Friday, August 31, 2007

The Kindom and Compassion

As I am laying the ground work for launching a church, the Lord keeps focusing me on those outside the church and His heart for them. It is our desire to be a people preoccupied with the building of the Kingdom of God. At the heart of the Kingdom of God is the desire to reconcile men to God, a heart of compassion grieving for the destruction that sin causes. Jesus was criticized for being a friend of sinners in Matthew chapter 9. When I read this account I am struck with Jesus’ response. 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ The word used for compassion in the Greek is ‘eleos’ which means ‘kindness or good will toward the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.’ Another time a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him. Jesus moved with compassion cast the demon out and the dumb man spoke. Jesus motivated by compassion, or good will toward the miserable and the afflicted, reached out to help him. The Pharisees were not pleased. Their hearts were hardened to the afflicted. Their theology believed that bad things happened to those who fell short. In their life with God they worked so hard and became satisfied with their own progress that they lost sight of the fathers heart. How sad, an afflicted man spoke and they were distressed.

Many times we tend to recoil from the afflicted of this world, yet Jesus commands his people to pray and get involved. Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." I am of the personal opinion that much of the western church looks at those outside of the faith with same attitude as the Pharisees. The more we understand the grace of God the more we will understand that Jesus reached out to us while we were, as Paul would write “God’s enemy”. As we get a hold of how broken we were (and may I suggest we still are) it should motivate us to spread the good news of how God made a way for us. The religious spirit on the other hand, is one that measures it self against the righteousness of other men. Therefore it will always be at odds with grace and redemption. The religious spirit always grades on the curve, it builds it self up at the expense of those who are sinners and the afflicted, the very ones that God cares so passionately about.

Reaching our world is not dependent upon our finances of our resources but upon our faith in God. When we embrace the heart of Christ that has been revealed by His graciousness to us the values of the Kingdom become our own, and we stretch to fill the calling given to us

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Keys to Long Ministry Life

Early in my journey as a Christian I was taught that character always trumped gifting. After thirty-two years of ministry I am fully convinced that this is true. I have been told that as many as 80% of those called to ministry give up after just five years. The pressure of ministry life, the constant pressure to perform, unreasonable ideas of success all take their toll. How can we who are called to ministry keep from losing our way? First and foremost is leaning into the grace of God. Grace can be described as “God’s influence on the human heart”. We started the race with grace and it is by grace that finish well. Following list questions is a list of areas that I believe is our responsibility to maintain in our character. I hope it is help to those who are walking the journey of ministry.

• Am I sure of my calling?
• Is my vision clear?
• Is my passion hot?
• I’m I developing my gifts?
What are my top spiritual gifts?
What I’m I doing to strengthen those gifts.
• Is my character submitted to Christ?
• Is my Pride subdued?
• Am I over coming fear?
Fear immobilizes and neutralizes leaders.
• Are interior issues undermining?
• Is my pace sustainable?
• Is love increasing for God and others?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Freedom from the fear of man.

I have been considering the importance of obedience. There are lessons from Saul’s life that serve as an example and a warning for us.

Saul was chosen and appointed King over Israelites. He was the Lord’s anointed with all the promises that go with that call. His future looked bright. God had commanded him to lead an army to go and punish and destroy the nation of the Amalekites.

1Samuel 15:1-2
Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.

God’s anger towards the Amalekites went back five hundred years when the children of Israel were fleeing Egypt. Moses was leading the people out of slavery out of Egypt and the new nation was extremely vulnerable. The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. If God had not intervened Israel would have been destroyed. Five hundred years later the Amalekites were still launching raids and attacking Israel.

Saul received the word of the Lord and proceeded to move against this enemy. He summoned the men -- two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men from Judah, and mustered them at Telaim. Saul was confident about the out come! They went to war and were victorious.

Yet there was a problem, God had given Saul very specific instructions that the people should not take the spoils of war. Yet that is what Saul allowed them do. Saul even went so far as to set up a monument in his own honor. It is amazing to read the account in the bible in 1Samual 15:19. When confronted with his disobedience and the fact that he had not done the specific things that was asked of him, Saul began to rationalize.

1 Sam 15:19-35
Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?" "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal." But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." NIV

Ultimately Saul was caught in the snare of the fear of man. I have come to the conclusion that there are some specific characteristics of those who are caught up with the fear of man.

1. Pride - The need to proclaim our accomplishments. Insecurity is another manifestation. There he has set up a monument in his own honor 1 Sam 15:12

2. Self deception - I have carried out the LORD's instructions." 1 Sam 15:13
Saul believed that there was wiggle room that God’s nature was different than what it is. (idolatry)

3. Blaming--"I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites;” 1 Sam 15:15

4. Self Justification-"I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 1 Sam15: 20 Part of human nature is to grade on a curve, to make excuses or to rationalize. The command was clear but yet Saul felt he had obeyed even when he clearly didn’t.

5. Lack of responsibility--"I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; 1 Sam 15:30

Many times if we were honest we can identify areas of our own life that when we know what is right and what God expects from us, but we like Saul build strongholds of rationalization and miss the obvious. It becomes more important to us to maintain an image or follow the crowd. The grace of God gives us the liberty to follow God with our whole heart. Here are some of the ways I have discovered to cultivate obedience

1. Understand God’s true nature. He does not wink at sin, all sin has consequence.
God is holy; the grace he gives was purchased at a terrible price.

2. Cultivate the fear of the Lord.

1 Pet 1:17-19
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

3. Know that God is for us.

4. Meditate on God’s grace and love.

It is my conclusion that obedience flows from a grateful heat that has experienced the love of God. One that recognizes the influence of God on my heart and responds not as one who is under law but on that but on who has experienced life.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Great Secret!

Mark 11:20-26

And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you. 25 "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."

Many times we look to this story for insight into faith yet Mark tells the story to lead into profound moral teaching. The power of faith is linked to having a clean heart in regard to others. So profound was Jesus’ teaching upon His disciples that all would write of the same truth. Peter like us was perplexed and troubled by the extremeness of Jesus’ remarks. They required a generosity of spirit that seemed unreasonable. If we forgive, we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven was more than Peter could fathom. Peter asks for clarification and receives even a greater challenge.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matt 18:21-35

Paul would later write that we should model forgiveness because of Christ and his work in us. He would point out in Col 3:12 how we were chosen by the grace and mercy of God and we were to act like Christ. James in his direct and (some would say harsh way) lays out the importance with no wiggle room whatsoever. “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

With all this emphases on the subject of forgiving it begs the question of what does it mean to forgive. As a verb it means to stop blaming or to absolve from payment. As an adjective it means inclined to show mercy. It is a position of moral strength that lives above the circumstances of life. All relationships have great possibility of offenses. Yet there is a way to live above the fray.

We gain insight when we look at motivations for not forgiving. The first is vengeance, we have a secret desire to punish or see people hurt. It leads to self-protection, we build a walls so that the offender no longer has access. If unchecked it leads to manipulation, victim status gives opportunity to rally support and pity.

All of these are corrupt and lead to the ensnaring world of bitterness. Our life becomes consumed by the offence. Un-forgiveness can be described as unwilling to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty, grim determination or harsh and severe. In our desire for justice or vindication we can hinder the grace of God in our life.

How do we identify an unforgiving spirit in ourselves? First we examine our thought life. Do we review an offense over and over again? Do we have fantasies of vengeance? Are we judgmental? Second we evaluate our current relationships. Do we hold people at a distance? Do we tend to keep score? Do we justify our actions towards others? Do we harbor a grudge? All of these are symptoms of un-forgiveness. Lastly we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal problem areas of our heart. If we recognize ourselves any of the above attitudes we must take responsibility and move toward real change.

How does one forgive those who have hurt us or offended us? It starts with seeing the need and working to bring our hearts and mind in agreement with God. Meditate on His love and faithfulness toward you. Realize how much Christ has extended Himself to you. Think of the result of your sins and the extravagance of grace given to you. Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor designed to draw His enemies to Himself. He sought you even when it was your actions that led Him to the cross. Seek to understand God’s involvement in your life. Evaluate your life today in light of God’s faithfulness. Recognize God looks at the larger picture and he is committed to your development. Ask for the Holy Spirits help and repent of bitterness and resentment. Think of simply canceling the debt that another owes to you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is our part in God’s plan?

What is my part in God’s plan? Every believer eventually asks this question. The answer is found in who God says you are! Consider the remarkable grace of God. He has rescued us from a life controlled by sin and has given us a new life. It was when we were most consumed by sin and selfishness that He called us and made a way for us by the cross. Out of this extravagant expression of love each of us has been destined to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God.

When exploring who God has made us to be we need to understand the idea of being chosen people. Peter wrote to encourage believers who were scattered by the persecutions of Nero about 65 A.D.

1 Peter 2:9-11
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The word chosen comes from the Greek word, ‘eklektos’. It suggests the idea of a select or favorite people, from a single family or common stock. God has placed value in each of us individually and makes us part of a family intent on serving Him. The idea of being a holy nation is a powerful idea. Christ has made us a part of something greater than ourselves. As Americans we identify with our country and what it stands for. The nations marvel at our sentiment and patriotism. Yet, in an even greater way we are to identify with Christ, His Kingdom, and His Church.

Peter states we are a royal priesthood. John in Revelation echoes the truth, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God”. We have been consecrated to minister to God and to stand as a mediator or an ambassador to a ruined and exhausted world. Intercession, sharing the good news, and caring for people are roles all saints are to be involved in. The church is to be a ‘House of prayer’, to make intercession for all men.

We come to understand our part in God’s plan when we take on His passion and His mission. That mission is that Jesus Christ should be made known to all men and that they would willingly submit their life to him. You and I are called “that you may declare the praises of him.” It is in the doing that we get understanding. God’s plan for our life becomes obvious as we engage in the battle.

It is God’s will that none would be lost to sin and the devil. He empowers us to be all He has called us to be. God wants to build the church, to bring men from every tongue and tribe into Christ’s body. Be confident that if we embrace Christ’s mission we will find our part in the Kingdom. Serve God, serve others and you won’t miss the mark.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Clear Conscience

1 Tim 1:18-19
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (NAS)

In the day-to-day activities of life it is easy to lose sight of the importance of a clean conscience. Like foxes that spoil the vine, compromise can dull our spirit and undermine our relationship with the Lord. Little offences, hardly significant to our natural mind can have serious consequences to our spirit.

Let us consider for a moment what the conscience is. It’s a faculty of a man”s spirit that is sensitive to innate truth. It may be likened to a bridge between the spirit and our mind. The Holy Spirit uses our conscience to quicken us to God’s nature and righteousness. When we cross into areas of unrighteousness the conscience begins to trouble us and requires action on our part to satisfy its accusation. In many ways an active conscience is a great gift because it requires us to live open and righteous lives before the throne of grace.

When we endeavor to navigate life with a clean conscience there is tangible results. We have confidence when we pray or worship and we live a sincere and honest life. Our capacity to share the Good News of the Kingdom is no longer hindered by guilt.

Paul warns in his letter to Timothy to nurture a good conscience. When we sin and do not obey the prompting of our conscience to repent and set things right, we begin the process of hardening our heart. Many are driven to rationalize and justify their behaviors; some lose themselves in the noise of our culture seeking to escape the testimony of their own heart. Some escape through a long list of vices, each leading to more condemnation and further retreat from the grace of God.

A clean conscience produces an inner peace of the spirit, no longer our own heart bringing accusations against us. It comes as a result of making peace with God and restitution with the ones whom we have hurt or offended We must come to gripes that excuses do not clean our conscience. Only sincere repentance, and where necessary, restitution silence the accusations of our conscience. When we offend God, we must repent. When we hurt someone with our words or actions we must ask forgiveness. If we have stole we must make restitution. A life of freedom is living life free from the shackles of regret or shame.

Please consider the promptings of your heart. When you remember your past are you ashamed? Are there those who you have hurt or offended? Is there moral failure in your life? Take these things to Christ. He stands as your advocate and redeemer. Do what ever in your power to restore and make right. Be quick to repent and you will avoid the heartbreak of shipwreck.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spirit Life

I had coffee with a leader of another church the other day and he asked me what God was doing at VCF. I knew right away the answer, God is helping us! My friend smiled and said of course He is but what great things is he showing you? I smiled and said God is helping us and that is big news.

I believe that many times people get discouraged and lose sight of the Christ’s involvement in our lives. The scripture speaks of Christ as our advocate, our help in times of trouble, the wellspring of life and the one who gives us power. There is a battle to see through the distractions of life and to comprehend how much God is involved with us every day. Jesus spoke to His disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit and he would empower them and comfort them. It is imperative that we are a people of the Spirit. It is when we listen to the Spirit that we gain perspective and insight to the world around us. His role is to lead us into truth and to steer us into the mission that Christ has for us. We become a people of the Spirit when we take on the priorities of the Spirit. George Swinnock, an early American church leader (1623 1673) wrote, “The main work which God commands and commends to the children of men, is to glorify him upon the earth by exercising themselves to godliness. What is godliness? Godliness is a worshipping the true God in heart and life according to his revealed will.” Worship is more than a song service but how we conduct all of our affairs. Jesus would allude that the father was looking for something more than a religious people when He said, “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The way we live and relate to one another is worship. It is the whole of our life.

Paul would make the argument that the Spirit life is to be manifested in serving the common good.

1 Cor 12:4-7, 11-12
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (NIV)

Paul makes the link between loving one another and a walk with the Spirit. The Spirit filled life leads to the fleshly life being freed up to love one another. You can tell a church that is full of the Spirit of God. It is not by flash in the pan revival. It is by the love that is show to each other and to those outside of the faith. Love is the true measure of God’s life flowing through a congregation.

When we look at the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate we see that they are serving gifts. The enduing of power that the Spirit gives is for the encouraging of our brethren. Real fellowship and sense of community is the fruit of life lived by the Spirit of God. Interdependence is an out working of Christ’s nature in us. All the fruits of the Spirit are manifested in the way we relate and walk with each other. It is in the context of fellowship that we are a Spirit filled people. I believe that is vital we develop real and meaningful relationships with those whom God has called us to. George Swinnock also said, "Satan watches for those vessels that sail without convoy." It is important to belong to a home group where you can bring your spiritual gifts to encourage others and others can encourage you. It is when we walk together that we experience God helping and using us. God wants to help His people through you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Four Keys to Guarding Our Future

There are four keys that I believe are necessary to guard our future and to keep us moving in right direction. The first is humility, realizing of how much we need God. There can be no real faith with out it. It is the foundation on which faith has it's footing. I believe that God is, and that He helps those who look to Him. That means avoiding the snares of hyper independence. Independence allows us to hide the strongholds and hidden areas of our life. The truth is we don’t want to bring these things to the light; they are many times so familiar that our very identity can be tied up with them. It is the hidden areas that produce shame and undermine our confidence in God. For example: “I have a English temper”, or “I have a short fuse”, become a part of who we are instead of something to repent and let go of.

The first step in breaking through the cycle of thinking that creates strongholds in our lives is the embracing of our need for God. Not only for our perceived needs and wants but also for the total remaking or transformation of our understanding of reality. God alone establishes what is right.
Transformation begins in the inner man. The battleground is in the spirit and mind. We must be renewed and remade in every area of our life. Taking every thought captive. We need to understand our dependence on God, and our need for His people. and leadership. Pride would be the opposite attitude, "I am independent, self-led."Francis Frangipane in The Three Battlegrounds points out that that “pride is the armor of darkness”. Nothing protects the work of bondage in our lives from the grace of God than pride.Strongholds are broken and the enemy’s ability to influence is shattered when we place our lives under the lordship of Christ. Obedience is a key to freedom; the fact is that is the application of our will that defines the outcome. We can’t escape this truth; we are responsible for the state of affairs in our own life. That is why a savior is needed. It is not in our own righteousness or our ability to “tuck it in” but in submission to God, humbly allowing him to redefine us. It is by faith that we embrace God’s work in our lives.The last key is to maintain a posture of accountability. The greatest men I know are the one that maintain a position of accountability, willing to be corrected.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Finding Joy in the Journey

As I am traveling with my family (16 hrs in a van) I have been contemplating what is it that often undermines our relationship with God. I think the most obvious is unsatisfied expectations. Do you ever feel like you’re just going through some joyless routines in life? If the truth were known some of us are discontent with the way our lives are progressing. We don’t stop and consider just how much we have been blessed. We lose sight of the big picture by the tyranny of an untrained soul. Another way our joy in God is eroded is by unresolved conflict. Our joy evaporates when we allow conflict between ourselves and another person to go on. When someone’s offense against us occupies our mental and emotional attention, we have little left over for the Lord. Anger clouds the eyes of our heart and obscures our view of God, draining away our joy. Finally the last and most damaging is un-confessed sin. This third area is perhaps responsible for chasing more joy out of lives than any other.

I believe that God not only wants to restore our lost joy, He also wants us to cultivate those things that will build lasting peace and joy into our lives so that we fully enjoy our standing with Him. Here are six ways to cultivate our relationship with Christ. Recognize God as joyful. We can be helped greatly in our relationship with Him if we learn to see the Almighty not as a taskmaster, but as the God of the Universe with a smile on His face. Rehearse God’s attributes in worship. God delights in us and finds great joy in His creation. When we celebrate His attributes in worship we allow our joy to flow back to Him. Reaffirm your commitment to others. Romans 12:15 challenges us to “rejoice with those who rejoice…” Reignite your passion for evangelism. One of the best ways to build joy into your life is by talking to others about Jesus.
Release your problems to the Lord. One of the hallmarks of Christian joy is that it can be experienced in the midst of intense sorrow and loss. Remain close to Jesus. Develop those disciplines that draw you into His presence. The short answer to have a joyful relationship is to nurture your relationship with Jesus and keep in step with the Spirit on a daily basis.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Moved Forward

As we are so to speak re-branding and relaunching our church, my mind fill with all sorts of ideas and strategies. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. I am finding that it is extremely important for find times of rest and refreshing in the Lord. It is during those times that the Lord reminds me of the promises and purpose He has for our church. We have been given "everything we need for life and Godliness." I am captured by the Lord’s desire that His church would be equipped to do the same work, with the same heart that moved Him to lay down his life for the world. We have been given so much, We are alive with the Spirit of God by His mercy, we have a testimony that Christ is alive. We have experienced His touch, His love and forgiveness. We have the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. We Know! With that new life comes a new call. The Apostle Peter would write "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;…" How do we make Him known? How do we bring the reality of a living active Savior to this world? I believe it is by being willing and by moving forward on Holy Spirit-revealed strategies.

Prayer and fellowship were significant parts of the culture of the early Church. Much of the believer’s life was centered on meeting together and prayer. It was an exciting time; there were those who actually witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus. They knew He was alive and had a hope that He was going to do something great. They were a people who experienced God. The Holy Spirit was active. They moved forward by the leading of the Spirit of God, revealed in prayer.

The Spirit teaches us how to pray. Of all the responsibilities of the believers, this is one by which you can’t go wrong. If you are interceding for others you are participating in the leading of the Spirit. Prayer releases the resources of heaven to accomplish what we have been commissioned to do.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Love the local Church??

I am amazed on how low opinion many Christians have of the local church. I believe that the local church is the hope of the world. I know, I know, the church has it has its flaws, but is still God's delight and Jesus stands in the mist of her.

I believe is the secret to seeing captives set free and the only way to fulfill the great commission is the local church. So much of the New Testament speaks of growth and transformation in the context of believers living, working, raising families and infecting the communities with the reality of the Gospel. When believers in a city are who they are called to be, they salt the society and the culture. It takes a sustained relational approach to transform a culture. Terry Virgo in his book. 'A People Prepared' states,

"God had ordained a method of displaying his glory in an unbelieving world. It is through the church, where flesh and blood people who have yielded their lives to King Jesus come together in covenant love, loyalty and righteousness, and are a light to the world, a city set on a hill which can not be hidden."

I can't agree more! Charles Colson argues in his book 'The Body',

"Three or four years ago I came to the realization that we had a scandalously low view of the church. The church is not incidental to the great cosmic struggle for the hearts and souls of modern men and women; it is the instrument God has chosen for that battle, a battle we are called to by virtue of our being members of His body. That the church is held in such low esteem reflects not only the depths of our biblical ignorance, but the alarming extent to which we have succumbed to the excessive individualism of modern culture... If we don't grasp this intrinsically corporate nature of Christianity embodied in the (local) church, we are missing the very heart Jesus' plan."

Eph 3:10-12
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV

I encourage you to take notice when you read the Bible how much of New Testament life is centered in the local church. Observe how much of the Bibles instruction to us is in the context of the Local church. Ask your self, am I as committed to a local church as Christ is? Ask Jesus to give you His heart for your brethren.