Archive for the 'Christianity' Category

Outliers Conlusion

Outliers

We concluded our Outliers series from the book of 1 Peter last Sunday. We’ve been answering the question: How do followers of Jesus respond to a culture where we are increasing becoming the minority? In week four we talked about the challenge of being prepared and prayerful.

Over and over again, Peter warns his readers to be prepared for the hostility that will come. “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too” (1 Peter 4:1 NLT). Unfortunately, there have been many people who have ascribed to another gospel than the one the bible speaks of where Christians actually struggle. It’s been termed Moral Therapeutic Deism. It’s defined as worshiping a creator god who blesses people who are good, nice and fair and helps believers be happy and feel good about oneself. Nothing about suffering or pain. God’s purpose is only to be here for your convenience and to make life better.

Not only does Peter refute that. He adds that there is blessing when we’re insulted (1 Peter 4:14). We should be glad when we suffer because it partners us with Christ (1 Peter 4:13). Why would we expect anything else?

You can look around at the increasingly hostile culture around us and cry “foul” and bemoan the church is losing ground. Or like Ed Stetzer, you can see, “the church isn’t dying off. It is just being more clearly defined.” And that’s not a bad thing.

If you missed week 4 or any of the messages from our Outliers series, you can view below or at cedarridgecc.com.

Our Story Final

Our Story blog

We concluded our series on the book of Acts we called, Our Story, this past Sunday by attempting to fill in some of the gap between Acts chapter 28 and the church today. With almost two thousand years separating us, it can seem like a huge disconnect. But rest assured there have been faithful followers who have been passing on the torch of faith. We told stories of some of those “in-between” people on Sunday and had it not been for them, we might not be believers today. If you could somehow trace your spiritual lineage, it’s possible that one of the people we talked about would show up in your spiritual family tree.

Of course, the name itself, Our Story, requires some ownership. You’re a part of the church of Jesus Christ because of a line of people who have continued to share the gospel with others. Will you show up in the spiritual lineage of followers to come. Or does the story stop with you?

If you missed last weekend’s message from Our Story, you can watch it here.

Things We Say to Excuse

cliche Christian

We just finished our Cliche Christian series and Sunday we talked about how cliches are often used by us Christians as an excuse. We use them to make us sound better. We use them to appear more spiritual than we are. We use them because they’re easier. We use them as shortcuts. We use them so as not to be uncomfortable.

Sometimes we use cliches to excuse our sinning. “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” While a true statement, it does not give us license to live as we want.

Sometimes we use cliches as an excuse for not doing. “I don’t feel called” or “that’s not my gift” can be just smokescreen for “I don’t want to help.” Serving and being useful are fundamental tenants of discipleship. Jesus has strong words for those who refuse to do the right thing and make themselves appear righteous doing it.

Sometimes we use cliches as an excuse for not thinking. It’s just easier to default to what “my church believes” or what “my Pastor says.” It’s easier to conclude “the bible settles it” than engage in a conversation about what the bible says. It’s easier to forward the email “proving the Bible once and for all” than it is to investigate the claims contained in it. Those situations just make Christians look foolish. They make us appear uneducated, uninformed and unprepared. When in fact the Bible calls us to just the opposite. It encourages believers to test all things, to weigh what we hear, to study, and always be prepared to give an answer. Don’t just accept everything you hear or read uncritically. Don’t outsource your faith!

Let’s not be content to be cliche Christians. That may be culturally acceptable. It may be majority approved. But God is looking to take you deeper than that. He wants an authentic relationship and authentic conversations with you. He desires a sincere faith within you. And sometimes he may just want you to be uncomfortable. Not resorting to overuse phrases and hollow platitudes, but completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to work in and through you.

You can last week’s message or any of our Cliche Christian sermon series here:

The Greatest Sermon Ever #2

I taught today from a section of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:17-48. In it Jesus shows that the Old Testament law points to something deeper and relational. Jesus teaches that the choice not to sin reflects our devotion to God and our consideration for others, not just to following a set of rules.

Jesus gave six illustrations that all begin with a similar line, “you have heard it said…” Jesus follows it up with, “…but I say to you…” Using issues like murder, adultery, and divorce, Jesus shifted the focus of attention from the behavior that the Law dealt with, to the intent and motive behind the behavior. In other words, he doesn’t just want to change your behavior, he wants to change the values and motives from which your behavior results. Jesus is not saying he wants more righteousness, he’s saying he wants a deeper righteousness. He doesn’t want you to get your act together. He wants to get your heart together, with his help. God has always been more conerned about the heart. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Global Market Meltdown!

The stock market records historic losses! Banking industry giants are dropping like flies! No more questions about whether we’re in a recession. The question is how deep will it go. There’s not much good financial news lately. And unfortunately we’re just going to see more desperation by individuals affected by this bleak economic climate.

I’m so glad that Solomon reminded believers of this true reality in desperate times. “Disaster strikes like a cyclone, whirling the wicked away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (Proverbs 10:25 NLT).

My future is not dependent on the Dow Jones (although my retirement fund may be). My trust is not in the banking industry or the Federal Reserve. In fact, my hope isn’t in government to legislatively fix the situation or our capitalist system to eventually correct itself. My confidence is in the Lord who will see us through whatever lies ahead.

Psalm 50

This morning in my devotion time, I was reading from Psalm 50. I was struck by the simplicity of what God wants from us:

…for all the world is mine and everything in it. I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice. I don’t need the blood of goats. What I want instead is your true thanks to God (Psalm 50:12b-14a NLT).

God’s doesn’t want your church attendance, because your presence is already his. God doesn’t desire your time, because your days are already his. God doesn’t crave you talent or ability – it’s his on loan to you. God doesn’t need your money, it’s his (though you may not know it yet). God’s not after your outward expressions of religious duty. What God really is after is your heart. The one thing in this world that he doesn’t own and the one thing in this world he can’t control is your affection for him. That what he desires. And if you give him your affection, everything else follows. When you give him your heart, you can’t help but want to give him the rest.

Hollywood Hypocrites (not a political statement)

Okay, I’m going to say since nobody else is (and I’m still in a cynical mood).

With all the “Hollywood Hypocrites” that have been revealed as of late, I am announcing to everyone that I will no longer be going to the movies. I will not darken the doors of a movie theater. I will not rent DVDs from Blockbuster (I think my wife still has a late charge on our card anyway). I will not watch movies on pay-per-view. I will not watch them on regular television. Most of all, I will not be attending next year’s Oscar Awards Ceremony (didn’t see any of those movies anyway). I am absolutely appalled that actors and producers preach one thing, but live by a different standard. Don’t ask me to give a dime or any of my time to that industry. They all are a bunch of hypocrites! Every one of them!

Okay, maybe that reaction would be a little extreme (that is, unless you’re talking about all the hypocrites who go to church).

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

Oh, no! My faith is shaken again! What if they really have discovered the remains of Jesus and all of Christianity is discredited? That’s the lastest claim by James Cameron with “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” to air soon on the Discovery Channel. After all, they have DNA proof (Maybe Judge Seidlin can handle this after Anna Nicole Smith).

I’m thinking – come on! Get off of the “anti-traditional-Christian-faith sensationalism. The only real thing unearthed here is someone’s plan of taking in a load of money with this production. Unfortunately, the casualties will be some very gullible people who will get taken in and confused by this latest “amazing discovery.”

Do Christians need to worry? Isn’t it interesting that in thousands of years of archaeology, there has not been one piece of evidence that disproves or discredits the Christian faith. On the contrary, there have been countless discoveries that have confirmed biblical record. Once again, with this “Lost Tomb…” stuff, the evidence will speak for itself. And Christianity will stand up to the test…and to the questions. The way I see it, this is just another opportuntity to start conversations about Jesus.

Here’s some interesting blog coverage.

Sunday’s sermon

Here are some thought from Sunday’s sermon. Post a comment if something really helped you or if there’s any area that you really struggle with or if you have any questions.

Jesus told them this story: The business of a certain successful man did very well. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I can’t possibly spend all the money I’m making at my current standard of living.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I’ll sell my old house and I’ll build one with more square footage and additional amenities. I’ll trade in my fully-functional automobile and I’ll buy one that is higher-end and a later model. I’ll increase my retirement portfolio with IRAs and mutual fund investments. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Retire early. Engage in hobbies and leisure activities. Enjoy the good things of life.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get have you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up earthly wealth for himself but is not generous toward God. (My paraphrase of Luke 12:16-21)

Jesus condemned the rich fool not because he was rich, but because he wasn’t generous toward God.

Giving is like anything else you deem important in life. If you don’t plan it, it won’t happen. Here the plan for giving I shared on Sunday (comes from Andy Stanley’s book, Fields of Gold).

1. Priority giving. Proverbs 3:9-10
2. Percentage giving. 1 Corinthians 16:2
3. Progressive giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7
4. Prompted giving. Exodus 25:2

A Response to the AIDS Pandemic

I met with our Missions Team last night to talk about a strategy for our church to help in combating the AIDS/HIV pandemic. It’s the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.” Bill Hybels shared at the 2006 Leadership summit, which most of our Elders and Staff attended. “Responding to this crisis is no longer an option for churches.”

The statistics are staggering:
• AIDS has killed almost 30 million people.
• Every day, 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS.
• Every day, 8,000 people die from AIDS.
• Every day, another 11,000 are infected with AIDS.
• By the year 2015, 115 million will have died from AIDS and 35 million will be AIDS orphans.
• Africa has been hit harder by the HIV/AIDS virus than any other region of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to over 70% of the total world HIV-positive population.
• AIDS leads to an early death for people in their most productive years who are needed to raise crops and families, teach school and care for the sick (facts from www.one.org)

So what are we going to do? Right now we’re discussing the possibility of me taking an exploratory trip with some other Senior Ministers to the Ivory Coast to see the ministry that Christian Missionary Fellowship has among those who have been affected by AIDS. We can then consider how Cedar Ridge can partner with CMF in a way that fits our church. There are lots of things churches can do: Orphan care, medical supplies, AIDS clinics, Education and prevention. The truth of the matter is we’re not doing anything right now. And according to Matthew 25, God is going to hold us accountable for how we treated the poor, the vulnerable, and the down and out. Pray about our church finding a significant role in this work.

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