I think a lot of us struggle with this matter of confidence. Even those of us who give off an air of being totally “together” probably struggle on some level with self-doubt. Nothing to be ashamed of there.
But I believe that the Christian walk of life offers us the best possible basis for living a truly confident life. It all boils down to this: We’re not self-confident, but we are God-confident. “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power…” (II Timothy 1:7). “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
In this week’s message, I talked about some contrasts between a “religion” approach to the Christian life and a “relationship” approach (relationship with God through Christ, that is). They’re contrasts that have a profound effect on our identity. Here they are again. I hope you find them helpful.
RELIGION: My identity swings between two extremes. When I’m living up to my personal moral standards, I feel confident; but I’m likely to be proud, and unsympathetic toward “failing” people. When I’m not living up to my standards, I feel like a failure.
RELATIONSHIP: My identity is not based on my moral achievement. I understand that I’m simultaneously sinful and saved. I’m so bad that Jesus had to die for me, but I’m so loved that He was willing to die for me. This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.
RELIGION: When I get criticized, I’m angry or even devastated, because it’s essential that I think of myself as a “good person”. Threats to that identity must be destroyed or explained away at all costs.
RELATIONSHIP: When I get criticized, it hurts; but it isn’t essential for me to think of myself as a good person. My identity isn’t built on my record or my performance, but on my confidence in God’s love for me in Christ.
RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how morally good I am. So I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.
RELATIONSHIP: My identity and self-worth are centered on the One who died and rose again for me. I’m saved by divine grace, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace am I what I am.
“May I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Galatians 6:14) I am confident, in God!
Not surprisingly, I got a lot of feedback on Sunday’s message. Also not surprisingly, most of it was very positive.
I don’t mean it was positive about the great job I did. That’s highly questionable! I only mean that people seemed to love the positive subject matter, about affirmation. This is another confirmation to me that we all feel the need to be affirmed, encouraged, fortified — frequently — in our Christian identity and faith.
One part that seemed to ring a bell with many of you is the “position/condition” distinction I talked about. So here’s the essence of that again:
The Christ-follower’s position is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1-2; Ephesians 2:10; II Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). This is his/her actual secure spiritual status in the eyes of God, by divine grace and through personal faith. The Christ-follower’s condition is his/her imperfect expression of that spiritual status. Clearly, our behavioral condition often doesn’t accurately reflect our true position in Christ. But — again by God’s grace — my flawed condition doesn’t negate the fantastic reality of my secure position!
|In Christ||A work in progress|
And here’s the key point: My true identity is firmly attached to that “Position” column. Though there are flaws aplenty in my character and behavior, I must not allow myself to be defined by them. “I am” first and foremost a Christian. God Himself states that I am His child, and that’s ultimately all that matters. His acceptance of me isn’t based on my performance, but on Jesus’ performance.
Take that, Satan! I am . . .affirmed by God!
To listen to messages from the “I Am” worship series, click here.
I hope our “I’m In” worship series has challenged you to think more deeply about your commitment, or potential commitment, to be all in with Jesus.
In Sunday’s fourth and last installment, we considered Matthew’s good example of starting with a step. I think some of us tend to get overwhelmed, thinking about all the good things God wants us to. We kind of take the world on our shoulders and wonder how we can possibly do it all. It would be good for each of us to think more along the lines of “one step at a time”. What’s the next right thing that He wants me to do? Once I’ve identified that thing, however simple it may be, I proceed to do it. Then I start looking for the next step in the process.
With that in mind, here are some possibilities for you to consider. Again, please don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the list. Just search for one item that’s perfectly timed for you, and humbly take that step. God will meet you there, and bless you.
Christian baptism – I start the list with this one because it’s what we emphasized most on Sunday, and because our next Baptism Celebration is coming up on February 19. If you truly have faith in Jesus and want to live for Him, and haven’t been baptized, you need to be. Here’s a great opportunity!
workcampNE – This is a great way to experience a real mission trip close to home (this year it’s in Vermont). Adults and high school students can participate. Sign up by February 14 for our week of service, which will be July 9-15.
Starting Point – This informal group meets every Sunday at 11:30 A.M. It’s a safe place to ask any question about Jesus, the Bible, the church, or RCC in particular. I know you’ll enjoy it and benefit from it.
A Matthew Party – As I suggested, this Sunday is a great opportunity to invite some church-going friends and non-church-going friends to gather for the Super Bowl, and see what God can do with those new friendships.
Pray for One – Have you made this a way of life yet? If not, there’s no time like the present!
Join a Grow Group Each of us needs a small group of believing friends that we see regularly and who “have our back” in this daily challenge of pursuing a relationship with God. What I just described is a Grow Group. Email Andy to explore the possibilities.
Find a place of regular service. This church offers a broad range of service options — some that are weekly, some monthly; some short-term, some long-term. Ask any staff member or elder to help you explore the possibilities. And if you haven’t completed the S.H.A.P.E. assessment, I strongly encourage you to do so. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself!
Simply come more often. If you’re in the habit of attending Sunday worship gatherings once in a while, start coming once a month. If you come once a month, start coming every week. I think you’ll notice an uptick in the quality of your life “in the Lord.”
This past Sunday was part three in our I’M IN series. First of all, I want to say how much I have enjoyed diving into these stories! Isn’t it great learning about how these everyday people had these amazing encounters with Jesus?
While Tom was out of town, I had the privilege of speaking about the Apostle Thomas and how Jesus helped him overcome doubt.
Doubt. It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it? It’s something we all deal with but we rarely discuss in the church. As I said in my message, I don’t think it should be like that. When Thomas doubted, the other disciples and Jesus embraced him. Shouldn’t we still do that today?
Through my research for the message, I came up with a few things that just couldn’t make it into the final draft. Much of it was a list of resources. So, I thought, hey, why not put them here on our blog!
If you’re struggling with doubt, here are the suggestions I talked about on Sunday and some resources and action steps to go along with them.
- Be honest. Make sure you acknowledge that you have doubts, but also pray about them. If you need guidance on how to pray about your doubts, consult the Psalms. David and other authors often cry out to God about their doubts.
- List all the things God has done. Think about everything He has done in your life and talk to others about the things He has done for them. If you journal, make it a regular part of what you write down about your day. And if you’re not regularly talking about “God-sightings” at home with your family, try to add it to your next dinner time.
- Look for the facts. Yes, faith is definitely faith, but historical facts can help us solidify our faith. The two histories most recommend are by Josephus and Tacitus. They are not Christian authors, but their historical records talk about things that the Bible also talks about, including Jesus. Be warned, as these are definitely not “light reads,” but they are good.
- Connect with others. Remember the disciples didn’t give up on Thomas. Just like the early church, we need to devote ourselves to God and each other. If you’re not in a Grow Group, Student group, or Kidz Rock group, make sure you get in one right away. Adults, contact Andy Glass, students can contact me, and children and parents of children can contact Amy Snyder.
- Be patient. Sometimes, it will take a while to get through it. Don’t give up. Not only do we need to be patient with ourselves, but we need to have patience for others who have doubt. Remember the “golden rule” as we help others deal with doubt.
If you’re the reading type, here are a few other books that can help you along your path:
- A Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace
If you have questions specifically about the Bible, you may want to check out this recent article by Bob Russell.
My prayer is that RCC will always be a place where you can be comfortable bringing your doubts. We all have them, so we might as well be honest with ourselves and help each other! If you have any questions or doubts you would like to talk about with one of us on staff or our elders, feel free to contact us or swing by the office!
To listen to the “Don’t Let Doubt Keep You Out” message online click here!
This past Sunday, we continued our “I’m In” series with a look at James, the brother of Jesus. I mentioned several Scriptures and resources in the message, which I have also listed here. If you would like to learn more about James or grow in your relationship with Jesus, please use these resources!
- Matthew 13:55 / Mark 6:3
- Matthew 12 / Mark 3 / Luke 8
- John 7:1-5
- Acts 1:13-14; 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18
- 1 Corinthians 9:5
- Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby & Claude King
- Aha by Kyle Idleman
To listen to the “Relationship is Greater Than Rules” message online click here!
We all need Jesus. All of us. More than we know. Without Him, we’re a mess. That’s the shocking truth that we tried to explain this past Sunday.
Those who were present received a thought-provoking handout that helps us reflect on our own brokenness and spiritual neediness. For the sake of those not present, here’s the content of that handout. All I’m asking is that you read it, slowly and prayerfully, and let God deal with your spirit however He chooses.
The first part is a personal examination worksheet, and the second part is a reworded version of the famous “12 Steps,” which, of course, constantly brings home our absolute need for divine help with our moral and spiritual condition. I hope this material will facilitate some honest time with God, and a next step toward saying “I’m In with Jesus!”
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless of course you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Anger: I have lost my temper, become agitated, and allowed anger to fester, causing strife.
- Proverbs 29:22 – An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
- Ephesians 4:26 – In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
Bitterness: I have allowed harshness and bitterness to creep into my heart.
- Ephesians 4:31 – Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
- Hebrew 12:15 – See to it that no-one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Not submitting: I have refused to honor my brothers and sisters or refused to follow those in authority over me.
- Romans 8:7 – The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
- Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Selfish ambition: I have been looking out for my own interests first.
- Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
- James 3:16 – For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Pride: I have made myself, my position, or my reputation the object and subject of the issue rather than the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
- Proverbs 11:2 – When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
- Proverbs 13:10 – Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
- Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Malice: I have harbored ill will and/or a desire to injure those around me.
- Colossians 3:8 – But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.
- 1 Peter 2:1 – Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
Divisiveness: I have been contentious, promoting controversy rather than peace.
- Titus 3:10 – Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
- 1 Timothy 1:4 – Nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work — which is by faith.
Stubbornness: I have resisted change or correction and stood firm on my position.
- Psalm 81:12 – So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
- Proverbs 29:1 – A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.
Unforgiving: I have been slow to forgive, or I have stated that I have forgiven while holding onto anger and hurt. I have failed to forgive others as Christ has forgiven me.
- Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Matthew 18:32-33 – Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?”
Unreconciling: I have refused to meet with a brother or sister to be reconciled, claiming I am too hurt or do not trust the person – effectively choosing not to be reconciled.
- Mark 9:50 – Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.
- Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Sexual impurity: I have engaged in sexual fantasies, impure thought life or behavior such as adultery, pornography, or sexual immorality.
- Colossians 3:5 – Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
- Ephesians 5:3 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
Misuse of authority: I have used power, manipulation, or control to coerce people or gain advantage.
- Mark 10:42 – Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.”
- 1Peter 5:2-3 – Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
[Personal Examination Worksheet by Jim Van Yperen of Metanoia Ministries]
The 12 Christ-Centered Steps
- We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)
- We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
- We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. (Lamentations 3:40)
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)
- We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
- We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)
- We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)
- Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
[The 12 Christ-Centered Steps by Celebrate Recovery]
To listen to the “Concede Your Need” message online click here!
As I mentioned in my message, this last Sunday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It’s an annual reminder to pray for, and stand in solidarity with, Christ-followers around the world who experience persecution of any kind for their faith.
I encourage you to give attention to this harsh reality in your prayers this week, and all year round. Don’t just pray for their protection and deliverance, as important as that is; but as they themselves often request, pray for courage and perseverance to remain true to Jesus Christ no matter the cost, and for their Christian witness to be bold and effective.
To educate yourself further on this subject, go to these great resources:
You might think that after a month of Sundays talking about tithing, I’d be completely out of things to say. But no such luck! Here’s are a couple more thoughts . . .
1. We haven’t addressed in detail the special challenge of being a Christ-follower who would love to try tithing, but is married to a person who isn’t ready for that, for whatever reason. My encouragement for you is essentially, do the best you can. God sees and understands your circumstances, and neither He nor the church is going to hold you responsible for what you cannot do. Make sure that your spouse hears your heart on this matter, do all that you can within the framework of your unique household, find other ways to give to the Lord (time/talent/testimony), and ask Him often to touch and change your partner’s heart.
2. Tithing can obviously be a challenging discipline. After all, who could possibly find it easy or enjoyable to give away the first 10% (or more) of your income? Sounds crazy, right?
Well, consider something that Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). This is in the context of some teaching about trusting God for our financial security — in other words, money and the things it can buy. Notice what He didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” That observation would have been true, but probably unnecessary. We all understand that if our hearts (emotions, attitudes, passions) are in a certain place, our treasure (money and other resources) will follow. That’s just common sense. But what He said was, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What’s He getting at?
Something like this, I think: If we make a choice to invest our “stuff” in a certain enterprise (a hobby, a car, a camp by the lake), even if at first we’re not all that enthusiastic about it, in time our hearts will come scampering along behind. I’ve heard the principle expressed this way: If you’ll act the way you wish you felt, eventually you’ll feel the way you act. I guess a cruder version would be, “Fake it til you make it.”
Apply this to tithing. God loves a cheerful giver, but He’ll take money from a grouch, too. And the funny thing is that once we’ve invested a fair amount of treasure in God’s Kingdom, we stop being grouchy and start becoming giddy — giddy with joy that God has actually given us the privilege of partnering with Him in the most important enterprise in the world.
He won’t really have your heart until He has your pocketbook. I invite you to join Karen and me and millions of other Christians on board the tithing train.
If you missed any of the four Sundays from our “4 Good Reasons” series on tithing, check it out by clicking here to visit our podcast! Speaking of which, make sure to subscribe on your favorite device to get them delivered to you automatically each week.
Well, here we are at the close of our “How To Neighbor” worship series. But will it be the end of our conscious thoughts about neighboring across the cultural divides? I sure hope not! I hope it’s just the beginning!
At a recent conference I attended, a speaker said this: “Don’t ever embrace a version of the Gospel that doesn’t inspire you to do life with somebody who isn’t like you.” Convicting, huh?
This past Sunday’s topic is the most general of the four, and maybe the most important, because loneliness is a reality that crosses all the boundaries of race, age, and financial status. Most of the people you’ll meet today are probably experiencing loneliness at some level.
Without regard to any so-called demographic categories, I encourage you to follow Jesus’s example by doing the three simple things I talked about Sunday morning:
Love with touch. (Matthew 8:1-2)
Love by listening. (Luke 24:13-35)
Love with time. (Mark 2:1-12)
May God’s Spirit prompt and empower each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves!
Rockingham Christian Church loves to participate in activities that are (as we often say) “in the community, for the community”. We’re determined to be an outwardly-focused congregation! Jesus has clearly sent us out to serve our communities selflessly in His name – and especially to serve those who are in acute need of any kind. At the risk of oversimplifying, I’ll say that we do this in two basic ways:
PARTNERING WITH THE COMMUNITY
We enthusiastically partner with already-existing charitable efforts in the community. There are obviously a lot of these, so we can’t invest in all of them; but we prayerfully select a few that seem to be a good fit, and we dig in! Here are some outstanding examples. I encourage you to check out their websites.
Stand Up Salem (No website yet.) – This is a coalition of Salem citizens seeking to save lives by addressing our local drug and alcohol issues.
End 68 Hours of Hunger – This is a grassroots effort to confront the 68 hours of hunger that some school children experience between the free lunch they receive in school on Friday and the free breakfast they receive on Monday. RCC is currently exploring ways that we can assist this compassionate work.
This list doesn’t include the several cross-cultural mission partners that we support regularly.
RCC’S OWN EFFORTS:
We initiate and execute our own RCC efforts. These include:
Other benevolent support – We maintain a substantial fund out of which we often draw money to assist households in need of help with heat during the winter, medical bills, etc.
Serving Salem Together (SST) — This year’s date is Saturday, October 29!
The Annual Community Easter Egg Hunt, SalemFest 5K, etc.
As I mentioned Sunday, we promote and participate in all these initiatives in order to give ourselves some ready opportunities to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with brothers and sisters. But these group efforts can never substitute for the daily individual acts of kind generosity that should characterize the lives of Christ-followers. God bless you as you allow God’s love to be felt through your daily neighboring efforts!