Monthly Archives: November 2015

I WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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I Will Make a Difference by Rick Burdette (With special credit to Thom Rainer and his book, “I Will.”)

Ephesians 5:14-5:15

I WILL – “I Will” Make a Difference
Ephesians 5:14-15 (pg. 816) November 29, 2015

Introduction:

I have always loved history and the stories that come from it…maybe that’s why I love the history from the Greco-Roman world and the myths that come from it…the Greeks and so many gods, that when the Apostle Paul was there in Athens in Acts Chapter 17 it says “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” And since the Athenians loved to discuss new things…Paul went to the Areopagus and addresses these very religious people…He gives an amazing testimony and history lesson. Listen to it:

ACTS 17:22-34 (p. 772)

Paul says, “You’re uninformed about the one true God you don’t know…let me inform you and then from creation, to Abraham to Jesus’ resurrection He informs them…it’s a brand new thing…some sneer at the message, but others believe and become disciples.

It’s a wake up call for very religious people…who do the same things over and over again…who love nothing more than talking about their religion to have a resurrected life in Christ…some mocking say “I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done…there is no resurrection from the dead! And others “wake up…live…and make a difference.

[The Greeks have a myth about a King named Sisyphus

SHOW PIC OF SISYPHUS

He tricked the god Zeus and for his punishment He had to push a rock up a hill…But Zeus had enchanted the rock so it rolled away from Sisyphus…just before he reached the top of the hill. So Sisyphus would spend eternity continually pushing this rock up the hill without accomplishing his goal. Sisyphus was consigned to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration because of his rejection of Zeus’ authority.]

God has a plan…from the creation of the world…He doesn’t need anything…He is not served by human hands…rather He gives everyone life and breath and everything else…Paul knew that his purpose…His calling…everything that meant anything was because “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Religion will put you in a dangerous sleep…Jesus’ resurrection wakes you up to say “I will make a difference.” Religion makes you endlessly and uselessly push a rock up a hill…The resurrection rolls away the stone that holds you back!

So what’s the problem with our churches today?

I. THE PROBLEM IS ME AND YOU

You see churches are no stronger than their church members…and way too many of us are spending our time and efforts pushing rocks up hills instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to enable us to roll away the stones in people’s lives.

Until you and I are willing to be obedient…to wake up and rise from the dead nothing changes…It’s time for church members to become obedient and seriously be part of the body of Christ that 1 Corinthians 12 talks about. It’s time to say, “I Will.” (The challenge we’ve heard about for the last 10 weeks)

I will have the attitude of Christ and put other church members before my wants and desires.

I will gladly participate in corporate worship with my fellow church members as long as I am physically able.

I will get involved in a group or a class so that I might grow spiritually together with others, and so that I might be accountable to them.

I will go and share the gospel with others in words and deeds, and not be ashamed of my Savior.

I will give abundantly and joyfully, recognizing that God is the owner of all things I currently steward.

I will participate in the life of my church because God leads me to do so, not becaue I feel compelled to please people and overcommit.

I will focus on what Christ has done for me, and not on the flaws of my church, its leaders, or its members.

And I will pray that God will use me as an instrument to revive His church, for His name, and for His glory.

Thom Rainer shares a great story in the concluding chapter of “I Will” and I’d like to share it here:

His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. The date was September 23, 1857. The location was New York City.

For days Lanphier had been handing out flyers about a time of prayer. He likely distributed more than twenty-thousand flyers by himself.

He was a man under God’s conviction. He was desperate for a move of God, and He knew no human-powered system or organization could manufacture such a move.

So he prayed. And he called others to prayer as well. Lanphier probably had great anticipation that many would show up at noon on September 27. The city had a population of one million. His flyers were likely seen by more than the original twenty thousand recipients of the flyers.

So he went to the borrowed upper room of a church and prayed and waited. For thirty minutes no one showed up. Then he heard the footsteps of a few coming to the prayer meeting. Six other people joined him.

Their numbers increased to fourteen the next week. Then twenty-three the next week. And the prayer meetings continued to grow.

The presence of God was so powerful. Those who were in the meetings decided to have the gatherings every day. And the numbers continued to increase. By winter of 1857 the prayer meetings were filling three large churches every day. Then, by March of 1858, every available public hall and church in New York City was filled every day.

Horace Greeley, the famous newspaper editor, sent a reporter to attempt to count the numbers at these meetings. He could only make it to six locations by horse and buggy in that one hour period He still counted sixty-one hundred people.

The prayer movement spread across the nation. At one season of this movement, ten thousand people were becoming believers each week. More than one scholar has estimated that one million people became followers of Christ through these prayer meetings.

A movement had begun.

Today I am praying for another movement of God.

Amen Thom! I am as well.

But that movement…real revival never occurs when we are focused on ourselves…Movements are started by people who seek God…and are obedient when the Holy Spirit leads.

It requires that you and I wake up, rise from the dead and make a difference…clearly something we cannot do on our own…It requires “Christ shining in us.”

II. OUR FRYING PANS HAVE TO GET BIGGER!

Paul says in our text “Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)

How many of us are really careful of how we live daily? If we’re Christ followers how many of us continually make the most of every opportunity to bring Him glory in these evil days?

Most of us get really comfortable pushing the same rocks up the same hills…We make no new relationships because there’s safety and comfort in the ones we’ve always had.

Imagine a man fishing. He has a bucket and a 12 inch ruler that is broken off at the 10 inch mark. He pulls in a fish and measures it. It’s very small, only 7 inches, and he puts it in his bucket.

That’s right! What a shocker. He keeps the little fish. Then he reels in a 24 inch whopper. Seeing it’s bigger than his ruler, he throws it back in the water!

Repeatedly, the man kept every fish smaller than 10 inches and throws all the bigger fish back.

Now, I’m not a very good fisherman, but I confront him with why he’s doing this. The man tells me matter-of-factly, “My wife only has a 10 inch frying pan.”

Silly story, but how many of us have rejected the opportunities of God because they’re bigger than our frying pan?

Are you ready to double the size of your frying pan this year? It will take faith…It will take obedience…and most painfully…it will require change.

Most of us know that Hebrews chapter 11 is the faith chapter of the New Testament…It begins with a definition of faith…”Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

And then the writer lists those ancients and the reason they were people of faith. But verse 6 says something extremely important about spiritual frying pans…

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Do you want to please God with your daily life? I do. And if we do we must live confidently for what we hope. We must live with assurance about things we can’t see.

We must live differently. We must live outside our comfort zone…otherwise it’s not faith.

It’s like this story:

There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note. The note read: “pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need”. Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “Please prime the pump, believe me it works”! We have the same choice to make, do we hold on to what we have because we don’t believe there are better things in store for us, and settle for immediate satisfaction? Or do we trust God and give up all that we have to get what God has promised us? I think the choice is obvious. We need to pour in all the water, trust God with everything. Then once we have experienced what God has to offer, the living water, we need to tell other people, “Go ahead prime the pump, believe me it works”!
I believe faith is a “pump primer!” God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Saying “I Will” to God is a catalyst to living water. I”ll end with some “faith pump primer” challenges:
1. Reach out to someone new. I’m not asking you to abandon your old friends. I’m asking you to enlarge your frying pan. A real person that God reveals to you in prayer, through His Holy Spirit. Ask them to lunch, love on them, get past the scary unknown and share your life.
2. Prioritize your activity and your service to impact real people. And make sure some of those real people can do nothing for you. Doing stuff for people we know and doing stuff for “groups” of people we might never meet is important…but it’s comfortable. Get uncomfortable and face to face with “the least of these” my brothers and sisters. Do you know why shepherds smell like sheep? Because they get close to them, pick them up, doctor their wounds…pray for an awareness of wounded sheep…and if you’re spiritually mature enough…be a shepherd.
3. Pray for God to make you aware of “I Will” opportunities in your “real” life.
[A month or so ago 8 of us men were in Eastern Kentucky helping repair the house of a bed ridden woman, her husband and daughter and a special needs grandchild…But that’s not the opportunity I remember. Funny but I remember one morning at an Exxon station when I was filling up my bike…I went into the store to pay and get some Gatorades…but Dennis Truesdell had already paid my bill…so I handed the 20 to the teller and said, “Pay for this woman’s gas.” After this, the teller said, “That made my day” and as we walked out, the young woman was crying…she said “you’ll never know how much that meant. My husband just lost his job…we don’t have much…Can I hug you?” And we did…and I whispered “Jesus has got you…you know that!” And she said, “I know.”]
Both of our faith grew that day…are you ready to have that kind of reward…to say “I Will make a difference?”
Let’s pray.

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I Will avoid the traps of churchianity

1240463_10202374926361234_1480366379_aI Will Avoid the Traps of “Churchianity” by Rick Burdette (With special credit to Thom Rainer and his book “I Will”)

1 Corinthians 12:12-12:28

I WILL – “I Will” Avoid the Traps of “Churchianity”
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27-28 (pg. 799-800) November 22, 2015

Introduction:

I need to openly tell you I stole this title from Thom Rainer’s book “I Will.”

There is no such word as “churchianity” but it fit too well and it conveys the idea of what I’m trying to impress too well not to use it.

I grew up in church…I never remember a time in my life where it wasn’t a part of my family…when I was a child we went to a denominational Church here in Lexington…The Church that was a part of my dad’s heritage…when I was 6 or 7 my dad came into a Sunday School class I was in to get me. He asked the teacher what he was teaching…the teacher responded, “The Myth of Jonah.” How it was just an allegory…or story that represented mankind’s struggle with sin…and pointed to Jesus’ 3 days in the grave…my dad’s response: and you’ll have to forgive me a little…was “I don’t believe that story is a myth…I believe a big “darn” fish swallowed Jonah (dad didn’t say “darn”)

My father shared his struggle with His boss Bill Bachanan at Kentucky Utilities and Bill invited my dad and our family to Southland Christian…the rest of the story is history…we went…mom & dad were baptized by Wayne…and I grew up with an amazing minister, children’s ministry and youth group…who loved us…even when I rebelled…I am indeed a B.U.I.C.K. (A brought up in Church kid.)

I’ve spent almost 37 years ministering in the Church…intern, children & student minister, senior, preaching minister at small, medium and large churches…Kari’s been at my side for 35 of those 37 years…I’ve “done” church for awhile.

Thom Rainer defines “churchianity” this way: “Practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines.”

There’s a horrible trend in many people’s lives when we’ve spent decades “going to church” or being “church members.” Slowly we forget about Jesus…and the vibrant Christianity we had when we first met Him and we slide into “churchianity”…which is something very different than the sacrificial and unifying teachings in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:27-28

“Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the Church.”

When scripture talks about “church membership” (and it does) it describes each of us as part of a body…each of us essential to the whole. Some are ears, others are eyes, some are feet or hands…that’s why he says:

“For as the body is one and has many parts and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body – so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)

God’s biblical and self-giving plan is for His body, the Church, to function like a healthy body…with His Son, Jesus, being the head and each member doing what He designed it to do…for His glory…and for His purposes.

But churchianity separates us from the head…and from God’s design and we become much more like “cut flowers.”

There are 5 symptoms of “churchianity” that cause this disease that we should avoid at all costs…first:

SYMPTOM #1 – CHURCH IS A SPECTATOR SPORT

I love sports…I always have…basketball, football, golf, swimming…I spent much of my life playing them or preparing to play them.

I loved being on a team…I loved getting ready for the game…and I loved the competition of trying to win.

But at 55 with 2 artificial hips, both knees done, 2 spinal surgeries and a heart attack under my belt I am now much more an athletic supporter than an athlete…but Man! I love to watch sports…from the stands and in front of my TV. I like to call the plays…yell at the coaches and point out their mistakes…I like to tell my buddies how I’d have done it…I participate as a “spectator.”

Churchianity is like that…members attend but they don’t actively participate. They expect others to do ministry…for some the only time they get passionate about Church is when they don’t like something…where they express their displeasure and anger about how things are being done.

Why do people choose to be spectators instead of committed church members…because I have the appearance of being in Church, but want to live my life like the world…because I can stay unattached instead of making myself transparent and vulnerable, and because I want ownership over my preferences instead of servanthood to others.

The next time someone starts to complain ask one simple question…Have you shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with anyone this month? When there’s silence…walk away.

The 2nd symptom of “churchianity” is “Church is about me”

SYMPTOM #2 – CHURCH IS ABOUT ME

When we have this attitude about church we find more fault than compassion and gentleness…we do not serve instead we seek to be served. We have paid our country club dues so we expect our wants to be met.

What are some signs that a church member has the symptom of “church is about me?” Thom Rainer lists these statements:

* “I told the pastor what I wanted him to preach; he just doesn’t listen tom me.”
* “I don’t like the temperature in the worship center.”
* “If we don’t change our music style, I’m not coming back. I’ll find another church that can meet my needs.”
* “Someone is in our seat/pew.”
* “The church decided not to offer the 7:30 am service anymore because only a few people are attending. Well, that’s my service. If it’s gone, so am I.”
* “The pastor did not visit my sister’s mother in law in the hospital, even though I told him to.”
* “The church voted to paint the worship center a hideous color. I am infuriated. I just might stop giving.”

People don’t complain to me a lot because they usually don’t get the reaction they want…if you find yourself being the conduit for complainers you might ask yourself “Does my reaction reward “church is about me” attitudes…or help them grown up and become servants?”

Biblical life is about serving and sacrifice…It’s about giving and the needs of others…churchianity is about being served, receiving, getting your own way and insisting on your wants coming before others.

SYMPTOM #3 – CHURCH IS ABOUT FOCUSING ON ITS FLAWS

[Do you remember the early days of your courtship and marriage…neither of you could see no wrong in the other…the intense feelings of attraction blinded you to anything you didn’t like.

But then after you’ve lived together for awhile you each begin to notice that the other one isn’t perfect.

This happens in every marriage…and every one of us have one of two choices…we can try to see the best in our spouses and love him or her despite the imperfections (you know…“that for better or worse thing”). Or we can begin to focus on the faults…complain and nag about their shortcomings…maybe to the point of separation or divorce.]

Which one do you think is the better choice?

That’s the same truth when it comes to our relationship with the Church…your leadership (me included), your staff are far from perfect…everyone of us has flaws…but then again, so do you. It’s a whole lot healthier to pray than complain. This reality of church struggling with imperfection goes all the way back to the first churches in the New Testament…In Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinth church he lists a few of them:

• Church members had cliques and had formed personality cults.
• There was a significant amount of carnal behavior.
• Church members and leaders did not deal with sexual immorality and sexual perversion in the church.
• There was a significant level of worldliness and materialism.
• Church members were taking one another to court.
• There was rebellion against apostolic authority.
• The church did not discipline members who had fallen into sin.
• There was a misunderstanding about spiritual gifts.
• There were abuses of the Lord’s Supper.
• There were abuses of liberty.
• The church was dealing with heresies concerning the resurrection.

The gospel is the story of God saving us through His Son Jesus. He poured out grace so we could respond in faith…The gospel is about Jesus dying on a cross…He bore our sin…and our punishment…He became our substitute.

Romans 5:6 says at the right time, when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly…verse 8 says, “That God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

Ungodly…sinners…me…you!

We are recipients of this amazing grace…and our response should be grace toward others…But we don’t do that well at times.

Folks you can be critical of a whole bunch of messed up sinners in church…but please realize you are among them…we can practice churchianity and dwell on flaws and be critical or we can practice Biblical Christianity and extend grace toward others…after all without the grace of Jesus none of us would have any hope.

SYMPTOM #4 – CHURCH HAS LOW EXPECTATIONS

We expect no real miracles…no real transformations…no real God incidents when we practice “churchianity.”

We handle things in our own power and attempt to fix issues with our own plans and power. The Holy Spirit might be mentioned, but in truth we don’t pay much attention to His presence.

A low expectation Church doesn’t help new people move from being a visitor to being connected. Groups stay static and closed off instead of allowing new people to develop relationships. No one is expected to be involved in ministry…even titles like “deacon” or “servant” don’t really mean an expectation to serve. And communication about dreams and expectations come to a standstill.

Churches with low expectations have many members who practice “churchianity.”

The final symptom:

SYMPTOM #5 – CHURCH HAS CLIQUISH MEMBERS

Let me quote Thom Rainer in “I Will” concerning this symptom:

This symptom is similar to #4 in that it’s difficult to get involved in the church. One church has only a few members involved because it is a low expectation church. Another church had few members involved because most members aren’t connected with key cliques in the church.

The cliques can take different forms. One common clique is an informal power group in the church. They represent an informal alliance of typically longer-term members. In many ways, they consider the church “my church.” Anyone has to get tacit approval from that group to get involved or to get anything accomplished.

Another clique can be a family power group. Some older churches especially have a network of connected people whose origin is one or two families. Those families may date back to the birth of the church.

Sometimes the clique may be a formal group such as the elders or deacons or church council. Of course most of these groups are healthy and functioning biblically. But if the group becomes a barrier to members becoming meaningfully involved in the church, the members are practicing churchianity. They are hindered from functioning as biblical church members.

So what do we do when we encounter “churchianity” instead of biblical church members? Or what do we do when the Holy Spirit convicts us of practicing “churchianity” instead of biblical Christianity? Good questions with hard answers…because as Jesus said, “a little bit of yeast effects the whole loaf”…whether the loaf is our lives or our church.

I’ll conclude with 4 quick biblical challenges:

1. You must be willing to speak truth with love when you encounter churchianity
2. You must have ministry leaders, men and women committed to making real disciples.
3. You must be willing to say goodbye and God’s grace to those who refuse to sacrifice and serve and finally…
4. We must be willing to let God search our hearts fiercely for this issue.

Let’s pray.

“i Will” give generously

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I Will Give Generously by Rick Burdette

Matthew 6:19-6:21

I WILL – “I Will” Give Generously (with special credit to Thom Rainer and his book, “I Will”)
Matthew 6:19-21 (pg. 679) November 8, 2015

Introduction:

You can always see the priority of someone’s life by looking into two places…their calendar and their bank statement.

Our time and our money are two of the most precious resources we have here on earth…and in many ways you can’t get either back once they’re spent.

In the book “Don’t Waste Your Life” John Piper writes, “I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. . . .’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. “God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.” Most people slip by in life without a passion for God, spending their lives on trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure, and perhaps trying to avoid sin.

As I’ve shared with you before, Frances Chan’s quote captures the essence of what Jesus and John Piper also are conveying:

SHOW FRANCES CHAN PIC

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

I know this sounds simplistic but there are really only two lives you can pursue…a life where you try to get what you desire with your time and money…or a life where you try to glorify God with those things.

From the “get go” Satan has tempted us to pursue the perishable and God calls us to the eternal.

I. MOST PEOPLE WILL MAKE A LOUSY DEAL!

[Let me show you what I mean. I’ve got this rope, on one end of it is a tiny bit of red…Now let’s suppose that this rope represents your existence…in fact let’s imagine that one end of this rope keeps going and going and never ends…but this tiny bit of red represents your life here on earth. A time line of your existence…all we are consumed with is this little piece of red…I’m gonna eat good…I’m going to live to make myself comfortable…I’m going to enjoy myself…most people make a really lousy deal because you spend it all on this little tiny bit of your existence…most people don’t think about the millions and millions of years to follow. People think I’m stupid because I invest in what follows the red tape. No you’re stupid if you don’t. You think I’ve made a lousy deal…People who don’t invest in the eternal have made a lousy deal…because what we do in this little bit of red determines the forever of our existence!]

Jesus teaches with astonishing clarity and amazing authority…in fact in His sermon on the mount “the crowds were astonished at His teaching because He was teaching them like one who had authority and not like the scribes.” (Matt. 7:28-29)

Why wouldn’t He…He knew what waited after the red tape on the rope…he understood His eternal purpose for being here…He’d been to the restaurant and He knew how good the food was when He recommended it!

And in this context He “gets real” and starts to talk about money…you can almost feel the “discomfort” as He speaks with authority about “bank accounts.”

He says “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded or worse! Stolen by thieves…stockpile treasure in heaven where it’s safe from those things…the place where your treasure is, is where you’ll long to be.”

Jesus isn’t saying we shouldn’t save money…He’s focusing on the heart issue of money and the place it has in our lives…in fact, He clearly says, You will either have Him as Lord, or money as your Lord…you simply can’t have both as your Lord.

“If you are obsessed with money He isn’t your Lord. If your focus is on money instead of Jesus He isn’t your Lord. If you’re not generous with your money He isn’t your Lord.

Money isn’t the root of all kinds of evil…but loving it is!

“No one can be a slave of two masters, since He will hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” (Matthew 6:24)

We want to tiptoe through this minefield of money, but it’s an issue of great importance…Jesus said so.

Let me tell you why it’s so important that we are generous people.

II. SOULS ARE ETERNAL…MONEY ISN’T

[My brother in law David, whose dealing with cancer right now came from a pretty poor family, and there wasn’t a lot of support from them when he decided to go to Bible College and be a preacher…one of his first ministries while in school was in Berea…back then you wore suits on Sunday (I’m sure some feel we still should) but regardless, he didn’t have any so one of the elders at the church gave him 2 suits…the catch….he was the local undertaker…and the suits had no pockets…flaps where the pockets should have been…but no material for pockets…after all…these suits where meant for corpses…no need for pockets!]

That’s really what Jesus is saying in our text…there are no need for pockets when you die…everything money can buy perishes…but heavenly treasure doesn’t…giving is a true indicator of our heart because we give up something this world values tremendously for an eternal impact.

So what might change our attitude about giving generously? Thom Rainer says “The reality is that many church members have developed a consumer mindset on giving in their local churches if the Church doesn’t do things exactly as they want…they withhold their funds or decrease their giving.”

And yes, I know there have been preachers who have portrayed extravagant lifestyles…and have preached a “health and wealth gospel” that distorts the truth of real stewardship…but the reason we should give generously is that heaven will be populated by people…and the banquet should be open to those who can’t afford to get there!

[I didn’t sell my college ring last year to our offering to buy a shuttle bus, or build a playground. I sold it for Brownie & Jeanie and Paisley and Peanut…I thought of real people and future families that might be influenced eternally by some things that money can purchase…someday that shuttle bus and playground will rust and fade away…people’s souls never do.]

Jesus said, “when you put on a luncheon or a banquet, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives and rich neighbors. For they’ll invite you back and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” (Luke 14:12-13 NLT)

Someone much more insightful than me once said,

III. GRACE IS THE FACE LOVE WEARS WHEN IT MEETS IMPERFECTION

I would not be in the Kingdom of God today…or where I am at with my relationship with Jesus today without the many people who put up with me, did not give up on me, included me, helped me, and looked at me with grace.

They gave generously of themselves…and because of that this lame, crippled and blind sinner will have a place at the banquet table with Jesus.

Maybe that’s the exact reason the apostle Paul…who called himself the worst sinner that ever lived, wrote:

“Remember this, the person who sows sparingly reaps sparingly and the person who sows generously will reap generously. Each one of us should do what he’s decided in his heart to do – not reluctantly or out of duty, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:6-7)

The Apostle Paul clearly ties our spiritual growth and the growth of the Kingdom to how we give…it’s a heart matter…reluctant legalistic givers and cheerful givers.

The word Paul uses for cheerful is “Hilarious,” Hilarious Givers. Sounds like the face of grace doesn’t it?

Hilarious is joy on steroids! It’s way beyond “happy” or “nice” or “funny.”

Hilarious describes laughter beyond your control…uncontrollable joy.

You can’t experience that by dutifully writing your check each week…or even signing up to automatically give electronically…unless you decide in your heart to focus on the people it reaches.

We don’t give to please a person or a set of guidelines…We give to please God and focus on people…by the way this is the only time the word “Hilarious” is used in scripture.

[By most accounts, every great athlete will tell you that the ironman Triathlon in Hawaii is the most grueling sporting event on the planet. Competitors swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike 112 miles, then wrap the day up with a short 26.2 mile marathon run.

A few years back, the cameramen covering the event for NBC struggles with their assignment. During most ironman competitions they would focus all their attention on those athletes who were leading the pack. But during this one, they found themselves captivated by another participant who was nowhere near the front of the race.

A father in his forties was pushing, carrying, and pulling his quadriplegic son through the entire race. He swam the 2.4 miles with his son in a special vest being towed behind him. He picked up his son out of the water and put him in a special basket attached to the front of his bike, and he pedaled 112 miles up and down mountainous terrain, leaning, straining, standing, sitting – assuming any posture that might help him bear the load of his son. He then set his son in a carriage and stood behind him, running with every ounce of energy left in his body, pushing him twenty six miles.

The television cameras were faced with an unusual dilemma – panning to the contestants who were leading the race and vying for the first place, or cutting farther back in the race where a father and son seemed to be chasing some other kind of victory. Darkness overtook the day as most contestants finished the race and settled into their hotel rooms to replenish their bodies. But the crowd didn’t thin. The crowds grew.
As the sun went down, people showed up. People stood anxiously at the finish line wondering if the father and son would even finish the race, when all of a sudden, someone yelled out, “Here they come!”

Floodlights clicked on down the final stretch of pavement as everyone watched Dick Hoyt, in a full stride, running toward the finish line with his son, Rick. And you should’ve seen the expression on Rick’s face! Jubilant, eyes wide and wild with an excitement his legs and arms could not express.

Rick knew he crossed the finish line because someone loved him enough to help him get where he couldn’t get on his own. As for Dick, a look of determination suggested he would not have had it any other way. Exhaustion and all, fatigue and all, perspiration and all – it was all worth it.

SHOW PICTURE

That my friends is “Hilarious” giving…and my brothers and sisters it’s all about getting someone we love to the finish line!

Let’s Pray.

i WILL GO

224

I Will Go by Rick Burdette (With special thanks to Thom Rainer and his book “I Will”)
Matthew 28:18-20 (pg. 698) November 1, 2015

Introduction:

I have a really good friend named Mac that was a MASH helicopter pilot during Vietnam…Mac’s in his 70’s now…but he’s still as tough and good as they come. He used to have to drop that “Huey” (helicopter) into LZ’s (landing zones) that were barely big enough…and usually under fire so he could get wounded soldiers back to the MASH unit…bloody, shot up kids strapped to the sides of his helicopter…it was his mission to rescue them.

If you don’t know what a MASH unit is…I’ll show you…and many of you will remember this opening scene:

SHOW MASH OPENING SCENE

Although the TV show took place in Korea during the 1950’s, Mac did the same thing those pilots did…go get wounded soldiers and return them to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Vietnam.

Here’s my question…what if those Doctors and Nurses decided they wouldn’t go out to the battlefield…what if they decided that it would be safer and more comfortable for them to remain in their own cleaner, more sterile hospitals…and what if Mac and hundreds of other helicopter pilots had said, “I’m not flyin’ into the danger zone…“Are you crazy…why would I risk my own safety…my own life to rescue wounded people…if they can get to the hospital on their own…good…but don’t ask me to do it.”

What happens to the Church of Jesus Christ when it stops operating like a MASH unit in the field and becomes more like a country club where doctor’s play golf?

What happens to individual Christians who stop being Helicopter pilots who consider it their mission to rescue wounded people and instead stay in the coffee room talking about “flights they’ve made in the “past?”

Wounded people die.

Jesus’ Great Commission really is the mission for His Church. It’s given authoritatively from our Supreme Commander…and it’s to be the driving force for our existence.

“Go and make disciples of all people.”

How do I know that this is the exact same commission as “Go rescue wounded people?”

I know because of the One who gave me the order…the One who gave you this order…modeled our mission before He gave His commission…Luke 19:10 says “Jesus, the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

So I guess it’s urgently important that those who claim to be His disciples answer a vital question…

I. DO WE REALLY BELIEVE THAT THOSE WHO ARE NOT CHRISTIANS ARE LOST?

If we don’t answer this question first, there’s really no point in going further with this message.

You see we live in a world that continually stresses…“Don’t claim your way is the only way…don’t impose your beliefs on those who disagree.”

The world hates Christianity…and the world hates those who are seeking to rescue spiritually wounded people. Why? Jesus said, to His disciples…“I’m going back to my Father…to prepare a way for you to get there as well…there’s plenty of room for all of you there…if it weren’t the truth I’d have told you…you can’t go there now…but I’ll come back for you so I can bring you there myself…and we can be together…you know the way to get there! (John 14:1-6)

But Thomas, one of those disciples had his doubts…“Lord we don’t know where you are going…How can we know the way?”

Jesus’ response leaves no doubt…about how Thomas, Rick and every person in the world gets there… “Jesus told Him, I am the Way, I am the truth…I am the life…no one comes to the Father except through me.”

That’s the question…do we really believe Jesus? That He is the only way to heaven…the only way of salvation? Because that’s a very small gate…and that’s a really narrow road!

And if we who claim to be disciples aren’t urgently seeking and rescuing people morally wounded in our battlefield earth…Why not?

II. BECAUSE WE’VE ALLOWED EXCUSES TO SMOTHER OUR CONVICTION

Thom Rainer in our book “I Will” lists 5 excuses we offer ourselves…

That is not my spiritual gift. Really? You think you are not spiritually gifted in evangelism, so you decide you can leave that responsibility to others. Think about the logical inconsistency of that objection. Would you say that those who do not have the gift of mercy should never show mercy? Of course not. Do you think that a person who does not have the gift of giving should never give? Everyone is called to be obedient to the Great Commission. Including me. And you.

That is what we pay our pastor and church staff to do. I use to think this objection was more of an attitude than a specifically articulated issue. But when I started doing church consultation, I heard it several times. I challenged one church member to show me in Scripture where evangelism and going was limited to the pastor. His response: “That’s common sense. Everyone knows that’s why you pay a pastor.”

I don’t have time. If we don’t have time to share the love of Christ, it’s really not a priority in our lives. It’s a simple question: Is there anything more important than someone having a relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior? If nothing is more important, how can we not have time to do it?

I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others. This one is really bothersome. Can you imagine the apostle Paul standing before a crowd saying, “I really have some good news for you, but I don’t want to impose my beliefs on you. I’ll just keep my beliefs to myself. After all, religion is really a private matter”? Of course not! The gospel is to be shared boldly and joyfully.

I am an introvert. Let me confess something to you. I used to get really mad at myself when I went somewhere with an extroverted Christian friend and listened to him share his faith. He could develop a conversation naturally and, before I knew it, he was saying something about Jesus. I am an introvert, and my personality did not lend itself naturally to that type of evangelism. So I started praying for other opportunities to share the gospel many years ago. It has been incredible to see how God opens doors for me when I simply ask him for opportunities. And those opportunities fit my introverted personality. Introversion is not a valid excuse.

Here’s the truth…we do what we want to do or what’s really important to us…period.

So how do we reach a place where we say, “I Will” go?

How do we become real disciples of Jesus who are obedient to His commission?

III. WE MOVE FROM THEORY TO ACTION

If we really believe that Christ is the only way of salvation, and that the only way someone can come to Him is by hearing the gospel then we’d better stop practicing Christianity as a theory and put it into action.

Jesus said this very, very plainly, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

[Let me give you an example…what if I refused to wear my wedding ring? What if I avoided telling people I was married? What if I pretended to be single when I was with other people? Especially when I was around other women.

Would you…would she believe that I loved her…was proud to share life with her? Or would it be more truthful that I wanted the security of having a wife…but had no real commitment to her and was ashamed of her?]

How many people have that same relationship with Jesus? I want the security of heaven, but I don’t want to tell anyone about my bridegroom and I want to be able to have an adulterous relationship with the world whenever I want.

2,000 years ago Peter and John were in prison. Their crime, telling people about Jesus…when they are escorted before their judges…the Jewish Sanhedrin…after hearing their defense they decide to let them go on one condition, “Just keep your mouths shut about Jesus.”

What did these 2 rebels say to that?

“Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide, for we are unable to stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.”
(Acts 4:19-20)

They couldn’t stop speaking about Jesus…far too many of us today won’t even start speaking about Him!

So how do we move from theory to action?

First:

1. PRAY FOR OPPORTUNITIES

It’s simple, either we believe God answers or we don’t. We don’t have opportunities for two big reasons…We don’t ask…or we’re too busy with our own pursuits to see them. It is absolutely how God will respond if you ask Him.

[I was praying for these opportunities last week. I shared at two baseball organizational meetings last Monday after Jimmy Boling had asked me…one at 5:30 and one at 7:00. I shared my love of sports…being burned before a championship game and how God has worked in my life…but I sat next to Donnie before I spoke at the 7 o’clock gathering. I hadn’t seen Donnie for 10 years. Donnie and I used to sit next to each other at the UK games. I got to talk with him about my ministry and about Jesus….I prayed for an opportunity and God put me next to an old friend and 200 kids and their parents.] Pray for opportunities.

2. INVITE PEOPLE TO CHURCH

It’s simple, huh? When we invite someone to Church they have an opportunity to hear God speak to them. Do we believe God miraculously sees the hearts of people and still calls and still transforms? I do…do you?

Thom Rainer’s research group did a study that showed 8 out 10 people who do not attend Church would come if they were invited by a friend. Amazing! If you invite them, they will come.

3. INTENTIONALLY LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

You have to settle the issue of Jesus’ Lordship first, but if you have, then hope overcomes fear. Life has a reason for living…and there are opportunities when lost people ask…What’s up with you? Why are you hopeful, even when it’s difficult.

And when we are spiritually alert to such opportunities…we see them and speak hope.

Finally:

4. BE PREPARED TO SPEAK WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY COMES

Often in scripture it’s a testimony about how God called you, saved you…and is still working to transform you. How the love of Christ makes all the difference…write it down…something powerful happens when you prayerfully prepare and take the time to honor God with your story. Ask other mature believers to help you be prepared. Ask questions in your small group, share the opportunities and have others be praying for you! The opportunities are for you to have Holy Spirit led words. Yes, you’ll be afraid, yes it’s outside of your comfort zone…but that’s where faith is and “it’s impossible to please God without faith.” (Hebrews 11:6)

It’s time isn’t it? Satan loves it when we remain silent. It’s time for His people, His redeemed…to be unashamed of our redeemer…to say… “I WILL GO.”

Let’s Pray.