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:

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:

You Choose your Words

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In the continuation of our Radioactive series, last Sunday I taught about Toxic Words. Here is a sobering thought: Your life is moving in the direction of the words you are speaking. Your words matter. Your words are powerful. They are charting the course of your life. And you have complete control over the selection of words you use. “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21 MSG). Your words can be used to bring life. Or they can be used to take life away. You choose.

Understanding that we choose our words, the Apostle Paul instructed us to remove toxic words from our vocabulary. “Do no let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” (Ephesians 4:29). Can you imagine what our world (your family, your workplace) would be like if just the Christians followed that simple teaching? And instead of toxic words, we replaced them with life giving words. Instead of hurtful words, words of healing.

This past week, many of you have been applying this one point, Shut your mouth when tempted to speak toxic words, by stretching then snapping your Radioactive bracelet against your wrist when you feel like saying something toxic. It’s just a gentle, or not so gentle, reminder, to keep that poison to yourself. I love hearing stories about your bracelets. Keep them coming. And if you missed last weekend’s message, you can view it here:

Radioactivity Reported

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Last Sunday we introduced a new series on the dangers of unnoticed contaminates in our life, called Radioactive. Week one was about limiting our exposure to toxic thoughts. We all struggle with them. Your toxic thoughts might be of a negative or critical nature. Maybe you struggle with thoughts of worry or fear. Maybe your thought life is centered too much on the things of this world and the desires of the flesh.

Your thoughts determine who you become. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? The good news is the Bible tells us that with the Holy Spirit’s help we can change the way we think. We’re instructed to take captive destructive thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). And replace those destructive thoughts with spiritual truth (Philippians 4:8-9). The truth is your mind is a battle field. Satan is holding it and your thoughts hostage and the only way to break free of that is to make yourself a prisoner of Christ. Make your thoughts obedient to Christ…not Satan.

So, we tried to have a little fun with that this week. We handed out “Radioactive” bracelets. And I asked you to make a SWITCH whenever you found yourself thinking a destructive thought. SWITCH your bracelet from one wrist to the other to represent the SWITCH taking place in your mind of replacing those destructive thoughts with spiritual truth. I would love to hear your story of how you’ve done that this week. If you didn’t get a bracelet, make sure you pick one up this Sunday. And if you missed last weekend’s message, you can view it here:

His Story – Jesus is Alive

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We had a great Easter with a total of 1270 people attending at our three campuses. I appreciate all the volunteers that facilitated the increase. Thank you for going the extra mile. My thanks to those who shared, by video, how the empty tomb had changed their lives. That was a great testimony of God’s faithfulness.

I love talking about the resurrection of Jesus. You might think that after hearing the story all my life and teaching it for 25 plus years that it could be a little routine. I suppose there is always that danger for us church-lifers. But for me, it seems like every year I learn something new about what that empty tomb means.

If Jesus could accurately predict his death and resurrection. And then actually pull it off…! Then it’s really no problem for me to believe him when he calls himself the Son of God. Or tells me that he is the only way to God. Because of the empty tomb, it’s no problem for me to believe that what he says about life is true. While it may seem counter-intuitive to seek generosity over receiving, serving as the way to greatness, forgiving people who have offended me, etc. None of those are any more incredible to believe than a resurrection. And so Jesus becomes the only one qualified to talk about life after death, because he experienced it and conquered death. When Jesus tells us that he is the resurrection and the life and that if we believe in him we’ll live forever, because of the empty tomb that promise is authenticated and guaranteed.

The resurrection is personal. It was the resurrection that sent those early followers into the streets. What set them apart was they believed that Jesus had risen from the death. And they had seen him and touched him and eaten with him. And within a couple hundred years the very empire that had executed Jesus and persecuted the early followers found that Christianity had become their primary belief system. Amazing! The question remaining? What does the empty tomb mean to you?

If you missed the Easter Sunday message, Jesus is Alive, you can view it here:

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