December: Launch Out… as We Await the Lord’s Return

As I write the last article of the year for our 2015 church theme, I can’t help but wonder how many have been challenged to live by faith this year. Our church themes are intended to help us as a church family to grow spiritually and to give us a church-wide focus. If you have gotten out of your comfort zone even a little this year and put into practice some of the principles of God’s Word then this endeavor has been profitable. Read more…

November: Launch Out… With Thankfulness!

Our memory verse for the month of November is neither lengthy nor difficult to memorize but it is one of the more difficult verses of Scripture to put into practice in our lives. It simply says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” Read more…

October: Launch Out… Through Relationships!

As we continue to consider how we can “Launch Out” in faith in different areas of our lives, we need to think about how we can impact our world by sharing the gospel with those we know. Read more…

September: Launch Out… By Trusting in Trials!

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (James 1:12). The Book of James has much to do with trials, temptations, and ultimately, the triumph of the believer who lives by faith. Read more…

August: Launch Out… By Stretching Your Faith!

Our memory verse comes from the book of Romans this month. As you probably know the book of Romans is the Apostle Paul’s treatise on New Testament salvation. Read more…

July: Launch Out… Through Your Local Church!

As we seek to understand the life of faith that God calls us to live, we must consider God’s plan for His church in this age. Our memory verse shows the importance of the church in the life and ministry of individual Christians. Luke writing under inspiration says, “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). To truly understand what Paul and Barnabas are doing when they reported back to the church about their first missionary journey, you must go back to Acts 13:1 and see how that missionary journey began (I would encourage you to read Acts 13 & 14 in their entirety).

Paul and Barnabas did not ignore their church, rather they commenced their first missionary journey at the direction of the church of Antioch. Likewise, that church was sending out missionaries whom the Holy Spirit had already chosen. It was only as they prayed and fasted (Acts 13:2), that they discerned that God had chosen Paul and Barnabas to go on this missionary endeavor. We live in a day and age when people despise or ignore the local church. Many parachurch organizations seem to be larger and more influential than small local churches, yet in God’s eyes the church is His organism to do His work in this age. Men ignore God’s church at their own risk. God has set up the church in such a way that there are checks and balances to prevent us from doing His work in the strength of our own flesh.

Paul and Barnabas had proved themselves in the work of the Antioch church (Acts 12:25-13:1). They did the work of the ministry there before the Lord ever sent them out to do that work in parts unknown. It is God’s intention that the local church will reach out with the Gospel to their individual community (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). The local church is to teach the individual Christian how to witness of their faith (Acts 8:1, 4). It is within the local church that new Christians are to learn the Word of God, how to pray, and to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).

The local church may seem to many Christians as just another item on an already too busy schedule but in reality it is God’s plan for you to grow to maturity in Christ (Romans 8:28-29). If you would “Launch Out” in faith you need to do so by growing in the things of God within your church. Your church has the ordinances, the organism (i.e. the body life – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), the ministry of “…evangelists; and some pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11). Will you by faith become an active, growing member of the your church and let God develop you and use you as He sees fit? Paul and Barnabas did!

June: Launch Out… in Faith!

Our memory verse for June (Mark 11:22) is one that comes in the midst of our Lord’s busy life and ministry. In Mark eleven we see our Lord sending His disciples to prepare for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On the next day, He curses the fig tree and cleanses the temple for a second time. It is only after these things that He teaches them about the importance about faith and prayer in the Christian life. So the Scriptures say, “And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God (Mark 11:22).

The context of His teaching is most interesting and enlightening. The fig tree is a picture of unbelieving Israel (cp. Matthew 24:32, 33, Jeremiah 24:5, 7-8). While the fig tree had leaves of profession, it was bare of the fruit of possession. Israel had been brought face to face with her Messiah but rejected Him. Israel was cursed by her Creator just as the fig tree was. The withered fig tree seems to prompt Peter to ask the Lord about His power to do such things. Our Lord’s answer not only answers Peter’s specific question, but also teaches us of the necessity of faith.

The Lord Jesus was facing the difficult obstacle of an unbelieving Israel and uses this situation to teach His disciples how they too could overcome obstacles. The most needful ingredients for doing so are faith and prayer. No matter how difficult or mountain-like (v.23) our problems are, faith and prayer can overcome them. It is with the hand of faith that you and I reach out to our Lord and His hand is all-powerful. He is able to move the mountains (v.23) that we face and enable us to overcome too.

Often we as Christians think that we must have great faith to overcome, but our text tells us that faith the size of a grain of mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), is sufficient to overcome. It is not a great faith in God that is necessary but rather faith in our great God. Our faith must be real and not leavened with doubt (v.24), but most importantly it must be faith in God (v.22)! I am convinced that the Lord often allows obstacles to arise in our paths so that we can grow in our faith. If we could handle everything that life throws at us without the Lord, why them would we need to trust Him? The truth is we do need Him and as the song says, truly we “… need Thee every hour.”

It is against the backdrop of difficulty and trial that both our faith and God’s power are displayed the clearest. I don’t know the difficulties which you are facing today but the Lord’s words are just as powerful, prominent, and persuasive today as when He uttered them almost two thousand years ago. So I repeat them to you today, “Have faith in God!”

May: Launch Out… to Greater Works!

This year’s theme of “Launch Out” has been a quest for us to learn to live by faith in a more practical way. While living by faith is always exciting at testimony time it can be quite frightening in daily life. Most of us by early adulthood have found our comfort zone in life and we are quite content to stay within it. Our memory verse for May challenges us to believe God for greater works. Will you believe? Jesus said to the disciples, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). There are several truths that this verse gives to us.

First note the prerequisite to greater works is found in the phrase, “…He that believeth on Me…” In a general sense this verse speaks of a man who has dynamic faith in the Son of God. In a more specific sense this verse is aimed at the apostles especially the phrase”…the works I do shall he do also…” The apostles did the works of Christ when they opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, and made the lame to walk. There are those today who seem only interested in the dramatic miracles that identified the apostles in their work for the Lord Jesus. The miracles that the apostles did proved that the early church was a movement of God and not a man-made entity. You and I must believe that God wants to use us today in a greater way, although in a different way from the apostles.

The power of greater works includes more than just the miraculous signs gifts of the early church.  We must have this divine power to do the greater works He desires us to do. This power is the filling of the Spirit that allows God to work through us. The indwelling Holy Spirit gives greater power today to God’s people than even the disciples had prior to the resurrection of Christ. The work of Christ done through spirit-filled believers is definitely a greater work.

There is also a pattern of greater work. We have a greater message to proclaim today. We have the completed gospel that gives instant and complete salvation (1Cor. 15:1-4). The message we proclaim brings about the miracle of the new birth. When an individual trusts Christ, in that same instant, they become a new creature (2Cor. 5:17).  In Christ, we have greater benefits than Old Testament saints had. This “new birth” I believe to be the greatest miracle of all. Lastly, we have a greater world to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ (7.3 billion people today versus 150 to 170 million people of Christ’s day). It will take a greater work to reach our world. There is nothing more important than reaching people with the gospel of Christ because in the end the difference is an eternity in Heaven instead of one in Hell. Will we trust Christ to do greater works with us as individuals and as a church?

April: Launch Out… with the Gospel Abroad!

Paul had never been to Rome but in our memory verses for April he expressed his desire to visit them and to preach the gospel among them. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.   For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:15, 16).

Paul was in essence a missionary church planter with a world-wide vision of getting the gospel out to as many people as he could. He wanted to preach the gospel in areas where the gospel had not been preached thoroughly (Romans 15:20). While it is obvious that the gospel had been preached enough in Rome that a local church had been established there, nevertheless Rome still needed many missionaries to reach its vastly unreached millions.

The “Great Commission” not only compels us to reach our communities with the gospel, but it also demands that we “…preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). To reach the world with the gospel means, we must be engaged in world-wide evangelism (i.e. missions). Paul’s desire to preach the gospel to those at Rome is a picture of the burden that we too need to have. While most of us cannot travel to exotic places to preach the gospel like Paul did we can be a part of the process. Paul said of the believers in Philippi, “Now ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated (gave financial support), with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only” (Philippians 4:15). The Philippians supported Paul so that he could travel to places and preach the gospel to those who had never heard. They did this in spite of the fact that they were an infant church themselves. We too can be involved in world-wide evangelism through our “Faith Promise” giving in support of missions.

We, as a church, give to missions each year by asking the Lord how much He wants us to individually give above our tithe to get the gospel out. We never pressure you to give. We only inform you of how important this is to the Lord. The theme from one of our first mission’s conference says it all – “His Last Command Our First Concern!”.

I hope that you will begin praying this month, asking the Lord what He would have you to do to get the gospel out, what He would have you to give to this great cause. If we all get involved and give that which the Lord desires us to give we can restore the levels of support that we once gave to our missionaries. Likewise, we can add more missionaries to reach unreached people groups around the world. I assure you that the money that you give to the Lord through “Faith Promise” is not just spent, but rather invested with the assurance of eternal dividends. Will you “LAUNCH OUT” in faith and support getting the gospel out abroad?

March: Launch Out… with the Gospel at home

“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:   For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.   And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:9-11). Paul’s ministry was normally an itinerant one with him not spending much time in any one place. The work in Corinth was a difficult one, made even harder when the chief ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, was saved under Paul’s ministry. Crispus’ conversion seemed to galvanize the Jews in their opposition to Paul and the gospel. It would have been easy for Paul to justify in his mind, the moving on to another area more receptive to the gospel. This is the background in which our Lord chooses to speak to Paul with reassurance.

Isn’t it is just like our Lord to speak when we are facing trouble or trials. He comes to us so gently, encouraging us when our faith is growing weak. His “peace be still” can calm the strongest of storms that rage within our souls. The Lord chose to speak to Paul through a night vision: which was not an unusual way of addressing His people before the Word of God was completed. I have no doubt that the Lord’s presence was an encouragement to Paul during this difficult time and kept him focused on doing God’s will. You too will face difficulties as you seek to do God’s will. Will your close relationship with the Lord keep you on focus?

In this vision the Lord reveals several things to help Paul complete his task of reaching the people of Corinth with the gospel. First, the Lord said “Be not afraid…”  The “fear not’s” of the Word of God are there as a reminder to us that our Lord is in control of every situation. The devil uses fear to keep the Christian from accomplishing God’s will for his life. The Lord told Paul that He would not allow anyone to harm him as he witnessed to the people of Corinth. I am sure that with the uproar that was caused by Jews rejection of the Lord Jesus as their Messiah, that the thought of witnessing was intimidating. Is it intimidating to you to witness to friends, family and neighbors? The Lord says, “Fear not” to you too. Don’t let the devil rob you of the joy of seeing people saved because you are afraid of what people may say or think about you when you witness.

The next thing that the Lord tells Paul is most interesting. He says, “…for I have much people in this city.” The implication of this statement is God’s sovereignty in election. Divine election is a Biblical doctrine that we need not fear. Election is always based upon our Lord’s foreknowledge (1Peter 1:2).  Election should not discourage us from witnessing, just the opposite. If the Lord had many people in Corinth, a most wicked city, do you not think that He also has many people in Concord that He desires to save! We must be willing to obey His command to take the gospel to every individual (Mark 16:15).

Will you determine to “launch out” in your witness this year? Will you tell others about Christ and trust that the Lord will use the gospel to save their souls? I know witnessing is the ultimate opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and I am not telling you that you that it will be easy. I am assuring you that when you witness depending upon the Lord you will experience His power working through your life (Romans 1:15-16). Will you “launch out” and witness or will you stay on the shore? The choice is yours to make.