A message I preached. A reference to a movie. And a slew of guys on social media telling me they went home and watched it after church.
What is it with “Taken?” I think I know what it is.
It’s about a father. It’s about a daughter in trouble. And about a rescue. An amazing, frightening and thrilling rescue.
We’re not shocked that the father, played by Liam Neeson, is able to rescue. After all, he’s got a particular set of skills from a long career in dealing with scum like the kidnappers.
But that’s not the best part. The best part is that he is a father – and a rescuer of the daughter he loves. He goes to great lengths to identify with every experience his daughter has gone through in order to find her. He risks his life to save her.
In the final scene, he is able to snatch her from the brink of bondage and death. And she’s not surprised he came. After all, he’s her dad.
She said, “Daddy. You came for me.” He said, “I told you I would.”
It’s a familiar story, right? Lost, in bondage, headed toward certain destruction…until the Father springs into action…
Every one needs to hear at least 3 things over their lifetime from a father/mother, spouse, or mentor. He/she needs to hear:
1. “I love you.” We need to hear that verbally, specifically, face-to-face; eyeball-to-eyeball.
2. We need to hear, “I’m proud of you.”
3. We need to hear, “You’re good at ______________” and whatever they are good at, the blank needs to be filled in.
Look at the example of God, the Father. As you go through the pages of the New Testament over the life of Jesus, there are 6 times God the Father breaks into time and space and we hear His voice verbally speak to Jesus Christ. It’s interesting, on every one of those occasions, He says pretty much the same thing.
He says to Jesus these words, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.” And in that moment, we hear this affirmation; this commendation from a father to his Son that’s so desperately needed by every person. “This is My beloved Son”(I love You). “In whom I am well-pleased.” (I’m proud of You). “Listen to Him.”(telling those around Him, because this Man has something to say; He’s good.).
The Father said this to His, Son, Jesus Christ. If it was important for the Father to say it to Jesus Christ, how much more do we need to give that to sons/daughters/spouses/mentees during their very difficult journey? Within all the activities we do and the presence we provide, there needs to be deposited specific and strategic thoughts, information and empowerment that makes him/her able to stand in the storm of life.
If you’re in that position, say it. If it is said to you, listen to it.
(this article is adapted from a Robert Lewis talk)
“Why We Have Mass Baptisms”
A mass baptism service is one of the greatest forms of celebration in the church. Every year, our church celebrates “I Am Not Ashamed” Sunday, and on that day, after several weeks of preparation (this is not an easy-believism, wet-everybody-you-can kind of church), we baptize people who’ve come to faith and are ready to follow in immersion. Why do we do this en masse?
1. It’s biblical. From the very beginning, baptisms of large numbers of people were commonplace. “So then, those who received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about 3000 souls.” Acts 2:41
2. It’s powerful. The very symbolism embodied in a baptism presents the death, burial and resurrection of Christ – and the believer identifying with Him. When I baptize 100 people, I preach the Gospel 100 times. That’s 100 stories, 100 lives, 100 families touched in some way – and many, many people celebrating their obedience. It’s not unusual for a good number who simply attend the service to come under conviction and make a spiritual decision.
3. It’s encouraging. When our many leaders see the people who’ve come to faith by the planting, watering and reaping of Gospel seeds, their work is validated (though we know we serve the Lord regardless the results). Those who’ve prayed and planted rejoice! Those who were part of that decision celebrate in new levels of gratitude. It’s a time of high celebration!
4. It’s bold. We’re calling people to obey Christ. So many have failed to take the baptism “first step” and we boldly call them to stand up for Christ and the Gospel by saying, “I am not ashamed!” There’s something about that courageous call that God honors.
5. It’s liberating. Numbers of people have told me of the spiritual freedom they’ve had once they were immersed. They’ve obeyed God and He always honors obedience!
I challenge you (if you’re a pastor) to have a baptism Sunday. Pray it through, prepare your people, launch out in faith, and see how God will bless your leadership in this. If you’ve never seen this, join First Euless on July 24 for our “I Am Not Ashamed” Sunday. If you’re someone who needs to be baptized because you’ve haven’t done this since putting your faith in Christ – wait no longer.
For the Nations…
My mind is in India today. Over the last 12 years, I’ve been many times. Last January, while preaching in India, I had a different experience. I felt a compelling call to focus on our Unreached and Unengaged People Group for the next few years and I felt a need to call other pastors to go with me.
We have the chance to impact millions – and there are hundreds (even thousands) of Indian pastors who are working together with us to do this. These are some of the most dedicated pastors on the planet, by the way. Our next trip to that particular region takes place in mid-January of 2015, and I need a few good pastors to take this on with me. You may want to take a businessman from your church with you.
God has graciously provided key leaders in our cities we stay in. He has also provided spacious, modern guest houses that are our “home away from home.” We have transportation, people on the ground and villages where work is being done. What we need is more U.S. pastors to join us.
a) Want to change the world. This is too big for sight-seers.
b) Lead a church that wants to make a difference and is willing to join your lead.
c) Be able to come see India for yourself – and be willing for God to speak with you and He did with me.
You’ll preach, meet pastors, tour villages and pray the biggest prayers you’ve prayed in your life. You’ll meet amazingly courageous pastors who willingly suffer hardship for the sake of the Gospel.
I want to see the Gospel take root with a thousand pastors in India who are willing to go to new villages every year with the message. I want to see the Lord raise up businessmen and visionaries to go with us to “dream” about how to impact millions there – from here! I want to know that there are hundreds of thousands who will meet Jesus because of the willingness of people HERE to go THERE. I want to see a few American churches impacted by their investment.
You need to read the article about India – find it here. Ask God to give you direction. Then contact me. Let’s go to India.
Unless You Forgive
The Lord’s Prayer should be known as the Disciples’ Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we’d know how to pray!
Do you know what He emphasized more than anything else? FORGIVENESS. One line in the prayer itself in Matthew 6, but two entire sentences explaining this one element of that prayer. There’s a reason Jesus is so adamant about forgiveness. He is going to go to the cross and GIVE HIS LIFE to make it possible – so there’s no way He’s going to be happy if what we freely get from His death, we withhold from others.
It’s hard. I know. Releasing people who’ve not even repented, or said, “I’m sorry.” Forgiving people who don’t care one whit about you. Or people who do care, but not enough to treat you right. People who seem to make messes in your life – you’re to forgive.
There’s a lot to say about this, and I’ll say it soon, but here are some things that happen when we do NOT forgive others…found in random study.
1. Our fellowship with God is blocked.
2. We grieve the Holy Spirit
3. Our prayers are hindered.
4. We face life’s problems on our own.
5. Satan can gain a foothold of bitterness in your life.
6. You can lose the blessing of God.
7. You live wounded.
8. You are enslaved to those you are bitter against.
No one wants this stuff. Forgive!
What the Nation Needs
What does America need? The “hopelessness index” is off the charts. We’re rocked by one government scandal after another. Moral chaos and confusion increase daily. What happens next will not surprise us because there are few surprises left.
Good is now evil. And evil is now good. For real. We’re there. Depravity runs wild.
What does America need? What can we do to change the world? Where do we start in this mess? There is a one-word answer to each question. It’s so simple – so real – so powerful.
Jim Denison answers these questions, and more, in his insightful blog post. I’ve inserted his blog into mine, below. You need to read this:
For the last seven days, I have been one of more than 110,000 people around the world who joined Anne Graham Lotz in praying for spiritual awakening in America. The Holy Spirit gave Anne anointed prayers for us to pray on July 1-6 as we sought God in repentance for spiritual renewal. Yesterday, Anne gave us a guide for seven hours to spend in fasting and prayer for ourselves and our nation.
Here’s what I learned: it’s all about Jesus.
You already knew that, I’m sure. You knew that human words cannot change human hearts, that you and I cannot convict a single person of a single sin or save a single soul. You knew that America desperately needs moral and spiritual renewal before it’s too late, and that only Jesus can bring about such a transformation. So did I.
But here’s what God made clear to me as I spent yesterday with him: if we are to be used by the Spirit as catalysts for awakening, we must seek Jesus’ glory, not ours. We must lead people to him, not to us. We must take Jesus into every circumstance and make him the central character of every conversation. Every church event and program must lead people to experience Jesus. Every sermon must lead people to encounter him. Everything we do must be a means to the end of bringing people to Jesus.
He is already at work, drawing the world to himself. Jesus is “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). At Pentecost, his Spirit was poured out “on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). Before his crucifixion he promised, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). We often take this to mean that we are to “lift up” or glorify Jesus, which, of course, we are to do. But the next verse explains Jesus’ statement: “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (v. 33). When Jesus was crucified, he was “lifted up from the earth.” From that moment to this, he has been working to “draw all people to myself.”
My wife followed Anne’s prayer schedule yesterday as well, and wrote her blog post for today in response. We were amazed at the similarity in our themes: Jesus attracts whenever we exalt him. He is the magnet to all metal, North for every compass. He is God’s provision for all need, his comfort for all hurt, his hope in all grief. We must exalt Jesus because it is in his light that we see light; it is in his love that we are loved; it is in his peace that we know peace; it is in his forgiveness that we are forgiven.
When we exalt Jesus, he draws souls to himself. I became a Christian as a teenager because I met Christians and saw something in them I did not have in myself. If I will seek to exalt Jesus and not myself, to make him my King and myself his servant, to stay off his throne and in his will, others will be drawn to the Christ they see in me.
Who will meet Jesus in you today?
Read Jim’s blogs at www.denisonforum.org
This is “Can We Talk?”
This is “Can We Talk?” This is what it’s really all about. “Can We Talk?” is not a program where we enlist more and more people to go out together to share the Gospel one night a week. “Can We Talk?” is about equipping people to share the Gospel in their everyday lives.
Morgan Wilson is “Can We Talk?”
Morgan told me her amazing story tonight. This past semester, she was in a philosophy classroom in an area college, enduring a tough semester with a professor who seemed to want to disprove the reality of Christ and Christianity. It’s never easy for someone to hear another question or ridicule your faith. For a college student to face an entire semester of that sort of conversation is intimidating and discouraging. Professors are older, well-read, and they’ve played this game before. They know they’ll rarely be challenged.
But Morgan was going through a semester of “Can We Talk?” at the same time. She was learning to share her faith in a simple, yet direct way with people in the community. She was memorizing a few verses and some key illustrations, and she was growing in her confidence.
What happens next is like a scene out the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” In one particular philosophy class period, after weeks of listening to discouraging comments about Christianity and Christ, Morgan was given an opportunity to share what she believed.
And she did. Right then, right there. Clearly and simply. In front of a doubting professor and a classroom full of college students. That’s an equipped young woman! Not only did she have students asking her to share more after class, she also gained the respect of her professor who complimented her on knowing what she believed. God alone knows what will fully happen with the seeds Morgan courageously planted.
The reason there’s hope for this next generation is because of people like Morgan Wilson, who are willing to share the hope of Christ with those around her. Morgan Wilson is what “Can We Talk?” is all about!
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.