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Archive for April 2008

Mount Challenge and National Day of Prayer

Well, I started last night. The Sermon on the Mount challenge is happening in my house! I loved reading through the ‘first section’ of the sermon (the beatitudes) to each of my kids before bed last night. Each of them had a thought provoking question, because Jesus words are so challenging. One said “Dad, how can I be blessed if I am persecuted? Like, if other kids are making fun of me and not including me, I never feel good.” Great insight! And it led to thoughtful discussion.

I hope your personal time with the sermon on the mount is similarly challenging. Jesus won’t let you off-the-hook easy in this section. Every time I read it, I find that my life is out of whack with some sections of Jesus teaching. God messes with me and realigns me to be more like Jesus each time. You’ve gotta let the Bible mess with you! So read the pages of the scripture (Matthew 5, 6 and 7) one short section at a time… and memorize two beatitudes per week (Matthew 5:3-10). Watch your life transform before your very eyes!

You know, this is also a week that we are reminded of the power of prayer. Thursday, May 1 is the National Day of Prayer. People all over the nation who believe in Christ will be gather in their cities to pray for unity, strength and blessing. Omaha is no exception. Our church will be joining the city-wide effort to pray over our city and our nation. Hundreds of people will gather together to intercede on behalf of our city. It is perhaps the single greatest unifying Christian event in Omaha of the year. I am going for sure. Would you join me there?

Prayer is perhaps the greatest untapped force among American Christians today. We often underestimate the power of God unleashed through prayer. We have access any time we want to the throne room of the God of the Universe. Why would we ever ignore that? So, let’s be people of prayer – on our own, in our families, in our groups and this week, with the whole city together.

Thursday night at 7:00 Sharp at Salem Baptist Church (one of our dearly loved partners in Omaha!) – At the corner of 31st and Lake in North Omaha. Take I-80 to 75N. Exit at Lake Street and go left. In three blocks, you’ll see Salem on the left. See you there!

Mark

Our spirituality and our fruitfulness are always in proportion to the reality of our prayers.The Kneeling Christian

There is a holy audacity in Christian life and faith which is not inconsistent with the profoundest humility.
A. B. Simpson, C&MA; Founder

“Not a whisper of prayer is ever lost, the longer it waits, the larger it becomes.” — A. B. Simpson, Days of Heaven on Earth

Asking the Questions

This past week, we had Ken Dick [an elder at Christ Community] teach “in person” at the Sarpy Campus. Yes, “in person” is the correct description.

I will digress.

Too many times people say that a person will be “live” in concert or “live” preaching. I ask you, isn’t that obvious? The person will be live just because they are standing there talking or singing. So…as we transition into becoming a multi-site church, we need to make sure that we adopt the language of multi-sites. That we have people on the platform teaching, singing, etc that are “in person” not “live.”

There I feel better.

Ken asked us three powerful questions to ask yourself this at the end of his “in person” sermon on eternity.
1. In terms of eternity, how important is this?
2. Am I living my life with my bags packed?
3. Do I have an alien/sojourner mindset?

My application from those questions?
I used #1 when a driver wanted to cut in front of me because of merging traffic. Yes, I let him in.
#2 is causing me to evaluate how much stuff I have and that I don’t really need as many shirts and sweatshirts as I have. #3, I have to confess, I don’t. I’m trying to figure what that looks like. I like to plan and dream, but I believe I have to do that with a transitory, “just passing through” mentality. Big issue for me? I can believe and think that way, but reality is I don’t.

Stay posted as those three questions percolate in my heart and brain.

Judgment Seat – Bema Seat

So what about the Judgement Seat of Christ? In the notes to me after this week’s message, this was the most frequent question. The question came mostly from people over 60 who were formed in an era when Premillenial Dispensationalism was a dominant paradigm and prophecy conferences were in vogue. The idea in that paradigm is this:

“There are two judgements – one for believers, one for non-believers. As a believer, I will never go to the Great White Throne, I will go to the Bema Seat (also known as the Judgment seat of Christ) and never see unbelievers again. The Lamb’s book of life does not apply because I am already innocent in God’s eyes.”

This view is a Biblically plausible view, but certainly not conclusive. Here’s what we can know about the Bema Seat. The Bema seat is discussed in Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5 (listed below). In Corinth, there were Olympic-type sports. The person in the Bema seat would judge the athletes and determine who won the race. Then awards would be handed out for those who competed the best. Interestingly, the idea of a judgment seat is used not only as a reward stand, but also a place of judgement -even in the Biblical texts (See Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13). Technically, a bema seat is a raised area where judgements are made – pretty simple really.

So, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ (a.k.a. Bema Seat), that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Romans 14:10, 12 says “You then, why do you judge your brother? Or whay do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Is this a different place than the Great White Throne? It is impossible to tell conclusively because the two judgements are never talked about in the same passage. I would even argue that it seems the opposite. In the above verse, it speaks of us ALL appearing before the Judgement Seat. Matt 25, in Jesus story of the sheep and the goats, it seems as though the sheep and the goats come to judgement together and then are separated. At the Great White Throne, it says that the dead – great and small – come for judgement (no delineation for beleivers and non-believers.) Because of this, I lean toward a view that we will all be judged together.

Now, I still think it is possible that there will be two different judgements. Even the passages above are not crystal clear. If there is, however, then when will the Bema Seat judgement be? Some think it is immediately at death and you time warp to the New Heavens and New Earth. Some think it is pre-millenium and then we rule with Christ before the New Heavens and New Earth. Some think it is simultaneous to the GWT judgement. Some think it is after the GWT judgement when believers are together in the New Heavens and the New Earth. But guess what? The Bible is not clear on this matter. Premillenial Dispensationalists spoke about this with far more confidence than the Biblical support would merit.

On another note, some have wondered whether good AND bad will be remembered at the Judgment seat. Romans 14 says one must “give account of himself”. 2 Corinthians 5:10 specifically mentions good AND bad things done in the body. Let the text speak for itself.

Here is the best news of all though. Jesus died to cover the bad. He gave his life so you can go free. He is the ultimate rescuer of all who have done wrong. So we as believers need not fear judgement because our promised resurrection in Christ is secure. Now we are smart to rack up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6) and prepare for that moment when our deeds will be tested (I Cor. 3). But we need not fear death or hell, because Jesus has already paid the ticket for us. Yeah!

Some have wondered why I did not cover this in the sermon. Well, with limited time, there are only so many possibilities to cover, but I hope this blog moment has helped you!

I love it when Christians who have only heard one view put that view up against the Bible and begin to think new thoughts! Challenge one another and let the evidence guide your thinking!

What were those verses?

Some of you were not able to write down all of the verses from Sunday’s message on “What happens five minutes after I die?” Sorry about that! Here are the verses for those who want to do more personal study.

I Thes 4:13-5:3
I Cor 15
Revelation 19-21
Matthew 13:24-52
Romans 14:12
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Matthew 25:31-46
Luke 16:19-31
I Peter 3:19-20
John 5:22
Hebrews 9:27-28

Hope that helps you! And one piece of advice…let God and his word mess with you. I have had a number of emails saying “I was always taught…” My universal response will be “How does that compare with the Bible?” Our job is to align our view with the Bible! If we have to change, so be it.

Grace to you,
Mark

I'm Smiling

Go figure. The Sunday with key volunteers sick, more tech stuff to do than normal, service adjustments made on the fly, and I felt the least “prepared” to be campus pastor, we had more people attending the Sarpy Campus than ever before this past Sunday.

Over the past few months, I have discovered that I am a “short term pessimist and a long term optimist.” That means I try to do to much on my own and think that if I have enough time we can do a good job.

This journey with the Sarpy multi-site has stretched and humbled me more than in the shortest period of time in my 26 years of being a pastor. Yet, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I love working with such joyful volunteers and people who are passionate for reaching friends, neighbors and anybody else with God’s love.

I had an article given to me that listed books I should be reading. Sadly, I have similar lists of books a good pastor should read. Or in a weak moment I bought the book listed. Those books are sitting on a shelf in my office. They are books that I call, “Books I will read on vacation or when I am laid up with an injury but not sick.” In the article I came across a summary paragraph of a book entitled “Direct Hit” by Paul Borden. There was a sentence that I fell in love with. “Healthy congregations are defined by sacrifice. They exist more for those who are currently not part of the group than for those who comprise the current congregation.”

I realized that the sentence described our Sarpy Campus. After reading that sentence, I can’t help but smile. Knowing we have a wonderful volunteer team and that I won’t read Paul’s book.

Smiling,
Steve Walters

Five Minutes Finale

I have been dramatically encouraged about the feedback from our “Five Minutes After” series this past month. The people in our Atrium booth have said that they have never seen so many new people in a month before.

One guy “Johnny” told me about his friend from work, “Bobbi” who comes to Access every week, sits in the back, cries, and leaves early. She is overcome by the possibility of God’s truth really being true for her. She’s not ready for community yet, but she is getting the message of Jesus!

One member has found that her sister is coming for the first month. She has been loving her sister, praying for her, and gently inviting for 20 years. But this series has broken the ice for her.

Person after person is placing their faith in Jesus…the one who holds the keys to eternity. They are getting their questions answered in seeker groups and Gathering. They are making friends at MOPS and on sports teams. They are experiencing something fresh in our worship services. God is on the move at CCC.

Next week is our final installment. We will answer the question “What happens five minutes after you die?” Don’t miss the answer to this rich question!

Surprise yourself!

The best book I have read during this series on “Five Minutes After” has been N. T. Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope”. I think that Wright is possibly going to be the most influential British Theologian of our generation. His scholarship is impeccable, his thinking is clear and he is thoroughly Biblical. This book is written on a popular level and I would commend it highly!
Listen to this quote from the jacket cover if you want to get provoked to read: “For years, Christians have been asking, “If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?” It turns out tha many believers have been giving the wrong answer. It is not heaven”
Yowza. Make you want to read? Wright will hook you into the deep hope we have in the resurrection, and demonstrate how our future is deeply intertwined with our lives today. It is a thoughtful book!

A Month in review

I decided to reprint an article I submitted recently for a multi-site newsletter. They asked me to give an overview of what we are doing and how God is working. May you be encouraged as we remember what God has done over just 10 weeks of ministry.

We at Christ Community Sarpy have experienced Ephesians 3.20 weekly. God has truly done exceedingly, abundantly more than we would ever ask or think.

Our core team of 200 men, women and children started with a soft opening on January 27th. Over three Sundays we worked out the bugs of setting up in a Middle School. Many people showed up to help our Roadies team to assist them in rolling out the carpet, putting table cloths on the round tables in the cafeteria and general transforming a cafeteria into a room that felt relaxed, welcoming and relational.

We have had close to eleven months to prepare for our new campus. There was support in many ways from the Old Mill campus. What was and is still amazing to me is the number of people God placed on our core team that were perfect fits for the needs and ministry at the Sarpy Campus. God provided an engineer who loves to play with the autocad software program. Jason dove into designing the sizes of our portable cases, along with their weight to then decide what was the best size of trailer for our church. God also provided a Jim, who just happened to live close to the new campus and had a truck to haul the trailer and store the trailer at his house. There are many stories of how God brought others onto the core team. People who lived close to the middle school along with those who are now driving double the distance to Sarpy than from Old Mill just to have the experience of starting a multi site so when we start our next multi site campus [hopefully closer to them] they will have the background to help with the next site.

We have had exponential growth in our Journey Groups [small groups] along with continuing increase of numbers in our children’s ministry. That says to me that adults are wanting to connect with others and connect with God as well as the children are having fun and want to come back again while bringing their friends.

Our first soft opening service had 204 adults and children attending one of our two services. Our grand opening on February 17th saw 353 attending to hear our Lead Pastor Mark Ashton there to not only help greet those coming, but to also give us a challenging message in person. Our normal format is to have a week delay in our DVD message, allowing us to have time to review the sermon and craft discussion questions that can be discussed around the tables during the service. The following Sundays saw our attendance dip to 290 and 312. However, starting on the first Sunday in March our attendance jumped back to 353 with both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday having 368 total attendance. We finished March with 353 attending on the 30th.

We are excited to be intrinsically involved in seeing God work. Whether it is fringe people from the Old Mill campus getting deeply involved in the church or new families volunteering to help within attending two Sundays – we know that God is doing exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever imagine.

Internet Videos

Some people have been asking about accessing the commercial that was playing for our current message series, five minutes after, on TV this past week. If you missed it and want to see, you can catch it at this address:

http://www.youtube.com/user/murphyinternet

You know, anytime you want, you can see most of the videos that we have produced for our services on youtube. The easter video, Joshua typography theatre, office parody, Jonah animations. It’s all there! Just go to youtube.com and put the name ‘murphyinternet’ (no spaces) in the search bar and *badabing* it should pop up!

Priesthood

OK, so Natalie asks the questions “Are there priests in the church? What does the priesthood mean?”

The idea of priests comes from the system set up by Moses in the Old Testament. (Actually, the first priest I can think of is Melchizadek in Genesis 14, but the main system was from Moses 500 years later.) Moses set aside one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi, to run the sacrificial systems, guard the teaching of the law and intercede on behalf of the people. Unlike the other 11 tribes, they did not own land, but were dedicated to God.

Priests did the rituals, taught the scriptures, and were thought to be the intermediaries between people and God. In the New Testament this all changed.

After Jesus came, the Bible teaches that we have direct access to God through Christ. We don’t need sacrifices or intermediaries. We are called a “Kingdom of Priests”. The concept that is taught is the “Priesthood of all believers”. The fascinating thought is that we all have direct access to God for forgiveness, and hope, and life.

Some denominations still use the term ‘priest’ for the leaders of their churches. This can be totally appropriate as a title. But conceptually, we do not need intermediaries to go to God or forgive us or do rituals on our behalf. We have direct access to the throneroom of heaven. And that is good news!