The Stealth of Good Works

Some of the first disciples we read about in Acts chapter 2 provided one of the best examples of a group of people who exhibited the Kingdom of God in their lives together. They formed a community, and it was clear that God was ruling and reigning in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace through Jesus. Acts 2:42-47 says this:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (NLT, emphasis added)

In my context at UALR, we are trying to allow God to create a space in which his reign is evident. It is our hope that he would add to our number daily those who are being saved. With Acts 2 in mind we:

  • Devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. We study Romans together on Wednesdays; we study Hebrews in a smaller group Thursday mornings; and we study one-on-one or individually as well. We recognized God’s Kingdom when we are saturated by his Word.
  • Fellowship and share with one another. Those to whom God has given freely, freely give. The group at Genesis spends time together regularly, eating and sharing every gift we have been given in Christ.
  • Pray together. We have a special prayer time Thursday mornings and Fridays at noon.
  • Worshipping together. Much like Jesus says in Luke 19:40, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” With no dedicated time (other than Sunday mornings) for worshipping in song, the students at Genesis began to spontaneously worship God in song together one day and they simply have not stopped since.
  • Work to enjoy the goodwill of all the people.

This fifth point reminds me of a story Chris Wright tells in his book: The Mission of God’s People. It’s a story of love so great, so radical, that it demands the world’s attention.

Wright explains that around the year AD 250 we know that in the midst of poverty and sickness in Rome, the Christians there had begun to care for approximately 1500 needy people every day through food programs, orphanages, and hospitals. They cared for believers and nonbelievers alike.

Christians had become “the greatest social force in world history.” So much so that by AD 350, “Emperor Julian…became fearful that Christianity might TAKE OVER THE WORLD FOREVER by the stealth of good works” (Loc. 2903, emphasis mine).

I believe that if God begins to reign in our world, or in our city, or in our community, that the fear Emperor Julian felt so long ago would become a reality today. Radical love would urge God’s people to humble service that would forever change the world around us for the glory of God to the ends of the earth.

Morgan Hines

Advertisements

As Above, So Below

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

I believe that God’s kingdom is close.  And while perhaps not a physical kingdom as would have natural borders and barriers, not simply one where one is either inside or outside, but rather the kingdom represents God’s fulfillment, His restoration.  We prayerfully declare this when we recite the words of Jesus from Matthew 6, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  One popular paraphrasing would be, “As above, so below”.

This prayer of fulfillment, then, is not simply a prayer for tomorrow, but one for today, not merely for a future kingdom, but for now…each day.  Give us our daily bread…for today.  Help us with forgiveness…today.  Deliver us from our sinful desires…today.  In so doing, God’s kingdom of fulfillment is growing through daily acts of restoration from what is not the will of God to what has been purposed by God.  “As above, so below”.

Recently, there was a verse added to one of my favorite hymns, “Just As I Am”.  The verse reads:

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

To me, “Growing God’s Kingdom One Person At A Time” isn’t about “adding” people to the kingdom of God, but about RESTORING them, MENDING what has been broken, HEALING what has been hurt, RESCUING those in desperation, FILLING those who feel empty, PARDONING those racked with guilt.  Praise God!

As above, so below.

Chad Tappe

Lost Intimacy

My brother in Christ and former professor, Dr. Stan Granberg, was once asked, “What made you want to start a church planting network?”

With tears in his eyes he relayed his response, “Because I want to see more people in heaven.”

In Luke 15 Jesus tells a series of stories: one about a lost sheep, one about a lost coin, and one about a wayward son. We are told that the return of the single sheep, coin, and son bring the same response: A PARTY. The individuals call their friends together to celebrate and rejoice at return of the lost item. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10, NIV).

Just a few chapters later, Jesus hammers this idea home: “…The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10, NASB).

So why do I want to grow God’s kingdom? Because Jesus came from heaven to earth and went through hell to redeem his people, to literally buy us back from slavery to sin and bring us into freedom through himself. EVERY individual was and is infinitely important to Christ.

But Jesus’s ministry about the kingdom of heaven was two-fold. Jesus taught his disciples to pray these words: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, NIV). Not only was he offering all people an eternal hope of life with him in Heaven, he was restoring that which was lost in the Garden of Eden, heaven on earth.

Everywhere Jesus went droves of people gathered around him to be healed of the physical brokenness brought on by sin. Jesus’s powerful presence restored the brokenness around him.

And Jesus taught his disciples to do the same, to minister to both spiritual AND physical needs. When he sent them out in pairs in Luke 10:9 he said, “Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now’” (NLT).

From the very beginning, when God established his people (his church) through Abraham, He said, “…Through your descendants all the nations will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me” (Gen. 22:18, NLT). The church is to be a reflection of the glory of heaven for the world to see that they might praise and glorify our God in heaven.

As followers of Christ we are a part of God’s church. Because of the FREE love of Jesus, we love, serve, and bless others. Because Jesus first loved us, we share our confident hope of heaven with others. Because of Jesus, we GO.
Morgan Hines

Why Should Families Be Concerned With Growing God’s Kingdom

God’s kingdom is the area where He has reign or authority. By that definition, where is your kingdom? I would say that I try to maintain authority in my home, therefore the people who live in my home are under my authority and protection, in my kingdom. They will have all the benefits that come with living there, i.e., clothes, food, and shelter will be provided; they will be loved and talked with; and they will be protected from any preventable harm. Obviously, there are requirements for living happily in my kingdom. If the residents of my kingdom choose to ignore those requirements, discipline will be administered. In many ways, God’s kingdom is very similar to that description.  

Using the analogy of our home as our kingdom, why do we choose to grow that kingdom by having children or inviting others to join our family? Because there is something there that we want to share with others – something that would benefit them. It could be that we are overflowing with love and want to share that, or possibly, other resources like time and money. Whatever it is that we want to share, bringing others into our kingdom is the way to do that. Our hope is that by living in our kingdom, they will have opportunities for growth that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

What is it about God’s kingdom that makes us want to share it? In Matthew 5-7, Jesus talks extensively about life in His kingdom and the blessings of living there. He talks about how welcome people will be (those who mourn, the meek, the merciful) even though they have been rejected by other kingdoms. He also talks about who we will become (salt and light) after we spend time in His kingdom. The opportunities afforded us because of our citizenship in His kingdom, though, are the most exciting. He says we’ll bear good fruit, that our lives will be built on a rock that can’t be washed away, and that we will spend the rest of eternity in His perfect heavenly kingdom.

Why wouldn’t we share that?! If we find a restaurant that serves delicious food, or if we see a movie that we like, we quickly tell others about it and encourage them enjoy it too. If being part of God’s kingdom truly offers us the “good life” of fulfillment and blessings, why would we not share it with anyone and everyone that we care about?!

From a parent’s perspective, the most crucial place to grow God’s kingdom is in our home. Raising our children to want to live close to God in His kingdom AND to want to bring others into that kingdom is our very most important job. We need to look for ways every day to make sure that our home (kingdom) is within the borders of God’s kingdom. Spending time with our families listening to God’s word and talking to Him through prayer will help us to know Him better and grow into a family that really is salt and light in our world.

Tammy Beck

“You’re not the boss of me!”

“You’re not the boss of me!”

“No! I don’t want to!”

“I’ll do that later.”

The above are some comments I remember hearing from my kids during those rare times when they wanted to test the limits of my patience and see just much they could get away with and do what they wanted. Those were some tough times.

It’s beautiful later, after going through many of those parenting challenges, to have your children come to you with a very different attitude and ask you for help, guidance and information, with a sense of humility and with an understanding that, without you, they’d be in trouble.

We can be a fiercely independent and stubborn species. You can see it in our relationships with each other. You can see it in our history as a culture and as a country.

We don’t like being told what to do. We usually want to have THE voice in determining what we’ll do. And if we can’t have “the” voice, we at least want to be heard and have a voice, a vote.

So it goes without saying that we’re not king or kingdom kind of people.

A kingdom is a place where a king gets to decide what happens. That’s why our country doesn’t have a king. We like to decide what we want to do, when and if we’re ready to do it. We fought a war over this. It’s in our cultural DNA.

That’s probably what makes being a follower of Jesus a little tougher in our culture. In a culture of choice, as disciples we’re called to submit our choice, our voice, to someone else’s and chose to make them king – not just a consultant whose opinion I might consider or dismiss.

As a follower of Jesus, I willingly choose to make God my king and I understand that, if he is king, I submit to his decisions about what I should do in my life everyday and all the time.

When Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray in Matthew 6, he started his prayer with these familiar words – Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

As disciples, we invite God to come into our lives and reign as our king. We ask that his will be done in our presence and through our lives, just like it’s done in heaven. And he’s faithful and will lead us into growing his kingdom, his will in our life.

Sure, we’ll have days where our first response to God’s leadership is, “You’re not the boss of me”, but he’s also our very patient father and won’t give up on us.

And as time goes by, his Spirit will soften our hearts and we’ll go back to him for help and guidance with much humbler hearts, knowing that he does know best and that we can trust him to be our king.

 

Wade Poe

A Personal Challenge For Growing the Kingdom

I’m always happy to share my thoughts about the work here at Central. As I think about our vision of “Growing God’s Kingdom One Person at a time!” I’m reminded of the great parable of Jesus commonly referred to as the parable of the sower, (Matt. 13:1-9; Mk. 4:1-9; Lk. 8:4-8). In this great story, the seed of the gospel is intended to produce disciples who in turn produce other disciples in varying quantities, with the end result being growth in the Kingdom of God!
We often want to take on this task single handedly and sometimes become overwhelmed in the process, but it’s important to remember that the farmer only sows and cultivates the soil for growth to occur, he does not ultimately have the power to make the seed grow! Thank goodness that he seed, (the Gospel), has this power innately. I believe that this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote that the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rms. 1:16). Here, I believe, is our guideline and challenge for growing God’s Kingdom one person at a time! We must always remember that the power and growth resides in God and in the message that Christ has given to the hearers. Jesus said that this is an example of what the kingdom of God is like, (Mk. 4:26). The same power to save is also the power to grow and to multiply, (Mk. 4:28).
Before leaving to return to heaven, Jesus told the disciples of his expectation that they, (WE), produce more and better fruit and works. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. ” (Jn. 14:12).
Clearly Jesus has great expectations for us as we rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to accomplish the work of growing God’s kingdom. In John 15 he says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (15:8). 

My hope for the Central Church of Christ is that we take seriously the challenge that Jesus gives each of us to grow much fruit. I believe that the fruit He refers to goes beyond the friendliness and service we display. Jesus was referring to the expansion of the kingdom through the sharing of our faith with others! I hope you will accept the Lord’s challenge to be a sower of the gospel seed into the lives and hearts of those you know and come in contact with daily. In doing so, we can truly “Grow God’s Kingdom One Person at a time!”


~ John Phillips Jr ~

    Dreaming of Growth

    This past Christmas, my Christmas wish-list included something that had never been on my list before— books. And not just any books, but gardening books.

    I got books on cultivating soil, germinating seed, growing vegetables, starting a composter, developing a garden, and discerning what to put in that garden. I treasured these books! I was so excited because, for some reason, deep down within me was this strong desire to establish an atmosphere in my backyard where organic life would burst through soil, provide food for our table, and be recycled back into the earth to start the process all over again. I wanted to be a part of creating an atmosphere where life naturally sprouted.

    In short, I wanted to see things grow.

    I believe there is something spiritual, something divine, behind that desire. And I also believe that this desire is found deeply rooted in the hearts of the people at Central.

    Jesus felt that same desire and on multiple occasions expressed his confidence that the Kingdom of God would be planted into people, sprout, and grow into something awesome. He says in the 13th chapter of Luke:

    “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”

    In Jesus’ story, this tiny seed grows to become something huge, and creatures all around are blessed by it. In the same way, the Kingdom of God is planted into the hearts of men and, through the working of the Holy Spirit, grows into something that all men benefit from.

    When it comes to my backyard garden, my vision is that it will grow into a sort of garden utopia where things grow with ease— where I will pick the vegetables and fruit from it, and because of it other people are blessed. Unfortunately for me, gardens don’t grow by reading books. Gardens grow by putting in the hard work to create an environment where growth naturally happens.

    Our dream at Central is that God’s Kingdom will grow one person at a time. We can read all the books in the world about how to make that happen, but, more importantly, we must put in the hard work to create an environment where people from all walks of life can come and blossom into the person God wants them to be. We try to do this by accepting people where they are, relating to them in a personal way, discipling them in a way that honors Jesus, sharing our lives with them and serving them. We do all these things with prayerful and expectant hearts that God will bless our work and provide the increase.

    When all is said and done, we know we can’t do this on our own. Kingdom growth is always to be attributed to the Father, not the work of men. We will play our part, the part that God asks us to play, and eagerly wait and watch what God will sprout up through the hearts of men.

    To God be the glory.

     

    Corey Stumne

    WHY GROW GOD’S KINGDOM?

    Personal kingdoms come and go by the hour.  Even national kingdoms change rapidly.  Think of the number of powerful kingdoms that were in existence fifty years ago that are now just history.  But God’s kingdom is a completely different matter.  To grow God’s kingdom means to allow God to reign as king in our own lives first, then as king in our family and ultimately over every person that is willing to allow Jesus to be their king.  At Central, it isn’t our motivation to build a Central kingdom.  It is that we could totally fade into the kingdom rule of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Our longing is to first grow that kingdom by helping each other grow closer to God every day.  Certainly we want to encourage and aid in that effort with things like classes, worship and even this blog.  Everything is built around helping each of us become stronger for Christ and more yielded to Him in everything.
    But growing God’s kingdom can’t be just a personal thing.  Jesus is the ultimate unselfish, serving and giving person and if we are to be like him we must become totally sold out to helping people made in God’s image with the problems and struggles of life.  Jesus came to reach out to the poor, the prisoners, the children and sick and hurting and those who were possessed by demons.  Satan is certainly just as active and controlling today as he was then.  We are about rescuing people being used by the devil, through drugs, alcohol, pornography or even through mental illness.  We are about reaching out with love to abandoned and orphaned children.  The need for foster care and adoption in this area is huge.  We are also about helping every family to be good parents to their own children and bringing them up for God so that they aren’t ever in that horrible situation.  If we can involve even the children in meeting people in their hurts and struggles it will be amazing the difference we can all make.
    Growing God’s kingdom means that we are ready to share our story of what Jesus has done in our lives and what he will do in the lives of others if they will let him.  Helping that person who is homeless or all alone is never enough if we leave them lost and without God in their life.  So, grow personally, grow as a family, grow with your friends, grow by sharing and grow by telling others about Jesus who can change everything for them.
    Leon Barnes
    For more from Leon visit http://leoninlittlerock.com

    Growing God’s Kingdom

    An introduction to Central.

    This blog is devoted to communicating the vision of the Central church to grow God’s Kingdom in downtown Little Rock, central Arkansas, and to the ends of the earth. This vision is the engine behind our existence, but it is also a work in progress as we want to continually improve our faithfulness as well as our strategy.

    Join us on this journey.

    We gather regularly in downtown Little Rock to live out the mission of Jesus, just as we have been doing for the last 12 years. Although we live all over central Arkansas and have a variety of backgrounds, beliefs and assumptions about the world, we share our lives. We believe Jesus came to grow God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and we want to imitate Him.

    Join us on this journey.

    As a community we constantly battle the temptations of the world. We know that the way of the Kingdom is different than the way of the world, and as a result we are committed to holding high in our culture the values of the Kingdom of God.

    • In our urban setting we value diversity, and strive to be as inclusive as Jesus would be. We daily learn more about what it means to ACCEPT people.
    • In this culture of isolation we value connection, and strive to be as relational as Jesus would be. We daily learn more about what it means to RELATE to people.
    • In a world of immediate results we value process, and we strive to be as intentional as Jesus would be. We daily learn more about what it means to be a DISCIPLE.
    • In a situation of individualism we value community, and we strive to be as intentional as Jesus would be. We daily learn more about what it means to SHARE.
    • In a time of self-promotion we value humility, and we strive to be as selfless as Jesus would be. We daily learn more about what it means to SERVE.

    As our community is learning to live out the values of the heavenly kingdom here on earth we hold high the importance of each person in the eyes of God by valuing individuals, both within and without our community. We invite you to live life with us. We invite you to follow Jesus. We invite you to partner with us as we grow God’s Kingdom one person at a time. 

    Join us as we journey together.