(Newest to Oldest)
I'm so excited to begin a new message series this Sunday, and I hope you'll join us in person or online. As I shared last weekend, I have really felt God calling me to preach the truth boldly this year, and doing so will have its challenges for us all every sermon. In many ways, this will be the hardest message series I've planned or preached: Firstly, it will be the longest, at 38 weeks. Yep. 38 weeks (usually we've done 4-6 week series), tentatively wrapping up on September 5th. Secondly, it will contain some of the most basic but also most difficult topics to preach on. Thirdly, if we really apply the lessons we'll learn from it, we will have to live our lives differently, and whatever level of comfort you've had in your walk with God will be challenged and shaken. Every week, we will ask ourselves, "Do I really believe that...?" and fill in the rest of that statement to form questions such as "Do I really believe that the Bible is true? Do I really believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Do I really believe that prayer works? Do I really believe that there is an eternity?" and "Do I really believe that sin has consequences?" Some of these most basic questions have answers that are a lot more complicated within us; we may think we believe those things as Christians, but have we ever taken the time to let God search our hearts or find out what the scriptures have to say about them?
Beginning in February, we are encouraging our church to be 100% involved in Life Groups. For 4 weeks, these groups will meet at different days and times and will all be discussing the talking points of that week's message, to bring about a unity in focus and Bible readings, as well as wrestling with some of the questions on both a conversational and personal level. Virtually or in person, there will be a day and time where your family can be involved for those weeks, and my hope is that our church finds new community within these groups that will continue long after those initial four weeks are up. Last Sunday, I was encouraged as we had 6 new leaders step forward to lead these new groups, and if God is stirring your heart toward leading a group as well, talk to Brad Decatur this weekend after service.
Finally, I would ask that you invite someone else to join you at church this weekend, whether on location or online. If you're distancing from home, invite a close friend or family member over to your couch. If you plan to attend at 2190 Sarno, let them know you'll save them a seat. The Gospel has always travelled best through word of mouth and personal invitation, and while the internet is a useful tool, nothing will ever beat your enthusiasm and desire to have someone you care about join you in the worship of God and the truth of His Word. This new series will 'level the playing field' in many ways, asking questions that both believers and non-Christians alike may struggle with or not understand. Through that simple invitation, you become an active part of achieving our purpose - guiding people to take the next steps in their relationship with Jesus Christ. I have been reflecting on John 15 a lot this past week, about God as the gardener, Jesus as the vine and we being the branches, and how every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes... and pruning hurts. (Keep in mind, the only alternative to pruning is being cut off and thrown into the fire. I'll take pruning over that please!) This last year, our church has seen and felt this 'pruning', and yes, it is painful. But Jesus goes on in John 15:8 and says that "by this [our pruning and abiding in Him] my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." Read that again... "and so prove"... PROVE to be my disciples. Friends, it is not automatic, implied or assumed that we are Jesus' disciples; it has to be proven by us. I pray that 2021 is the year for us to do exactly that.