Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Beginnings

What a great way to start the new year. As we entered the sanctuary, Ken greeted us and handed us the new Church Directory (along with a bulletin). It’s really great to have a directory with all these photos of folks in our church family. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to use the old directory to connect names with faces. It is also a useful prayer tool, and a great asset to help new attenders become better acquainted with us. So, thanks to all who were involved in putting it together! And be sure to pick one up next time you’re around if you did not get one today.

After a warm welcome and greeting from Pastor Brad, a few announcements were made, including the Church Council meeting Tuesday and the start of our Wednesday night program with Adventure Club and Youth Group, both at 6 p.m.
Also, on October 4 there will be a hymn-sing with pot luck at the Newmans. (More information in the weeks to come.)

The Quintet (I have to stop saying The Quartet plus Levi) ushered us into our worship time with some rousing Gospel tunes. Always great to hear them sing.

Walt and Gwen Cresman then shared with us an introduction to The Truth Project which they are planning to host at their home beginning September 27. The truth Project is a program created by Dr. James Dobson’s organization Focus On The Family, designed to help provide answers regarding the challenges brought about due to competing worldviews in our culture. There is no cost. Contact the Cresman’s for more information or to sign up. (See your new Church Directory.)

Leonard read our Scriptures today from Proverbs 1:20-33 and Mark 8:27-38. After a time of sharing needs and of prayer, Pastor Brad took the pulpit.

New Beginnings

“Has anybody seen a rainbow lately?” Brad began. Several had. And Brad replied that God said this would be a sign to us… a sign that says He keeps His promises to us. It’s the sign of new life.

Brad then shared several comical signs he’s seen or heard about. On the door of a convenience store a sign said, “Push. If that doesn’t work, Pull.” At an out of the way gas station a sign read, “If it’s after nine and you want gas, keep your shirt on while I get my pants on.” Another business had a sign that read, Veterinarian/Taxidermist. Either way you get your dog back.

This was a setup, of course for the sign that Brad said really bugs him. We’ve all seen it: No U-Turns.

In God’s word, and in the book we will be studying the next several weeks, there are signs all over the place that U-Turns are welcome. In fact, U-Turns are often necessary in life.

This was Brad’s intro to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul wrote to Christ followers in all kinds of major cities, including Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. Colossae was probably the least important, least strategic, least impressive city Paul ever wrote to. But it certainly wasn’t the least impressive church. Even though he’d never been there (it was probably founded by a man named Epaphras whom he references in the letter) he had heard tons of good about this fellowship of believers.

Because Brad aims to go through the book in over the next many weeks, he began with a brief overview of its contents. Of Colossians 2:6-10 he said the book hinges on this passage which tells us what we are in Christ.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

In chapter three there are many other great passages. For example, in verse 5 it says “Put on a new nature” and in verse 16, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

This morning, however, Brad wished to draw out five characteristics of healthy, prevailing churches, based on the greeting in chapter one.

1) Holiness
Every effective, prevailing church has this characteristic, which we sang about last week. Holiness is what we aim for and what we need.

Holiness means being set apart for God's exclusive use. This is not to be confused with seaparateness. We are in the world, but not of it. Our influence comes about by being in our communities and in the world. The Pharisees lived by rules that appeared "holy" but their hearts were otherwise. A holy, distinctive life is something different from self-righteous legalism.

2) Passionate Faith
In verse four Paul states, "We heard about your faith." Churches that prevail are filled with people who have a passionate faith. A dynamic church is one in which God's hand is moving through spirit filled people with a passionate faith.

3) Inclusive Love
This church was recognized not only for its faith, but also "for the love you have for all the saints." It was an inclusive church with arms extended, not a church of cliques. All kinds of people were welcome, and they shared a love in the spirit. Jesus Himself said, "By this will all men know you are My disciples, by your love." Unconditional, real love.

Brad cited James 2:1-4 to bring home an important point.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Colossae refused to be that way. There are needs all around and needy people who need us to pull them in. What is especially needed among Christians is creativity in order to reach our culture and be relevant to a postmodern mind.

4) Immersed in the Word
Brad mentioned Ron Sider's book that noted that there is not a lot of difference between Christians and non-Christians. The problem is that many Christians get saved, but do not take the next step toward personal transformation by renewing their minds. What is needed is to bring every thought captive to Christ.

The Word of God is vital to our personal growth and transformation.

At this point Brad challenged us to read and re-read the book of Colossians, and to meditate on its contents. Meditation is not emptying the mind and sitting cross-legged on the floor. Rather, Christian meditation is more like a cow chewing its cud. It swallows the cud, regurgitates it and chews some more. (Not a pretty metaphor, but apt.) The original word for meditation is somewhat akin to rolling a ball around inside a cup. We take a passage of Scripture and roll it around in our minds. We were invited to take this letter of Paul's to the Colossians and roll it around in our minds for the next month or so.

5) Cling to a Living Hope
Faith and love spring from the hope stored up for us in heaven. Heaven is the goal, the prize, and the church at Colossae shared an awe at the prospect of being there. There is a reward at the end. Life is hard, but the reward is real, and worth it... for one day we will share in His glory.

After a closing hymn, we all went to the park in Twig to share a great meal and picnic fellowship. But the spiritual food we received while seated in the pews really hit the spot.

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