Our Story Week 14

Our Story blog

Disciples are known for giving up something they personally value for something of God they value more. That was certainly the case for Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Though they had been miraculously freed from their prison cell, they chose not to escape. They voluntarily relinquished their freedom for something they valued more. Though they were Roman citizens guaranteed due process, they deliberately withheld that information and took a beating (and subsequent imprisonment). They relinquished their comfort and rights for something they valued more. What was it that they valued more than their personal comfort and individual liberty? Being obedient to Jesus by being his witnesses. They sacrificed greatly for the privilege of sharing the good news with someone who desperately need to hear it; the very same person who was holding them captive. That Philippian jailer would go on to believe in Jesus and he and his entire house would be baptized!

Wealthy businessman and renowned athlete turned missionary C.T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” Paul and Silas would echo that. C.T. Studd is also known for this quote which really describes his heart, “Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell.” It’s no surprise that C.T. Studd died on the African mission field known for his sacrifice. Disciples are known for giving up something they personally value for something of God they value more. What are you known for?

If you missed this message out of Acts 16 from Our Story, you can watch it here or at cedarridgecc.com.

Easter Sunday

What ignited the early church was not the miracles of Jesus, or the teachings of Jesus, or even the righteousness of Jesus. It was his resurrection. They were fueled by what they had witnessed – a resurrected Lord. And so that became the central message of the early church. Peter spoke it to a crowd at Pentecost, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32). And it’s that very message that distinguishes the church from every other religious movement in the world. Like every other spiritual leader, Jesus died and was buried. But unlike the others, Jesus was not contained to the grave. He conquered death as a confirmation that he is the Son of God and that he is able to forgive the sins of those who believe in him.

So, what do you believe about the resurrection of Jesus? With the factual information we have, believing in the resurrection is not an extraordinary leap. The more difficult question is – has the resurrection moved you to action? The bible tells us that even the demons believe. In other words, intellectual assent is not enough. Movement is required. It’s not enough to hear the story of the resurrection and give it a polite golf clap. Sincere belief in the resurrection necessitates action.

Don’t let this Easter pass by as just another excuse for a family dinner and a new outfit. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, make sure the resurrection has propelled you into taking action.

Don’t know where to start? It’s not too late to come work right alongside of us at Sunset Bible Camp this Saturday. Call the church office for details. Let the resurrection move you!

If you missed the message from Easter, you can watch it here or at cedarridgecc.com.

Our Story Week 12

Our Story blog

We focused on one simple message from Our Story last weekend: Don’t doing anything in the church that makes it unnecessarily difficult for people who are turning to God. It’s just as important today as it was for the 1st century church when James made this statement, “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). And unfortunately, it can be just as hard.

Is it possible that there are things you personally do that could make it hard for someone to turn to God? That’s a great filter to install for the words I use in conversation, the things I post online, and the attitudes I demonstrate with those around me. As disciples of Jesus, we can’t afford to make it hard for people to find God or come to church.

If you missed the message from last week, you can watch it in its entirety here or at cedarridgecc.com.

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:

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