Two weeks ago, we started a discipleship group on Friday afternoons. I decided to call it Bibles & Brew because it is a time to bring our Bibles, learn about them, and drink tea, coffee, or whatever we would like. I plan to have small sandwiches, soup, or something to munch on as well. No matter how well you know--or don't know--the Bible, this is a time for fellowship and for learning. If you don't know something, it's a time for answers. If you do know something, it's a time for you to share your knowledge. After all, iron sharpens iron! You're invited to join us on Fridays at 2 for Bibles & Brew!
I have been doing some thinking during this seemingly unprecedented time, because some incredible things are happening, if we are watching. Most families are spending more time together. Eating together. Churches are not gathering within the walls of a building. Pastors are being pulled out of their comfort zones and forced to find creative ways to spread the Gospel. Believers are starting to invite more of their friends and family to watch church services on technological devices, and more people are checking out what pastors have to say. I ask you all to take some time and consider what is really happening here. I am not going political or conspiracy theory. I am talking about what I see that God is doing with His church.
We have been hearing one word a lot in the past year, especially the last 6 months. Unprecedented. But what God has established a precedent by at least 2 situations in the past?
(1) After the flood, God told the people to spread out and multiply. But the people decided to build a city and stay together, saying, "Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth" (Genesis 11:4b NET). Which was exactly what God wanted them to do. So, God scattered them from the tower of Babel.
(2) The very last thing Jesus told His disciples was to stay in Jerusalem until they received the gift from God of the Holy Spirit, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8 NET). This was when they were supposed to "Go into all the world." But they did not. They hung around Jerusalem gathering together huddled up in houses--even after they received the Holy Spirit--until God raised up a young radical Rabbi named Saul who began to persecute the believers in Jerusalem. Then they scattered and spread the Gospel.
Now, for 2000 years God has been telling His church to Go, spread the Gospel. In many ways, we have. But the last 40-50 years, we have been content gathering to huddle in our buildings and giving money to missionaries and evangelist "experts," expecting that to be good enough. And like He has done before, the precedent He has set, is that if we do not go out to spread the Gospel on our own, He will scatter us and force us to do it.
It might be time to make some very big decisions and changes to how we "do church". Just saying....
The word of 2020 that God gave me for myself and our church is Truth.
The word of 2020 that God gave me for myself and our church is Truth.
Oftentimes, we catch flack and strange looks from people for our questions that rock the boat of the traditional church. We may present something of which they have never heard that challenges their way of thinking. But the Truth is that I read in Scripture how humanity's sinful nature brought about the various traditions that the Jews of Jesus' day were so adamant were correct (although many of them contradicted the commands) which inspired Jesus to ask, "why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3 and Mark 7:9). He added, "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down" (Mark 7:9a NET). Please don't think I have a problem with traditions! I don't. Traditions can be wonderful and help us to understand things that may not be clear. But I do have problems with traditions and traditional interpretations taking precedence over what God commanded for His people. Just consider that for centuries, they were certain the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.
What do we do when we discover that something we thought was true is not true? Do we reject it outright as many have done throughout the entire history of the church, or do we follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who searched the Scriptures to find if the things Paul taught were true? If we find that what was taught is wrong, do we speak up for the Truth? Or if we discover that we were wrong, what then? Do we make the changes in our own lives and speak up for the Truth? What about when we see someone else teaching something against God's Word? I read today how YHWH groans, "I wish that one of you would close the Temple doors, so that you no longer would light useless fires on My altar" (Malachi 1:10a NET). The implication is that the House of YHWH should be closed altogether rather than condoning disobedience or incorrect teaching.
Martin Luther and others challenged the teachings of the universal church. The Old Testament prophets did the same. Yeshua (Jesus) challenged the people of His day to get back to the basic foundations of the commands of God, putting God first, and He calls us to do the same today. Put God and His will first. It is not usually a popular position to take, but every boat needs correction sometimes to stay on the right course.
Every person, every believer, every child deserves for church leaders and teachers to be absolutely certain what we teach is the Truth according to YHWH. If we think we might be wrong, or if it's our interpretation, then we must present it that way. And we must always encourage our listeners to pray and look for themselves. In other words, Be Bereans :-)
I have always heard that it is not about quantity; it is about quality. Steve Adams writes, "Remember, it's not about the size of your ministry, it's about the health of your ministry" (157). Whenever church leaders meet for whatever reasons, the topic seems to inevitably turn to numbers. How many do you run on Sunday mornings? New members? Baptisms? Converts? It is like the souls of people have been reduced to bragging rights instead of using our "head counts" for useful things like how many chairs to have out or how many bulletins to print. It's like we are counting cattle. That reminds me of my time in South Dakota.
I met several ranchers when I moved to Rapid City, and I became great friends with a couple. I visited my friend one day to learn to ride a horse, and I asked what I considered to be an innocent question. How many cows do you have? She "schooled" me that day, explaining that it is not proper to ask a rancher how many cattle he/she has because that is like asking him/her how much money he/she has. Which is kind of like asking a pastor about Sunday attendance…
We count how many people come for D@D's so that we know how many people we are feeding and how many people we should cook for. We count how many attend the worship service, so we know when we are growing. I think the next time someone asks how many we are running at our worship services, I am going to reply in percentages. This time last year, there were 2 of us. I'm going to answer that we are up 750%!
Adams, Steve. Children's Ministry on Purpose: A Purpose Driven Approach to Lead Kids toward Spiritual Health. Zondervan, 2017.
Recently, I have been wondering about miracles and learning that nothing is impossible with God. Have you ever had something happen that you believed was a miracle of God, but people told you it was just a coincidence, or they found some other way to make you doubt God's involvement? Maybe they teased you until you felt the need to explain it away. I have personally witnessed miracles that people have tried to explain away, but every now and then, God does something that is just too hard to explain away.
For example, when my daughter was 9 years old, we were preparing for a trip. She had a dollar amount in her mind that she wanted to take, and she was $5 short of her goal. She had witnessed multiple occasions that I prayed for money to get milk or diapers only to find a $20 bill on the ground. Therefore, before she went out to play, she asked God, if it was His will, to please give her $5. About an hour later, she ran inside insisting that I take her to the nearby Walmart. My mom thought I was crazy, but my daughter was so insistent that God told her to go to Walmart, so, we went. As we walked up to the store's front doors, my daughter was avidly searching the ground, under the benches, everywhere, until she reached behind the big trash bin, picked up a crumpled piece of trash and started shrieking in almost indistinguishable words. "He did it! God gave me $5! He did it!" Sure enough, she stretched out that crumpled piece of trash, and it was a balled-up $5 bill. In addition to my mother and myself, several ladies from our church excited the store just in time to witness the event.
Lots of people try to explain God's miracles away, telling us so many other ways things could have happened, trying to instill doubt. But if someone says, anyone could have mistakenly thrown away the bill and missed the can, they could be right. But then, how do they explain her knowing that she needed to go to that location to look for it? Chance? I'm no mathematician, but what are the chances? Coincidence? No, God-incidence!
When Yeshua wanted to give Peter money to bring to the Temple, He sent Peter to catch a fish in which Peter would find some money, and it happened just that way (Matthew 27:17).
Just like the parting of the Red Sea, either God divided deep waters for the people to walk through on dry land, or He drowned Pharaoh's army in a few inches of water. Either way, it was a miracle!
It's not only a matter of perspective. It's a matter of "Do we believe it?" And if we do believe YHWH does miracles, then we need to start living like we believe He will!
YHWH (God) has presented me with my Word of the year for 2020: TRUTH.
He has challenged me to share those things that He teaches me during my private Bible study time with others as well as my testimonies of His glory. Therefore, this blog will be my platform--sometimes even my "soapbox." I invite you to join me on this adventure!
This first opening of the doors to serve God through serving this community has been covered in prayer, and we are So excited to see what our Father is going to do with this place! We want to extend a very big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped to prepare the buildings and grounds and to those who have so generously given of their belongings to this endeavor.
"Now to Him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21 NET).
When God called us to return to Crestview, He instructed us to be different. He called us to not say we are a New Testament church, but to be the community of Christ-followers who are an example of the early church that Jesus built. A song I used to listen to when I first came to Christ was "The Basics of Life" recorded by 4Him. This led us to go to the book of Acts and read about the early church meetings. The verses that stood out were:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NASB).
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all (Acts 4:31-33 NASB).
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42 NASB).
[Just to clarify, in the early church, the people were not selling everything they owned. As God led them,
they sold or gave things they owned that were in excess. If a person had two coats and met someone who
had no coat, the one with two would give his excess coat to the one who had none.]
The things we notice are that everyone participated. People spent time together, encouraged each other, and learned from each other. They ate their meals together (no one went away hungry). Those who had extra food fed those who had none. And above all, they prayed. Not simply talking to God, but devoting themselves... to prayer. They praised God. Continuing with one mind, the intent of which is seeking God's will, they spent their days and nights.
Therefore, this is what we want to bring, first to the city of Crestview, and then to the rest of the world. Our mission statement sums these early-church characteristics as Pray - Serve - Disciple - Repeat. We are starting when and where we can, and we are anxiously awaiting and watching for what God is about to do!