Making Giving Easier.. AGAIN!

To explain why we think this will be a helpful upgrade, please read the following blog from the company behind this technology:

Giving isn’t a transaction.

1. Generosity is a lifestyle. 

Traditionally, giving was done within the four physical walls of the church, but generosity and the church have never been limited to a building. Smart Giving is a system that matches this belief. You can give in church, during the service at home, at work, or literally anywhere else. Smart Giving frees us to think of our giving and our church as a part of our life, not just our Sunday. 

2. The focus is on the gift, not the technology.

Great technology should make you forget you’re even using it. Smart Giving technology does as little as possible to interrupt moments of worship. You don’t have to get out of your seat, you don’t have to pull out your wallet, and you don’t have to write anything down. You can complete your gift while focusing on what’s happening, in that second. Technology should never impede generosity. 

3. The relationship is between the Giver, God, and the Church. 

Tens of thousands of people use Kindrid’s services to give, however, most people never even hear of us. That’s the way it should be. Smart Giving is a brand built to respect the fundamental relationship between the giver, God, and the church. Not the giver and God, and the Church, and Kindrid. 

4. It’s a gift, not a transaction and not a donation. 

There is a difference between a gift and a transaction. And that difference should be visible throughout the whole giving process. Whether in the way thank you messages work, how a confirmation email is sent, or in the words we use. This all matters. When we make a gift, it shouldn’t feel like we just bought something with Paypal.

Check out the instructional video if you'd like to try out the new, secure giving format:


Never Again is Now - Time to WAKE UP!

Today's Holocausts

When the history books were written about WWII, the world promised... NEVER AGAIN! Never again would we allow a holocaust to happen under our noses. In 2015, we are letting it happen again on a much larger scale. 

A Christian Holocaust

Are you aware of what is happening to the once-thriving Christian community in Iraq and Syria? There is a new genocide that is happening in the very cradle where Christianity was born. Check it out:

And the American Government doesn't seem to care:

The following text comes from Johnnie Moore's book, Defying ISIS:

The dictionary defines martyr as “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.” In the sixteenth century, a Christian “book of martyrs” was famously compiled by John Foxe to insure that subsequent generations of Christians would never forget the tragic stories of those who had given life and limb for the cause of Christ. Foxe begins his classic with these words:
“(The) Church has endured and held its testimony of Christ through every attack brought against it. Its passage through the storms caused by violent anger and hate has been glorious to see, and much of its history is written in this book so that the wonderful works of God might be to Christ’s glory and that the knowledge of the experiences of the Church’s martyrs might have a beneficial effect upon its readers and strengthen their Christian faith.”
Foxe’s book has been passed down through generations of Christians. Millions have read and told its stories, and told them as legends from a bygone era. We have celebrated their faith and heroism, and thanked God that we didn’t live in an era where our faith might cause us to be thrown to lions, crucified, beheaded, sold as slaves, impaled on stakes, or buried alive.

Yet, as a shame to our modern world, this barbarism persists; history is replaying itself in places like Iraq and in Syria, and we’re witnessing a new Foxe’s Book of Martyrs being written every single day at the hands of terrorists who intend on giving both Christians, and everyone else, one option: convert or die. 

We need to get involved! Pray, fast and give! Mercury One Charities is raising funds to rescue these persecuted Christians from the horrors of ISIS. Check it out here.

“It Is Finished!” Jesus Does Not Need Your Help

by Tony Miano

Jesus' words, "It is finished," appears only twice in the New Testament--John 19:28 and John 19:30.

"After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), 'I thirst.' A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:28-30, emphasis added).

What Does Tetelestai Mean?

"It is finished," which is one of Jesus' most important statements, is translated from the single Greek word tetelestai. The grammatical structure of the Greek word, perfect passive indicative, is very important.

The perfect tense indicates that the progress of an action has been completed and the result of that action is ongoing and with full effect. The passive voice indicates that the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, and the indicative mood indicates a statement of fact or an actual occurrence from the writer's or speaker's perspective. While this may sound like more of a grammar lesson than most readers care for, this information is, again, very important to understanding the significance of Jesus' words. Allow me to break it down.

What Did Jesus Finish?

Let's begin by identifying what the "it" is. What did Jesus finished? Jesus gives us the answer throughout the gospels, and the New Testament writers give us the answer throughout the epistles.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).

Jesus obeyed the Father by being the perfect fulfillment of the Law of God and the prophesies regarding the Messiah. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36).

"Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12:51).

Jesus did not come to preach a message of coexistence, tolerance, or ecumenism. Jesus made it clear that you are either with the one true God or against Him. Such truth was and is today the most divisive message the world has ever known. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him" (John 5:43).

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38).

Jesus came in the name of the only true God and to perfectly do His will. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father" (John 10:37-38).

Jesus came to perfectly do the works of His Father so people could understand that He and the Father were one (John 10:30). Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." (John 12:46-48).

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6).

Jesus came as the light of the world, giving fallen mankind the opportunity to move from utter darkness into His marvelous light. He came to save people. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"Then Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice'" (John 18:37).

Jesus came as fully God and fully Man to be the incarnation of the Truth of God. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:21-26).

"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:14-18).

Jesus came to make propitiation for our record of sin against God. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Romans 5:6-11).

Jesus came to make reconciliation between God and man possible. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Jesus came to die for and to purify His Bride, the Church. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus came to glorify His Father through His life, death, and resurrection. Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father.

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Jesus came to make a way, the only way, for people to find mercygrace, and help in time of need. Jesus, the sympathetic Savior, finished the work given to Him by His Father.

Jesus Declared His Work Finished!

Having identified the "it" (the work God the Father had given God the Son to accomplish on earth), let's take a look at what Jesus meant when he cried out that He had finished the work.

As I mentioned early in this article, having an understanding of the structure of the sentence in the Greek text is very helpful toward grasping the full weight of Christ's forever-memorable words.

What Jesus did through His perfect earthly existence, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection fully completed the work the Father had given Him to do. Not only did He complete His salvific work, but His accomplishment is fully efficacious, today and will be forevermore. There is nothing more to add--nothing more to be done by God, man, or religious institutions. The undeniable, factual, historic, and eternal work of Jesus Christ has been completed--is complete--and will forever remain completed. "IT...IS...FINISHED!"

"It is finished!" Jesus finished the work given to Him by His Father, which culminated at the cross. At the cross, the gavel of the Supreme Judge of the Universe crashed upon His mighty bench when God the Father, pleased to crush His Son, poured the full cup of His wrath against sin upon His innocent Son.

"It is finished!" At the cross, the Great Exchange took place (2 Corinthians 5:21Colossians 2:13-15). The eternal debt owed for the sin of mankind was paid in full. God the Father looked upon His perfect, precious, and priceless Son as if He had lived the filthy, detestable, sin-stained lives of fallen mankind. And, for those who repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God the Father looks upon them as if they had lived His Son's perfect, precious, and priceless life.

"It is finished!" At the cross, God kept His promise to crush Satan's head through the bruising of His Son. The power of sin and death was vanquished once and for all time.

"It is finished!" Jesus Christ's finished work on the cross forever made man's work to appease God, to please God, and to be reconciled to God, impotent and blasphemous.

The sin debt I owe to God was and is paid in full by my Lord and Savior, my Master and King, Jesus Christ, when He shed His innocent blood on the cross on my behalf! IT...IS...FINISHED!

Implications of Tetelestai

The implications of Jesus' words on the cross are eternally positive for those who repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior--by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. However, the implications of Jesus' words on the cross are eternally negative for any organization or individual who seeks to add to, detract from, or replace not only Jesus' words on the cross, but also the work He accomplished to the glory of God the Father.

Every man-made religion and each of their faithful adherents stand, right now, in the cross-hairs of God's wrath. "For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:34-36).

Roman Catholicism denies the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross through the practice and observance of the mass. During the mass, through the unbiblically magical art of transubstantiation (Jesus literally becoming the bread and the wine), Jesus must sacrifice Himself again and again for sin.

Jehovah's Witnesses deny the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross by denying Christ died on the cross and by insisting one must be a member of the Watchtower Society and obey the Law of God to receive their demonic brand of salvation.

Mormonism denies the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross by adding their perceived righteousness and works to their ungodly salvation process. According to 2 Nephi 25:23, in the Book of Mormon, salvation is by grace, plus works. "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."

Islam denies the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross by seeing Jesus as nothing more than a prophet, second to their false prophet Muhammad. They also believe it was Judas (a treacherous false convert), not Jesus, who died on the cross.

But the implications of Jesus' words on the cross extend beyond false religions and into American Evangelicalism.

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross by spending time and resources wooing the unsaved to the "Christian Club" instead of calling them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, how many times I have heard the testimonies of professing Christians--testimonies that culminate with happy membership at a church and not with the bending of the knee, in repentance and by faith, at the foot of the cross.

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross, diminishing the gospel as the power of God for salvation, by insisting Jesus and the gospel need the help of man's innovation and perceived ability to make the gospel more palatable. This is demonstrated through gimmicks, sales pitches, bait and switch tactics, and playing to the primal desires of health, wealth, prosperity, ease, comfort, and happiness without accountability.

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross by teaching unbiblical mantras such as:

  • "Christians have to earn the right to share the gospel with someone."
  • "Unbelievers need to see Jesus in you before they will hear what you have to say."
  • "People need to hear more than ‘Jesus can forgive your sins and give you eternal life.’ They need help with the real problems they're facing today."

Some churches deny the efficacy of Jesus' finished work on the cross by failing to distinguish service, helps, and hospitality from evangelism, which is the actual and literal presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and bound for Hell.

And the list goes on...

When Jesus said, "It is finished," He meant it. He actually meant what He said. He really meant it. For any group or any individual to add or detract from Christ's words or finished work, regardless of the religious stripes they wear, is the height of arrogance and the depth of depravity.

But let's conclude on an up note. Having read several commentaries on John 19:30, I was particularly moved by the thoughts of Bible commentator and Presbyterian minister Matthew Henry. I will be adding the following to my open-air preaching Bible:

The dying word wherewith he breathed out his soul (v. 30): When he had received the vinegar, as much of it as he thought fit, he said, It is finished; and, with that, bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. Observe,

What he said, and we may suppose him to say it with triumph and exultation, Tetelestai- It is finished, a comprehensive word, and a comfortable one.

  1. It is finished, that is, the malice and enmity of his persecutors had now done their worst; when he had received that last indignity in the vinegar they gave him, he said, "This is the last; I am now going out of their reach, where the wicked cease from troubling."
  2. It is finished, that is, the counsel and commandment of his Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled; it was a determinate counsel, and he took care to see every iota and tittle of it exactly answered, Acts 2:23. He had said, when he entered upon his sufferings, Father, thy will be done; and now he saith with pleasure, It is done. It was his meat and drink to finish his work (ch. 4:34), and the meat and drink refreshed him, when they gave him gall and vinegar.
  3. It is finished, that is, all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished and answered. He speaks as if, now that they had given him the vinegar, he could not bethink himself of any word in the Old Testament that was to be fulfilled between him and his death but it had its accomplishment; such as, his being sold for thirty pieces of silver, his hands and feet being pierced, his garments divided, etc.; and now that this is done. It is finished.
  4. It is finished, that is, the ceremonial law is abolished, and a period put to the obligation of it. The substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. Just now the veil is rent, the wall of partition is taken down, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, Eph. 2:1415. The Mosaic economy is dissolved, to make way for a better hope.  
  5. It is finished, that is, sin is finished, and an end made of transgression, by the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness. It seems to refer to Dan. 9:24. The Lamb of God was sacrificed to take away the sin of the world, and it is done, Heb. 9:26.
  6. It is finished, that is, his sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul and those of his body. The storm is over, the worst is past; all his pains and agonies are at an end, and he is just going to paradise, entering upon the joy set before him. Let all that suffer for Christ, and with Christ, comfort themselves with this, that yet a little while and they also shall say, It is finished.
  7. It is finished, that is, his life was now finished, he was just ready to breathe his last, and now he is no more in this world, ch. 17:11. This is like that of blessed Paul (2 Tim. 4:7), I have finished my course, my race is run, my glass is out, mene, mene-numbered and finished. This we must all come to shortly.
  8. It is finished, that is, the work of man's redemption and salvation is now completed, at least the hardest part of the undertaking is over; a full satisfaction is made to the justice of God, a fatal blow given to the power of Satan, a fountain of grace opened that shall ever flow, a foundation of peace and happiness laid that shall never fail. Christ had now gone through with his work, and finished it, ch. 17:4. For, as for God, his work is perfect; when I begin, saith he, I will also make an end. And, as in the purchase, so in the application of the redemption, he that has begun a good work will perform it; the mystery of God shall be finished. 1

Usage of Tetelestai

While doing some research for this article, I learned there were several ways the word tetelestai was used in Greco-Roman culture—all of them illustrative of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

An artist might have said Tetelestai! when he finished a painting in order to announce, "the picture is perfect." Jesus, the Master Artisan, declared from the cross that the picture of salvation He had drawn from eternity past was always perfect, but now complete. It is finished!

A servant might have confidently said Tetelestai! when asked by his master if the work he had been assigned to do was complete. The servant would say, “Yes, master. I have finished the work.” Jesus, the Suffering Servant, completed the work His Father had given Him. It is finished!

A judge might have said Tetelestai! when he conferred a sentence or when issuing a ruling that a sentence had been completed. The judge would say, "Justice has been served." There is only one Lawgiver and Judge--only One who is able to save and destroy. And as the Father turned His back on His Son, the Father was well pleased. It pleased the Father to crush His Son. It is finished!

A priest might have said Tetelestai! when he recognized an unblemished and acceptable sacrifice for God. The priest would announce to the person offering the sacrifice that the offering was acceptable according to the law of God. And, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16). Yes, our Great High Priest, Jesus the Lord, not only mediates for His people as a priest but He Himself was and is the perfect sacrifice. It is finished!

A merchant might have said Tetelestai! after stamping a bill "the debt has been paid." The Christian's debt has been paid in full by the propitiation of Jesus Christ. By Jesus paying the Christian's sin debt in full, "God [has] made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:13-15). It is finished!

A soldier might have said Tetelestai! as a battle cry toward a vanquished foe. The soldier would yell, "You are finished!" Jesus' cry on the cross was not a cry of despair or defeat. Oh, no. When Jesus cried with a loud voice, He was declaring victory of the enemy--Satan, sin, and death. It is finished!

The Artist had the last word as to the meaning of the painting—not the art critic. The Servant knew if the work in the house had been completed and approved by the Master—not the stranger who entered the house. The Judge determined the sentence, it’s execution, and it’s satisfaction—not the convicted criminal. The Priest determined if one’s sacrifice was acceptable to God—not the penitent. The Merchant determined if a debt was paid—not the debtor. The Victorious Warrior determined the future of his combatant—not the defeated enemy.

Jesus Christ is the Artisan, the Servant, the Judge, the Priest, the Merchant, and the Victor—you are not. Your religion is not. Your intellect is not. Therefore, repent of any false ideologies that add works to Christ’s finished work. Repent of any arrogant notions, through manmade philosophies of ministry, which would presume to finish the work that Christ has already finished.

Jesus said, “It is finished!” And He meant it.

IT...IS...FINISHED! It is finished, indeed. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Thank You.

  • 1. Matthew Henry's Unabridged Commentary on John 19:30

Discipleship Qualities - What to Look For in Men

Found this article while going through a Pastor's packet from last year's conference.

A number of years ago Pastor Mitchell presented a list of things he looked for in disciples in a breakfast meeting. The following seven qualities were the result:

Faithfulness

The ability to continue on with a project, vision, or ministry.

Relationships

The ability to support and encourage a wife, maintain a marriage and have control over children. The ability to make and keep friends, resolve conflicts and remain flexible

Fruitfulness

A person who possesses skills in follow-up, group ministry such as bible studies and bands and who communicates clearly. This person also has momentum in personal spiritual growth.

Finances

Someone who is capable of managing the finances of a marriage and meets their financial obligations in a timely and adequate manner

Self-Motivation

The self-motivated can initiate and follow through on projects. They do not need a full game plan or hands-on guidance to finish the task.

Discipline

The disciplines of a spiritual life include prayer, bible study, evangelism and worship. There is also discipline in details, timeliness and availability form ministry that must be cultivated.

Teachable

Leaders and disciples must be receptive to discipline, correction and instruction from headship. This must be maintained when others are promoted, in times of laboring in obscurity and among one’s peers.

Leave a comment below to add qualities that you want to see cultivated in yourself and in your DISCIPLES!

The Good Shepherd

Last night, I preached a message that has been on my mind and my heart as we approach another new year. King David the Psalmist framed his relationship with God in this way, "The Lord is my shepherd", and in doing so, continues to give us revelation about our lives in the Kingdom of God.

1. The Righteous are God's Sheep - This is not exactly a compliment if you know anything about sheep. You'll never find a "Mighty Sheep" as a high school mascot, sheep have no natural defense mechanisms, poor eyesight, etc.. It seems like they are destined to be the bottom of the food chain. We people also have many weaknesses, if only we are willing to admit them. One of the most empowering things you could ever do is to realize your limitations, embrace them and put yourself under the authority of a good shepherd. Because, after all, a sheep under the care of a shepherd finds himself enjoying great freedom and blessing.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. [Ps 23:2,3]

 

 

2. We are all called to "Shepherdhood" - A pastor is a shepherd to the church. An elder or deacon is a shepherd within the body. A husband is a shepherd to his wife. Parents are shepherds to their children. A teacher is a shepherd to his students. An employer is a shepherd his employees. An older child is a shepherd to his younger bothers and sisters. Anyone who leads in anyway is a shepherd who is responsible for the care of another. How are you leading the sheep that God has given under your care?

With these things in mind, I want to take these last few weeks of the year to renew the sacred shepherd/sheep relationship with the flock that God has entrusted to me. I will be making time betweeen now and the end of the year to hold pastoral meetings with anyone who wishes to do so. These meetings have been extemely helpful to me and to those who have taken advantage of them in the past.

If you're reading this, then you are heartily invited to respond to set up a time that we can meet. I'd like to have individual meetings with everyone, and also meetings with married couples. Please contact me to setup the date/time of your meeting. Looking forward to it!

Don't Go It Alone!

This post comes from the very helpful Renewed Heart blog:

When Neo is set free from the Matrix, he joins the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar—the little hovercraft that is the headquarters and ship of the small fellowship called to set the captives free. There are nine of them in all, each a character in his own way, but nonetheless a company of the heart, a “band of brothers,” a family bound together in a single fate. Together, they train for battle. Together, they plan their path. When they go back into the Matrix to set others free, each one has a role, a gifting, a glory. They function as a team. And they watch each other’s back. Neo is fast, really fast, but he still would have been taken out if it hadn’t been for Trinity. Morpheus is more gifted than them all, but it took the others to rescue him.

You see this sort of thing at the center of every great story. Dorothy takes her journey with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, and of course, Toto. Maximus rallies his little band and triumphs over the greatest empire on earth. When Captain John Miller is sent deep behind enemy lines to save Private Ryan, he goes in with a squad of eight rangers. And, of course, Jesus had the Twelve. This is written so deeply on our hearts: You must not go alone. The Scriptures are full of such warnings, but until we see our desperate situation, we hear it as an optional religious assembly for an hour on Sunday mornings.

Think again of Frodo or Neo or Caspian or Jesus. Imagine you are surrounded by a small company of friends who know you well (characters, to be sure, but they love you, and you have come to love them). They understand that we all are at war, know that the purposes of God are to bring a man or a woman fully alive, and are living by sheer necessity and joy in the Four Streams. They fight for you, and you for them. Imagine you could have a little fellowship of the heart. Would you want it if it were available?

Let's renew our commitment to sharing our struggles by linking hearts together.

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Why Would A Christian Even Think About Celebrating Halloween?

I don't get it.. Vampires, zombies, blood, pillowcases full of sugar, hyper-sexualization of the youngest girls among us.. Halloween is now the most celebrated "holiday" (although, not a holy-day by any stretch) in public schools. It is well-documented how deeply "All-Hallows Eve" is rooted in Celtic pagan practices.

Haven't we been commanded, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." (Phil. 4:8)?

 Martin Luther sparks the Protestant Reformation on Oct 31, 1517

Martin Luther sparks the Protestant Reformation on Oct 31, 1517

Especially when we have something far more historically and spiritually significant- Reformation Day! Celebrating October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany which served to bring momentum to would would later be known as the Protestant Reformation.

Rarely do we have such a wonderful chance to so completely redeem such a horrific day, so let's do it! Reclaim our Protestant heritage and don't give credence to the darkest day on the American calendar.

Exactly What I Need

It’s 3:13 AM, and even though I’m thoroughly exhausted, I’m having trouble falling asleep. It’s the jet lag, no doubt. The missions team to Arusha, Tanzania in East Africa began on Monday afternoon when we met at the church around 2:30 PM. Thanks to a drive up to DC, a flight into Istanbul, then another to Kilimanjaro, then a final hour-long drive here to Arusha we have finally stopped moving after nearly thirty hours. I can tell already though, it’s going to be worth it.

Whenever you travel out of a first-world culture into a third-world culture, it’s almost like going back 50 years in a time machine. Let me start by describing what I can hear: There is the soft drumming of raindrops into broad plant leaves outside the window. I can hear the other weary team members getting settled into their rooms close to mine. I can hear the muted taps of the keys as I’m typing on my laptop. Other than these things, I can hear.. nothing. It’s the sweet, enveloping silence that is so rare in modern American life in the 21st century. There’s no background music, no road noise, no a/c units humming, no message alerts. Without Wi-Fi or cell service, this is the first time I find myself without internet access in… years! I’m ecstatic!

I’m glad we opted to pay one-fifth the price to stay in a simple African style hotel, rather than the exuberant western-style hotel down the street. It would have afforded our team the same comforts and luxuries that we are so used to in Virginia Beach. How boring. Instead, we are staying in a place that I can tell was built by the owner. No, he literally built it with his own hands. We each have about 90 sq. ft. to call our own for the next week; just enough room for a bed and a washroom. You might think that I’m complaining, but it’s just the opposite. As I was showering off the airplane funk, watching the water drain into the squat toilet three feet away, and looking at open wiring on the water heater/shower head combo, I began to rejoice. The broken tiles, the hand-made furnishings, and the almost comfortable bed are all reasons for me to praise my God. Because, with all the faults that this place has, it’s still better than what half of the world is sleeping in tonight and, as I realized, it’s good enough. Even though it doesn’t have everything I might want, it still has exactly what I need. This is a lesson that Americans need to learn again.

Thank you, Lord! Thank you for getting me out of my pampered lifestyle once again to remember how 75% of the world lives. I’m thankful that when you came to the earth, Lord, that you were not born in a mansion, but in a manger. You never came to impress the world with your possessions, but rather, with your power to change the human heart and forgive sins. Let me do the same this week.

Maybe I’ll be able to drift off to sleep now.

His Love Never Fails by Max Lucado from This Is Love

Mary had been there. She had heard the leaders clamor for Jesus’ blood. She had witnessed the Roman whip rip the skin off His back. She had winced as the thorns sliced His brow and wept at the weight of the cross.

In the Louvre there is a painting of the scene of the cross. In the painting the stars are dead and the world is wrapped in darkness. In the shadows there is a kneeling form. It is Mary. She is holding her hands and lips against the bleeding feet of the Christ.

We don’t know if Mary did that, but we know she could have. She was there. She was there to hold her arm around the shoulder of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was there to close His eyes. She was there.

So it’s not surprising that she wants to be there again.

In the early morning mist she arises from her mat, takes her spices and aloes, and leaves her house, past the Gate of Gennath and up to the hillside. She anticipates a somber task. By now the body will be swollen. His face will be white. Death’s odor will be pungent.

A gray sky gives way to gold as she walks up the narrow trail. As she rounds the final bend, she gasps. The rock in front of the grave is pushed back.

A party was the last thing Mary Magdalene expected as she approached the tomb on that Sunday morning. The last few days had brought nothing to celebrate. The Jews could celebrate - Jesus was out of the way. The soldiers could celebrate - their work was done. But Mary couldn’t celebrate. To her the last few days had brought nothing but tragedy.

“Someone took the body.” She runs to awaken Peter and John. They rush to see for themselves. She tries to keep up with them but can’t. Peter comes out of the tomb bewildered and John comes out believing, but Mary just sits in front of it weeping. The two men go home and leave her alone with her grief.

But something tells her she is not alone.

Maybe she hears a noise. Maybe she hears a whisper. Or maybe she just hears her own heart tell her to take a look for herself. Whatever the reason, she does. She stoops down, sticks her head into the hewn entrance, and waits for her eyes to adjust to the dark.

“Why are you crying?” She sees what looks to be a man, but he’s white - radiantly white. He is one of two lights on either end of the vacant slab. Two candles blazing on an altar.

“Why are you crying?” An uncommon question to be asked in a cemetery. In fact, the question is rude. That is, unless the questioner knows something the questionee doesn’t.

“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put Him.”

She still calls Him “my Lord.” As far as she knows, His lips were silent. As far as she knows, His corpse had been carted off by grave robbers. But in spite of it all, He is still her Lord. Such devotion moves Jesus. It moves Him closer to her. So close she hears Him breathing. She turns and there He stands.

She thinks He is the gardener.

Now, Jesus could have revealed himself at this point. He could have called for an angel to present Him or a band to announce His presence. But He didn’t.

Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? - John 20:1-18

He doesn’t leave her wondering long, just long enough to remind us that He loves to surprise us. He waits for us to despair of human strength and then intervenes with heavenly. God waits for us to give up and then - surprise! And listen to the surprise as Mary’s name is spoken by a man she loved - a man she had buried.

“Miriam.”

God appearing at the strangest of places. Doing the strangest of things. Stretching smiles where there had hung only frowns. Placing twinkles where there were only tears. Hanging a bright star in a dark sky. Arching rainbows in the midst of thunderclouds. Calling names in a cemetery.

Miriam, He said softly, surprise!

Mary was shocked. It’s not often you hear your name spoken by an eternal tongue. But when she did, she recognized it. And when she did, she responded correctly.

She worshiped him.

His Resurrected Body

Jesus appeared to the followers in a flesh-and-bone body:

A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. - Luke 24:39

His resurrected body was a real body, real enough to walk on the road to Emmaus, to be mistaken for that of a gardener, to swallow fish at breakfast. In the same breath, Jesus’ real body was really different. The Emmaus disciples didn’t recognize Him, and walls didn’t stop Him. Mark tried to describe the new look and settled for “[Jesus] appeared in another form” (Mark 16:12).

While His body was the same, it was better; it was glorified. It was a heavenly body. And I can’t find the passage that says He shed it. He ascended in it.

He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. - Acts 1:9

He will return in it. The angel told the followers,

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven. - Acts 1:11

The God-man is still both. The hands that blessed the bread of the boy now bless the prayers of the millions. And the mouth that commissions angels is the mouth that kissed children. You know what this means? The greatest force in the cosmos understands and intercedes for you.

We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. - 1 John 2:1

Peter’s Breakfast with Jesus

See the fellow in the shadows? That’s Peter. Peter the apostle. Peter the impetuous. Peter the passionate. He once walked on water. Stepped right out of the boat onto the lake. He’ll soon preach to thousands. Fearless before friends and foes alike. But tonight the one who stepped on the water has hurried into hiding. The one who will speak with power is weeping in pain.

Not sniffling or whimpering, but weeping. Bawling.

Bearded face buried in thick hands. His howl echoing in the Jerusalem night. What hurts more? The fact that he did it? Or the fact that he swore he never would?

“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and even to die with you!” he pledged only hours earlier. “But Jesus said,

Peter, before the rooster crows this day, you will say three times that you don’t know Me. - Luke 22:33-34

Denying Christ on the night of His betrayal was bad enough, but did he have to boast that he wouldn’t? And one denial was pitiful, but three? Three denials were horrific, but did he have to curse?

Peter began to place a curse on himself and swear, ‘I don’t know the man’. - Matthew 26:74

And now, awash in a whirlpool of sorrow, Peter is hiding. Peter is weeping. And soon Peter will be fishing.

We wonder why he goes fishing. We know why he goes to Galilee. He had been told that the risen Christ would meet the disciples there. The arranged meeting place is not the sea, however, but a mountain (Matthew 28:16). If the followers were to meet Jesus on a mountain, what are they doing in a boat? No one told them to fish, but that’s what they did.

Simon Peter said, ‘I am going out to fish.’ The others said, ‘We will go with you’. - John 21:3

Besides, didn’t Peter quit fishing? Two years earlier, when Jesus called him to fish for men, didn’t he drop his net and follow? We haven’t seen him fish since. We never see him fish again. Why is he fishing now? Especially now! Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter has seen the empty tomb. Who could fish at a time like this? Were they hungry? Perhaps that’s the sum of it. Maybe the expedition was born out of growling stomachs.

Or then again, maybe it was born out of a broken heart. You see, Peter could not deny his denial. The empty tomb did not erase the crowing rooster. Christ had returned, but Peter wondered, he must have wondered,

After what I did, would He return for someone like me?

We’ve wondered the same. Is Peter the only person to do the very thing he swore he’d never do?

“Infidelity is behind me!”
“From now on, I’m going to bridle my tongue.”
“No more shady deals. I’ve learned my lesson.”
Oh, the volume of our boasting. And, oh, the heartbreak of our shame. Rather than resist the flirting, we return it. Rather than ignore the gossip, we share it. Rather than stick to the truth, we shade it. And the rooster crows, and conviction pierces, and Peter has a partner in the shadows.

We weep as Peter wept, and we do what Peter did. We go fishing. We go back to our old lives. We return to our pre-Jesus practices. We do what comes naturally, rather than what comes spiritually. And we question whether Jesus has a place for folks like us.

Jesus answers that question. He answers it for you and me and all who tend to “Peter out” on Christ. His answer came on the shore of the sea in a gift to Peter. You know what Jesus did? Split the waters? Turn the boat to gold and the nets to silver? No, Jesus did something much more meaningful.

He invited Peter to breakfast. Jesus prepared a meal.

Of course, the breakfast was one special moment among several that morning. There was the great catch of fish and the recognition of Jesus. The plunge of Peter and the paddling of the disciples. And there was the moment they reached the shore and found Jesus next to a fire of coals. The fish were sizzling, and the bread was waiting, and the defeater of hell and the ruler of Heaven invited His friends to sit down and have a bite to eat.

No one could have been more grateful than Peter.

* Excerpted with permission from This is Love: The Extraordinary Story of Jesus by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.

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Is Anybody Paying Attention?

Acts 2:16-21 NLT - 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: 17 'In the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants--men and women alike--and they will prophesy. 19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below--blood and fire and clouds of smoke. 20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the LORD arrives. 21 But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.'

While most of the east coast of America is disappointed that the weather did not cooperate with the viewing of the Blood Moon this morning, I am truly thankful that God is giving us such an obvious sign of his imminent return.

Please listen to Sunday night's message to find out why this is no coincidence, and why there is good reason to believe that the "The great day of the LORD [is] near; [It is] near and hastens quickly..." [Zeph 1:14].

It's time to live for Jesus!

Marital Bliss

In a culture that is inundated with horror stories of terrible marriages, I wanted to take a moment to contribute to the world a marital success story.

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Today, on our 13th Wedding Anniversary, I can look back with joy that two starry-eyed 19-year-olds embarked on a wild journey that has brought us to this blessed place today. Back then, I didn't know what a successful marriage looked like.. now I do.

I wake up everyday with the comfort of knowing that there is a strong, beautiful, intelligent, and loving woman by my side, undergirding and giving meaning to anything and everything that I put my hands to. I can't imagine my life without her by my side. Our lives have become so intertwined that they true have melded into one.. bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She was, is and continues to become the woman of my dreams.

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Taya Jo Dragoon. What a miracle that my name is at the end of hers. I eternally grateful for the years of faithfulness, joy, excitement, and loyalty.  May the next 13 years bring even more Marital Bliss!

 

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Grand Opening Weekend

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What an amazing weekend!

We stand amazed at the power of God to do amazing things in the lives of His people. Last weekend was a glorious display of what God can do and the power of having a fellowship to help us labor for the winning of souls.

It started with a great time of outreach Saturday morning. All of the area churches joined forces at our new location to spread the word for our Grand Opening services. Over 120 faithful saints chipped in to pray, witness and pass out flyers. Even though the rain changed our planned outreach, we hit every mall and Walmart within a ten mile radius. 5000 flyers were gone within three hours. More importantly, I heard reports of at least two people responding to Gospel and many, many reports of others that expressed interest in the drama and the Grand Opening services.

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Saturday night was an amazing time as the incredible production of the Harriet Tubman play went on as planned. Several of the area churches came to participate, filling our building and making use of every one of our new chairs. There were more than 120 gathered to watch the play including about 15 first-time visitors. After the show was completed, we were thrilled to watch four hands raised in response to preaching of the Gospel. We are so appreciative to the Raleigh congregation for investing their time and energy to see souls saved in our city!

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The Grand Opening weekend proceeded with our first Sunday services in the new building featuring Pastor Tony Chase. It was really a special time since Pastor Chase was saved in our church nearly 20 years ago. The morning service had 60 precious souls gathered to participate in our inaugural service including about 6 first-time visitors. Tony preached his brand of fiery Gospel truth that stirred us up to greater works and to be closer to God's presence. In the evening service, Pastor Chase brought everyone to tears with his inspired validation of the hard work and investment that had been done over the years from the long-term saints in our church.

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We are grateful to everyone who has made this move possible. From all the previous pastors who laid the foundation, to the saints that faithfully execute the will of God no matter how difficult, to the leaders of our fellowship who have brought the vision and direction over the years, to the Chandler church for the constant example and encouragement, and most of all, to Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith without whom we would be nothing!

Thank you!

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Building the Kingdom

Over the last year, we have been laboring behind the scenes to acquire a new building for our church. Many many prayers have been prayed, many phone calls made, many conversations had, many minute decisions taken in the process of this whole thing coming together. I have been astounded over the last three weeks as the work has dramatically accelerated in the light of our February 24th Grand Opening services. All of our planning, prayers, phone calls and decisions of the last year have conglomerated in a relatively brief period of time as contractors build, paint, wire and install with meticulous fervency. It is extremely exciting to watch a dirty empty space transform into a well-designed and well-built church facility thy holds incredible promise for the people of God.

Now, while the prospect of a transformed building is a wonderful sight to behold, I have been reminded in my soul that that is NOTHING in comparison to the miraculous transformation of a human life wrought by the mighty hand of the Almighty. There is no doubt that the construction process is a breathtaking metamorphosis. What it is not though, is miraculous. Men can plan, men can design, men can build, paint, decorate, etc. Even the finest master builder cannot alter the spiritual condition of the heart. In fact, as I was touring the building during construction, I d encountered a man that was installing ceiling tiles. As we spoke, I understood that he had followed Christ in his youth but hadn't been to church in nearly a decade. He described the horror that comes as a result of living with out Godly influence. This builder desperately needed the Creator to reach down and build something in his own soul.

What about you? Do you still recognize the power of God to change people, lives, relationships and situations? Is your God still big enough to take a dusty, empty space without purpose and bring His holy design into it? Does He still have the permit to renovate your soul if needed? Wouldn't you grant him that authority today?

Laus Deo,

Pastor Adam Dragoon

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The Sheep & The Shepherd

Over the last week, I have been extremely privileged to have been able to meet face-to-face with nearly all of the regular members of our growing congregation in encounters I had facetiously labeled "Flock Inspections". The results were nothing less than incredible. I think that as a shepherd, I learned far more about the precious people that God has entrusted to my care than I had expected to. That is a good thing, and I am thankful for the openness, honesty, and frankness of our church in these pastoral meetings.

My takeaway has been twofold: 1) I need to pray. I don't have the resources in my mind or in my experience to properly deal with all of the overwhelming issues that are happening behind the scenes, many times without any of my knowledge. I desperately need God to give me guidance and direction to lead His people rightly. 2) I am a blessed man. I was struck by the quality of the people that fill our off-color green chairs week in and week out. It is a testimony of God's ability to bring the right right people at the right time for His great purposes. I am more positive than I have ever been concerning the future of our church because of these meetings and realizing the incredible resources that God has entrusted in our ministry.

Truly, these are great sheep. Thank you, Lord!

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Coming to the End

"Follow me," said The Lord. "Where are you going?" I asked. "To the grave."

Dying to self is really the only way be truly productive and fruitful in the Kingdom of God. We think that the only way to die to ourselves is by relocating to the slums of India or preaching to the jungles of Ecuador. The reality is that dying to self is done in the daily mundane decisions of life which might include:

-Giving up your busily planned Saturday to knock on doors in an outreach.

-Choosing to not purchase that shiny trinket so you can go on an impact team or give an offering.

-Deciding to join yourself to a body of believers (no matter how small), being accountable, rather than existing in sweet isolation and comfort.

The greatness of resurrection life and power cannot happen without a corpse. Death to self is the key that unlocks the power of God in your life.

What is still in your life that needs to die?

 Prescott, AZ Sunrise

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End of Day Two

Wow. Only four sermons have been preached so far, but it feels like we've received far more ministry than that.

I need to acknowledge how powerful it is to gather together with brethren that have a similar spirit and heartbeat for the Gospel. To be in that massive tent with thousands of other workers that are laboring along with us is to feel part of a great movement of God. I believe that this is a true preview of what Heaven will be like as the nations are gathered together under one banner for the eternal cause if Christ.

Today's ministry impacted me in a couple of ways. Pastor Nigel Brown exposed a powerful truth about the ability that wealth can have especially to those who have had long-term struggles with poverty in the past. It can trap you into being unwilling to risk for God. Pastor Glenn Cluck then challenged the conference body to contend for prophetic words spoken in faith. The final morning seminar today was preached by Pastor Paul Stephens from El Paso, TX. His message powerfully reminded me of the open doors that God has provided to this fellowship. One of the defining characteristics of our fellowship is that we have historically been positioned to step thought the doors that god has opened to us. Nogales, Perth, Amsterdam, Brasov.. All these are examples of incredible doors that were opened by God. The hard thing for us though is that God is still opening doors for us and it is possible for us to miss them! What doors of effectual ministry has God opened up to you that your are currently unaware of or insensitive to?

We were also blessed to able to eat lunch with Kevin Burris. He and his wife and new baby girl are planting a new church in VA Beach in the next coming weeks. It was a great opportunity to get to know our future co-laborer and to invite him to preach for us!

Pastor Campbell rounded out the evening with another great message challenging us to hear the voice of God. How often do we ignore or tune out what God wants to speak to us? Let us like Samuel be able to say, "speak, Lord, for your servant is listening".

Can't wait until tomorrow.

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