Monday, December 17, 2007

Birthday Cards to Jesus

At our "UNPLUGGED" Christmas Eve Service (6:00 p.m.) we'll be reading some birthday cards to Jesus. This is not just a kids' project, so adults please put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and let Jesus know what you think about him. You can post your thoughts right here on the blog in the form of a comment.

Next Sunday at GCF: Don't miss a special video, "The 12 Crazy Days of Christmas." We'll have great music by the band, and a message called "Unwrapping Christmas."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Growing Up Christian

We looked yesterday at Mark 6-9 to discover any pattern in the way Jesus helps his followers grow in their relationship with him. These chapters in Mark focus on Jesus' disciples and their progress in coming to understand: 1) Who Jesus was, 2) What he was up to, and 3) How they were a part of it all. The word that, to me, best describes Jesus' method (if we can even call what he does with his disciples a "method)," is IMPROVISATION.

The word, improvise, comes from the word, improve. So it makes sense that improvisation is the means for improvement. That's one reason I like the idea of improv discipleship.

To review what we talked about Sunday, and hopefully to simplify it all, here is a quick definition of improv discipleship:

  • On-the-fly, talk-&-walk process. Learning to follow Jesus is not a lecture class, or university degree program, but an apprenticeship.

  • Individualized. The process of Christian growth is tied to progress, and the content for study is derived from the real needs of the growing disciple.

  • Just-in-time. Jesus did not dump the whole load of truth and expectation on his disciples all at once--they'd have never survived the weight! But he helped them, step by step, come to understand who he was, what he'd come to do, and how they would be a part of it all.

  • Repetition and flexibility. For the disciples, there were lessons that needed to be repeated several times, and even then they were not able to put it all together. The two mass meals of loaves and fish show that learning the lessons of following Jesus must often be repeated, and behavior must accompany knowledge.

Willow Creek Community Church, known for its seeker-driven methodology, has recently admitted that some of the programs they've used for spiritual growth have not worked. Bill Hybels, their founding pastor, said the following:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

(For more info about Willow Creek's study, see this blog post, Out of Ur. Before drawing conclusions about Willow Creek's seeker-driven ministry style, you may want to read their entire study and findings in the new book, Reveal. Also, the authors of Reveal have a website with the same name which prompts discussion of the issue of spiritual growth, discipleship, and church "programs." It's a very interesting site, with lots of info and material GCF may use in the future. Here's the site: REVEAL)

What do you think of the idea of improvisational discipleship? Let me know.

Next Sunday at GCF: Christmas Contagion--The Problem with Good News.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Becoming Mr. Clean


We've got a lot to think about! I'd like to hear your responses to today's message. Here's a short synopsis . . .

When confronted by religious-types about his disciples not following the rules, Jesus responds by pointing out the shallow nature of the religious leaders' holiness. He accused them of creating man-made rules as measurements of holiness rather than the commands of God. He accused them of finding loop holes around real holiness. He accused them of boiling holiness down to what we look like and what we do rather than who we are.

Jesus later taught his disciples an overriding principle regarding holiness: it's not what goes in, but what comes out that defiles.

We often blame our sin on external circumstances - the portions were too big, the billboard too sexy, the watercooler friends too ready with juicy gossip. Jesus said that we can't blame what's on the outside; we need to look at our hearts.

Some parts of the message demand talking through, so get your small group in on the discussion, or invite a friend to lunch and thrash it out. Here are some questions to prompt your discussion:
  • Have you thought about holiness in this way before? If not, what was different?
  • We have lots of ways that we bend holiness to make it more comfortable or easier. Where have you seen evidence of this?
  • Have you been guilty of making holiness easier? How?
  • What role does "the world" play in our sin? Can we blame the world for our sin? Is it easier to sin now than it was fifty years ago? Why or why not?
  • How do we become holy?
  • Do you agree or disagree with my statement: "It is possible to be smoke, drink, swear, and dance and be holy"?

Now, about Mark 7:16, the missing verse: the best manuscripts of the early versions of the book of Mark do not include this verse. The verse reads: "If a man has ears to hear, let him hear." Of course, Jesus said this many times. It does seem a little out of place here, but being out of place is not a good reason to remove it. The fact remains that it's just not supported in the best manuscripts, so the NIV just dropped it.

Grace to you!

Pastor Ron

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sheep Tending 101

So . . .

If you're still attending Grace Christian Fellowship after hearing that you may need to give up your handy-dandy parking space, or that you'll have to start shopping around for a new seat in the auditorium closer to the front, or that the cabinet cleaning you've been putting off for so long is now on the front burner, congratulations.

On the blog this week I want you to tell me what God is saying to you about the future of Grace Christian Fellowship. Leave a comment here and let us know what you think GCF will look like five years from now, 2012. Dream God's dream for our church.

Here is a question to think through and talk about:

Yesterday we took a look at one of the BIG DEAL miracles of Jesus, the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Men). While the miracle Jesus did was amazing, it was the lesson for his twelve close friends that may have changed the course of human history. It's one thing to feed 10,000 hungry people in the middle of nowhere. It's another thing to teach twelve guys the importance of compassion, comfort, and the provision of God.

There were, however, some blatant contradictions in the message yesterday. I hope you discovered them and have thought about them. They are nagging questions that the church has struggled with since its beginning. But it's a good struggle, and one which always bears fruit. Here's one issue:

In the Old Testament, God sets up operations in a central location within a certain people group: his Presence in his Temple in Jerusalem among the people of Israel. The direction was from outside to inside. Even the Temple architecture featured this general direction: from the outer courtyards in toward the Holy of Holies.

The New Testament brings a change in the direction of God's mission. Instead of the arrows pointing in, the arrows point out. Jesus, instead of setting up a base camp in Jerusalem, travels throughout the countryside, and he himself is homeless. When he entrusts ministry to his disciples, he does not suggest building a synagogue and inviting people in. He sends his disciples out two by two into the towns and villages. When Jesus described his mission to his disciples on the last day of his earthly ministry, his instructions did not include going back to Jerusalem and starting a ministry resource center, or throwing open the doors to a megachurch. His direction was outward bound: go (from here) into all the world and present this good news.

Here's the contradiction: we still gather into churches. In fact, most of the practical suggestions we talked about yesterday as ways to accommodate visitors implied that the most important thing for us to be doing is getting people in. Whereas Jesus tells us to be sending people out.

So, (finally!), here's something to talk about: Which is it, in or out? What does God want us to do?

Next Sunday we'll be taking a look at the teaching of Jesus about holiness in Mark 7. The message is called, Becoming Mr. Clean.

Have a thoughtful, family enriched Thanksgiving holiday.

Pastor Ron

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking Jesus on Faith

I hope you're having a good week.

Sunday's message challenged what we think about faith. We examined the "faith-sandwich" in Mark 5, where Jairus' journey with Jesus to heal his dying daughter is interrupted by a woman who sneaks up to Jesus in order to touch his robe and be healed herself. There are some interesting contrasts between these two people:

  • Jairus boldly cries out to Jesus to come to his house...The woman sneaks to Jesus without him knowing.

  • Jairus stares down significant obstacles but still believes Jesus...The woman is scared beyond belief and embarrassed at her need.

  • Jairus is bold enough to believe that Jesus would follow him to his house...The woman is timid enough to believe that if Jesus knew she was asking for help, he would deny it.

  • Jairus knows that Jesus must touch his daughter. (Interesting that he doesn't just ask Jesus for his coat!)...The woman believes that Jesus' coat has power enough to take care of her. (Very shaky theology).

Yet, who is the one whom Jesus commends for their faith?

Remember, faith has very little to do with the one who has it; It has everything to do with where it is put.

Where is your faith?

Next Sunday: smoked salmon and whole wheat--Jesus teaches his disciples a lesson in hospitality.

Grace to you,

Pastor Ron

Monday, November 5, 2007



Our communion service yesterday focused on our thirst for God. We talked about how physical thirst mirrors spiritual thirst, and how that thirst drives us to God.

I'd like to know your story. How did your spiritual thirst drive you to Christ? How did he satisfy your thirsty soul? What helps you stay hydrated?

May you have a saturated week. Next Sunday we're back in Mark, chapter 5, thinking about faith.

Pastor Ron

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where Demons Dwell


OK. Not too scary.

Today at GCF we talked about Halloween. For Christians, the issue can be a sensitive one, so before you answer these questions, please remember to be respectful of other's viewpoints. Here are a few questions about the day:

  • What do you remember from when you were a kid about Halloween?
  • Where do you draw the lines for Halloween? Are the lines different now than when you were a kid? Why?

As we discussed this morning, Satan and his henchmen are the sponsors of damage, and they plot to disrupt God's plans for humanity, as well as his plans for you. The Bible says Satan is crafty. I believe he sometimes uses tactics to distract us with minor squabbles while he stirs up big problems in other areas of our lives, like a boxer who jabs with his left hand while preparing a major assault on his opponent with his right. Think about these questions:

  • Where have you seen the evidence of Satan's damage?
  • Have you ever noticed the strategy of distraction? How did it happen?

This morning we settled on the one single thing that always sends the enemy packing: complete surrender to Christ. Like the man in the Gerasenes, we can experience dramatic victory and freedom when we allow Jesus Christ to reign in us.

  • How has Jesus broken a pattern of damage in your life?
  • Jesus encouraged the man to tell his story. What's your story?

Next Sunday we will celebrate the Communion. Our theme for the service is "THIRSTY."

Have a good week, GCF!

Pastor Ron

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Authorities, The Crowd, and The Disciples

Hi, GCF!

Glad you're here with us.

Here are some things to think about based on today's message:

1. We talked about three disctinct groups of people that Mark refers to often in his gospel. Have you ever attended a church that seems to mirror any of the three group types?
  • Religious Authorities: This group seems to have it all together - they have a spiritual confidence that points to their strong opinion that they are God's real favorites. They professionals when it comes to religion -- doing things that make it look like they are God's VIPs.

  • Crowd: This group wants Jesus to perform for them. They want Jesus in their lives and in their towns as long as he meets their expectations and doesn't rock the boat. They want Jesus to solve all their problems and take care of the political mess their country is in.

  • Disciples: This group follows Jesus, but they are sometimes confused, sometimes fail, and sometimes lack the faith needed. But in spite of their weaknesses, they take one step after the other and make progress in their walk with God.

2. Easy question: What kind of church do you think GCF should be?

3. Harder question: What can you do to make that happen?

Feel free to leave a comment or a question. And if you want to get a notice when the blog is updated, sign up with ATOM below.

Have a good week.

Pastor Ron

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Jogging Our Memories

Hi, gang.

Here's the first blog post for GCF and the new interactive space. This is a place to give feedback, ask questions, and access thought prompters from each Sunday message.

Today we looked at I Corinthians 11 where Paul gives instructions for celebrating The Lord's Table. Here are some questions to think about to take the message a step further:
  • What do you think the first communion was like? How would the disciples who were there react to our communion traditions?
  • What was the most meaningful communion service in which you participated? Why did it make an impression?
  • How can the celebration of The Lord's Table be more meaningful? What could you do to make the monthly observing of the communion more significant? How could you remember Jesus better?

Hope these questions help. If you come up with some interesting answers, let me know. If you have any comments or questions, I'd love to hear from you.

Pastor Ron