Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Keys of the Kingdom

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Recently I preached to our congregation at River of Life on the subject The Keys of the Kingdom. There was an overwhelming response so I promised to post my notes online in addition to the audio podcast that we routinely post for Sunday sermons. At the end of the post there are links to both the notes (PowerPoint) and to the audio. The notes will make for an excellent Bible study on the topic of salvation in the Book of Acts. Any Christian could easily study these verses together with a friend who is seeking to know the beauty of the new birth experience (John 3:1-7).

Here's a summary of the message...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Should Christians Do About Halloween?

Every other year or so I give a presentation at River of Life entitled: What Should Christians Do About Halloween?

Download my notes and slides for this study (ZIP file - MS Word and PowerPoint formats).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Pentecostal Response to the Washington Post

Below is my personal response to the Washington Post regarding the now well-known cartoon disparaging people of Pentecostal faith.

The actual cartoon can be found at:
http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/po/2008/09/09/




To whom it may concern:

I was personally and profoundly offended by the cartoon by Pat Oliphant that appeared in your publication on September 9, 2008. I was perplexed to discover that a supposedly reputable newspaper would publicly and openly mock and ridicule the biblical experience of speaking in tongues – an experience that I hold in reverence. I would expect this of Hollywood and the entertainment industry – but the Washington Post?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Old Landmark - Pentecostal History

A friend and colleague of mine, Bro. Matthew Shaw, has somewhat recently started a blog that contains many articles he has written. The name of the blog is 'The Old Landmark' and the URL is:

http://oldlandmark.wordpress.com

Bro. Shaw is an excellent writer and researcher. Most of his articles are on the history of the Pentecostal movement and/or doctrinal history. He is a regular contributor for the Pentecostal Herald (official publication of the United Pentecostal Church International) and writes a monthly article for the Indiana Apostolic Trumpet (official publication of the Indiana District, UPCI).

Bro. Shaw holds a M.L.S. from Indiana University and a B.A. in English/Literature from Ball State University. He is a professional librarian at a public university and an instructor of undergraduate English/Literature. He is also an accomplished musician/music director and is very active in Apostolic ministry.

If you enjoy reading about Pentecostal history and doctrinal history, you will definitely enjoy 'The Old Landmark' blog.

Friday, May 23, 2008

God Hates Divorce

"I hate divorce" - God

It is no secret that divorce is a huge problem in American society. Every 27 seconds a couple divorces. There are 7,000 divorces per day affecting 10,000 children. Divorce rates have doubled since 1965. Over half of all first marriages and sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. At current rates, about 1.5 million couples divorce each year in the U.S. Perhaps saddest of all, Christians are reportedly divorcing at approximately the same rates as non-Christians. Divorce is ravaging our nation.

What does God think of this trend of divorce that is so prevalent today?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ministry Success Through Empowerment

Most Pastors are well aware of the fact a local church simply will not grow beyond the size of which one person can personally manage at a reasonable level. No matter how hard a Pastor works, he will never be able meet all of the needs of a church by himself after the constituency has grown to a certain size (generally about 100-150 people in regular attendance). Many have come to the conclusion that delegation is necessary to maintain a growth mode in a church. Delegation, however, has definite limits with regards to long-term effectiveness and success.

The key to long-term success in ministry is not delegation, but empowerment. The most successful Lead/Senior Pastors do two things. First, they identify and develop leaders. Second, they empower these leaders providing them with information, responsibility, authority, and trust to make decisions and act independently. They realize that when leaders feel empowered to act, they tend to respond with loyalty and commitment. Empowered leaders achieve personal ownership that generates a much higher level and quality of performance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Christian Rights in Public Schools

There have been several occasions in which parents from our congregation have asked me questions pertaining to the religious rights of their children who attend public schools. I have to admit that I have not always known the answers. But, I always do my best to help them find good information.

Recently, I became aware of a great contact and some helpful information on this topic. The Christian Law Association (CLA) appears to be a fantastic source for asking questions and/or reporting problems and legal difficulty in regards to practicing one's faith in public life. I have not personally contacted CLA yet, but I have communicated with others who have and reported them to be extremely helpful. The CLA contact information is on their website. They apparently encourage people to contact them with their legal questions.

The CLA website contains a nice section entitled 'Public School Rights Video Series'. This site contains over a dozen brief videos (about 30 to 45 seconds each) addressing commonly asked questions about religious rights in public schools. Below is a snapshot of the videos' content (the link to the actual videos is at the end of this blog entry).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Alliance Defense Fund and The Pulpit Initiative

In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson proposed a piece of legislation in Congress that became known as the 'Johnson Amendment'. This legislation changed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code by prohibiting churches and other non-profit organizations from supporting or opposing a candidate for political office. Since the enactment of this legislation, Pastors and other ministers have been forced to keep silent regarding political speech that could be construed as speaking for or against a candidates - even if the speech is clearly proclamation of scriptural truth. Pastors and churches can be investigated by the IRS and, if found in conflict with the regulation, have their non-profit tax exemption status revoked.

A well known conservative Christian legal advocacy group called the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is taking the IRS to task with respect to this government regulation. This organization and its supporters rightly proclaims that the 'Johnson Amendment' constitutes a form of interference with and prohibition of religious free speech that is unconstitutional in nature. The ADF has designated Sunday September 28, 2008 as 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' and is recruiting U.S. Pastors to defy the IRS mandate on this day. If this action results in an IRS investigation, the ADF will sue to overturn the federal rules regulating the unconstitutional practices of the IRS.

Is this a good idea?

Should Apostolic ministers consider participating in such an endeavor?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Does Divorce Make People Happier?

Many people who seek a divorce allegedly do so because they feel trapped in an unhappy life. They believe that if they could liberate themselves from their marriage, which they believe to be the cause of their unhappiness, they could 'move on' to a life that is more fulfilling. Social research, however, demonstrates the fallacy of this myth.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Video Resources for Ministry Development

I have been aware of a website called PCminister.com for quite some time. But, it has come to my attention lately that many of my ministerial colleagues are not aware of this great, free video training resource. The tag line for this PCminister.com is "Equipping Workers from the Parking Lot to the Pulpit". As the name and motto imply, the site is designed to train and equip young and aspiring ministers and develop those already working in the ministry in various capacities.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Top Ten Tips for Church Websites

#1 - Every church needs a web site.
We are living in the 21st century. We are living in the Information Age. The Internet has become the primary tool used by people to find information on anything and everything. According to the mindset of a large and growing number of people in our society, you don't exist if you can't be found on the Internet. This trend is continuing to grow every year and is here to stay.

#2 - People will visit a website before they visit a church.
Because the Internet has become the primary means people use to research and gather information, it has become increasing likely that potential guests will "check you out" on the web before making a decision on whether or not to visit in person. Also, studies show that people seek out Christian resources online as an alternative for attending church. While this trend certainly does not reflect the goals of Apostolic ministry, it does demonstrate an opportunity to make connections with individuals searching for religious/spiritual content.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Crown Financial Ministries

Many years ago, I found out about a non-profit organization called Crown Financial Ministries by hearing their radio programs on a Christian radio station. I would tune in while driving somewhat frequently and enjoyed what I heard. I always thought that the program was interesting and promoted good information. It wasn't until about five years ago, however, that I discovered Crown Financial Ministries consisted of so much more than the radio programs.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Significant Cause of Failure in Ministry

I attended a workshop this week for further development in the areas of training and consulting. One of the instructors is an extremely accomplished businessman, consultant, professor, and researcher. A portion of his instruction was devoted to causes of business failure.

Research was cited during one session that was both enlightening and alarming. According to said research, the underlying causes of business failure in the U.S. are as follows:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Blessings and Benefits of Marriage

The Bible teaches us that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman that was designed and ordained by God. In a successful Christian marriage the participants enter into a life-long covenant and commitment with one another and, together, with God. Because God instituted marriage and is, Himself, a part of the marital covenant with the couple there are many blessings and benefits that a faithfully married couple enjoy.

Indeed, the Bible promises us that a healthy marriage fulfills our basic needs for human companionship, intimacy, mutual assistance, and sexual expression (Gen. 2.18; Eph. 5.25; Heb 13.4). When the traditional marriage is the basis for reproduction, family nurturing and development, the result is a stable society and blessings upon men, women, and children (Gen. 2; Deu. 6.4-7; Eph. 6.4). In short, the traditional marriage is a gift from God!

Given the Bible's clear teaching, positive message, and wonderful promises regarding marriage, it should come as no surprise to us that social research confirms the many benefits associated with this marvelous institution. Below are just a few of the wonderful benefits of traditional marriage in America that have been substantiated by research.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Speaking Out on the Day of Silence

A pro-homosexual group called the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is the creator and promoter of the controversial 'Day of Silence'. On this day - which is planned for April 25 for this year - students are encouraged to take a vow of silence to demonstrate their support for the tolerance and acceptance of homosexual lifestyles. Many are planning to wear tape over their mouths throughout the day and hand out cards explaining and promoting the reason. At the conclusion of the day, pro-homosexual groups are hosting 'Breaking the Silence' events to draw even more attention to the homosexual agenda.

The alarming aspect of this issue is that many public schools are signing on to sponsor and support the 'Day of Silence' and related activities. GLSEN officially says that the event is to draw attention to the problem of bullying and violence towards homosexual students. However, it is abundantly obvious that the real purpose is to rally support and acceptance of the homosexual agenda in its entirety.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

REAL Leadership

Like many churches, at River of Life we believe it is very important to encourage continual growth and development of our church leadership and volunteer staff. We endeavor to provide ample opportunities for learning and development to take place. In addition to our other efforts, one of the things we do with our Leadership Team (Directors of departments) is to read and discuss various books together on a somewhat regular basis.

One of the best experiences we have had in this regard was reading and discussing the REAL Leadership series by John C. Maxwell. I highly recommend these books to other churches looking for an easy and fun method of promoting further learning and development among their church leadership.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Power of Encouragement in Marriage

Research demonstrates that a predominate characteristic of exciting, satisfying relationships is that marital partners choose to encourage one another. This should come as no surprise. The necessity of encouragement is a repetitive theme in God's Word.
Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

And, Hebrews 3:13 instructs, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
Encouragement in marriage is simply expressing to one's spouse, "I believe in you." This is accomplished both verbally and non-verbally. While this sounds easy, it generally does not come naturally. Often, people find difficulty in describing what it means to encourage one's spouse. The following are some characteristics of encouragement that are helpful to consider.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jesus Christ: The Son of God

I have been blessed for the past three weeks to teach our mid-week Bible Study at River of Life. The title of the three-part lesson I have been teaching is "Jesus Christ: The Son of God". As the name implies, the subject of the lesson is the Oneness Pentecostal Christology of the Sonship.

Several of the church members asked for my notes from these studies, so I am posting them here (link provided, below).

Some of the major themes of the study include:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Free Apostolic Leadership Training Resources

I was recently made aware of some professional, first-class leadership training resources that are available for free on the web. Dr. Fred Childs and the GracePoint Leadership Institute recently made several lessons from the FastForward series available online for download. Each lesson consists of several MP3 audio files and a workbook in PDF format.

Dr. Fred Childs is an internationally recognized leadership and organizational authority, author, keynote and conference speaker, pastor and evangelist. His books on the topic of leadership and organization include: Leadership Essentials, The Upside Down Church, and Beyond Imagination.

The FastForward series is designed specifically for Apostolic churches. The curriculum combines timeless biblical truth with cutting edge leadership concepts and tools.

CLICK HERE to visit the GracePoint Leadership Institute on the web.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Intimacy Through Communication

It is no secret that meaningful communication enhances the marital relationship. It is equally true that a lack of communication or negative communication will undermine a marriage. While most people are aware of these well established facts, few make a concerted effort to improve communication with their spouse.

There may be several reasons why couples are reluctant with respect to working to improve the communication in their marriage. Some simply don't know what to do. Others may be intimidated by the flood of information on the topic. It is easy to be confused regarding how to begin the task of improving communication.

Many marriage counselors are setting aside the exhaustive communication techniques and toolkits in favor of more simple, practical, and authentic approaches. One of the easiest ways to get started down the right path is understanding that there are progressive levels of communication. This is not a strategy or a technique, but simply an understanding that the content of what is discussed in our conversations dictates the level of emotional bonding that is created between two people.

There are basically five levels of communication. All five of these levels can be positive, and all of them are needed in a healthy relationship. However, the intimacy factor between two people deepens with each level - with one being the lowest level of intimacy and five being the highest.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why Marriages Fail: Risk Factors and Predictors

There is no consensus regarding the factors that produce a happy marriage. Indeed, there are many and diverse positive characteristics that couples have discovered to make their marriages meaningful, satisfying, and mutually fulfilling. Certain themes tend to emerge in studying happy marriages such as communication, common interests, intimacy, and so forth. However, not all happy marriages have all of the same positive traits in common. In other words, there are many paths to marital bliss.

On the other hand, marriage researchers have known for decades that there are specific and solidly defined factors that are accurate predictors for marital failure. In fact, a doomed relationship can be predicted with over 90% accuracy when specific negative traits are present. Nearly all failed marriages can be attributed in some way to one or more of four well-documented characteristics.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Podcast Your Sermons for Free

At River of Life we recently setup an audio podcast of our Sunday sermons on our website (see http://riveroflifemuncie.com/podcast). We have already received considerable positive feedback and a few inquiries regarding how we set up the podcast.

Our podcast was actually extremely easy to set up. And, best of all, it was completely free.

The following is an explanation regarding how we setup our sermon podcast along with some suggestions that may help others who desire to do the same.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Top 10 Tips for Working with Technology Vendors

Sound and multimedia technologies have become fairly common needs in most churches. However, many Pastors do not have a great deal of expertise in these areas and must rely on other sources for consultation, purchase information, installation, and training regarding sound and multimedia projects.

The good news is that you don't have to personally be an expert in order to make good decisions that will result in a nice setup for the church. There are many companies that have great expertise in these areas that would love to have you as a customer. Here are the "Top 10 Tips" that may save you money and headaches in working with A/V and IT sales, installation, and service companies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Expansion of Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism Dramatically Changing the U.S. Religious Landscape

According to recent research by the Barna Group, the number of American adults in the general population who are Pentecostal or charismatic has increased from 30% to 36% over the past decade. Today, over 80 million Americans claim this designation.

The Barna studies concluded that an individual is Pentecostal or charismatic if all of the following criteria is met: he/she claims to be a charismatic or Pentecostal Christian, he/she claims having been “filled with the Holy Spirit”, and he/she believes that “the charismatic gifts, such as tongues and healing, are still valid and active today.”

Clearly Pentecostals and other charismatic groups are growing and expanding with respect to the general population. However, the role of Pentecostalism has made even more of a dramatic impact with respect to its influence on the practice of American Christianity.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Tabernacle Plan

Most Apostolics know that the Tabernacle which God instructed Moses to build in the wilderness was a beautiful figure of greater things to come. It represented "patterns of things in the heavens" that would reveal "a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Heb. 9:23; Heb 8:6).

Please see the link at the end of this post for a Bible study I created on the Tabernacle plan. This post is an abstract of the study.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An Ancient Ark and an Empty Tomb

A funny thing happened to me on the way to church on Easter Sunday...

Just as I was about to leave the house that morning I received a call from our Lead Pastor. He had become extremely ill that morning. He was scarcely able to get out of bed much less come to the church and preach the Easter sermon. He needed me to fill in for him.

Because I had to drive to Indianapolis, help with our daughter work service, drive back to Muncie, and take care of several items that needed my attention before service began... I had just about zero time to prepare for a sermon.

This was Easter Sunday... the day that we have the largest attendance of any service all year!

Fortunately, God had everything under control! I had a thought that I had been mulling over for several days. I knew God was in it and that He would bless it. So, with no sermon notes or outline I walked to the pulpit. And this is what I preached: "An Ancient Ark and an Empty Tomb".

Listen to the sermon now or download the MP3...



Right click (Save Target As...) to download the MP3.

Note: Special thanks to Ron Wofford who, unbeknownst to him, provided me with a thought that was the inspiration for this sermon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Vindication of God in Christ

A friend of mine, James Anderson of Mt. Vernon, TX, has a very nice blog entitled "Evidential Faith: Understanding Pentecostal Theology". Recently he posted an article I wrote on the subject of Oneness theology as it pertains to the resurrection of Christ. The piece is entitled, "The Vindication of God in Christ".

Click here to read the article.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Do People Need a Church?

Attending Church No Longer Important for Many U.S. “Christians”

A recent study conducted by the Barna Group indicates that attending a conventional church is no longer a priority for a majority of self-identified “Christian” adults. According to the study, most adults view several other activities as a “complete and valid” alternative to “experience and express their faith in God” as opposed to attending church. This is a complete departure from traditional views for the past several decades in which U.S. Christians overwhelming held that involvement in a church was the single legitimate method of practicing their Christian faith.

The study includes the following data regarding the percentage of American Christian adults who consider various activities as a valid alternative to church attendance:

The Apostolic Report

A new website called The Apostolic Report (AR) launched on March 6, 2008. The purpose of the site is to provide an online news and information base that is geared to the interests of Apostolic believers. While some of the content published on the site includes original material (i.e. interviews, announcements and news stories) many of the posts are abstracts of general news stories that are of particular interest to Aposotlics. This truly is a unique web site with many compelling articles.



A couple days ago Jeremy Lynch, the founder and administrator of the site, invited me to be a contributor to AR. I accepted the invitation and have already made a few contributions. Because the focus of the site is news reporting, my articles on AR will not contain any commentary and analysis. However, I will likely republish some of my AR articles on this blog with added commentary and analysis that will, hopefully, provide greater insight and clarity to the issues.

At any rate, I am encouraging everyone to check out The Apostolic Report as it promises to be a useful and interesting clearing house for news and information.

Website URL - http://www.theapostolicreport.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Lord's Supper

With Easter coming very soon, many Apostolic churches will be celebrating the Lord's Supper in their communion services. What follows is a brief Bible Study that I teach on the topic. It is my hope that someone will find it useful for teaching their congregation.



The Lord's Supper (A Bible Study)

1 Corinthians 11:23-29 KJV
(23) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
(24) And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
(25) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
(26) For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
(27) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
(28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
(29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Free Resources for Tech Savy Churches

A few weeks ago I discovered a web site that has many very helpful tips regarding free computer/Internet services and resources for churches. The name of the site is "Mister Nifty - Your Church Web Servant" (URL - http://www.misternifty.com). It's an odd name, but a very useful site.

The site features a blog format that contains categories for various resources. Examples include: Audio Ministry, Communication, File Storage, Finance, Graphic Design, Leadership Tools, Ministry Tools, and Video Ministry - to name just a few. Each category has multiple entries containing reviews, annotated links, and other information.

Check it out! You are likely to find a few helpful resources like I did.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Guest Follow-Up Database

I was recently talking to some minister friends about church management software. We were comparing experiences and talking about what we have used. At ROL, we would very much like to use a web-based church management package. This has many benefits including allowing people performing various tasks in the database to work from home. However, we do not currently have broadband Internet access at the church (long story - it was not available until recently and will require expensive utility work). Therefore, we still use an "old-school" locally installed church management software solution. The software we are using has many nice features. But is not accessible to everyone who could benefit from using it and it is not very customizable.

We desperately needed something to help track the status of our guest follow-up procedures. I looked around for software options. We didn't need another entire church management package. Simpler solutions didn't seem to fit our needs well. So, I decided to hammer out a simple database in Microsoft Access that was specific to our needs.

The Game Plan: Strategic Planning for Ministry

One of the most significant things we have done in the ministry of River of Life in recent history is develop a strategic plan. I first heard of this idea while attending a church growth conference in another Apostolic church. While church strategic plans may encompass various types of information, we chose to focus our plan on retaining newcomers and incorporating them into the church. While we had several ministries involved in this work already, we needed a strategic plan to pull everything together and make our objectives explicit.

Having been through the process of developing a strategic plan for ministry and having employed our plan for well over two years, there are several things I would suggest for churches interested in going through this process. (A download of the ROL strategic plan is available at the bottom of this post as a reference).

Hello World!

This is my first blog post ever! A few of my minister friends have encouraged me to start a blog. I have put it off for quite a long time, but here it is! At this point, I am not exactly sure how this blog will develop. I envision that it will contain random notes rising from my ministry experiences as well as some devotional, theological, and other thoughts. Hopefully something that I post here will be beneficial to someone. Thanks for reading! --kv