A Sent People

We are on the verge of a New Series, starting this Sunday, May 26, 2019: “A Movement of God Through the People of God!” While this is a new focus that has been launched through our Global Ministry Center, it really does tie in beautifully with what God has been leading us in since the beginning of 2019.

Yes, we are a sent people! Jesus states it clearly in John 20: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” Sometimes it’s easier to neglect it. Other times it may be simple to avoid it. On other occasions, sitting and listening seems to be enough. But the reality is: We are a sent people! There is no negotiation. We must go! The questions arises in my heart/soul: If not us, who? If not now, when? 

So this Series is being custom-crafted for what God is calling us to do, in this action-oriented command. It is our part and it certainly helps define Who We Are. I/we invite you to come and join us on this God ordained, Jesus led, Spirit filled journey. Without giving to much away, let me just encourage you that you will be built up, encouraged, and yes, probably challenged – to find a place to help us “work out what God has worked in” (in the words of Oswald Chambers).  But really, what is the alternative? To do nothing? To avoid it? To neglect or overlook the command of Jesus?

No one has to do everything. No one can. But everyone can do something. There is a place for you here: a place where you can believe, belong, and become. A place where you and yours can call “home”. A place where you can worship and plug in to the community. A place where you can serve for the glory of God and impact lives.

Join us this Sunday 5-26-19 (Memorial Day Weekend) for the launch. 10 am right here at Bridgeway Church (100 Lockhart Drive, Beaufort, NC). Visit us online to learn more: www.bridgewaync.org. May God bless you, and give you peace!

Porter

 

Practical Application

Yesterday we finished up a 4-week mini-series on the concept and mandate of biblical, Christ-filled unity. Coming off the Advent and Christmas Season and entering straight into a new year is an encouraging, exciting, and yet, exhausting period of time for many people.

With the holiday celebrations over and with school and work back to some level of normalcy, the cold, wintry January days can seem long. Debt is a little higher, savings are a bit lower, waists may have expanded a tad, and the resolutions for the new year may have already been voided out. Statistically, about 60% of people who list at least one resolution admit that before January closes out – it has been given up on.

With all of this as a pretty consistent history, God delivered to us a focus on unity throughout January, and within our 4-week expedition, He revealed quite a bit. Most importantly, however, is His presence with us. I really sensed all month long, with others who just seemed to confirm it, that His presence was especially close. Yesterday (that being Sunday, January 27), there were scores of comments and confirmations that really collaborated it all. In short, we determined: Our hearts and His house was full of the Holy Spirit. 

I sensed that unity, in Him, opened up the opportunity for His presence to saturate in a way that not only welcomed Him but gave Him complete access. Unity does this. Unity accomplishes this. And even in the things where we might have differences of opinion or personal preference, when we lay them down to be unified, it shows that we take His mantles of “unity in the body” and “unity as the bond of love” passionately, seriously, and with zeal.

Encountering this…experiencing this…being a part of this can only happen and will only happen when we, as His Church, intentionally decide to put His will first and follow His purposes. It happens when the Church is the Church, on mission! It happens when we, in spite of ourselves, seek to bring glory and honor to Him.

  • We can have differences.
  • We should celebrate diversity.

But when it comes to unity, we must lay it down for the sake of love. And out of the love for Christ and for one another, unity will prevail. It is the byproduct of that love.

May the Lord continue to move us, at Bridgeway Church, into unity at deeper levels. I am prayerfully looking forward to what it is He has in store for us into February, and beyond. I believe we are on the threshold of something very enlightening, very engaging, and very eternal. Join us, if you haven’t already. Be in prayer. Seek the Lord. Help us to be unified in love.

Porter

Unity, a Great Convincer

Yesterday, the Lord led us to look at unity as one of the great convincing testimonies for the church. Sure, there are others: forgiveness, grace, joy, and love (to name a few). But in our current series on “Unity,” the focus was on this mandate seen throughout the Word of God.

A church, a community, a people unified under God, on mission for His purpose, will have a lasting impact on the culture and world when they seek and find oneness. This is evident at so many levels and in countless ways.

In these past 3 weeks, we’ve gleaned Ephesians 4, Psalm 133, and 1 Corinthians 1 to see how unity has played a critical role with God’s people, in His Church, and in accomplishing His will on earth. In our Wednesday evening Colony Gatherings, this season, we are in a study called, “Be My Witnesses!” – a journey through Acts. Here, we have witnessed firsthand the living testimony of the church in the earliest days. They were on board with God’s mission and they invested in the work. Not only that, they were committed to doing life together.

Here at Bridgeway, our heart is in line with that of our Lord. We desire to be poured out for His plan and purpose: here, in this region, and wherever He leads us. There are opportunities in ministry and in mission, and together, we can accomplish so much more than we could ever do apart. There is space and a definite place for you here.

In this way, we are surely better together, always!

Unity is a great convincer!

Porter

Impacting Others


One of the many papers I wrote, in the 3rd year of my Master of Divinity program surrounded a theme that had a tremendous amount of practical relevancy to it. The class was Church History II: From the Reformation to the Modern Day, and the paper was a major portion of the final grade.

My, my…those paper writing, mid-term/final exam, 4-5 hours of study and research each evening and night while working full-time, raising a family, going to church, nights and weekend class – days. For me, it took 6 years to complete the 90 credit hours, acquiring field and life experience, and going through approval for degree confirmation. I loved the process and I was blessed in how it equipped and trained me.

Back to this one class though: My paper for this course centered around much of what we face, today, in a very individually, inward focused world.

I mean look around, you don’t have to look far at all to see how deeply people love their own preferences. People occasionally ask me how I know this to be true, and I will respond, “Because I live and breathe.”

Some share their preferences non-stop. And many aren’t hesitant, at all, to let you know what they are.

There are millions of ways to custom-tailor your life to perfectly suit your every preference. When times get rough, or even a little uncertain – many think very little of pulling away from responsibilities. A growing number will completely reorient their life from whatever causes even a hint of inconvenience. This extends to something as central, and needed, and purposeful as our commitment to the Lord and to His local church.

All who are connected to the local church, each genuine Christ-follower, has witnessed people (sometimes family, other times close friends, and even co-workers and neighbors) waiver and wonder in their commitment. Maybe at one time we were that wanderer ourselves. The fact is: It is very personal and up close.

Other times, we have had to extend a call, a hand, a note, in order to encourage someone back into connection, fellowship, participation, and worship. And is often the case, we will often pull out one or two of our “go to passages” from Scripture. There are several that are extracted from many segments of the New Testament that are cited, quoted, and used.

One of the more acclaimed is found in Hebrews, chapter 10. It is here, in vv.24-25 where we are told to warn of the danger of “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” We insist that those who neglect to participate in the local church will encounter spiritual temptation, spiritual decline, and even spiritual death. And while all of this is true, it is not the key principle of the passage. In fact, when we use the passage in this way, we are not displaying the divine urgency behind the text, but our own deep-rooted individualism.

Here is what Hebrews 10:24-25 states, in its full contextualization and meaning: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

This passage does, indeed, warn of the serious consequences of skipping out on church, but its focus is not what we might expect through our Western, individualized eyes and minds. This passage does not warn us that when we skip church we put ourselves at risk. Rather, it warns us that when we skip church we put other people at risk. You see, the root here is neglecting the needs of others…which means, we don’t demonstrate our love for God, or for them, correctly. And even worse, we show complete disregard for the Bride of Christ: the church.

Gathering with God’s people is not first about being blessed, but it is about being a blessing. It’s not first about getting, but it’s about giving.

As we come together for things like Worship, The Colonies, ministry opportunities, training and workshops, for outreach opportunities, our first consideration should be “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We should approach Sunday deliberately, eager to do good to others, to be a blessing to them, to give things away – including ourselves.

In those times we feel our passion or zeal is fading (even a bit), when we feel the temptation to skip out on a Sunday or withdraw altogether, we should consider our God-given responsibility to encourage “one another, and all the more as you see the Day of the Lord drawing near.” This text is not about us, but about them. This text is not for Christian individuals but Christian communities.

And, of course, our commitment to the local church is far more than a commitment to Sunday morning services.

  • It is a commitment to other people through all of life.
  • It is a commitment to worship with them; then, to connect and fellowship with them, to serve them, and to pray for them all throughout the week. That is the mantle of DISCIPLESHIP.
  • It is to bind ourselves together in a covenant in which we promise to do good to them, to make them the special object of our attention and encouragement. It is where we can know and where we can be known.
  • It is to promise that we will identify and deploy our spiritual gifts for their benefit so we can serve them, strengthen them, and bless them.

Every Christian has a place within the local church. Every Christian is needed within a local church. Every Christian has responsibilities within a local church. Every Christian is to commit to the members of a local church and to love them, to encourage them, and to stir them up in zeal until the day of Christ’s return.

This has to happen…this must happen…even when our preferences are not met.

Are we considering the needs of others? Are we allowing ministry to happen to people who are not as familiar with faith than we are?

The church must be a place that reaches the unsaved and disciples the saved. The church must be more of a hospital…a clinic…a growing, working, community center than it is a museum, a venue, or a morgue. May God grant us favor and power as we seek to be and further become this, for His glory!

Porter

 

Identity Counts

I remember it well, even if it was 30 years ago: my first job. I actually have to give my sister, Liz, a lot of kudos for getting me on as a dishwasher to start. I was 16 years old, soon to be a Junior in High School. But Liz was one of the best servers there, so she had a lot of pull with management.

I worked for about 9 months in that hot kitchen, washing plates, loading-cycling-sorting-and stacking dishes and flatware. It was a bit monotonous, but it paid money. Then, I finally came up for a server position. Soon after, I was trained over a few weeks, watched for a few more, and then cast into the world of direct customer service, attending to customer’s needs. {Liz did warn me about this too].

Over the next 6 years, up until college graduation, I worked that job and applied for others. They included an Assistant Manager’s position at a retail Music Store (which is no longer in business) and as a Book-Keeper/Payroll Clerk at a Resort nearby.

Things even got more interesting after college graduation. I won’t bore you here with those details and experiences. Let’s just say: there were some very interesting things before I landed in the world of manufacturing.

But one consistent thing I learned, as I look back on all of that from 20-30 years ago now is this: Identity mattered then, and it surely still matters today.

Even if you are an American citizen, born here and lived here your whole life, you know a few things about what occurs when you apply for a job:

  • You complete an official Application, answering all kinds of questions about yourself. Even explaining to some extent, why you are “interested” in the job or position.
  • If asked, you provide a resume that even further divulges into “who you are” “what you have accomplished” and “what you can offer.”
  • You submit to a drug screen.
  • In many instances, you will also have to sign for a Background Check to be completed.
  • Then, you begin the process of personal, face-to-face interviews. I know some people who went through many layers of these, including up to 4 different dates/times.
  • And of course, everyone is familiar with the 90-Day Probationary Period. In that window, you are observed and evaluated to ensure you are a good fit, a reliable employee, and able to complete the job responsibilities.

While some of this may vary from place to place, from position to position, one thing is constant: Who you are, matters, up front; and who you become is something that is observable to those around you.

Your identity and who you are matters to God – most importantly. The real question of your life is this: Who (or in some cases, what) are you identified with? In the Word of God, we are told over and over again that we are to be made, more and more, in the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is exactly how we will be recognized by the Father when we see Him, face-to-face.

Questions are: Are we becoming more and more like Him? Are we following His example and mandate? Are we yielding to His Lordship? How are we being identified?

There is nothing wrong with knowing or getting to know someone’s identity. If we do this when applying for a job…if it matters when we are before God Himself…then it must also be important when people show up at our doorstep. When Jesus was asked a question in and effort to try and trip Him up, they were pinning the government against the law of God. In essence, the way I read it, they were trying to get Him to say, “you don’t have to pay your taxes.” This would undercut Caesar (and the Roman authority). But Jesus answered conversely, in a way that they could not wiggle out of. He responded:

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

There is balance and reason in that response. Some may say that it pertained to taxes. Others may try and turn that, signaling it is 2,000 years old and given in a different culture and era (not applicable today). I say that Jesus answered that with an answer that is timeless and one that we must willingly accept; one that is clarified in other parts of Scripture: “obey those in authority over you” and “pray for them.” 

These are tumultuous times. There are great challenges before us. And yet, we are closer to Jesus’ return as we have ever been! In these days, the enemy is using just about everything to try and divide people. We are told this would happen, even as the Day of the Lord draws near – the intensity, the division – will only increase.

It is in these times we must turn to steadfast prayer, to fasting, to service. We must saturate ourselves in the Lord’s presence and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth. The most important thing: to have our identity in Jesus Christ, and to do our best so that others desire to be identified by Him/in Him. So let us be a people after God’s own heart, not trouncing on or minimizing His commands and laws, but upholding it through obedient compassion and faithful stewardship.

All things are under His Lordship and reign…thankfully! We can be, and must be, both responsible and compassionate. Blessed is the Name of the Lord!

Porter