Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

Worship Gatherings

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God’s Ways

September 7th, 2008 by Vic

Bible Reference: John 14:6

The Lord is very good to me. I enjoy telling God’s story and helping people see that God is active in our lives today. God’s Word is alive.

Think about it. If God exists beyond time, He has no beginning or end. He cannot change, because change requires time. Without time His words have no beginning or end. So if God exists beyond time, then what He says can never stop being said. His Word is alive. (Most people would rather die than think. And many do.)

God’s Word is exciting.

God’s Word is life.

All our stories are part of God’s story. The Bible never says that we accept Jesus into our lifestyle. God accepts us into His lifestyle.

My story started in this neighborhood. When this building was being built, I remember playing in a pile of sand on this floor. I remember receiving a Bible from Mrs. Margaret Stipp for memorizing Bible verses. Norris King awarded me $10 for reading through the NT.

In God’s care I met Nancy at Cascade College. While going to NTS, we planted a church at Excelsior Springs, north of Kansas City. After graduation we were youth pastors in Spokane and I did graduate work in counseling at Whitworth College. While youth pastors at College Church in Nampa, Nancy was head resident in a girl’s dorm at NNU. We were ministers of youth and education at Hillcrest Nazarene in Vancouver while I worked on a Master’s in Theology at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland. Now it is called Western Seminary.

We enjoyed 2 years at a Bible College in Trinidad. Nancy served as librarian and I was Dean of Students. There I began my word study of Peter’s letters. In the early 80’s we pastored a church plant in Willamette and completed a Master’s in Mission degree at Western Evangelical Seminary. Then we were asked to pastor a church in San Juan. We enjoyed 4 years there. Nancy hosted over 350 overnight guests. I did some graduate work in Educational Administration at the New York University extension campus.

We also pastored in New Zealand 2 years. We relocated the church and parsonage and built a new facility on 5 acres. I started an extension campus for the New Zealand Bible College in Hamilton. I also started work on my Doctorate in Missions, which I completed in 1993.
In 1998 we were asked to pastor the Nazarene church in Mt Waverley, Melbourne, Australia. Again we had a building project to complete and I did some teaching at the Bible Seminary in Brisbane.

From man’s point of view, we’ve had a lot of experiences. But from God’s point of view, a farm boy and a farm girl have made of lot of friends around the world. Daily we give thanks for our friends and the opportunity we have to enjoy grandpa Schoenborn’s trees and trails.

We believe God is sovereign. He puts me where He would be if He were me. He puts you where He would be if He were you. Are you listening? That means you are going to spend time with some difficult people. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, good people who are easy to get along with. He came to save sinners. Jesus wants to love them and you are the way he wants to love them.

So here we are. We are the church that meets at Liberal. We have corporate papers filed. We are legally a community church. How do we replant a church a Liberal? Only God knows. I do not know how He is going to do it, nor who He will do it through. I do know that He will surprise us. I did stop at the RSG office and talked with the receptionist. I asked if they had a chaplain for the mill workers. I know Globe Union in Canby has one. She said I should talk to Mitch, but he was busy. She would have him call, but he didn’t. I called back, but he was not available so I will let the Lord open that door if He wants to open it for us.

As we grow together, we need to think about the meaning of ‘church’. The word ‘ecclesia’ is used 111-114 times in the Greek NT, depending on which Greek bible you use. The word church was not used to identify a building for over 100 years after the resurrection of Jesus. However our culture uses the word church to identify buildings or denominations rather than local groups of people.

What will we require for membership in our fellowship? Peter says the only requirements are to fear God and do good. Jesus said love God and your neighbor. Traditionally our churches have spent a lot of time distinguishing what we believe. The Bible tells us over and over that beliefs are only important if matched by behavior (Ez 33:12-). Maybe we need to identify our requirements of membership as behaviors more than beliefs. That will be a future discussion.

I already have 4 suggestions

1. Read your Bible because Jesus said if you hunger and thirst for righteousness you will be filled.
But university profs read the Bible and it does not change them.

2. Pray because you fear God, know God, and love God.
But pagans pray and try to use God as a magic formula.

3. Meet people because Jesus died for them and wants to love them through us.
But politicians use people for selfish reasons

4. Be Christian because His love gives you no option. Repent of your old ways; follow the Way.

This is hard to get wrong.

In some ways, it is arrogant to think that my list of beliefs could ever be a complete requirement of God. The Bible does not give us a list of beliefs. It does not give us a systematic theology. It does not give us a list of membership requirements. It is filled with metaphors more than definitions. It is the story of God. Jesus invites us to be part of His story. God has never stopped working in our world and in our lives. We need eyes to see.

In our culture, the law gives us some guidelines for membership that we have to follow. Some form of attendance is part of that. The Greek word ‘ecclesia’ has the connotation of attendance. But how many church services did Jesus attend? We have made attendance kind of like circumcision for the Jews.

We need to be more like the farmers in Australia. In the outback, they do not build fences, they dig wells. Let’s make sure the living water in our lives is sweet. Be Christian. You do not have a product or a belief system to market, but a person to reveal. We are not supposed to be a religious Costco, a one-stop mall for God.

Sarah Palin used an old quote that is worth repeating.

Ships are safe in the harbor, but that is not why they were built.

We serve the Creator God who is a risk taker. Living by faith involves taking risks. Become as a child. Learn to play again. Have fun walking in the Way. Remember birth is messy. WE will make mistakes. I hope to give some recognition for the most creative mistakes that some of us are going to make. Moses asked God to teach him His way (Ex 33:13).

The first verse I memorized for Mrs. Stipp was John 14:6.

“Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

Think about the Jesus way for a minute. Jesus came to build the kingdom of God. Why did He not go to Herod and find out how to build a kingdom? Herod had power. He built big buildings. He had elaborate resorts. His army was ruthless. If Jesus wanted to build a kingdom, why didn’t he consult Herod?

The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal. The American way is more typically impersonal. The ways of the world destroy people. Jesus’ way loves on people. The Jesus’ way involves a giving and living sacrifice. The American way is to avoid pain. The American way is to consume, but not sacrifice. We have state of the art consumer churches. We have tried to attract people by making the gospel a bag of fortune cookies. Americans know how to attract a large crowd. But it is not Jesus’ way. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of denying self. Popular preachers show people how to make money, feel good, manage employees, look good and please God. But these are not the way of Jesus and He called us to follow. Jesus wrote no books. Jesus did not charge for His teaching and preaching. Jesus was not impressed with religious people. Jesus’ only weapon is love. Does anyone notice? The church is not about me. The church is not a place where I go to get something out of it.

Following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else. We are a royal priesthood. There is no clergy/laity distinction. There is no hierarchy in grape vines. In the NT a pastor was a ministry or function, not an office in an organization. When you became a Christian, you received grace or gifts from God. I’ve been graced to build you up and you’ve been grace to build me up. Nothing of what you have received from God was to build you up.

Mark 1:15-17 gives Jesus’ first 3 commands: repent (change directions) believe (personal relationship) follow (obedient way of life). The way you follow the way is important. It is significant that the primary term for identifying the followers of Jesus in the early church was “people of the Way”. The word ‘way’ is a metaphor, which means that the word both is and is not what it names. A metaphor carries both seen and unseen meaning.

There are wrong ways to be on the way. Jesus was tempted to do good in the wrong ways. Jesus was tempted to impose His will on rocks. Jesus was tempted to meet people’s needs, but meeting people’s needs was not what Jesus came to do. Jesus did not come to make people feel good or entertained. Jesus did not come to manipulate people into God’s Kingdom. He did not set up a visible government free of corruption. Jesus refused to do good things in the wrong ways.

Peter’s letters are concerned about your way of life. The word for way of life occurs 13 times in the NT and Peter uses it 8 times.

1 Peter 1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1,2,16;

2 Peter 2:7; 3:11

Look at 1 Peter 1:1-2 and note the way to begin replanting a church or just living in the way.

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