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.

SOMETIMES GOD CHANGES OUR PLANS

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Sometimes God Changes Our Plans

2 Corinthians 1:15-20 (p. 803) October 2, 2016

Introduction:

This is a really tough section of scripture to understand if we don’t have some background. The Apostle Paul had made a commitment to come visit the Corinthians, but then he changes his plans and doesn’t…His detractors accuse him of being untrustworthy…fickle…“If we can’t trust him with something like this…how can we trust his message about God?!!!”

But here’s the background…Here’s the situation that changed his plans…or at least the timing of his plans to visit.

There is an individual who is part of the Church that has chosen to have an adulterous relationship with his father’s wife. They’ve become a “couple” and it seems that they still associate with all their Corinth Christian friends…They continue to share life with the church…I’m betting even meeting on the first day of the week with them and taking the emblems of the Lord’s supper.

And the Church and it’s leadership instead of dealing with this sin and the division it’s causing…decides to ignore it…in fact more than just ignore it…They begin to brag about how accepting they are…how super tolerant they are…Listen to what Paul the Apostle writes:

1 CORINTHIANS 5:1-2; 6-13 (p. 795)

Paul’s goal isn’t to just kick this guy out…His goal is repentance and hopefully restoration and forgiveness in the future.

Tolerantly watching someone standing on the train tracks while the train bares down on them isn’t the most loving thing you can do…And Paul paints a very clear picture that there is a difference between our old lives before Christ and our new lives “in” Christ.

One of the greatest lies of the evil one is you can believe in Jesus and not be different from the world…and still go to heaven. That you can give Jesus your life…and keep it at the same time…It’s a leaven that still affects the Church to this day.

And it’s in the midst of this situation that Paul had planned to visit Corinth…and Paul isn’t afraid to deal with this sin or this sinful situation…but if he comes to them now…it will involve a season of rebuke…He would make their comfort zone really uncomfortable…His plans were to visit them on his way to Macedonia and then also on his way back…but he didn’t because:

I. MINISTRY INVOLVES GOD’S TIMING NOT OURS

It seems Paul visited on his way to Macedonia and that visit involved him dealing with division in the church, worship services that had people meeting as cliques and getting drunk…it involved this sexual sin and an apathetic tolerance of it by it’s leaders and people…Paul tried to mend matters, but instead this visit nearly broke his heart…Listen to what he says about doing it again

2 CORINTHIANS 2:1-4 (p. 803)

Ministry always involves people…and people are messy…the hardest part of ministry is we can’t fix people…no matter how much God loves them or we love them…they can still choose to do destructive and unhealthy things….inside the church…and outside of it. “We all like sheep go astray.” How long we stay astray or if we return to the Great Shepherd depends upon God’s grace and each of our response to it.

Ministry involves trusting God’s timing when it doesn’t fit ours…This part of ministry absolutely broke Paul’s heart…and it absolutely breaks mine. “I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with may tears not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” (2 Cor. 2:4)

There are three truths we see here concerning God’s timing…

1. We need to communicate our broken hearts to those we love.

Paul does…He speaks the truth with love. He shares with those he loves what their actions are doing…but he also shares how much he loves them…and that’s why it hurts so bad. His words don’t come from angry judgement…They come from wounded brokenness.

[I’ll never ever forget my father walking into my room with tears…handing me a loaded 357 pistol and saying, “Why don’t you just go shoot your mother son. Your rebellion of your life is killing your mother…This way would be quicker.]

Anger is an easy emotion to tap into….We can use it to control and frighten those who’ve hurt us…Grief is harder…it makes us vulnerable…Paul and each of us know about anger…but in this circumstance he chooses to communicate his broken heart.

Let me also share concerning God’s timing…

2. The expectations we have for believers and non believers shouldn’t be the same.

I’m not sure why when we become believers…disciples of Jesus, that many of us then begin to judge lost people…hurting people, with the same standard we would use for “Spirit filled” Christians. This doesn’t mean we condone sinful behavior or say it’s OK. But why would people living in the world, outside of Christ be any other way? Can we have relationships with lost people that allow the light of Christ to shine in their darkness? If not, then we will never be what Jesus transformed us to be.

But if someone claims to be a believer and they continually live like the world, make an ongoing sin, whether it’s sexual immorality, or gossip, their lifestyle…expectations are different if they don’t change…change your location and your relationship. The hope is always repentance and godliness…but if you allow this leaven continually in your life, you will become like them. Be kind, but don’t be buddies! Paul wrote earlier to these same folks.

1 CORINTHIANS 5:9-11 (p. 795)

[As Bob Russell said, “If you put on a pair of white gloves and decide to play in the mud…you’ll always get muddy gloves, you’ll never get glovey mud!]

When Paul says we are not to be yoked together with unbelievers and we are to have nothing to do with believers who continually live in sin…He’s saying…protect your holiness…guard your heart…“Do not be misled…bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33)

At Corinth sin from the outside influenced the church…but the most destructive sin came from apathetic “so called” believers that condoned sin and maliciously attacks a leader who was broken hearted for his spiritual children…Paul wasn’t fickle…He was waiting for God to work…God always deals with sin…it’s never hidden before his eyes.

The third thing I’d recommend concerning God’s timing is:

3. Team up.

In verse 18 Paul says “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us…(not me, but us!) by me, Silas and Timothy.

Make sure you have a Silas and Timothy in your life…True friends you are mentoring and sharing life with. Make sure your focus is on others for Christ and not your small group…and with your Silas and Timothy or Peter, James and John you can survive almost anything and boldly witness the good news in the midst of sin and rebellion…3 mirrors reflecting the glory of Jesus is better than one.

Let me end today with this truth:

II. GOD MAY CHANGE OUR PLANS…BUT HIS NEVER DO

God’s plan will always be the salvation of mankind….that means His desire is for your son, daughter, friend, co-worker, neighbor and people around the world to come to Jesus.

According to scripture it was His plan even before creation:

1 PETER 1:18-20 (p. 850)

And God doesn’t desire for anyone to be lost…He’s working through His Holy Spirit and us as His messengers until Jesus returns to accomplish that plan.

2 PETER 3:15-18 (p. 854)

This is exactly what Paul meant when he writes…God might change my plans…but His will always be “Yes, in Christ.” He is the “Amen” spoken to you by us. The word Amen means “So be it.”

The most important question I can end with is: Are you and I living lives with the plan of God as our goal?

Ignorant and unstable people distorted Pauls’ message and attacked his life…to their own destruction. Peter warns some believers will be misled by this error and fall from their secure position…His challenge: “Keep growing in grace. Keep growing in the knowledge of Christ.”

You’ll never influence your family for Christ if you’re arguing about the minister’s changing plans. But isn’t that what Satan does in the life of many believers? Instead of our focus being that Jesus is the “Yes” of salvation and the “Amen” of God’s unchanging plan…something happens that we don’t like or makes us unhappy…and our energies become focused on these non-essentials. This scared Paul, it scared Peter and it scares me, because once this happens, restoring Jesus as the priority can only happen through a Holy Spirit revival…and scripture says:

HEBREWS 6:4-8 (p. 840)

The writer introduces this section about falling away with “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.” (Heb. 5:11)

They didn’t want to understand because they’d traded the good news of Christ for arguments about traditions and religious acts…But that would never happen with believers today, right?!!

As one of my amazing professors in school said, “God has provided Jesus as the lifeboat…but you can still choose to get out of it and try to swim on your own…and where do you go for rescue if you’ve done that?”

Let’s pray.

WORLDLY WISDOM VERSES GODLY GRACE

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Worldly Wisdom vs. Godly Grace

2 Corinthians 1:12-14 (p. 803) September 25, 2016

Introduction:

[During the 1924 US Open Gold Championship at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, Bobby Jones was paired with Walter Hagen in the first round…on the 4th hole Jones drove his ball in the rough off the tee. As he addresses his ball to hit it, he quickly backed off…and turned to Hagin and said, “It moved…I’m going to access myself a one stroke penalty…Hagin begged him not to…officials came in and surveyed the crowd. No one had seen the ball move…so it came down to Bobby Jones’ assessment. He said, “I saw it move…and that’s enough.”

Jones fought back over the next 3 days and on the final hole he had a five foot putt to tie Willie Macfarland…Surprisingly he missed the putt and lost the open by one stroke.]

Bobby Jones won multiple majors…dozens of tournaments and important matches…but it was his integrity that propelled him to national prominence.

The word integrity has this meaning at it’s very core…you are honest no matter what.

No matter whose looking…no matter what the circumstances…Truth is more important than consequences.

General Michael Flynn said, “The truth never fears any questions.”

This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our text…This is what I’m proud of…and my conscience verifies it…We have lived with integrity in the world and in our relationships with people in the church. We haven’t been fake…we’ve been real…sincere.

This isn’t the easiest thing for any of us to do…but the Apostle Paul tells us how…He says we made this choice.

I. WE RELIED ON GOD’S GRACE NOT WORLDLY WISDOM

Worldly wisdom says, “No one else saw it move.” “No one else will know what you’re doing…after all everyone does it.”

Shut the door…cheat a little if you need to…Parse your words…Lie if you get in trouble…look out for yourself.

The world’s philosophy is “the ends justify the means…and it’s only wrong if you get caught.”
Satan the father of lies…speaks this way as his native language…Sin has consequences and he hides this truth…and he hides how hard it is to break away from it.

[While in Baton Rouge we were working at a couple named EJ and Samantha’s house…tearing out drywall, cabinets…sinks and plumbing and flooring…In one of the rooms we were trying to rip out a pergo wood floor that had been put down by gluing it with liquid nails to a concrete floor…for 4 1/2 hours we beat on that floor with sledge hammers and pry bars…removing small sections at a time…most of the time it would splinter and only a portion of the piece would come up…It was hot…humid and hard…EJ said “Man, I wish it was as easy to pry up as it was to put down.”]

Sin is like that…it’s easy to let into our lives…it’s easy, enjoyable to take that first hit, that first drink, to visit that first website..but once its set…once it begins to harden our hearts…ripping out that addiction is harder than that sweaty deconstruction in Louisiana.

James says this…“God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15)

Look at the progression…It’s enticing…just curious…interested…to being dragged to a place we don’t want to go…we thought the end would be awesome…but it’s a grave.

Sin destroys our integrity and our sincerity…we now live lie to lie and we try to pretend it’s not destroying us.

But there is hope…there is something that can rip the hold of sin from our lives…Do you know what it is?

GOD’S GRACE

Remember Saul before his conversion…Saul was a murderer…He was a violent man…He hated some people enough he persecuted them…He blasphemed the name of Jesus…His sin was liquid nailed to the concrete floor of his heart…He describes himself the way.

“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…when it comes to sinners…I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:13-15)

And then he met Jesus…a real encounter with the son of God. The Messiah…the Savior He met the crucified and risen Lord of all…and everything in his life changed…because of God’s grace…He says “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:14-16)

Please notice that God’s grace is enough to save anyone…even the worst…but if you really receive that grace it’s followed by a life of faith and a life of love. God’s grace isn’t something we just rely on one time to purchase us a ticket to heaven…its something we rely, on every day of our lives until we get there!

It doesn’t mean you won’t ever sin or struggle with sin again…It doesn’t mean that after the death, burial and resurrection of your baptism you won’t be entice…even dragged…but it does mean God’s Spirit of Grace…His Spirit of Holiness will remind you powerfully of who you are and why you’re here.

God’s grace and forgiveness make us his children and a Father’s forgiveness is a powerful thing:

In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace , Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call “dissolute”… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. “Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa.” When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeting his son, he found eight hundred Paco’s waiting to be reunited with their father. Was Paco such a popular name? Or is a father’s forgiveness the salve for every soul?

Yes! A father’s forgiveness is the salve for every human soul…and we are all Paco’s desiring that reunion of grace.

It’s this amazing gift that makes us a family…His family.

II. EVEN WHEN WE ARE ALL NOT AT THE SAME PLACE IN OUR MATURITY

Paul says this in our test:

2 CORINTHIANS 1:13-14 (p. 803)

Paul tries to keep it simple when he writes to the Corinthians. He doesn’t try to impress them with his depth of knowledge he tries to discern where they are at in their spiritual maturity…and he tries to help them grow.

We’ll talk about this next week if God wills, and Jesus doesn’t return, but Paul had planned on making a personal visit to Corinth on his way to Macedonia and he had to change his mind…and change his plans.

And his enemies jumped on this like a dog on a piece of raw meat…They said, “He’s fickle…He’s unreliable.”

There are a couple of things I’d point out in this situation…First, from the beginning of the church, there have been minister attackers…for whatever reason they feel threatened…their power and their preferences are in danger…so they undercut the minister…they prey on our human nature too like a juicy story…they draw in immature believers…and they hurt the health of the church…listen to this description of one of those individuals in John’s 3rd letter:

3 JOHN 2-13 (p. 859)

Similar to what Paul faced at Corinth…John and others face here…Instead of decreasing so Jesus could increase…Diotrephes loved to be first, and to stay first he spread malicious nonsense…He developed a clique…and treated those who weren’t part of his circle as outsiders…and it created a cancer to the churches…and created a cancer to the churches unity and purpose.

Spiritually mature people recognize such individuals and deal honestly with the issue. Paul did at Corinth, and John does and will here. Both call attention to this issue and then…give a better choice.

Paul tells the Corinthians to “stand firm” in what they know about him and his message. John says, “Don’t imitate this evil…imitate what is good…instead of Diotrephes…imitate Demetrius.

How important is it to have people worth imitating in any church? People who get it…people who aren’t just leaders or teachers because they like the power, but love and share their lives with the family of God…it’s the difference between making disciples for Christ and selfishly dividing the body of Christ.

I’m sure “the fickle” accusers didn’t go out without a fight…I’m certain Diotrephes threw malicious grenades when John dealt with the issue…but I’m also sure Gaius and Demetrius had his back! And I’m also sure truth and goodness were easily recognizalbe…As is the case today, 2 options were presented that could be imitated. One was powerful, spiritual and from God…one wasn’t. One gave the church the opportunity to grow up and become like Jesus…and one didn’t…which we choose to follow and imitate determines whether we will become mature disciples or stay babies.

Let me end by saying:

Maturity is recognizing that the choices we make carry consequences. I had a good laugh at a story in the newspapers sometime back about a teacher who found a great way to make students pay for their crimes. Troublemakers at Riverside Brookfield High in Chicago are being forced to serve after school sentences in the Frank Sinatra Detention Club. There, for 30 minutes, they must sit still – not talking, no homework, no snoozing – and listen to Mr. Sinatra croon songs. “The kids hate it. They’re miserable,” reports teacher Bruce Janu, a Sinatra fan who devised the club as a way to make detention more fun for him, and less so for the kids. “It just got to where I couldn’t stand it,” said one senior. “It’s so boring.” Janu isn’t totally heartless, though. He lets students sing along if they want – but nobody does.

Spiritual consequences to our choices aren’t so mundane…spiritual consequences affect our peace and unity…and God’s detention room is a lot less comfortable than listening to Frank’s “I Did It My Way.”

Let’s pray.

IT TAKES PRESSURE TO MAKE A DIAMOND

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
It Takes Pressure to Make a Diamond

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (p. 803) September 18, 2016

Introduction:

When the Apostle Paul uses the words “We were under great pressure” it gets our attention…because he was stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods three times, whipped with the lash (39 times)…5 times, attacked by angry mobs…ship wrecked 3 times and spent a day and night dodging sharks in the open sea, He had been snake bit, criticized by unbelievers and believers, he’d been arrested and spent 2 years in jail without a trial…He called these things “light and momentary afflictions.”

Here’s the most extraordinary thing about what Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians Chapter One…we have no idea at all about what this terrible experience is…we know it happened in Ephesus but he doesn’t go into any detail…anywhere.

He first believed it was so bad there was no way out…It was far beyond his ability to bear.

You know that statement “God will never let anything happen to you beyond your ability to bear?” Well that is not the truth…The truth is He will not let anything happen to you or me that is beyond His ability to bear.

Paul goes into specifics elsewhere concerning his troubles and hurts…but not here…Why? We might never know for sure…but we do know one thing for sure about it.

I. HIS FOCUS IS ON THE POWER OF GOD NOT THE HORRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCE

William Barclay writes in his commentary “There is a very human tendency to make the most of anything we have to go through.”

It’s the art of one upmanship…“Oh, you think you’ve had it bad? Let me tell you about what I’ve been through!”

Remember the movie Jaws back in the 70’s? One of my favorite scenes it when Brody and Quinn compare scars

SHOW VIDEO (3 minutes)https://youtu.be/dLjNzwEULG8

Notice that Quinn doesn’t volunteer the US Indianapolis scar…Where his friends died…Where it appeared all was lost…He wasn’t going to use the most painful memory he’s ever had in this one upmanship game.

I think Paul’s experience in the province of Asia falls into this category.

You don’t write about this in a letter…You don’t put this in a list of bad things…You try to remove the tattoo…You try to make the memory go away.

My dad never talked about his worst experiences during the war…neither does my son Tyler…There are experiences in my lifeI won’t either…I might share them with my wife and closest friends…but even then it’s because they’ve asked…“What’s that scar from?”

For many, this is the fulcrum where faith tips towards God…or away from Him. Is God big enough for this memory…Is He powerful enough for this pain? Will I rely on my own resources or will I trust His?

[Ernest Hemingway made a 10 dollar bet with a bunch of authors after they’d had lunch…The guys bet him 10 dollars he couldn’t come up with a short story that was only 6 words long. Hemingway took the bet, pulled out a napkin and wrote a 6 word story:

“For Sale, Baby shoes, never worn.”

As Kyle Idleman writes in “The End of Me,” If you’re going to live…you’re going to lose…you will come to the end of your own resources…The End of Me…You might as well wake up to the fact. You too will have your own 6 word story…

“There has been a terrible accident.”
“I’m leaving…The marriage is over.”
“You are not able to conceive.”
“I am sorry He didn’t survive.”
“Here’s a rose off the casket.”
“Hurry, Your son’s been horribly burned.”

And each of us will have to choose whether the history of our 6 word story holds us captive in pain…or whether we set our hope on the one who delivers us and it becomes HIS STORY.]

It will require:

II. LETTING GO OF OUR LIFE AND TRUSTING THE GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD

[Our souls are eternal…these bodies they lie in are temporary…I told my friend Billy Ferrill the other day that its like a driver and a car in a race trying to win a race…We’re the driver, our bodies are the car….you can’t win if you don’t finish, but you also can’t win unless you take some risks…sure you have to fix things…fill it up with fuel…but if you are too cautious…if your goal is to protect the car from the rubs and dents no matter what, you will not win. I want to power slide through the gates of heaven with the fenders falling off and as the engine explodes…I want to get out, fall on my face and lay the keys at Jesus’ feet praising Him for the ride…I also want it to look like one of those clown cars at the circus because so many people get out of it with me!]

You cannot keep your life and save it…you don’t believe me? Listen to what Jesus said to the crowd as well as His followers:

MARK 8:34-38 (p. 705)

Do you think He meant those words? Do you think He was just kidding?

No!? Me either.

There will be times you despair of life itself…and then you and I have to choose whether eternity is more important than life itself…and whether we will rely on the God who raises the dead.

“He had delivered us from such a deadly peril and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.”

Let me end today with one of the most important and unifying truths I’ve ever discovered.

III. GOD’S GRACE FLOWS FROM BROKEN JARS

Remember that the Corinthians are experiencing some of the pain and difficulties that Paul and His companions are going through. He says:

“And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (v. 7)

Do you pray differently for those who are going through your 6 word short story, just like you did…than for those you barely know?

Sure we do…as we pray we remember the pain of the burn unit, or the divorce, or the inability to conceive, or the baby shoes that were never worn…and we fervently pray for God’s grace, healing and comfort to do for them what it did for us.

When Paul says “As you help us by your prayers” he’s rejoicing that someone who understands his pain is storming the throne of grace for him…He’s finding strength in the knowledge…that he is not alone…He trusts his gracious Father will perfectly answer the prayers of many…and he’s OK whether that answer is to live for Christ…or even better gain death…and home.

The reason a “broken and contrite heart” are the sacrifices God desires is because they are the sacrifices that crucify pride, selfishness, and self reliance.

You cannot lay a proud self sufficient heart on the altar of God…but you can sure lay a broken heart on that altar.

Broken people who have acknowledged the cracks and flaws in their lives are the most effective prayers and servants.

But most of us spend our energies trying to hide the cracks in our lives…we fill them with worldly philosophies and putty instead of being honest and transparent before our God and other…those who live this way spend a lot of time focusing on the flaws of others instead of their own…prayer is replaced with judgment, gossip and criticism…compassion and ministry is replaced with hypocrisy and separation.

No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

[Pottery merchants in Jesus’ day used to put out their jars and vessels on display and advertise them “Sin Cera.” It means “without wax.” Hypocritical and dishonest merchants would take jars which cracked in the fiery kiln and fill the jars with wax and paint over them…the jars were useless to the people who bought them because as soon as they were filled….the wax would melt and whatever liquid was inside, poured out.

It’s the same word used to describe God’s people in the book of Acts… “They were together with glad and “Sin Cera” sincere hearts…hearts without wax…the flaws are there…the cracks show…but the grace of God leaks out into the lives of others.]

It takes pressure to make a diamond…lots of pressure…and it takes a broken and contrite heart to worship and serve our God and other people.

Let’s pray.

TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL “T”

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Trouble with a Capital “T”

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (p. 803) September 11, 2016

Introduction:

We started a new study this last Wednesday evening…it’s powerful stuff from Kyle Idleman called, “The End of Me”…It’s theme is “Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins.”

His introduction starts out:

[“I was returning a call to a man named Brian. I read in my notes that his 18 month old son had died a few weeks earlier…I didn’t know the details, but as a father of 4, I can’t imagine such a loss. I said a prayer as I dialed his number. Brian answered with a monotone “Hello.” Having had many conversations like this over the past 20 years, I knew there was not much I could say. So, after expressing my heartbreak for his loss, I allowed silence to settle into our conversation. After a few moments, Brian spoke 4 words that I was not prepared for.

“I backed over him.”

He went on…to explain that they didn’t know their son had walked outside…In fact they didn’t even know he was capable of opening the door to go outside.]

After describing this horrible experience he went on to describe how he’s discovered Jesus in a way he never had before His faith had gone from attending church once in a while as tradition to running into God’s arms in complete desperation.

Brian then said this:

“I feel like I’d reached this point in my life when I had absolutely nothing left, and it turns out that for the first time in my life, Jesus has become real. Do you know what I mean? Is that unusual?”

No, it’s not unusual…when he reached the end of himself he discovered Jesus.

Most of us try to live our lives depending on our own resources…our intellect, our strength, our money, our endurace…but what happens when that resource runs out? What happens when that bank account is empty?

The Apostle Paul writes:

2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-10 (p. 803)

Let me ask you a question: How do you view God in your troubles?

I. CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE AND YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR MINISTRY

In the midst of pain and suffering, grief and confusion, fill our souls…it’s not fun to be laying on the floor filled with such hurt all you can do is moan and cry out. Why did you let this happen God? Why didn’t you intervene? comes from David the Psalmist’s lips and they’ve come from yours and mine! And if they haven’t yet, they will.

It’s that place Paul describes “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired at life itself…we felt like we’d received a death sentence.”

The Apostle Paul then answers the why is this happening question.

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”

This is exactly what Jesus, God’s Son meant, when He said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

Poor means “bankrupt.” “Without the resources to pay.” As Kyle Idleman puts it…”Blessed are you when you reach the end of me.”

How can we think we’re blessed when we’re at this place? I’d ask Abraham as the knife was raised…Daniel as he stood before the lions den…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they stood in front of the furnace…I’d look to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a matter of faith for God’s children…Do we believe God is for us or against us? Can we trust He has a plan when we can’t, see beyond the immediate circumstances because of our pain? Can we believe “he has delivered us from such deadly peril and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.

Do you know the sacrifices God desires more than any other sacrifice? More than our time, money and talents? Psalm 51:17 tells us… “The sacrifice God desires is a broken Spirit…God will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”

So at our place of brokenness…when our resources are gone we have a choice…lay it on an altar of trust and worship or carry it like victims with bitterness.

If you choose the second, your life will take a downward spiral…If you choose the first, you’ve found your purpose for ministry…It allows you and me as God’s children to say.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

[Its like this…Have you ever noticed that after you buy a car you notice every other car like yours on the road…Before the purchase you wouldn’t have paid that much attention…but now that you own one you notice all the other people who own one…like yours.]

Once you’ve paid the price for divorce, for the death of a child, for the burn unit, or almost any other suffering…and you’ve trusted God through it…you are spiritually sensitive to all the other people who have purchased that car…and you want to love and help them…that’s ministry…and the most powerful words hurting people can hear is “ME TOO.”

Paul said, “If we are comforted it’s for your comfort.”

By the way you cannot experience the amazing comfort of God unless you’re uncomfortable.

There are two kinds of people in this life…Those who focus on themselves…and those who because they’ve been born again and have adopted the attitude of Jesus, focus on serving others. It doesn’t take long to see which one a person has adopted does it? Just listen to their conversation about something they are asked to sacrifice for others.

God’s Church doesn’t primarily exist for those who are already in it…it exists for those who aren’t…many of them are hurting through the same things we go through…looking for answers…and poor in Spirit people have the answer.

II. OUR COMFORT ABOUNDS THROUGH CHRIST

Not through Vicodin, not through Jim Beam or Jack Daniels…not through sexual conquests or an abundance of possessions…our comfort abounds through Christ!

Let me share with you a hard truth that maybe you haven’t considered. God’s people will go through the same sufferings and difficulties as non-believers. Sometimes because we live in a fallen world…and sometimes because we still do sinful things. Listen to what Jesus says:

MATTHEW 5:43-48 (p. 678)

The world has a philosophy to deal with hurtful people and hurtful times…and God’s children are called to not use it…but be like their Dad…the sun shines on both…it rains on both… “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

[I’m not crazy about the word “perfect” there because in English it means “without any flaws or mistakes.” But in the original language it means “To do what you were made to do.”

I love my East-wing hammer…it’s been all over the world with me…it’s rusty, scarred and dirty. (lots of flaws) But this hammer is perfect when it’s driving nails because it’s doing what its made to do.]

Each of us are made to love God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.

And biblically we are perfect when we are doing it…it’s why we were made.

And the only way the world can see a difference is if “Our comfort abounds through Christ.” Whether the sun’s out or if it’s a hurricane.

[When I was 10 I was burned really badly, 50% of my body…3rd degree burns that were covered in skin grafts from my legs…I was in 4th grade…I won’t go into all the details but I used to be asked by children and adults alike “What happened to your face?” (I recommend that you not do that with a 10 year old). After a while I got tired of it and responded “What happened to yours?” I used to pray…all the time…for God to miraculously take away the scars that made me so different…ugly. He didn’t…and I didn’t know why He didn’t answer my prayers…why wouldn’t God care…Why would He let me keep the scars.

I know why now…my scars made me a better minister…my scars let me see others who are scarred differently. My scars eventually changed my heart. I’ve been through the fire so I’m not afraid of much…but I am afraid of not using my scarred flawed body to gratify a Father who had a plan for me. I’ve learned that when we surrender that which is hardest, for His glory and for others, He proves His power over and over again.]

Let’s pray.

ONE CHURCH

ONE CHURCH – The Joy of the Generous Impulse
2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (p. 807) August 28 2016

Introduction:

Impulses can be either good or bad…You can have the impulse to strangle someone, or you can have the impulse to hug someone…one isn’t such a good idea, and most of the time hugging someone is a good impulse.

[One day a while ago I had gone to the store to get some stuff for a little fishing boat I have (well, Jimmy my son in law actually has it). I got a floating container to hold papers, an anchor, and some rope. Oh yeah, I got this air powered horn…It was a can of CO2 attached to an orange horn….Regulations say you have to have one on the boat. On my way home I stopped at Mom’s to check on her…while I was there the phone rang…and it was one of the 300 people who call every day to ask her for money. (I’ve put her on the no call list…I’ve called the Better Business Bureau…and they still call.) While talking to the man from the “unnamed charity” I explained my mom’s circumstances and asked him to take her off the list. He continued at full pace…ignoring my information and then I had an impulse…I reached into my sack of boat purchases…pulled out the CO2 powered air horn…and blew it into the mouthpiece for 10 seconds and then hung up…He hasn’t called back.]

Now I’m not sure if that was a good or bad impulse…but it was one I listened to nonetheless.

I believe the word “impulse” is one of the best ways to describe how the Holy Spirit works in a believers life daily. Romans 8:14 tells us “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” The Holy Spirit leads many times by impulses.

The word impulse means “A sudden strong desire to do something.”

The most joyful and fulfilled Christians live their lives by being “impulsively generous” when the Holy Spirit speaks and says do something…when He creates a strong desire to act…children of God…Act.

I use the term “generous impulse” because for the 35 years Kari and I have been married we’ve had a rule…if one of us experiences an opportunity for impulsive generosity we try to be obedient to it…and the other one of us will not question it…we’ll share the joy of the opportunity…please know, we aren’t perfect at it…and its easier when you have 5,000 in the bank instead of $5. But we’ve discovered this rule has brought us great joy and great opportunities.

It’s important according to God’s Word to remember this:

I. WHOEVER SOWS SPARINGLY REAPS SPARINGLY…BUT IF WE SOW GENEROUSLY WE REAP GENEROUSLY

Many preachers use this scripture when talking about tithing or giving to the church. And I certainly think we ought to be obedient and generous in this way. But this scripture isn’t about regular tithing…it’s about a generous gift for hurting people.

Here’s a little background…many of the churches Paul had established were under great persecution. They were hurting in every way possible, especially the home church in Jerusalem. There has been a request for those churches that could contribute financially to do so. Corinth has said, “Yes, yes, we want to help” but they haven’t. Paul doesn’t want to rebuke them…but he does urge them to fulfill their commitment. He shares that generosity is where God creates great joy…and He doesn’t want them to miss out on the joy of generosity. He doesn’t want them to give because they “have to” reluctantly…for God loves a cheerful giver.

[There are two ways to look at all we possess…pretend you’re a farmer and you have a seed for each of your dollars…each of the hours of your life…and each of the talents you’re blessed with. Here are the two choices…both involve a field owned by God Himself. You can begrudgingly plant a few seeds in God’s field…because you don’t want to “waste them.” You’re afraid you’ll run out of dollars…hours…and talents. You see them as something you should “protect” for yourself. Or you can go into God’s field with your dollars…your hours…and your talents and “empty the basket.” Throw handfuls into row after row of prepared soil…after all God gives the increase…remember, God owns the field…each of us are just tenant farmers… But God is a generous God…an amazingly giving owner.]

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written (Ps. 112:9) they have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever.”
(2 Cor. 9:8-9)

It’s about who we trust more with everything we have (each seed). Many times we believe we can control our happiness by using the seed when and where we want…and yet true joy comes from trusting God with it all…in His field.

We can build bigger barns with the thought…I’ve got plenty of dollars…plenty of time…plenty of talents to enjoy my life as I want. Or we can use them to grow an abundant crop in God’s field…At least in my country boy mentality this is what I believe God’s Word is saying.

There is always an internal battle within our impulse between reluctance and generosity. And for the Holy Spirit led people we trust God and choose generosity…for worldly people we choose to walk away from these opportunities because “we have too much.”

SHOW PICTURE (MARK 10:17-31, p. 707)


“Give it all up…and come follow me.” But he couldn’t relinquish control of it all…He had too much…His face turned toward his sandals…and he left the presence of Jesus…sad.

Money, power, prestige give us control….It’s hard…impossible apart from God’s doing…to surrender that control to the Lordship of Christ.

The battle between reluctance and generosity is a fierce spiritual one which takes place in the human soul…especially for those of us who have a lot of seeds.

This week at Kroger maybe someone in front of you struggles to pay for their groceries and you feel the tug of the generous impulse…and reluctance…I challenge you to give into generosity and impulsively pay for their bill…and experience that joy.

This week at the restaurant you treat the waiter or waitress who’s in school with a listening heart…and when you pay your bill leave the equal amount as a tip.

This week when you fill up your car and you notice the old vehicle next to yours with a couple of kids in it and a guy with work scarred hands holding the nozzle, say…“Man, I just felt God give me a generous impulse…I’d like to pay for your gas today…God bless you in Christ.”

Sow some seeds as a cheerful giver so the Giver of all seeds can increase your storehouse and your opportunities…it will change your heart…it will change your life…it will “result in thanksgiving to God.”

“The children of God are led by the Spirit of God.” Let Him lead you and don’t be afraid to share who your Father is.

“Let God enlarge the basket of your righteousness…you will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” (You trust God when He gives you a generous impulse…and He’ll provide the ability to do it every time!)

Let me end with this truth…

II. GOD IS ABLE

The real Christian life is about faith…it’s where real power comes from.

When Paul writes “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things, at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

He’s saying…I believe this…I’ve experienced this…Trust God to be able!

He owns it all…“He is at work for good in all things for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

If we want the world to experience the good news, it’s righteousness must be revealed by those who live by faith.

Remember this scripture:

ROMANS 1:16-17 (p. 782)

Righteousness is “acting right.” “Doing right.” And it’s not those acts that save us…but when we are in “right relationship with God” they flow out of us because of our faith. It’s how the gospel is revealed…no matter who you are…first or last (feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.)

Kathy Escobar in the book “Down We Go” (Living into the wild ways of Jesus) writes:

Small, simple acts go further than we think, especially in a harsh and cruel world. Let us never underestimate what a kind word might mean for someone, or what a cup of cold water might mean for another. One is always better than none. Something is always better than nothing.

Everything begins with love. Jesus makes the command to love one of his most defining statements. He summarizes the entire law with it: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30). We can talk about love, preach sermons about love, read books about love, quote scriptures about love and long to love. However, the bottom line is: The only way to actually learn the ways of love is to extend it, try it, do it, risk it, live it – to enter into another person’s life and let someone into ours.

Jesus multiplied 2 fish and 5 loaves into feeding 5,000 with 12 baskets of leftovers…Trust Him, He is able to take your “small gift of righteousness.” And use it for a harvest of righteousness.

Let’s pray.