Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adult VBS

I'm not sure how many churches still have Vacation Bible School for adults. CRBC does and it's always a good Bible study. Our normal process is to have the five lessons on the five Wednesday nights leading up to the week of children's VBS. It works pretty good and our folks show up for it.

We use the LifeWay material for all ages. The theme this year is "Big Apple Adventure" set in New York City. So we've been riding through the city that never sleeps learning how to apply biblical principles to our lives. Tonight is the last night - or adventure. The youth will have a VBS weekend later this week and we kick off children's VBS on Sunday.

I love VBS! Everyone - any age - can get involved and learn special lessons that make a difference everyday.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The 10 Most Important Days in the History of the Church

We had an awesome Bible study in our home last night. Our church is not meeting on Sunday nights this summer because, quite frankly, very few have been coming lately. But I still want to get the church together for something: a ministry day, a fellowship, Bible study, something. So we invited everyone over last night. I am pleased with the number who came although I would like more to take advantage of these things. We filled the living room. Maybe one day we can fill several living rooms around the community with life-changing, soul-challenging Bible study on Sunday nights.

The Bible study was from Acts 2. Really Acts 1 and the first few verses of chapter two. We focused on the activity/preparation of the 120 during the time between Jesus' ascension and the Day of Pentecost. The Bible tells us that Jesus died, resurrected three days later, and ascended 40 days after that. Pentecost always occurs 50 days after Passover so that means there were 10 days between the ascension and Pentecost. I intend to research scriptures and church history to support this theory: those were the 10 most important days in the history of the church.

Why? Without preparation and a good start, a prolonged life and good finish are nearly impossible. I see five things that happened during that week and a half that set the tone for the church to begin on the path of carrying out God's mission on earth - AND sustain it. I fully believe and understand that the church does nothing significant without the Holy Spirit. God actually does the work but since he chose to use the church I am looking at the church's preparation as led by the Holy Spirit. (That sounds both redundant and convoluted but I don't want anyone to pick apart my thoughts based on a technicality. If the theology is bad, attack that but don't throw out a good idea because you think I'm leaving out the Spirit.)

Obedience. In Acts 1:4 Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem. They were to wait for the gift promised by the Father. The gift was the Holy Spirit. Ten days later the disciples (120 of them) were still in Jerusalem waiting for the gift. Today's church must be obedient to everything God says. Go, stay, do, don't. Whatever God says. If my church or yours wants to experience unbelievable, supernatural stuff, we must be obedient.

Prayer. A constant prayer meeting took place during these ten days according to Acts 1:14. Have you ever wondered what they were praying about? Previously in the book the disciples had asked about the timing of when Jesus would establish his kingdom. Jesus dismissed the question and told them to focus on being witnesses in the world when the power of the Spirit came upon them. Surely they were praying about that promise and the task associated with it. And since they were just humans like me and you, they were probably also praying about the coming of the kingdom. I am convinced that when the church prays earnestly about allowing the Spirit to flow through us so that the world hears the gospel, and when we pray that the kingdom come, we will then, and only then, make a huge impact on the lostness of the world.

Focus. Acts 1:15 starts out "in those days." At some point between the ascension and Pentecost, Peter suggested that they choose a replacement for Judas, the betrayer. They felt the need to maintain The Twelve as if that were necessary in order to continue on the mission Jesus had given them. Jesus' mission never changes. He came to seek and to save the lost. He is not willing that any should perish. His mission is our mission. Peter realized that and kept the group focused by filling the vacancy. In verses 21-22, Peter said that this was necessary in order to testify to the resurrection. The church can easily lose focus and take off after one thing and another. Some of those things may be good things but distract from the mission. If we will stay focused on the mission we will see extraordinary events in the life of our church just as the 120 believers experienced a few days later.

Unity. As the second chapter of Acts unfolds we learn that the disciples we all together. The KJV says "in one accord." They were together physically, but they were also together spiritually. A splintered group could not be as effective as a unified group. Divisions, arguments, and cliques would quench the Spirit. It works like that in today's church, too. Maybe you have been in a fractured faith family. The pastor may lead in a direction the church feels is not appropriate. The church may not follow its faithful leadership. One family can feel shafted when the Nominating Committee report is presented. The long-time members may feel like they are being shoved aside. Newcomers could feel like they don't really belong. Ephesians 4:3 says that we are to keep the unity. We don't build unity. The Spirit gives unity. We either keep it or destroy it. If we'll keep the unity in our churches we will see a great movement of the Spirit like most of us have never known.

Action. The amazing scene described in the first verses of Acts 2 finds its apex in the acts of the disciples (of course, the Holy Spirit working through them). The ten days are past. The preparation is done. It is time for action. And the disciples did exactly what Jesus wanted. They spoke up. The moved out. They made a splash. They impacted eternity. Inaction would not do. Sitting back while others acted would not do. I believe 120 followers of Christ were filled with the Spirit that morning and every one of them went into action proclaiming the gospel. Today's churches must follow this example: everyone in action on mission to impact eternity.

Obedience. Prayer. Focus. Unity. Action. I am sure these are necessary components for revival in our church and an explosion of influence in the world. I'm still working on whether or not these ten days are the most important in the history of the church. But I think so.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

What to Do after 40 Years

So I'm gonna develop a sermon on this idea: What to Do after 40 Years.

CRBC celebrates our 40th Anniversary tomorrow. The actual date is June 13, I think. Seems like we have underachieved much of the time. Perhaps this milestone is a good time to move forward.

I was talking with one of our members today and she brought this up. Forty years. Kinda ho-hum. Wishes we could/would do/be better.

That's been on my mind, too. Linking the experience the Hebrew children had under the leadership of Joshua to the experience our church could have as we move past 40 seems like a natural application. This in no way downplays past leadership - Moses was the leader of the Hebrews during the 40 years prior to taking the Promised Land. He was a great leader who prepared them for their next era. This does not minimize what God has done through the church - he provided for, protected, and led the Hebrews to get them to right location for moving forward. But staying in Egypt or in the wilderness was not an option.

Sometimes you just have to write the next chapter in the story. We love the first 40 years. We've had great successes. We've had wonderful memories. We've learned from some difficult situations. If you were reading a book you would enjoy the previous chapter then turn the page to the next one.

And the next chapter relates to and builds upon the previous. It's not a complete disconnect. So we will build upon and move beyond our foundations with innovation and freshness. Forty years from now, I hope CRBC will celebrate their past and purposefully move into the future.

I'll post sermon audio when I preach the sermon.

Sandy Sue

I slept last night without a sound familiar over the last four years. Our dog Sandy was hit sometime early yesterday morning and died. No note on the door. They didn't move her out of the road.We got her in January 2007 when she was about 5 months old. I'm not sure there has been a night since then when she did not bark loudly at some point. Sometimes it was a nuisance, sometimes outright annoying. And last night it was missing.

Funny how little things like that stick out in my mind.

An emergency vehicle went be the house a little while ago. Sandy always alerted us about 30 seconds before we heard the siren. She would howl as if in pain when she picked up the faint sound. When I heard the siren today I thought of her.

My office door is about a 60-second walk from the front door of the house. Sandy usually made that trek (both ways) with me several times a day. She would lay in a shady spot in the summer or a sunny spot in the winter waiting for me to come out and walk to the other spot. Most of the time she walked just in front of me but close enough to make me alter my pace. Sometimes she would even be laying on the top step outside the office door - that almost always startled me.

So I'll walk over to the church later this afternoon by myself. I'll sleep tonight without waking up to her barking at something. I'll sit on the deck Monday without her head in my lap.

I'll forget and wonder why she's not howling when the sirens sound. I'll forget and ask Riley if he fed her some morning. I'll forget and start singing one of my little songs about her.

Her lore will likely expand - just like that of John John (the kitty cat). We enjoy having pets, we just don't have them very long.