This gift is direly needed in the church

To a church confused about the use of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul wrote, “But you should be eager for the greater gifts” 1 Corinthians 12.21. And again: “Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” 1 Corinthians 14.1.

Paul urged them to desire some gifts more than others. He was speaking, of course, of miraculous gifts, such as prophecy. But if saints in the first century could pursue certain gifts, since they were more important than others, it stands to reason that today saints should value certain non-miraculous gifts above others. Continue reading “This gift is direly needed in the church”

Harvest time

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:34-35 NKJV).

Harvesting of the IRRI rice crop in Bangladesh is well underway at this time. This is one of three or four seasonal harvests in this semi-tropical country. IRRI rice is a variety (or group of varieties) developed by the International Rice Research Institute for production in what was formerly an “off-season” for rice. It has become an important part of the agricultural economy of Bangladesh. Continue reading “Harvest time”

Reaching those around us

After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead he spent forty days with the apostles “and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3 NET). We are not given the details of how many times he was with the apostles during this period or what they talked about. The only details we have are of the last time he spoke with them.

“So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6)

I often wonder if Jesus was disappointed with this question. He had taught the disciples for several years. He had spent time during the forty days after his resurrection telling them about God’s kingdom. Yet they still had in their minds a physical restoration of a physical kingdom with a physical king. They still did not understand. Continue reading “Reaching those around us”

Us and them

By Brett Christensen — The only reason you and I are in Christ’s church is because we have heard the pure message of salvation as taught in scripture, and have believed it with enough conviction to obey it and continue in it. That’s not true of anyone outside the Lord’s church, whether they’re in some humanly established alternative church or even irreligious.

It’s good news that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the tragic corollary is that those not in Christ are not new creatures. We in Christ have an unassailable hope; those apart from Christ are living without hope. If God means what he says, then we cannot deny these truths. So the unpleasant reality about any person or group which has not followed God’s instructions on how to get into Christ is that they’re without God, without hope in this world, not having the forgiveness of sin which is available in Christ. Continue reading “Us and them”

What it takes to start a new congregation

Note: I published this article almost 15 years ago, on a third-party site, in the early days of Forthright Magazine. We republish it today, with a few tweaks, to give thanks for the Taubaté congregation, to encourage others to preach the gospel in every place, and to remind ourselves as we prepare for yet another church plant in the city of Jacareí.

Next Sunday, we’re beginning a new work in a major city near us, called Taubaté. This city has 250,00 population, with no church there yet.

Three couples of us met there yesterday, in a home, to worship together and plan ahead. I preached on what it takes to start a congregation from Acts 2. Let me encourage you to read this chapter before continuing. Continue reading “What it takes to start a new congregation”

If you are a worker in God’s kingdom

If you are a worker in God’s kingdom, take the long view. Present afflictions, without the perspective of eternity, can be depressing. But knowing the sovereignty of God, we can be sure that he works all things for the accomplishment of his will and the good of his people, Romans 8.28.

As planters and waterers, we may not always see the growth. Sometimes we will, sometimes not. Sometimes the growth may come quickly, at others times slowly or, in our limited sight, not at all. But if God gives the growth, 1 Corinthians 3.7, we may be sure that growth there will be. Patience is key. Continue reading “If you are a worker in God’s kingdom”

This man receives sinners

“This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2, ESV).

What was intended as an insult was really a compliment: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

Notice the words in the text. The word receive means to wait actively or expectantly. It is reminiscent of the way a mother longs to finally see her newborn child. Jesus welcomed those who were not otherwise welcome. Continue reading “This man receives sinners”

True children

“Chickabiddy” is the name of a charming vine bearing purple flowers. Its proper name is “Asarina Scandens.” Collins English Dictionary gives the definition as “a term of endearment, especially for a child.”

All my plants are my “children” so to speak, but the Chickabiddy is especially dear because it is purple, well-behaved, and the vines are so slender that they don’t weigh down the trellis, and are so easy to clean up after they die. Continue reading “True children”

May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’

In this world there is little peace for humankind and little hope for it in the future. Jesus offers an eternal peace, of the heart, free from the vicissitudes of life and politics. While Christians pray for governing authorities, they place no hope in them. Confidence, only in Christ. He came from God and returned to God. He knew why he came to earth and fulfilled that purpose. During his time on earth, he loved, and he loved to the end. He was sure of his place before the Father, having received from him all power to bring divine love to its proper conclusion. He exercised this power with wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus calls his people to imitate his example. While his love took turns that were specific to his role in the eternal plan, its serving nature, with no holds barred, must take firm hold in his people. God is not impressed with rituals, done repeatedly for points, in the human mind, or to satisfy some random demand of heaven, as man sees it. He does command some specific actions, and through those he does bring his life and Spirit, but God looks behind the acts to the motivations and yearnings of the heart. He wants to see those and the practice of love — genuine, sincere, honest, profound. Continue reading “May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’”

The problem is not in the harvest

He started out as a practicing Catholic. He made pilgrimages to Aparecida, Brazil’s religious center for the veneration of Mary. He hated “believers,” as fundamental evangelicals are called here. Once, he even threw a pail of water on two Protestants who were doing door-to-door evangelism.

Elijah, as we’ll call him, later converted to Protestantism. He became a Pentecostal pastor. As a dedicated man, he received in return that pail of water from someone who also hated believers. Continue reading “The problem is not in the harvest”