Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 25 - Acts 2:41-48

 

Day by day … they devoted

themselves … to fellowship …

[and] to the breaking of the bread …

see Acts 2:41-48

 

If I asked you for another term for the “breaking of the bread,” you’d probably say, “communion.”

 

If I asked you for another term for “fellowship,” you could also say, “communion”! (In fact, the Greek word “koinonia” is often alternately translated “fellowship” or “communion” in the English version of the Bible.)

 

In terms of fellowship, who are we communing with? We are communing with one another, with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

In terms of the breaking of the bread, who are we communing with? With God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through this holy meal, our spirit intersects with God’s presence in a special, sacramental way. A relational way. Through this meal, we’re in “communion” (relationship) with God.

 

But there’s a second piece to Holy Communion. When you come to Church and process to the altar for communion, the “communion” you partake in is not just between “you and Jesus” (though Jesus surely meets you there). In that moment, you are also – simultaneously – communing with a hundred other brothers and sisters in Christ. Communion involves a community of faith.

 

This week, we’ll be looking at some of the ways Christian’s commune.

 

In Christ’s Love,

communion …

community …

communication …

I guess I’m a guy who

is increasingly realizing

that relationship

is important

Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 16-17 - Psalm 12:1

 

Help, O Lord, for there is

no longer anyone who is godly;

the faithful have disappeared

from humankind.

Psalm 12:1

 

Do you ever feel like the sentiment in that verse?

 

I’d agree that the percentage of the faithful seems to be decreasing. And it’s shocking. And sad.

 

Recently a local church was given a demographic study. In a five mile radius of their church, only about 9% of people attended church somewhat regularly. Only 9%! In Waxhaw! It’s shocking. And very, very sad.

 

But lest you get too discouraged, it matters which “studies” you listen to. Other “studies” suggest that the number of committed Christians has remained the same throughout the last few generations.

 

What does that mean?

 

There used to be a cultural “advantage” to going to church. “Everybody” did it. And if you were to be “anybody,” you needed to be at church. If you were to be viewed as a good person, you needed to be at church. In America, there was a time when the world was empty on Sunday morning because “everybody” was in church. So even in the midst of “good” congregations, there were a lot of “cultural Christians.” They were there because it was the right thing to do.

 

Now, it’s different. The world doesn’t care if you’re Christian. (In fact, sometimes the world mocks you for it.) When I first came to Spirit of Joy, Wednesday was a great night for church programming because it was “church night.” Schools, teams, and clubs didn’t schedule on Wednesdays. That was only fourteen years ago. Now not only has “church night” disappear in the South, so has any sanctity for Sunday morning. Now there’s a disincentive to be at church on Wednesdays or Sundays. And the once-incentivized “cultural Christians” are now drifting. But the faithful core is still here.

 

The Psalmist surely felt like “the faithful have disappeared.” Most pastors most days can be discouraged enough to feel the same way. But there is always a remnant. And the faithful core is still here!

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is more sad

than discouraged;

too many are selling

their families to

a broken world

and are shocked

when they get

worldly results

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

June 15 - Acts 2:42-43

 

They devoted themselves

… to fellowship … and awe

came upon everyone …

Acts 2:42-43

 

God designed humans for relationship. We see that stated clearly in the first pages of Scripture.

 

And … God designed the church to fulfill that need for relationship. We see that stated clearly in the first pages of Church history. Indeed, in Scripture’s first picture of the church, we see a “day-by-day” devotion to several key disciplines … including fellowship.

 

But … devoted fellowship is an increasingly hard sell in American culture.

 

·         First, our society is very individualistic. We do what we think in the moment is best for us … and fail to consider how our presence, absence, service, support, and fellowship enriches others.

 

·         Second, in our modern world, we’re overly busy. We’re exhausted. We don’t gather with church family day because we don’t have time.

 

·         Third, we’ve let culture define our priorities. We’re told by the world, for example, what will make our kids and our families successful. And American Christians increasingly chase worldly priorities … and then – simultaneously and ironically – complain that the world that they’re feeding their families to is falling apart. (Hint: Our culture is falling apart because we’re too individualistic, too busy, too exhausted, too deceived, and too involved in the world.)   

 

God’s first picture for the church (Acts 2:42-47) repeatedly talks about the “day-by-day” emphasis on God and faith and church. On fellowship! On being together. On coming to the church daily – to worship, pray, and serve.

 

And if you want a little more awe in your life, this passage tells us that awe and wonder comes in conjunction with the day-by-day prioritization of church as family.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who can’t imagine

more than a day or two

without  my church family!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 14 - quote from the movie "Harvey"

 

Harvey and I sit in the bars... We've entered as strangers. Soon we have friends. … They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. … All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave ______.

            Elwood P. Dowd in Mary Chase’s Harvey

 

Who is Harvey? Let me weave my way into a powerful theological answer!

 

In yesterday’s devotion – and in last Sunday’s sermon – I talked about the sense of community that many people find in a bar … or in a club … or on teams … or in some social or service organizations.

 

We all want places to belong, places where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came” (as the old Cheers theme song sings).

 

We also talked yesterday about Larson and Miller’s insight about how “the neighborhood bar is probably the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church.”

 

In just a moment, I’m going to tell you a story about how a Christian can redeem his bar or team or club! But first … why do these organizations flourish? Larson and Miller say, “the bar flourishes, not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”

 

Ironically, or maybe intentionally, Larson and Miller’s book from which this quote derives is entitled “The Edge of Adventure.” Seeking community is a huge hunger in every heart. But when we seek it in the wrong place, we’re only on the edge of God’s plan. We taste a counterfeit hint of the blessing and adventure that our Lord offers, but we miss the true feast.

 

Nevertheless … a few lines from the classic old movie, Harvey reveal a Christian purpose for if and when God’s people adventure into a club or bar or any secular organization. Do you know the story of Harvey?

 

In the movie version of Harvey, Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd. Everyone thinks he’s absolutely crazy. Why? Because his best friend is an invisible, 6’3½” white rabbit. Naturally, everyone views a man who talks to a giant, invisible rabbit as insane … but the audience is in on the joke. Harvey, the invisible hare, is real! Doors open. Things move. Shadows appear. And only Elwood – and the audience – see it.

 

And – and here’s the theological part – Elwood sees something the world doesn’t see. Likewise, Christians see things that the world doesn’t always see … like God! And like Elwood P. Dowd in the following quote, a Christian’s primary purpose for venturing out in the world is to introduce people to Harvey (to God). (In fact, any other reason we gather with the world is, as Larson and Miller suggest, counterfeit!)

 

Listen to Elwood’s words in my favorite scene:

 

Harvey and I sit in the bars... have a drink or two... play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they're saying, "We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fella."

 

Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We've entered as strangers - soon we have friends.

 

And they come over... and they sit with us... and they drink with us... and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.

 

And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave ______.

 

As Christians, our primary reason to be walk into a bar or join or club must to introduce people to Harvey (to God). Why? Because the world is hurting. There’s “big terrible things they’ve done” and had done to them. There’s “big wonderful things they [want to] do,” dreams that are merely earthly and temporary until we find our greater purpose in God.

 

Yes, life is full of “hope … regrets … loves … and … hates.” And they’re “all very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.” And that’s where we have an opportunity! It’s at this moment that we can (and a called) to introduce them to The One who is “bigger and grander than anything they offer me” – God and the love of Christ.

 

If we take the world up on its “offer,” the best we get is a counterfeit version of fellowship – the drunken vulnerability in a bar, some worldly service in a club, and a bit of “rah-rah” on a team. And simultaneously are we sacrificing our time in Christian community – the building up of others in the church and our being built up by the Gospel and the Body of Christ.

 

I’ll tell you more about this tomorrow, but the only reason a Christian should be deeply involved in the world is to “introduce [people] to Harvey [who]’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And [then] when they leave, they[‘ll] leave [transformed].

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who has a

not-so-imaginary

friend in heaven

 

 

 

June 13 - Acts 2:42-43

 

They devoted themselves

to fellowship … and awe

came upon everyone …

Acts 2:42-43

 

I remember sitting in my college dorm room when a new television series premiered. The show was okay … but I absolutely loved the theme song. I sang it in my head all week. I tuned in the next week primarily to hear the song again.

 

The show was Cheers, and Gary Portnoy’s famous song addressed one of humanities greatest needs: Belonging. (You’re welcome to listen as you read.)

 

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to go where

Everybody knows your name.

 

Belonging! Starting with the Garden of Eden – and heaven’s observation that it’s “not good for the man to be alone” – we know that we’ve been built for community. We feel it in our bones. But from bars to teams to clubs, how many in our world keep seeking cheap counterfeits to the community we’re designed to find within the church?

 

Indeed, that’s the heartbreaking observation of Larson and Miller in The Edge of Adventure. They say …

 

The neighborhood bar is probably the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church.

 

It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is also unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people’s secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.

 

The bar flourishes, not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.

 

You love people. You want a place to belong. But in what “communities” are you choosing to look for the counterfeit rather than the real.

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t want

the Secret Service to

investigate me,

I want the real rather

than the counterfeit

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 11, 2018

June 12 - Matthew 5:14-15

 

Jesus said, “You are

the light of the world.

A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 

No one after lighting a lamp

puts it under the bushel basket,

but on the lampstand, and

it gives light to all in the house.”

Matthew 5:14-15

 

A young woman who grew up at our church recently posted a page from her devotional book. On it was a story about a church in England. A relatively modern church, most are surprised to find that the architect designed it without lights!

 

Why?

 

Well, when people join the church, they are each assigned a pew and are given a lantern. When they come on Sundays, they light their lantern and when the whole congregation gathers, the church is lit.

 

But what happens, asks the devotional, when one person doesn’t show on a Sunday? Not much. It’s a little dimmer, but it’s just one lantern, right?

 

But what happens when several families don’t show?!

 

The church is dark.

 

That’s a major problem in our culture today. The church – for a variety of reasons – is going dark. And because of that, our society is growing darker, and in the dark, our children are getting lost.

 

Jesus calls us to be light for the world. Citadels on the hills. Beacons in our communities. But … churches are growing dark because even “good Christians” no longer prioritize worship.

 

How brightly are you and your family shining?

 

In Christ’s Love,

a guy whose roots are

from the town that is

famous for Zippo lighters;

wanting to light must come

naturally for me

Saturday, June 2, 2018

All Ages Invited to 8:30 Discipleship Tomorrow!!!

At 8:30 tomorrow we’re going

to pray and teach and tell stories.

 

It will be deep for adults

and accessible for children.

 

Come for yourself!!!

And bring your family!!!

 

 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

LAST CHANCE: For June Prayers

How can we pray

for you and your family

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May 30 - Prayer - James 5:16

 

"Any concern too small

to be turned into a prayer

is too small to be made

into a burden."

Corrie Ten Boom

 

Join us Wednesdays as we pray

… especially in the summer

if you missed or know you’re

going to miss a Sunday.

 

There’s power when

the people of God

gather to pray.

 

We’re seeing it

at Spirit of Joy.

 

The prayer of a righteous person

is powerful and effective.

James 5:16

 

NEW PRAYER TIME STARTS TODAY!

 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 26-27 - Psalm 11:7

 

Who shall behold God’s face? The upright. The righteous.

 

Righteousness is literally right behavior. It is integrity. It is fidelity to God’s ways.

 

And … it’s more than that.

 

Righteousness also requires faith. Without faith, morality is just being honorable. Nice. But righteousness is a thoroughly spiritual posture. As Scripture says, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17).

 

When our hearts and our lives seek after God, that’s when we truly see God’s face.    

Thursday, May 24, 2018

May 25 - Psalm 10:14

 

It is not fun, but it is a fact: Because of sin, we live in an often cruel world. People do evil, and the pain makes us weep.

 

Today’s verse is a pray: “Lord, ‘look.’ But, don’t just look; ‘do something.’ Help! We ‘look’ to you for answers.”

 

And the basis for our confidence of God’s help? “Lord, ‘you are the one who helps the orphans’; surely you will help us too.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tomorrow is Pentecost - Acts 2:2-4

The Holy Spirit…

makes us yearn for God,

 

and

 

takes spiritual truth and

makes it understandable to us.


B i l l y   G r a h a m

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May 17 - Psalm 8

 

A baby isn’t

ready to be king!

 

Is humanity fit

for dominion of

God’s kingdom?

 

How about you?

 

Are you stewarding

your part of God’s realm?

 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May 16 - Psalm 7:1-2

 

Quick:

Who's your

greatest enemy?

 

Did you list the devil who

roars, prowls, deceives

and devours?

 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 14 - Psalm 6:4

 

Have you ever

battled life’s storms?

Have you ever worried

about going under?

 

Cry as the Psalmist:

“Turn, Loving Lord!”

He hears.

He saves!