GROWING IN THE LORD
It is only by spending time with people that you are able to learn what they’re like, what their interests are, and what things both please and displease them. In order to grow in your relationship with Jesus you must do the same, spend time with Him. How do you do that? Here are four basic principles that you can follow:
Prayer is simply “speaking to God”. When we pray, we don’t have to use complicated or memorized phrases. Talk to God in the same way you would talk to any other person. Tell Him about your problems, your hurts, your worries, and your joys. Remember that He loves you and all that is important to you is important to Him. It doesn’t matter when or where you pray. You can do it while you’re driving, at work, or before you go to bed. He is always listening. How should you pray? In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives His disciples a sample prayer they can follow. This prayer is commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer”. Christ’s intention was not that you memorize this prayer and repeat it every time you pray. Actually, Christ warns us against this (Matthew 6:7)! Rather, it was to serve as a model or a pattern for us to follow.
Our Father: You can come to Him as to a father (Romans 8:15-16). In the same way that a father loves his children, God loves you and wants to hear from you.
Who art in heaven: Even though He is your Father, you should remember that He is no ordinary Father, but One who reigns in Heaven. Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and is in control of everything. He can save you, help you, strengthen you, or do anything else you might need.
Hallowed be Thy name: An important part of prayer is giving thanks and praise to our Lord. Praise Him for who He is, for what He has done, and what He promises He will do. God is not forced to do anything for us, it all comes as a result of His grace. So give thanks to God every day for something (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 and Psalm 34:1).
Thy kingdom come: Pray also for the Lord’s return. Jesus promised that even though He was leaving us, He would return for us (John 14:1-6 and Acts 1:1-11). Tell Him how much you are anticipating His return.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven: Jesus promised that whatever we ask in His name, He will do (John 14:13-14). To ask in His name means to ask according to His will. In other words, when we pray to God we should be seeking His will, even above our own. (Matthew 6:10 and 26:39)
Give us this day our daily bread: Even though we are to pray according to the will of God, this does not exclude us from presenting our needs and petitions to Him. You may be suffering from worry, or have financial or health problems. Tell all of this to God, He wants to hear it. You can also pray for the needs of others. It can be for their salvation, their health, or any other area in which they may be suffering. Prayer should not focus only upon ourselves, it should include others; your friends, family, church and leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2 and Ephesians 6:18). Jesus always prayed for others (John 17:1-26 and Luke 22:31-32).
And forgive us our debts: When you have sinned, you should always come to the Lord in prayer asking for forgiveness. Many times people don’t feel like they can approach God and that He won’t hear them. The Bible says that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
As we have also forgiven our debtors: If you are struggling to forgive someone, ask the Lord to help you. He says in His Word that it is a sin not to forgive others (Matthew 11:25 and Colossians 3:13).
And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil: Ask God to protect you from sin and temptation. If you are struggling with a particular sin, confess it to the Lord and ask Him for His strength to be victorious over it. Jesus told His disciples that anything they asked in His name He would do. As we saw earlier, to ask in His name means to ask according to His will. This means sometimes the Lord will not give us what we ask. Remember, God loves you and wants the very best for you all the time. He will never give you anything that will hurt you later.
2. READ THE BIBLE
In the same sense that prayer is how we talk to God, reading the Bible is how God speaks to us. That is why we call the Bible the Word of God, because it is His message to you. Everything that you need to know about Jesus, His will, and how to live the Christian life is written in this Book (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible was written by men who were inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, the Holy Spirit of God told these men what to write. These words will protect you from sin (Psalm 119:11) and against temptation (Luke 4:1-14). The Bible is a collection of 66 books. These 66 books are divided into two major sections: the New Testament and the Old Testament. The New Testament is where you will find the words of Christ and the clearest teachings about His life. The New Testament is divided into 27 different books:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are called the Gospels, and tell us about the life of Jesus. All four of these books are the same story except from four different perspectives. The book of Acts contains the history of the Christian church after the death and ascension of Christ.
All the books from Romans to Jude are called Epistles. The word epistle means letter. These books were letters written by the Apostles to various churches and people. These letters will teach you to apply to your life the truths taught to you in the Gospels.
The last book in the New Testament is the book of Revelation and this book tells us about what will happen in the future. The Old Testament is filled with interesting stories and prophecies about Jesus. Don’t feel like you have to read the whole Old Testament right away, but rather read what you can understand and let the Holy Spirit minister to your heart through the Word. We have identified a few books of the Bible that you can read to get an overview of God’s Plan for human history. See page 27. If you have never read the Bible, start by reading the Gospel of John. Take a chapter each day and read it looking for what the Lord wants to speak to you. Here are some suggestions about how to read the Bible:
Find a quiet time and place where no one will bother you. Try to read in the morning, before you begin your day. God will give you a message to help you throughout the day.
Pray that God speaks to you through His Word. Choose a book and read it systematically, chapter by chapter. Remember that majority of books were actually letters. Typically, no one starts reading a letter mid way through, but starts at the beginning. Try reading a chapter a day, or more if you have the time. Read for comprehension. There is no rush. Take your time and try to understand everything that you read. Find the central verse or the verse that God is using to speak to your heart, and think about how it applies to your life. If God used a particular verse, take notes on a piece of paper or in the margin of your Bible. Don’t be afraid to underline or highlight your favorite verses. This way you will easily remember them.
3. FELLOWSHIP WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS
The Bible tells us that we should share in regular Christian fellowship. The word fellowship means sharing something in common with others. Hebrews 10:24-25 says:
“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”
If we distance ourselves from fellowship our heart will eventually grow cold and we will become more susceptible to temptation. The best place to find Christian fellowship is at a church. Find a church and attend it faithfully.If the church has study groups, join them.If they have activities throughout the week, participate in them.Share with the other members and build friendships with them.
What criteria should I look for in a church that I attend? Here are four suggestions:
First of all it should be a place where you are spiritually fed. Your spiritual growth comes from the study of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2), that is why it is so important that the church you choose teaches the Bible. A church should put its emphasis on the teaching of God’s Word, not on the words of men. Make sure that all of their teachings are based on the Bible and not on other books nor on the words of men.
Second, a church should also be a place where you find fellowship. It should be a place where you find other Christians with whom you can share your life, problems and needs. A place where you know people will be praying for you and will encourage you during difficult times. A church should be a place where you are being built up through the Word by other believers.
Third, it should also be a place where you fit in. You will probably not feel comfortable in every church. This is not to say that one church is better than another, but we all have different tastes. One person may feel more comfortable in a traditional church. Some like contemporary praise and others more traditional worship. Again, it is not that one church is better than another, but you should find one that you feel comfortable in.
Finally, the church should be a place where you can be fruitful. Attending a church is not just receiving but also a great part of it is serving others. Paul compares the church to a body in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Paul says that in the same way that there are different members in the body (head, hands, fingers and feet) with different functions, there are also different members in the church. All of the members of the church have different functions and different gifts to serve God and the congregation in different ways. You may think that your gift and service is not important or significant, but God thinks so. He looks at all of us with equality and without partiality.
4. SHARE YOUR FAITH
Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, after His resurrection, He gave one last command to His disciples in Mark 16:15:
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
We need to understand that the souls of other people are in the balance of eternity. As representatives of God we should share the Gospel with the world. Explain to them how Jesus loves them and died for them on the cross, and how they can receive forgiveness and have eternal life. One of the easiest ways to share the Gospel is through your own testimony. Tell people how you received the forgiveness of God and how God has changed your life. You are a witness and are evidence of the grace that is found in Jesus Christ.
Here are some Bible verses to help you share and explain the Gospel. You can memorize these passages or write them in your Bible. It is a good idea to read these verses along with the person you are witnessing to. That way you can explain it to them as you read along. This is a very easy way to share the Gospel, and you are using the Word of God which is your most powerful tool.
Romans 3:23 – This verse shares that all men are guilty of sinning and are in need of forgiveness.
Romans 6:23 – Here it shares the consequences we will pay for our sins if we do not receive the forgiveness God offers.
Romans 5:8 – This verse explains about God’s great love and His provision of salvation for each man.
Romans 10:9-10 – Here we read how we can receive this salvation that God offers us.
Romans 10:13 – Finally we see that all who call upon the name of the Lord, He promises to save.
Even as you begin to practices these disciplines of the Christian life, no doubt there will be questions. The bible, God’s Holy Word, is available to provide answers to life’s difficult questions, directions for tough decisions, and comfort for the trials of life.
NEWS & UPDATES
Healthy Church Conference Recap
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