Monthly Archives: October 2016

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.

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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.