Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 31, 2013

"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

If you were arrested for impersonating a disciple, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

We have been examining the evidence that identifies a true disciple. These eleven passed the test. One other, Judas Iscariot was masquerading as a disciple but was unmasked by his betrayal of Jesus.

Several years ago I was watching some of the Iowa-Indiana football game. The camera was doing a wide scan of the fans in the bleachers, with the game being played on Halloween, many fans were dressed in various costumes. There were ghouls and ghosts and cartoon characters and political figures and animals - all the normal cast of characters as the camera moved across the rows. But then there was one who stood out from the crowd and caused the camera to reverse and come back for a double-take. What costume caused such a response? Someone had dressed up like Jesus! And it was a good costume! He looked the part!

But it takes more than dressing up like Jesus to be like Jesus. This fellow was proof that you can look like Jesus and be a fake because Jesus would never be an Iowa Hawkeye fan.

You can't pretend to be a disciple. You can't just look the part or play the part and pass yourself off as a disciple. Discipleship doesn't happen from the outside in.

Just ask Judas.

True disciples are transformed by saving faith in Jesus. They live in a faith relationship with Jesus and walk by faith. They deny themselves and take up the cross of sacrifice and obedience. They live lives that show the real power and grace of God.

There is no tricking Jesus about discipleship. He has seen the real ones and is not fooled by fake disguises. He doesn't look on the outward appearance but gets to the heart of the matter.

Tricking Him is no treat.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 30, 2013

"So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." II Peter 3:14

There are three great qualities that mark those who are prepared for eternity. Peter mentions them here:

The morality - "spotless"

Those who want to spend a happy ever after in Heaven make sure they are living spotless lives. Spotless means that there are no unconfessed sins in their lives. They understand the truth of John's statement in I John 1:7 - "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

It is possible to live a spotless life by walking in the truth and living in obedience. By walking in truth and obedience you will avoid many sins and the moment you do sin the Holy Spirit will convict you of your sin and you can repent of it. When you repent the blood of Christ cleanses the spot from your life.

The motives - "blameless"

Blameless means that your motives are pure and you do not commit intentional, willful sins. Your hearts desire is to please and honor God. You are entirely committed to pleasing God. When you do sin it is because of a momentary flare up of your selfish will or a moment of weakness of the flesh.

People who are hoping for Heaven have surrendered their will to God and consecrated themselves to serving Him. They walk in the Spirit and do their best to overcome the flesh.

The mentality - "peaceful"

Heaven bound people know that they are spotless and blameless because they have peace in their spirit. God has given them a spirit of power and of love and a sound mind. He has sent their hearts in perfect peace because they have fixed their mind on Him.

They have no fear of the judgment and they have fellowship with God and know that all is well. Also, because they love God they are committed to living in fellowship with their brothers.

Heaven bound people live godly lives in the here and now. They live spotless, blameless and peaceful lives.

How are you measuring up?

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 29, 2013

"Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:26

Discipleship is managing your life so that you are bold in your faith and unashamed of Christ.

Here is a recent example:

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (BosNewsLife) -- A human rights group has expressed concern about reports of wide spread persecution of Christians in rural Ethiopia where at least one evangelist has been killed "for refusing" to abandon his Christian faith, BosNewsLife monitored Thursday, September 22.Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), which has close contacts in the region, said it has learned that 34-year old Estifanos Abate, an evangelist of the Assemblies of God church in the town of Jijiga "was shot and killed July 19 for refusing to deny his faith in Christ."In a statement to BosNewsLife News Center, VOMC said news of the killing had been slow to emerge as "communication is difficult and reports of their courage often take several weeks to reach the outside world."

The incident allegedly happened when the evangelist was traveling from Degahabour to Jijiga in eastern Ethiopia where his passenger bus was stopped by Islamic militants. "The militants boarded the bus, demanding to know the religion of each traveler. Of the 45 passengers, five were Orthodox and four were evangelical Christians. The gunmen ordered these nine [Christians] to be separated from the Muslim passengers," VOMC claimed, citing sources in the area.

"The Christians were then ordered to repeat the Islamic creed and to bow three times toward Mecca. Everyone but Estifanos complied with the order and was allowed back on the bus. The gunmen threatened Estifanos, who calmly began to tell his attackers about Jesus, while his fellow travelers begged him to save his life by obeying their demands," VOMC said."The Muslim leader then ordered the bus to continue on its way, without Estifanos. As the bus pulled away, Estifanos was executed," VOMC added. It quoted eyewitnesses as saying that "his body was left on the side of the road for most of the day, presumably as a warning to others."

So, Brad, are you saying that dying for Christ is discipleship?

No, I am not saying that. Dying FOR Christ is martyrdom.

Discipleship is dying TO Christ! Once you die TO Christ you will be empowered to live FOR Him - and if necessary - die for Him. Discipleship is what enabled this dear brother the strength and courage to LIVE for Jesus and to submit to DYING for Him. Discipleship is denying yourself daily - putting Him first - and carrying your cross for Him daily - dying to His will.

Have you done that today?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 28, 2013

"For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring." Acts 17:28

The Apostle Paul was preaching in Athens and noticed that they were very religious but did not know the One true God or His Son Jesus. In their shrines they had many idols to many idols and to make sure they did not miss a god or offend a deity they built an idol to "the unknown god".

Paul saw an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and began to tell them about this God Who was knowable, Who wanted to be known, and Who "was not far from them."

What Paul told them about God, we could stand to hear. Let's examine it more closely:

The Centrality of God - "In Him....."

God will not settle for being "a" god. He must be "the" God. There is no god like our God. He is beyond compare. He created you for Himself. He put within you a "God-shaped" void that nothing else can satisfy. You were never designed to be happy or fulfilled without having God squarely in the center of His will.

The Vitality of God - "....we live and move......

When God identifies Himself as the "Alpha and Omega", the beginning and the end, He is acknowledging that all life begins and ends with Him. Since that glorious and ancient day when He commanded, "Let there be....", life has flourished on this beautiful planet. And He personalized life when He sent His only Son, Jesus, so that His life could flourish within us.

The Identity With God - "....and have our being."

Paul was speaking to men who were very religious and somewhat superstitious. They wanted to make sure that they covered their bases spiritually. If there was a god they needed to know - they wanted to know him. It was important for them to be right with their gods. I imagine that the Great Apostle was moved by their sincere desire to be right with a God they had yet to know. So he sweetens the deal by promising that this unknown God, his God, is One Who knows you, can be known by you, and wants to dwell in you. This God is so vast and so good that you can lose yourself in Him - and only when you lose yourself in Him do you find yourself! Some of them did!

Have you?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 27, 2013

"Agree with each other. Don't be proud. Be willing to be a friend of people who aren't considered important. Don't think that you are better than others."  Romans 12:16

Humility is about the only way to preserve harmony. So, if you value harmony you must place a high priority on humility.

What is humility and how does it happen?

If you want to understand what it means to be humble there is not better example that this:

"Don't do anything only to get ahead. Don't do it because you are proud. Instead, be free of pride. Think of others as better than yourselves. None of you should look out just for your own good. You should also look out for the good of others. You should think in the same way Christ Jesus does. In his very nature he was God. But he did not think that being equal with God was something he should hold on to. Instead, he made himself nothing. He took on the very nature of a servant. He was made in human form. He appeared as a man. He came down to the lowest level. He obeyed God completely, even though it led to his death. In fact, he died on a cross. So God lifted him up to the highest place. He gave him the name that is above every name. When the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone's knee will bow to worship him. Every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow to worship him. Everyone's mouth will say that Jesus Christ is Lord. And God the Father will receive the glory."   Philippians 2:3-11

Humility is thinking toward others in the same way Jesus does.

He thinks about their needs and how He can meet them. Do you?

He counts others as more important than Himself and considers what is in their best interest.

He gave up His position and privilege to serve others.

He sacrificed His very life to save the eternal life of others.

Who can match the example of humility modeled by our Savior? Who has stooped lower than He did? Who suffered more that Him for the sake of others? Who has sacrificed more than Jesus?

He humbled Himself to restore harmony in the universe. He died and rose again so that it would be possible for harmony to be preserved among His people.

In short, to have humility you must have the mind of Christ. How does that happen?

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2

Humility comes as a result of humbling yourself to God and allowing Him to purge your pride and self-centered mind and your self-seeking heart. In other words, harmony begins by getting yourself in tune with God - heart and mind.

Have you done that?

Will you?

October 26, 2013

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

Jesus was sending His followers to discipleship training.

They went out in His name to preach, and testify, and to heal and deliver. They did it and they did it successfully and they returned rejoicing!

In Jesus' Name and under His authority they had healed people and they had cast out evil spirits and had demonstrated the power of God.

Jesus rejoiced with them because He had seen the Evil One defeated by His followers obediently exercising His authority! But then He put some perspective on their accomplishments with this admonition, "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

There are several important truths to be taken from this curious statement.

1) To exercise the power of my authority be sure you are in personal relationship with me.

2) It is exciting to to have my power, but it is more important to have my provision.

3) Having God's power without living in His presence will lead to pride and corruption.

4) The power to perform signs and wonders can last for a lifetime but our place in Heaven is eternal.

5) Your position in heaven impacts your power on earth.

6) Rejoicing in what God does is good but rejoicing in Who He is much better.

Enjoy miracles!

Employ the power of God!

But more importantly, embrace the Person of God and live in His presence!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."  Ephesians 3:16-21

You serve a powerful God!

How powerful is your God?

More powerful than your wildest imagination.

According to Mark Batterson in "The Circle Maker", astrophysicists calculate that it is 15.5 billion light-years to the edge of our universe. We know light travels 186,000 miles/second x 60 seconds/minute x 60 minutes/hour x 24 hours/day x 365 days/year = 5,865,696,000,000 miles/year. That's ONE light year and we are talking about a universe 15.5 BILLION times larger larger than that!

That is a LOT of zeros! It is an unimaginable number! But it just begins to illustrate the vast difference between what you are able to imagine and what God is able to imagine AND do! This should help you with insight on what St. Paul means when he states that God is able to do more than you can imagine! He can imagine more than you imagine and to DO more than you can imagine. Not only are God's thoughts higher than your thoughts, His math is much higher than yours!

So, when God does something you couldn't imagine or does something you imagined but in a way you never imagined you call it a miracle.

A miracle is just a glimpse at the difference between who God is and who you imagined Him to be. Could it  be that one of the purposes of miracles is to stretch your imagination and your imagining of God?

Imagine that!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 24, 2013

"Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  John 4:39-42

Who doesn't love a good miracle?

Who couldn't use a miracle?

Over the past few days we have learned a couple of things about miracles. 

First, miracles happen in response to a great need. If you are struggling with a big need you are a candidate for a miracle!

Second, miracles happen as a result of a great deed. When you do what God has asked you to do He will do what only He can do.

Today I want to make another point about miracles. While we like the outward miracles that we can see happen, but some of the most effective miracles are those that happen in the heart of a person and are out of view.

As an example of this point, I point to the Samaritan woman at the well whom Jesus encountered.

Something happened to her! Something changed her from the inside out. Her heart was different! Her attitude was different. Her demeanor was different.

She had met the Messiah! She found the living water that would flood her with joy. She found Someone Who told her everything she had ever done and yet He didn't condemn her. In fact, He loved her despite her sinfulness.

Once she had experienced the grace of Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins, she hurried into her hometown and told everyone about this Messiah Who have changed her heart!

The record shows that most of the town put their faith in Jesus and make Him their Messiah! 

That's miraculous!

When Jesus fed the multitude, thousands were satisfied but there is no record that any were saved.

I encourage you to expand your concept of miracles! A miracle that transforms a life is no less significant than one that parts the sea.

Don't miss the forest for the trees!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 23, 2013

"After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing."  John 9:6-8

As you were reminded in yesterday's post, miracles always happen in respond to a need. The more desperate the need the greater the miracle.

I want to call your attention to another common denominator in Biblical miracles - a great deed.

Just as every miracle happened in response to a need, every miracle was preceded by a deed.

What do I mean by a "deed"?

By a "deed" I am referring to an act of obedience done to demonstrate faith in Jesus.

The blind man was told to go wash in the pool. He did and when he did he was healed!

Moses was told to lift his staff and stretch it over the waters of the Red Sea. He did and the sea opened to allow hundreds of thousands to cross on dry ground!

Peter was told to step out of the boat and onto the stormy sea. He did and walked on the water!

Four friends climbed to the roof and tore a hole in it to lower their friend down to Jesus. He was converted and healed!

The stewards at the wedding were told to fill the jars with water and bring them back to Jesus. When they did He turned the water to wine.

Jesus told Lazarus' friends to unseal the tomb. When they did, Jesus walked in and spoke life back into Lazarus!

The disciples were told to cast their nets over to the other side of the boat. When they did they caught so many fish their nets were breaking!

If you care to study the miracles of the Bible (OT and NT) you will see these two dynamics at work in each miracle - there was a great need and in response to that need there was a person who obeyed and did a great deed. The great need and the great deed combined to demonstrate the healing power of Jesus.

Are you in need?

Ask God what He wants you to do about it!

October 22, 2013

"When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. "But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" They said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish."  Matthew 14:15-17

Let's see, here we have thousands of hungry people and just one simple lunch. That's a problem! How do you do the math on that?

Well, when you have Jesus it helps balance the equation: 1 lad + 1 lunch + 1 Lord = leftovers!

No wonder the feeding of the 5,000 is one of the most popular and well-known miracles of the Bible!

This miracle illustrates an important truth that binds all the Biblical miracles together - every miracle came in response to a need! Search the Old Testament and the New Testament and try to find a miracle that did not happen because there was a God-sized need to be met. 

In 2013 America, we don't like having unmet needs. Most don't need to be needy. Some believe they are entitled to have their needs met. I don't enjoy being in need and I doubt if you do.

But, let's think about this. Miracles arise in response to needs and we don't like to be needy. So do you think there could be a possible connection between our aversion to needs and the rare occurrence of miracles?

While I am sure the answer to the question of miracles is more complicated than just a reluctance to admit you have a need or your unwillingness to suffer need, I am sure it is part of the reason.

A multitude to feed, a dead brother to raise, a sea that stands in the way, a man who is lame, a man who is blind and millions in a dessert needing food and water, were all desperate needs that were met by a miraculous provision from God.

Every person I know would love to receive a miracle. But not every one of them is willing to bear suffering or neediness.

If needs give rise to miracles, and if you don't want to be in need, guess what you will likely not receive?

Perhaps you need to spend some quiet with God and give this some prayerful consideration.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 21, 2013

"Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples.  Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping."  Matthew 8:23-24 

It is good to be in the same boat with Jesus. You would like to think that if you are in the boat with Jesus you would have smooth sailing. But this story proves that having Jesus in the boat does not exempt you from storms, contrary to what some might claim.

Why would anyone think that being in the boat with Jesus should exempt you from the storms? Is He a lucky charm? Is He a season pass from suffering? Do we get pulled out of the real world? What are your expectations when you share the boat with Jesus? What should they be?

Let's talk about the expectation thing this morning. I think it is crucial and I also think it is one of the central truths of this story. We try to fit Jesus into our expectations. A few storms can knock that out of us.

We should expect Jesus to be exactly Who He is - the Son of God! It is up to us to discover all that means.

Jesus had spent the day trying to reveal to the disciples Who He is and what they should expect from Him. Go back and start at the beginning of Matthew 8 to set the context for this story.

He healed a leper, and then He was pleasantly surprised by the faith demonstrated by a Roman officer - so much so that He made a point of it to His disciples in case they had missed it. And, to honor that Roman's faith, He did a long-distance healing. Later, He healed Peter's mother-in-law and spent the evening casting out demons.

Not bad for one day in the life of Jesus!

Based on that brief glimpse, what should we expect when He gets in our boat?

Expect Him to be powerful! He had power over disease and over demons!

Expect Him to be Scriptural! He used His power to fulfill the prophecies and promises of Scripture! If you want to know Him, know them!

Expect Him to be purposeful! After Jesus had healed and delivered and ministered, He called those who would follow Him to put Him first. A Christ-follower must be willing to forsake all to come after Him.

Expect Him to be personal! Jesus spoke to large crowds and was followed by multitudes and ultimately died for everyone, but He deals with people individually - personally. He knows your name! He knows your need!

As you meditate on these thoughts, let me ask you two more questions, "How many of your fears are rooted in wrong expectations of Jesus?" And, "What would happen to your level of fear if you came to a better understanding of what to expect from Him?"

Could we be onto something here?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 20, 2013

"Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm."  Matthew 8:26

Jesus asked a very probing question, "Why are you afraid?"

He didn't wait for them to answer, He gave them a pointed answer, "You have so little faith."

That had to be hard to hear, but who's going to question Jesus? No one responded, "We have great faith!"

They knew He was right!

Have you ever heard Jesus whisper that to you? I'm sure you have questioned your own faith from time to time. And I guarantee that the devil has often accused you about your lack of faith.

They probably understood the point He was trying to make, but they were notoriously slow learners.

So, just in case - - what WAS He saying to them?

First of all, I believe He rebuked them because they called on Him out of fear rather than out of faith. You really could paraphrase this sentence, "Oh, you of great fear!" and not change the gist of the question. If you haven't noticed by now you soon will, this study is about faith as much as it is about fear.

Second, I think He confronted them for allowing the 18" gap between their heads and their hearts. We have that, too, don't we? The difference between faith and fear is the difference between what we know about Jesus and how we apply it to life situations. In the past 24 hours these guys had seen Jesus healing people and casting out demons. They knew He had power and authority from God, but when they were faced with this storm, they forgot Who He was. You could rephrase His statement like this, "Don't you remember Who I am, you fearful ones?"

And, I believe that He was disappointed that they had focused on the storm instead of the Son of God. They became fixated on the problem rather than His power. He was a second thought to them when He should have been a first response. In their boat lay the Creator of the universe and they got spooked by a storm. Their fearful focus relgated Jesus to an unused resource. 

It is a lot easier to recognize this "lack of faith" in the life of others, isn't it? Those disciples, what were they thinking?

But let me ask you, "If Jesus stood before you right now would He commend your faith or would He confront your fear?" 

Like the disciples, you can't have great fear and great faith at the same time. And like them, you may be just 18" away from having greater faith. What do you need to do today to move what you believe about Jesus in your head to how you respond with your heart?

Oh, by the way, Jesus calmed the storm anyway.

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 19, 2013

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  Revelation 12:11

This short verse is long on important truth. It gives three ways to overcome the Enemy in your daily living.

The Cross of Christ - “by the blood of the Lamb”

While It is hard to fully understand the scope and significance of the Cross of Christ, there are several significant truths that we CAN get our minds around.

-          It provides forgiveness for sins
-          It promotes fellowship with God
-          It purchased freedom in Christ
-          It promises a forever future

Praise God for the power of the Cross!

Second, there is The Confession of Christ – “by the word of their testimony”

I believe Christians don’t understand the power of their testimony. Briefly, here are three reasons why your testimony overcomes the Enemy:

-          It is a testament to the power of God
-          It is a test of my performance (how is my life impacting others)
-          It taunts the Enemy for his predicament

Finally, there is The Commitment to Christ – “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

When you embrace the power and the purpose of the Cross it will transform your life. As you serve God daily through your life and your lips it will translate into a testimony. You could say that a testimony is the result of your faith being tested against life. As that happens you will discover that faith wins! But you will also discover the Enemy will fight back. When you have a powerful testimony you will make some people happy and other people very angry. You will encounter opposition and some persecution. It will require commitment to be faithful to Christ in an ungodly world. You will need to have the some sort of commitment Jesus had!

Christ-commitment means you have no “plan B”.

If your Christianity is worth living by isn’t it worth dying for?

Do you need more spiritual power in your life?

Cling to the Cross!

Confess Christ with your life and your lips!

Commit to following Him with no plan B!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 18, 2013

"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters who accuses them before our God day and night,  has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Revelation 12:10-11

Just in case I haven't convinced you of the power of a personal testimony like yours or like mine, here are two more women touched by the testimony of Rhonda Baker:

"A few words about my Women's Pastor Rhonda Baker: A huge hole was made in my heart when I was a child, due to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse I endured from my parents. I started self medicating with drugs about 13 yrs old. I'm 53 and at 43 I finally was able to get off drugs. I thought life would get better, men work, kids, nothing filled the hole in my heart. The first of this year I walked into central, in a full blown depressive black mood, whatever happened that day was my last resort. I had to look like a real mess tear stained face shaking mumbling the words,"i need help" A wonderful women grabbed my hand and said "lets get you to Rhonda" It was Thursday women's conference day so I was handed off to three more wonderful women with a warm hand and a hug and the words"get her to Rhonda" Central is a huge church with lots of hallways.and lots of women were there that day, but we turned a corner and I saw something truly special in a tall slender blonde women, and I knew this was Rhonda. She took my hand led me to her office, I'm not sure what blurted out of my sobbing mouth, but when she started to talk I knew that The Almighty God , His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit, were using Her to guide me and teach me that my heart will be filled, that I'm no longer out in the dark alone and cold. Through Rhonda, that day My Savior brought me home. I listen to every piece of advice Rhonda gives me, and it always works. I'm in C R, I go to the 12 step program, the women's conference, I volunteer on Saturdays with the homeless and of course church on Sundays. I see her around and I kno shes one of the busiest people on this planet but if she sees me, its always a warm hello, and she stops the world for a minute, and asks how I am. Rhonda Baker You ask? Yes I know her, through God she saved my life. sincerely, and with many many blessing to you all,"  Lori York

"My name is Tracy and my husband's name is Darryl. We live in Las Vegas and we were on the verge of divorce 5 years ago because he had an affair and we were far from God and were living the Vegas life style of growing marijuana for a living in our house with our children that were two and one years old. The friends we had were all strippers and their husbands were criminals. I was applying to be a waitress at the strip club but God shut that door and protected me by not getting a call back to be hired. I found pornography at home and had enough of this life so I went to Central Christian Church to Celebrate Recovery and God restored our marriage and we stopped everything and started a new life with new christian friends, we got sober and jumped right into ministry. I applied to be Rhonda Baker's intern and this time I got a call back because God had other plans for my life. She mentored me and taught me everything, what it is to be a godly woman, wife, mother, and friend. She taught me what real love is. She believed in me and taught me how to be a disciple for Jesus. She fanned into flame that spark in me to spread the good news. After two years of interning with her she told me I'm ready to go out there and lead but I didn't want to leave her safe umbrella. Every time I doubted myself and didn't believe I was good enough, she uplifted me, encouraged me and reminded me of God's calling on my life for such a time as this. Me and my husband are now in ministry, he teaches jr high and high school and we are launching a brand new ministry of Celebrate Recovery at the satellite campus in the Southwest Las Vegas. I am now mentoring women and showing them everything Rhonda taught me on how to fully submit to God and get off the fence of being half in the world. I am forever grateful for Rhonda Baker!"

Okay, so let's review. Randy Baker's testimony and my testimony and the witness of a small Wesleyan Church convinced Rhonda to give her heart to Jesus. After Rhonda walked with the Lord for a number of years (while she was developing her testimony) God called her into ministry. Now Rhonda serves in women's ministry at a mega-church in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You have just seen two examples of the impact of her testimony.

It makes me wonder who is waiting to hear your testimony.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 17, 2013

"They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."  Rev. 12:11

This verse testifies to the power of testimonies of believers. I believe many Christians aren't aware of the influence their testimony can wield.

In the previous post I briefly shared my testimony and how it impacted the lives of David and Bev Marine. Here is another testimony from a lady named Rhonda Baker:

I didn't grow up in a Christian home and was pretty much known as what people refer to as a CEO (attending church on Christmas/Easter only). My parents divorced when I was a little girl which left me devastated and very insecure. There were times I was scared to go to school and missed the bus on purpose in fear of my mom not being home when I returned. I felt abandoned when my dad moved out of our home and I feared my mom would leave as well. Although my mom remarried and I grew up in a blended family of eight children, we had everything we needed just not everything we wanted. My stepfather was very good to me although he didn't have the freedom to really love me or discipline me as one of his own children. I began to seek love outside our family structure and eventually experienced what I thought was love at the young age of 17 with an alcoholic. When I graduated from high school, I went to work for a corporation where I met a guy a few years older than me who was really different. He was very kind and respectful toward me and we developed a friendship. Eventually he invited me to attend a church with him where he was singing in a quartet. It was the very first time I had ever heard the Word of God in an inspirational way. I was so intrigued by the way he lived his life, I broke off and engagement with my alcoholic fiancĂ©. Randy and I then began dating but I didn't really understand why he lived his life the way he did. When I found out he loved God, I pretended to know what he was talking about and pretended to be a believer because of how much I liked him. Hey, don't judge me – he was nice AND good looking! I broke up with him as well because again, I didn't understand his lifestyle even though I had fallen in love with him. I was brokenhearted and eventually I walked into the Wesleyan Church he had spoke of so very often with a pastor who had a strong gift of evangelism (I.e., Brad Snyder). I was curious and once I was there the love of the people just drew me in. I wanted the kind of life they had. I finally asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and my life has never been the same since.
Fast forward . . . I was never able to attend college right out of high school and always felt "less than" because of it. I had a strong sense of calling to vocational ministry but didn't pursue it for many years because of the many years of education it would require. I will never forget the day I could no longer deny this calling on my life. Our firstborn son was stillborn and although it was several years later, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart, "Rhonda, do you remember when you held your stillborn son and there was no life or breathe in him? That's what it's like when I look at you! I created you for a purpose and you are living your life as if you are stillborn in your faith! You are not being obedient to the life I have called you to. You are lifeless in your faith!" Wow! At about the same time my pastor came to me and said, "Don't you think it's time you did what God has called you to do?" He said, "Sometimes God opens doors to us that we could never open ourselves. Why don't you talk to the seminary and see what kind of training you can receive? I interviewed and applied with them and God opened a door for me to receive a Master's of Divinity degree without a Bachelor's Degree. I don't tell you this information to boast of myself but to boast of what God is capable of doing in a life that is ready and willing to be obedient to God. I now serve in a church of over 17,000 people in what people refer to as "sin-city" as a Women's Pastor. I never thought I'd ever step inside a strip club, but I do so to befriend other women the way I was befriended from someone who just accepted me where I was and showed me through their friendship what Jesus is like (Jesus, the friend of sinners). I have also recently helped found and now serve on the board of a new non-profit ministry for women in and transitioning out of the sex industry. It's been quite a journey, but I'm so very thankful for everyone who took the time to show me Jesus' love. Had it not been for their examples, I would never have experienced having a front row seat of seeing so many women's lives being transformed. I am truly honored to experience a taste of heaven here on this earth and yes, even in Las Vegas. I am always, always, always amazed at the power of God's love and the impact it can have on individual lives for the Kingdom of God! I heard a pastor say one time, "one life touches a life, which touches a life, which touches a life, which touches a life, and the ripple continues on. How beautiful are the ripples of God's love through friendship.
Oh, and by the way, I began to pray those many years ago for God to bring that Godly man back into my life that I broke up with. We have now been married over 32 years and the guy who is telling my story . . . Well, he was the pastor of that little Wesleyan Church in Princeton, IL I was saved in and he's the one who married us.
Thank you very much for allowing me to share just a little piece of my life. May God use my story to inspire others to live out their calling in the body of Christ.
Thanks, Rhonda for sharing your testimony with us!
I love life change!
Don't you?