Monday, April 28, 2008

Sharing the gospel - #7

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 2 Peter 3:8-10

Peter writes this as an answer to his own hypothetical question in verse 4:
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:4

Someday everything you see will be destroyed. Buildings, trees, cars, homes, schools, hospitals, even churches will all be destroyed. Are you saving up for a 58" plasma tv? Well, guess what? Gone. How about an iPhone? Yep ... gone. A new car, boat, clothes? Going, going, gone.

There is only one truly safe investment ... people ... friends, family, co-workers, complete strangers even. Sharing the gospel is the only gift you have to give that will last. It's the only thing you have to offer someone that won't ultimately be destroyed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Elders and Deacons - #1

We now have deacons (Brian Wilson, Steve Courchaine, and Richard Meyers) and elders (Chad Dalton, Nathan Clayborn, Jesus Lopez, and Brian Woods). Many of us have served in the role of elder or deacon for other churches. But, regardless, I want to take this opportunity to look to the Bible for guidance. What does it mean to serve as deacon or elder in a church? I'm not going to try to answer the entirety of this question in one post. Instead, I am going to consider one passage at a time and the truths that each passage reveals to us.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:1-7

This passage is short and sweet. But, the message is very powerful. The church is a body made up of many members with varying specialties. If the body needs to run, the feet are asked to do the work. How silly would it be to ask the hands to run? For starters I don't think you can run very fast on your hands. And, I bet your arms would be really worn out after only a few minutes (maybe you wouldn't even last that long). Likewise, I wouldn't recommend trying to eat with your feet. It's appropriate that the deacons and elders have different responsibilities.

The twelve are what we would refer to as elders. Stephen and the other six chosen to serve the Hellenist widows are what we would refer to as deacons. The elders understood their role to be primarily praying and the ministry of the word. The first responsibility given to deacons was to serve food to widows. But, the role of deacon doesn't stop there. In fact, based on this scripture alone a case could be made for deacons being responsible for everything outside of prayer and ministry of the word. Because the elders responsibilities are limited and the scope of the deacon's responsibilities is nearly endless it doesn't seem inappropriate at all for there to be a few men on the board of elders and many, many men on the board of deacons.

But, the elders didn't ask for just anyone to meet this need. They specifically asked for men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. There's no reason to think that these chosen men were any less spiritual than the twelve. Likewise, it would be a mistake for a church to place the most spiritual men on the board of elders and the "leftovers" on the board of deacons. Stephen obviously knew quite a bit about the scriptures and was a very capable speaker. In Acts 7, he delivers a very powerful account of the relationship between God and the Hebrews throughout the Old Testament ending with:

51 "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." Acts 7:51-53

Wow! Stephen was no second class Christian, huh?

Finally, I think it's worth pointing out that the Greek word diakonia is interpreted both ministry as in, "prayer and ministry of the word" and also serve as in, "serve tables." It's a mistake to assume that the twelve were above serving. They were serving in the very specific way they felt called by God to serve. They were not attempting to avoid serving. Instead they were resisting the temptation to wander from the call of serving the church through prayer and ministry of the word.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sharing the gospel - #6

" ... 18 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you." Jeremiah 1:18-19

The gospel is not seeker-friendly. There has been a lot of talk the last 10-15 years in churches across America about being seeker-friendly. At least, that has been my experience. Most likely, there has been talk about being seeker-friendly from the very beginning of the church age (I just don't remember that far back).

As I mentioned in #5, the Bible is clear that there are some that are ready to hear the gospel and accept it. But, there is also plenty of scripture that supports the idea that God's word for his people will not be received joyfully by everyone that hears it. The first chapter of Jeremiah is an excellent example.

In this chapter God calls Jeremiah for the first time. He explains to Jeremiah that he has plans for Jeremiah's ministry and that these plans have been known to God even before Jeremiah was born. These plans, however, do not include a warm response. In fact, God tells Jeremiah that the people will fight against him. He can expect considerable resistance - and this from God's own people.

God will not accept excuses. Jeremiah argues, "... I cannot speak, for I am a youth." God immediately responds, "Do not say, 'I am a youth'"

God warns Jeremiah to not "be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them." The road ahead for Jeremiah is going to be tough. On the one side he can expect resistance from God's own people. On the other he can expect God to be critically watching his every move. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Finally, if you read the book of Jeremiah, you will see that Jeremiah has very little success. He relays God's word to the Israelites for years with almost no positive response. He continually warns them to change their ways, to repent of their sins, and to get rid of the false idols in their lives. But, they do not listen. And, eventually Babylon conquers Judah and either kills or takes as slaves nearly everyone.

Discouraging? Yeah. It is. But, it's truthful. And, when it comes to the gospel, the truth comes first. And the truth comes with a promise from God, " ... I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you."

"So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.." - Carl Spackler

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sharing the gospel - #5

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:2
The problem here in Greenwood, IN is the same as any other place around the world: Not enough "workers." There are people right now that are ready to trust in Jesus as their savior. God has done 99% of the work. He has prepared the soil. He has planted the seeds. He has brought about growth. And, now it's time for the harvest.

Our purpose is simple and straight forward: "Point 'em to Jesus." This passage teaches clearly that there is one final piece of the puzzle missing: Not enough "workers." We can walk around the field and talk about the harvest. We can discuss how badly the crops need to be harvested. We can argue about the best way to harvest the crop. We can pray that the harvest will be successful. We can go to school to learn the latest techniques in harvesting. We can attend seminars put on by people that have been very successful at harvesting. We can save up money so that we can buy efficient, powerful harvesting tools.

But, the problem has never been a lack of planning, preparation, tools, or education. The problem has always been and always will be a shortage of "workers."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pics from April 7, 2008

Augh! Why do I always look confused when someone takes a picture of me? Is this what I look like all the time? You guys would be honest with me, wouldn't you?

See more pictures from last night at Flickr.

Thanks Lisa for taking the pictures.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sharing the gospel - #4

"... 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Share the gospel with the help of Jesus. He promises to accompany us in our journey. It's not that he is sending us out alone. He plans to be with us every step of the way. We don't have to take on this challenge without help. In fact, the more we lean on him for help, the more successful we will be.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

His strength is made perfect in our weakness. In fact, those that are naturally equipped for evangelism may have a distinct disadvantage because they may have a tendency to assume they can handle it on their own. Realizing that you are under-equipped to meet this challenge is a good start. From there, you are likely to ask God for help.

Sharing the gospel - #3

Share the gospel because someday it will be too late.

DC Talk - I Wish We'd All Been Ready [Live]