Serving Our Neighbors

by CVC Serve Pastor Rick Eimers

CVC friends,

The coronavirus is causing a lot of scare in our community right now. As the body of Christ, this is an amazing opportunity to share the loveand hope of Jesus to the people who are most vulnerable and high risk to contracting this virus. With that in mind, here are a few practical ways to get the church out of the building and into the community!

Engage Your LifeHouse

Do you have a neighbor within your context that is more vulnerable to the coronavirus?

  • Can you pick up medications and place it on their front step?
  • Can you buy groceries and drop them off for them?
  • Do you have extra toilet paper in your house? Can you spare a square?

When you do, leave them an encouraging note letting them know you’re praying for them.

Engage “Your One”

Is the person you are praying for in 2020 more susceptible to contract this virus because of their stage of life or health complications? Give them a call and offer to pray for them over the phone. Ask them who they have concern for and offer to pray with them for that person.

Engage the Community

We have a texting service that attempts to mobilize people from within CVC to serve families in the community. Comment in the thread if you’d like to be added on that list. This will allow you to respond quickly to needs locally and in the community. I’ll send the needs out through the texting service and have you as the point person. I may post those on our missions page as well.

Simply Serve!

  • Give a gift card to a family that may not be able to afford lunches for their children.
  • Offer to go to the local store to sanitize grocery carts.
  • Call a nursing home to offer to pray with an elderly shut in who would like prayer.
  • Shop for a single mom in the area
  • Engage your teenagers to run errands for the elderly! They have time on their hands!

In all things, please be wise. Continue to follow all guidelines pertaining to safety and cleanliness. When there is fear in the community, God’s people can shine!

The church has left the building!

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:17-18

 

Being Infectious for Jesus

by Lead Pastor Chad Allen

As we reel from the effects of the Coronavirus and it’s global impact, we are shocked that one infectious virus can wield so much power, expose our weaknesses, and cause great fear.  But not everything that is infectious is bad.  God designed the church to be infectious.  As we take our service offsite and Live Stream today due to COVID-19 preventative measures, we are reminded of God’s intent for us, the church, the people of God, to be infectious.

It would be relationally and socially irresponsible to continue hosting large gatherings amid the rapidly spreading Coronavirus epidemic.  We are doing our part to heed and cooperate with the directives given by our local and national leaders as well as do our part to help protect and care for the vulnerable in our community.

So with that, we get the chance to leverage our tools, our homes, and our relationships to share a season being the church scattered all over northeast Ohio today, and in the next couple of weeks.  We get to worship, together, we get to share in God’s Word, we get to give online, for those on Facebook live, you get to interact a little bit with others, until we feel it is appropriate to gather together in a larger setting again.

My sermon today focused on how we can live out the Fruit of New Life during a time of crisis, such as what we see with the Coronavirus.

In times of crisis…

A Beloved Child responds by:

  • Exclusively trusting in their Heavenly Father
  • Walking in faith rather than fear knowing that their good and loving God is in full control and will provide and protect despite uncertainty and challenges

Matthew 6:25–27 [25] “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

A Self Feeder responds by:

  • Turning to prayer and time in God’s Word
  • Drawing on Scripture more than any other source of information, knowing that reading, internalizing, memorizing, praying, singing and sharing the truths of God’s Word will provide the supernatural wisdom, rest, comfort, and guidance they and others so desperately need.

Romans 15:4 – For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

A Servant responds by:

  • Humbly yet proactively looking for opportunities to be the hands of feet of Jesus by helping family, friends, and neighbors that have needs in the name of Christ.
  • Seeking out ways to use their time and abilities to lovingly help those who are fearful and vulnerable by offering prayer and tangible acts of care.

Galatians 5:13–14 [13] For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. [14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”  -Martin Luther

An Investor responds by:

  • Continuing to faithfully give, and to generously use (not hoard), the resources God provides
  • Contributing to His work through the church, knowing that in desperate times, the Gospel and God’s work is even more critical in times of crisis.  An investor doesn’t take their foot off the gas with giving, but remains devoted to glorifying God through their financial stewardship and looks for opportunities to use the resources God provides to help and bless others in the name of Christ.

Philippians 4:14–20 [14] Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. [15] And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. [16] Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. [17] Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. [18] I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. [19] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. [20] To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

A Discipler responds by:

  • Intentionally and relationally teaching others that they are mentoring and shepherding in the faith, how to rely on and obey Christ in all circumstances, even a crisis.
  • Leading by example while seeking to build up the faith, hope and love of other believers through journeying together and relying on shared times in God’s Word, prayer and serving the community side by side.

1 Thessalonians 2:7–12 [7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. [8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. [9] For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. [10] You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. [11] For you know how, like a father with his children, [12] we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

A Missionary responds by:

  • Making the most of every opportunity to plant, water, and harvest seeds for the Gospel. Everyday missionaries will feel an increased sense of urgency in challenging times to engage family members, friends, neighbors, those they encounter in their community, and even those online, who are feeling fearful and vulnerable and who do not know Christ.
  • Confidently praying with others
  • Courageously caring for their needs
  • Boldly sharing the good news of Jesus as the source of our hope and faith, desiring that they come to know Christ, be connected to God in relationship, and start living for Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:5 – As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Ephesians 5:15–16 [15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

COVID-19 Response

Dear CVC Family,

As you know, the situation with the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is fluid and changing rapidly.  We are committed to doing whatever we can to provide a safe environment for you and your family.  While God has not given us a spirit of fear, He has called us to love our neighbors and to contribute to the welfare of our community.  Exercising caution is not only wise, but it is a tangible way of expressing love toward others.

Toward that end, the following decisions are being made:

SUNDAY WORSHIP SERVICES

We will NOT be gathering for services this Sunday, March 15 or next Sunday, March 22.  Instead, we will offer a video feed at 11:00AM on our website and on our CVC Facebook page.  We encourage you to worship at home with your family, friends, or small group.  As a LifeHouse, you can even invite a neighbor to join you. 

We will continue to monitor the situation and make a decision about Sunday, March 29 by Thursday, March 26. 

This was a very difficult decision for us, but we have been guided by two very important factors: (1) Honoring our governing officials and (2) loving our neighbors, especially those who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

OTHER ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS

We are cancelling all onsite activities effective immediately through Saturday, March 28.  This includes onsite classes and events such as Seek Week, the God Cares training, onsite LifeGroups, Explore CVC, Baptism class, and Planning for Your Future (Estate Planning) workshop.  This is not an exhaustive list.  If you have questions about a specific activity not listed here, please contact our front desk at 440.746.0404.  Many of these activities will be postponed to a later date.

Our building will remain open during regular office hours (9AM-4PM) for those needing care and support during this time.

As a church family, here’s what we can do in the meantime.

  1. Pray
  • Pray that God will intervene and stop the spread of this global pandemic.
  • Pray for those who have already been affected by this disease.
  • Pray for those who are working on a vaccination for this disease.
  • Pray for the ones who are caring for those affected by this disease.
  • Pray that CVC and churches worldwide would shine the light of Christ especially in the weeks and months to come.
  1. Watch our Live Stream service this Sunday morning at 11AM on our website or on our CVC Facebook page. If you miss the Live Stream, you can watch later on our CVC Facebook page or at cvconline.org/series/.
  2. Gather with your family and friends to pray, encourage one another, and worship together.
  3. Serve those who are in need! Be a LifeHouse to your neighbors—bless those who are experiencing unusual hardship because of this disease.  Do you know someone who could use a meal?  Are there single parents who need childcare while their child’s school is closed?  There are plenty of ways that we can bless those in need right now.
  4. Give your tithes and offerings online at cvconline.org, using our CVC App, by texting “Give” to 440.827.2454, or through the mail.
  5. Share your faith in Christ! People are fearful right now.  It’s understandable that people are anxious, but we as Christians can take comfort in knowing that God is in control.  We can have peace during these times because He is sovereign over ALL.  Be light, be salt.  People are more open to spiritual conversations when life is uncertain, and we have Good News to share!

Remember that WE are the church…church is not the building we gather in on Sundays.  This is a huge opportunity for us to show the world how and why we trust Jesus especially in dark times.  There is power in the church gathered AND there is power in the church scattered.

We’ll keep you updated at www.cvconline.org/coronavirus.

Live New,

Pastor Chad

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

 

Trusting God and Being Prudent in Light of the Coronavirus

Dear CVC Family,

First and foremost, we need to be praying for God’s hand of grace, mercy, and healing relative to the concerns with Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As we continue to monitor this situation, we wanted to share the steps we are taking at CVC to help mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure everyone’s well-being.

CVC takes the safety of our church family very seriously. We are actively watching the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) recommendations regarding measures we can take to minimize a potential outbreak.

Currently, we are not cancelling any services, classes, events or activities at CVC.  Instead we want to encourage prudent behavior:

  • If you feel ill, we recommend that you do not come to church.  The same is true for those who are at greater risk of getting sick (older adults and those with serious chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes).  If any of these apply to you, we would ask that you instead watch online at www.cvconline.org.  We live stream our services at 11:00am.  You can also give your tithe and offering online.
  • We will not be greeting with a handshake. Instead, verbally greet one another or give them an elbow bump.
  • Be considerate of those around you. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or into a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands frequently (for 20 seconds) or use the hand sanitizers that are in the restrooms and throughout the building.
  • Even if you are attending in person, consider giving electronically through our website or by using (or downloading) our CVC App in order to limit the handling of money and checks by you, our ushers, and our counters.

Precautions we are taking:

  • Our facility staff is sanitizing high-touch areas (handrails, doorknobs, faucets, etc.) daily.
  • In our CVCKids Ministry, we are:
    • Wiping down with anti-bacterial wipes all handles in our classrooms at arrival and departure at each service.
    • Using hand sanitizers as children enter, eat, or leave our classrooms. Hand washing with soap and water will be an option if preferred by a family.
    • Continuing the practice of sanitizing toys and tables after each use.
  • In all our ministries we are taking extra precautions relative to the types of activities and games in which our children are participating.
  • We have placed visual reminders on the importance of hand washing and other preventative measures throughout the building.
  • We have increased inventory of hand sanitizers and antiseptic soaps.
  • We have postponed our March and April mission trips to Ghana and Pearl Island, and we are monitoring the situation for our other future international trips.

We will continue to monitor the situation and give you updates as necessary.

This is also a good time to share your faith in Christ given the anxiety that many are experiencing over this illness.

Most of all, we are so thankful that our God is in control!

Live new,
CVC’s Executive Team
Chad Allen, Brian Howell, and Gregg Jacobsen

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  2 Timothy 1:7

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

Come to Christ to Get Food for the Famished

by CVC Founding Pastor Rick Duncan

Last Sunday, I spoke about coming to Christ to get food for the famished. I had to cut big chunks out of my sermon prep. So, for those of you who might have wanted to hear a little more, here you go!

***

We are living in a world surrounded by people who are seeking to satisfy themselves in a million ways apart from Christ. And it will never work. So, Jesus wants us to come to Him and get bread to take to them.

God’s goal is not to get us to simply stop sinning and obey a bunch of religious rules. It’s to help us find our heart hungers satisfied in Him. Coming to Him as Bread is what satisfies. So, the work of God’s Spirit is to turn our appetites away from trying to feed ourselves.

Satan is always trying to get us to turn to something created – a person, a job, an accomplishment, money, sex, power – into bread. But none of this will satisfy. We were made to be satisfied by Jesus.

And Jesus alone.

Some of us think, “I’m too busy to be involved in trying to feed somebody else spiritually. Jesus is just asking me to do too much.” But remember that He said that His workload is light (Matthew 11:28-30). He’s not a “do more, try harder” Savior.

He will encourage you to stop eating Twinkies – to stop filling up your life with what can never satisfy.

Just keep coming to Him for bread for your own soul and for bread that you can share with somebody else. As you do this, you’ll find the pace of your life getting, more meaningful, and maybe even slower.

When we feast on Jesus…

He satisfies us.

He gratifies us.

He beautifies us.

He fortifies us.

He sanctifies us.

So, when we encourage you to read your Bible, it’s not so you can get some brownie points with God. It’s not even primarily so you can get some moral or ethical lesson on how to live your life. It’s so you can find and then feed on Jesus as your Bread – as sustenance for your soul. And then, as you go about your day, you can share out of the overflow – out of your breadbasket – extra bread for the folks around you who are famished!

You might be thinking, “I’m a follower of Jesus. But I’m not satisfied. I’m still trying to feed my soul with things that leave me empty. Honestly, I’m busy, but empty. I live with a low-grade emptiness that rarely goes away. And, truth be told, I’m burned out a little by my church-going and volunteering. What gives? Am I missing something?”

Yes! You are missing something. Sometimes, I miss it, too!

You know Jesus as the Bread of life? Check! But we can know about Him as the Bread and still miss the “secret of the satisfied life.”

The secret is not merely to do things FOR Jesus. But to feed ON Jesus!

We think that this Christian life is about going to church, singing songs, saying prayers, serving others, loving enemies, turning the other cheek, rejoicing in suffering – all good things. But focusing on DOING is a strategy bound to fail to give you satisfaction in your life.

We need a lifestyle of coming to Jesus as our Bread of life.

If you’re not finding satisfaction in Jesus, you have to know this:

Every strategy in your life is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. If you aren’t experiencing a deeper and deeper level of satisfaction in your life – if you are chronically stressed and burned out with little sense of the presence of God and unable to find joy in the little things of life, odds are good that something in your life is off. Something is out of whack.

That’s sin.

Now, what is our sin? It’s not so much the lying, cheating, and stealing. Or the greed, the gluttony, and the gambling. They are not good things. But they are symptoms of something deeper. Our deeper sin is that we have tried to satisfy our hunger in places apart from Jesus!

Our problem is that, left on our own, we won’t ever really want to be satisfied by Jesus. Naturally, we have no appetite for Him. That’s why we go for the Twinkies! Our only hope is that the Spirit of God will create in us a hunger for Jesus.

In order for the disciples to continue to get food for the multitudes, they had to keep going back to Jesus over and over. What does that look like for you? And me?

Unhurried time with God.

  • Prayer.
  • A Bible Reading Plan.
  • Great worship music.
  • Silence and solitude.
  • Sabbath.
  • A slower pace of life.
  • Memorization and meditation on large chunks of Scripture.
  • Holy noticing/Christian Mindfulness.
  • Reading great books.
  • Journaling.

Take a look at that list. Ask God which one He is drawing you to most. Pick one. Write it down. Figure out a way to add that opportunity to your life.

If we don’t change our lives so we have time for these kinds of things, then Jesus will never truly satisfy our souls. He won’t be our Bread. And we won’t have food to share with anyone else.

 

FAQs about the Gerasene Demoniac – Luke 8:26-39

by CVC Founding Pastor Rick Duncan 

Note: This story is also found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Mark 5:1-20.

What are the main points of this story?

Jesus has authority over oppressive demonic powers that wreak havoc in people’s lives. He frees people from the debilitating effects of demonic activity so they can function in life “in their right minds.”

What is the country of the Gerasenes?

It was a Gentile region on the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee. The incident occurs near Gerasa, a small town by the Sea. Jesus, who came primarily focused on reaching the lost sheep of Israel (and, through them, the rest of the world), is now extending His saving love to Gentiles. In this story, Jesus has moved from Jewish to Gentile territory.

What are demons?

Demons are angels who were created by God. They were originally good, but they sinned and became evil.  2 Peter 2:4 says, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.” Jude 6 says, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, He has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” Some have theorized that there are two classes of fallen angels, those who are imprisoned and those who are free to carry on their evil in the world. Others maintain that these verses above describe the current condition of all demons – chained in gloomy darkness – but still free to carry on their evil activities.

When did the cosmic demonic rebellion occur?

It must have occurred between the time when God completed the creation and pronounced it all “very good” and the temptation and fall of man. Scripture does not narrate the fall of Satan and his angels, but Isaiah 14:3-21 and Ezekiel 28:2-19 deal with the defeat of the kings of Babylon and Tyre, respectively, using imagery suggesting analogies with the fall of Satan.

What is the goal of demons?

Demons, like Satan, seek to steal, kill, and destroy. They, like Satan, engage in all the forms of temptation and deception which Satan employs. Demons oppose the spiritual progress of God’s people (Ephesians 6:12). In the case of the Gerasene demoniac in Luke 8, these demons collectively had severely damaged this man so that he was not clearly reflecting the image of God. This man’s demonization was evident in his social isolation, his superhuman strength, and his self-destructive tendencies.

What are the manifestations in the life of a person who has been demonized?

These manifestations do not always occur in every case. They are varied in Scripture. Unusual strength (Mark 5:2-4). Bizarre actions (Luke 8:27). Self-destructive behaviors (Matthew 17:5). The common element is that the persons are being destroyed, whether that be physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Note that demons are able to speak using the vocal equipment of the person possessed (Matthew 8:29, 31; Mark 1:24, 26,34).

Why did this man run and fall down before Jesus?

It may indicate that the man himself longed to be free from the demons. It may indicate that the demons were gripped by an involuntary submission to the authority of Jesus.

How did this man know who Jesus was?

The demons know that one of Satan’s strongholds, the spiritual world of darkness, is being invaded and overpowered by the Lord.

Who is speaking to Jesus – the man or the demons?

It appears here that the demons had taken over the man’s voice.

How many times did Jesus command the unclean spirits to leave the man?

“He was saying to him” (Mark 5:8) indicates that Jesus had told the spirits more than once to come out of the man, but the spirits had not obeyed. It’s important to note that Jesus cast out demons without pronouncing an elaborate formula. He merely commanded them to come out.

Why did Jesus ask him his name?

This question was asked, not out of the ignorance in Jesus. It was asked for the sake of those who were with Him. Jesus wanted His followers to know more about the miserable condition of this man. And He wanted everyone to see just how great His power was in freeing a man like this from demonic possession.

What does the name “legion” indicate?

A legion was the largest unit of the Roman army. At full strength it had 6,000 soldiers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there were 6,000 demons in the man. It could mean that there were a great many.

Why did the demons beg Jesus not to send them into the abyss?

They already know that they will be judged and punished at God’s appointed time (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:9-14). Yet they must have had some notion that it was not yet the appointed time for the final judgment to take place.

Why did Jesus command the demons to enter the pigs?

Demons cannot rest unless they are able to destroy. They choose to destroy in lesser ways if they are not allowed to do it in greater ways. So, if they are not allowed to ruin the souls or the bodies of men, rather than doing no evil, they sought to do harm to irrational creatures – the pigs, the property of men. This illustrates the malice and wickedness of these evil spirits. The pigs’ fate in the Sea prefigures and pictures the final fate of demons, when God defeats Satan and throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Jesus accomplished the defeat of Satan and demons through His crucifixion and resurrection (John 12:31, Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14-15).

Why did Jesus not allow the man to join Him?

Jesus wanted the restored man to be a witness of God’s power in his own community and region. Note in Mark 5:19-20 that “how much the Lord has done” and “how much Jesus has done” parallel one another. Hence, Jesus IS the Lord.

Why were the people afraid of Jesus?

Fear and reverence are appropriate emotions whenever we encounter Jesus. With believers, it’s the kind of fear and reverence that actually serves to draw them closer to Him. But the fear these people experienced is a negative kind of fear – the kind of fear that was, perhaps, superstitious of Jesus’ mysterious power. It could have been the fear of further loss of their property. Their fear did not draw them to Jesus.

Why did the people ask Jesus to leave?

They didn’t know what to make of Jesus. Is He an exorcist or a magician? Perhaps they were afraid He would exercise His power and the result would be their ruin and destruction. The people did not fear and reverence Jesus as the Lord. They dreaded Him, as someone who possessed power that might end up causing them harm. Some scholars have suggested that the local people may have been very upset at the loss of this large herd of pigs or perhaps they were afraid that they would suffer other and greater losses than the loss of the pigs.

Note: These FAQs have been answered with help from the ESV Study Bible, Systematic Theology by John Frame, Christian Theology by Millard Erickson, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.

The Urgency and Importance of Good Stewardship

by Ron Dick, CVC Elder

As Christians, God calls us to be good managers of all that He has entrusted to us. To describe this calling, we often use one of those words you only hear at church…“stewardship.” But what does that really mean?  The concept in the New Testament that describes and defines what it entails to be a servant before Christ is the word “stewardship” (Greek – oikonomia) which means the management of a household or household affairs). We see the concept of being a steward in the Bible as early as Genesis 2:15 when God created a lush garden and commanded Adam and Eve “to work it and keep it.”

Most Christians have a basic understanding of stewardship such as managing our time, talents, and treasures for God. However, in a broader sense, stewardship refers to managing all that God has entrusted to us such as our witness (Matthew 28:19), scripture (Psalms 119:11, Colossians 1:25), our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), our minds (Romans 12:1-2), our words (Matthew 12:36-37), our knowledge (Proverbs 22:6), and God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2) to name but a few. In other words, all means everything. So why do we focus mostly on the stewardship of money and possessions?

Pastor and author Andy Stanley puts it this way, “It is impossible to be a committed Christ-follower and remain financially irresponsible.” Why does he make such a strong declaration? It’s because the Bible tells us there is a direct correlation between our faith and our finances. In other words, a person’s relationship to money and possessions always impacts their relationship to Christ. As a matter of fact, we find in Matthew 6:21 that money and possessions are an issue of the heart. If you want to know where someone’s heart is at, look at their checkbook. More directly, if you want to know where your heart is at, look at your checkbook.

When I share Stanley’s quote, I sometimes get asked, “Are money and possessions really that powerful to draw our hearts away from God?” My response is, “You bet!” How do we know? In scripture, God has more to say about money than about heaven or hell or just about anything else. In fact, there are 2,350 verses on money and possessions in the Bible including almost half of the parables Jesus taught. One of the most personally convicting passages for me is Luke 16:1-13, the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. (You can watch a message by Chad Allen about this parable here.)

In this parable, we are told about a manager who had full authority to transact business for his master. However, he was dishonest and wasteful with his master’s resources who, upon discovering this, tells him to settle all accounts as he soon will be fired. The manager, knowing he couldn’t provide for himself otherwise, decided to shrewdly leverage the debts owed to his master by settling them for less in order to win friends and secure his future. When he is once again caught by the master, he is surprisingly commended for his foresight and shrewdness. The idea is that we should use what God has entrusted to us for the kingdom to come and to secure our eternal future.

Jesus sums up the parable this way:

“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (vv. 11-13).

Notice that Jesus does not say “should not serve” but “cannot serve.” More importantly, He is telling us we have a choice. Those who are Jesus’ true disciples can either serve God or money, but not both. If your heart serves God’s interests, you are laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). However, if your heart serves selfish, idolatrous interests and you are a poor steward, Jesus tells us, in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), that the worthless servant is to be cast “…into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Whomever or whatever you choose to serve, there are eternal consequences, good or bad.

Thus, if Scripture tells us our money and possessions are the #1 competitor for our allegiance to God and if it is that important to Him, we must take it seriously! So I urge you to thoughtfully answer the following questions:  Whom do you love? Whom do you serve? (…and would your checkbook agree?) If the answer is God…go deeper. Continue to grow spiritually in this area and, through prayer and studying Scripture, pursue God’s will for your life and how you can best serve Him with your money and possessions.

If the answer is anything other than God, then repent and choose Jesus. Trust in the One who can transform hearts and lives. Trust in the One who saves. That’s the best place to start.

To learn more about what it means to be a good steward along with practical financial information, you can attend “Managing Money God’s Way,” a 2-week class from 9am-12pm on Saturdays: January 18 and  February 1. You can register for the class here. The class is hosted and taught by Generous Life, a ministry of Cuyahoga Valley Church which provides opportunities for people to learn about and live a Christ-centered blessed life by embracing biblical financial and stewardship principles. Our goal is to see every person become a Christ-centered steward who gives generously, saves regularly, lives debt free, and understands God’s perspective on money and possessions.

 If you want to know more or need help getting started in your stewardship walk, CVC’s Generous Life ministry will lovingly meet you where you are and help you grow. Contact generouslife@cvconline.org for more information.

Assurance of salvation and Sharing your faith

by Founding Pastor, Rick Duncan

Since last Sunday’s message – the message dealing with the gospel-sowing, leadership-multiplication, and geographic-saturation strategy of Jesus – I’ve had two questions from faithful CVC members regarding assurance of salvation.

In the message, I quoted my former pastor, Adrian Rogers, “It doesn’t matter how much money you give or how much you attend church, if you are not seeking to win others to faith in Christ, then you’re not right with God.” I also quoted Andrew Murray, “There are two kinds of Christians: soul winners and backsliders.” I made the statement that if we are going to be true followers of Jesus then we need to follow Him in His passion to win souls. He said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.”

These strong statements have caused some to question their salvation. We thought it would be a good idea to use this blog to answer questions that others may also have. What follows is a question I received and my response to that question. Perhaps this will help you, too.

***

Dear Pastor Rick,

I know many verses concerning assurance of salvation, yet your sermon, combined with a lackluster missional effort and results, leads me to believe I am not in fact in the book of life. You probably did not intend this, but my paranoia has gotten the better of me.

***

Hi _______,

Thanks for your question and your concern. These are sobering issues.

I do understand how the message could disrupt someone’s assurance. But I trust that the Holy Spirit can use this concern to help you grow toward greater trust in Jesus and greater assurance of your salvation.

It is actually a good thing for us to examine our salvation. The great Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians and encouraged them to do so. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Peter also tells us to strive for assurance. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities [found in 2 Peter 1:5-7] you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10). So, examining our salvation and seeking assurance are good things to do.

As the Scripture clearly teaches, our salvation is based solely on Christ’s work in our behalf and not on our works or on our fruitfulness for Him. (See Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Our salvation is dependent on Jesus plus nothing. Someone once said, “Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.”

However, our good works (our fruitfulness) provide evidence of our faith, our trust. (See Ephesians 2:10). Faith is the root of our salvation, works are the fruit of our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith for works – including the work of seeking to see others come to faith in Christ.

Now some questions follow. How much fruit and what kind of fruit?

Well, Matthew 13 says, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (Matthew 13:23). So, some of us bear 100 fold, some 60, and some 30. This means that there are varying levels of fruitfulness in the lives of true believers. Some of us have a larger platform for soul winning than others. Hence, some will bear more fruit in terms of soul winning than others.

I think the fruit that believers bear is both 1) conduct that is spiritual (see Galatians 5:22-23) and 2) conversions that are radical (see Proverbs 11:30).

The desire you have to be used to win souls is evidence of genuine fruit. _______, God may have already used you in ways that you don’t know to bring someone to faith in Christ. And, _______, God will likely use you at some point to win other souls in ways that you cannot imagine. (See Ephesians 3:20.)

Plus, consider this: When we join together in the body of Christ and play our part, we all share in the fruit of someone coming to faith in Jesus. When it comes to a church’s soul-winning, it’s a team effort, not an individual one. The Lord will consider our efforts as a part of the team as part of our fruitfulness for Him.

You have likely shared your faith with someone who may not have responded. Perhaps a lack of success in your witnessing concerns you. But recall that even one of the most fruitful missionaries ever, Paul, did not always see positive results from his witnessing efforts. ”But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Paul understood that success in witnessing was found in simply sharing the knowledge of Jesus and leaving the results to God. The effort of sharing the knowledge of Jesus with others is a fragrance that is pleasing to God no matter the response of the individuals.

_______, I certainly cannot give you assurance of your salvation. That is the work of The Holy Spirit. But I think your question and your concern likely are demonstrating strong evidence of your salvation.

Again, it’s the work of Christ on the cross and not our fruitfulness that saves us.

Let me encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to pick up our 30 day prayer guide for “Who’s Your One?“ Let me encourage you, also, to pray faithfully at 10:02 every day the Luke 10:2 prayer. As you pray for people who are far from God and as you pray to become more equipped as a soul winner yourself, I believe that God will use you in profound in unexpected ways to help others come to faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I hope this is helpful.

Pastor Rick

Practical ways to Worship Fully this Christmas

by Lead Pastor Chad Allen

How can we practically take steps to worship fully at Christmas?  Here are a few ideas for you. 

  • Make sure you are in the Bible each day focusing on God’s word.
  • Check out our Advent Conspiracy resources for a Scripture reading plan, Memory Verses, weekly devotions, and an activity calendar.
  • Make a birthday cake to Jesus and sing happy birthday to Him.
  • Make a playlist of Christ-centered Christmas songs and carols to listen to daily – and sing along with them!
  • Go find a live nativity to experience.
  • Invite others who don’t know Christ into meaningful moments and conversations.
  • Find several ways to bless others who are in need financially with food/resources in the name of Christ.
  • Spend time with those who are hurting this year because of a recent loss.
  • Have your kids read the Christmas story while setting up the nativity.
  • Read the Christmas story first thing on Christmas morning.
  • For one night (or more), unplug from all technology and social media. In a world full of noise, be intentional about quiet time.
  • Give to the CVC Advent Tree, supporting global causes for Christ.
  • Use some of the money that you would spend on Christmas to go to a local restaurant and leave a nice note and generously tip a server working on Christmas.
  • What if we hung around hospitals and gave encouraging notes, coffee, gifts and offered to pray with people in the waiting rooms, and if they let us, in the patients rooms?
  • Serve in a local organization or ministry that directly impacts hurting people on Christmas. One of CVC’s “Big 10” ministries, a mission, a street ministry, Ronald McDonald House, Christmas for everyone, etc.