Identify Your One

By Pastor Nate Powell

During this harvest season, we’ve been preaching the Gospel of Jesus and I’ve been writing reflections on how we share our faith and grow the church. I think it is a true desire of everyone to see the church grow, but we don’t always know how to get there. Sometimes we may assume that the preacher preaches, the people just magically come forward, and we baptize them by the dozens. But that’s not usually what happens … it’s not the norm. The church grows and the Lord adds to their number when all of the members are faithfully praying for and identifying people who they can bring to Christ. Some likeminded churches I know ask the question: “Who is your one?”

When it comes to calling people to follow Jesus, the strategy that the savior taught us was not one of mass marketing campaigns or social media blitzes. It was a strategy of going to towns, and houses, and people. It was one of making personal connections, relationship building and good news sharing. Jesus shared the plan with his disciples in Luke 10, as he sent out 72 of his followers in pairs to proclaim the news that God’s Kingdom is near. This is the work that would lay the groundwork for the establishment of the church and the growth of the kingdom following Jesus’ ascension.

But how were they to do it? They were to do it, as we read in Acts 10:5-7 by traveling from town to town and identifying “a son of peace.” The son of peace is a person who is open and receptive to the Gospel of Jesus. If you identified that person, you were to stay with them, to share the good news so that they would believe and use their home and resources as a way to share the good news with those who were receptive within their circle of influence.

I don’t know if you’ve had the experience of doing door to door evangelism or canvasing within a town or community. I have several times. One thing you will learn from the experience is that you will quickly identify those who are open to you and your message, and those who are not. Those who are open are willing to have a conversation. Those who are not will often end the conversation abruptly, slam the door in your face, or even not answer the door. And I’ve had that happen many times in my experience of going door to door.

Christians and churches don’t have to do door to door evangelism. They can, and it can have some effect. But EVERY Christian should be identifying and praying for a “Person of peace” in their life, the person near to them who might be open to hearing and responding to the good news of Jesus. That is what we refer to when we speak of “your one.” Is there a person in your circle of influence daily & weekly that would be open to hearing the story of Jesus and hearing your story about the hope you find in him, and what he has done in you?

If every Christian would identify, be praying for consistently, and be conversing with that one person, the growth of the church would be exponential, and we would be even more prepared for larger opportunities that would present themselves to us as a church.

Every one of us as a role to play in the growth of the Church and a Harvest for the Lord. It will begin because we prayed, we sought the son of peace, and God opened a door in life and conversation that we would readily share the good news of Jesus.

Be praying today: “God, give me opportunities with one person today to share of your good news.”
 
Praying with you,
Pastor Nate


He is the Star

By Pastor Nate Powell

When you’re watching a movie or reading a book, who is the star of the story? Sometimes you just know because they are the person who is on the poster of the movie or the cover of the book. Sometimes you know because they have an easily recognizable name like Indiana Jones or Junie B. Jones. Sometimes you know because they are the star because they are in nearly every scene and the story centers on them.

When it comes to talking about salvation and telling the story of how you came to follow Jesus, how do you tell that story? And who is the star of your story?

Often, when I meet people and get to really know them as a pastor, I ask them how they came to follow Jesus and call him savior. What I find is that if they claim Jesus and the name of Christian, there are often two different stories.

One of those stories is a story about a sinner who needed a savior. That story centers on the goodness and grace of Jesus, who received that sinner back and made him/her into a new creation, and gave them purpose and new life. The story of their faith in Jesus isn’t always centered on a Damascus Road salvation event, but it is often centered on a testimony of a difficulty Jesus led them thru or how the will of God has played out in their life because of following Jesus.

The other of those stories is about a pretty good person who became “gooder”. (I know that’s not a word, but I think you get the drift.) They’ll sell me on where they went to church. Who their parents or pastor were. When they were baptized. How good their attendance has been at church.

At the center of one story is Jesus. The center of the other story is self. And it often speaks to tell me what I need to know of a person’s faith and where their relationship is with Jesus Christ. When it comes to the Harvest that is ahead for the church, the harvest of people turning to Christ, that harvest will come because we have been consistent in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. Both in preaching his story, and in telling the story of what He has done in us.

If you had to tell me your story of faith today, would it be one where you are the star? Or could you say that Jesus is the star of your faith story? Ask yourself:
  • Do I have a story to tell of what Jesus has done for me and in me?
  • Does my faith exist to make me look good, or for Jesus to be seen as supreme and glorious?
  • Does my faith story help others to pat me on the back, or to see clearly the forgiveness and new life that is in Jesus?

Paul set the standard for every Christian when he proclaimed: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6:14) Paul knew that the name of Jesus was to be supreme, and that he is supremely good. So when we tell our stories, if we exist to make less of ourselves and much of him, he should be the star of our story.

If Jesus isn’t the star of your story, turn to Jesus and humble yourself before him. Let John’s prayer become yours: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30). Humble yourself before him, that he would lift you up. (James 4:10)

So tell your story. If it’s a Gospel story, Jesus will be the star.

Serving Jesus with you and for you,
Pastor Nate



Harvest Season // Bursting the Self-Righteous Bubble

By Pastor Nate Powell

Last week, we talked about the Gospel, but this week, I want to talk about the biggest obstacle to the Gospel. The Biggest obstacle to the Gospel is Me.

What do I mean by that, you might wonder? How could Nate Powell be the biggest obstacle to the gospel?

I’m not just talking about me. I’m talking about you as well. I’m talking about all of us. We, as humans in both our sinfulness and our pride, are the biggest obstacles to the Gospel. Remember what 1 Corinthians 15:3 says about the Gospel: “Christ died for our sins.” We really shouldn’t gloss over the “for our sins” part of that passage, because if we don’t understand that Christ died paying the price of the sin that each of us have committed, we really don’t understand the Gospel and we are not right with God. Receiving the Gospel means bending the knee at the cross to say to Jesus that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for my sin.

When I am visiting with many people who are talking about baptism, this is the one thing that often prevents them from doing it or me from following thru and agreeing to baptize them. If you don’t understand your sin and the depth of your sin problem, then you really don’t understand your need for Jesus, and you need to hear the Gospel again and believe it.

How bad is our sin problem? It’s bad enough that Paul sums up the whole of scripture’s teaching on mankind’s nature in Romans 3:10-12: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” It’s bad enough that Jesus says that “no one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18) It’s bad enough that everywhere you turn, even the most revered figures of the Bible are flawed and fallen: from Noah’s drunkenness, to Abraham’s lying about his wife, to David’s affair and coverup murder, to Peter’s betrayal. No one is good but God. And God is the hero of the Bible.

That is why Jesus is the only one who could do this. He is perfect. We are not. And it is only in realizing that we are not that we can approach the throne and get upon his forgiveness and his grace (1 John 1:9, Ephesians 2:8-9).

So it’s not our goodness that gets us to heaven and it’s not our good deeds outweighing out bad deeds. That is Karma, not the Gospel. And that is not how God works.

So I would ask you today: do you know that you have sinned and have broken God’s holy commands, not just once, but over and over? Don’t believe me? Here’s a short quiz regarding the 10 commandments which God gave to Moses in Exodus 20:1-17:

  1. God says that you shall have no other gods before me. You may say you believe in one God, but have you ever prioritized anything or anyone above God? If you have, you have broken the first commandment.
  2. God says that we are not to make an idol. You may not have any statues that you bow down before, but I think if we are all honest, we can say that there are items in our lives that have been more important to us than God. It could be a car, a house, a family heirloom, or yes, even a statue. If you have every prioritized stuff over God, you’ve broken the second commandment.
  3. God says that we are not to take his name in vain. Could you say that God’s name, Jesus’ name have never come off of your lips inappropriately or irreverently? If you’ve spoken of God or Jesus in trivial or unholy ways, you have broken the 3rd commandment.
  4. God says that we are remember the sabbath, the day of rest and keep it holy. Could you say that you’ve always remembered to take a day off each week both for rest and worship? If you haven’t, you have broken the 4th commandment.
  5. God says that we are to honor our father and mother. But how many of us have talked back, put down, disobeyed, and dishonored our parents at some point in our lives? If you’ve ever done it, you’ve broken the 5th commandment.
  6. God says that we are not to murder. And this is often our best defense of our goodness … that we haven’t killed anyone. But Jesus says in Matthew 5 that is we hate someone, or call them a fool, we have committed murder in our hearts. Most of us haven’t literally killed anyone, but many of us have hated and not forgiven. If you have done that, you are guilty before God and you’ve broken the 6th commandment.
  7. God says we are not to commit adultery. That is, to have sexual relations outside of marriage covenant between man and woman. Some of you would claim to be innocent, but Jesus says that if we have as much as lusted over a woman in our heart, we are guilty of committing adultery. If you have lusted in person or in heart, you have broken the 7th commandment.
  8. God says that we are not to steal. You may not be a thief, but have you ever not returned something that you borrowed, pirated something off the internet that didn’t belong to you, or simply forget to pay for something that you had agreed to purchase. If you’ve thieved, whether large or small, you have broken the 8th commandment.
  9. God says we are not to lie against our neighbor. But have you ever lied to tear someone else down or make yourself look good. If you are honest with yourself, you know that you have broken the 9th commandment.
  10. God says that we are not to covet (want for) the possessions of others. We are to be content in him. But could it be said that every day we are content in Him and content with all of what He has provided for us. If you’ve ever lustfully wanted after the things of others, you have broken the 10th commandment.

 

I cannot answer those questions for you, but when I answer them for myself, I know I have (to some measure or another) broken all 10 of God’s commandments. So what does that leave me with? I leads me to look to the cross where the innocent lamb laid down his life for the lost sheep. Yes, even for a lost sheep like me.

To respond to the Gospel is to say to Jesus that we are not good but that he is infinitely good. There was no way the our righteousness could ever save us. It is only by the blood of Jesus. Paul says that we are “Justified by his blood.” (Rom 5:9) John says it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7). The Hebrews writer says that the blood of Jesus purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 9:14)

So don’t wait. Look in the mirror today, and look to the savior. He is the perfect lamb of God who died to save us from our sin. If our sin is not real, or if our sin doesn’t really matter, then his death didn’t really matter.

So, recognize who you are without Jesus: a sinner. When you recognize that, you know why you need him and you are ready to respond to His Gospel.
 
Living in the Grace of Jesus,
Pastor Nate


A Harvest for the Gospel

By Pastor Nate Powell
 
As I acknowledged last Sunday, it is a busy season! Combines and grain trucks are in full swing. Outage workers at Cooper are in place and working to refuel the plant. Fall school and sports seasons are in the thick of things. Each of these things are the work that God has before us to do in our various fields of labor and study.
 
But why do we do what we do? Why are we working so hard and so many long hours? Is it for the sake of work itself? Is it for the money and financial gain? Those can certainly be factors in our work. But at the core of those things, there is a key factor that makes your work worth the money you receive: it is for human good and flourishing that we work. We harvest grain so that people can be fed and well nourished. We make electricity so that people can stay cool & warm, make food, stay connected to one another, and lead productive lives. We educate so that individuals and families may thrive by making a living for themselves. Central to our work and the value of our work is the benefit that comes to people.
 
In the same way, when it comes to talking about Harvest time as a church, we may ask why it is that we want to have a Harvest? Why do we want to grow? Does a church grow and add to their numbers just so that they can say they have the biggest church around? Does a church grow and build new facilities just so that they can brag on themselves? Lots of people want to have a growing church. But the church doesn’t exist for itself. The church exists to make much of Jesus and to grow in their life and walk with Jesus. It is the seed that we spread, and it is the harvest that we reap in the hearts of people in times of Harvest.
 
If we don’t have the good news of Jesus and the Gospel at the center of the church growth work that we do, then we have nothing. Paul told us the same thing in multiple places in his writings:
 
  • The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Rom 1:16, 1 Cor 1:18)
  • The Gospel is the Word of God that is at work in believers. (1 Thess 2:13)
  • The Gospel is the one central message that Paul and the other apostles clung to and centrally preached. (1 Cor 2:1-2)
  • The Gospel is the message that is shared and preached, so that hearing it may lead one into saving faith. (Rom 10:17)
 
The Gospel is to be at the core of the church’s worship, identity & mission.
 
So what is the Gospel? Very clearly and concisely, it is the good news of Jesus. When we share it, we share the good news of what Jesus has done. Paul shared a clear concise statement to share the core truths of the message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” His message in that same chapter goes on to talk about many other appearances and the hope of resurrection that believers have because of what Christ has accomplished.
 
One simple acrostic that I have shared over the years is one that was shared by a ministry called Dare 2 Share. Greg Stier and Dare 2 Share exist to help students share the Gospel message easily with their friends and families. They came up with this acrostic.
 
G – O – S – P – E – L
 
God // God is good and created us to be with Him. (Psalm 100:3)
Our // We sinned and that sin separates us from God. (Romans 3:23)
Sins // Our sins cannot be removed by our good deeds. (Ephesians 2:8)
Paying // Jesus innocent blood on the cross paid the penalty for our sin. (Romans 5:8)
Everyone // Jesus rose from death and all who trust in Him alone have life. (John 3:16)
Life // Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever. (John 10:28)
 
This is the message that we are calling people to respond to. So, when we call people to respond we show them these truths and ask them to receive and live in light of the one they are receiving as savior, Jesus Christ. And we ask them for a response to what God’s word presents: Do you know God created you and calls to you to respond to him? Do you know that you have done wrong in God’s sight? Do you know that there are not enough good things that you can do to live up to his standard? Do you know that Jesus was perfect and died on the cross as a sacrifice for the wrongs that you have done, paying the penalty for sin for you in his death? Do you know that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive, and that he offers that life to all who would receive him? Do you know that the life that Jesus offers is a new life here and now and into eternity? It is when you have believed Christ & these truths that you are to be baptized into Christ in obedience to his word. (Acts 2:38 & Matt 28:19)
 
These are the things that we must know and respond to in receiving the Gospel. This is the work of the Harvest and bringing people to Christ. As you share Christ and your faith with family, coworkers or friends, remember this Gospel truth and keep it central. We cannot be saved & grow a true Church in Christ without the Gospel!
 
For the Gospel with you,
Pastor Nate


The Harvest Starts at Home

by Pastor Nate Powell
 
As promised, we want to spend the next several weeks talking about the Harvest. When we talk about harvest, we are talking about growing the church, people coming to faith, families growing in faith together, and the Kingdom of God advancing in the world around us.
 
It couldn’t be a better week to talk about this Harvest starting at home, as we celebrated our child dedication this past Sunday, and had three families celebrate with us and commit to raising their child in a Christian home to know the Lord. This is an honorable and good thing, and one of the best ways to grow a church is to build an environment in which families can flourish. It is, after all, the creation mandate that God gives to all people from the beginning in Genesis: “Be fruitful & multiply.” (Gen 1:28) So, to all the moms & dads that are working hard to have, raise, provide & care for the next generation of children, we just want to say: “Good job!” To have growing families is the baseline growth of the church.
 
But we know that having kids isn’t all there is to growing a church, right? No, we believe that the discipleship and faith investments of parents are essential as well. After all, the scripture reminds us:
 
  • Jesus, as a young boy, “grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52).
  • We are to train up children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)
  • We are to discipline our children, so that they will give us rest and be the delight of our hearts. (Prov 29:17)
  • We are to raise up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
The Bible is clear: we have a mandate as the people of God to raise our children with the aim that they will be faithful disciples of Jesus. How do you do that? Well, I’d like to give a few points of guidance and encouragement in guiding your children to be a part of this harvest for the Lord.
 
  1. Make church a priority: This is probably the biggest indicator to your children about the reality and priority of your faith. Hebrews 10:24-25 remind us that we are to press each other forward as believers and not neglect meeting together. It is at the core of gathering that we devote ourselves to fellowship, to the teaching of the Word, to the breaking of bread and to prayer together (Acts 2:42). Even when we aren’t the Christians we always want to be, church marks a habit, a point of repentance, and an opportunity for renewal in faith. If we consistently allow other activities, sports, reunions & trips to get in the way, it sends the message to our families that says, “Everything else in my life is non-negotiable … church & Christ are optional.” Don’t be surprised if your kids wind up far from the Lord if you haven’t put him first with regard to the priority of gathering with your church family.
  2. Model Real Christianity for your kids: With regard to your home, it is the petri dish in which your kids get to observe Christianity lived out. Each of our families is messy. We mess up. We get angry sometimes. We sin against one another. Those are givens, and they happen in every family. But the thing that will set your Christian home apart from a non-christian or fake Christian home is this: Are you actually doing the things that a Christian would do? When you sin against your spouse in front of your kids, do you repent in front of your kids? When you don’t keep your word as a parent, do you admit what you’ve done and ask for forgiveness? Are you consistent in putting into practice the principles you say you believe? Are you seeking to grow and practice the Fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence within your family? The more we model real faith, the more our children will find desirable our faith.
  3. Read the scripture to your kids: This starts from a young age. Reading aloud is, in general, one of the best things you can do to stimulate your child’s mental development and reading abilities. But it applies even more to the sharing of the stories of the Bible and reading God’s word together. At early stages, it can start with picture books of the Bible. It can move to other Bible storybooks as they get older. And your family can find ways to incorporate reading Scripture around a mealtime or bedtime together as they get older … even encouraging your older children to read the Bible for themselves. Read & talk. This will grow their faith and give you opportunities to express yours.
  4. Have spiritual conversations: Everyday can be a day filled with opportunities for spiritual conversations. When the kids are young, it can simply be marveling at God’s creation, from trees to animals. As they grow, the conversations can expand to encompass many things, and how your faith helps you to understand and answer many of life’s toughest questions. Be honest when you don’t know answers, and guide them back to the scriptures and your church family for support.
  5. Be praying for and expecting decisions and commitments to Christ: most of all, pray for your kids, and be praying for their faith and salvation. In praying for it, we will become expectant and waiting for conversations related to our kids’ salvation. Do they know what sin is? Do they know what Jesus did and why he died for them? Do they know what Jesus is offering them, and how he desires a new life and heart for them? Be ready for this and have ready answers to guide them in committing their lives to Christ.
 
Moms and Dads, you have one of the toughest jobs in the world. I know it, because I’ve lived it with you. But it is one of the most rewarding when we see our kids living fruitful and Christ-filled lives. I’m glad to be a resource walking on the journey with you. As your kids are ready to receive Christ as savior and Lord, let’s be ready for the harvest!
 
Pastor Nate


Groundbreaking Remarks // 2022.09.18

Comments from Pastor Nate Powell, shared at the Family Life Center Harvest groundbreaking on September 18, 2022:
 

The great king Solomon once wrote these famous words in Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stay awake in vain.” Solomon was a great man to write such a thing. It was he who oversaw the construction of a Temple in Jerusalem. It was he who oversaw the vast expansion of the great city of Jerusalem. He knew a thing or two about construction and overseeing construction. And he knew that if the Lord was the one establishing something, it would be built to last.

Today, we are here on this field, in with the dirt, looking at the beginnings of a construction project that has been more that 20 years in the making. We have dreamed, hoped, prayed, given, sometimes argued, sometimes stalled, sometimes doubted, yet we persevered so that this day could become a reality. It is the day the Lord has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it!

110 years ago, that building behind us opened so that for generations in this community, the people of God would have a place to gather in unity as Christians and the gospel of Jesus would be proclaimed in Auburn, Nebraska. Each of you have played a roll in that, as have your parents, grandparents and many others who have gone before.

Now, more than 100 years later and nearly 150 years after this church’s founding, the message and hope of Jesus Christ continue, so much so, that we continue to bring families to faith in Jesus and we continue to minister to youth so that they may know the goodness of God just as we did in our youth. We continue to value the fellowship and gathering of believers in groups large and small, for feasting and for prayer, the young and the old.

It is to those ends we gather today and we break this ground for Auburn Christian Church’s Family Life Center. I’m certain that many of you had to pinch yourself today, as I have, just to remind yourself that this is actually happening. We are doing more than talking about it! We are taking the step of faith to do it. And today we pray that we will not be building in vain, as Solomon spoke of. As I have walked with our church and these leaders thru this process, the Lord’s hand has been clearly seen and felt. He provoked the generosity and provided the gift from Zella Franz that helped initiate this project. He gave the leaders who guided us thru the process of making those funds available to use to these ends. He gave this piece of land to us at a good price. He gave our leaders vision for the type of facility that would sit on this land. He brought our current leadership team together and kept us working in unity. He held our church unified, healthy and strong thru the challenges of COVID. He provided partners from The Giving Church, Construction Team Management & Genesis Contracting to give us a floor plan, a financing plan and a contractor that will see the project thru. He provided The Solomon Foundation that would work with our church to provide the needed financing and fill the financial gap so that we could take this step of faith. It is He, the Lord, that is holding us together at this time and he that will see us thru.

I truly believe that it is the Lord that is building this building, so that he may build the true spiritual building, his church. It is because we have hearts for Jesus and hearts for our neighbors in Auburn that we build this building. It is not to make much of ourselves, but so that the name of Jesus would be glorified for another 100+ years in Auburn and Nemaha County. To those ends I have a couple of exciting announcements regarding where this project sits today.

First, we want to celebrate the fact that 47 different family units that made initial commitments to the Harvest campaign have continued to give toward their commitments. Those families have given a total of $216,000 toward the project.

As well, we have had another group of unpledged donors that have stepped up to the plate. There have been another 26 giving individuals/groups that have given another $28,000 to the project. That brings the total in both pledged and unpledged giving to $245,000! Praise the Lord for the Harvest gifts that have been given to move this project forward.

Secondly, I want to speak regarding one of our sisters in Christ, Jackie Williams. Many of you know that Jackie lost her battle with heart disease this past June. If you’d ever visited with Jackie in these past months and years, you know that she was a woman with a strong faith and a fierce love for her church. She was a tremendous encouragement to me and to so many of you. She wanted the ministry of this church to continue long after she was gone. It was after her passing that we were contacted by her family, and notified that the church would be receiving a gift from her estate. I’m pleased to report that within the next two weeks, the church will be receiving a check of more than $143,000 from Jackie’s estate! I truly believe that Jackie would be so excited by the arrival of this day. She would be so excited to see dreams becoming reality for this church family.

I say all of that to say this: Thank God for the provision and generosity of his people. We know this is not the finish line. But it is a milestone. We know that the giving is not done. There is more construction to happen. There is plenty of planning to do in how we will use this facility for ministry. I want to say to those who are here who may not have been able to partner in giving to this point … maybe you had kids in college, or medical issues, or career changes you’ve been dealing with. You couldn’t get involved in this project then, but you still can now! The Harvest campaign will continue. You can pledge with us toward making this facility a reality. For those who have questions about what all is entailed in this facility and how it fits into the future of ACC, I would love to visit with you. Please make sure that you let me know you’d like a visit, and I would be glad to do it.

Church, let’s give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever, from generation to generation. The Lord is building His house, his church, the people of God. And toward those ends, let’s strive as a church to carry the gospel of Jesus forward her and to always be for Jesus & for Auburn. Today, we break ground on this tool God has given to His church to grow His Kingdom.



Jesus: The Hated One

One thing that cannot be understated from this past Sunday’s sermon (and that we should continue to emphasize and expect) is that the world hates the followers of Jesus because it hates Jesus and hates the Gospel. (If you didn’t get to catch up on that sermon, give it a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0vqhRY63bQ)

 I’d like to take a moment to pick it apart even further than I did in Sunday’s sermon because it is important for us to see that on every level of the Good News of Jesus, the world still hates him. There are two passages I’d like to explore and quickly outline. One is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. There Paul writes: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

This passage is one of the clearest passages in the Bible in terms of the Gospel being spelled out. But on every level of it, the world hates and opposes the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Look at it piece by piece:

  • “Christ Died for our Sins”: There are several implications about these five words that the world hates. “Sins” means that there is a standard of right and wrong, which is out of our control. It is a standard that is both written and judged by God Almighty. “Our sins” implies that we do wrong, and that we do it a lot. We own this wrong, and we can’t pin it on someone else. And the wrong was severe against God, to the point that he sent is Son “Christ Died FOR our sins”. He loved us that much. To believe Him is to believe that He died for your sins so that you can say with the church: “He died for OUR sins.” But the world opposes and hates such a standard and such a love.
  • “According to the Scriptures”: These four words are a threat to the world as well, because to imply that there are scriptures is to imply that there is an Author … and not just any author: an authoritative author. One who could prophesy hundreds and thousands of years before hand what his plan would be and then would bring it to pass. This means that there is a God, he has spoken clearly (so that we are without excuse for not responding to his love and his offer). It means that God has a plan, a story that he is writing. And it is a story that he will bring to completion. The world hates that we have such an author, such a book, and such a plan that is being carried out within his providence and sovereignty.
  • “He was buried”: These three words don’t get enough press, but they are a key part of the Gospel. Jesus was buried is the ground. This means that his body was dead. It wasn’t some theoretical sacrifice. He was placed in a tomb, again according to prophecy. The world hates the tomb, because it implies that what is claimed about the life and resurrection aren’t merely theoretical, they are empirical. The Tomb in which is body laid no longer has a body in it. He didn’t faint, his body wasn’t stolen, we won’t find some other grave of Jesus. But the world wishes if there was one place that Jesus actually could still be found, it would be in a tomb so it could be claimed that he is just a man and not God.
  • “He was raised on the third day”: These words the world hates because they speak of the power of God to raise himself from the dead. He has a power that no one else knows and that no other religious leader can lay claim to. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Rev 1:4), and he died and rose to bring his sons and daughters with him into glory. His resurrection is a conclusive proof that every other claim he made was true, and that he can be trusted.
  • “He appeared to Cephas … the twelve … the 500.” Again, these words add to the verification factor. It’s not just that these people saw him in some vision or vapor. They saw him in the flesh, they recognized him and they worshipped him. When we see testimony of multiple eyewitnesses submitted to the court, those who are open to receive evidence will receive it gladly, and those who’s minds are made up to be opposed (for selfish reasons, I might add) will respond accordingly with rejection and hatred.
  • “He appeared to me.” This may be the most offensive of all. Paul has a personal testimony of encountering and responding to the risen Christ. This is true of every one of his followers as well. Those who claim to be Christians claim that he is risen and living, and they have encountered Him as well. The world hates the one who claims “God spoke to me.” But in Jesus, that is what God has done to each of us who believe. The world will hate us for it.

If we had more time today in this article, I’d love to spend it examining in the same way Titus 2:11-14 and the Gospel truths of what Jesus is returning to do and what he is doing in his church. If you have some time, read that passage as well and ask yourself as you examine it: “What does the world hate about Jesus & his followers?”

From top to bottom, what I want you to see is that those who embrace Jesus love him fully for all that he is, and those who oppose Jesus hate him fully as well. As you embrace Jesus, take Him fully for all that he is, and rest is His love as you face whatever challenges today may hold. The world may hate us, but Jesus loves us, and that love should hold us and compel us to live in this world with that Love in mind everyday, seeking to save the lost and to bring to belief those who would believe.

Standing strong in His love with you,

Pastor Nate



Peace Be With You

By Pastor Nate Powell

No matter where you look in the world, there is trouble. Nearly everyone wants peace of some kind. Obviously, the peace that the pot-smoking hippie of the 60’s and the war-scarred Vietnam vet seem to be at the opposite of a political scale. One seems to seek a peace that puts aside all rules and cultural taboos, the other seems to seek a peace that waits in a future free from communism. But I think there is a common desire on the part of both the pacifist and the warrior: they long for a day that all weapons are laid down, and there is peace in the world.

What they long for is eternity. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” [Ecclesiastes 3:11] There is an innate knowledge and longing for what is to come outside of this flesh, this time, and the confines of this life. We long for God’s peace. But what we want in this life, we will not have in the tangibles senses in which we want it. That peace will truly only be achieved when the forces of evil are vanquished on the day of Jesus’ return. Until then, we will have trouble. Jesus promises that for all of us in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation.” We can count on it, that until the end of time, trouble with surround us, conflict with happen, battles and wars will rage. But Jesus goes on to remind us “take heart; I have overcome the world.” This is why he says these things to us, “so that we [his followers] may have peace.”

The peace of Jesus Christ is not always an external peace in this life. It can be. He can heal wounds between families, between brothers or between enemies. But his peace that he promises to each believer in this passage is a deep and abiding peace that we encounter thru the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s not some “peace” of which the hippies spoke but never realized. It’s beyond a peace which is simply a laying down of arms. It’s a knowledge that when we are in Jesus, when his words abide in us, we have peace with God. His Spirit is living in us and guiding us.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be offering both of our support groups on Monday nights. GriefShare is a wonderful group where grieving people find support that they need to process their grief, and continue in their grieving process. DivorceCare is a new support program we are offering where individuals who are divorced or separated can find support to get thru this difficult period in their lives. I love both of these programs, because they are pointing people toward finding peace. But it is not a vague peace that the world offers. We are pointing people toward our only source of true hope and peace in life and death, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ has given us his peace so that we may share it with others. I hope you’ll be praying for our church in these days and as we share the good news of the peace he brings that sticks with us thru the most difficult of days. Remember and cling to His words: “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”

May His peace go with you this week,

Pastor Nate Powell



Childlike Faith

by Youth Pastor Zach Shackelford

The other day while running various errands, I found my mind wandering as it so often does while driving familiar routes and streets. However, this time instead of the usual random or inconsequential thoughts that I so often drift toward I began to ponder how I might answer certain questions my son is bound to ask in the coming years. Why do we go to church? Who is God? What does he look like? All these questions and more are sure to come. Now I’m not sure why I considered such a topic that afternoon, perhaps it was due to having concluded VBS days prior, but I am sure that it was both important to think on: for those future conversations and also my current walk.

Now I promise this is not another parenting message, Nate did a very good job of that last week. As I considered how I might respond in those potential scenarios, I was drawn to how necessary yet satisfactory truly simple answers can be for a child. I found myself reminded of passages like Luke 18:17 and Mark 10:15 where Jesus made clear the importance of receiving the Kingdom of God “like a child”. 

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

These passages and others lead to the common expression of having a “child-like” faith, and it is this idea that I want to explore with you today through an encouragement, a challenge, and a caution.

 

Our Encouragement: One of the countless beauties of the Gospel is its clarity and simplicity; a message of truth able to be shared with our children in an impactful way. We never outgrow our need for this simple truth to be understood at the core of our lives. Sometimes though, these truths can be taken for granted in their simplicity, I know I often treat them as little more than neat trivia facts as opposed to the life impacting encouragement they ought to be. What a true comfort it is to be told “Jesus loves you”. How incredible is the security to hear “God has forgiven you”. What can match the awe and wonder of hearing “God created everything and He created you”. It is my hope that we would gain incredible encouragement from having a childlike faith, by drawing immense impact from even the simplest of truths.

 

Our Challenge: Much in the same vein as the passages from Luke and Mark, as they pertain to being like children in receiving the Kingdom of God, Matthew 18: 4 adds in a challenging addition to the concept of having a childlike faith.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Receiving the Kingdom of God like a child is to receive it in full recognition of our neediness, smallness, and dependency within the Kingdom. In the face of that reality a posture of humbleness would of course be the natural response. However, as we are all too well aware, humility is not often our natural bend. I believe that our challenge is twofold; we of course should feel the call to be humble before others, as we read in Philippians 2:3 … but in humility count others more significant than yourselves that is quite clear. What we are also challenged by is the need to be humble before God, like a child is to a parent. I know I often assume the posture of a young child at the grocery store, adamant that they can push the cart all by themselves. Of course they are on their tip-toes, can’t see what is before them, and left to their own devices would cause an aisle to look more like a demolition derby than grocery store. I am just as much in over my head as one of those young boys or girls, just like them declaring “I can do it. Don’t help me. I want to do it myself!” The pride that leads a child to have such misguided confidence, is the same as the pride in us to act the same. Our need for, dependence on, and smallness compared to God cannot be overstated, yet I know I live a faith that often blatantly ignores that. It is indeed a challenge to have a faith that draws us to humbly recognize our true dependence on God in all our life situations, good or bad, and to take the posture of a needy child to a perfect father.

 

Our Caution: It is important to note that to have faith that is childlike is worthwhile, to have a childish faith is not. Just as there are clear biblical calls to have trust, awe, and humility toward God; we also read of the call to grow in maturity. 1 Corinthians 14:20 says:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 

There should be a succinct distinction between how a childlike faith affects our posture and mindset versus having childish thinking and wisdom. God desires for us to grow: grow in our knowledge of Him, seek deeper truths, and continue to align our lives with that of Christ. To apply having a childlike faith to mean not growing or maturing would be both incorrect and damaging to one’s relationship with God. Our desire should be to seek further connection to and understanding of God, while staying in the same right relation to Him as his child.

 

It is my hope and prayer that each of us would seek to have a faith that is marked by trust, awe, joy, and humility; like that of a child towards a parent while also continually growing towards holiness and maturity. 

 

Zach Shackelford

Youth Pastor



Pitfalls in Parenting

By Pastor Nate Powell

At ACC, we love kids and families. That was apparent in the previous week of VBS, and it is apparent in all that we do to invest in our kids and students. But as a guy who has been at this parenting business for more than 23 years, I’m reminded everyday that parenting is a hard business, especially if you are seeking to raise your children to love, follow & serve Jesus. And that is exactly what we are called to do.

Parents, let’s be clear about our biblical calling as parents:

  • Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)
  • Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
  • And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
  • Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:17)

So, understand that in the raising of your children, they are not neutral parties to be raised in some neutral way. We, as disciples of Christ, are to guide the to walk with and in Jesus. We are to guide them to follow the Lord’s commands. And we do so because children are a blessing from the Lord. As the Psalmist writes: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

As I said, we are to raise our children in the Lord. But that task seems to be growing ever more challenging, especially over the course of more than 2 decades of parenting. As I look at the landscapes that have changed drastically during my own time as a parent, I see four big challenges in the lives of every parent/child relationship, challenges that parents need to help students navigate.

Smart Phones/Tech: Many of us growing up had no TV in our rooms, let alone a gaming system, an unlimited video library, a phone or even a carrier pigeon. Yet, all of these things are combined in the Smartphone & other tech advances that we’ve seen in the past few years. While (like most things) these can be real blessings, they can also be real distractions. More and more, I see teens in a room full of people, isolated on their screens. This is monopolizing their time, pulling them away from relationships with people around them, and if left unchecked, will make them both unfruitful and unproductive. I was visiting with an educator recently, who reminded me that parents forget the power they have in both giving and taking away the rights of the smartphone. There are many parents who are unwilling to take away the cell phone from their kids for fear of appearing unloving to their child. There is a lot of power and authority that you have in both giving and taking away the privilege of the phone and other tech. Pro tip: Use device leverage to your maximum advantage. Give & take away the phone to promote the activity and attitude you want in your kid/teen.

Social Media & Internet: Until the last 20+ years, nobody had to deal with the pitfalls of the internet or social media. It has come with tons of blessings, but perhaps even more negatives. The reason is because for every positive we get from the internet (education/research, quick communication with friends around the world), there are more negatives (porn, toxic influences). Learning to limit the negative flow of content into our lives is very key, and our kids definitely need guidance on how to use these tools wisely. Knowing what I know now, I recommend keeping your kids off of social media as long as you can, and certainly not allowing them to open accounts before they are 13. It is good to not allow students to use the internet unsupervised or unfiltered. No devices in the Christian house should be off-limits for accountability from a parent. Pro tip: Set up your internet router with software like Circle, which can filter bad content, and can allow parents to turn on/turn off different social network access points.

Sexuality & Indoctrination: On every corner these days, we see the LGBT Agenda getting pushed, as well as an attitude that (for years) has pressed our kids into sexual activity and identity questions at ages that are younger and younger. This is why we see schools, libraries, and all kinds of kids TV being targeted to indoctrinate kids to the sexual agendas of those who would seek to convert them. The Bible is not silent on this stuff (Romans 1:16-32 & 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for starters), and neither should parents be. We must be informed, and we must be open with our children about what the scriptures say. We must not just have “a talk” about sex, but many, age-appropriate talks to answer questions about gender & sexuality with our kids/teens. Pro tip: Educate yourself on what the Bible says & what Christians believe so you can have a ready answer when it comes to talking to your kids about such things. Walt Mueller & the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding have put together and excellent handout on “God’s Plan for Sex & Gender”. You can download the PDF by clicking here.

Schedules & Busyness: The final challenge I’ve seen in my days as a parent is one that I saw when I lived in Indiana when I started in youth ministry, and it worked its way here to Nebraska. It is the rise of club sports & year-round training in student athletics. Don’t get me wrong: I love sports, and we all love basketball around here. But the desire to fill the calendar with wall-to-wall training, lifting, practices and games has gotten out of hand. My reason for saying that is this: where is there Sabbath in the lives of families? Where is a day of rest and worship? Where is the priority of Jesus and the modeling of faith on the part of parents? Parents, if your kids see you minimizing the importance of church for an athletic or training schedule, don’t be surprised if they don’t exhibit signs of faith when they get older. Pro tip: Here is your permission from your pastor. Say no to games, activities & sports that involve Sunday morning. Make youth groups on Wednesdays a priority. If enough parents are willing to say no, there will eventually be change.

I hope you know that I am sharing these things humbly with you. I certainly don’t have everything figured out, either as a Christian or as a parent. I’m simply a disciple who has a few years of discipleship and parenting experience on me, and just wanted to share some bits of wisdom to help you as you seek to point your kids to Christ. I’m in your corner. I’m happy to be a resource. And I’m always praying for you.

I would encourage you to check out more from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. They have tons of good helps on their website for parents. They have weekly emails and multiple podcasts that deal with a variety of relevant topics to Christian parents. Read more at their website: cpyu.org.

May God bless and guide you in parenting today’s kids!

Pastor Nate

P.S. Have a bible question or other topic you’d like Pastor Nate to write about? Suggest it in an email to him: nate@auburnchristian.org.