Selecting A Church                                                         

God wants us to join with other believers. As Christians we should be with other Christians, to worship the Lord and glorify His name, to learn about the Lord, to edify others, to read scriptures and pray together. When you pray together with others, this is called “corporate prayer." Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there with you." God loves it when we come together as a community of believers.

To be clear, you can worship and learn about the Lord on you own. You don’t require a church to do these things. As Christians we should spend time alone with God consistantly to keep our hearts strong with the Lord. Sometimes you might be in a season in your life where you might be worshipping on your own before you can find a church that you can go to. But it is good not to be alone for very long, if possible. It is good to reach out to a community of other believers. This is not a right we should take lightly. The early Christians joined together in worship of God sometimes under great risk of arrest or death. People today can be killed in some countries for being a Christian. Praise the Lord that we live in a country where we are free to worship as we wish.

Choosing a church is a big decision to make and there are many choices. You might have to look up local churches on the computer and do some research. There are denominational churches, such as Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopalian and non-denominational churches, such as New Life, Vineyard and names with "Community Church" in them. There are smaller neighborhood churches and there are large mega-churches. What type of service do you want to attend? There are liturgical churches where the pastor is dressed in robes and people tend to dress up and there are also less formal churches where people wear street clothes. The question when visiting a new church, that is most important to ask, “Does the spirit of the Lord live in this church?” Do people seem happy in this church and look like they want to be there? Or do they look depressed and lifeless? Did they greet you as a newcomer? My guess is that you will want to part of church that the people are joyful, whether it’s packed out with a big crowd or a small ministry with just a few attendees. The attitude of the people is the first clue. And don't judge the people right off. Give it a chance. It might take you several times of going back before you decide to either stay at a church or move on. Also pray to the Lord and ask Him to lead you to a good church.

There are many other considerations to make when choosing a church. What type praise and worship music does the church have? Worship music is very important in ushering in the Holy Spirit and enjoying the presence of the Lord. In smaller ministries, they might not have a multi-piece band the way larger ministries have. However, I have found that one person playing a guitar or the piano or a beautiful solo, can be just as anointed as larger band. Some churches are more formal and have a music ministry that includes a choir with a choir director and they rehearse during the week for special music every Sunday. If you are ready to sing for the Lord and make that commitment, you might want to get involved in the choir. Some churches that do not have weekly choirs will put on special music programs at Christmas and Easter.

Another consideration is what type of volunteer opportunities does the church have or what type of outreach programs does the church offer? Are you interested in serving? Does the church offer weekly Bible studies? Most churches have weekly Bible studies, or they are called “cell groups” in which small groups meet in a local private home on a week night. If you have small children, does the church have a nursery during service? It might be the church you have selected is a distance away, are you going to be able to make the commitment to drive there consistantly? Do you agree with what is being preached in the service? Are they preaching Jesus Christ?  Is this church going to be a place of learning, a place that will deepen your relationship with Jesus? One guidleline, always stick close to Jesus. When a ministry (or a person) somehow gets away from Jesus, that's when they get into trouble. Again, after attending a church a first time, you might have to go back to get a better feel for the ministry and the people. The people are the church. After several visits, you can tell if the Holy Spirit resides there, if the church and the service is anointed or not. Once you have decided on a church, just attend the church for awhile and enjoy the presence of the Lord before getting involved in ministries within the church. Get to know the pastor. Let the church members get to know you by your regular attendance, your friendly smile and your desire to worship the Lord with thanksgiving and praise. Eventually you might want to join the church as a member.

God has given us many gifts and talents in the body of Christ. As time goes on, our gifts and talents can be used in service to the Lord. Most likely you will be good at one or two things in which you can serve the church. One important thing, if you do want to serve a ministry within the church, don't rush in and try to take it over. Sometimes when people move too fast and don’t get what they want, they quit the church in a prideful huff, never to be seen again. This happens in churches. You end up wondering where they trying to glorify God or glorify themselves? Do not let ego get involved. Be humble, teachable and willing to accept authority. Be a willing and faithful servant. Be willing to take on a menial task, a behind-the-scenes role that only God sees, before taking on a larger, more visible role. This can take time. Foster good relationships with your co-workers in Christ before taking on roles or assuming responsibility. Be realistic about responsibilities, the time they require and your ability to assume them. Be a team player with the other church members, respect them, don’t gossip about them. If you can, be an encourager! Give people hope. Support them and love them. Be careful about your motives in your service. God will not honor your prayers if your motives are not right. Keep your motives pure. Serve and worship the Lord with gladness! Remember, in everything, do it for an audience of one, Christ Jesus!
 

                                                                                     

Waiting Upon the Lord

Victory in the Lord can take time and part of the process is to realize that we sometimes we must wait upon the Lord. Sometimes blessings from prayer come quickly, other times we must wait for God's answer. God has plans and purposes for our lives and when waiting, we have to trust in the Lord and not rely on our own insight. Know that it says in Romans 8:28 "All things work for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose."

There are many reasons why God might be holding off in answer to a specific request. God might have something else planned for you rather than the plan you want. He might have something better in mind! God is talking to us all the time, we need to learn how listen. Many times God's voice is quiet and subtle. 1 Kings 19:12 (NIV) " After the earthquake, came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." God might be waiting on a request due to a possible lack of obediance or readiness. God might be waiting as a teaching or test of your faith. He might be waiting for your works to begin. It says in the Bible faith without works is dead faith. He might be waiting for you start the job and do as much as you can and He will finish it. Just know that God might not always be early in answering your request but when the time is right, he is never late. He is always on time. Trust this. He will deliver you and set your feet upon a rock. He will bring you out from a tight space into a broad space. God might be planning a divine appointment for you to bless somebody where you are and if he were to answer your request now, you might not be in the position to do that. We don't have the mind of God, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, his ways are higher than our ways. But trust He has it under control, we are in his capable hands. He is our strong tower, our mighty fortress and our shield. "He encompasses us with deliverance."

Two good scriptures to stand on if you are waiting on the Lord, are found in Psalm 40 and Isaiah 40. Psalm 40:1-3 "I waited patiently for the Lord and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." And Isaiah 40:31 "but those that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint."
 

 

The 10 Commandments                       

These commandments are the foundation of God’s law. Our own laws are founded with several of these commandments such as do not kill or steal. Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it “Love your neighbor as yourself. “ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In these 10 commandments our Creator is teaching us to love God and to love our neighbor. The first four have to do with loving God with the first two speaking against idol worship. The last six have to do with loving our neighbor, which are other people in the world.  When someone loves their neighbor they will not lie or steal from them. Honor and respect is a form of love. The 10 Commandments are found in Exodus Chapter 20: 1-17.

1) "You shall have no other gods before me.
2) “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
3) "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. “
4) "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”
5) "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
6) "You shall not murder.”
7) "You shall not commit adultery.”
8) "You shall not steal.”
9) "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
10) "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
 

Holy Communion & Baptism    

Jesus gave the first Holy Communion with his disciples at the Last Supper in the upper room shortly before his crucifixion. Holy Communion is now practiced symbolically in churches all over the world. Some churches may perform Holy Communion every worship service, some may do it once a month on an appointed Sunday.  The elements consist of a small piece of bread and a small cup of grape juice, which in biblical times was wine. The bread represents the Lord’s body and the juice represents Jesus’ blood given in forgiveness of sins. These two elements are blessed, consecrated and symbolically become the body and the blood of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 “ … that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke and said ‘This is my body for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also after supper, saying “this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Baptism is symbolic of introduction or confirmation of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and is done with water. In churches, parents will have their babies baptized. They will go in front of the congregation with their baby on special appointed Sunday and dedicate their child to the Lord. This is a joyful occasion for everyone. Churches have baptism fonts to the side of the altar area for this purpose and the minister will baptize the baby's little head with a few drops of water from the font. The parents will agree publicly to raise their child in keeping with the Lord. As adults, people may choose to have themselves baptized in front of the congregation. Many had been baptized as a baby but now desire to be baptized as an adult. Some churches have small baptism pools, other churches may go out to a body of water, even to the ocean to baptize. 1 Peter 3:21 "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also -not the removal of dirt from the body but a pledge of good conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

John the Baptist was a important man of God with a powerful message. He helped to pave the way for Jesus Christ proclaiming that people must repent from their sins. He baptized people in the River Jordan which is a river that runs through the holy land in Israel. Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist, this signaled the beginning of Jesus' three year ministry. Luke 3:21-22 "Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased."
 

                                

Christmas and Easter

Most everyone is familiar with the holidays of Christmas and Easter. These are great times of the year when everyone celebrates with friends and family, they are the two most important yearly events that we celebrate as Christians.  It is important to remember the real reason why we celebrate these holidays. Christmas is the day we honor the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago. Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the risen Lord.

For Christmas, churches will celebrate with a Christmas program on the night of Christmas Eve or during the holiday season. If help is needed, it’s a good time to get involved in the activities to help make the program and the season a success for the church. Christmas is one of the best times of the year, with friends and family strengthening their relationships and their love, gifts exchanged, beautiful lights, decorations, music and food but through it all, let us stay focused on Jesus. Isaiah 9:6 “For a child has been born for us, a son is given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This prophecy was written hundreds of years before Jesus’s birth and was just as awesome then as it is now.

The day Jesus was crucified on the cross is known as Good Friday. This is the day that Jesus sacrificed himself in atonement for the sins of the world. It is a day to be somber, to think about what, as a believer, we have been given, the magnitude of it, the forgiveness of our sins, eternal life in heaven. In Luke 23:46 as he hung nailed to the cross, Jesus said his last words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Three days later, Easter comes as the day of celebration and victory that we are saved, the promises of the Lord are true, the prophecy has been fulfilled. Jesus has risen from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 “Death has been swallowed up in victory, Where oh death is your victory? Where oh death where is your sting?”

Non-believers celebrate alongside believers during Christmas and Easter. It is a great opportunity for reaching out and inviting non-believers to church. It is a exciting time for kids, but important that children understand that Christmas is not about Santa Claus and Easter is not about the Easter bunny. Christmas and Easter are about our relationship with Jesus Christ. Phillipians 2:8-11 "he humbled himself and became obediant to the point of death - even on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
 

                                                                                     

Evangelism 

Reaching the unsaved for Christ and to win hearts and minds for Jesus is a responsibility for each Christian, as they feel led, to follow through with. In his last words before his ascension in Acts1:8, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

Apostle Paul was probably one of the greatest evangelists and missionaries of all time, he made many trips throughout the known world planting new churches and teaching the new Christians how to live in Christ. And this was all without modern transportation to get around! The books in the New Testament such as Galatians, Ephesians, Phillippians, Colossians and others were actually letters Paul wrote to those new churches he helped to start, in the Biblical-time cities of Galatia, Ephesus, Phillippi and Colossae. Apostle Paul's divine-inspired letters give encouragement, love, support and teaching to the new church members he called “saints” in these new churches.

Evangelism can take many avenues. Even new Christians can impact the world for Christ.  God is looking for people with willing hearts. Some people go out in the street in their local communities and evangelize, there are popular books teaching how to do this. Some might have their own private ministries, such as reaching out to the homeless with food items or simple supplies and giving words from the Lord. Others go to foreign counties for short periods of time on planned Christian outreaches with a team of Christians. Some are missionaries who go to foreign countries with support from a local church or just supporting themselves. They live in the countries for extended periods, sometimes years, working with the local people while spreading the good news of the gospel at opportune times. Apostle Paul was a tent maker, this was the profession he worked as he stayed in the local communities, establishing relationships and reaching people for Christ.

When evangelizing to a specific place it is important to have a calling for that place, a good degree of knowledge of the word and plenty of prayer support. Step out in faith! God will give you the words to say. That's what God told Moses in Exodus 4:12.  It is also important to put your armor of God, told in an excellent scripture Ephesians 6:13-17 and to stand on scriptures such as Psalm 91. Look up and read all of Psalm 91, it's powerful! The Ephesians scripture reads as follows, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Remember, you might be going to unknown territory, where the enemy has strongholds and the enemy is not going to give up territory easily. These are spiritual battles but also remember, as believers, we have the Holy Spirit within us, we have authority over the enemy, we are more than conquerors!