Sunday, October 31, 2010

Early Church Model

Over the past couple of years, I have studied the book of Acts several times. If you have never read it, I highly recommend it. You can find it five books into the New Testament. You will not find a more honest look at new Christians, those who have been walking with Jesus for years, their struggles with faith, their ridicule, their mistakes, and ultimately,their desire to follow Jesus.

If you are curious at all about Christianity, first read the book of John. It tells the story of Jesus. Then read Acts. It is the story of the beginning of the early church. It is about a group of imperfect Christians just trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus. I have determined we have three big action commands as the church to be effective in reaching others:
1) grow as a Body both in understanding who Jesus is and understanding as a family of faith how we can follow Him
2) minister to the people around us
3)minister to the world. I talked about the last two in this post if you want to check that out.

I want to focus on number one. As Christians, it is so, so important to have a community of people who believe in Jesus surrounding us. Let's face it, life isn't easy and, contrary to popular opinion, Christians are imperfect. Our goal is not perfection, but following Jesus, and if we are doing that, we will grow better along the way. But perfection is impossible. If you do not live in a place where you can meet with other believers, begin praying that God will bring people to you with a desire to follow Him. He will honor that prayer because that is His desire and plan for you.

I looked at some of the communities that I have been a part of over the years outside of my family. I have truly been blessed. These communities look different every time. They are rarely perfect and they require vulnerability on our part to build genuine, God-honoring relationships. My prayer for you is that if you are not a part of a Christian community that the Lord will lead you to people who can encourage you, grow with you, and hold you accountable. Please understand,too, these friendships do not have to stand the test of time. Some of my closest friends I have never physically spent longer than 2 months with. One friend, I have never spent more than 4 weeks with and we live in different countries. I hope through these examples you will be encouraged about what the Lord can do through community. And remember, too, that love unites even the most different people.

My first true group. Not all have lasted, but the Lord used them to shape my life during very difficult times and during exciting new experiences. This is the group that has known me the longest outside my family and walked through the majority, if not all, stages of life with me. One example of a community - those who know you best and the longest.

My group in college. We aren't as close anymore, but the Lord was so gracious to provide these people during a time when I was lonely and scared of my new stage of life. They were with me as I really began to understand my faith personally. Others were very key during college as well, but this was a group that was very important to me. A true example of community that doesn't last permanently but serves a purpose for a certain stage of life.

This was my group at Focus. I call them my long distance family. They walked through a very rough stage with me, helping me heal and truly showing me what love looks like in community. They loved me when I was a mess. This is an example of community that isn't physically present, but are faithful to pray and encourage and love past distance and differences.

These people were my community my last year in Lubbock. They were instrumental in my healing process as well, and were very faithful to help me grow. Two are my cousins, the other two are some of my closest friends. They were all very unafraid to speak truth into my life. They were there all through college but particularly important this certain year. Another example of a few people making a difference during a period of time.
These ladies are my new community and I am really looking forward to getting to know them. We are all very different but all very willing and desirous to follow Jesus and grow in Him.

I don't do any of this to brag. I know I have been blessed in this area, more than even I realize. Other people have been instrumental along the way, as well. The point through these examples is to show you that all communities look different. We are called to grow as a Body and be in community. We were not called to do life alone. I am praying for you that God brings people to you that love Him and want others to know Him.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-47


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie Moments

There are two questions that I ask when someone recommends a movie to me:
Is it worth watching?
Is the ending sad?
I don't like watching sad movies. I empathize too much and usually end up crying. But most of all, they tend to leave me feeling helpless and hopeless.

Have you ever wanted to have that movie moment and it just didn't pan out? Some really romantic kiss with that guy or girl? Or that perfect ending to the big game? Or that big group of friends that are so close it is unreal? I think we watch movies to give us a taste of life that we often don't experience. (As well as mindless entertainment.) A family favorite growing up was The Mighty Ducks 2. The best part comes at the end after the team has won the game and the credits are rolling. The team is sitting around a campfire roasting smores, arms around one another, and singing "We Are the Champions" at the top of their lungs. I always wanted a moment like amazing victory with awesome people. My own personal movie moment. Perfection personified.

Unfortunately, Hollywood is not real life. But those movie moments that are perfect, that make us desire something more than just the status quo - they give us something to HOPE for. Sad movies often follow our postmodern philosophy of "live and let live" which I translate as "life sucks and then you die." Now seriously, why would you want to watch a movie that sends that message? I want a story that gives me hope. My moments won't be perfect, and I don't care to have them rehearsed before I get to them. It kind of kills the spontaneity. I want a movie moment that, at the end, makes me feel like I have learned something, grown in some way, or can walk away with a new understanding and a deep sense of contentment and joy. I don't want a movie moment that is a depiction of life without Jesus - a life of sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness. Look at the amazing HOPE in these verses.

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." Romans 5:3-5

My life as a movie has sad moments, moments when I am deliriously happy, moments when I am confused and hurt and content and excited. But at the end of the day, no matter how good or how bad...I lay down and sleep knowing that I have HOPE. If I died today, I would spend eternity - forever and ever - with Jesus. There are no doubts. It is a deep, reassuring knowledge and HOPE.

Look at more of this passage...

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8

Those movie moments that are sad are the result of a lack of power to change a certain situation. We can't fix everything! I know that is a hard concept for me to grasp sometimes. And none of us are good people. We live in a culture where we daily struggle with the "live and let live" philosophy. But here is the HOPE in the rest of that passage... While we were still these messed up powerless people, the Christ of the Universe, the Son of God died for you!!! If you truly understand and believe that, you will understand that final movie moment that leaves you with HOPE! And it is a HOPE that is 100% guaranteed to be fulfilled!

Look at verse 5 again. That hope does not disappoint because Christ has poured out His love in our hearts so that we understand that our HOPE in Him and His promises is safe. I can and will have my movie moment, no matter how many rough movie moments I experience here on earth. I have a future HOPE. And daily, I remember that that HOPE is JESUS CHRIST. I pray that you will walk away from a life of pointlessness and hopelessness to a life that is promised HOPE fulfillment.

Thankful that Jesus is HOPE,


Friday, October 8, 2010

Fun Post - Tag!!

So in the "blog world" sometimes fun little posts get passed around and if you get "tagged" you keep it going, how fun! My friend Elizabeth tagged me so I'll answer the 8 questions she asked me, then come up with 8 of my own and tag 8 of YOU to answer MY questions. Well....I don't think that I actually have 8 friends with blogs that they can actually do this on...but you can tag 8 people next time. ha.

Got it? Good! Here we go!

1. What musician have you recently discovered?
Well, it's not a musician in particular, but I just discovered today that I really like Celtic Rock!

2. What is your favorite way to enjoy this beautiful time of the year?
I love to throw on a sweatshirt and enjoy hot chocolate and a good movie or book. I also absolutely love to go on picture scavenger hunts to find all the pretty fall colors on the leaves. Walks in the park are great, too.

3. What is one thing that everyone should do before graduating college?
Well, one thing I did was rush the field after Tech beat OU back in 2007, I think. It was such a rush and so much fun to stand with the team and a ton of fans on the football field after the game for the school song. So rush the field, but don't get arrested :)

4. What literary character do you most identify with? Why?
Ashely Baxter in Karen Kingsbury's Baxter Family Series. I don't identify so much with her past but with her love for the Lord, love and protection of her family, and talent and love and pursuit of the creative skills that she has.

5. What is your favorite family tradition?
We go all out decorating for Christmas. Decorations go up right after Thanksgiving and then we get around to taking them down a few days after New Years most of the time. The house looks like a Christmas factory exploded but I love it. So cute and cozy!

6. What is your favorite family recipe?
My aunt and I made key-lime pie out of lemonade one Christmas because we forgot the key-lime juice and turned out pretty well! It was fun, more than anything.

7. How did you meet one of your best friends?
Well the two that come to mind right now, Ashley and Brittany, I met in Colorado last summer at Focus on the Family. And both lived in the same apartment with me last summer.

8. What made you happy today?
My brother and sister came hone from college so everyone is home for the weekend.

OK here are my eight questions:
1) If you could pick anywhere in the world to visit, where would you go? Why?
2)Favorite childhood memory?
3)What season is your favorite? Why?
4)If you could do anything in the world right now, what would it be?
5)What is your favorite holiday?
6)Does your name have any specific meaning? If so, what?
7)When it snows, would you rather build a snowman or a fort?
8)What is your favorite movie of all time?

Ashley @ashley-irwin
Heather @heathervassar
RoChelle @beforegodsthrone
Hal @forgotthepopcorn
Allison @allisons101in1001
Kendal @knlayne

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Ripple Effect

Have you ever thrown a rock in the water and watched the ripples spread and grow? We often focus on the ripples and forget that they started from a single point, a stone that we threw in. Ripples are the result of some factor creating them. They are one of those rare things that cannot occur without help, without an instigator.

The last couple of weeks, I have been going back through the book of Acts and there is no better example in the Bible of the ripple effect that can occur through Christians than in that book. Twelve disciples, the ripples of one man's teaching (Jesus), instigated ripples that caused the early church to grow all over the current Roman world and eventually the entire world. Listen to this song by Matthew West called "My Own Little World."

What is our purpose here on this earth? And what would happen if we broke past our own comfortable little worlds? If you are a Christian, Jesus was very clear about our purpose. And guess what? It has to do with the ripple effect.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus is giving some of his final instructions to His disciples, "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

So we are commanded to
1) share with people of all nations
2) baptize them
3) teach them how Jesus has called us to live

Sounds simple, right? Now here's the ripple effect. In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus gave very specific instructions that give us a better outline of how to break out of our comfort zone and, as Matthew West says, get outside of our own little worlds to see what the Father in Heaven sees.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

So let's break this ripple effect down.
1)YOU are the drop in the pond. YOU have to actively leave
your shell
2) Jerusalem is the city you live in. It is a place where you
have influence, friends, contacts, and personal connections. You
have the biggest ability to bring change here.
3)Judea is your state. It is a place where you have influence.
You know the culture,the politics, the issues, the people.
4)Samaria is your country. It is also a place where you as a
citizen have ability to speak and be influential.
5)Ends of the earth (pretty self explanatory). You are
called to be a light to the world.

You start this ripple and it spreads to the city you live in, which spreads to your state, country, and finally the world. And that's just you! The people that you are affecting with your ripples are starting to overlap your ripples with their own, and soon imagine ripples all over the world from Christ followers who are actively sharing the truth of Jesus.

If you are reading this, and you don't believe that Jesus is the Christ, I pray that you will come to know Him. He is the perfect Son of God that came to live as a man. He was not simply a good prophet, or a good man, He was and is God incarnate who paid a price so heavy for you so that you could know Him. He loves you so much He died for you, and then to show that He is God, He rose again and went to Heaven. The call to follow Him is simple. Believe He is God, that He loves you, that you are a sinner in need of Him and that He is the only way to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. Then He calls us to follow. And that call is to be a stone that begins ripples in your personal life and all over the world. It is a call to serve others and to love them as He loved you! He is a God worth serving. He is the only God powerful enough to save you. And He is the only God who cared enough to give Himself for the people He created. Join His followers all over this world and become a part of the ripple effect. One of the amazing things about Jesus is that there is always room in His family. You are not alone!

Praying to change the world one life at a time through Jesus,