Archives for category: Sharing your faith

OXYGEN Volume 24Who am I?  What am I to do with my life?  What do others think of me?  What activities should I pursue?  These are all questions that everyone has faced at one time or another in their lives.  People, it seems, are always on a quest to “find themselves” The current trend is to have something to fight for or against; to be most noticed and to stand loud, strong, and proud.  It’s all about being “noticed” either in a relationship, career, or public policy.  What is  most interesting is the enormous amounts of time, energy, and monies all to seek answers to questions that are, at their heart, very simple.

As Christians, our identity should be singular.  It’s not a hard answer because our being, worth, and purpose should be surrounded by those marks of discipleship and servanthood that Christ laid out for us.  It is a quiet and simple answer.  Not one that will sell millions of books, get rave reviews, raise you to the top of the corporate ladder, or gain you a ton of friends and political posh.  It’s not some gregarious act that leads to the masses following you.  Really, outside of a few, rare, high profile people, the masses are just common, ordinary,  unsung heroes operating in the quiet, obedient steps of Jesus.

One of the biggest problems Christians, and non Christians alike, face is that comparison often leads to compromise.  We want to be just like so and so, but that isn’t the life God has for us. However, we fight, claw, kick, and scream to keep reaching for a brass ring that doesn’t fit and doesn’t belong to a Christ One.  The world wants us to be just like them and fight for identity in sex, gender, status, wealth,  etc..  Christ says “My Grace is Sufficient for You.”

How do we know that statement to be true?  Well, let’s look to the life of a very quiet, unsung hero of Faith named Andrew.  He was never a big front runner in the group of Jesus’ followers.  He didn’t make big public speaches before the masses, like Peter or Paul.  He just quietly, and simply, was about the work of Jesus and reaching others with the saving message of Jesus.  You might just say Andrew was a “nobody”.  However, when you look deeper you will see this “nobody” was behind the “somebodies” coming to faith.  Because Andrew was in relationship with God’s word, He knew Jesus.  Andrew was in relationship, one on one face time, with others, he could share Jesus with those he knew and loved.  Andrew was a trend setting, trailblazer of his time.  As often happens with trailblazers they don’t get the glory but you do see the fruits of their efforts.  We can see all of this in John 1:29-42:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. NIV

We can learn much from Andrew and his quiet way of evangelism and witness.  Andrew knew who he was and why he was here.  He was a child of God called to bear witness to the Son, Jesus Christ.  He had a desire to share God.  To reach someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the World, we have to know Jesus and be in relationship with Him.  We have to have a heart that is real, sincere, and filled with desire to see the lost come to faith.  We need to really know people.  That means inter personal relationship time.  It’s not a text message, email, facebook, twitter, or instagram thing.  If we aren’t genuine in our care and approach, we can’t reach anyone.

Another part of knowing Jesus and others is to be in prayer and communication.   On our own, we will never reach a lost soul but in prayer we ask for God’s guidance and wisdom and then in our relationship we communicate our story.  What story?  The simply story, when the moment is right, of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will continue to do for you in this life.  Where your life used to be and where it is now.  How God’s word helps you through the trials and tribulations of this life.  These are easy stories to tell because you know them because they are you.

Andrew, this quiet fisherman of fish turned to a fisher of man, who reached out and shared Jesus so his brother Peter could be saved.  Peter went on to reach thousands but because his brother knew the right answer – Jesus- and shared, Peter became a Christ Follower.  The world might see Andrew as a “nobody” but he was a valuable soul to reach more souls.  Andrew knew who he was and why he was here.  He was a child of God called to bear witness to the Son, Jesus Christ.  He had a desire to share God. You might feel like a “nobody” but Jesus says you are “somebody!”  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, says “I died for you!”  There is no greater identity or purpose than to be a quiet, humble, servant of Jesus Christ to reach others so that they too can know their sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name.  Go out into the world as an Andrew and rejoice in the only identity that matters – a Child of Christ!

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THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS DINNER DANCE

Please join us for the 5th annual Prince of Peace Valentine’s Dinner Dance.  EVERYONE is welcome!  This year we are celebrating love on a global scale!  Feel free to wear your native nation’s formal cultural attire to help support our theme.  A delicious strolling international themed dinner will be served followed by a dessert buffet that you won’t forget!  Top the evening off with great music and dancing.  This is a Valentine’s passport to fun that you won’t want to miss and is good for singles and couples alike!

WHEN:     Saturday, February 11, 2017 from 7pm until 11pm

WHERE:     Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Activities Center

28000 New Market Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334

$20/person advanced tickets are required.  

Purchase tickets in the church office or call Laura at 248-553-3380 for further details.  ALL profits benefit local charity.

cross-saltWitnessing is one of the most scary words in the world of the Church and to many Christians.  Thousands and thousands of books are written about it and there are some good hints and, well, some not so good hints.  It’s an area of vast concepts and misunderstandings.  There are old methods and new methods, all to try and help a follower of Jesus to tell others about Jesus.  It is an area where most shudder a little and wrestle with it because they feel like “I don’t know enough about the Bible or  I don’t know how to do it right.”  Many times all the concerns and fears end up stopping us from doing something that really is very, very simple.  I think all the books and programs have just made it more complicated for people to do what comes about naturally in all of us every day.

See, we witness/share things every day.  We share bargain hints, we share music and movie play lists, we share constantly on social media, texting, and the like.  The main difference is what we are choosing to share, reveal, and witness about.  Maybe it’s a good time to ask, “What I am sharing? .Does it have any real, lasting value?”

See, witnessing is sharing something of eternal value with others.  We Christians know that something of eternal value is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.  There is no bigger free deal than the gift of salvation won, paid, and given to us than Jesus dying and rising again.  The Israelites were told to witness about the Lord and witnessing is the last marching order Jesus told His followers.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:10–13, NIV84)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:16–20, NIV84)

If others know you are a Christian, you witness your faith every moment of every day.  Many only think that Pastors and their families live in the “fish bowl” but that is just a myth.  Christ Followers live in the fishbowl and others are just watching to see how you swim in the current of life.  All Christians live in that see-through observation glass and each day we either make a good witness to our faith in Jesus or we are a bad witness.  We either swim against the currents and tides of the world or we join in and look no different.  So the big questions of the day are “Do you like living in the fishbowl?”  “Are others looking and seeing Jesus in me?”  Those are questions all believers are faced with.  No exemptions.  The questions aren’t to make you feel bad but to maybe jump start you and encourage you on your journey of sharing Jesus.

To share Jesus we have to know Jesus.  The more we know of what Jesus  has done through history, and left for us in the Bible,  and what He has personally done for us, makes it easier and simpler to share Jesus with everyone in word and actions.  Let’s face, it our entire reason for being here is to point others to the Truth, the Way, and the Life, found only in Jesus Christ and to know Him more.  So studying Scripture and knowing how it applies to your personal life will help you become a stronger Christian as well as a better witness.

We cannot witness/share that which we ourselves have not known to be true or seen in our own lives.  We also know from God’s Word that faith comes by hearing, Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, NIV84)  If someone else had not taken the time to serve us the food of God’s Word and show us, we would not be in the faith of Jesus Christ.  Praise God for their faithfulness to serving and telling us about Jesus.

So not only will Bible Study strengthen your faith, but it will help you bear witness.  Going to regular worship is a huge way we witness, too.  Others know when you go and when you come.  Even if you don’t see them, they see you.  They know you put God first and set Him as the most important one on your calendar.  Worship also strengthens you to continue to witness.  It arms you with the Word and what God is challenging you to do.

Sharing Jesus also strengthens our faith when we share “our story”.  It doesn’t have to be fancy words because it is all about what Jesus has done in your life and how you have changed because of Him.  There is no better witness than one who once was lost but now is found.  There is no skeleton or sin in your closet too big to make you unworthy of sharing Jesus. Because you were once outside the reach of God because of sin but now can rest in His arms because Jesus rescued you and paid your debt, makes you the best witness.  Not sure about that statement?  Well here is a list of people God has used to bring about Kingdom Change and Save Others:

ABRAHAM was too old.
ISAAC was a day dreamer.
JACOB was a liar.
JOSEPH was abused.
MOSES had a stuttering problem.
GIDEON was afraid.
SAMSON had long hair and he was a womanizer!
RAHAB was a prostitute!
JEREMIAH and TIMOTHY were too young.
DAVID had an affair and he was a murderer.
ELIJAH was suicidal.
JONAH ran from God.
NAOMI was a widow.
PETER denied Christ.
MARTHA worried about everything.
MARY MAGDALENE was, well, you know …
The SAMARITAN WOMAN was divorced five times and currently living in sin.
ZACCHEUS was too small.
PAUL was too religious.
TIMOTHY had an ulcer
The Disciples fell asleep while praying… AND
LAZARUS WAS DEAD!

If God used these people, there is no reason you can’t be used to reach others with Jesus’ love and salvation story.  See, we are called sheep and Jesus is our Shepherd. Our Pastor is called an Under Shepherd because his job is much like Jesus’.  To listen to the Shepherd, to tend to the sheep, teach and encourage the sheep in God’s ways, to correct the sheep, and to equip the sheep so they go and make sheep.  Shepherds don’t give birth to sheep, only sheep do that.  That is why Jesus left us the commandment to “go make”.  He knew it takes sheep to bleat out Jesus so wolves would be transformed into sheep for Jesus.  Jesus and His message is always about changing the sinner into the saint.

Lord, enable us sheep to live our lives, each moment of each day, in prophetic praise, preaching Christ crucified in our lives to overflowing so that we share “our wolf transformation story” and be Jesus’ Light in this dark, dead world of sin.  Amen.

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Php 2:3-8 NIV)

WOW!  This passage sure blows a huge hole in the walls of the current philosophy of the day, “It’s All About Me”.  Not only now, but all times, because let’s face it, in our sinful humanness we want to be first.  We want to be served.  We want it all and we want it now.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Actually, let’s boil that “we” down to “me”.  We all know how we want to be served and when we don’t get it the way we want it or like it, we can have a pretty nasty review.  I hear a lot of people saying that “customer service” is lacking in all areas of business, and as much as that may be true, how is Godly Service doing in the Body of Christ?  What obstacles do we face?

Selfishness and pride were in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve wanted to be just like God and wanted to have all things, even the forbidden one that God knew would hurt them, and us.  God gave man everything but one thing He withheld, And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”” (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV84)  Selfishness says, “I never have enough”, “I want more”,  “Give Me, Give Me, Give Me”, “I Want What I Can’t Have”….  We struggle with the sin of selfishness because we don’t love/put God first and we don’t love/put others second, and us last.  It hurts when we get honest and look at what motivates us and find that obedience to God is often far down on our want list.  The good news is, that Christ gives us the perfect role model of how to beat selfishness once and for all.

The opposite of selfishness is servanthood.  You get no greater example of servanthood than from Jesus!  He served all peoples, in all economic brackets, all health situations, and all walks and ways of life.  He knew that to do His Father’s business required being with others and meeting their needs.  There is no job too big or too small for any of us to step up and serve.  As Christians, service is just part of our Call of Duty.

Christ is our General and we should want to follow in His footsteps out of obedience and happily serve those around us and not think about “what’s in it for me.”  When we think that way, our service is not service.  We can all come up with reasons to not serve but they don’t hold water.  When we hold them up to our example, Jesus, we have the same 24 hrs, and well, we haven’t been asked to give our lives, so the excuses just don’t cut it.  We might even try the “I don’t have any gifts or talents” route but that doesn’t fly either because all Christians, in their baptism, have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gifts all believers.  So the real battle is fighting that old Adam and stop thinking about “little ol’ me.”  We need to start cleaning house and start fulfilling the Call of Duty into Service.

This service is to the Church and to our Fellow Man.  We need to show up ready for Active Duty.  We need to hear the Revelry Trumpet Call of Jesus and get busy so that the World sees and feels Jesus.  If those of us called, Christ Ones, don’t show up, with joyful hearts, to obediently serve, who’s going to show them the Real Jesus? The Jesus that took the time to leave heaven, to come and serve man, touch man and heal him, intervene and change hearts and point them to the Father, and to die so that in the face of a Holy and Righteous God, His Children could be forgiven and set free.  You see, we Christ Ones, are Jesus with skin on.  That’s why others will take the time to hear, when we show up and serve without motive.  Do the lost and lonely people in the shadow of our steeples know that anyone cares, let alone Jesus?

Being in the Lord’s Army, means we represent the Lord.  We can go AWOL but that doesn’t serve anyone but self.  We are called to look to the interest of others, and just like in the Military, others in the battalion/church, are watching our backs.  When we fully serve God and others, we will find that we are served by God and Others.

There is no losing here, only winning and this winning is helping to depopulate the casualties of the war of Sin and Hell and the Devil.  So what are you waiting for?  If you aren’t sure how or where to jump in and serve, it’s really easy, just ask the Pastor at your church.  He will have plenty of ways where you can start serving.  It might be something as simple as praying for those in the church who are sick or shut in.  It might be sending a card to those battling illness, it might be helping make a meal, it might be serving is the worship setting, who knows!  But, I promise you, there are hundreds of ways to serve in the local church, the universal Church, and those around you.  I can also guarantee you there will be God Tricks in it for you!

What is a God Trick?  Simply it is God blessing you for being obedient by serving others.  How does this work?  Well, have you ever seen someone come to faith because you have been walking with them and showing them the way?  If so, you know there is no greater joy or feeling than knowing the lost child is now Home with the Lord.  Have you every visited someone who was sick or in the hospital and left feeling like you were on cloud nine and they made you feel better?  If so, that is God giving back to you.  There are untold ways God will bless you in your acts of true, unselfish service.  You will be surprised when you find out who is in heaven because you put you last and them first and they saw and met Jesus through your acts of love and service.

Dear God, Our Serving Savior, and Giving Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see whom to serve, ears to hear the Lord’s calling in all we do, turn a deaf ear to our desires and the selfish cries of the world, and be make us eager to put our lives in perpetual motion of servanthood, being Jesus to all we meet in humble service and love.  In Our Suffering Servant, Jesus’ most holy name we pray.  Amen.

brokenhearted-4If you have ever been a parent, I know you have heard your child or children say “that’s not fair!”  Yourself, as a child, undoubtedly said the phrase more than once.  In looking at things in your adult life, I know you have expressed these sentiments.  You might have not used the exact words, or maybe you have, but when you suffer injustice or it is done to a loved one, you have expressed the concept.

When that job is offered to someone else, when the raise doesn’t come, when the spouse goes looking and grazing in “greener grass”, when your children have walked off into a lifestyle so different from how they were raised, when you get that diagnosis…it often times sends people off into the land of “It’s not fair!”  Let’s face it, what happened on September 11, 2001 was definitely not fair!

In our scripture reading for this week, Paul is writing to the young preacher, Timothy.  Timothy is facing some major things in life that are just “not fair”.  He is being looked down upon, discriminated against, because he is too young.  30 is just too young in human eyes of the day.  He was dealing with false teachings by false teachers inside the church.  He was dealing with disruptions and disorder in worship.  To top it all off, he was dealing with a lack of true leaders to step up and help him carry Christ’s full message.  So what does Paul do?  He takes the time to stop, encourage, and give a personal testimony and witness to Timothy.  Let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 1:12-17:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul takes time out of his very busy ministry life to lift up Timothy and is explaining to him that God is the one who qualifies someone.  Sometimes the best way to lift up someone, who is being beaten down by the injustice of this life, is to remind people who you were before Jesus Christ knocked you off your horse and started you down a new road.  It’s good to take the blinders off and be honest with yourself and with others that you, on your own are a sin-filled, opponent of Jesus Christ. That you before Christ saved you, you lived a life that was far from being holy, set apart, for the Lord.

You might be thinking, “but I was raised in the church and I have never been against God.”  In all honesty, yes you have.  We all have been an enemy of Christ.  Scripture tells us for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV) and but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV).  We like Paul, are the worst of sinners before Christ.  We deserve all of God’s wrath, justice, and punishment. That is what is fair!

The best part, the part that Satan doesn’t want you to understand and latch onto is that because Christ came into the word to save us, because Christ died for our sins, because Christ is the Perfect Lamb Sacrifice, because of Christ’s love; we get grace, forgiveness, new life, peace, and the Holy Spirit to live out bold lives for His service.  God calls us to live each day for Him.  When we look at who we were, and sometimes who we are in our actions, we can do nothing more than fall down and worship and praise God for His abundant grace that is greater than all our sins.

We are called to live out new lives.  Lives changed and set apart for the work of the Lord.  Don’t hold your testimony to yourself. Share it with people and tell them that in this world much injustice is done but thanks be to God, we also get to say “because of what Jesus has done for me, “it isn’t fair” I get the rewards of what Jesus has done and I am His willing servant!”

God has been actively working in the hearts of His people and we have been blessed in the Backpack for Back to School project. Gifts of love have been flooding in to Prince of Peace.  The packs will be distributed to Rev. Morales next week, so filling and distribution can begin in time for school.  Keep a watchful eye on the blog for upcoming pictures.

You still have time to participate.  Pick up a new backpack, several places have really nice packs for $5 and under right now, and drop off during this week. Better yet, drop off when you come and join us on Sunday, for time with God, at 8:15 am and 10:45 am.

Have you ever been lost? I’m talking about being big-time lost.  It’s a scary thing to be truly lost.

The fifteenth chapter of Luke gives us four examples of being lost.  The first is the story of the lost sheep. The shepherd in the story has 100 sheep. Ninety-nine of those sheep are safely tucked away where they belong. But there’s that one pesky sheep who decides to see the world. The sheep wanders away. The shepherd goes out, finds it, and brings it back.

The other story is about a lost coin. In that story, there’s a woman who has ten silver coins. Much to her dismay, she finds that one of the coins has come up missing. Instead of accepting her loss, the woman turns on the light and sweeps the house until she finds the coin.

There are two different states of lostness in these two stories. The sheep is a matter of innocent lostness. The sheep wasn’t smart enough to know not to roam off. The coin is a matter of irresponsible lostness. The woman wasn’t careful enough with what she had.

I’m sure we have all found ourselves in these conditions of lostness. Sometime we have gotten lost because we didn’t know any better. Other times we have gotten lost because we made bad choices; wrong friends, wrong place to hang out, wrong thing to do.

When we see ourselves or others lost like the sheep or the coin, we might give an understanding nod and hope the lessons of experience are well learned. After all, innocently lost and irresponsibly lost are just two of the pitfalls all people are subject to now and then.

But the lostness that Jesus talks about in the parable of the Prodigal Son is a different variety of lost. This is a matter of intentional lostness. Read the rest of this entry »