Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spending Time With Jesus...

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
- Acts 4:13
This verse popped up in a sermon message a couple of weeks ago, looking at the first part of this message.  We saw the courage of Peter, and noted that it was significant because just seven weeks prior, he denied even knowing Jesus to a servant girl—now he is disobeying the Chief Priests and Jewish ruling council and preaching the name of Jesus to everyone who would listen.
But there is something else that’s significant in this verse.  To give a little context, On the day of Pentecost, Peter (and the rest of the eleven), filled with the Holy Spirit, left the room they had been hiding in since the crucifixion, and went into the streets preaching Jesus. 
He was so bold and preached with such authority that over 3,000 people believed in Jesus that day! 
Later, Peter heals a crippled beggar (“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I will give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, walk.”)
Then we see him speaking at the temple, and Peter and John get arrested.  They are questioned by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, the highest ranking authority in Jerusalem.  That’s where we see this verse.
You see, Peter and John were doing amazing things.  They didn’t learn these things, they were unschooled.  They were particularly gifted at these things, they were just ordinary men.  Yet, there was something special about them.  The men serving on the council had taken note that these men had been with Jesus. 
What make them special?  They had been with Jesus.  They had learned all they needed in the time they spent with Jesus.  They had been sufficiently equipped to do amazing things in the time they spent with Jesus. 
The same power, the power of Jesus, is available to you, too.  The time you spend with Jesus will teach you and equip you to do amazing things in His name!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Do I Really Need the Church, Part IV

I've been sharing some reasons why we need to be actively involved in a local church.

I started out sharing some reasons that Walter Woodbury wrote in a booklet called Why Be A Christian, Why The Church?  Yesterday I shared some reasons from Rick Warren in his book titled Purpose Driven Life.  Here are a few more from Rick Warren...

  • 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, The 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. 

Are you still sitting on the fence?  Or are you beginning to see that the church is necessary.  And that you need the church if you are going to mature as a believer.  If you don't currently belong to a church, I hope you can make the commitment to begin visiting some churches this week.  Find one you can grow in.  And become active in all that it offers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Do I Really Need The Church, Part III

The last couple of days, I've been sharing some reasons for joining a local church.  I've shared some of what Walter Woodbury wrote in his booklet, Why Be A Christian, Why The Church? 

Rick Warren, in his book, Purpose Driven Life, points out several other reasons for church membership that make even more sense to me:

  • 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.
 A few more reason next week.  I'd love to hear your comments.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Do I Really Need Church - Part II

Yesterday, I started the conversation about whether we really need the church.

I gave four reasons why we need the church from a booklet titled Why Be A Christian, Why The Church, by Walter Woodbury.  Here are the final four...

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. - Matthew 10:33, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26 with only minor variations)

I don't know that any of these by themselves are conclusive, except perhaps the last one, but together they make a convincing argument that perhaps we do need the church.  

Tomorrow, I share some reasons Rick Warren gives for being a part of a local church...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do I Really Need the Church... Part I.

As a pastor, I meet a lot of people who don't belong to any church.  And when I can strike up a conversation with them about church and faith, as you can imagine, I get quite a variety in answers.  Many who don’t go to any church, but still believe that God exists, tell me you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.  Often they add that they can experience God in the woods while hunting, or on the golf course.  Personally, I’ve never been that good a golfer that I could experience God on a golf course. In fact, I'm so bad I often leave the golf course thinking it's one of the few places on earth totally devoid of God's presence.  There is no other way to explain how I golf.

Yet, as often as I’ve heard the comments that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, I've honestly never met a “good” Christian, who was actively growing in the Lord and taking the Bible at its word, who wasn't an active church member.  I’ve yet to met anyone who doesn’t go to church that prays everyday, who does daily devotions, and reads the Bible with an eye toward applying what they learn to their everyday life, so actively seeks to serve others in the name of Jesus. 

For years, I agreed that faith in Jesus is the source of our salvation, and that can, and usually does, happen outside the church context, so a part of me agrees with them.  But deep down inside I know that for a person to mature in their faith, they are going to need more.  They are going to need what they can only get in an active, Bible believing church.

So for the next couple of days, I wanted to share some reasons that I’ve found for joining a local church.    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.  I’ll share a few today, and the rest tomorrow…

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 73:2)
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.

Walter has four more reasons, which I'll share tomorrow, then I'll share some reasons from Rick Warren, then through in a few of my own.

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...