Monday, November 27, 2017

How to bring hope this Christmas season

Yesterday we started a new, five-week, sermon series at Coastline. We're taking five Sunday's to talk through each of the candles of Advent.

The first candle in Advent is traditionally called the hope or prophecy candle. To fully grasp advent we have to look at prophecy and understand its role in announcing the Messiah. Many of us know about prophecy but we can be confused by its full meaning. The dictionary calls prophecy, “A prediction of things to come.” Before Christ was born, it was predicted that He would come. The Bible records 330 such predictions about Jesus. All of these prophecies about Jesus came from men who were called prophets. You can read what each of these prophets wrote in the Old Testament. Throughout their writings they talked about the hope coming in the Messiah. They longed to see His arrival.

Not only did the prophets talk about the coming of Jesus, they played four major roles in the Old Testament.

1) Anoint and Reject the king

The joy of anointing the king would have been a great blessing but with that blessing comes the pain of having to reject the king in times of unfaithfulness. The main time we see Isaiah reject a king is found in 7:10-25.  Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign and Ahaz refused because of that we see the wrath of the Lord getting ready to be poured out.  God says that He will bring a time on the house of Judah unlike any time they have ever seen, that He will bring the king of Assyria to dominate them (which ends up happening). God begins pronouncing judgment on the king and sharing with Ahaz the plagues that He will bring on the land. Isaiah was called to deliver that message. 

2) Circumscribe, Authorize, and Direct Warfare

Throughout the first third of Isaiah (Chap13:1-23:18) we see the prophecies about war and the commands and woes that God is pronouncing on the nations. A specific command about war is found in Isaiah Chapter 8. Just after God rejects Ahaz for his unfaithfulness Isaiah prophecies about the coming wrath of Assyria. Although this may not be the way we naturally think to direct warfare (an initial thought on directing warfare is that God would be guiding His people into a winning battle similar to what we see in Exodus 17:11 with Moses winning the battle when his arms remained raised) this is still a command that God used for war to happen and Isaiah was commanded to speak.  

3) Interpret the Law of Moses

An example of interpreting the Law of Moses in Isaiah is found in Chapter 59. Isaiah shares the sins of the Israelites with them in very blunt terms. Isaiah shares with them the commands of God that they have broken, and therefore sinned against God. The Israelites broke the sixth commandment (Duet 5:17) and committed murder. Isaiah let Israel know that “For your hands are stained with blood” (59:3). Murder is one of the saddest sins because the person committing the act has tried to take the place of God and determined who will live and who will die.

4) Intercede on Behalf of the People

The book of Isaiah highlights a few situations where Isaiah is interceding for the people. The best example that we see of Isaiah interceding for the people is found in 37:6 “ Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard…” This is a vivid picture of Isaiah coming to the Lord on behalf of a king and for the hope is a nation in turmoil. A threat has been made and Isaiah gets the chance to bring this message to God and get the truth. Intercession for the people would have been a great role to fulfill. It sounds very similar to the role of the pastor that we have now. Isaiah received the chance to come to the throne of God and bring Him requests and petitions on behalf of His chosen people. 

Looking at these four roles helps us understand more of the collective responsibility of the prophet. Knowing this brings clarity to why the prophecy candle is associated with hope. The prophets brought hope to God’s people. Sometimes that meant a rebuke, but correction was to get them back on the path of the Lord. The prophets longed to see Jesus; they announced His coming! This Christmas season, what will you glean from the prophet by sharing the word of the Lord with people around you? You don’t have to achieve a seminary degree to let someone know they are loved by God. We all have people who need to hear about Jesus and His arrival on earth. We can explain this truth to them!  

You can even pull a page from the role of the prophet and pray for those you want to share the love of Christ with. You might just start praying for them or you have been praying for a person for the last decade, don’t stop. Pray bold prayers. Ask God to give you an opportunity to share His love with that person. Think about all the people you come into contact with each week. Think about how many of them need to hear the hope of Jesus. Pray for God to give you opportunities to share His love. Then step out in confidence and invite that person to know His love. Share your personal story and how God has changed you!

This Christmas season, I think that everyone of us is looking for hope. Single moms are looking for hope so that they can support their families. Parents are hoping their kids will stop using drugs and come home. Working people are hoping for a Christmas bonus to make ends meet this year. Some students are just looking for a reason to live this Christmas season. Kids are hoping their parents will stop fighting and just get along for a week. These are just a few examples. But the greatest hope comes in the arrival of Jesus Christ. Let’s share this hope with everyone this Christmas season. Let’s look for ways to share the hope of Jesus with those around us. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Explain | Reason | Prove

At the conclusion of Acts 16 Paul and Silas left Philippi to continue preaching the Gospel throughout Greece (Acts 17:1-4). Paul and Silas traveled 100 miles south, on foot, from Philippi down to Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a business center in Macedonia. Going from Philippi to Thessalonica was a wise move for Paul. It was Paul’s custom was to find a larger city where he could share the Gospel. From the larger city he would strategically reach the surrounding area with the Gospel. It’s a brilliant plan to help the Gospel reach as many people as possible.

Luke gives us a snapshot of the ministry in Thessalonica. When we read the letters that Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica it appears that he spent months with them. But in Acts, Luke only accounts for about three weeks in the city. And much of the ministry is dedicated to reaching the Jewish people. Throughout the book of Acts we’ve seen that it was Paul’s custom to first go to the Jewish synagogue to preach the Gospel of Jesus. Paul was warmly welcomed into synagogues and was regularly invited to preach. This gave him the ability to share the good new of Jesus with his fellow Jews.

In Thessalonica Paul spent three Sabbaths sharing about Jesus the Messiah. We read that this ministry in Thessalonica was fruitful! Some of the Jews believed and they joined the brothers in their ministry. Note the words associated with Paul’s ministry there: reasoned, explained and proved. Let’s look at each of these words briefly.

To reason with a person is to have a logical conclusion to a matter. In this case Paul would use the Old Testament Scripture in hopes the Jewish people would come to a logical conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah.

After he reasoned with them he would explain that Jesus had to suffer. Some Jews expected Jesus to come as a conquering king. They knew the Messiah would come from the linage of David and therefore expected Him to be a king like David. They expected the Messiah to break the Roman oppression and free them again. Their thinking was too small. Jesus didn’t come to simply change the government but to give us freedom. Jesus wasn’t focused on an earthly kingdom but on an eternal kingdom! The Jews wanted a conquering king, not a humble servant. Therefore Paul needed to explain the Scriptures to them.

Finally he would take the time to prove all of this. He would most likely turn to the Old Testament Scriptures, the passages they were familiar with. He would go to the Psalms, Isaiah and Deuteronomy. It would also make sense for Paul to explain the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ. This would complete the picture Paul was painting for the Jews to understand the truth of Christ. He wasn’t cramming this down their throat but proving it from God’s word. I imagine he was also praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal it to them.

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, could you reason from the Scriptures to those who are far from the Lord? Do you know how to explain what Jesus came to accomplish? Are you familiar with the Gospel and able to prove it to others?

If you’re not, it’s ok. Continue to study God’s word every week so you can reason, explain and prove that Jesus is the Messiah. At our church we open God’s word and go through it so we are all more prepared to reason, explain and prove that Jesus is the Messiah. But you can also study it more on your own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Unstuck Church | Book Review

Title- The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health

Author- Tony Morgan

Publisher- Thomas Nelson

Pages- 205

Quotable- "For the church to return to sustained health, a growing core of people needs to come to the realization that church isn't about me."
( I could have written 20 quotes from this book but only choose one)

A few months ago called me and my family on the greatest adventure/step of faith in our life. About two months into my call to lead Coastline Bible Church I was talking with my mentor about where our church is at. He is familiar with the church and cares deeply for both of us. He recommended that I read a new book by Tony Morgan. I immediately got it on Amazon and started reading it.

I've followed Tony Morgan on social media for a while and read many of his posts. He a well respected leader, pastor and helper of churches. Tony essentially breaks down the seven stages that each church will experience:
1) The Launch stage
2) Momentum growth
3) Strategic growth
4) Sustained health
5) Maintenance
6) Preservation
7) Life support
(Carey Nieuwhof explains these more on his website)

From the first chapter to the last word each chapter has been helpful in the role God has called me to in leading. Tony combines his experience, with practical application and stories from churches in the different stages that every church goes through. He writes about churches who are shaping the mission and vision of their church. He talks about helping a growth church move from leader driven to a strategy for sustained health.

Now there is also the downside, the side no church wants to find itself on (this is the beginning of the maintenance mode). Tony provides practical steps for churches that are dying to become healthy again. He speaks clearly about reaching out, investing in the community and having strategic focus. He encourages churches in these stages to make drastic changes so they can be a vital part of their community again.

One part that really stuck out to me was Tony's emphasis on prayer. He knows that no matter how much strategy, information and great ideas a pastors has it requires a movement of God to help the church become healthy. He emphasizes the need for pastors to be praying for God to reach their community. Tony also talks about staff teams and the importance of having a unified team. Team leadership is one of my favorite subjects!

This book has been fantastic in aiding me in leading the church. If you're a leader, elder, director, staff member or pastor at a church I highly encourage you to pick up this book. You might see something that could help your church move to strategic growth once again.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Mere Christianity

Title- Mere Christianity

Author- C.S. Lewis

Publisher-Harper San Fransisco
Zondervan Publishing House

Pages- Audio Book

Quotable- “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

In my life Mere Christianity is the one book I've started reading the most times and never finished. I have in fact read it two times but started it many more times. This time I decided to listen to the book and it was a great way! It's been a few weeks since I finished the book but it was one of those books I longed to listen to more.

When I think about my history with this book I'm reminded that it was one of the first books I purchased as a new believer but was so confused that I put it down. I wanted to read Lewis and other authors but I just wasn't there. Now looking back I can see/understand the topics he discusses. I can see that Lewis had a great understanding of the faith. He would speak so profoundly on a topic and then relate it to the life of a person so simply and clearly.

C.S. Lewis covers a variety of topics in this book. He talks about faith, eternity, living for Christ and many other areas. In fact the book is a compilation of a number of short radio talks Lewis did. He then took those talks and created the book. The chapter on money was very impacting to me and made me long to increase my generosity.  I really appreciate how humble Lewis is. Lewis is aware of topics he has the knowledge to discuss and topics he needs to stay away from. Turning the radio talks into the book helped him to expound just a bit more on some subjects.

Lewis talks about the need to trust in Christ. He uses such simple illustrations that it made me question why I put the book down so many times. When you're reading it you have to keep in mind that Lewis is from Europe. There are some words/phrases he uses that are tall-tell signs of his descent.

If you're looking for a book that will challenge you, encourage you and have you longing to know Christ more then grab this book!