This week we started the gospel of Luke. We are calling the series Good News, Great Joy, All People! From now until easter, we will be going through this exciting Gospel and following the life of Jesus Christ. I look forward to us studying together.
We have looked at the importance of burdens, worship, maturity, love and being an effective witness. In this message, we look at how our mind is to be and how we are to be with one another knowing that Jesus is going to return. It is a great text, written to a church that was losing its cultural voice, yet, still wanting to flourish in a changing culture. This message speaks to us in our culture today and will challenge us to keep flourishing as we move into what God has for us.
This week we look at another value of a flourishing church: Influence. Jesus assumed that His disciples would be influencers- that through our good works we would be preservatives that add tang and flavor to a tasteless world. There are very few things I see which are more needed today. In what ways can you be salt and light to a dark world? Is there anything holding you back from doing that?
This week, we will be looked at 1 John 4:7-12. John writes to a church about the one thing that Christians are to be known for: Love. As Christians, we are called by Christ to love one another. John’s original audience had just gone through a possible church split causing some to leave the church. When we see people fall away from Christ or leave the church in an unchristian way, it not only hurts, but it can cause us to wonder: should we leave too? Am I in the wrong place? Thankfully, John’s words in 1 John 4:7-12 remind us that our love for one another is not dependent upon our personal like or affinity but on the cross of Christ—the greatest display of love the world has ever seen.
This week, we will be looking at the importance of maturing in the Christian Life. A living thing is a growing thing and things that grow deepest often have the strongest roots. In other words, depth helps us grow tall and wide! In Colossians, the Holy Spirit gives us instructions as to how to grow and the intended result that He envisions for us when we are flourishing in Christ. Looking forward to Sunday. See you soon.
Last week we looked at importance of burden as important for a flourishing church. Nehemiah showed us how God puts a burden in our hearts and turns that into a vision that we minister out of. This week, we go back to first things. Above all, every flourishing church or flourishing Christian will see the importance of Worship. The Christian Life, at its core, is a relationship by which we know God and worship Him through being with Christ and being Christ to others. In our text in Jeremiah this coming Sunday, Jeremiah reminds us of the centrality of this! See you soon.
How does something strong continue to grow? How does something that is stable enjoy its stability but not devolve into decline? This is the question we will prayerfully look at in our new series entitled Flourish. For the next 7 weeks, we will look in Scripture at values that, when taken together, ensure the continued flourishing of Laurelwood Church. These values are not exhaustive, yet, they are all crucial for ensuring the spiritual health and vitality of our church.
This coming Sunday, we will be looking at another verse from the great repository of wisdom found in the book of Proverbs. We will look at what it means to walk wisely. That is, how can we enter into any situation, walk down any path, or contend with any daunting challenge with both confidence and wisdom. The answer will be found the more we own the truths found in Proverbs 3:5-6. While a favorite life verse for some, there is a difference between quoting a verse from memory and living the truths contained in the Scripture daily. If we will live and obey the truths found in Proverbs 3:5-6, we will be able to walk wisely into any situation.
Good morning Laurelwood! After many months of a pastoral search that included interviews, assessments and two visits, I am grateful to be joining you in worship this coming Sunday. This Sunday, I will be looking at a relationship that is neglected in culture today…friendship. In his essay on friendship, C.S. Lewis says this: friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art..it has no survival value; rather it is one of the things that give value to survival. Lewis points out that while we do not need friends for biological survival, it is hard to imagine a full like without great friends! The Word of God in Proverbs goes a step further….going as far as to say that wise living entails, in part, that you become good at forging and keeping good friendships. Looking forward to being together! See you soon.
We all, at least some of the time, are in circumstances we don’t like. The apostle Paul found himself in a circumstance he didn’t like 100% of the time: PRISON. Yet he thrived in those limiting circumstances. This was evidenced by the fact that he was inspired of God to write parts of the New Testament as well as lead some officers of the Roman empire into a personal relationship with Christ. How? Paul never forgot his primary identity was: in Christ. He never calls himself a prisoner of Caesar, instead he refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ. In other words he never saw circumstances beyond his control as limiting God’s will for his life. While in prison his relationship with the Lord was so dynamic, he referred to some of his experience as a revelation. Who of us would not embrace negative circumstances in order to have direct revelation from God. So the next time you have circumstances that seem to limit you, never forget God controls circumstances beyond your control. And in those circumstances we can find God‘s will. Then you won’t just survive the negative circumstances, you’ll have an opportunity to thrive in those circumstances.
Identity is so important. I once was Christ less, hopeless and godless, but at 15-years-old Christ became real to me. I understood that he had died in my place and made peace with God for me. This gave me personal access to God I had never known. When I became a Christian, God didn't jump out of heaven and shake my hand. There was not a chorus of angels singing in the background, but I did sense His peace. What Christ did for me in that moment was awesome. He created for me a destiny built on the foundation of the apostles and Christ. I was no longer a stranger in God's kingdom. I was a fellow citizen with millions of Christians. I had a new destiny: heaven. It was not something I earned, but Christ brought me near to God through His blood. I discovered who I was in Christ was the foundation for what I did for Christ. If you don't put your who before your do, then you may be guilty of moralism. Where do you put your faith? Is it what God has done through Christ in your life or is it your good works? Our standing before God is a gift received not achieved. I choose the gift plan, how about you?
I went through officer candidate basic training at Fort Lewis Washington. If you don't know, a drill sergeant has complete control over your life for 10 weeks. When you eat, when you sleep, when you shower, when you train, when you go to class, etc. I'm sure every troop in basic training feels like the drill sergeant picks on him, but after doing 20 push-ups on many occasions I felt my paranoia was justified. But everything changed after I graduated from the officers' candidate boot camp and received my Lieutenant status. Suddenly this drill sergeant was under my command. He immediately saluted me. Now any second lieutenant knows a drill sergeant knows a lot more about the military than he does and, so, the lieutenant is simply the person that negotiates the commands received from headquarters to the troops in the field. A smart second lieutenant always asks the sergeant what he thinks the best plan is for the battle ahead. But my point is that in a moment the drill sergeant who was over me suddenly became a sergeant who was accountable to me. Likewise, the moment you become a Christian, you are changed in relationship to the world, the flesh, or the devil. They had control over you up until that moment of faith. Once you're in Christ, you have been given the power over the world, the flesh and the devil. In a moment your position in life and eternity changed, before you had little choice but to obey your old sergeant, the WFD, but now that you are "in Christ" and by faith in Him and the word of God, the world, the flesh and the devil are under Christ's control. They do not have control over you but are subject to you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Being "in Christ" transformed you from death living to life living "in Christ". If you abide in Him and He abides in you, ask what you will, and it shall be done. Your new position in life takes you out from under the control of the WFD, as you surrender to the control of Christ. Don't let the devil convince you he is still under his control. Since you are "in Christ" you are no longer under the devil's command to having authority over him.
The first half of Ephesians 1 is a great reminder that God has called and adopted us into His family and wants to unite all things in Him. The second half of Ephesians 1 is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, and here we see a beautiful picture of how to pray for one another. Even though this is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, it is still just as meaningful and applicable today. We too can pray like Paul and experience the greatness and power of God. This Sunday we will look at Paul’s prayer and even take time to pray for one another, so together we might experience the name that is above all names.
Our obedience crisis is really an identity crisis. So, in what ways have we failed to understand our new identity in Christ? We must remember that our relationship with Christ is not something we earned. We are changed by His grace and have been forgiven by His grace. Why then did Christ do this great work on our behalf? First and foremost, remember it's a mystery (see Ephesians 1:9). But God’s mystery is found in His grace, His mercy, His kindness, His purposes, His promises, and in the inheritance He gives us. How all these things work together for our eternal benefit is a mystery that may only be revealed in heaven. This Sunday, I hope to give us a taste of what that mystery might include. It is not a mystery that all these benefits deserve our praise and worship. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the Christian life. Let's find our new identity and our other benefits in Christ. This Sunday we will look at a full platter of God's benefits that help us to become all that God wants us to be.
As children most of us discover the harder we work, the more the benefits. So as adults we feel the need to work. And more people could benefit from a good work ethic. But as Christians we may say to ourselves "it may have been necessary to respond with the work ethic to life's challenges as a child but now I want to explore, by faith, new ways to follow Christ." So often we work for and pray for what we already have "in Christ." In the book of Ephesians, especially the first couple of chapters, we will learn that our identity "in Christ" is foundational to be a maturing Christian. By faith we're joined with Christ in his death and resurrection. When we focus on rules, we may think rules give us power. But when we focus on our identity "in Christ" we find supernatural power. I hope to show, for most of us, how our obedience crisis is an identity crisis. For example we cringe at the idea of being a "saint" yet we are saints "in Christ." Sixty-two times the scripture affirms this new relationship. So if I'm a saint, why do I have difficulty in doing right? If you focus on your ability to obey, you will have only partial success. Instead focus on Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit who works within you. The better our identity "in Christ," the more faithfully we follow Christ.