’re trying to serve God in our own power instead of in the power of the Spirit. It could be we’re feeling proud after gaining a victory over temptation. However it happens, carelessness creeps in and that’s when Satan strikes. The opportunity arises, and we fall into sin.

But we don’t have to go that route. The Bible promises, "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are not helpless victims of Satan’s whims. He can defeat us only if we let him. Remember the Peter Principle: "If you do these things, you will never fall."

The Lord doesn’t want us to panic, to be fearful that we’ll be the next to fall. He "is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy" (Jude 24).

Let’s not go around cringing, frightened we’re going to fall. We don’t need to be afraid of the world, scared that our sexuality or whatever is going to destroy us. If we are walking and growing in Christ, the Scripture says we will never fall–and that’s a promise!

Prayer
"Lord Jesus, I have the desire to do such-and-such, and I am settling the matter with you. By your power, I will not dishonor Your holy name. I’m going to live for Your glory. I am committed to live a pure life. Amen."

When faced with temptation, do you recognize the way of escape explained in 1 Corinthians 10:13? "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

What is tempting you? Talk to another Christian today and learn how to fight temptation.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Do You Have to Go to Church?

Let’s find out the true meaning of church.

Written by Joy on 30/11/2014
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church And Community
“Do not give up meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

There are church services on television and the Internet. But is it ok to stay at home and watch a church service? Or do we have to go to a physical church building? Let’s find out the true meaning of church.

Church: The Body of Christ
When God talks about the church, he isn’t talking about a physical building. The church is all the people in the world who have put their faith in Jesus, sometimes called the body of Christ.

Christians are instructed to meet together regularly. (Hebrews 10:25) Many Christians go to church buildings (local churches). But if there isn’t a local church near you, don’t worry. You can meet in a house church, a secret meeting place or a public place where you can fellowship. The important thing is to meet with other Christians so you can learn, fellowship, and work together to teach others about God.

Divide and Conquer: Enemy Strategy
It’s not easy to overpower a group of people because there’s strength in numbers. But if you divide them, you can easily conquer. The Bible even talks about the benefits of being with another person instead of being alone. “Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

As Christians, we have an enemy who wants to divide us. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8). Satan tries to separate you from other believers because he knows you are weaker when you are alone. When we are in a group, we can support each other, hold each other accountable and pray for each other. Satan will not be able to drag one of us off into the wilderness of unbelief, doubt, or despair.

United in Love: Jesus’ Prayer
Jesus prayed for us to be united. (John 17:9-11). He told us to “Love one another” (John 13:34) and “Encourage one another” (I Thessalonians 5:11). You’ll be able to do all of that and more when you’re united with other believers by meeting together. If you haven’t put your faith in Jesus yet, become a part of the body of Christ today and you can begin meeting with other believers too!

Pray this week:
That God will direct you to a local church where you can belong and how you can be an encouragement to other believers.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Is Online Church Enough?

Online church services are a great resource — make sure they don’t become your only community

Written by GodLife on 04/09/2018
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Church, Church And Community, Fellowship, Online Church
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25
Balancing Online and Physical Church 
My husband and I found a great church. This place has excellent, Bible-based teaching, opportunities to serve, with a young, growing membership. The church offers multiple service times and great music. Unfortunately, we ended up moving. “No problem”, we both thought. “We can just go online and watch the services. At least that way we can still get great teaching while we look for a church in our new town.” 

Here’s what we discovered. Finding a church can be hard! Especially when the one you attended before was so great. Some weeks it was easy to say, “let’s just watch online today.” That counts, right? 
No matter where you live, you have to decide what to do about church and community, both online and in-person. The reality today is the online church community has so much to offer and may feel like an easier place to fit in. Many people are a part of multiple communities, online and offline. How do you balance them? Can one substitute for the other? 

The purpose of going to church
Notice I didn’t say “the purpose of church” because ‘church’ is not a physical place. the church is made up of people who follow Jesus. As Christians, we work together as “the church” to share the love of Jesus with others. Acts 2:42 provides some of the reasons for church. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” 

You can do many of the same things online and offline. You can share Jesus’ love, learn about Jesus, and read the Bible. With so many sermons and studies online, it is easy to find just about any material you need to help you grow spiritually. Online church allows you to build community fellowship globally and expand your perspective, while your local church may be limiting your connections to people who are just like you. So why go to a physical church rather than bonding and worshipping only in an online community? Physical touch, serving and gathering are just three reasons.

Physical touch
Britain recently appointed its first ‘minister for loneliness’ acknowledging how isolated many people have become. Part of that isolation is not simply mental loneliness but a lack of connection physically, too. I remember my mom saying several years after my father died that one of the hardest things she faced was not having daily physical contact with anyone – hugging, a touch on the hand, and just close proximity to another person in the room. There were those around Jesus who needed to hear His message in this way because there are people who are best wired to receive communication about love by physical touch. "And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.' And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately his leprosy was cleansed." (Matthew 8:2–3)

Going to church is a way to physically connect to followers of Jesus and remind ourselves that we are not just mental or spiritual beings but we exist together and have a common purpose. 

Serving in your community
Sure, you can give money through your phone to help others – even those in your neighborhood. The community church makes it more personal. As the church opens its doors in times of disaster or through helping local families with specific needs, Jesus can shine through your face when you participate in service. James 1:27 tells us: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” 

Gathering
We are here to gather with other believers in Christian fellowship, and a smartphone can never completely replace that. The term “church” in Greek (ekklesia) means a called assembly. In ancient times when a city called its people together for a certain purpose, this was always called an ekklesia. My husband and I once had a “Skype dinner” with some friends who had moved away. We just wanted to see their faces and eat together like we did when they lived near us. While it was fun, it wasn’t the same as being together. 

Balancing your online church practices with your physical ones can be a challenge. Both have so much to offer, it can be tempting to replace one for the other. How you use those resources God provided in a balanced way is a decision you have to make. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15)

Pray this week:
Father, show me how to serve you. Lead me to more fully be a part of the church in all areas, through worship, teaching, giving, fellowship and prayer.

Do you struggle with balancing your life online and offline? Do you view your community church differently than online church?

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Forgive Those Who Hurt You Long Ago

No matter how difficult a situation, you can remember that God wants us to forgive one another “just as God through Christ has forgiven you”

Written by Hope on 07/07/2013
Series: Weekly Devotional
Tags: Forgiveness, Hurt
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

When someone hurts you or you experience an injustice, God knows about it. In fact, of course, He knows every wrong that has ever occurred on earth, as well as the good things. "His understanding has no limit" (Psalm 147:5), and He knows that, as with all human action, "it has all been done before" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Earthly Injustice
King Solomon wrote, “I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless” (Ecclesiastes 4:1). He noticed that people should not “be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land” (Ecclesiastes 5:8). He said this because, "not a single person on earth is always good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20), so we need to recognize that we, too, are sinners in need of forgiveness.

God's Justice
No matter how difficult a situation, you can remember that God wants us to forgive one another “just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ecclesiastes 4:32). And because “The Lord loves righteousness and justice”(Psalm 33:5) , you can rely on God to help you overcome injustice by being a loving and forgiving person. It will probably be difficult, but “those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble” (Ecclesiastes 8:5-6).

Prayer, Care, and Share Jesus
Have bad things ever happened to you or the people close to you? Whether these things have happened recently or long ago, we know God is very serious about us forgiving others, just as in Christ, God forgave us.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this or similar:

Somebody caused an accident and someone close to you died or was injured for life;
A parent, school teacher or another authority figure abused you or someone close to you;
A criminal killed or injured someone close to you in a robbery or attack;
Someone close to you betrayed you. Whether or not you know the person that hurt you, your friend or family member, it is very tempting to harbor anger, hate or bitterness towards them – even if you’re close to God.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry in your loss. Jesus understands your pain and anger because He suffered on your behalf. Because of the sacrifice He made for you, and the forgiveness He has already granted you, Jesus asks you to forgive people who bring hurt and pain into your life.

You may not even know where to start when you realize you need to forgive someone. You might ask, “How can I forgive?” Well, here are some suggestions:

Realize and accept you have the anger or bitterness in your heart about the incident (however deeply buried in your memory;
Accept from the Scripture that you have to forgive as you are forgiven;
Surrender the hurt and anger to Jesus in prayer – If possible, pray this out loud with a friend
Forgive the person(s) in the Name of Jesus;
Start praying the Lord's blessing on the person that you need to forgive.
A Helpful Tip: Don't worry if you don't know the name of the person that wronged you or if they may not even be alive now. Forgive them anyway – the Lord knows them. If the process is very difficult, – get help from trusted friend or a counselor.

Pray this week:
You will forgive people who hurt you and start to pray for the Lord to bless them.

Roots of bitterness grow deep and spread to cover all areas of a person's life. Have you chosen to 'forgive' those who have done evil to you in your past? You should ask God to forgive them for you and through you. Forgiveness is for your healing. Do you have a situation you're having a hard time with? Talk to a caring Christian about it.

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member