Illuminate Community Church
About the podcast Illuminate Community Church
Illuminate Community Church Podcast - Pastor Jason Fritz - Scottsdale, AZ
9/19/2021 - Stop Attending and Start Engaging - Acts 2:46-47; Matthew 26:36-46
Five years ago, when the church began to meet, we needed a name. We knew we wanted to have something that stated who we are and what we do. I’ve always loved the many metaphors of light that are used all throughout the Bible. The word "Illuminate" means to make something visible by shining the light on it: Illuminate Community Church. Community describes a group of people that have something in common. Of course, we have the greatest foundation upon which community is built. The sacrificial death of Jesus. This is why we want to grow smaller, because smaller is about building community. I find that a lot of Christians will talk about what you need to know, not who you need to be with. We’re too often concerned only with conversion and information download, and we fail to participate in the life of community and relationship-based discipleship. You see, if we get the relationships right, the information will follow. If we connect people in smaller, gospel-centered communities, they will grow spiritually. When we preach the gospel to one another in close-knit community, there is spiritual growth that changes us individually and as a whole. This change gives us an outward focus and encourages gospel transformation in places beyond our walls. This was the pattern of the early church… 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 I’ll admit, years ago I was the guy who didn’t see the need for community. For a long time I did not participate. And then I realized that Jesus was in a small group. Why? Because the Bible says it’s not good for us to be alone. Jesus is the example in all things. Genesis tells the story of God creating the world and everything in it and declares it all good. He creates Adam and then we hear God say, “It is not good...for man to be alone.” And Eve is created. However, many have mistakenly believed that if we are really mature, we don’t need anyone, we can be totally self-feeding and not dependent on others. Only the weak need somebody. That’s not true. Jesus had close friends, in fact three of these were very close. Jesus shared the most challenging moment of his life with Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus needed another to carry his cross. He spent all of his ministry life with a small group. Don’t you think that if it was the pattern of his life it should be the pattern for you too?
9/12/2021 - I Will Build My Church - Matthew 16:18 - Pastor Jason Fritz
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 This verse forms the foundation for the future vision of Illuminate. We should never forget that Jesus has made this a promise. In other words, the church will be built because Jesus has all authority. Notice carefully who does the building. It rests solely upon Jesus himself. It is ultimately dependent on the power and wisdom and faithfulness of the risen and living Christ to keep this promise: "I will build my church." Not, "You will build my church." Or, "Missionaries will build my church." Or, "Pastors will build my church." But, "I will build my church." I don’t think a church can follow the command of Christ to make disciples without a growth mindset. At Illuminate, we value people and we lift up Jesus. Because of this, people will be attracted to us. As the church grows the culture is transformed. Growth keeps us from being inwardly focused. Growth gives more people the opportunity to serve God. Growth increases our influence in our city and beyond. This week we begin a five-week look into the future of Illuminate Community Church. We have three words we use to describe this: Bigger (greater influence for Christ) Smaller (moving from attending to engaging) and Deeper (becoming a disciple). Join me on this journey of spiritual transformation as we ask God - "What do you want to do IN and THROUGH me?"
9-5-2021 - Almost Christian - Acts 24-25 - Pastor Jason Fritz
It all comes down to this. Paul has had three separate trials with not one guilty verdict because he is innocent. Yet the powers that be don’t want to offend the Jews. So another trial is offered in the hostile city of Jerusalem. Paul avoids this by appealing to Caesar. In case you’re wondering, that would be the infamous Emperor Nero. One of the all-time preeminent killers of Christians. So why would Paul make this deal? From a human perspective Paul made a mistake. If only he wouldn’t have appealed to Caesar he would have been set free. Paul knew exactly what he was doing. A couple years earlier, Jesus told him this: “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” Acts 23:11 In the Roman court of Caesar, Paul will have the opportunity to preach to the most powerful man in the world at this time. Indeed, as Jesus told him earlier, “You will be my witness to Kings.” In Acts chapters 24 and 25 there are no converts in Paul’s preaching. Paul was told to be a witness, he was not told to make Christians. Christians are born through the power of the Holy Spirit. I was thinking about how each church has its own personality. Each church has something they are known for. I think one thing people would say about Illuminate is that we teach the Bible and we love others. In all of our ministries throughout the church I know this is true. So we will attract people who want to know what the Bible says and that’s a really good thing. But there is a warning for a church like ours. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 Paul’s trials remind us of our calling. You see, every one of us is called to be a witness. We do that through our lifestyle and our words. It’s our testimony accompanied with the fact of the resurrection. We are about to embark on an amazing journey together as a church family. Beginning Sunday, September 12th, I’ll be rolling out what this looks like as I share the future vision of the church. We refer to it as "Illuminate 2.0." Our first five years gave us the opportunity to grow and discover our personality and now is the time to mature by having the entire church family put our collective personality into practice. We’re not just hearers of the Word, we are doers!
8/29/2021 - Deus Pro Nobis - Acts 23-24
Paul has finished his missionary journeys and is now in Jerusalem. Everything he has tried to do since he came to Jerusalem has ended in a riot. He tried to satisfy the Jewish Christians by purifying himself in the temple and paying the expenses of four men who had taken a vow; that ended in a riot. He tried to share the story of what God had done in his life to the Jewish crowd in the temple court, and that ended in a riot. He tried to testify before the Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin, and that ended in a riot. Now in Acts 23-24, we find that Paul is under Roman protective custody – almost a prisoner. The Jews are putting together a plot to assassinate him, and he’ll soon end up defending himself before the evil Antonius Felix – for two years! But God will, once again as he has several times before, in His providence protect Paul. The events of Acts 23-24 highlight God’s “providence.” The actual word is not found in the Bible, but the doctrine of providence is very biblical. The term means: "the universal sovereign rule of God." It is God’s preserving and governing of all His creatures and all their actions. One scholar puts it this way: “This is our Father’s world, and the affairs of men and nations, in the final analysis, are in His hands.” It doesn’t look too good for Paul in human terms. But God wants Paul and us to rest in His providence. That’s why Jesus comes to “stand by” Paul and encourage him in Acts 23:11. Paul gets the message and later on, in Romans 8:28-39, Paul gives us one of the most awesome statements ever made on providence (please read it before Sunday). One of the oldest sayings of the ancient church summarizes the essence of God’s providence: Deus pro nobis. It means “God for us.” That is what it is all about. It is God’s being for His people. “What then shall we say to these things?” Paul asks. “If God is for us, who can be against us, and who can separate us from the love of Christ?” Can an angry Jewish mob? Can an evil provincial governor? Can COVID? Can the loss of a job? Can unforeseen illness or tragedy? Can a broken relationship with your spouse or child separate you from God’s providential care? The answer may be clear to us. How He wants us to respond in the midst those circumstances is revealed through our passage.
8/22/2021 - The Gospel Makes Death a Gardener - Acts 22
“Death used to be an executioner, but the gospel makes him just a gardener.” George Herbert The apostle Paul continues to inspire. His final missionary journey will culminate in his arrest. It will be one life threatening situation after another for the rest of Paul’s life. Yet he doesn’t stop. He’s a man of tremendous courage. Courage is not a lack of fear, it's being afraid and doing the right thing. Where does this come from and how do we get it? Christian, you are going to need courage in this life. Every once in a while a friend will alert me to a YouTube comment someone makes about me. More recently someone said that I sound like the actor Ray Romano. Then another person commented that I looked like him. I’m not saying Ray is unattractive but he’s certainly no George Clooney. Online commenters can be like snipers hiding in the shadows. This is a very small thing. The larger things occur when I get called out for wrong actions and attitudes. See, that’s where my pride comes in. So I begin to think of what Paul has to say to me. I’m reminded that Christians have a unique way of looking at themselves and their surroundings. Paul had an impressive Jewish resume. That’s what he outlines in Acts chapter 22. Certainly it was a point of pride before he met Christ. "I am superior to others,” he would selfishly proclaim. By the way, people who live in shame and guilt can be just as self-absorbed because all they're doing is focusing on themselves. So superiority and inferiority are both misguided. Paul says that he needed to be washed clean. He wasn’t as great as he thought he was. In fact, he was wrong and misguided and needed to be brought low. When Paul was brought low he discovered Jesus loved him in spite of his self absorption. So then he found himself in the right balance. He had a joyful humility. Therefore he had the courage to do what God called him to do because he was no longer looking at himself. Instead, he looked to Jesus; and often when facing death. Even in death you win Christian. You gain eternal life. Courage is all about keeping your eyes on Jesus.
8/15/2021 - Pay Any Price - Acts 20-21
Whatever you fear keeps you in bondage. Some fears however are healthy. You have experienced this. There’s a strange sound coming from somewhere in your house late at night. You are motivated to investigate when looking out for the safety of those you love. In other words, a lesser fear (harm to yourself) is driven out by a greater fear (harm to your family). But we’ve all experienced unhealthy fear as well. This comes from pleasing people rather than God. This is the source of many world problems today. The fear of man can immobilize us when we should take action, and it silences us when we should speak. Human fears feel powerful, but its' power is deceptive. That’s why the Bible tells us, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). The Hebrew word for “snare” refers to traps hunters used to catch animals or birds. Snares are dangerous. If we get caught in the snare of fear, we must do whatever it takes to free ourselves. The apostle Paul is an inspiration. In Acts chapters 20 and 21 he shows little concern for his life…but for the right reason. He wants to tell all people about Jesus. Now I would love to tell you that Paul and his buddies simply manned up. But that’s the wrong way to say it. As if they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and beat their chests. They didn’t man up, they faithed up. Do you think Paul was at all afraid? Yes, because he was human. You can’t have courage without facing a fear. Karl Barth is regarded by many as the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century and he said this, “Courage is simply fear that has said its prayers.” In other words, we take our fears and bring them to the throne of the only sovereign and powerful God who loves us and we do the difficult thing entrusting the results and our lives to Him. This is what gives us courage to face hardships, unwanted circumstances, and of course the fear of man. Remember, brothers and sisters, when we do the will of God we are invincible until God calls us home!
8/8/2021 - A Disturbance by The Way - Acts 18-19
"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” Acts 19:23 The first Christians were described by the world as, “the Way.” Jesus said, “I am the way.” From the earliest days, Christians made no apology for boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the only way to God. He was not a way, but the way. The culture did not like this because it was filled with idols. This is especially true in the city of Ephesus which was the patron city of the God Artemis, also known as Diana. She ruled the wild animals and governed childbirth. She was also a crowd favorite. In Ephesus, there was a massive temple built in her honor. It was the biggest temple in the Mediterranean region. Four times larger than the Parthenon in Rome. It took 120 years to construct and was one of the seven wonders of the world. Thousands of pilgrims would make the journey from all over the known world to worship Artemis in Ephesus. So then we understand what unfolds next... The gospel provoked the religious climate of the city. When Christianity is brought into any city it will pose a threat to that city’s idols. In Ephesus it was the cult of Artemis. A goddess carved in stone. The people bowed down and made sacrifices to her and we modern people think, “How unsophisticated. Certainly we are well educated beyond giving our devotion to something that is made by human hands." Or are we? Our city has its' own covert gods and they are nevertheless appealing. There is an identifiable language to idolatry that you can recognize in yourself. You might say, “Well I have God but if I could just get that thing, then I’d really be happy. If I could just achieve this then I’d be somebody, then I’d be secure.” If so, then you are loving those things more than God. Even good things can become idols. In fact the most powerful idols are good things we turn into little gods. Perhaps the thing we idolize most is some earthly relationship. However, if you make a person your god, they will constantly disappoint you with their imperfections and you will constantly disappoint them with your expectations. Even the best human relationships end in death. So how do we free ourselves from this? We don’t stop loving the people who are close to us. We don’t love them less. We love God more. How? By seeing Jesus on the cross. He died for you. So go ahead and put your highest devotion upon him!
8/1/2021 - Unknown Gods and Idols - Acts 17:16-34
Can you believe "American Idol" has been on the air for almost 20 years? But you might already know that. People love to cheer for their favorites and indeed it seems every year there is one special underdog with a gripping and emotional human interest story. For those watching, the show is a simple escape from the pressures of everyday life. We don’t often realize that our personal idols actually create those pressures. The root of our problems come when we worship the wrong things or people. Truly there is nothing new under the sun. Paul encountered this 2000 years ago when he entered the famed city of Athens. Known for its philosophical and religious influence the city was drowning in idols. Paul is moved with compassion and shares the gospel. We were made to worship. The focus of our worship will determine the meaning of our lives. Sometimes our idols are not so easy to identify. Good things can become idols when elevated to first importance in your life. This includes your spouse, your children, career and personal goals. All are good things but things that were never meant to receive your worship. And here’s why - they can never be satisfied. When Jesus uttered on the cross, “It is finished,” He meant all of it is finished, your striving for perfection, your search for meaning, your questions about eternal life. Everybody worships something. How do you know what it is for you? Here’s the question... What is it in my life; if I lost that thing it would cause me to say, “My life is no longer worth living.” Whatever that thing is, it has just been exposed as the deepest desire of your heart. The gospel of Jesus invites you to make an exchange. Exchange whatever you're worshiping for the worship of a God who loves you and sacrificed immeasurably for you. Do you know what happens when you make this exchange? You begin to enjoy the good things in ways you never have before because they are no longer the best things. They no longer own your emotional and psychological well being. Giving your highest devotion to Jesus moves you from enslavement to freedom!
About the podcast Illuminate Community Church
Illuminate Community Church Podcast - Pastor Jason Fritz - Scottsdale, AZ