Scheduling Margin

This entry is for week two of the “Margin” message series. I have received a TON of feedback on this series. Seems it is really touching a nerve with a lot of people! I know I need this as much as anybody. I find myself busy all the time, and even though I have learned a lot about how to schedule my own margin, putting the “big rocks” in first, I don’t have it fully down yet. I still have a ways to go. I hope we can move that direction together.

$3554!!!

Can you believe that our little church gave that much to the Tower Road playground project in that short spur of the moment? Wow!! We are doing some research and putting together a plan. Our hope is to be able to get some super-strong steel playground equipment out there, which won’t just last a few years, but will survive for generations to come.  When it all comes together we will let you know, and we can all be part of installing it out there.

Meanwhile, you can STILL give to that project. Just tap here to give now.

Financial Margin

Dave Ramsey’s Finanical Peace University is starting up at The Orchard again really soon. I KNOW so many of us deal with financial pressure. Lots of us went through FPU together a couple of years ago, and it changed our lives! Check out the details here and sign up to create financial margin in your life.

Yep, we’re planning on doing Easter on the field for our community again this year, this time with some EXTRA special surprises! Trust me, your friends, neighbors, and co-workers will WANT to be there. So, start praying THIS WEEK about who God would have you bring with you to our Easter On The Field Celebration!

Scheduling Margin

In this series, I am challenging you to think about your “big rocks.” What are those in your life? What are your best things?

What steals us from those best things?

On Sunday, I briefly talked about saying “no” to good things so you can say “yes” to the best things… We know this is important, but we aren’t very good at doing this. What keeps us from saying “no” well?

Was this hard for Jesus?

It may look like Jesus was always just reacting… Always just dealing with the situations as they came. But, a closer look reveals that Jesus actually had a strategy:

Mark 1:32–39 (NLT)
That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

Is this the only case you can think of where Jesus said “no” to the demands made of him?

John 5:1-9 (NLT)
Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

How many “sick people” were presesnt at the Pool of Bethesda?

How many did Jesus heal?

As far as we can tell, there were no other miracles from Jesus that day by that pool. What does this tell us about Jesus and his focus on what he wanted to do?

How does this tie to the principle that “Activity does not equal accomplishment?”

What determines your daily calendar? Are you more prone to live in reaction mode, or are you proactive in your schedule?

Do you tend to react more to the urgency of immediate needs, or to the voice of God? Are your days filled by your priorities, or by the demands of others?

How do you balance the two?

Did you ever wish you had more hours in a day? Sounds like it could be nice. But, what do you think would happen if we suddenly had 30 hours each day, instead of 24?

What can we do to set our priorities, and prioritize our schedule for those “big rocks” more effectively?

Intro To Margin

Don’t miss this

This series is going to be a really practical attack on the stress and pain in our lives. SO many people that I know are really dealing with this issue right now, and I don’t want you to miss out on any of it. In fact, you may want to go back and re-listen or re-watch parts of this series again.

TAP TO WATCH/LISTEN

Of course, the best way to stay up to date is to subscribe to have our podcast delivered automatically to your device. You can subscribe using your favorite podcast app. (I use Apple Podcasts. Podbean is a good one, and is free on the Google Play store and the Apple App Store)

Also, I HIGHLY recommend the Bible app.. Did you know that if you log in, you can access reading plans, read in community with others, and even save your Sunday message notes for later reference?

This combination of great resources can really help you create MARGIN, and learn to know God’s will for your life in 2019.

Intro to Margin

Margin is the amount available beyond what is necessary. Explain what margin looks like in your life right now.

Let’s look at this very relevant story once again:

Luke 10:38–42 (NLT)
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Do you think Jesus was harsh with Martha?

What was the “one thing” that was worth being concerned about?

Does that seem right to you? Is that the way we live our daily lives?

So, one of the “laws of marginless living” is that “when margin decreases, stress increases.” What are some of the things that are currently causing you the most stress? How does that stress affect your relationships? How does it affect other areas in your life?

How does this stress affect your relationship with God?

When it comes down to it, lack of margin is a result of lack of faith, isn’t it? In what areas of your life do you need to place more faith in God?

An idol is anything that comes before God, right? So, isn’t lack of margin a result of idolatry? What are some things you are placing before God?

How can we change this?  Discuss specific ways.

Matthew 11:28–29 (NLT)
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

On Sunday, I assigned some homework. How is that working out for you?

Fortunately, Martha, the marginless, learned her lesson.

Later, Martha’s home was once again filled with guests. Many relatives, friends, and neighbors had crowded into her home to morn the loss of Martha’s brother, Lazarus. The place was packed. Once again, there was much to be done. But when word came that Jesus was on his way, Martha dropped it all, left the house, and went out to meet Jesus, alone. She reached him before he arrived in her village, and she spent time there with him. During this conversation, Martha makes one of the greatest professions in the New Testament:

John 11:27 (ESV)
Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha ended up chosing the best thing.

Take some time with the best thing this week. Start small! Spend 5 minutes tomorrow to rest with Christ. Remove distractions for just those few minutes and allow him an opportunity to renew your heart and your mind.

Begin the process of reducing some of the stress in your life this week. Identify one or more things that are creating too much stress and create a plan to reduce that stress. Not only write down your plan of action, but have someone hold you accountable as you carry it out!

The Right Message

We are already known as a church that does a lot for our community. I am so excited that we are going to bring that idea to our new “branding.”

It seems that in many cases, the church is actually out of favor with the community. Some churches act almost adversarial, in an “us vs. them” mindset. WE believe that we are here FOR Gilmer, because we believe JESUS is FOR GILMER. Right? So, when we finally put up a sign on our new property, it won’t be an “us” sign… As in, “Future home of… us.”  Instead, it will boldly state our purpose… We are here “FOR GILMER.”

Super Sunday was Awesome

It is hard to believe that it has been ten years. I started this blog ten years ago! In fact, here is my second blog entry, about purchasing our first sound equipment, to be used for our launch service in the movie theater. (remember that equipment, John Crawford?) It had a merciless HUM that we couldn’t stop no matter what we tried. UNTIL God sent us John Crawford, who was able to cure it for us!

A really big THANK YOU to everyone who helped out with Sunday’s party. It was really awesome. We had the chance to look back, to celebrate what God has been doing, and to look forward to what He might be up to next! If you didn’t see the video that we made to tell the story, you can watch it below!

New Series This Sunday

I recently changed up my message series plan, because I am really feeling that practically everyone I know is just overloaded with all the responsibilities and obligations that they are trying to keep up with in their lives right now. Everyone seems to be at the end of their strength, patience, time, and abilities. We need help creating space in our lives!  Me too!  So, this series begins on Sunday. I hope you’ll be with me, and that you’ll bring someone with you.

Discussion: Partners In Ministry

Did you play sports or do any extra-curricular activities in high school? What were they?

Why did you do those?

What did you love about them? What did you hate about them?

When my daughter was in school, she was a cheerleader, and she played soccer. She LOVED soccer, but she HATED cheering. I don’t know what other cheer squads are like, but hers was… Difficult. Those girls honestly never had any idea what was happening on the field during the game… They just knew they were supposed to cheer when the crowd gets loud. The cheerleaders did not play any games, and did not have any rivals to defeat. So they fought each other! That squad was full of drama and infighting and pettiness.

The soccer team, on the other hand, ran drills and practiced together. They used each other’s strengths to fight together to accomplish one thing: winning! They ran, kicked, sweat, bled, fought, won, and lost together as a team. They had a common goal that they all rallied around and celebrated together whenever they won. As a result, those girls were all tight with each other. I still love bumping into some of them from time to time.

Okay.. You might have to think about this for a minute. How is the typical church today more like cheerleading than soccer-playing?

Have you been in one of those? What is that like? (I am thinking about committees, power-families, traditionalism, etc.)

I think the concept of local church membership is partly to blame for this. I don’t believe in local church membership.

First of all, I believe God has been clear with us that local churches don’t make us members… JESUS makes us members. See this in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:19–20 (NLT)
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

Nowhere in the New Testament do you find a verse, instruction, appeal, or command to become a member of a local church.

However, ALL THROUGHOUT the New Testament you find believers who are deeply connected to a local church. In fact, you ONLY find believers that are connected in a deep relationship with the local church. There is no “lone ranger” christian in God’s Word. That is a foreign concept.

The apostle Paul planted a bunch of churches, but there was one church he had a very special connection with. It was this church, the church at Phillipi, which took care of Paul. They funded his mission trips, prayed for him, encouraged him, sent people with him, and saw themselves as an integral part of making the gospel relevant to the world. Paul referred to this church in a unique way:

Philippians 1:4–5 (NLT)
Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.

Paul encouraged his people to stand together. He was clear with them that they were all citizens (members) of heaven, but that they were also connected to each other locally…

Philippians 1:27 (NLT)
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Philippians 2:2 (NLT)
Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

How does Paul imply here that they are to be more like soccer players than cheerleaders?

I think a lot of times, we get focused in on our own little pet projects. I see it in churches when they fight over the new hymnals, or whether to wear choir robes, or what color the carpet ought to be. We hate that, don’t we? But, Paul encourages his partners to live with a much bigger picture in mind:

Philippians 3:20–21 (NLT)
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Why is it important for us to live with this bigger picture in mind?

At The Orchard, we’ve identified five different levels of leadership development. Everybody is in one of the five stages. Do you know yours? We think that someone choosing to partner is one of the marks of spiritual maturing. In fact, when considering someone for a key leadership role, leading teams and leaders, the individual’s partnership status is one of the first factors we consider.

As partners, we are working together to accomplish something far bigger than ourselves… So we live our lives as an example to others around us. Like Paul did…

Philippians 4:9 (NLT)
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Clearly, the Bible places a high level of importance on partnering together. Have you partnered with us for this year? We are out to win this.

PARTNER HERE

 

Holy Spirit Power

I am really excited to be celebrating our TENTH ANNIVERSARY this weekend together at Super Sunday! Tap the image below for details.

Dealing with Death… To Self

What is the most difficult decision you have ever made? Why was it so hard?

What has been the most challenging part about the decision you made to follow Christ?

To follow Christ in obedience may require hard choices. When we choose to follow Jesus, we choose sacrifice over selfishness, the cross over comfort, and God’s mission over maintaining the status quo. That’s the nature of the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:18–20 (NLT)
One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!”

What is Peter saying here about Jesus? Why is this so significant? What does this mean?

“Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah,” which means “Annointed One.” The Messiah was the promised deliverer of God’s people, commonly thought to be a militaristic overthrower of the Roman opression and take over as king of Israel in Jerusalem. Peter’s declaration is, in that sense, a kingly declaration, isn’t it?

This is the critical moment for the disciples. For the very first time, a declaration is being made about Jesus’ identity. Up until this point, a year and a half into Jesus’ ministry with his disciples, nobody has dared uttered these words that Peter seems to just blurt right out. I’m sure they had all thought… Hoped… That Jesus might, in fact be the chosen one… That this man who had chosen them was going to be the history-maker, the life-changer that their hopes were pinned on. But nobody was bold enough to ask it out loud. I bet this was a HUGE moment for these guys. As Peter said this, I am sure each disciple was wide-eyed and looking at Jesus to see how he might respond.

At this moment, these disciples have connected all the dots on their own… They have put it together without Jesus having to point it out to them specifically.  They know his secret identity!  So, Jesus responds… But Jesus’ response is NOT what you might think!

Luke 9:21–22 (NLT)
Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Wait.. What?

Jesus acknowleges being the Messiah, but that they should keep it secret? He tells them that he will be killed? Can the Messiah even BE killed? Why did Jesus take their newfound understanding and immediately shut them down?

Knowing what you know about the disciples’ understanding of Jesus mission and purpose… Watching how they scattered the way they did after he was taken by the Romans… Do you think they could even hear what he was saying about being “raised from the dead?”

Jesus, obviously to us now, would not establish his kingdom by military overthrow. Instead, how did he begin his movement? How does what he actually did contrast with what had been expected of the Messiah?

Jesus shows us that the only path to power is the cross. (that was one of the fill-ins from Sunday!) In what ways do modern disciples misunderstand the path to power? How does that misunderstanding mark the difference between “christian,” and “disciple?”

What does it mean for us when we misunderstand Jesus’ singular purpose in our lives to lead us to the cross?

RIGHT AFTER Jesus tells the disciples to “keep it down that I am the messiah…” he makes these key statements for us:

Luke 9:23–27 (NLT)
 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”

So, according to Jesus, what is the key activity or attitude of a follower of Christ?

What does it mean to “take up his cross?” Why is this necessary for a disciple?

How is this the opposite of what our culture tells us about achieving greatness in life?

How do you think our ideas about “greatness” might need to change as we follow Christ? (hint: John the Baptist had it right when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” -John 3:30)

Jesus specifically commanded we take this action how often? Why do you think that is?

How does carrying a cross through life affect the decisions we make and the priorities we have?

Does denying ourselves mean to have a low opinion of ourselves? What does it mean?

Do you think we have the tendency to water down the requirements of Jesus? Why or why not?

Does it cost us a lot to be willing to follow Jesus? (how?)

What is the actual value of that cost, compared the the cost Jesus paid for us?

How might you decrease this week so that Christ might increase?

Is someone in your life suffering in some way for the sake of the kingdom? How can you encourage them?

In what ways can we help each other take up our crosses and grow in humility?

God Started Something

We’ll be partnering together once again, as we celebrate our TENTH BIRTHDAY on Sunday, February 3! Click the image above for details.

God Started Something

How have you heard the word “love” used this past week? I bet you can think of at least two or three different ways!

What do those uses of the word reveal about the way people typically view love?

Does our culture define love differently than God does? How?

It seems that this world loves being in love, doesn’t it? But, God sees “love” as something different, doesn’t he? Love is the defining mark of the Christian.

Don’t make a mistake about this. Jesus was really clear:

John 13:34–35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

After Jesus, Paul wrote to us about various gifts of the Spirit, and how they impact us:

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (NLT)
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles?  Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.

How would you sum up this short passage?

Paul tells us to “earnestly desire the most helpful gifts,” then he makes a very interesting statement:

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

In other words, these are good… But let me show you something much better. Here is what Paul says is better:

1 Corinthians 13:1–3 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What metaphors did Paul give for using spiritual gifts without love? Why do you think he chose these metaphors?

What happens if people are not motivated to use their gifts out of love?

What do you think the Corinthians felt when they read these words?

Why did all the gifts and power that Paul listed “gain nothing”? What does that tell you about the power of love?

No matter how impressive a spiritual gift may appear, no matter how dedicated a religious act may be, the absence of genuine love renders these actions meaningless. The Corinthians may have felt like Paul was going too far. Paul, however, wanted the church to know that everything they did should come out of love. Greatness without love is at best annoying like a clanging cymbal and at worst completely meaningless.

Paul continues…

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NLT)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Which of these attributes of love stands out to you the most? Why?

So, based on the above short passage, how would you define love?

Ephesians 5:2 (NLT)
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul implies that you have to know Jesus to know love… Is that true?

Paul is not talking about an emotional love. The kind of love he described here is above emotion; it’s self-sacrificing for the sake of another. These 15 characteristics describe loving others even when doing so is difficult. Of course, that is when love is most needed. If we love only those who measure up to our standards or who never pose any challenge, then is that really love? This is the kind of love that you can only truly see in Christ. It’s only through experiencing the self-sacrificial love of Jesus that we can truly love others. In the final set of verses in this chapter (vv. 8-13), Paul contrasted love’s permanence and eternal presence with the temporal things of this world.

But let’s return to Paul’s famous “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 13:8–13 (NLT)
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

In what ways do you see the difference between the eternal and the temporary in this passage? How do you see the difference between the eternal and the temporary in your life?

Why is love greater than faith and hope? What will happen to our faith and hope when Christ returns? What will happen to love?

Love will never end as we love God and love others. This type of love can play out practically in our relationships. Loving God and loving others is far more than head knowledge. No real transformation in our church occurs without love being at the center of it. Paul’s words are clear that anything we do apart from love will pass away. When we embrace the truth that love is permanent, then we will show it consistently to others, and it will be a defining aspect of our character.

What is something you can do this week to show love and respect to your spouse? To someone in your family?

What are some ways you can show your love by giving/service this week?

In what ways have you seen people interrupt their normal routine to take action on behalf of another person? Which people or groups do you find it difficult to love?

How can you use the way God has spiritually gifted you to love others in the church?

Pray together.  Thank God for showing us the nature of true love in Jesus. Ask Him to help your group remember the central place of love in your lives and our church, and to never allow a focus on spiritual giftedness to take the place of genuine love.

Something Big Is Coming

Welcome back for the new year!  My lifegroup started back this past week, and we went around the circle and prayed for each family. Maybe your group needs that also?

The Holy Spirit

What comes to your mind when you think about the Holy Spirit?

What are some common perceptions/misperceptions about the Holy Spirit?

I thought this video was a pretty funny one, but it might not be to your taste.

This can be a little difficult to understand. The Holy Spirit, like Jesus, is part of the Trinity. That means He is co-equal and co-eternal with God and yet distinct from the other two persons of the Trinity in His work. Though we often feel inadequate to be used by God for His kingdom, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers for the express purpose of empowering us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Today we will see how, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can find confidence to be used by God for His kingdom and glory. The Holy Spirit gives us the will, the wisdom, and the power to carry out Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to the world.

Here is some of what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit:

John 14:15–17 (NLT)
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”

John 14:26 (NLT)
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

John 15:26 (NLT)
“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.”

John 16:7–10 (NLT)
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.”

So, according to Jesus, who is the Holy Spirit, and what does He actually do?

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

So, thinking about the Holy Spirit as described by Jesus, how does He help us accomplish the mission that Jesus gives us here in Acts 1:8?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity that indwells followers of Jesus and is the presence and power of God in their lives. The Holy Spirit helps us understand Jesus and remember His teaching (John 14:26). The Spirit bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26) and will convict the world of sin, righteousness and God’s judgment (John 16:10). After Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit picked up where Jesus left off. While Jesus physically walked the earth for a very short time, the Holy Spirit will be with us forever, and we are dependent on His power to help us take the gospel to the nations and to open the ears of those who hear it.

Even though the Holy Spirit wasn’t officially given to us until after Jesus’ ascension, He does show up from time to time in the Old Testament. He was also promised in the Jewish Scriptures. In the passage below, what did Joel prophesy about the release of the Holy Spirit?

Joel 2:28–32 (NLT)
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants—men and women alike.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—
blood and fire and columns of smoke.
The sun will become dark,
and the moon will turn blood red
before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.
But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD
will be saved,
for some on Mount Zion in Jerusalem will escape,
just as the LORD has said.
These will be among the survivors
whom the LORD has called.

So, how does Luke, the author of Acts, tell us that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost? (see below)

Acts 2:1–2 (NLT)
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.

Sure, the Holy Spirit has always been at work in the world. Throughout the Old Testament and in the New Testament prior to Jesus’ birth and even during His ministry, the Spirit shows up time and again. Sometimes the Spirit is described as a mighty wind that was an agent from God. The Old Testament often tells of God giving the Holy Spirit to people He chose and called out for service such as prophets, priests, and kings. In Joel 2, the prophet announces God’s promise to release His Spirit on all humanity, which Peter connected to the events that happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21).

How was the role of the Holy Spirit in the world forever changed after Pentecost?

What would you say are one or two of the greatest blessings of having the Holy Spirit dwell within you?

On the day of Pentecost, God released His Holy Spirit into the lives of all believers, just as Jesus had promised many times. In the old covenant era (before the cross), the Holy Spirit came upon men and women to empower them for the work God had called them to accomplish, but His work was not on such a grand scale. When God promised to establish a new covenant, He also promised to give His Spirit. And the nature of the Holy Spirit’s work would be different in the new covenant than in the old. All who belong to God because of the work of Jesus Christ receive the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

In what ways does the reality of the Spirit’s life-giving, permanent presence in your heart affect your view of Christian living?

How does having the Holy Spirit’s power make a difference in how you have been able to serve God and live out His Acts 1:8 mission?

Acts 1:8 gives the church, both past and present, its marching orders. We are to faithfully share with the rest of the world the story of what Jesus has done for us. We can do so confidently because we believe that we have been changed by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and sent out as witnesses to change the world.

In what ways does the reality of the Spirit’s life-giving, permanent presence in your heart affect your view of Christian living?

What evidence could you point to that shows the Spirit’s power at work in your life?

As a member of the church, how does the Spirit enable you to share the gospel and join in the church’s mission? What is your next step in the mission?

 

First Visit At Architect Office

Several of us took the day on Wednesday to travel over to Greenville, SC to meet with our architects! It wasn’t our first meeting with them, but it was our first chance to see their offices first-hand, and to start narrowing in on conceptual ideas for our new building.

These guys had come to meet with us at The Orchard a month or so ago, just to ask a bunch of questions and to listen to us. I am so thrilled that these guys love Jesus. We have been able to hear their testimonies, and to pray with them. It is SUCH a comfort to know that they are about the KINGDOM, not just about designing buildings and getting paid.

Our group consisted of elders John Crawford and Steve Marks. Dianne Fowler, Suzie Fleming, and Jon Breshears also went along to speak for their respective ministries.

So, the whole trip went well, and we are beginning to get some great ideas of exactly what type of building we are aiming for. We still have a long way to go before we have any designs to show off, but I am really happy with the direction we are heading.

 

Baptism

Did you see those baptisms this week? It was awesome.

Here is how we typically define “baptism:”

Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward commitment.”

Do you think that is a good definition? Why or why not?

Let’s talk about symbols for just a minute… How do you feel about a married person that goes around without his or her wedding ring?

Have you ever been surprised to see someone who you discovered to be different on the inside than what they were “advertising” on the outside? How? What was your reaction to that person?

What is it that our baptism says about each of us? What does it say about what Christ has done in us?

Why do some Christians feel that baptism is unimportant for them?

In light of these verses, what was the importance of baptism to Jesus? (John 3:22, John 4:1, Matthew 28:18-20?)

John 3:22 (NLT)
Then Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.

John 4:1–3 (NLT)
Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.

Matthew 28:18–20 (NLT)
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

What does Paul write in Ephesians about the sign of baptism for us? What does this sign mean?

Ephesians 2:4–6 (NLT)
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

hint: It means that God has done in me spiritually what He did in Christ physically.

If baptism is important to Jesus, and if it means something much deeper than getting wet… What do the following verses say about how deep this meaning of baptism really is? What is it drawing a picture of?

Ephesians 1:19–20 (NLT)
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

If you need to be baptized, please contact our church office at hello@orchardellijay.com so we can arrange for your baptism very soon!

Nine Reasons to Serve in 2019

There is real power in starting things off right. We always want to “get off on the right foot,” and set the tone in any relationship. As we start off a new year, how are you setting the spiritual tone in your life? We are made by God to build the church (Ephesians 4:11-13) God made you with unique talents, a unique personality, and specific skill sets. He has even given you spiritual gifts! You will get the most joy and make the biggest difference in 2019 when we use these God-given traits to build the church!

9 Reasons to Serve in 2019

1. Jesus serves.

Jesus led his life as a servant. He could have come as a conquerer, but instead he said “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

2. Serving allows us to discover and develop our spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 compares the church to a human body. Just like our bodies are made of many parts serving specific functions, the church is made up of people with different skills and abilities. Alone these pieces aren’t very useful, but together we create something beautiful.

3. Serving allows us to experience miracles.

In John 2, Jesus was at a wedding and the couple was running out of wine for its guests. He tells the servants to fill several big jars to the brim. When they served the water to the guests, it was wine! The guests never knew what happened; the servants were the ones who witnessed the miracle. The same is true for us when we serve.

4. Serving allows us to experience the joy and peace that comes from obedience.

1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms… so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” Serving is a form of worship, a way to express gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and to share the love and grace we’ve been given.

5. Serving helps us to be more like Jesus.

We shift our focus off of ourselves onto others through serving. We begin to see others as Jesus sees them. And we see Jesus IN others (Matthew 25:40).

6. Serving surrounds us with other Christians who can help us follow Jesus.

When we’re working side by side with other people, a bond inevitably forms. This was part of God’s plan for how the church is supposed to work. That’s why Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another.”

7. Serving increases our faith.

As we move out of our comfort zones, God increases our faith by revealing new potential — in ourselves and in His Church. When we see what He can do when His power is at work within us, we begin looking for the doors He’s opening rather than pushing our way through the one’s He’s closed (Ephesians 3:20).

8. Serving allows us to experience God’s presence in new ways.

Encouragement and healing go hand in hand. As we encourage others and they find healing, we’re encouraged. It’s the reason so many people who go on mission trips say they came home feeling like they got more than they gave.

9. Serving is good for your soul.

Studies have shown that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Tapping into our gifts and passions builds self-confidence, energy, and strength. Serving others can also be the best distraction from our own worries.

We make all sorts of rational explanations for not serving:

I don’t have time.
I don’t know what I would do.
I don’t have any special skills to contribute.
They don’t need me.

But the reality is the Lord doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. God used men and women with similar doubts to change the course of history. Moses didn’t think he was a leader or speaker, but God worked through Moses to bring Israel out of slavery. David was the youngest (and therefore most insignificant) of all his brothers, but God worked through David to defeat a giant and eventually made him a king. Paul used to kill Christians before he met Jesus, but he went on to become one of the most highly-regarded and prolific writers/church planters in history.

God doesn’t just want to work through you, He wants to work in you. Learn more about how you can start serving RIGHT HERE.