Encouraged & Strengthened

Click here to read Acts 14:21-28.

Paul and Barnabas are on a mission. They have travelled many miles. They have endured hardships and harassment like not many other Christians at the time. What is amazing is how the joy of Christ has kept them moving and doing what they were called to do!

Think back for a minute about when you had to keep doing your job or any task you just had no energy to do. How easy is it to keep going when you do not feel supported, you do not feel like anything is getting done? Or How easy is it to quit altogether? We all have been in situations like this.

I am in a season of my life where my wife and I have 2 children (7 & 9) and one on the way. Day after day it seems like we are having to clean things up, fix something that broke, etc. If you have children, you will definitely understand. But, no matter how drained we are, no matter how it seems like we are just doing the same thing day after day, there is a joy and strength that comes within us to help us keep moving.

Raising children is not the same as what Paul was enduring; but I think this can give us some kind of an idea of how it is when things do not seem to be progressing at times. Around the world, people are harassed for their faith in Christ and persecuted beyond anything we can imagine. How to persecuted Christians keep going? Because of Jesus Christ.

Instead of giving up, Paul does something incredible. He encourages the people to keep doing the work they were called to do within their community. Not once did Paul try to pretend the Christian life is easy, or comfortable. He bluntly told them about the harsh conditions and the reality of hostility toward Jesus Christ around the world. But Paul knew, as a great leader would, the people needed to be encouraged.

Paul’s encouragement did not come just from him and Barnabas. The encouragement came through times of prayer and laying on of hands. In order to truly encourage and strengthen people, remember to call upon Heaven to bring supernatural strength and power so those around us (including us) can “do all things by Christ who gives us strength.” It is through the power, grace, and presence of God through Jesus Christ that we can do the work He is calling us to. It is not that we can do anything we want; but rather, we are strengthened to do His work His way.

So, be encouraged that the presence of Christ is with you. Be strengthened from heaven to continue in your calling. Be filled with peace that, even though the rest of the world says you have to act and be one way, you will become who Christ created you to be.

How can I pray for you to be encouraged and strengthened by Jesus Christ?

SENT OUT: to Follow

What do you seek? Why are you Christian? Why do you go to the church you attend? When was the last time you thought about the consequences to following Jesus?

Do you really like to be a follower? Or, would we rather be the one(s) in charge and receive the glory and recognition?

Last week we began a new sermon series called SENT OUT. We talked about how our identity as a child of God defines our purpose and gives us greater things to live for instead of our own comfort and our own preferences. This week, our focus is we are SENT OUT in the world to follow Jesus Christ.

I invite you to click on the link and take time to read John 1:29-42.

“Lamb Of God”

Disciples did not know what they were getting into when they said yes to following Jesus. Think about that for a second. Would they have followed a man who would end up at the cross? If we were in their position, would you? It may seem like a pointless endeavor to follow someone who would die just a few years later.

When John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God,” I’m sure the image of lambs in the Old Testament would have come into the minds of the people. Lambs were used for slaughter and sacrifice to “remove” the sin of the people. This is a great foreshadowing of what will occur to Jesus in the next three or so years. So basically John could have been saying “Here comes the dead man walking who will show you what it means to live fully in the presence of God.”

Later on in scripture, Jesus tells his followers they are to “take up their cross and follow him.” This means that he is calling us to be living sacrifices and deny ourselves for the grander purpose of the Kingdom of God. I love the following story of what “take up your cross” means to different cultures.

One market day in their village, two Chwang tribesmen heard a colporteur preach the Gospel. Then he began to sell Gospels, promising blessing to those who not only read but obeyed the precepts contained therein. Both men purchased copies, and taking them home, they read along till they came to the statement, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In their desire to obey the Word of God, they made two crosses of bamboo, and tied them on their backs. (The Chinese translation of the words, “Take up his cross,” is “Bear his cross on his back.”) They carried these crosses as they visited the market or went about the country, and then carefully hung them on the front of their houses when they were home. Seeing their earnestness of heart, God did not leave them long in the dark. Soon a Chinese worker discovered them, briefly explained the Gospel to them, and advised them to go to Liuchow for further instruction. They did so, and after a week of instruction returned to their village and began to witness for the Lord. Several months later they went back to Liuchow, requesting baptism and further instruction. We were glad to grant both their requests as they exhibited an earnestness seldom seen anywhere. (Alliance Weekly)

“Come and see”

Jesus’ invitation to his new followers was not as gruesome as the death seen of the cross. Neither was it, “get your act together and then follow me.” Disciples asked Jesus,  “Where are you staying?” Jesus answered, “Come and see”

The invitation is to follow…we don’t have to be perfect. How does this make you feel? Aren’t you glad you do not have to be perfect before we accept the invitation of Jesus Christ?

Jesus did not leave the disciples in the place of remaining in their sin. Nor did he allow them to be the same. The imperfect disciples grew in their love and faith as they followed Jesus.

What does all this mean for us today?

S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

When we follow Jesus Christ, our actions change and what we have the heart of God for the least, the last, and the lost. We get to follow wherever Jesus is leading us in our lives. Keep in mind, this does not mean we are passive and do not take the lead. There are times, many times, that Christ calls us to lead people. We are able to lead better because we follow Christ.

So, what are some things we can do to tangibly keep our lives and church in line with Christ’s mission for His church? The challenge is that we will look at all of this and say “I don’t have time to do everything!” or “We’ve never done that / we’ve tried that before.” Or “Ok, if I do this, I’ll keep my place in heaven.”

What are some things you can see yourself / your church community doing to reach out into the world in the love of Jesus Christ?

  • Community missions such as food pantry, clothes closet, helping with utilities, etc?
  • Community (off church site) Bible Studies and times of prayer and worship?
  • Form or strengthen care ministries to the community of faith (homebound, nursing homes, hospitals, sick, etc) and to those in the community?
  • What else can you add to this list?

These are just a few ideas that will have lasting impact within the community and the church community which will end up spreading the love of Jesus Christ out into the whole world.

We do not do this alone! We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go where Christ calls and do the work he calls us to. This is done because we are being leaders in our community (or faithfully being the helpers). We are able to do this because we follow the call mission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8 as examples). It is ALL by God’s grace that we are able to do these acts (Ephesians 2:8-10).

We do not have to do everything; but we can ALL do something!

Are you ready to follow?

  • Bring people to faith in Christ by building authentic relationships and bring them to worship
  • Care for the sick and homebound (widows and orphans)
  • Find out what the community needs (from the community people) and find ways to make it happen)

Carry your cross on your back, check the box that you can follow and not have to lead…

Follow Christ to see where He is leading us in 2017 so we can continue to provide ministry through this church for the future generations (thinking for the next 100 years) to come to follow, know, and love Jesus Christ.

Let’s talk about the vision God is giving you for your life and His church.

Ministry

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Colossians 1:24-29 Now I’m happy to be suffering for you. I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body. I’m doing this for the sake of his body, which is the church. I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word. I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory. This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ. I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully.

Working in the church is hard work. Being in mission and ministry with people is tough. It can often feel like we are the ones suffering. Even though we are the ones walking with those suffering, it can be real to us. We also may really be suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally. However we view the work, one thing is certain: it truly is a joyful thing to be in the business of God and of people.

Not all of us may be pastors, but we are all ministers and missionaries. We are ministers because we can walk alongside people through life in any situation. We are missionaries because we are all ordained to take the message of Jesus Christ to all we encounter. We do not have to go out of town, out of state or even out of the country to talk with people about Jesus Christ. We can do that right in our own homes, neighborhoods and businesses. We may be harassed because of our faith or because of our views; but we should still be joyful in delivering the message of God’s grace through Jesus Christ to all we encounter, no matter how they react.

Sometimes it may seem to other people that we are carrying a “secret message” from God. The reason, I believe it is a secret is because heart may not be open to hearing and receiving the message. So what do we do? We pray for God to act. God acts. We work where God is working because God is working everywhere and we have prayed to have open eyes and hearts to see what God is doing where we are.

Ministry is hard work; but it is also very rewarding spiritually. We’ll end this post today with the last verse of this chapter: “I work hard and struggle for this goal (teaching and warning people) with his energy, which works powerfully in me.”

#ToTheGloryOfChrist