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Spare Change - June 2023

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James calls Christians to not just be hearers of God’s Word but doers also.  In James 1:19-26 he challenges followers of Jesus to live in obedience to God’s Word.  This seems like it would be so obvious that we do not need to be reminded about it; however, many Christians either do not live according to the Bible or they seek to soak up Bible knowledge and never apply it to their lives. 

This reminds me of the college experience.  Students attending college can look at their time in college in one of two ways. They can see their time as a temporary stop so they can acquire knowledge that can then be applied to a future job.  Or they can look at it as an opportunity to learn and continue to learn, simply filling their head with knowledge they will never use in a practical sense.  In my opinion, the goal of college should be to take your skills and knowledge and apply them to a job so you can contribute to society. The same idea applies to being a follower of Jesus.

If we simply are in a relationship with God so we can learn and increase our knowledge, we are missing out on so much. Our job is not to sit and soak as spiritual sponges.  We are to learn so we can apply the truth to our lives.  Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 5:19, Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  Notice this verse has a negative and positive statement with punishment or reward attached to them.  The second statement is the positive statement which encourages believers to not only know the commands of the Bible but to obey them.  The emphasis is on obedience and teaching others to do likewise. That is the highest goal for believers in the kingdom of God.

This is similar to what Jesus said in the Great Commission before He ascended into heaven. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Notice that the Great Commission is telling us to make disciples.  Which means our goal is to multiply followers of Jesus.  The way we do that is to teach the disciples but not just to fill their heads with Bible knowledge, rather we are teaching them to obey the commands.  Again, the emphasis is on obeying God’s Word.

If we truly want to do what Jesus has commanded us to do, we must seek to live out the commands of God in our lives.  Robby Gallaty in his book Replicate says, “Our goal is not just to read [the Bible] for information.  We should read the Bible for greater intimacy with God.  God is not going to quiz us in heaven on how many Bible facts we know…Discipleship is not, contrary to what some people think, about learning the Bible.  It is about applying what we learn in the Bible to our lives.  Our learning should lead to action.”  We must be people that are known for our love of God’s Word, which means we must learn it.  The question is never should I read and study God’s Word, the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES!”  The question should be what do we do with what we are learning?

First, we must apply it to our own lives.  This means that we seek to live according to God’s Word no matter what it says.  If we find that our lives are opposed to God’s Word at any point, we must submit and shape our lives accordingly.  Second, we must seek to teach others. This means we are making disciples by helping others to know and live out the Bible.  This does not mean everyone will be a Bible teacher or preacher, but everyone can teach someone else the truths of the Bible in a discipleship relationship.  

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Hebrews 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,” The author of Hebrews was speaking to seasoned Christians; however, they were not mature in the faith because they were not living out the truth. They needed it taught to them again and again when they should have been teaching others. I pray that you will hear the encouragement from the Bible and seek to obey it in your life. There is no higher calling for the Christian than to live by God’s Word and teach others to do the same.

Posted by Bryan Gotcher with

Spare Change - April 2023

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The Pattern of Prayer

If you study the patterns of Jesus’ life you will notice one thing.  He spent a significant amount of time in prayer.  The Bible records several instances when Jesus went away by Himself (Matt. 14:23, Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46).  This was a normal pattern for Him.  Why would Jesus, of all people, need to spend a lot of time in prayer?  Maybe He
understood something about the power of prayer that we just don’t get.  

In Luke 22:39-46, Jesus takes His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. Verse 39 tells us that this was His usual custom.  This meant that Jesus regularly went to the garden to pray.  This fact was so known to His disciples that Judas is able to easily find Jesus when he betrays Him.  How many times did Jesus go to the garden to pour out His heart to His Father? This time, Jesus is grieved beyond what any of us can comprehend.  He knows that He will suffer greatly and die for the sins of mankind.  The fact that Jesus turned to prayer in this season should not be lost on us.  When Jesus is faced with the hardest test of His life, He goes to deep, soul-moving prayer.  He prayed so much, His spirit was so grieved, and He was in such agony that His sweat was like blood dripping from His body.

The fact that Jesus turned to prayer during this time should give an obvious indication of how important prayer is.  Jesus also instructed His disciples to pray so they would not enter into temptation.  What was the temptation of that night? To abandon their faith.  Even though Jesus had warned them that He would be tortured and killed (Matt. 16:21-23), they still did not fully understand what was to happen.  Jesus' main weapon was prayer and that is why He instructed His disciples to be committed to prayer.  During prayer, the disciples ended up falling asleep and when Jesus was arrested, they all abandoned Him except for Peter and John.  Peter ends up denying Jesus three times as He prophesied.  

This all points to the fact that prayer is essential in the life of a believer.  When the disciples were faced with their biggest temptation from Satan himself, what did Jesus tell them to do?  PRAY! Do you have the same emphasis on prayer in your life?  Do you underestimate its power?  I feel like many of us treat prayer like something we say is
important, but we don't really practice it like it's important.  It is one thing to say you value something, however, your actions show what you value.

If prayer is the weapon that Jesus says it is then we need to be committed to it.  Not just with trite promises like, “I’m praying for you,” but with actual prayer.  Why does it feel so awkward for Christians to stop what they are doing to pray about a situation wherever and whenever the need arises?  It should be the normal outpouring of God’s work in our lives to pray for people on the spot.  We should also be committed to daily times of prayer.  We should be persistent in our praying as Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7-11.  Jesus tells us to persistently pray as if someone is knocking at a door repeatedly until someone answers.  Let’s knock on Heaven’s door with our prayers until the Father answers.

Jesus believed that prayer was effective and lived it out in His life.  We should follow His example and make prayer the priority of our Christian faith.  I wonder what a difference it would make in our lives and the lives of those around us if we committed to being people of prayer.  The church needs to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 21:13, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”  Our churches, as well as our lives, should be filled with prayer.  Let’s look to Jesus and make prayer the normal pattern in our lives.

Posted by Bryan Gotcher with

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