A Church With A ♥able Reputation

Demographers report that there are upwards of 70 million people in America that are unchurched. In my own experience, I have found that the unchurched people I have met are really dechurched people. At one time they were a part of a church community, but finding nothing of value there, they left. 

The way the first-century community responded to the Church—the historian Luke says “everyone was filled with awe and enjoying the favor of all the people”—is how people will still respond today to the extent that we resemble that first Church. 

If people are going to say “I That Church!” we have to be a able church!

Here are four qualities that I see in the first Church that gave it such a able reputation— 

  1. Internal unity

Luke uses the word fellowship (Greek: koinonia) which means an intimate, personal involvement in each other’s lives. The historical account lists phrases like devoted, breaking of bread and prayer, together, together with glad and sincere hearts, and one in heart and mind. 

  1. Sincere piety

Church for these first Christians wasn’t a place they went to on a certain day of the week; it wasn’t a set of religious rules they rigorously followed. They didn’t do church because they had to, but because they loved to! Luke says all the believers were together, and every day they continued to meet…with glad and sincere hearts.

  1. Supernatural results

Luke says wonders and miracles, signs, and great power accompanied the Church’s activity. Interestingly, the order is fellowship → awe → miracles, NOT what I would have expected, which is fellowship → miracles → awe. The awe came from the Church’s unified, sincere fellowship, and then the miracles simply confirmed God was there (cf. Mark 16:20). 

  1. Practical helps

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” The first Christians saw people in need and they helped: they gave to anyone as he had need and they shared everything they had so that there were no needy persons among them. This is exactly what Jesus told us to do (see Matthew 25:34-40). 

People will the Church when they see real among church people! 

If we want to see dechurched people become rechurched people, we need to return to our Christian roots—we need to make sure we are lovingly unified in heart and mind, allowing God to perform the miraculous among us, and then practically meeting the needs of everyone around us. 

Join me this Sunday as we learn more lessons from this first-century Church. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live.

I ❤️ My Church!

If you lived in the early first century AD—and if the donkey carts had bumper stickers—I’ll bet that you would have seen “I ❤️ My Church” bumper stickers on everything the early Christians owned. 

Both the Bible and historians of that day talked about the positive societal changes that Christians were making in their communities, and how every place they lived and worshipped got better. 

Why not today? 

Why not in your community? 

I believe Christians can—and should—live in such a way that everyone in their communities would sit up and take notice of the positive changes. If Christians really lived this way, we wouldn’t even need “I ❤️ My Church” bumper stickers because our lives would be the best advertisement there was! 

Join me this Sunday as we learn how the first Christians lived such positive, society-changing lives, and how we can do the same thing today. Join us in person or on Facebook Live this Sunday. 

Alien Friendships

As Peter wraps up his letter, he reminds us of his purpose in writing to us aliens and strangers

    • encouraging you = speaking encouraging words to your heart.  
    • testifying that this is the truth = speaking thoughtful words to your head. 

But Peter also says that he wrote this letter “with the help of Silas”—some translations even say “by Silas”—indicating that Peter needed someone to come alongside him with words of encouragement and strength, as much as he needed to deliver those words to fellow Christians. 

Peter mentions three people that were alongside him. These folks are instructive for us too:

  1. Silas 

Peter called Silas a faithful brother. The Greek word he uses for brother is adelphos, a word which usually meant someone who shared the same parents. But Peter modifies this to mean a Christian brother whose heartbeat with the love of Jesus the way his did; someone who shared the same Heavenly Father.  

Silas was a recognized church leader and a companion of Paul (Act 15:22, 30-32, 40). He had quite an extensive and impressive resume, and he also had the full endorsement for such notable people as James, Paul, and Peter. 

  1. She who is in Babylon

Babylon is a code word almost universally agreed to be Rome, but there is some debate as to whom the “she” is. Some think this is the church-in-exile in Rome, and some think this is Peter’s wife (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). 

Whether the church or Peter’s wife, they/she are anonymous servants of God, but never for a moment forgotten by God, nor is their reward going to be lacking (Matthew 6:1, 4). 

  1. Mark

Peter calls Mark my son. Again, he takes a word that originally meant “my offspring” and changes it to mean Mark was his protegé. 

Mark had traveled with Paul, then left Paul mid-journey, and was eventually reconciled to Paul (Acts 13:5, 13; 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). 

Mark listened to and recorded Peter’s accounts of Christ’s earthly ministry and wrote the first Gospel that was produced. His Gospel became one of the main reference documents that Matthew and Luke referred to in writing their Gospels. 

Here’s the point—There are no dispensable people in the Church! 

You may be like Silas with many talents and an impressive resume and references. Or you may be like the “she” who is an anonymous helper to others. Or you may even by like Mark who made mistakes but was given a second chance to make good on your commitment. 

You need a Silas, a she, and a Mark in your life. And you just may need to be one of those to someone else. 

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.” —Andrew Murray 

So let me ask you to consider something vital: Are you remaining faithful to your Christian family? 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 19

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 19

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 19.] 

     In the temple precincts judicious minds were without excuse, because they understood what Our Lord was doing. Outside Jerusalem, Our Lord always said, “Don’t tell anyone Who I am”; every time He went to Jerusalem He made it clear who He was. 

The presentation of the Gospel of God to sinners is one of love and mercy, but to the house of God one of judgment and truth. When we preach to the crowd outside we lambast drunkenness and other things, Jesus never did. The stern messages of the Bible are never given to sinners, but to God’s people.

From Notes On Jeremiah

Hmmm, are we doing this the right way? It seems like many times we get this reversed—we rebuke those outside because of their sin, and we speak tenderly to those on the inside. Definitely something for Christian leaders to consider carefully. 

Living Lives That Make Sense

This sounds totally contrary to common sense, but I’ll bet you’ve seen this before—Someone does something unexpectedly nice, and gets criticized for it. 

Why would that be? 

Christians can expect to experience this more frequently. Jesus told His followers to be prepared for persecution from those who didn’t believe in Him. One of Christ’s disciples named Peter added a few other warnings for Christians: 

  • Non-Christians will accuse you of doing wrong even when you’re doing right
  • Non-Christians will think it’s weird that you don’t do the same evil deeds they do
  • Non-Christians will heap abuse on you for not doing the evil deeds they do (1 Peter 2:12; 4:4)

This is because living good, Christ-honoring lives causes a burning in those hearts that don’t know Jesus yet. 

Solomon said there’s an aching void in the heart of every human being. It’s a longing to know what makes sense in life (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). When Christians live their lives focused on God, and they live—as Peter said—“such good lives,” it reminds non-Christians of what they’re missing. 

Christian, you need to remember why we live this way. The belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:18) is the foundation for our lives. In fact, Peter called Jesus the Living Stone. As His followers, we are also called “living stones” that the Holy Spirit is building together to make a spiritual signpost to point others to Jesus (see 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9, 12). 

We cannot do this under our own power. Jesus Himself reminded us that we need the Scriptures which all point to Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45), and the Holy Spirit which will help us apply the revealed Scriptures (John 14:26) and live “such good lives.” 

So here’s how I’m challenging myself this week, and I’d like to extend this challenge to you too. For the next seven days, just before going to bed I’ll be asking myself these three questions:

  1. Did I read the Word of God today? 
  2. Did I see the God of the Word in the Word of God a little more clearly today?
  3. Did I live a good, Christ-honoring life today that pointed others to Jesus?

Join me this Sunday as we continue our look at how Christians should live as aliens and strangers while visiting Earth. You can join me in person or via Facebook Live.

Aliens and Strangers

Christians are not citizens of Planet Earth. Our citizenship is in a place called Heaven, and yet we are traveling on Earth during our present lifetime. So the question is: How is a citizen of Heaven supposed to act while visiting Earth?

The Apostle Peter was one of the most active disciples of Jesus. During Christ’s first visit to Earth, Peter is recorded as speaking more than all of the other disciples combined. And not surprisingly, Jesus speaks more words directly to Peter than He does to all of the other 11 disciples combined. Peter got a lot of training!

With that background, Peter gives us invaluable instructions in his first letter to the church. He calls Christians things like: strangers in the world, chosen people, peculiar people, and aliens and strangers in the world. He tells us travelers not only how to behave while traveling on Earth, but why we should travel in a God-honoring way.

I will be continuing to teach through these fascinating themes of Peter’s instructions for aliens and strangers this Sunday. If you don’t have a home church in the Cedar Springs area, I would love to have you join us. If you cannot join us in person, we will be broadcasting each message live on Facebook.

I am excited to rejoin this journey of discovery with you!

11 Quotes From “The Way Of Abundance”

Ann Voskamp speaks lovingly to the hurting and broken. She never condemns them for their brokenness, nor does she encourage them to stay in their difficult place. Instead, Ann brings a new perspective to the path of healing; a path that allows our brokenness to become our givenness to other broken and hurting people. This is The Way Of Abundance. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. Because the world is begging us all to get out of bed and live given, get out of bed and sacrifice for someone hurting, for someone different, for someone forgotten or marginalized, to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look like a us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table.” 

“The real Jesus turns our questions of why—why this brokenness, why this darkness?—and says, ‘You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.’ ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’ [John 9:3]. There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light to be lavishly splashed across the darkness. There’s brokenness that carves windows straight into our souls. Brokenness cracks open a soul so the power of God can crack the darkness in the world.” 

“When you aren’t afraid of being afraid, you transform fear into friend. … Feelings can accompany you, but they don’t get to control you. Feelings get to inform you, but they don’t get to form you. Feelings get to keep you company, but they don’t get to keep you in bondage. Only God keeps you.” 

“We are always lost until our heart makes its home inside of someone else. Our lives are unfulfilling if we only let our hearts fill us instead of filling other people’s broken places. The art of living is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made into love to give. Fulfilling lives happen when we give our hearts to fill other people’s empty spaces.” 

“There are really only two choices when begging temptation looks you square in your twitching eye: there is either the pain of self-denial, or the pain of self-destruction. … They’ll tell you there’s no such thing called temptation anymore, only repressed self-limitation. They’ll tell you temptation isn’t an issue for the sophisticated. And all I want to say: just don’t say you’re a follower of Christ if you’re actually following your own heart.” 

“Shame dies when stories are told in safe places. … Shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable.” 

“The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go.” 

“When you feel basically respectable, you want religion. And when you know you feel the brokenness of rejection, you want the gospel. In religion, it’s the ‘respectable’ who search for a God to impress. But in the Gospel, it’s God who searches for the brokenhearted rejected to save.” 

“Never fear the moments you imagine will freeze you: unexpected blasts of cold can be what draws you nearer to the flame of His love.” 

“The body of Christ must recapture its vision as the only collective in the world that exists for its nonmembers. … We are a community that will not dish out condemnation but courage, that will lean in and listen long and love large.” 

“You love as much as you are willing to be inconvenienced. … The brokenness of people is never truly an intrusion. Loving the broken people when it is inconvenient is the way to have fuller inclusion in the life of Christ.” 

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