Back to Basics: Discipleship 101

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 NLT

“Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen” – 2 Peter 3:18 NLT

Peter tells the churches to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus. But what is grace? “Grace” is a very churchy word that we use often, we consider God’s grace one of the basics of Christian faith and life, but what does it mean? Why is grace so essential to the Christian Life? And how does that relate to other practices of the Christian faith? Maybe we need to go back to some basics!

When I went back to seminary for the second time, I was glad I did not have to retake courses such as church history 101. However, with the Bible Classes, although I did not have to retake Old Testament 101 or New Testament 101, I was happy to review, and to make sure I still knew the important basics, so I could stay on track! When you learn a new sport, it’s best to begin with the basics, with the fundamentals of the game. And it’s important to review the basics regularly. Read more Back to Basics: Discipleship 101

Enough…Stuff!

He (Jesus) told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds…The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.” – Matthew 13:1, 22

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of “stuff.” By stuff, I mean material things I have purchased over the years. In fact, my collection of “unused stuff” gathering dust in my house, was a major stimulus to suggesting we have an all church rummage sale this past spring. As I was looking around at my house, I saw many items that I had used once or twice, or may have used at one time, but my situation has changed, and I no longer use them.  They are stuffed on shelves in closets, or in plastic tubs in the basement.  I even had items that I had purchased at one time or another, but then never really used. And by the turn out of “stuff” we received for that fund raiser, I suspect many of you have extensive collections of “stuff” that have accumulated in your houses too. Read more Enough…Stuff!

Come Be our Guest!

“When God’s people are in need. Be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:13 NLT
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7 NRSV

In the movie Beauty and the Beast, the residence of the Beast’s house sing “Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test…we only live to serve.”  That is a great description of the practice of hospitality. But home is not the only place we practice hospitality. Practicing Hospitality is a key ingredient for a healthy, growing church. Paul in Romans 12:13 in the Message Bible tells the church to “Be inventive in hospitality.”

What does it mean for the church to practice hospitality? Robert Schnase in his book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, says: “radical hospitality is authentically going beyond expectation, to offer gracious invitation, reaching out to others, and becoming truly welcoming as a congregation because we have experienced God reaching out to us in Jesus Christ.” Read more Come Be our Guest!

Speak Lord for Your Servant is Listening

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. …Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” – Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7

The Psalmist, in Psalm 95, encourages us to worship our great and awesome God. I hope you have been carving out time this summer to spend in corporate worship and in private worship through Bible reading and prayer. I also hope you have been taking time to listen for God’s call in your life and have been starting your day with Samuel’s prayer:  “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

On Sunday, July 22, we will have a special opportunity to worship God in the great outdoors as we Worship in the Park, at the Heinzen Peaceful Valley Pavilion. The reason we will be worshipping at Heinzen Pavilion on July 22 is to hopefully attract some people who may not be comfortable coming to a church building for the first time, but might come to a place they are familiar with, like Peaceful Valley Park. Taraforming, the contemporary praise band from Clintonville UMC will be coming to lead us in worship that morning. I want to challenge you to begin praying now, about who you could invite to come to worship with us on that day (a neighbor, relative or coworker). Our message for that day will be “God calls us to be Encouragers!” Read more Speak Lord for Your Servant is Listening

Grow in Grace and knowledge of Jesus!

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires….The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:3-4, 8 NLT

When I am heading out the door on a journey, I always like to be equipped. I’ll make sure I have my GPS or MapQuest directions, and phone; if traveling far, I take some water and snacks, make sure I have some money in my pocket, and any gear I might need for the days of the trip:  my computer, jacket, extra clothes. We are all on a spiritual journey, moving in the direction of Christ-likeness and maturity in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter tells us God has equipped us with everything we need to live a godly life. Read more Grow in Grace and knowledge of Jesus!

Abide in Jesus

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 NLT

As I look out my window, it seems like spring may never come, there is still snow on the ground from the record breaking snow storm this past weekend. But God is faithful, and spring will come, trees will sprout leaves, and vines will begin to grow once again and produce fruit. Hopefully by the time you receive this newsletter the snow will have melted.

Jesus uses the analogy of the fruit producing vine to describe our relationship to Him, and to help us understand what we need to do in order to have fruitful lives as followers of Jesus. Jesus says we are to “remain in” or the older versions of the Bible say we are to “abide” in Him. Read more Abide in Jesus