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News - July 25th

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Dear Immanuel family,

When you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you see how Jesus had great popularity with the crowds while the people were being healed and feed.  These authenticating works brought the good news to many.  However, as Jesus pointed out in the Parable of the Sower, true repentance and lasting fruit didn’t always result.  Later in his ministry when he felt the rejection of the religious leaders and the crowds he began to focus solely on teaching those close to him.   In Matthew 16 Jesus said, “I will build my church….” We too participate with the King of Kings and are so glad we are that Jesus said He will build his church.  This group of redeemed people, which includes us, who accept Jesus by faith alone, will spend eternity praising God.

Did you know that we are God the Father’s gift to his Son.  How special we are.   In the Jesus’ prayer in John 17 he put it this way, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.  Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”  Jesus wants as many of us to be with him in heaven as possible.  He wants the Body of Christ to do the best job it can in making sure everyone has a chance to hear the gospel.

Earlier in the week I made a call to our church’s phone company and today I received an email asking me to rate their service.  I know we would never think of taking a survey like this in church, but there are people who study how to best build a healthy church.  One such study was done by NCD and I thought some of you might want to read their summary (http://www.nabconference.org/sites/default/files/files/resources/NCDSummary2004.pdf They studied a 1000 churches in 32 countries and came up with 8 essential quality characteristics.  They are 1)   Empowering Leadership, 2) Gift-oriented Ministry, 3) Passionate Spirituality, 4) Functional Structures, 5) Inspiring Worship Service, 6) Holistic Small Groups, 7) Need-oriented Evangelism, and 8) Loving Relationships.

One  of these qualities of our church that I appreciate so much are the SOMA small groups.  We can’t wait until they start up again.  If you haven’t been a part of a SOMA group, please consider it.  They start up again on September 14th.  Did you know that there is a church in South Korea that has 830,000 members?  Hard to believe but an integral part of the church are the small groups that meet in homes.   Our small groups are important for our church too.   Let’s all be co-laborers with Christ as He builds His church.

PSD

   

News - July 18th

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Dear Immanuel family,

When Jesus described the end times in the Gospels he predicted, “Nation will rise against nation….there will be famines and earthquake…false prophets will arise…and because of lawlessness is increased most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24).  I think we would all agree that the stage is set for Christ’s return.   Israel’s retaking of the land in 1948 is for us one of the most important evidences that we believe in the literal interpretation of end times prophecy.   As Ezekiel prophesied “I will make them one nation in the land…”  (37:22)

As the Palestinians fire rockets at Israel’s major cities, we see that the whole world is focusing on this small piece of real estate as the Bible predicted in the last days.  Israel doesn’t occupy all of the land that God promised to Abraham, but the much of the Muslim world is set on Israel’s annihilation.   Nevertheless, God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham’s descendants (Gen 17:7) and he plans to keep it.  Although we don’t condone all that goes on in Israel today, God said, “I will bless those who bless you,” and up until now our country has received God’s favor as we have stood alongside Israel.

We live in the “Times of the Gentiles” and we have been given the privilege to be grafted into the God’s chosen people.  He is delaying his return so that others can hear the gospel and respond.  How about you? Are you ready to meet the Lord?  For the same reason that He chose the nation of Israel -  to demonstrate His mercy and grace - he is calling out to you.  The Bible says “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).   Give him your heart today.  I love what David Jeremiah said about being a Christian, “We can pay more attention to the upper taker than the under taker.”

PSD

   

News - July 11th

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Dear Immanuel family,

The other night I was watching Episode 1 of the TV mini-series, The Bible, shown on the History Channel.   I was struck by Abraham’s response to the Lord after he was asked to leave his home and family to travel to Canaan.  He was 75 years old!  For this 50 something, I know how I resist change.  We thrive on routine and being comfortable.  Abraham could have said, “No thank you, sir, I am content here in Haran.  Why would I want the stress of loading the camels and traveling 550 miles at my age?  Thank you anyway.”

Aren’t we glad that Abraham didn’t do that?  What was it about Abraham that made him pick up and go?  Maybe it was the promise of being a “great nation” or the promise to use him “to bless all the families of the earth.”  But I can believe that God saw in Abraham what he would also like to see in us – a teachable spirit.  We know that Abraham didn’t get it all right, but God saw his great potential and his willingness to be taught.

People with teachable spirits prepare to move out of their comfort zones and take action when God is directing even though it may not seem logical.   They accept the exhortations from others and ask, “What is the Lord trying to teach me through this?”  How can I grow or what new things can I learn, are the questions they ask?  They are those that God can use, as they admit their failures and shortcomings and work at the task until they get it right.

It is summer and soon fall will be upon us.  In the fall, schools begin again for our kids, but there are also many opportunities for us “older” folks to continue to learn.   What about taking that class you have been wanting to take or reading those books on your shelves.  Join a group like Bible Study Fellowship that meets at Immanuel, study an on-line class from schools like Liberty University, learn Spanish or learn about missions in the class mentioned below.   Even be willing to take on new responsibilities at work which may require extra training.   By doing this you make yourself more valuable to your employer.  Let’s be teachable and lifelong learners.

PSD

   

News - July 3rd

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Dear Immanuel family,

July 4th has become a great American holiday.   During the weekend as you listen to media outlets I challenge you to take an informal survey of the times you hear any mention of God or Jesus Christ during a discussion of the festivities.  You don’t have to look very far in the history of 1776 to realize the majority of the Founding Fathers of our country were devote Christians. 52 of the 56 men who signed the Constitution were evangelical believers.   Typical were the words of George Washington who prayed, ““Let my heart gracious God, be so effected with Your glory and majesty, that I may fulfill these weighty duties which You have required of me. I have called upon You to pardon me of my sins. Thank You for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offered on the cross for me. You gave Your Son to die for me and have given me assurance of salvation.”

Many today would have us believe that those who founded our country were secularists and they felt the need to protect our citizens from the influence of religion.   In an effort to do this we are seeing the removal of scripture in public buildings, prohibition of nativity scenes at Christmas,  and when prayers are allowed at public events, they can’t be done in Jesus’s name.    But is this really true?   In fact, the idea of separation of church and state came later in 1802 when a group of Baptists in Connecticut wrote a letter (see the attached) when they heard that President Thomas Jefferson wanted to give government backing to one of the Christian denominations.   In response (see attached) Thomas Jefferson affirms that the government will provide a “wall of separation between Church and State.

This was done to reassure Christians of their religious freedom.   In no way were President Jefferson’s words meant to restrict religious expression.  They were written to protect the free exercise of the “Christian” religion.  In fact, in 1833, US Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story said, “The real object of the [First] Amendment was, not to countenance [approve], much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity [secularism], by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations].   Boy, that is not what we hear today, is it?  The Bible tells us that we are a blessed people.  Let’s do all we can so this verse will be true: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!  (Psalms 33:12)  Have a great 4th of July.

(The following was summarized from a message by Dr. Robert Jeffress heard on Pathway to Victory http://ptv.org/radio/radio-broadcasts/ I encourage you to listen to the full message and part two that will be aired on the 4th)

PSD

   

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