Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More Mud, More Power

Thanks to Kristen Benson, I can now post many more photos of our neighborhood mud cleanup from earlier this year.  
The more complete story of the mudslide cleanup appears in an earlier blog post here.  And now for some mud....

Everyone could help, no matter who you were.  Sandbags needed moving, mud needed to be shoveled, the power sprayer needed to do its work.
It was a mud-a-thon!
jOne of our happy helpers: Paul Mills

As if out of nowhere - heavy equipment!  
What a blessing and a miracle!  
BTW: there is a swimming pool under there somewhere...

Young men, mud and insects - a perfect combo!

From back yard to dump truck out front 
courtesy of the handy Bobcat.

Eric Brown Versus Mud... Eric wins!

Organizing the youth brigade.

These females fear no mud!
The shoes tell the news.

See us at www.vineyardathome.com

Saturday, May 7, 2011

3rd Annual Open Air "Easter on the Street" Celebration!

The day began with a full breakfast service, prepared and served by our young people and teens, anchored by pancakes, waffles, and sausages with coffee and OJ to boot!  It was a bit cloudy and overcast for an Easter with a few slight drizzles here and there to keep us alert.  Nevertheless, as 9:30 rolled around, a well fed and expectant group of worshippers and guests lifted their voice in song as the live band led us in our opening songs of praise and faith!

Afterwards, Stephanie Benson shared her special Easter message (with the help of some very special "easter eggs") and then allowed Bill Faris to interview her about what it was like to belong to a house church - making sure to invite everyone to come and join us any Sunday!

Next came the performance of a very special song, "Praise the Risen Lord" - an original piece written by a grateful neighbor after experiencing a surprising manifestation of God's love.  The inspiration for her song was the sudden appearance of house church and other volunteers who came to help in a massive cleanup effort of her home after horrible mudslides smashed into her family's backyard, filled their swimming pool and damaged both her home and some of the surroundings (see previous "Sermon in the Mud" posts).  

Ryan Lee, our worship leader for the day, did an excellent job in learning her song and then performing it and teaching us to sing along.  How special to be able to feature a new original song born out of ministry that took place a few hundred feet from where we were standing as we sang "praise to the Risen Lord"!

The Mills (Paul and Michelle) of our Without Walls house church group shared their testimony of changed life as they related to the assembled crowd how God had called them to follow Him and how their faith has grown more than ever in recent times as they have been "forced to own" their spiritual development as members of a house church.  It was clear from what they shared that they are just beginning to touch on the things God has prepared for them to do, be and share with others at this most vital time of their lives thus far.

Bill Faris brought a message of hope from the Scriptures with a focus on the surprising love and power of God (peppered with a call and response of "Surprise!", shared between speaker and audience!).  The message ended with a focus on three things that are characteristic of what happens when God surprises us with His presence as He breaks in to our lives in surprising way:

* Your future is no longer just a logical extension of your past!
* When God breaks in, new life breaks out!
* Death no longer gets the "last word" in our lives.  God does!

As the message and the closing worship dissipated into the somewhat chilly air, we knew we had been with the Lord and that He, the Risen King, had come to meet with us in a (beautiful) everyday place just as He did in days of old!  Surprise!!!

Easter 2011 was a Great Celebration!  Hope to see YOU here next year!  

See us at www.vineyardathome.com

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Video Invitation to Third Annual Easter Worship Celebration!

Paul Mills has created this fine little video invitation to our Third Annual Easter Worship Celebration in the Open Air in Foothill Ranch (aka: Easter on the Street!)   Enjoy!

See us at www.vineyardathome.com

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Teaching on Suffering, House Church Style

The following is the outline from house church this morning on the topic of The Sufferings of Christ and our suffering.  It is an example of how we spend time in God's word as a house church.  I (Bill Faris) created this outline and led the discussion, but there were a lot of pauses along the way where people asked questions and shared experiences.  

I like that, rather than hearing a one-way "sermon" on this powerful topic, we could process it in community.   Good stuff!


I. Introduction

A. Lent

1. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues to Easter

2. Its purpose is to identify with the forty day long period in which Christ was tempted in the wilderness, according to the Gospels 

B. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus set aside of period of fasting and preparation prior to the start of His public ministry

1. During that period, He was tempted in three specific ways by the devil

a. The first temptation was to turn stones into bread with which He could break His fast.  This was a temptation to provide for Himself apart from the Father. 

b. The second temptation was for Him to throw Himself down from the Temple in order to test God’s promise to rescue Him. This was a temptation to force the Father’s hand.

c. The third temptation was for Him to worship the devil in order to receive authority from the devil over earth’s kingdoms and all that go with them.  This was a temptation to abandon His Father’s plan to suffer.

C. The Bible teaches us that Christ suffered and that His suffering is important for us to understand

II. The Place of Suffering

A. I wrote in my book How Healed Do You Want to Be? that in order to have a good theology of healing, you must also have a good theology of suffering

B. To suffer is defined as:

1. To undergo or feel pain and distress
2. To sustain injury, disadvantage, and loss
3. To undergo a penalty
4. To endure pain, disability, death, etc., patiently or willingly

C. The Suffering of Christ

1. In order to understand the role suffering plays in our own lives, we must first understand the sufferings of Christ

2. In the wilderness, Christ suffered the onslaught of temptation

a. The temptations were rooted in the notion of avoiding suffering and achieving power without obedience or the suffering necessary for Him to fulfill God’s plan.

b. Later, in the Gethsemane, Jesus would wrestle with His call to undergo the Ultimate Suffering of the Cross.

1) He referred to this as “the cup” He did not wish to drink, if it were possible

c. Nevertheless, He agreed to undergo the suffering that was to follow in order to do God’s will

3. In reflecting on Christ’s sufferings, biblical writers note the following:

a. He suffered when He was tempted but refused to yield in order to end His suffering (Hebrews 2: 18)

b. He suffered insults and injustice but chose to entrust Himself to God’s justice rather than retaliate (I Peter 2: 23)

c. He suffered in His body, but “armed Himself” with the will to do so in order to fulfill God’s plan (I Peter 4: 1)

d. He suffered death itself, tasting it on our behalf and removing its “sting” (Hebrews 2:9, I Cor. 15:55)

e. His will to undergo suffering taught Him to prefer obedience over relief (Heb 5: 8).

D. The Place of Suffering in Our Lives

1. As followers or “imitators” of Christ, suffering has a legitimate place in our lives.

2. Or, to put it another way; pain and distress, injury, disadvantage and loss, and even death itself may have a legitimate place in our lives

a. What gives these things legitimacy as Christ-followers?

1) If they result from our attempts to obey God, resist temptation and trust divine justice (Phil. 1: 29; I Peter 2: 20)

2) If they are a part of the natural order of things (such as the tendency of our bodies to “waste away”) 2 Cor. 4:16

3. Is all suffering ordained by God? 

a. No.  Some suffering is just part of the natural order of things (John 16:33) and some is the work of the devil (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38).

b. It is perfectly legitimate for us to seek relief from such sufferings

III. What Suffering Produces

A. A focus on that which is eternal and truly lasting (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18)

B. The ability to persevere, endure and become stronger (James 1:3, 4; I Pet. 5:10)

C. A purified witness to Christ (Phil.1:29; I Peter 2: 20)

D. Cause for great rejoicing after the suffering is over (I Peter 1: 6)

IV. Ultimate Vindication

A. Ultimately, all earthly suffering and loss will be vindicated in the Age to Come (Rev. 2:10)

1. An “eternal glory that far outweighs” our suffering (2 Cor. 4:17)

V. What We Learn About God Through Suffering

A. Ultimately, we learn that Christ – who Himself suffered – will be totally present with us in our suffering (Romans 8:35 - 39)

B. In the language of the ancient church, our suffering produces “desolation” but the comfort of the Spirit in our suffering produces “consolation” (see also 2 Cor. 1:4,5)

 VI. Make Room in Your Life For Suffering as a Christ-Follower

Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:

"Jesus hath many lovers of His heavenly kingdom,but few bearers of His Cross. He hath many seekers of comfort, but few of tribulation. He findeth many companions of His table, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to undergo anything for His sake. Many follow Jesus that they may eat of His loaves, but few that they may drink of the cup of His passion. Many are astonished at His miracles, few follow after the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus so long as no adversities happen to them. Many praise Him and bless Him, so long as they receive any comforts from Him. But if Jesus hide Himself and withdraw a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too great dejection of mind..".

See us at www.vineyardathome.com

Saturday, March 5, 2011

If Banksy Were a Church Planter: Street Ministry and Street Art

      Having just watched the film documentary film “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, I got my first real look at the worldwide, mostly urban, subculture of “street art”.  If, like me, you have been unfamiliar with the provocative, enormously creative and somewhat subversive world of contemporary street art, I can heartily recommend “Exit” as a good starting place. 

            The instinct behind street art is to post, paint or otherwise display arresting images on everyday spaces such as walls, billboards, sidewalks and the like.  The “art” may be words or images painted from aerosol spray paint cans of course.  But, as the film shows us, the true masters of the art utilize media and techniques as diverse as stickers, tiles, stencil art, mural painting and more. “Banksy”, the featured street artist of the “Exit Through the Gift Shop” documentary has done much to push the envelope of what is possible in these regards and much of his work is fascinating and eye-popping. 

            All this has gotten me to thinking: what if Banksy and his kind were church planters rather than so-called “post-graffiti artists”?  What kinds of spirit would they bring to the notion of taking the ministry out of church buildings and other formalized environments to the streets of our cities?  After all: isn’t this what they have done to the art world?

            Yes, it most assuredly is.  The street artists have confronted the notion that art belongs in climate-controlled, well-lit and sterilized galleries and museums and broken the rules by exposing their work to the raw elements and human environments of the abandoned buildings, bridge abutments and billboard spaces of our cities.  In doing so, they have confronted our monotony by surprising us with delightfully light-hearted or powerfully thought-provoking images and messages.  By doing so, they demand us to take notice of things we would otherwise dismiss, neglect or assign to the fringes of our lives.  Isn’t this, in a sense, what Jesus and the Apostles did when they healed the sick in the streets and preached sermons from hilltops and parked fishing boats? 

            The street artist’s message is, in a sense: “Art is breaking in to your everyday environment” and challenging you to see the world differently”.  And, in a similar way, the message of Jesus is: “The kingdom of God is breaking in to the present age and challenging you to see the world and the meaning of your own life differently”. 

Could it be that Banksy and his contemporaries “get it” about the way the unexpected is capable of breaking in to the everyday that has somehow eluded many of our most notable church thinkers and leaders?  

See us at www.vineyardathome.com

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Bringing Church"

Christy has two daughters who regularly participate in our Vineyard at Home Foothill Ranch House Church.  She usually has to work Sundays and so has not been able to join us for our regular Sunday a.m. meetings.  However, recent circumstances allowed her to join us for about a month or so.  She even participated in the mudfest (see the previous post).

On the last Sunday before she had to return to work she made a special point of telling us how much she has felt at home and how enriching the house church had been to her and to her children.  Sadly, though, going back to her normal schedule would once again prevent her from continuing her fellowship with us on Sundays each week.

That got us to thinking: if Christy can no longer be "at church" with us, how can we "bring church" to her where she works?

Before long, we came up with an idea.  What if, in a couple of Sundays from now, we put together a visit to where Christy works?  What if we "took church" to her by packing up the kids and adults and carpooling over to the retail store she manages.  We could bring a nice array of things for a coffee break for her and her coworkers.  We could bring some handmade cards that the kids could make between now and then.  We're going to give some more thought to this and put together some things that allow everyone to participate in some way.

The message Christy will get when we "bring church" to her will also, no doubt, overflow to her coworkers.  Christ's love is mobile.  His community is not confined to a particular locale.  The Scriptures teach us that, as believers, we are the church.  Therefore, when we visit Christy, we bring "church" with us.  I can't wait to see what happens and, don't worry, we'll make sure and tell the story in a future post!

See us at www.vineyardathome.com

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Song Is Born!

This is another story related to our mudfest experience.  Only, this time, it doesn't involve mud.  It involves music.

The household with the biggest post-storm problem (the swimming pool 'o mud) includes a musical mom.  I recall that, during one of the "neighborhood festivals" we threw some months back, she was out on a stretch of lawn with a gaggle of kids gathered around her while she played her guitar and led them in some fun songs.  This is especially interesting in light of the fact that, for her "day job", she fulfills the role rather demanding role of a forensic psychologist.

A week or so after our mud-a-thon, this grateful neighbor showed up at our host family's door with a CD she had made in her home studio set up.  It contained just one song - an original piece that commemorated her family's experience with the house church in the after-effect of the storm.  It's worth noting that, as far as we know, this family does not profess a particular faith or church affiliation.  Nevertheless, the title of her catchy tune  is: "Praise the Risen Lord".

After listening to it together at house church the next Sunday, we sent the disc off to Ryan who will be leading worship for our annual outdoor Easter Sunday on the Street worship gathering in the neighborhood.  You can bet that "Praise the Risen Lord" will figure prominently into that morning's songs of praise and celebration!

See us at www.vineyardathome.com