Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Four Essential Ingredients: Nurture


For the next several weeks we will be looking at four essential ingrdients for a thriving Christian life represented in Acts 2. This is where we see the very first church focused on the four ingredients necessary to grow together – nurture, worship, community, and mission. To grow as vibrant Christians, we need to make sure we place these as a priority in our faith journeys.

In Acts 2:42-47, it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

In the physical body we need nourishment. When you go without a meal, your body reacts by sending hunger signals to the brain. Not that I have missed very many meals, but when I have, sometimes I get a headache or my body becomes weak. Our body is looking for fuel and can’t find much to work with when we don’t eat. Our spiritual lives are like that as well. Our spiritual body needs nutritious food to bear the fruit that shows we are disciples of Christ. In John 15:8 it says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” It is imperative that we nurture our souls and hunger for soul food like we do physical food.

Leland Eliason, a professor at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, put it this way: “Those who give into the pressures of ministry by failing to study will run dry; those who give into the pressure of study by not being involved with people will become distant.” Nurture cannot happen by ourselves. You need to be nurtured by, and you need to nurture, someone else.

The disciples devoted themselves to prayer, the breaking of bread, the fellowship, and to the apostles teaching. All of this was done in the context of others. It all works together as a lifestyle of believers who are being nurtured to follow Christ. To this lifestyle the early believers corporately devoted themselves.

What group are you involved with where you receive and give nurture to follow Christ? Let me recommend you become a part of a Discipleship Class on Sunday morning. They meet at 9:15 or 10:45 a.m. There are several to choose from. I believe you will grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ as a direct result of your faithfulness to come and grow. I am excited about the Disciple Groups we will be launching in January. This will enhance our Discipleship Classes and allow us to go deeper and serve more together.

Don’t forget to come Sunday for a special Advent Celebration kick off. You will be glad you came to experience the ADVENTure. Remember, it is the first of December, the first Sunday of Advent, and the first time we have ever done what we are about to do in the service. You have to be there to experience it.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving…

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four Essential Ingredients of Vibrant Christian Growth

Vibrant Christian Growth
Our church is experiencing some exciting days. Many new faces, including newborns, are present each week. We have prayed and even fasted for God to move in our midst and we are seeing the church grow spiritually, emotionally, and numerically. I believe this is just the beginning of what God longs to do in Findlay, Ohio.

I want to refocus us on our mission, “To Make Christlike Disciples in the Nations.” It is so crucial to always keep that before us as a church and as individual members of this church. Whenever I want to remind myself of the privilege and responsibility we have as the “Church,” I am always drawn back to the first church that began in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:42-47, it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The growth we are experiencing is very small compared the growth of the early church. The previous verse mentioned the church growing 3,000 in one day. Now that would change your structure over night.

As we look at the first church and the fact that we are to be making disciples for Christ, I want to remind us of our responsibility. There is a three-fold responsibility:
One is for the church. We have a responsibility to provide opportunities to be and make more disciples. This is always before us.
The second responsibility is for each person. Everyone is called to be and make disciples. It is not an option.
The third responsibility falls on our homes. Every parent is called to raise up their children in the Lord. So let me begin to break down the responsibility that is placed on us.

In Acts 2:42-47, it shows the church was devoted to four ingredients that were essential for a vibrant Christian life: nurture, worship, community, and mission. In the weeks ahead, I want to expound even further on these important expressions of the faith. Let me just touch on them briefly in this devotional.

Nurture involves growth in both mind and spirit (Romans 12:2). God can nurture us through different books, films, lectures, sermons, and other resources. But the most effective way to grow is with others. That is why we are always encouraging everyone to become a part of a Discipleship Class on Sunday morning. Learning together and processing the Word of God on a regular basis is good for the soul.

Worship is the natural overflow as we take in God’s Word into our lives. Knowledge and love for God increases and worship springs forth. In verse 43 it says that everyone was filled with awe. That means filled with amazement, respect, reverence, and wonder. They worshiped with a glad and sincere heart, not mad and critical hearts. Worship unites a body of believers like nothing else.

Christian community is different from being a member of an organization. It resembles love and obligation we have toward members of our immediate family. It is devotion based on experience we share of God at work saving us from a “corrupt generation” around us (Acts 2:40). The outcome is that we are built up together as we share needs, confess sins and faults, bear each other’s burdens, encourage and pray for each other.

Mission is the fourth ingredient to a vibrant Christian life and church. We exist to serve and reach out to a hurting world in need of hope. We are to share the good news of Christ’s love to all people. As people come in contact with the love of God, the Spirit witnesses to their spirit and transformation can happen. Mission includes sharing our faith, social action, world missions, taking a meal to the sick, ministering in Jesus’ name, learning how we can make a difference locally and globally.

As we continue to grow, we want to stay true to our mission and purpose. We don’t exist to keep programs running. We exist as a church to advance the kingdom of God and provide a place of equipping and an atmosphere of Biblically centered growth.

So let me encourage you to get all you can by putting your whole self in growing to be more like Christ. Mix in all four ingredients to experience growth directly from the Lord that will last.

Let me remind you of our Advent series entitled, “Celebrate.” It will begin on Sunday, December 1. Devotional books are available in the foyer for the next few weeks as we prepare for this great advent experience. You will not want to miss the first Sunday of Advent. We are doing something we have never done before. You will be glad you came.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Celebrate: An Advent Experience

An Advent Experience

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.            Isaiah 9:6-7

This year during advent we are celebrating together a lot of firsts. Advent begins on the first day of December which is the first day of the month. Advent is celebrating the first appearance of our Lord. There is also another first. Are you ready? Here it is… I’m not supposed to tell you. Come on the first Sunday of December to find out what the excitement is all about. It will be the first time we have ever done this particular thing I am thinking about right now. No, you can’t get it out of me. It’s going to be good. You will want to make it a priority to be here and bring others with you. It will be life changing. Did I mention that if you are not here on that Sunday then you will not be able to fully experience it? It’s true. Don’t believe what others may tell you.

This Advent season is going to be power packed. Every family will be able to participate with a twist. We'll provide you with an Advent calendar where you can place daily random acts of mercy. Instead of celebrating by preparing to lavish resources where there is merely want, we will prepare by lavishing mercy where there is need. Every Sunday will focus on being ready and bringing as many along with us as we can. I am so excited for all the festive things we will participate in. This Sunday, special devotional books will be available. Make sure you get one for your family so you can begin this experience on Dec. 1.

Be praying for and preparing for the greatest Advent season ever. Remember, it starts on Sunday, December 1, and you will want to be present for the beginning of a great adventure. Be blessed and let’s celebrate together with an awesome service on the first Sunday of December!

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Parable of the Lost

The Parable of the Lost

In Luke 15, we see the heart of God as Jesus describes three stories of something or someone lost. The first one is a lost sheep, the second is a lost coin, and the third is a lost son. These are familiar parables but are worth reading again as we pray for a great harvest this week from the “My Hope with Billy Graham” meetings happening all over America. Let me show you the conclusion of each parable:

“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:5-7

“And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:9-10

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found,’ so they began to celebrate.”  Luke 15:20-24

Do you see how great the Father’s love is for us? Even while we are still far off, He is filled with compassion for us and runs toward us. He exchanges our dirty filthy rags for new ones. He adorns us with a promise ring and puts new coverings over our feet to walk in a new way. What an awesome, holy God, the Savior of the world.

In light of that, we have been praying for the Lord to move on our Nation. Continue to pray with me as we intentionally share the love of Christ with our neighbors.

This Sunday I will start of new series called, “My Hope.” We will look in John 20 and 21, where Jesus appears after His resurrection. There were three individuals who needed a fresh filling from the Spirit of Jesus. This Sunday will also be our Harvest Dinner in the evening at 5:30 p.m. Rick James will minister in song and we will celebrate what God has done through the many Matthews who presented the Gospel story. If you were one who invited others to your home and there were decisions made for Christ, bring your cards in so we can follow up with a gift. Place your cards in the box located at the back of the sanctuary.

Looking forward to great days ahead…

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike