The year was 155 AD and the place was Smyrna, in the Roman province of Asia. There was a new wave of persecution that was sweeping against the Christian church, and the proconsul of Smyrna was especially vicious in his pursuit and persecution of the followers of Jesus. He focused on the bishop of Smyrna, a man named Polycarp, who was almost 100 years old. When the Christians of Smyrna found out that an arrest warrant had been issued for Polycarp, they whisked him away and hid him in a barn on a farm outside of Smyrna. But the police found him and brought him into the city, to the center of an arena where there were tens of thousands of people screaming for his execution. As the old man stood in the middle of the arena, anticipating that soon he would die, the proconsul had a moment of sympathy for the old man. He raised up his arm and he silenced the crowd. When everything was quiet, the proconsul shouted out, "Polycarp! Curse the Christ and live!"
Polycarp, with a strong voice, answered back, "Eighty and six years have I served my master and king, and he has done me no wrong. I dare not blaspheme him now." With that refusal to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ, the proconsul brought down his arm, and Polycarp was executed as a Christian martyr.
I have often wondered, How did he do that? How did he remain so trusting? Where did he muster the faith and the strength to be faithful to Jesus Christ, under the worst of circumstances? I have a theory: I think Polycarp acted in line with what his mentor had taught him—and his mentor was none other than the apostle John!
The apostle John had had a most unusual relationship with Jesus. For a while, there were thousands who thronged around Jesus and hundreds who were counted as his broader network of disciples and a dozen who were his closest followers and three who were in his inner circle. But there was one who was described as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and that was John.
John trusted Jesus. John and Jesus had a most extraordinary relationship. It was extraordinary, I think, in that John trusted Jesus in so many ways. John trusted Jesus enough to forsake prosperity. If you connect the dots on the biography of John, you discover in Mark 1:20 that he lived in the home of Zebedee, where they had servants. This was a time when most everyone was poor, and yet he was in a family that owned their own fishing business and had household servants to take care of daily chores. When you read on in the New Testament, in John 18 and 19, you find they not only had a business and a house up north on Galilee Lake, but they also had a city residence in the city of Jerusalem. They have two houses at a time when there was virtually no middle class! And in John 18, you discover this man had access to the court and Caiaphas, the high priest. So he was connected to the most important people in society. Yet one day he heard a call from this itinerant rabbi from Nazareth, who said, "Come and follow me." And he walked away from houses and business and servants and wealth in order to follow Jesus.
Now… here is the question. Do you trust Jesus? Enough to follow Him even when times are rough? Enough to follow Him when there is a bad diagnosis? Enough to follow Him when you can’t understand why your child has forsaken what you have taught them and they are prodigal, forsaken the Church, and pursuing a destructive lifestyle?
And here is another question. Can Jesus trust you? Can He trust you when times are rough to continue being His follower? Can He trust you when you’ve received a bad diagnosis to continue to trust Him and follow Him? Can He trust you when your child goes
astray to trust Him and follow Him?
Here is my prayer for you… that you can say “YES” and trust Him in all things! That you can say, “YES”… Jesus can trust me!!
New Leaf: Don’t forget who you are! Don’t forget your purpose! We LOVE THE LORD, LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AND MAKE DISCIPLES FOR JESUS CHRIST! I pray that as we trust Jesus, He can trust us to do this! AMEN!
WHAT IS THE VISION OF OUR CHURCH?
Obviously we have God’s Great Commandment and Great Commission as our number one priority, we want to love God, love others and make disciples.
“Without a Vision, the people perish.” This short verse found in Proverbs 29:18 tells us that we should not be a people who are willing to “Ready! Shoot! Aim!” We should have a target to shoot at and be prepared to Ready! Aim! Shoot! God has led us this far, and He shall surely lead us on! Really? To where shall He lead? Do we have a plan? How wonderful to know that God met us in our need and loved us to much to leave us there – that He has a plan for our life and it is this: 2 things. To:
Doing life with others helps us to connect in community and establish meaningful relationships.
Jesus had a team He "did life" with. He ate with them, walked with them, and ministered with them. He developed meaningful relationships with them and developed a strategy through which all humankind could be reconciled.
The early church connected in very natural, organic ways: "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46 NIV). They loved to eat a good meal together, laugh together, and pray together in one another's homes as well as in their large temple gatherings.
Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52 NIV). Once you have connect-ed in relationship within the church, it is time for you to grow!
I read this story about a father talking with his daughter and her five-year-old friend, Elizabeth, about birth-days. Elizabeth’s was March 30 and the father’s was March 27. "Our birthdays are three days apart," he said to her. She looked up at him and remarked, "Yeah, but you grew much faster than I did."
That brings us to a question…How fast are you growing?
I know some of us are growing in places that we don’t want to. I am reminded of that as I look at my own expanding waistline! But there is a kind of growing that we are considering that we want to be a part of our lives. This is in the growing of the church – not just in numbers, but in our knowledge of God’s Word while being in Connection with one another.
We are developing a plan that will offer home group studies on different books of the Bible: the first book being the book of John. Scott will then be preaching on what we have studied the following week. This is a great way to connect with others your age within the church while learning by digging deeper into God’s word. There will be LOTS more information in the coming weeks as to how it all works, but plan on being a part of the growth and vision of our church by joining a home group.
So, Connect (join a home group) and Grow (by learning more of His word with other believers)! This is the way it happens! Now, Go Give ‘em Heaven!
There will soon be a meeting for all those interested in being a part of our home groups. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open as to the date and time. It IS coming!
Pastor Scott Walsh
Pastor Jan Walsh
Child Care & Learning Center Director
Praise Team Leader
Chief Financial Officer
IT and Technical Director
Bell Choir Director
Child Care Custodian