Archive for the 'Cedar Ridge' Category

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 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 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.

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:

Plastic Donuts Launches

Sunday we began our latest series, Plastic Donuts. In case you’re still wondering, it’s about “giving that delights the heart of the Father.” I won’t give away the connection to plastic donuts, here. You’ll have to read the book or view the sermon online.

In week one, we were reminded that not all gifts are equal. One of the first stories in the bible after creation is about two brothers, Cain and Abel. They offered gifts to God. One brother’s gift was acceptable. The other’s was not. Not all gifts are the same.

The obvious question then is – how do I give an acceptable gift? Or, how do I give that delights the heart of God? In response to that question, we learned this giving truth: The amount matters. It really does. The amount matters to your mortgage company. It matters to you on your paycheck. And when it comes to giving, amounts matter. Now, amounts that matter aren’t necessarily huge amounts. It just means they’ve been considered thoroughly. If the amount matters to us, the amount matters to God.

The truth is, God looks at our giving in a personal way. When you give to the church, or the poor, or to some mission, you’re not just making a financial exchange. God receives it as a personal gift. That’s amazing! And when we give an amount that matters to us, the Father takes pleasure in our gift and it somehow connects the giver to him. And that’s really what our giving is about, connecting to the Father. He doesn’t need your money. He wants you!

If you missed message one of Plastic Donuts, you can view it here. If you haven’t picked up your family’s copy of the book, Plastic Donuts, make sure you grab one this weekend.

Toxic Relationships

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Your closest relationships determine the direction and quality of your life. Deep down you know it’s true but somehow we resist and are blinded to this truth. But the Bible speaks of it often.
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26).
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

We are warned again and again of the personal dangers that come from toxic relationships. It is much more likely for toxic people to influence you than the other way around. Which is why toxic relationships require us to set some healthy boundaries. All healthy relationships have boundaries. But because toxic people resist appropriate boundaries, sometimes toxic relationships have to be cut off. While it may seem unloving or unchristian, what it means is that right now you can’t deal with the negative influence that person is having in your life. If you have family or “true friends” that are warning you of the toxic influence someone is having on your life, and pleading with you to end a relationship, while these should be extreme situations, it would be wise to listen to their counsel. Your closest relationships determine the direction and quality of your life. 

We finish our Radioactive series this weekend with Toxic Behavior. Is it possible there is a an action or habit that is moving your life in a direction you don’t want to go? Often we’re unaware of the power of our actions. See you Sunday and if you missed last weekend’s message or want to share it with someone you know, you can view it here.

Homestretch Update

We shared this video conversation at our services this past Sunday as an update to the Homestretch phase of our Radical Faith campaign.

Don’t Let Emotions Rule Your Life

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We’re in the middle of a series called Radioactive talking about the toxics that quietly contaminate and pollute our lives. Toxic emotions are what we discussed on Sunday and they may be one of the more powerful influences affecting us. The Bible reminds us that “the heart is deceitful” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our emotions easily manipulate us. They’re not trustworthy. And so the truth we learned is this: You can’t always control toxic emotions, but they don’t have to control you. The good news is that you don’t have to let toxic emotions rule your life.

What I love about the Bible is that it does not make its heroes look good. David wrote a majority of the Psalms and contained in many of those pieces are the expression of his toxic emotions. Fear, sadness, guilt, insecurity, loneliness, despair. David wrote honestly about his life. I have found reading through the Psalms provides a peace, if nothing else, from knowing “a man after God’s own heart” has felt as I have.

But if you’ll notice, often those Psalms show God’s transformation of those toxic emotions. David’s sorrow is turned to joy. His despair to optimism. His fear to confidence. HIs hopelessness to hopefulness. God did something in David’s heart that only the creator could do. But it came at David’s invitation. “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51).

Is there a destructive emotion you need to bring into the light and release to God and let him change it into something good? Decide to quit feeding it and finally release it. Sure, it’s hard to do. But what’s even harder is you spending a months, years or even decades wasting your life in fear, resentment or bitterness. You can’t always control toxic emotions, but they don’t have to control you.

if you missed last weekend’s message, you can view it here:

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