Technology & Faith

By Brian Hoogerwerf, MBC Tysons Young Adults Team Volunteer

What is the first thing you do when you wake up? How about the last thing before bed? For many of us the answer to either or both questions has something to do with checking email or social media. We live in a world that grants us instant connectivity to friends, family, work and news. Social media and technology are fantastic for bringing others into our community, but we must be careful of the constant influence on our faith life. With all this input, it is more challenging than ever to find quiet time, avoid distractions, and calm down our frequently multi-tasking minds.

Since social media is here to stay, perhaps we should focus on what it looks like to live out the Gospel in and through our technology-saturated lives. This is a personal question that requires each of us to evaluate the effects of media on our own lives and to act as the Holy Spirit convicts us individually, with the understanding that our convictions may differ from others’. There is no action too extreme for getting closer to the Lord. Jesus taught that we cannot serve two masters.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

This is the first and last battle faced every day. As each of us strives to love the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul and strength and love his neighbor as himself, it is in the small things that he must work this out. There is no action too extreme for getting closer to the Lord. Jesus taught that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). For me, this meant deleting Facebook and Internet browsers from my phone because I am too prone to scrolling through status updates on my commute or before bed rather than dedicating that precious time to prayer and reading God’s Word.

I urge you to avoid passivity and start taking even small steps to love the Lord with your heart’s full attention. Try taking brief sabbaticals from technology to pray about this, and then act on your convictions. Through my own time out, I found a sweet relief and closeness with God that allowed me to hear His still, small voice. Please know that I would never ask you to act on my convictions, but I share these ideas because some of the most significant spiritual guardrails I currently practice came from others who shared their convictions with me.

Whose influence do you want to hear first thing in the morning and last thing at night?

One final aspect of this important issue is how we can support each other in the daily battle for living out the Gospel amidst overwhelming distractions. In Romans 14:13, Paul encourages believers to “stop passing judgment on one another… Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” In another letter, Paul says that we should “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). If your friend decides to avoid certain forms of entertainment that you feel comfortable with, do not think of him as weaker, rather respect his decision. If his conscience is affected, support him as he pursues holiness. How can we not give grace when our brother is striving to be closer to the Lord? This is what the body of Christ is called to do.

Whose influence do you want to hear first thing in the morning and last thing at night? The answer to this question reveals who is in control of your life. If today were your last day on earth, what would you want to spend your time doing? What would God want you to be doing? I challenge you to turn down the noise in your life and get alone with your thoughts. These quiet times of whole-hearted worship will refresh you with peace that transcends understanding.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Jesus Stands

By Joe Kelty, MBC Tysons Director of Men’s Discipleship

Here’s a really cool story about the early Christian Church, just after the resurrection of Christ. Jesus had gone back to be with the Father in heaven, and He sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples. Christian believers were now empowered to carry out the Great Commission, spreading the good news of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. Stephen was determined to bear witness to Jesus Christ as the true Messiah no matter the consequences.

In Chapters 6 & 7 of the Acts of the Apostles we read about a Christian named Stephen. He was preaching to the Jews, telling them how Jesus was truly the Messiah promised from God. The Jews could not contradict the wisdom Stephen spoke because he was speaking through the Holy Spirit. So the Jews decided to falsely accuse him of the crime of blasphemy, and they brought him before the Jewish rulers of the Sanhedrin. The penalty for blasphemy was death.

When asked for his defense, Stephen gave a speech inspired by God. It is one of the most detailed and concise reviews of Israel’s history and their relationship to God found in the Scriptures. Stephen testified that Israel failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and that they murdered him just as they had murdered Zechariah and other prophets throughout the generations.

Stephen was risking his life by standing up to the Sanhedrin like this, but he was determined to bear witness to Jesus Christ as the true Messiah no matter the consequences. So what was their response?

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Acts 7:54

What did Stephen see when heaven opened up? He saw Jesus at “the right hand of God.” Have you ever heard this phrase in Scripture before? I found at least six references:

  1. Mark 16:19—After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
  2. Luke 22:69—But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
  3. Colossians 3:1—Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
  4. Hebrews 1:3—The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
  5. Hebrews 10:12—But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…
  6. Hebrews 12:2—…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

But Stephen saw something different. Jesus was not seated at the right hand of God. Jesus was standing when Stephen saw him. This is the only place in Scripture where someone is standing at the right hand of God.

Why would Jesus be standing? While Scripture doesn’t exactly say why Jesus was standing, I think there are two reasons:

  1. Stephen is the first recorded Christian martyr. Could it be that Jesus stood to welcome him to heaven with honor?
  2. Stephen was not one of the original twelve disciples. He’s a second-generation disciple. (The disciples were making disciples!) Perhaps this is the essence of the church Jesus had in mind. Maybe he was standing up and basically saying YES! They’ve got it. The mission to fulfill God’s plan of redemption for mankind (the Great Commission) is theirs now. They own it.

This ownership of their faith and the Great Commission was being advanced through Christ’s disciples passing on their faith to others through a relational approach. The disciples got it and those whom they invested in got it, and there would be no turning back God’s plan to reach the lost. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, believers in Jesus Christ—then and now—have the courage and power to boldly proclaim Christ to the unbelieving world and the knowledge that, no matter the results or consequences, they will have eternal life with Him. Amen!

The Goodness of Our King

By Nick Jones, MBC Bethesda Director of Discipleship & Worship Leader

This week in my Multiply study group we discussed Chapter 8, which speaks to the “kingship” of Christ, His Kingdom and what that means for us today.

As we discussed how the concept of Christ’s kingship practically manifests itself in our lives, another thought struck me. While we help others to see that they should make Christ the king and lord of their lives, what is the motivator behind this? In other words, what would motivate someone to want to make God a priority, let alone king over their lives? The answer would lie in the attributes of who God is. While we help others to see that they should make Christ the king and lord of their lives, what is the motivator behind this?

In this chapter, Francis Chan begins to unpack the kings of Israel, and how God worked His redemptive plan through all of them. As we walk through this chapter we see an incredible picture of the attributes of God, as Chan references many points in the book of 1 Samuel.

First we see the faithfulness of God put on display, as Israel demands that they have an earthly king even after God had told them that He would be their king and that He was doing something special and unique through them. God’s faithfulness manifest here in that even Israel’s sinful inability to trust God could not deter Him from remaining 100% faithful to completing His promised redemptive plan to make a great nation out of them.Review Android Smartphone

Secondly we see the deeply unconditional love of God. Chan reminds us that Israel’s second king, David, was a man after “God’s own heart,” which is unbelievable when we consider how many times David made BIG mistakes in his own life and throughout His rule of Israel. Yet not even David’s repeated sin could keep the unrelenting love of God at bay as God continued to use him for the sake of His kingdom.

And finally we see the humility of God, as Chan tells us that David’s sin left the people of Israel longing for a better king and eventually the foretold Messiah; this future king Chan was referring to would be Jesus. Jesus Christ who, despite being God incarnate and having all the rights and privileges thereof, would not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, and would come to Earth as a servant and a king. We see this spelled out explicitly in Philippians 2:5-11.

Let us help others in our church to see that what motivates us to submit to and rejoice in the kingship of Christ is that the King we serve exemplifies all of these incredible attributes and that He is, in fact, a King worth following.

Getting to the Heart, Part 1

By Mike Kelsey, MBC Silver Spring Campus Pastor

When it comes to understanding what causes us to do (or fail to do) certain things and respond in certain ways, we may give many explanations: physical causes, circumstances, Satan, willpower (or the lack thereof), etc. All of these are certainly factors for Christians to consider when evaluating behavior. However, none of these penetrate the problem deeply enough to offer genuine freedom.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

In this fallen world, our bodies are prone to dysfunction and decay (Romans 8:20-23). This explains why physical and chemical processes in our bodies, when not functioning properly, can affect us in negative ways. Physical remedies like medicine, exercise or sleep can often be necessary components in our efforts to experience personal change. But more often than not, our day-to-day problems are rooted in factors beyond the body’s physical influence.

Circumstances influence our behavior and elicit certain responses, but we must understand our circumstances as the context in which we make choices and not as the primary cause of those choices. So, for example, we all have past experiences (family upbringing, abuse, etc.) that shape us in many ways, but there are factors at work within us that drive the way we respond. Practically speaking, this means that while we should pay close attention to external influences, we should not stop there.

Satan and his demons are real and powerful, and we must be careful not to underestimate their efforts to tempt and enslave us. However, demonic forces tempt us by appealing to our desires (James 1:14) and deceiving our minds (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 4:1; John 8:44). In other words, there are factors at work within us that make us vulnerable to evil influence.

Willpower is an essential aspect of experiencing life change. This is where most Christians focus their efforts. Typically, our accountability relationships and personal efforts are characterized by “trying harder” and mustering up more personal determination. And we do need to choose to change and work hard to follow through with those changes. As a matter of fact, God not only holds us responsible for choosing whether or not to trust and obey Him, but as Christians, He has enabled us to do so (Titus 2:11-12; Romans 6:11-14; Ezekiel 36:27). And yet, our choices are motivated by factors at work within us that go beyond sheer willpower.

Physical influences, circumstances, spiritual warfare, and the strength of our willpower are all factors that affect us. But as we’ll see in my next post, the Bible constantly points us within…to our hearts.

Lesson on Prayer

By Petra Barrientos, MBC Tysons Multiply Table Leader

God has taught me a lesson. In a good way. He has once and for all put to rest my forever-reoccurring issues with prayer. Even to type the words “issues with prayer” makes me cringe. In the days leading up to my recent baptism I was wrestling with questions like “Why pray if God has a perfect plan and I really don’t have a clue? And what if He hears my messed up prayers and decides to deviate from His plan just because I have not begged Him often enough?” All too familiar territory and I cannot believe that somehow or other I ended up back there—again.

(I need to deviate for a minute for this story to make sense. I am in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. Over the past months I have repeatedly been summoned downtown to the office of immigration services. So when the letter came inviting me to the citizenship test and interview, I took note of the day and time and assumed the place to be the same).

One day, after a couple of days with prayer issues, I went to Bible study. When it was my turn to jot down prayer requests, I said to myself—and this is a direct quote: “It can’t possibly be this hard to pray! Just put down what is on your heart!” And so I asked for prayers for my upcoming baptism and citizenship interview.

The lady next to me was very interested in my citizenship application and asked countless questions. When? Where? Who? How? I finally asked her, jokingly: “What? Are you with Homeland Security?” With a grin she handed me her card: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. And then she told me to double-check the location of my interview because the downtown office was not usually where interviews were being held. She was right, of course. But I would not have checked the address, I would have driven downtown, I would have missed my assigned interview slot and the entire process thus far would have been null and void. I would have blown it two steps before the finish line—had I not prayed, that is.

Prayer really isn’t that hard! But when I try to connect with God through my brain instead of my heart, I seem to push Him farther and farther away. That should not surprise me, because God very clearly tells me that His thoughts are not my thoughts. It is my heart that matters to God, not my intellect. So, Note to Self: don’t overthink faith, feel it instead! And don’t overcomplicate prayer, just pray. Nothing will make God change who He is and what He has planned for my life. God will not “let me have it” in response to my prayer. His plan is to prosper me, not to harm me. He will let me experience the consequences of my choices—good and bad—but He will not hand me over to my own stupidity and weakness and wash His hands of me. He couldn’t even if He tried, it is simply not who He is.

Here is my new approach to prayer: Pray often, pray about everything, pray out loud, pray in your own voice, pray with others, pray to a big and holy God with reverence, trust and love. Amen.

Are You Lifting Others Up?

By Todd Peters, Director of The Rock Student Ministries at MBC Tysons

A few years ago I was working in Africa, where average temperatures were in the 130s. At the same time, my bride was at home in Alaska where temperatures were below zero. We decided to meet in San Diego and merge our climates. During our visit, we took our first flight in a hot air balloon.

Immediately, I noticed that our pilot navigated the balloon by increasing or decreasing altitude to make use of existing wind currents. By timing the release of propane fire, our pilot took us upward to catch the desired current. He skillfully judged the winds using flags and smoke from distant landmarks. Sometimes he sprayed shaving cream so he could see the winds below the balloon. It was an amazing experience to ride the wind in silence and with so little effort.

It struck me that people are a lot like hot air balloons. We all need encouragement to rise sometimes, and when it is timed properly, we gain altitude and make good use of the wind currents created by words. This made me think about ministry and being a member of the church. We are all called to minister to one another. A simple definition of ministry could be “encouraging people.” Encourage literally means to “inspire courage.” Who couldn’t use more of that?

If you don’t think encouragement is important, check out some stories from POW survivors of the Korean War. The North Koreans did not allow any praise or encouragement in their prisons. The prison camps did not perform more rigorous physical torture but they banned encouragement. Soldiers recall how men would go off into a corner, sit down and die from lack of encouragement. You don’t have to be in a physical war to die from lack of encouragement.

Jesus gave us a tool to combat discouragement in Matthew 22:39, ”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Apostle Paul explains how to carry out this command in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and 14, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing…. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Paul adds in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Authors Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., use similar ideas in their best-selling book, How Full is Your Bucket: Strategies for Life and Work:

“Everyone has an invisible bucket. We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing—and at our worst when they are empty. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill or to dip from others’ buckets. Whenever we fill others’ buckets, we in turn fill our own.”

So how shall we proceed as the church today? Will we start reaching out to encourage one another as commanded by our Lord Jesus? Church, our guidance is clear. May we be known as bucket-fillers; as a people who lift one another up and fill each other with love and encouragement.

Is God your Father or Grandfather?

By Nate Keeler, MBC Arlington Pastor

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
                                                                                – Hebrews 12:7-11

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain describes how warped our view of God’s love and goodness often is.  He says, “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we would like to be doing, ‘Well what does it matter as long as they are contented?’ We want in fact not so much a father in heaven but a grandfather in heaven. A senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘would like to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that at the end of each day a good time was had by all.” 

Sounds about right, doesn’t it? We sometimes twist our view of God to fit our own interests. But as a father of two boys, I know that what my boys need in order to grow into honorable and mature men of God is NOT a benevolent “senile” grandfather but a father who is prepared to do what is necessary to produce a harvest of maturity in my boys.

Sometimes my boys don’t understand or enjoy the disciplines Shannan and I seek to instill in their lives, whether it be chores, memorizing Scripture, helping them learn how to read, eating balanced meals, family devotions, etc. If they had their way they would be snacking on junk food instead of eating their broccoli, playing video games instead of reading and watching cartoons instead of doing chores. Even though in the moment it seems more loving for us to always give them what they want (who doesn’t love bringing a big smile to their faces?), the most loving and good thing we can do as parents is provide discipline.

Guess what? As adults we are often no different with our Father in heaven than children are with their parents! This is the point of our passage and one of the most important aspects of developing a biblical worldview.

Hardships and discipline don’t automatically produce endurance, righteousness and maturity. Only those who learn to be trained by God’s discipline will reap this harvest as verse 11 concludes. While we don’t enjoy the discipline or often even understand it in the moment, the secret is to take the long view. God is treating us as legitimate children. He loves you and I too much to leave us the way we are, just as I love my boys too much to let them turn into couch potatoes!

What is your heart’s disposition toward the hardships in your life right now? Are you allowing God to train you as His son or daughter? Or are you resisting and resenting it?  Open your hands to God and allow Him to produce the harvest in your life!

Why I Love Part Four of Multiply

By Sue Moye, Assoc. Director of Discipleship for Midsize Groups & Strategic Initiatives at MBC Tysons

My awe for who God is and His plan for me has grown through reading Part Four of Multiply, “Understanding the Old Testament.” I took Old and New Testament Surveys during my four years at a Christian college and have some seminary under my belt. Even so, I have never before been positioned to take in the whole panorama of God’s plan to relate to His people like I have through studying Multiply. Let me share what reading Part Four of Multiply is doing in my life.

If you are like me, you have set out to read the whole Bible in a year numerous times, and have made it for a few weeks, even months, before failing. Because you keep trying, you have read Genesis numerous times. Beginning Part Four of Multiply, I felt like I was wading in to all-too-familiar territory. I encourage you to hang in there even if starting out seems like the beginning of a mountain climb, an uphill path without a rewarding view.

By Chapter 3 on the Abrahamic Covenant, I began to see glimpses of the symmetry in God’s call to people throughout the ages. God’s message to Abraham was to “go”, and Abraham went. God tells Abraham that He is going to make him a father of a great people, but Abraham and Sarah were infertile until God gave them a miraculous son. God also promised that He would be with them.

As I studied this, I could not help but notice that in Matthew 28:18-20, God commands us to “go.” If my life were in a book, would it say “and she went?” God calls me to make disciples, but like Sarah, I am powerless! I cannot create a new life in Christ. I can only be obedient to go, and to invest the Gospel in others. New spiritual offspring will be the result of a  miracle in response to my obedience!

Lastly, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus promises, “For lo, I am with you always.” That is the same promise God made to Abraham, that He will be with them! Wow! Jesus’ command to us is a continuation of what God began with Abraham!

From there, in the chapter on sacrifice and atonement, Francis Chan continues to build the story. He focused my understanding of the seriousness of my sin. It really took Jesus’ blood, (not just His love toward me) to forgive my sin, to cleanse me daily. I understood the cross, but I didn’t like to embrace the bloodiness of it. Reading this chapter has changed my perspective forever. I will never sing another hymn about Jesus’ blood without it cutting in to my heart.

I have always loved John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Wow! God chose to become a man, to do all that Philippians 2:5-11 captures so beautifully. But never before have I seen the story of God’s presence on earth so powerfully laid out as I did in the Chapter 7 of Part 4. By studying that chapter and the referenced Scripture, I saw the view of God’s relating with His people in a whole new way. It was like getting above the tree line and seeing the view from a whole new perspective. You don’t want to miss it.

Chan has presented the whole of God’s story in a way that I have never studied it before. The more I read Multiply and the passages of Scripture it requires to answer the questions, the more my view of God expands. The bigger my God gets, the more confident and compelled I am to tell everyone God brings into my life. And it is not just me, I am hearing these same themes echoed all over the church. I praise God for that!

My Chat with Jehovah’s Witnesses

By Brian Rice, Access Adult Coordinator at MBC Tysons 

A week or so before Lon preached on the book of Colossians, a very nice Jehovah’s Witness couple came to my door. The woman shared the script she had memorized to try and show me that our beliefs were the same—we are sinners in need of Jesus as a savior. After a few minutes of polite conversation and affirming what she had said so far (none of which was yet heresy), I asked what the difference is between her beliefs and what I as an evangelical Christian would affirm. She continued down her script, and with polite curiosity I asked the same question a few more times. There obviously must be some difference or else why continue the sales pitch? Finally, with reservation, she said that she does not believe Jesus is God.

BINGO! Now we could start a real discussion. After trying to show me that Jesus was just God’s son and not actually God Himself through their “Bible” (New World Translation), the man paraphrased a couple of verses where Jesus claimed to only be God’s son and not actually God. I asked, “You’ve paraphrased some scripture, but can you show me where Jesus said that?”

He answered, “In Colossians 1.”

I now had a HUGE smile on the inside and replied, “Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul 30 years or so after Jesus had ascended to heaven.” At this point I had enough knowledge of Colossians to know that it is an epistle Paul wrote in which Jesus never spoke. (It hit me how important it is to know how the Bible fits together.)

Only God can change hearts; I am just responsible to be obedient to His call to share the truth.

The man quickly backtracked. “Well it was Jesus through Paul…I mean the Holy Spirit through Paul.” He quickly read Colossians 1:15: “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” The man claimed that this proved Jesus was just another created being, the first created being. I knew this couldn’t mean what this man claimed it meant, but I hadn’t studied this passage enough to be prepared with an answer. After hearing Lon’s sermon on Colossians, I now find it surprising that the man chose that letter to dissuade me from the truth that Jesus is God. The deity of Christ is the very issue that Paul was affirming to the Colossians!

The man continued his argument by saying the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion was that the Jewish leaders were angry with Him for claiming to be God’s son. I explained that this proves that Jesus claimed He is God (Matthew 26).

The couple left without changing their belief that Jesus is not God, but that’s OK. Only God can change hearts; I am just responsible to be obedient to His call to share the truth. I was thankful for the holes God showed me in their beliefs. Before leaving, they thanked me for talking with them and shared how at most of the 100,000 doors they knock on each year, people do not speak with them at all. Hearing the statistic of how intentional and bold they are about sharing their false version of the Gospel, I was convicted on my lack of boldness. Christ resides in me, with all His truth and power, yet how many people am I sharing with every year?

After they left I quickly checked out the study notes in my Bible for Colossians 1:15. I needed to find out how the Bible, which is inerrant, could say that Jesus was created yet He is God. John MacArthur’s note explained:

“The Greek word for ‘firstborn’ can refer to the one who was born first chronologically, but most often refers to preeminence in position, or rank. In both Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn was the ranking son who had received the right of inheritance from his father, whether he was born first or not. It is used of Israel who, not being the first nation, was however the preeminent nation. Firstborn in this context clearly means highest rank, not first created… Thus Jesus is the firstborn in the sense that he has the preeminence and possesses the right of inheritance over ‘all creation’. He existed before the creation and is exalted in rank above it.”

Colossians is as applicable today as it was in 62 A.D. when Paul wrote it to the church at Colossae. There are still people who are deceived into denying the deity of Christ, yet they hold to other parts of scripture. Please pray that God would soften the hearts of this couple and many others, and that He would reveal to them the true identity of His Son Jesus.

3 Takeaways from My Encounter with Jehovah’s Witnesses:Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

1. Bible survey is important.

It is critical to know the story of the entire Bible and how all of the pieces fit together.

2. Always be prepared to answer.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. I wish I had been as prepared for them as they were for me.

3. I (we) need to be bolder toward the lost.

Although this couple and the rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the Living God residing inside them, they are living out what they understand to be the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). I have the Holy Spirit, God, residing in me, yet I am not as intentional as they are in obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples.

If you would like more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses and sharing the Gospel with them, check out

Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses – what is the key?

Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what are their beliefs?

Why I Gave Up Lent…for Lent

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor

I used to go to church on Ash Wednesday—the first day of the Lenten season that lasts until Easter—to get ashes pressed on to my forehead. The ashes were supposed to remain in the shape of a cross, but they always gradually turned into a smudge mark. Then for the next 40 days (except for Sunday), I gave up something that I liked.

This year, I gave up Lent for Lent. I decided to celebrate instead of fast. I’m making merry instead of mourning!

Not because I think Lent is a bad thing. Along with millions of people in the big world of Christendom, I agree that it’s a good thing. At a baseline level, Ash Wednesday at least gives those of the Christian faith the same face worldwide.

But, the good was meant to go deeper.

The original purpose of Lent

Since about the 8th Century, Ash Wednesday and Lent, according to Anglo-Saxon abbot Aelfric (955-1020), have been an outward manifestation of inner repentance. “Now let us…strew ashes on our heads,” he writes in his Life of the Saints, “to signify that we ought to repent of our sins…”

The mourning for sins with accompanying ashes is a practice of antiquity. The earliest biblical occurrence is found in the words of Job after he was rebuked by God, “…my eyes see You; Therefore…I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6 NASB).  The original purpose of Lent was to help the believer remember his sinfulness and mortality and that he is deserving of death, just as it was for the parents of the human race, Adam and Eve, who, after their sin heard the words, “…for dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). After forty days, we thank God on Good Friday for the Cross of Christ, which delivers us from this death. The day of resurrection that follows is a day of sheer exhilaration and joy that death has lost its sting forever!

The reason for Lent today

I’m afraid that we’ve come a long way from the original purpose of Lent. What Twitter users are giving up for Lent (based on 116,000 tweets) looks more like New Year’s Resolutions than Jobesquian mourning.

Source: Gleanings, Christianity Today[1]

Reviving Lent

Jump into the true spirit of Lent. Prepare yourself for Good Friday (right around the corner). Contemplate the meaning of the Lord’s crucifixion. Get ready for the joy of Resurrection Sunday! Here are two ideas on how to revive your devotion to Christ.

Use Lent to kick-start holiness.

Any one of the items named in tweets that many are giving up could be far beyond a mere New Year’s Resolution. Maybe it is in fact a weight holding a person back from freely living for Christ. Even worse, it could be an activity that has crossed the line from permissible, to excess, to sin. Use Lent to catalyze obedience to the scripture:

“…let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us…” (Hebrews 12:1, Amplified Bible)

Follow Jesus over Passover week.

We weren’t given the privilege of walking with Jesus in person during his last week (how amazing that would have been!), but we can follow him through eyewitness accounts of what he did in his last five days before the cross.

 On March 29, AD 33, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and boldly predicted that he would soon be put to death—executed on a cross, like a common criminal. So began the most important week of the most important person who ever lived.”[2]

(At the end, please see a suggestion I have for a Bible reading plan from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday.)

“Give it up for Jesus!”

Let’s go back to my story. Why did I give up Lent for Lent this year? Instead of giving up anything for Jesus, I’m instead proclaiming to my world, “Give it up for Jesus!” After all, it’s my 50th spiritual birthday! On March 12, 1964, I believed in Christ. So, because the cross and the resurrection changed my life forever, I’m going for celebration and proclamation!

UntitledI invited our staff to join me for a 50th Spiritual Birthday Party in March. While the Bolivian Band, AMA, provided the background music, I shared my story of how Jesus changed my life, and the 40 guests who accepted the invitation shared with each other their own stories of changed lives through Christ.

The cake to the right, made by my granddaughter in the shape of a book, says, “The Book of Life, Joe Henriques, March 12, 1964.” That’s when the Lord Jesus allowed my name to become permanent in his all-important Book! (Rev. 20:12)

Whether Lent for you is a time for remorse or rejoicing, make it special for the Lord. How can you show your love for him over these next few days before Easter? 

A Bible reading plan for Passover Week: from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday

Palm Sunday
The Triumphal Entry
Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-44, John 12:12-19

Jesus curses the fig tree
Matthew 21:18-19, Mark 11:12-14

Jesus cleanses the temple
Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18

The authority of Jesus questioned
Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8

Jesus teaches in the temple
Matthew 21:28 – 23:39, Mark 12:1-44, Luke 20:9-21:4

Jesus anointed
Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:2-11

The plot against Jesus
Mathew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:3-6

The Last Supper
Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-20, John 13:1-38

Jesus comforts the disciples
John 14:1 – 16:33

Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46

Thursday Night and Friday
Jesus’ arrest and trial
Matthew 26:47 – 27:26, Mark 14:43 – 15:15, Luke 22:47 – 23:25, John 18:2 – 19:16

Good Friday
Jesus’ crucifixion and death
Matthew 27:27-56, Mark 15:16-41, Luke 23:26-49, John 19:17-30

The burial of Jesus
Matthew 27:57-66, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:31-42

Resurrection Sunday
The empty tomb
Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10

Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden
Matthew 16:9-11, Mark 20:11-18

Jesus appears to the two going to Emmaus
Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-35

Jesus appears to 10 disciples
Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-25

Source: The NIV Study Bible[3]

[1] What to Give Up for Lent 2014? Twitter Reveals Top 100 Choices, Christianity Today
[2] The Final Days of Jesus, Kostenberger
[3] The NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985 by The Zondervan Corporation