Sunday – February 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 5:12-42 “The Great Escape”

Sunday – February 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 9, 2020

Acts 5:19-20
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

The early church in the Book of Acts experienced the Lord’s power through the many miracles performed by the apostles, and through powerful witness and the resulting powerful conversions of the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Jesus had told the apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be His witnesses and Peter testified to the Sanhedrin that it was the Holy Spirit in them that was the source of their power (5:32).

Many say that if the church would only repent of her sins and have faith in God, then we would again see miracles on a par with these recorded in the Book of Acts. But I believe such thinking not to be in line with biblical teaching. It was not every church member who was performing these miracles, but rather the apostles and a few other leading men in the church. The purpose for God granting these miracles was to confirm the gospel message and to authenticate these men as God’s messengers in these early days of the church.

While God obviously still does mighty miracles in our day if He so chooses, to argue that it is His will to do them as a common occurrence is to ignore the overall teaching of God’s Word. Many fail to note that while the apostles performed many great miracles, and the angel miraculously delivered them from prison, the angel did not spare them from being flogged. (There is a bit of humor here: since the Sadducees did not believe in angels, the Lord sent one to deliver the apostles!) God did not deliver James (12:2) or Paul from prison (Acts 24:27) or spare them and most of the other apostles from martyrdom. Paul did not heal Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20) or tell Timothy to claim healing by faith for his frequent stomach problems (1 Tim. 5:23).

On the one hand, we should never limit God’s power by our unbelief or by our rationalistic theology. We should pray in faith, knowing that all things are possible with God. Yet on the other hand, we should submit to the fact that it is not always His will to deliver us from illness, persecution, or death. Above all, we should be people who are “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:11-12). I would point out that you don’t need steadfastness and patience if God miraculously delivers you! We see God’s mighty power in our text, not only in the miracles of healing, but also in the disciples rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Sunday – October 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 23:1-25 Part 2 “Rejection of Israel’s Messiah”

Sunday – October 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 6, 2019

Luke 23:8-10
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.

We all make offers we really don’t expect others to accept. I believe Pilate made the leaders of Israel—the chief priests and rulers of the people—an offer they would never accept—but they did. The religious leaders of Israel brought Jesus to Pilate, accusing Him of being a criminal worthy of death. But Pilate did not see it this way at all. Eventually, he made these leaders an offer I think he was sure they would not accept. His offer was to release to them Barabbas, a thief, a revolutionary, and a murderer. Which would they choose—to turn Barabbas loose on their city—or Jesus? Jesus was a man of peace, a seemingly harmless fellow. Barabbas was a dangerous criminal. Surely they would leave Barabbas in prison, where he belonged, and be content to have Jesus found guilty of a crime and then pardoned.

When we read the account of the trial of our Lord before the political rulers of that day, it is like watching a table tennis match. On the one hand, Jesus is passed back and forth between Pilate and Herod. On the other, the dialogue between Pilate and the religious leaders bounces back, from one to the other. Pilate repeatedly pronounces Jesus innocent of any crime, but the Jewish religious leaders respond by even more vigorously affirming His guilt, demanding nothing less than the death penalty. One would think that Pilate, with the power of Rome behind him, would have little difficulty enforcing his will on the people, but such is not the case. We see that indeed the people prevail, and the story ends with Pilate giving them their way, even though this means the death of an innocent man.

Why does Luke include this incident with Herod while no other gospel writer does? I believe it is important to see that everyone rejected Jesus as the Messiah, including Herod. But it was absolutely necessary for Rome and the Gentiles to share in the rejection and the crucifixion of Christ so that all men, not just the Jews, might be guilty of His innocent blood. Herod does play a part, but this is the time for the Gentiles to show their own disdain for the Savior.

If men are so utterly angry with God that they will always hate, oppose, and reject Him, how can they ever be convinced, converted, and changed? It will not be through human might or methods, but only through the Holy Spirit of God. As we read the Book of Acts we learn that men were convinced and converted—miraculously so, such as Saul—but they were convinced and converted through the work of God’s Spirit, as He empowered men and their testimony for Christ. May we go about His work, dependent upon His Word and dependent upon His Spirit.

Sunday – July 7, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 19:28-45 “Un-Triumphal Entry”

Sunday – July 7, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 7, 2019

Luke 19:39-40
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

One can hardly grasp the mood of many at that moment in history. The crowds were looking for the Messiah, and Jesus was a likely candidate. The moment was right. The people looked for Him, watching carefully for any indication of His identity. In contrast, the Pharisees and religious leaders were determined that He was not the Messiah, and that He would have no opportunity to attempt to be acclaimed such by the masses who would have wished He were their King.

The problem was no one really understood the meaning and significance of what they were doing as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. John informs us that even the disciples did not understand what they or Jesus were doing until after He was glorified (John 12:16). The crowds had no idea who He was, thinking Jesus was only “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:10-11). Luke put in the picture “Jesus was praised for His miracles” (Luke 19:37). Just as Jesus could say that those who crucified Him “knew not what they were doing” (Luke 23:34), so we see that the crowds did not know what they were doing here either.

Some of the disciples did regard Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as the entrance of Israel’s King, but they did not understand how His kingdom would be instituted. Many people simply did not know who He was, or what was happening. One wonders how many got caught up in the excitement and the activity, without knowing what was happening at all. The Pharisees and the religious leaders, of course, not only rejected Jesus’ deity, but also His identity as Messiah. How then, could they allow Him to be praised? They insisted that Jesus stop the people from praising Him. Yet Jesus refused, saying that if the people were silenced, the stones would cry out. Jesus was the Son of God. He not only deserved the praise and worship; it could not be silenced.

That is what you and I are to do now. If you acknowledge Jesus to be the Son of God, to be your Savior, then He must be praised. How is it that a rainy day can keep us from joining others in praising Him? How is it that a beautiful day can do the same, by giving us a “day out on the lake,” rather than with the saints, praising Him? It is one thing for those who deny Jesus as Lord to fail to praise Him. It is another for those who name Him as Lord and King to refuse to worship Him. Heaven is an eternity of praise. When He comes as King, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will utter His praise (Philippians 2:9-11). Let us not be guilty of keeping silent when we should be praising Him. And is not our bearing witness to Him a form of praise as well? Do we not refuse to praise Him when we fail to tell others of Him and of His love? Let us surpass the stones!

Sunday – February 17, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 14:1-14 “Table Talks”

Sunday – February 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 17, 2019

Luke 14:1-2
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.

The meal table is one of the social centers of the home. Think of some of your warmest memories, and many of them will be associated with meal-time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, usually include a festive meal, fellowship, and pleasant memories. The “external glue” of Luke 14, which gives it a unity, is the dinner table. Everything which is said here is said at or near the dinner table, and about the dinner table. But there is an “internal glue” which should be recognized as well, providing us with an even deeper unity. That “silver thread” is the concept of self-interest. Think about the ways in which self-interest can be found at the heart of every sin which our Lord condemns in these verses.

Self-interest caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus, angry that He spent great amounts of time and energy with “sinners” and the unsuitable people, rather than with them. Self-interest caused the Pharisees to want Jesus out of the way, lest He overthrow their system, and prevent them from all the “perks” which it afforded them. It was also self-interest which motivated each person to seek to sit in the places of honor at the dinner table. And self-interest that caused the Israelites of Jesus’ day to reject Him as Messiah. It is self-interest which keeps men from coming to Christ for salvation. Men wish to enter into the kingdom, but do not wish to create any pain, displeasure, or sacrifice for themselves.

Our culture is more permeated by self-interest than any other people at any other time in history. We may laugh at the antics of the Pharisees to get the best places at the dinner table, but we also sign up for classes which teach us how to assert ourselves, so that we can be more successful. Nearly every problem which man experiences today is now linked (in some mysterious way) to a poor self-esteem. We are truly a self-oriented society, just as Paul described the culture of those in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5). While we may not fight for the chair of honor at the dinner table, many Christians will line up for leadership training classes, positions of prominence and public visibility. At the same time, those tasks which call for menial service, with little recognition, seem to go begging for faithful people to carry out. Ministries where people don’t seem to appreciate us and our contribution are quickly left behind, replaced by some ministry which is more “fulfilling.”

Let us recognize how much self-interest paralyzes and perverts our ministry, our worship, and our Christian walk. Let us learn from the Master our reward in heaven will be great, and that it comes to those who “give up their life” to gain it, while those who seek to save their lives lose them. May the Spirit of God work through the Word of God to replace self-seeking with self-sacrifice, to the glory of God and for our own good as well.

Sunday – January 13, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:1-21 “A Matter of Perspective”

Sunday – January 13, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 13, 2019

Luke 13:1-3
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In the past year we have been shocked by the shooting of 17 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hear of natural disasters that have killed thousands around the world. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases. Naturally, we always ask, “Why?” Why did this have to happen to this person? I can understand why many people question God’s goodness and fairness, even doubting His existence. It’s the classic philosophic problem of evil: How can an all-good and all-powerful God allow good people to suffer and wicked people to prosper?

The Lord Jesus gives us some answers to these difficult questions in Luke 13. We don’t know any more about these events other than what is reported. Pilate had sent in his troops to break up a gathering of Galilean Jews that he deemed dangerous. The Roman soldiers did not care that the Jews were worshiping God by offering sacrifices. They slaughtered them so that their blood flowed together with the blood of their sacrifices. Then Jesus brings up another tragedy when a tower fell down and killed 18 people.

Jesus was speaking to people who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves (12:56-57). From His reply, we can see these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, but the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God. Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3 & 5), He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? The fact that a tragedy has not hit you should show you God’s great patience. If you have not repented of your sins and if you’re not bearing fruit in God’s vineyard, there is still time. But, don’t mistake God’s patience to mean that His axe will never fall. His patience does have a limit. Life is fragile; none are exempt from tragedies. But, if you have fled to Christ for refuge and you are bringing forth the fruits of repentance in your life, you are ready if/when tragedy strikes.

Sunday May 13, 2018 – Mother’s Day

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Deuteronomy 6:1-2

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.”

Deuteronomy 6 has been called the Magna Carta of the home, a constitution which would guarantee the happiness and well-being of the family in the purpose of God. But while it is an important passage for the home, this passage must not be used outside of its overall context and purpose or it loses its real impact for the home. One of the chief purposes of this section of Scripture is a call to ministry and testimony as the people of God through obedience to God.

This is not simply a call to obedience for the sake of obedience or happiness, nor is it just a passage with mere principles for the home. It is a call to obedience for God’s glory, as an evidence of love for God and for a ministry to the world through the perpetuation of faith in the Lord from generation to generation to generation. Personal blessing is promised to those who respond to the challenge of God, but primarily as a by-product of relationship with the Lord, not as an end in itself.

As soon as you mention obedience, many Christians think “legalism.” Obedience can become legalistic when people do it outwardly to look good before others. But their hearts are far from devotion to God. Some Jews, for example, obeyed Verses 8 and 9 quite literally. They wore these verses in little boxes strapped to their hands and foreheads, and they put them in a little box by their doors and on their gateposts. But they missed the sense of the passage, which is that the Word of God is to permeate every area of life. Not just the outward behavior, but the sacred space within.

There are Pharisees in the church today, who lay down rules that are not in the Bible in an attempt to get their kids to look like good Christians to the rest of the church. But they themselves are judgmental of those who don’t meet their manmade standards; they gossip and they’re proud. That’s not biblical obedience. Biblical obedience goes down to the heart level, where God’s Word judges our sinful thoughts, motives, and attitudes. The obedience of faith means that out of love for the God who showed me mercy at the cross, I seek to be conformed to Christ in the inner man. As God’s people today, this is our call and responsibility. Remember, these Old Testament principles, warnings, and exhortations are given for us today as examples to us and for our instruction and “that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Sunday April 22, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:12-20 “Calling the Dirty Dozen”

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Luke 6:12-13
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…”

Do you ever look around at all the hurting, needy people in the world and feel overwhelmed? I do. Every day on the news we hear about people in desperate need: victims of war, disease, crime, poverty, family and personal problems. Even if we limit it to Temple City or to the people who attend this church, we encounter a pile of needs. We all know that God is the only final answer to those needs. As Job lamented, “Man is born for trouble as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7). The suffering, sickness, sorrow, and pain that we all encounter should cause each of us to realize our own alienation from the holy God and our desperate need for reconciliation with Him before we die.

People need to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. God has many ways He could have used to dispense His truth to this hurting world. He could have used the angels who would have been more obedient and efficient at getting the job done than His followers have been. He could have spoken directly from heaven to every person on the globe. No doubt God had many other options. I can’t tell you for sure why He chose to do it the way He did, but the method of Jesus for ministry was prayerfully to choose a few men to minister to the needy masses.

You don’t have to be flashy or famous or influential in the worldly sense to be used by God. We all know about Peter, James, and John, but what do we know about James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, or Judas the son of James? And yet these men were a part of the twelve apostles who will sit on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel. Although they were not outwardly well known or as influential as Peter was, they were faithful men who served according to their gifts. Just as Jesus chose the twelve, He has chosen us to be His instruments to testify to others of His grace and to build up the saints through the exercise of their gifts. That’s what God requires of you and me.

Let me ask, do you see the masses and their great needs? Are you burdened for them with compassion as Jesus was? If you feel overwhelmed by the great needs, then look to the all-sufficient Master, who has grace and power to spare. It’s His job to heal and save them. But how does He do it? Through choosing faithful men and women to multiply His grace to others. He chooses common men and women from a variety of backgrounds and conscripts them into His service. If you’ve trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He has appointed you to serve in His cause.

Sunday April 8, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 5:27-39 “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”

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Luke 5:33-34
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

Many people saw the Puritans (incorrectly) as “people who suffer from an overwhelming dread that somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone may be enjoying himself.” That definition is incorrect because the Puritans had as their purpose “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we all have met someone who fits that incorrect definition —a religious person who only seems to be content when everyone else is miserable. These folks are like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Lutherans, who are suspicious of a place like Hawaii that doesn’t have harsh winters.

Why is it that there are so many “dill pickle” Christians around, who are more like the Pharisees than those who attended Levi’s reception? It is because Satan has warped our conception of the Christian life. Jesus’ disciples, unlike the disciples of the Pharisees and even of John the Baptist, feast, while the others fast. The real issue is not stated, but it is there: “Why are your disciples able to enjoy life, while we merely endure it?” Note the contrast in the attitude of the Pharisees with that of the “sinners.” The sinners are celebrating; the Pharisees are grumbling. The sinners are happy; the Pharisees are sad. The sinners are enjoying life; the Pharisees only endure it. The sinners are “grabbing for gusto,” the Pharisees are griping to Jesus.

There are times when fasting is appropriate. There are times when the most spiritually mature Christians will be sad, when they will grieve, when they won’t be marked by joy. But Jesus is the bridegroom and when He is with His people, then we should experience the joy of the wedding feast. The joy of the Christian life is being personally related to our loving Bridegroom! If you know the joy of a personal relationship with Him, there will be times when you fast. You will discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. You will obey His Word. But your motive will not be to earn right standing with Him or to impress others with your spirituality. Your motive will be the joy of knowing and pleasing your Bridegroom.

Joy, not sorrow, not sadness, should be the dominant characteristic of the Christian. The Christian life includes sorrow and suffering and sacrifice, but these are not the melody line of our life, or they should not be. These are the harmony line. Suffering and sacrifice are means, but they should not be the end. Joy is the goal, it is the climax, it is the reward of forgiveness and fellowship with God.

Sunday March 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Everyone is a Sermon Critic” Luke 5:12-26

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Luke 5:20-21
Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

This is the colorful story of the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof as Jesus spoke in a crowded house (Luke 5:17-26). Mark’s gospel is the most elaborate in describing the men digging through the roof. If this were Peter’s house you can imagine how he, not to mention his wife, felt to have his house jammed with people and then to see these four guys dig a hole through his roof to let their friend down in front of Jesus! As a preacher, I can relate to the problem of dealing with distractions while you’re preaching. As Jesus was speaking, some of the people in the front row began feeling dirt raining down on their heads. As they looked up, they saw a patch of daylight through the ceiling. As they kept looking, it grew until they saw four sweaty-faced men who proceeded to lower this guy on a stretcher right in front of Jesus. How do you stick to your message when that happens?

Jesus had a minute to think about His response. He surprised everyone by saying to the paralytic, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” It must have startled the guys on the roof. One of them had his head down through the opening so he could hear. The other guys were asking, “What did Jesus say?” He relayed, “He said that his sins are forgiven.” “His sins are forgiven? Didn’t He heal him? You mean we went to all the trouble of making this hole through the roof and letting him down just so he could get his sins forgiven? We want him healed.

Some may look at this poor man and say, “His main need is for emotional healing. Imagine what he must feel like, being totally dependent on others for everything he needed. But Jesus did not say, “Friend, I want you to feel good about yourself.” He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Others may have said, “What this man needs is economic and educational help. Let’s give him food stamps, government health care benefits and some job training.” But Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Forgiveness of sins is not just a little option, thrown in with the total benefit package of the abundant life. If the Bible’s message about death and eternal judgment is correct, then forgiveness is the main need of every person. People don’t primarily need their marriages fixed, emotional problems resolved or economic help. People need to know with assurance from God that their sins are forgiven. All other needs are secondary. As Jesus taught on another occasion, “What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” (Matt. 16:25). There’s something much more important than having a healthy body and plenty of money; it’s having God forgive your sins.

Sunday March 18, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Catching Fish or Men?” Luke 5:1-11

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Luke 5:9-11
 “For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”

In our passage we see the Lord Jesus helping some fishermen get their lives aimed in the right direction. Scholars are divided over whether this incident is identical with Jesus’ call of these fishermen as recorded in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. James and John, and perhaps some others, such as Peter’s brother, Andrew (although unnamed), were present, but the focus in our text is on Jesus and Peter. These men had all met Jesus and had begun to follow Him, but they were not yet completely committed to His mission. Picture the scene: The multitudes were pressing around Jesus, listening to the word of God. And where were Peter, James and John? They were involved with their business, cleaning their nets after a frustrating night of fishing with no catch. Jesus’ job was to get their eyes off of fish and onto Himself and lost people.

There is nothing wrong with success in business, per se. God wants us to be diligent and to do well in our work. It is not more spiritual to be mediocre in our jobs and it is not inherently more worldly to become successful. Also, when I say that we must shift our focus from success in business to success in catching people for Christ, I am not implying that everyone must leave so-called “secular” employment and work full-time in ministry. Some are called to do that, as Peter was, but certainly not all. It is not more spiritual to be in full-time ministry than it is to be a faithful servant of the Lord in some other kind of work. It is just a matter of gifts and calling.

But, having said all that, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you must adopt His purpose for your life, and His primary purpose for His children never involves becoming a success in our jobs. His word to all of us is, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,” but rather, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:19, 33). Whatever you do to make a living, your main goal should be to glorify God and your main focus should be to be a witness for Jesus Christ through your behavior, attitudes, and words. This requires a shift in focus where you begin to view people as Jesus did and to view yourself as His representative in your sphere of influence. The people you come in contact with are your mission field.

My question for you is, “Are you living for Christ’s purpose for your life?” As I said, this does not mean that you must be gifted in evangelism or that you must go into full-time ministry. Only some are called to do that. But it does mean that because you have met Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, your life is not your own. You no longer are living for selfish purposes. You live to glorify Jesus Christ and to use the gifts He has given you to help in the great cause of catching people for Him.