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Category: Sermons

The Difficult Change

Change is difficult. We see that in every aspect of our lives. Just this morning I went through the difficult change of being asleep, comfortable in my bed to being awake and getting ready for church. That was a difficult change. Many of you have moved and taken on new jobs throughout your life – that change is difficult. Many of you have gone from being a newly wed-couple to having kids – that’s a difficult change. Then when those kids grow up and move out, that’s a difficult change there again. As you grow older, your body wears out and you can’t do things like you used to – that’s a difficult change. Life is full of change and most often, that change is difficult.

Even physics say that change is difficult. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion tends to remain in motion, unless an external force is applied to it. When a train is barreling down the track in this direction, it is very difficult to change it’s direction to go the other way. Change is difficult.

As our church moves forward in the direction God is leading us, there’s bound to be some changes. Some may be minor, some may be major, but all changes will come with some degree of difficulty.

So to help us through the process a little bit, this morning I want to look at some of the major changes that happened in the early church.

The first change that we want to look at is a changed way of coming to God.

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Characteristics of the Church

Over the past weeks we’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at the basic concepts of church – what it is, what its for, what it does. So this morning I want to shift gears just a little bit at take some time to look at an actual church and see just how all of these concepts work out in real life.

Now I’ll admit that the church that we are going to look at is nearly two thousand years old, but the characteristics we see in this church have allowed it to plant hundreds of thousands of new churches and see millions come to know and love Jesus Christ. That church is the first church in Jerusalem.

Acts chapter two will be the focus of our study this morning. Acts 2:42-47

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.

The first characteristic of this church that I noticed is that they were devoted.

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The Five Expressions of the Church

Over the past two weeks we’ve looked at three questions:
#1. What is the church?
#2. What is the purpose of the church?
#3. How do we fulfill our purpose?

We determined that you and I are the church, our purpose is to love God and be loved by Him, and we fulfill our purpose by surrendering everything to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we want to look at a fourth question,and that question is: What are the expressions of the church?

Before we explore the answer, let’s make sure we understand the question. What are the expressions of the church?

You may remember back two weeks ago when we were looking at the purpose of the church, I told you about how I had written up these five “purposes” of the church. They were worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & evangelism. But then we clarified our understanding and said actually, our purpose is to love God and be loved by Him. So if that’s our real purpose, what are those five things that I listed as purposes earlier? I think they are best described as expressions, and here’s why.

The word ‘expression’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘to press out’. Think about facial expressions for a minute. When we are experiencing deep sadness or grief, that feeling of sadness wells up within us, is pressed out upon our face. Tears flow and our face involuntarily distorts itself to express that feeling. Or when someone tells us something funny, that feeling of laughter wells up within us, and presses itself out on our face and we smile and laugh. We don’t try to laugh, it just comes out. It’s our feelings pressed out on our face. It’s a natural reaction.

And these five things – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & evangelism – work the same way. When we are living in a growing, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, surrendering our whole life to Him, these five things will just flow out of our lives. They are the natural expressions of the Christian life.

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Fulfilling Our Purpose

For those of you who missed last week’s message (and for those of you who have forgotten), last week we introduced a series of messages on the church. And to start it off, we looked at the two most basic fundamental questions you can ask about the church.

#1. What is the church?

The church, we were reminded, is people. Church is not a building, it is not a charitable organization, it is people who belong to the kingdom of God – followers of Jesus Christ.

#2. What is the purpose of the church?

And we discovered that our purpose, as individuals and together as Christ’s church, is simply to love God and be loved by Him.

Now the question I want to answer today is “How do we do that?” How do we love God and be loved by Him? So as I started to prepare for today’s message I began to come up with a list of different things we should do if we want to really love God.

  • Read the Bible.
  • Study the Bible.
  • Memorize the Bible.
  • Pray.
  • Love my neighbor.
  • Tell others about Jesus.

Before I was finished, I realize that the list I had looked very much like a Christians New Year’s Resolutions. Have you ever done that? Maybe not at just New Years, but after listening to a convicting speaker or reading a great Christian book, or while attending a Christian conference? You make a firm resolution – I’m going to read my Bible more. Or I’m going to spend more time in prayer. Or I’m going to be more bold in sharing Jesus with my friends.

I’ve sure done that a lot, I imagine you may have as well. But what happens most of the time? You get up at 6:00 am to read our Bibles on Monday. Then again at 6:00 am on Tuesday. You’re a little tired on Wednesday, so you bump it back to 6:30 am. On Thursday you manage to squeak it in at 6:45 am. Friday you hit snooze too many times and are running late, so you decide you’ll read your Bible before you go to bed that night. You forget all about it over the weekend, and by Monday, you’ve given up. Then it’s back to your regular routine until the next time you feel convicted.

After we’ve been through that cycle about 10 times we begin to think that we’re a pretty terrible Christian. Why can’t I read my Bible more – or why don’t I get more out of it when I do? Why can’t I memorize verses – I know I should, but I can never stick to it. Why can’t I be more bold in sharing Christ with others? Even when opportunity comes up, I chicken out. How can I really love God, if I can’t do all these things I know I should be doing?

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The Purpose of the Church

This is the first of five messages on the topic of the church.

A little over two years ago God began to take me on a fantastic journey. I had been working full-time with Camp Little Red for about four years when Heather & I began to feel led to resign from our position of follow-up supervisor. We didn’t really know why – we certainly enjoyed working at the camp, and we didn’t have any other job options at the time. But we felt increasingly led by God to leave the camp and begin a new chapter in life – whatever God would have us do. So in October of 2006 we resigned from the camp and I took on a job as a teacher’s aid at the small Christian school that I had attended as a kid.

Up until this time, camp was the over-riding theme & focus of my life. I had directed camps, developed new camping programs, and spent my energies thinking of new creative ways of doing camp. I loved planning camps and dreamed of one day starting my own camp. In fact, at one time I had proposed to the camp board that I start up a brand new camp here on Buffalo Lake. But about this time, God began to shift my focus.

I started to think about the church. The church that we were attending was going through some difficult times. Attendance had been continually dwindling. New Christians were few and far between. Church seemed lifeless and dull. And to be honest, most Sunday mornings I really didn’t want to go to church.

So I thought, is this really church as God intended it? Where was the “abundant life” that Jesus had promised His followers? The church that I read about in the Bible was alive and exciting! Had the church gone off track? Or maybe was me who’s got the problem? Were things messed up in my approach to church? Maybe my relationship with God isn’t what is should be? Whatever the issue is, how can I fix it? I began to have all these questions about church and my focus started shifting from wanting to build fantastic camps to wanting to build a fantastic church.

So to make a long (but exciting story) short, God has taken me on a fantastic journey over the past 2, 2½ years that has taught me all kinds of things about who God is, who God wants me to be, and what part He wants me to play in His church. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I am very excited to share with you some of the things that I have been learning and to continue to learn with you.

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