The Kind of Church God Blesses

May 29, 2012 By

London has some of the most beautiful, historic churches in the entire world. Yet they are also some of the most empty. I was struck by this recently when I was in the city to do a Bible study. Churches are dying off so fast that they’re being sold off to bars and restaurants. London churches are desperate for the blessing of God.

I don’t want to lead a dying church. I don’t believe you do either. So what does it take for a church to remain vibrant, exciting—and alive? It takes the blessing of God. Whenever God blesses a church, it grows, lives are changed and miracles happen. Churches that God blesses bless people, bless families and bless communities.

That’s what the early church had. God’s blessing was all over that church. If we want to have the blessing of God on our churches, we need to do what the early church did in Acts 1-2.

1.    Pray for God’s power. (Acts 1:3-4, 14) It’s God’s power that makes the Church different from any other organization or group. We have the Holy Spirit. Microsoft, General Motors, and Apple do not have the Holy Spirit. We do. He has also given the church an enormous assignment—to get as many people into Heaven as possible. Like the early Church, we need God’s power to do this.

2.    Use everyone’s language. (Acts 2:5-8) One of the great miracles of the Day of Pentecost was that, as the disciples preached, everyone heard them in their own language.  It was a complete reversal of what God did at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. But we don’t need this miracle today. Today’s Church speaks every language in the world. The Church speaks more languages than the United Nations.

But I believe the people in your church speak more languages than you realize. We all speak dozens of languages. If someone in your church is involved in IT or a baseball fan or a doctor or a salesperson, they understand a language others don’t know. If you want to be a church that God blesses, you need to realize that God has placed people in your congregation for a reason. They have a language that God wants them to use to share the Good News in the community.

3.    Employ every member’s talents. (Acts 2:1-18, 21) The early Church used all of its people in ministry. No one sat on the sideline! Everyone is involved in the ministry of the church. To be the kind of church that God blesses, your church needs to be the kind of church that won’t let people just sit. If that’s what people want in a church, let them go somewhere else. The kind of church God blesses uses the talents of those in the body.

4.    Be devoted to God’s Word. (Acts 2:14-40, 42) We should hear it, read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. But most of all, if you want your church to be one that God blesses, you need to do it—whatever the Bible says. Pop psychology won’t give you God’s blessing. Devoting yourself to God’s Word will. When Peter preached the gospel message during Pentecost Sunday, he continually went back to God’s Word in sharing the gospel. No other message—other than the gospel—has the power to change lives.

5.    Love each other deeply. (Acts 2:42). The early church practiced koinonia (which we call fellowship). It means they were as committed to one another as they were to Jesus Christ. The truth is, loving churches grow. Cold churches don’t. The early church was a loving church. The Roman government hated Christians and persecuted them, but even the Romans acknowledged that early Christians loved each other. They protected one another, cared for one another, and helped one another like no one else.

6.    Worship with joy. (Acts 2:46-47) God blesses a church that celebrates Him. People want to be where there is joy! There’s enough bad news in the world.  I think the church should be a place where good news is preached—the gospel. We could stand in our pulpits each week and preach about the sin of the week. But what good does that do? Honestly, I think it should be fun to go to church. God wired us to express emotion. But too many people have been taught not to express it in church. When we let go and worship joyfully though, people are drawn to our churches.

7.    Be willing to sacrifice. (Acts 2:44-45) The first church was famous for its generosity. Acts 2 says that the early church shared everything with one another. The early church didn’t just share money. Their generosity was much more radical than that. They shared everything! I wonder how many people the 21st century church would reach if we sacrificed like the early church did.

8.    Reach our communities for Christ! (Acts 2:40-41) The first church reached people for Christ from its very first day. In fact, with 3,000 people coming to Christ, the first church was megachurch from day one! In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands us to be His witness throughout the world. Evangelism is not an option. As long as there is one person within driving range of Saddleback who doesn’t have a relationship with God, we’re going to keep trying to grow. I hope your church will do the same.

Speaking the truth in love-assult on marriage in America

By ken Idleman

Are you aware that there is an all-out assault on Biblical marriage and the traditional family in our generation?  It was the ‘free-love’ movement of the sixties when war was first declared on the value of sexual purity in the United States.  [And when there is wholesale sexual indulgence in the name of sexual freedom, marriage and the family will always take the hit.]  Communal living was in vogue, college campuses initiated new open dorm policies, the plague of venereal disease was spreading and number of unplanned pregnancies began to escalate.  Something had to be done, so ‘sex education,’ including condom distribution, was introduced into many public schools, taught by teachers, many of whom had personally participated in the sexual revolution.  Then the Supreme Court stepped up and imposed a humanistic solution to the growing problem of unwanted pregnancies, passing Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, to make abortion legal as an alternative form of birth control.  Since then, we have performed in- womb executions, equivalent in number to one third of the population of the United States.  Now, the due bill is coming in with the economic reality that there are not/will not be enough employed workers in the workplace to perpetuate the Social Security system for the growing population of baby boomer retirees!  The impact on families is being felt already, a prelude to what is looming on the horizon.

With the rejection of Biblical absolutes [which are from God for our protection and preservation] the wheels began to come off.  The baggage of sexual regret being carried into marriages began to take its toll in the form of a growing number of divorces.  Pornography has gained acceptance, moving our society from ‘Playboy’ magazine to hardcore Internet porn as a multi-billion dollar industry.  Skyrocketing statistics on child abuse and victimization, the proliferation of sexual predators with offenders living in virtually every neighborhood, the scandalous sexual exposes of the entertainment, sports, business and political ‘glitterati,’ as well as high profile ‘televangelists’ and the priestly clergy, have rapidly taken us down a path of self-destruction.

Now, our Vice-President and President have come out, in the same week, with statements of unqualified support of same-sex marriage.  So, the wall of protection around Biblical marriage has officially been breached.  And, I predict that we will be overrun in the years ahead with the barbaric hoard of spin-off consequences in the lives of real people.  The patience and tolerance of our Holy God has been stretched to the breaking point.  His judgment will be inescapable. God’s wrath against sin is built into the human system.  We have never been here before as a nation. The protection of the innocent unborn has been eliminated by the state.  The protection of Biblical marriage and the traditional family has been eradicated by the state.  As a pastor, I will witness the carnage up close and personal.  As a father and grandfather, I am deeply concerned about the nation my children and grandchildren will inherit and the price they will have to pay for the sins of my generation.  More than ever before in my lifetime, I identify with the closing prayer of Revelation 22:20-21, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  Amen.”

Restoration Project

Lately I have been doing a rebuilding project on my barbeque grill. I was thinking that it was going to take just a few hours and I would have a grill that was like new again. But as is often the case, it has turned out to be a month long endeavor.

First I had to clean the grease off of it enough to find out exactly what needed to be replaced. Then I had to locate a parts supplier that actually carried the parts I needed. Extensive internet searches turned up a number of parts options. So I placed the orders and waited for their arrival. However, once they arrived I realized some parts were the wrong size and had to be returned and reordered. Others were constructed a little differently than the originals and had to be installed with modifications to the barbeque itself. Still other parts were out of stock or replacement options were just not satisfactory and had to be returned. All in all it has been a month long project. But finally I have a restored grill that is good to go for several more years.

Do you suppose God has some of the same difficulties when it comes to restoring you to a right relationship with him? Make no mistake about it, you are a restoration project of the Lords. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Ps 51:12) God wants everyone to experience-daily-the joy of salvation and a spirit that is willing and anxious to obey, serve and honor Him. The problem is that it often takes far longer than anticipated for this to happen. I can think of a few reasons for the delayed progress.

  • Our issues are far deeper than we thought or are willing to admit. In our own shortsightedness, or inflated view of ourselves, we think that we are pretty good and it won’t take us very long at all to restore what might have been lost by wondering away from the Lord. However, once the restoration begins we discover lots of “stuff” that we didn’t even realize existed. So we are forced to go much deeper into our issues to get back to where God wants us to be, in joyful fellowship with him.
  • Other times the problem is our resistance to the restoration project itself. We know what we need to do and who we need to be but we just don’t want to let it happen. We would rather choose the pleasures of sin for a “season” than allow God to get on with the renewal of our hearts and relationship.
  • And still other times the problem is the cultural norm of our day. We are unwilling to go against what everyone else is doing for fear of standing out or being different. The acceptance of others is more important than pleasing God. We just don’t want to be counter cultural, even though Jesus, our leader, was the most counter cultural person who ever lived.

So, whatever the reason or excuse, by the way, an excuse is nothing more than the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie, isn’t it time to get over it and get past it and get on with the restoration project God wants to work in you. Our prayer and desire of our heart should be, “Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. (Ps 80:19)

Oh, by the way, God will not give up on you or leave you alone until you surrender to His renewal plan. What he starts he finishes. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

 

the best use of life is love

Let’s begin the discussion of three truths that will radically transform your life.  These are not new truths.  Everything I’m going to talk about you already know but we forget it. If you would take these three truths and write them down on a little card and make them a daily reminder – put them on your refrigerator, put them on your dashboard in your car, put them up on the mirror in your bedroom, computer screen – look at them over and over and over.  If you will follow, if you will apply, if you will practice these three truths you’ll have a healthier life.  You’ll have a happier family.  You’ll have a more productive business.  There will be far fewer divorces and separations in our culture if we will just listen to what God has said about relationships.

Here’s the first one: The best use of life is love. Wow, wasn’t that earth shattering?

1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Let love be your highest goal.” Make it your number one priority.  Make it your primary objective.  Make it your greatest ambition.  Make it your life purpose.  Don’t put it in your Top Ten.  Don’t say, “One of the things I want in life is loving relationships.”  Make it number one!

Why does God say it’s all about love?  Why does God say to make it your highest goal?  Two reasons:

1.  God says love is what life is all about.  1 Corinthians 13:3 in the Message paraphrase ”No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”  Who wants to be a millionaire?  You can have a million dollars but if you don’t have love God says you’re bankrupt.  It is amazing to me that too often we act like loving relationships are something we have to squeeze into our schedule, that we have to find time for quality time, that we have to make time for people in our lives.  That we have to just fit them into our lives as if loving relationships are an important part but just another important part along with many other things.  Wrong!  God doesn’t say that relationships are a part of your life.  God doesn’t say that loving relationships are an important part of your life.  God says loving relationships are your life.  That’s what life is all about.  It’s all about love. 

One day a guy comes to Jesus and says, “I need Cliff Notes on the Bible.  Summarize the Bible for me.”  Jesus says, “Here it is.  Love God and love other people.  That’s it”.  “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”  In a word, Jesus is saying the point of life is “relationships”.  It’s not about achievement.  It’s not about the acquisition of things.  It’s about relationships.  If you miss that you miss the point of life.  That’s the bottom line.  What matters most is loving relationships. 

If that’s true, why do we always allow our relationships to get the short end of the stick?  When we get overloaded we start skimming relationally.  We fulfill all kinds of other commitments but we cut back on time with those we love.  We don’t give our relationships the time, the energy and the attention they deserve because we’re too busy with what we think are more important pressing matters. 

Why do we do that?  Because we get busy.  Because we get preoccupied.  Because we get distracted with less important things.  We focus on the urgent rather than on the important and I hope you know the difference by now.  Not everything that’s urgent in your life is important in your life.  As a result we spend all of our time focusing on making a living, getting the job done, finishing the work, paying the bills, making progress, accomplishing the goal as if that’s the point of life.  It is not.  The point of life God says is love.  The point of life, God says, is relationship. 

2.  The other reason that God says you need to focus on it is it’s all that’s going to last.  The only thing that’s going to last in your life is love.  Everything else is eventually going to burn up.  It’s going to decay, fall apart.  1 Corinthians 13:13 ”There are three things that will endure: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”  How many of you want to leave a legacy after you die? How many of you want to make a difference with your life? How many of you would like to make a positive influence on this world that outlasts you? Foolish questions! We all want to.

God has shown us how to leave a lasting legacy.  God has shown us how to make an enduring impression.  Fill your life with love.  He says “Faith, hope and love.  These are the things that will endure and the greatest of these is love.”  He’s saying love, not work, not wealth, is the key to a lasting legacy.  It’s love.

We think it’s our achievements people are going to remember.  I hate to tell you this but nobody’s going to remember your achievements.  Five years from today nobody’s going to care what you’ve achieved.  Every trophy you’ve ever earned is eventually going to be trashed.  Remember all those trophies you got in Little League or Drama Club, Speech Club, bowling trophies.  They’re all going to be trashed, all your trophies.  You don’t have any of your grandparents’ trophies.  Why would you want to keep those?  You couldn’t care less about them.  People don’t really care about your accomplishments.  We know this.  We just forget it. 

We know by watching people when they’re dying.  I’ve been around a lot of deathbeds.  In watching people of the closing moments of their life when they stand on the edge of eternity, they’re evaluating their life; I’ve never had one person say, “Bring me my diplomas!  I want to look at them one more time…Get me that gold watch I got for twenty-five years of service!  Show me my awards.  Show me my medals.”  Nobody asks to be brought trophies because we don’t surround our lives with objects when our life is ending.  What do we want around us when our life is ending?  People.  People who love us.  People who have a relationship with us. 

Here’s the point: You are eventually going to figure out in your final seconds that what matters are relationships.  Why don’t you figure it out sooner?  Why wait until you’re on your deathbed to figure out that things don’t matter.  That the only thing that matters is relationships.  Nothing can take the place of loving relationships.  Fame can’t.  Wealth can’t.  Success can’t.  Success without love is empty.  Hollow.  Depressing.  Life is not about achievement and it’s not about accomplishment.  It’s about relationships.  When you get to heaven God is not going to say, “Now what was your career?  What did you accomplish in it? “ God is not going to say, “Can I see your bank balance and how much you’ve got in your portfolio.”  God is not going to say, “By the way, what about the hobbies that you enjoyed while I put you down on earth?” 

What He’s going to say is, “How did you treat other people when you were here on earth?”  Read Matthew 25.  He’s going to ask, “How did you treat other people?” 

I suggest that from this day forward for the rest of your life when you wake up in the morning, you set down on the edge of the bed and before you get off that bed you pray this prayer, “God, whether I get anything else done today and I may not get anything else done, but if all I accomplish today is I spend some time with You and with others, I want to make sure today I spend some time loving You and loving other people,” because that’s what life is all about.  If you miss that you have missed the point of life, and that day is a failure, that day is a waste. 

The greatest use of life is not achievement.  It’s love.  The problem is we get busy and we forget what we intuitively know. It’s time to remember.  

You’ll have to wait until the next time for the second law of relationships.