The Gospel Change

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The Bible teaches that believers in Christ are actually an altogether new creation.  That is what the bible says.   2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  That means those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have been justified (declared righteous) by faith in Him are living in a new sphere of life.  Old things have passed away; all things have become new because of this new position in Christ.

Let me say it this way.  There was a time in each and every one of our lives we lived in the womb of our mother.  That was the sphere of our life.  It was a very necessary sphere, but it was limited and narrow.  But now, things have changed.  We are no longer in the womb but are now living in this world.  Our natural birth has brought about an enormous change in our lifestyle.  In fact, we have changed so much, none of us even remember that way of life.  It is foreign to us now.

In the same manner, those that are in Christ have been born again.  There has been this spiritual rebirth and our spiritual rebirth has changed our lives completely and absolutely; once and for all.  Things will never be the same.  We have been made new and, at the same time, are being made new.  We are in Christ.  He covers us and consumes us; so now we live, and move and have our being in Christ.  He eclipses everything this world has to offer.  We have seen His glory and we are now changed.  He has made us new and our lives reflect that transformation.

However, this is where we must be careful.  We must recognize what happens when pledging our faith in Christ.  When embracing faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ changes us.  Therefore, we begin to do different, because we are different.  Our spiritual birth has awakened us to a brand new way of life.  Yet, sometimes it comes off as this religious pressure to perform, when in reality our responsibility in living a Christ centered life has everything to do with the awareness that Christ is changing us.

In essence, our dreams and desires change.  Our passions and priorities change.  Our wants and our wishes change.  We are motivated to do different and to be different because we are different.  We are made new and are being made new.  So then, we are not transitioning in life by implementing change, we are transforming in life evidenced by the change.  Therefore, our doing is not some mechanical prescription to do better, our doing is God’s supernatural power that is making us new.  This is the gospel change and it changes everything about us.

Does it Matter What You Do with Your Life?

reActionSIntroduction

Saul was a chosen vessel.  On the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, Christ confronted Saul and revealed Himself.  It was this authentic revelation of Jesus in Saul’s life that caused an immediate revolution in Saul’s heart.  Saul saw the light.  He was forever changed.  The old things had instantly passed away, and everything became new.  Saul was delivered and God had determined to use this man to be the instrument that would, in effect, change the world.

Saul’s previous life had prepared him for this moment.  He was born into a Roman family and thereby a citizen of the most powerful nation of its time.  The Roman Empire was noted for its commerce and trade over land and sea, it provided the best schools and learning institutions of its day and the privileges of society were unmatched and only offered to its citizens.

Specifically, Saul was born into a Jewish family of the Diaspora.  In other words, as a Jew, Paul was familiar and in touch with secular society.  He knew the Greek language, identified Greek logic and understood the influence of Greek culture upon the lives of men.  Saul had a clear perspective of the world.

Being a Jew, Saul had a number of insights into the lifestyle of God’s people.  Saul was brought up in the synagogue.  He had a working knowledge of the Scriptures.  For as long as Saul could remember, he had been taught the traditions of old.  Even though he had a Greek intellect, he had the training of a rabbi and was inducted into the elite Jewish ruling counsel known as the Sanhedrin.

Now everything was different.  Everything was new.  Yet God would use all of these personal experiences of Saul to fulfill His sovereign plan.  Clearly, Saul was chosen by God to do an extraordinary work of ministry.

Much could be said about this man Saul.  I could identify his character and his conduct in order to learn from his example.  Excluding Christ, one could argue that there has been no better man to ever walk this earth than Saul.  Saul has an amazing story; Saul the murderer of the faithful becomes a miracle of faith.  This man that purposely persecuted the church prior to his conversion eventually would proclaim the hope of Christ in like passion.  God ultimately elevated Saul well beyond his own comprehension to a place of legendary status within church history.  Humanly speaking, Saul would author half the New Testament writings.  Therefore, it can be said that no man would make any greater contribution, have any greater influence or be of any greater value to the world than this man Saul.

Clearly Saul was someone special which had something special, but what about the rest of us?  Those of us that will never be center on the world’s stage, do we have anything substantive to offer?  Does it really matter what we do with our life?

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Remedy: Receiving the Gospel Cure

RemedySeveral hundred years ago, a great nemesis arose against the church in an attempt to silence the gospel witness of Christ. This adversary’s hatred of Christians was hot and his disdain for the church was strong. This formidable foe was unrelenting in invoking fear and trepidation upon Christian believers tempting them to compromise their faithfulness and quiet their visible response to Christ.

This opponent of the church was no back ally thug that crept about in dark shadows, rather this man was prominently positioned within the ruling class. He was extremely intelligent and highly educated. He had connections to high ranking officials. He had clout among those with authority and power. With his own drive, determination and ambition, he ultimately had a capacity to inflict great harm upon the followers of Jesus.

Therefore, he was bold in his action, daring in his vices and he made no effort to hide his destructive agenda to eliminate the church from this world. Therefore, much blood was shed and he tasted it in broad daylight for all to see. This man was not just a menace; this man was a monster that attempted to exterminate the church from the face of the earth!

Some people are pliable and easily molded, but not this man. His personality was cut from hard stone and iron. He would not bow to the established party line; he was inflexible and adamant regarding his own perspectives and religious positions. Therefore, his will was an unbridled force of destruction that no one could tame. So no one dared to stand in his way.

The whole idea that Jesus came to die on a cross was preposterous notion to him. The thought that Calvary was the answer to man’s problems (the remedy) was ludicrous. To believe that God would die on a tree was ridiculous blasphemy and anyone that suggested such was a heretic and they needed to die.

However, on one particular blistering hot day on a mission to put more Christian believers to death, Saul (better known to us today as the Apostle Paul, Saul once the greatest rival of the church), got saved.

Every conversion to faith in Christ is a miracle. When someone who is born in sin, shaped in iniquity, blind to truth, deaf to the gospel, dead to Christ and determined to go his own way comes face to face with the Risen Lord and enthrones Him as his personal Savior it is a miracle. However, when someone so antagonistic to the gospel comes to faith, it seems as if it is a miracle of a different degree.

Humanly speaking, everything was against Paul being converted. He was saved in spite of his heartless personality, in spite of the violence he perpetrated and in spite of the vindictive response to the message of the church. He was saved although he could not be reached with reason. He was saved though he was driven by burning hatred. Although he was “set in his ways” and possibly the last person we would ever think could be reached, Paul was saved.

The good news of Jesus changed everything and when Paul received the gospel cure he discovered the remedy. Jesus is the answer to all that ails you in life.  That is how Paul could boldly declare in the first chapter of Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” (Romans 1:16)

Packing Love for Foster Care Children

Below is another article that appeared in the Dayton media market regarding the incredible gesture of students from LIFT camp and Cedarville University.  I hope this inspires you to go do something and impact your community with the love of Christ.

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CEDARVILLE — More than 800 high school and middle school students, attending LIFT camp at Cedarville University this week, are making a difference in our local communities.

On Thursday at Cedarville University, more than 100 suitcases were given to children in the foster care system from Butler County. There are 455 children in the foster care system in Butler County and 130 are waiting to be adopted.7-18-cedarville-foster-bags_21264

Cedarville University is partnering with LIFT camp and Butler County Children’s Services to raise awareness for foster care children and families. Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter and a representative from Family Services of Butler County attended Thursday’s services, along with many foster care families and children who will be presented with the luggage.

With Butler County foster children in attendance, Cedarville University President Thomas White detailed the University’s full-tuition scholarship for one foster student. Cedarville began its foster student scholarship last year with Trina Jones of Xenia being awarded the scholarship.

Cedarville President, Dr. Thomas White, feels strongly about adoption. He and his family have been personally engaged through the adoption of their daughter Rachel.

“Adoption is at the heart of the gospel,” says White. “The Gospel allows orphans to become heirs and slaves to become sons of God through Jesus Christ.” Additionally, White said, “Through Cedarville University’s Foster Care Scholarship, we answer God’s call to care for the widows and orphans by providing a student with an education from a biblical worldview and welcoming them into the Cedarville family.”

On Wednesday evening, the Lift camp students raised $3,400 to purchase suitcases, and some students chose to give the suitcase they brought to camp this week for the cause. “Most of these [foster care] children are packing their belongings in trash bags and moving an average of 12 times over the course of 15 years.” said LIFT camp regional director Rob Rosenbalm. “This reality has moved us to do something.”

LIFT camp has been hosted by Cedarville University for 15 years and is sponsored by LIFT Student Ministries of Dallas, Texas. The camp averages 800 students each year who gather for one week to engage in Scripture and minister to the community in various ways. LIFT Student Ministries has served nearly 50,000 students nationwide since 1994 years.

 

The Love of Christ on Display

This was a fabulous moment that made headlines in our community.  Below is the local front page article that appeared in the weekend paper written by Denise Callahan.

Lift logo2BUTLER COUNTY —

Hooking up churches with Butler County Children Services appears to be a match made in heaven.

Usually, when social workers come to remove a child from a home, belongings are packed in garbage bags. About 800 students who were attending LIFT camp at Cedarville University near Dayton this week raised about $3,400 to buy 130 suitcases for foster kids in Butler County. Some even chose to donate their own suitcases and will return home with their belongings in trash bags.

“They said we’re going to donate our luggage and we’re going to give some money for luggage for these kids because they have to put all their stuff in garbage bags when they are yanked out of their homes,” Children Services Executive Director Jerome Kearns said. “We’ll give them something they can call their own. So all these kids that are up at Cedarville at camp are taking their clothes in garbage bags, because they gave their luggage to these kids.”

The connection between a camp for middle and high school kids at Cedarville University and Butler County foster kids germinated when Kearns held a series of community meetings at the start of the agency overhaul process in February. Pastor Rob Rosenbalm at the Fairfield West Baptist Church attended the meeting of faith-based organizations Kearns and his executive team held. He also is the regional director of the LIFT camp.

His church held a series of “Summer Slam” fun events at the church for about 100 foster children, families and others from the community this week and the LIFT camp kids came to help.

Cedarville University President Thomas White said about 20 foster children came up to the university Thursday night for the suitcase presentation.suitcase

“It was an amazing night,” he said. “It was a great, amazing time.”

White said the event was also an opportunity to let the foster children and others learn about the relatively new scholarship program the university offers for foster children in Ohio. Last year, the university awarded the first full-ride scholarship to Trina Jones of Xenia. The scholarship is worth about $120,000 and includes everything.

Rosenbalm said the LIFT camp kids took off with the suitcase idea as soon as he mentioned it. Other than making sure the foster children don’t have to tote their whole lives around in a trash bag, he said it was also a way to help raise awareness of the whole foster care and adoption issue.

When the faith-based organizations met with Kearns, they all were excited to help the agency with recruiting foster and adoptive families and mentoring. There are currently 455 children in foster care. Rosenbalm said he has been meeting with Kearns and others to get a handle on how the whole system works so he can educate and encourage families to become part of the system.

“We want to recruit, we plan on recruiting, we want to make sure we raise up those who can be parents within the foster care system. We want to raise up adoptive parents as well,” he said. “It is clear to me it is a compassionate response that I believe many in the faith community would be willing to journey in, if we take the time to faithfully explain it.”

 

 

Take God At His Word

blogJohn 20:30-31“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

As I read that, one thing in particular jumps out. It takes more than me. It takes more than me to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It takes a credible witness to believe the good news of Jesus. It takes the sworn testimony of another to substantiate the gospel claim. Like the lawyer who presents his case in a court of law by calling forward an eyewitness to testify. It is this eyewitness account, this preponderance of evidence that the case is built and ultimately rests upon.

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Open Your Eyes

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We can’t drive around our town without recognizing that we live in a great community. This is a wonderful place to live. Fairfield is a great place to raise a family. At the same time, we cannot live in this town (or any town) without recognizing that life can be hard. We all face challenges. We all have struggles and we all want to do something about those trials that confront us and complicate our lives.

Well let’s do something together. I want to open your eyes by drawing from a young man’s example of courage and faith. Jake Olson is overcoming what we would characterize as an overwhelming hardship and in return God has giving him a national platform in which to speak.

This past week, we were pleased to host and welcome Jake Olson and McKay Christensen.  Jake lost his sight to cancer at the age of 12. However, in his own words, Jake says that “losing his eye sight is what enabled him to see.” Jake’s remarkable story has been featured in three ESPN documentary films, the CBS This Morning, and Fox & Friends. Jake has also been a guest commentator on College Game Day and was a part of the Super Bowl pre-game broadcast last year.

Jake wrote a book with co-author Dr. McKay Christensen entitled Open Your Eyes.  Dr. Christensen is the President of a billion dollar consumer products company and business school professor at the Marriott School of Management. Jake and McKay presented Jake’s story to several hundred that gathered at the Performing Arts Center located on the campus of Fairfield High School this past Thursday and was picked up by local news agencies. http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/blind-teen-golfers-message-open-your-eyes/nfnZf/

Jake and McKay told their tale and shared many life principles together. However, the final word came from Jake that pointed everyone to faith in Christ. Let me encourage all to grab Jake’s and McKay’s book and open your eyes.