New or Improved?

When someone trusts Jesus do they get a new life or an improved version of the old life? If it were simply an improved version of the old life then all we have to do is add Jesus to the life we already have. Then we hope that He fixes our problems and cleans up our life. However, if He gives us a new life then the old things are gone, new things come because we are a new person. If you know Jesus Christ, what do you have - a new life or an improved version of the old one?

Wake Up

Today, we concluded our series entitled: Wake Up. We had a great conclusion to the series with several people making decisions for Christ. We covered some difficult topics in this series and one of the things I have loved about the people of Southrbidge is their willingness to be honest. Whether we were talking about sexual immorality, a loss of love, being overwhelmed by the pressures of life or apathy, people did not pretend that these messages did not apply to them. I pray regularly for several things for our church. One has been authenticity. I am thankful we are not content simply playing church.

Thanksgiving Day Reflections

Today, we had a great time having the family over, and reflecting on what we are thankful for. When it was my turn to share what I was thankful for, I was struck by my salvation. It seems obvious, but I am thankful for what Jesus has done to transform my life. Sometimes when I drive to the church on Sunday mornings to preach, I just thank God that I get to preach the gospel. To think where I could be if Jesus had not changed my life is overwhelming. I have Jesus, an amazing family, and some great friends. I am very thankful.

Psalm 118:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Thanks Shaq

I have never been a big Shaq fan, but he is a great player. I may become a Shaq fan after reading this article today which says that he paid for the funeral of a 5 year old Fayetteville girl Shaniya Davis who was killed recently. It has been all over the news.

Just the week before this case, Southbridge hosted Becky McDonald for a Nourish event. Becky is the President of Women At Risk International. They work ministering to women and children who are being bought and sold in sex slavery.

God has been breaking our hearts about the tragedies that occur to countless women and children around the world. We can’t simply see these horrible stories on the news, think they are horrible and then change the channel. I am thankful Shaq has done something. We too want to reach out to these women and these children and do whatever we can to demonstrate the love of Jesus to them. One of the  things we believe the Lord is leading us to do is our Christmas outreach for WAR babies. I will mention more about this on Sunday, but the summary is this:

I was reading a WAR brochure today that says, “The face of trafficking in the USA is underage.” That brochure also contained these stats:

  • In 2009, a man was arrested for selling 89 children in Detroit, MI.
  • In Atlanta, GA, 300 children a month are sold.
  • There are 100,000 American children who are trafficked in the USA (FBI).

This is not just a problem in the USA though, it is a world wide problem.

  • In 2004, Chinese police arrested 95 people for the trafficking of more than 76 babies.
  • In Iraq, it is estimated that 150 children are sold by organized gangs each year (The Guardian, 6 April 2009).

These are not isolated cases this is a world-wide problem. What can we do? This year one of the things we want  to be a part of is helping build a dormitory and cafeteria in an orphanage in partnership with WAR. As WAR says, “When you rescue babies, you spare them a life of horror. They can be tucked into cradles of safety, circles of protection, and hear stories of Jesus sung to them. They can grow up to be all God intended.” The children are rescued from situations where their parents are considering selling them.

What can you do? In the lobby we’ll have Christmas tree displays where you can grab a baby bottle, take it home, and fill it up with money. What does that money do? Here is what WAR says in their own words:

This February, 2010 the WAR, Int’l Circle Tour of women will be visiting 3 safe houses and one orphanage that is a safe haven for 110 little girls rescued from trafficking or at risk of trafficking.  This precious home has faithfully sheltered, raised, loved on and reached deep into the hill tribes of Thailand creating circles of protection around girls from ages 3-18.  One of the first girls rescued, now married runs the home with her godly husband.  All of the 110 girls have a story of need that qualifies them to come to this safe haven. 
 
Here, and in every WAR, Int’l program, girls are treated like our own daughters.  We dream with them about what God wants for their lives and work to make that a reality the same way we would for our own daughters.  This home has graduated many including 5 lawyers.  No dream is too big for Daughters of the King. 
 
We want to go to House of Grace with gifts in hand this February playing Santa.  No mom or aunt wants to meet her family members without gifts in hand!  The cafeteria is being torn down to make place for more beds.  Would you help us build a new cafeteria and arrive with funds in hand to do just that?  It will cost $209 dollars per child to arrive with $22,990 in hand.

We believe God has given us an opportunity to do something to potentially make an eternal difference in the lives of these children. Will you join us?

Psalm 82:1-8 A psalm of Asaph. God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ 7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” 8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

 

Celebration

We had another great day at Southbridge today. We continued our series entitled: Wake Up from Revelation chapters 2 and 3. My favorite part of the day today was during the second service. I was telling a story about someone trusting Jesus Christ as their Savior and when I said that the guy had trusted Jesus as his Savior, the congregation started clapping. They say you celebrate what you value. The people at Southbridge “get it.” We value life change.

Women At Risk (guest blogger Shanna Lehr)

This Wednesday night, our women’s ministry Nourish will take a look at a problem that is world wide and affects millions of women and children. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women is something that has gone on since the time of Esther. Even she was a woman at risk, and so are we. It sounds crazy to say that “we are” as we live pampered lives in beautiful Raleigh with so much at our disposal. But once, sin was my ruler and the prince of the power of this world had dominion over me and then Jesus came and rescued me!
 
Our speaker for this evening is Becky McDonald, the President of Women at Risk International, or WAR. The purpose and passion of this organization is to wrap arms of love around women and children, whispering the message that they were created for purpose and dignity. Creating safe places for women and children rescued from many abuses including human trafficking/sexual slavery, WAR, Int’l desires to give voice to their silenced cries.
 
Becky was a missionary kid who saw first hand the depravity and selfishness of man. Here is an exerpt from her website:

“Frankly, I just wanted to slap most American women when I first moved back to the States a few years ago. Instead, God slapped me and opened my eyes to a world of hidden hurt and deep woundedness hidden behind white picket fences, prim church attire, new dishwashers, and corporate glamor. He broke my heart for a continent of seemingly pampered, spoiled, and “liberated” women. As women flowed through my home and I listened to their angry or whispered stories, at first it seemed petty and insignificant in comparison to the silenced cries of the international world. I had grown up with a playmate with acid poured down her throat, and the acid of her suffering had burned a hole in my heart and set me on a course of action I’ve been on ever since. Early on I had come to appreciate the circle of protection that my own life was privileged to have. My focus and passion was to give voice to the silenced cries of the truly wounded.”

Our Southbridge women will join together to create circles of protection around these women on Wednesay evening. Doors open at 6:30pm at the Hilton, RTP.

Tolerance, virtue or sin?

We live in a society where tolerance is our highest virtue. We also live in a society where we have heard that we cannot judge anyone. I believe this has caused many Christians to be afraid to confront sin. I am all for grace. Ask anyone who knows me I love people regardless of their issues and I think we have done a terrible job as believers shooting our own wounded. However, if we really love each other we owe to each other to deal with the sin we see in each others lives. If it is true that 70% of Christians struggle with the issue of pornography we owe it to each other to deal with this issue. We cannot in the name of tolerance and out of fear fro being labeled as judgmental fail to confront those we love about this sin. If we do we are failing them.

We don’t want to be like the church in Pergamum who were rebuked, not because of their false teaching or because of their sin but because they tolerated that there were those in their midst with these issues.

Revelation 2:12-17 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live– where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city– where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: Youhave people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise youalso have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (emphasis added)

Jesus is rebuking them (not the Nicolaitans or those who hold to the teaching of Balaam) because they have these people among them. If they don’t do something Jesus will. The sword of His mouth is the truth. We owe it o those we love to tell them the truth. The truth is if they are trapped in sexual sin they can be freed. There is forgiveness, grace and freedom that is waiting to be theirs. They must repent (that means stop and turn). The truth is sexual sin ruins lives. If we love 70% of the people in the church we owe it to them to ask them the difficult questions and tell them the truth.

Freedom from Condemnation

Here is an amazing passage of scripture about freedom from condemnation as we think about people we know who are trapped in a prison of secrecy.

 Romans 8:1-11

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Sex (Part 3) Have you asked those you love?

It is very likely that you or someone you love is involved in trying to experience God’s gift of sex outside of God’s context. One of the ways this is happening in our society is through pornography.

Pornography is a counterfeit of the real thing and it starts off so subtle. It can be on television, movies, soap operas, magazines, and now all over the Internet. The statistics are overwhelming. Perhaps, you have heard it said before that porn makes more money than the NBA, NFL, and Major League baseball combined. That is true. Most people think it does not impact them. “Not my kids.” I read this week that the average age for exposure to porn is 11 years old. We also like to think this is not a problem in the church. That simply is not true.

  • An August 7, 2006 stat says: 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addictedto pornography. 60% of the women who answered the survey admitted to having significant struggles with lust; 40% admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year; and 20% of the church-going female participants struggle with looking at pornography on an ongoing basis. From the results of a ChristiaNet poll reported by Marketwire.com (emphasis added)

Those are Christians and that is addiction. 5 out of 10 men and 2 out of 10 women in the church are addicted to porn. Some of those people are people you care about. They are trapped in a life of secrecy. If you love them, will you ask them this simple question: “Have you intentionally viewed pornographic material in the last 12 months?” Just the fact that you asked shows them you care. It also provides them with an opportunity to be freed from their prison of secrecy. What if they answer yes? Point them to Jesus who will give them forgiveness and freedom. Ask them if there is anything you can personally do to help free them from this bondage. Set them up with some accountability (that means someone who understands what they are going through and will walk with them through the process of breaking free from this addiction). In some cases you are the best person to walk with them through this. In some cases you will not be.