Basic 6: Prayer-May 30, 2012

Basic 6:  Prayer-Francis Chan

2 Chronicles 7:14-16; Luke 11:1-13; Matthew 6:5-15; James 4:1-3

Members of the early church devoted themselves to prayer.  When reading the book of Acts in may seem enormous what that small group of believers was supposed to accomplish.  We take prayer seriously when we understand the depth of our need for God to work supernaturally in our lives.  If we are going to really live out our calling as the church, then we need to devote ourselves to prayer.

Ecclesiastes offers this perspective:  God is in heaven, and we are on earth, so we should address Him accordingly (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7).  Balancing this out is perspective in Romans where we approach God is “Abba” or daddy (Romans 8:14-17).  There is also discipline involved (Hebrews 12:5-11), but it is the faithful correction of a loving Father who knows what is best for us.  The image of God as our Father speaks of intimacy.  This doesn’t mean that we lose the respect for God that Ecclesiastes calls us to.  Because of God’s character, He is worthy of our love and respect simultaneously.

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are claiming solidarity with Jesus.  We are identifying ourselves with Him and acknowledging that His mission is also our mission.  We are saying that the things we are asking are the same things that Jesus would be asking for (John 14:13-14.  Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Prayer for the early church was not a program; it was a natural response to the intense setting in which they lived and the impossible task they had been given.  We too need to build prayer into our lifestyle for the purpose of accomplishing our God-given mission.

A good place to start is by analyzing the frequency and intensity of our prayer lives.  We cannot deny the fact that our true beliefs manifest themselves in our actions.  Regardless of what we say we believe, our actions reveal our fundamental assumptions about life.  Such as, does the amount of time we spend in prayer reflect our view of God?  Do we see prayer as vital and necessary for accomplishing the mission God has called us to?

We join together in fellowship, teach one another, pray, and share in communion so that we can work together to accomplish this mission.  Part of our fellowship should involve praying for one another.

What is the difference between the meaningless, repetitious prayers that Jesus condemned in Matthew 6 and the persistent prayers He commended in Luke 18?  Then what do we do with the statement “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?  As ones who are praying for His kingdom to come, it may mean processing everything you encounter in the presence of God, asking Him what He thinks and how you should respond.  It will probably look a little different for each person, depending on your unique situation.  But the point is, God wants prayer to be a constant and essential part of your life.

If we are going to seriously pursue our calling to live out God’s intention for His church, we will need to persistently pursue Him in prayer.  This will require sacrifice, but as we experience more intimacy with God and see Him working in and around us, we won’t regret a single minute that we devoted to prayer.

Additional Scriptures:

Deuteronomy 4:7

1 Samuel 1:27-28

2 Chronicles 7:1

Proverbs 15:8

Matthew 6:5-6

Matthew 26:39

Acts 4:24-31

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Transitions-May 29, 2012

At the end of each school year I was thankful that the time was over until…my senior year.  Then, I would have to consider my life and identity would be expanding.  I had come to know myself and my identity within this community of my high school.  My high school community was my friends, classmates, teachers, and family.  In a moment known as graduation, it was becoming real to me that my world and identity was changing and expanding, as well as that of my friends.  This is a lot for a 17-year-old to take in, in such a brief period of time.

Graduation would be marking for some of us the first major transition of our lives.  I looked around that day knowing that some were going to college, military, or the work force.  Those experiences like my own of college and then graduate school would continue to shape the young men and women we were becoming.  We have an identity as members of that high school community, but our communities were expanding.  How would that shape each one of us, I could not know, really who could?

Through my life I have had the opportunity to reconnect here and there with those who were part of the community, in many ways we are all very different than we were then.  However, in more subtle ways the personality of each seems to still be present.  The high school community was the place we lived in and found our identity as a part of it.  Good or bad, and hopefully more good than bad.  We helped to shape what it was then and prepared both ourselves and that community to be better and different because we were a part of it, both in our living and leaving.

In many ways the community of Christ is not so different.  We live in the community being shaped by our identity with it, even as we too have a role in shaping the identity of the community with our presence.  Good or bad, and hopefully more good than bad.  We help to shape what it is to preserve and prepare ourselves and the community of Christ, to be different from the world around us, and hopefully better for us and the community that we were a part of it.

We are shaped and are shaping each community we are a part of.  In the living of our days do we so quickly move from one thing to the next that we do not take notice of what our living and believing say about our leaving?  The next transition is out of this world, and so in what ways have you allowed yourself to be shaped by the community of Christ around you?  In which ways have our lives shaped the community?  So that in our unknown time of leaving we may know we have been faithful to prepare the community of our identity to continue to play this vital role in the lives of those to come.  It truly is our belief about the transition of leaving that shapes our living.

Please pray for graduates as they think, live, prepare, expand, and transition into a yet unknown world to them, it is a lot to take in.  Pray for our community of Christ that we will be those that will bless them in their transitions as we prepare for our own.

Armor of God-May 27, 2012

Sermon-Armor of God-May 27, 2012

Scripture-Ephesians 6:10-20

Being strong in the Lord is not the same as doing life by our own strength.  It is trusting His power and provision,  This is  trusting beyond ourselves and is not something we are always accustom to.  In our day and culture we too often try to go it alone, not getting help from God let alone any other person.  It is as if our strength is perfect or endless, that is until the first trial or illness comes along and we are reminded or our mortality.  Trust the strength of the Lord in difficult times.

Paul reminds them to put on the full armor of God.  Not just the partial.  It also seems odd that when trying to protect ourselves we don’t want to use all the resources we have to accomplish this task.  In many of our lives we may not take the doctor’s advice, children may not brush their teeth, many more do not wear seat belts, and so on and so forth.

The struggles that we face are not just in the physical world but begin in our heart and minds for Christ.  We join in by recognizing that we are in a spiritual war and it is not just our physical bodies at stake and we begin by standing on the promises of God, and then mentally preparing ourselves both mentally and emotionally for this warfare.  Therefore as we make our stand put on the full armor.  Girding ourselves with truth, and the breastplate of righteousness.  Then preparing our feet to bring the gospel of peace, in addition to taking up the shield of faith to extinguish the  flaming missiles of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of Word of God.  These things the promises of God truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God are all necessary as we battle.  No soldier in  Paul’s day or our own would dream of going out to battle with out the full armor, so why do we often times forget to do so when it comes to spiritual battles.

We are instructed to pray, ask, and be alert.  Pray not only for ourselves but one another.  It doesn’t matter what if you get to the end if you have also left your brothers and sisters behind.  No military person would leave the men or women in the field of battle, so why do we Christians sometimes leave our wounded on the field of battle.  Paul then asks them to pray for his boldness in the gospel.  Do we pray for boldness in the gospel, and do we see ourselves as ambassadors  of that gospel.

Before we leave the premises, we need to be standing firm on the promises and putting on the full armor of God.

Basic 5: Teaching-May 23, 2012

Basic 5:  Teaching-Francis Chan

Acts 2:42, I Peter 2:2, 2 Peter 1:16, Matthew 17:1-5, Galatians 1:8-9, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, Romans 12:4-8, I Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Timothy 4:2-4, 2 Peter 2:1-3, I Timothy 4:16, I Timothy 3:14-15

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…Acts 2:42.  Do we long for the Word of God in the same way that a baby longs for its mother’s milk (1 Peter 2:2).  What are the practices or habits that you have in studying the Bible?  It is not just about the discipline, but about changing our perspective on the Bible not as a book to have to read but rather the Word of God-personal communication from almighty God telling us of His love for us and His mission for our lives-then we might actually begin to desire God’s Word.

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” Hebrews 4:12

We should all be teaching one another.  But the only way to keep such a group from degenerating into an ongoing argument where every person passionately defends his or her own opinion is for each person to be grounded in Scripture.  As we develop a passion for the Word of God, it will begin to transform us and the people around us.

As passionate as we may be for the Word of God, we will also encounter obstacles that will try to keep us from devoting ourselves to it.  In the Bible, God reveals Himself to us.  We find God’s perspective on who He is, who we are, and the way this world operates.  The more we study Scripture, the more confident we become in the answers that God gives to life’s most important questions.  The confidence in the Word of God should lead us to teach the other people in our lives.

The problem is that we don’t always differentiate between the eternal and unchanging nature of God’s truth and our own incomplete and often inaccurate perception of what the Word of God is saying.  I’m not at all trying to say that we can’t know God’s Word truly.  Rather, I’m suggesting that we don’t know God’s truth comprehensively, which can lead us to an incomplete and therefore skewed understanding of God’s truth.

Be bold and humble.  We should be bold about what God says but humble about the way the way we understand what God says.  I believe that’s what Paul had in mind when he told us not to go “go beyond what is written,” so that “none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6).  What does it look like to be bold in the Scriptures but humble in our interpretations?

One important way of fostering this type of humility is to study the Scriptures in fellowship with other Christians.  This is really what it means to be teaching one another.  It’s about everyone learning together, from the Word of God and then sharing what they’ve learned in humility and love.

The Christians life as a race in which he pressed on to reach the prize (Philippians 3:12-14).  If we apply learning to Paul’s race imagery, then it isn’t a me-against-the-world type of race.  Instead, it’s a three-legged race where one of your legs is strapped to the person next to you.  It’s not about me crossing the finish line alone; it’s about all of us crossing the finish line together.

The reality of the church is that I am not responsible only for my own spiritual growth; I am also responsible for the people God has placed in my life.  Teaching is not about me building myself up-it’s about me strengthening the people around me.  Teaching is an inherently selfless act (or at least it should be).  If all that mattered was my own spiritual growth, then I would just study the Bible on my own and never share with anyone else.  But that’s not the way God designed the church to function.  In this type of community, everyone is involved in the discipleship process and no one is off the hook.

Whereas most Christians may think the pastor is the one who is supposed to be ministering, Paul said the pastor’s job is to train the rest of us to minister to the people in our lives.  How does this play out?  “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  Ephesian 4:15-16

No matter how much knowledge you gain or how deeply you may be affected by the truth of the Bible, you will not be operating as a member of the body of Christ until you start investing in the lives of the Christians around you.  Recovering our role as the church may require you to restructure your life around the gospel.  So while we should all be teaching one another, we need to be careful about how we do it, in love.  People are learning by what we say and what we do.  Pride is insidious, blinding, and relentless.  Unless you work diligently to build humility into your character, any role you take on, even if it’s for the sake of serving other people, will be tainted with pride.  One of the best ways to keep pride in check is to remember that you’re teaching God’s truth.  We should be should searching the Bible for God’s truth and then sharing that truth with the people around us.  Billy Graham was a great example of this.

In light of your calling to bless the people in your life, begin thinking through what God has been teaching you.  How might you use what God has been teaching you to be a blessing to them?

Additional Scriptures on Teaching

Matthew 13:52            Ephesians 5:42                        II Timothy 3:14-17

Acts 4:2                       II Thessalonians 2:15              II John 1:9-10

Acts 5:42                     I Timothy 4:13-14

How Do We Live?-May 20, 2012

How Do We Live?-May 20, 2012

Ephesians 5:1-21

When we look at how to live the Christian life, we may be tempted to look at the dos and don’ts rather than shifting our perspective.  When we become involved in “stinkin’ thinkin’” and forget to focus on gracious praise we lose focus of Christ and His great gracious sacrifice and begin to live lives that are far from where God wants us to be.

The scripture begins with reminding us to be imitators of God as beloved children.  Imitating God we walk in love and light.  Verses three and four tell us not to practice immorality or impurity and to watch how we talk.  So in short be aware of what we do, how we think, and how we talk, instead use our lives to give thanks and be a blessing.

In living the former way, we know that is not the way of the Lord.  Don’t let others try to convince you or deceive you with empty words.  They are telling you these things to justify themselves rather than honoring God.  Don’t live as they do, you were formerly darkness, but not you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.

Light exposes the dark things but also purifies.  Fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to God.  It is something we can and should learn more and more if we are to be imitators of God and his light bearers.  The darkness is called unfruitful and the light exposes what is done in secret.  So wake up, and Christ will shine on you.

Walk wisely and make the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Do not be filled up with the intoxications of this world but be filled and moved by the Spirit.  Speak to one another with hymns, psalms, making melody from the heart not just the voice.  This is how we live, giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God even the Father; and serve one another as it honors Christ.

Basic 4: Fellowship-May 16, 2012

BASIC 4:  Fellowship-Francis Chan

Acts 2:42-47, Ephesians 2 & 1 Corinthians 12

What are some ideas that come to mind when we think of fellowship?  Often we think of a meal, or a time of being with other Christians, and although those answers are not wrong, there is so much more to fellowship.  Fellowship is at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ, and fellowship is its own responsibility and reward.

For many of us our Christian lives have been thought about in an individualistic sort of way.  We speak of a personal relationship with Christ, which it is, but is also to be lived out corporately in fellowship with other Christians.  We are a part of something much bigger than any one individual.  We are a part of the people of God and need other Christians in our lives.  The idea is not independence for the sake of the individual, but rather interdependence for our good and His glory.

Jesus died to bring together those that were once separated and make them one new man from the two, He reconciled us to God in one body, and He killed the enmity.  If Jesus wants us to be united with other Christians so badly that He sacrificed Himself in order to make it happen, then who are we to say that working together with other Christians really doesn’t matter?

The church is a house made up of individual people who are miraculously joined together by the death of Christ to be the place where God dwells on earth.  It’s not about me as an individual; it’s about the group of people whom God has re-created to be something bigger than any one individual.

You will not experience true fellowship until you begin to love the people around you and understand at a fundamental level that you need them in your life.  You may not have chosen the other Christians in your life.  But there is great comfort in knowing that God chose them and placed them in your life.

God has shaped us into the people we are, not so that we can fulfill our own purposes, but so that we can minister on His behalf to the people around us.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul said that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the life of every Christian.  These manifestations are referred to as “spiritual gifts”.  Paul said, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Our Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation.  God designed us to be Christians in the context of a community of believers who share their lives and serve one another, and the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in our lives in special ways so that we can do this to a supernatural degree!

When Christians begin to use God’s blessings for the benefit of the people around them, the level of fellowship intensifies.  This type of fellowship is healthy.  An individual Christian only makes sense in the context of a larger body:  “The body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).  Paul’s illustration of the church as a body only works if the Spirit is binding the individual believers together.  God has given gifts for the edification of the body and to meet needs both within the body and in the community.

Keep in mind that the response of the Christians around you is not the point of Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 12.  He is trying to convince us to change the way we look at the church.  It’s not a place to get our needs meet in a consumerist way.  It’s a body, a thriving community.  It’s not about what I can get, it’s about who I can serve.  It’s true that we need the other members of the body, but if our minds are set on serving the people around us, we will be too focused on the common good to be concerned about not having our needs met.  And as the Spirit supernaturally empowers us to serve the other members of the body, we can trust Him to create the close fellowship that we long for.

Fellowship:  The Making of a People

Acts 2:42-47

Matthew 28:18-20

Acts 4:32-35

1 Peter 2:9-10

John 17:23

Matthew 16:18

Additional Scriptures:

Matthew 23:8

1 Corinthians 1:10

2 Corinthians 13:11

Ephesians 4:2-3

Philippians 1:27

Philippians 2:1-4

Romans 15:5-6

What Your Mom Might Say-May 13, 2012

What Your Mom Might Say-May 13, 2012-Mother’s Day

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Beginning the sermon I asked our congregation to identify advice or things that their mother’s may have told them.  At the time some of the those sayings or advice may not have been well received by us as young people.  Many of us maybe went as far to say we would never say those things to our children and now years later find ourselves doing those same things.  A good bit of the advice offered from parents through the years has been practical but more importantly a great deal of it has also been biblical.

These verses highlight such things:  Don’t speak falsely (telling a lie), speak the truth, we are all family, you might be angry but don’t let it rule your days, don’t give the devil a foothold or opportunity.  These are all things that reflect well on those that are children, but also all of us as God’s children.  Whether or not we completely agreed with our parents, doing as they asked shows our, honor, respect, and love for them.

The list continues, if you steal, stop it and work so that you may be able to help others in their time of need and perhaps that breaks the cycle of stealing for another.  Don’t talk in a way the brings down and destroys rather speak in a way that builds up and edifies, so that it may give grace to those who hear.

Don’t grieve the Spirit of God, it is he that is the seal of our redemption.  Put away the things that bring destruction, and division.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  In doing so we are shown to be imitators of God as his beloved children.  Imitating the gracious love of Christ.  As he loved and we obey and imitate Him we show our love for Him and honor Him with our walk of obedience.

On a personal note it is also comforting when parenting a child to look to the Bible as a source and guidebook.