The Resurrection of Jesus

Dear Woodview friends and family,

Luke 23:44-49 -- By now it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land for three hours, until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone—and suddenly the thick veil hanging in the Temple split apart.  Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I commit my spirit to you,” and with those words he died.  When the captain of the Roman military unit handling the executions saw what had happened, he was stricken with awe before God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”  And when the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw that Jesus was dead, they went home in deep sorrow.  Meanwhile, Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him down from Galilee, stood in the distance watching.

Matthew 27:57-61 -- When evening came, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, one of Jesus’ followers, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him.  Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new rock-hewn tomb, and rolled a great stone across the entrance as he left.  Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting nearby watching.

Matthew 28:1-8 -- Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to the tomb.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled aside the stone and sat on it.  His face shone like lightning and his clothing was a brilliant white.  The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and fell into a dead faint.  Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be frightened!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified, but he isn’t here! For he has come back to life again, just as he said he would. Come in and see where his body was lying. . . . And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and that he is going to Galilee to meet them there. That is my message to them.”  The women ran from the tomb, badly frightened, but also filled with joy, and rushed to find the disciples to give them the angel’s message.

John 20:1-9 -- Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone was rolled aside from the entrance.  She ran and found Simon Peter and me and said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!”  We ran to the tomb to see; I outran Peter and got there first, and stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but I didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went on inside. He also noticed the cloth lying there, while the swath that had covered Jesus’ head was rolled up in a bundle and was lying at the side. Then I went in too, and saw, and believed that he had risen for until then we hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would come to life again!

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner 

How to go to Church

Woodview Christian Church


Dear Woodview friends and family,

I subscribe to a weekly email and this week the article was entitled, "How to Go to Church."  I won't copy the entire article, but I do think there were some very good points and statements, so I will share those.

"Life in the church is not an optional appendage for Christians.  It's a privileged essential, at the center.  It's been a joyful essential since New Testament times.  And local church life is not only about gathering corporately for worship one day a week.  But that is a central part of the joy and benefit.  As such an important part of life in Christ, it's to be expected that gathering for corporate worship involves a few things.

Here are a few things to consider as we go to church:

1.  Gathering publicly - Going to church starts with going to church.  We gather with something bigger than ourselves and our agenda.

"But church is not a building, it's people."  "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian."  If you were to say that to the apostle Paul, he'd say, "Uh, sure, now go to church.  Go, gather with the local body of believers under qualified shepherding like I wrote in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1; be seen with them for worship."

For those still stuck in the "I can do church my own way and in my own place" error, please consider this.  It's not about, "Well, I don't need to go somewhere to worship God," but, "I get the privilege of plugging into a New Testament kind of church with the redeemed body of Christ to see and be seen; to give and receive; to minister and be ministered to; to love and be loved; to come alongside and be held accountable, and all out of worship for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

2.  Promptly gathering - Obviously there are times when we can't make it or we stroll in at the sermon's midpoint.  It happens.  This isn't so much about a clock as it is humble love for Christ and people.

So then, instead of, "Well, it's just announcements and stuff, so it's fine if we're late," it's more about, "Out of love for Christ, let's arrive early so we can serve in ways needed, meet and greet visitors, and be ready for worship."

3.  Engaged participation - One of the easiest things to do in corporate worship is to let the mind go passive.  We are hearing, but not absorbing.  We are reading, but not digesting.  We are singing, but not proclaiming.  It's all too easy to be passive instead of active in corporate worship.  But we miss out on God's care when we allow that.

So, it's not about, "I did my duty by being present and listening," but, "I get to receive God's care and be used by him through actively praying, reading, and singing with the beloved body of Christ during this short time of worship we have out of a 168-hour week."

4.  Worshipful giving - Giving is part of worship just like singing and hearing the word.  We give in light of the infinite gift of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We also get to give in proportion to what God supplies us.  We give generously, joyfully, and sacrificially (2 Cor. 8-9).  Because this is an act of worship, it behooves us to prepare beforehand, praying and considering how to give in such a way as opposed to frantically or thoughtlessly tossing a few bills into the offering plate last minute.

So, instead of, "Hey, at least I"m giving something," it's more about, "My God did not even withhold his most precious possession, his own Son, and he did so for my sins and to make me his child for eternity; so, it's a joy to thoughtfully prepare to joyfully, sacrificially, and generously give back to him for his kingdom through my church."

5.  Partaking of ordinances - God has set in place two ordinances for the New Covenant; baptism and the Lord's Table.  In the first century, it was unthinkable for a Christian to remain unbaptized.  Baptism was the essential symbol of faith in Christ.  Both for the baptized and spectators, it's a joyful time of worship, rejoicing in the power of God in his sovereign act of salvation.

Similarly, Christians participated regularly in that solemn, joyful memorial of the Lord's substitutionary atoning death through the bread and the cup.  It's a time to reflect on the glory of God in quenching his righteous wrath for all our sin in the Person and finished work of Christ.  Who would want to miss out on something like that?

So, it's appropriate for us to set our hearts for these glorious events in the regular life of the church.

6.  Feasting on preaching - We can say at least three things about preparing for the preaching.  First, there is need to prepare our hearts -- listening to biblical preaching is not like listening to a lecture; tilling of the heart is necessary so that the word may take root.

Second, there is the need for teachability and receptivity.  When we are served a meal, we don't perpetually turn the plate around, inspecting it at every angle.  We eat.  That's the idea with the weekly biblical sermon.

Third, there is the need to stick to the word.  In a volatile time like ours, it's possible we desperately hope the preaching will address the latest hot-button issues.  We hope he will body slam that pagan-in-the-news-this-week on the proverbial mat.  That may feed our flesh, but it's going to do little for our soul  We need the soul-strengthening meaty exposition of God's word for another week in this world.

7.  Ministering in the aftermath - By the time worship closes, the manifold care of God has been ministered at the New Testament church gathering.  Souls are anywhere from encouraged to wounded; convicted to comforted and more.  It's not only a time to respond in my personal life.  It also can be a time to respond by reaching out.  Who can I ask what they learned from the sermon?  How they were encouraged?  Challenged?  It's a  great time to follow-up with that visitor; to get their number, invite them to a home group or something.

So, instead of, "Let's hit a quick lunch," make it more about, "Let's hang for a bit, meet some visitors, see if there's someone to minister to, and invite someone over who I might not usually hang out with."

The God of the universe loves us and desires to care for us by having us gather corporately as New Testament churches for biblical worship.  It's one of his preeminent ways of administering his love for us in this life. And, as anything valuable and enjoyable we do in life, it involves a little preparation and attention."

Well, I hope you enjoyed that...I thought it was good enough to share!

I'm looking forward to us getting together this Sunday!  It's going to be a great day and now we know who to prepare for it!

 

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner 

Lent

Woodview Christian Church

Dear Woodview friends and family,

We are in the season of Lent.  While our church tradition does not observe Lent, there are some that do!  About 30% of evangelical Christians say they observe Lent.

Lent is a 40 day observance leading up to Easter.  It was formalized by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and is not mentioned in the Bible.  The idea is that it begins with Ash Wednesday, a day of repentance; and ends on Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Christ.  There are to be forty days of fasting in between, based on the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert.  Over the years, fasting for Lent has taken on some curious changes.

Here are the top 10 things people say they are giving up for Lent this year according to Twitter:

1.  Social networking

2.  Alcohol

3.  Twitter

4.  Chocolate

5.  Lent

6.  Meat

7.  Swearing

8.  Coffee

9.  Soda

10.  Sex

Obviously some of these things are "tongue in cheek", and some of them are just snarky (like tweeting that you are giving up Twitter).  But whether we actually observe Lent in our own lives or not, I do think there is value in at least the exercise of raising our awareness of Jesus leading into Easter...and hopefully the habits of raising that awareness stay with us!  

So let's ask a few questions:

1.  We don't observe Ash Wednesday...but what is there that you need to repent of?

2.  We don't observe Lent...but what should you put aside to follow Jesus more closely?

3.  What could you start doing today to prepare you and excite you for this coming Easter?

I look forward to seeing you Sunday!

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner

How to do Mission

I received a phone call from someone last week and they were asking me about our mission.  Hopefully by now you know it -- our mission is to help people connect and reconnect with Jesus.  They said they knew our mission statement but weren't really sure what it meant or how to do it.  I love that they asked!  I love that they are interested!

So, in a nutshell, this was our conversation.  Connecting and reconnecting people with Jesus means we want to help people have a sincere, life-changing relationship with Jesus -- as Savior, Master, example, and true love.  But that won't happen if we just sit around and wait for people to come to us, or if we just cluster with our Christian friends.  That's why we MUST intentionally step out of our comfort zones to begin to build bridges with those who need to connect and reconnect with Jesus.  And, as I've admitted to you before -- I've got to make myself do this just as we all do...and it feels weird and awkward and I make mistakes at it and sometimes I look back and smack myself on the forehead for something I missed or didn't do.  But I strive to be obedient and I pray for God to use me and the Holy Spirit to move.

I shared in this conversation what this looked like in a particular relationship in my life.  I get my hair cut about every 4 or 5 weeks and I like cheap haircuts (let me rephrase that...I like the cheap part; often not pleased with the hair part; but my unwillingness to spend much money on a haircut often means I suffer with the not so great cut).  So for years I went to the same place.  They usually went through a lot of employees but there was one young woman who was there for several years.  She cut my hair a few times and we struck up a conversation.  Then I started asking for her...if she wasn't in, I would come back sometime when she was available.  And over the months we started talking about family, and kids, and then spiritual things.  Now, the goal of our mission to is to help people connect with Jesus...but part of trying to help her connect with Jesus was inviting her to our church.  She came for a holiday service, enjoyed it, and started attending pretty regularly with her kids when she wasn't working on Sunday.  And then, as she continued to cut my hair, our conversations went into deeper and deeper spiritual territory!  But, sadly, her husband took a job south of here and they moved away...but I know that seeds were planted and I pray that God has someone else in her life and in her family's life who is watering those seeds so connection is growing.

I would have loved to have been able to see where all of that ended up in her life.  But what we are discovering is that living our mission means simply living with gospel intentionality -- planningto spend time with people who need to connect and reconnect with Jesus.  It might mean inviting a co-worker to lunch to get to know them better; it might mean inviting neighbors over for a backyard bbq; it might mean always asking for the same server at a restaurant; or consistently going to the same coffee shop and striking up conversations with the same person; it might mean volunteering to help someone.

But eventually it means introducing Jesus into the conversation.  That can be by sharing something as simple as:  "I will be praying for you," or using Bible wisdom to give advice, or sharing something Jesus is doing in your own life, or inviting them to church (Easter is coming!).  And, of course, it means the whole thing has to be covered and bathed in prayer. 

We're told by Jesus to initiate and be intentional--because we are to "go" and "make" disciples.  Jesus modeled for us how to do that--He entered into relationships with His disciples.

So, either this week or next, take a step of bold faith and do something to live on mission!

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner

Don't Do It!

Dear Woodview friends and family,

I imagine that for many of you what I share in this article isn't even on your radar...probably not even something you think about.  For others, this might hit pretty close to home.

Over the past few months, one of the things that has been talked about a lot in ministry articles, blogs, and social media is predator behavior by people in the church.  Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention put 10 of their churches on "probation" because of the way they failed to deal with sexual abuse in their churches.  In the past, some of the marriage counseling I have done has centered around issues that surfaced concerning sexual abuse.  In the last week someone shared with me they had been sexually abused by a family member years ago.  About 10 years ago I was visiting one of our church's ladies who was a shut-in; she shared with me that when she was a little girl in our church the Sunday School Superintendent had abused her.  And I heard a woman make the comment that she's not sure she knows a woman who hasn't been sexually abused in one way or another.

In this article I want to share with you Woodview's policies and practices to try to keep everyone safe, but particularly the steps we take to try to protect our children.  

But the first thing that needs to be said is that hurting someone, damaging someone, or using someone for your own sinful and selfish desires is evil and sinful.  Don't do it!  If you have thoughts and inclinations toward predator behavior, learn and apply the lessons of Old Testament Joseph about how to run from sin!  At Woodview, we have love and grace for sinners because we are all sinners...but we will not tolerate predators or predator behavior.

Our policies and procedures include but are not limited to:

1.  Background checks for all staff and volunteers who work with children.  This includes an agreement that background checks can be renewed annually or at Woodview's discretion.

2.  At least 2 adults are to be in each of the children's classes.  If the two adults are a married couple or relatives, this number becomes at least 3 adults.

3.  Training for all adult workers on what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

4.  Our child check-in is to make sure that the children are safe in the building, their location is known at all times, and that they are released only to authorized adults.

5.  Our Security Team periodically walks through the children's areas and looks in rooms to make sure everyone is safe and guidelines are being followed.

6.  All workers are trained to promptly notify their coordinator/supervisor of any violation of Woodview's policies and procedures by themselves or someone else.

7.  Every allegation or suspicion of abuse or molestation will be taken seriously!  Every ministry staff person is a Mandated Reporter so we will contact the appropriate authorities (we have and we will).

8.  If the accused is an employee or a volunteer, they will immediately be removed from their position (staff positions will continue to be paid), pending the completion of the investigation.

9.  Any person who is not found innocent of the alleged abuse or molestation will be permanently removed from working with children, youth, or the disabled.  The church will consult with legal counsel for advice if termination of employment is indicated.

There are other parts to our policies and procedures that, if you'd like, you can read if you contact the office and ask for a copy of our Children's Ministry Workers Policy.  But I simply share this with you today to assure you that Woodview takes the responsibility of keeping people safe seriously.

And let me also say that, if you have ever been a victim of abuse or sexual abuse, you are loved by Woodview and we will walk with you as you take steps to healthy healing on the path of recovery.

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner

 
 
Church Revitalization

Dear Woodview friends and family,

Many churches in the United States are in trouble.  In fact, it is reported that about 5,000 church close each year (this is a conservative figure -- others say somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000).  Now there are a myriad of reasons why, and we don't have the time or space here to dig into it -- but the truth is that for many churches, if things don't change they will end up on that pile also.

That is why church revitalization is so important.  That is why I am so proud of the leaders of Woodview who have recognized this need and have and are taking the difficult steps forward.  And that is why we need to be working and praying for revival.  

In Ezekiel 37, we read about the Valley of Dry Bones.  Israel was spiritually dead...oh, there was a faithful remnant as there always is, but Israel was spiritually dead.  And no one thought there was any hope for them.  Until God gave Ezekiel a vision and God called Ezekiel to speak to those dry bones and call them back to life.  Those bones started to stir, then they came back together, then they were covered again with flesh!  Now that vision teaches us three things -- God takes pleasure in bringing dead things back to life (it reveals His power and glory), it can only happen by the power of God and the moving of His Spirit, but it happens through human agents (in this case Ezekiel) and their willingness to be used of God.

The attitudes and actions of church members are critical to church revitalization.  Jonathan Howe and Mark Clifton have studied and written about church revitalization.  They talk about several attitudes and actions that are necessary:

1.  I will move from "I am" to "I will" -- the focus needs to be on the future and working together toward a better future.

2.  I will worship with others -- this is a commitment to attend regularly and be engaged in worship.

3.  I will grow together with others -- for the church to experience revitalization, its going to require us pulling each other in, not keeping others at arms length.

4.  I will serve -- find a place to contribute your time, gifts, and talents.

5.  I will go -- nothing revitalizes a church like seeing new faces and people making commitments to follow Jesus; so it requires a commitment to go and reach out to people outside the church.

6.  I will give generously -- church revitalization costs more than just continuing things the way they are because it requires an investment in the future.

7.  I will not be a church dropout -- churches that need revitalization feel discouraged, be committed to not adding to that discouragement but to being part of the force that will bring enthusiasm and optimism. 

8.  I will make a positive difference -- this means simply determining to contribute to a better future.

Now, many of you are already doing these things...and I thank you!  I imagine some who read this have simply been waiting for some clear ideas on things they can do to help.  So let's pray together, let's work together, let's be committed to a better future and trust God's Spirit to breath life into the bones!

See you Sunday -- we start a new series called "King Jesus."  I can't wait!

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner