Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Church!

Today we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. We started by going into the "upper room", actually the baby's room that happens to be the highest room in the house. We sat on the carpet and read the story about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the disciples talking in other tongues so that the visitors to Jerusalem could understand in their own languages. We discussed the trinity and what part the Holy Spirit plays in the life of the church. The roles of the Holy Spirit is to convince the world of sin, teach and reveal to us through the scriptures and to use us to share the message of Christ to others.
We talked about the divisive issue of tongues in the Church today and about how different denominations view the gift of tongues. Tongues has always been a sensitive spot with the Church of the Nazarene where I was a pastor and, though I never wanted to squelch the work of God in ways I may not understand, I wondered what I would do if someone came in the church talking in tongues. I finally hit on the answer though I never had to use it. I read Paul's instruction that if any talked in tongues they should have an interpreter or keep it to themselves. However in this passage it isn't a concern as the word tongues is the simple Greek word for "languages" and does not refer to "tongues of angels" or "unknown tongues". We talked about how it was perfect timing for the Spirit to be given in this way as the large number of converts from other nations allowed a jump start for the church to grow throughout the world.

We ended the study with prayer asking God to help us live in the Spirit, to let us see God add to the church those who are being saved, and to help us be in one accord.
We then followed the study with dessert ... Birthday cake! This isn't the same cake but it looked just as exciting (at least to the children)!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let's Go Fishing!

Our Scripture passage came from John 21:1-14 today. We recited some of the stories that we discussed the past few weeks. The appearances in the locked room, the garden and the road to Emmaeus came to mind. This time I think Peter was dealing a bit with the stress of the time after a few appearances of Jesus. He also was probably still pained by his rejection of Christ the night Jesus was taken. So Peter said, "I'm going fishing!" the other disciples decided to join him. Jesus saw them and had his breakfast already cooking before leading them to a huge catch. They didn't know it was him on the shore when he said let down your net on the right side of the boat.

We talked about how we don't always recognize the presence and leading of God so we always need to be obedient when we feel we should or should not do something. We talked of testing the spirits and being prayerful about everything. Adding that God will provide while at the same time giving us the power to do whatever he asked. Jesus had the breakfast already prepared for them but he did not just GIVE it to them. They, as my son pointed out, had to have faith and obey him when he told them to cast your nets again. They did the work while God provided the huge catch of 153 large fish. God will empower us to do whatever he asks!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Great Commission Is Not Rocket Science!

Today we read Matthew 28 and talked about the Great Commission. The three instructions to the disciples were to 1) Go and make disciples, 2) baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and 3) teach them all the things that Christ has commanded us. We asked the question, "How would you go about making a disciple?" The kids pondered that question with that clueless look on their faces. We then followed up with the question, "What scriptures do you know that might help?" This question rang a few bells and my son quoted John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life". With a little direction they understood that this verse tells anyone who is not a Christian that God loved them enough to send His Son to die for our sins and that simply believing in Him will save one from their sins. We talked about how we can rely on the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit's work for converting the unbeliever. Our only job is to be ready to answer for our faith using the scriptures we know. We pointed out that it doesn't take a special "sinner's prayer" or church service or even a professional clergyman to lead someone to faith in Christ. Jesus said that we couldn't enter into heaven without the faith of a little child. The process of believing on Christ and entering into faith is simple.

We then asked, "Well, what does it mean to make disciples and teach?". We talked about the commandments and how even they were simplified into loving God with all our strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The discussion turned towards what we were doing in our house church, simplifying the process of making disciples so that anyone can do it just like the Bible teaches. In the act of gathering together around the table for the communion meal, conversing about God and what it means to be a Christian, studying scripture and praying for and with each other, we are in the disciple making process! Like the Old Testament says, we talk of God when we sit, stand and walk in the way.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jesus Appears In The Midst

We continued our series of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples today. We went up into one of the Children's rooms (the darkest one) and closed the door with the light off. We read from John 20:19-29 and discussed what this narrative says about Jesus. The disciples were locked in a room and found Jesus appearing in their midst. Later Thomas, who was not with them, said he wouldn't believe unless he could see and feel the scars on the Body of Christ. Our kids were quick to point out that we are the "blessed" ones that Jesus talked about not seeing his physical form and yet believing in him.
We also talked about how Jesus was already among the disciples when they gathered just as he promised to be among any two or three who gathered in his name. Other points included the fact that Jesus said as he was sent so he also sends us. We are to go out and spread the good new that Jesus is Messiah, the savior of the world. Asking who Jesus would save, the children were reminded that Jesus said, behold I stand at the door and knock and if any man heard his voice and opened he would come in...Jesus comes to those who open and receive him!
So much is packed into these two passages of scripture that we need to hear today in the church world. How hard is it to remember the excitement of those who newly find Christ is alive and ready to forgive them and be their savior? The disciples were frightened and hiding and soon were to become a force in the power of the Holy Spirit that would change the world. This little group of believers would soon change history forever! How many times in our traditional churches do we see excited new believers come wide-eyed into fellowship of the Body of Christ only to soon succumb to the apathy and drudgery of the week to week religious observances of the rest of the 'congregation'. One of the things I look forward to in the house church is seeing the energy and passion of these new believers become a fuel to inflame the passion of the church. For in a house church they are immediately placed into the full participation of all aspects of fellowship and worship. They don't need to sit in a pew until they rot into leadership material. God is doing something new in our country through simple churches...something the western church desperately needs. Jesus is showing himself once again in our midst...we are just now learning to truly look for him!