Hey Church Family,
I hope you’re having a great day! It’s Sunday but nobody is here at the church. It’s kind of surreal. I’m so used to the rhythm of a typical Sunday morning that when it doesn’t happen things feel really weird. The weather got really bad on us so we cancelled all of our worship services.
Because of that, I thought I’d send out a special New Year’s Eve edition Weekly Update. I’ve done this a few times in the past as well. I just want to encourage you to close out the year strong and go into 2018 with a plan for how you’re going to grow spiritually.
Before going into all of that, though, let me encourage those of you who were planning on giving a tithe or offering this morning to consider doing so through our app or online giving. If you give before midnight it will show up on your 2017 contribution statement. (If you’ve never done this before, I made a screen recording that walks you through it)
With 2018 on the horizon, I want to use this weekly update to challenge you to have a plan for growing spiritually next year. Spiritual maturity is a funny thing. It’s not as linear as most people think. It doesn’t always depend on how much information you know or how many Bible verses you’ve memorized. Maturity in the Christian life is measured by how well your faith in Christ is expressing itself through acts of love.
Growing in your faith is simply growing in your ability to hear what God is saying and doing as he says. As my mom’s favorite hymn puts it, “Trust and obey! For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” Faith expressing itself through love. That is the Christian life. (cf Galatians 5:6)
I know that sounds like an oversimplification but I really believe it’s true. Over the years, as I’ve thought about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, the purest definition I can find is Jesus’ words to his original disciples. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
Around here we say that a disciple is “following Jesus, being changed by Jesus and committed to the mission of Jesus.”
In John’s Gospel we gain insight into three different pathways that disciples of Jesus walk on as they grow in their faith. At Broadview, we’ve summarized these pathways under the words worship, connect and bless.
The first pathways is in John 8:32.
“If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples.”
We use the word worship in all kinds of ways but it essentially means to ascribe to God what He is worth. We can do this through song, prayer, Bible study, serving and literally any other thing we do with our life. The focus on John 8:32, though, is to worship God through the Word.
For 2018 I want challenge you to find some way of connecting with God through the Scripture EVERY single day. Don’t just worship on Sundays through our worship gatherings. God wants to meet with you personally every single day through his Word. Through the Word we connect with Christ. That is how we abide in Him.
This year, I received some new books that I’m going to use for my morning devotionals. The first is a book by Tim Keller called “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs.” Keller also has a similar devotional book on the Psalms that is really good as well.
In addition to Keller’s book I’m also using a devotional written by Paul David Tripp entitled “New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional.” The reason I like devotionals like this is because it supplements my normal Bible reading with some commentary on single passage or biblical idea.
If you’ve ever tried reading through the Bible in a year or some other type of challenge in which you’re reading copious amount of Scripture, you can get overwhelmed by all of the information and fail to really connect with what God is trying to say. I still think it’s a good idea to read through the Bible. But, in my experience, long meditation on shorter passages of Scripture has proved more fruitful.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve NEVER read through the entire Bible then you should do so. There are some really great plans out there. At minimum, you should read through the New Testament at least once a year. There are several plans for that as well. Just don’t feel trapped into thinking that you must do that EVERY year. I’m always mixing it up in my quiet times so that it’s fresh.
If you’ve never heard of You Version or the Bible App then you should check that out. I’ve also just learned of a new resource called “Read Scripture.” The videos and other resources attached to the daily readings are top notch and really help you understand Scripture. There are so many tools out there. Find something you like and make 2018 a year in which you “abide in God’s Word.”
The last new resource I’m using in my daily devotionals for 2018 is the CSB Charles Spurgeon Study Bible. This is a study bible that has commentary by the famous English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His insights are really great. I’ve enjoyed this study Bible as it takes a different approach than many others do.
If you don’t have a good study Bible then I’d recommend some of the following. I bought my wife the NLT Life Application Study Bible for Christmas. I think the Life Application Bible Study Notes are probably the best out there in terms of making the text applicable for every day life. This study bible also comes with the NIV, KVJ and NKJV. (it’s a really good study bible!)
In years past I’ve also used the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. There are so many study bibles out there that it can be overwhelming. These are particularly good at drawing out application for everyday life. In terms of understanding the Bible and gaining historical, theological and similar types of insight I’d recommend the ESV Study Bible, CSB Study Bible or the John Macarthur Study Bible. Again, this is just a small sampling of what’s out there. The point is, find something that resonates with you and get in the Word of God on a daily basis. This one habit could very well change your life if you’re not already doing it.
The second pathway is in John 13:34-35
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
According to Jesus, spiritual maturity can’t happen if you’re living the Christian life all by yourself. You need “another” in order to do the “one anothers” of the New Testament. That’s why the second word in our discipleship process is “connect.”
We think that the more you connect with other Christians in the local church the more likely you will grow in your Christian faith. Primarily, this happens through small groups. But, there are a host of others ways you can connect to the church. If you think about it, most of the environments in our church are geared to become “relational vehicles” through which you can connect with other believers and grow in your walk with Jesus.
Celebrate Recovery, weekly/monthly prayer gatherings, mens/womens gatherings, senior adult gatherings, student gatherings, college gatherings, the list goes on and on. These are entry points into Christian community. If you’ve never participated in that kind of community then you’re missing out on a great blessing. Make 2018 the year you commit yourself to connecting to community.
To make finding a group easier, we’ve listed all of them on our new “internal website.” If you go to Broadview.Life you’ll find a card called “groups.” Click that card and consider joining a group for 2018. If you’re already part of a group, maybe you should consider starting your own group! With a church our size, we really need to DOUBLE the number of groups we have available.
This is something over which I’m really concerned. There is a growing number of people in our church who are disconnected from Christian community. They show up for Sunday morning worship but that’s about the extent of it. Make 2018 a year in which you personally are connected to a group. Also, encourage any and every person you see to be part of a group. Lastly, consider starting one yourself. (contact Taylor if you’re interested)
The last pathway is in John 15:8
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Blessing others through the multiplication of what God has put in you has been God’s strategy since day one. We see it in the life of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, David, Jesus and all the apostles. Use what’s in you to bless the world around you.
This really is a pathway for growing spiritually. The more you make your life less about you and more about others, the more you’ll experience growth as a Christian. You can do this by serving as a volunteer in the church but that’s not the only way. Imagine your life as a mission field. Your workplace, your home, your church and your city are all in need of a blessing. You can be that blessing.
You can encourage your small group to engage in a bless the city project. You can give to the World Missions Offering or commit to praying for or going on one of the scheduled 2018 mission trips. The opportunities are endless. Be creative. Be intentional. Bless others.
Faith expressing itself through works of love. That is the Christian life. Love towards God, love towards the Church and love towards the World. Worship, Connect and Bless.
2018 is giving each of us a fresh start to “begin again” in each of these arenas. I’ve never been big on New Years Resolutions. Let’s go ahead and toss that idea out the window. But, I do believe in renewed commitment. The Bible is full of “covenant renewal ceremonies.”
January 1 is a good time to do just that. Renew your commitment to the covenant; the covenant between you and the Lord and the covenant between you and your church.
Next Sunday we’re kicking off a series entitled “Begin Again.” Just as we’ve been talking about, it’s a series on renewing our commitment to God’s purposes in and through our lives. 2018 is going to be unique in terms of the preaching calendar. For the first time ever, we’re going to start preaching through one of the four Gospels.
I’ve always believed in expositional preaching. I’ve even preached through some of the smaller books in the Old or New Testaments. But, this year, we’re taking a big bite into a big book of the New Testament: the Gospel according to Luke.
Don’t worry, we’re still going to break it up into bite-size pieces. We will also preach it thematically along the lines of different series. We will take breaks here and there as well. But, the Lord has impressed on me the need for us to do this. So, we’re going to do it! It’s going to be a lot of fun.
This series will examine Luke 1-3 and should give you some tools on what it means to “Begin Again” no matter what you’re facing in life. In addition to the series, we will also be kicking off a 21 day fast for those who want to participate.
During the covenant renewal ceremonies of the Old Testament, many would be preceded or followed with a period of prayer and fasting. We’re going to do the same thing to kick off 2018. It’s just a reminder that without the presence and power of God in our church, we don’t have anything.
The staff have helped write a devotional that will go along with the 21 day fast so that we can all be reading and praying through the same things together. We will make the devotional available on Sunday morning, online and through the app. It all kicks off this next Sunday, January 7th, 2018!
If you’ve been out of church for a while, this is the perfect time to come back. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect series to invite your friend or neighbor to church, then this is the one. I can’t wait to share with you the things the Lord has revealed to me during this study.
That’s it for me. The roads are covered in ice and the office is closed tomorrow. I hope you’ll close out 2017 with a time of prayer and thanksgiving to God for what He has done. Then, wake up tomorrow morning and start 2018 with a PLAN to grow spiritually. You can do this. We can help. Let’s move forward together.
If there’s anyway I can pray for you, please let me know.