Improvise: To make, invent, or arrange offhand
Improve: To enhance in value or quality: make better
Next week we will be hosting a summer singing camp at church. As an a capella church, it’s especially important to learn and practice music. We understand this when it comes to preaching. We send our preachers off to schools of preaching, college, graduate school, or even all of the above. No church would hire an untrained, unprepared preacher who improvised each sermon. A synonym for improvise is “to fake.”
Are you someone who improvises or do you improve? The Bible talks a lot about training, running the race, being disciplined, etc. Never does it say to just wing it, fly by the seat of your pants, or just hope that things improve. To the contrary, Christians are commanded to be disciplined, ready for action, and to be unified.
Music is an important (and highly enjoyable!) part of our worship. Did you know that in ancient Israel the musicians were on duty 24/7 and were not to perform any other duty? 1 Chronicle 9:33 says, “Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.”
Music was always a vital part of worship. Jesus sung the Psalms with his disciples. Many of our songs come from the Psalms. The Israelites did not improvise when they sang. They worked to improve. They rehearsed songs every day. Music was a discipline. We have been given a wonderful gift of song by God our Creator! We are excited to learn, practice, and grow.
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash
Our team of ten, Lord willing, will be leaving Thursday to travel to Ecuador. There is a lot of planning that goes into these trips. It’s so important to visit the missionaries our church supports. It’s a tremendous source of encouragement for the mission workers who live abroad and it allows us to connect with Christians from around the world.
It is well known that churches who are involved in missions grow. Without mission support, we would greatly hinder the kingdom. Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world. Not everyone will become a missionary. And that’s OK. But people who do not (or cannot) go on long trips can still support missions in a big way.
When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he could have gone straight home. In fact, it would have been much quicker and more of a direct route to do so. Instead, Luke records that Paul “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22 ESV).
We need to remember that it’s vital to encourage other Christians–both from afar and in person. They are working hard for the Lord. They labor day and night. It is not easy work, and they face so many discouragements along the way. We are excited to visit our friends in Ecuador and to meet other brothers and sisters who live in that beautiful country! Please pray for the Campbells and the work that is being done there.
Photo by Aneta Ivanova on Unsplash
Paul was a vocational evangelist. He was a tent maker by trade. He often told churches that he intentionally did not seek financial support from them, lest they come back and say he was “robbing” them. Paul worked very hard in everything he did. And he also gave. He gave of his time, money, and heart.
When he was on the beach at Miletus with the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20: 35 ESV).
There is an old adage: “You get back what you put in.” This is true of life. The person who works hard gets promoted. The one who gives of her time, money, and energy reaps a crop of righteousness. This doesn’t mean that those who give will be materially wealthy. But it does mean that those blessings will spread and endure. Others will be blessed. Kingdom work will be blessed. The poor will be provided for. They’ll be fed and clothed. The injured will have their wounds dressed and will find healing.
But we have to be willing to give. When we have the means to give, we should be extremely generous. Ultimately, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for others. We need to be giving of our talents, our tithes, and our time. Let’s challenge ourselves to give more and see how God blesses!
Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash
When Paul first came into Corinth, he was alone for the first time since he began his missionary journeys. He had been chased out of Macedonia and had to separate from the rest of his companions. He boarded a ship and sailed down to Athens, preached there, then moved into Corinth. For whatever reason, Paul was fearful and felt very alone.
When Timothy and Silas finally joined Paul in Corinth, Luke says that “Paul was occupied with the word” (Acts 18:5). This is interesting because Paul told the Corinthians that, when he first came, he “decided to known nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul was very, very focused on Jesus and the cross. In fact this was his sole focus.
Paul makes it clear that Paul came to Corinth in weakness and in fear and much trembling. Though he later says that he imparted wisdom to the mature, at first his message was not shrouded in lofty speech and wisdom. Rather, it was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5).
Sometimes we get so troubled with getting our message right that we lose focus on Jesus and the cross. The irony is that the message ends up getting diluted. Paul was more interested in remaining focused on Christ and him crucified than he was getting his speeches right. Because Paul maintained this focus, he was able to witness by way of demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This is what transformed people in Corinth. Where the Spirit of God is at work, there is life!
Photo by Samuel McGarrigle on Unsplash
I just returned from visiting my sister Stephanie and her husband Roni in Haiti. I took my oldest daughter along and she got to experience Haiti for the first time at just 8 years old. It was my first time to visit the COTP campus where Steph and Roni live. Haiti is a gorgeous, mountainous country filled with a very rich history and lots of poverty.
Our congregation sponsors the Bhullars and the important work they do there. Visiting Haiti again is a reminder of how great the need is for people to give. Without the generosity of others, the Bhullars and other missionaries could not do the work they are doing there. As Christians, we are called to give and to go. We give of our time and money and we go to where our neighbors need help. This was the heart of Jesus’ mission and it has always been the mission of the early church.
The early Christians “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45 ESV). When there was a need, they selflessly and happily sold possessions and gave the proceeds to feed the poor and care for the oppressed. Over and over again Christians gave of their time and money. And they did so cheerfully. But they didn’t just give, they also went.
The first action word of the Great Commission is go. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. . .(Matthew 28:19). Steph and Roni went. We don’t have to go overseas to bless people. We can go across the street to our neighbors. But go we must. I could have made up a thousand excuses not to go to Haiti this year. 4 weeks ago there were riots and the US issued a travel ban. It was dangerous to travel and Americans were being evacuated. It’s expensive to go overseas. I was away from my family for a week. It was inconvenient to go. But we are commanded to go. The Bhullars were blessed. We were blessed. My daughter was discipled and is already asking how she can raise more money to give to the good people of Haiti.
Churches that do not give generously stagnate. We are a small church but we can do great things through Christ. In an effort to increase our ability to give and go, we created an online giving page. We’re proud to say that 100% of the money from the online portion will be used to help people in need. Our congregation already gives almost $10,000 a year just to support missions and local benevolence. For a church our size, that’s almost unheard of. But we want to give even more because we want to go more. You don’t have to be a member of our congregation to give. The Lord’s church networked in the first century. And we want to also.
Help us spread the word. We long for people to give regularly and joyfully! We want to increase the amount we give each year to help the poor, oppressed, so we need your help. Please go to our online giving page and partner with us in giving to help the poor and oppressed. And help us spread the word! And join us on mission trips. Even if you cannot physically go on a mission trip, follow our page and get updates. We need your help to give and go!
The cover image is of the Hope House, where Steph and Roni currently care for six orphans.
Themes are a great way to walk through the Bible with a different lens and they help us focus in on something that’s really important. I like annual themes because it makes sermon writing have purpose and direction. As I thought about where we are as a congregation and where our culture has shifted over the last few years, it became abundantly clear that God was whispering that people need to be loved so they can see Jesus!
With so many stories about abuse, sexual exploitation, and the dramatic rise in drug overdoses and sex scandals, the church is in the absolute best position to reach out to their neighbors. While some are bent on preaching about the woes of the world, Jesus took a different approach. He lived out the greatest commandments–loving God and loving your neighbor. The command to love is as old as time. Jesus told us that all the law and the prophets are hinged on these two commandments. I’d say that makes them pretty important. . . the most important!
I love how blunt John was when he makes the distinction between children of God and children of the devil: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).
In 2018 we will commit to practicing righteousness and loving our brothers and sisters. There will be no excuse for not doing so. We will share testimonies of lives that are transformed, and we will let God do his miraculous wonders!
Does this resonate with you? It did for me. How does the Gospel of Jesus intersect with people who feel stuck in this rut? What will we do to welcome people into the flock so the world doesn’t swallow them up?
Happiness from Steve Cutts on Vimeo.