Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Church in HD: May His Glory Fill the Earth

Over the past two months, we have taken a little closer look at our church. Frankly, in some ways it has been uncomfortable, and particularly as we sit on these new pews and have new carpet under us. Of course, we know that these items are not the church, but given the problems we have had downstairs and how those problems have kept us from using approximately 20% of the downstairs during Sunday School, and during God Squad during the week, matters such as carpet and furniture do have a place in the discussion.

On the second week of the series, I very briefly reviewed the history of the television. I think I surprised many of you by saying that the first set of pictures to be transferred across a set of wires was done in 1862. But TV has come a long way since then, and even within the last 60 years when it became more common for people to own televisions in their home. Rather than the black and white TVs with rabbit ears, most people now have high-definition TVs and even super hi-def TVs and can watch TV without any wires as images float past us in the air all the time. The picture has become clearer and that made watching more enjoyable.

Another major advance in clarity was the advent of the Hubble Telescope. Of course, people have been gazing at the stars for years. Telescopes are nothing new. They have allowed people to get a better gaze at the stars and planets for centuries. But when the Hubble Telescope was developed the star-gazing became less hazy, and details emerged that had never been known. Additionally, the Hubble Telescope allowed us to see so much further into space than had ever been considered.

Of course, seeing things more clearly does not always make us feel good. For instance, my wife does not worry much about what the top of the refrigerator may look like. It isn’t that she doesn’t care, but because she cannot see it, she has no idea how dusty is can become. But if she gets a step stool to get in the cabinet above the fridge, then her next stop includes a paper towel and cleaner to clean it off – unless I have done it recently. (And yes, having used this example, the top was cleaned this week!)

As we conclude this series today, I want to move beyond the church to YOU as an individual. Because if you are a Christian, then you are a part of the Church. So, let us use the passage from Acts 2 to consider how you are doing as it relates to what the early church did. Because if each of us – that is, a collection of you’s all do our part, then indeed, we can emulate the early church and we will see God move in ways we may not have considered.

Are You Devoted to the Word of God? (Acts 2.42)

The early church was devoted to learning. They gathered every day to learn. They came to hear the apostles teach them – from their experiences and from their study. Of course, the apostles physically saw Jesus and were present when Jesus did many of the things He did. But Acts 6 tells us that the primary method was proclaiming the Word of God. That is the great equalizer. You and I may not have been physically present with Jesus, but we have the complete Word of God available to us every day. The apostles were devoted to studying it and teaching it. The people were devoted to hearing and learning it. Are YOU as devoted to God and His Word?

Are You Devoted to Fellowship with Others? (Acts 2.42)

We are all devoted to someone or something. As I frequently mention, a large group of people will be show extreme devotion each Sunday various football teams. I am not anti-football. And I like the Chiefs, but where is my true devotion? Because fellowship is not just being around others or the 75000+ people at Arrowhead today would be experiencing deep fellowship. And yet, let me argue, that they are. Most of the people at a game as Arrowhead Stadium will be Chiefs fans. Some plays will cause them to agonize. Others will cause them to celebrate. An extreme unity will be felt by most everyone there. And that unity includes suffering in the cold. On the other hand, the modern church has reduced fellowship to having meals together – and as the end of verse 42 shows, that was a part of the fellowship then. But fellowship is the sharing of life. It is wanting to spend time together. It is desiring to be with other believers. It includes encouraging one another to be better, caring for one another during times of trial, loving one another when no one else will, praying with, and for, each other (as the text mentions), and yes, gathering together regularly to celebrate what Jesus has done for us. Are YOU devoted to that kind of fellowship with others?

Are You Devoted to Sharing with Those in Need? (Acts 2.44-45)

Three times each year we take a collection to send to missionaries in Missouri (September), North America (March/April), and around the world (December). On the last Sunday of each month, we collect our change to send to two pastors in Kenya. Throughout the years, we also have other opportunities to share – such as providing supplies to the youth, coats to the students at Maryville, boxes of toys to children around the world through OCC, food items for our area’s food pantry, etc. But most of what we give comes from the excess of what we receive, not from what we already have. While that is ok in the monetary sense, it is not acceptable in the fullness of ministry. What do I mean?

Service is needed as well. As we have seen a couple of times over the past few months, God has given us all certain talents, skills, abilities, etc. We are to serve Him from what we already have – ourselves. Yes, we should give to worthy causes, but sharing with those in need will often require giving of ourselves more than of our stuff. Of course, the early church was willing to sell “stuff” in order to provide for others. But the awe that people experienced (v 43) was due to what was being done. And this is not about being at or going to church – living for Jesus means you can serve Him wherever you are and in whatever you do.

In fact, our willingness to give from what we have can change the world. As Matt Perman said, “Our work changes the world in at least two ways. First, it is through our work that we change the structures of society, and it is by changing the structures of society that we change the world.” (Matt Perman, Unstuck, p. 116)

We need to be giving of ourselves – our time and our money. Are YOU sharing with those who are in need?

Are You Devoted to the Worship of the Lord? (Acts 2.46-47)

If you are reading to this, your immediate response may be “Of course.” But is that true? Remember, the aim of this series is to be honest with who we are as a church, and that begins with who we are as individuals. Attending church on Sunday (or reading certain blogs) is fine. But worship is not meant for Sunday alone. True worship is meant for every day. In fact, I am fully convinced that the reason most churches do not fully experience God on Sundays is that the people do not take time to worship Him during the week. Our worship together on Sunday should be from the overflow of our worship individually throughout the week. Now, the early church did this differently, but they did not have radios, music apps, the internet, etc. Additionally, they were still learning to understand that God did not reside in a place (the temple), but within our hearts. So they went daily to the temple (where God had promised His presence would be) to worship – or praise (v 47) – who He was and all that He was doing. Our technology may allow us to worship anywhere, but we do not need technology to worship.

Is worship a part of your daily routine? Are you truly devoted to the worship of Jesus?

Are You Devoted to the Spreading of the Gospel? (Acts 2.47)

Last week I reminded us of the story of Philip and his instant readiness. Philip had an expectation to be used by God. Acts 2.42 shows the early church, as a whole, did as well. Verse 47 says that God added to their number daily. Last week, during Sunday School, a couple of people started asking about how the Doctrine of Election fits into the entire scheme of faith and sharing the gospel. It was a fascinating discussion for about five minutes and I just listened and smiled while they worked through it and others joined in the process. Without getting into that doctrine, let me just say that the doctrine is biblical. But so is sharing the gospel. Jesus did it (Mark 1.14-15) and He commanded us to do it as well (Matthew 28.18-20).

Yes, it was the Lord who added to their number, but the people were sharing the message. That message included words like, “Knowing Jesus changed my life” and “You should hear what Peter was teaching us last night” and “Why don’t you come with me tonight and hear for yourself?” Again, the word gospel simply means “good news.” We all share good news, but do we honestly take the time to share THE GOOD NEWS?

So, that’s five things the early church did well that we must consider for ourselves. The group then was fully devoted and the impact on the world is still being realized. The question for us: Is are we devoted? These five areas of devotion represent the five areas or our church’s strategy as well, so if we are as devoted, we can accomplish now all that they did then.

The early church was healthy and thus God did some amazing things in and through them. Fairfax Baptist Church, we can become healthier. We can do better. We can grow like they did then – maybe not with the same numbers, but why not at the same percentage rate? Healthy churches grow over time, although not necessarily at all times. A church that is growing is not necessarily healthy, but a healthy church will eventually mean growth. If we are not growing and do not grow, then we are not healthy. And, thus, we need to look deeper than the surface issues. If we are not healthy, then that means all of us have some part to play in improving ourselves so that collectively we can improve as well.

It goes back to the central question of this series: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church, and for His Kingdom?”

Why should we care? Because it is not enough to be a church member...we are called to be Christ followers. Jesus said, I am the Way, so if we heed His call to “Follow Me,” we will not get lost. And when we are following the path He has set for us, we are able to bring God glory. Bringing God glory is the vision we have as a church (Matthew 5.16) and is our part in God fulfilling His promise in Habakkuk 2.14 that the knowledge of His glory will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

For us to fully begin exchanging our expectations for God’s manifestations, we need to tend to a few practical matters as well. I spent time this week mapping out 2019 and am really excited for what the new year will bring. But to enjoy the ride, we have some preparatory work to do. This work will not be specifically related to the ideas I have mentioned today, but without having certain processes in place, we cannot function as well as we should. So, when I return, we will focus on a few key items like developing our team purposes and completing our policies and procedures manual, and examining certain systems to make any changes to allow our ministry to become more effective. These areas will be key areas of focus of 2019!


I hope you have been challenged during this series – and especially today – to more seriously consider what it truly means to be a church that is devoted to God’s purposes and not our expectations. I realize that this series has not been the easiest to consider. It is easier to live with the idol of comfort than surrendering to standing before the council to be punished for proclaiming Jesus name as we saw with the apostles. It is easier to come and go while letting others serve than it is to do our part as a hand, a foot, an eye, and ear, or whatever part of the Body of Christ God has called us to be. It is easier to complain about what we would change about the church or others within the church than to take a closer look at what we could change about ourselves so that we might better reflect the glory of God. And it is better to think that the church that began just after Jesus left should be better than we are because, after all, they had spent time with Jesus. But do we not have the same Spirit and the same power available to us?

And that is why this series has been necessary. Sometimes we need to be rocked to the core. Sometimes we need to be reminded that church is nothing about what we want it to be; rather it is what He has designed her to be. The Church is the Bride of Christ and, as such, we have a responsibility to our groom to be what He wants us to be. And Jesus is not some misogynistic, wife-beating maniac. No, Paul reminds us that Jesus loved His bride so much that He died for her. The question for us is, will we live for Him?

Jesus said He would build His Church. One would think that over time it would improve. Humans now make better televisions, and telescopes. In fact, a lot of what is made is better now than in the past. No, not everything is, but if humans can improve on our ability to manufacture items, should we not expect that the Church Jesus designed and is building to be at least as good now as it was when it was first started? I am not suggesting that Jesus needs improving, He does not, but we do. And, as we improve, and become more like Jesus (God’s goal for us according to Romans 8.29), His Church should improve as well. That is why...

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: YYOU.

It is up to YOU. It is up to me. But if we live our lives devoted to Jesus and what He wants from each of us individually, we will become what He wants us to be collectively as well.

PRINCIPLE: God asks us to be ready to engage with others because He wants to be further engaged with us.

QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church, and for His Kingdom?”

NEXT STEP(S):  LIVE: Be devoted! And answer the question that has fueled this series: “What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church, and for His Kingdom?”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Church in HD: No Thanks, Lord. Not Today.

Each morning you wake up with a multitude of choices. But every choice we face daily boils down to this:  will we do what needs to be done or what we want to do? Sometimes these two questions overlap or at least nearly overlap. For instance, we have all probably said, “I need a break,” or even better “I need a vacation.” Both of those may be needs, but each may also satisfy a want.

Yet most of what we do is done without much thought. As you got dressed this morning, you may have considered which shoes to wear, but you probably didn’t give much thought to putting them on your feet. Why? Because it is just what you do before going outside. Yet, why is that? Because you need to protect your feet. Likewise, your body will tell you when it needs food, so you eat when you need to eat. But sometimes we also eat when we want to eat – which is often why we gain weight. And how many children have no problem preparing to eat because they want some food only to hear, “You need to eat your vegetables.” Again, I would contend that everything we do will come down to either needing or wanting to do it.

So, what about evangelism? As I say that word, many will cringe. Why? Because we know we need to do it, but few really want to do it. Yet, according to the Bible we are commanded to evangelize – that is, we are commanded to share the Gospel. And I would guess most everyone in here has evangelized today or at least within the past couple of days. That is, you have shared good news with someone. Because that is what the gospel is. The word gospel simply means good news. But the question we must then ask is are we only sharing the gospel of our lives or the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Before I go on, let me just pause and ask this question. You need not respond out loud, but you should consider a response. Whether you have shared the Good News of Jesus recently or not, and whether you want to do it or not, would you agree that the Bible says that as a follower of Christ, you should be sharing the Good News with others? Hold on to that thought for just a minute.

This week’s message is about a story of a man who was ready to serve God in a moment’s notice. He wanted to serve, and thus God used him where he was needed. The story is of a man named Philip, and the passage is from Acts 8.

If We Want to Serve God, We Need to Be Ready (Acts 8.26-29)

Acts 8 begins with Saul ravaging the church. But the story immediately turns to the work that the Spirit is doing through the lives of people. One of those people is Philip who is preaching the gospel. Now before I go on, let me clarify something. Just a moment ago, I asked if, as a Christian, you should be telling others about Jesus – whether you want to or not. If you agree that is true, then let me share how the Greek verb “to evangelize” is translated in English. The word is preach. 55 times in the New Testament, this word is translated to preach, so if you agreed with that question a moment ago, then you have agreed that God has called you to preach.

The problem is that we have turned the idea of preaching into a form of speaking. But the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that preaching is standing behind a pulpit and delivering a message like we are accustomed to think of it. Now, it can mean that, but essentially, the meaning of the word is to share the Good News, and if we are to share that news, then we must be ready.

So, Philip is proclaiming the Gospel throughout Samaria. Remember the Samaritans are the half-breeds that most Jews detested. But they needed to hear the Good News so whether or not others wanted to go, and even whether or not Philip wanted to go, he went. And people believed. The apostles got word of what was happening so they sent Peter and John to make sure it was real. “Really, the Samaritans are believing that Jesus is Lord? Can that be true? Maybe Philip is mistaken. We better send someone to check it out!”

So, Peter and John go. And they find what has been said to be true. And even a magician believes so the apostles return to Jerusalem and preach, that is evangelize, to other Samaritans on the way back. Thus, the disciples have now made it to the third steps of Jesus promise. As we read last week, Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They may not have wanted to go to the Samaritans, but God needed someone to go, so Philip went. The apostles have followed. And that leads us to the heart of our story for this week.

So, imagine Philip on the morning of this story. We are not told what time of day it takes place, but let’s say Philip woke that morning and said, “God, I am ready for whatever is next.” At some point, an angel appears and says something like, “Ok, God heard you. Here is your assignment for the day.” When Philip heard what he was to do, he did it. He was ready. And he went. The end of verse 26 says it was a desert place. This important detail tells us that it was not going to be all comfort for Philip, but his intent was serving God, so he went. He did not know what he was to do. He did not know whom he would meet. He just knew God said, “Go” so he went.

Once he got there, he was given his assignment. Notice that it wasn’t until he obeyed that God revealed what he was to do next. This principle is often difficult for me. At least it is when I am in this vicinity, and less so when I travel abroad. As you know I am a planner. But when you are serving God, you need to let you plans be disrupted if they are His plans doing the disrupting. Planning is not wrong. The Bible is filled with the plans that people had – including Jesus. But as Proverbs 16.9 teaches us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” I don’t know what Philip wanted to do that particular day, but he was ready to do what the Lord needed him to do.

So, Philip arrives at the spot. He is told his next assignment which was simply to go over to the chariot. Philip still did not know what he was supposed to do. But he kept going. Now, the text does not tell us if the chariot was moving or not, and I suspect it was not. However, I like to think of this passage as Philip running alongside it because it does say Philip ran to the chariot. It is likely not true (it does not say he ran alongside), but it adds to the drama. But when Philip arrives he begins to understand what his assignment will be.

If We Want to Help Others Understand, We Need to Begin Where They Are (Acts 8.30-35)

Sometimes we desire to help but we do not know what is really needed. In those cases, we need to take a moment to observe the situation and then begin to work. As I have mentioned several times, that was a mistake I made upon arriving in Fairfax. I did take time initially on Wednesday evenings, and frankly after about five months, I thought we were ready (or at least I was ready) to move forward. But after I began to present some ideas, I realized that I did not have the full story and we had to back up and begin again about seven months later. Overall, I estimate the process set us back about another year.

Philip did not have five months, let alone two years. He had just a short time, but he did not know that. Yet, Philip hears what the man is doing and instantly asks a relevant question. “Do you understand what you are reading?” We do not know how long this was after Jesus died, but likely not very long – maybe a year or two. But this man comes from Ethiopia to Jerusalem and is now returning home. We do not know why he was there, but this mention of travelling from Ethiopia to Jerusalem may be a reminder to some people of the Queen of Sheba’s journey to Jerusalem during the time of Solomon. This man obtained some of the ancient writings somewhere and was reading from Isaiah 53 (verses 7 and 8), when Philip arrived.

Philip hears the man reading aloud and now he can begin to minister. Philip knew the man was ready because he asked for a guide. We may not always need to wait, but Philip knew this man was teachable. The word used for guiding is the same word that Jesus used to say that the Spirit would come to guide the apostles in John 16.13. Sometimes the Spirit may impart information Himself, but here He uses Philip to do the teaching. Remember, it was an angel that told Philip to go to the area, but it was the Spirit who told him to go to the chariot.

So, Philip serves as a guide. Philip engaged him but not just one to one. Philip began with this Scripture, so he included God in the process. But what else did Philip have to help him? Perhaps this official had a copy of what we call the Old Testament, but perhaps all he had was the book of Isaiah. What we do know is that none of the New Testament had been written, so whatever Philip told this man was relating Scripture from the Old Testament to the stories he had heard (and maybe even seen) about Jesus. But whatever process he used, Philip told this court official from Ethiopia the good news. That is, he evangelized!

If We Want Others to Know the Joy of Christ, We Each Need to Do Our Part (Acts 8.36-40)

Philip had now done the first part of his job. He had done what the Spirit commanded and he had responded to the opportunity to proclaim God’s Word. Philip had helped this man understand. But now the emphasis moves to the official.

The man sees water. Is this a miracle? I think so. Remember, we were given a five-word clue in verse 26 above – this is a desert place. Why would this information be recorded? Maybe so we could see the miracle that God provided a place for water in the midst of the desert. Whatever may have happened, we know that Philip took the opportunity to baptize this court official. And then, Philip was gone. As in the fact, he immediately vanished.

But Jesus command was to teach them to observe all that I commanded. Philip had not done this. This man still needed to know much more. But Philip’s part was done. Someone else would continue the process at this point. You may remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the growth.” Here Philip was the planter and God must have had someone else in mind for the watering portion.

For Philip, God made it very clear that his responsibility with this man was over because he was immediately whisked away. God may not always make it as clear to us as he did to Philip that day, but if we are faithful to serve God, He will be faithful to let us know when it is time for our next assignment.


1 Peter 3.15 says that we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. Many people in this region right now are talking about the hope they have that the Chiefs will beat the Browns today or that Patrick Mahomes will lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 50 years. And, if he does it will be a time for celebration for every Chiefs fan. But what will happen to that optimism and hope if Mahomes gets injured? The good news people may want to share will quickly turn cynical again and people will say something like, “See the Chiefs will never be able to win.” And, in one moment, the perceived need to talk about the good news of the Chiefs is gone.

But, the Gospel of Jesus dos not disappoint. Of course, our lives are not perfect just because we believe that His death and resurrection are truly THE Good News. But Jesus cannot be injured and dash a city’s or a region’s football dreams. Because Jesus was already injured and even died but He was able to overcome death providing the greatest of news. But tomorrow morning, most people – even strong Christians – will be talking about the Chiefs’ game (win or lose) instead of what Jesus has done for them.

That is why we must remember that we NEED to share THE Good News that has stood the test of time. We NEED to be ready in a moment’s instant because somebody’s eternal fate might be at stake. We may not WANT to have our lives interrupted, but as Philip’s life shows us, when we are willing to be used by God, miracles do occur.

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: EENGAGE.

As we consider this series of the Church in HD, we are looking at areas where our church might be lacking in comparison to the church as it was described in the Bible. We may not be whisked away in a moment like Philip was, but are we ready to share the Gospel of Jesus in a moment’s notice? Are we willing to share the Gospel of Jesus at all?

Again, every day we are faced with thousands of small choices that have to do with our wants and needs. And I suspect, if there is any spiritual maturity among us at all, then we realize that we need to share His message. That means we have to engage with others. We have to know them. We have to meet them where they are. And we must be ready to lead them as far as we can before God gives us our next assignment.

We know what it means to be engaged to someone – it is to be committed or pledged to that person. And an engagement is an appointment or an arrangement that has been made. Well, if we truly want to be used by God, then He has an engagement for us with some person to whom we can engage and help them to become committed themselves to Jesus.

We need to quit making excuses and waiting for tomorrow. We need to be ready today!

PRINCIPLE: God asks us to be ready to engage with others because He wants to be further engaged with us.

QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church, and for His Kingdom?


  • LIVE: We all need to live with a readiness to serve God. Make yourself ready this week and let God use you to speak to one person about the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, the person should be someone whom you would not normally talk to about Jesus.
  • LEAD: We all need to lead others to not only know Jesus, but to be ready to serve Him as well.