True Life Church Community Blog

TrueLIfeNJ.com

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

The Holy Spirit: Down-Payment of Daniel’s Vision (Chris Francis)

In this past Sunday’s sermon, we looked at chapter 7 of Daniel, a confusing chapter with a very simple point – The Son of Man (Jesus) is coming and will usher in his perfect kingdom, he will crush all other kingdoms, and his people will  reign with him forever.

That’s something to look forward to.

Then this past week, while reading the book of Ephesians, I came across a verse I had read before but stood out to me in a different way, in light of Daniel 7. Here’s the verse:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:14-14).

Paul is saying that we who have trusted in Jesus have received the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the future inheritance we will get when Jesus comes back and sets up his kingdom.

In other words, the Holy Spirit in us is a down-payment of our future inheritance.

And I thought of two ways that we mis-believe this truth.

  1. One way we mis-believe this truth is to deny the power of the Holy Spirit NOW. Many Christians are just waiting for Jesus to come back and, until then, think that we are just defeated struggling sinners who will continue to struggle until Jesus comes back. We don’t really believe that the Holy Spirit can rescue us from our addiction, we don’t really believe he will give us the power to forgive a pain-in-the-butt family member, we don’t really believe that he has the power to transform our spouse, we don’t really believe he will answer our prayers for miracles and healing and insight and peace and joy. But the bible is very clear – the same Holy Spirit that was at work in Jesus’ ministry is available to us today.
  1. The other way we mis-believe this verse is to over-state the downpayment and thus diminish the coming inheritance. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is awesome. But it’s going to get better. That’s what the guarantee means. If you’re selling your car, and a buyer gives you a down-payment, it’s great. But it’s not as great as when that buyer comes back with his mechanic friend, checks out your car, and then gives you the full payment.

Some Christians believe that if we just had more faith then everything in our lives can be made right.  They claim that because of the Holy           Spirit, we should all be walking in complete health, wealth and relational happiness. This is commonly known as the Prosperity Gospel.               Believe in Jesus and you’ll have complete prosperity.

And that’s the point of Jesus coming back. That was the point of Daniel’s vision in chapter 7. One day, the people of God who have been               sealed with the Holy Spirit will receive complete prosperity. This will most definitely happen.

One day. 

Until then, however, as Jesus told us in John 16:33: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows….” It is to be expected. Toexpect         differently is to diminish the awesomeness of Jesus’ return. 

“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

We have the Spirit of the Living God living in us, giving us a supernatural peace and joy in the midst of hardships……and we also have a                  future hope that cannot be taken away.

So asks yourself – are you more prone to deny the Spirit’s power NOW? Or are you more prone to diminish the inheritance that we will receive LATER?

Redeeming Halloween (Shea Sumlin)

 

halloween

Once a celebration of an old Celtic tradition, Halloween is now the second most celebrated family holiday in America. Nearly 70% of Americans will participate in some form or fashion, and it’s the only night of the year where the world around me actually comes to my door – that of a pastor.

With that in mind, I want to share just one of the ways my family and I have decided to redeem this night, not only as an opportunity for some fun together, but also as an opportunity to invest the gospel into the community around us.

Most of the places we’ve lived have been in suburban neighborhoods that are full of kids who love to go trick or treating. 150-250 kids come by our door on Halloween – no doubt because we give out really good candy!

Years ago, one of my mentors challenged me to redeem this night by taking advantage of the context I live in. He challenged me to take some creative steps to get these folks to linger for awhile, instead of just grabbing the goods and taking off. The idea that evolved: “HALLOWEENies & BOOgers.”

For this event, my family and I invite over 200 families in our surrounding neighborhood to join us for some hot dogs and hamburgers while they’re out trick or treating. We show It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on our garage door for the kids, put up some fun decorations and serve plenty of hot cocoa and apple cider.

In addition to being a ton of fun for our family and neighborhood, it provides other redemptive wins.

  1. Gives us an opportunity to connect and build relationships with our neighbors and their friends. This night continues to build already existing relationships with our neighbors, as well as establish new ones. From this one event, we have scheduled many dinners with neighbors, been invited to kids’ birthday parties and built more touch points with those around us.
  2. Gives us an opportunity to share the hope of the gospel. Because we’ve gotten the neighborhood to “linger,” we’ve been able to establish conversations with them. Because we’ve opened up conversations with them, we’ve been able to share our testimony and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just last year I met a guy who was going through a divorce and struggling with a drug addiction. I shared the gospel with him, connected him with a counselor and helped him plug into a local church. He has since trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
  3. Involves my whole family in the process. What a great opportunity for my three daughters to see creativity and evangelism play out on a night like this. Each year my girls get more and more excited to invite their classmates and friends over for Halloween.
  4. Involves other Christian families in our neighborhood. Over the years other Christian families in our neighborhood have partnered with us for this event. Together we host the event, gather names of folks in the neighborhood and pray for the families.
  5. Most significant for us – the missional investment of the church.Rather than taking my family out of the neighborhood on the one night of the year when everyone is walking my street and coming to my door, it keeps us in our own neighborhood and allows us to make a gospel-centered deposit right where we live.

This is just one idea for redeeming Halloween. I’m not sure of your context or conviction when it comes to this holiday, but maybe our story will encourage you. Consider creative ways that the Lord could use you and your family to be salt and light on what has, historically, been a dark night for the world around us.

The Silent Harvest (Francis Frangipane)

In a dream I found myself inside the mind of a dying man. The man had been in a coma for some time; his family had been praying, but they did not know whether or not he had accepted Christ. All they were sure of is that, throughout his life, he had resisted their efforts to lead him to Christ.

 

As I dreamt I became so acutely aware of the man’s state of mind that his thoughts, feelings and struggles almost seemed my own. Although his eyes were nearly closed and his vision clouded, he could see his loved ones at his bedside. I watched as he tried to reach toward his family, but outwardly his arm never lifted. I heard him speak their names, but no sound whispered through his lips. A loved one holding his hand asked, “If you hear me, squeeze.” He heard and pressed his fingers against hers, but no movement was seen; his hand clearly remained limp. He was conscious; he could hear their prayers; he felt the warmth of their kisses on his face yet was perfectly incapable of responding.

The pride and isolation that had, throughout his life, stood guard over his heart were gone. A physical catastrophe had overtaken him. Death approached, and he knew he was unprepared for eternity. Submerged beneath his motionless exterior, a war had raged for his soul, and the Lord had won. Subdued by the relentless force of God’s love, he was finally at peace. It was during his time in the hospital that he had silently prayed and accepted Christ as his Savior. I was watching his last effort to tell them He found Christ as life ebbed out of his body.

Suddenly, monitoring alarms ripped through the muffled silence of the room. His heart beat one last time, and I suddenly found myself looking down at the body of a man who had just died. The room was buzzing with nurses, while his family huddled in a corner, grieving. The idea of their loved one dying without receiving Christ was more devastating than the reality of death itself. I stirred and then woke. Yet just as I left the dream, the Lord spoke to my heart: “Tell them he’s with Me.”

Although some time has passed since I had this dream, I am increasingly aware that many of God’s people carry a deep abiding heartache concerning the death of an unsaved loved one. Obviously this dream does not apply to all, but there are some for whom this experience is divinely directed. Thus, I submit this to you in a general sense because the Holy Spirit has assured me He will bear witness to your heart if this word is for you.

I have also felt an urgency to pass this dream on to you. The Lord has an important work for you. However, the enemy has used this unresolved loss to sow doubt into your soul. Not only are you troubled about your deceased loved one, but you are carrying doubts about God’s love, and you doubt also the power of prayer. Your confidence in God has been compromised. Yet it is precisely at this time that you need to stand without doubt for other members of your family.

Beloved, though there are many questions about the mysteries of life, we must not let the unknown obscure the face of the known: God is good.We know God loves us because He sent His Son to die for our sins. Indeed, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). When we look at Christ, we see God, and we know that God cares.

Additionally, some of us have lost loved ones in sudden tragedies, where they seemingly had no time to repent or turn to God. Let me remind you: many who have faced near-death experiences tell of seeing their “life flash before [their] eyes.” Indeed, they say that time itself seems to stop or slow dramatically. I believe that, even in what seemed like a “sudden” death, time slowed to a crawl. According to their testimonies, there is enough time in this altered consciousness to ponder one’s entire life — and to make a decision or even call upon the name of the Lord.

In spite of what we do not know about life’s many mysteries, one thing remains eternally true: God is our loving Father. He does not desire that any man perish, and He will fight to save us, even to the moment of our death. Let us, therefore, cast our burdens upon the Lord, for He genuinely cares for us. And let us again run with endurance the race set before us, for He has promised that even for those “sitting in the . . . shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned” (Matt. 4:16).

Lord Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins. Lord, there are many issues I do not know, but I do know that You are good. Those things I do not understand, along with my praise, I give to You. I trust You with my life, and I put in Your hands the care of those I love.

The Search for Community (Chris Francis)

Since the beginning of True Life, we’ve talked about being an authentic and honest community. Below is an excerpt from a book I’m reading – “A Loving Life” by Paul Miller – about the search for community.

_____________

The biggest problem people have in searching for the perfect community is just that. You don’t find community; you create it through love. Look how this transforms the way you enter a room of strangers. Our instinctive thought is, ‘Who do I know? Who am I comfortable with?’ There’s nothing wrong with those questions, but the Jesus questions that create communities are, ‘Who can I love? Who is left out?’ …..But if we pursue hesed love, then, wherever we go, we create community. Here are two different formulas for community formation:

Search for community where I am loved = become dissappointed with community

Show hesed (selfless, faithful) love = create community

The first formula leaves us critical and ultimately solitary. The second one enlarges our life, filling it with surprise……

We’ve unwittingly made the quest for community central. The quest for intimacy can be just a veiled request for feeling good. Intimacy and community come from love, not the other way around……John describes this pattern in Jesus’ death: “He would die for the nation….to gather into one the children of God” (John 11:51-52). A dying love creates the possibility of oneness.

Running the Race of Faith (Rigo Mercado)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The moment you surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and made Him your Savior, you entered into the great race of faith. It is a spiritual race we are to run until we reach the finish line at the end of our lives and see Jesus face to face.  It is a race that is defined by endurance, faith and victory.  Are you running that race well? Or have you become fatigued, distracted, or even feel like quitting the race all together? If that is the case you are not alone.  There will be seasons in your life where you are going to get tired spiritually and feel like going back to the life of sin Jesus has delivered you from. There are going to be seasons where you feel like giving up on your ministry, marriage, and your faith. Don’t do it! We cannot win this race of faith in our own strength. The Bible declares in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…” We are to rely on the strength and power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.  Without Him we will never make it to the finish line. Apart from relying on the Holy Spirit helping us, there are some practical things that we are responsible for as well to ensure we run a race of victory.

Laying Aside the Weight

Hebrews 11:1 instructs us to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  Let’s take a close look at some of that weight and sin in our lives.

  1. Returning to the sins of your past.

Going back to the sins Jesus delivered you from will keep you from running the race successfully. Do you find yourself tempted into going back into alcoholism, outbursts of anger, sexual immorality and foul language, for example? Jesus declared, “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” Don’t return to the sins that once held you in bondage like a dog returns to his own vomit. Repent and turn from those things. The blood of Jesus has cleansed you and redeemed you from your old life. You are a new creation. Your old self has been crucified with Christ. Walk in the newness of life Jesus purchased for you by His death and resurrection.  Sin no longer has dominion over you.

“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11

 

  1. Distractions

One of the enemy’s primary tactics to ensnare us in the race of faith is to distract us from the purpose and plan of God for our lives.  He distracts us by the cares of this world. He wants us to focus on natural things and his desire for us is for us to keep living in the realm of fear, unbelief and worry. He doesn’t want us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Another way he distracts us is through toxic relationships. Are you fellowshipping with people that are drawing you away from God?  Are your friends helping you get closer to Jesus or influencing you to go astray.

“Do not be deceived: “Evil Company corrupts good habits.”  I Corinthians 15:33

 

  1. Disconnecting from other believers.

When you disconnect from your community of faith you become vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. It is a dangerous place to be. Isolation breeds apathy to the things of God. Wolves never attack a flock of sheep because there is safety in numbers and their shepherd is there to protect them from danger.  Wolves attack when one sheep goes astray and they are left vulnerable and defenseless. Stay connected and you will have encouragement from others to finish your race.

“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10:25

 

Running the Race with Endurance

            We are going to face hardships, setbacks, fatigue and temptations along this race, but we are to run with endurance. We endure by keeping our eyes on Jesus: the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is our example of endurance. Hebrews 11:2 tells us that for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. What was the joy set before him? You and me. He saw us beyond the cross. Although He knew He was going to suffer on the cross and die, He endured because His eyes were set on you and your salvation. We, in like manner, are to endure because our eyes and love are set on Him. Jesus is the source of our strength and ability to succeed. He is the only One that can help us finish the race of faith.

Finish the Race

            I don’t know about you, but when I’m lying on my death bed surrounded by my family, I want to be able to look into their eyes and utter with confidence the same words the Apostle Paul uttered at the end of his life,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2Timothy 4:7

 

How Do You Prepare for Sunday Morning? (by Jordan Kauflin)

church

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I went out to eat on a date. On a whim, we decided to go see a movie as well. Just like that. No preparation, we just decided and went. The lack of preparation had absolutely no bearing on how much we enjoyed the movie. After all, we just wanted to be entertained.

Unfortunately, we can often approach the Sunday meeting in a similar way.

How do you prepare to gather with your church family? Is your preparation limited to the frenetic collecting of your children, snacks, and diapers? Do you spend your time trying to convince yourself that going is better than sleeping in? Or maybe you don’t even think to prepare, because it’s just another routine that you’ve developed?

How we prepare for our Sunday gatherings is directly related to how much we benefit from our time together.

Two Common Mistakes

Here are two common errors we can make.

At times, we can prepare as spectators. We come mainly to watch, not participate. It’s like how I prepare to go see a sporting event. Besides making sure I’m not wearing the opposing teams colors, I don’t prepare much. I anticipate it, but my general attitude in going to a sporting event is, “Entertain me! Move me! Show me something amazing!” Or if you’re a loyal fan of a lousy team like I am, “Make me suffer!”

We can have the same attitude as we come to our Sunday gatherings. We come with the expectation, spoken or assumed, that everyone else needs to make sure we have a good time. I need my kids to be taken care of. I need people to seek me out. I need the music to sound a certain way. I need the preacher to stop speaking on time so that I can get on with my life. As for Jesus? Hopefully he shows up by his Spirit so I can have a spiritual, emotional experience that carries me through my week. We come as spectators, expecting to be served.

For some of us, we prepare for our Sunday gathering as workers. This is what I typically face as a vocational pastor. But it’s not limited to being a pastor. You might serve in your church as a children’s ministry worker, usher, setup team person, greeter, or hospitality person. We prepare much like we prepare for work (and for some, it really is work). We make a list of all the things we need to do. We make sure we leave on time. Our mind is filled with logistics and details. We remind ourselves how important our role is.

Preparing to meet with our church becomes an assessment of what we need to do rather than an excitement for how God might meet us. Maybe our gatherings even become a place where we derive our significance and self worth because of all the ways we serve, rather than a privileged opportunity to be with our family. Ever been there? I have.

So how should we prepare?

Prepare to Receive

Every time we gather as a church, God will speak to us as his word is preached, sung, read, and studied. Hearing from God is a weighty and glorious thing. Just read Exodus 19–20. To see God for who he is, to be overwhelmed by his greatness and holiness, to experience his presence, to see his boundless love and mercy, to encounter what should make our hearts tremble. Through Jesus, we can boldly come and receive (Hebrews 10:19–22), but confidence does not equal casualness. Prepare by asking God to help you receive his revelation with gratefulness and humility.

Prepare to Respond

When God reveals himself to us, things happen. Experiencing God leads us to respond (Isaiah 6:8). Rather than being a spectator or a passive participant, our hearts are moved to worship because we have once again seen the beauty, greatness, holiness, mercy, and love of our God. We sing to him, confess our sins, receive his word preached, take communion, and give our finances, all in grateful response to seeing who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus.

Prepare for this Sunday by asking that God would help you rightly respond to him.

Prepare to Edify Others

Our worship doesn’t stop when the singing ends, or the preacher says, “Amen.” It continues as we greet, encourage, serve, pray for, exhort, and care for one another. God chooses to use people to edify his body (1 Corinthians 14:26). You and me. Isn’t that amazing?

Do you come to church expecting that God will use you? It might be as you serve practically, it might be as you take two minutes to pray for a friend, or greet a new person, or encourage a child. You have a part to play. This Sunday, prepare for gathering with your church family by asking God how he might use you to edify his church.

So how do you prepare to go to church? This Sunday, come ready to encounter God and respond to him in glad and grateful worship with your heart and life.

Chris Francis
Pastor – True Life Church

 

How to Pray In Light of Another Random Shooting (Chris Francis)

oregon

In the wake of the  shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon yesterday, we all know that we should pray.

We just struggle to know what exactly to pray for.

I mean, as I think about the parents who must have stayed up all night weeping for the loss of their children, prayer doesn’t seem all that helpful.

Nevertheless, here are some thoughts:

We should pray for the supernatural physical healing for the survivors whose bodies were pierced with bullets.

We should pray for the supernatural emotional healing for the teachers and students who narrowly escaped death but were severely traumatized.

We should pray for the supernatural comfort of the friends and family members who lost loved ones and whose lives will never ever be the same on this earth.

We should pray for humility for those who will respond to this tragedy by pushing for new reforms and new legislation.

We should pray for a spiritual stirring in the hearts of our entire nation, which has become too accustomed to these types of tragedies.

We should pray for a deep awareness of our own powerlessness to prevent this from happening in our own towns here on the Jersey Shore. And to our own children.

But in truth, as great as it would be if all those prayers are answered, there is one prayer that, when answered, will be more glorious than all those answered prayers combined.

Or maybe it’s better to say that this prayer, when answered, will be the ultimate answer to all our prayers.

It is the last prayer written in our Holy Scriptures:

Revelation 21:20

20 He who testifies to these things (that’s Jesus) says, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The book of Revelation was written for a very specific purpose. And it wasn’t so that church people could sit around speculating on who the anti-Christ is.

When Domitian became emperor of Rome, he made the persecution of Christians a top priority. He did the unthinkable to those Christians. And the book of Revelation (the “revelation” of what Jesus will do) was written to Christians who knew persecution was coming their way, and it was written so that they would be filled with hope and stay faithful to that hope.

So that if they were thrown to the lions, they could be confident that they would get back what they lost.

So that if they lost family members, they could be confident that they would be reunited with them some day.

And those early Christians were known to greet each other with the term “Maranatha.” It was a powerful declarative greeting which meant, “He is coming.”

If I lost one of my little girls to a random act of violence, I can’t imagine wanting to be told anything else.

So let us not look away from the pain of this broken world. Let us not numb ourselves with busy work. Let us feel it. And may it push us to fervently pray for the return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the one whose name is above every name, whose kingdom will never end, and who will wipe every every tear.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Post Navigation