Monday, May 23, 2016

Build Your Kingdom Here

Build Your Kingdom Here
Watch Rend Collective’s Video Here:

“We Are Your Church…”

What comes to mind when you see the word church? There are many different reactions. Some see a place of learning, others see a place of religious obligation, and others see church as a complete unknown. Rend Collective sings that the the church is "the hope on earth' and I would agree with that. When we start really digging into the Bible for what the church is supposed the be, the thing that should come to mind is - family.

We never see in scripture that the church was a building. The buildings aren't going to come along for another 100 years or so. We see the church was simply the people of God, and it seems like they looked at themselves like brothers and sisters. Read the Apostle Paul’s words to his disciple, Timothy:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1Timothy 5:1-2)

Paul is instructing this follower of Jesus to begin to view the people in his group like family. It’s clear that this wasn't just exchanging pleasantries on Sunday morning. The expanding group in the First Century really did life together.

The Church United

One of best places to see how this “life together”concept worked is in the book of Acts. In this New Testament book, Jesus leaves them and empowers them with the Holy Spirit and the church just exploded. 

In Acts Chapter 2, we read about that miraculous day called Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends. It causes a huge commotion and Peter speaks to the crowd who is wondering what’s going on. He shares the Gospel and about 3,000 people are added to the church. Notice that they didn't join up. This is not a social club. The family now has been increased by 3,000. We then find these words about what they did:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

The Organic Church

I love that picture of the early church. I call this passage, “The Organic Church.” That’s when it was just a group of believers, doing what God intended them to do, before the man-made stuff got injected. 

Look at the specifics: They gathered together daily. They ate together. They shared with people who had need. They prayed together and gathered for times of teaching. They praised God together. They had fellowship.

I can only imagine what that group must have been like. It would have been great to be a part of all of that. But instead of longing for the days gone by, can we experience that in our groups today? I believe we can and we should strive for doing “life together” and not “doing church” as we think of it today. This is what people in the 21st century are longing for.

The Church on Mission

I am convinced that if we can get back to a more “organic” form of church, we will see lives change, the lost found and wounds healed. We will have a church explosion, because this is the way God intended it to be all along. Jesus never said we were supposed to go make buildings but, go and make disciples. I said this in my last blog, it’s always supposed to be about people.

Maybe you're the person who has given up on the church. Maybe you have been burned by “church people.” Maybe you don’t think this is even possible in our world. I’m here to tell you that this kind of family, “life together” church really does exist. There are groups who meet together in regular church buildings, homes, libraries or, like my church family, in schools. They have a different idea about what it means to be the church. 

I’m not suggesting that you go church shopping but ask God to lead you to a fellowship of believers who truly wants to be the body of Christ as Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12. Take some time and read that whole chapter. Paul’s view helps us to understand more about God's people.

If you’re already connected to a church, perhaps, God is calling you to start something within your own group. Again, ask God to lead you. 

Pray today and ask God how you can become more involved with the people of God, His body. Ask God to help you think of the church as your family and how you can better serve people by doing “life together.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I Will Follow

I Will Follow
Watch Chris Tomlin’s Video Here:

“Where You Go I’ll Go…”

What does it really look like to follow Jesus? What would it look like if we could really live like the words of this song suggest. For many of us, that seems to be a real mystery but something that we very much long to do.

I have a feeling that part of our problem is that we just don't quite understand how God leads. First we must remember the words of Proverbs:

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.(Proverbs 16:9)

Rule 1 – God’s Lead Looks Different from Our Plan

This Proverb is critical to us understanding how God will lead. We can make all the plans that we want to, but God may take us in a whole different way. I don’t know if this is true of you, but God has certainly done this in my life. I create this wonderful plan, that is logically laid out, but it doesn't come together. In hindsight, I can see that I missed a detail that was really the whole point of His mission.

A great example is found with Paul in the Book of Acts. Paul is going on his second missionary journey. The trip started out with a fight between him and Barnabas. They part ways and Paul heads North back to some of the placed that they has seen on their previous journey. (Acts 15:39 – 16:5) This is not the way Paul originally thought it was going to go.

Well, after a few nice visits Paul seems to have lost all sense of the mission and the direction: 

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. (Acts 16:6-8)

Rule 2 – There Will Be Times When It Seems Nothing is Happening

Did you catch that? They were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia.” What does that look like exactly? There is no way to really know. Was there some kind of government crackdown? Was it supernatural like literally they should not speak? We can’t really know from the text.

Put it though the filter of your our experience, however. Have there been times when you couldn’t do something, even a God thing, and you look back now and see that it was God? Well, that is exactly what Paul and his group went through.

Rule 3 – It May Look Like a Long Journey

Notice that distance on the map above. It’s not clear exactly the route the missionaries took but some estimates are that it was more than 590 miles. That would have been well over 30 days travel, mostly on foot!

Imagine the discussions they may have had, “Are you getting anything Paul?” “Has God shown you a direction?” “Nope, let's just keep going.”

That’s a lot of faith and it’s going to take faith on our part, too. There will be times when we seems like we’re just plodding along on our walk but, by faith, we know that He is leading.

The direction finally comes when they hit the coast:

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)

Rule 4 – It’s Always About People

When the direction finally comes, it’s about a man who needs the message that the team is carrying. He needs the Gospel. This too is the same in our lives. God will lead us to someone to “help”. That may be someone who needs to hear our testimony, someone who is going through something that we’ve been through, or someone who just needs to hear the message. God direction will always be toward someone.

There’s also something subtle in this passage that is another clue to this journey. Notices that the pronouns change in the first part from “they” to “we”. It seems like somewhere along this route, Luke has joined the team. That means part of this supposed “wandering” was to bring the group to connect with Luke. Once again, God’s plan was to connect them to a person.

Maybe it’s time to look at the twists and turns in life differently. Maybe we need to understand that God leads in a different way. Maybe His plan involves connecting us to someone in a way that we never would have thought of. So, if you’re seeking God’s direction, if you are singing “I Will Follow” or if you’re praying for God’s lead, don’t be surprised where He will take you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Secret To Contentment

(Originally Published on Church Production)

From the seats in the back, you can hear it. Even from high up in a booth located above the seats or far in the back, this sound comes through. In some churches, you might hear a barrage. In others it's just a single volley. It sometimes occurs after a good song. Sometimes you hear it in the middle of the message. No, I'm not talking about a cough or a baby's cry. It's the word that has been a part of worship for thousands of years. It is “Amen.”

The Meaning of Amen

Maybe we've heard it and said it so often that we don't even think about it's use. Amen becomes almost a punctuation mark to our sentences. The barista at the coffee shop says, "Would you like whip cream on that?" You respond with a hearty, "Amen!"

"Amen, that soloist has the most amazing voice."

"We could use a better sound board, amen?"

Have you ever though that maybe we say "amen" too much? Or do we even understand what "amen' means. If we understand the meaning and what we are really saying, it should change more than our vocabulary. It should change our attitude. Especially in one area that many techies have a problem with - gear envy. You know, that nagging feeling you get when you see a new gadget that is better than what you already have or does something that yours doesn't.

The word Amen comes to us from a Hebrew word. The Jewish-born New Testament writers just borrowed it and transliterated it into the Greek. It means, "so be it", "truly", or "may it be fulfilled" but it is stronger. The root word means firm or sound. The Jews would read a certain passage of scripture in the synagogue and then they would shout, "Amen!" Saying to God a firm, "So be it Lord!" Or "May this be fulfilled!"

How to live Amen

This should be the way we approach our attitude with God in every aspect of life. We need to develop an "Amen Life." A life that just says to God, in every situation a firm, "So be it." Like Paul's attitude in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (ESV):

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content."

Paul had an Amen attitude. Whatever God brings our way, we just say, "Amen." For example, when we have gear envy, we see a great piece of equipment at a trade show and suddenly we think that what we have is not enough. We don't have contentment.

Another example is found in Philippians 4:12-13:

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

It's important to note that Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. In some of the worst conditions that we can image, and he said, "Amen." Think about it. Can we be in the worst of circumstances and feel content? That sounds like a challenge.

Take Amen with You

Bring this Amen Life into the booth with you and you will find less stress and have "great gain", as Paul said in the first passage. When things go wrong and the sound board does something you didn't expect or the video glitches, you can say, "Amen." Maybe you feel that gear envy but you know it something the church can't afford, you simply say, "Amen. I have exactly what you want me to have. So be it Lord."

Learn to live the Amen Life and bring this attitude into every thing you do and you begin to understand the life that God intended. You start to understand Paul's life. You can feel the stress fade, when you say "Amen!"