Falling On Our Knees

At CrossWay on Sunday we talked about dying to our sin-riddled selves and being given new life in Christ.  We read the really strange story in Acts 20:7-12 and then walked through Romans 6:1-14.

The highlight of the day for me came at the end of the second service.  When we reached our prayer time after the sermon, I grabbed a chair and used it for an altar, and encouraged others to do the same if they felt led to.  As I got down and bowed my head with my eyes closed, I heard a lot of rustling.  A lot of rustling.  When I finished praying, I started to stand up and saw that everyone was on their knees in prayer!  It was awesome.  I was so moved that I couldn’t say anything, so I just walked up to the drums for the closing song. (Turns out that the prayer gave such a sense of closure to the service that people started to get up to leave, not realizing we had a closing song!)

It was especially cool because our Worship Planning Team met last week and talked about how we can lead people into worshiping through physically humbling ourselves before God.  God definitely responded.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 10:20 am  Comments (1)  

The God of This City

Yesterday at CrossWay we talked about the vision for our church.  We read Acts 18:5-11, in which God appears to Paul in a vision and tells him that He has many people in the city of Corinth, where Paul was preaching.

God is the God of that city, and He is the God of our city, too!  He is the God of our community.  He has many people here.  He is doing something in the West Ocean City/Berlin area, and He’s bringing His people together to make it happen.  Not only that, but Jesus Christ has people in our community that don’t know Him yet, and He wants to work through His churches here to bring those people to Himself.

In this passage in Acts, Paul preaches in the synagogue–the established church, if you will–and they not only oppose him but actually abuse him.  So he goes literally right next door, preaches the gospel, and revival breaks out in the city!  CrossWay is on a mission to make lifelong followers of Jesus Christ throughout our community and around the world, and that means we can’t hide in an insulated religious bubble.  We must go out into the community.  Sometimes there’s a dormant revival right next door, just waiting to explode as soon as the gospel is shared.

So we talked about our vision of being a place where anyone can understand and respond to the Bible.  That’s how we make lifelong followers of Jesus.  We know Jesus by reading and understanding the Bible, and we follow Jesus by responding to the Bible in faith and obedience.  We can fulfill our vision by living out our core values: Community, Reverence, Outreach, Service, Spiritual Growth.  As these five things come to define us, we’re in position for God to bring His kingdom to our community.  He is the God of this city!

Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Following God With Your Money

We wrapped up the series The Almighty’s Dollar on Sunday at CrossWay Church.  After a week about loving God with our money and another week on trusting God with our money, on Sunday we talked about following God with our money.

While we’re often surrounded by messages that tell us to indulge ourselves and live above our means, the wisdom of God tells us otherwise.  In fact, at church we looked at several verses that tell us to pay attention to ants and we can learn some biblical tips for good money management!  (See Proverbs 6:6-8; 30:25.)

We touched on three specific things we can do for financial success God’s way:

(1) Earn.  This may seem obvious, but it’s really not what we’re encouraged to do.  Rather than working and earning money, we’re constantly presented with amazing once-in-a-lifetime better-act-now get-rich-quick schemes.  If nothing else, at least buy our product for a chance to win $25,000 or a big-screen TV or a trip to paradise!  But the best plan for obtaining money (which we obviously have to do before we can manage it) is to go old school and earn it.  Instead of looking for shortcuts, let’s look down the road at the big picture.

(2) Save & Spend.  After the tithe, the next place to direct our money is savings.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  A little bit over a long time adds up.  Personally, I’d encourage people to save for specific things rather than just have a lump savings account.  With online banking, it’s easy to have separate savings accounts for retirement, vacation, college, car repairs, etc.  Rather than waiting for that million-dollar check to drop on us from somewhere, the way to achieve our financial goals is by working toward them a little at a time.  After tithing and saving, it’s time to spend!  We’re responsible to God for 100% of our income, so we should still spend responsibly.  Pay the bills, have fun.  But be careful to live below your means.  Not within your means, which provides no margin, but below your means.  That way there’s room for financial emergencies.  Even if something dramatic happens and you have to take a pay cut, your standard of living can remain the same if you’re living below your means.

(3) Give.  This can include tithing, sure.  But it goes way beyond that.  There is tremendous joy in using our God-given resources to be a blessing to others.  Worldly “wisdom” has no room for being selfless and generous.  The closest thing it has to offer is making a tax-deductible contribution.  In other words, give so that you can keep more!  Nothing wrong with tax-deductible donations, of course, but our focus should be on giving in order to be generous and reflect the nature of God.

Earn.  Save.  Spend.  Give.  By practicing these biblical guidelines for money management, we’re not so vulnerable to the fluctuations of the economy.  Not only that, but we get to put our faith into practice by following God with our money.

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Give Cheerfully? Freal?

In response to the recent post Trusting God With Our Money, Katie left the comment below:

I’m hearing ya on #1 & #2 but to be transparent it is sometimes hard to be cheerful about it. I am happy to be giving back to God what is his. I’ve been sitting here looking at the word cheerful and trying to think if that’s how I am feeling. Maybe I need to be praying about that cheerful thing :)

This seemed like it was postworthy, rather than just responding in the Comments section.

Katie, thanks for your honesty!  I totally hear ya on that one.  It’s definitely not natural or easy to give cheerfully, so I don’t have any quick or easy answers for you. I’ve been there myself… and often return there.

But I can tell you how it works for me.  Whenever I give my tithe, I remind myself that it represents just a fraction of what God has provided for me.  I also remind myself that God is going to use the money to do the things that are important to Him.  Finally, I’m convinced that God can do a whole lot more good with the money than I ever could!  It’s also helpful to keep in mind that money we give to God’s church and ministries has eternal value.

When I give money that’s not my tithe, it helps me to be cheerful about it by thinking about what it will mean to whoever it is I’m giving it to.  If it’s someone who’s struggling financially, it will remind them that God provides for them.  If it’s just a gift for someone to enjoy, it’s helpful to keep in mind what a blessing it’s been when I’ve been on the receiving end, and knowing that the other person/people will get to have the same enjoyment.

One more thing: for me, part of the joy of giving, part of what helps me to be cheerful about it, is knowing that giving regularly brings freedom.  I don’t have to worry about money and I don’t have to be enslaved to it, because when I give regularly, the chains of materialism and greed can’t keep their hold on me.  I enjoy that freedom!  I also enjoy knowing that I’m entering into one of God’s promises, that when I trust Him, He’ll take care of the details and He’ll provide for me.

Hopefully that doesn’t sound like a bunch of Christianese, because it’s not.  It’s personal experience.  Like I said, it doesn’t come naturally or easily, but it’s a work of the heart that God is eager to do.

By the way, Katie, on a personal note: I’ve often seen you give cheerfully!  When you’ve made food for small group, had people over to eat and shoot skeet, or more recently, when you took pictures of Laura Marie for us, you’ve seemed pretty cheerful about it!  It’s not just forking over the green that counts as giving.  All these other things are ways of giving.  So don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 10:04 am  Comments (2)  

Trusting God With Our Money

On Sunday at CrossWay Church we talked about trusting God with our money.  It was the second week in our three-week series “The Almighty’s Dollar.”

The words “trust” and “faith” are very closely related.  To have faith in God is to trust Him: to trust Him with our souls, our families, our health… and our money.  The Bible has a lot to say about how we can exercise our faith in God by what we do with our money.  Money is very much a spiritual issue.

We discussed three ways of trusting God with our money:

(1) Give first.  Rather than paying off all the bills and seeing if there is enough money left over to give to support the church, other ministries, and people with financial needs, the Bible instructs us to give first (see Exodus 23:19).  Giving first shows that we trust God with the rest.  The Scriptures teach that we should give at least 10% of our income to the church–the Bible word for this is “tithe.”  Just as Jesus took one kid’s lunch and multiplied it to feed thousands of families (see John 6:1-13), so He can take our 90% after the tithe and do more with it than we could do with 100%.

(2) Give sacrificially.  This means giving to the point that we can feel it.  It means that our giving really costs us something.  This is very different from giving a little out of our extra.  Jesus teaches about this, among other places, in Luke 21:1-4.

(3) Give cheerfully and generously.  God loves a cheerful giver!  Some people give out of guilt, but God says not to do that.  Instead, we should give joyfully, as an act of worship and gratitude.  The more generously we sow, the more generously we reap.  (See 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 for a passage about this that is so simple yet so profound that we would do well to order our lives around it.)

By giving first, giving sacrificially, and giving cheerfully and generously, we actively trust God.  We show that our faith in God is not just something we talk about, but how we actually live.

Next week: Following God with our money.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 9:41 am  Comments (1)  

Loving God With Our Money

At CrossWay on Sunday we began a three-week series about money, called The Almighty’s Dollar.  Everyone’s favorite topic to hear about in church, right?

Actually, money does have great spiritual significance.  Jesus talked about it a lot.  The gist of His teaching about it is that what you do with your money reveals where your heart is.

We show people we love them by spending money on things that are important to them.  When I was still in college and working part-time as a pizza delivery guy, I bought Carolyn an engagement ring that cost more money than my car.  Why?  To show her that I love her!  (On a side note, a hint to the guys: The same principle works with spending time as well as money.)

The same principle applies with God.  Our money gives us an opportunity to show God that we love Him.  We can express our love for God by spending our money on things that are important to Him, things that have eternal significance.  In Matthew 6:20, Jesus refers to this as storing up treasures in heaven.

How do we do this?  It’s easy because the possibilities are limitless: the most obvious way is to give financially to support the work of the local church, but you can also support a myriad of ministries that help people around the globe in the name of Christ, help someone you know personally that has a need, or simply bless someone by giving them something you know they would enjoy.  Anything you can do with your money that puts a smile on God’s face is a practical way to use your dough to show God you love Him.

To read more of Jesus’ teaching about money, read Matthew 6:19-34.

Next week we’re talking about trusting God with our dinero.

Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Midway Praise

Last night at CrossWay Church we had our first Midway Praise.  It’s something we’re just starting to do every three months.  We had 20 people come out for some celebration, music, and focused prayer (and a short devotional, which is Christianese for sermonette).

It was great!  We started with four songs, then spent about 15 minutes praying in small groups for several specific topics.  We had one more song before a very brief message about Patrick, who I learned is the patron saint of Ireland, Nigeria, Montserrat, New York, Boston, engineers, and paralegals.  Seriously.  A lot of myth has sprung up around Patrick, legends about four-leaf clovers and snakes and green beer and Lucky Charms.  Or something like that.  But we do know some facts about his life.  He was born into a rich British family, was taken captive by raiders, and was sold into slavery in Ireland.  After spending a few years as a slave shepherd, he escaped and went back home, where he trained for the priesthood and returned to Ireland–the land of his captivity–as a missionary.  We read some verses (Romans 6:17-18,22-23; 1 Corinthians 9:19) about how Christ has freed us from captivity to sin, but rather than kicking back and being all mellow, like, “Whew, glad that’s over with!”, we’re actually to venture back out into the land of captivity to share with others the good news of freedom in Jesus Christ!

We prayed that God would transform us into a people on mission.  Then we sang four more songs and ate green food with green drinks (nope, no beer–I know you were wondering).

I’m already looking forward to the next Midway Praise: June 16!

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  

The Comfort of the Vine

Yesterday at CrossWay was the second week in a two-part series in the Book of Jonah.

We read Jonah 3:1-4:11 in which God teaches us an important truth that the prophet Jonah had trouble accepting: Souls are more important than our comfort.

Jonah didn’t give a rip about the 120,000 people in the city of Nineveh.  He actually pouted and got all whiny when they repented and turned to God!  Jonah was more concerned about the vine that God gave him to provide shade and relief from the hot sun.  When that withered and died, he really got upset.

It’s easy to get all judgmental on Jonah, but many of us have hearts that are much like Jonah’s.  We honestly don’t care too much about the spiritual condition of people around us, but when the car won’t start or our kids get sick, we’re all mad and stuff.

Let’s learn from Jonah and repent of our hardheartedness.  Let’s look through eyes that have an eternal perspective, and live by the truth that people are more important than our comfort.

Published in: on March 15, 2010 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Jonah & CrossWay Membership Class

At CrossWay yesterday we started a new series and also began our first membership class.

The series is a two-parter about the Book of Jonah.  Yesterday we read the first two chapters and a couple verses from chapter 3.  The subject was repentance, which essentially is making a U-turn.  At some point we’re all traveling down our own road, and repentance is when we make a U-turn to get onto God’s road for us.  We explored how Jonah ran away from God–he literally tried to run away from God by buying a ticket to the end of the known world.  As you might expect, it didn’t go quite the way he anticipated… not even close!  Once Jonah learned about running away from God and turning around to come back to Him, he learned firsthand about repentance and the universal need for God’s grace.

We’ll pick the series up next week and finish out the Book of Jonah.

After the worship service we shared a meal together.  We had been doing this the first Sunday of every month, but due to various factors we missed January and February.  I’ve missed it.  It was great to sit around eating and talking with everyone again!

After lunch we held our first ever CrossWay membership class!  According to the official church Constitution & By-Laws which we adopted last fall, none of us are actually members of the church.  That can be kind of problematic.  One of the requirements of membership is completion of the membership class, and since this is the first time it’s been offered, this graduating class will be the first official members of CrossWay!

The class is two parts.  Yesterday we covered our mission, vision, values, and core beliefs.  Lots of Bible study!  Next week we’ll talk more specifically about membership and our particular congregation, such as our history and affiliations.  Then anyone who would like to join will have the opportunity to sign the membership covenant.

There were 15 people at the class yesterday, which is a pretty good start.  The class will probably be offered quarterly, depending on the need and interest.

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Celebrate & Serve: A Call to Commitment

We wrapped up the series Celebrate & Serve on Sunday at CrossWay.  We reviewed our mission, vision, values, goals and strategy.  Then we brought it to a personal level and explained how each individual can personally be involved in helping the church achieve our goals for this year and work toward fulfilling the vision.

A quick summary of the Personal Next Steps:

(1) Community: Our goal is to have 75% of our regular attenders become participants in a community group.  Personal Next Step: Try out a community group!  And if you’re already in one, then get in the habit of inviting others to come check it out.

(2) Reverence: Our goal is to reach an average of 75 people in worship on Sunday mornings.  Personal Next Step: Set a personal goal for attending and participating in worship.  Rather than deciding each Saturday night whether or not you’ll go to church the next day, just make it a habit to go.

(3) Outreach: Our goal for this year is to invite 2,000 people to hear the gospel at CrossWay (see previous posts for more details).  This is not the only thing we’re doing for outreach–and in fact it could be argued that this is more inreach than outreach, as it’s definitely more attractional* than missional**–but it’s a start.  As a church we’ve not yet gotten in the habit of inviting people to worship with us, so developing that mindset is our first step.  Personal Next Step: Make a list of 5 people you can invite to church.  And then invite them!

(4) Service: Our goal for this year is to have 50% of our regular attenders using their God-given gifts to meet the needs of others.  Personal Next Step: Get a job.  In the marketplace, unemployment is usually involuntary.  In the church, it’s all voluntary.  To illustrate how easy it is to get involved and serve, we brought into the sanctuary a display of artwork made by three-year-olds at the Training Station Preschool.  Each child shared a creative way that they help out at home.  If three-year-olds can do it, certainly adults can!

(5) Spiritual Growth: Our goal for 2010 is to have 50% of our regular attenders reading the Bible and praying at least 5 days a week.  Personal Next Step: Read the Bible and pray on your own each day.  We gave everyone the tools they need to get started: We give away free Bibles, there’s a suggested daily reading guide in the worship bulletins, and we’ve already encouraged everyone to make a list of 5 people they can invite to church, so they’ve already got a prayer list.  The important thing here is not to aim for some kind of long, deep devotional time, but simply to develop a daily habit.

That’s five Next Steps for one sermon!  So we asked everyone to pick one of them to begin right away, and set the other four as goals for the year.

We read 1 Peter 2:4-6, which describes individual Christians as “living stones” that God uses to build His church.  So at the end of the worship service, we invited people to make a commitment to help build the church by committing to these goals.  We had five baskets up front, each one labeled with one of our core values.  Everyone who wanted to make a commitment to the vision of CrossWay came up and took a stone from each basket and laid it at the foot of a cross at the front of the sanctuary, while the band played “For Such A Time As This.”  It was pretty moving!

On Monday when I was in the sanctuary and saw all the stones at the foot of the cross, I was surprised by an emotional wave that came over me.  It hit me how each one of those rocks represented a heartfelt commitment that someone made to Christ and to CrossWay, and that is simply awesome.

* attractional: Strategic efforts to draw people from the community to our church.  The focus is on getting them to come to us.

** missional: Strategic efforts to go out into the community and reach people where they already are.  The focus is on us going to to them.

Both attractional and missional outreach ministries are important to a church on mission to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 5:15 am  Leave a Comment