Pray for One Another-Apr. 29, 2012

Pray for One Another-April 29, 2012

Ephesians 3:8-21

In this series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we have heard Paul talking to this Gentile group which he himself believed he was called to share with the Gentiles the grace of the gospel.  In verse 8 he considers himself to be the least of the saints (believers) this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.  This is a grace Paul knew all to well, for it was Paul who persecuted this believers in the way.  Paul set forth on a mission to destroy all those who worship Jesus to have the brought in legally and put to death.  In one journey to attack a group of believers Paul was stuck blind in his tracks and heard a voice saying to him, “Why are you persecuting Me?”  Paul then says, rightfully so, “Who are you Lord?”  The response, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”  I shutter to think at that moment the fear that may have overcome Paul to acknowledge that this great power upon was the Lord only to find out his energies had been misdirected, that he had in fact, been persecuting the Lord in persecuting Jesus.  What grace is there that God would take one like Paul and mold him into one of the greatest missionaries of all time.  It is truly for God’s glory, but Paul truly understood grace.

As the scripture continues there is a revealing of who Christ is, it is the mystery which had been hidden in ages past is now being revealed.  The language is grand as if we are at the cusp of a turning point.  Jesus is the pivotal point of history.  For us to look at the larger picture for a moment, prayer is key and will be key it is how we have access to God through Jesus Christ, it is in this growing maturing into him that we also allow that prayer to draw us together as the people of God.  So that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities.  The wisdom of God is not carried through a ruling line or political channel but through the church to the world.    This was God’s purpose carried out in Jesus and in him we have boldness, and confident access through faith.  Don’t be discouraged by what you are going through but look to it as a way to give glory to God.

Paul tells this church that he prays for them the God would grant them, according to his riches to be strengthened with power His power through His Spirit in the inner man.  Paul prays for others, and it is not just prayer for their bodies (the outward man) for our bodies (outward man) is always in decline and decay.  We strive so much in our country to preserve our looks, health, youth, and energy by our own power.  It is not to say that we should neglect or do harm to our bodies, but scripture in another place puts it this way, do not be worried as much by that which can destroy the flesh but by that which can destroy the soul.  In our world and country we are trying to keep up the appearance of youth and health, while the spirit within is in decay and dying.

Paul prays that they would be strengthened in the inner man, that even though our bodies may be in decay our strength, life, and beauty come from the inner man.  Paul continues, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.

We do and should pray for the physical needs of our people, but we need to pray even more for the inner life of the person to be strengthened, it is this Christ that dwells in hearts producing, deep roots so when the trials come we are able to withstand, and as we grow, we can grow up if the foundation isn’t secure.  Grounded and rooted so that we can understand with other believers the how deep, high, long, and wide is the love of Christ which is really beyond us to understand.  It is revealed to us more and more through the strengthening of the inner man, and as it continues to be revealed in the life of the body of Christ (the church) today.  Prayers are the ligaments holding together the body of Christ.  Being filled up with the love of Christ to the fulness of God.  Many times when we are full in this world we are miserable, in the fulness of the love of Christ we are satisfied and find a quite confidence, a calm assurance, and a boldness to trust Him more day by day.

He is able to do far more than we can even comprehend according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations.  For all God is and all He can do, His is worthy of worship, honor, praise, and yes glory.  The glory of God is revealed in the body of Christ (the church) and the Holy Spirit that dwells in the members of the body, and in Christ Jesus, this is for this time and each generation, will we be faithful to help others to seek Christ and be filled in the inner man.  What a blessing, honor, privilege, and responsibility for the church as the body of Christ.  May He find us faithful.

Basic 2: Follow Jesus-Apr. 25, 2012

Basic 2:  Follow Jesus-Francis Chan-April 25, 2012

What does it mean to you to be a Christian?  What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?  Being like Jesus should be our goal, and following Him is the path to get there.

Matt. 4:18-22-Come follow me…

It is easy to follow the leader, but is can also cost you everything.  By imitating another person you are giving up your plans and/or desires for yourself.  It all depends on who you are following.  What do we do when the leader is Jesus?  Is it easy to follow Him?

A Christian is a follower of Christ.  However it seems in our culture that most of the things Jesus did were nice and we think they are good things, but most do not want to get too carried away with it.  It is difficult to deny ourselves in this land of plenty, or love our enemies, sacrifice our comfort for someone else’s.  Being a Christian is not a subculture, following Christ is countercultural.  When we find someone following Christ, it seems that there are others who are trying to talk them out of it, or at least they want the person to tone it down a bit.

Think if you will about other professions.  You learn by studying and theory, but the greatest learning comes in the applied part.  This is usually done by watching and observing others do the same things and then under leadership or supervision the individual begins to learn the skill or trade.  How many would want a doctor who had read the books but had no experience, or a pilot without experience, or mechanic.  You get the idea.  It is the best way to learn.  This is also true in our Christian walk.

Matthew 28:19-20a.  Would you say that following Jesus has been a consideration in how you have set up or oriented your life?  Jesus tells them up front that to follow him will be costly.  Luke 14:25-30 asks us to consider the cost.  What does it mean to follow Jesus and what is the cost?  Luke 6:46-It is the cost that actually narrows the road (Matthew 7:13-23) and helps us to understand that it is not because we call Him Lord, but if we follow Him in obedience.  As the group narrows because following Jesus is hard, we find this account in John 6:66-69.  Where or to whom will we go, you have the keys or words of eternal life?  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

Some may think it would be easier if Jesus were here, but Jesus actually told his disciples it would be better for them when he left because then the Holy Spirit would come (John 16:7).

One of the greatest obstacles to following Jesus is ourselves.  It takes a constant reminder that it’s about Jesus-I’m living for His calling, His mission, and His glory.  Sometimes it may be that we worry what others may think about us.  What or who may slow you down from following Jesus?  Luke 9:57-58 says that Jesus has no place to call home, the cost can be great to follow but Christ is worth it.

What happens when trying harder doesn’t work?  The answer may first be found in the question of have we fully surrendered to following Jesus, and to do so will require the help of the Holy Spirit.

Is it more difficult in our modern technology driven world to follow Jesus than it was when roads were no more than dust paths?  Another invitation to follow was recorded in Mark 10:17-31 the rich young ruler was asked to leave power, pride, position, and wealth to call another man master.  He walked away.

If it is so difficult then who can be saved?  The short answer is with man it is impossible.  It is not in reality just difficult, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  In following Christ whose strength are we relying on?  Following Jesus is more than a mental exercise or an obligation to church services, but it is lived our each day in our lives.

We get so caught up in the world as we see it, but Jesus invited them to see the world as it really is.  Trying to hold on to our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life for Christ, then our lives will be saved.

With such an impossible task God sends blessings.  One blessing is people.  God placed people also on this journey to help us follow Jesus.  You may not like everything about those people (or perhaps very little), but you are an essential resource for them, and they are an essential resource for you.  Another blessing is the Holy Spirit.  He works within to change our desires, and gives us strength to follow.

John 10:27-My Sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Additional Scriptures:

Ephesians 2:8-10

John 12:26

Matthew 16:24

Matthew 10:38

Matthew 10:28

John 8:12

John 15:20-23

Matthew 19:28-29

Mark 10:21

Growing Pains-Apr. 23, 2012

Growing Pains-April 23, 2012

In my conversation with an old friend we talked about how our relationship with God should affect our relationship with others.  These relationships are a complicated mix of family, friends, coworkers, people at the check-out counter, fellow church folks, those we have disagreements with, and even our “enemies.”  The Bible speaks of how we are to deal with others and so my friend makes this comment:

“It has been my practice to deal with those who have hurt me our hurt my family cordially because that’s what I thought God wanted from me.  Now I am realizing more each day that God doesn’t want me to deal with them cordially only but redemptively as well.”

The work of Christ is a difficult work, and becomes more so when we do not allow Christ to work in and through our lives, as if we know better than him.  Relationally speaking it’s always about bringing people to Christ in a real and redemptive way.  The church as “the body of Christ” must also be doing the work of Christ or else it may still be a body that exists but exists without purpose, calling, or direction and will continue to grow lifeless because it has not the life of Christ to offer the world.

It may be far easier to treat others cordially and continue to harbor resentment or a grudge towards them.  In treating them cordially other observers may say we are good or nice people for doing so.  However, relating to others in a redemptive way brings glory to God.  As a church grows toward maturity in Christ and relationships become redemptive, and in so doing it is not us that gets the praise but God working this great thing in our lives receiving the glory.  A mature people and church seek a redemptive pattern in their relationships, not because we have not been wronged or hurt but because of Christ in our lives.  Redemptive living doesn’t happen with human strength but by God’s help.  It is more than just tolerating another it is the working of Christ in us.

God’s kingdom work is about more than doctrine it is about relational living.  Living that draws others to Christ to mend their lives and relationships to others through their relationship with Christ.  Redemptive living is not a work we can do, it is a work that God does through us.  What we can do is surrender.  Surrender our right to ourselves or our right to hold a grudge by what someone has done to hurt us.  This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience hurt, but rather allow the Lordship of Christ to reign in our lives and give us peace in those circumstances so that redemptive living is possible.  In doing so, it won’t be a work others praise us for but it gives glory to God.

In our faith journey we need to seek more than just to be born again, but rather that we would grow to the full measure and maturity in Christ.  In maturity, there is less of us for our sake and more redemptive living through Christ for God’s sake and the sake of His glory.  How we live, do business, relate to family, church friends, difficult people, and yes even “enemies” will say far more about our relationship with the Lord than it does about these others we tolerate cordially rather than trying to embrace redemptively.  These are some of the growing pains of becoming mature in Christ.

 

One in Christ-Apr. 22, 2012

One in Christ-April, 22, 2012

Ephesians 2:11-22

In looking at the scriptures for today’s sermon it is helpful to be reminded in chapter one who Paul speaks about how it is the purpose of God to gather up all things in Christ for his glory.  Verse 11 of chapter 2 Paul reminds the Gentiles in the flesh were called “Uncircumcision”, by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed by human hands.  This message really seems to be for both groups, the Gentiles who were outside of God at the time not knowing him or his ways, and to the Jews who thought of themselves more highly than they ought, and in so doing rather that being the people of God to bring the message of God to the world, they used the law as a barrier to “better” themselves and keep themselves from the world.  Those who so-called believed they were at a better standing before God, then stated that you were not with God because of an outward marking of the flesh.

Unless God circumcised the hearts of people, they are not his.  Until are hearts our broken and God takes his proper place in our lives, there are no amount of symbols or physical appearance that can change the reality of a stubborn, hard, or arrogant heart.  Psalm 51 speaks of this broken and contrite heart.  Paul continues to remind the Gentiles that they were, at one time, separate from Christ.  Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel (the people of God), and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  In the time before they came to know Christ the Gentiles did not have a connection with the people of Israel, and now they have a citizenship in heaven.  They did not know the covenants and promises of God, having no hope and without God in the world, but now in Christ they have a new hope in the promises of God and in this world they are not without God.

Thinking to our own lives as believers, those who have followed him and know his promises, there are still tough days.  There are days when we feel like we can’t get by in this world and all hope seems lost.  Even as believers we have difficult times and days.  I personally do not know how those who are without God in the world, have hope in this life, or hope for any life everlasting.  What a condition to find oneself in, and as a believer, what a responsibility we have to share the good news of the gospel with those who are dying in this world and do not have the hope of Christ in their lives.

The theme of gathering up continues in verse 13, for now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  We are in the blood of Christ brought near to God.  In Christ Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

The law and commandments were used by the Jews as a wall or dividing barrier between them and the Gentiles, and in this new establishment of peace, there is more here than just accepting Gentiles, it was that as fleshed out more in Acts 15 was that the Jews themselves were recognizing themselves as sinners and acknowledging the way was Jesus.  This puts them on equal footing with the Gentiles in regards to their salvation.  Christ breaks down the barriers that separate, putting enmity to death in His flesh, that in him the two would be as one new man.  Bringing both near to God through the same means, bringing peace, and reconciling them in one body, His, through the cross.  No more excuses over who was better or more right, only one body brought salvation and it is only in living as that body today in this world can we hope to share it with others.  The importance of being one can not be emphasized enough.  We are one in him, we live in him, serve in him, share the gospel in him, grow into maturity together in him, and find our hope and peace together in him.  Anything less than what we find in him will not last or bring glory to God.

For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then Gentiles (that includes us as non-Jewish people) where strangers  and aliens but not citizens and are of God’s household.  We are citizens of the kingdom of God together.  The church universal and throughout the generations is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you are also being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

We go from being aliens, to citizens, citizens to family, and as a family those who are being built up as a dwelling for God.  The temple was seen as the dwelling place for God and Paul here redirects that thought and brings in the foundational teaching the apostles and prophets, and the cornerstone Christ, and the structure would not be brick and mortar but human lives fully devoted to God in unity.  The foundation will not change, the cornerstone holds the structural integrity, but the rest of the building must be formed to plan, each life finding its place in the unity of the whole, bringing glory and honor to God.

Can we each say today that we are living in peace, wholeness, and as one, not because things are always right or perfect but because we believe that God desires it and allowed His Son to put these barriers to death in His body that we may live for God.

Basic 1: Fear God-Apr. 18, 2012

Basic 1:  Fear God-April 18, 2012

Psalm 111:10

Reading:  Isaiah 6:1-8

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Let’s examine some of our basic assumptions about and perhaps why do we see Him this way?

How does our view of God shape our response to Him?

Revelation 1:9-18

How would you respond to seeing this picture of Jesus?  What thoughts might go through your mind?

Not until we come to grips with the fearful reality of who God truly is can we understand the security that comes from belonging to Him.

We often only want to think happy thoughts about God.  God is the source of life and satisfaction, and until we come to God as He is, we will never find what we are looking for.

Proverbs 19:23  “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil?

When we know who holds the future it makes it a little easier to rest.

Think about the scene John describes in Revelation 1, what would it be like in that moment of fear to have the hand of Jesus upon you and to hear His voice say, “Fear Not”?

You might think this would be like a reunion, John followed Jesus on earth saw Him resurrected, and ascend into heaven and now he sees a glimpse of the glorified Jesus and is awestruck, unable to stand in his presence and falls on his face like a dead man.

Can’t God be terrifying and loving all at once?  Doesn’t the fear of God amplify His great love for us?

Then there is the reassurance that Christ is alive forevermore.  Seeing God in all His power and glory allows us to see beyond ourselves, to see that this life is all about Him.  He is worthy of all our worship, honor, and praise.

And when we understand this fear-inducing God loves us unconditionally, all other fears subside, because as Romans 8:31 reminds us “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Notes on Francis Chan Basic:  Fear God

Additional Scriptures about the subject found below

Deuteronomy 6:13

13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.

Deuteronomy 10:12

12 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

Psalm 33:8

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him

Ecclesiastes 8:13

13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.

Isaiah 33:6

6 He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.[a

Acts 9:31

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

1 Peter 2:17                            

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Revelation 14:7

7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Outline for Basic Series-Francis Chan-Apr. 18. 2012

Over the next several weeks we will be looking at the basics.  Although this information is primarily curriculum by Francis Chan, I will also be adding some personal thoughts as well.  The first three sessions deal with each person of the trinity with a transitional lesson, then the last four deal with who or what is the church?

Basic Series by Francis Chan
Section 1 Who is God?
Basic 1 Fear God
Basic 2 Follow Jesus
Basic 3 Holy Spirit
Basic Living
Section 2 We Are Church
Basic 4 Fellowship
Basic 5 Teaching
Basic 6 Prayer
Basic 7 Communion
Following this will be worship

Salt and Light-Baptism Service-Apr. 15, 2012

Salt and Light-Baptism Service-April 15, 2012, 6pm

Matthew 5:13-16

In the context of a Baptism Service I think it is important to stress not only what is occurring at this time but also what we are to focus on going forward.  It is a wonderful and exciting time for these families to come to the day when their child acknowledges Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  It is also a time for remembering and reflecting for those of us who have gone through the waters of rebirth known as baptism.  We are buried with Christ in death and raised to walk in a newness of life.  What does that walk look like, for them and for us.  As we look at this day, we acknowledge that we as a church have a responsibility to help them to grow and mature in Christ, their parents also share in this responsibility, and as they grow to maturity in Christ they too will take more responsibility for their own faith, and finally in helping to disciple others.

 13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (K.J.V.)

The message will be brief and to the point.  Salt is used as a preservative to cure meat, and to add flavor.  Light is to provide the bearer of the light means to see in dark places.   Be Salt.  Share the message of Christ with others that they may be preserved or saved for his glory that their lives would be pleasing or favorable in the sight of the Lord.  Be Light.  A light poorly used is ineffective at best, and close to be snubbed out in the worst scenario.  The light needs to be in the open to be a benefit, putting it under a bowl will make no use of the light and could possible go out if it runs out of air.  Being Salt and Light are so that others may see and glorify your Father which is in heaven.   Believers, Church, Parents, and those newly baptized.  In a world that only practices self-preservation and has grown dark and tasteless, be salt and light.

The presentation of the Certificates of Baptism, Bibles, and Salt Shakers.