Next Step: MH Connect this Sunday!

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by Robert Krumrey

Next Sunday is the last Sunday in September and we’ve had a great start. We are glad to see so many new faces. 116 people filled out cards over the last 4 weeks indicating they were first time guests. I know for a fact that there were even more of you first timers out there who didn’t fill out a card. As you may have noticed, we’ve been encouraging you to take “next steps” in your relationship with God and at MERCYhouse. One of the most important of these steps is coming up this Sunday, September 30th. We are calling it MH Connect and it will be happening after each of our worship services.

What is MH Connect?

We’ll be presenting a brief overview of our church - what we believe, a little bit about our history, a description of our church mission, and ways you can get involved. When people come to this event, it lets us know that you weren’t just dropping by but that you really are serious about exploring what it means to become a part of our community. You’ll also get to meet some of our staff, a few church members, and some of the other people that are just getting started on their journey at MERCYhouse.

Who can come?

Anyone who is interested. Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth, anyone who is wanting to explore more deeply what it means to be a part of MH is welcome to come by.

When and Where is it happening?

We’ll be doing this twice on Sunday after each of our services. 11:00am after the first service and 1:00pm after the second service. There will be some light snacks to tide you over if you’re feeling hungry. The gathering will last exactly 1 hour. This will all take place in our cafe which is in the basement of our main church building.

How can I sign up?

We would love to know if you are coming so we can plan to have enough food. You can RSVP by contacting our office at contact@mercyhouse365.org. If for some reason you can’t attend but want to let us know that you are serious about exploring further what it means to be a part of MERCYhouse, please contact us so we can answer your questions and let you know when we are doing this again.

Battles of the Bible

What should I make of the Battles in the Bible?

by Robert Krumrey

Last Sunday, I talked about one of the battles of the Bible. Barak and Deborah versus King Jabin and his general Sisera. There are chariots and swords. Blood is spilled and God’s people come out on top. This can be really uncomfortable for us modern people when we see a religiously motivated war between two people groups sanctioned by the God of the Bible. What are we to make of these battles?

The most important thing to understand is how Israel and the church are different AND the same. The Old Testament people of God are an actual nation that is established on an actual piece of land. The New Testament people of God are a people who are made up of every tribe, tongue, and nation. This new people of God were made possible in part by the groundwork that was laid by the Old Testament people of God. Israel the nation becomes the landing pad for Jesus - the promised Jewish Messiah who comes to save all peoples.

In order to establish and maintain the Old Testament people of God they must do what nations often have to do - wage war. They wage war to get their land and they wage war to keep it. No nation exists without war either to establish themselves or protect themselves or both. The U.S. was established in the midst of a revolution and has rarely seen a time when there wasn’t some kind of military conflict.

This is NOT the kind of people that Jesus is establishing when he says he’s building the church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16). He is constantly hinting at this different kind of vision. Here are a couple of examples:

To the Samaritan woman at the well: John 4:21-24

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Jesus to Pilate: Luke 18:36

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”


It seems obvious in these passages and many others that the New Testament people of God are not a geopolitical unit . The “place” of worship is no longer an issue. Instead it will be the nature of that worship. Supernatural (Spirit) worship grounded in right belief (gospel truth). This Spirit empowered gospel will bring about a Kingdom that will not be advanced with swords and shields. If it was, Jesus’ followers “would have been fighting” in order to deliver them from Rome. Instead, they proclaimed the gospel to Rome and 300 years later Christianity was the majority religion of the empire. Not a drop of blood was spilled in hand to hand combat. The only ones bleeding were the martyrs who proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom.

So how do we wage war now?

I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon that we wage war by prayerfully proclaiming the word of God. One of the places I get this is from the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Ephesians. He spends a good bit of chapter 6 of that book telling his hearers to put on armor. Armor is defensive and there are a lot of things that can be said about those important pieces of defense. He then follows up with the offensive weapons in these verses from Ephesians 6:17-19:

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

Here Paul shifts from defense (helmet, etc.) to talking about offense and mentions two things. The word (which is a sword) and prayer. He tells the Ephesians to pray at all times and then asks for prayer for his own ministry of proclamation. It’s the primary way that the Kingdom of God is advanced in the hearts of human beings. This certainly doesn’t negate the importance of demonstrating that gospel with actions of love and justice, but it cannot take the fight to the enemy if prayerful proclamation is not happening.

So forward march! You are in a war and you’ve been equipped by the Spirit with everything you need - Word and Prayer. You’ve also been given the church as both an equipping center and a place to serve alongside others in the mission of God.

How can we make more disciples?

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How can we make more disciples? 

by Robert Krumrey

This past weekend we launched our small groups with an emphasis on Discipleship.  Honestly, we've always emphasized discipleship as a goal for our small groups.  While we talked this talk, we often weren't able to walk the walk.  Ask any of our small group leaders if discipleship is important and they will say, "yes!".  Ask any of our leaders whether they think our small groups are producing lots of mature disciples, most will say "sort of" or "not sure".  I know.  I asked them.  So what's the problem? 

We don't think it's that complicated of an answer.  Environments that seem most conducive to fruitful discipleship share three components - content, connection, and commitment.  Let's take a look at each of these and what will be required of us to embrace all three.  

Content

It will be no surprise to most of you that discipleship must originate with the truth of the gospel.  If you don't have this, you have absolutely nothing.  You can have the best groups and the best strategy, but if you do not have right doctrine you might as well join the book club.  It will probably be more interesting.  

It is essential that we are experiencing truth from God's word together.  It's what Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes (in his book called Life Together) as "life together under the word".  This seems to be what Jesus is saying in Matthew 28:16-20 when he commands us to make disciples by baptizing people into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is not just some ritual bath with religious incantations.  He's saying that we must make sure the one who is confessing conversion knows enough to understand the basics of who God is - the work of the Father, the work of the Son, the work of the Spirit.  We have to be experiencing this content in an ongoing way in the preaching moment on Sunday, in our devotional reading, and in our small group discussions.

This semester we've chosen to have all of our small groups go through the same content - a portion of the workbook called Discipleship Essentials.  It has basic discipleship content which we hope will create a good foundation in the lives of all of our members and others.  After going through it together, we plan to ask all future members to go through the material in order to continue the foundation building in the lives of each Christian that makes up our congregation.    

Connection

You may be saying, "Don't we already have content?" and perhaps you are right.  While this is essential, it is not the only thing that's required for making disciples.  Effective discipleship only happens in the context of tight-knit relationships.  The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1 that the church of Corinth should "be imitators of me as I am of Christ."  Again in 1 Timothy 4:16 Paul tells young Pastor Timothy to "Keep a close watch on yourself and your teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" 

These verses and many others indicate that content ("your teaching") is only part of the discipleship equation.  There must also be modeling.  A kind of show and tell that results in "spiritual formation" in the lives of those who are living life under the word and doing so together.  This is why Sunday sermons are very important but not enough.  Experiencing the word in a small group context is essential for growing as a disciple.  There is absolutely no other way to experience this.  

Commitment

You may still be saying, "Don't we already have these things?"  Yes and No.  As a church, we do have a teaching diet of gospel truth.  We also have some tight-knit relationships.  What we lack in many instances is commitment.  For some, they lack the commitment to even show up regularly for a small group.  For others who do show up, there is a lack of commitment to study and apply the word of God.  When we hear good content, but do nothing about it, we end up with hard hearts and a very shallow relationship with God and others.  

This new way of doing things in our small group ministry is going to require a greater commitment.  Things like: 

  • Commitment to doing homework every week
  • Commitment to pray for one another
  • Commitment to memorize scripture
  • Commitment to lead others through the same material in the future

As you begin to consider this new discipleship material and some of these new initiatives, you may begin to tell yourself that you just can't afford to make this kind of commitment.  Might I suggest that you can't afford not to.  Your life as a disciple has got to take first priority if you want to actually walk with God and bear the good fruit that comes from such a relationship with Him.  It's a move toward the second part of Jesus' commission in Matthew 28:16-20 where he tells us to teach people to obey everything He has commanded.  This is a tall order for the church but it is from the lips of the one who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (also in Matthew 28).  There is nothing in your life that is more important.  For you, your church, your family & friends, your world.  Join with us this semester as we seek to grow as disciples of Jesus.     

Arms Open Wide! Seven ways to Serve in September

It's that time of year again.  Lots of traffic in the Walmart parking lot.  Middle aged parents dropping off their little darlings at the dorm.  Music pumping out of the Pike house (frat house across the street from MH) on Wednesday night and Thursday night -  honestly, every night .  School is back in session.  Our town has a love/hate relationship with the students.  Sometimes I hear a collective moan in August from some of the "old timers" of Amherst.  

But not this old timer.

5 simple ways to engage others with the gospel

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5 simple ways to engage

by Robert Krumrey

Last Sunday (7/8/18), I preached on Hebrews 13:10-14 about what it means to bear the reproach of being a Christian. You can listen to that sermon here. This was a huge burden for the original hearers of the book of Hebrews.  They were very discouraged that their own Jewish brothers were attempting to shame them back into a Judaism without Jesus.  Evidently, they were starting to go the way of compromising their belief in and practice of the gospel because of it.  The book of Hebrews is an all out attempt to exhort them back into whole-hearted gospel life.  

We too suffer from a burden of fear and shame when it comes to our faith.  Being bible believing Christians who seek to commend a message of absolute truth over and against other truth claims (religious & secular) is less than popular in our cultural moment.  After the sermon, a few of you shared that you were walking away from our church service with a newfound willingness to engage people with the gospel in spite of the risks of being treated with contempt.  So now what?  

Here are five simple ways to engage others with the gospel: 

1.  Pray

The simplest way to begin engaging people with the gospel is to begin to pray for opportunities to do so.  We see this in Paul's writings. He writes this to the Colossians, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak." (Col 4:3,4).  He is asking God to open doors for the gospel and to supernaturally empower Paul to speak the gospel clearly when those doors open.  If the Apostle Paul needed to pray (and ask others to pray) in order to see God work through is evangelistic efforts, surely we need that too.   

2. Offer Hospitality

Effective evangelism occurs in the context of real relationship.  If we don't have some genuine friendships with people without Christ, we probably aren't going to be very good at commending Jesus to others.  This weekend I was in the Amherst farmers market and ran into some Christians who were passing out gospel tracts.  They were friendly but the interaction felt very strange as I was handed a strange and confusing flyer with absolutely no relational connection.  To be fair, they were doing more to evangelize Amherst than I was last Saturday, but their efforts were completely devoid of relationship and therefore fairly ineffective as far as I could tell.  Opening your life and home to others to merely do life together is a huge step toward being able to commend the gospel to friends and neighbors.  Even better, doing so alongside other Christians so that people can see an authentication of the gospel message in Christian community. 

3. Just Ask

Most of us think of gospel witness in terms of us talking and the other person listening.  To be sure, if there is not explanation of gospel truth, we are not going to be faithful in this endeavor.  But how do we know what to say if we haven't asked some good questions and listened well to understand the person's background.  No one grows up in a vacuum.  Who they are today (spiritually or otherwise) is a result of all of their yesterdays.  Therefore, ask lots of questions to find out where people are in their understanding of Jesus.  One, because you love them and really want to get to know them.  Two, because you can't really address the questions or misunderstandings that they have about the gospel if you don't know what those are.  So ask some good questions and then really listen and ask follow-up questions.  People who have been listened too are much more likely to enter into a respectful and friendly dialogue about Jesus. 

4. Tell Your Story

Once someone has done some history giving about their own lives, reciprocate by giving some of your own.  This is actually just a good way to relate with others.  This of course will not be exclusively Christian content but some of it will be.  Don't edit yourself (except if some of your religious language you typically use is hard to understand) but be honest about what Jesus means to you and what he has done in your life.  Follow up with questions to them about their own experience with Jesus or church if they haven't already given that information in their own story telling. 

5. Next Steps

As you get to know someone, you will become aware of their level of receptivity as it pertains to the gospel.  When a friend begins to ask you questions and shows signs of sincere interest in knowing more, offer them a "next step".  This could be an invite to Sunday worship or a Bible study.  It could be giving them a Christian book to read (we give out some good ones for free in our services) or asking them if they want to read and discuss one of the four gospels.  This takes courage but you'll never know until you try.  A huge percentage of people say that if they were asked to engage in some kind of Christian activity that they would (see surprise #3 in this article). 

So with hearts strengthened with grace, let's risk having to bear the reproach of being a gospel witness by praying for and engaging with the people around us with the greatest news ever told!  

  

How do I Strengthen My Heart With Grace?

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How to strengthen my WEAK heart  . . .this WEEK 

by Robert Krumrey

Sunday morning (7/1/18), I heard an excellent sermon from Austin Kopack on having our hearts strengthened by the grace of the gospel.  We were reminded that our hearts are weak and that if we seek to strengthen them by imbibing "diverse and strange teachings" we'll wind up spiritually sick.  Austin likened this to trying to live off of only coconuts or taking wonder pills filled with mercury and winding up near death.  (see story about the coconut man). 

Now your back at home and going about your life.  The words of sermon and song that were ringing in your ears are now being drowned out by all kinds of other stories about how to get the "good life" and your heart is beginning to falter.  So what does one do to continue strengthening one's heart with grace?  

Monday - MEDITATE ON THE SERMON

One thing to do is to keep meditating on the sermon you just heard preached.  Don't just forget it and move on.  God was speaking through the preaching of his word.  Not only that, he was speaking a message that was uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit for the congregation of MERCYhouse on July 1, 2018.  There was something unique that happened in that room and it won't happen again, at least, not in the same way.  So go back over the sermon text and your sermon notes and think about what God was saying to you through the sermon.  If you didn't take notes, start taking them.  If God is speaking, I definitely don't want to miss what he is saying to me so I always write them down when I'm the hearer and not the preacher.  

Tuesday - TAKE A CUE FROM THE MH WEEKLY RECAP

Each week you receive an update about the sermon that was preached the Sunday before and some suggestions for how you can go deeper in reflecting on and applying the content of the sermon (thanks Meghan!).  If you don't get the update, you can sign up HERE.  Once you read the "How Should We Then Live" section, take a cue from some part of it and take a next step.  

Wednesday - ATTEND A SMALL GROUP

One big reason we offer small groups during the week is because we know that a weekly gathering on Sunday is not going to be enough to keep our hearts strong.  We are going to need additional exposure to the gospel in community and small groups provide the perfect place for that.  That said, we are between summer and fall small group offerings and don't have the usual menu of small groups available.  This means you have more time in your schedule to gather with friends to enjoy time together and talk about what God is doing in your lives.  Make sure you ask some good questions to get people talking about more than the latest Red Sox game or fashion trend.  A few good questions I like to ask is "What's going well for you right now?"  What's really hard right now?"  "How can I pray for you?"  

Thursday - READ THE BIBLE

I know you're supposed to read the Bible every day but why not use at least one day to focus on studying some part of it for a little longer than the usual quick devotional.  Most working people don't have a lot of free time.  I do find that most working people do have an evening where they can forgo the usual TV show or social media binge and spend some concentrated time reading the Bible.  Lately, I've been using these scripture journals to help me focus on a particular section of the Bible and study more deeply than a cursory read.  No Christian is going to grow in grace if they don't do some deeper dives in scripture.  You can also listen to scripture using the ESV website or YOUVERSION app.  Take a cue from Austin's sermon and listen to the book of Hebrews this week.  

Friday - TALK WITH FRIENDS

I know I mentioned this earlier, but something I pray for our congregation is for people to feel more comfortable "gospeling" each other in the course of normal conversation.  It may seem awkward at first, but our hearts are all longing for their to be friends in our life that are sharing about the significance of the gospel in their daily experiences and encouraging us to do the same.  Genuine sharing about our hearts as they relate to Jesus is part of how we can actually succeed in applying the gospel in a way that will actually strengthen us.

Saturday - PREPARE OUR HEARTS FOR SUNDAY MORNING

I mentioned earlier that one of the ways to get more out of the weekly gospel preaching is to take notes.  The other is to prepare oneself for that preaching the night before.  Because we preach through books of the Bible, you usually know what is next.  Sometimes we even provide reading guides to keep you on track.  Next week (7/8/18)  I'll be preaching Hebrews 13:10-14.   Take a few minutes on Saturday night or early Sunday morning to read the text and pray for the receptivity of your own heart and the hearts of others.  Also pray that God would use the preacher to illuminate God's word in a way that would strengthen our hearts with gospel grace and show us what to do once we've received that fresh power.    

Sunday - ATTEND CHURCH WITH A HEART THAT IS READY

Once you've engaged your heart in the kinds of things mentioned above, you will be much more alert to what God is doing in you and in others.  Pray for yourself, for others, for the preacher and others who are leading in worship.  Be ready to take notes and always be asking yourself, "What is God saying to me and our church and what am I supposed to do about it?"  If you are not interested in doing the types of things mentioned in this article, I guarantee you will find your heart in a state of weakness.  You'll find yourself wondering why you don't have spiritual strength to carry on.  The reason will always be that you need to lay off the coconuts and do as the writer of Hebrews tells us - to have our hearts "strengthened by grace".   

 

What's happening in the Southern Baptist Convention and why should I care?

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What's happening in the SBC . . . and why should I care? 

by Robert Krumrey

If you've been paying any attention to the news over the last few months, you've probably heard news stories and editorializing about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  They've been embroiled in a controversy that has included the ousting of some high profile leaders in the denomination.  Two of the biggest are Frank Page and Paige Patterson.  Frank Page was the president of the denomination from 2010-2018 and was recently ousted because of a "morally inappropriate" relationship.  Paige Patterson was the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2003-2018 until recently fired because of inappropriate comments he made about the domestic abuse of a woman and allegations that he didn't properly handle the report of a rape that happened on his campus 15 years ago.   This has caused quite a stir in the denomination and many have called for a deep repentance among all who make up the SBC family.  See these articles by Beth Moore, Albert Mohler, and Sam Rainer for a taste of these kinds of calls for change.  

But why should you care?  For one reason, this is the largest protestant denomination on the planet with over 15 million members.  When this group gets moving in the same direction, and that direction happens to be Christ exalting, big things can happen.  Part of what we are seeing in the convention is an acceleration of change that's been occurring already as younger leaders seek to make the denomination more about gospel ministry and less about fighting a nationalistic culture war.  This came to a head around election time when another high profile leader (Russell Moore) was critical of then candidate Donald Trump. You could quickly see those who were wanting to make a political power grab through the presidential vote and those who were wanting to remain faithful to the Scriptures no matter what.  Thankfully, Moore weathered the storm and remained an important voice in the SBC and evangelicalism as a whole.  

Another reason to care is that MERCYhouse is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.  We always have been.  We were sponsored by the Baptist Convention of New England, which is the regional expression of the SBC, when we planted the church in 1999.  Church planting in North America and around the world is one of the main emphases of the convention.  We were given enough money to pay two full-time planters (Robert Krumrey and Joe Greene) as well as money for start up costs and equipment in that first year.  This partnership continues to be a blessing to our church as we receive training and encouragement for pastor and staff as well as financial support for outreaches like Free Rides.  They also provide ministries for our teens like Crosswalk Camp, YEC, and Quest.  The convention also participates in providing relief for disaster victims and is often first on the scene before FEMA or Red Cross.  These kinds of things don't seem to make it to the news very often.  All of these ministries and more are funded by millions of sinners saved by grace, known as Southern Baptists, who are all working together to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world who desperately needs him.  We at MH are a part of that family.   

The third reason to care about what's going on with the SBC is that they are having their annual meeting in Dallas, TX next week (June 12,13).  People who are called "messengers" will be traveling there from all over the US.  These are sent from any SBC church who wants to send them.  It's run a little bit like a political convention where states send delegates to vote on their behalf.  These messengers will gather to vote on various "resolutions" that have been put forth by the churches of the SBC.  Everything is driven by the churches and is then voted on by the churches.  It's about as nondenominational of a denomination as you can get.  Instead of a top down hierarchy, autonomous local churches seek to hammer out a consensus about how they will partner going forward.  This is why it's called a "convention" because officially it only exists once a year when its messengers gather to deliberate and vote. 

Because of the recent scandals, this seems like a really important moment for the convention, so let's pray for those who will be gathering in Dallas next week.  I've been to the convention a couple of times through the years and it's always been an exciting time of rallying around the cause of the gospel.  I expect this year's meeting will feel less like a rally and more like a solemn assembly.  Let's pray that we as a convention (both those in the meeting and those of us at home) will repent of sin and turn toward the Savior for forgiveness and transformation.  That any and all abuse and oppression against women will be confessed and repented of.  Also, that a powerful renewal would occur across all convention churches (including our own) resulting in a powerful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Want to find out more?  

New York Times Article

SBC doctrinal statement

Live Stream of Next Week's Convention

Short Videos on Heritage and Doctrine of SBC

Join us for HOLYWEEK!

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March 25th - April 1st

Following Jesus from Death to Life

Next week (March 22 - April 1) is the time when the western church remembers the most important week in history.  This is no joke.  As Christians, we believe that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is an event of such monumental proportions that all of human history hinges upon it.  We'll be reflecting on the events leading up to and including these moments in time that make up the foundation of our faith.  This very important week starts off with Palm Sunday and ends with the resurrection of Jesus on the very next Sunday (Easter).  

Join us for any or all of the following events this week:

Sunday, March 25 (9:15am and 11:15am) - Palm Sunday in main church building (Acts 9:1-19)

Sunday, March 25 (7:00pm) - Amherst College Service in Johnson Chapel (Mt. 21:12-17)   

Monday, March 26 (7:00pm) - Umass at MERCYhouse main building (Mt. 21:28-32)

Tuesday, March 27 (7:00pm) - Mt. Holyoke College Service in Dwight Hall (Mt. 22:1-15)

Wednesday, March 28 (7:00pm) - Smith College Service in Helen Hills Chapel (Mt. 23:27-29)

Thursday, March 29 (6:00pm) - Passover Seder in main church building

Friday, March 30 (noon) - Crosswalk, meet in main church building and walk through downtown Amherst.  Return to church building by 1pm.  

Friday, March 30 (6:30pm) - Good Friday Tenebrae Service

Sunday, April 1 (9:15am and 11:15am) - Resurrection Sunday!, main church building

 

Be Bold, Be Generous . . . And Be Honest

How can I become bold and generous? 

by Robert Krumrey

Yesterday, we dove into one of the toughest passages in the New Testament.  A married couple posing as more generous than they really are end up dropping dead under the judgment of God.  It was a reminder to the early church (and to us) that Christianity is serious business and that we should never take the word of God lightly.  Many of you responded with humble confession and requests for prayer and counsel.  Now comes the hard work of figuring out what this challenge from God means in our every day life.  What does it mean to be bold if I'm working in an office or staying home with children or going to class with 19 year olds.  How do I manage my particular financial resources such that I live a life of generosity.  The short answer is "pray about it."

This may seem cliche, but I'm serious.  Praying about these things is the first step in getting any traction in these areas.  We can't grow in boldness or generosity without the help of God's Spirit.  And how do we acquire spiritual wisdom and power from the Holy Spirit?  Pray.  Jesus says it this way:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
— John 14:12-14

Look at how Jesus intertwines the promise of doing great works in the power of the Holy Spirit with praying and doing so "in his name".  This doesn't mean merely uttering Jesus' name like a magic word.  It means praying as one who is under the authority of King Jesus.  This is why Jesus trains his disciples to pray "your kingdom come" and "your will be done".  King Jesus has all authority and power and wants to impart that authority to his children.  The means he uses to give us the power to do things like be bold and generous is prayer.

So how do we pray?  

Pray honestly!  If you are afraid.  Confess it.  If you lack faith.  Admit it.  If you feel apathetic in your love toward God and others.  Put it out there.  This is the remedy for getting past our hypocrisy and seeing real change in our hearts.  God obviously knows what we think and feel about him and others, but like Ananias and Sapphira, we think we can "lie to the Holy Spirit".  We can't.   So why not just put it all out there.   

Once we've been honest with God, then freshly receive his forgiveness.  Allow God's grace to wash you clean from guilt and shame.  This is obviously not receiving saving grace if we are already a Christian.  We know that once we are in Christ, there is nothing that will change our identity as a forgiven child of God.  What we do need is the practical experience of daily forgiveness which comes via transforming grace in the lives of the converted.  This seems to be what John is describing in 1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Once we've experienced his forgiveness, we then need his filling.  When we initially turned to Jesus, we didn't just come to him because we were sinners.  We came because we were incomplete without him.  Even if we were in a perfect world, hanging out with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, we would be in need of the indwelling Spirit of God.  Paul describes it this way:

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
— Ephesians 5:17,18

Paul makes it clear that understanding the will of God is not enough, one must be supernaturally empowered to actually follow his will.  So how do you get that filling?  Ask for it.  Jesus describes it this way: 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
— Luke 11:13

Jesus is clear about this.  God is a good Father.  Good fathers give good gifts to their children.  The best gift a father can give his children is himself.  Jesus says if you want more of the Holy Spirit's work in your life, just ask.  

So get to asking!  Get honest, get forgiven, and get filled and you'll be well on your way to being bold and generous.  Better yet, you'll know your loving Father that much better!

 

  

How Small Groups Save You From Suffocation

It's that time of year again!  Church announcements are filled with info. about Small Groups and why everyone should join one.  This past Sunday we had about 300 adults attend our services and they all heard about this opportunity to connect with others around scripture, prayer, fellowship, and mission.  Yet, through the years, we've found that about 1/3 of Sunday attendees actually heed the call to engage in this more intimate experience of Christian growth known as the small group.