Friday, September 08, 2006

Snapshots From an Extraordinary Journey...

Admittedly, family vacation snapshots are not standard fare for a church newsletter. Family photos just don’t mean much to anyone except the family members captured in them. But these snapshots might just be the exception to any such rule. See, our family’s ordinary journey to Indiana and Kentucky in August brought us face to face (literally) with Crane Chapel’s exciting future and it’s esteemed past. After attending a week of classes at FLAME (Fellowship of Leaders Acquiring Ministerial Education) in Frankfort, Indiana, we headed to Zionsville, Indiana to visit Joe and Della Matt along with Dave and Nancy. The Matts really do have a deep love for Crane Chapel and Crane Chapel has a rare appreciation, understanding and respect for the Matt Family. The Matts aren’t just former pastors. The Matts are Crane Chapel’s heritage. The Matt Family has truly influenced generations. And these particular family photos are priceless.

In much the same way, the snapshots of the early Church we’ve been uncovering in the Book of Acts are priceless and designed to instruct and influence generations of Christians. As Christians, these snapshots are our heritage. The Apostle Paul’s Extraordinary Missionary Journeys are no exception; and this is where we’re going next in our Building the Church Series. Paul’s first missionary journey starts in Acts Chapter 13, where we see the first powerful expansion of the Church. Acts 13:49 records, “…the Word of the Lord was being preached throughout the whole region.”

The Apostle Paul’s Missionary Journeys are not just a piece of New Testament history. Paul’s experiences are precious family snapshots. They are reminders that the same things experienced by Paul and his companions will happen wherever and whenever the Gospel is preached.

Our study over the next weeks should spur us to reexamine our own conclusions about what the church is and should be doing. The Church in 2006 – indeed Crane Chapel itself -- retains its legitimacy only in as much as it presents a continuum of the Early Church. The Church in Acts was not stagnant or self-serving. It was not a church gripped with too many details and social concerns. Paul told Timothy: “Preach the Word!” (II Timothy 4:2) This is what Church is all about. Too many modern churches have usurped Christ’s position as head of the Church and have allowed “the way we’ve always done it” or “this is what the community needs” to dictate the future. Let’s allow this study of Paul’s Journeys to really focus the true mission of the Church. These snapshots really are the framework for the Church for every generation.

- Pastor Mark Goossen

The Great Debate Over Grace. . .

Crane Chapel is a very busy church. We have a lot of meetings! We’ve got AWANA Meetings, Trustee Meetings, Church Board of Administrators Meetings, Youth Worker Meetings, WMS Meetings, Planning Meetings, Worship Committee Meetings (the list goes on…). Well, Acts Chapter 15 describes the most important meeting of the Early Church. And the issue at hand is one that affects all of us today -- regardless of which meeting(s) you attend or don’t attend here at Crane Chapel. The future of the entire Church was at stake in Acts 15: Was it to remain a sect of Judaism, or would it allow uncircumcised Gentiles? Remember Christ said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19) Let's look deeper at the controversy and how the Council of Jerusalem was formed.

“Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, `Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' " (Acts15:1) They were saying that circumcision was required for salvation. They probably figured: Christians should obey God and God commanded circumcision. Paul and Barnabas had a very different opinion: "And Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them…”(Acts 15:2). How was the argument to be resolved? In the interest of unity within the Church, Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders over the controversy. And like most controversial meetings, it had a name: The Jerusalem Council.

Among the Council was Peter. (Remember good-old outspoken Peter?!) In the first of three speeches at the council, Peter began to scold those who wanted the Gentiles to obey the laws of Moses. His words amounted to one of the strongest defenses of salvation by grace alone contained in all of Scripture: “…why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (Acts 15:10-11). This verse is the crux of the entire matter! Peter's point is that the “yoke” of Moses’ various laws were a burden that the Jewish people were – frankly -- unable to keep. No matter how hard people worked to keep those rituals, they could never be perfect. They showed that works can never lead to salvation. Salvation is attained in a different way. By grace. Grace alone. We cannot earn it. It must be given to us. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Are you trusting in God’s Gift of Grace or your own “works?”

- Pastor Mark