The charges have been dropped!


cri

 

Tonight I celebrated with 14 men whose lives have been forever changed by the power of the gospel of Jesus.

My friend John Grigson called me and invited me to attend the graduation tonight at Richwood Correctional Center here in Monroe, LA. I am so very glad he invited me and that I accepted the invitation and went.

God is doing some amazing things using John and Celebrate Recovery Inside (CRI). 14 inmates gave testimony to what Christ had done in their lives in the past year. They have completed the step-studies and are now discipled and matured so that now they will themselves be leaders beginning next Monday night. Also present tonight were 63 other inmates who will begin their step studies next Monday. Those who weather the storm and endure the soul searching hard work will in all probability begin a relationship with Jesus Christ if they haven’t already done so.

In the coming months, in some form, CRI will be in 7 other prisons in N E Louisiana. God is strategically using CRI to tell the captives of sin the charges have been dropped! (Col 2:13,14) When I think about the possibilities of all the changed lives of inmates and their families it seems to me that revival could be about to burst out from inside the prison walls!

The gospel is the very good news about Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished for wicked sinners. The story of His work still transforms lives and raised the spiritually dead to new life of love and obedience to the Lordship of Christ.

A hearty AMEN and Praise the Lord for what He is up to in prison ministry in our town.

The charges have been dropped!
Royce

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How to Build a 1st Century church in the 21st Century


The following is a post from the archives. I believe it is worth a second look. Agree or disagree, I’d like to know what you think.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19) Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18) It is clear that Jesus is in the church building business. He came to earth to seek and to save the lost. His mission is plain, His plan is sure. 

When you set out to build a great church like the ones you read of in the book of Acts your motive should be “redemption”. If it isn’t perhaps you should pursue some other endeavor. Tens of thousands of folks have set out to build churches and some of them had a measure of success. Many of them reached their stated goal, to build a church. In my view the goal should always be reaching folks with the good news about Jesus, the goal should not be building a church. If the job of presenting Jesus is done right the church will happen with little effort. 

Jesus mapped out a plan that was magnificent. Every time it has been tried it has been successful and when His plan is not followed there is little success. Matthew 28:18-20 is where we begin. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen”

 Before we “go” we must get Jesus’ “therefore” settled first. “All authority in heaven and on earth” is the most overlooked aspect of evangelism. In previous posts I have made the Bible case for having Holy Spirit power before you begin. I have heard possibly scores of sermons and Bible lessons on this great passage in Matthew 28 and almost all of them overlooked the most important part of the formula for success. We can only go and tell because of Jesus’ authority. If you and I will join God in His redemptive work we must go in His authority and power. It is precisely because He who commissions also gives authority. As the Apostle Paul pointed out in Ephesians 6 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 Satan is referred to as “the god of this age”. We must understand that when we go to the lost with the message of reconciliation in Christ that we are invading a wicked, spiritual kingdom controlled by Satan and we can only do this work in the “authority” and “power” of Jesus Christ. 

The “go” of the great commission is assumed. There is no “opting out” of the command. The emphasis is not on going but rather, “making disciples”.  How do we then make disciples? The same way Peter, Paul, Phillip, and others made them. One only has to read through the Acts to see that the message, the only message, was the good news about Jesus. When the apostles were put in jail it was for preaching about Jesus. When the Ethiopian did not understand the book of Isaiah the Holy Spirit sent along Phillip to preach Christ to him. There is no message other than Christ. 

Building a church that is like the 1st Century one must follow the same formula. You will not build a Bible church, focused on Christ, by preaching the church. Many church planters have as their goal a church and their message reflects that goal. In churches of Christ much of our historic ministry has been “corrective” rather than “redemptive”. The most common method employed is to lay out a logical argument in favor of the church of Christ as the only true church, for water baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and to finally win the argument. The result in my view is that our churches are populated by many people whose security is tied to the church of Christ and the fact that they have been immersed and not to Christ alone. 

 While I am on this subject, I am reminded of the seriousness of preaching the pure, unadulterated, good news about Jesus. In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia he gave this chilling warning. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8, 9) This is pretty serious language! “If I, an angel from heaven, or anyone else..” preaches anything other than Christ “Let him be accursed”! Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul was pretty upset that some were not preaching Christ and Him only. In verse 7 Paul spoke of those who “want to pervert the gospel of Christ”. What had they said or done that was so offensive that Paul would make such a strong defense for the gospel? The Jews who had given allegiance to Christ were teaching Gentile believers that faith in Christ is not enough, to really be saved you also need to be circumcised. That was it? Yes, that was the “perversion” of the gospel in this case. At first glance this doesn’t seem to be that bad, after all we of the faith have Abraham as our father, our history goes back to the old covenant, so what is so wrong about having some foreskin removed? Wouldn’t that be more proof of one’s allegiance to God? Paul would have none of that! The Holy Spirit through the pen of the Apostle says to those who preached circumcision in addition to faith “Let him be accursed”! 

 I ask this with a pure conscience and with love. Am I treading on the same ground if I tell people they are not really saved unless they are members of a local church of Christ? Is it a perversion of the gospel to tell a person they must be re-baptized to really be saved? Is a person in danger of being accursed if he preaches that only people who sing in worship without the accompaniment of instruments are going to heaven? These are serious matters not to be taken lightly.  One more quote from Galatians chapter 1. In verses 3 through 5 Paul clearly lays out the gospel story. “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen”. The reason we must preach only Christ is that only He can save; only He can deliver us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. No church can do that, no religious act can do that, no pattern or from of worship can do that, and water baptism cannot do that. Jesus saves! Nothing or no one else does. 

Building a 1st Century church in the 21st Century requires the right motive, the right authority, the right message, and also the right ministry. We go in Christ’s authority and power, we preach Him and make disciples or (learners), we baptize them in water, and then we begin to teach them ALL Jesus commanded. The model is laid out clearly in Acts. These men and women, including Peter, who were prayed up and filled up with the Holy Spirit, preached Christ, baptized believers, and then the Scriptures say this of those new Christians, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship..” (Acts 2:42)What was the “doctrine” of the apostles? Christ! Read it for yourself. They taught that salvation was only though Him and were convinced enough to endure jail, whippings, hunger, and finally death rather than compromise the message of the gospel.

 There was an air of excitement in the air! These new believers met every day to break bread (possibly to share the bread and cup of communion remembering the Lord), the praises of God were on their lips, (they even had the favor of outsiders), they exhibited the unselfish love of God by pooling their resources for the furtherance of the gospel and the care of fellow believers, and the church grew like a prairie fire driven by the wind. There was no focus of how to “do” church; there was no preaching about the church. The church grew because of the Christ who was the focus of their faith, their love, and their surrendered lives, and He alone was their message. 

There is no question in my mind that any people who go into a community any place on the earth and follow this ideal will find God’s blessing and the church will grow, multiply, and men and women will become children of God. If the meetings take place on the patio of a Starbucks, in a rented saloon, in an abandoned theater, or in a beautiful church facility, the results will be the same if Christ is central in every message, motive, and mission. 

 Churches that make much of Jesus grow, and those whose focus is elsewhere do not. Admittedly, there are still false prophets and those who follow them. And the way to mark them out is the Jesus test according to 1 John, Paul’ and Peter’s letters, and Jesus’ own words. 

My prayer and sincere hope is that we will see scores of churches rise up whose only goal is the one Paul talked to the Corinthians about. I close this post with his words.  

                            Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 
(2
 Corinthians 5:18-21) 

Grace to you,
Royce Ogle

Let’s Stand for the Invitation


I just read a good post by Jay Guin over at OneInJesus.info about the tradition of the invitation at the end of a worship service. It is a very good post and I recommend you read it. He made this statement which is very true.

In fact, we sometimes do baptize too hastily, without taking the time to be certain the person coming forward really understands the commitment being made.

Jay’s post caused me to remember a church I once visited in Texas. Countryside Bible Church is an independent, local church in Southlake, Texas. My wife and I, shortly after our marriage almost 10 years ago, visited there a few times. What an unusual church!

The singing was hearty and passionate, people were very friendly, and a leather bound Bible was given to each visitor by the ushers. The pastor preached a fiery message from the word of God and without a word, when he had finished his sermon, people got up from their seats and started to visit and file out of the building. I was in shock! What were they thinking, no invitation? I was amazed that after such a fine Bible lesson there would be no opportunity for people to respond.

The next time we visited there, we arrived a few minutes early, so I asked one of the men I had seen there before why there was invitation. His answer floored me! “We believe our job is to proclaim God’s truth” he began, “It’s up to the Holy Spirit to convince the listeners that it is true. If someone is here who is not saved, we wait until they come to the pastor or one of the members and express a desire to know God, to repent, or to report that they have trusted Christ and want to be baptised”. My astonished reply was something like, “So you never have an invitation?” The answer was “No, we don’t try to do what only God can do”. Initially I was stunned! I had never considered the impact of what I had just witnessed.

Later I learned that each year of the church’s history they baptised dozens and dozens of people, each of them coming to Christ with only the invitation by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

I was there on a Sunday when 5 or 6 people, all adults that day, were baptised. Each of them stood in front of the congregation and told of how they came to understand they were lost, how they understood what Christ had done for them, and how they loved Him for it. Each spoke for 2 or 3 minutes. What was not so obvious was that each of them had previously spent time with an elder in private conversation so that they were reasonably sure the candidate truly did “believe with all of his heart” that the claims of the gospel were true. And, each of them sought someone else out to find out what they needed to do, no one pressured them to do anything.

My last visit there was in 2000. At that time they had 1,000 or more members, a fairly new facility on 10 acres which they had already outgrown, and were planning an expansion. They had never been in debt one penny and didn’t believe it was ok with God to do so. They seemed to be people of the Word, deeply devoted to Christ and to each other.

Let’s stand now for the invitation… How many hundreds of times have I heard those words when not one person in the room expected anything more than two verses of a song, a closing prayer, and everyone would head over to the restaurant or aunt Jenny’s house for lunch and some football. In fact, I have been in churches where they wouldn’t have had a clue what to do next if someone had come forward.

Charlie Knox, a fellow I worshp with is known for his “sayings“. One of my favorites is this one. “The difference between me and God is…He never tries to be me.” Is it possible we sometimes try to do the work that can’t be done by us?

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13)

“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

John 6:40,

Royce

Come over and help us!


This encouraging report and plea for help comes from the Hemley Road church of Christ in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. This very poor congregation was birthed after the devistaton of hurricane Katrina. They began as the Bayou Relief Project and now against all odds they are making steady progress rebuilding lives in their community. Below is the email report as I received it. My wife Carol and I gladly recommend this congregation to you.

Subject: Hemley Road C of C Summer/Fall Report

Greetings from Bayou La Batre, Alabama and the Hemley Road C of C Family!As God has blessed this community here in BLB, we just wanted to share this with you! Here is some of what has been occurring with our every so rapidly growing congregation.
1. 15 kids from the BLB church went to church camp with kids from the El Campo, (TX) church in south Texas. Two of the older teenage boys were baptized.
2. A group of the middle school kids along with their leaders from the White?s Ferry Rd. Church in Monroe, (LA) did a 3 day VBS for the BLB kids and children in their neighborhood in mid-July. With virtually no advertising, more than 75 kids came each day. Since that time, two new families have been attending.
3. Several groups from around the country have been at BLB this summer, working on community relief projects and on the church facilities. The upstairs area of the main building has been re-furbished and showers have been installed downstairs. We are now able to provide beds for 2 dozen volunteers.
4. The church in Ada (OK) sent a youth intern to work with the BLB church for the summer. Tyler is a student at Oklahoma Christian University. He plans to come back for a week in October and again at Christmas.
5. Tragedy struck the BLB church family in early August when the husband of one of the members was swept overboard from a shrimp boat during a storm. The young man was the father of 3 children. Since that time, 13 of his family members have started attending services and are studying the Bible with us on Sunday evenings. Royce and Carol Ogle will be starting our grief support groups facilitation, and plan to meet with the families in September and help us begin an ongoing Grief Share Group. They are now able to meet in the main auditorium ? although there is no air conditioning. We’ve even had a wedding in there this summer.

Mid August our church kids started school. We were blessed to receive school supplies from El Campo C of C in El Campo, TX and a check for uniforms from South 11th and Willis C of C in Abilene, TX. Even with school occurring, we are averaging 50 or so children, with a high of 80 people at church on Wednesday nights. With this growth we have of course been picking up all of these people. We were blessed with a van from Central Church C of C in Ada, OK. With the increased number of trips and vehicles that we have been blessed with, as well as the wretched increase in gas prices, we are really suffering in keeping the vehicles running. If anyone would want to donate money for gas, that would be a blessing. Any money could be sent through the El Campo C of C elders earmarked toward our funding.

With Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, although we were not directly impacted by the storms, we might as well have been. We experienced constant flooding and wind damage to our community. Much of the damage however, has impacted the livelihood of the people down here in BLB. As you know, the fishing industry is what holds BLB and the surrounding areas together. However, the flooding and other damage here has not allowed the industry to get back for several weeks now. People are not able to work, therefore, their day to day pay is null, and they are not able to survive and afford food or anything else. There is still a need for food and personal care and baby items for our NEWLY FINISHED FOOD and PERSONAL CARE PANTRY. Thank you to the churches and friends of HR C of C that have donated thus far for this emergency situation. South 11th and Willis C of C, Hope Christian Church’s Genesis Community, and a friend from Louisiana have all donated food or money for our pantry. If anyone would like to make donations to that, please please please, let someone in your church family know so that we can continue to supply food and personal items to the people of BLB. As a result of our food pantry, PRAISE GOD, that we have 4 new families coming to church. We have created a very welcoming and inviting church family here where we encourage people to come as they are.

The needs of the infant Hemley Rd Church of Christ are many. The entire area is very impoverished and we believe it will be several years before our church is completely self sustaining. We are so very grateful for our many friends and supporters from across the country. And as we say, nearly everyone who spends any time down here falls in love with the BLB people and the mighty work God is doing down here ? both in growing our new church and being a source of the Lord?s light in our community.

Of course, there is an ongoing need for people who can come and preach and teach on the weekends. We pray that at some time God will send a couple who can come here and work in this ripe mission field and be supported by a home church or other independent means. God has blessed us thus far with preachers and teachers and we would like to name them and pray for more like them. They are Martin Fu, Fred Franke, Omar Smith and his wife Sandra, John Ash and his wife Donna, and of course this summer, many of you from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, N. Carolina, and many others from all over have helped with the preaching and teaching. Last night the teenagers had a special treat from Boston, MA. Our very own Manny Carneiro taught our young and impressionable teenagers.

Among the most urgent needs are:

1. The installation of a baptistery ? estimated cost $7000
2. Air conditioning for the main building ? around $12,000
3. Funds for the parking area gravel or asphalt – $5000
4. Air conditioning for house of church property – $4000

If anyone would like to support us for 2009, please contact the elders at the El Campo C of C. Their information is as follows:
El Campo Church of Christ
311 E. Calhoun
El Campo, TX 77437
Phone: 979-543-4279
Email: eccocsec@sbcglobal.net

Please ask your church to pray for the sweet people of Bayou La Batre. Our needs at this time are great. We just replaced the radiator and the water pump on our new van and we have to pay for the insurance on the vehicles and building this upcoming week. Please keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the money to keep up these functioning parts of our rapidly growing church.

I apologize for the length of this message. I will try to do an up to date report from our church on a more frequent basis.
God Bless. Daphne German
Secretary for the HR C of C
251-609-0448

and

Billy Spaulding
Board of Trustee Chairman
251-776-0468