The Weekend Funnies – Outside Summer Fun

When I was a child growing up in the 70′s and 80′s (no old jokes, please!), we used to go to this place called ‘outside’ to have fun. If we wanted to play with a friend, we would have to walk all the way over to their house and knock on the door and ask if they could come out and play. Nowadays it seems like children and teens have forgotten how to have fun! Their days are spent in front of the computer screen, watching TV, or plugged into their iPods, iPads or other tablet type devices.

Next week, we are hosting a Vacation Bible School at our church for children from Kindergarten through Grade 6. All week long the kids – along with their teen crew leaders and adult station leaders – are going to unplug from social media, and plug into fun times together with singing, games, crafts (science experiments!), dramatized Bible stories and more. Pray for us! Pray for the children to have a life-changing experience with the love of Jesus, and that any children who don’t know Him yet would be saved. And, that they would remember how to have fun… that’s not an app or a game on their iPod!

And so today’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strips celebrate the joy of having fun… outside!

Calvin & Hobbes - have fun outside not TV

Calvin & Hobbes - have fun outside 2

Calvin & Hobbes - have fun outside 3

Calvin and Hobbes (c) 2014 Bill Waterson.

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Prioritizing Church Attendance – A Must-Read for “Summer Saints”

keep-calm-and-go-to-churchIs Church Attendance a Priority to YOU?

I came across this article on Gospel Centered Discipleship today, and thought it was a very timely article. It’s amazing to me how many Christians think that church attendance is an optional thing – especially during the summer months. Take a read, and may you be challenged by the thoughts written here. And – I hope to see YOU at church this Sunday!

Prioritizing Church Attendance

by Matt Manry

Let’s just face the facts. Today, many Christians do not think attending church is that important. In the past, Christians believed that actively being a part of a church body was absolutely necessary to one’s faith. There used to be an understanding in Christian families that unless one was deathly ill or there was a family emergency, you just never ever missed church. So what has changed and caused so many people to view the church as a disposable good instead of as an intricate part of one’s spiritual life?

Why We Don’t Attend Church: A 40-Hour a week job, but no time for God

Pastor Kevin DeYoung is right. Our lives really are “crazy busy.” There is no doubt about it. Whether you are a college student, a newly-wed couple, or have a family of seven, we live in a day and age where the mentality is simply: go, go, go! This is one of the main reasons why church attendance is viewed as optional. Most people work 40-hour a week jobs in the United States, and so once the weekend hits the mindset of rest and recovery sets in. Trust me, I get it. Everybody wants some downtime. But why do we think that rest and recovery should take place outside of the confines of the house of God?

Recently, Trevin Wax wrote an article titled: “Are You A Part-Time Church Goer? You May Be Surprised.” Wax explains various reasons why people miss church in today’s society. There are 52 Sundays a year. If you only attend 25-30 Sunday services, you are a part-time church goer. Congratulations!

Do you recognize what is clearly wrong with this? Our jobs, which of course we must have to be able to support ourselves and our families, are seen as absolute necessities, while church attendance is simply seen as a dispensable activity. Brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be. Of course, the mindset of just attending church, getting your church attendance ticket punched, is absolutely wrong as well. Pastors and church leaders should preach against this mentality as well. However, think about this for a second. Just like you gather with your biological family, shouldn’t you also desire to gather with your spiritual family?

Why We Need The Church: A Biblical Case

I know the arguments that are going to be raised about what I have said thus far. People are going to say: “Does he really believe that attending a local church, going to its building, and doing this once or twice a week is what the Bible is suggesting?” Well yes and no. Kevin DeYoung explains, “I know we are the church and don’t go to church (blah, blah, blah), but being persnickety about our language doesn’t change the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25.” I couldn’t agree more.

Fellowship with your spiritual family is a sign of maturing in the faith as a disciple. Hebrews 10:25 says, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Have we really become so “new-agey” in our thought that we now think that we have matured past the need to attend church? Lord, let it not be so.

Gospel-Motivated Church Attendance

There is no doubt that what we need to recover in the life of Christians today is a gospel-motivated church attendance. What might this look like? Well, in my opinion its demonstrating the fact that when the church gathers on the Lord’s day, she proclaims the gospel, meditates on the gospel, and rehearses the gospel. By doing this, lives will begin to fundamentally change. It really is just that simple.

When the gospel is at the center our focus shifts. We no longer view church attendance as something we just need to check off, but as an intricate part of our spiritual lives. Instead of serving the god of individuality, we will be serving the God of Scripture. The gospel changes everything. However, we must first let the gospel change our low views of the church, and recognize that the house of the Lord is absolutely vital to the Christian life—to the life of a mature disciple. Should not the good news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins motivate us enough to enter into God’s house on Sundays? I would say so.

We are all at different points in our spiritual walks with the Lord. No matter what point you are at on your journey, I hope that you will come to see the importance of attending church. Do not be so narcissistic and self-consumed to think that you do not need the body of Christ. That is simply a sign of spiritual immaturity and a straight-up lie from the Devil.

I am not trying to guilt anyone into attending church regularly either. However, I am issuing a challenge to those who consider themselves Christians. If you consider yourself to be a part of the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-9, 21:2), tell me why would you separate yourself from the body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17)? Logically, that makes no sense at all.

So Christians, live in light of the fact that you have been redeemed and do not have to earn your acceptance before God through your church attendance. The community of Christ needs you because it cannot function without all of its body parts. This is not condemnation, but rather an exhortation. Attending church is a blessing that should not be taken for granted.

Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net.

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Heroes of Faith – Illustrated #Sermon of the Week: Know God and Be Strong!

HEROES OF FAITH: KNOW GOD, BE STRONG, HAVE GREAT ADVENTURES

(Beausejour Church – Pastor Chris Jordan)

To listen to or download the audio MP3, click HERE.

Heroes of Faith drama

KEY TEXT: “But the people who know their God will be strong and carry out great exploits.” (Daniel 11:32b).

INTRO TO THE BIBLE STORY:

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god. 3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.” (Daniel 1:1-7).

  • These four young men were strangers in a foreign land. They were being indoctrinated in a secular university, forced to learn their ways of talking and thinking.
  • This world system was trying to squeeze them into its mold!

THE BIG IDEA: The Bible says that the people who know God will be strong and have great adventures. Daniel and his three friends’ lives are an example for us to follow.

BIBLE ILLUSTRATION: Dramatize the story. (Daniel 3:1-30).

  • The story of three young boys who knew God, were strong, and had great adventures.
  • Start out by talking about three heroes who got in trouble for doing what was right:
  • Cast: Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Two astrologers. Angry king. Three soldiers to tie them up. Statue. Fire. Musicians.

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then he sent messages to the (people) to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. 3 When all these officials had arrived and were standing before the image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! 5 When you hear the sound of the (musical) instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. 6 Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

7 So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the (people)… bowed to the ground and worshiped the statue that King Neb had set up. 8 But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. 9 They said to King Neb, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They have defied Your Majesty by refusing to serve your gods or to worship the gold statue you have set up.”

  • Notice that these three boys didn’t compromise even though everyone else did.
  • What a great example they are to us! We live in a world that wants us to compromise.

13 Then Neb flew into a rage and ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Neb said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance. If you bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments, all will be well. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. What god will be able to rescue you from my power then?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Neb, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

19 Neb was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully clothed. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames leaped out and killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in! 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell down into the roaring flames. 24 But suddenly, as he was watching, Neb jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes,” they said, “we did indeed, Your Majesty.” 25 “Look!” Neb shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire. They aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a divine being!”

  • When we refuse to compromise, God is with us in the fire. He comes to our defense!

26 Then Neb came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So (they) stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the (people) crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! 28 Then Neb said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” … 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.

APPLICATION:

WHAT ARE SOME LESSONS WE LEARN FROM THIS STORY?

  1. The world will always try to get us to compromise and worship things other than God.
  2. It’s easier to be strong in your faith and stand up for God with friends.
  3. Sometimes God doesn’t deliver us from the fire, but instead is with us in the fire.

CLOSING CHALLENGE:

HOW CAN WE BECOME HEROES OF FAITH?

  • It’s not just about saying no to sin and compromise, but also about saying yes to God!
  1. Show love to people: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13, NKJV).
  2. Forgive people: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32).
  3. Do good to people: “31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:31-40).

Beausejour Community Church Website:  www.beausejourchurch.ca

Pastor Chris Jordan’s Blog:  http://pastorchrisjordan.wordpress.com/

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The Weekend Funnies – TV and Family Time

Here’s your Calvin and Hobbes comic strip of the week…

How important is family time in your household?

Calvin & Hobbes - TV and family time

Calvin and Hobbes (c) 2014 Bill Waterson.

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Costa Rica 2014 – Day #9: Honoring the Servants of the Lord

During the first eight days of our mission trip, we focused on ministering to the poor, the needy, the suffering and homeless people of Costa Rica, as well as many different church families in the Guanacaste Province. Today however, we turned our attention to another group of people: the pastors of the Foursquare Churches that have been planted by Pastor John and Debbie Overholt. As a pastor, I know what it is like to work tirelessly in the Lord’s vineyard, and there are many times when appreciation, encouragement and support can be hard to find. And so today, we wanted to honor, bless and refresh the shepherds of Costa Rica.

Pastor John’s wife Debbie described today’s events like this on her Facebook page: Today was Christmas in July – Mack from the team and his helper Cindy cooked us a turkey dinner with all the trimmings – gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and veggies – yummy – we invited the pastors to come for a day of refreshing and relaxation – to swim, enjoy the lovely Playas del Coco breezes, food, prayer and gift bags for all of them. They laughed, they played like children and had a wonderful time together – thank you Beausejour Foursquare church for blessings our leaders and caring for them with such love and joy – we pray you can be refreshed as you return to Canada and spread the word – Missions is fun and rewarding.”

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Even though we are leaving for home tomorrow, we are confident that the work that we have done here in Costa Rica will continue strong and bear much fruit because of the many pastors and leaders of the churches in Costa Rica who will steadfastly reach out to and minister the love of Jesus to all of the people that we have but briefly touched during our stay here. Would you agree together with me in prayer for the churches of Costa Rica?

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:14-21).

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Costa Rica 2014 – Day #8: Taking Jesus to Las Lomas, La Isleta and Bambu

This day was perhaps the most challenging for our team as they came face to face with expressions of injustice, poverty and suffering unlike any they have even seen so far on this trip to Costa Rica. Our morning started by returning to the barrio (neighbourhood) Las Lomas which we had visited the day before.

DSCN6766(photo: one of the first families we visited when we went door to door in the afternoon)

When we went door to door in Las Lomas on our first visit, we came across a family who had no water in their home. This was a family where the grandparents were taking care of a young boy with special needs because his mom was in prison, and his dad abandoned him. Because this family had fallen several months behind in their water bill, the meter was shut off. One of our team members broke down in tears and gave her own personal water bottle to this family. It seemed like so little, but she gave all she had to help them.

And so, when we came back today, we brought a dozen large jugs of water, and also told this family that our team would pay the money necessary for the town to turn their water back on. A simple act of love, done in the name of Jesus. We are trusting that this family will come to know the love of God and get connected to Pastor Rosa’s church down the street from their home!

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In the afternoon, we went door to door in La Isleta and Bambu – some of the very poorest communities in Guanacaste - and handed out food hampers to some poverty stricken families. We also took some time to go door to door in Bambu meeting people, and inviting them out to an evening service where we would show the first half of the movie “Son of God” about the life of Jesus, and then our team shared our drama and cardboard testimonies, and ended off our evening praying for people. It was a full day of wonderful ministry opportunities in the Lord!

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Photo Credit: Some of these photo were taken by Pastor John Overholt and some of our team members, too.

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Costa Rica 2014 – Why Short Term Missions?

Day #8 was a physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting day for the team as we visited and ministered to people in La Isleta, Las Lomas and Bambu. Our day included everything from feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty, to preaching the Gospel and praying for people. I will give you a full report of the day tomorrow, but in the meantime, I thought I would share just a couple of photos from today to tide you over until then.

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I encourage you to take the time to read through this teaching from our host missionary and pastor John Overholt’s newest book: Short Term Missions: Long Term Impact. It explains so well why I, as a pastor, value short term mission trips…

Benefits to the team members going:
1. Cultural perspective: Since much of our Christianity is largely defined by our culture, it is hard for us to discern between culture and true Christianity. Having the opportunity to minister outside of our country or even outside of our own neighborhoods helps us to discern the difference between the two.  We have much to learn from other cultures.  Mexicans, for example, have taught me a lot about hospitality. The term “Mi casa es su casa.” (My house is your house) is a genuine, heartfelt expression in Mexican society.
2. Appreciation for what we have: Sometimes we do not appreciate what we have until it is taken away. Walking into a migrant worker’s camp where there is no electricity, flush toilets or clean water, and the average family sleeps, together, on wooden pallets for a bed, has made me appreciate the comforts of my Canadian home. I can flick a switch on the wall for light, drink clean tap water, and sleep on my Sears posturepedic pillow top bed.
Short-term trip participants relocated to a foreign culture have the opportunity to undergo disorientation and realize life “back home” is not as rough or difficult as they may have thought; and the world is much larger than their hometown. The starting line of understanding the vastness of the world may turn into the beginning of comprehending the depth of our God.
3. Relationships established amongst the team members:  A coffee break during a Sunday morning church service may offer an opportunity for relationship building, but becomes minimal in comparison to the close knit ties that can be formed during a two week mission trip.
4. Opens their eyes to the mission field: My Short Term Mission experience was the spark that ignited me to pursue the call to missions.
5. It has been the catalyst for some to pursue longer term mission assignments. We have had two couples from our church in Canada, Bill and Christina Clark, and Joel and Sally Frostad, who became involved on a full time basis: Joel and Sally for over eleven years.
Seventy-five percent of people surveyed who have participated in short-term trips said they were “life-changing,” according to October 2008 mission statistics collected by the Barna Group. Twenty-five percent said their short-term mission experience increased their awareness of other people’s struggles; 16 percent said it helped them gain knowledge about poverty, justice or the world; 11 percent said it increased their level of compassion; 9 percent said it enhanced their faith; another 9 percent said it expanded their spiritual understanding and 5 percent said it escalated their financial generosity.

Benefits to the local church:
1. A local church that consistently sends out Short Term Mission teams gives opportunity for their members to reach out beyond the borders of their own community.
2. Our mission trips include a three month preparation time plus the trip itself.  This lends itself to the deepening of relationships among the team members that continue beyond the actual outreach into the life of the church.
3. The congregation becomes for more supportive of the local church’s mission vision.
4. Those who have a short term evangelistic experience outside of their own culture are more likely to gain a burden and a vision to minister at home.  I have observed that members from my congregation, who have been on a Short Term Mission trip, tend to be more actively involved in local outreach initiatives than those who have not experienced a mission’s encounter.

Benefits to the local churches who receive teams:
1. The zeal and enthusiasm of a STM team can be an encouragement to the local church members. The vision for mission and outreach can be stirred up so that when a STM team leaves, the church will continue to reach out to their community and beyond.
2. Just as our own STM teams learn cultural perspectives, the churches receiving teams can also learn from their visitors.
3. Long standing relationships and partnerships can be established and developed. Over the years we developed a strong Mexico-Canada connection between our Coastland’s Foursquare district and many local Tijuana congregations. A church from Beausejour, Manitoba has sent teams from Canada over a three year period and have developed close ties especially with members from our church in Filadelfia. They plan to make Costa Rica a focus for their missions program and are looking at sending future teams to partner with us.
4. Just as Jesus was not well received in His own home town, a foreign team coming in to minister seems to cause people to take notice and listen more carefully.
5. Local host churches can also receive sound discipleship teaching from STM leaders that will help the church to grow spiritually.
6. The evangelistic efforts of a STM team can add new members to the congregation.
7. There are many practical areas of help, such as building renovations that can benefit host churches.

Benefits to the local community involved:
1. People get saved, healed and delivered.
2. A new local church can be planted. This happened on our very first Tijuana outreach.  Our team of ten ventured into a Colonia called Guycura, where we proceeded to hold an open air meeting on an empty lot. About one hundred people bowed the knee to Jesus that day in March of 1988. As our team joined hands in a circle together with the new converts, I felt impressed to pray that God would raise up a church on this very land that we were standing. Within one year a church building was erected on that property.  The young congregation not only had a building but also a pastor who was appointed from the Foursquare Bible Institute in Tijuana. That church continues to thrive today, 25 years later.
3. People hear the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Benefits to the Lord Himself:
1. We bring joy to the Lord of the harvest as He sees His children obeying the call to go and make disciples.
2. We bring relief to the heartache of God as people are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Heaven.
3. We bless the heart of God as He sees nations in unity, partnering together in missions.

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