Thursday, June 15, 2006

The NFL, Barnabas & Father's Day

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas - which means Son of Encouragement – sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

- Acts 4:36

read about a University football coach who each year would privately talk to a new player at the beginning of football season. He told him, “I’m very impressed with your ability. If you work really hard this year, I think you’re good enough to make it to the National Football League.” He told this to every player on the team! You know what happened? He had the highest percentage of players of any University to make it into the NFL.

We’ve all met people like that who believed in us so much that we began to believe in ourselves. The result was we tried harder and we did better. The Book of Acts introduces us to an early disciple who was that way.

We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36. He was a Levite from the Island of Cyprus and apparently had some wealth. The disciples called him “Son of Encouragement.” And his name definitely matched his character.

After the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus, Barnabas came along side Paul when no one else would. (Acts 9:26-27). Why? Barnabas was a very kind-hearted, gentle, and easy-going person. He had great compassion. And we will discover that Paul - unlike Barnabas - was a very stubborn man. Paul was used greatly by God but he was a very strong-willed man. Barnabas overlooked Paul’s rough character and they made an effective ministry team.

When the church in Antioch began to grow, Acts 11:22 tells us that Apostles is Jerusalem sent Barnabas there to help out the new church. Why? “He was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith; and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24)

In Acts 15:39 we read about Barnabas and a young minister named John Mark. Barnabas was willing to work patiently with John Mark when Paul - in harshness and haste - saw no hope for the young man. Do you see a pattern in the life of Barnabas?

We need more Barnabas’s in the church today. For that matter, we need more Barnabas-like fathers in the world: Fathers who are good and full of the Holy Ghost and faith. Fathers who will overlook character flaws and demonstrate compassion. Fathers who will see the potential in the younger generation and encourage it.
If you’re a father, you’re probably going to get an “interesting” gift today. Your children may do something that really makes you feel like a king. Soak it all it, because you deserve it and it’s good for your children to honor you. But honor them too by letting some of Barnabas rub off on you. Be a “Son of Encouragement.”

-Pastor Mark

Witness to a Miracle

One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time, there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here." He looked up, expecting to get something from them. Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked. The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple's Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.

- Acts 3:1-10 (MSG)

Imagine now that you are in the above passage. It’s a Sunday morning and you’re making your way from your car toward the front doors of the Labor Center. You do a double take because you see Peter and John walking ahead of you. You’ve heard so much about them and now here they are coming to Crane Chapel! You wonder what they are talking about...what they look like in person…what kind of personality each has. You reach those double glass doors and you see a man who is disheveled and crippled – probably homeless - stretched out in that little alcove and he’s calling out to everyone passing by. Everyone knows about this guy. He’s a nuisance -always begging for money. You’re uncomfortable and embarrassed. The anticipation of what will happen next grabs your throat. You see the crippled man reach out to touch Peter and John! Others have walked by and acted as if the crippled guy was invisible. What next?!

It’s a clear beautiful warm day and the sun is shining as if spotlighting the whole thing: Peter and John stop and reach down tenderly to the man. Peter speaks to him and offers his hand. The man takes Peter’s hand and looks intently into Peter’s eyes. You feel a strong sense of the Holy Spirit here and you watch in awe – with everyone else around you – as the man gets up off the ground, stands with help from Peter, becomes tall and straight, and starts walking! You can’t believe your eyes! You’ve never seen anything like this before and in an instant you realize that Jesus– through Peter- has touched the man with healing and grace and mercy! You’re numb. You make your way into the building in silent wonderment and take a seat. And there’s the crippled “nuisance” guy beaming, joyful, and totally healed! What are you thinking?

Now, think about what those who witnessed the experience at Gate Beautiful in Acts Chapter 3 were thinking. This was actually the very first miracle of the new Church in Acts. We read in Chapter 4 that five thousand people were added to the Church. Do you think those witnesses just went home and thought about it? …Had they, would those five thousand have been added?

- Pastor Mark

Friday, June 02, 2006

They Devoted Themselves...

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” - Acts 2:42

When you’re in the midst of a large project, every now and then you stand back and take a breath and look around. Sometimes in awe. If you missed the last few days at our building site you missed some awe. The foundation of Crane Chapel’s new church building is now standing - quickly erected over a period of just days! Milestones like this are good landing-places for us to consider again the mission of God’s Church.

In the Book of Acts, there are a number of such landing-places where Luke suspends the course of his narrative, in order to give us a general idea of the condition of the Church at the moment. Acts 2:42 is such a resting-place.

We’ve already seen how the early Church got its start with an encounter with the living God on the day of Pentecost. Luke records that thousands were brought to faith in Christ that day and were added to the Church. But their faith not only changed their destiny. It changed the way they lived!

What you believe affects what you do. This was certainly true of the first Christians. The text says that they devoted themselves. They devoted themselves first to the apostles’ teaching. In other words, they gave a high priority to understanding the Truth. Now that they had come to know Jesus, they wanted to know more about Him. They wanted to understand how to apply this teaching to their lives. Are you devoted to teaching?

The second thing they devoted themselves to was the fellowship. It is interesting how many people think that they really don’t need the fellowship of other believers. Not so for the early Church. They saw the need to continually devote themselves to a shared life with other believers. You can only experience true fellowship by giving diligent attention to meeting together with other believers. Are you devoted to fellowship?

Thirdly, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. Now this could mean one of two things – but probably both. It could mean that they shared their meals together. But it most likely meant that they devoted themselves to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. We observe this today.

Finally, Luke tells us that they devoted themselves to prayer. Their focus was heavenward, toward God Himself. They gave themselves to a life of prayer. … And so we see that God’s Church is a church in which people exhibit a deep level of commitment – a devotion to the disciplines of teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. Let’s remember that. Our new building is only a physical structure – a place where we meet to express, share, and affirm our commitment to Christ.

– Pastor Mark

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Building Foundations

The first and foremost part of any building project, after receiving the blueprint, is the layout and installation of the foundation. All the tools and equipment and manpower are of no use until the foundation work is properly laid. And regardless of the efforts put into the construction of the foundation, the integrity of the foundation will be adversely affected by improper soil conditions. Those involved in Crane Chapel’s building project are very aware of these details. Bottom line: buildings need a well-thought-out, firm foundation and even the dirt has to be in good condition.

But let’s step back from Crane Chapel’s building project and consider another type of foundation. June is traditionally a month of weddings and wedding anniversaries and it’s a good time to reflect on the foundation of marriage. Much like the foundation for a building, marriage is the supporting building block of … well, human civilization! Read Genesis Chapter Two. After He created the universe, the first thing God instituted was marriage! God’s entire plan for human relationships begins with marriage. When we dismiss God’s plan for marriage, we undermine it altogether and society suffers.

Tragically, this is exactly what has happened over the last few decades. For the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning of the terms “marriage” and “family.” The loss of a true biblical understanding of marriage and family has led to a complete breakdown of the institution -- even among Christians.

Marriage is now easily severed by divorce. And even within traditional Christian marriages, couples refuse to acknowledge and accept their God-ordained roles and responsibilities. When marriage fails, the whole family falls apart; when the family fails, the whole society suffers. And every day the headlines are filled with society’s suffering. It may seem like an oversimplification of things, but the breakdown of marriage is a huge part of what’s going wrong in our world today.

So what kind of foundation makes a marriage work? In a word: God. God is the architect. He designed the blueprint for marriage and His Word addresses an entire spectrum of issues related to marriage and family. Issues from gender roles to human sexuality, reproduction, parenthood, and more. God’s design is that marriages are characterized by companionship, support, love, affection, full communication, understanding and mutual respect. Husbands and wives must fully realize that marriage is a life-long commitment regardless of wealth or poverty, health or sickness, or “irreconcilable differences.” Scripturally speaking there is only one (yes, one!) valid reason for divorce. So there’s the foundation: God’s Word.

Sadly, too many marriages have gone ahead and built on flawed foundations. They’ve ignored God’s blueprint or they’ve compromised it by selecting only the sections they like. And for a while (and in some cases many years) these marriages are maintained and they appear healthy. But over time, evidence of foundation failure manifests itself. The exterior structure deteriorates and a lot of time and effort are spent cosmetically repairing things rather than correcting the foundation. And what about the soil? (Crane Chapel’s building project was actually delayed because our soil samples exposed bad dirt!) What’s the condition of each spouse’s personal relationship with God? That’s the soil test of marriage! That’s where you have to start.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A cord of three stands is not quickly broken.” The rope-makes of the ancient world discovered that a rope made of a single or even a double stand of thread could be broken very easily; however, a rope made of thee stands was not so easily broken. The verse is not so much about ropes as it is about marriage. A person by him or herself, without companionship, support and love is like a cord of one stand. They are not very strong. Two people who support and love each other, like a rope of two stands, is stronger. A three-stand cord, however, is even stronger. In marriage a thee-stand cord is husband and wife and God. This sort of marriage is not easily broken.

There is no way to build a solid marriage without God. There is no way to sustain a marriage outside of His instructions. And while a solid marriage is built more quickly when both husband and wife accept and practice a Scriptural foundation for marriage, God expects each of us to respond to him regardless of the circumstances of our family. When only one spouse is committed to God, the union can still be blessed! The best part is that God allows and encourages us to turn from our past and begin following Him today.

How many cords are there in your marriage? What’s the condition of your foundation? How about the soil?

- Pastor Mark Goossen