On Sunday, May 22 Senior Pastor Craig Bailey continued with his exploration of Pentecost and the purpose behind the Lord’s gift of the Holy Spirit. He opened the sermon with a question: If the whole world is going down anyway, why should we bother protecting it or changing it? A 180-shift in a thought pattern such as this is necessary to reveal the meaning of Pentecost. We must understand that God is, at His core, a God of restoration. Because He created the world and saw that it was good, we too should see His creation as beautiful and worthy of preservation through His redemption. This logic begs the question of how we should function in this world and react to those living in it. Should we write anyone off as unredeemable? How should we respond when we see the Holy Spirit at work? What should our own redeemed lives—as Christians—look like on a practical level? Listen to the Podcast here to dig deeper into the meaning of Pentecost.
The simple words follow me have never been so laden with deeper meaning than when Jesus utters them throughout his time on earth. This past Sunday, April 24 we studied an instance in which Jesus says this single phrase to Peter in John 21:15-22. Our senior pastor notes that by surveying the various times Jesus commands, “Follow me” in Scripture, we can learn that heeding the decree compels us to leave something behind, sacrifice, have a singleness of focus, and go in a new direction to trail behind the Savior into heaven. But it’s much more than that. Jesus calls us to follow him in an ongoing activity while we’re living in this world—that activity requires us to restore glory to humanity in accordance with God’s purpose for his creation set forth in Genesis. Listen to the whole sermon here.
Yesterday, Craig continued a sequel to his The Week That Changed the World sermon series based on the gospel of John. Specifically, he focused on John 21:1-2—“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.” It seems as though the second verse is merely a list of names, but the most important word is together. Craig addressed what it truly meant for these believers to be in fellowship in one place—facing each other after the shame of their actions during the week that changed the world. Craig concludes that it was Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, that held these disciples together, preserving them for the purpose of spreading the story of Christ. In that, the practical application calls for today’s Church to consider: What is holding us together and for what purpose are we being held together? How do we face others in the church knowing our own shame? And how do we avoid judging others for their own actions so that the church can function as one cohesive body? Listen to the whole sermon here.
Craig opened up his Valentine’s Day sermon focusing on the unlikely love match between sinful humans and a holy God. What do we owe a God who orchestrated this relationship to provide us with eternal life? Deuteronomy 26:1-11 delves into the appropriate way to worship. God explains to the worshipers exactly how to approach the Throne, giving their first fruits and reciting the story of God’s 180-transformation in their lives to continually remember the good things the Lord has done. Practically, this instruction reveals to us the purpose of our daily work, which is to create something to give back to God, not to provide for ourselves. God provides for us—daily and eternally. It’s our reasonable service to worship Him for all He has done. Listen to the whole sermon here.
Until I came to Redeemer, Deuteronomy had been one of those books that I often skipped over in my Scripture reading. It was difficult on my own to understand what all of the archaic rules and family lineages meant. However, every Deuteronomy sermon for the past two years (has it really been two years?!) has revealed the heart of God in the most obscure of laws. This past Sunday, Craig preached about Deuteronomy 25:4-10, a passage that requires the Israelites to avoid muzzling an ox and the men to marry their brother’s widows (if they have no sons) to carry on the brother’s family name. What is a modern American Christian in Charleston—who owns no oxen and who probably wouldn’t marry his sister-in-law—to do with these commands? Each law present in Deuteronomy grants an overarching idea about how Christians should behave and a revelation of God’s character. Craig demonstrates how Deuteronomy 25 reflects God’s love for his creation as well as his intention to remember, restore, and preserve His people. Listen to the whole sermon here.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said “I’m sorry” to God, to others, or to myself only to commit the same sin I apologized for mere moments later. Craig’s sermon this Sunday focused on repentance—true repentance consisting of not just saying that we are sorry, but actually making a radical, dramatic change in our behavior. This transformation, of course, cannot happen without God’s mercy. Craig taught that change in our lives is possible (hallelujah!), but only when we are repentant. Because God is gracious, He does for humanity what it cannot do on its own. He provides a way for me and you to move from “naughty” to “nice” (to reference Santa Claus Is Coming to Town) through his unlimited mercy and forgiveness. Listen to the whole sermon here.
Take a moment from your day to listen to Craig reveal (through Deuteronomy 23:17-25) how we can live well in the land the Lord has given us. Verses 17 and 18 reveal God’s displeasure with an offering of money earned by prostitution. It would be easy for modern-day Christians to gloss over this verse, touting that we are not prostitutes and that we earn our money in more respectable ways. However, this passage reveals God’s concern with his people’s everyday lives. He’s not merely interested in what we do on Sunday morning (such as bringing an offering). He’s interested in how we live Monday through Saturday. Bonus? Craig also unpacks the idea of the aseity of God, which is the notion that God exists wholly in himself, needing absolutely nothing from man. How much sweeter does this realization make the Gospel?
On Sunday, October 18 Craig turned our attention to Deuteronomy 22, a passage that, on the surface, seems archaic. God presents rules that appear to make little sense in today’s culture: Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard, do not plow with an ox and a donkey, and do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together. It’s important to remember, though, that modern Christians have much to learn about the character of God through His words in the Old Testament. From these commands, God reveals the importance of being set apart from our culture and following the order that God desires for the world. Each commandment of Deuteronomy 22 serves to demonstrate that God’s people are separated to maintain purity and distinction. Listen to the whole sermon here.
In this sermon, Craig addresses a tough passage—Deuteronomy 21:18-23—that outlines what parents are to do with a rebellious, wayward child. God requires the parents to take their disobedient child to the elders to be stoned to death. Most modern-day reactions to this command range from laughing (as though it’s a joke) to doubting God’s love (thinking, How could a loving God be so unforgiving and require such a harsh disciplinary action?). But how can we have such reactions to this passage when we know our unchanging God is just and forgiving? How can we understand God’s loving nature through this command? Craig tackles what it means to interpret Scripture by using Scripture to understand passages in the Bible that seem to contradict the characteristics we know to be true about God. Listen to the whole sermon here.
As I signed up to write this blog post, I ashamedly realized that my own bulletin from last Sunday was in the trash under my desk with old minty gum smashed between the first two pages. I was brave and pulled it out anyway. I started to flip through the pages trying to figure out how the words here could be used throughout the week. A good way, I think, is to use our bulletin as a guide for daily prayer for our church body.
Monday: Praying for our Purpose
The bulletin always states Redeemer’s purpose: Our church “exists to glorify God as a Gospel presence in downtown Charleston by being a grace-filled community that worships Christ and develops disciples who serve Him in our families, neighborhoods, and the nations.” In this one carefully crafted sentence, we have ten things to pray about (if not more). We can ask:
- That the church upholds this entire mission statement daily (not just on Sundays)
- That we each glorify the Creator, whether we “eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do” (I Cor. 10:31).
- That we carry the gospel not just to other nations, but also to those lost in Charleston.
- That we exhibit grace.
- That we are a community that loves one another.
- That we worship Christ with pure hearts.
- That we create disciples.
- That we serve the Lord in His calling for us.
- That we present the Gospel to our families and our individual neighborhoods.
- That we reach out to foreign lands and people.
Certainly, this list could be developed even further as we pray for specific needs of our church body in each scenario.
Tuesday: Welcome to Redeemer
In each bulletin, we welcome visitors to Redeemer and tell newbies how to become part of our church family. New faces walk through our old red doors every Sunday (and Gray somehow remembers them all). On Tuesdays, may we pray that they heard the Gospel and that they’ll find a church to call home (whether it be with us or another congregation in Charleston).
Wednesday: Wee Ones
We all desire for the children of our congregation to grow to love the Lord. We can pray that seeds of the gospel will be planted, that parents will lead by Christ-like example, and that true learning will take place in our Christian-education classrooms.
Thursday: Who’s Who
Redeemer doesn’t function without our leaders, and those leaders who constantly pray for us need prayer, too. Our elders and deacons work diligently each week to serve the congregation spiritually and practically. May we pray for them to carry out their duties effectively and with a heart of servitude. More pragmatically, we can pray for their time management and their ability to organize and plan. We can remember Craig who studies Scripture each week to bring us truth from the pulpit. Furthermore, we can pray for Fred as he uses his gift of music, JaiLynne as she handles the day-to-day functions of the church, and for Gray as she meets new members and serves as a beacon of communication for us.
Friday: Where in the World
Redeemer supports a handful of missionaries around the globe, and one is highlighted each week in the bulletin, along with his or her specific needs. Let’s use Friday to pray for that missionary. (Only printed bulletins contain missionary info.)
Saturday: Within the Community
Our church hinges on our six thriving community groups that act as mini-churches within the Charleston area. Each group exists to provide in-reach (support to its members), out-reach (service to our respective communities), and up-reach (praise to our Savior); every group needs the prayers of the other five in order to thrive.
And, would you look at that? Suddenly it’s Sunday again, and we have a whole new bulletin to pray over!