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Savior of the World - All Over the World

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Pastor Ed Allen is continuing his Advent series of sermons, "The Savior of the World."  Each week, he begins with someone from the congregation telling about their Christmas traditions as a child in a different culture.  Today in the 9:00 service, we heard about Bolivia and the Philippines.  This is to emphasize that Christ's birth is celebrated all over the world.

Today we looked at this statement:

The growth of the Jesus movement is unparalleled when considering both scope and duration (so much so that it demands our attention).

When the church began, Christianity was wildly countercultural and went against the grain of common customs and the widespread religious mindset.  Ancient people had to change their entire worldview (with some exceptions, such as the Jews).  They had no categories for understanding what they were being told.

And yet. . .

Here we looked at some statistics.  The Jesus movement exploded over the next 300 years.  Followers of Christ became 53% of the Roman empire.  It was an explosive rate of growth.

This growth happened despite persecution, over the course of centuries.  Other religions have experienced growth -- but not like this or over as long a time.

Islam is currently growing at the same rate as the birth rate and has grown in the past from conquest and birth.  Hinduism is spreading geographically because of migration.

Christianity has grown through conversion.

Christianity is not a mostly white faith.  If anything, it's middle-eastern.  Less of the world is unreached than ever before.

In 1910 more than 50% of the world's people groups were unreached.  30% in 2000 and 28% in 2017. 

In 2017, both Africa and Latin America passed Europe in the number of Christian residents.

Growth in Africa has been explosive, from a small percentage in some countries to 80-90%.  And this is despite 1.8 million martyrs in Africa since 1900.  Korea and South America have also experienced explosive growth of Christianity.

But these stories may pale in comparison to China.

In 2004, the official Chinese church had 18 million members, but grew to 38 million members in 2016.  The underground church is much, much larger, estimated at 5 times larger.

This growth commands our attention.

What does this mean?

1)  It means that Jesus came into the world to be the Savior of the WORLD.

2)  If you are standing outside of faith, this story begs you to reconsider.  (It's not proof that it's true, but it's significant.)

3)  We can stop worrying so much about the condition of the church in America.

God is still in charge; God doesn't need America.  God's church is doing fine.

4)  We need to remember that our lives are part of a much bigger story -- a story that God is winning.

Deeper Wider: Worship

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This morning, Pastor Ed Allen brought us a message about Worship from Psalm 95.  He said that Worship is a good way to approach the difficulties of life.

What Is Worship?

Biblical worship is the whole-life response to God -- head, heart and will -- recognizing who God is and what he has done.

The Psalmist begins in verse 1 with an unabashed appeal to our emotions.

Joyful exuberance is to be part of our worship diet.

In suburban America, we're trained to analyze, not to shout aloud with joy.

We do bear in mind that joy looks different on different people, but let's try together to nudge the needle up.

We're willing to have awkward moments to be honest to ourselves and pour out praise to God.

How do we engage emotion?  Start by recognizing who God is, recognizing his value.

The psalmist also challenges our will.  Verse six asks us to bow down, to kneel.

Finally, the psalmist extends a direct call to our thought life.  Move toward God with our minds (verses 8-11).

Verses 8-11 refer to complaining in the desert.  "Meribah" -- Quarreling; "Massah" -- Trouble.

Grumbling is a really big deal to God.  Stop it!  Grab your thoughts and pull them to God.  Keep your heart soft toward God.

Why Do We Worship?

1)  We engage emotionally because he's like no other God (verse 3).

In a general sense, worship means to ascribe ultimate meaning and value to something.

We already worship what we value most -- transfer what we already do -- to God.

2)  We engage our will because God takes care of us (verse 7).

3)  We engage our mind because of who God is and what he's done.

Grumbling doesn't go well for us.

People with addictions surrender their control to the addiction and order their life around it.  Whatever we value most gets that place.

We choose to worship God because through that act we are finally surrendered to one who fully deserves our surrender and who will care for us through our surrender.

How Do We Worship Well?

1)  If we're going to worship well, we have to engage with our whole selves.

We can come to church and just observe, but that's not worship.

Engage emotionally, surrender our will (Choose God); and direct our thoughts toward him (Listen to his voice).

2)  If we're going to worship well, we have to remember the why.

Keep in mind who God is.  He cares.  He's our Shepherd.  He offers us rest.

Hebrews 4 -- The full Rest of God is finally made available through Jesus.  We don't have to please everyone.  Follow a list of rules.  He offers Rest.

3)  If we're going to worship well, we have to join a worship community.

All the commands in this Psalm are corporate.  We need one another to worship well.

We need the support.  We need the wisdom.

Ephesians 3:14-19 -- We grasp how high and long and wide and deep God's love is -- together with all the saints.

Then we practiced what we'd learned by singing songs of worship.

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