Our Story Week 11

Our Story blog

You can’t accept the message of Jesus without accepting the mission of Jesus! That was the point of last weekend’s message from Acts 13-14. Sent out by the church in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas took the first mission trip recorded in Our Story (the New Testament book of Acts). And talk about commitment to the mission. Nearly stoned to death. Run out of town. Not only did they keep sharing the gospel. They went back to the very towns where they were most unwelcome.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to a faraway place to make disciples. It simply means you are on the mission to make disciples wherever you go. That’s what Jesus expects of every one of his disciples, to be a disciple-maker. Our excuse is often that we don’t know enough or aren’t mature enough. But could it be that it’s in the very process of doing what Jesus told us to do (make disciples), that we ourselves become better, stronger disciples? Are you a missionary or an imposter?

If you missed this message from last week, you can watch it at here:

Our Story Week 10

Our Story blog

The church is an unstoppable force. It can’t be thwarted by the opposition. It can’t be bungled by its members. Though it has been threatened, persecuted and maligned, it has thrived for over 2,000 years. The story in Acts 12 reminds us that the death of a apostolic leader can’t stop the church. The imprisonment of its primary spokesman can’t stop the church. Not even the strategic opposition of an evil ruler can stop the church. The church is an unstoppable force. It should come as no surprise to us. Jesus told his disciples, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

While that may not be anything new to you, maybe what we needed to be reminded of from Our Story is that the church is an unstoppable force, even when it doesn’t feel like it. As Acts 12 opened, James was dead, Peter was in prison, and Herod was gaining popularity. By the end of the chapter, Herod was dead, Peter was free, and the church was gaining in power. Things are not always as they appear to be. Many times throughout history, the future of the church looked bleak; bibles burned, church buildings ransacked, Christians tortured and killed. Unfortunately, many of those same things are happening right now in places around the world. But the truth is, no matter what opposition is thrown in its path, when the church of Jesus Christ is what it’s intended to be, it is an unstoppable force.

I’m glad to be on the winning team!

If you missed this message from last week, you can watch it here or at https://youtu.be/p3cboE4mfs4.

If you’re interested in learning more about present day persecution of the church, check out Open Doors or The Voice of the Martyrs.

The video, “Susan from Uganda” that was shown last Sunday is here or at https://youtu.be/R27pSpWgmBE.

Our Story Week 9

Our Story blog

In chapter10, we have the longest running narrative in the book of Acts. Luke, the author, dedicated a lot of text to this story because it was important to him personally. It is also a pivotal moment in Our Story as the gospel is finally going to reach a non-Jewish audience. In Acts 10, the Holy Spirit opens wide the door of salvation to a previously overlooked crowd. It is the story of the first Gentiles becoming a part of Our Story, the church. While it was nothing new in God’s playbook, those early disciples were just beginning to see God’s inclusion of the Gentiles as the Holy Spirit prompted them to connect with this unreached people group.

This story was personal for the Apostle Peter because he had to overcome barriers that he (and others) had created between himself and “those people.” Gentiles ate the wrong food, were uncircumcised and unclean. What’s a good Jewish boy to do? The Lord told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” In other words, quit excluding things (and more importantly, people) that God has created.

So we posed three questions to help make some personal application from this story:
1. What artificial religious markers have you established? Filters that you have used to judge people? Like…Do they dress appropriately? Do they go to church (at the frequency I deem appropriate)? Do they have a tattoo? Do they pray before meals?
2. Who have you written off? Which people don’t even seem to be on your radar? The happy-hour party crowd, the sexually broken, the Muslim community, parents with kids in DHS custody, an unreached people group in a place you’ve never heard of.
3. What would it take for God to move you? What would need to happen for you to cross that boundary and love those people? A Peter-like revelation from God, a visit from an angel, persecution because of your faith?

God does not show favoritism. And neither should we. Our Story is about people developing a heart like God’s. And loving people like God. And partnering with God to make sure as many as possible are included in his forever family. If you’re a believer, don’t miss the big picture. Don’t get caught up in trivial pursuits and miss the big news – God loves the world!

If you missed this message from last week, you can watch it here:

Our Story Week 8

Our Story blog

It’s hard to believe we’re eight weeks into Our Story. We left off last Sunday in Acts 9 with an unexpected twist in the plot. Saul, chief persecutor and public enemy number one of the church has a personal encounter with Jesus. This divine appointment left his life transformed and his future reshaped. He went from church-hater to church leader, from murderer to messenger, from just Saul to the Apostle Paul.

There’s only one explanation for that kind of happening – the grace of God. In fact, you could describe grace as an unexpected twist in the plot. Grace, by definition, is undeserved. It’s unfair. It’s unreasonable. And it’s the one thing the church has to offer that can’t be found anywhere else. We are saved by grace. We are forgiven because of grace. We are loved by God because of grace. You can’t do enough good to earn it. And you can’t have done enough bad to be exempt from it. It is truly good news and it’s the message of the church. It’s what we have to offer. It’s our story!

But it doesn’t end there. God uses people to grace people. God takes people who have experienced his amazing grace and he intersects their lives with those who desperately need grace. Without Ananias being obedient to God and courageously meeting with Saul; without Barnabas risking his reputation to introduce Saul to the Apostles in Jerusalem, the story might not have had the same outcome. Think of it this way – how many Pauls have been lost because there was no Ananias? Or because there was no Barnabas?

Who in your life is in need of some grace right now? Who needs a second chance? Who needs someone to believe in them. Maybe God wants to use you this week to grace someone. You might be the only place they can find it.

If you haven’t watched week 8 of Our Story, make sure you catch it right here before this Sunday.

Our Story blog

What the church is and what we think it ought to be may be very different things. As we learned at the first mention of the word translated “church” in the book of Acts (5:11), it simply meant “gathering.” It had no religious implications to it. There was no geographical or institutional baggage that went along with it. Church was simply a gathering of people who shared a common identity and purpose. In this case they were all followers of Jesus who were doing what he told them to do – be his witnesses.

Chapters five and six of Acts provide even greater detail on this mysterious movement. Being the church can be demanding. In fact, it was downright dangerous for some. The Apostles were threatened and flogged by the Jewish establishment. And it won’t be long that persecution becomes the norm for this gathering of Christ-followers. So why is it that we would expect “being the church” to not be demanding. Why would we expect it to be easy, comfortable and the path of least resistance. That’s not the example we have in scripture. If there is not some difficult, demanding times, maybe we’re not being the church.

If the demanding detail isn’t difficult enough, try this one on. Being the church can be messy. Yes, even in the early church, there were relational conflicts, excluded parties and awkward conversations (Acts 6:1-7). Being the church is going to be messy if we’re getting close to one another and if we’re reaching out to people far from God. We have to quit expecting it be neat and orderly. We have to quit trying to fit it into a chart. The church is a gathering. It’s a movement. It’s a living organism, not an organization. If it’s not at times messy and uncomfortable for us, maybe we’re not being the church.

As we’ve seen often in Our Story, the church continues to grow. More and more people come to believe in Jesus because the followers of Jesus are deliberate about being his witnesses. The church can be demanding and messy, but it is God’s means of winning his creation back to himself. When you partner with him, you’re the hope of the world!

If you didn’t catch week 5 of Our Story, view it here:

Our Story Week 4

Our Story blog

The Holy Spirit empowers the church to do things it could not accomplish on its own.
Like being unified. That’s just not something that is natural, even for good, willing people. Yet Luke tells us that the early believers were “one in heart and mind.”
Like being generous. Again not something we tend to do on our own. But this first century church, “shared everything they had.”
Like being genuine. It’s easy to make ourselves look better than we really are. That was the issue with Ananias and Sapphira. They were hypocrites. Yet evidently, there were plenty of Christians in Acts who genuinely lived out there faith. Barnabas in Acts 4 is just one example.

Just as it would be a mistake to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit (Ananias and Sapphira again), It would be a mistake to underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit. Week four of Our Story is not about us all deciding to become more unified, more generous and more genuine. It’s about allowing the Holy Spirit to do that work in our lives. In fact, the point is that we cannot do it on our own. It’s the Holy Spirit that empowers the church to do what it cannot accomplish on its own.

If you missed week 4 of Our Story, you can view it here:

Our Story – Week 3

Our Story blog

The third story in Our Story is pretty amazing. Peter and John miraculously heal a lame man, in the name of Jesus, and what a door of opportunity it opens. I think it’s important to note that Peter and John were just going about their business. This was not church work they were doing. This was life they were living and in the process the Holy Spirit creates a divine intersection that ultimately resulted in rapid growth for the early church.

Peter and John speak to the onlookers and the ensuing group of religious officials and tell them about their resurrected Lord. I love Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” In fact, next verse tells us they were speechless. The Holy Spirit empowered these disciples of Jesus to speak boldly, even when instructed otherwise (Acts 4:18).

The end of the story gets even better. After their encounter with the “religious police,” Peter and John meet up with the other believers and they pray. They don’t pray for safety and protection like you might expect (and like we might pray). They prayed for more boldness. In the midst of threat and persecution, they ask God to enable them to speak with greater boldness. And then they prayed that God would do some more stuff that would draw the attention of unbelieving people in their direction so they could point them the one way (and probably get into more trouble). They asked God to do something powerful through them, not for them. They prayed for healing, but it wasn’t for their own healing. They were totally focused on those who were not yet a part of the story.

Then God seemingly gave an amen to their prayer with a minor earthquake and the Holy Spirit granted them even more boldness. What a story! And it’s a story that is still being written. It’s our story. And the Holy Spirit still has a leading role and still works in powerful ways when his followers listen to him and are open to his leading. Is there anything that is keeping you from letting the Holy Spirit speak to you and empower you with boldness?

The message from Our Story week 3 along with Terri’s story of how the Holy Spirit created a divine intersection and gave her the boldness she needed can be viewed here:

Our Story – Week 2

Our Story blog

Sunday was “All In” Sunday and it was a great day across our campuses! Nine people were baptized. 21 people joined the church. Others connected with a small group or volunteered to contribute in an area of ministry. Thank you to all those who went “all in” with us. And thank you to those who are already “all in.”

It was also week two in Our Story. We studied the second chapter of Acts which covers the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit shows up in a big way! Followers who were hiding in fear for their lives are now bold public witnesses. Disciples are miraculously speaking in languages they’ve never studied. Peter, the fisherman is transformed into Peter, the evangelist. Not to mention the huge response at the end of Peter’s sermon when 3,000 people repent and are baptized.

While those were extraordinary happenings, what’s even more noteworthy to Luke, the author, is that when the Holy Spirit shows up, the church leaves the building. Quite literally, they went from inside to outside when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. But something even more dramatic takes places within the hearts of these early Christ-followers; they start becoming outward focused.

Maybe it was the inclusive language of the prophecy from Joel, Peter referenced in his sermon. Maybe it was the representation of Jews “from every nation” that make up that Pentecost audience. Or maybe the Holy Spirit was stirring-up compassionate, evangelistic hearts to mobilize the early church. Whatever it was, we know that just one story into the Holy Spirit’s role in Our Story, his purpose wasn’t to simply fill-up the believers so they could feel warm and fuzzy about their faith. His purpose was to enable them to advance the gospel. And we’re off to a great start when you come to the end of Acts 2.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, because the Holy spirit is in you, it’s in your DNA to make disciples. It’s in your DNA to be outwardly focused. You don’t have to convert people or change their hearts. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. You just have to leave the church building and speak into the lives of people who aren’t yet a part of the story.

The message from Our Story week 2 is available below or here. Included in the video is Ashley’s moving story of how Cedar Ridge people made themselves available and the Holy Spirit showed up in her life in a big way.

Our Story – Week 1

Our Story blog

We started a brand new series this past weekend called, Our Story. It’s the story of us, followers of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of the church as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. In this series, we’ll investigate the story of the early church, one story at a time. And it’s a pretty amazing story!

This past Sunday we covered Acts chapter one, which serves as an introduction and outline for the rest of the book. Jesus promised that his disciples would be filled with the Holy Spirit and would empower them to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). So here is my take from the opening story:
Jesus followers doing what he told them to PLUS the Holy Spirit showing up EQUALS Our Story.

Throughout the rest of the book of Acts there is this single-minded vision of sharing the story with people who were lost and had not yet heard it. Granted, the Holy Spirit had to occasionally kick the church in the pants with some persecution. Still yet there is this Holy Spirit outward focus on the part of those early Christians that cannot be missed.

If you missed Sunday’s message you can view it below. If you don’t listen to me, you owe it to yourself to here Jason and Kari Featherngill’s story included in the video.

Remember to follow along in your bible with the Our Story reading guide. I hope you had a chance to read Acts chapter one this week on your own. To get more out of your bible reading, ask two simple questions when you’re done: What is the Holy Spirit trying to say to me? What am I going to do in response to what I have read?

What’s your Giveability?

We give according to our abilities. That was the giving truth we unveiled in part three of our Plastic Donut series. God’s model for funding his church and solving the world’s inequities is his people to voluntarily give according to their abilities. In the Old Testament, that’s how the temple was built…and rebuilt. In the New Testament, it’s how the early church provided for other’s needs.

God expects you to give based on your abilities. In 2 Corinthians 8:12, the Apostle Paul told Christians, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” So God does not ask you to give based on what you do not have, but based on what you do have. That ought to release the guilt from many who wish they could give more, but just don’t have it. Give according to your ability. On the other hand, it ought to challenge others where giving has been stagnant for sometime or even minimal. Give an acceptable gift. Give according to your ability.

In the book, Plastic Donuts, four different giving abilities are mentioned: Profit ability, possession ability, paid-for ability and faith ability. Which of those abilities have you maybe not considered in your giving? Are you giving according to your ability?

If you missed message three of Plastic Donuts, you can view it here:

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