Has Jesus Spoken to You Lately?

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and texting, many Americans feel more connected to people than ever, but a new national survey by The Barna Group shows that Americans are not just connected to each other. One of the dominant connections in people’s lives is with Jesus Christ. In fact, more people claim to be closely connected to Jesus Christ than have a Facebook page or Twitter account.

Close Relationship

The Barna study, conducted among a random sample of 1,002 U.S. adults, discovered that two out of every three adults (67%) claimed to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus that is currently active and that influences their life.

While a majority of most demographic segments said they had such an active and personal relationship with Jesus, some segments were more likely than others to claim such a connection. For instance, women (72%) were more likely than men (62%) to do so.  Protestants were more likely than Catholics to cite such a relationship (82% versus 72%). People who describe themselves as mostly conservative on social and political matters were far more likely than those who see themselves as liberal on such issues to connect with Jesus (79% compared to 48%). And one of the most instructive findings was that the younger a person was, the less likely they were to claim to have an active and influential bond with Jesus. Specifically, while 72% of adults 65 or older and 70% of Boomers (i.e., ages 46 to 64) had such a relationship in place, 65% of Busters (i.e., ages 27 to 45) and only 52% of Mosaics (ages 18 to 26) did, as well.

Communication in the Relationship

For any relationship to be meaningful there must be effective two-way communication. While an overwhelming majority of Americans claim to pray during a typical week (more than 80%), the new Barna study points out that a majority also believes that Jesus speaks back to them. Overall, 38% said they are “completely certain” that Jesus speaks to them in ways that are personal and relevant to their circumstances. An additional 21% said they are “somewhat certain” that He does so, while 10% contend that Jesus speaks to them but they were not as sure about that communication. Eight percent did not know if Jesus Christ speaks to them.

In total, less than one-quarter of all adults (23%) stated that Jesus does not speak to them. Those people were most likely to be atheists and agnostics; under the age of 30; residents of the western or northeastern states; Asian-Americans; and those who describe themselves as mostly liberal on social and political matters.

According to Americans, Jesus speaks to them in multi-faceted ways. At least one out of every six adults contends that He communicates with them in the following manner:

·        52%: by influencing or connecting directly with their mind, emotions or feelings

·        41%: through the content of a Bible passage they read or which was read to them

·        36%: by providing a sign

·        34%: through sermon or teaching content concerning their immediate situation or need

·        31%: through miraculous or inexplicable circumstances or outcomes

·        31%: through words spoken to them by someone else who was speaking for God

·        18%: through a passage they read in a book other than the Bible

·        16%: through an audible voice or whisper that they could hear  

Wooden on Character

“You don’t make your character in a crisis, you exhibit it.”
—Oren Arnold

John Wooden was the basketball coach at UCLA for twenty-seven years. He never had a losing season. Wooden’s teams won seven consecutive national championships, and UCLA posted an eighty-eight-game winning streak that spanned four seasons. Surprisingly, he never talked to his players about winning.

Wooden’s formula for success was to emphasize constant improvement and performance. He avoided getting his teams “up,” because he knew that would eventually bring a valley. Instead, he was never satisfied with past performances; they could always be improved. Improvement meant rigorous preparation toward new goals. “I believe that failure to prepare is preparing to fail,” Wooden told his players.

But the coach never prepared his teams to play a particular opponent; he prepared his teams to play anyone, at any time. Wooden preached that success was not outscoring the opponent, it was being able to hold your chin up after the game and know that you have given your best effort. Of course, if you have done your best, the score will usually be to your liking, when you are deserving. Wooden was more concerned about his players’ character than ability.

A person with good character will respond to adversity by learning and overcoming. Wooden believed that good players will be honest, consistent, and work together as a team, and if those players also have ability, they will become true champions.

How’s your character showing?  Michael

The Real Face of Greed

For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. (Ephesians 5:5)

A seventy-one-year-old woman in West Palm Beach, Florida, was found dead in her apartment. The cause of death was malnutrition. She’d lived in the poorest section of the city’s low-rent district for as long as anyone could remember. Neighbors described her as a pitiful and forgotten widow who spent most of her days digging through Salvation Army bins for clothes. When she wasn’t doing that, she was begging for food at the back alley entrances of local restaurants. The woman had no family or friends to be found. She was given a pauper’s grave and forgotten.  But an investigation into her death would soon prove enlightening. Two keys turned up in her apartment that led to two safety deposit boxes in different banks. The first contained over $200,000 in cash, along with a host of valuable bonds and financial securities. The second box contained only money. Lots of it—$600,000, to be exact. 

The woman whose life of poverty brought pity from all who knew her was in reality a millionaire widow who would rather starve than spend a penny of her monthly Social Security checks. She was completely consumed with greed. Greed is perhaps the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. Peter calls its victims “an accursed brood … springs without water” (2 Peter 2:14, 17, niv).

Greed “drives us to compromise principles of justice, yield on the canons of morality, and even to lose our souls,” writes Tony Campolo. But it is Paul, I think, who says it best. “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5).  Simply stated, a lust for possessions and a life in Christ cannot coexist. A person can have one or the other but not both. Either we love God or we love money. The chasm between greed and Jesus is so wide that we can’t possibly have a foot on both sides at the same time. This is one fence that simply can’t be straddled.

The Secret of Generosity

It was the Christmas season and Paul had received a special pre-Christmas gift from his brother. It was a beautiful brand new automobile.

On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street kid was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. When Paul went to get into the car the kid asked him, "Mister, is this your car?"

When Paul replied that it was, and that his brother had given it to him for Christmas, the boy said, "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn’t cost you anything? Free, for nothing? Gosh, I wish…"

The boy hesitated, and Paul knew what he was about to say. He had heard it many times over the past few days. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the boy said jarred Paul all the way down to his toes.

"I wish…" the boy went on, "…that I could be a brother like that."

Let Nothing Stand Between You and Him

When Jesus had finished his sermon he went back into the city of Capernaum. Just at that time the highly prized slave of a Roman army captain was sick and near death. When the captain heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they began pleading earnestly with Jesus to come with them and help the man. They told him what a wonderful person the captain was. “If anyone deserves your help, it is he,” they said, “for he loves the Jews and even paid personally to build us a synagogue!”

Jesus went with them; but just before arriving at the house, the captain sent some friends to say, “Sir, don’t inconvenience yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of any such honor or even to come and meet you. Just speak a word from where you are, and my servant boy will be healed! I know, because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my men. I only need to say ‘Go!’ and they go; or ‘Come!’ and they come; and to my slave, ‘Do this or that,’ and he does it. So just say, ‘Be healed!’ and my servant will be well again!”

Jesus was amazed. Turning to the crowd he said, “Never among all the Jews in Israel have I met a man with faith like this.” And when the captain’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Since he was well aware of the Jewish hatred for Roman soldiers, the Roman army captain may not have wanted to interrupt a Jewish gathering. As a centurion, he daily delegated work and sent groups on missions, so this was how he chose to get his message to Jesus.

This army captain was a centurion, in charge of one hundred men in the Roman army. This man turned to Jesus not as a last resort or magic charm, but because he believed Jesus was sent from God. Yet he didn’t come himself to Jesus, and he didn’t expect Jesus to come to him. Just as this captain did not need to be present to have his orders carried out, so Jesus didn’t need to be present to heal. The captain’s faith was especially amazing because he was a Gentile who had not been brought up to know a loving God.

The Roman army captain could have let many obstacles stand between him and Jesus—pride, doubt, money, language, distance, time, self-sufficiency, power, race. But he didn’t. Neither should we.

Why You Are So Different

Whenever people expend themselves, they want results. If they lay down their life, they want someone’s life raised up. If they empty themselves, they want someone to be filled. They want their sufferings to bear fruit.

If this doesn’t happen, they’re tempted to give up. The refusal of the gift quickly becomes a reason not to offer it. Instead of leaning into resistance with love, they’ll back off and say, "Well, we tried."
However, the motive for offering love is not that it be successful. Christians want response, but they are not bound to it. They sacrifice for others because they are the recipients of sacrifice. They are the current generation of a long line of broken bodies and shed blood.

This gift Christians have received, they freely give. They join the living history in enacting the dream of God, [which] is a people sustained and transformed by mutual sacrificial love.

Stay different.  Michael

Happiness Secret

A fascinating study on the principle of the Golden Rule was conducted by Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research. Rimland found that "The happiest people are those who help others."

Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare—an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others."
In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those "whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness…are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy." Rimland concluded: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Bless you unselfish people!  Sorry about the rest.  Michael

Learn to Wait

A boy growing up had the ugliest bicycle ever seen. It was a hand-me-down made from the parts of other bicycles. It was so ugly it didn’t even have handlebar grips. He was always complaining that his hands would slip off the slick handlebars. He pestered his dad to buy him some handlebar grips, but his dad kept refusing.
One day, his dad took him to the Western Auto hardware store. Near the front door, there were some new handlebar grips for sale. They were plastic and had long streamers hanging from the ends. He said, "Daddy, Daddy, I’ve just GOT to have these handlebar grips! Please, Daddy!" His dad looked and him and said, "No, son, you don’t need those grips. Now come with me to the back of the store."
As he followed his dad, my friend was bitter and frustrated. Under his breath, he was muttering, "I never get ANYTHING. It’s just a lousy three dollars! My dad sure is mean!" When they got to the back of the store, the owner wheeled out a shiny, brand new bicycle—complete with handlebar grips with plastic streamers. My friend’s dad said, "Here, son, it’s an early birthday present. I wouldn’t buy you any handlebar grips because I ordered you this new bicycle!"
My friend was ecstatic! As he wheeled his new bike out the front door, he never even gave those handlebar grips a glance.
Sometimes when you ask God for something, He has something better in store for you!

Learn to wait.  Michael

I Cannot Tell a Lie

“Again, the law of Moses says, ‘You shall not break your vows to God but must fulfill them all.’ But I say: Don’t make any vows! And even to say ‘By heavens!’ is a sacred vow to God, for the heavens are God’s throne. And if you say ‘By the earth!’ it is a sacred vow, for the earth is his footstool. And don’t swear ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the capital of the great King. Don’t even swear ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong.”  Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus was emphasizing the importance of telling the truth. People were breaking promises and using sacred language casually and carelessly. Keeping oaths and promises is important; it builds trust and makes committed human relationships possible. Are you known as a person of your word? Truthfulness seems so rare that we feel we must end our statements with “I promise.” If we tell the truth all the time, we will have less pressure to back up our words with an oath or promise.

New Sermon Series

Get In the Act

A Series on the Book of Acts


Key theme: Early Church Expansion History

Key verse: Acts 1:8


April 11th

Sermon One     “The Faith of the First Christians” 

Acts 1:8

The Book of Acts is also the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. The Gospel of Luke records what Jesus “began both to do and teach” in His human body, and the Book of Acts tells us what Jesus continued to do and teach through His spiritual body, the church.

Even today, congregations can learn much about church life and ministry from this book, and this even includes the business meetings! In this chapter, we see the believers taking care of “unfinished business” and getting ready for Pentecost. What they said and did reveal to us the faith of the church.


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