VICTORY!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

1 Corinthians 15 (NLT)

THE GOSPEL

“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NLT).

Paul makes it clear that this message 1) was welcomed by them, 2) was that in which they took their stand, and 3) it is the message that saved them. He is so confident in this message to assert that Jesus’ resurrection was predicted by the Scriptures, verified by Paul and the other apostles and by more than 500 witnesses.

What more could be asserted to verify that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection? On the one hand is the internally consistent testimony of the scriptures that were fulfilled. On the other hand is the externally consistent, historical testimony of eyewitnesses from Jesus’ closest associates to more than 500 people.

NO RESURRECTION?

Having anchored our belief in this certainty (1 Corinthians 15:1-11), it is now time for Paul to turn to those who would challenge whether or not Jesus’ resurrection was true (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Suffering for the Gospel makes no sense if this were to be true. Fortunately, Paul does not spend much time here.

VICTORY IS OURS!

The conclusion of 1 Corinthians 15 is a rousing affirmation of confidence about how God is going to finally transform us into heavenly beings that will live forever. The resurrection is certain to Paul and those who put their trust in Christ. There is no other historical event that is more validated and verified. It’s centrality to our faith provides power to transform lives, the strength to go on and to provide hope in the most challenging of human circumstances.

This is our focus in this morning’s worship with prayer by Mike Plouhar, reading by Pam Pylkas, singing by Harold and Ashley Jackson and final reflections and observations by our shepherd, Dean Wolf. Join us by clicking the link below.

For a guided communion service, please click on the link below.

SING

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Acts 16:16-40 (NLT)

Harassed by a demon, falsely accused, judged without trial, beaten, imprisoned and chained. Just another day in the life of the apostle Paul. Only, this time, he waited until the end to ask why they would beat a Roman citizen without the benefit of a trial. For the local officials, this was inviting disaster and probable execution from the Roman authorities.

If Paul would have mentioned his Roman citizenship at the first, he probably could have avoided the sufferings of beatings and imprisonment. He and Silas might have lived under house arrest until the trial in which they would have likely been found innocent. Then they would have either continued their work in Philippi or moved on.

On the other hand, as we see in Acts 16, if he had not been imprisoned he and Silas would not have had an opportunity to sing and pray out loud. Their captive audience of prisoners and jailers might never have heard the gospel. The Philippian jailer may never have saved himself and his household.

By choosing to endure the unjust suffering, Paul and Silas let go and let God use this opportunity for His purposes.

BAD SUFFERING

In a culture in which we believe that all suffering is bad suffering, it is important to pause between our prayers for relief. During those moments of silence it is good to ask the Lord for opportunities to allow Him to redeem our suffering for His purposes. How can God use our time to accomplish His will?

Click the image below to join us we dig into Acts 16:16-40 for the details about Paul’s missionary work in Philippi.

COMMUNION SERVICE

For assistance in conducting your own traditional communion service, click the image below. There you will be guided through the Lord’s Supper.

POWER

James 1:2-8 (NLT)

Times like this often lead us to feel powerless, helpless and alone. James 1:2-8 talks about enduring suffering with joy because the testing of our faith leads to a greater good: perseverance.

DOUBLE-MINDED MAN

A double-minded man has faith in God, and prays for God to make the suffering stop. When his prayer is not answered as he desires, he becomes angry and resentful. He concludes: If God was truly God he would have answered my prayer.

POWER IN DEPENDENCE UPON GOD

On the other hand, the believer may still ask for the suffering to end; but, they know that this is not the most important thing from God’s perspective. For the person who is truly dependent upon God, he or she knows that God uses those troubles in our lives–when we feel weak and powerless—for His purposes.

POWER IN BROKENNESS

Paul said, ‘when I’m weak, then I am strong.’ Perhaps it is something we can grow through in our personal walk with Him. Or, perhaps, it is for someone else’s benefit as they watch and listen to us in the midst of our struggles. When we are truly dependent upon God, it is God’s power that works in us to accomplish His will.

COMMUNION SERVICE

https://youtu.be/I_5y9w0xim8

AUTHORITY

John 10:17-18 (NIRV)

Jesus claimed the authority to both lay His life down and to take it back up again (John 10:17-18).

Who does this kind of thing?

Only God–a Being that resides outside of our limitations–can choose to do this. So, of course, this is what Jesus did.

Why? What difference does this make on how we live our lives?

QUESTIONS WITH ANSWERS

During the Corona Virus “stay-in-place” we can ask these kinds of questions with the assurance that Jesus has already answered them by actually doing what He said He would do!

The purpose of today’s lesson is to ask a question that will chart the course of this series. What does it mean for us to know that God has shown us the way to His source of joy by His Son’s death, burial and resurrection.

Click the link below for help with a traditional communion service.

https://youtu.be/I_5y9w0xim8

Saturday

Sunday, April 12, 2020

John 20 (NLT)

A lot has been written about Friday. A great deal has been written about Sunday: i.e., Easter Sunday. How much thought have we given to Saturday?

Of course, Jesus had been crucified Friday before noon when darkness fell across the land (Matthew 27:45). He died around 3 pm (Matthew 27:46). Shortly afterwards His body was taken down and hurriedly buried in the tomb before 6 pm (John 19:31, 38-40), the beginning of the Sabbath day of rest.

EASTER

Looking back through the eyes of faith, the hope of Christians is anchored in the fact that Jesus arose from the dead. In fact, the apostle Paul makes the assertion that if it is not true, Christians should be among the most pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

SATURDAY

To come closer to realizing how important Jesus’ resurrection was to His followers, it is worth considering the darkness of Saturday. In fact, it is John who tells us that when Jesus appeared to His disciples after His passion they were in a room with locked doors (John 20:19, 26).

This makes perfect sense. Likely they were afraid of suffering the same fate of their Master. Indeed, Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus admits, “we had hoped” to the disguised, resurrected Jesus (Luke 24:21).

COVED-19 AND SATURDAY

The truth is that we know how they were feeling on that Saturday between despair and rejoicing. At some point in life everyone has their Saturdays when it is hard to fight off the cratering feeling of hopelessness and hold onto the last strands of hope.

These type of Saturdays include those late night phone calls, doctor visits, pink slips and stay-in-place orders that lead us to wonder about the future. Just listen closely to the present debate between those who promote enduring the isolation for multiple months and those who are ready to get back to work. No doubt it will be a life-and-death decision for some. Others fear that going much longer will risk jumping off of the cliff of economic disaster. In the meantime…it’s Saturday.

SUNDAY’S COMING

A great thing about the Saturdays of life is that we know that Sunday is coming. Had the disciples truly believed that Friday’s tragedy was going to result in Sunday’s exuberance they might have been less afraid. Just as they were certain that Jesus was dead and buried, so also their excited anticipation of Sunday may have led them to live differently on Saturday. Me? I’d have been camping out in front of the tomb, waiting to see how Jesus was going to do it!

And so, we endure our Saturdays with hope because we know that resurrection day is coming one day. How is this realization of a wondrous future is leading us to live differently today?

COMMUNION

We continue to encourage everyone to practice communion around the dinner table as a part of a meal. But, if you would prefer our more traditional order of worship we will continue to post our YouTube communion. You may follow our link by clicking HERE or on the image below.

COMMUNION

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Matthew 22:26-30 (NLT) and 1 Corinthians 11:25 (NLT)

Jesus instituted ‘The Lord’s Supper’ with His disciples around the dinner table. This meal was familiar to them all at this specific time of the year. It was a family meal in every Jewish household to which every member of the family was invited to participate. Indeed, the Passover meal tapped into a tradition that reached all of the way back to Moses and the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 12).

COME TO THE TABLE

So, the Lord’s Supper, as instituted by Jesus, was part of a family meal around a table. Here, the entire Jewish family was welcome (Exodus 12:47).

Today, however, when we gather around ‘the Lord’s Table’ we may think of a wooden table with “Do This In Remembrance of Me” engraved across the front. We may also think of communion trays for the bread and trays for thimble-sized cups for the grape juice. In many congregations we may also have collection trays beside them, making the point that this part of the service is not a part of the Lord’s Supper; it is a separate act of worship.

These are not the kind of tables that a person would find in an average home. These are almost exclusively found in church buildings. Neither would we likely find the ‘utensils’ in any of our homes. These would only be found in church supply catalogues for these special tables in these special buildings with special rooms that we sometimes call, “sanctuaries”. *

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

Throughout the first century the church enjoyed these “Agape Feasts” or, as we might say, “Love Pot Lucks”. Over time, however, the Lord’s Supper became more formal and ceremonial. It continued to be about sharing in the body and blood of Christ. What was different is that it evolved into a ritual that each person did without regard to the person sitting next to them or the people around them. Somewhere along the way, the social aspect of the meal was lost.

This is not to say, necessarily, that there is a right and a wrong way to remember Christ’s sacrifice except for the example Paul gives us of what was happening in the church in Corinth. There, some were gorging themselves during the meal without regard to others who would have to walk away from the meal hungry because the food was gone. The very idea of excluding anyone from the table was horrifying to Paul! Instead, it would be better for them to eat at home, he would tell them, rather than eat and drink God’s judgement upon themselves (1 Corinthians 11:17-34)!

COVID-19 AND COMMUNION?

This time of self-isolation and social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis means that almost all of what we do in public is now only allowed at home. What a perfect time to return to the night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, duplicating the practice of the early church! Here is a simple outline of how we can ‘return to our roots’ of our Christ-centered faith:

  • Gather the entire family around the dinner table for a meal.
  • The head of the family takes a loaf of bread or cracker or unleavened bread and prays a blessing over it as a reminder of the body of Christ–the bread of life–that was broken for us.
  • The bread is then passed around the table for everyone else to ‘break’ for themselves. This includes everyone, not just baptized believers. And there is no rule about the size of the portion except to make sure that everyone is able to take what they wish.
  • At this point the meal begins. While eating the meal it would be a great time to ask everyone to share what Jesus means to them and how He has changed their lives. To talk about the hope that Jesus’ sacrifice has planted in their hearts and how important God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy is to them. Reading portions of Psalms 115-118 may be a great way to relive that Passover meal.
  • As the meal concludes and everyone is satisfied, now pray a blessing over ‘the fruit of the vine’ as a symbol of the blood of Christ that was poured out for everyone. Pour the grape juice into each individual’s glasses. As everyone drinks, have each person share the importance of forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Close the meal with a prayer that God will empower His Holy Spirit in our lives to help us live like God’s kingdom people, holy and acceptable before His throne.

CONCLUSION

And so, we realize that the entire process of the Lord’s Supper is a social one that brings people together as the body of Christ. This happens at so many levels. Our lesson today is broken into three parts.

Part 1 is our welcome and focus upon today’s emphasis as we consider The Lord’s Supper.

Part 2 is a sharpening of our focus upon the importance of the social aspect as we gather around the table. We conclude with a commission to all to take this time to integrate the Lord’s Supper with a table meal of the day.

Part 3 is a simple communion service that is similarly conducted every Sunday morning in our worship assemblies.

May God bless us as we realize new and different ways to worship our Savior and our God by revisiting the core of our example: Jesus Christ.


* Much research has been done on the evolution of the Lord’s Supper meal transitioning to the formal ritual we now do in our church buildings. Among Churches of Christ a recent author is John Mark Hicks who wrote a book entitled Come To The Table. Click HERE for a Biblical Archaeology article that summarizes the discussion and offers other references for further study.

COMFORTER – PART 2

Sunday, March 29, 2020

John 14-16 (NLT)

We continue the journey of Christ to Jerusalem. Now we enter into a time of teaching with His disciples. They are confused about Jesus’ talk of dying, leaving and going away. This was not what they had envisioned when they responded to His call to “Come, Follow Me”.

By Thursday, Judas has already met with the religious rulers. He continued to act like nothing is wrong as they all sit down to eat the Passover meal. He even endures Jesus washing his feet!

This is where we begin with our lesson today. We will begin by revisiting last week’s lesson about ‘The Comforter – Part 1.’ Now we are fully into Thursday evening, the night that Jesus was betrayed. Now he has time to address the disciples’ fears and confusion.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION: SUNDAY’S LESSON

Due to the Covid-19 virus we are not meeting together to stay in place and stay safe. So, the following presentation basically follows our Sunday morning order of worship. The only difference is that we are not singing together. Might I recommend clicking HERE to enjoy Keith Lancaster’s “Acappella Company’s YouTube Channel.”

The presentation will also include a time to share in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper with your family. And, if you wish, you may mail your contribution check to Shoreline Church of Christ, 525 W. Barney Ave., Muskegon, MI 49444.

God bless!

COMFORTER – PART 1

Sunday, March 22, 2020

John 14-16 (NLT)

Jesus and His disciples came together for the Passover Meal on Thursday night.  The predictions of His death, burial and resurrection plus His comments about going away were taking their toll on the disciples.  He is aware that they are worried, afraid, and confused.  In John’s gospel account we have some wonderful, comforting and intimate reflections of Jesus as He contemplated the unfolding events that had already begun.

IT’S TIME

John 13 sets the stage for this intimate time of teaching by Jesus to His disciples. It begins with Jesus, realizing that the time He has anticipated has finally arrived and that He had received full authority from His Father (vss. 1, 3). So, of course, it is time for Him to wash the disciple’s feet! This included the feet of Judas. It includes the intense conversation with Peter (John 13:1-17) concluding with Jesus’ encouragement for the disciples to ‘wash each other’s feet’ (vss. 14-15).

Immediately afterwards, Judas leaves the room into the night (John 13:18-30) and Jesus predicts Peter’s denial later Thursday evening (John 13:31-38).

JESUS IS THE WAY

In several places Jesus refers to His departure which leaves the disciples disheartened. Yet, at the same time, He talks about how He will be with them which adds confusion to their discomfort. In John 14-16 Jesus points out that Jesus…

  • is the Way to His Father (14:1-14)
  • will feed and sustain them (15:1-17)
  • will show them how to suffer (15:18-25)
  • will be the source of their peace (16:16-33)

THE PARACLETE

Sandwiched between these clear assertions of Jesus’ dynamic activity in the lives of his followers, Jesus inserts teachings about “The Paraclete” in Greek (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), which, literally translated into English means “The One Who is Called to Their Side.”  This Being is identified by different translations as “The Comforter” (KJV), “The Advocate” (NIV, NLT), “The Helper” (NASB), “The Friend” (MSG) and “The Counselor” (WEB), among others.  In all of the translations, however, Jesus tells us that His name is “The Holy Spirit” (John 14:26).

HE WILL BE IN YOU

In John 14:15-21 Jesus comforts His disciples by assuring them that the Holy Spirit will not only continue to be with them but that He will take up residence within them (vs. 17).

“All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”

John 14:23 (NLT)

This is truly a remarkable statement. Jesus assures them–and us!– of not only His continuing presence in their lives through the Holy Spirit, but also, that of His Father’s! So long as Jesus remains in the flesh, walking the streets of Palestine, He is choosing to be limited by time and space. Once the Holy Spirit comes, however, He will dwell in all who believe

HE WILL TEACH YOU

In John 14:22-26 Jesus further assures them that He will not only teach them what they need to know but that He will remind them of what Jesus said (vss. 26). Through them, the power of Jesus’ words have been given to us in the Scriptures and they resonate deep within our hearts as the Holy Spirit joins with our spirit to confirm the truth of God’s word (1 John 5:5-10).

CONCLUSION

Jesus is the only way to His Father. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus dwells in us and teaches us. It is Jesus who feeds and sustains us. Jesus shows us how to suffer. Jesus is the source of our peace.

Next week we will take on the other references Jesus makes to The Comforter (Part 2) in John 15:26-16:15.

Comforter – Part 1
With Closing Comments by Dean Wolf, Shepherd

For further reading: Tim Woodroof, A Spirit for the Rest of Us (Leafwood Publishers: Abilene, TX), 2009.

Judgement

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Matthew 21-25 (NLV)

7 DAYS LEFT

Seven days are all you have before you go to meet the Lord. What do you do with the time you have left?

WHAT JESUS DID

When Jesus had seven days to go before the cross He became intensely focused upon giving the people of Jerusalem one last chance. A final warning shot over the bow. This included the religious rulers. Looking back, we already know where their hearts were as they plotted to kill Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus cuts through their cheap suit religion and begins open heart surgery to give them one last opportunity to respond.

Jesus, The Crowds, His Disciples and The Religious Rulers – The Week Before The Cross

ONE LAST CHANCE

Matthew 23 forms the peak of Jesus’ attempts to reason with the religious rulers. Now it is time for no-holes-barred judgement intended to soften hearts by crushing them; to open eyes rather than to intensify the darkness; to speak directly to the consciences of his audience with brutal clarity and pinpoint accuracy.

In His criticism of the Pharisees in Matthew 23, Jesus points to a set of positive kingdom characteristics that apply to all of His followers. Setting the stage, Jesus admonishes the crowds and His disciples: “…practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example” (23:3) because “Everything they do is for show” (23:5).

Then Jesus points out the distinction between the lives of the religious rulers and the lives of God’s kingdom people:

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. 

Matthew 23:11-12

CRUSHING CRITIQUE

In Matthew 23:13-36 Jesus conducts spiritual heart surgery upon the religious rulers in front of the disciples and crowds. These 7 critiques point, conversely, to seven principles that should characterize kingdom people. We can summarize these principles as follows:

  • The kingdom is intended to be an open door kingdom. No one is excluded from the invitation (vs. 13).
  • There’s a difference between a) converting someone to your religion and b) leading them to fall in love with Christ (vs. 15).
  • Truth and transparency are core values of kingdom people.  Your word is your bond (vss. 20-22).
  • Kingdom values touch all of life. From the grandest of principles to the smallest of details, God’s kingdom is all about it all (vss. 23-24).
  • Kingdom people are about transformed lives, not keeping up appearances (vs. 25).
  • Kingdom values are not about what I can get for me but upon what can I do for you (vss. 27-28).
  • The humble realize that the mistakes of others are learning opportunities, not fuel for judgementalism.  The unexamined life leaves too much room for pride (vss. 29-30).

Jesus’ final words of mourning over Jerusalem are particularly moving at this point (Matthew 24:37-39). Looking back at Israel’s history He speaks as One who stood at His Father’s side as they turned away from Him, time after time. Knowing what is brewing in their hearts now and about their plans for this special Passover, He is overwhelmed.

RELIGIOSITY VS DISCIPLESHIP

Finally, Jesus takes His disciples aside to prepare them for two important events. First, He speaks to them about the immediate future involving the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Matthew 24). Finally, He speaks to them about His return and the end of time (Matthew 25).

Seven days have now come to two days before the Passover (Matthew 26:1). Next week our focus will be upon the time Jesus gathers for a final meal with His disciples (John 13-17).

Judgement – Jesus’ Final Week
Closing Comments by Dean Wolf, Shepherd

The following Skit Guys video encapsulated the lesson today at the conclusion.

God’s Chisel Remastered Video | The Skit Guys

Jesus is Our Shoreline