Monday, February 22, 2010

How Ya Doing?

Question: How are you doing? - in life, overall?
Answer: "hard to say" because
A. there are so many areas to measure
B. Some areas are hard to measure - parent, teacher, Christian?
C. we are prone to mis-measure - health, finance, marriage...

So: on the one hand it's hard to say. But, on the other hand we ought to examine, assess....

All this to ask - How are we doing? as a church? your church?

Answer: It's hard to say. But, you ought to ask!!

Some ways to assess and examine - using things that can be measured.

#1. Attendance

#2. Baptisms

#3. Ongoing Programs - are you M.A.D. - (making a difference) Isa. 55:10-11

#4. Volunteers. (individual involvement)

#5. Finances

#6. Missions

Harder to measure:
#7. Individual transformation (spiritual growth/discipleship)
We have a mandate in the Great Commission: Matt. 28:19-20 However, this is not solely a Christian issue. Example: Jesus and Judas, and other followers.
The question is NOT "is everyone being discipled?"
BUT are you doing a good job of discipling those who will be discipled?

#8. Community impact - we're to be salt and light
#9. family influence

#10. Performance compared to other churches

#11. Performance compared to your past

So, what do you do? as a church? if you see a lack of zeal, energy, vision, goals
Answer: keep going and doing what you know you should do!

#12. future goals. - because can partly measure today's health by tomorrow's plans!

Plan??? continue with general (ie: what you know you should do) until God reveals a specific.

Your part:
1. Give input

2. make this a matter of thought and prayer

3. continue to do what you know you should do.

A __________ church is made of __________ people.
(fill in blank with same word - ie: a praying church is made of praying people. a cold church is made of cold people. etc.

(the state of the church is determined by the state of you)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day - Topic: Love

Origin of Valentine's Day.

There are several "St. Valentines" from the early church era, but our focus is Valentinus, a priest who lived in 3rd. century Rome.

Emperor Claudius II (aka: Claudius the Cruel) was having difficulty keeping the troop numbers up in his armies. Many men didn't want to leave wife and family and go off to war, AND Claudius preferred single soldiers anyway. So, he outlawed marriage among men of military age.

Valentinus continued to perform marriage ceremonies for couples - though in secret. He was discovered, arrested, condemned. He was beaten with clubs, then stoned, and then beheaded.

He was executed Feb. 14 (approximately) 269 AD. In 496 Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14th. "St. Valentine's Day".

Valentine's Day in the US is 2nd. only to Christmas in the number of greeting cards sent.

So - the topic is love! We could go to Song of Solomon, or I Cor. 13, but instead,
Luke 23:26-48 and John 3:16

Note: this word love is not eros, stergo, phileo. It is Agape.

The definition of agape is:
1. the love of God
2. directed toward man - Rom. 5:8
3. expected of man - Matt. 22:36-40

With that as a base, let's talk about people.

I. General Observations.

#1. People are a pain (problem)
Because: A. they are sinful Rom. 3:23
Therefore: B. they are selfish
That does not mean there is no good in man. On one hand, we are made in God's image.
On the other hand, that image reflected in us is like looking into a foggy mirror.

#2. People are God's most precious possession.
(God hasn't rejected us because of our sins.)
As seen in:
A. Christ's coming - He bore our sin, forgives, adopts, keeps
B. Heaven's landscape - only people from this world will be in heaven.

#3. People need God (which is why Christ came!
You can live without Him, you can die without Him. BUT, you can't live as you were designed to live, intended to live, should live without Him. There is a "God-shaped" hole in man that can only be filled by God.

#4. People need people. (this is also by God's design)
A person cannot be born, grow, develop, achieve, prosper, etc. without others.
It's true that "all I need" is provided by God.
However, that provision is usually met through people!
The point being - our inter-dependence

II. Personal Application

#1. You're a people - (not a Pukah, Klingon, Ewok, etc.)

#2. You're a pain (problem) (If you are a Christian, then you are a "sanctified pain")

#3. You are (also) very precious to God.
No matter how big a pain you are, or how much pain you cause others

#4. You need GOD
A. you can live without Him, BUT not as you should.
B. you find Him in and through Christ

#5. You need (other) people
as you cannot prosper physically without others
so you cannot prosper mentally, emotionally, spiritually without others. God's design to fill this need is called church.

#6. (other) people need you. God's design is give and take.
John 13:35 Life is not just about you.
"One another" is used 38 times in the New Testament in command form.

love one another
be devoted to one another
honor one another
live in harmony with one another
stop judging one another
accept one another
instruct one another
greet one another (with a holy kiss)
agree with one another
have concern for one another
bear one another's burdens
serve one another
be patient with one another
be kind to one another
be patient with one another
speak to one another
submit to one another
forgive one another
admonish one another
encourage one another
spur one another on to good works
confess sins to one another
pray for one another
don't slander one another
offer hospitality to one another
minister your gifts to one another
"you also should wash one another's feet" - John 13:14

John 13:35 - "by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" - Add the proper word: feel love, claim love, seek love, profess love, promote love...... or EXPRESS it!! with Actions!!

You cannot accomplish this by merely meeting and mingling, but only by meshing, ie. letting our lives become woven together.

"VALENTINE" exchange. #1. Pray for your valentine
#2. pray for yourself that you'll become a better Valentine.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Surviving the Slough of Despond

2 Tim. 4:6-8
The Series is Improving Your Christian Walk, ie: the relationship, lifestyle, journey...)

So..... how are you doing???

On one hand, the answers vary.
On the other hand, among those who are serious about the walk, the typical answer is at a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 level of maturity, and they feel they should be at least at a 7 or 8.

The typical serious Evangelical Christian is plagued by feelings of:
1. Guilt - don't study enough, pray enough, witness, enough, minister as should
2. Unworthiness - feel unfit to carry the title Christian or represent Christ
3. Inadequacy - don't seem ABLE to do better!!!
4. Despair - at ever doing much better.

NOTE: A. This is NOT the response of the New Christian .... he is energetic, zealous, optimistic, has not yet experienced multiple failures.
B. This is not the response of Nominal Christian either - he's indifferent, apathetic, and generally unaware of his failures.

But this is common to seasoned, dedicated, serious Christians. AND can be discouraging, depressing, and debilitating. (inability to function at all)

The problem is not Christians who fail but Christians who fall out!!

So..... what to do?? How to battle, overcome these feelings? This tendency to despair and dropout???

#1. Recognize that this is part of the Christian experience.
It doesn't mean we should always find ourselves there, but it does mean it's a definite part.
Examples: Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul - Rom. 7:15-24
It's a result of: sin nature (tendency), fallen world, spiritual warfare - Rom. 7:21

NOTE: this is why salvation is by grace!! We are saved by grace. We are kept by grace!
NOTE: the struggle can be (often is) evidence of salvation.

#2. Recognize that you are not alone. 1 Cor. 10:13 (a)

#3. Don't simply surrender to the condition. This is part of our Christian life but keep on anyway.
A. Admit the condition.
B. Recognize the limitations
C. Push on! 1 Cor. 10:13

#4. Keep asking forgiveness.
1 John 1:9 Ask over and over and over... NOTE: 1 John 1:8

#5. Accept forgiveness and move on. Failures can devastate or motivate. It's your decision.
Contrast Peter and Judas.
What are you going to do with your failures.

#6. Continue to do what you know is right.
There is no pain-free alternative. 2 Tim. 1:6 - Paul's last words to Timothy: "fan the flames".
testify, keep, guard, entrust, endure, remember, remind, walk, present, avoid, flee, pursue, teach, instruct, continue, preach, correct, rebuke, encourage, "discharge all the duties of your ministry" - 2 Tim. 4:5

The only way to do it is to do it!!! "man up", "cowboy up" - How about? "Christian up"? "Believer up"?, "disciple up"?
The Christian walk is tough sometimes. And, men are the worst!!

#7. Think marathon (distance/long term) Heb. 12:1
Achievement/accomplishment is a result of endurance, perseverance, constancy
Walking the walk according to feelings will not get it done.

#8. Focus on Christ. Heb. 12:2 & 3
Why serve? continue? overcome? struggle? "Because He wooed me, saved me, called me, gifted and enabled me, and asked me to serve. AND I said I would!! ( John 21:15 "love me??")

#9. Remember... He's always with you. (He never gives up - Phil. 1:6

Note: You don't conquer a slough - you exit it, survive it. Again and again!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Christian Journey (continued)

Series: Improving Your Christian Walk
A. Your Walk with God - relationship, getting to know Him
B. Christian Lifestyle - daily behavior
C. The Journey - the whole trip - from born again to physical death.

The Journey - continuing this week with more observations/truths/lessons about the journey.
2 Tim. 4:6-8

#1. A poor start does not necessitate a poor ending. Example: the Apostle Paul
He is the God of many chances/late chances. Luke 23:42-43 - the thief on the cross
Point being: it's not too late to.... A. start the journey B. end well

#2. A good start does not guarantee a good finish. Don't bank on the fact that because you started early (saved as a child or young person) that you are all right.
Point is: this is a journey of choices/decisions/corrections till the end!!

#3. Your choice of traveling companions is very important. Prov. 27:17 Prov. 13:20
This includes, obviously, friends, especially spouse, church family, teachers, mentors etc.

#4. You'll face many obstacles on this journey. (duh!!)
These obstacles can be physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, relational, financial, etc. This is life in a fallen world - full of fallen people!! 1 Cor. 10:13 (a)

#5. Some of the obstacles are DESIGNED to stop you.
Eph. 6:12 (contrast natural obstacles with supernatural) 1 Pet. 5:8
These are planned on purpose by Satan. (once you are a Christian, he can't keep you from heaven, but he can keep you from making the journey.)

#6. That which is designed to stop you can strengthen you. The closer you try to walk with Christ, the more obstacles you will encounter. This is God's unique plan (to strengthen and develop you) and ability (to use those things).
1 Pet. 1:3-7
Rom 5:1-4
Rom. 8:28

#7. You should become more adept as you journey. ie: more capable, competent, better able to live, jinister, direct
The point of the journey is to shape, sharpen, strengthen you. So that you are better later in the journey than at the start.
Contrast this with a marathon race: there you have the most strength at the start!!

But, the irony is:
#8. You may feel more inept as you progress. ie: less capable, competent
Why??? 2 reasons: 1. you are more aware of what you should be and become. (ie: the plan/standards)
2. You're more aware of your faults, feelings, shortcomings..... your SIN(S).

So....... Be Careful - don't let your growth, progress hinder your walk
Be Encouraged - your walk M.A.D. (makes a difference) 1 Cor. 15:58 Gal. 6:9

Good news.
#9. You get many opportunities to correct your course.
Heb. 4:14-16
He's the God of many chances.
He's the God of mercy, grace, forgiveness

Bad news.
#10. It's up to you to correct your course.
A self-guided missile needs:
B. this information programmed in
C. to respond to what's been programmed
A Christian needs:
information - Bible
B. this info programmed in - Bible Study, learn, take in
C. to respond to this programming - use the information that's been studied, learned, internalized

NOTE: You'll get many opportunities to correct your course.....
BUT: you only get one shot at the journey!!!