New Sermon Series Begins April 11: "Rise & Share"
Background: Luke follows up his Gospel account after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus with this book. In it he describes the ripple effects of such a monumental event in the lives of people who experience this new life. Luke uses the word “rise” several times, especially at the beginning of the book. It’s as if he wants to highlight the importance of the resurrection in his choice of verbs at times.
Description: Spring and summer bring signs of new life. Following the winter cold, new life arises with the warmth of these seasons. Many people have experienced this past 12 months as a prolonged winter and wonder what kind of new life will arise. As God’s people, this is something we need not wonder, for we know the character of our God! We may not know the exact form it will take but we know that the compassion, grace, slowness to anger, loyal love and faithfulness which raised Jesus from the dead, raises his people to new life and sends us to actively share that new life with the world. For the next several months we are going to explore this “rise and act” theme in the book of Acts and ask God to show us how are to join with him as he arises new life in us and through us, right here in Longview, Texas.
Lent 2021 Sermon Series
“Jesus: Encountering God”
The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7, NET)
Description: In Exodus 34:6-7, God reveals his character to Moses on the mountain. We have been looking at the character of God as he made himself known in the Old Testament. As we enter the season of Lent, we want to explore each of the five characteristics as described in this passage and see the ways in which Jesus reveals God to us, because he is God with us. We will marvel at these characteristics unambiguously displayed in the life of Jesus Christ and hear his call to have these traits characterize our lives as Christians.
To encounter Jesus Christ is to encounter God, to encounter Christians is to encounter Christ. As we look at Jesus, let’s look at ourselves. How are we providing the people in our communities with encounters that reflect Christ?
During the year we have special Services:
(Check for details as celebrations approach)
Lent - Ash Wednesday 12:15 p.m. - 12:45 p.m. ("Return From Exile - A Lenten Journey - Daily Devotions")
Holy Week - Good Friday Service 6:30 p.m., Easter Service 10:00 a.m.
Advent - Hanging of the Greens: First Wednesday of December - 5:30 p.m. Fellowship followed by 6:30 p.m. Service
Christmas Eve - 5:45 p.m. Candlelight Service
Foundations for Our Worship Together
Corporate worship is a gift from God that consistently calls a people prone to distorted, destructive worship of things other than God to re-orient themselves back to distinct, constructive worship of the Triune God alone (e.g. Exodus 5:1, 10:7-11; John 4, Hebrews 10:25, 1 Peter 2:9-10). Likewise, Scripture teaches that while expressions of salvation in Christ, such as affecting social renewal through word and mercy ministries, will one day cease, worship will remain forever (e.g. Revelation 21:1ff, 22:3)!
All of this is because of God alone.
Everything, including the opportunity and ability to worship, begins with God. Only because of what we receive from him may we worship. Only because he is seeking true worshipers may such a person exist. Only because of his grace (as opposed to human creativity or spiritual devotion) do we enter into true worship. If worship begins with anything else, it is no longer worship of the biblical God. Just as we must rely on the Spirit of God for our salvation (John 3) we must rely on God for the ability to worship in truth as by his grace he reveals himself to us through his Word.
Yet while worship is ultimately about God it is not only about God. The ultimate goal is certainly God’s glory, but the proximate goal is the good of God’s people. As we gather together, using the gifts the Spirit has provided, we build one another up as individuals and as a faith family (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3). So what glorifies God and builds up his people? God-directed, gospel-centered, people edifying, worship.
Style of Our Worship Together
We believe God-directed, gospel-centered, people edifying, worship can be expressed through a variety of styles of worship. In fact, many of us have come from varying different styles of worship that we believe accomplished those goals! And so we, like so many others, run the risk of being divided over musical tastes and the “right” way to worship. While these risks are real and even daunting at times, we have chosen a ‘blended’ style for our worship service. This means we have a choir and a praise band; we have liturgies and spontaneous prayer; we wear suits and we wear jeans. Some important reasons for this choice are:
1) It helps us remember it is not our musical tastes that we worship, but Jesus, who perfects human endeavors to come and have fellowship with him and each other. The blended style helps us remember there is no “one, perfect way” to worship. Jesus bids us to come and worship him just as we are. This is because it is Jesus, not us, who perfects our services to be holy and pleasing to God. Every human expression, no matter how excellent, is fallible and partial to our own experiences.
2) The love of God compels us to seek unity. From the very beginning churches were divided over culture. We see this in Acts 6 where Luke records that Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews vied for priority within the local church. We also see this in the book of Galatians, where Paul rebuked Judaizers for trying to convert Gentile believers into the norm of Jewish culture, not to the gospel of Jesus. Differing opinions are not new. From the 1st century onward, Christians had to, in faith, come to terms with those who have different cultural takes on things. This is precisely why Jesus prayed that our oneness with each other will be like that of Him and the Father (John 17:21). It is the will of our Lord Jesus that Christians seek unity through the gospel, in spite of our personal differences. This is especially true in how we worship. Blended services aim to draw us closer to that unity, not only with one another today, but with believers who have worshipped Jesus through the centuries.
3) Moments of discomfort cause us to stretch in our ability to love God and others. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 14:34). One cannot help but have preferences in worship styles (this is normal to the human experience and not a bad thing in itself). However, we must make room for, and also grow in, our ability to love and value those who don’t think, act, live, or worship just like us. How deep will our love for one another go? Will we die to our preferences to bring life to one another? Each blended service encourages us to extend love to those who prefer other styles. When it is hard, we remember that Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)