Archive for August, 2011

Two weeks into the Foundations series, we have covered two significant doctrines. First, we addressed “revelation” – specifically, the inspiration of the Scriptures. Last Sunday, we considered the doctrine of God – that He has revealed Himself as the Trinity. We’ll continue through this doctrinal series for the next several weeks. I hope that you have discovered that doctrinal preaching is far from boring or only for Bible geeks, but is extremely relevant to our lives. God’s Word, in every way, helps us live for God and in His service.

The next doctrine in this series will take us back to the beginning as we consider what the Bible says about creation. To give you an idea as to where we will head over the next couple of weeks, we will consider the doctrines of man and the fall of man.

Whether you have attended this church for years or if you only began attending, you can see that we have a high view of the Bible. Through the Word, we can know the will of God and how to live. That’s why we encourage you to bring your Bible with you and use it in the services and in Life Group. We also encourage you to take some notes so that you can remember what you hear and so that you can share what you have learned with someone else.

On Thursday evening, many of you gathered at the Hub to begin a dedicated time of praying and fasting for David Holbrook. What a moving experience! I marvel at David’s faith and that of his family and that of his church family. He continues looks upward and outward through his illness. David told me last week that he counts it a privilege for God to be exalted through this illness and sees the strengthening in this church body.

Your prayers of faith, your words of encouragement, and your actions of ministry will lift the Holbrooks during this time. We join together as a church family to care for them and to sustain them – just a family should. Last week in one of our Growth Groups, Alana (David’s wife) expressed how blessed they were to have joined this church family because they had received so much than they could ever imagine.

Becoming a part of a church family is biblical. We’ll cover the doctrine of the church later in the Foundations series, but let me urge you to consider formalizing your relationship with our church family if you’ve not already done so. Here’s what you need to know about membership:

  1. We are a body of Christ-followers. That means that individually we have admitted our need for a Savior and have asked Jesus to help us turn from our sin. Furthermore, we have trusted Him to rescue us from our sin and to forgive us. We live in recognition that Jesus is the Lord of our lives.
  2. We are a body of baptized believers. The Bible teaches that when an individual has become a Christ-follower that person should follow the Lord in believer’s baptism. If you have been baptized (immersed) following your conversion to Christ, you may join our church family. If you have not been baptized and have trusted Christ for your salvation, we can arrange for your baptism.

We look forward to celebrating with you and incorporating you into the life of our family.

Over the past several weeks, I sensed the Lord wanted me to set aside the sermon series from the gospel of Mark and preach a series of messages on biblical doctrines. After this series, I will return to Mark and pick up the message series with chapter 6.

What I have discovered over the years that many people only see bits and pieces of the Bible, lacking a big picture of how the Scriptures hold together. Theology and doctrine provide that larger vision of the entire Bible. In his book, The Social Animal, David Brooks illustrates the need for a big picture by using an illustration from the game of chess. Brooks said that when a group of highly skilled players and a group of nonplayers were shown a series of chessboards [with chess pieces] for about five to ten seconds each that later, the grandmasters could remember every piece on every board. The average players could only remember about four or five pieces per board.

Why did the chess grandmasters have such an amazing ability to remember the pieces? They did not have superior IQs or better memories. No, Brooks explained that the reason the grandmasters could remember the game boards so well is that after so many years of study, they saw the boards in a different way. When average players saw the boards, they saw a group of individual pieces. When the masters saw the boards, they saw formations. In other words, expertise comes from forming internal connections so that the little pieces of information turn into bigger networked chunks of information.

We don’t learn by merely accumulating facts. Learning occurs by internalizing the relationship between pieces of information. For Christians, theology and doctrine provide the essential “big picture” so we can read Scripture and see not just “individual pieces” of information. Doctrine also enables us to see “the relationship between the pieces of information.”

Last Sunday, I launched this systematic approach with a foundational message dedicated to God’s revelation – particularly through Scripture. This week I will attempt to offer a biblical description of God with a particular emphasis on the doctrine of the Trinity, and next week I will speak on the doctrine of creation. I could actually take several Sundays on each of these subject areas, but in an effort to cover about dozen key doctrines I will over speak on each of them on only one Sunday.

Please don’t get the impression that I believe we can get everything in one message or in a series of messages. No, that will take a lifetime of learning and prayerful study. Nor can I – or anyone other pastor – disciple you in a setting like preaching. That takes an “up-close” kind of relationship, the way Jesus discipled the Twelve. Currently we have some small discipleship groups forming – “Growth Groups.” While Michael Blue will be leading an “open group” on Sundays at six o’clock, several other Growth Groups are forming. These other groups are “closed groups” – meaning that they are limited in enrollment number (no more than 12 in a group) and that you need to begin as a group together (from the first or second meeting time). Three of these groups have already formed and have started. Many of them begin tonight. If you have an interest, come back tonight at six and inquire about one of them.

Persistence

Posted: August 4, 2011 in Church, Discipleship, Evangelism

I can hardly believe that one year has passed since the triumphant rescue of 33 miners from Chile’s San José mine after they spent 69 days trapped underground. The first 17 days, when no one knew if any of the miners had survived, proved to be the worst for the families. Even one of those trapped underground remarked, “At least we knew we were alive but might die. For our families there was the torment of not knowing.” One of the wives, Elvira, talked about never sleeping and not knowing what to tell her children. However, she and the other women simply refused to wait around to claim the bodies of their husbands.

This group of persistent women fought against all odds, including a fight against a powerful mining system and police force that had basically consigned the miners to a slow death. Their determined pressure paid dividends when on day 17, the rescuers heard the probe being hit and so knew someone was alive. Soon they learned that all 33 had survived and had suffered no injuries. Jubilation filled the air when President Sebastián Piñera read out the note that was attached by the miners to the drillhead, “We are fine in the refuge – the 33.”

As big of news story as the rescue of these may have been, it pales in comparison one person who finds his soul’s Rescuer in Jesus Christ. When someone in our family or close friend comes to a saving relationship with Jesus, we celebrate. But I often wonder how persistent we approach this ministry of rescue of souls. Do we really see people without Christ in their dire conditions? Do we see them as helplessly trapped with no way of escape? Can we, as individuals who have been rescued, dare to ignore those still needing to hear the good news? Surely we can act like the wives of these previously trapped miners and fight against everything including “the gates of hell” rather than consigning people to eternal death.

The Lord gave us a clear command: make disciples (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus declared that when we follow Him that He will make us fishers of men. When we follow Him, we will make disciples as we go, baptize, and teach. Surely, prayer must undergird this work because no one will come to salvation unless the Lord calls the person. Therefore, we must pray for God to call people to repentance and faith.

I want to urge you join with others to pray for those that you know who need to come to Christ. At our church, we have several “prayer bands” during which times we pray for these individuals by name. Then as you pray for them, the Holy Spirit will sharpen your focus to the opportunities to share the good news.

First grade teacher, Linda, wrote about an interaction she had with one of her students on the first day of school. Accustomed to going home at noon in kindergarten, Ryan was getting his things ready to leave for home when he was actually supposed to be heading to lunch with the rest of the class. Linda asked him what he was doing. “I’m going home,” he replied.

Linda tried to explain that, now that he is in the first grade, he would have a longer school day. “You’ll go eat lunch now,” she said, “and then you’ll come back to the room and do some more work before you go home.” Ryan looked up at her in disbelief, hoping she was kidding. Convinced of her seriousness, Ryan then put his hands on his hips and demanded, “Who on earth signed me up for this program?”

In just over a week, the children will return to school. Whether they go to public or private schools, or should their parents take up the mantle of teaching through home school, our children will settle into routines quite different from the summer. It won’t take long before many of them will protest just like Ryan did. However, we know the value of education, and therefore, we insist that they “stay in the program.”

As believers, we can find it easy to feel a little like Ryan when we consider the Christian life. The requirements seem daunting—“Surely the Lord doesn’t expect me to forgive seventy times seven!” and “Surely He doesn’t want me to turn the other cheek when someone hurts me!” and “What does He mean, ‘take up my cross’?” Before long, we complaining, “Who on earth signed me up for this program?”

Over the last several months, God has taught me the meaning and the value of Jesus’ model of disciple-making. One clear observation we’ve made: you cannot disciple believers at arm’s length. Rather, disciple-making requires a more personal and close relationship.

Jesus discipled His followers in a small group—no more than twelve at a time. Certainly, He taught large numbers of people on occasion; however, the real disciple-making took place one-on-one, or with three, or with a half-dozen, or with the twelve.

Next week at our church, our preschoolers, children, and junior high and senior high students will “promote” to the next class for the year. This applies to Sunday morning Life Groups, choirs, and AWANA. Believing that they need faithful and maturing adults to disciple them, I want to ask you to consider serving in one of these ministries. We want to maintain the best possible student/leader ratio in all these age groups and ministries.

Will it involve a sacrifice? Probably. You may have to forego your own adult group on Sunday morning or Sunday evening or Wednesday evening. I expect that those who have children will participate in sharing the leadership at one of these times. However, do not presume that if you no longer have children participating in these ministries that you no longer need to help out. You likely have more time and certainly have much to offer in ministry to preschoolers, children, and youth. (By the way, more than half of those serving in the youth ministry have already graduated their children from high school.) You certainly have much to offer!

By the way, I believe you’ll be glad that someone “signed you up for this program.”