** Introduction: Vision

The 1st week we launched our “Vision Works” series with the takeaway that God, the original and most prolific visionary, envisioned, and then subsequently materialized, a physical universe to splendor forth his glory and reverberate his praise. Last week we reviewed Jesus’ vision of reconnecting the KOG, so that God’s will might be done “On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). To keep in true Trinitarian fashion this week let’s “see” the vision of the Holy Spirt.

Woo People To Christ

The Father spoke the world into existence out of nothing. The Son saved the world through the Cross. The Holy Spirit seeks to change the world in two very unique and distinct ways. The first way is to woo people to Christ. To woo something is to unrelentingly draw, attract, invite, and enjoin (wooing Lisa to be my wife). Jesus promised that when he was “lifted up” (John 12:32) on the Cross, and in worship, that he would “draw all people to himself.” How does he do that? He sends the HS to do his wooing work. In John 16:8 we are told that he does his wooing work in three different ways:

Exposes the errors of the godless world, demonstrates the righteousness of God, and reminds us of the reality of judgment.

This passage infers that every single second of every single day, no matter who we are, or where we are, the HS is trying to get us to see that the world is fallen, God’s is good, and that sin condemns. In other words, for our eternal sakes, the HS wants to make us miserable, absolutely miserable, until we feel the need for something far better. That something is Jesus Christ. Because the HS is always actively working on everyone, we should never give up on anyone no matter how stubborn, obstinate, or hard-hearted they seem to be. Don’t ever throw in the towel on them because God, the HS according to 2 Peter 3:9

Is willing that none should perish but all should come to repentance.

John Newton

For instance there was a person who was nurtured by his Christian mother who taught him the Bible. However, she died of tuberculosis when he was 7. He was then raised by his father, an infamous drunkard, brawler, and womanizer. Since the “fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree” the son, as a late teen became a drunk, a womanizer, and a brawler. He got his first job as a deckhand on a ship but was immediately terminated because of "unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint"—a pattern that would persist for years. He then got drafted into the Royal Navy. However, he hated taking orders and went AWOL. He was captured, put in irons, and flogged. He was disgracefully discharged but remained arrogant, defiant, and insubordinate. Filled with rage he began to live his life with moral abandon. Later on he wrote, "I sinned with a high hand and made it my study to tempt and seduce others."

He finally found sound employment on a slave ship. However, after many months of mistreatment and carousing months he decided to sail back his home in London. But the ship was overtaken by a violent storm. A few moments before the storm hit he was reading Thomas A’ Kempis's classis “The Imitation of Christ” particularly his meditation about the "uncertain continuance of life." Fearing for his life, he cried out to God promising to repent of his sins and change his ways. He was miraculously spared. And when the storm had past and he emerged from the wreckage, have his life to Christ, went into ministry and wrote a little old hymn we know as “Amazing Grace.” His name, John Newton.

But also the HS woes people to Christ by revealing to them his greatness, gloriousness, and graciousness. He reveals to them his true identity, not just as an historical figure, good teacher, religious leader, object of theology and Bible, or founder of Christianity. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last, the Son of God and God the Son. And he is irresistible Ephesians 1:17-23

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

So when we “Do everything for God’s glory” as I Corinthians 10:31commands, we not only live out God’s vision for our lives but we also encounter a joy, harmony, and peace that far surpasses all others. So how did we do with the glory challenge this week? Today we look at Jesus’ vision. His vision is articulated in the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:10)

Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done On Earth As it is in Heaven.

The KOG Defined

Since we are thoroughly democratized Americans, in that we live in a nation, and not an entity called a kingdom, let’s review what a kingdom is. A kingdom is the rule, right, and reign of a king over a specific geo-political spectrum. In a kingdom, what the king says goes and is the law of the land. The standard Greek phrase for God’s other worldly, eternal, and invisible kingdom is basilei÷a touv qeou.vThis phrase speaks of God’s rule, reign, and right over all he has created, both spiritually and physically, including this planet and people.

The KOG Described

God delegated his kingdom on earth first to Adam and Eve and then to the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Priests of Israel. However, the KOG was dynamically and dramatically revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Often times, after Jesus performed miracles such as driving out demons or healing the sick, he would proclaim, “repent” because “The KOG has visited you” (Matthew 12:8), is “near” or “at hand” or “has come upon you” (Matthew 4:17). Once he even told his disciples that the KOG of was “in you” (Luke 17:21). In Matthew 13 Jesus described it as “Pearl of Great Price”and a “Treasure Hidden in a Field” (v44-45). In Romans 14:17 Paul called it the reign of “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” and clarified that it is not of “Word only but of power.”




Introduction: Vision

Last week we launched our “Vision Works” series with a great take away: God, the original and most prolific visionary, envisioned and then eventually materialized, a physical universe to splendor forth his glory and reverberate his praise. So when we “Do everything for God’s glory” asI Corinthians 10:31commands, we not only live out God’s vision for our lives but we also encounter a joy, harmony, and peace that far surpasses all others. So how did we do with the glory challenge this week? Today we look at Jesus’ vision. His vision is articulated in the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:10)

Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done On Earth As it is in Heaven.

The KOG Defined

Since we are thoroughly democratized Americans, in that we live in a nation, and not an entity called a kingdom, let’s review what a kingdom is. A kingdom is the rule, right, and reign of a king over a specific geo-political spectrum. In a kingdom, what the king says goes and is the law of the land. The standard Greek phrase for God’s other worldly, eternal, and invisible kingdom is basilei÷a touv qeou.vThis phrase speaks of God’s rule, reign, and right over all he has created, both spiritually and physically, including this planet and people.

The KOG Described

God delegated his kingdom on earth first to Adam and Eve and then to the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Priests of Israel. However, the KOG was dynamically and dramatically revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Often times, after Jesus performed miracles such as driving out demons or healing the sick, he would proclaim, “repent” because “The KOG has visited you” (Matthew 12:8), is “near” or “at hand” or “has come upon you” (Matthew 4:17). Once he even told his disciples that the KOG of was “in you” (Luke 17:21). In Matthew 13 Jesus described it as “Pearl of Great Price”and a “Treasure Hidden in a Field” (v44-45). In Romans 14:17 Paul called it the reign of “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” and clarified that it is not of “Word only but of power.”

Why the Prayer? Three Reasons

If God’s rule, right, and reign is over everything he has created, why then would Jesus have to pray, “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Three mammoth reasons:

1) The KOG is not yet fully established. Theologians like to describe it as “already but not yet.” It is here, growing, even flourishing, but won’t be fully consummated until Jesus’ 2^nd Coming.

2) Adam forfeited the KOE over to the devil when he sinned. When our original fore-parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and ate of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”(pair on the ground, not apple on the tree) the results were far more profound than personal sin:

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* It introduced death and disease into a universe which was previously life-giving and teeming with life.

* It transferred/delegated/handed over the authority of the KOG to the devil. This is why later on Paul called Satan the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and when Satan tempted Jesus with the “kingdoms of this world” (Matthew 4), they were truly the devil’s to give.

* [SLIDE 8] It gave rise to the “The kingdom of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) and the fractured, war mongering, “Kingdoms of this world” (Revelation 11:5).

**

However, Jesus’ death and resurrection, “Rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his Dear Son” (Colossians 1:13), AND it started the total overthrow of evil, AND the renewal of heaven and earth, AND the process of reconnecting heaven and earth through the KOG!

Be A Good Kingdom Citizen

So how do we personally live out Jesus’ vision of reconnecting the kingdom of heaven with the kingdom of earth? We become good citizens of the KOG. How do we do that? When Nicodemus asked Jesus a similar question, Jesus explained that we have to be spiritually “born” into the KOG (John 3). Once we are born into the KOG, simply by taking Jesus as our King, we then “seek first the KOG!” Paul told Christ followers in Philippi that “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and Jesus famously said in Matthew 6:33 that we are to always “seek first the KOG!” Just as Paul had dual citizenship, one in Tarsus and one in heaven. Just as Jesus had dual citizenship, one in Israel and one in heaven, we also have a dual citizenship, one in America and one in heaven. As dual citizens we love, and our loyal, to our country but our ultimate love and loyalty are to Jesus Christ and his kingdom (what baptism signifies).

Seek First – Desire It

What does it mean to “Seek first the KOG?” The term Jesus uses for seek here is zetaow.This word means far more than just to casually observe or look for something. It’s means to passionately seek in order to find. For instance, a couple of months ago I lost my wallet. And for two entire weeks I frantically searched for it, retracing my steps, turning over things, and begging others to help me find it. I never did find it but boy did I seek it. Just like the merchant and gem collector Jesus spoke about in Matthew 13. Once they discovered the “treasure in the field” and the“pearl of great price”they did not stop until they obtained these invaluable items. Much in the same way we are passionately, intensely, and continually “seek first the KOG”until we experience it. It’s in our seeking that the KOG comes to us, and in us, and our hearts are transformed. We then as good kingdom citizens, begin to live out its vision and values, morality and ethics. We start living the kinds of lives, and

doing the kinds of things, that reconnect heaven and earth.

Seek First – Its Success & Expansion

Seeking first the KOG also means to devote ourselves to its success and expansion. It’s to put God, and the things of God, as numero uno in our lives. Practically speaking, seeking first the KOG means to be devoted to ministry and mission of the local church, which is the physical representation of the KOG on earth. But more on this vision next week.

*Mom’s Seeking Absolute Best for their Children*

Conclusion

Last week we ended with the challenge not to do or say anything without first asking, “Will it bring glory to God.” As kingdom citizens lets add to that challenge in this way:this week, whatever we do or say, ASK will it help Jesus reconnect heaven and earth? Again, great peace, joy, and harmony awaits us when we are motivated by such a question.

Because it’s Mother’s Day I want to end this message on a personal note. The best example of someone I know who lived out Jesus’ vision of reconnecting heaven and earth was my mom. She passionately desired the KOG through her priorities and prayers and she sought its success and expansion by working tirelessly for the church. At 69 she successfully transitioned from the KOE into the KOG in 2012. I can’t wait to see her again. I love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day!



Introduction: Vision

One of the great visionary leaders of our time, Rick Warren, says churches need to refresh their vision every 26 days. Another great visionary leader, Andy Stanley, says this is necessary because “vision leaks.” This is true but because vision is more of a seeing thing, it more accurate to say that vision, which we define as an ability to see God’s future for us, gets cloudy, eclipsed, even totally blocked out. Proverbs 29:18 provides a doomsday scenario when God’s vision for his people goes obscure, opaque, or when we develop spiritual cataracts

Without vision my people perish.

or

Without vision there is no people.

To think that everything there is, is because of vision and everything that is not, is because of lack of vision, should supply enough motivation for us to become a radically visionary people. Because flourishing is better than perishing, because moving forward is better than moving backward, and because more people coming to Christ is far better than no people coming to Christ, we must stay laser focused on our vision. Our church’s congregational vision is

To create irresistible churches everyone enjoys.

Series Intro: The Power of Vision

To help us stay focused I want to start a new series called, “Vision Works.” I’m calling it “vision works” because vision really does work when it is based on the promise of Jeremiah 29:11

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Top 5 reasons why vision works. Vision works because

1. It answers the “WHY” question of everything we think and do.

2. It sharpens our focus, ignites our imagination, enflames our passion, and inspires our actions.

3. It provides direction, purpose, clarity, challenges the status quo, prevents missional drift, and the gravitational sag into mediocrity (anti-S.O.S.).

4. It keeps our eyes on where we are going, not what where we have been, or what we are trying to avoid.

5. It closes the gap between where we are and where we want to go, i.e. between our current reality and the future God is calling us to.

Two of the most powerful visionary statements I know, outside of Scripture, come from Seiv Kheva and Helen Keller

Vision is the ability to see the invisible.

If you can see the invisible you can achieve the impossible.

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

Vision: Seeing What Others Don’t See

Vision is seeing what others do not see. It sees things not yet in existence or reality. Vision is always a steadfast march into the future. For instance, Moses envisioned the Israelites thriving in the Promised Land, while they were living buried beneath the sand of Egyptian slavery. David envisioned building a wonder-of-the-world Temple where the Israelites could worship God, although they weren’t unified as a nation. Isaiah envisioned God’s ultra and all-consuming holiness while his people were stuck in the quicksand of corruption. Jesus’ envisioned the Cross whereby he could remove sin, destroy death, and reconcile humanity back to God. And Paul envisioned proclaiming this “Good News” of reconciliation until the entire Roman Empire was saved. We are here today because he did!

However, any discussion about vision in the church starts with God, the original visionary. What is his vision for this universe? What his vision for the beings he created in his universe? Knowing the answer is the foundation of all other visions and the bedrock of joy in life.

God’s Original Vision

God’s original vision was to create a universe that would shine forth his glory and reverberate his praise. Listen to following

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 40:5 The glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all humanity together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Psalm 8:1, “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

After creating a magnificent and majestic universe, with humanity at the apex of his creative design, God declared it all “very good.” So regarding his original vision of materializing a universe that would shine forth his glory and reverberate his praise, (e.g., sunset, stars, beach, ocean) we can say “Amen.” And when we add in “God is good all the time” we are instinctively doing what 16th c Swiss Reformer John Calvin encouraged us to do:

Let us take delight in the works of God open & manifest in most beautiful theater.

How to Live for the Glory of God

But how do we do even more to live out God’s original vision for us? We live for his glory! If the heavens and earth have been created for the glory of God so have we! This is why Paul tells us in I Corinthians 10:31

Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.

To glorify something is to make it large, important, and significant. Thus, we make God large, important, and significant when we live for his glory and not for our own glory. When we live centered in God and not centered in us. When we live Godward lives and not the me-ward lives. This is the bedrock of unshakable joy because when we live out God’s original vision for us there is no greater or more permanent joy! This is why the Westminster Divines declared over 500 years ago

The Chief Purpose of Humanity is to Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever

Conclusion: In His Steps

In his classic novel “In His Steps” Charles Sheldon tells the story about a preacher who issued an amazing challenge to his congregation, “Do not do anything without first asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’” The congregation was to ask this question for one entire year. Only a few did so, but the ones that did were totally transformed by the end of the year and were the happiest in the church.

So that this message is not merely a Sunday Morning exercise, let’s do a similar challenge: For one week, let us not do anything without first asking, “Will it bring glory to God?” In so doing, we will not only be living out God’s original vision for us, but we will also experience joy like we never have before. This vision stuff really works so join in this one-week challenge as we now prepare our hearts for Holy Communion. 


Introduction:

 Years ago, during a short-term mission trip to Haiti, I inadvertently broke the cardinal rule while visiting a 3rd world country: “Don’t drink the water!” I actually didn’t drink the water but because our flight was so late and I was so tired I forgot to use bottled water when I brushed my teeth before going to bed. The results of my forgetfulness-a stomach bug meant fever, loss of appetite, general weakness, and spending most of the week chained to the bathroom! As I was slowly recovering, I was able to find the source of my stomach ailment- an open well that was exposed to everything airborne and anything milling around on the ground. My appreciation for clean water and city wells grew exponentially that day.

As we continue our “Decisions” series today we check out the story of a notorious woman whom Jesus happened to “bump” into at a famous place called “Jacob’s Well.” Turn with me to John 4. 


4 Now [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples went into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

The Woman at Jacob’s Well

 Jesus, as usual, is out and about doing his ministry of preaching and healing. On this particular day, he and his disciples find themselves on the dangerous Israel/Samaritan border. You think we have border issues, they’re nothing compared to the extreme hatred the Israelites had for the Samaritans and vice versa. The Samaritans thought of the Israelites as religious snobs while the Israelites despised the Samaritans as half breeds because they were Jews that intermarried with Gentiles. Jesus doesn’t care. His mission is to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). No matter where people have been, or what people have done, they are still people. Jesus loves them and wants to introduce them to his Father. However, he and his disciples are famished so the disciples head into the town of Sychar to find the nearest Publix (John 4:8). Jesus stays behind and because he is parched, searches for the city well. The one he finds is just not any well, but the one hand dug by the patriarch, Jacob, centuries before. We are given a time stamp on this activity because it is significant. In Hebrew time the sixth hour of the day is noon.

 Generally the townspeople, mostly women, went to the well in the morning, when it was cooler, to garner enough water for their family for the day. So Jesus arrives at Jacob’s Well but has not the implements with which to draw water. Jesus, never shy to ask someone for help, spots a woman who is coming out at noon, (to avoid shame) in the intense heat to get her daily water ration. Unusual, but hey, she can help. Jesus asks her to draw some water for him. The woman is caught off guard by this “faux pas” because in this culture at this time, a man never addressed a woman directly in public and vice versa. Furthermore, she reverts to identity politics, i.e., “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. We never talk to each other.” Jesus listens and then responds (4:10,13-14) 

10 If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. … 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 This woman’s  confused and has no idea what  Jesus is talking about. But nonetheless, she’s game, “If you’re offering me this kind of water I’ll take as much as I can get to avoid this scorching heat.” “Before I clarify,” Jesus says, “Let’s bring your husband in on this.” She replies sheepishly, “I don’t have a husband.” “But you’ve had five previous ones and the man you’re living with now is not your husband either,” Jesus retorts. “Whoa! This just go personal (with Jesus it always does)! To keep him from meddling in her “affairs” she quickly changes the subject. “Hey, you must be a prophet.” “Since you are, I got a theological question: Is the true place of worship on Mt. Jerusalem, as you snobby Israelites insist or is it on Mt. Gerizim as our scholars say?”

“Since you are purposely deflecting here let me give you a definitive answer so that we can deal with the real issue of your life” Jesus responds. The correct place of worship is not geographical or physical but a place called “in spirit and truth” (v24) i.e., the heart. That’s what my Father is seeking.” She’s not convinced so she responds,

Thank you for your opinion Mr. Prophet but when the Messiah comes he will straighten all of this out for us.

Why So Cruel?

 “You’re talking to him” Jesus interjects. Before we get into her reaction to this new information, we need to ask why Jesus, in the course of a causal conversation with a foreign woman he just met, would dive right into her sordid past and bring up the salacious details about her five previous marriages and her current roomie. Her constantly trading in men like used cars was hardly virtuous and something you’re not supposed to talk about in mixed company. Jesus was well aware of her past not because he was a prophet but because he is the omni-knowing God in the flesh. However, this is not the conversation one has in order to “win friends and influence people.” Jesus either missed out on the latest Dale Carnegie class at the Temple or he was doing something different. That something different was to encourage her to drink from a better well.

Wells

 Wells, are often mentioned in the Bible as sources and symbols of life. Obviously, physical wells are something people drink from in order to sustain physical life, just like Jacob’s Well while spiritual wells are something people drink from to sustain spiritual life. This is why in Psalm 36:9 David called God the “Well of Life” and God said to his people in Jeremiah 2:13 

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own wells, broken wells that cannot hold water.

The reason Jesus dove deep into this woman’s past was not to be cruel but to show her that for far too long she had been drinking from the wells of her own making. These wells were not healthy, life giving, or satisfying, but were dried out, contaminated, stagnated and impure, just like the one I experienced in Haiti. If we are what we eat then we are also what we drink and if we drink from the wells of our own making long enough our souls will become diseased, dehydrated, and dissatisfied.

Conclusion

 Because he is both the Well of Life and the Living Water, Jesus wants the Woman at the Well to stop drinking from the wells of her own making and drink the pure, holy, good, life giving, and soul satisfying water only he provides. When she finally realized who Jesus was her decision was easy. She started to drink from him and when she did she immediately experienced what he promised in John 7:37-39 

Anyone who believes in Me-From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.

 Every one of the messages in our “Decisions” series is designed to bring us to a decision. So we must ask ourselves, which well do we want to drink from: the ones of our own making, or the one Jesus is? If we want “rivers of living water” eternally flowing from our souls we need to choose the latter. Let’s do so now.


** Introduction: School of Hard Knocks

One way I was able to accelerate my undergrad, grad, and post-grad studies was to “clep” my way out of some courses. What is clep or clepping? Well, instead of sitting through a course for an entire semester, one could just “clep” it: go straight to the final exam and take your chances. To prep for the clep, I would go to the campus bookstore and buy 8x11 laminated clep cards which were chock-full of the most important facts about the subject I wanted to clep. Days before exam I would do nothing but memorize them from top to bottom and front and back. Today, as we conclude our “Finding Faith” series “The Facts of Faith” we will clep apologetics.

Christian Apologetics

What are apologetics? The word itself comes from the Greek, “apologia” from which we get our word, “apology.” An apology is a reasonable and articulate defense of the faith. It’s an explanation, or justification, of why you believe what you believe. It is not saying, “I’m sorry for a mistake” or “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” as in the movie Love Story. The reason we want to clep apologetics is that it is one of the most effective ways to reach people for Christ. Why? Because it provides answers to the deeper questions of life and helps remove intellectual stumbling blocks. Two banner texts for apologetics are I Peter 3:15 and Acts 19:8

Always be prepared to give an apologyto everyone who

asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months,

arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.

Apology #1 God’s Existence

So let’s clep the five major apologies of the Christian faith. The first one is for God’s existence. Although it is perfectly natural to believe in God (Psalm 14:1) many still hold that he doesn’t exists because the universe is self-created and eternal. Obviously, we can’t get into all the science that proves otherwise, but when people make this claim we can easily respond,

Give an example where life comes from non-life

Something coming out of nothing

Why is there something rather than nothing?

These are great responses because material/physical objects have no capacity to cause, or create, themselves (IPhone). Therefore, our best apology is that there had to be an intelligent timeless, space-less, immaterial, uncaused, and unimaginably powerful being to create the physical universe. That being is God! God is the best explanation for how something came from nothing, life came from non-life, and why there is something rather than nothing. Simply put: whatever has a beginning has a cause and the cause of all things God.

Apology #2 Objective Moral Values

Why is it universally accepted that we shouldn’t torture children or praise Hitler for causing the holocaust? Why do the vast majority of cultures believe that telling the truth is far more virtuous than telling a lie and that stealing and cheating is fundamentally bad while loving and helping people is fundamentally good? Answer: the reality of objective moral values.Objective means these values came from beyond and are independent of us. Objective means these values are not subjective to what individuals or masses conjure up. Objective means these values are true whether we believe them or not. So when God created us in his image, he imparted his morality into our souls. Obviously, he also gave us free will, with which we can violate his morality, but they nonetheless came from God.

Apology #3 Inspiration of the Bible

The first two apologies are powerful arguments for the existence of God that can be made without the assistance of the Bible. But at some point, we will be asked about the Bible. Did it come from God or humans? If it is from God why are there errors and contradictions? If from people, why do we have to obey it? Our best apology for the Bible is that a perfect God inspired imperfect humans to write it(II Timothy 3:16). This divine/human book stands uniquely apart from other “inspired” writings for the following reasons:

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* It has a 100% accuracy in what it predicts, especially in the formation of huge events such as nations, kings, and the coming of Jesus (400).

* It is backed up with historical and archaeological evidence. In other words, it’s not a fantasy book or by-product of a bad pizza dream, but it records the actual events of real people, in real time, in real places.

* It has transformed millions of lives. Entire societies, population centers, and nations, have been changed by the preaching and teaching of the Bible.

* It has an amazing unity over vast amounts of time. Despite great diversity of backgrounds and the various settings of its 40 authors, over a 1600-year period, the Bible is a remarkably unified and book. That unity is Christ.

No other book, religious or otherwise, including the Bgad Veda, the Upanishads, the Book of Mormon, or Koran, can hold a torch to this kind of inspiration. And this is not even getting into the amazing reliability of the Gospels which are the most scrutinized and finely attested documents in history.

Apology #4 The Resurrection of Jesus

Without a doubt the lynchpin of the Christian faith is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. So when skeptics claim:

Jesus didn’t really die. His disciples went to the wrong tomb. The grief-stricken disciples experienced a group hallucination. They bribed the Roman soldiers and snuck off with Jesus’ body and then told everyone he was alive.

Our apology would go something like this:

Crucifixions were final. One was not taken off the cross until one was utterly dead. If so, the executioner would pay for it with own life. The disciples knew exactly where Jesus’ tomb was because Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus personally placed him there. There has yet to be a verified account of a group hallucination. This phenomenon just doesn’t happen. The Roman soldiers were not bribed because if Jesus escapes the tomb, or his disciple snatch his body, each member of the Roman guard, as long with their families, would pay for it with their lives.

By far, the best and most plausible explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus is that God resurrected him from the dead.

Apology #5 Personal Experience

People can debate facts, logic, and even history, but seldom, if ever, will they debate personal experience. So when we add our personal experience in Christ to the facts above, like Alfred Ackleydid in his Easter Hymn, “He Lives”we have one powerful and comprehensive apology. Listen to how he articulates his experience:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!You ask me how I know He lives?He lives within my heart.

*BC-EC-AC*

Conclusion: Write Down Questions

Obviously we quickly clepped these five mammoth subjects when each deserves a minimum of 10 messages. However, even a cursory understanding of these facts will not only improve our apology but will help us to “Get and Make Disciples that transform the world.” If you want to get better, as I do, at defending and articulating the faith, submit questions and listen to our podcast every Thursday at 11:00 AM


** Introduction: School of Hard Knocks

One way I was able to accelerate my undergrad, grad, and post-grad studies was to “clep” my way out of some courses. What is clep or clepping? Well, instead of sitting through a course for an entire semester, one could just “clep” it: go straight to the final exam and take your chances. To prep for the clep, I would go to the campus bookstore and buy 8x11 laminated clep cards which were chock-full of the most important facts about the subject I wanted to clep. Days before exam I would do nothing but memorize them from top to bottom and front and back. Today, as we conclude our “Finding Faith” series “The Facts of Faith” we will clep apologetics.

Christian Apologetics

What are apologetics? The word itself comes from the Greek, “apologia” from which we get our word, “apology.” An apology is a reasonable and articulate defense of the faith. It’s an explanation, or justification, of why you believe what you believe. It is not saying, “I’m sorry for a mistake” or “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” as in the movie Love Story. The reason we want to clep apologetics is that it is one of the most effective ways to reach people for Christ. Why? Because it provides answers to the deeper questions of life and helps remove intellectual stumbling blocks. Two banner texts for apologetics are I Peter 3:15 and Acts 19:8

Always be prepared to give an apologyto everyone who

asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months,

arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.

Apology #1 God’s Existence

So let’s clep the five major apologies of the Christian faith. The first one is for God’s existence. Although it is perfectly natural to believe in God (Psalm 14:1) many still hold that he doesn’t exists because the universe is self-created and eternal. Obviously, we can’t get into all the science that proves otherwise, but when people make this claim we can easily respond,

Give an example where life comes from non-life

Something coming out of nothing

Why is there something rather than nothing?

These are great responses because material/physical objects have no capacity to cause, or create, themselves (IPhone). Therefore, our best apology is that there had to be an intelligent timeless, space-less, immaterial, uncaused, and unimaginably powerful being to create the physical universe. That being is God! God is the best explanation for how something came from nothing, life came from non-life, and why there is something rather than nothing. Simply put: whatever has a beginning has a cause and the cause of all things God.

Apology #2 Objective Moral Values

Why is it universally accepted that we shouldn’t torture children or praise Hitler for causing the holocaust? Why do the vast majority of cultures believe that telling the truth is far more virtuous than telling a lie and that stealing and cheating is fundamentally bad while loving and helping people is fundamentally good? Answer: the reality of objective moral values.Objective means these values came from beyond and are independent of us. Objective means these values are not subjective to what individuals or masses conjure up. Objective means these values are true whether we believe them or not. So when God created us in his image, he imparted his morality into our souls. Obviously, he also gave us free will, with which we can violate his morality, but they nonetheless came from God.

Apology #3 Inspiration of the Bible

The first two apologies are powerful arguments for the existence of God that can be made without the assistance of the Bible. But at some point, we will be asked about the Bible. Did it come from God or humans? If it is from God why are there errors and contradictions? If from people, why do we have to obey it? Our best apology for the Bible is that a perfect God inspired imperfect humans to write it(II Timothy 3:16). This divine/human book stands uniquely apart from other “inspired” writings for the following reasons:

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* It has a 100% accuracy in what it predicts, especially in the formation of huge events such as nations, kings, and the coming of Jesus (400).

* It is backed up with historical and archaeological evidence. In other words, it’s not a fantasy book or by-product of a bad pizza dream, but it records the actual events of real people, in real time, in real places.

* It has transformed millions of lives. Entire societies, population centers, and nations, have been changed by the preaching and teaching of the Bible.

* It has an amazing unity over vast amounts of time. Despite great diversity of backgrounds and the various settings of its 40 authors, over a 1600-year period, the Bible is a remarkably unified and book. That unity is Christ.

No other book, religious or otherwise, including the Bgad Veda, the Upanishads, the Book of Mormon, or Koran, can hold a torch to this kind of inspiration. And this is not even getting into the amazing reliability of the Gospels which are the most scrutinized and finely attested documents in history.

Apology #4 The Resurrection of Jesus

Without a doubt the lynchpin of the Christian faith is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. So when skeptics claim:

Jesus didn’t really die. His disciples went to the wrong tomb. The grief-stricken disciples experienced a group hallucination. They bribed the Roman soldiers and snuck off with Jesus’ body and then told everyone he was alive.

Our apology would go something like this:

Crucifixions were final. One was not taken off the cross until one was utterly dead. If so, the executioner would pay for it with own life. The disciples knew exactly where Jesus’ tomb was because Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus personally placed him there. There has yet to be a verified account of a group hallucination. This phenomenon just doesn’t happen. The Roman soldiers were not bribed because if Jesus escapes the tomb, or his disciple snatch his body, each member of the Roman guard, as long with their families, would pay for it with their lives.

By far, the best and most plausible explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus is that God resurrected him from the dead.

Apology #5 Personal Experience

People can debate facts, logic, and even history, but seldom, if ever, will they debate personal experience. So when we add our personal experience in Christ to the facts above, like Alfred Ackleydid in his Easter Hymn, “He Lives”we have one powerful and comprehensive apology. Listen to how he articulates his experience:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!You ask me how I know He lives?He lives within my heart.

*BC-EC-AC*

Conclusion: Write Down Questions

Obviously we quickly clepped these five mammoth subjects when each deserves a minimum of 10 messages. However, even a cursory understanding of these facts will not only improve our apology but will help us to “Get and Make Disciples that transform the world.” If you want to get better, as I do, at defending and articulating the faith, submit questions and listen to our podcast every Thursday at 11:00 AM


 Introduction: The Lordship of Jesus Christ

The last few weeks of our Finding Faith series we have been applying our faith to our time (+1) and our finances (+20). The big question is “Why?” Why should we always be dedicating more of our time and treasure to the church? Answer: because Jesus is Lord of the church, Lord of us, and Lord of all. We love the fact that Jesus is our Redeemer, Forgiver, Provider and Protector but when we take Christ as Savior we simultaneously and inseparably, take him as Lord. The old axiom, “Jesus is Lord of All or not Lord at All” means that we are to freely and fully surrender every area and dimension of our lives to him. Now the good news is that Jesus is a glorious, great, and gracious Lord who constantly invites us to “follow him” into the best life imaginable on earth and someday in heaven.

Theology of the Body

 One of our greatest needs is to embrace Jesus’ Lordship over everything, including our physical bodies. Like everything else in the Christian faith we own nothing but we steward everything. So, each of us are called to use our flesh and blood bodies in God-glorifying ways. But what does faith have to do with our bodies? Since Christianity is the premiere religion of the soul, mind and body here’s why: 

• God created the material world, including our bodies and pronounced it good.

• Jesus died not only to redeem our souls and spirits but also our bodies.

• Just like the physical body of Jesus, our physical bodies will be resurrected to a glorified state.

• Because Christ lives in our hearts through faith and the Spirit resides in us, our bodies are “Temples of the Holy Spirit.”

These “body” affirmations are wonderfully re-affirmed in David’s famous poem found in Psalm 139:13-14 

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Don’t Devalue or Deify Bodies

 Unlike other religions, Christianity neither devalues or deifies the body. For instance, Hinduism devalues the body by letting people go malnourished or unhealed because to help a sufferer is to interfere with his or her karma and to invite bad karma upon yourself. The final state for the body in Hinduism is Nirvana, the place of immaterial nothingness. The Muslim faith believes in killing the bodies of those who don’t submit to Allah, the renowned warrior God. Although our bodies are currently in a state of “humiliation” (Philippians 3:21) meaning that they are subjected to disease and death and are “wearing down” (2 Corinthians 4:16) i.e., older and more limited, Christianity still doesn’t devalue them because we know that someday they will be “glorified.” Knowing the glorious future of our bodies inspires the church to continue the healing ministry of Jesus. We do this by building hospitals, praying for healing, investing in medical science, and protecting the rights of unborn life. However, we don’t deify (obsess) the body either as the pagan religions of yesterday and today did and do. Just go down to the local gym and you’ll see deification of the body in many forms. When it comes to our bodies let’s keep uppermost I Timothy 4:8 

Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

I believe the best perspective on our bodies is found in I Corinthians 6 where Paul writes: 

19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.

Since Jesus created our bodies, owns our bodies, is Lord of our bodies, and redeemed our bodies, at the very cost of his own body on the Cross, we are to “honor God” with our bodies. How do we do that?

Honor God With Your Body: Avoid Sexual Immorality

The 1st way to honor God with our bodies is avoid sexual immorality. Earlier, Paul made this crystal clear 

I Corinthians 6:13 The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body … 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? … 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

For Christ followers, sexual morality is rooted in Genesis 2:24 where God initiated, and then personally officiated, over the first wedding in history, that of Adam and Eve: 

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

 From the uniting of the first male and female we see what constitutes God honoring sexual activity: In-Wedlock, Hetero, Monogamy. God created sex for both procreation and pleasure and made it holy and healthy within the boundaries of in-wedlock, hetero, monogamy which Jesus himself reaffirmed in Mark 10:7. All other sexual activity, including pre or post marital, or mid-marital adultery, is outside of these God established stipulations. Now obviously, these boundaries don’t sit very well in a paganized culture which is heavily influenced by the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and is rapidly becoming more characteristic of Sodom and Gomorrah. And, honestly, they don’t sit very well in a compromised church that wants a loving and forgiving Jesus, but not a moral one. For those who won’t flee sexual immorality I Corinthians 6:9-10 issues a shocking warning 

9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

*Counseling-Special GC Report-Teach Kids Well*

What we do with our bodies really matters and carries eternal significance. Faith always sees, especially in the area of sexual activity, God’s ways as more satisfying and more joyful than the ways of the world.

Honor God With Your Body: Actively Care For Them

The 2nd way we honor God with our bodies is to actively care for them. Here Christ followers are inspired by Ephesians 5:29 where Paul says 

No healthy person hates his own body, but feeds and cares for it.

 We actively care for our bodies by eating right, sleeping well, and exercising regularly with aerobics and resistance training (godly discipline-how many bodies?). Taking care of our bodies is more of a challenge today because of the prevalence of cheap and plentiful food and where technology has, by-and-large, made physical life easier and more sedentary. So we must exercise discipline (pay me now/pay me later)!

Furthermore, we take care of our bodies by avoiding addictive substances. Addictive drugs, whether recreational or prescription, are life reducing, along with smoking and the abuse of alcohol. Our physical well-being is already vulnerable in this world, so let’s not make them even more vulnerable on purpose!

 A Fitness Challenge:

Conclusion

If we embrace Jesus as Lord and honor God with our bodies by: fleeing immorality and actively caring for them, our lives will be more enjoyable and our chances of living longer will skyrocket! Amen!


** Money Talks

In 2016 the University of Indiana’s School of Philanthropy surveyed 1000s of donors asking about their motivations for giving:

Passion for the mission of the organization. Believe their contribution makes a difference. Personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or fulfillment. Need to support important causes. Giving back is healthy. Religious beliefs.

All of these are great motivations to give but there is an even greater one. As we continue our Finding Faith series let’s look at the Finances of Faith to see what that motivation is.

God’s Motivation to Give

To find out what is the highest motivation for giving we start, as we always should, with God and what motivates him to give. John 3:16 states that God’s motivation in giving is love.“For God so loved the world he gave.” This a love which sent Jesus and propelled him to freely and fully sacrifice himself for our salvation.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton had Jesus’ sacrifice in mind when he penned the famous words,

Love sacrifices all things to bless the thing it loves.

Jesus dies for our sins but he rose again to build an indestructible church. Ephesians 5:25, was written to motivate husbands to unconditionally love their wives but notice the back half of the passage,

Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

So, if the Father loves the world and gives it his Son and the Son loves the church and gives himself for it, what motivates Christ followers to give? Is it guilt or duty? Maybe in the short term. Is it compassion? For a while. Is it impulse or peer pressure? Again, in the short term. Is our giving motivated by manipulation? God forbid! Is it vision, purpose, or success? Perhaps! But far beyond these things is love. Love is always the motivation in giving for both God and his people! Love always gives. Love cannot not give! Love loves to give.

Giving Based on Love

To bear this out think about how much we love our spouses, kids, pets, and hobbies. Although they are never off the payroll, we give to them anyhow because they rank high up on our love “Totem pole.” For instance, a few weeks ago we took Snickers, our 15-year cat, to the vet because his eating pattern dramatically changed and we suspected feline diabetes. To pay for his checkup, which included a blood test and sedative I had to apply for a 2^ndmortgage and I don’t even own a house! If he has to go to the vet again, I’m petitioning the church leadership to include him as a line-item on mission’s budget!

Giving Tests the Sincerity of Love

We love to give to what we love. So giving, especially financial giving, is the tangible and practical expression of our love for our church. Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:8 even called it a

A test of the sincerity of your love.

The Bible is clear about what this “sincerity” looks like. It’s called tithes, offerings, and alms.If we have been in the church more than five-minutes we know that tithing(not tipping) is based on Malachi 3:10 and is a dedication of 10% of our overall income to the local church (not time-FPL). Offerings are financial responses, above the tithe,for special projects that arise in ministry. Almsare used to help alleviate the suffering of those economically disadvantaged that we personally know.

We Love the Church But …

So, let’s go out on a limb. We all love Jesus. We all love our mission of “Getting and making disciples that transform the world.” We all love our vision, “Creating irresistible churches everyone enjoys.” We all love one another. We all even love the preacher. However, we still struggle with expressing our love through regular financial giving.Here are a few reasons:

1) We haven’t been taught God’s expectation on giving. Now we have.

2) We have been taught but are disobedient because we find our security and pride in money. If this is true, I’ll do an exorcism at the end of worship so that we can get free from the “love of money” and stop “serving two masters.” As one person put it, “Money is a test from God and most of us are failing.” Don’t be that person and remember the advice of theologian Stephen King (whom I saw cycling the other day).

A couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.

3) We have been taught but have fear. Fear that if we give we won’t have enough to pay the bills, live comfortably, or retire well. Add to that that although we may live in the most prosperous nation in history, it’s also the most expensive one as well.

Fear Repelling Scriptures

Fear is the opposite of faith so when I fear the finances I meditate on faithfilled fear repelling Scriptures like

2 Corinthians 9:8God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need ...

AndPsalm 37:25 where an elderly king David declares

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

Or the Proverb (30:8-9) Lisa and I prayed at our wedding:

8 Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

And what Jesus promised in Matthew 6:25, 32

25 Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…32 Your heavenly father knows you need them.

These promises will fill us with faith and free us fear and enable us to generously express our love for the church in financial giving.

A Personal Pledge

Before we creatively help you with what that expression, I want you to know that my wife and I are pledging at least $8000 to our church this year. Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s not because we are independently wealthy (we are not), received a windfall (not), or hit the lottery (don’t play). We are telling you this because 1) We have always tried to honor God by being full and faithful tithers. 2) We love our church and want to see it to flourish financially. 3) As your spiritual leader I want to model the way because I would never ask you to do something that I am not personally doing.

Conclusion+$20 Campaign

So in order to help us grow closer to the tithe, experience more joy in giving, gain more treasures in heaven (can send it ahead) and demonstrate the “sincerity of our love” for our church we are introducing the +$20 Campaign. The +$20 campaign is asking everyone to give an extra $20 a week to the church. If everyone did this we would could do so much more to expand the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ through our church. So before we show you how, let’s remember thatGalatians 5:6 very well applies to financial giving [SLIDE 15]

When we place our faith in Jesus … what is important is faith expressing itself in love.

“Show Me the Money” Video Clip


Finding Faith VII: Fellowship Of Faith

Last week I talked about buying my first aero bike and how proud I when I zippedall the way up the Legacy Trail in a personal best time. That feeling lasted until I got an invitation to join a Saturday morning cycling club. When initially invited I asked, “How serious is it?” “It’s really casual and fun, you’ll enjoy it.” “Ok” I agreed. That Saturday morning I show up with about 20 other cyclists. I ask the leader how far are we going and what’s the average pace. “We’re only going about 20-25 miles at about 22-23 mph. “No big deal” she shrugs. Before I can say, “Who said what to who now” off we go.

The word peloton comes from the French term “platoon.” Applied to cycling it refers to the main group or pack, of riders. Riding with, and within, the peloton has many advantages: e.g., mutual drafting which cuts down on drag, preservation of energy, and increased safety and speed. Little did I know, but my peloton that day contained many hardcore cyclists, some of which log 100s of miles per week and compete in organized races. The first couple of miles I’m staying with the group but after that, not so much. I start falling off the pace and begin to lose the peloton. Unless your Lance Armstrong on steroids this is not a really an ideal place to be.

However, the leader of our peloton knew I was a novice and saw what was happening. So she slowed down until I caught up. As she is challenging me to pick up the pace she’s also teachingme the important hand signals and verbal commands that are necessary to successfully navigatewith the pack. One of which was to get up, and stay up, on the rear wheel of the bike in front of me, preferably six inches but no further than one foot away.

So, I draft off her rear wheel for a while, until she rejoins the peloton. When that happens another rider drops back with me. After a few miles, she likewise joins the pack while another rider dropsback to help me. The last rider to drop back with Mr. Slow Poke, rides over 200 miles a week. 18 months ago he started cycling at 300 lbs. but now he is a svelte 195 lbs. He offered me techniques for more efficient and powerful peddling such as deliberately pulling up on the foot clips. “This movement actives other leg muscles and rests your thighs” he explains. He also showed me how to position my posture to take advantage of the terrain and to keep my back, neck, and shoulders from getting tight.

So I finish the 22-mile route well behind the peloton but at pretty credible time for a first timer. When I got back to the shop for some carbs and coffee, no one condemned or criticized me for being the slowest cyclist that day. Instead, all congratulated me on finishing strong and encouraged me to stick with it. I thought, “Wow, if there were ever a personal experience that illustrated the purpose of the church, this was it.”

Church As Spiritual Peloton

As we continue our Finding Faith series we will look at the “Fellowship of Faith: The church as spiritual peloton. Three reasons we need to start seeing our faith fellowship as aspiritual peloton:

• Just like in cycling we are racing to a destination, as fast and as safely as we can.

• Just like in cycling we need constant encouragement and instruction.

• Just like in cycling we need each other so that no one veers off the path, goes at it alone, or gets left behind.

Scripture & Structure of Spiritual Peloton

Two great Scriptures that support the image of church as spiritual peloton are I Thessalonians5:11 and Hebrews 10:24-25

I Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 10:24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

In order for our church to become a spiritual peloton; one that truly encourages, builds up, and motivates, we need to move more closely to the structure of the faith fellowship of the 1st three centuries. Acts 2:46-47 reveals that structure

46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Early Christ followers worshiped in Jewish temples and what in house churches. Regardless of where they met, notice the very small detail of the frequency of their meetings:

Every day they continued to meet together.

What were they doing when they meet together every day? Well they did much more than talk about sports, weather, politics, and their latest doctor’s visit. They worshiped God. They took communion. They did ministry to, and for, one another. They encouraged, instructed, and challenged one another. In so doing, they became a spiritual peloton.

No Time

One of the great obstacles that keeps our faith fellowship from being a spiritual peloton, and please don’t hiss or hurl hymnals at me, is simply that the we don’t spend enough time together. It’s only when we spend time together that we can encourage, instruct, and love each other. This week I asked around as to why our time together is so limited. Here are the Top 5 unvarnished responses:

I’m too busy. You should be glad when I make it on Sunday mornings.

To be honest, the church is pretty low on my priority totem pole.

I’m not sure I need the church for spiritual success.

Hey, I’m a free spirit. I won’t be tied down.

One hour a week is plenty enough. Don’t push it preacher.

How many do you know that as Christ followers we know that our money is not our own, our bodies are not our own, and our time is not our own? Each belong to the Lord who created us and gave us all the things we have. So please, never start a sentence with the word, “My.” So MY vision is that our faith fellowship becomes an awesome spiritual peloton and this can happen if we spend more time together.

Conclusion: We Need Us

When I joined that Saturday morning cycling group I suddenly realized how much I was kidding myself thinking I could become a better cyclist on my own. To get faster, I would need the encouragement, instruction, and challenge of more skilled and experienced riders.Likewise, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can successfully finish the greatest race of all, the faith race, on our own, without the encouragement, instruction, and challenge of the more skilled and experienced Christ followers of our spiritual peloton.

So let’s take the “Xtra Hour” Challenge: commit ourselves one extra hour per week to our ministry and mission here at Bay Point. We can do so by investing that hour in a small group or a service ministry or both! So let’s sign that card and a ministry leader will call you and fit you into our spiritual peloton!

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Introduction: Against the Wind

A few years ago I learned how to play ice hockey and joined a team. The unintended benefits ofplaying the game I always loved were two-fold: (1) I kept trim and (2) I lowered my cholesterol to the point where I no longer needed prescription medication. However, a few years ago I got re-appointed here. I wanted to keep playing but the nearest rink is 30 miles from here and league games are on the nights we do meetings and ministry. So now hockey is more of a every once-in-a-while thing. So to keep up with my health and fitness goals I needed to find a replacement.

Running is boring, hard on the joints, and hardly trips my trigger. Other than that, it’s great! So I bought a bike, found a riding partner, and rode it as much as I could, especially on the Legacy Trail. But then my partner moved and I became inconsistent with it. After a while, the weight started trending back up and so did the cholesterol. One day my beautiful wife asks, “You ever riding that bike again?” “Why do you ask, O love of my life” I respond. “Because I didn’t marry a frumpy girly-man and I doubt very much that I should stay married to a frumpy girly-man.” Just kidding, but I got the hint. So I resolved to get in better shape through biking. So I take my bike to the local bike shop for a tune-up. While there, I fall in love with this beauty. This an aero bike, the kind of which can be found in the Peloton during races like the Tour De France. Its lightweight aero design maximizes speed while its price tag says, “You better ride this thing every day till you die, and then for

years afterward!

So a few weeks ago, I’m cruising up the North Trail. I burn through the 12 miles inmy fastest time ever. However, when I begin to make my way south I hit a “wind wall” i.e., 25-30 mile an hour wind blowing straight in from the Gulf. I grit my teeth, lean in, and with the song, “Against the Wind” echoing through my mind, I keep on keeping on with lungs on fire and legs tiring. I want to quit but I keep telling myself “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”So on I press! On I struggle! On I fight! In what seems to be an eternity and a day, I finally make it home with the supreme satisfaction that I fought the wind. I fought the fatigue. And most of all, I fought myself and I won!

Today we continue our “Finding Faith” series by focusing on the “Fight of Faith.” Our banner Scripture is 1 Timothy 6:12 where Paul writes to Timothy, his young protégé -

Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

This Means War

Very rarely do we associate the words fight and faith. But we should more often because faith is more than a private, personal, or an individually held belief. We should because the word Paul uses for “fight” is from the Greek war term “agony” and means to contend or compete. We should because battle language is common in Scripture:

Jude 3:1 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to [fight] for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

In Ephesians 6 Paul begins his famous “Armor of God” passage with the strong imperative

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our [fight] is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Jesus also used fight imagery when he issued the central promise of the Bible and history in Matthew 16:18

I will build my church and the gates of Hades will never defeat it.

The Salvation Army adopted the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” as its mission song because of 2 Timothy 2:3

Endure hardship as a good soldier for Jesus Christ.

Two Reasons to Fight: To Keep the Faith

[SLIDE 9] Other than people who like to fight for the sake of fighting, there are fundamentally only two reasons we fight: to keep something and to gain something. So when Paul says “fight the good fight of faith” what are we fighting to keep? We fight to keep the faith itself. And this we must do on two different fronts. First, we need to fight to keep our faith passionate and joyfulso that we can fend off things like apathy, indifference, and lethargy. The faith journey has been called, “A long obedience in the same direction.” Last week we said it was a marathon not a sprint. If our faith gets stale, unbelief can seep into our souls undetected. Then we find it more difficult to trust God and his promises. Hebrews 3:12-13 is a great “fight to keep the faith”passage

12 See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Another way we fight to keep the faith is knowing the content of our faith. One of the devil’smost powerful weapons against the church is false teaching. The religious cults today are populated by people who grew up in Bible believing churches but never knew their Bibles or even the fundamentals of the faith. Thus, they were easily deceived. To combat false teaching let us fight for our faith by knowing our Bibles. If we do, we won’t be easily led astray (Read for 15?).

Two Reasons to Fight: To Gain the Faith

We “fight the good fight of faith” not only to keep the faith but also to gain the faith. By gainingthe faith I mean to advance it so that more people might come to it. As you know, the church is charged with the Great Commission which means we are responsible to lovingly and cogently share our faith with the world. In this increasingly secularized and pluralistic culture the best wayto expand the faith is to have a working knowledge on how to defend and articulate it. This is what I Peter 3:15 encourages us to do

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Lastly, we fight to gain eternity with Christ or as Paul puts it, “Take hold of eternal life.” In theSpaghetti Western, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” three bandits, Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Tuco are on a frantic search to find $200,000 in gold coins that Confederate soldier have buried in a cemetery. These frenemies must work together because Tuco and Angel Eyes know the name of the cemetery but not the name of the grave while Blondie knows the name of the grave but not the name of the cemetery. Here’s the pen-ultimate scene where they meet at the cemetery:

Video Clip: “The Good, the Bay, the Ugly”

To earn the gold they stage a shoot-out with the winner taking all. Obviously, we don’t earn eternal life because Jesus Christ has already earned it for us. However, we do gain it in the sense that we must battle sin, temptation, devil, and the “many danger, toils, and snares of the world.” We gain it by staying on the “straight and narrow” and not the “wide and broad” path. Did you know that the overarching design of every worship service, Bible study, prayer meeting, and small group is to equip us to fight for eternal life? Please attend each of these regularly.

Conclusion

My hope today is that we can confidently say at the end of our lives what Paul said at the end of his (2 Timothy 4:7)

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

May his tribe increase and may we keep fighting the good fight of faith!




The Foundation of Faith

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Introduction:

As a young boy growing up in Germany in the early 1800s, George Mueller wanted to become a successful businessman just like his father. He went off to college to learn finances but did so as an extreme skeptic of Christianity. One day a friend, not knowing any better, invited George to a bible study. George went, not only to be polite to his friend but to also to make fun of the simple-minded people who believed in things they could not see. Much to his surprise, however, he began to enjoy it. For the first time, he saw people who genuinely loved God and loved each other. After a few more meetings he asked God to forgive his sins and become the Savior of his life. Afterward, he diligently read the Bible, prayed, and faithfully attended church. Within a few months George received a call to go into ministry. His family didn’t like it and immediately cut him off from the family fortune, but he pursued his calling nonetheless. After leading a church for a few years, he felt a massive burden for

orphaned children. He moved to Bristol England and immediately encountered hundreds of children that were either homeless or lived in state-run “poorhouses.” Once he experienced the destitution of the children George felt God leading him to start an orphanage.

With no government aid or outside financial support, George prayed for a building, furniture, and money for food and clothing. God answered his prayers. The myriad of needs of the orphanage, which housed up to 300 children at once, were met each day without fail. Although resources often came at the last minute, God always provided although George never told anyone about the needs. He just put his faith in God, prayed, and waited on provisions. Over the years, more than 10,000 children lived in the Mueller orphanage and not once did any of them go without the necessities of life. Over 165 years later George Mueller’s faith is still inspiring millions to attempt great things for God.

Jesus’ Most Provocative Question

Immediately before he left the planet, Jesus asked one of his most provocative questions. We find it in Luke 18:8

“When I return will there be any faith left on the earth?”

The good news of this passage is that Jesus will indeed return. The challenge of this passage is, “Will he find any faith left when he does?” Will he find any faith left in the world? Will he find any faith left in the church? Will he find any faith left in you? In me?

Reason for the Series

Today we start a new series for the new year called “Finding Faith.” Here are the top reasons for doing so:

* To positively answer Jesus’ question, “Yes he will find faith in us.”

* To make a New Year’s resolution to focus on our faith so that we can do greater things with God and for God.

* To constantly be filled up on faith up because the troubles and temptations of life cause faith leakage.

* To live a more exciting life because the life of faith is way more exciting than the life of unbelief.

* To better know, defend, and pass on our faith to others.

Furthermore, to more deeply appreciate that our entire relationship with God is based on faith. Listen to the following:

“We are saved by faith.”

(Ephesians 2:8)

“We are saved if we continue in the faith.”

(Colossians 1:23)

“We are made right before God because of faith.”

(Romans 4:22, 5:1)

“We are children of God because of our faith in Jesus Christ.”

(Galatians 3:26)

“We live by faith and not by sight.”

(2 Corinthians 5:7)

“We fight the good fight of faith.”

(I Timothy 6:12)

If that’s not enough to want to find faith here’s more …[

“My righteous ones will live by faith.”

(Romans 1:17)

“Christ lives in our heart through faith.”

(Ephesians 3:17)

“Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.”

(I John. 5:4)

“It is impossible to please God without faith.”

(Hebrews 11:6-7)

“Whatever is not done in faith is sin.”

(Romans 14:23)

“The only important thing is faith working through love.”

(Galatians 6:5)

Lastly, Jesus promised that we could “mountains” i.e., massive obstacles and “nothing would be impossible for us” if we possessed even a wee bit of faith i.e. that of “mustard seed” (Matthew 17:20, 21:22). As Mother Teresa was fond of saying,“It’s not big faith but small faith in a big God.”

What is Faith?

So let’s start our series “Finding Faith” by defining faith. What is faith? Well faith is not aFreudian“wish fulfillment” or “blind leap”as Kierkegaardsuggested. Faith is simply, “Trusting God and living like it.”Or as Daniel Fuller said, “Banking our entire future on God.”All told, there are over 5500promises in the Bible and faith says,

I completely and confidently believe God is ‘willing and able’ (Romans 4:21) to accomplish every single solitary one of them.

Faith’s Foundation

So faith is trusting God and living like and banking our entire future on God. What then is faith’s foundation? The author of Hebrews 11:1,3 tells us

1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see … 3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

Here we see that the unshakable foundation of faith is the God that IS. This God is the uncreated Creator who spoke everything into existence from absolutely nothing. David, the OT king and Psalmist, stood on this foundation of faith in Psalm 19:1-2,

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

And why he could openly and plainly say in Psalm 14:1

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Conclusion: 2019 Year of Faith

Because God, our Almighty Creator, wants to do great things to us, for us, and through us, let’s declare 2019 the “Year of Faith.” Individually, if you have yet to find your faith in God I’m here to tell you that you can find it in him because he is absolutely trustworthy.

Congregationally, let’s really find our faith because we are trusting God to “Double Us Up” in 2019 in terms of our congregational size, financial resources, and ministry involvement. Our strategy to “Double Up” is that each one continually bring one and the implementation of our three new services: (1) Beach, (2) Contemporary,and (3) Dinner church. Let’s trust God and live like it by truly expecting him to do these wonderful and glorious things for us this year.


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16:

Holy Spirit VII:

PURSUE THE PROJECT 


Introduction: Flat Screen TVs

How many of you have heard of this new viewing device called the flat screen TV? Ever watch one or own one? Anyone giving or getting one for Christmas? You might be surprised to learn that the flat-screen concept was first introduced in 1932 by a Dane named Arne Jacobsen. However, it wasn’t until 1964 that a prototype was co-created by two University of Illinois professors. They patented their design and later sold it to Panasonic. However, Panasonic ultimately considered the technology cost prohibitive for mass production and sat on the idea. In 1977 Westinghouse designed the first LCD TV but because of engineering complications, scrapped the idea.

Kaizen

A few decades later, the Japanese company Sony came along. Seeing the industry shifting potential of the flat-screen, Sony immediately bought up all the patents it could. Afterward, it went to work employing the famous Japanese Kaizen. What is Kaizen? Kaizen is a business and marketing philosophy whereby everyone works together in order to achieve systematic and incremental improvements to the products or projects the company is focused on. Kaizen is also known as the “continuous improvement method.” Because Sony rigorously applied Kaizen to flat screen technology it became industry leaders and dominated the market for many years.

HS Wants to Kaizen US

How many do you know that we are the HS’s long-range projects and that he wants to Kaizen each of us? Yes, the HS wants to make continuous, systematic, and incremental improvements on us each and every day. Listen to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 2:10

If any person is in Christ Jesus he is a new Creation.

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works

The word for “workmanship” was originally a business Greek term which meant

“A product to be made and constantly refined.”

When Sony applied their Kaizen method to flat-screen technology they envisioned how the TV should perform, how it should function, and how it should look and feel. So, they started with the finished product in mind and worked backwards. The HS does similarly with us. According to places like Romans 8:29 and I Corinthians 3:18 the finished product he has in mind for us is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both the blueprint and goal for humanity.

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed

to the likeness of his Son.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

So the HS applies his Kaizen continuous improvement method on us so that we continually and always …

Love what Jesus loved, think like Jesus thought,

do what Jesus did, and speak like Jesus spoke.

The Goal: Not Just Heaven

The words “conformed” and “transformed” words make it clear that the HS not only loves us but also wants to change us. If all he wanted to do was get us in heaven he could have held us underwater a few minutes longer at our baptisms. He could have sent angelic assassins to take us out the second we gave our hearts to Christ. He could have even done that rapture thing if it was just about getting a bunch of reforming sinners and rookie saints to heaven. If that was the goal there would be no need for the Bible, the Church, or even the HS himself.

Joke: “I’m Sorry. I Didn’t Recognize You.”

News Flash: God’s ultra-goal for saving us is that we continually “conform” and “transform” into the “image of his Son.” So if we still have a pulse this morning the HS is not done with us. He’s never done with us. We are, and always will be his greatest work, his greatest project, his “new creation” and his “product to be made and refined.”

Sculpting Away at Non-David

A 26-year-old renaissance man by the name of Michelangelo was once interviewed regarding one of his most famous works, the sculpture called, “David.” The statue itself was made out of a single block of marble, and stood almost 17 feet high and six and a half feet wide. It took well over two years to finish. Amazingly, Michelangelo did the entire work solely from his own imagination. Asked how this was possible he matter-of-factly responded,

“Easy! I sculpted away at anything that didn’t look like David.”

The HS’s Sculpting Tools

The HS Kaizen continuous improvement method is to sculpt away at anything about us that doesn’t look like Jesus. His best sculpting tools are prayer and Scripture but here are a few more.

Confession: James 5:16 directs us to “Confess our sins one to another.” They say that confession is good for the soul. For many reason this is so but confession is good for the soul because it gives us that rare and special gift called spiritual self-awareness. It’s our best honest-to-God and honest-with-ourselves spiritual practice. It admits a very simple and very humble truth that …

Right now I am not everything God wants me to be. Right now I am not everything I should be. Right now I am not fully holy. Right now I admit that there are non-Jesus places in my life that I need the HS to sculpt away.

IF we are unaware of what those non-Jesus areas are we can always ask the HS. If we’re really brave, we can always ask our spouse. I’m sure s/he will be glad to help us out.

Congregation: Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “Iron sharpens iron” meaning that we need each other to be better for God, better for one another, and better for ourselves. John Wesley nailed it when he said, “No one can be a Christian without a congregation.” When he said congregation he meant a small group. Why? Because small groups are the most inventive and productive workshops the HS uses to do his best work. It’s in small groups that we open up to people who love us the most and whom we trust the most. They challenge and encourage us by speaking about anything in us that doesn’t look like Jesus to them.

Circumstances: Romans 8:28 assures us that the HS is using all circumstances as sculpting moments on us. Whether they are good, bad, or indifferent doesn’t matter because circumstances don’t create character, they reveal character! So how much are we like Jesus in traffic jams, during temptation, or being upset or disappointed by others? How are we when life is not a box of chocolates? Or when it is a bowl of cherries but all we’re getting are the pits? Who we are in adversity is really who we are. The HS knows who are and it seems he does his best sculpting not so much during the onward and upward but the backward and downward.

Conclusion

Rome wasn’t built in a day but it was worked on every day. Because we are his “new creation” and “workmanship” let’s pursue the project that it us by allowing the HS to Kaizen us: sculpt away, every day, everything about us that doesn’t look like Jesus. Let’s cooperate with his work by confessing, congregating, and asking him to use our circumstances to refine us. We’ll be more like Jesus than we ever thought.