The Blessing of Church as Family

Whether you feel like attending your church services Sunday morning or not, be there. Gather with your church because you need your church, and your church needs you. Perhaps you are discouraged and overwhelmed with life; if so, you need others to build you up and encourage you. Perhaps you are doing well spiritually; if so, others need you to build up and encourage them.

I don’t need to go church to worship,” some might say.

Well, I have a few responses to that common excuse I hear from people who claim they do not need church.

  1. Yes, you and I can worship God anywhere, but we cannot experience the fulfillment and satisfaction God created us to experience apart from corporate worship and fellowship. I love to sing songs of praise to God, and I do so when I am driving down the road or walking down the hallway (alone), but those times alone do not even come close to worshiping God with my church family. Lifting up my voice in unison with others seeking to praise Him has no equal.
  2. No one goes to church, but rather we gather with the church. If you are stuck on the idea of “going to church,” you are missing the point that church is not a place but a people. Church is not a building but a body. Church is not a fabrication but a family. And every single person on this earth does better when living, as God intended, with a healthy family.
  3. What a selfish and foolish response it is to claim no need for the church. God created us to be in relationship – in relationship with Him and in relationship with one another. Furthermore, He commands us to gather regularly with the church, to serve the church, and to love the church. Thus, claiming you do not need the church is not only wrong but a selfish rejection of God’s plan for your life to love and serve others (and to be loved and be served).

No, you do not need the church to worship God, but what are you missing without the church? And, what is the church missing without you? We need one another.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our 2020 Vision series and talking about the great blessing that “Our Church Is Our Family.” Looking at Romans 12:3-8, I hope to share three things church family ought to do continually. Do you value the church as family? Do you see the great blessing in this gift from God?

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another (Romans 12:3-5).

Members of a body rely on one another and simply cannot function properly on their own. So, the church. The church is the body of Christ, with Him as our Head. We are all under His leadership and authority, and we work together to honor Him and build up one another.

Do you see how, in light of that truth, we do need the church? If you have no desire to be a part of a Bible-teaching church, perhaps it is because you have not come to know the Good News. Please realize how much God loves you – so much so that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and rise again for your victory over sin and death, if you will simply turn to Him.

If you make that decision to surrender your life to Jesus, I believe you will not only gather with the church; you will love and serve her faithfully.

Sunday is also “Youth Sunday,” meaning our youth praise band will lead our worship music, and various youth will pray and serve during the service. We will also have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Preston, our association’s director of missions, about his recent trip to Central Asia.

Passion Is Priority

Our kids opened a few presents last month. They received Christmas gifts about which they were seemingly excited. Of course, some gifts were received more gladly than others, while some have probably already been forgotten. The gifts about which our kids were sincerely passionate, though, are still used and talked about each day. They play with them. They care for them. They protect them. They declare their greatness.

They prioritize these gifts with their time, efforts, and energy because they are passionate about these gifts. Passion is priority.

Now, the reality is that all of these gifts are temporary, meaning they will not last forever, nor will the passion had for them last forever.

WE ARE PASSIONATE PEOPLE

Everyone is passionate about something. God created us this way, and we declare that passion in and through our priorities. You give of your time, your care, and your resources to that which you prioritize. Or, you end up prioritizing the thing(s) to which you give of your time, your care, and your resources (see Matthew 6:21).

We are passionate people, whether our personalities are outwardly charismatic or more reserved. So, what are you most passionate about?

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, can you possibly be more passionate about anything than you are about the gospel? Nothing is even close to as great as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and if you have experienced that salvation, you are surely passionate about it.

HAVE APPROPRIATE PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a 3-week sermon series on 2020 Vision. My hope is to challenge our church (both as a body and as individuals) to have the right (biblical) purpose and vision in 2020 and beyond, beginning with having appropriate passion – passion focused appropriately.

Our passion for the gospel ought to be greater than our passion for anything else. Is your passion the gospel? If not, why? Have you experienced new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you prioritizing your relationship with Him?

Micah, who received plenty of Christmas gifts about which he is passionate (at least for now), opening a gift with Papa and Mema.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It has been another great Christmas with our family and church family, and we are looking forward to 2020. We pray that you had a Merry Christmas and that you have a Happy New Year, seeking to know and follow God with all your heart.

Below are some specific ways you can pray for our family headed into the new year. Marsha and I share our primary hopes, followed by each of our kids sharing their own requests. Thank you for praying for us! If there are any specific ways we can pray for you, please let us know.

Marsha and I ask that you would pray for us to honor God in our marriage, in our parenting, and in our discipleship ministry. Pray that we will grow in our relationship with the Lord and help our children and friends to do the same. Pray that we will be Christian disciples who make disciple makers.
Noah (14) asks that you pray he will be a better brother to his siblings.
Levi (13) asks that you pray he will talk with kids at school more about the gospel.
Silas (9) asks that you pray he will be more like Jesus.
Zoe (8) asks that you pray she will read her Bible every day.
Micah (4) asks that you pray he will learn his numbers and ABCs better.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5, 14

If you have not yet experienced the eternal joy of knowing and walking with the One and Only Son from the Father, please turn to Him today. God bless you this coming year and beyond!

What’s YOUR Good News?

Our third son, Silas, turned nine on Sunday. Like pretty much all nine-year-olds, he was pretty excited it was his birthday. He was happy to talk about it and thrilled to get some gifts, his choice of supper, and his favorite (and my favorite) dessert – cheesecake. No one who spent any amount of time with Silas this past weekend would have failed to realize it was his birthday. He was too excited to hold in that good news!

Really, is this not the way it is for all of us? I do not mean that we all love and talk about our birthdays like children do. What I mean is that we all talk about exciting, good news. If something is important to us, we are compelled to talk about that something.

So, what is important to you? What good news are you sharing with others?

LIGHT

If you have believed and experienced the Good News – the gospel of Jesus Christ – then you will long to talk about this Good News. Advent – the Christmas season when we Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ our Savior and longingly anticipate His Second Coming – begins Sunday. Do those who know you see in you a love for the Christmas story, the gospel story? If you have placed your faith in Jesus, the answer is surely yes.

On Sunday morning, I will begin a new Advent sermon series – The Light Has Come. Jesus, of course, is the Light of the world, and He came to our dark world to bring salvation to all who turn to Him. In this series throughout December, we will be considering the Christmas story according to the gospel of John and challenging one another to respond rightly to the Light.

LIFE

If you respond rightly to the Light by turning away from your sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, is there any better news in all the world to share with others? What would a close examination of your life tell others about your greatest convictions, commitments, and passion? Is new life – eternal life – in and through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, at the center of top of those priorities?

Again, I sincerely believe that if you have experienced new life, the answer surely has to be yes. When you have new life in Christ, you are either passionately talking about Him, or you are convicted that you need to be talking about Him.

How is your passion? What is your good news?

What I am MOST thankful for with Silas right now is his sincere search for the Truth. He asks a lot of great questions about Jesus and seems to genuinely desire to know and follow Him.

“What do you saaaaay?”

Now, after the birthday party at your friend’s house, make sure you do not say, ‘Thank you,’ or express any kind of gratitude. Take things like this for granted. I don’t want you to be known as someone who’s well-mannered and appreciative,” said no parent ever.

We all want our kids to be thankful for what they have. We want them to have good manners, saying things like please and thank you. If they do not, we are naturally disappointed and are usually quick to correct them. When a child says, “I want some,” we are quick to reply, “What do you say?” When a child receives something with no words of appreciation, we are quick to chide him, “What do you say?

Yet, how are our attitudes? How thankful and appreciative are we? Parents (and everyone), we need to practice what we preach.

Sure, you might have very good manners and might be very good about saying please and thank you to others. How is your attitude toward God, though? How grateful are you to God? How often do you take Him and His blessings for granted?

THANKS AND GIVING

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a short new sermon series on how we can develop a heart of gratitude to God and what that then looks like in our daily lives. We have so much for which to be thankful, no matter our lot in life, and at the top of that list of gratitude, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I cannot help but wonder – if we really thought deeply about the truth of the gospel throughout each day, how much better would our attitudes be? How much more joy would we have? How much less complaining would we do?

THANKS AND GOSPEL

If all this sounds unrealistic to you, my first question is, have you truly believed the gospel and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Having given my life to Jesus as a young adult, I remember very clearly the difference between gratitude from my relationship with God and temporary gratitude from the things of the world. There is a huge difference, a life-changing difference.

While we are all sinners who obviously fail at times to have the proper perspective of gratitude, those who have the Holy Spirit are unable to continuously live with an ungrateful heart. Instead, we will regularly respond to God’s goodness just like the Samaritan man in Luke 17:11-19, who “seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him” (verses 15-16).

Are you grateful to God for what He has done in your life? Do you have both inward and outward gratitude? If not, will you turn to the Lord today and ask Him to change your heart and your life?

I am grateful for THIS view from my office window, and Micah is grateful when he gets to kill flies (what he was on a mission to do when this picture was taken).

Transformed and Talkative

Since getting our yellow lab, Lottie, in August, our lives have changed. We are not surprised about that, as whose life would not change when getting a puppy? Puppies take time, money, patience, and energy. They are also a lot of fun, though, and our kids (usually) like to talk about their adorable puppy. Life is different now. And, talk or no talk, no one in our family would claim that our lives are the same today as they were in July.

All this to say, Lord willing, I am going to be talking about an even bigger transformation Sunday morning. A new life in the family, like a baby or a puppy, changes the family. Bigger still is the change that comes with a new spiritual life.

NEW LIFE LEADS TO CHANGE…

Like the undeniable change our family has experienced in adding a puppy to our lives, the change that comes with a new life belonging to Jesus Christ is undeniable. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Acts 16:11-15, the passage I plan to preach through Sunday morning, you can read about some of that change. The Apostle Paul, who was once a persecutor of the Christian faith, was changed in and through a personal relationship with Jesus and became a bold, courageous missionary for Jesus. And, that is where we find him in Acts 16.

Then, a changed Paul is used by God to bring about a change in an entire household – Lydia and her household. God is the One who does the changing, but He tends to use His followers to be agents of that change.

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:14-15).

Lydia and her household were changed by God, repenting of their sins and surrendering to Jesus. Then, Lydia demonstrated that change through biblical hospitality. New life leads to change.

CHANGE LEADS TO CONVERSATION…

When life is dramatically different, we tend to talk about it. One cannot experience life with a new puppy, for example, and tell no one. More importantly and more dramatically, one cannot experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not desire to talk about Him.

Paul and his companions, consequently, could not stop proclaiming the gospel. They had been changed by Jesus, and that change led to conversation. That conversation, then, led to more change. And so it goes – the cycle of change continues. God changes lives and uses those changed lives to change more lives.

ARE YOU CHANGED?

We are unable to change ourselves, at least in a way that lasts. Sure, we can fix some things temporarily and develop some decent habits through repetition, but we are incapable of producing change that changes our lives eternally. Only God can do that, and He does so through the power of His Holy Spirit, the promised Spirit who takes over the lives of all who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for new life. That is a new life we, just like Paul, love to talk about!

If you want to experience the change that leads to conversation, would you consider watching The Story by clicking the picture below?

Video can also be viewed by clicking HERE.

Will you frolic?

Indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:1-2).

When I think about what it means to “playfully jump,” I cannot help but think about our yellow labrador puppy, Lottie. She is really good at frolicking.

Will you frolic (“playfully jump“) like those described in Malachi 4:2, or will you face eternal judgment in horror like those described in verse 1?

The answer to that question is determined by your standing before our almighty God. The reality is that we all deserve eternal judgment because of our sin. If you have a right relationship with God, though, then you can frolic now and more importantly for eternity because of the hope, peace, and joy only He gives.

To understand how to have a right relationship with God, would you consider watching a video and/or reading more HERE?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Greatness of God sermon series through Malachi, preaching through the last six verses and discussing “Our Great God of Promise.” Do you believe God’s promises? What is your response?

Please remember that every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Jesus. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 1:20).