In Debt for Life

It seems strange that in the very same Book of Romans Paul would both say to “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” and “I am in debt to all people” (Romans 13:8; 1:14). How do feel about debt? I don’t like being in debt to another person and would love to declare that I am debt free. But there is a debt that every Christian has that will never be paid in full.
In Romans 1:14-17 Paul wrote these words, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.”

Like Paul, you and I as Christians are in debt or under obligation. Someone in our life took an interest in us and in our having the opportunity to know Christ and have our sins forgiven. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of me, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). Since we are all guilty of sin and God’s wrath is against all sin we are in deep trouble on our own. Yet, someone cared enough for us to tell us about God’s grace. Someone shared with us the gospel or good news of Jesus so we could be saved. We didn’t deserve it. If we received what we deserved we would all be lost forever. The faith God freely offered us salvation that we do not deserve through Jesus and that someone cared enough to tell us what he did, makes us debtors both to Jesus and other people for all our spiritual lives. We owe it to all people that we know to share with them the good news of Jesus so that they have the opportunity to be saved like we are.

Because we are saved by God, God has sent us on a mission. He sends us as ambassadors to the world we live in to represent Him and His cause in the world. As an ambassador of Christ, I’m not a citizen of this world. Instead God’s plan for every Christian is that we would be strangers, sojourners and exiles in this world. Too often we go way too far in our life on earth and become far too much at home here and now and lose sight of our purpose from God. As an ambassador for Christ I am to live in the world as one representing God and heaven, not this world or even this country. When we become too at home on this earth it leads to lots of worry and fret over what is happening around us. But if we keep in mind that we are on a mission from God to be his ambassadors to represent Him and heaven on the earth it changes our entire view of life.

Paul said the result for him was that as much as was in him he was ready to share the good news of Jesus to all people. Over in I Corinthians 9 he described what was involved in that whole mission. “Though I am free from all people, I’ve made myself the servant of all that I might gain the more. To the Jew I became a Jew that I might win the Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the Law (though not being myself under the law) that I might gain those under the law. To those without law, (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) I became as one without law that I might gain those without the law. To the weak I became weak that I might win the weak. I’ve become all things to all people that I might by all means save some.”

Too often we become so engrossed in this world and this life we aren’t even willing to reach out with the gospel to a Democrat if we are Republican or to a Republican if we are Democrats. All such silliness makes the devil in hell jump up and down with joy and it breaks the heart of God and Jesus who died for us. No matter who it is, whether fellow Americans, immigrants or aliens I am to be on a mission to share with them the good news of Jesus because the gospel is God’s power for salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We must never forget our debt and never forget our mission.

Imagine an ambassador from this country going to Russia to represent this nation and when they get there they forget all about their mission and become engrossed in the social life of the Russians. They become so much like the Russians that no one would ever realize that they are ambassadors for the United States. What good would they be as ambassadors? About the same amount of good as that Christian who gets so engrossed in life as a citizen of the United States that they forget their mission from God to share the gospel with all people.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to pay your debt by sharing the gospel of Jesus with the people you are around every day. If you fail in the mission, many who depended on you will be lost forever.

Leon Barnes

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Being the Church vs. Going to Church

Since our kids were little, we have always made a point to avoid saying things like, “We went to church.” The kids would jokingly mimic Brian by saying, “How can you go to church when you ARE the church?” We thought we were fairly on top of helping our children realize that the church is a family of believers rather than the building that they meet in, BUT, as I listened to Morgan Sunday morning and saw the different shirts that he went through, I was struck by the shortfalls of our family’s discussion of the church.
So what shirt do I wear? What ideas or habits keep me from really serving as the body of Christ? Here are some that I struggle with:

1. I have a shirt that clearly says “I am too busy doing important ‘church work’ to spend time talking to you about Jesus and how He can take care of you and any struggle you’re dealing with.” Wow! When you say it out loud it sounds horrible, but somehow it isn’t so horrible when I’m just wearing the shirt. That one needs to go in the trash! It’s simply not at all how Jesus lived, nor how He expects His body to live. Our purpose is to lead others to Him. If we’re too busy to do that, then we are entirely too busy!

2. I have another shirt that sometimes finds its way onto my body that says “My traditions matter more to me than truth.” Ouch! Throw that one out! Let’s lead the way in studying and praying for God’s guidance for every move so that we never get stuck in “what we’ve always done” and are continually finding new ways to serve God better.

3. The last shirt I want to tell you about is the one that says, “Your sins are worse than mine.” Do you have that one? I kind of think it is in everyone’s closet. It is so easy to justify my struggles and wonder why others have such a hard time “living right”. Romans 3:23 says that everyone has sinned, and amazingly, Paul doesn’t follow it up by saying, but some are so much worse than others! Definitely need to exchange that shirt for one that says, “Thankful for Christ’s blood that covers all of our sins.”

I feel sure that we all have different shirts that we need to weed out of our wardrobe—ideas or habits that limit my ability to really serve God and others. I hope my list will start you on the path to making your own list. Then, let’s commit to throwing all these “shirts” in the trash and simply “being the church”—Christ’s living breathing body.

Tammy Beck

Words Matter, Even if They’re Cliché

Remember a few years ago when the phrase “We don’t go to church, we are the church!” started to be tossed around? It didn’t take long for it to become cliché, probably because it’s both true and also rolls off the tongue. You say it now (obnoxiously, of course) after someone says something about going to church, and it will, without a doubt, induce some serious eye-rolling.

What struck me, though, as I listened to Morgan explore the idea on Sunday, is that the phrase went from novelty to cliché without anything changing. That is, “we are the church” became something we all knew and recognized, but nothing about our behavior—or even our language—about church changed. Does anyone else feel this way? I don’t know if it’s laziness on my part that I don’t change anything, or like Morgan said, we just don’t know what to do with the fact that we are the church. Regardless, I appreciate his words and am challenged to do two things:

  1. I am going to change my vocabulary about church.

I believe that until we change our vocabulary about church our perception of who we are, what we do, what it means to gather will not change.

Instead of “I’m going to church”
—> I’m going to say “I’m getting together with the church.”
Instead of “how was church?”
—> I’m going to ask “how was the time with the church?”
Instead of “what time is church?”
—> I’ll ask “what time is the church meeting?”
And on and on it goes.

When we say the former, I think we all know we mean the latter. But I also think that without making this small, simple change, we won’t really start to think about being the church in new ways. What other phrases come to mind that we say all the time? How would you tweak them? (Let’s make a list in the comments, and then let’s change the way we talk about these things!)

2. I am going to start to understand my identity as connected to the church.

I heard The Church Has Left the Building went really well, and that was so good to hear. (Thanks for sharing the pictures Darrin!) But listening to Morgan’s sermon, it hit me: “Doesn’t the church leave the building every Sunday”? Of course it’s helpful to highlight the event and to serve in intentional ways together on the special occasion, but it struck me that we have the opportunity every week to leave the building and still to be connected to one another as the church. I loved Morgan’s “I am His” t-shirt. Collectively, we should be wearing a “we are His” t-shirt, every week as we leave the building. We’re more likely to be a church of inclusion, to serve together, to live out the constant reality of being the church if we recognize that we are connected to one another—whether or not we’re in the auditorium together.

What does this look like in practice? It could be as simple as messaging one of my church friends once during the week asking: “Have you had a chance this week to include someone?” or “Have you had the chance to serve someone?” Just that, I believe, will help me remember to be the church “out there,” so that I can more honestly be the church when we gather together.

Jeremy Daggett

“Don’t just go to church, be the church.”

It’s hard not to pick and choose where and when to let my “Jesus side” show.

If I feel like someone is being a jerk in traffic, I want to shove the “Jesus side” of me to the back seat while I have some choice words and gestures for this guy who obviously doesn’t know how to drive. After all, Jesus never drove in rush hour traffic, so he probably couldn’t understand what it feels like to get cut off, could he?

If I feel like someone’s situation tugs at my heart and, for some reason, I feel moved to help someone with money or a kind word, it’s easy to put my “Jesus side” out for display. After all, Jesus was a good guy who had compassion on people and helped them out when they needed stuff didn’t he?

I have a sense of the times my “Jesus side” needs to be on display and when it doesn’t need to be on display.

Unfortunately, the decision is usually weighted almost entirely on what I want and not as often on what Jesus would likely want.

But it is getting better.

It’s not hard to pick and choose where and when to let my “Jesus side” show, but I don’t even want it to be a question or a choice or for there to by a “my side”.
So when that jerk shows up in traffic and cuts me off, I want Jesus’ leadership to shape how I respond with love, grace, etc.

And when someone’s situation tugs at my heart, I want Jesus’ leadership to shape how I help and serve…

…but I also want Jesus’ leadership to shape how I love, serve, and more when someone’s situation doesn’t tug at my heart, but it tugs at his.

And that only happens, I’ve discovered, if I make sure that “I am His” is the filter through which I make all my decisions, think all my thoughts, etc.

This week, I’m challenged to take every thought captive and make it submissive to Christ so that every part of me reflects Christ, not just the parts that I want to make available.

Wade Poe

Be the church

A few weeks ago we looked at the story of Jesus clearing the temple, and the obvious question was: “What in the world was Jesus so mad about?”

Leon did a great job of expressing the problem at hand; the Jews had turned a place of inclusion into a place of exclusion; they had turned a place to be with God into a place of worldly profit. Elsewhere the Bible teaches that WE, the people of God, are now the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. WE ARE THE CHURCH. And I believe Jesus can become equally angry with us when we operate in a way that stands between people and Himself. This Sunday I hope to look further into what it means to be a place of INCLUSION rather than a place of EXCLUSION. More specifically, let’s look at how can we be a PEOPLE of inclusion rather than a people of exclusion.

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of “church?”

What do you think your coworkers think of when they think of church? What about your friends? Neighbors? Twitter followers?

Do they think of a place of inclusion or exclusion? Do they think of a people of inclusion or exclusion?

As we try to “be the church,” we are met with the task of reflecting the image of Christ to those around us. How can we do that and do it well? Join us for worship this Sunday to talk about being the church and then take action in “The Church Has Left the Building” right after service.

See you there!
Morgan Hines

Why am I listening?

In light of our cultural context it is obvious communication is not happening.

There are many thoughts and opinions, maybe more than ever, that I have access to at any moment. I can find a point and a counterpoint for anything with little effort. If you agree with me I “like”, I “retweet”, I feel affirmed. If you disagree I “block”, I “unfriend”, I am indignant.

This polarized reality is often called an “echo chamber” where we hear ideas that we support in increasing percentage, and dissenting opinions aren’t heard in increasing percentage.

When Leon was talking about the challenges we face in family last Sunday my mind raced in many directions; but I became convinced to evaluate how and why I listen. Am I listening so I can argue against respond to what you think? Or am I listening to understand and then let you know I understand.

Whether it be in ministry, in family, in friendships, or in public, how might my light shine more for God if I communicate to the people I’m around that I hear them and that I want to understand.

Surely it won’t hurt.

 

Shannon Cooper

 

 

Breaking Down Barriers

The sermon this past Sunday was entitled “Family Values.” The preaching passage came from Hebrews 13:1-6 where among other things, the Hebrew writer says, “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

While the context is dealing with the spiritual attitude and values that Christians ought to display toward others in society, the thought that hit home with me is that attitudes begin at home before extending outward to others! I didn’t have the good fortune of having a brother growing up, (I was the only boy in a family full of girls!), but I’ve heard others tell of how brothers can fight like cats & dogs one minute and be best friends the next! It reminds me that in the family of God, we may have disagreements from time to time but we should always come back at the end of the day to remember the love that we have for one another! A family doesn’t put conditions on their love for one another…they just love! Skinny or fat, tall or short, hairy or bald, we love each other because we’re family! So let brotherly, (family), love continue. Don’t grow out of it; don’t stop showing it to one another. The Hebrews writer reminds us that this is our value system among Christians in our love toward one another.

Now when we understand this first part, it’s not hard to understand the second part about the value of practicing hospitality toward strangers! The passage sometimes gets people unnecessarily confused by mentioning the word ‘angels’. The truth of the matter is that the Hebrews writer is reminding Christians to take the next step in their faith by showing hospitality toward others! Christians should do this as a way of life and in the process you’ll never know when you may be showing kindness to one of God’s angels, (a fellow Christian or potential Christian perhaps), unaware.

You see, people can tell a difference between someone who is genuine, loving and kind and one who is being nice because they have to be. I remember an old TV skit where the mom is yelling at the kids and calling her husband everything but a child of God and then the telephone rings and she suddenly becomes the sweetest, kindest person on earth answering, ‘Hell-oooooo’.

Our Christianity should not be like that. We should strive to be as kind, helpful and accepting toward others as we are toward our friends and family. In the process, we let people see the kind of family values Christians represent! Not just on Sundays when we smile and shake hands but in the everyday opportunities of life when people are searching for acceptance or just needing a friend!

We sing the song, what a friend we have in Jesus but when we understand our family values in Christ we ask ourselves the question, can others find a friend in me? Now there’s something we should think about this week!

John P.

God Redeems Broken Relationships

In our Sunday worship gatherings with Renovo (our house church family), we dedicate time each week to hear each other’s stories. We encourage and edify one another by sharing how God is working in our lives.

On Sunday, John (not his real name) shared how God has used Renovo to redeem his marriage to Jane (not her real name). After six years of marriage, John began an affair with Jill. Jane discovered the affair and confronted John, but he continued to see Jill. In the years that followed, Jane struggled with depression and anxiety. If not for her concern for their young son, Jane would have divorced John.

In 2015, John and Jane’s son was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. John and Jane had to work together to save enough money to fly the three of them to Barcelona where he could see a specialist. At a café in Luanda, Angola, the day before they boarded the plane to Spain, our teammate Danny had a chance encounter with John, whom Danny recognized from John’s job as a bank teller in Huambo. John explained the reason for their trip and Danny promised that our group would be praying for their son.

Several weeks later, Danny found John at the bank and asked about his son’s recovery. Danny also invited John and his family to worship with us on Sunday. John, Jane, and their son joined us, albeit out of a desire to express gratitude for our prayers. To their surprise, they found a group of Christians unlike any other they had known. Each person spoke openly about his/her own struggles and our Bible study invited every participant to share a thought on how to be obedient to the biblical text. John and Jane continued to meet with us each week and they gradually opened up more and more about their own trials. They expected to hear harsh words of judgment, but instead they found a Christian family who shares the truth with much love. They found a church who accepted them as broken people (aren’t we all!) while also believing they could be made whole again.

Since John and Jane joined us for the launch of Renovo in February, John has not seen Jill. John called and ended the affair after recognizing how his sin had impacted all his relationships, especially his relationships with God, with Jane, and with his son. John has made a number of intentional steps toward rebuilding trust with his wife, including counseling as a couple with our teammates Danny and Katie. John and Jane have a difficult road ahead as they work to rebuild a healthy marriage, but they have found joy once again in serving God together.

John sees God at work throughout his story. John admits his sin and the effect of his actions. They were a broken family because of John’s sexual immorality, but God is working to restore them to Him and to each other. I am thankful for both John and Jane. I admire John’s courage to confess and turn away from his sin. I thank God for Jane’s grace and forgiveness.

Let us each hold marriage in the highest honor. And where we find broken families, let us work toward reconciliation and redemption by speaking the truth in love.

Robert Meyer

Holding the corners

This past Sunday, Leon shared with us out of Hebrews 13:1-6 about how we as Christ-followers are to love one another, show hospitality, remember those in prison, be pure in our relationships, don’t be greedy, but instead live a life of trust and dependency on the Lord.

There’s no place in our life where the Lord says, “Except that area, I don’t have anything to say about that part of your life — just do whatever.”

A couple of years ago, one of my sons and I were making watermelon flavored Koolaid and we’d just finished filling the glass pitcher with ice and Koolaid when one of us (I won’t say who) let it slip out of our hands and it smashed all over the floor and sent Koolaid everywhere.

I mean everywhere. The ceiling. The cabinets. The oven. The stove. In the two adjoining rooms. Under the fridge. You name it, it got a watermelon Koolaid bath.

So, we spent a good amount of time cleaning up glass and Koolaid and we thought we had it all cleaned up, but as it dried, it changed color and got a bit darker pink and we noticed it was in more places than we thought. It’s been months since that happened and I still find little spots of watermelon Koolaid on the ceiling or in a corner.

A long story to make a point – just like the Koolaid, there’s absolutely no corner of our lives that the Lord doesn’t see, doesn’t cover and doesn’t claim. He sees it all and wants us to let him be Lord of it all.

And over time, when we’re ready, he shows us some places we hadn’t thought of yet. Places that we might not have considered as places in our lives he’d be interested in.
Your relationships with people. With everyone in your life. Everyone. Even strangers. Even people who you think deserve a bad lot in life because of their choices. He wants you to show love, grace, truth, mercy to them all. He wants your relationship with them to reflect your relationship with him.

How you think about money and stuff. Even if you’re poor and don’t have much. How you use your home and your blessings. How much time you devote to trying get more or keep what you’ve got. He wants you to depend on him and not the blessings he has allowed in your life.

As you go about your week, remember that Jesus wants to be the Lord of your life in every sense. Not to mess with your fun or derail your life and make you miserable, but because he knows what you need and wants to lead you to better than you have yet imagined. Look for him in places you might not have dreamed he had an interest in and ask him what he would like for you to know and do.

Grace and peace

Wade Poe

THE CHALLENGE OF BROKEN FAMILIES

This month we are looking at some of the huge challenges we face every day. One of the greatest of those challenges is broken and injured families. The writer of Hebrews concluded his book discussing practical life problems we face daily. In that section of chapter 13 he pleaded for hospitality in the home. He pointed out that marriage was to be held in honor all the time. But to maintain such honor for marriage it is absolutely necessary to maintain sexual loyalty in the marriage. God made the man and woman as sexual beings. One of the marvelous blessings of creation was the companionship of sex in the marriage. Inside marriage sex is holy, pure and undefiled. But if we practice sexual relations outside of marriage, either as pre-marital sex or as sex with someone other than our wife or husband it is immorality or it destroys the marriage. Sex in the marriage is a means of giving oneself fully to their partner as one flesh. Sex out of the marriage dishonors the marriage and God who gave it.

Throughout time there have been challenges of immoral behavior. But there are few times in all of history when the attacks have been as blatant as they are now. Satan has worked overtime to take the honor out of marriage. He longs to turn it into just another relationship, like a contractual partnership, but not a one-flesh bond. He longs to turn us away from the image of God place of honor we hold and convince us that we are simply animals and ought to practice the same biological, “in heat” kinds of sex in the rounds as practiced in the animal kingdom regularly.

How do we maintain the honor in marriage? First, remember that both you and your partner are image-bearers and how you relate to each other demonstrates the image we have from God. Second, when we are completely loyal to each other in the marriage it demonstrates that we left all others to be glued to our partner for life and that our love will grow constantly as we live and love together. Third, it is vital to remember God’s place in our marriage. Notice, marriage came from God. It was God who said it wasn’t good for a man to be alone and made the woman and brought her to the man. It is God who joins us together as one flesh. It is God who judges those who fail to maintain the morality of sex in the marriage only. Instead of gauging the success of our marriage on the amount of things we can accumulate, we must remember that we aren’t alone. God is always with us, helping us to build and maintain the relationship of marriage as we are committed to him each day.

Your marriage is one of the greatest blessings you can ever have in this world. Give yourself fully to the marriage and to your partner. Never allow Satan to pull you away from your devotion to each other or to God. If you stand together, you can withstand the greatest challenges the world can throw at you since you stand together with each other and with God Almighty.

 

Leon Barnes