A PRAYER FOR WHEN LIFE COMES UNDONE

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

Lord, this morning I am reminded of who you are and how you hold all things together. In my life I often forget this. I quickly become a spiritual chicken little; thinking the sky is falling and there’s no way out. Fortunately my weakness and lack of faith has no affect on your strength and faithfulness.

Jesus, you are the Son of God. You were before all things, you made all that is made, and only you can completely unmake anything. In you is the source and power of life. In you is eternal hope; even in the worst of situations. There is no power greater, no mind wiser, no leader more capable and no god greater. In you we see the beauty, love, power and ability of God.

I confess that I too often believe I can (and have to) hold all things together. And when that falls apart I am quick to look to someone or something else to protect and pull it all back together. I put too many things before the One who is before all things, to my detriment and disgrace. Forgive me lack of faith. My unbelief only images my idols and unravels my world. Fear, worry and despair display the domain of darkness not the kingdom of his beloved Son.

Holy Spirit, thank you for pointing me back to His deliverance; for speaking truth into my doubts through your enduring Word. Give me eyes to marvel at the strength of Christ anew. Grant me faith to trust that He alone holds all things together by his word. That He alone, by his blood, covers over all my failures and fears with outstretched, unmatched arms of grace. Continue to transfer my thinking into trusting. Let me view every circumstance in light of his power not mine and every opposition as under His throne.

Thank you Lord, that nothing about my day, my week or my life has surprised you. I am confident that nothing behind or before me can overtake or unravel You. You hold all things together. You are preeminent and premiere and because of this, I can trust that even my shortcomings and inadequacies are being used by You to create in me something beautiful and beneficial here on earth as it will one day be in heaven.

Thank for Father for Jesus. Thank you Christ for your cross. Thank you Spirit for your eye opening, heart illuminating truth. Amen.

Advertisements

YOU ARE THE CHURCH

You are the church. Think about that for a minute…no make that two minutes. The implications are tremendous.

We just finished up our latest round of membership classes at our church. We do these throughout the year to help people learn about Jesus, lay foundations for following him as a disciple and also for people curious about our church and considering becoming members. I thoroughly enjoying these weeks. It reinvigorates me in the gospel and into loving our church and his mission anew. One of the big concepts we unpack is understanding what it means to be the church and not simply attend one.

If you are a Follower of Jesus Christ scripture teaches that you are not longer your own and no longer alone. You were bought with a price and became his bride. You were redeemed from the smallness of living for yourself into freely running through the vast eternal expanse of his kingdom. You were rescued from the isolation of sin and welcomed into the family to live in the peace and joy of being a son or daughter of God.

You are the church in Christ.

God himself said it was not good for Adam to be alone. Part of Israel’s discipline for ignoring God’s law and love was that they were exiled from living as one in Him to live by themselves in other lands. In the New Testament the sentence upon pervasive sin was the casting out of someone from biblical community in hopes that they might think about the effects of their actions on the body and its witness – a sort of spiritual time out from the Father that kept them from playing with others in grace.  The Lord takes being part of a redemptive community seriously. It reflects his glory and it benefits our good.

You are the church for Christ.

Is your church’s vision your vision? Are the church’s hopes and dreams your’s as well? Is the gospel preached on Sunday transforming your life throughout the week? Is the transformation you’re experiencing being passed on and shared with others around you? Churches thrive when they are all going in the same direction. Talking to one another. Spending time with one another. Traveling together toward the same destination – Him.  Encouraging each other toward holiness. Disciplining one another away from sin. Strengthening side by side with grace. Is it any wonder God compares the church to a marriage?

As members of one body we all play a part. Each with responsibilities to God and toward one another. Our walk and the walk of others is directly dependent on each of us doing our part to see the body take steps to move forward together.

You are your church and your church is you.

Before you think this is impossible, remember that we are not our own, and we are not on our own. God is in us, with us and for us because it reflects him. All that he asks of us he is equipping us to do. He is at work in each person that makes us each part of his body.

You are the church and He is in you.

 

I’d also recommend a short article Tom Rainer wrote a while back about some of the responsibilities and habits we should pursue to be and live as Jesus’ church, especially as it pertains to being members in a local congregation. You can read it here.

The Perfect Church Doesn’t Exist…Yet

“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all. And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.” – Charles Spurgeon

In a day and age where narcissism reigns it makes sense that people would do life by themselves, seeing as they are already living for themselves. In a time where Christ’s church is made to seem ignorant, intolerant and unnecessary, it also stands to reason many people would choose not to associate themselves with a community of Christians.

Some; however, seeming to sound very pious and yet being very confused, simply say with Bono, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” The two most frequent causes of this type of thinking, that I have experienced personally and as a pastor, are: First our consumerists mindset, which grows from our narcissism, is rooted in our sinful hearts and conditioned by our culture. It say’s “its all about me” and when it comes to a church, just like my jeans and sleep number bed, it better fit me perfectly and in a way that best suits and reflects what I need and I love about myself. The second cause is misunderstanding of what the church is and the significance it is meant to play in the life of a Christ Follower. Often like myself, this is learned through years of poor teaching and even lazier learning.

Quickly, the church is Christ’s beloved bride. It is his creation, his focus and his love. So if you want to learn about the church, learn from Jesus. What he says about her is to be believed and practiced by his Followers.

That said, Christ has not yet returned to sweep away his bride to be with him in a holy , wondrous and eternal relationship. She remains in the realm of men, surrounded by sin, inside and out. She is deeply loved, deeply cared and provided for by Jesus, but she is not perfect…yet. That day will come when He returns and sets all things, including imperfect churches (and people), right.

I love Jesus, but I am not perfect. As I grow slowly more secure in the gospel this becomes more apparent as well as slightly more acceptable. I am broken, but I am loved and accepted by Jesus. So it is with the church. Her blemishes make his love all the more profound. The church is covered in beauty marks, each of us darkening her skin while simultaneously embellishing her beauty, radiating the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ.

When you look for a church don’t expect perfection from her. Just as you are looking for a place that will welcome and walk with you as you are, imperfections and all; lets extend the same grace to her, seeing her as Christ sees her, giving kindness as you have been given grace and laying down your life as he laid down his for ours. When we look to join ourselves with others on the journey, let us not look first to ourselves, but to him and remember that our commonality is found the Cross not culture and our lives are best lived for him in the service of others and not ourselves.

“Rather, 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.” – Ephesians 4:15-16

 

GOSPEL CHANGE

The Grace of God has Appeared – Titus 2:11

Yesterday I preached from Titus 2 a message entitled “A Prescription for Change” from our Healthy Church series. In this text Paul gives us the meaning and method of gospel transformation.

The gospel is the Good News of Gods saving grace for sinners through the person and work of Jesus. Additionally the gospel is the Power of God to save and Power through which he sanctifies us into Christ-likeness. The gospel is the fulcrum of our faith in Christ. If we do not “get the gospel” and learn to apply it to each and every area of our life we will find ourselves stunted in spiritual maturity and struggling to live the Christian life fruitfully and joyfully.

I’d encourage to you download and listen to the message again. Not so I can feel better about myself, but because I know it’s a lot to take in in one sitting and it’s a message we all need to think through repeatedly. I believe God has a tremendous amount of freedom and joy for us as we discover and live in the depths of the gospel.

Additionally I’ve compiled a list of recommended reading to help us grow in our gospel understanding and application. For the most part they are simple and short reads. You could use them to lead your devotion times with Jesus or maybe pick up an extra copy and invite a friend to read with you. These resources make for great study and discussion starters as you disciple others. However you use them, let me simply suggest you do. Knowing the gospel and having it sick into our hearts and minds is the best thing you could for your soul, your family and your friends. You being more in love with Jesus will reap great rewards in your own life and the lives of others.

I’d love to hear from you in how you are growing in gospel understanding and how it’s bearing fruit in your life.

Gospel Centered Resources

whatisgospel

What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert

CrossCentered

The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney

notetoself

Note to Self by Joe Thorn

GospelPrimer

A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent

FreedomofSelf

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Redemption

Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

* All of these titles are available at the book wall of Mystery Church for Amazon’s price

Getting Healthy Part 1

I started preaching through the book of Titus this week in a series we are calling “Healthy Church”.  To help aid in understanding and application I thought I would give a little more practical application regarding some of the things I spoke about on Sunday.

The series, like the book of Titus, is all about building a healthy church and a healthy church is comprised of Healthy People (You can download the sermon here). Getting healthy means becoming who God made you to be in Christ. It’s being fully human; whole and complete as God intended in creation and begins in us at conversion. So we begin by saying that being Healthy spiritually means knowing and loving Jesus. Being forgiven of sin, saved from judgment and born again through faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Having been saved by grace, we begin to be sanctified by grace.

Just like getting healthy physically, getting healthy spiritually will requires some determination and diligence. It doesn’t just happen. So lets unpack some of the points Paul makes in Titus 1:1-4 concerning areas of health in the lives of Christ Followers and give some practical steps for getting healthy.

 

Strengthening Your Faith

We’ve already said spiritual health begins with faith in Christ, but what are some things we can pursue to strengthen our faith?

1. Give Generously – The most basic thing a Christian can do to grow their faith is practice radical, God trusting generosity. In the book of Malachi The Lord actually tells us to test him in this. Tithe to learn trust.

2. Take Responsibility – By this I mean, don’t leave ministry and mission to others. Take ownership of your church, take on leadership in your church and community and invest in the lives of people. Until it depends on you, you wont depend on God.

3. Pray Fervently – This should go without saying, but honestly it’s the area we all overlook most. We are quick to think we can do it without God, and even quicker to give up when we can’t. Prayer is seeking the Lord’s help, but most importantly it’s also reminding ourselves we need it.

4. Obey Expectantly – Stop using uncertainty about the future and seeking “God’s will” as an excuse. Yes, there are things we don’t know, but there is plenty that we do know. Obey Jesus’ commands. It will transform you. I know this because in my sin I resist obedience, so each step of submission changes me and each time my faith in God’s love and power increases.

5. Share Faithfully – When it comes to strengthening my assurance in God over the years nothing, and I mean nothing, has fortified my faith like sharing the gospel with people. Each time I tell people God’s story and extend his invitation of grace, I’m made to “re-believe”. Not only that, but when the Lord moves to save people in the hearing of the good news, whether in that moment or over time, I am left starring in astonishment. If you want to see the Holy Spirit perform miracles, share the gospel. It will fill your sails.

 

Building Your Knowledge

The Truth will set you free. Truth about God and the gospel builds our faith and grows us in godliness. Transformation of the mind motivates transformation of our lives. Learning more about Jesus leads to loving Jesus more.

1. Study the Bible – Take your readying of the bible to the next level, begin to study it. If you don’t own a study bible get one. I would highly recommend the ESV Study bible. Learn how to use the notes in your bible. Look up the cross references, read the annotations at the bottom and read those introductions at the start of each book. Knowing the setting, author, themes and looking up connecting texts goes a long way toward enriching your experience in God’s word.

2. Read Theology – You don’t need to rush out and get a several volume systematic theology set. While having a goal of getting deeper into theological study is a great aspiration, start simple and work your way up, otherwise you can get overwhelmed and burned out. There are some great resources for this such as Wayne Grudem’s “Christian Beliefs”. This is a small, readable and understandable intro to his extended theological works. You could then move onto his “Bible Doctrine” and then to his fuller “Systematic Theology” as you feel led. The point is start somewhere and stick with it.

3. Cut out Sweets – We all consume something. In our physical lives we all eat and if we aren’t eating healthy, chances are pretty good we are eating poorly. Same goes with our spiritual lives as well. The time I would spent studying the bible or reading theology is probably time given to consuming something else. Any nutritionist will tell you that its not just putting good in, its also getting the bad out. Going to the gym is great, but until you cut out some of the junk it can be counterproductive. What “sweets” do you consume that cut into a healthy diet of time with the Lord, in the Word and in study? Is it less TV? Is it unbeneficial books or other entertainment? Spend some prayerful time analyzing where your time goes and what goes into your time.

4. Ask for Increase – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.” Those are the words of James chapter one. When it comes to growing in truth about God why not ask God? Go to the source. Pray for an increase of wisdom and understanding. Ask the Lord for help retaining what you learn, and a deepening of desire to.

5. Do what you learn – As you learn you must apply. They say one of the best ways to learn is to teach. As Jesus reveals truth, respond in trust. Applying what you learn in Gods word through obedient action is what will move information into transformation. Learn, live then repeat. Wisdom is knowledge applied.
To Be Continued…

*Here is a link to a reading list our church put together.