Entries tagged with “Evangelism”.

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David went a little off-topic for Friday’s message at Seward Church. Instead of the usual story of grace this week focused more on faithfulness and community, which does connect with grace!

In John 13:34 Jesus commands the disciples to love one another in the same way that He has loved us.  This is the basis for a community that serves Christ and functions well together both internally and externally.  David shared an image of a lighthouse (similar to this) which I had never thought of before. Jesus is the light that is shining out across the sea, serving as a beacon for all to see.  But it takes people (in community) to go out and be the light touching lives and rescuing or searching out people to help draw them into the lighthouse.  Does that make sense to you?

In  Ezra (3:1,8-9) we see that the Isrealites have placed their faith in God again.  Building the temple was their expression of faith.  Building the temple or a church also represents the people coming together in a community.  All believers should come together and be made more holy (sanctified) as seen in John 17:17-22.    Ephesians4:3 says that we should do everything to keep the bonds of peace.  David really emphasised that community is a gift not a right.  As a gift we also have to work to stay unified – but also let the Spirit do its powerful work in us.

A little more controversial statement is that the community is strengthened not by looking at each other but by looking towards Jesus for His strength.  We are all imperfect beings and will annoy the heck out of each other – which could cause problems.  When we place Jesus at the center we tend to focus more on His love and grace for each one of us.  We also need to make sure that the focus doesn’t get turned towards the community we are trying to serve, because then we become all about service – not Jesus.

We all need or want to be in a community and having friends isn’t a problem but a sign of maturity.  In Genesis 2:18 God realized that man couldn’t do everything by himself – so He created the woman.  David extrapolated that to be that we shouldn’t be trying to do good works alone (individually or as a married couple) but together within the community of our church.  Community is by no means easy (as I mentioned above), I’m sure we all annoy each other!  But being in a community and having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of others helps draw us closer into the heart of God.  I’m sure we annoy Him alot!  Ultimately, community makes us better people.

While building the temple, the Israelites ran into some conflict.  Basically the king withdrew their building permits and made it illegal for them to keep working.   Ezra 4:17-21 makes it clear that soldiers were sent to stop the building process. Even though they were given clear direction by God to build the temple, the Israelites caved in to the pressure.  If construction was a sign of faithfulness, then halting construction was a sign of faithlessness.  They were concerned about their relative safety and not focused on God’s Safety.

Similarly if the church today focuses on self-preservation above following God’s calling they are acting without faith.  You can read many stories of Christians around the world standing up admist persecution and losing everything, even their life.  Almost as bad is when the church focuses only on building itself up.  Building new gyms, adding expensive stained glass, creating church schools or home-school co-ops, and forgetting to focus on the external community.  Building a fitness center within a church campus says two things – 1) community we don’t want to smell your sweat or touch your machines and 2) God you are unable to protect us from those “evil” people who live out there.  Both of these are false.  David shared an interesting analogy with manure.  Manure is an excellent fertilizer, but only when spread out across an entire field.  When kept in a manure pit it will actually kill all the grass around it, not too mention that it reeks!  Christians are like manure – we are best when we are spread out around town.

The anaolgy breaks down a little bit because we are actually at our best when we are spread out in community with other Christians who can love and support our endeavors. But the point of the analogy is pretty clear.  Again, Jesus must be at the center of our field – maybe He is the manure spreader!

Even when we forsake or forget about Him, God continues to be faithful to us.  God really wanted a place for His people to come together in worship to Him, He wanted the temple built.  In Ezra 5:1-2 we see that Haggai and Zechariah were sent to kick the Israelites back into gear. They began rebuilding the temple.  The Book of Zechariah captures some of the prophesy, specifically 4:6-7 which includes the phrase – “Grace, Grace to It.” The NIV says, “God Bless It.”  Even after turning their back on Him, God gave them a second chance.  He has given us a second chance and the ultimate act of grace by letting His Son die for our sins.

We finished the evening with communion – the ultimate symbol of Christ’s life and death and a symbol of community. David said, “Communion is an act of kneeling together and looking at Christ.”  As 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Let us each proclaim the love of God to all we meet and rely on God and the community He has given us to love those who are hard to love.

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Once upon a time it was easy to think that America was almost 100% Christian.  Even with our diverse immigrant population a large majority of the country espoused some type of Christian faith.  Even if you didn’t attend church on a regular basis, you probably claimed to be a Christian.  We all know the C & E people – Christmas and Easter.

Even in politics almost everyone claims to have some Christian experience, often maybe just a grandparent who went to church.  In many parts of the country you at least attended church for the social benefits.  Well Barna recently released some new information that shouldn’t be too startling.

The study discovered that half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.

The research also indicated that more and more individuals are less-willing to accept the dictates of any one deonomination but are more likely to take an a la carte approach.

By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church. Although born again Christians were among the segments least likely to adopt the a la carte approach to beliefs, a considerable majority even of born again adults (61%) has taken that route. Leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.

I would lump myself into that category. I don’t neccessarily agree with all of any one denomination’s perspectives or opinions, but attempt to find a balance of what the Bible teaches.  There are obviously some problems to this trend and Barna noted two:

Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence. One consequence is that Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs. Barna pointed out, as examples, that millions of people who consider themselves to be Christian now believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the lessons it teaches at the same time that they believe Jesus Christ sinned. Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.

Obviously attending an evangelical college and getting some training in the Bible is helpful in shaping my personal beliefs, but I am sure that at some point my beliefs will err from Biblical teaching. That is when my fellow believers can lovingly correct me.  Every believer needs to be a part of a Christian fellowship. This doesn’t mean that they have to attend church on Sunday morning/evening and Wendsday night service, but it does require some form of fellowship where you can be taught by more experienced teachers and live and explore the Bible together.

Would you agree with Barna’s research? Where are you at on this issue?

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Dangerous Faith: Growing in God and Service to the World written by Christian leader Joel Vestal is an excellent recounting of the many ways God is moving around the world in dangerous and tough places.

, director of ServLife International, has pulled stories from his vast experiences overseas and weaved in vital truths from the Word of God. His official bio reads:

Joel Vestal has traveled to more than seventy nations, often working to improve living conditions in some of the world’s least-developed countries. He has conferred with Mother Teresa, has worked in Sudan during the height of its catastrophic civil war, began reconstruction after the devastating tsunami hit near his home in Thailand, was interrogated by secret police in Cuba, and was part of a team that started the first Christian church in northern India.

So you can imagine he has a lot of great stories, but more importantly he has had a lot of encounters with Christ throughout the world. It is from those encounters where I learned the most from this book. His hope for us the reader is that the book will “leave you ready to risk, step out in faith, and live the adventure called Christianity.” (p 17) There are many great quotes and excerpts I’d like to share but that’d take a lot of time and energy that could be better spent reading the book!

One great challenging quote is found on page 35:

The central issue, as I see it, is that our missionary efforts should not be reduced solely to proclamation and evangelism; instead they should focus on whole-life transformational discipleship. After all, we are not commanded to make converts; we are commanded to make disciples. (emphasis original)

He ends each chapter – with names like The Bride is Bigger than you think and Jesus, the Singer from America? – with a set of questions to help guide your thought process or to lead a small group with.

I took several pages of notes while reading Dangerous Faith and would highly recommend that you take a few hours to challenge yourself and your faith.

Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book to write a review of it.

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