Participants: Jason McCracken, Karen Thomas
Series Code: IAA
Program Code: IAA000068
00:02 ¤ ¤
00:31 Welcome to another edition of Issues and Answers. I am
00:32 Karen Thomas. And we are back again with Jason McCracken.
00:35 We have been covering a lot of topics in our last few programs
00:38 that we have done with him. Today we're going to talk about
00:41 activities to encourage spiritual growth and faith
00:44 maturity. What can you do to deepen your walk with the Lord
00:48 Jesus Christ? What can you do to know more about God. Thank
00:52 you so much for coming to the program again.
00:54 Thank you, it's nice to be back. Nice to be back and I'm very
00:58 eager to talk about activities to encourage spiritual growth
01:02 and faith maturity in a local church. That's something that
01:06 is greatly needed right now in churches. People feel that
01:10 they're not growing enough. They come to church because they feel
01:13 that I need to get my cup filled That's not really how it's
01:18 supposed to work. You're supposed to go to church with
01:21 your cup already filled and then God is just going to top it off
01:27 when you get there. So it's not I'm going to church empty and
01:30 you fill me up. No. You're personal devotions are extremely
01:35 important to filling your life every day. That's a part of it.
01:40 When you're in a congregation the first area here is to...
01:44 Amen. You see most of us don't understand that when we seek
01:55 the power of the Holy Spirit for revival and reformation the
02:01 church will begin to grow spiritually. Now let me share
02:07 with you an issue. Do you think people are going to sit in the
02:15 congregation and just wait for the Holy Spirit to fall or is it
02:20 that the Holy Spirit is going to fall when they're actively
02:24 engaged in ministry?
02:27 Well I think obviously when they're engaged in ministry.
02:31 Yeah. Let's look at the Bible here for a minute. Matthew
02:34 chapter 10. I'm going to read a text of scripture to you because
02:38 I think we need to understand how this operates here. What is
02:41 Jesus talking about here when he's dealing with his disciples?
02:45 Matthew chapter 10 and it's actually verse 1. It says: And
02:50 when he had called unto him his 12 disciples he gave them what?
02:56 He gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out
03:02 and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of
03:07 diseases. And in verse 5: These 12 Jesus sent forth and
03:13 commanded them saying what? Go not into the way of the
03:20 Gentiles and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not,
03:23 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and as
03:28 you go preach saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And then
03:31 you see in verse 8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise
03:36 the dead, cast out devils. Freely ye have received, freely
03:40 give. Now what is that saying to us? The Spirit of God
03:45 falls when we go. It's not going to happen sitting in a
03:50 congregation with a hymnal in front of you and the Bible says
03:53 fall Holy Spirit. It's not going to happen that way. When we are
03:57 actively engaged in ministry Jesus will give us the power.
04:02 So seek the power of the Holy Spirit for revival and
04:06 reformation in the congregation but you must go and you must do
04:10 exactly what Jesus says: Heal, cleanse. That's when the Spirit
04:17 falls. A lot of people have a misconception that the Spirit
04:21 is going to drop and then we're going to run out and start
04:25 speaking in other languages and going to different parts of the
04:29 world and preaching the gospel. We're already doing that now.
04:32 But when the Spirit of God is needed urgently in the
04:35 communities then
04:37 we're out in the community working for God. That's when
04:39 Jesus works best, when we're sitting on a street corner and
04:43 we're preaching in the public, when we're at a high school,
04:45 when we're at a university preaching the gospel of Christ,
04:49 the Spirit will fall on us. That's the good news, that's
04:54 the good news that Jesus wants us to tell people that he's
04:58 coming. We must do it in public but the congregation is the
05:02 location where we can encourage this spiritual growth and faith
05:06 maturity. So number 1 is very good: Seek for the power of the
05:11 Holy Spirit. Number 2:...
05:28 Number 2 is exclusively designed for that local
05:32 congregation. Looking at this, this is extremely essential to
05:41 Christian growth and faith maturity. Why? Why do I say
05:47 that? God's grace and forgiveness. Jesus Christ
05:51 came to this earth, died on a cross. On Friday he was
06:02 crucified and on Sabbath he was in the tomb. On Sunday morning
06:06 he was resurrected. He went back to heaven and he's coming again
06:13 according to Acts chapter 1. Now that is the grace that he has
06:21 extended to us a sinners because we are supposed to die for all
06:29 of our sins. We're supposed to pay the penalty for our sins and
06:34 death is that penalty. But because Christ died on the cross
06:38 he has given us grace and so now as sinners we are to say to God
06:45 please forgive me, I am a sinner His grace is available, his
06:51 forgiveness is available and seeing ourselves both as sinners
06:55 and forgiven saints. When we see that we are sinners and one
07:04 day we will become saints, this needs to be experienced in the
07:14 local congregation. Amen. In order to encourage spiritual
07:19 growth, in order to encourage more faith. If we see ourselves
07:24 as not being sinners then we are opening up the flood gates in
07:32 our doors for fanaticism. I remember when I was back in
07:39 college, I guess that was a few years ago and I was witnessing.
07:43 I went door to door. I knocked on the door. I had my Bible and
07:48 I was reading from scripture to a young lady at home. And she
07:53 turned to me and she said, You know what, I haven't sinned in
07:59 20 years. I said, you haven't sinned in 20 years? How could
08:03 you arrive at that conclusion? She said, because I have not
08:08 sinned. I said, but the Bible says we've all sinned and come
08:13 short of God's glory. I said so you don't know when you've
08:17 sinned. She said, I haven't sinned. That's opening the door
08:22 for fanaticism. We must understand that we are sinners
08:27 every day, but we're also saved by grace. Amen. We're not saved
08:31 because of the name of the local congregation, we're not saved by
08:37 how many books we read. We're saved by grace! Let me give you
08:42 another example of grace. As a minister we drive a lot, we
08:48 drive cars and I drive a car too Now I remember I was coming
08:53 back from campmeeting. This was late at night. I was helping
08:57 rearrange some books in the book store so I left campmeeting
09:01 about 12:30 or 1 o'clock at night. Racing back to my hotel.
09:05 I was on a two-lane road you know, dark, no lights. Finally
09:10 it became four lanes. I said, now I can rev it up because I'm
09:13 tired, I'm getting ready to fall asleep at the wheel. So I
09:16 start to crank it up and I sure did. I was speeding. Well did
09:22 you know when I realized when I was speeding? A light behind me.
09:26 It was blinking, it was big, it was blue, it was white. I said
09:32 Oops. Yes it was the state police. Pulled me over and he
09:38 said may I see your driver's license and may I see your
09:41 registration. Well I'd rented a car so I gave him the driver's
09:45 license and the registration. He went to his car. He came back
09:49 a little later. He said, You know what Mr. McCracken, you
09:52 were speeding, you were in excess of the speed limit.
09:55 I said, how much. He said, at least by 15 miles an hour.
09:58 I said, Oh I'm so sorry. Now he whipped out this book. He was
10:03 getting ready to write up a speeding ticket and then he said
10:07 he flipped it closed and said you need to tell me something
10:11 right now so I won't have to give you a ticket. I said, Sir,
10:14 Sir, I promise, I promise I will go back to my hotel as slow as
10:21 possible. I will do the speed limit. He did not give me a
10:25 ticket. That's grace. I broke the law, but that's grace.
10:29 I deserved the ticket. I deserved the ticket, but he gave
10:35 me grace. Jesus Christ gave everyone grace.
10:39 He forgave you too. He forgave me.
10:41 I should have had that $150... I don't know how much the ticket
10:46 cost, but I should have had that ticket. But he didn't give me
10:49 that ticket. Jesus Christ gives us
10:50 grace, and in the local congregation we must understand
10:54 that we are both sinners and we're forgiven saints.
10:57 That's everybody. That encourages spiritual growth
11:03 in a congregation. I don't care how old we are, how young we are
11:09 how little we are, it must permeate within that local
11:14 church. They must know that they're sinners and they're
11:17 saved by grace by Jesus Christ who has shed blood on the cross
11:20 of Calvary. Amen.
11:21 Let's go to number 3...
11:35 One thing I appreciate is when we go to prayer meeting on
11:41 Wednesday night and somebody will stand up and give a
11:45 testimony that you will never hear in church that weekend.
11:47 And that testimony is going to keep me growing. It's going to
11:53 keep me focused. That's my growing confidence because if
11:57 God can help that young lady, God can help me too. And so when
12:00 people are hearing this that sustains them as good members of
12:04 the church.
12:05 You know one of my favorite books in the Bible on this topic
12:08 is Philippians. Every single chapter is all about God working
12:12 within you and he can do great things in your life that you're
12:15 not capable of doing yourself by yourself.
12:18 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
12:21 And see when we have members who have a growing confidence that
12:27 God is at work in their lives, oh that church is going to be
12:30 buzzing. They can't just sit there every week and just say
12:34 our church is boring, our church is boring. You hear a lot of
12:37 young people talk like that. Oh church is boring, it's boring.
12:39 But when God is at work in their lives individually church is not
12:44 boring. It's too exciting. You have to stop the worship service
12:48 so people can go home. If not they'll stay until midnight.
12:50 When God is working in the local congregation they will look at
12:55 every experience and say you know he is really at work.
12:58 He is really at work. Let me give you an experience. Now I
13:06 hope this doesn't take too long but I have to cut it real short.
13:08 No go ahead, we've got time.
13:10 OK. I was called early in the morning because one of my
13:13 elder's son was in the hospital. He had to have an aneurysm
13:18 removed from his brain. He had a certain type of illness during
13:24 his childhood and so the doctors said if they tried to remove
13:28 this aneurysm he's going to die. But they're going to do it
13:32 anyway because he was already in a coma. He went to operation.
13:37 When I arrived at the operating room he was already in there.
13:39 We waited just about all day. When they came back the doctor
13:44 said, Pastor, you need to prepare for a funeral or a
13:49 miracle. One of my members jumped up and said, I'll take
13:51 the miracle. And so what happened, we prayed. We got on
13:55 our knees, we called churches all over. We said, please pray,
13:58 please pray that he will live, that he will survive. He was on
14:02 every tube and every type of sophisticated instrument in that
14:07 hospital. And so the next day I went to the hospital. We were
14:11 having a little prayer meeting there in the waiting room, we
14:16 were having a prayer meeting. He was in intensive care. Nurses
14:19 and doctors were tending to his care and so the Lord said go in
14:23 there, put your hands on him and pray for him. And I walked in
14:26 there and I said, Nurse, I'm sorry, but I need you to leave.
14:30 The nurse left. I placed me hand on him. He couldn't see, he
14:34 couldn't hear me and I prayed a prayer of healing and I said
14:38 Lord. I can't tell you exactly everything in the prayer but in
14:42 essence I said, Lord, this man is really dead, but you are in
14:49 heaven and I'm on earth. Send your power through me, use me
14:55 as a vessel, as an electrical wire so that when I touch him
15:00 your healing grace will touch this young man. I prayed a
15:07 prayer like that. The doctor came in later on that afternoon
15:10 and said now I need to run a test to see if his brain has
15:14 activity. So he took a pen out of his pocket. He said, I'm
15:18 going to start with the foot. I'm going to brush the pen right
15:20 up his foot. If he moves, if the feet or the toes move that means
15:26 he has brain activity. So I said wait, doctor, wait. I ran in
15:31 the room and said pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Here's God's
15:34 test, here it is. Pray, have faith. And the doctor went
15:39 whoop and he moved his toes like this here. Then he went to his
15:43 hands. He did the same thing, he moved his hand. Within 24
15:46 hours. Amen! then he opened up his eyes and his eyes were
15:50 moving left to right. He said the man is alive, this is a
15:53 miracle! He lives today to tell that testimony. This encourages
15:59 strengthens, it gives confidence to God's work in that
16:03 congregation and in their lives. Isn't that beautiful?
16:06 You know I have seen... I know what you're saying. People are
16:10 healed in church. Oh yes! I have seen people come sick to church
16:14 on a Sabbath morning. They would call me up and say you know I
16:18 don't know that I can come today I'm not feeling well. Now I
16:20 mean the flu. I mean serious illness and they come and God
16:25 does things. There are things that happen when you go to
16:28 church. Oh, it happens. But now let's
16:31 encourage by fostering regular devotions and personal prayer
16:36 by members. Every church needs to have the ABCs of prayer.
16:42 You have the entire congregation praying for one person, so when
16:49 every member has a family member and they're constantly praying
16:53 for that person, but they have to have good devotions.
16:56 They need a Bible, they need good books, they need magazines
17:01 In fact our magazine features great devotionals. Also we have
17:08 books that will encourage them for Bible study. And we also
17:13 have books that help them with health. You need to have a
17:18 healthy life in order to have a good spiritual life. They tie in
17:23 together, they word together consistently. So in order to
17:27 read the Bible, study other books, pray. The Bible says pray
17:31 without ceasing. That encourages that growth. It feels that
17:39 people now know that God is working through prayer. That's
17:44 important. So as we go to the next one and this is what I
17:46 like. Oh I love this one. This is one of my favorites...
17:54 When I speak about scripture the first thing I do is I look
17:58 at the Bible story. Take the essence of the story and put it
18:03 in a contemporary fashion. Make it contemporary, like something
18:08 can happen like down the street or across on the other side of
18:11 the country. And so I'm telling this story about somebody, a
18:16 Biblical personality and the congregation doesn't even know
18:21 what I'm talking about until I reveal the person's name.
18:24 An example: OK. A filthy rich man, he had over a billion
18:31 dollars, clothes imported world wide. He had a mansion. He had
18:36 at least 196 acres of land. He had many houses, many servants,
18:43 swimming pools, cars, fine clothes. He was a Th.D. in
18:50 in theology, a doctor of ministry, a Ph.D. in psychology.
18:55 He was a person who also was a member of a large council in the
19:01 city. They called him Dr. Nick. He heard about this young
19:07 evangelist preaching. He heard of that evangelist and then he
19:11 said, I don't want to be caught with the evangelist but I want
19:14 to meet with him at night. He met with that evangelist at
19:18 night and the evangelist turned to him and said You must be born
19:23 again. John chapter 3. And so the Bible must come alive.
19:32 people must understand that things happen like this every
19:36 day. The Bible is our example. It focuses on the lives of these
19:41 Bible personalities and also our lives, so it must come alive.
19:45 Now for children who are coming to know the Lord and for
19:49 children in our home, I like the Bible videos that actually have
19:53 the scripture word for word and they can actually see the
19:58 settings and the times. It makes it very interesting.
20:02 It makes the scriptures come alive.
20:03 It's important that children, since we're on this little topic
20:08 here, there are devotional Bibles for children. There are
20:13 devotional Bibles for juniors, there are devotional Bibles
20:17 for young adults. There are devotional Bibles for adults.
20:22 There are devotional Bibles even for seniors. There are
20:24 devotional Bibles for women and for men. So whatever age
20:28 category you fit into, that's where you need to run to get
20:33 this type of material to help you grow spiritually within the
20:38 congregation. It's very important that we do this.
20:39 Because when children are growing up faith is increased
20:44 by the knowledge that they gain every year. You can tell them
20:51 the Bible story of Noah and the ark when they're babies, but
20:54 they still need to hear that when they're 20. They still need
20:59 to hear about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they
21:02 were six, but they still need to hear that when they're sixteen.
21:06 Because it reinforces the Bible. It reinforces now how God has
21:15 dealt with men and women in sin. They need to understand that
21:22 because that helps them when they are in a dilemma, a
21:27 personal problem. God is there to help them. He's our present
21:33 help in the time of need. That's what the Bible says. So that's
21:38 important, prayer by numbers; have a prayer chain, have a
21:42 prayer partner so we can pray together, on the telephone, via
21:47 the internet if you want to use that, or in church. My aunt
21:53 passed away but she had something that she did every
22:00 week. At 5 a.m. in the morning she had a prayer session with
22:06 members of her church in her home, 5 a.m. in the morning.
22:11 She did this for many years. It strengthened the congregation.
22:16 It helped them because when people needed help they didn't
22:19 mind getting out of their bed and going to have prayer time.
22:23 So it's important to pray. Make scriptures come alive. We've
22:27 done that and changed lives...
22:33 There are four T's: Number one, time; two, talent; number three
22:40 treasure, which is your money. Number four temple which is
22:44 your body. All four constitute stewardship. The managing of our
22:50 time, the managing of our talents, the managing of our
22:54 treasures and the managing of our bodies. That's stewardship.
22:57 Many people think that stewardship is based on money.
23:00 No, no, no, no. It's based on all four balanced. That's the
23:05 stewardship, a steward over all four. A manager, put it that way
23:11 a manager of time, a manager of talent, a manager of treasures
23:15 and a manager of your own life. That's what we call stewardship.
23:20 That was a quick Bible study. Let's go to...
23:35 We as the body of Christ must teach members to view systematic
23:46 giving of personal income as central to Christian lifestyle.
23:52 Not as a part of, but centralizing it as your
24:03 lifestyle. I will give because it's a part of me. It's not
24:08 something that somebody's begging for. It's because I as
24:13 an individual, as Christian, must make sure that my Christian
24:18 lifestyle has a center of systematic giving. Now let me
24:23 break it down. Systematic giving of my time, systematic giving of
24:29 my talents, systematic giving of my treasure, systematic giving
24:35 of my body. See the Bible talks about the body as the
24:41 temple of God, but it also talks about a spiritual sacrifice,
24:47 holy and acceptable unto God which is our reasonable service,
24:51 as it says, but it's reasonable worship. Reasonable service is
24:55 actually reasonable worship. And so we have to teach members
25:00 through seminars, classes, through studies, that giving our
25:05 income is very much a part of our Christian lifestyle. Isn't
25:10 that cool? Yes. So money is not an issue, it's not an issue.
25:13 The last one is very interesting This maybe will take one minute.
25:24 We as a church have a strong heritage more than 150 years of
25:30 preaching the gospel worldwide. And so we must teach history to
25:34 our young people, teach history to our members that this is
25:38 whence we have come. We have a large worldwide network of
25:44 hospitals and clinics and schools and academies, nursing
25:49 homes and it goes on and on and on and on. So we must teach that
25:53 heritage. Especially the writing of E.G. White, a spiritual
25:59 prophet who has written counsel for church members in the local
26:03 church. Never substituting the Bible at all, but just writing
26:08 counsel. Just like when I was in college my mother write me some
26:11 letters about counsel. Now Jason please watch those young ladies
26:14 that you're dating, counsel. And so Ellen G. White was a
26:18 counselor and so her writings are found in many books and
26:21 she's written beautiful scores of books that give us help and
26:26 inspiration. I think often when you add the
26:30 heritage with the Bible foundation that you can see the
26:33 consistency, a pattern, a building block, and then
26:37 young people. I enjoy Adventist history and seeing where we've
26:42 come from as you've said and the pioneers in many different
26:47 areas, those that put their lives in danger and made
26:54 sacrifices to make opportunities for people to know the Lord
26:58 Jesus Christ and spread the gospel around the world.
27:02 Let me give you some examples of Adventist heritage.
27:05 In Battlecreek, Michigan we have a cemetery there and a large
27:11 exhibit area for Adventist heritage. We have a grave site
27:16 with Sojourner Truth and Ellen G. White. We also have on the
27:21 Seventh-dayadventist.org website the E.G. White estate. We have
27:26 CD ROMs that we have already created with Adventist heritage
27:30 and books. So there are a lot of things we can do to teach
27:33 Adventist heritage. Now Sojourner Truth was part of
27:35 the underground railroad. Definitely, definitely.
27:38 And there's a lot of interfacing between Ellen White and Kellogg
27:41 I mean there's a whole lot of very interesting history.
27:43 I would encourage you in the few seconds remaining for this
27:47 program, check out those web sites. That is
27:48 EGWhiteestate.org or the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
27:55 God bless you and have a great day. We'll see you next time.