Growing in the Son and Waiting for the Harvest

The days are getting shorting and the nights longer.  The seeds and labor of days gone by are now beginning to yield its harvest.  Many factors go into a successful harvest, sun, soil, water, and work.  Growing takes preparation and dedication.  Last month we looked at the “Know” part of our Mission Statement, “Know, Grow, Go.”  This month we will look at “Grow.”

Knowledge is an important first step but growing is active in the sense that it involves preparation.  Growing fruits or vegetables requires the preparation of clearing, tilling, planting, pruning, and watering and yet with all the preparation you cannot “make” some grow, only prepare for it.  Body building is much the same way.  Training the body and lifting weights actually breaks the body down and as a response to the stress the body with proper preparations of rest and nutrition will be built stronger.

Our faith will grow through times of stress, if we remember proper Sabbath (rest) time to reconnect with God, and a diet of His Word.  The larger body of Christ will grow when the members that make up the body grow and when then cultivate an atmosphere that allows for God to grow in our midst, and in the world.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6  We may have different gifts, callings, and tasks in this cultivation process, but the goal is the same, to allow God to grow inside each of us and to prepare the seed of God to grow well around us.  When we grow closer to God and understand his work in the world, then we are able to see other believers as companions instead of competitors.  It is in preparing that growth can happen.  We prepare, but God is the giver.

As we look ahead to the “Go” part of our mission statement next month we are reminded as God grows, we must go into the harvest fields.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:37-38

Know

For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

In recent week you have had the opportunity to attend a series of roundtable discussions called, “Growing in the Son.”  These discussions have been guiding us as we discover, articulate, and live out God’s vision for us in real and practical ways.  Through these discussions a phrase continued to surface, “Know, Grow, Go.”  From that phrase “Know Jesus, Grow in Jesus, and Go with Jesus.”  In the months ahead we will briefly look at each of these parts.

A basic building block of religion is knowledge.  It is key to know what it is you believe and continue to learn all you can about your faith that you may then become a good or faithful practitioner.  Without knowing, one has no proper point of reference from which to begin their journey and no understanding of the direction of that journey.

In a religion or faith system, there are things to know and learn about the founder of the faith, key leaders, and rules to ascribe to so that you may become faithful to your religion.  While I know who George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are, I do not actually know them.  I know facts and details of their lives that I can read in history books but do not have a relationship with them.

Thankfully, Christianity is not a religious set of practices, but a relationship with Jesus who was God’s Son in flesh and bone.  He is not just someone I read about from history but is alive today and I can have a relationship with him.  A relationship changes how you know and respond.  A relationship is alive and dynamic.  A relationship is not what you know, but who you know.  You may know your grandma’s address, dad’s place of work, mom’s birthday, or your child’s favorite toy, but that’s just the details and we know them differently because we have a relationship with each.

Paul writes here in Corinthians that he at first sees dimly (as if blinded), he knew things about Jesus but on the road to Damascus, he came to know Jesus personally.  Paul never met Jesus physically face to face and looks forward to that day.  Jesus first command was also an invitation, “come and follow me.”  Knowledge without relationship is a very dim understanding that does not ultimately change us, it may change our opinions but not our lives.

Many will say they know Jesus when they mean they know about Jesus, that Jesus from history or the Bible.  While knowing about Jesus isn’t bad it allows room for us to keep Jesus at a distance, like the distant past.  Treating him as a guru to help get us through a tough time.  Knowing about Jesus may allow us to use Jesus for our gains, purposes, or agendas.

Do you know his heart?  His words are still there, “come and follow me.”  Many will choose knowing stuff about, rather than knowing the Savior.  Why?  It’s safer, after all a relationship is about mutuality and giving.  As we come to know someone personally and intimately, the danger is they may come to know us the same way.  Some will fear that if Jesus truly knows them, he wouldn’t love them.  Our scripture reminds us, that we can know fully even as we are already fully known by him.  Jesus already knows you fully and loves you, will you come to know Jesus’s heart and not just details of his life?

Failure Is Not an Option

The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 signaled a point of no return.  The colonies now were not trying to change the mind of the crown, they were fighting to break away from Great Brittan.  They wanted to birth a new vision and a new country.  If they failed the names on that document would have been tried and hung for treason.  Failure was not an option.  Trying to birth something new will be risky, will experience growing pains, and living as if failure is not an option.

Another birth also happen in 1776 Boar Swamp Baptist (Antioch) was born.  In the midst of the Revolutionary War a risky vision to bring the gospel to the area east of Richmond was born.  There have been through the years many growing pains including the burning of the building twice.  The church also changed her name, but never her mission.  Why?  Change was necessary for the mission of church to continue.  If failure is not an option, then change must be at some point.

What happened in those very early years shaped the life of our country and our church.  The newly formed Boar Swamp Baptist believed in reaching unbelievers with the gospel.  They took risky steps to ensure they were faithful to their mission.  Two things stand out as both representative and foundational.  First, a group of fourteen went into Richmond to plant a church that other unbelievers would have the opportunity to hear the life saving gospel.  That church is now First Baptist Richmond.  Second, they joined with other local church to form a local association for the equipping and sending of missionaries.  The Dover Baptist Association is still active in supporting missionary efforts in our community and around the world.

The core identity of Antioch’s begins have been mission and ministry.  Calling forth and sending out.  Bringing the gospel to those who do not yet know the life-changing hope of the gospel.  Let’s continue to fulfill our mission to bring Christ to the world starting in our own community.  Looking back our birth, remembering our mission, we can now look at our present time to ask are we still participating in the mission with which it was birthed?  How can we do that better and more effectively in the future?  Is it risky to ask these questions?  Yes.  Will there be growing pains if change is needed?  Yes.  Can we live and lead into a new future with a commitment to mission?  YES, if we believe failure is not an option!  If we don’t believe failure is an option, then change must be.

Father’s Day

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-9)

Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. The tradition was said to be started from a memorial service held for a large group of men who died in a mining accident in Monongah, West Virginia in 1907. It was first proposed by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1909.  Father’s Day from the beginning had ties to church in honoring fathers that had passed and in time came to honor all fathers, father figures, and the influence of fathers on society.

There is also research showing the influence of fathers in matters of faith.  According to data collected by Promise Keepers and Baptist Press, if a father goes to church regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults. If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults.

In this day and time, we should look at the faith of the fathers and father figures as deeply influential to the faith life of our children.  We honor our Heavenly Father by sharing and living our faith as earthly fathers and father figures.  Let’s bless and grow the next generation and let’s pray for our fathers and father figures.

Mother’s Day

Memories of days gone by

Our lives always intertwined

Together, we are family

Here in our hearts

Everlasting love

Remains

The Power of His Resurrection

“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Philippians 3:10-11

Easter is in April this year, and on Easter we celebrate life and life everlasting when we celebrate the empty tomb of Jesus.  It is the most significant day for all who are believers of Jesus.  Christians all around the world will gather to celebrate this day.  Those who are not believers often still celebrate the season without the Savior.

While some Christians may not think that is right let us not cast judgement.  Rather, consider our lives?  It may be helpful to ask do we celebrate the Savior on the day of resurrection while failing to live a resurrection life throughout the year?  Does resurrection power extend beyond Jesus’ grave to ours?  I certainly believe so.  Then we should live the new life given in Jesus’ resurrection.

Paul shares that he puts aside everything in his life, for this… “that I may know him (Christ) and the power of his resurrection.”  When we truly know Christ there is power in his resurrection, and it is not just when we die.  When we die daily to ourselves there is resurrection power available to us.

The scripture shares that we will also “share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  We must die to our way of life and trust God’s will to lead us.   We all know that following Jesus leads to a cross, and we are called to take up our crosses and follow him, surely that will involve some suffering.

When we become like him in death, we also become like him in life.  Paul says, “by any means possible,” and this tells us we must follow, submit, and become more like Jesus, because that’s where life is, and that’s where eternal life is.  There is power in knowing Christ and that power is resurrection power.  It is a powerful assurance of our heavenly home, and it is a powerful way to live here and now.

It is one thing to acknowledge the resurrection and another to live out the resurrection.  There is no resurrection where there is not first death.  Many acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection with celebration but haven’t found life and power in it because they are still holding on to this fragile life.  Do you celebrate the knowledge of the resurrection?  Will you let go of your right to your life, and follow Jesus?  It means dying to ourselves by taking up our crosses and following him.  It is in death that we find life and resurrection power.  Let’s not just celebrate His resurrection but live as Resurrection People.

CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

March Madness

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”  John 16:20

I love college basketball.  It is both exciting and frustrating at time.  Watching these you men grow throughout the year and then play for conference championships and for some of the best teams a national championship.  The big tournament for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship has also been dubbed March Madness.  It is truly maddening to watch these smaller and larger schools working so hard to become champions.

I am a fan of University of Virginia Men’s Basketball Team.  In March of 2018 Virginia’s team was one of the best in the county earning one of four number one seeds in the tournament.  As a number one they face a number sixteen seed in that region.  It was a historic tournament for Virginia, but not in the way you may think.  They became the first number one seed to lose to a number sixteen seed in the history of the tournament.  For Virginia and its fans this was a crushing defeat.  However, because of their loss another team had a chance to go further and live their dream.

It does seem like madness for so much to be riding on one game.  For some of these young men, it is the last game in their careers, while others will have many long months until they get a chance to try again.

I often wonder, would they want a do over to change things, or to do things differently?  In life there are no guarantees or do overs.  However, in the madness of life we can find hope of a different kind.  It was madness that a good man, an innocent man, healer, teacher, and the Son of God would die so quickly.  All of his teachings, healing, and miracles  would come to an end.

The madness is, that no matter how good a team is, it is one and done.  Is the same true for life?  Three days after Jesus breathed his last breath the tomb was empty, and Jesus had risen from the grave.  This wasn’t a do over, but actually the completion of his work.  Not a chance to do the same thing over again, but to have new life beyond the pain of  devastating loss.

I cannot speak for any of the players of coaching staff, but my suspicion is they would not want a do over either.  My guess is they, like most of us, would want new life and the hope and promise that comes along with it.  Whatever this season or season of life may bring, may the hope and promise of new life turn the madness into gladness and sorrow into joy.