GO: The Application

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Yesterday, I wrote about how persecution led the early church to disperse, thereby fulfilling the Great Commission. How does this apply to us today?

Sometimes We Can Get Comfortable…

Admit it, the church pew that you sit in week-after-week is comfy. The routine of dropping your kids off in children’s church (free babysitting!), enjoying coffee and fellowship in Sunday school, and going through the motions in the main service is familiar. One might call the church routine rather cozy. You know what to expect; you know that nothing uncomfortable is going to happen. If you don’t want to shake hands with someone, you don’t have to. Sure, you may feel spiritually uncomfortable/convicted by the sermon, but church is overall a safe environment where you don’t have to step out of what you know.

Which Keeps Us From Meeting People Where They Live…

I would like to make a bold statement. The people who need Christ the most are not the ones who are going to show up at your local church. Instead, the people who need to hear the Good News are those in our work places and those we meet on the everyday streets of life.

Ever wondered why churches are built where they are? I have. Here in Longview, for instance, we build a good chunk of our churches away from the city’s dividing line, Highway 80. For those that do not live in East Texas, or Longview for that matter, Highway 80 represents a physical shift from the nicer to the older/rougher part of town. The highway itself is filled with strip clubs, homeless, and even prostitutes. All people that need Jesus. So why aren’t more churches built along 80? Ultimately, I think, it boils down to our modern church model. The people who would attend a church located on Highway 80 are not the type who would be able to contribute money on a regular basis for tithe (which keeps the church running). A church located along this line would have to be ran on donations or some other sort of creative model. Not sure how one would accomplish this but the need to meet people where they live is great. No matter what the cost.

But We Are Called To Step Out.

As we saw starting in Acts 5, if we do not step out and go, God will stir up the church and make us go.

What does all of this look like in practice?

  1. Taking on a God-perspective and seeing people as He sees them.
  2. Recognizing that there is a need to tell people about Christ outside of our churches, our comfort zones.
  3. Not only recognizing but also actively doing something about it (the going part). This can be as simple as engaging a co-worker in conversation; this can be has complicated as physically moving overseas to preach the Gospel.
  4. Regardless of location, all Christians are called to share about Christ.

I do not think that there is anything wrong with going to church or sharing life with other believers as the early Christians did in Acts. At some point though, we are supposed to branch out: locally, nationally, globally. Living with the perspective that God has, that there are needs all around us, is hard. I know personally I find it hard to step out of my own life situation. Too often I get bogged down in the day-to-day stuff. As a Christian, I am called to be active, to engage, and to go. For most of us, I don’t think this means suddenly selling all of our possessions and moving overseas. Obedience is the key here as we strive to daily live in obedience to Christ and share Him with those around us.

What do you think?

GO: The Groundwork

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19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus commanded his disciples to tell others about what they had seen, learned, and experienced during their time with him. They were to go and tell others about the Good News, that the Son of God had come and paid the price for all sin; that Jesus had lived, died, and had been resurrected on the third day.

In Acts 1, we find the disciples waiting in Jerusalem as they were instructed by Jesus:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:4-5

The Holy Spirit soon comes, Peter preaches/confirms that Jesus was the Son of God, and the body of believers grows in numbers. One will notice, however, that no one is “going”. Instead, the believers begin to form a tight knit community, sharing everything they had with one another. Little did they know that a storm was coming.

The storm begins with small clouds (Ananias and Sapphira holding back part of their money in Acts 5:1-11) and slowly darkens as the Apostles are persecuted (Acts 5:17-42). Some of the religious leaders of the day write off the growing number of believers as simply a craze:

34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” – Acts 5:34-39

Note: The key verse here is verse 39 – “…But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Who could argue with that?

Lightening appears on the horizon amongst the darkening clouds as one of the believers, Stephen, is killed for his faith. The storm has now hit. In Acts 8, the new believers who have failed so far to heed Christ’s words and “go”, are forced to move due to persecution:

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. – Acts 8:1

Something odd began to happen as a result of this:

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:4

Christ’s command was finally being obeyed, His word was being preached. God was using a potentially evil situation for His good. But how does all of this apply to Christians today? Check-in tomorrow to find out.

Gettysburg Address

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Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

July 4, 2011, the United States is faced once again with events that threaten to destroy our great nation. The national debt is out of control, foreign countries own this debt, both threaten to undermine the very freedom we have fought to preserve since our inception. I am saddened that while our elected officials bicker and politic, the freedom that has been purchased with American blood is forgotten and dishonored. Only with God, “under God”, can we bring America back to what it once was. This issue is an issue of the heart, a spiritual civil war. One that can only be won through the saving and changing power of Jesus Christ.

I wish everyone a happy 4th of July! Enjoy that which has been purchased with a price.

Given Over

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Read an interesting article this morning in the New York Times. The article, which talks about a prominent gay writer turning away from homosexuality, can be found here. The article reminded me of two things:

1. Romans 1:18-32 (NIV) –

 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (bolded emphasis added)

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

2. The article reminded me of the moment in my life where I decided to take God’s path and not my own. Let me explain:

Sin = Death

Though there have been many instances in my life where I have felt God talking to me (never audibly), the night I decided to turn away from my sin is one of the greatest. There I was, alone in the car, wrapped in guilt over the sin I was slowly sinking in. I knew that I had been doing was wrong. Over the course of the years I had dealt with this sin, I always remember Him telling me, “you don’t have to do this.” That night, God showed me two paths:

  • The first path was a continuation of me living out the sin I was in. Ultimately ending in my destruction and death.
  • The second path was what God had in store for my life. It was my now-wife and our life together pursuing God. “This is what I have for you…”

I knew that I was at a junction point, I needed to make a decision. I could continue down the path I was on, indulging my flesh, and end up dead; or I could choose God’s path and accept the good things He had planned for my life. Why would someone choose death over life? Seemed like a no-brainer to me. So I aligned myself with God once more and walked away from the sin I was in.

Walking away from sin is never an easy task. Memories still exist… I have learned to call upon Christ in times of weakness, to walk Him through the memories and ask Him to be Lord over them. Alone I cannot overcome…but with Him anything is possible.

To the gentleman in the article that has walked away from his sin of homosexuality, I wish him the best. I hope and pray that God will use him to speak both love and truth to those that have been blinded and lied to. Just because culture says that something is “normal” doesn’t mean it is. Trying to make the issue of gender identity into something equal to the Civil Rights movement doesn’t disguise sin either.

Alleluia

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Two weeks ago, my church hosted the California Baptist University Choir and Orchestra. While not normally my type of music, I found the choir and orchestra to be absolutely beautiful! One of the songs they sang, Alleluia, has been stuck in my head since then. The chorus for the song is incredible! Almost haunting in a way… This morning I woke up with the song in my head…so I hunted it down on the youtubes. Enjoy!

Memories of My Grandmother

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I’m not sure what to write about today. My mind has been an accelerated mess since the death of my Grandma last week. Her death has affected me more than I could have imagined. The funeral is this Saturday…I have been debating on whether to write something or just speak at her funeral. I have concluded that I am going to talk about her. Her life, my memories of her, and about her faith in Jesus Christ.

My Grandma was an only child. I have recently read that children who grow up without siblings are like super firstborns. I would say that this was true of my Grandmother. Not only did she cook, clean the house, and take care of my Grandpa, she also made time to spend with her grandchildren. Now, I’m not going to get all sentimental and say that she spent tons of time with us. But I do remember going on dates with her every few months. She loved doing this. I remember her saying that she had to save up her allowance money in order for her to take me out. Burgers, fries, and a drink and Grandma was happy. Funny memory: Grandma chewing on a Big Mac, with her mouth open. 🙂

My memories of her, at least at this time, are highly polluted by the years she declined with Alzheimer’s. What I do remember though was a woman who was interested in both local and national news. She could carry on an intelligent conversation on just about any topic. More importantly though, my Grandma loved history. This is something that she imparted on me. I wish that I could have told her that I obtained a degree in History. She would have been proud.

In elementary school, I remember having trouble with schoolwork, specifically reading. Now, I wouldn’t work well with my Mom, so my Grandma came over and helped me. I remember loving this extra time spent with her.

My Grandma was also a woman who valued her freedom. She would wait all day, until my Grandpa got home, to get her hands on their pickup truck. This was generally when she would go shopping or come and pick me/ one of my siblings up.

Standing next to her at the Christmas Eve service, my family went to every year, I remember listening to her sing. I have been told that at one time she had sang in a church choir. She told me that she had loved doing this. She had a pretty voice.

I wish I could remember more. What I do know though is that I loved her. Grandma Hall was special to me. I felt like she took the time to actually engage me/ get to know me. She accepted me for me.

The best part about my Grandma dying is that she is now in Heaven. She is no longer a prisoner trapped within her own body. I know that my Grandma is in Heaven due to her belief in Jesus Christ. She knew that the most important decision a human has to make in this world is whether or not he will accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Those that choose to receive eternal life need only realize that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (John 3:23). Due to falling short, the wages of our sin is death (John 6:23). But God provides a way out, through His only son He sent to die for the world, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). All a person has to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is by grace that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I love you Grandma. See you soon!