Guest Post – A Claim of Faith

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Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Faith is only as good as its object. The man in the jungle bows before an idol of stone and trusts it to help him, but he receives no help. No matter how much faith a person may generate, if it is not directed at the right object, it will accomplish nothing. “I believe” may be the testimony of many sincere people, but the big question is, “In whom do you believe? What do you believe?” We are not saved by faith in faith; we are saved by faith in Christ as revealed in His Word. – Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.

Some of us go to church every Sunday and hear the pastor preach from the Word of God. We might go to a weekly Bible study and maybe even host one in our home. We go out and buy Christian books to read. We download podcasts to listen to because we did not get enough on Sunday. All in the pursuit of more knowledge. But what exactly are we doing with that knowledge? Is our faith growing? Are we growing in our likeness of Christ? Or are we eating of His Word and getting lethargic and comfortable in our seats, not applying what we claim to have faith in? We all must examine ourselves daily and see if our faith really is causing us to be transformed and not conformed to the world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 (NASB)

You would think that the church would not conform to the world, but because of the level of comfort that is being sought after in the church we are becoming to look more and more like the world. We all at times enjoy comfort, and from time to time need a time of rest, but we must not stay there too long or we might get stuck and find ourselves surrounded by a large group of people that are caught up in the comfort of routine. I do believe that we are saved by faith alone, but how much faith do we actually need to have before we start to do what we claim to have faith in? I think of the book of James as I am writing this..

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” – James 2: 14-18 (ESV)

Faith and works go hand and hand.

What is one way you continue to grow your faith? Share with us in the comments below!

erikstanleyErik Stanley and his family are missionaries in Rocky Point, Mexico, teaching the local community how to garden and make compost so they can grow their own fruits and vegetables. Please check out their ministry via Facebook here:https://www.facebook.com/erikandmarthafaithgardens

Saturday Roundup

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Happy Saturday everyone! Thank you so much for the work you do for the kingdom. It seems we hear of great tragedy in the news every day. It’s a reminder of how desperate the world is for a Savior, and all those who are suffering need our prayers. We hope you know how much we appreciate you.

As you begin another year in ministry, consider adding some new tools to your digital library. Sermon outline and illustration resources are wonderful tools that offer preachers and teachers a head start in sermon and lesson preparation. For our new sale this week, we’ve selected some of our most popular packages and marked them down big time. These kinds of resources offer a limitless supply of ideas and practical applications that can be applied to most any biblical topic or text you can think of. Golden Nuggets, The Clerical Library Bundle, Wiersbe’s Expositional Outlines on the Bible, and Butler Sermon Starters are just four of the 18 that we have put on sale, so check it out!

Did you know that we offer free online training classes every weekday? If you are just starting out with the program or if you have been a user for years, these classes can really deepen your knowledge. You’ll be amazed by how fast you learn to use powerful features you may have not even known were there. It will bless your personal studies and ability to minister to others. Our trainers have 29 years of experience between them, and are both bi-vocational pastors who use WORDsearch to create sermons and lessons. The bottom line is that you won’t find better teachers anywhere else. Plus, if you take a hour of our free training, you also get a 40% off coupon to use on most products. So take advantage of this benefit specific to WORDsearch

Don’t have time to take a training class just yet? Make sure you take a look at our Quick Tips every week that can help you get started on some of the features.

Quick Reminders:

The Vine’s Sale ends Monday, Jan. 12

The Absolute Romans Commentary Bundle ends Thursday, Jan. 15

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed This Week:

Guest Post – Read God’s Word as You Study with the Info Window

Quick Tip – Special Book Features

P.S. Are you a pastor with experience that you could share to help other pastors? Have you been teaching for years and have a wealth of knowledge? Contact Katie at katie.cornett@lifeway.com to talk about how we could share some of your helpful info here on the blog.

Guest Post – Why Should You Join a Small Group?

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Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Why are small groups important? In Hebrews 10:19-25 we are told to not forsake meeting together to exhort one another. Verses 24-25 specifically say, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV) If all you do is go to church on Sunday and sit in a service you are not fully doing what we are being told to do here. How can you stir someone up to love and good works that you are not spending time with? The answer is you can’t.

I am a part of a group of men who meet together regularly to invest into each others lives. We are not just gathering together as a social club but we come together around the Word of God.

Once you can become part of something like this it changes you and the way you live your life. You realize that you can no longer live a Lone Ranger lifestyle. As a group we have put on a bass fishing benefit for the family of the young boy who had a heart defect. This is how you stir one another up to good works. You do not live that out sitting in a pew just one day a week. It also allows us to come together for the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:1-2.) It is hard to offer encouragement to people that you don’t know in an intimate way because you don’t know where they are hurting or struggling. It takes getting involved in the lives of others to know how to minister to them.

I highly recommend that you get involved in a small group, one where you do not have the distractions of children, especially with the same sex because it allows you to have an openness that you may night have otherwise. You should also try to find a group that has a variety of ages so you can glean knowledge from those who have been where you are. Even if it’s not exactly the same situation, they usually have something for you to learn from and can relate to your challenges.

Just imagine how much your life could change if you had a team of people to lean on and learn from. The richness of having a shoulder to turn to when you need to be able to get something off of your chest. A group of prayer warriors to lift up your request at the touch of a button. These are just a few of the benefits of having a group like this to turn to. It will also help you to grow in areas of your life that you never stop to take a look at. So if you have never thought about joining a small group I hope that this post has encouraged you to do so.

What else would you suggest for those looking to join a small group? Share with us in the comments below!

paul horne, guest blogPaul Horne has been married to wife Lory for over seven years, and they have two sons. They reside in Suffolk, VA, and are a part of a local church plant. Horne is currently a full-time seminary student (LBTS), pursuing an M.Div. in Pastoral Ministries. He has a heart for men’s ministry, particularly small groups. You can read more of his blog here.

Guest Post – Wait Not

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Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Have you noticed how the art of handwritten letter writing is increasingly fading? Our once, “hi how are ya”, or “thinking of you”, followed by a more lengthy note of encouragement, has been replaced with a quick text of “how r u ttm” (how are you, talk to me).

Our words of encouragement to others hold TONS of weight. To see it in writing that you are loved, appreciated, and supported is priceless. I strongly believe encouragement is universally lacking.

I have begun an intense study of the book of Philippians. I started by looking at Philippi, then Paul, the author. Paul wrote this letter while in prison in Rome. This, his most personal of all letters to a church, has a main directive to thank them for their love and support.

So basically the letter is a huge “thank you” note. Yet, he doesn’t stop there, he continues. Here’s a bit of encouragement, “I thank my God when I think of you … I have you in my heart …. stand fast…be of the same mind… rejoice in the Lord always… don’t be anxious … but by prayer… be thankful … let your request be made known…and the peace of God…shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus … think on these things …”  And he wraps it up with “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit…” THAT is some high five-ing, loving encouragement!

We need to pause for a brief moment to remember that Paul wrote this while in CHAINS in prison. He could have, in his humanity, turned the letter into a huge “whine.” He could have withheld the encouragement until the conditions were better. MANY excuses could have surfaced. He could have waited until he walked free in the streets, felt the warmth of rubbing shoulders with others, breathed in fresh air. But he didn’t. He spoke from his captivity. He had faith, he reached for his God, and shared that experience with others.

What an example to us all, that we not “WAIT.” Wait, until we have it all together. Wait until we think the conditions are just right. We should reach out to someone else EVEN in our own pain, our own struggle. Sure, some of us are thinking, “But he was PAUL, the guy had a direct blinding link to Jesus!” Yes, yes he did. But so do we. We have the same Lord, the same Spirit dwelling in us.

Our words, whether they be verbal, written, texted, tweeted, or posted should reach out. May we hug with our words. Remember a time when someone reached out to you? You felt the warmth, the love, the lift? The image of the old adage, “Measure twice and cut once,” comes to mind. May we seek the accuracy of the fit. The fit of our words.

Don’t wait … someone out there needs YOU. The hurting, the lonely, the confused. Embrace them. They need your words of encouragement. They can’t wait for you to get it all together. They need US, now!

How are you encouraging those in your life? Share with us in the comments below!

Pic of DeDe MoravikDeDe Southwick, is the mother of two wonderful sons and lives outside of Portland, Oregon. She has a degree in Theology, leads women’s bible studies, and has served on the leadership team of her local church. She loves studying God’s Word, gardening, and making her sons laugh. You can read her blog here.

Free Friday! Words of Counsel for Christian Workers

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Happy Friday everyone! Today’s free download, usually $4.95, is Words of Counsel for Christian Workers by Charles H. Spurgeon. Click here to download.

We ought to remember that we are the messengers of God’s mercy to the sons of men. “The Lord being merciful unto him.” The angels had not come to Lot of themselves; they were the embodiment and outward display of God’s mercy. Christians in the world should view themselves as manifestations of God’s mercy to sinners, instruments of grace, servants of the Holy Spirit. Now mercy is a nimble attribute. Justice lingers; it is shod with lead, but the feet of mercy are winged. Mercy delights to perform its office. So should it be with us a delight to do good to men. God can save men without instruments, but He very seldom does it. His usual rule is to work by means. Oh that the mercy of God would work mightily by us! Let us remember, as we mingle with society, that God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Although the Prince of Preachers Charles Haddon Spurgeon lived before the advent of the modern emphasis on psychology and counseling, he had deep insights into mental and spiritual elements of mankind. He experienced many of the trials of life that others encounter, both mentally and physically. In Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, Spurgeon writes about “hard work and its reward”, “workers reading to profit”, “saving a soul from death”, “restoring those who have erred”, “a great leader and good soldiers”, etc.

Few people in history can be known by one name and have it ring true with their audience, and “Spurgeon” is one of them. Over time, Spurgeon has become known and revered as the “Prince of Preachers“. In the last 200 years he has been one of the most influential men for not only Preachers of the Gospel but for those who have not had the opportunity to hear and receive the Gospel message. He wrote tirelessly over his life, and WORDsearch Bible Software is committed to bring as many of Spurgeon’s works as possible to you in electronic form. It is estimated that over his lifetime he preached to over 10,000,000 people.

After you have read the book, we would love to hear what you thought in the Customer Reviews box on the bottom of the book’s page.

Have you read anything that has inspired you lately? Share with us in the comments below!

Guest Post – The Ripple Effect of Ministry

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Please note: The views & opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of LifeWay Christian Resources.

A former middle school youth group student of mine recently emailed me. He thanked me for demonstrating a faith in God that he still admires and is emulating in his own ministry calling. His words humbled me because I was new to ministry at that time and constantly making mistakes. But I am very grateful to him because sometimes we don’t know when God has used us to change someone’s life.

This concept hit me hard at a youth summer camp of 2007, and it continues to be one of the most important personal ministry experiences of my life. My group of students had been partnered with kids from another church all week long as they participated in Bible studies and field games. On the last day of camp the students from the other church were all wearing the same t-shirt with the words, “In Memory of…” on the front.

So I sat down with a group of them that day and asked them about the t-shirts. The oldest student explained that their youth pastor had died of a heart attack a couple of months before the camp had started. Without a leader, a group of high school students decided that camp was so important for the middle school students that they took it upon themselves to make sure that the summer camp trip was not canceled.

I was completely blown away by their story because I became aware of the ripple effect of ministry. Every Bible study I prepared, every prayer I spoke, every worship song I sang, every special event I planned… everything I did in ministry had the potential to impact the life of someone in a way I would never know.

The ripple effect can be observed in the ministry of Jesus when He encounters the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. After spending time with her and testifying He was the Messiah, she left and began witnessing throughout the city. The gospel John shares, “Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” John 4:39 (HCSB)

Remember this in your day-to-day ministry – that even if it feels like you aren’t making a difference, God can be using you in ways you’d never even dream. Be encouraged by these words.

Brandon OrtegaBrandon Ortega currently works for WORDsearch Bible. He is passionate about youth ministry, writing, and playing the guitar. He is a graduate of San Diego Christian College with a degree in Biblical studies with an emphasis in youth ministry.