Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Bible

Blessed, 27 December 2015

Blessed
Psalm 1

Big Idea: Blessed is the person who knows the LORD.

Introduction

Good morning! Welcome to that odd, in-between Sunday. The gifts are opened, maybe you’ve spent time returning that ugly sweater or unwanted fruitcake (can you return a fruitcake?!). The decorations are ready for the attic. You might be thinking about using that gift card to buy a treadmill or join Planet Fitness. New Year’s Eve parties (including the biggest of all, right here at 7 PM!) and bowl games are right around the corner. Parents might be ready for school to resume, kids enjoy every moment of freedom.

We look back at Christmas and look forward to New Year’s.
We look back at 2015 and look forward to 2016.
We’re going Back to the Future!

It’s that odd, in-between Sunday!

Rather unexpectedly, the Psalms became a focal point during our Advent series. Advent itself is an odd, in-between time, looking back at baby Jesus and looking forward to the Return of the King.

As we near the end of 2015, we’re going to go to the beginning of the Psalms and look at Psalm 1 together.

Blessed…(Psalm 1:1a)

Do you want to be blessed? I often here people pray, “LORD, bless me” or “LORD, bless so-and-so.”

Have you been blessed in 2015?

God bless us all in 2016!

The word “blessed” or “asrey” in Hebrew means…blessed, happy, a heightened state of happiness and joy, implying very favorable circumstances, often resulting from the kind acts of God.

Like joy, blessings are not related to our circumstances. Blessings are not obtained by seeking them, but rather they are often a side benefit from choices we make…or don’t make. A wise man said that happiness is like a
cat. Seek it and it will run from you. But go about your business steadily day by day and soon it comes and curls up at your feet. How true, although I’m not a big cat fan!

In biblical terms to be blessed meant to be rightly related to God so that your life was fulfilled and you experienced deep personal satisfaction. Who wants that?!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, (Psalm 1:1)

Did you ever stop and think your actions are a factor in God’s blessing? It seems clear here. Note the contrast. Walk with the wicked or love the law, the Torah, God’s Word.

Notice this psalm begins with a negative. A person is blessed if they
don’t walk, or stand or sit. That’s in interesting progression. In each instance evildoers are involved. We are not to walk with the wicked. That could be a casual interaction. We are not to stand with sinners. That could be a more involved conversation. We are not to sit with mockers, perhaps to avoid becoming like them.

You are your friends. Jim Rohn says it this way: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

We need to invest our lives into those who don’t yet know Jesus, but we must guard ourselves from their influence. Like someone rescuing a drowning person, we must be careful to ensure we don’t get dragged down while we are attempting to serve others.

Often dangerous people look nice. Who’s going to come up to you and say, “I’m an unsafe person who will deceive and harm you?” Can you imagine a stranger approaching you wearing a “Let’s go to Hell together” t-shirt?! But this world is filled with wicked, proud-of-their-sin mockers. Notice I didn’t just say sinners since we’re all sinners. What’s your attitude toward your sin?

We are to be in the world but not of the world. This can be tricky.

The progression is walk, stand sit; think, behave, belong.

The psalm begins by telling us what not to do if we want to be blessed, but what should we do instead?

…but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

Your delight determines your direction. Do you delight in the law of the LORD? Do you delight in the Bible? Do you delight in God?

Which is more popular, partying with pagans or going to a Bible study? Which is more fun? Which is the pathway to blessing?

I know I’m not supposed to say this, but sometimes I struggle to read the Bible. There are times I’d rather read blogs than the Bible. But no blog can offer the wisdom, inspiration, and transformation found in the living Word of God. And it is an exciting book. If you think it’s boring, you’ve either never read it or you have an ancient translation you don’t understand. In either case, we have free Bibles in modern English available for you at the Information Center in the lobby. Please take one…and read it! Or read it online (more about that later).

The other day I was talking with David Sankovich in the office and I said, “Did you know there’s a story in the Bible about someone speaking with the dead?” He knew. Did you? There’s accounts of donkeys talking, the dead raised, the earth swallowing up households, a woman driving a peg through a man’s temple, God serving frosted flakes to thousands—if not millions—of people…and that’s all before Revelation!

Do you want to be blessed? Get into the Word! Is your faith weak? Get into the Word!

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

You can read and listen to and study God’s Word, the holy scriptures, the Bible. Throughout history many have been unable to read. Most of us are able to read, but we can also listen to it as you are now, or online or via recording.

Much of Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible—is devoted to God’s Word. Of course, it’s not enough to read or listen to the Bible, or even know it intellectually. We must obey it. We must do what it says. Why? Because Daddy knows best. God’s ways are higher than ours. Blessed is the one who delights in God’s Word.

…but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

What is the object of your delight?

On Friday we saw children delighting in their Christmas gifts.
On Friday we saw adults delighting in their Christmas gifts!

Young lovers delight in…one another.

Sports fans delight in their teams, especially when they win.

The word for “meditate” means to digest thoroughly. I like that!
“Day and night’ means anytime, but it could also mean from the beginning of the day to its end.

Reading
Studying
Memorizing

LORD, help me to want to know You and Your Word! I want to want you!

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

I love this image for many reasons. First, I love water. I often feel closest to God when I’m near water…and ocean, a lake, a river, a stream…sometimes a drinking fountain will do!

I’m…uh…blessed to be able to see Swan Creek in my backyard during this time of year when the leaves have fallen. I could spend all day watching and listening to the current. Water is life. Our bodies are about 60% water. We obviously need it to live.

So do trees! Trees with access to water will grow and become fruitful.

A tree planted by a stream is usually stable. Its root system is often greater than the tree seen above the ground.

How do you know when a tree has good roots? When the storms come!

Have you ever noticed apple trees produce apples? Orange trees produce oranges.

As we delight in God, our lives will produce godliness.

As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Psalm 1 continues…

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (Psalm 1:4)

“Not so” the wicked. They are not like the righteous…at all!

Chaff is like peanut shells, waste. The wisdom of the wicked is waste. Garbage.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:5-6)

I used to think “stand in the judgment” meant to appear and be present at the judgment, to show up. It means “stand” as in “stand up, stand firm.” Without roots, trees will fall. Without righteousness, the wicked will not pass the judgment. The winds of judgment will blow them over like chaff.

The righteous will stand. The righteous will not blow down or be blown away. They will be like a strong, healthy tree with deep roots, surviving the windy storms and surviving God’s judgment.

The LORD knows the ways of the righteous, like a dad knows his children.

The wicked will eventually perish. It might not be today. Things might not seem fair now, but on Judgment Day God will have the final word.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Are you ready? Are your roots deep? Are you grounded in God’s Word or being sucked downstream by the current of the culture?

I pray we would be rooted in the Bible in 2016 (and every year!).

So What?

My first resolution for next year is to listen more…to God’s Word. Will you join me?

For the last several years I’ve done a Bible reading plan. I have done many different ones, but my favorite I’m about to finish this year and I can’t wait to do it again. It’s called One Story and it takes you through the key stories of the Bible in one year. The plan shows how the many stories of the Bible make up one interconnected story – God’s story. The plan calls for reading between one to three chapters of Scripture a day from three separate chapters (i.e. the main storyline and key cross references), six days per week. It’s not only the greatest hits of the Bible, it is beautifully constructed to link the Old and New Testaments in ways I’ve never seen before.

If you have YouVersion, it’s simply to access. Go to

https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1395-ownit365-one-story-plan

If you visit
http://ownit365.com/pick-a-plan/one-story/ you can not only access the plan, there’s also study guides and videos you can use on your own, with your family, or in your Sunday School or small group.

I’m not merely asking you to read the Bible next year. I’m inviting you to read it with me and the rest of us…together. If you miss some days, it’s not a problem. There’s power in reading the same passages. You’ll always have something to discuss when you get together.

I have a second resolution for next year: to talk more…with God.

Prayer
is a beautiful gift. We have 24/7 access to the Creator of the universe!!! But it’s hard. Just as I’d sometimes rather read blogs than the Bible, sometimes I’d rather talk to my friends than to my heavenly Father.

We have been invited to join churches across Toledo in three exciting prayer intiatives:

a. Church Together 21 Day Corporate Fast, praying for our city January 1 through 21 while fasting from one meal each day…or whatever God may be leading you to give up during those three weeks (Facebook, TV, desserts, etc.).

b. 
40 Day Prayer Journey with the same area churches beginning Sunday, January 3 and blanketing the seven key aspects of society.

c. 
Toledo Prays citywide prayer gathering on Thursday, January 7.

I believe Toledo’s best days are ahead and I believe First Alliance’s best days are ahead, but I believe they will only occur if we partner together with brothers and sisters of other churches at the foot of the cross, seeking the direction, protection, and power of Jesus Christ.

Begin the new year in God’s Word. You’ll be blessed. Read with us.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to sign up for one or more of the prayer initiatives. Begin the new year on your knees. Pray with us. You’ll never regret it!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter here.

Antichrists, 1 John 2:18-27, 17 May 2015

Big Idea: We must know the Truth and avoid the lies.

Scripture: 1 John 2:18-27

  Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
  As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
  I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Introduction

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word…antichrist?

My mind races to the book of Revelation, end times movies, Christian persecution, and global chaos.

As we continue in our study of the book of 1 John—a letter written by one of Jesus’ best friends and the author of the Gospel of John—this word “antichrist” emerges.

To review last week’s text that precedes this week’s scripture, John writes

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

There’s a great contrast between God’s ways and the world’s ways, and that distinction will continue to be expressed in today’s passage.


Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)

“Little children” is used again, speaking to the babies in the faith. John tells them it’s the last hour, which sounds like one of those end times movies again with earthquakes and people disappearing and chaos ensuing. You may have noticed it has been the last hour for quite some time! On the one hand, it’s tempting to dismiss You might not be around tomorrow.

Antichrist can mean against Christ or it can mean instead of Christ, a substitute.

There is going to be an antichrist but there were many in John’s day. They denied the deity of Christ, that Jesus was God. Many claimed to be Christ. Revelation 13 describes a wild beast that is called forth by satan, a political ruler against Christ and also a wolf in sheep’s clothing who pretends to be Christ, a religious ruler. Both can be called antichrist, one against and one instead of Jesus.

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)

Have you ever seen someone excited about something, only to lose their enthusiasm? In sports, we call these fair-weather fans. They’ll support a team as long as they’re winning, but when the championships end, they jump on the bandwagon of another team.

This happens frequently in the marketplace. A person will be passionate about their job until it gets difficult and they’ll quit or—worse—complain.

Faithfulness is never more evident than in relationships. The reason marriage is more than just a piece of paper is the commitment it records.

I have seen so-called followers of Jesus abandon the faith, and there is nothing more tragic. Eleven of the twelve disciples were faithful, but Judas did not remain with them.

A popular argument among Christians is whether or not you can lose your salvation. Some suggest if you can, you were never a Christian in the first place. I’m not here to debate the issue here, but Jesus said in Luke 8 that the Word of God is like seed, some of which falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil that took root and persevered and produced a crop.

Are you truly a follower of Jesus? Are you a new creation? Why? Is it simply for what you can get from God? What if He fails to meet your “needs” and He disappoints you?

Paul said

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Three chapters later he added

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Does this describe your life? Are you standing firm in the faith? How do we do that? By filling our mind with God’s Word, our heart with prayer, and our hands with service to others. Simply, we know and follow Jesus.

John continues

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:20)

We need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us understand the truth.

I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:21-23)

They had the truth but lies are entering. Some see the world as the enemy, but the real enemy is inside the church.

Again, there are many antichrists, then and now, those who deny Jesus is the Messiah.

If Jesus is not God, we’re in trouble.
If Jesus is not human, we’re in trouble.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

We must remain. We must abide. We must persevere. We must continue daily to follow Jesus…hourly…every moment!

This requires discipline. That’s not a popular word, but I heard a great definition of discipline this week:

doing what you don’t want to do so you can do what you want to do (Jeff Fisher)

Sometimes I don’t want to jog, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of being physically fit.

Sometimes I don’t want to invest time in my relationship with God, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of knowing Jesus.

Sometimes I don’t want to invest money in savings, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of having an emergency fund or resources for the future.

In John 15, Jesus said if we abide/remain/persevere/invest our lives in Him we will bear fruit, but it doesn’t happen automatically or instantly.

What did they hear from the beginning?

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

God promised us eternal life. That’s a long time! It’s not just eternal but life! If we trust Jesus with our lives, eternal life is promised.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27)

Who’s trying to lead us astray? Anyone who is not teaching the Word of God. Do you know it well enough to know the truth from the lies? Never trust me over the Bible…and let me know if you ever hear a word that doesn’t align with the Bible.

I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m in process. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn!

My favorite theological quote is from Leonard Sweet who said, “20% of my theology is wrong. I just don’t what 20%”

He’s not saying we don’t need teachers, but we especially need the Holy Spirit.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)

So What?

There are many false teachings and false teachers. They perpetuate myths. Can you think of any? Here are some:

  1. God wants you happy. God wants you rich.
  2. God won’t give you more than you can handle.
  3. It doesn’t matter what you do.
  4. It doesn’t matter what you believe.
  5. Praise God when things go well. Ignore Him when things go poorly.
  6. Jesus was a good teacher but never died.
  7. Jesus was a good teacher but never rose from the dead.
  8. Jesus was not God.
  9. Jesus was not human.
  10. God helps those who help themselves.
  11. All good people go to heaven.
  12. Only good people go to heaven.
  13. Success is always measured by numbers.
  14. There is only one road you can take, one plan God has for your life.
  15. If you’re not busy, you’re lazy.
  16. God is not okay with doubt and questions
  17. There are bad sins (abortion) and acceptable ones (gossip)
  18. Your behavior affects God’s love for you
  19. The church is a building or a gathering
  20. All pastors are perfect, holy, and super spiritual
  21. The Bible is all about rules
  22. The Bible is boring

Finally, challenge what you hear from me, challenge what you read in the media, challenge what you see in our culture. Does it align with the Word of God? It’s so tempting to follow conventional wisdom or what is politically correct without wrestling with the scriptures. Yes, sometimes they’re difficult to understand. Some things are controversial, but we must humbly seek the truth, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. This is why we have elders. This is why we have Life Groups. This is why we have a Facebook page and Q&A in sermons…to study, wrestle, and seek to understand the truth…both the words on the page and Jesus,
the Truth.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Motherhood: Woman of God, 28 December 2014

Big Idea: Moms—and Mary, in particular—do more than simply give birth.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:21-52

Introduction

As a general rule, I don’t like reruns. I don’t like seeing movies for the second time. The reason is simple: I know what’s going to happen.

Of course, sometimes I forget I’ve even
seen the movie! One time I called Heather from the video store (remember those?) and asked if we had seen a particular movie. She said, “We rented it last weekend!” I then asked, “Did we like it?”

There’s nothing like a show for the first time, be it on tv, the movies, or live. On Tuesday we are celebrating Heather’s birthday by going to the Detroit Opera House to see the musical Wicked. It’s her favorite show and we’ve both seen it before…but it will be the first time for two of our kids. It will be great for the three of us who have seen it before, but when you know the ending, the suspense is diminished, the thrill is muted, the mystery is lost.

This is one of the challenges of the Bible. If you’ve read it before, it can become familiar. While it’s great to be comfortable with the truths of God’s Word, as Apuleius said, familiarity breeds contempt. We can miss the awe when we’ve “been there and done that.”

Mary

We have two final weeks in our series on Mary. Hopefully you haven’t packed her away in the attic with your nativity set until next December! Giving birth to Jesus—while essential—was just the beginning, not the end of her influence and importance. Sure, the pain of labor and delivery were over, but a host of experiences and emotions lie ahead for her…and Joseph. We are going to take a peek at some today.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:21)

Does that really say He wasn’t named until the eighth day, even though months earlier they were told what to name Him?

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)

Last Sunday we had a child dedication—actually a parent and child dedication. Jesus was dedicated by His parents to the Lord. Fortunately for us, we do not have to slaughter animals in the process, but this was the Old Testament Law.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)

Surely this was further confirmation that their child was special—as if they needed further proof following angel visitations, the glory of the Lord shining, choirs of singing angels, strange shepherds visiting the labor and delivery room, and the fulfillment of ancient prophecy.

Simeon saw Jesus as the Savior of all, not merely Jews, a radical expansion of God’s redemption promised in the OT (Ps. 98; Is. 49:6).

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

This was a beautiful moment, this righteous man rejoicing at the presence of the Messiah. He praised God, his parents marveled, He blessed the child…and then those nine words to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Imagine how jarring that sentence must’ve been to this young mom. There was no warning. Simeon didn’t say, “There’s some good news and some bad news. What do you want first?” It’s almost a P.S. “By the way, Mary, your soul will be pierced by a sword. Have a nice day!”

There’s more.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

We’re introduced to Anna the prophet (a female!) who confirms Jesus as the One, the child.

It often seems the greater the challenge, the greater the clarity required. For instance, if God wants you to sell everything and move to Africa, it may take more than a hunch, a brief thought in the middle of the night after late-night pizza and pop! Such radical action requires great clarity, most likely through multiple messages.

It was critical that Mary and Joseph knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that their Son was special, the Messiah. Many people told them so, including two at His consecration.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)

This verse raised questions for me. Didn’t they get a visit from the Magi and have to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of the baby boys in accordance with Matthew chapter two? Luke did not feel it was an important detail.

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (Luke 2:40)

This is about all we know of Jesus’ childhood…except for one incident…a dozen years later.

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:41-48)

The trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem was not a one-time journey for Jesus’ birth. It was an annual affair.

Parents, if you’ve ever lost your child, you know how consuming it can be. Imagine three days of searching!

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)

We understand, but you have to admit those words must’ve sounded strange to Mary and Joseph…especially Joseph. “Father? You don’t know your father? Hello!”

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)

Jesus grew and Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

I believe Mary was a great mom. She certainly had huge challenges, yet she persevered. She raised a boy with a Messiah complex! She was forever known as conceiving before marriage. It is thought that her husband died young, though the Bible is not explicit about this. We are told she had other children (who must’ve struggled to live up to the expectations of Jesus; “why can’t you be more like your brother?” “Because He’s perfect!”).

Clearly Mary was thoughtful; deliberate. Like all moms, she loved her child in a way unlike anyone else. She gave birth, nursed Him, and did everything possible to provide a good life for Him, all the while knowing He was special, yet not at all what she or anyone was expecting from the King of the Jews.

Next week we’ll look at the most unexpected moment in Mary’s life.

So What?

Moms, you can relate to Mary better than anyone. You know the joys and heartache of not only parenting but doing what only moms can do. Just as I learned more about our heavenly Father the day I became a dad, moms can identify with Mary.

We can only imagine the conversations she had with Jesus, the questions she asked, the haunting words of Simeon throughout His growth, and the mystery of His identity.

Conclusion

Just for the record, there are a few things I like to watch more than once, but it’s not so much for the intrigue and wonder but rather the tradition. A Charlie Brown Christmas comes to mind. The beauty, of course, of familiar shows is you can be interrupted by a bathroom break or phone call/text without missing anything. You also notice new things each time you experience it.

The more you read the Bible, the more familiar it becomes, but the more the Holy Spirit can guide you into truth. We are constantly changing and God’s Word has the power to encourage, convict, challenge and transform us.

I’ve read it cover to cover—many times. We have together as a church. This year we’ve read through Psalms and Proverbs each day. In 2015 we have a new reading plan. It’s called One Story and it will cover the major themes of the Bible with six readings each week. If you have a smart phone, the readings can be easily obtained with the YouVersion app as well as
OwnIt365.com. There are free videos, Experience study guides, and Let’s Discuss It discussion guides for your family and/or Life Group.

As we prepare for the new year, it’s my hope and prayer that we would passionately pursue God like never before, as individuals and as a family together.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Women in the Bible, 16 November 2014

Big Idea: Mary is not just for Catholics, but a crucial Biblical character worth imitating alongside many other godly women.

Key Scripture: Matthew 1:1-16

Introduction

I want to talk about
women. I’m particularly fond of one beautiful woman, my wife, my best friend, and the mother of our three adult children. We have been married for more then 24 years and there’s (at least) one thing I’ve never heard her express: complaint about being a woman.

It’s no secret that throughout history women have been treated as second-class citizens. The exact origins are unclear to me—aside from the possibility that average men are more physically strong and capable of using and abusing force and violence to achieve their objectives.

Although we think nothing of women owning property, voting, or leading corporations, women are often paid less than men for similar work…and we have yet to have a woman lead our nation as president. According to one
Newsweek study, the USA ranks eighth in the world in terms of opportunity for women (Iceland is first followed by Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, and Norway). The worst country is Chad, followed by Afghanistan, Yemen, The DR of Congo, and Mali. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/09/18/best-and-worst-countries-for-women-from-iceland-to-the-u-s-to-pakistan-and-afghanistan.html)

Today women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and are killed for honor in Pakistan.

It’s easy to point fingers at the “world,” but the church has not always treated women favorably. In many churches and denominations, women are restricted in areas of leadership, understandably on the basis of some of Paul’s writings in the New Testament. What has always bothered me, however, is the double standard when women can go overseas and lead churches but are forbidden from doing much of anything in a USA congregation.

Just for the record, I have struggled more with the issue of women in leadership than any other issue. I respect many that hold to a conservative view and many that are very progressive. We’re not going to delve into Paul much today, but I want to suggest the restrictions he placed upon women were specific women in specific churches at a specific time, not necessarily universal instructions for every woman for all times. Were that the case, we would be in great violation at Scio. For instance,

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (1 Corinthians 11:13)

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:11-13)

Men and women
are different.

Male and Female

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.” (Genesis 5:2)

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Matthew 19:4)

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ (Mark 10:6)

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” wrote one bestselling author! We are different, but it cannot and should not be said that men are superior to women.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Here’s the formal statement by our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance:

Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Constitution for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.

  • from the Manual of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, H1, Statement on Church Government, 4. Form of Government, d. Local Church, (5)

Junia(s)

Years ago I wrote a paper on the subject of women in ministry when I was doing my master’s degree. I received an “A” but the professor wrote, “What is your opinion on the subject?” I tried to faithfully present both sides of the argument—and the spectrum. Apparently I presented the viewpoints without revealing mine. My paper was based upon one verse in the last chapter of the book of Romans.

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV 1984)

There’s one problem with this verse. The fourth word is actually
Junia. There is no evidence that any man had the name Junias! This verse says Junias is outstanding among the apostles. Since apostles were thought to not be women and Junia was a woman, the name was changed to Junias, therefore making it a male name.

So Junias is a man who didn’t exist with a name that didn’t exist in the ancient world!

Early translations of the New Testament into other languages showed Junia as a woman but Martin Luther turned her into a man! He wasn’t the first, but was influential in the name/gender change.

The Bible we possess is not in the original language, nor do we have the original manuscripts. We have English translations derived from composites of various manuscripts. This does not mean the Bible is unreliable, but it does mean the 66 books didn’t fall from heaven, leather-bound in English!

Notice…

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV 2011)

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7, NASB)

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7, KJV)

My professor, Scot McKnight, and most scholars “are reasonably confident” we have the original words in about 98% of the New Testament, and the few questionable issues do not deal with essential matters of our faith.

So Junia is an outstanding apostle. Priscilla taught Apollos. Phoebe was a deacon.

Women in the Bible

Why are we talking about Junias in a series about Mary? Mary is not the first prominent woman in the Bible. Throughout this series we will examine her story, her character, and her significance. We all know she was Jesus’ mom, but let’s look at His family tree.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Here is the family tree of Jesus. It’s not too exciting at first, but notice the women included—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba…and Mary.

Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes. Ruth was a foreigner. Bathsheba committed adultery—or was a rape victim. It’s startling that these women would be specifically mentioned (since each man listed had a mom!).

The repeated phrase “The father of” shifts with Jesus since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but He was born of Mary.

Mom

Each year we celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s a special day filled with emotions for most of us, feelings of warmth and love for some, grief and loss for others. Moms are special. We honor them. If your mom is special, imagine how special Jesus’ mom must be.

Series Introduction

With few exceptions, “Mariam” has been tossed aside by Protestants except for the month of December when we let her sit in the nativity scene beside the baby Jesus. Not wanting to “worship” her as Roman Catholics are often accused of doing, we ignore her faith, obedience, and important role throughout the life and death of Jesus. This series will strive to uncover the character and narrative of one of the Bible’s most underrated figures and one we are to call “blessed” (Luke 1:48b).

Why do we virtually ignore Mary? For some it is a reaction to Catholics.

As Scot McKnight says, “We are Protestants; we believe in the Bible; Mary is in the Bible; we need to believe what the Bible says about Mary.”

For Further Study

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Study Jesus, b.l.e.s.s., 27 January 2013

Study Jesus

Big Idea:
Study Jesus

Scriptures: Psalm 119

Introduction

Three weeks ago we began our new year with our new series and annual theme, b.l.e.s.s. We said that we have been blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme throughout history, most prominently in God’s covenant with Abram (Genesis 12:1-3)

Our first week’s challenge was to bless one person.
Week two’s challenge was to spend one hour listening to God.
Last week’s challenge was to eat with a lost person.

These are not one-time challenge, but new rhythms, patterns for the new year, every week. Some would call them spiritual practices or disciplines.

Today’s letter is “S” and it stands for study...study Jesus.

Do you like to study?

When I think of study, my mind jumps back to finals weeks in college, cramming facts and data moments before heading to class, hoping to remember the right formula, date, translation, or concept in order to pass the class. While striving for an “A” was something of a game, the whole thing was rather stressful and usually not meaningful to me. I’ve long ago forgotten the periodic table of the elements, the capital city of every nation in Africa, how to say “administrator” in Spanish, or our ninth vice-president.

For many, Bible study is done similarly. The pastor says to read a chapter a day, so we do it. The goal is to finish. It’s all about the destination.

The challenge this week is not to merely study or even study the Bible, but study Jesus. Study a Person.

Perhaps you remember the story of Steve Jobs’ biography. When Jobs asked Walter Isaacson to write a biography of his life, he said to tell everything—good and bad—so that his children could know their dad. That makes me so sad—that they would need a book to get to know their dad—yet it would be even more tragic if his kids had no interest in reading it!

We have God’s Word to help us know about God, but also to know God. We can study the life and teachings of Jesus in order to ultimately know Him, His heart, and become like Him...because unlike Jobs, Jesus is alive!

The Word of God

We’re going to look at a few verses in Psalm 119. There are two things unique about this chapter. First, it is the longest chapter of the Bible, 176 verses! Second, it is divided up into sections, each beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, from aleph to taw. It begins

[Aleph] Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. (Psalm 119:1-8)

Have you ever read passages like today’s scripture reading and wondered what all the fuss was about? Consider this passage:

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:97-104)

King David loved the Scriptures. He didn’t have a leather-bound copy of the Old and New Testament—obviously since he lived centuries before the advent of Jesus and the New Testament—but he recognized the wisdom of God and was desperate to know it. Oh that all of our political and military leaders—and business and entertainment and education and...you get the idea—would have such a desire to know not only the information contained in the Bible, but its main character, Jesus Christ.

One of the great distinctions between Christianity and most other religions is that we pursue a living person, not merely the teachings of a dead man—or woman. Truth is a Person. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The word “Christian” means “little Christ,” so in order to authentically call yourself a Christian, you must be like Jesus, and in order to be like Jesus you must act like Jesus, and in order to act like Jesus you must know how Jesus acted, and in order to know how Jesus acted you must know the Bible and in order to know the Bible you must study it...not merely read it.

As much as I love the attitude between the old W.W.J.D. bracelets—What Would Jesus Do?—it’s often too late to ask the question. Our lives are filled with split-second decisions and actions that don’t allow time to prepare. If someone cuts me off on the expressway, I don’t have time to pause and reflect upon what Jesus would do (perhaps He would wave!).

The key to living like Jesus is to know Jesus—not just about Him, but actually know Him. The Bible is our primary source—as I mentioned two weeks ago when we talked about listening to God—but we can’t stop there. Many have read the Bible and remained skeptics. There are atheists that have read and even memorized much of the Bible! There is a difference between just reading the Bible and studying Jesus.

Love Letter

I have saved every letter and card that my wife has given me since I met her more than 27 years ago. Every one! Why? They are valuable to me because she is valuable to me. I never read a single word in order to fill my head with facts about her. I read them to know her, her heart, her essence. Her letters and cards were not written like a dictionary or encyclopedia. They are all communication vehicles to enhance our relationship. The same can be said of the Scriptures.

Psalm 119:9-16

[Beth] How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:9-16)

How did David study the heart of God? The goal of David’s study was not information, but transformation.

I often struggle in studying the Bible. For me, it’s almost too familiar. I am tempted to skim through it like I would a children’s book that I’ve read to my kids one hundred times. The reality is, there are new things to glean from the Bible each time I open it. Reading it for knowledge is one thing, but asking the Holy Spirit to speak through it—and for me to be still and listen to it—is something entirely different. Our attitude and approach are critical. Oh that we could all be like David, who wrote

[Gimel] Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. (Psalm 119:17-24)

What was the result of David’s pursuit of God? Twice he is called a man after God’s heart. He got it! As he got to know the heart of God, he became more like God. I can tell you three things that are on God’s heart: widows, orphans and strangers.

Many have memorized parts of the Bible, gone to church for decades, pray before every meal, and put a check in the offering, but that doesn’t mean we know the heart of God, much less have the heart of God. When we study Jesus, we discover the heart of God. John wrote

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18)

Jesus, in the incarnation and crucifixion, makes the heart of God known to us.

Scriptures

One of the most beautiful passages about God’s Word is found in the book of Joshua. Moses has just died, the baton has been passed to Joshua, and God gives him leadership instructions including the following:

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)

What is God saying here?
  1. Know it and speak it. Keep it in your mouth.
  2. Meditate on it day and night. Keep it in your mind.
  3. Do what it says. Keep it in your actions and life.

  1. Huddle

  1. For the past year, I’ve been beta-testing a discipleship tool called a Huddle with several men, including our elders. At the heart of the gathering are two simple questions:

  1. 1. What has God been saying to you?
  1. What are you going to do about it?

  1. It all starts with knowing Him, with reading about Him, with studying Him.

  1. This Week’s Challenge

  1. Which brings us to this week’s challenge. You already know what it is—study Jesus this week...every week! Engage in God’s Word and invite Jesus to be the center of your life.

  1. For some of you, Jesus is too familiar to you. You’ve spent decades with Him and you almost forget He’s with you. This happens often in marriage—we take our spouse for granted since they’re just always there.

  1. Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you in fresh ways. Seek first His Kingdom, not your own desires. Before your feet hit the ground, lie in bed and say, “Jesus, I want to do today with You. You lead and I will follow. You speak and I will listen and obey.” Spend time every day in God’s Word. The Scio Journal on our Facebook page makes this particularly simple as we read one chapter of the New Testament together each day and then interact. I love what Wayne Cordeiro says, that being in God’s Word each day is like receiving fresh bread. Do you like fresh bread? Jesus is the bread of life and as we sit at His feet, follow His example, and participate in His mission to seek and save the lost and care for the widow, orphan and stranger we will know Him more daily.

  1. Most of you have no problem eating food each day. Make sure there is spiritual food in your daily diet, too. Jesus wants to know you and be known by you. Study Jesus.

  1. Your Word

  1. [Nun] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

  1. Credits: some materials borrowed from Charles Kiser (Storylinecommunity.com)

  1. You can listen to the podcast here.

The Radical Experiment, 6 November 2011

Big Idea: the conclusion of our Radical series offers five next-steps for knowing Jesus more deeply.

Opening Video

We are concluding our series
Radical based somewhat on the book of the same name by David Platt.

  • Last week I issued two cautions. One was that we would not take Jesus’ hard teaching seriously, rationalizing them away. The other is that we turn them into a legalistic to-do list that will get us to heaven or make God love us more.

  • Nothing you can do can make God love you more. Nothing you can do can make God love you less.

  • What I’m about to share with you has an additional caution—apathy. Jesus’ brother said simply...

  • Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22

  • It’s easy to hear challenging teachings and nod our head or even compliment the preacher at the end, but what matters is not merely what we know but how we respond. Jesus was not merely a good teacher, He came to be LORD. Action is a natural response to love.

  • We have celebrated communion together, remembering all that Jesus has done for us. Anything that we do in obedience to Him is nothing more than a response, a privilege! The amazing thing is that when we obey Jesus, we are blessed. We experience what it means to be fully human. We encounter a depth in our relationship with our Creator that we can discover no other way. We are filled with joy and peace and satisfaction found nowhere else.

  • Today I want to invite you to The Radical Experiment. There are five parts to the Radical Experiment and they are just that, an experiment. These are five things that I believe will draw you closer to Jesus. They reflect His heart, His passion, and His commands. These five things are not magic, but I believe they can change your life, our church, and ultimately our world.

  • Pray for the entire world

  • This week the 7 billionth person entered our world. Billions have never even heard of Jesus. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, Jesus said in Luke 10:2. “Ask the LORD of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.”


  • Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. (Philippians 4:6-7)

  • OperationWorld.org will be our main tool for praying for the entire world. They have a book, a website, and other resources where you can learn about a different nation each day and pray for them.

  • We want God to bless America, but also all of the nations of the world. John 3:16 says that God so loved the...world! The first step in being a blessing to the nations is to pray for them.

  • Read through the entire Word

  • This relates to another value of the Christian & Missionary Alliance:

  • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. (Joshua 1:8)

  • We can’t know it if we haven’t read it. Spiritual warfare is real. We need to know the Truth of God’s Word. The purpose, again, is not to perform a task but to know our Father.

  • Steve Jobs asked Walter Isaacson to write a biography of his life so that his children could know their dad. That makes me so sad, yet it would be even more tragic if his kids had no interest in reading it!

  • Our Father has given us not only information about Himself, but also wisdom for living, exciting stories, history, poetry, prophecy, and so much more. I want to challenge you to read through the Bible in 2012.

  • You may be saying, “2012? It’s not even December 2011!” You can use the next several weeks to practice or get a head start. We have a tool for this, too.


This plan takes the material of the Bible and organizes it to flow in chronological order. Since exact dating of some materials or events is not possible, the chronology simply represents an attempt to give you the reader the general flow and development of the Bible's grand story. Some passages are placed according to topic (e.g., John 1:1–3 in Week 1, Day 2; and many of the psalms). There are six readings for each week to give you space for catching up when needed.

In addition to the website and book, free apps are available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch and it is fully compatible with the
YouVersion website and apps. You can listen to the audio, read the book, visit online, or view the app. However you do it, we want to read through the entire Bible...together.

Imagine what it would be like if you told a friend about what you read that morning and they said, “Hey, I read that, too!” As a church family, we will all be able to read the same chapters each day and grow together. We’ll even build some of our Sunday morning texts from the reading plan.

In addition to the verses, ReadTheBibleForLife.com offers podcasts and videos with Michael Card and others that will help you read, understand, and apply God’s Word.

Sacrifice our money for a specific purpose

Everything that we have belongs to God—not 10%, not 50%, but 100%. As we have noted, every person in this room is financially rich compared to the other 7 billion people on the planet. What would happen if we committed to free up resources for urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world? Do you think God would honor our generosity if we take what is from Him and sacrificially use it for His purposes?

Instead of asking how much we can spare, what if we asked, “What will it take?”

The needs of our world are so overwhelming. Bob Pierce, the former president of World Vision said,

"Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything."

Each of us can do
something, whether it is to skip a meal, cancel cable, increase the percentage of our giving, sponsor a child with Compassion International, or even make a micro-finance loan through Kiva.org.

It has been said that Christians spend more money on dog food than missions! Seriously?

Everything we have belongs to God; we are His stewards. (1 Chronicles 29:14)

The world is not our home. Let’s stop living like it is.

Give our time in another context

I challenge you—and myself—to spend 2% of your time—or one week—in another context. This could be a missions trip to Africa or a week next summer in Detroit. We’ll be presenting opportunities in the coming days for youth, individuals, and families or you can create your own.

Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. (Luke 19:10)

Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple. (Matthew 28:19)

That means you!

Commit our lives to a multiplying community

Be a committed member of a local church, here or elsewhere.

Following Jesus is a team sport. We need each other. God created us to be interdependent. Just as the Father, Son and Spirit exist in community so we are to, also.

In 2012 we are going to pray for the world together, read the Word together, give together, and serve together.

The point is not to follow Christ but to follow Him together.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
    - Acts 2:42-47

    Do you see it?

    They were radically committed to the Word of God and the apostle’s teaching.
    • They were radically committed to fellowship together, in public and in homes.
    • They were radically committed to prayer, experiencing miracles.
    • They were radically generous, giving to anyone as he had need.
    • They were radically committed to one another, meeting together daily.

    • This was not a perfect church, but it was a radical one. I cannot imagine a more compelling vision for Scio—a group of normal but radical people, passionately committed to loving Jesus, one another, and their neighbors.

    • It doesn’t just happen, though. We can’t wish it into reality. It requires total surrender, but it’s worth it.

    • You might ask why we’re talking about 2012 in November of 2011. As I said with the Bible reading, this will give you some time to experiment. I urge you to prayerfully consider the challenge, especially as we head into the crazy holidays.

    • Finally, let me say once more that we must avoid legalism, thinking we need to follow man-made rules or even God-given commands in order to earn salvation or approval before God. Nothing you can do can make God love your more/less. God’s favor in your life is not based on your performance but on Jesus Christ and what He did for you. That’s what we celebrated earlier with communion. That’s also why do serve Him. We love and serve Him because He first loved and served us. This is our response.

    Concluding Video

    • You can listen to the podcast here.

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