Monday, August 25, 2008

The circular nature of blessings...

We have some friends in town for a few day visit, and I am reflecting on how much of a blessing they are to me and my family.

Paul and Cindy Talley have a music ministry, traveling from church to church to encourage the Body of Christ. Paul has a wonderful message on God's love for each of us. They shared with us at Almond Union's coffee house on Saturday night, and our Church in the Park service Sunday morning. They then traveled about 45 minutes north, and led a Sunday evening service at the Springwater Church of the Nazarene. We followed them up and listened. For an hour or two, we were groupies! (Then we had a chance to be roadies!!!)

But that got me to thinking about blessings. As followers of Christ, we go through our lives trying to be a blessing to others we might meet along the way. A kind word here, an act of kindness there, an understanding embrace, sharing our source of comfort with others.

Yet at the same time, we need blessings. We reach out to God at times yearning for blessings. And sometimes he sends them in the form of friends that travel from church to church...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More reasons for joining a church...

We've been exploring reasons for joining a church in the last couple of days, and I want to finish up this thought (at least on my part, your comments are always welcome) today with a few more reasons.

These come from Rick Warren's book, Purpose Driven Life:

  • A church family identifies you as a genuine believer. I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not connected to any specific group of disciples. When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, race, and social status, it is a powerful witness to the world. You are not the Body of Christ on your own. You need others to express that. Together, not separated, we are His Body.

  • A church family moves you out of self-isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. As a participating member, you learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share in its honor.” (1 Cor 12:26) Biblical fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ. God expects us to live our lives for each other.

  • A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle. You will never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. Only participation in the full life of a local church builds spiritual muscle. “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Eph 4:16b) We need more than the Bible to grow; we need other believers. We grow faster and stronger by learning from each other and by being accountable to each other. When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow, too.

  • The Body of Christ needs you. God has a unique role for you to play in his family. Your local church is the place God designed for you to discover, develop and use your gifts. Jesus has not promised to build your ministry; he has promised to build His church.

  • You will share in Christ’s mission in the world. When Jesus walked the earth, God worked through the physical body of Christ; today he uses his spiritual body. The church is God’s instrument on earth. As members of Christ’s body, we are his hands, his feet, his eyes, and his heart. He works through us in the world.

  • A church family will help keep you from backsliding. None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. A church family provides us with the accountability to keep us on track, to be strong while fighting the temptations that come our way, and to work through our sin when we fail. Satan loves detached believers, unplugged from the life of the Body, isolated from God’s family, and unaccountable to spiritual leaders, because he knows they are defenseless and powerless against his attacks.

In another of his books, Purpose Driven Church, Warren points out that God really made us to be a part of the life of a local church. We are created with five basic needs: a purpose to live, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. The church is the only place on earth where you can meet all five of these needs in one place.

Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some reasons for belonging to a church...

Yesterday, I talked about the fine line churches have to walk today to invite and be open to visitors and guests, and same time, value the commitment of those who choose to join. Today (and tomorrow) I will share some reasons for joining that I have included in our new member book, So You Want to be a Member… A Study for New Members, which is a book I wrote that we use in our new member classes here in Almond.

From the introduction, here is an excerpt on reasons to belong…

Many people sit on the sidelines for some time without ever making the commitment to belong in membership with a particular church. But there are many reasons for becoming a member. In a booklet called Why Be A Christian, Why the Church, Walter Woodbury brings out several reasons to join in membership with a local church congregation:

  1. Because of what the church is (The living body of Christ), and what it has
    for me (opportunities for nurture, fellowship, growth and worship).

  2. Because you need the help of God’s church, and the church needs you.
    (As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. – Psalm

  3. It is selfish and wrong of me to expect the benefits of the church if I
    refuse to join it and help to sustain it.

  4. I would not want to live nor bring up children in a community without a
    church and I cannot reasonably ask others to provide a church for my family,
    unless I am willing to do my share.

  5. By staying outside the church, I am throwing my influence against Christ and
    His Church.

  6. If all people refused to unite with the church and support its ministries,
    there would be no church.

  7. The church offers the opportunity to invest in a great and worthy cause,
    namely, the extension of God’s Kingdom in the world.

  8. If I do not stand up for Christ and His church here, how can I expect Him to
    claim me among His own when He comes in triumph? (If anyone is ashamed of
    me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. –Mark 8:38)

Tomorrow, I’ll share some more reasons from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why belong to a church?

I have been having a discussion about the benefits of membership with a friend in our congregation. He believes that our trying to be more open and inclusive to guests and visitors may actually be damaging the value of membership, and ultimately the commitment level of our members.

We do have a few fellow worshipers who have chosen not to join us as members. They are very good attendees, and support the church financially. I would even contend they are very solid Christians, and are devoted to the church, both the Body of Christ and our local congregation. But they have reasons that are important to them for not joining.

They are welcome in our church. They are even welcome to attend our meetings and serve on committees, should they choose, even though they are not members in our church. Only members are allowed to chair committees, or vote at congregational meetings, but other than those two limitations, there are very few other reasons to join, if you will.

The early church seemed to have a very clear line for non-Christians. As I see it, in the book of Acts, and this my opinion, feel free to share if you have a different understanding, but it appears that you didn’t worship until you committed. Of course, there was usually only one church in town, and there were enemies looking to close it down and persecute those who ran it, but until you committed to Christ, you didn’t worship in the church. Visitors were permitted to attend part of the service, but were required to leave at a certain point. They certainly were not permitted to take communion, and I understand they did not even witness communion, they had to leave before it was offered.
Also, there was no such thing as a believer in Christ that wasn’t part of the church. Joining the church was a statement of commitment to Christ. As Christ gave his life for you, you gave your life to the Body of Christ on earth, which is the church.

I would like to hear from you on this one. In my mind, we’ve strayed a long way from the Biblical example in this matter, but have trouble envisioning how it would work today. So share your opinion, how does a church maintain the balance of valuing guests and visitors, and at the same time, provide valid and meaningful benefits for members, or if you prefer, reasons for joining and committing?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekly Message: God Works in the Tough Times

This last weeks message was titled, God Works in the Tough Times.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly realized why some of the bad things that have been happening had to happen? I share with you a time in my life when I was suffering badly, and had no idea why, but some time later, understood why it had to happen.

Our passage looks at Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers, who, the last time they saw him, had sold him into slavery (we looked at Genesis 45, but the story starts several chapters before this). The idea being that while his brothers meant this as an evil thing, God used it for good. How many times do we go through really ugly times that God is using for good, preparing us for something grand to come?

If you're interested in reading the entire message, you can click on the title below:

August 17, 2008 - God Works in the Tough Times

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 11, 2008

This weeks message...

This weeks message concerned knowing and trusting in our salvation. How can we really know for sure that we are saved. Why is it important to be saved. For these answers and more, check out this weeks message...

How Can We Really Know?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who are we putting our trust in...

I stopped to visit someone the other day that is very concerned with what the future will bring. She is living on a very limited income, and the price of gas is creating havoc with her finances, as it is for so many people.

But she is really scared. Concerned that things are going to really tight for everyone very soon. She might be right. The question is: Who are we putting our trust in?

Proverbs 3:25-26 speaks to this: “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”

We may very well be approaching a time when negotiating our family finances will be like walking through a minefield. But Jesus will be there to guide you. Trust in Him, and he will keep your foot from being snared.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fellowship with the Saints...

I’ve been thinking over the last month or so that our church needs more opportunities for fellowship. I know that there is a certain amount of fellowship that goes on in everything that we do, we always visit before and after Worship services, Bible Studies, Sunday School, and board meetings. But fellowship is really important.

I was thinking about that yesterday when I was answering some email. It is the context of fellowship that Christian bothers and sisters talk about life, they comfort and encourage each others, they share their problems and struggles, and are open with each other, and others respond with an openness of their own. And that’s vital in a church.

And it’s Biblical. In Psalm 16.3, we read, “As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.”

Do you see your fellow worshipers this way? Do you realize that they are the glorious ones? Is seeing them all your delight?

Fellowship is important. We should be craving time together with fellow believers, and we should be open enough and honest enough with them to allow them to help us through the struggles we face.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where do we go from here?

Following services last Sunday, we had a very informative discussion titled, Where Do We Go From Here: Recasting the Vision.

We talked quite a bit about what brought people to Almond Union of Churches, what they remember most about the various ministries we've offered over the years, the programs and services. We also talked about we see as the strengths and weaknesses of our church today. We got a look at where our church has been, and where it is now.

Next week after our Sunday morning service, we will conclude the discussion by looking at where we go from here. I'm sure there are some things that have been lost over the years that we might want to reclaim. I'm also sure that there are some new things that might appear, that we haven't even thought of yet!

It can be difficult to take good, hard, honest, look at yourself. But to see God in the process, that step is necessary. We've got a good start. And as long as we remember to let God lead in the conclusion, we'll be a strong church for some time!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...