Thursday, September 22, 2022

Prayer Service Outline Format - Lent Stations Setup - 10 Stations


This is a setup for a 10 station prayer service for a church. Certain supplies are needed for each station. Supplies are listed under each of the headings for the stations. The goal is to draw closer to Jesus and live out our faith on a daily basis. 

1. The Birth of Christ 
Supplies: (plastic gift bags)
When we consider the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus, we often default to the most famous verse on the matter: Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

It’s a beautiful verse that speaks of hope and the promised Savior.

But today, let’s look at the book of John, and specifically, chapter one, verses one and 14. These verses say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

They remind us of the magnitude of this moment in history. We already know that this wasn’t the birth of just any baby. This was the physical birth of the eternal God in the form of man. Jesus didn’t come into existence at the first Christmas because He has always existed.

He came for us. He came to save us.

Sit down and pray that God would help you understand just how amazing it is that the word of God himself grew in the womb of a woman and was born 2,000 years ago.

Thank the Lord for this amazing gift.

Then take one of the bags available, and sometime next week, fill the bag with food or hygiene products, and give it as a gift to a friend, a neighbor or a complete stranger, or leave it at someone’s door.

2. Jesus Loves Me – in Color
Supplies: Paper Pictures of the Cross and crayons/markers
Here you see blank white crosses. But God is a God of beautiful colors. In the past we lived empty, miserable lives, they were dull, gray-scale, sad. But then we came to know Jesus, and he made us alive. He brought color into our lives and it was beautiful.

At station two, sit down, and consider the various colors, and as you color your cross, let God speak to you about how he brought color into your life.

Red - In the Bible, the Hebrew word for red is Oudem. Its actual meaning is “red clay”. Many biblical names (Adam, Esau and Edom) are derived from this Hebrew word which means flesh.

Yellow - The second primary color is yellow. The counterpart of this color is also mentioned in God’s principle and in I Peter 1:7, God talks about trials and purging. (The trial of faith will be more precious than Gold and be tried with fire). Here the meaning is: yellow is associated with purification through difficulty

Blue - Blue is the third primary color. It spiritually signifies the Healing Power of God. It is the most sublime subject and color which biblically represents the Word of God. The very fact that the Sky is blue stands for the presence of Yahweh. God’s chosen nation Israel is also denoted as blue from the time of David.

Green - Green is obtained by mixing yellow (trials) with blue (Word of God). Therefore, the biblical meaning of the color green is immortality. (The leaf shall not wither (psalm 1:3). Green is also symbolic of resurrection which we see each Spring.

Orange - Orange is obtained by mixing red (flesh) and yellow (trials). The result is a color of fire which represents the Fire of God, deliverance and passionate praise.

Purple - Purple is obtained by mixing red (flesh) and blue (Word of God). The resultant color meaning in the Bible is royalty or priesthood.

Take your colored cross to remind you of God’s beauty in your life.

3. Turn to the Cross – Receive Jesus Christ
Supplies: Mini free-standing crosses marked with "grace" "blessing" and "courage and strength" 

The Cross

Where He who knew no sin,

Died that we may be free from sin.


The Cross

Where He was wounded for transgressions;

And bruised for our iniquities.


The Cross

Reminds us that at the end of that Holy Week

Jesus suffered death upon such a cross.


The Cross

His crucifixion was a despicable act of mankind;

Yet an act of incredible love by God.


John 19:25-27 - “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

Prayer:
Take time to prayerfully contemplate the cross.

Thank the Lord for the cross.

Consider how much it cost Jesus to do this.

Praise the Lord for His gift.

What message do you need to see from the Lord? What reminder do you need from the cross of Christ?

Take a Cross of “Grace” or Take a cross of “Blessing” or Take a cross of “Courage & Strength”

4. Waiting on God – A Candle to Celebrate
Supplies: Gift candles, one per person

Are you waiting on the Lord for an answer to prayer? Sit down and talk to God right now. What is a prayer request that you’ve been praying for a while that God is telling you: “I will answer! Wait on me!”

Seek God right now. What is he asking you to wait on? Then read these scriptures several times:

Psalm 27:14 - "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

2 Peter 3:9 - "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Isaiah 30:18 - "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!"

Prayer: “Father God, We trust you. We wait patiently on you. We wait humbly for our Master to act. We do not grumble or complain. We trust you completely. We love you. We know God you will answer, and we already see your answer coming, indeed it is here, in Jesus name, Amen.”

Take one of the candles home, and set it in a place where you’ll see it at home. When the day comes that God answers the request you are waiting on, light the candle to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

5. Light a Salvation Candle
Supplies: Tall candles (enough for the each person to light one)

We all have people in our lives that we desperately want to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

Think about the person you would like to light a candle for. Consider the salvation of Jesus Christ. Then pick one or several of the following prayers and pray for that person.

Open Their Eyes and Minds Prayer

Mighty God, I pray that they may get to know you and know how great you are. Deliver them from the hands of Satan, who has blinded them from seeing the light of the Good News. Open their eyes to see your goodness. Open their minds to understand your sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ. Save them. Amen.

Experience Your Peace Prayer

Lord, My heart bleeds for my loved ones. They are entangled by sin. Their hearts are hardened. They take your love for granted. As our light and our salvation, Lord, save them. Let them understand the peace of Christ. Draw them close to you that they may experience your peace which surpasses understanding. Let your Spirit guide their way home. In Jesus name, Amen.

Let Them Look up to You Prayer

Jesus Christ, You laid down your life on the cross so that our sins are forgiven. You endured so much pain and humiliation so that we have eternal life. I pray that my loved ones look beyond this physical life, and see you in all your glory. Weaken their dependence on their power. Lead them to you. Amen.

Soften Their Hearts Prayer

Loving Father, I humble before you, asking for your help in bringing my unsaved loved ones to you. They are caught up in the world of sin. Soften their hearts to understand that you’ve paid the full price for their sins by sacrificing your only son. All they have to do is accept the gift of your forgiveness. Let them give up their worldly pleasures and seek your kingdom first. Let everything they do bring glory to you. Hold their hands to salvation. Amen.

Then Light a candle for your unsaved love one, believing God can do anything.

6. Fridge Magnet – Repeat
Supplies: Fridge magnets with encouraging scriptures on them

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” -Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV

We as humans are stubborn and hard-headed. We need to hear and see things repeatedly before they work themselves into our mind and heart.

Prayer

O Lord God, we praise you that your word is powerful. It cuts down deep into us, bringing change and healing. Please God repeat your truth to us over and over until it becomes part of who we are, in our minds and in our hearts. In Jesus name, Amen.

Ask God which reminder he wants you to place on your fridge, then take it, and read it every time you open the fridge at home.

7. Bookmark
Supplies: Names of Jesus bookmarks (available online)

Take one of the bookmarks with the names of Jesus written on it. Sit down with the bookmark and contemplate who Jesus Christ is to you and to the human race.

Repeat each of the names of Jesus listed on the card out loud, thinking about what each means. Let God speak to you about who He is to you, for you, and for the world, for His glory.

Names of Jesus: Alpha & Omega, Immanuel, King of Kings, Light of the World, Morning Star, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Lamb of God, Savior of the World, The Good Shepherd, The Way, Lord of Lords, Anointed One, Bread of Life, Chief Cornerstone, Great High Priest, Heir of All Things, Holy and Righteous One, Lord of Glory, Messiah, Teacher, The Most Holy, The Truth, Word of God.

Prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are our Lord, our God, our Friend, our Counselor, our Savior, our Master, our Brother, our Beloved, in your name we pray, Amen.

Keep the Bookmark as a reminder of who Christ is to you.

8. Jesus Fish – Glow Brighter
Supplies: Jesus fish key chains, glow in the dark

The Greek word for fish is "ichthys." As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

The fish has plenty of other theological overtones as well, for Christ fed the 5,000 with 2 fishes and 5 loaves (a meal recapitulated in Christian love-feasts) and called his disciples "fishers of men."

Water baptism, practiced by immersion in the early church, created a parallel between fish and converts. Second-century theologian Tertullian put it this way: "we, little fishes, after the image of our Ichthys, Jesus Christ, are born in the water."

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank you that you are our provider. Your multiplied the loaves and fishes for the five thousand, and similarly you are the bread of life, you are our provider. We trust you to provide for all our needs. Nothing we have belongs to us, it all belongs to you. We are little fishes Lord, after the image of Jesus Christ, born again of the Spirit, in Jesus name, amen.

Take one of the fish, as a reminder you a little fish of Christ, or take one of the glow in the dark key chains, to remind yourself that you glow in the dark when Christ fills you. Remember it all belongs to God. You are just a steward.

9. Body of Christ – Bread
Supplies: Bread or croutons

On the Thursday evening of Holy Week Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room. These croutons remind us of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room for the Passover and the Last Supper. Those persons gathered about the table found new meaning and purpose for their lives. As Jesus took a loaf of bread, the very basis of life, and shared it, He said, “As often as you eat of this bread, do it in remembrance of me.” The symbol reminds us that we are part of His gathered community in this world. The last supper Jesus shared with his disciples, indeed, we are part of today. The same is true of the call to ministry which we accept as members of His community.

Matthew 26: 26-29 - “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

Take a crouton and eat it to symbolize your part in the body of Christ. You are part of the family of Christ around the world. You are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Prayer - Dear God, we are thankful for the community which Jesus your Son brought into being. We ask that we have the continuing spirit to be faithful members of the community. Amen.

10. An Empty Grave


FINAL GREETING: The proof of the Resurrection of Christ is not an empty tomb, but an Easter people whose lives have been transformed and who love and follow Jesus.

Let's celebrate that with a responsive “Hallelujah!”

CHRIST IS ALIVE IN THE WORLD

Hallelujah!

CHRIST IS ALIVE IN ME!

Hallelujah!

THROUGH MY TEARS I WILL SEE HIS FACE

Hallelujah!

IN MY CONFUSION I WILL SEEK HIS GUIDANCE

Hallelujah!

IN MY SIN I WILL REPENT AND RECEIVE HIS FORGIVENESS

Hallelujah!

IN MY DEATH I WILL CLAIM ETERNAL LIFE WITH HIM

Hallelujah!

Friday, September 16, 2022

7 Myths of Christianity Spread by the Lukewarm Church

 

Lukewarm Christianity is everywhere today. And with that comes a myriad of bad doctrines and misleading statements about Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the practice of our faith.

1. You can never lose your salvation - The quintessential lukewarm doctrine of the lukewarm church, receive salvation, then go do whatever you want, one and done, just like fast food, grab and go, get saved then go live however you want because hey, you can never lose it right? Let's restore the concept that falling away is real, and we must guard against it by abiding in Christ! 

2. Just Believe - The removal of repentance from the equation of salvation has been quite complete. Can you find a depiction of the gospel on a tract or graphic that includes repentance? Good luck. Let's work to restore repentance as something done in concert with faith.

3. Tithing is optional - a recent study showed that about 50% of pastors don't even teach or believe tithing is biblical, which is truly astonishing. But boy does this topic get people fired up. That's what happens when you hit someone close to their idol. The idol of course being money. Let's restore the reality of stewardship in regard to our finances, the value of tithing and giving offerings, not just 10% but above and beyond, which is the New Testament standard. 

4. Only Love - This false concept of love has gone so far in the wrong direction, you even have Christian rock songs that don't even call God by his name anymore, they just say "love." God is love, but he is much more than love, he is just, righteous, holy, a God of judgment and infinite power. When we over-emphasize love we create an idol of God that fits our preferences. Let's restore the concept that God came full of grace yes, and truth, and that God came not to judge the world but to save the world through Jesus (John 3:16) but remember to include the next verse which says, but those who do not believe in God's only are condemned already (John 3:17-18). 

5. Fear is bad - We've lost the concept of the fear of the Lord in our modern era. We think fear is mean and bad. But sometimes fear is a good thing. Not fear of man, but fear of God. To tremble before a holy God is wise, and the word says "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Let's remember that the fear of the Lord is not only an Old Testament concept, but it says in Acts 5:11, "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events."

6. Only heaven, no hell (or neither!) - When is the last time you heard hell mentioned from the pulpit? And even further, many pastors no longer talk about heaven either, well people don't get that kind of thing, they want to talk about stuff in this place. A gospel without heaven or hell is not the gospel. Let's restore the preaching of heaven, the New Jerusalem, New Heavens and New Earth, as well as Hell, the eternal judgment, conscious eternal torment, both realities are quite real. 

7. Removal of Sin - many a modern gospel presentation goes something like this, well, you're hurting, you're lost, you can't find meaning so come to Jesus and he'll complete you. Fair enough, all that's true. But what's missing? Sin is missing. Sin is the reason Jesus died on the cross, to remove our sins. If we don't talk about sin, how can we preach the gospel of freedom from sin? Let's restore the teaching of sin as the issue which Jesus came to save us from. 


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Jesus eats with Sinners and Tax Collectors: The Parable of the New Wine into Old Wineskins

The last few weeks we were in the vineyard, working the fields, sweating, watering vines, pruning vines, getting sweaty, talking servanthood, talking pride vs. humility, talking about the kingdom of God pattern in regard to gifts received, timing, all of it.

Now we’re coming in from the vineyard fields, and we’re sitting down at a banquet to speak of other matters.

But first, we follow Jesus as he comes to a certain tax booth, and he calls a man that few others would have even spoken to. Jesus calls a tax collector.

Now, we today don’t think of tax collectors too poorly. It’s just another profession. We might dislike it, if someone maybe worked for the IRS, we would probably understand well it’s just their job.

Very different in ancient Israel. Israel had been conquered by the Roman empire, and the tax collectors were Jews working for Rome. So think of something quite different, what if the USA was conquered by Russia or China, and you had Americans who were working for the Russian government, collecting taxes on behalf of a foreign power. Additionally, tax collectors would collect above and beyond what the Romans required, and keep the extra for themselves.

We would probably see such a person as a traitor to the United States, serving a foreign power. Yet Jesus isn’t concerned about that. He looks past these kinds of distinctions directly to the person.

That is our calling as well. Keep this in your mind, and in your heart, incredibly important what I’m about to tell you…

See the person himself, or herself, not what they appear to be.

If I see a drunk guy, I don’t see a drunk guy, I see a man made in God’s image.

If I see a democrat, I see a person made in God’s image.

If I see someone high on drugs, I don’t see an addict, I see a woman made in God’s image.

If I see a police officer, a pedophile, a poor man, a rich woman, a politician, a sexually promiscuous man or woman, a girl with pink hair, a man with piercings all over his face, a gay or lesbian couple, a trump supporter, a far left progressive activist, a salesman at a marijuana store, a catholic, a protestant…

Train yourself to see past your first reaction to the person made in God’s image.

That is not easy, we as humans are wired to stereotype, to make assumptions, to otherize people, Jesus looks right to heart, and instead of seeing what they were, Jesus sees what they can be in Him.

And Jesus did the same for every single person here, when we were in sin, that’s when Jesus came to us, and changed us.

Take a look in your Bibles at Luke 5:27-32 which is the context for our parable today. It says:

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

This is something we considered several weeks back, that Jesus came for those who had been humbled by sin. Jesus came and the people that followed Him were simply people who were willing to admit, hey I need God, and I’m humble enough to admit it. So often you would see Pharisees reject Jesus, because they thought they had all they needed. Yet even near the end of Jesus ministry, many of the Pharisees did believe in Jesus.

In any case, we have to avoid two traps in our Christian mission. The first trap is the trap of the Pharisees. We’ve all here been set free from sin and made righteous in Christ. Sometimes though we can fall into the attitude of condemning those still caught in sin. So the Pharisees said to Jesus, why do you eat with sinners? We can end up the same way if we aren’t careful, we end up condemning others. Instead of offering them the same free gift we received.

Here's the second danger though, scriptures like this are sometimes used to justify sin. Well, Jesus ate with sinners, so that must mean that sinning is OK. Which is why when Jesus replied to the Pharisees, he said, “I have come to call sinners, to repentance.” One of those things you don’t hear about in the modern church much anymore, repentance, putting aside old ways and living the new way.

For some progressive Christians today though, they almost change the wording and want it to say, “I have come to learn from sinners and sin with them.” No, no, no.

That is not it either. Not even close.

So we find ourselves in this sacred balance, we have been made new and freed from every sin, and rightfully so, we despise those sins that used to keep us chained. I despise those things that used to control me and destroy me. How couldn’t I? Indeed, God hates sin far more than I do.

And yet, my job is not to condemn people caught in those sins. Or to look down on them. Or to think of them as less than. But to see them as people worthy of being treated with dignity, respect, kindness, love, and gentleness. People to be called to the love of Jesus, people to be called to repentance, to leave the dead ways and enter the way of life in Christ.

That is the sacred balance. See infinite worth and value in someone who may be blitzed, brutally drunk, smells bad, out of control, boisterous, rude, and to see still have the love of Jesus in your eyes for that person, learn that, and you’ll be on the golden road.

The conversation continues. Jesus is sitting at this banquet table with tax collectors who work for Rome, and sinners, prostitutes, drunks, and you’ve got pharisees, asking him questions.

Next…Luke 5:33-39, "They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”

34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

The Pharisees know that John the Baptist’s ministry is associated with Jesus’ ministry and John’s ministry they somewhat respected, even though it seemed odd to them. So they seem to try to drive a wedge here between John and Jesus’ disciples.

But they are simply trying to trip up Jesus in his words so they can accuse him. As a teacher, a rabbi, the Pharisees know if they can catch up him in his words and make him look wrong, they can use it as a basis for having him arrested for breaking jewish law.

Jesus is not concerned. He indicates that while he’s here, the people are celebrating, this is a great time, with Jesus on Earth with the people. Of course they should celebrate.

But Jesus doesn’t condemn fasting either. Fasting is a biblical practice. He says that after he is crucified, and resurrected and goes to heaven, then of course during those times the disciples will fast. Similar for us today, Jesus is not physically with us on Earth, he’s in heaven, so, we often fast and pray, fast and pray, in fact in this church we tend to fast together once a year at the beginning of the year as we seek God’s will for the year to come. Praise the Lord.

Next, Jesus tells a parable to illustrate the point he’s making. But actually, you could say it’s two parables.

It says: 36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

This is a fascinating parable. And there is not necessarily a consensus in theological circles about exactly what Jesus meant when he said this.

Here are some of the possible interpretations given…

1. Jesus’ teachings pitted against traditional Judaism (old replaced by new)

2. Jesus’ teachings greater than traditional Judaism (old gives way to the new)

3. Fasting question answered: Don’t replace the oral tradition with following the Torah, replace it with Jesus’ teachings

4. Fasting question answered: Fasting isn’t appropriate for the disciples of Jesus prior to Pentecost when they receive the Holy Spirit

In any case, what we see here is that Jesus is talking in terms they could understand. He’s telling a parable based on two concepts. First of all he talks about clothing.

If you have an old shirt, that you really like, you wouldn’t want to take cloth from a brand new shirt to patch it, because a new shirt will shrink when you wash it. So after you patched the old shirt and wash it, the new cloth on it would shrink and the patch wouldn’t hold properly.

Then Jesus talks about wineskins. In the ancient world to make wine you would have to gather the juice from the vineyard grapes you’ve harvested, and then you’d have to combine that juice with yeast, a living organism, into the juice, that converts the sugar in the grapes to alcohol during the fermentation process. But a massive biproduct of this process is carbon dioxide gas. So in the ancient world the juice would be placed with the yeast in these large wineskins, made from animals hide, because during the fermentation process the skins will expand and then detract as the gas is released.

So if you were to place the fermenting product in an old wineskin, it would expand and burst the skin. So you would need to place it in a brand new wineskin, which could handle the expansion due to the carbon dioxide gases.

So what is the point Jesus is trying to get across here? From my study, I think he’s trying to indicate several points to the Pharisees questioning him as well as to his disciples gathered around the table.

First that the way of perfect love which is the way of Jesus, which is also the way of the Old Testament, is something that we can only live out as a new vessel. It’s something we can only live after being born again, receiving forgiveness of our sins in Christ, and receiving the Holy Spirit as our guide and comforter.

And how often, in our day and age as well, do we see people who have not encountered Jesus Christ and been born again, attempting to live out a sort of religious practice. They have the practices, the formalism, the rituals, even the prayers, and the readings, but they don’t have Jesus Christ, they’ve not been made new, they are not born again of the Holy Spirit.

But secondly, this is told in response to a question about fasting. The disciples can’t fast while Jesus is with them, they’re rejoicing being with Jesus, but later, they Jesus will ascend to heaven, and then they will fast, because after this, they’ve received the Holy Spirit, the master is not there, and they will be filled anew.

Thirdly, he is speaking to the Pharisees about their entire attitude. They had questioned why he has sitting with sinners. Then they asked him why his disciples weren’t doing religious rituals. Well, Jesus the Lord is telling them, you’ve got it all backwards. You’re trying to create holiness in people without first seeing their fundamental nature changed.

And that was the practice of Torah, live by the rules of the Torah, by faith and you’ll be right with God. But Jesus had came to complete the work of the Torah, by changing people fundamentally from within.

The Pharisees had the attitude of many today, do religious things and you’ll be right with God. Those are certainly good things to do, Jesus did not reject things like fasting, prayer, church attendance, no but he is saying, you must be born again, made new, then you can practice the religious practices properly, then you can live the way God wants you to live.

His disciples would fast and pray, but not until after they’d been born again and given the Holy Spirit, and as well once Jesus had been taken away.

Jesus had flipped the pyramid structure upside down. Previously it had been a journey up a mountain, slowly learning the Old Testament laws and practicing them. Jesus flipped it and said no, actually, many of the worst sinners are going to enter first because they’re humble enough to realize they need me, they need Jesus to fundamentally change who they are. Then, they can live the way God wants them to live, working from a clean slate, a fresh start. That is the deep truth here.

Could anyone be a Christian who is not born again? Of course not. Like new wine in old skins, the skins burst, it doesn’t work.

But if the person is made new, born again, old gone, new here, then, they may live the Christian life, and the Holy Spirit, the new, can make a home in them.

So what does this mean for us today?

It means stop trying to make yourself good enough, and receive Jesus Christ as your savior first. Be fully born again and receive the Holy Spirit, then, you will fast and pray, and grow, and learn, and develop, and you’ll be supernaturally empowered to be all God has called you to be.

Applications

1. See beyond the exterior, see infinite worth in every person you meet “Made in the Image of God”

2. Despise sin, while valuing the person like gold

3. Refuse to pass judgment, while also discerning/using wisdom in all interactions

4. Invite sinners for dinner, but don’t join in their sin

5. Share the gospel as being born again, not just doing religious things

6. Do practice the discipline of fasting & prayer

7. See yourself as a Christian, as one who is a vessel for the Holy Spirit to minister through

In conclusion, I love a good feast, and there is one that I’m really looking forward to it’s called the marriage supper of the lamb, where we gather with Jesus Christ as the body of believers in heaven, to sit down and feast and fellowship together. That sounds wonderful to me, imagine it, thousands of tables, in all directions, the finest food, friends and fellowship, maybe we’ll be at the same table, since were a body of believers who do meet together on Earth, I would love that, but that is the dinner meal you want to be a part of.

And you can only get in by being born again, by receiving Jesus Christ as your savior, calling up His name alone, and receiving forgiveness for your sins, as well as a new nature, the Holy Spirit within, and repenting of your old ways, and living out the new way. Then God willing, we will be there together, to celebrate our eternal merging with Christ, as our representative before God, right now is the engagement period, but at the marriage supper, is the wedding, and so we shall be wed to our savior, forever and ever, to begin a new life, free from sin, with adventures that lead into an infinite future, beyond the sorrows of this life.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

What is the Dinner Church Movement?


What's the big deal about Dinner Church? The dinner church movement is growing across the country. It's simple, yet effective. Structured, yet chaotic. It's food, but more, it's faith.

Come to the table, that's the motto. Dinner church is simple: Sunday evening service, big meal, worship music and devotions, dessert, even a response time, and it's powerful. 

We've been doing it at our body of believers for a little over three years now. The biggest take away I saw was this: You see a lot of people who aren't comfortable walking into a church chapel who felt like they could come to this. That's a big deal.

But it was messy and challenging at first. Sometimes I could barely hear myself preaching over everyone talking at the same time. It definitely took time to make the model stick and make it work.

We would get a lot of people who were not professing Christians, or felt estranged from God. We would have a lot of homeless and low income people joining us. These are people who were often afraid of the Sunday morning chapel. Yet they felt comfortable in a dining room, or basement, or kitchen area, to come hear about God in that format. 

For me it echoed back to times of the early ministry of William and Catherine Booth, when William would preach in bars. He would get jeered at, he would have beer bottles thrown at him. And yet lives were being changed. People began coming to know Jesus. 

There were numerous times at dinner church when I would be preaching and people would sneer or start arguing or make rude remarks. It was really hard at first, but I began to see it as just the kind of ministry The Salvation Army has always been involved with.

To this day we love dinner church. We do worship, times of prayer and testimonies, devotionals, and lots of food. Just like the early church did, around the table, meeting together, feasting and talking about Jesus. After the sermon we have an open response time when people can raise their hands to give feedback and ask questions. 

Several who started with dinner church have joined our morning services as well, and several have become soldiers (church members). It's amazing! But to this day, we have people who attend our morning services, and an entirely different group who attend our evening dinner church. And it works. In both instances, people are learning about Jesus, and how to follow Him. 

I’m really grateful for dinner church it’s been a wonderful model to do church in a new way. We do it downstairs in our dining room. We got it started by putting up fliers around town, going door to door around the neighborhood, getting the word out at our daily meals at our corps facility, and by doing pickups around the community. We have a driver who will go to the local apartment complexes and trailer parks, and pick up people who want to attend. Many struggle with transportation in our area, so it's a great way to help people get there. We also relied heavily on social media platforms to get the word out, posting a great deal from our Facebook page. and Facebook group, as well as cross-posting to other local city groups for our area. And eventually word got around town and for the first year and a half we had about 25-30 people every Sunday. After COVID our numbers have dropped, today it’s more like 12-20, but we’re holding strong thanks to God’s grace. Truly Jesus is present when we gather around the dinner table to talk about Him!

The logo that we use for dinner church is Van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night" with a close up on the cafe, with a man in white serving the tables. While I was still in seminary, at an internship in St. Louis I asked for the Lord's leading and he led me to a plate I found at a Goodwill distribution center with the image embossed on the plate. Powerful stuff! Maybe God is calling you to start a dinner church at your church? 

Wanna learn more? You can learn about it at www.dinnerchurch.com

Otherwise the basic format we use is as follows: 
  • Welcome & Announcements
  • Opening Prayer
  • Time of Testimonies (people share blessings from the past week)
  • Time of Prayer (people share prayer requests, then we pray over them)
  • Praise and Worship (we lead the group in 2 songs, and a third reflection song)
  • Prayer over the Meal 
  • Dinner served Buffet style (we play Christian rock in the background as people get their food and eat)
  • Sermon Message (after people are done eating, we share a 10-12 minute sermon message)
  • Tithes and Offerings 
  • Dessert & Response Time (dessert is served and attenders are invited to ask questions and share what they learned from the message)
  • Closing Prayer