A New Book!

August 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

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I am very excited to announce the release of my newest book, New Testament Snapshots. It has been almost two years since the release of Leading into the 21st Century…and Beyond and with the move to Brazil last year, I got a little behind in my writing. New Testament Snapshots is only going to be released as an ebook and I know that you are going to love it!

The book focuses on ten people in the New Testament that we all have heard of if we have spent any time at all reading the Bible. At the same time, we know very little about these ten people and it seems that they are often shrouded in mystery. I believe that these ten people still have something very important to say to us. This book explores what their messages are.

New Testament Snapshots is a fantastic way to stimulate your own personal study of the Bible. I provide some discussion questions at the end of each chapter to help you dig a little deeper. This book is also an excellent study guide for small group study. Most of these stories were discussed in our own small group. Annie and I lead an incredible Connect Group here at C3 Church Curitiba, and we all learned so much as we looked at these New Testament Snapshots.

I have kept the book short and very readable. It is only about 75 pages long. So many people get intimidated trying to read a 200+ page manuscript. We all know that “leaders are readers,” and it is easy to feel guilty if we are not cultivating the reading habit. New Testament Snapshots is a great way to pick back up on that New Year’s Resolution that you made in January to read some good books this year.

This is the first book that I have published myself and it is only going to be available here. I would so appreciate it if you would forward this post to anyone that you think might be interested in reading a great book. We are keeping the price low so that everyone can afford it.

So, how can you get your copy? This link will take you to PayPal. Just drop the small sum of $3.97 in the account of ntsnapshotsbook@gmail.com and I will send a copy your way. Thanks so much for your support!

As always, if you want to support our missionary work in Brazil, just click here. Obrigado!

 

Martin Luther

While the Protestant Reformation is often attributed solely to Martin Luther, there were other people who played a significant role. John Wycliffe and John Hus, for example, lived about a hundred years before Luther and laid the groundwork for Luther and the other Reformers.

During Luther’s lifetime, Huldriech Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox were very influential in spreading the Reformation teaching throughout Europe. John Calvin is often regarded as the primary theologian of the Reformation. Calvin founded the Presbyterian Church and wrote “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” the treatise on Reformation theology.

There is no doubt, though, that Martin Luther was one of the primary reformers and, in many ways, had the most influence in bringing about significant change in Germany and in other parts of Europe. In 1517, Luther nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” to the chapel door at the University of Wittenberg, where he taught. These theses outlined his critique against the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences, which Luther believed was unscriptural. Luther also argued for justification by grace alone. This would be the beginning of a long battle between Luther and the Catholic Church. He would eventually be excommunicated.

Luther’s spiritual journey to this point started with his own spiritual disillusionment. He became a monk against his father’s wishes. Even as a monk, however, Luther felt separated from God. He felt that no matter what he did, God was not pleased with him. Luther fasted, prayed, went on pilgrimages, and made frequent confessions, but nothing brought him peace. He still felt far away from God.

In 1515, Luther was asked to lecture on Paul’s letter to the Romans. As he was studying and preparing for his lectures, he came across Romans 1:17. This verse changed his life and the course of history. Luther came to the understanding that he could not earn God’s favor. Salvation was a gift given from God. It had to be received by faith.

Luther and the other Reformers agreed on three primary Fundamentals of the Christian Reformation.

1. The Sole Authority of Scripture. From the very beginning after Luther’s conversion, he argued that the Scriptures should be the only authority for doctrine and practice in the Church. This was at the very heart of the sale of indulgences. The Roman Catholic Church holds that tradition and the Scriptures have equal authority.

2. By Faith Alone. Luther experienced this first-hand. It was not all the religious things that he did that brought about his salvation. It was only when he exercised his faith in the completed work of Christ and received it by faith that Luther was justified before God. This was exactly what the Apostle Paul taught in Ephesians 2:8-9.

3. The Priesthood of All Believers. This Reformation fundamental taught that all Christians have access to God through Jesus. They do not need a priest to mediate for them. This teaching hit at the heart of the Roman Catholic doctrines of confession, the mediation of the saints, and, most importantly, the authority of the Pope.

The Reformation had wide-reaching consequences beyond the walls of the Reformed Churches that sprang up throughout Europe. Even today, almost five hundred years later, these three fundamentals are still held to by most segments of Protestantism. Most Protestant Christians view the Reformation as a return to Biblical Christianity.

My wife, Annie, and I are developing leaders and helping fulfill the Great Commission in Brazil. Would you consider supporting us with a one-time gift or even becoming a part of our support team? Just click here to be a part! Obrigado!

 

The Last Rally by Mort Künstler

The Last Rally by Mort Künstler

The American Civil War is one of the most tragic and fascinating periods in America History. This conflict stretched from April of 1861 to May of 1865. While there were numerous significant battles and events, there are several that stand out more than others. A few of these will be highlighted.

The Confederate Shelling of Fort Sumter

This event, on April 12, 1861, signalled the start of the American Civil War. Fort Sumter was located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. After South Carolina seceded in Dec of 1860, state officials demanded that the Union forces there turn the fort over to state control. The commander of the fort, Major Robert Anderson, refused. After several hours of being shelled by confederate batteries, Anderson surrendered on April 13, 1861. There were no casualties on either side due to the fighting, although two Union soldiers did die as they were evacuating because of an accidental explosion.

The Wounding of Confederate General Joseph Johnston

After the war began, General Johnston was senior Confederate general and commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. General Johnston was an experienced and talented general. He is best known, however, for his cautious and strategic defensive maneuvering, rather than his offensive prowess. When Johnston was wounded on May 31, 1862, at the Battle of the Seven Pines, General Robert E. Lee assumed command and never relinquished it. General Lee was known primarily for his offensive prowess. It was Lee was able to keep the Union off balance and backpedaling for the next several years. Johnston did recover from his wounds and served primarily in the Western Theater until the end of the war.

The Death of General A. P. Johnston

At the beginning of the Civil War, many considered Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston to be the most talented officer in their military. President Davis appointed Johnston as the commander of the Western Theater. On April 6, 1862, General Johnston caught General U. S. Grant’s forces completely by surprise and attacked them at Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee. This became the Battle of Shiloh. Johnston’s forces battered Grant’s forces all day long. Johnston continued to stay close to the action and was struck in the leg by a bullet. He did not think the wound was serious and did not immediately seek help. The general bled to death from this wound. The next day, Grant’s forces counterattacked and forced the Confederates to retreat. General Johnston holds the distinction of being the highest ranking officer of either side to be killed during the war.

The Death of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Jackson was one of the South’s top generals and Robert E. Lee’s top lieutenant. He was audacious in his tactics. He had waged the Shenandoah Valley Campaign in 1862. This campaign pitted Jackson’s smaller, but much more mobile army against several larger Union forces. Jackson scored victory after victory and gave General Lee the breathing room he needed. In May of 1863, Jackson had joined with General Lee at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Lee rashly divided his smaller force in front of Union General Hooker’s forces. Jackson took these forces on a flanking maneuver and struck Hooker from behind. The Union Army was routed. Jackson, however, was shot and wounded by accident by his own troops. His left arm was amputated and it was thought that he would recover. Jackson contracted pneumonia, however, and died on May 10, 1863.

The Fall of Vicksburg

The surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Union forces on July 4, 1863, was the culmination of almost a year of effort by General Ulysses Grant. Vicksburg was almost impregnable and Grant tried several different methods to take the city. The siege of Vicksburg eventually led to Confederate General Pemberton surrendering to Grant. With the capture of Vicksburg, the North controlled the Mississippi River. This victory also led to Grant’s promotion as the Commanding General of all Union forces.

The Battle of Gettysburg

In the summer of 1863, with the South’s limited resources dwindling, southern General Robert E. Lee launched an invasion of the North. This was only the second time in the war that the South attempted to invade the North. The southern army was in dire need of the resources that the North held. 

The two armies came together at the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1863. On the first day of the fighting, General Lee’s southern army dominated the fighting. On the second day of the fighting, the results were more even. On the climactic third day, however, General Lee believed that he could break the union army at its center. General Pickett led his men on the ill-fated Pickett’s charge. They were wiped out and the South was defeated. Most historians see Gettysburg as the turning point of the Civil War. 

The American Civil War continues to fascinate, create debate, and inspire study. There are only a few of the key events of that conflict. They do provide a starting point, however, for further study.

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A study of history always has the potential to provide the student with some incredible insights. It often seems that people who are not students of history, really do not have a clear understanding of what is going on in the present. It is only as you study your history and the history of others that you are able to gain the needed tools to understand what is going on in the present.

Church history is a fascinating segment of history that should be studied by all who would say that they are Christ followers. A study of church history is important for several reasons. First of all, it provides a chain of custody back to the earliest days of Christianity. When looking at early church history, one is able to see the connections between Jesus’ apostles and other followers to the Church Fathers of the second century and onward.

The Apostolic Church Fathers, for example, were the men who had been students of Jesus’ apostles. Clement and Polycarp are two examples. Clement had close ties to the Apostles Peter and Paul and ended up as the third bishop of the Roman Church. Polycarp had been a disciple of the Apostle John and was the leader of the church in Smyrna.

These Church Fathers, and the many others, passed along what they had been taught from Jesus’ disciples. It was the Church Fathers who were also the first to acknowledge the New Testament writings. Two hundred years before the New Testament canon was formalized, several of the Church Fathers had already listed the writings that they felt had the authority of Scripture. Almost every list that has been preserved contains most of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament today.

As one looks back at the earliest days of church history, up to the present point, it is easy to see that the basics of Christianity have not really changed. There are some minor doctrinal differences that are seen in different Christian groups today. In reality, there have always been minor differences among what different segments of the church believe. At the same time, however, there are the fundamentals of the faith that every Christian group holds.

A second reason why a study of church history is important is it strengthens your faith. As Christians today look back over their rich heritage, it allows them to see God’s hand at work. From the brutal persecution of the first two centuries, through the Dark Ages, into the Reformation, the Great Awakening, the rise of theological liberalism, and the Revivals of the 19th and 20th centuries, God has sustained his people by His grace. Through good times and bad, the church has continued to grow and thrive all over the world.

Another important benefit of examining the church’s history is that it prepares the church for the future. As history demonstrates, the church is only effective when it is able to adapt and change its methods with the times. The message of the gospel never changes and, as mentioned above, really has not changed in 2000 years. The methods that the church uses to convey that message, however, change regularly.

One example of changing methods would be the use of technology to spread the gospel message. After the invention of the printing press, the printed word was a primary means of spreading Christianity throughout the world. A few hundred years later, the printed word is still very important. Television, radio, and the internet, however, have become at least as important as the printed word in communicating the Gospel. Successful and growing churches understand the power of having a presence on the internet. A good, informative website is something that every church should have today.

Another example of changing methods is that of music. Fanny Crosby was a 19th century hymn writer with several thousand songs to her credit. Crosby was known to use popular secular music of the day to go with the words that she had written to create many of her hymns. Music is always going to be one of the powerful tools that the church uses worship, teach, and evangelize. Most contemporary churches today make ample use of contemporary worship music accompanied by electric guitars, drums, keyboards, and expensive sound systems. While many traditional churches still make use of hymns written hundreds of years ago, many are also incorporating more contemporary music as well.

A last benefit to studying church history is that it keeps one balanced. One of the things that church history shows is a tendency to over-react and over-correct. The pendulum seems to constantly want to swing too far into being like the world or too far into seperating oneself from the world. The church must always maintian the tension of living in the world but not becoming like it. A look church history can help to keep the pendulum from swinging too far to either side.

There are many other benefits to studying church history; the few outlined here serve to provide the student with a good starting point. There is a great value is looking at the lives of those who have gone before you and learning from their example.

Can you think of any other benefits to studying Church History?

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The Sermon on the Mount was arguably Jesus’ greatest sermon. One gets the feeling in many of Jesus’ other teachings that they are only getting a snippet of the entire sermon. The Sermon on the Mount, however, is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters five through seven, and is likely presented in its entirety. It contains many of Jesus’ best known teachings, such as the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Golden Rule.

This sermon is often regarded as the clearest presentation in the New Testament of what the Christian life looks like. One commentator states “it comes closer to being Christianity’s manifesto than any other single portion of the Bible. “The Sermon on the Mount encapsulates the message of the Kingdom. At the very start of His ministry, Jesus preached, “At last the time has come! The Kingdom of God is near! Turn from your sins and believe this Good News!” (Mark 1:15) The Sermon on the Mount articulates what life in the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like.

The Apostle Paul might even take this a step further. While he never mentions the Sermon on the Mount by name, in several of his letters he describes what the “normal” or “Spirit-filled” Christian life looks like. A look at these passages show a number of close parallels to Jesus’ teaching. For example Paul lists the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. In one form or another, Jesus speaks about each of these “fruits” in the Sermon on the Mount.

One of the most interesting things about what Jesus teaches is how he expects His followers to approach the Law. Most Jews of that day could say that they kept the Law most of the time. Most of them could say that they did not commit adultery and that they had not murdered anyone. Jesus, however, understood that just keeping the letter of the Law was never what God intended.

In regards to the murder, for example, Jesus made it clear that the spirit of the law involved what was going on in a person’s heart. He said, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22) In other words, being angry with someone can be a violation of the Law. Even though the person does not act on their anger and kill the person that they are angry with, the anger itself, if left unchecked is the same as committing the act of murder.

Another example that Jesus gave was that of adultery. He said that it was not enough not to just avoid the actual act of adultery. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Jesus places the heart attitude of lust on the same level as the actual act of adultery.

Jesus’ explanation of the spirit of the law actually takes obedience to the Law to another level. For Jesus, what is going on in a person’s heart is as much or more important than just obeying the letter of the law. This teaching, as much as anything else that He taught, brought Jesus into conflict with the Jewish religious teachings.

Another important aspect of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ emphasis on living a lifestyle of faith. He encourages His followers to trust God in their day-to-day living. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26) Jesus stresses to His followers that if they seek the Kingdom of God first, God will provide for their needs. (Matthew 6:33)

In discussing how to live out the Sermon on the Mount, a last point that can be mentioned is Jesus’ teaching on prayer. In Matthew six, He talks about prayer. In Chapter Seven, Jesus returns again to talking about prayer and the importance of persisting in prayer. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) Here, Jesus stresses the need for the Christian to continue in prayer without giving up.

These are just a few of the important ideas that Jesus conveys in the Sermon on the Mount. Every Christian would do well to study and live out this amazing message. As with every other aspect of the Christian life, however, it must be remembered that it is a life that must be lived, yielded to the Holy Spirit. In reality, the Holy Spirit is the only One Who can help a believer live out the Sermon on the Mount.

Annie and I are serving the Lord in Curitiba, Brazil. We are helping develop leaders and laying the groundwork for future church plants. Would you consider supporting us? Just click here to join the team! Obrigado.

 

ChristianSymbols

Since the early days of the Church, Christianity has had certain symbols that have been used to identify other Christians and help represent the movement. One of the earliest of these symbols was the sign of the fish. Because of sporadic persecution, Christians had to be very cautious in how they connected with other believers.

The early Christians formed an acrostic based on the Greek letters of the word “fish.” The acrostic spelled out “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” The fish had other symbolic meaning as well. On two occasions, Jesus fed large groups of people by multiplying small amounts of fish and bread. Jesus also called some of His disciples from the ranks of those who fished for a living. He told Peter, “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.”

The fish symbol was used by Christians to identify a fellow believer. If a believer met someone who he was not sure about, the Christian could draw half of the fish symbol in the sand or on a parchment. If the stranger drew the other half, it was understood that they were a believer also. During times of persecution, the fish symbol could also be used to mark meeting places for the church.

Another key symbol for Christianity is the cross. From the very beginning of the Church, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the message of the cross and what it symbolized was very important for Christ’s followers. The symbol of the cross, however, did not gain lasting and widespread popularity in Christianity until around 400 years after the birth of the church. Of course, today, most church buildings have a cross on them somewhere and many people wear cross jewelry.

For the first several hundred years after Christ’s crucifixion, the cross was understood as being the instrument that He was sacrificed on for the sins of mankind. The good news, though, was the fact that Christ was raised from the dead. For the early Christians, and for Christians of every generation, the resurrection of Jesus is the central tenant of the Christian faith.

While the early Christians embraced the message of the cross, it was not until much later that it came to be used as a symbol. It is easy to forget that the cross was one of the main methods that the Romans used to keep the conquered peoples of the Empire under control. When people attempted to rebel or refused to pay taxes, the Roman military would violently put down the revolt and then crucify any prisoners taken alive. The victims would be executed in a public place and their bodies were often left on the cross for the vultures to prey on.

The brutality of crucifixion and the terrible images associated with a cross were the main reasons that it took the church so long before its use as a symbol became widespread. Methods of execution are not normally used as religious symbols. The Apostle Paul, however, understood the importance of what Jesus had accomplished by dying on the cross. “As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead.” (Galatians 6:14)

While there are other lesser know symbols of Christianity, the fish and the cross are the two that have endured through the centuries. The two primary ceremonies that Christians still celebrate on a regular basis are also full of symbolism. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, have been passed down since the time of Christ. While not symbols themselves, they both carry tremendous significance and meaning for Christians today.

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The next key event of World War II was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. This surprise attack on the American fleet inflicted a crippling blow on the United States Navy. It left over 3500 people dead, 350 American planes destroyed, and 8 battleships sunk or severely damaged. Many smaller ships were destroyed as well.

While this was a devastating attack, it did not have the effect that the Japanese High Command had hoped for. Their goal was that with one decisive strike, the US Navy would be destroyed and would cease to be a threat. While the Japanese attack did do tremendous damage, not a single US aircraft carrier was in port at the time. These aircraft carriers would soon be responsible for the American Navy’s offensive thrust. Also, most of the port facilities were undamaged in Pearl Harbor. These would play a large role in the war effort. Due to America’s advanced technological skill, all but three of the sunk or damaged ships were repaired and restored to duty in the fleet. Most importantly, the United States had been brought into the war and, as the Axis Powers would see, a united and determined America would become their toughest enemy.

One of the most decisive battles in World War II was the Battle of Midway. In June of 1942, the United States Navy was able to draw the Japanese Navy into the open. The Japanese hoping that if they could engage the US Navy they could deliver the final, crippling blow that they had not been able to land at Pearl Harbor. Instead, US Rear Admiral Spruance was able to locate the Japanese Navy first and launch the first attacks. This became the first battle in which a naval battle was dominated by air power. When the battle was over, US Naval aircraft had sunk four of the Japanese aircraft carriers. The Japanese also lost a number of planes and experienced pilots. The United States Navy suffered the loss of one aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown. This was an important victory for the US forces. First of all, the Japanese Navy had lost half of their carrier fleet. They would never again be a dominant force in the war. Also, for the US, this victory was important for the home front. Pearl Harbor was still fresh on people’s minds and this defeat of the Japanese at Midway was the first of many victories that would mark the path towards ultimate victory for the United States and their allies.

In the European theater of war, the Battle of the Bulge was another key event. About six months previous to this, the allies had successfully invaded Europe with the goal of liberating it from the Axis powers. In December of 1944, Hitler launched a large counteroffensive over a line of several hundred miles. This was a last ditch effort by the German High Command to gain a victory over the allies or at least be in a position to ask for more favorable surrender At first, the Germans overwhelmed the allied forces. The offensive pushed forward about fifty miles. Rather than panicking, General Eisenhower saw this as an excellent opportunity to counterattack. The Germans had over-extended themselves and as the allies organized for a counteroffensive, the German casualties increased. The Germans ended up suffering over 100,000 casualties and a defeat that they would never recover from.

A last key event of World War II that will be mentioned was the dropping of atomic bombson Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. As the United States contemplated an attack on the mainland of Japan, predicted casualty rates were as high as one million for the allied forces. When President Truman learned that the atomic bomb was available to be used, he made the difficult decision and ordered that the bombs be dropped. On Aug 6, 1945, a United States B-29, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. 70,000 people were killed from the blast. On Aug 9, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing 80,000 people. After the second bomb, the Japanese High Command surrendered on Aug 14, 1945. The morality of Truman’s decision has been questioned for over fifty years. There is no question that the decision to use the atomic bomb hastened the end of the war and save American lives.

This article has only scratched the surface of looking at key events of World War II. There are many other events that could be discussed. These events, however, do provide the reader with an excellent time line of the war, as well as looking at the most significant moments in this terrible conflict.

My wife, Annie, and I are serving the Lord in Brazil. Would you consider becoming a part of our support team? Just click here to get started! Obrigado!

 

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World War Two was the world’s first true global conflict. While much of the fighting took place in Europe, there were also battles in Asia, Africa, the Pacific and even Alaska. More than fifty countries were involved. With a war this vast, there are bound to be many important events that can be discussed.

The first key event that will be mentioned was Germany’s invasion of Poland on Sept 1, 1939, which signaled the start of the war. This unprovoked attack led to Britain and France both declaring war on Germany. Within just a couple of weeks, the major fighting in Poland was over but World War II had begun.

After Poland’s fall, Britain and France were content to prepare for the war and wait to see what Germany would do next. It was not until the Spring of 1940 that the next key event of the war took place. On May 10, Germany launched an invasion of France. Many considered the French army to be one of the best in Europe. This was shown to not be the case as the Germans overwhelmingly forced France’s surrender after just six weeks of fighting. The main significance of France’s fall was that Britain was now standing alone against the Axis.

It was during the fall of France that one of the most impressive evacuations of all time took place at the French town of Dunkirk. Using Royal Naval vessels and hundreds of civilian boats over 200,000 British troops and 140,000 French troops were evacuated to England across the English Channel. This event was very significant because of the large number of troops that were rescued. These armies would be needed later in the on-going fight on Nazism.

With England standing alone, Germany soon turned its attention on that tiny nation. The eyes of the world were on the island nation as they waited for a German invasion. Before German forces could launch an invasion, however, the Luftwaffe needed to control the skies above Britain, as well as controlling the English Channel. In July of 1940, the Luftwaffe began attacking the Royal Air Forcebases and other strategic targets. The RAF fought tenaciously and bravely. The RAF was vastly outnumbered yet they consistently inflicted heavy losses on the German air force, while suffering severe casualties themselves.

During the Battle of Britain, one of the contributing factors to the British victory was that the air war took place over friendly territory. In many cases, a damaged British plane could be nursed back to an RAF airfield. In cases where a British pilot had to bail out, he did so in friendly territory and was often back in the cockpit of another fighter within a few hours. The Germans did not enjoy this luxury and suffered the loss of many experienced pilots that were either killed trying to nurse a damaged plane home across the English Channel or captured if they bailed out over England. By the middle of September, the Luftwaffe had suffered twice as many losses as the RAF and Hitler postponed his planned invasion of Britain. It was after this battle that Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

To be continued…

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dove

As Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples behind, He spoke to them about the Holy Spirit. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In Luke 24:49, Jesus told His disciples that they would be “clothed with power from on high.”

Based on these and other Scriptures, it seems like Jesus was saying that He was sending the Holy Spirit to help His followers continue to do the work that He started. There is no indication that that mandate has changed. Matthew also recorded some of Jesus’ last words to His followers. The followers were to “go and make disciples of all the nations…”

The Gospel of Luke recorded Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus is shown preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. The Acts of the Apostles was the second volume of Luke’s two book set. Acts picks up where the Gospel left off. It shows Jesus’ followers continuing to do the same kinds of things that He had done. They were able to do these things because they had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

The work of Jesus’ followers is still to make disciples of all the nations and to do the things that Jesus did. Christians are still supposed to preach, teach, and pray for the sick. Clearly, methods and strategies have evolved. Technology has provided amazing ways to spread the Gospel. Technology also allows the Gospel message to be transmitted and broadcast into areas that are shut off to the rest of the world and opposed to Christianity.

Incredible technology, innovative methods, and superior strategies, however, do not lead to anyone’s conversion or acceptance of Christianity. Conversion only takes place as people turn from their sins, exercise faith in Christ, and begin the process of becoming a disciple. As Jesus said, He was going to give His followers the Holy Spirit so that they would be empowered as they shared His message and made more disciples. Whenever the Church has attempted to spread the message of Christianity apart from the Holy Spirit’s power, the results have been dismal.

The Holy Spirit is actively involved in the world today in the lives of Christ’s followers. The Holy Spirit works through His people as they stretch out their hands to help a hurt and dying world. As Christians love others and represent Christ to the world, the Holy Spirit is there also, drawing people to God.

How do you see the Holy Spirit working in your life?

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Christ Healing Simon Peter's Mother-in-Law by John Bridges

Christ Healing Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law by John Bridges

Of all the miracles that Mark records, this one is by far the most “ordinary.” It is not nearly as dramatic as the previous exorcism. The ramifications are not nearly as great as the healing of the leper or the raising of the young girl from the dead. In spite of all that, this healing provides us with some key insights into the personality of Jesus.

The fact that this miracle is not as dramatic as others, does not in any way belittle the importance of this healing. While a fever in our day is often an inconvenience that is treated with bed rest and medicine, in ancient times, a fever could be fatal. This was a very serious condition and Jesus wasted no time in dealing with it.

This healing is also important in a historical sense. This little story gives us some rare insight into the home life of one of Jesus’s disciples. It lets us know that Peter was married and probably had a family. In fact, Peter was the only one of the Twelve to have a family member healed by Jesus. It is reasonable to assume that others among the Twelve were also married and had families. This fact adds weight to Peter’s statement, “We have left everything to follow you!”

The first thing that we should notice about this miracle is the fact that it is performed on a woman. As one of the first miracles that Mark records, Jesus is seen reaching out to a member of an often overlooked group in society, namely women. While this might not seem like much of an issue in our modern society, in first century Palestine, women were little more than property. Jesus’s willingness to heal a woman showed that He was not going to be bound by all the norms of His day. James Brooks writes, “By including accounts of the healing of women as well as men, Mark implied that Jesus was concerned about all people, including those who had a lowly place in society.” Time and again, Jesus was seen reaching out to those on the margins of society and healing them.

Another aspect of this healing that needs to be commented on is the simplicity of it. In Mark’s account, Jesus merely took the sick woman by the hand and helped her up. At this, “The fever left her . . .” This is in contrast to the exorcism that had just taken place. In that situation, Jesus spoke (possibly even yelled) at the demons and cast them out. There is no indication that He touched the demon possessed man. Here, Jesus does not say a word; He just helps the sick woman out of bed. There is no mention of the woman’s faith or of anyone else’s faith for that matter. The touch of Jesus was enough to bring total healing. No theological point is made. We just see Jesus exercising His authority and healing someone who is suffering.

The last aspect of this story that will be mentioned is the aftermath of the healing. After the fever left her, “she began to wait on them.” After being healed, Peter’s mother-in-law immediately began to serve Jesus and those with Him. Alan Richardson sees this as a moral exhortation: “Christians who have been delivered from the power of sin and restored to health should at once begin to use their blessings in the service of the Lord.” Those who have been recipients of God’s love and power have a responsibility to share that same love and power with those around them.

Would you consider supporting our mission work in Brazil? Together, we can make a difference in people’s lives! Just click here. Obrigado!

preachingwithnorival

C3 Curitiba recently had a sermon series called “Next Generation Leadership.” This message is about John Mark and his journey out of the shadows to becoming the leader that God had called him to be. We all go through times where we want to hide from our destiny. He was willing to learn from his mistakes and was willing to be trained by an older, wiser leader.

John Mark was one of the leaders that we discuss in my new book, New Testament Snapshots. Here is how you can get your copy of the book. I know that you will love it!

My translator for the message was my good friend, Norival Trinidade. He is the Vice-President of the International Leadership Institute. Norival travels the globe training Christian leaders. It was an honor for me to work with him for the evening.

Click here to watch the message.

My wife, Annie, and I are helping train and develop leaders in Curitiba, Brazil. Would you consider becoming a part of our support team? Just click here. Obrigado!