Archive for the 'church' Category

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?

Deliberate Simplicity

As a part of our on-going staff development, we’re usually reading a current title and discussing at our Monday morning staff meeting. We just finished reading the book, Deliberate Simplicity by Dave Browning. Browning is the founding pastor of the non-denominational, multi-site Christ the King Community Church.

Two thoughts our staff agreed were particularly applicable for Cedar Ridge:
1. We need to be more missional – that is intentional about outreach. Browning talks about an “arrows out” church. He asks the question, “is church a place you go to, or is church a place you go from?”

2. We also need to be cautious about creating so much programming that we unconsciously complicate discipleship. The sub-title of Browning’s book is How the Church Does More by Doing Less. He encourages churches to “uplug the extraneous” and become more intentional.

A couple of other thoughts I found interesting:
“The gap holding back most believers is not the gap between what they know and what they don’t know. It’s the gap between what they know and what they’re living…They are educated beyond their obedience.” Isn’t that the truth? Churches can be guility of operating with the idea that if we just impart more Bible knowledge, then we’ll have more mature Christ-followers. I wish it were that easy.

Browning also cites a survey taken in San Francisco that asked the question, “What do Christians do?” They received two primary answers: “They go to a lot of meetings” and “They are against things.” Ouch! If that’s the message the culture around us is hearing from us, we’re doing something wrong.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Andrea and I spent the weekend at a soccer tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas with our daughter, Kimber. Not bad weather for end-of-January-first-of-February weekend. It did remind me of the “You Might Be a Soccer Parent if…” lines. Here are a few of my favorites. You might be a soccer parent if…
-All of your vacation time is taken up by soccer events.
-Your child’s “good shoes” are his newest soccer cleats.
-You have a strict rule about “no removing shin guards inside of the car.
-You look forward to Monday so that you can go back to work and relax.
-You own a 2-year-old SUV with 182,000 original miles.
-When someone asks you how old your child is, you respond, “She’s a 93.”

The tournament did give us a chance to get away and spend some time with our kids (our son, Kyler went too). We also got a chance to visit a cool church between games on Sunday, called The Summit Church. If you’re ever in Little Rock on a Sunday, I recommend it.

Leadership Community

We had our first Leadership Community today where we gathered all the leaders from our major ministries. Our goal was to celebrate and encourage a culture of leadership while at the same time giving us a venue to dialogue with our front-line leaders concerning vision and major church initiatives.

After a goofy “American Idol” spoof skit by our staff, we introduced our newest leaders. I then shared our vision and plans for our Sapulpa campus. We also allowed time for our ministry teams to gather and do specific training for their respective areas. I concluded my thoughts this way:

This is not just about starting a new campus, it’s about Cedar Ridge becoming a reproducing church. God willing and with his direction, we’ll reproduce another campus. Our expectation is that our Sapulpa campus will reproduce another campus. What that means for all of us, as key leaders at Cedar Ridge, is that we all have to reproduce. If we’re going to be a church that reproduces, it means we’re going to have to reproduce our leaders.

We had a great response to this first Leadership Community gathering. If you missed it, our plans are to do it on a quarterly basis. Thanks staff, for all your hard work. And a big “thanks” to Kyle for a great “Gloria Gaynor” impression.

Sunday Night…at Last

Had another great Sunday, but a long one! I continued with the second sermon in a series called “TXT”. My objective is simply to get people to read their Bibles. And the response has been encouraging. Had lots of people sign up to receive the daily Bible reading text. If you’re interested in getting that from me, just text “follow cedarridge” to 40404 and follow the instructions.

We had our first Sapulpa campus Launch Team meeting this afternoon. Over 30 people attended as Bryan King shared the vision and plans for this work. After lots of questions and discussion, we closed with groups praying for our Sapulpa campus. Our next launch team meeting is February 8th.

Tonight, Andrea and I hosted a gathering a of new church members at our house. It was fun to get better acquainted with our new family. Otherwise we get little more than a brief greeting on Sunday morning. Of course this gathering included food – dessert to be exact. It’s amazing to me how God connects us from different seasons and walks of life – one of the beauties of the church. It’s also amazing to see God continue to grow his church.

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