Archive for March, 2010

The Flashlight

March 27, 2010

Contributed by Tim White, Next Gen Pastor of Image Church

The flashlight is one of the most used and well-known tools around today.  We all should have at least one flashlight in our homes, as well as one in an emergency kit in our car. To a young child, a flashlight is one of the greatest toys ever made. Have you ever watched a child play with a flashlight? Well, I just gave you my secret. I just hand out flashlights. A flashlight will keep them occupied for hours.  But have you ever truly thought about how a flashlight works?

The flashlight is made up of three parts:

  1. The body or casing,
  2. The on/off switch which turns the light on and off, and
  3. The light bulb which lights-up when turned on. 

The flashlight really is quite simple, yet used for many things. It is important to have when the power goes out in your home, or your car breaks down on the side of the road at night, or just to occupy your children when they get out of control.  But is a flashlight useful by itself?  A flashlight without power is useless to us. We might as well just throw it away. The importance of a flashlight is to give light where there is none. For a flashlight to be able to do this, it needs some kind of power source. Most flashlights get their power from batteries. A flashlight with batteries becomes one of the most important tools to have. 

For the last few weeks, I have been expositing the book of Philippians, written by Paul from a prison, to the church in Philippi. The last couple of days, I have been working through this passage and trying to make sense of what God is saying through Paul, to His people in Philippi, and to us today.

Philippians 2:14-18 – Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

We are to do all things without grumbling or questioning, that we may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.  And why is that important?  Because we are to shine as lights to the crooked and twisted generation that we live in.

A couple of weeks ago while teaching our 5th and 6th grade Discovery Land class, we got on the topic of being a light to others and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There were a lot of questions, and I wondered if I was getting my point across to them. As I was thinking of a way to help them understand it, Sam, one of our Discovery Land children, spoke-up and said, “So what you’re saying is that we are like flashlights, and Jesus is the batteries”.  I quickly replied, “exactly!”  He got it, and I couldn’t have come-up with a better way to describe it.  We are God’s flashlights, and Jesus is the battery. Without Jesus, we are worthless and good for nothing.

Paul goes on to say that we are to hold fast to the word of life.  The word is what gives life and truth. It is what keeps us charged and is what should shine out from us. “So that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul was saying to do all of this so that when Jesus comes back for His people, He can be proud, knowing that all of His hard work and labor were not done in vain.  Paul knew all to well what it was like to be a flashlight for God – to the point of willing to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of the faith of others.

A drink offering, illustrated here by Paul, is familiar in both the Old Testament and Greco-Roman culture. It involves pouring out old wine, either onto the ground, or as Paul is referring to here, on an altar along with an animal or grain sacrifice. It was a vivid illustration of a life “poured out” for God’s service. Paul poured out his life as a light to this dark and twitted world. He was calling the church in Philippi to do the same, so that they can all rejoice together on the day our Lord Jesus returns.

God is calling us to do the same today:

  • To live as God’s flashlights in this dark and twisted world,
  • To live a life “poured out” for God’s service, and
  • To train-up and encourage others to do the same.

…all so that on the day of Christ’s return, we can all rejoice together!

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Dead Dogs and Dead Faith

March 20, 2010

Contributed by Chris Rhodenhizer, Lead Pastor of Image Church

My parents owned a golden retriever for several years.  All of their grandchildren loved this dog, especially my kids – they would hug it, wrestle with it, and even try to ride it like a horse. The dog tolerated all of this with complete patience.  One particular weekend, my nephew and niece [my sister’s kids] were staying with my parents and had been climbing all over the dog the entire time. The dog endured it, and even seemed more patient than usual. As a matter of fact, it just laid by the fireplace the entire time and allowed the kids to do whatever they wanted to do. At some point, my father noticed that the dog seemed exceptionally still and realized the dog had not moved the entire day.  The dog had laid there most of the weekend without making a sound;  it was as if he were asleep.  When my father approached the dog, he reached down and realized the dog was as stiff as a board, was not breathing, and was in fact DEAD.  The dog was lifeless! YES, my little niece and nephew had in fact been playing with a dead dog!!!

Last week, Mike Scott wrote a blog about living on Faith.  So this week, I would like to Biblically help us understand what that means by defining the opposite of faith.  Here is a little piece from our MILK to MEAT series we did last Fall…

James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. [ESV]

James’ whole, entire point in this passage is that a person, who possesses true Faith from the One true God, will practice that faith in this life!  When James closes and says faith without works is dead, he is describing a person who knows the Gospel, and even agrees with it, but never lives it out – the person just doesn’t get it, and it is what it is…DEAD!!!  Read what some of our early church pastors/theologians/leaders preached concerning: faith; justification (the act of God deeming us righteous/innocent); and our good works.

Martin Luther and other early church reformers took a stand. They would say this, ― Justification is by faith alone, and what they were communicating was the truth that we see in James, as well as throughout the entire Bible.  The “alone” didn’t mean faith existed alone, but that we are justified on Christ’s merit alone.  If it was on Jesus’ merit alone, then our faith from Jesus would produce good works in our lives.  John Calvin put it this way: It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone. Calvin goes on to write this in his Institutes, and gives us a Biblical definition of the faith we see here in James: A firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor towards us, founded on the truth of a free promise of Christ, and revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Church, when Jesus died on the cross, He shed His blood to redeem His church, men and women, from their sins. He paid the price by His death and released us from the bondage of sin and death through His resurrection. As He rose from the dead, so He raised our lives from our grave. If that is true, then when we experience the regenerative work of Jesus, which means our eyes are opened to the truth of Who He is and His Word, then we commit by faith to following Jesus. This faith brings us real life, for the first time in our lives. The natural overflow will be a life that lives for Jesus, strives to live like Jesus and no longer reflects self, but now reflects the Image of Jesus Christ!!! Genuine faith produces a life, which produces good works, for God‘s glory!

DEAD Faith is the opposite of a LIVING faith. LIVING faith is alive and active – unlike my parents dog, that was still, stiff, stagnant, and DEAD!!!

Faith

March 14, 2010

Contributed by Mike Scott, Elder Overseer of Web/ Graphic Arts/ Media at Image Church.

If I told you to have a seat in a chair you couldn’t see would you? If we were on the top of a tower and I told you to clip on a harness that didn’t seem to exist and jump off would you trust me? If you answered Yes to either of these things you would probably be categorized as brave or stupid. The funny thing is in the world’s eyes Christians are sometimes seen that way. We worship a God we can’t see. We have a personal relationship with a Savior that none of us have physically met. Not to mention the crazy idea we have about Jesus coming again to reign over the earth. This sounds absolutely absurd because it isn’t logical to them.

Hebrews11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
ESV

Here Paul tells us that as Christians we walk by faith and not by sight. Since God has proven Himself throughout scripture that He is trustworthy then our faith should be easy for us. However that isn’t always the case. Sometimes we find ourselves taking matters into our own hands because of a lack of faith. I have been guilty of this numerous times but God continues to be patient with me and love me unconditionally. Can you imagine how much faith it must have taken to be willing to sacrifice your own son like Abraham was willing to do. The faith it must have taken to stand up to Pharoah like Moses did. The disciples following Jesus took a huge amount of faith.

When we live by faith we also show obedience to God because we are showing that we believe what He has told us in the Bible. I don’t consider myself a know it all and will never be accused of being a brilliant scholar, but the act of faith actually comes easier for me than maybe it does some.  To know that God is in control and has a reason for everything in my life is a very comforting feeling. I read about a comparison to faith being like the foundation of  a building. Underlying a building is its foundation, and in most buildings, the foundation is rarely seen. If it is seen at all, usually only a small portion is visible, but it is there. If no foundation exists, the building soon becomes crooked and warped. In most cases, it will collapse and be completely unusable. We should examine our lives to see how much faith we put in God and remember that to be faithful is to be dedicated and loyal to Him.

Is It Time?

March 7, 2010

Contributed by Russ Perkins, Elder Overseer of Communities at Image Church

2 Samuel 23:11-12 – “And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines.  But Shammah took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the LORD worked a great victory.”

“King David’s Mighty Men of Valor” – King David had a posse of some extremely tough hombres.  I remain convinced they could have made any current ultimate fighting champion cry like a little girl. They served King David, not only in his attaining the throne but also remaining upon it during his 40 year reign. 

The two verses above describe but one of these mighty men.  This excerpt serves as an example of just a single one of his exploits.  We are only allowed the smallest glimpse of the events that transpired that day, but what is crystal clear is this – while others fled, Shammah took his stand.  This is never an easy task, but often it is exactly what is required.  Shammah could have perhaps picked any place but, for reasons we can only guess, he chose a plot of beans (lentils).  Enough was enough, no more excuses; he would not budge.  Too much was at stake. It was time to get down to the business at hand no matter the cost, so he did… and well, so then, perhaps should we. 

Six years ago I turned 40 years old.  It would prove for me a pivotal chapter in my life.  In short, the realization that I had likely passed the middle point of my own earthly existence was profoundly sobering.  Frankly, as I at that moment in time surveyed my journey with the Lord at about 17 years in – I found myself somewhat dissatisfied with the cumulative results of my contribution.  There was never any question in my mind that, for all that time, the Lord had been exceedingly generous and gracious to me.  I would simply come to the conclusion that I had achieved little in the way of lasting significance on my King’s behalf.  Now don’t get me wrong – I was busy doing all sorts of “good things”.  I want to be very clear on this point. I, like you, understand the Lord loves us each unconditionally, and our faithfulness is what He desires.  His acceptance of us is not performance based.  He loves us because we are His.  But the Lord also expects us to do the things we know to do to the best of our ability and with all our hearts.  He takes great pleasure in our dutiful obedience given in response to His limitless mercy and grace.  The Lord had done so very much for me, but what had I really done for Him?  Enough was enough. It had, for me, become time to get down to “His” business.  Too much time had been squandered already chasing many of the wrong dreams.          

Providence would bring us to NOVA in 2004.  Not long at all after our initial arrival, we would discover what would become Image Church.  I knew almost immediately that this was the place we were supposed to be and these were the people we were to knit our hearts together with.  Image Church was to become our “plot of lentils”.  My decision was simple: we would join this, then new, church plant on the mission to which all His chosen are called – Advancing His Kingdom in their days.  Even back then in 2004, Shannon and I could clearly see and both understand all that had transpired in our lives previously had served as preparation for the new reality we faced (helping to plant a church in NOVA – advancing His Kingdom in our day and this city).  A short detour would take us to Texas and then back to NOVA, but His hand was in all of that as well. 

Let me be straightforward and get right to the point.  Are you ready to pick a place and to take a stand?  Will you knit your heart together with others and join in on the mission we, His chosen, are all called to?  Are you ready to do this no matter the cost?  Are you ready to stop pursuing the wrong dreams and chase the right ones?  The Lord is the One who will do all the heavy lifting.  Thousands of years, and these truths still remain.  The Lord is the One who ultimately brings about the great victory.  All we need to do is pick a place and make our stand.  Join us as we join Him – there is no time to waste!