MercyMe Music Videos

Kim and I just saw the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” and will highly recommend it to you. Not only a great song but when you know the story behind the song and the band, the film is that much more significant.

While I’m at it, this song came out in the band’s early years. Our ISC/Journeyman Team at the IMB recommended that our creative videographers to get with the band and shoot a music video, this one is “Here Am I” (think missions and evangelism)…

And how can you forget this one, another story about his father, goes well with the film…

Praying for Our MVPs

My text today is from Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 1:8

The emphasis of this week’s chapter in the Thom Rainer book (I Am a Church Member) is on praying for church leaders, like…

  • The staff, shepherds, and sheep
  • His protection, perseverance, and preaching
  • His physical, mental, and spiritual health
  • His faithfulness, fidelity, and family, but let me broaden you prayer list to include…
  • The church’s mission, vision, proclamation (MVPs)
    • Mission
    • Vision
    • Proclamation

Pray for the Church’s Mission: The mission of KGBC is Knowing Christ and making him known. This statement incorporates two main functions: evangelism and discipleship. If we don’t do these two things, we cannot call ourselves a church. To see how we align ourselves with the mission of the early church, let’s go back to the birth of the church, in Acts 2.

Acts 2:42 tells us that “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

This verse appears to be the lowest common denominator for a church, ground zero. These four essentials are what the church is all about. But the description of these events must be read in context, which is immediate follow-up care for new converts to Christianity, Just look back at Acts 2:41.

One key word I see in Acts 2:42 is the word “devoted,” and this continual devotion covers four main activities.

1. Teaching: which includes preaching, and this is not just any teaching, or some positive or motivational message, but the “apostles’ teaching,” which focused on the Word of God, the Bible. They were wholly devoted to the revelation of God and the sacred Scriptures. The apostles were men who were with Jesus from the beginning to the end of his earthly life. They shared the stories and the teachings of Jesus. Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit they were able to interpret Old Testament passages in the light of Christ and the cross.

Jesus had instructed them in what we call the Great Commission, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Without an instruction manual, we can assume that they taught or explained the nature of salvation, Christ’s work on the cross, the commands of Christ, and other lesson on the Christian life.

Regarding the commands of Christ, have you ever looked over all the imperatives of Jesus in the gospels? Imperatives are parts of grammar that are in essence commands.

2. Fellowship: teaching without fellowship would be a school, a place simply to dispense information. Koinonia refers to close, mutual relationships, sharing a common life, getting involved with one another. They not only learned through teaching, but they lived through fellowship. This is where we discover the essence of small group ministry.

3. The Breaking of Bread: the Lord’s church is gathered around the table, while baptism is mentioned prior to these verses, we know the church is devoted to two ordinances. Baptism refers to our conversion to Christ and the Lord’s Supper refers to our communion with Christ. An acceptable and inclusive term would be worship.

There is debate over this phrase. The definite article in Acts 2:42, “the breaking of bread” would refer to observing the Lord’s Supper, but in Acts 2:46, there is no definite article and would indicate sharing a meal together. In reality, they likely shared meals together and at the end, they broke bread in remembrance of Jesus.

It is interesting to note that the three other features in this verse are spiritual activities (teaching, fellowship, prayer) that the fourth one here would also be spiritual.

4. Prayer: The verse also includes the definite article and can be read, “and to the prayers.” The temple had set times for prayer and the disciples attended in those early years. In the early church they used the Lord’s Prayer during these times, as we find in the Didache, an early church manual for the church (late first century, section 8 on fasting and praying) that the Lord’s Prayer is recited, three times per day. By the fourth century, John Chrysostom defined prayers as “conversations with God.”

The emphasis for us today is to spend time adoring our Lord and Savior, confessing sin, interceding for others, petitioning for God to provide, and thanking him for his provision.

While you can have more characteristics in the church, you really cannot have less than these four.

Pray for the Church’s Vision: a vision is what spiritual leaders must have and then effectively communicate and pass on to the church (the congregation). Acts 2:43-47 is what we might call the vision of the early church. Let me suggest that “community life” was the vision of the early church fathers.

Acts 2:43-47 – Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

By the empowerment of the Spirit of God, he worked on their lives, integrity, trust, joy, confidence, dependence, unity, generosity, forgiveness, compassion, harmony, stability, grace… and what was the result (Acts 2:46-47)? (The Lord added to their numbers).

  1. A sense of awe – at the signs and wonders of the apostles. Everyone indicates those inside the church and outside of the church. The vision is to have a church that is empowered by our supernatural God, where awe at what God is doing here is a regular feature in worship.
  2. Sharing possessions – property was sold according to needs, the texts supports giving as needed, not turning over property due to force, like we find in communism. Nor was it a once for all disposal of property. The vision is to have people in the fellowship not only touched by Christ, but their wallets are touched as well.
  3. Day by day – Their spirituality was not just reserved for Sunday, but their faith permeated life throughout the week, day by day. The vision is to have people engaged with Jesus and with other believers every day, but not to the exclusion of engaging lost people (I’ll talk about that in just a moment).
  4. Continuing – indicated their commitment to the mission and the vision of the church. The vision is for people to have perseverance as they walk this narrow path with honor and integrity.
  5. One mind – indicates their desire for unity within the body of Christ, they had one mind. The vision is for all of us to be united in spirit and together strive to become more and more like our Savior.
  6. In the temple – this may seem odd in our one-day-a-week attending church, but the early believers tried to maintain ties with lost people in the temple in whatever capacity they could. It was much later, after the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) where they decided that converts to Christianity need not become Jewish first. The vision is that people will no longer forsake the gathering of ourselves together, which is the habit of some… that is Hebrews 10:25.
  7. House to house – These home fellowship groups were the norm in the early church; it was not until about 300 years later that “church houses” were built so everyone could meet together (once Christianity became legalized in AD 313). The vision is to have believers engaging lost people in their homes. Most Americans say that their home is their refuge, away from the rest of this crazy world, but we must remember that JESUS is our refuge, and our homes are places of ministry. The ministry of hospitality is much more genuine than simply inviting people to church, where we hope they hear the gospel from a trained professional pastor. You may have heard the phrase “every member is a minister” but it is more accurate to say, “every member is a missionary” and I will explain that in a moment.

8. Meals together – this seems obvious but notice how these meetings were described: together, with gladness, and sincerity of heart. This goes back to their fellowship, being united in Christ. They had single-minded devotion to God with simplicity and generosity. Joy came from the heart and they felt no need to impress others. The vision is to be a missionary to your neighborhood, your workplace, the sports field, the community center, you name it. Taking the gospel outside of the walls of the church building.

Then we get to the results of our authentic Christianity:

  1. Praising God – This is the natural result of experiencing authentic Christian community; they remember the good things God has done in and through his people.
  2. Favor of outsiders – when people see that our faith is real, it speaks to the hearts of lost people. The early church won the admiration of those outside the church – their honesty, respect, passion, acceptance, joy, peace…
  3. Numerical growth – since all living things grow, and if the church is more of an organism than it is an organization, the church should grow. This growth came as a result of unbelievers seeing the genuine transformation as seen in the lives of disciples of Jesus. (See also Acts 4:4, 5:14, 6:7, 9:31, 11:21-24, 14:1, 16:5, 17:12).

They had all this growth in spite of intense opposition and persecution; sometimes this growth came because of it.
So, this mission of knowing Christ and making him know is clear within the church, and we can use the vision of the early church to guide us toward embracing a renewed vision at King’s Grant, but I have come up short, and perhaps you have noticed it. When I shared the mission section, I only talked about knowing Christ; I need to address the second part – making Christ known.

Pray for the Church’s Proclamation: let’s read Acts 1:8

This is the key to the whole concept of church: Acts 1 comes before Acts 2. Well, you might just be thinking, “well, duh!” So let me explain. We can talk a lot about what the church needs to look like, what it must include, and even get all excited about a vision for the future, BUT, if we focus on Acts 2:42-47 and leave out Acts 1:8, we are NOT the church.

For years, the churches all across America have used an “attractional” model in their evangelism strategy. By this I mean that through the years, evangelism has become an invitation to a church program. If we can only get my lost friend Bill to come with me to church, he can hear the gospel from a professional pastor. There is a flaw in the attractional model. How often are you able to bring an unchurched neighbor or co-worker to church? And for many of the believers here, when you are able to invite someone to come with you on Sunday, you can’t even sit with them because you are volunteering somewhere.

Here is an example: you spend time with Bill you invite him, to a Christmas program here at church, and at some point Bill becomes a believer! Then we tell him that he needs to attend church, read his Bible, get involved on some ministry team at church, and Bill seems to be losing his connection with lost people.

What if we trained Bill to maintain those old connections, partnering with a mature believer, and use those connections to the community center, school, social club, for God’s glory?

Missional: Let me share with you a better way. It is called a “missional model.”

In Genesis 12:1-3, look at what our missionary God said to Abram (later he named him Abraham):

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Using this very simple acrostic, you can effectively get the gospel past the walls of this building, and be confident that you are intentionally seeking God’s kingdom and interaction with lost people.

Begin with Prayer – remember that you are not trying to win people to the Lord, you are praying that God will reach your lost friends, perhaps through you, but that is not the goal.

Listen – ask lots of questions and honestly listen to their hurts, needs, struggles, joys, motivations,

Eat – this is an easy one; simply eat a meal with an unchurched person you know. It is amazing how sharing a meal brings down walls. It can be a fast food lunch or a dinner you prepare at home. It is an interestingly inconsistent that we would desire someone to be saved (and spend eternity with them in heaven) yet don’t invite that person into our home.

Serve – out of our listening and eating with people, how can we take what we heard to help meet their needs, how can we serve them, do things for them, expecting nothing in return?

Story – at this point there are two stories that you are seeking to share, YOUR story and HIS story.

We must be a praying church: and not just for an illness, an upcoming surgery, or safety when we travel. I mean a praying church where we spend time on our faces before God pouring out our hearts to God over lostness, broken families, unreached people groups, martyred Christians in the middle east, women and children trapped in the sex trafficking industry, men addicted to pornography, and yes, praying for opportunities to put in a good word for Jesus and then the strength to actually DO IT.

Ask God to give you a vision of being a part of authentic Christian community through the small groups that we offer here.

Better yet, pray about how you can actually use your home as a ministry tool.

Ask God to help you BLESS people each week.

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The Best-Laid Plans

“The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry”

Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase. It speaks of how (as human beings) we make our well-intended plans, utilizing the best of our knowledge and ability, but then things don’t always turn out as we had hoped. The phrase was made most famous by John Steinbeck in his 1937 novel “Of Mice and Men,” which came from a line within the Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1785, called, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough.” According to legend, Burns wrote the poem after finding a nest full of mice, in his field, during the winter. ”

On a personal note, as a parent, how many times have you inadvertently made a promise to your children, and then when plans changed, you were accused of being a liar, or that you don’t keep your word?

“Let’s try to get to the beach this weekend… “ They’re all excited about going and then something comes up, like an illness, a storm, or even a death in the family, and you simply cannot go… “Daddy said we were going to the beach but he lied.”

I eventually had to qualify all of my plans with a statement like, “I’m making no promises,” or I just don’t let them know the plans at all so it can’t be used against me, or I just tell them “NO we are not even going to talk about it” and if we’re able to go, it will just be a happy surprise.

This past week in our reading the One-Year Bible, we finished 1 Corinthians and began reading 2 Corinthians. In the Bible passage I’m using today, we’re going to take a look at the best-laid plans of the apostle Paul and how the Corinthian church reacted to his change of plans.

In 1 Corinthians 16:5-9 he discusses his travel plans. You probably heard that passage read this morning and thought to yourself, “What in the world is he going to talk about, and what will be inspirational out of THAT passage?”

Well, this is a passage that brings to light the COMMITMENT that Paul had to his Lord, his friends and his ministry.

I. Paul promised to visit Corinth in the future (1 Corinthians 16:5-7)

The first thing I want to see is that Paul promises to visit the city of Corinth in the future. You see that right up front in 1 Corinthians 16:5, “I will come to you after I go through Macedonia…”

Here is a little of the back story… Paul had likely announced his plans to visit and stay for a while, in the lost letter that he sent to the Corinthians before THIS letter. Let’s try to piece this together.

1 Corinthians 5:9 mentions such a previous letter, where he says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people.” We can only imagine what this church was doing or what activity was going on there, for Paul to write such a letter. He must have been addressing some gross public sin. It must have been pretty scandalous and juicy based on what Paul addresses in chapter 5 and 6!

But the point is, there is a letter to the Corinthians that comes before 1 Corinthians. The Holy Spirit did not preserve that letter for us nor did he consider it necessary that we have it included as Holy Scripture.

So, you may be asking yourself an important question, “Are we missing something in the Bible?” Let me assure you, not a chance. While it might be interesting to know what Paul wrote to them, Peter tells us that God has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” which includes our completed Bible (2 Peter 1:3).

Alright, let’s get back to our passage for today. So Paul made a promise to visit the Corinthians and his plans obviously changed (I’ll show in a few moments, some passages that indicate his plan B and C). When Paul’s plans changed, the church thought the WORST, they thought Paul was being deceptive, or he was punishing them for the sinful activity in their midst, or he was outright lying to them. So, he addresses his change of plans in THIS letter.

Since we know Paul pretty well, he certainly wanted to make the most of the time God had given him, and make the most of every opportunity, so in this situation, there was no exception. In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul writes, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Paul had to change his plans because God was doing something great where he was, and he didn’t want to leave, perhaps quenching the work of the Holy Spirit.

In this letter Paul informed the Corinthians of his revised plans but notice how tentative his plans were.

  • PERHAPS I shall stay with you or EVEN spend the winter with you. 1 Corinthians 16:6
  • I HOPE to remain with you for some time, IF the Lord permits. (1 Corinthians 16:7)

He certainly understood the message of James 4:13-15, where it tells us about the providential nature of God, “13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year…” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

So, what has happened here so far? Paul mentions his future plans to visit Corinth, but his plans changed. BUT, I submit to you that there were very good reasons why he could not keep his initial commitment. Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 16:8-9.

II. Paul planned to stay in Ephesus in the present (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)

According to this section, it is obvious that Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote this letter of First Corinthians. Let’s take a look at WHEN he will leave Ephesus…

1. When Paul will leave Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8)

Paul informs them that he will leave Ephesus at Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8) which was the celebration some 50 days after the Passover (or for us, 50 days after Easter). Then He will travel by way of Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5). This was an obvious deviation from his original plans.

Notice the phrase “passing through” or “going through” Macedonia. This phrase indicates a planned, or systematic, or intentional time set aside for his ministry. There were people to see and souls to be won.

History tells us that winter was NOT the time to travel by ship in this area, so staying in Corinth would certainly be more convenient for Paul.

Regarding Paul’s plans, it is interesting to know that Paul was forced to revise his plans twice.

(1) Plan B was to visit Corinth and then travel to Macedonia, then back to Corinth on his way to Judea.

You might well be asking yourself, “Scott, where in the world do you get that information?” Take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:15-16, where Paul writes, “15 Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice— 16 first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea.”

Instead of one long visit, he would make two shorter visits.

(2) Plan C turned out to be a quick and painful visit to Corinth before traveling to Ephesus.

Apparently the issues that he addresses in this letter of 1 Corinthians were not resolved, so Paul wrote a stern letter or sorrowful letter to the church (one that comes between First and Second Corinthians).

Titus delivered that stern letter and while Paul was in Troas, had no rest in his spirit wondering how they had received the letter and how they received Titus.

Let’s read 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, Now then I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord. I had no rest in my spirit not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia. So, Paul went on to Troas to wait for Titus, and then he went on to visit Macedonia and eventually moved on to Judea.

Before we leave these verses, “Why did Paul go to Troas?” He went there because of the gospel of Christ, because God opened a door of opportunity for service and evangelism.

So, what are the lessons we can get from all of this?

How about this when we are discerning direction in our lives?

When was the last time that you sensed God’s direction so strongly that you changed your plans? You have this agenda, only so much time in a day, you’re a busy person, you have your schedule all planned out, you have your major all selected, your course charted, your business is already established… then you encounter the living God in such dramatic fashion that your plans change. You retire early to make plans for the mission field, or you change your major to something that has a greater impact on the kingdom of God, or you rearrange your crazy schedule to intentionally spend more time with lost people rather than just showing up at church every time the doors are open.

In decision-making or making our plans, what can we do?

Let’s use common sense, prayer, evaluation of the situation, and proper guidance when making our plans for the future. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.”

God gave us a mind to think, but don’t depend solely on your own reasoning. As we seek God’s direction, we must pray, study Scripture, and consult with believing friends; and then step out in faith.

It may come as a shock, but not ALL of the decisions we make are in the will of God. Sometimes we make promises that we simply cannot keep.

Does this mean that we become liars when we cannot fulfill our intended plans? The Corinthians thought Paul was not trustworthy, or was deceptive since he was not able to fulfill his promise about coming to visit them. (read 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:13 for his whole explanation).

The bottom line: If an apostle like Paul had to change his plans, it is guaranteed that our plans may often change as well.

Here are two extremes to avoid in seeking God’s Will:

  1. One is to be so afraid of making a mistake that we make no decisions at all. This is an indecisive person, we all know someone like this.
  2. The other extreme is to be so impulsive and just rush on ahead without taking the time to consult the Lord at all. We all know people like this as well.

How about if we do this: After we have done all that we can in seeking the Lord’s leadership, let’s make the decision, and then act upon that decision. Leave the rest up to God.

The point is, we must sincerely WANT to do the Lord’s will, to be an example of Jesus Christ, to allow Jesus to live through us, and not just follow or obey God grudgingly or justify doing our OWN will.

Wow, that was all about WHEN he would leave Ephesus. Let’s now take a look at…

2. Why Paul will stay in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9) Paul intended to take advantage of opportunities to preach the gospel.

Just as we saw in Troas, Paul had an open door of opportunity for ministry in Ephesus, and THAT was most important to him. He wanted to win lost people to Jesus, more than pamper or spoil the saved people in Corinth.

Paul saw both the opportunities and the obstacles. So, God opened a wide door in Ephesus and Paul wanted to seize the day, and win people to Christ.

It is in today’s Scripture passage that we see the motivation in Paul’s actions.

So, consider your own situation… Would you ever consider changing your established and well-thought out plans because God was leading to toward an open door of opportunity to do something for God or for someone else?

  • What if God called you to go on a mission trip?
  • To lead a Sunday School class?
  • To change your major to something that would better impact the kingdom?
  • To change your vocation, even if later in life?
  • To witness to a neighbor?
  • To do something kind for a co-worker, hoping to seize the opening for one day putting in a good word for Jesus?

Rather than complain about the obstacles in your life, look for the God-given opportunities for making a difference in someone’s life.

So, what is your take away for this morning? Look at your outline…

  1. How can you make better, more godly, decisions?
  2. In what ways are you connected to other believers?
  3. If Paul were writing a letter to our church, what would he affirm and what would he challenge?
  4. In what area of ministry is your passion, where is your heart?
  5. How can you help grow the ministry at King’s Grant Baptist Church?
  6. We all make plans, have influence over people, and hope to be prosperous or successful in life; how has this passage challenged your motivation for servanthood, and being on mission with God, on being an influence for the kingdom?
  7. Will you download the Bible App Initiative questions for this week and chew on this chapter a bit more during this next week?

My challenge is that we discover our spiritual passion. If you don’t have that, or have no clue what I’m talking about, or have no idea how to share your faith with someone else… I would welcome the opportunity help you become a disciple that makes a difference in the world around you.

If you are ready to join this church, what are you waiting for? Every team has its roster, every company has its payroll, and every school has students enrolled… it’s time to officially join the family.

For all of us: let’s discover how to make godly decisions, be open to following through on those commitments, and make a few commitments that will impact eternity.

And for heaven’s sake, if God should open a door of opportunity to do something totally outrageous, something that would use you to impact the kingdom, are you willing to follow Christ in the midst of uncertainty or ambiguity?

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Why We Don’t Make Disciples

David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, presents a compelling argument regarding the importance of missions and the understanding of discipleship. If we truly understood evangelism, the gospel, and salvation, the Great Commission would compel us toward growing in faith and reaching the lost.

Since Jesus came to save the world from sin, how can we say that those who have never heard of Jesus will somehow get a pass, after all, they have never heard the name of Jesus? In essence this argument claims that “ignorance is bliss.”

  1. If this is true, Jesus would not have given us the Great Commission.
  2. If this was true, the absolute worst thing we could do would be to send missionaries to tell them about Jesus because now they are forced into making a decision and could end up in hell if they don’t choose to follow Christ.

If they get a pass having never heard of Jesus, that would mean there were innocent people on these other continents that would have made it to heaven had we not forced them into a decision. The trouble with this line of thought is that there are NO innocent people on this planet. No not one.

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