FIND THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO SERVE

3 C'S OF A HEALTHY CHURCH

The 3 C’s of a Healthy Church – Find the Right People to Serve

Acts 6:1-7 (p. 762) February 26, 2017

Introduction:

Jon Weece in the book “Jesus Prom” says:

“When we stop moving, we start dying. Too many churches are filled with too many people who are fans of Jesus but not followers of Jesus. The body of Christ doesn’t need more spectators. The body of Christ needs more servants…it needs more people who will go…because “Servants can go places Kings can’t.”

I met Gil the other night…and the first thing I noticed was Gil looks exactly like Danny Glover…in fact I said, “Man, you look exactly like Danny Glover.” He smiled and said, “I get that all the time…I’m not an actor, but I wish I had some of his money.”

I was at our Room in the Inn ministry where we house and feed men who need some help…and Karl VanDyke, one of our Elders gave me the privilege to pray with these guys and our volunteers before the meal.

And as I looked around at these men and the servants who had set up the beds, gone to get them, and prepare the meal I felt a great surge of emotion and just wanted to tell these folks: “We love you…we are so glad you are here and safe for tonight…and it’s a privilege to be here with you.” Kevin and Steve would stay and help these guys all night and in the morning, and then take them to a drop off place.

After I prayed…Gil came up to me and said, “Thank you…he was emotional and said, “Pray for our nation’s leaders, pray for our country…pray that we will be one.”

And we hugged each other…not the quick get it out of the way hug guys do a lot of the time, but a real hug, with all the emotions that go with it.

So when I read those words “Servants can go places Kings can’t,” Gil’s face came to mind, because when you serve you get to be where Jesus wants you to be…and you get to fall in love with the people Jesus fell in love with.

The Church was never meant to be confined to a building. The church was designed by Jesus to be a mobile, agile, flexible, and tangible movement of the Spirit of God. Wherever Christians go, that’s where the Church is. We don’t go to Church…we are the Church.

We assemble together to prepare and worship but our focus should always be toward Jesus and others…Upward and outward.

So who are the right people to serve? How do we identify, prepare them, and release them?

I think we have a great example in Acts Chapter 6:

I. IDENTIFY AND RELEASE SPIRIT FILLED AND GUIDED SERVANTS

The Apostles were the leaders and preachers in the early church. “Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:42)

It doesn’t mean they were the only ones sharing the Good News…because those they had discipled were also influencing their friends and family daily with what had happened in their lives because of this message and the Holy Spirit.

But the Apostles had set priorities…prayer and “the ministry of the Word.” What does this mean? They sought God’s guidance first, they approach the throne of Grace for help and they got it…they trusted God to lead and they needed to spend time with Him or they knew they were in trouble…But they also knew that 12 men and the other original follower wasn’t enough…They knew their second priority was “To make disciples, to baptize them and then teach them the words of Jesus…the ministry of the word…is the ministry of “teaching people who have decided to follow Jesus…what! He said. Jesus is the word…the Logos.

I know what I know about Jesus, even to this day, because of them…because of their Holy Spirit influenced writing: “The Apostle’s Doctrine.” So if you asked me my priority at Gardenside today…Pray, Preach, and Prepare Disciples.

Because, individuals that have chosen to leave their old life, to die to self and are filled with the Spirit of Jesus, want to go the places their servant King went…and love the people their Servant King loved. You don’t have to beg them…it’s within them…it’s easily identifiable. They are full of the Spirit who gives them the wisdom they need…and leaders will:

II. TURN THE RESPONSIBILITY OVER TO THEM

We’ve been working on job descriptions and opening our hearts to God’s leading in our children’s and student ministry positions. One of the job descriptions we looked at included this statement under Initiative: “If you need someone to light a fire under you to get you moving or you’re the type of person who wants to be told what to do, please don’t apply.

Under Clear Calling it says: “Ministry can be hard so you need to be called to it and you need to know you’re called to it.”

I think this is especially true for someone who will take the leadership role in any ministry…by the way, the word “Minister” means servant. So those who would do this full time, or as their “job,” it has to be much more than something that provides a paycheck…but the truth is every Christ follower is a “minister.” Every Christ follower is a “Deacon.” By the way the word “Deaconos” means “One who serves.”

In the early church in Jerusalem there were now thousands of Christ followers…and their numbers kept growing…People always have needs…Wayne Smith used to always say: “Ministry would be easy if people weren’t involved.”

But people are what ministry is all about. If your service isn’t about people…it’s not service…it’s work…and has no eternal meaning.

The Apostles became aware of a need for administration and structure. A complaint is lodge that widows were being left out during the distribution of food…Hellenistic Jews complained that the Hebraic Jews were showing favoritism. We don’t know if this is true or not…but the Apostles develop a plan.

1. They communicated unity and the need. (Read Acts 6:2)

“Hey, we’re going to keep our priorities straight. The main thing the main thing…and we need servants to help this happen. Choose from among you 7 men you know have shown themselves to be spiritually led.”

“Among” is an important word. These servants weren’t Sunday morning attenders. These servants were “koinonia” life sharing individuals. The complainers weren’t chosen to fix the problem…Spirit filled servants were chosen to lead this ministry so disciples could be made…and widows fed.

Our calling as leaders is to empower people like these servants and:

2. Turn the responsibility over to them.

I promise you these 7 men didn’t do this ministry to the widows by themselves…they made sure it was done right…and enlisted the right people to help. It worked because they were among them, respected and most of all Spirit led…and those who would follow them knew it. The Apostles didn’t micro-manage, they gave the authority and support that was needed. What was the result?

“So the word of God spread, the number of disciples increased rapidly.”

God is always the one who gives the increase…and as the leaders sought His guidance and His Word, and servants took their responsibility seriously…God added.

Let me end with this story.

Maybe you’ve felt like you’ve had your day…or the risk to serve isn’t worth the possibility of criticism. Maybe you’re like me…imperfect and broken…but the Holy Spirit still calls you back…and He calls you to love and serve people, because that’s what the Spirit of Jesus will always do…if we listen. If that is the case…listen to your heart.

[My little buddy Gavin Padgett did a presentation of Babe Ruth the other day at his school…it was awesome…but it reminded me of a story:

Do you remember Babe Ruth? Year after year, Babe Ruth was the idol of sports fans. Gradually, age began to take it’s toll and the Yankees traded him to the Braves.

One of the last games Ruth played was in Cincinnati. The Babe was not at his best. He fumbled the ball twice. He made other errors that allowed the opponent to get five runs in one inning.

The Babe walked slowly dejectedly toward the dugout, his chin slumped down on his chest. An enormous storm of boos and catcalls came from the stands. People actually shook their fists at him. It was an incredible humiliation for one so great.

Then a little boy with tears streaming down his cheeks leaped over the railing. He ran out, sobbing, and threw his arms around the legs of the great athlete. The Babe gently picked him up and hugged him tightly. Then he set him down, patting him gently on the head. He took the little fellow’s hand and the two of them started toward the dugout. The catcalls and the jeering stopped. The ballpark was silent. Then the crowd burst into a tumultuous cheer. People wiped tears away.

Ralph Waldo Emerson summed up the emotion of the moment: “What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are small matters compared to what lies within us.

This story of the Babe shows him reaching out in love, amid all the criticism, because something great inside him had to come out.

If you are a child of God, it’s because you have been born again by the Holy Spirit. He lives in you…and because of that, something great needs to come out. And that something great will always be loving and serving others.

Let’s pray.

THE POWER OF WORDS

Thinking about those who row with me for eternity…and those who drill holes in the boat

Rick's Reflections

photo

Hey All,

 

King David’s son Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat it’s fruit.” (18:21)

 

Here’s the question….what kind of fruit would you like to eat?  Fresh, juicy, vitamin filled, or rotten, nasty and filled with parasites?  Easy answer right?  I’ll take the first one!!!!

 

But Solomon says…our words, our conversation daily are like those two choices…and both we, and the people we serve the “fruit” of our words to will either be strengthened or poisoned.  

I remember my Senior year of High School…I’d only been a Christian for a very short period of time, and I needed someone to write me a reference to go to Johnson Bible College.  As many of you know the six years preceding my surrender to Christ had been very rebellious ones…drugs, darkness, rejection…

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Hearing the voice of God

Seemed appropriate for “such a time as this”

Rick's Reflections

225

Hi Everyone,

 

One of my favorite books in the Old Testament is first Kings, because it contains the story of Elijah.  Elijah is one of only two people who never died according to scripture.  Enoch was the first…”He walked with God and God took him.” (Gen. 5:21-24)  The book of Hebrews in the New Testament says, “Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found because God had taken him away.” (Hebrews 11:5)  And Elijah was the second mentioned that never died…he was taken by God up into heaven in a whirlwind…riding in a chariot of fire. “Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated Elijah from Elisha and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”  (2 Kings 2:11)  As my beloved departed brother Rich Mullins sang….”I WANT TO GO OUT LIKE ELIJAH!”

 

But…

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WHAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD WEAR TO WORSHIP

The 3 C’s of a Healthy Church – What We Should Wear to Worship

 

Romans 13:14 (p. 790)                                                                       January 15, 2017

 

Introduction:

 

From the time I was little I loved wearing a uniform.  I played little league and peewee football…I would shoot for hours a day in our driveway pretending to be Jimmy Dan Connor…or Goose Givens or Kyle Macey…I even wore the same droopy socks he wore so I could pull them up at the free throw line before I would dribble 3 times and shoot.

 

A man named Jack Williams was my basketball coach as I grew up…I’ll never forget in 1971 he bought us new black uniforms with white stripes and shiny satin shorts (and man were they short!)  But I’d lay them out the night before with my Chuck Taylor converse tennis shoes so I could be ready to play on Saturday morning…I’ve got a picture…Want to see it?

 

southland-midget-a

 

We won the championship 2 years in a row…This was the second 1972…I have the 1971 ball because they played the championship game on the day I was fighting for my life in the burn unit…after they won they all signed it and gave it to me with “Get Well Soon” written

1971-basketball

I love uniforms…I wore them in High School and in College…it was easy to tell whose team you played on…all you had to do was look at the uniforms…What you wore would quickly identify if you played for Southland, Lafayette or Johnson Bible College…uniforms make identifying the players easy…That uniform connects you to the other players on your team.

 

So, what about the uniform we as Christians should wear that quickly identifies who we play for…what about the uniform we wear that connects us to our teammates?

 

What should Christians wear to worship the King of Kings and to impact the world?

 

This sermon is not about proper attire for Church attendance.  God doesn’t care as much as we do about dress as long as it’s modest and decent.  People love to judge by the outer appearance…God looks at the heart according to 1 Samuel 16:7.

 

This sermon is about what a Christ centered life should look like, not just on Sunday mornings but every single day.

 

  1. GOD’S PEOPLE WEAR THE ARMOR OF LIGHT

 

When Romans 13:14 tells us to clothe ourselves with Christ and to not think about pleasing the flesh…it starts with the word “rather.”  That word means “the opposite.” Like “I’d rather have the porterhouse than the vegetable plate.  I’d rather you give me a hug than hit me in the face…I’d rather eat nails than pull for Duke basketball to win.

 

So what’s the opposite of wearing Christ in our daily lives?  Well, Jesus is the “light of the world.”  So the opposite of light is darkness…The Apostle Paul says…“put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the Armor of Light”…let us behave decently as in the daytime…and then he lists 6 characteristics of nighttime clothes:  carousing, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension and jealousy.

 

[As I drove into the office on the morning I wrote this message I listened in the news and there were 9 heroin overdoses in Jessamine County in 24 hours…Officer Grimes said, “We’ve had them in Walmart, Kroger’s parking lot, parking lots at schools… “It’s been everywhere and there’s no real common denominator.”

 

My heart hurts for these families and for the officers responding…but I believe there is a common denominator…and it’s Satan, the Evil One, the god of this world…the liar, the thief and the murderer.

 

He would tell us that the pain can be relieved with a pill, a shot, a bottle, a sexual conquest, and it does numb the pain temporarily…but sets us on a path towards death.  Instead of hope we find jealousy…we find dissension and war…the connections we have to people are selfish and fragile…much like the prodigal son’s relationships.   They last only so long as the money, or the party lasts…and then we find ourselves in the pig sty of despair.  And folks, it’s not just the addict…it’s the business man, the housewife, the student, it’s the man or woman who tries to find the spiritual answers for emptiness in temporary things.

 

No wonder Paul tells us in Romans 13:11-12 “Understand the present time.  The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is over; the day is almost here.”

 

Our world is enveloped in darkness and the Evil One tries “to blind the eyes of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)

 

It is time for God’s people to wake up from their church attending slumber and put on the Armor of Light in their daily worship…Only then can the darkness be pierced…Listen to what Paul says is the answer to those blinded and in the dark…

 

2 CORINTHIANS 4:5-6 (p. 804)

 

In our text Paul calls it “The Armor of Light.”  Folks, you don’t put on armor to go to an aromatherapy session! You put on armor because you’re involved in a battle…you clothe yourself with Christ in your daily lives so you can preach Him and not yourself.

 

Way too many of God’s people have gone to sleep in their faith and slumber peacefully unaware of the war battling around them for souls…or use the armor of God to fight with other Christians…or refuse to put off the deeds of darkness…and wear the same clothing as the enemy…There are no undercover Christians.

 

Wake up…the night is almost over and the day of Christ’s return is almost here!

 

Worship is a lifestyle not a one hour event.

 

I don’t care if you wear an Armani suit and tie on Sunday mornings, or a t-shirt and jeans…but it is vital that you wear Christ…It’s absolutely essential that you’ve put on the Armor of Light so that you truly can worship Him and fight the darkness…It’s the uniform that clearly identifies whose team we are on…and we’d better play to win because the stakes are eternal.

 

Let me end with one final challenge from our text…If we are to be connected to Jesus and love others….

 

  1. WE HAD BETTER CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK

 

Verse 14 ends by saying “And do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

 

I don’t know about you all…but changing the way I think sounds like a tough proposition.  Left to my own devices I can think some pretty mean, selfish and hurtful things.  The guy who pulls out in front of me is an “idiot.”  The woman who calls to complain about my t-shirt is a “pharisee.”  I can lay awake in bed thinking about how people have hurt me…or about how I can get even…It’s really easy for me…to think about me.  Is that true for you as well?  I bet it is…every one of us is trapped in a fallen, sinful body…and our minds are fallen, sinful as well…Selfishness and self centeredness are our spiritual gifts from Adam and Eve.

 

Every day I find it’s easier to worship me than Him…or it comes more naturally at least.  Before Christ it was all I did…and even after my baptism and new birth it’s so easy to slip back into this way of thinking… The struggle is real!

 

For me to wear Christ in my daily worship…to fight the darkness with the armor of light…3 things have to happen.

 

  1. I have to admit I’m powerless to do it on my own…I cannot clean up my own             thoughts…I cannot overpower the evil one with my own strength…I have to                  humble myself before God.

 

  1. I have to open my heart to the Holy Spirit’s influence…I am created in God’s image, so are you… “God is Spirit” and we are spiritual beings…or at least I                    believe that truth…this is what Pal means when he writes to the Romans:

ROMANS 12:1-2 (p. 789)

 

The verses that proceed that “therefore” instruct me that God is all powerful…all wise…and He has a plan…He has a path for me.

 

Therefore” I need to surrender my body…my thoughts…my life to Him in worship every single day…and as I do I will understand His plan and my purpose…His Spirit will transform my mind..He will make it new.

 

When God’s Word says “To continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling” in Phil. 2:12 it’s not telling us to earn our salvation with works…it’s telling us to surrender daily…it’s our part of transformation…don’t take it for granted…work at it…with fear…with trembling…it’s that important.

 

And finally:

 

  1. I have to spend time with God in His Word and with prayer.

God’s Word is living and active…It helps me as much on Monday as it does on Sunday.  But many of us treat God’s Word as if it’s archaic and obsolete.  It’s not…It’s powerful for everything we deal with…it connects us to Him and to others who follow His Word.  He speaks to us through His Word…and longs for us to approach His throne in prayer.  By the way…we’re told that the Holy Spirit groans for us when we don’t know how to pray…and that Jesus is at the Father’s right hand interceding for us!

 

Isaiah 53 describes Jesus like this:  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him.  Nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (v. 2)

 

If you think Jesus put on His good tunic to head into the synagogue…you’d be sorely mistaken…nothing in His appearance…that we should desire Him.

 

But man did hurting and lost people desire Him…they flocked to Him…they crowded around Him…Why?  Because while religious folks worried about appearances…Jesus said,

 

“Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matt. 11:28)

 

What connects us…the heart of Jesus and gentleness and humility are some amazing uniforms.

 

Let’s pray.

What an arrowhead taught me

Just remembered this blog…..and thought I’d share it again….made me smile after a hard week

Rick's Reflections

arowhead

Hey Everyone,

Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you.  I pray that the incarnation of Jesus will not just be something that you sing about, but it will be something that invades your life each and everyday.  I pray that Immanuel, “God with us,” will be the truth in every one of your experiences and circumstances.  And may the gift of His presence guard you from this materialistic self serving world….because the only true black Friday took place on a hill called Calvary over 2,000 years ago.

What I’ve discovered at the tender age of 53 is that the things we use to think were really important cease to be nearly as important, and they are replaced with much better things.  When we’re young we want toys…as we get older, we just want to be together.  When we were younger we wanted named labels and high price tag items…as…

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God’s Word Came To Life

THE REAL CHRISTMAS STORY – God’s Word Became Life

John 1:1-5 (p. 739) December 4, 2016

Introduction:

I have a picture that hangs in my office that was given to me by a wonderful Christian woman after her husband’s funeral. It is an amazing piece of art done by a Korean artist named Elder Rhee. It took him over two years to complete. He meticulously drew this picture by hand with shaded letters. Its John’s Gospel written by hand.

The letters are drawn, some thick, some thin, some light, some darker so they bring out a picture of Christ. The image of Christ isn’t imposed onto the words…but the words reveal Jesus. The words have become flesh…The words have become a person.

elder-rhee-picture

As E. Stanley Jones said, “Out of the gospels arises the Gospel. Jesus is the Gospel, the Gospel lies in His person. He did not come to bring the Good News. HE IS HE GOOD NEWS!

John the Beloved wants us to know through his Gospel that Jesus is…

I. THE WORD OF CREATION

This is The Real Christmas story….

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

The beginning John refers to isn’t God’s beginning…It’s our beginning. God has no beginning. He has always been and He will always be. God isn’t limited by past, present and future. He created days and nights. He is the creator of our starting point. God is infinite. He is “I AM.”

But at Creation Jesus was there. He is the Logos…the word God used to make everything.

And it is through Jesus, the Logos, the Word of God that all of creation was made.

“Through Him all things were made without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

Do you know how God made everything in creation? It’s an important question. And the answer is: He spoke everything into creation.

He spoke…and it was! He said, “Let there be…” and it came to be.

The Hebrew Word for create (Bara) is only used in relation to God…Because only God can make something out of nothing.

At creation’s beginning the world was formless, empty and dark. God filled, God formed, God enlightened by speaking “Let there be,” and the world took shape, and the darkness was replaced with light.

John lets us know that Jesus, the Word of creation brought this light and life. He is the catalyst of all creation.

[I cannot explain completely how God can be One…and yet three perfectly, but maybe this will help our “finite brains.” I am Mary Ann and Jack Burdette’s son, I am also Ricky, Tyler, Cyndi and Karissa Burdette’s father, while at the same time I am Kari Lynn Burdette’s husband…I am one person, but have 3 distinct identities.]

John records that God has always had the Word with Him…and that Word was Him. Jesus wasn’t created…He is and always has been and will always be God.

But John also reveals “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
(v. 14)

The Creator of all creation becomes one of His creation…Amazing!!!

Not only did Jesus create all things, but all of creation is His inheritance.

Paul writes to the Colossians about this truth and says:

COLOSSIANS 1:15-20 (p. 821)

The Greek word for firstborn here is “prototokos” and it’s and adjective, not a noun. It isn’t referring to Jesus’ physical birth it is referring to Jesus’ position to inherit creation…In Jewish law, the firstborn inherited a double portion of the father’s estate. This word has nothing to do with Jesus being “created” as some would suggest out of context…It has to do with His authority…His supremacy…His inheritance.

In fact in Colossians 2:9 we read, “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

This World was made through Jesus – and everything in it, including you and me. We were created “for Him” but something horrible messed up this relationship.

“Sin.” Our sin.

It’s the very reason:

II. THE WORD OF CREATION BECOMES OUR REDEEMER

Sin brought darkness and death into a creation that was created for light and life.

Jesus created both of those in creation as the Word of God.

“In Him was life and that life was the light of ALL MANKIND. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Which is greater? Light or darkness? LIGHT! There is no darkness so dark that a single match can’t penetrate it.

Jesus penetrated darkness at creation. When everything was empty and formless…The first words of creation “Let there be light…and there was light.”

Sin brings a different kind of darkness…Sin brings selfishness…self-centeredness…It darkens our souls. Instead of welcoming and worshiping the Son, we hid from Him, we go our own way…we reject His authority over creation…over us.

So once again, Jesus would come to penetrate the darkness. This time it wouldn’t be at creation…it would be to reclaim His inheritance, one that the prince of darkness was trying to steal. And since it was primarily people that were of most importance…Kidnap.

The word “redeem (apolutrosis)” means to pay the ransom…to buy back.

[Have you ever lost one of your children or grandchildren, even momentarily at a store, or a park, or in a crowd? Maybe you’ve told them a million times not to wander off or leave your side…but they do…and all of a sudden, they’re gone. And at the realization of what’s happened causes fear and dread to flood your soul. You go nuts…you get security…you frantically search the clothes racks…you don’t quit until you get your child back.

You don’t say, “Oh well, I’ve got three more…they should have listened to me…Ma’am could you ring this up for me?”

And if someone had really taken your child what would you do? How much would you pay? Would the ransom demand be too big?]

No! But what if it was…If someone took Xzavier, Peyton, Kanaan, or Brix and said “We want 100 million dollars for their return”…What would I do? I don’t have 100 million, nor do I have the resources to get it…no one here this morning has those resources. If I combined every resource I own it would be so insignificant, the kidnappers would laugh at me. I would be desperate and without hope.

Sin entered creation of God, all creation came under it’s curse…It had been kidnapped.

Romans 5:12 says, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”

The ransom demanded for sin…is death “The Wages (the ransom) of sin is death.” But how do you or I pay that ransom on our own. It’s a ransom request that is much greater than 100 million dollars. How do sinners pay for their sin? It seems hopeless.

What was God the Father to do…say “too bad for mankind?” What was Jesus to do for His inheritance…first give up on it? No.

1 Peter 1:20 tells us “Jesus was chosen before the creation of the world to redeem us. The payment…His precious blood. He would die as the Lamb of God, without blemish or defect…He would buy us back.

[If you take your grandfather’s gold watch to any pawn shop…They’ll ask “Do you want to sell it or put it in pawn.” If you put it in pawn they’ll give you about 1/4 of what it’s worth. After a period of time you have to pay them back the loan…with interest…or they keep your grandfather’s watch.]

Jesus created this world and everything in it…Everything belongs to Him…but sin put us in pawn. Satan has possession…unless we’re bought back…So God bought back His creation through His son…”For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”

Jesus got His inheritance out of pawn…He said,

JOHN 10:17-18 (p. 748)

In a world that believes Christmas is about Black Fridays, parties with friends at the office, Apple TVs and full parking lots…little do they realize it’s about the infinite becoming an infant so He could redeem His pawned creation…Jesus is Immanuel…“God with us” so He could be an atoning sacrifice on the cross…And conquer sin’s consequences with His victorious resurrection. He gave Himself…and asks His creation to choose to accept that payment…Jesus the Redeemer said, “I GIVE YOU ME.”

Jesus offers Himself…The Redeemer asks us to choose Him as God’s gift. God came to save us…And serve us…Amazing. One of my favorite stories is by Judy Rodgers…She wrote in the December issue of Guidepost:

In the fourth year of his layoff from his job, Dad gave mom a dishwasher for Christmas.

You have to understand the magnitude of the gift: Our old house had its original wiring and plumbing, and neither could handle the required installation. There was no spot in the small kitchen for such a large appliance. And we hadn’t even been able to meet the mortgage interest payments for over six months. But Dad hated the thought of washing dishes; he would rather do anything else. And Mom had undergone major surgery that spring, a radical mastectomy for breast cancer, and found it difficult to do any work requiring the use of her arms. No large box appeared, no new plumbing or wiring was installed, no remodeling of the kitchen occurred. Rather, a small note appeared on a branch of the Christmas tree, handwritten by Dad:

“For one year I will wash all of the dirty dishes in this household.
“Every one.”
And he did. He really did.

I think feet are even tougher to wash than dishes…but God did…Jesus did…He really did.

Let’s pray.

LIKE RIPPLES IN A POND

a-parntership-with-purpose

A PARTNERSHIP WITH PURPOSE – Like Ripples in a Pond

Acts 1:1-11 (p. 758) November 6, 2016

Introduction:

Go back with me in scripture to a time at the end of Jesus’ physical ministry here on earth…He’s shared the passover meal with His followers in the upper room, He’s washed their feet as an example of servanthood and it seems just before they head to the Garden for prayer…and eventually His arrest…Jesus once again tells them He’s “going away, and where He’s going they cannot follow now…but that they would follow later.” (John 13:36)

Peter argues with Him…“No way…I’d die for you.”

And Jesus says “Peter, before the rooster crows you’ll tell people you don’t even know me…3 times.”

It’s real…it’s somber…this conversation is one of preparation…Jesus is saying “goodbye.” They know it…you can feel it.

But Jesus intersperses the conversation with a promise…He says, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16)

He says, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and remind you of everything I’ve said to you.” (John 14:25-26)

When this advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – He will testify about me…And you must also testify for you have been with me from the beginning.

He’s giving them a heads up about what is about to happen…As the world has hated Him…it will also hate them…and He doesn’t want them to lose hope and fall away.

One of the last things He tells them about the promised Gift of the Holy Spirit is this:

JOHN 16:4-15 (p. 753)

Powerful stuff, huh? To hear this foreboding warning, but also be promised help…Which do you think their minds were on most in this moment? Surely, the foreboding warning…“I’m leaving.”

Its like hearing someone say, “It’ll be OK” in the midst of a circumstance filled with doubt and fear…It doesn’t feel like it will be OK and to hear “It is for your good that I’m going away”…its even harder!

But it was wasn’t it? There would be an arrest, a scattering of the disciples in fear…a crucifixion and burial…and then a glorious, victorious resurrection.

God always had a plan…and Jesus knew the spiritual partnership that would happen 50 days after His resurrection would change His disciples…and their testimony would change the world….It started with this command:

I. WAIT FOR THE GIFT MY FATHER PROMISED

As we read earlier the book of Acts tells us Jesus prepared his disciples and after His resurrection He appeared to them over a period of 40 days.

The Bible says that Jesus made a number of appearances after His death. They were to a number of different people over a forty day period. The Bible specifically says that on Easter Sunday Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, the women that came to Jesus’ tomb (Mary the Mother of James, Salome, and Joanna), Peter, and two disciples on the Emmaus road. He also appeared to the remainder of the Twelve Disciples with Thomas absent. Later he appeared to them with Thomas present. There was also an appearance to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee. On another occasion he appeared to over five hundred people at the same time. There is also an appearance to James. Finally Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus – the man who became the Apostle Paul. These appearances convinced His disciples, beyond any doubt, that He had risen from the dead.

On one occasion during this time he sat down to eat with them and said, “Don’t leave Jerusalem…wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about….For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5)

I’d share with you one of the best definitions of faith: “Waiting for what God has promised.”

After Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, after HIs disciples and followers were firmly convinced He was alive don’t you believe they wanted to tell everybody? You betchya!

So why wait? Well, they’d proven what they could do in their own strength and their own power…And their own understanding of God’s plan.

In fact I believe verses 6 and 7 in our text prove what I’m totally about…Jesus command them to “wait” and immediately they ask “How long” and “when.”

“Lord, are you going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

Even now, after the resurrection, the picture they had for Israel and the Kingdom of God was far from what God had planned. Jesus tells them:

“It’s not for you to know times or dates, the Father has set these by His own authority.”

Waiting on God’s power and authority when we think we’ve got it all figured out is pretty hard, huh? It’s also pretty surprising when He shows us our view about what the kingdom will be like isn’t anything like what we thought.  If you haven’t heard we have an election coming up…and I understand the importance of it.  Romans 13 tells us that government exists to protect us, and to establish laws to keep order.  And there is no authority established but what God has established.  And like the Apostle Paul who excersized his rights as a Roman citizen by appealing to Caesar, we should exersize our rights to vote.  If we are God’s people, we should prayerfully, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit choose the candidate that we best believe has a platform that aligns with God’s Word and God’s plan….not our union, not our party, not our pocket books.  But we must always remember, as God’s people, this world will not come to salvation because of the right government….this world will only be saved by God’s working spiritually through His people.  Remember, Caesar Augustus was followed by Tiberius, Nero and Caligula.  God has a plan and it involves a much bigger Kingdom that America

You see, I think they’ve forgotten Jesus had said:

LUKE 17:20-21 (p. 731)

The Pharisees are very religious people…and very religious people always focus on what you can observe…it’s why most of them completely rejected Jesus as the Messiah… “I mean look at Him…He’s a carpenter from Nazareth…from poor parents…who hangs around with tax collectors and sinners.”

Religion focuses on doing things so people can see how “religious” you are.

Jesus said, “The coming of the Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed.” he told one of those Pharisees named Nicodemus “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again…the Spirit gives birth to Spirit…(Literally our spirit (soul) is born from above by God’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit.

And then Jesus describes how the Holy Spirit is like the wind…“The wind blows wherever it pleases you hear it, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it’s going so it is with EVERYONE born of the Spirit.” (Jn. 3:3, 5-8)

This is the promise of power that the disciples were to wait to receive…and it’s the only power that will transform our spiritual observations.

Francis Chan in the amazing book, “Forgotten God” writes:

“The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation. And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit. But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.” – Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Listen to how this promised gift from the Father is given to Jesus’ disciples, the Apostles who have witnessed his resurrection and would become the foundation stones of the church. His witnesses:

ACTS 2:1-4 (p. 758)

A violent wind filled the whole house…something like a “tongue of fire” seemed to rest on each of them…and they began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the Spirit enabled them.

Remember Jesus’ plan for them is to be His witnesses…they were to testify…speak about all He’d taught them…all they’d seen…and the Holy Spirit would help them not only remember, but empower them to do it with a crowd gathered from every nation under the sun.

Like ripples when a rock is thrown into a pond radiates out…pentecost is the initial explosion in Jerusalem…but it wouldn’t end there:

ACTS 1:5-12 (p. 758)

What does it mean? If you go back to our text in Acts 1 verse 8 you’ll see exactly what it means.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirt comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

The Holy Spirit empowered them to be “A family committed to loving Jesus and others, so their neighbors, community and world could experience Good News.”

Religion gives you a partnership with a book of rules and etiquette. Jesus promises a partnership with His Spirit…One is for observation…and one is for new birth and a resurrected life.

Let me end with a personal experience. One I think is absolutely essential for the Church to understand in these times…

II. RELIGIOUS OBSERVATION DIDN’T SAVE ME, JESUS DID

I didn’t come to my senses concerning my sin on my own. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin…and pointed me towards a Savior….God used people to share with me the answers of salvation. I wasn’t baptized because it was “required” or it made my parents happy. I knew I needed to die to my selfish sinful ways. I needed to bury myself in Christ’s grace, I needed a resurrection…a new life that could only be provided by “the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.”

I didn’t become part of the Church because it would look good and guarantee my ticket to heaven…I ran to my family…I needed to share my life, and it’s struggles and needs with others going through the same thing…I needed to grow because I was just a baby…and the Holy Spirit fed me…He used amazing people to strengthen and prepare me…and even then I wanted to tell people, my old friends and family what was happening…some thought I was crazy…some still do…but Jesus saved me and filled me, and I was burdened for them. I still am.

My great fear is that people will hear our churches say, “Become a Pharisee and show up at the temple each Sunday…instead of be born again so your body becomes Jesus’ temple…The temple of God isn’t at 940 Holly Springs…The Temple of God is “within you.”

Francis Chan asks this question:

“If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirt of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?”
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

We are made by God to go to the temple…The very purpose for which God made us is to be His temple…in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the whole world…

Let’s Pray.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

a-parntership-with-purpose

A PARTNERSHIP WITH PURPOSE – Strength in Numbers

Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 (p. 463) October 30, 2016

Introduction:

Ecclesiastes starts out “The words of the teacher.” The Hebrew word that’s used there is “Koheleth.” The NIV translates it “teacher.” “The KJV and New American Standard translate it “Preacher.” Koheleth comes from the word “Gathering” so both translations come from One who leads the “Gathering” and both are pretty true to the original meaning.

Solomon is the Son of the King David…the 3rd King of Israel, and he writes these words in Jerusalem…the pulpit for the Jewish people…with the temple He’s built to honor God in the background.

Ecclesiastes is written by a leader of the gathering that chose wisdom from God when he was given the chance to choose anything he wanted. But it’s also written by a man who conducted his own empiric research with his life…by that I mean, he sought fulfillment in everything that he thought would gratify him…Here’s what he said:

ECCLESIASTES 2:10-11 (p. 461)

The phrase “this preacher” uses over and over again “meaningless, meaningless…utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless! Everything he built…every passion he indulged…everything he possessed…worthless.

Summed up in my country boy verbiage… “Satan has you and I chase worldly carrots on a stick…only to find out…“Sin always takes you farther than you want to go…Sin always keeps you longer than you want to stay…and sin always costs you more than you want to pay.”

As we talk about our mission here on earth we will always be tempted by Satan’s carrot on a stick to find self fulfillment…self satisfaction and comfort…He’ll say, “Chase this…this is solid…this is what you want…and so we do, and only discover too late…it’s the wind…and we’ve lost a lot…and gained nothing.

And God calls…“Come to me all who are weary and burdened with this life.” Satan the thief has only come to kill, steal and destroy your life and I have come to give you abundant life…That abundant life means “the end of me” and the resurrection of Christ who lives in me. The meaningless now has meaning…my life now has a purpose…and it’s not about self-fulfillment…now it’s about Christ fulfillment.

By the way here’s how King Solomon ends Ecclesiastes:

ECCLESIASTES 12:13-14 (p. 467)
“It’s all about God…worship Him…follow His plan…That’s our purpose…He only is the all knowing Judge.”

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…and the second is like it…love your neighbor as you love yourself…all the law and prophets hang on these 2 commands.”

Love God…Love People…Serve both.

Solomon also made a discovery about this life and it’s purpose…

I. IT’S LONELY TO NOT SHARE YOUR LIFE WITH ANYONE…AND FOR ANYONE

“There was a man all alone, he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth…‘For whom am I toiling he asked…this is meaningless…it’s a miserable business.’” (v. 8)

Here are the questions…who do you work for who do you work with…and why?

Anyone here that doesn’t think these are tragically sad words…There was a man all alone? I hear Three Dog Night singing in the back of my head, “One is the loneliest number there’s ever been.” If there is no one to work for…no one to work with…no one to share your life with and to share your life for…and you spend it only on yourself…what meaning is there…it’s a miserable business.

My mentor Wayne Smith gave this plaque to Brewster McLeod on August 29, 1999…Brewster led me to Christ and discipled me for 2 years before I left for Bible College…
Here’s what is says:

ACHIEVEMENT comes to someone when he is able
to do great thing for himself.

SUCCESS comes when he empowers followers
to do great things with him.

SIGNIFICANCE comes when he develops leaders
to do great things for him.

A LEGACY is created when a person puts his organization
into the position to do great things without him.

Your lasting value will be measured
by succession.

YOU are a hero, a legend, a model, and mentor.

You have NO peers.

Thank you for the LEGACY you leave behind.

There are no eternal buildings…There are no eternal bank accounts…There are no eternal toys…and even though it’s painful for me to say with my worldly understanding…there are no eternal managers…but there is an eternity…and people will spend it in a very real heaven or a very real hell…and although I believe each of us individually are responsible for accepting or rejecting God’s plan for us in Jesus…I don’t believe we’ll walk into either of those eternities alone. Jesus said the Pharisees made “disciples twice as much a child of hell as they were” (Matt. 23:15) And he told His disciples “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

I remember Brewster telling me “Everyone has a witness…the question is whether it’s a good one or a bad one.”

Evil and sin always have a crowd….but there also will be no true followers of Christ that walk into heaven alone either…Every Christ follower will have a brother of sister they’ve shared life with and there will be a son or daughter because of their marriage to Christ…Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” And the last one he gave was about His plan for the Church, “Go into all the world and make disciples.”

Mike Faust said this: “Disciples has been diminished because modern evangelism strategies have taught people how to share their faith instead of sharing their lives.”

The New Testament Church was never a place you went to get what you want…It was always the family of God you shared your life with…a resurrected life through the Holy Spirit…The family’s focus was always about those who were broken and in need…especially those who needed salvation. The fellowship, called “Koinonia” existed not because of “similar likes and preferences.” It existed because each family member thought of others before themselves. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved because each member took the “Great Commission” of Christ seriously…and personally…They didn’t bring their friends and family to the Apostles so that they could share the Good News and teach them what it meant to follow Christ…They shared the Good News…They taught their friends, family and neighbors. They partnered with God and with each other…no miserable life here…They had joy in the will of God, their was gladness as the family grew…and they were sincere in their sin and brokenness. This was strength in numbers…no clergy and laity here….Just a family with Godly leaders and brothers and sisters following their Father.

What are the benefits of sharing life like this as God planned?

II. WHY ARE TWO BETTER THAN ONE?

ECCLESIASTES 4:9 –

1. First, “Because they have a good return for their labor”

My dad used to say, “It’s more productive for 10 people to do their jobs than 1 person trying to do all 10.”

Churches get healthy when people move from the sidelines into the game. When each member gets involved and serves as the Holy Spirit enables them…and sometimes just because it needs to be done…It’s an attitude of willingness…because God has called you to serve and you say yes.

2. Second, “If either of them falls down, One can help the other up…but pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

We all fall down…We all get down. Physically, emotionally, spiritually…and where do you go if you’ve not shared your life with people. Do you expect them to care because it’s their duty? Do you expect the ministers to “take care of it?” Even if they don’t know about it…or you’ve been so peripheral in your relationship that they don’t really know you? Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) Those who are loving and kind in their relationships will tell you…when they fall…when they’re down…the people they’ve shown mercy to…or many of them…pick them up.

3. Third, “If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

There’s nothing improper here…it’s the illustration of 2 or more soldiers camping in the enemies territory and it’s winter! It’s an illustration of encouragement. How are you going to survive in the winter of battle if you lie down by yourself?

Satan would create diversion and disunity because he knows we freeze to death without this partnership…no wonder the writer to the Hebrews said, “Encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

[I’ll tell you personally, serving on the front lines is difficult at times…you expect the bullets to come from in front of you, but when it’s so called “friendly fire” it’s no less painful or deadly. I’m not sure there would be any minister still in ministry if it wasn’t for those who kept us warm in the cold nights of the battle.]

Maybe that’s exactly why Solomon put this one last:

4. Fourth, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

The church is not a bunch of individuals that get together on a Sunday morning…it is a family, it’s a “band of brothers” and a “band of sisters” involved in a battle for eternity.
Randy Frazee has written a book called “The Connecting Church.” He has a son who was born without a left hand. One day in Sunday School the teacher was talking with the children about the church. To illustrate her point she folded her hands together and said, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple; open the doors and see all the people.”

She asked the class to do it along with her – obviously not thinking about his son’s inability to pull this exercise off. Then it dawned on her that the boy wouldn’t be able to join in.

Before she could do anything about it, the little boy next to his son, a friend of his from the time they were babies, reached out his left hand and said, “let’s do it together.” The two boys proceeded to join their hands together to make the church and the steeple.

Frazee says, “This hand exercise should never be done again by and individual because the church is not a collection of individuals, but the one body of Christ.

Let’s pray together as one.

PARTNERS IN THE GOSPEL

a-parntership-with-purposeA PARTNERSHIP WITH PURPOSE – Partners in the Gospel

Philippians 1:1-8 (p. 818) October 16, 2016

Introduction:

During the summer of 1904 an unlikely partnership was formed at the World’s Fair St. Louis. The summer was unusually hot and people were searching the fair for something to help cool them off and Arnold Fornachou had just what they were looking for, ice cream. People lined up for what seemed like miles to get some of his cool and satisfying ice cream but there was one problem. Arnold was not prepared for the demand and ran out of paper bowls and was forced to wash a few porcelain bowls over and over again. The result was too few bowls and people were getting tired of waiting.

Next to Arnold’s ice cream booth was the booth of a pastry chef named, Ernest Hamwi and he was making a Persian wafer desert called zalabia. Ernest also had a problem, his pastry was not selling. He noticed the problem Arnold was having and took some warm zalabia and rolled it into a cone shape. He then went over and showed Arnold how the zalabia could hold a scoop of the ice cream. On that hot day during the World’s Fair, the ice cream cone was born because a partnership was formed.

kari-and-i-ice-cream

Kari and I are very grateful to Arnold and Ernest! Their partnership brought us joy last week…

What amazes me about God’s plan for the salvation of mankind is that He wants to partner with us. He’s provided sweet forgiveness and eternal hope but He puts it in a cone like me…and you.

Have you ever seen that last cone in the box? The top is broken and the bottom has been mashed out of it…That’s me! Most would just throw that cone away, but not God. He fills it with good news…and it’s the answer for something a lot hotter than an unusual summer day.

No wonder the Apostle Paul used a pretty similar illustration when he said

2 CORINTHIANS 4:5-7 (p. 804)

No one buys the ice cream cone for the cone (or at least not many of us). No one finds a treasure and says “Man, what an amazing box,” and throws the gold away.

Doesn’t it just amaze you that God would choose to put his priceless treasure…the gospel in clay jars like me and you? It’s a partnership that only happens because of his grace and His mercy.

It’s this partnership the Apostle Paul found joy in…as he remembered sharing this ministry with Timothy, and the leadership and all God’s Holy people in Philippi.

As we journey through this series called “A Partnership with Purpose” let me begin with this truth…having a partnership with God in sharing the gospel is always about:

I. BUILDING MEMORIES IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEOPLE

Think about your favorite memories for just a minute…and I’ll bet they don’t focus as much on where you were and what you were doing…but who you were with…If you’ve ever been on a mission trip you don’t smile because you remember the drywall you ripped out…you remember the old couple or the kids…and you remember the team of people you sweated with…laughed with…cried with…There is true joy when you bring good news to people…with God’s people.

[As I write this I’m getting ready to head to Eastern Kentucky with a team of Gardenside folks…men and women I love and I’m excited to be with…on the piece of paper we’ve given to everyone it says Projects: (construct a porch roof for an elderly gentleman…and I know constructing that roof is important…but I also know “the elderly gentleman” is more important…and when we return…we’ll remember who we served much more than how we served…if we do it right!]

It’s the memories of those relationships with people that are more important to build than porches or buildings…but real love is always preached most effectively with a hammer in your hand…John writes in his first letter these words:

1 JOHN 3:16-18 (p. 856)

Saying I love you is easy…saying it and backing it up with your actions makes it true…it’s how we know what love is…God said it…and then He became flesh and backed it up by walking towards a cross. How can God’s love really be in any of us if we see someone in need and don’t have compassion to help? This is the difference between belief and faith…it’s the difference between attending church and being a disciple of Christ.

It’s why committing ourselves at Gardenside to becoming “A family committed to loving Jesus and others so our neighbors, community and world can experience “GOOD NEWS,” must be more than words on a banner…This must become what the Spirit of Christ compels us to do in action and in truth.

Let me ask…do you have a real name for who you are partnering with God to love? Do you have and Ethan…do you have a Cory? Jesus didn’t just love a big flock…He knows His sheep by name.

When Paul says, “I thank God every times I remember you…I pray with joy because of our partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (v. 4-5)

Real faces came to that remembrance…leaders, servants…families that he had in his heart.

It’s why the most effective mission strategy can never just be about writing a check…It has to be a partnership with a real God and real people…I would call it connectivity.

Here’s a list of the Missions we partner with to share the good news with, here and around the world:

SHOW PICTURE OF MISSIONS AT GCC

Our total budget for everything we do at Gardenside Christian is $548,000…$74,800 of that goes to Missions…around 13% of our total budget. 13 cents of every dollar we tithe and give…goes to our partners in the gospel…Here in our community and around the world.

But our partnership only takes on flesh and bone when you know Denford Chizanga’s heart for Africa…and Don & Aleta Hulsey’s. When you share a purpose with Fred Mitchell from Russel Cave and Larry Mulhulland and Ken Henderson from Mission Journeys…when you share your heart with Dennis & Mary Herko in Jamaica….Real people like Rhona Webber from Assurance Pregnancy Center, and many more…It’s how we connect…send…and support, with prayer that makes a difference.

After all this is God’s money and our partnerships should be the most effective for His Kingdom as possible…There must be transparency, accountability and celebration…Connectivity!

If you look through the entire New Testament…there were never missionaries just sent out or serving and then forgotten, or left to fend for themselves…The relationship always continued with prayer, financial support, communication and constant remembrance…There was always a deep loving partnership to share the good news of Christ…Both parties needed each other. Both partners kept these lines open.

That’s why Paul says, “From the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
(v.6)

This verse perfectly describes the connectivity of a healthy mission relationship…Memories continually built in our relationships with people.

“I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you…I always pray with joy.”

This allows us to:

II. DO WHAT’S BEST

Anyone want to guess how many missions in the world would like for Gardenside Christian Church (us) to support them? Uhhhhh….ALL OF THEM! So how come we don’t? Because trying to do everything good is impossible…And it’s absolutely important that we are led by the Holy Spirit to do what’s best.

One of the most difficult things we must do as we partner with God and others in sharing the gospel is the evaluation of what’s best.

How do we do what’s best instead of trying to do too many good things? Paul tells us:

“This is my prayer (best way to start!) that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

Those overseers and deacons who led all the Holy people in Christ at Philippi were responsible for growing disciples who abounded in love…who absorbed in understanding of God’s plan…who had insight through the Spirit’s leading…God would reveal best as they grew…and as they sought.

Doing best sometimes means saying no to what is good…It takes courage to do this and not everyone will…The good is fruit that comes through Jesus…but there are a lot of voices that scream “Wait a minute, we’re good!”

Churches that make decisions because “It’s always been this way…or we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings will never be able to courageously do what’s best…The cone becomes more important than the ice cream.

Satan would love us to choose so many things that we think will bring us a reward. And as we do, we forfeit the joy of choosing what is best…Like this story:

A vacationing American businessman standing on the pier of a quaint coastal fishing village in southern Mexico watched as a small boat with just one young Mexican fisherman pulled into the dock. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. Enjoying the warmth of the early afternoon sun, the American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American casually asked.

“Oh, a few hours,” the Mexican fisherman replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American businessman then asked.
The Mexican warmly replied, “With this I have more than enough to meet my family’s needs.”

The businessman then became serious, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

Responding with a smile, the Mexican fisherman answered, “I sleep late, play with my children, watch ball games, and take siesta with my wife. Sometimes in the evenings I take a stroll into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, sing a few songs…”

The American businessman impatiently interrupted, “Look, I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you to be more profitable. You can start by fishing several hours longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the additional income that larger boat will bring, before long you can buy a second boat, then a third one, and so on, until you have an entire fleet of fishing boats.”

Proud of his own sharp thinking, he excitedly elaborated a grand scheme which could bring even bigger profits, “Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman you’ll be able to sell your fish directly to the processor, or even open your own cannery. Eventually, you could control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this tiny coastal village and move to Mexico City, or possibly even Los Angeles or New York City, where you could even further expand your enterprise.”

Having never thought of such things, the Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will all this take?”

After a rapid mental calculation, the Harvard MBA pronounced, “Probably about 15-20 years, maybe less if you work really hard.”

“And then what, señor?” asked the fisherman.

“Why, that’s the best part!” answered the businessman with a laugh. “When the time is right, you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions? Really? What would I do with it all?” asked the young fisherman in disbelief.

The businessman boasted, “Then you could happily retire with all the money you’ve made. You could move to a quaint coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, play with your grandchildren, watch ball games, and take siesta with your wife. You could stroll to the village in the evenings where you could play the guitar and sing with your friends all you want.”

A SEAL OF OWNERSHIP

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
A Seal of Ownership

2 Corinthians 1:21-24 (p. 803) October 9, 2016

Introduction:

For the Jews and all those who were under Roman rule “A Seal” would have a powerful meaning…both the Jews and the Romans had a history with seals…If a letter was sealed it was sealed with wax and then embedded with the King’s or Caesar’s crest…most of the time a ring was used to make the mark.

This seal was always used to guarantee security and to identify ownership…it usually looked something like this:

sealed-letter

There would be no doubt about who the letter belonged to because the seal would clearly identify the owner.

Remember once again why the Apostle Paul is writing these words…it’s about his integrity…He is answering the criticisms of those who have accused him of not being trustworthy because he changed his plans about visiting him on his way back from Macedonia.

He even calls for God to be his witness in this trial over his trustworthiness… “I did not return to Corinth in order to spare you…I stake my life on this promise!”

But Paul does more than just to ask them to take him at his word…He gets “spiritual” in a big time way.

In this very uncomfortable place of being judged falsely by worldly wisdom…He simply says…“Judge me by the Holy Spirit’s seal on my life…because that’s how I’ll judge you.” We learn something really important here about what faith really looks and acts like when we’re really uncomfortable.

I. IT TAKES SOFT MATERIAL TO RECEIVE GOD’S SEAL

Paul could have said, “You bunch of ungrateful idjits (my dad’s word that combines idiot and jack). I’m an Apostle…I’ve encountered the risen Lord…I’ve studied more scripture than you’ll see in your lifetime…shut up and straighten up…Come on!

He could have said, “You all only heard about Jesus and the good news because of me, Timothy and Silas… I AM YOUR FATHAH (Darth Vader Voice).”

He had the right…but his humble heart chose a different approach.

“It is God who makes both us and you stand firm…not that we Lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your Joy.” (v. 21, 24)

You can’t seal hard wax…the Signet Ring is hard…strong…and makes a deep impression but only on wax that is soft and receptive. It will not leave its mark on stone…and the Holy Spirit will only leave the seal of God on a humble heart…receptive to His pressing…it will not seal a hard proud heart.

No wonder God’s Word warns us…“Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

The human heart reacts in one or two ways when God presses it toward repentance: softening and surrender…or rebellion and hardening…It’s why the writer to the Hebrews says:

HEBREWS 3:12-15 (p. 839)

Because you’ve heard the good news and received it at one time in your life doesn’t mean you won’t let your heart be hardened later. If you allow the Holy Spirit’s leading and pressing to stop guarding your heart…I promise you…God’s Word promises that the Evil One will help you form a callous around it.

No wonder Paul wrote to the oldest most prominent church in Ephesus and said,

EPHESIANS 5:8-16 (p. 816)

The alarm clock of the Holy Spirit is ringing in our lives, but many believers just keep hitting the snooze button!”

When Paul tells the Corinthians “We work with you for your joy” in verse 24…He’s focusing on what happens when we reject the Holy Spirit’s pressing…Satan is a joy stealer…and joy is one of the greatest characteristics of a soft moldable Spirit filled heart. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” When we’ve lost our joy, we’ve lost our strength.

Joy isn’t determined by outward circumstances, it’s determined by an inward presence…joy is present whether tears flood from your eyes or laughter from your mouth. It’s the Holy Spirit anointing…It’s his seal…it’s His guarantee.

It’s the proof that the seal isn’t a forgery.

II. THIS SEAL IS THE PROOF OF GOD’S OWNERSHIP

“He anointed us…Set His seal of ownership on us.”

Did you know it was illegal to destroy United States currency? I’m not sure why you’d want to…but it’s against the law…Do you know why?

According to Title 18, Chapter 17 of the U.S. Code, which sets out crimes related to coins and currency, anyone who “alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens” coins can face fines or prison time. The same goes for debasing – that is, decreasing the proportion of precious metals – in gold or silver coins struck or coined at an American mint.

Similarly, anyone who “mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued,” can be fined or imprisoned as well.

These laws exist in large part to prevent counterfeiters and swindlers from altering money for nefarious purposes.

Satan is a counterfeiter! Have you ever wondered why the crowd thought that Peter and the other apostles were drunk on the day of Pentecost…when they were filled with the Holy Spirit? As the crowd came together in bewilderment…each one heard their own language being spoken…”we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.” Amazed and perplexed they asked each other “What does this mean?”

Some however made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine (they’re drunk!). But Peter addresses the crowd:

ACTS 2:15-21 (p. 759)

The world has seen Satan alter the human heart by artificial means…Satan would have us become 10ft. tall and bullet proof. He would have us slur the truth of our feelings…but what he would have us put into our bodies is temporary. It’s a forgery of what God would put into our bodies.

As Satan encourages us to pour out Jack Daniels, or Columbian Red bud…or heroin…or Oxycontin….God wants to pour out His Spirit…ON ALL PEOPLE…Black, white, young, old, men, women…only then can we see the wonders of heaven and the signs on the earth. God wants to seal His people…and Satan is a counterfeiter. God offers a guarantee…Satan offers a coupon…God offers adoption as His child…and Satan offers slavery.

Satan offers something that will temporarily numb your anxiety and stress…and God offers His presence of peace to be with you always…Satan offers immediate gratification and a quick fix…God offers love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control…and eternal life.

The reason most choose the forgery is because we’d rather have the seen over the unseen…and the temporary over the eternal…and many of our friends live the same way…so we’d rather choose to please them now…than to trust God.

You see the Holy Spirit is a down payment…the Greek word that’s used here is “Arrabon.” Its earnest money that guarantees the rest will be given later.

This is what Paul has staked his life on…it’s why he continually urges the Corinthians and us to not accept Satan’s forgeries but to “stand firm by faith.”

It’s all about whether we really trust the One who gives us the down payment. You see someone will “purchase” our soul for all eternity…and most people will give up their inheritance like Esau…because they hunger for that “red stuff” right now.

Hebrews 11:1 says Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of what is unseen…and verse 6 says “Without Faith we cannot please God.”

Ephesians 2:8 says, “It is by grace you have been saved…through “Faith.”

Faith not only includes accepting the down payment of God…but also living in expectation of our inheritance…Don’t believe me? Well, listen to what Paul tells these Corinthians 3 chapters later:

2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-10 (p. 805)

The best news for us all is that God’s Spirit temporarily will live in a tent…like the Tabernacle in the OT, God moves into a temporary dwelling, the body of the redeemed, born again Christian. It’s the miracle of our death, burial and resurrection…“The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead…now lives in you!” (Romans 8).

But God made us for eternity…and this tent isn’t the forever place our Spirit will live…God has an eternal body He’s planned…A house made by His hands…the Holy Spirit is the down payment on this promise. At the end of each day may we remember that the empty bones in the tent aren’t the forever story…God is nigh and God has a plan…all is well…rest in safety.

Bill Scheibler, a Vietnam Vet wrote:

I served as an airborne Ranger platoon leader (paratrooper) in the First Air Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War.

Our company was hacked up pretty badly by the enemy during one mission. When our platoon’s survivors returned to base camp, we all trudged down the muddy path to our tent. As the men took their places in their bunks, the number of empty bunks became apparent. Men put their faces in their hands and sobbed like children. Each of us wondered if our bunk would be empty at the end of the next mission.

Fortunately, there was something we could always count on to help keep our sanity…late in the evening, long after the sun had gone down, a distant bugle could be heard playing “Taps.” When that haunting, nostalgic song was played, all activity in the battalion area came to a screeching halt. Conversations would stop and men would sit back in their bunks, listening to what had to be the most poignant sound I have ever heard.

Now, years later, as I look back on the horrors of that combat, I remember that unknown bugler who played “Taps” so late every night. It seemed that, if only for a few moments, we were assured that someone was up there, sending us renewed hope through those twenty-four simple notes.

THE WORDS TO “TAPS”
Day is Done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well,
Safely rest,
God is nigh.

Let’s Pray.