Unbelievable

This is a message about the vision of River of Life.

From time to time, I share the vision so that we continue to move toward it.

Since we are a church, we must realize that we already have a vision…that is the vision of that Jesus gave us.

Let us remember that God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The Church is the greatest organization on earth:

  • We are international.
  • We are far-reaching.
  • We are family-focussed.
  • We are multitasking, and
  • we belong to the One True God.

Let us never sell ourselves short.

We belong to Christ, and we are His assembly.

In fact, the word, “Church” is based on two Greek words: “Kuriakos” meaning “belonging to the Lord, and “ekklesia” meaning “called out.”

We are the “Called out who belong to Jesus…”

…and therefore, we honor the Lord and His Great Commission.

Next Sunday is Missions Sunday, and we are supporting missions around the world and in this country.

As a church, we must realize that God is here, and therefore we can do great things for His glory.

We don’t need to wait for the move of God, we, in fact, ARE the MOVE of God!

We can make history!

My parents were the single greatest influence on me in my earliest years, and now that they are in their declining years, I’ve asked them to show me how to age well, and not give up.

And we are an older congregation, today,

but I believe that we will become a younger one as we continue to be the Church…

“the Called Out Who Belong to the Lord!”

We must become WELCOMERS!

The Word to the Church 2000 years ago, is the same today.

And we are to be alert and watchful.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:42

Sometimes people remain alert and keep watch by trying to determine the time of Jesus’ return….

…And they have made fools of themselves as false prophets.

Let’s understand alertness like a soldier on guard duty…

he cannot be caught sleeping on the job.

Let us be people who remain at attention.

God has brought us into John chapter 4, literally, as a church-body, we live in John 4 right now, and we need to look to the Lord in order to move forward.

In John 4, there is the well-known story of Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman at a well.

Let me briefly recap the story:

Jesus and his disciples were traveling on foot from Jerusalem to Lakeside (well, Galilee was beside a lake, right J )…

Instead of traveling around Samaria, as was the custom for generations, they traveled through it.

One day, at noon, Jesus stopped by a well near the town of Sychar.

While he waited there, his disciples went into town to get food.

In the interim, a Samaritan woman approached the well.

Possibly she and the disciples had passed one another.

While it was not typical for Jews to pass through Samaria, it was, also, not typical for women to gather water in the middle of the day.

Women usually did this early in the day, and they would talk and share the news of the day with each other.

This woman was coming at noon.

We know from the story that she had been married five times and was now living with a man outside of marriage.

That is probably why she came midday …to avoid the gossipers.

She was probably surprised to see Jesus by the well.

Jesus spoke to her, and throughout the conversation, He began to breakdown

  • tradition,
  • racial division,
  • he gave honor to her as a woman,
  • she felt the conviction of God in her life, and
  • he revealed to her that He was the Messiah.

This was such a life-changing event for her, that she went to the town,

to the people who had judged her,

and invited them to meet Jesus, too.

O…that we, too, would invite people to meet Jesus!

Now I want to read the Scriptures that follow:

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

John 4:39-42

Pray

  1. UNBELIEVABLE

For many people, it is UNBELIEVABLE to break from tradition.

It is UNBELIEVABLE to go against their own ideas.

It is UNBELIEVABLE that another idea could be correct.

It is UNBELIEVABLE that people with hardened hatred toward others would be able to get along.

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to act like we were fighting against the Germans, as though it were still WWII.

Today, we have Germans as friends, and even Vietnamese.

I remember when Clover and I first met Vietnamese refugees, and we spent hours and hours with them, week after week, helping and befriending them.

It’s hard to believe that Vietnamese were once our enemies.

I was surprised to learn that the huge movement of Christianity in South Korea came as a result of so many North Korean Christian refugees fleeing the Communist regime.

When Jesus was in Samaria in John 4, he broke with many

  • social,
  • cultural and
  • historic traditions.

When his critics heard this, they thought it WAS UNBELIEVABLE!

Jesus was indeed a REVOLUTIONARY!:

SOCIAL REVOLUTION: Men Honoring Women

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would talk with a woman, anyway.

The woman who came to the well,

-probably didn’t expect Jesus to talk to her because he was a man,

-and if he did talk with her,

then it would have been an immoral conversation…

and yet, Jesus spoke to her…

He STILL speaks to women.

Today it is NOT UNBELIEVABLE to know that Jesus speaks to women.

Praise God that Jesus reached out to women at that time.

Where would we be if it weren’t for Jesus?

Probably, still living in the Dark Ages.

In Jesus’ day, women were not educated.

In our own history, women used to not be allowed to vote.

Change, Is Good.

CULTURAL REVOLUTION: A Jew speaking with a non-Jew, and especially the worst of the non-Jews…a Samaritan

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would ask her for a drink, since Samaritans and Jews did not share the same dishes, and yet,

He did….he does life with people from all over the world.

There was a time, not long ago, when there were “Colored” restrooms and water fountains.

There were sections of restaurants only for Whites, and sections of the bus, too.

And prior to that, was an even more demonic and horrible time in our history when we enslaved humans to work for us.

I am so thankful for Change…aren’t you?

SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION: Jesus offered a non-Jewish, non-male person eternal life

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would offer the woman living water, when he didn’t even have a bucket…and yet, that is what he did…and still does.

We are His bucket…we are his instrument

I am so glad that Jesus did not follow tradition, but was a revolutionary.

SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION (2): Jesus knew this woman’s life.

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would know the personal, nitty-gritty background of this woman whom he had never met,

and yet, he did

and he still does, even today.

This woman probably didn’t expect to meet a prophet, but when she did meet a Jewish prophet,

…it was UNBELIEVABLE that He would not answer the favorite theological question between Jews and Samaritans in typical Jewish fashion….

and his answer was so different.

The Jews and Samaritans argued about where one should worship God…either on a mountain called Gerazim or in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus taught her that the nature of worship is not a place, but it is SPIRIT and TRUTH.

RELIGIOUS REVOLUTION: Religious traditions are useful to draw people to God, not to block people

It was UNBELIEVABLE that true worship would

  • not be nationalistic,
  • nor bound to a location,
  • but in hearts and spirits of people.

He said of the nature of worship, that the true worshipper must do so in spirit and in truth.

True worship doesn’t happen

  • in a particular place, or
  • language or
  • style,
  • but is spiritual and full of truth.

It would have been UNBELIEVABLE for the woman to awaken that day and think,

“today, I’m going to meet the Messiah,”

but that is what happened.

So much was UNBELIEVABLE about this story, and yet, the story is about belief—Faith.

It’s about faith!

  1. BELIEVABLE

What is BELIEVABLE is that this whole story is the story of faith! Belief.

And we are called to believe.

We are called to follow!

We are called to minister with Jesus.

He does not call us to serve as we want, but as He wants.

Human nature compartmentalizes our faith, and designates that we are able to tolerate certain things, but not others.

This Samaritan woman began to believe.

She had a change in her Faith.

It was not just an expression of belief in something, but it was a change of lifestyle.

Jesus described in John 3 as being “Born Again.”

This village changed because Jesus came there.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that the disciples would have hindered his work, so he sent them away.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that the disciples would not have wanted him to talk to an unknown woman

(he might then expect them to talk with unknown women…btw, while this sermon was on my mind, I was sitting in a waiting room and began to talk with the “unknown woman” who was sitting next to me, and was able to encourage her in her belief in Jesus).

It is BELIEVABLE that His disciples would not have wanted him to drink from a foreigner’s cup.

I, too, don’t like to drink from anyone else’s cup. I know some people have no problem with that. When we moved to Kazakhstan, I was surprised at how people used to stick their spoons into the jam jar, lick them, and put them back into the jar, again.

It is BELIEVABLE to have thought that Jesus was crazy to offer water when His bucket wasn’t visible.

His disciples might have thought it UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would offer water to the woman, when they knew he had no physical water to offer.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that His disciples might have picked up stones, or judged the woman if they knew of her immoral lifestyle.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that His disciples were not focused upon reaching the lost, as much as they were focused on taking care of their own needs;

getting out of Samaria;

getting home to Galilee.

It is BELIEVABLE that even when they were focused upon the lost, they were not willing to reach out to the Samaritans.

There was too much bad press about these Samaritans.

They could not be trusted.

They didn’t follow all of Scripture.

They were ethnically a different race…a mixed race.

They had such a bad history with the Jews, as every religion of the Middle East had been practiced there (though, every religion of Canaan had been practiced by Jews in Israel, previously, TOO).

Jesus was willing, and later, told His Disciples (and us, too) that the Gospel would be preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Samaria was smack in the middle of Israel.

Just as smack in the middle of our changing community, we have a varied group of people.

God said we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

This included the Samaritans.

This includes the young and the old, it includes Democrats and Republicans, it includes Buddhists and Hindus. It includes even the Muslims.

This does not mean that by welcoming these people we are changing our belief in Jesus for our salvation.

The Gospel has not changed.

In fact, there are people who have become disgusted with the Church because we have excluded people, and not welcomed them.

I am not wanting to win any popularity contests, but I want to please God and be obedient to Him.

I will not change my theology, I will not water down the Gospel.

Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven, and these nations moving to our community Must hear this Good News!

But if we ignore the community around us, then we do it to our shame and detriment.

Our children and our neighbors will pay the price when we are gone.

Our children and our neighbors need to see us practicing the Word of God.

Many Christians want REVIVAL, well, we need that revival to begin in our hearts and churches.

Why do we want revival?

Is it for us?

For us, alone?

Or is it for those who don’t know Jesus?

My friends in Kazakhstan are facing a court case because they are sharing Bibles throughout the country.

Are we willing to get uncomfortable, like our brothers and sisters who are serving in other lands?

The disciples would not have wanted to discuss this woman’s personal life and love life, and yet, Jesus did.

I share this, today, because I am extending God’s grace to us all….let’s not think of ourselves, but let’s think of others, and reach out to others.

Let us be a church of Contributors and Not a church of consumers.

  1. From Unbelief to Belief

The progression from unbelief to belief is inspiring and incredible.

I look forward to seeing people fill these altars for prayer,

and I look forward to hearing stories of people praying to receive Jesus in homes

and in the fellowship hall…

in parks and in office lunch rooms,

at J. Sargent Reynolds and at Virginia Center Commons.

I look forward to seeing people baptized in the pool behind me.

In the story, I told you about how the woman came to faith in Jesus, but the Scripture we read showed how the people came to faith.

Let’s read it, again:

41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

John 4:41, 42

Because of Jesus’ Words.

Because of Jesus’ Words, you and I believe, today.

Because of Jesus’ Words, we gather here, today.

And He wants us to take His Words to the community, praying in faith, and seeing people restored, healed, delivered and received into God’s family.

God calls us to follow Jesus, to believe His Word, and to continue to learn.

We are to keep watch, like a soldier at his post…let’s not let our commander in chief find us asleep.

You may think I am being idealistic, and yes, I have much still to learn as a follower of Jesus, but it IS BELIEVABLE.

Our salvation is BELIEVABLE, too.

In fact, it is not attainable via laws, actions or ethnicity.

Our salvation is received through belief.

Belief in the work of the Son of God

And we need to see salvation preached, and people reached.

Our church should be full of people. Many have told me that they have even had visions from God that our church building would be full of people.

But, as I said at the beginning, we, as a church, are in John chapter 4.

We are either going to welcome the Samaritans and ADVANCE,

or we are not going to advance in the training that Jesus is leading us in.

I see the history of this church, and the position of this BUILDING—physically in this community, and I believe that the future of this congregation is sound.  I believe that the future of this church is beautiful.

If you are interested in making History, then participate with us.

All churches will be actively reaching out to Internationals in the future, but we are desiring this now.

Our English Club is needed. We are the only church in Northside that is offering this. We are already making history, and God is at work.

Remember “History” is “His Story.” I’m so excited to be part of God’s Story on earth. It is our privilege.

This is BELIEVABLE, and it is exciting to recognize the believability.

Let’s pray.

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Mothers on Purpose

Jesus and His Mother

We have been focusing upon the idea of “Living on Purpose,” and that means that we want to live according to the

  • purposes of God;
  • His plan;
  • His desires.

We learn this through various teaching forms in Scripture, such as:

  • stories;
  • law;
  • parables;
  • proverbs; etc.

Of all of the Ten Commandments,

one is dedicated to children and parents,

[although, you could almost say that all 10 relate to God being our parent]

We are to obey our Father and Mother.

This command

is not like the teaching that forbids eating cheese with meat or pickled pig’s feet,

but it IS a teaching that is continued throughout the New Testament, like those against

  • stealing,
  • killing,
  • coveting,
  • adultery,
  • lying, etc.,

are continued in the New Testament.

There are 2 billion Christians in the world, and there are many who believe much more about Mary than the Bible teaches.

Their teaching is based upon traditions and teachings that came after the Bible.

My commitment to you, at River of Life, is to teach the Scripture, and not anything else.

Jesus’ mother’s name was Myriam, like Moses’ sister, and we say “Mary” in English.

Jesus had an interesting relationship with His mother, and it related to the fact that He, too, lived on purpose.

The Bible offers quite a lot of interaction between Mary and Jesus, much more than we might expect.

The Gospels and Acts share history and biography, but they are not written as History, per se, but are a unique type of literature.

These books, and the other books of the New Testament, are all written as an announcement to the world of who Jesus really is.

Therefore, everything in the New Testament is included by design to help us understand who Jesus is, and the validity of His message.

Therefore, Jesus’ interaction with his mother is very helpful for us to understand more about Jesus.

Even when Mary is not named, she was most likely a witness to several events in Scripture, and especially the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus’ mother was one of at least 500 saw the resurrected Jesus.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about Mary:

  • As a virgin, she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit
  • Engaged to Joseph a carpenter
  • Gave birth in a difficult time
  • Was a refugee (fled with her family to Egypt because an angel’s warning)
  • Lost Jesus, aged 12, in Jerusalem
  • Encouraged Jesus’ first miracle
  • Was at the cross
  • Was placed into the Apostle John’s care from the cross
  • Was with the early church in Acts 1

What I want to talk about today, is the relationship that Mary with her son, and how that relates to us, regardless of whether or not we are mothers.

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

… …

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:20-22; 31-35

The title of my message, today, is

“Mothers on Purpose”

Let’s pray

PRAY

  1. Good Intentions and Misunderstandings

Good intentions and misunderstandings…

no, that is not the title of my upcoming autobiography, J

but that is what I see as the best way to understand the story we have just read.

Jesus’ mother and brothers had good intentions, but they misunderstood.

We have often heard that…

“Mother knows best.”

…right?

Well, anyone who has ever had a mother, and that is…everyone here,

knows that this is not always correct.

The saying, “Mother knows best,” has nothing to do with academics, but with life.

It is not about current world events, but about the needs and conditions of her babies…

and no matter how old children grow, they are still their mamma’s baby, right?

Moms have good intentions, so do sisters and brothers. They may seem like GOOD intentions, but CHILDREN don’t always want the attention.

Mary had the best of intentions to take care of Jesus, and yet, she lost him when he was 12 years old.

Many parents have lost their children for a few minutes, but this was for a few days.

Given the dangers of today that are around us (traffic; sharp corners; predators—both human and animal) it is scary to misplace our children.

IILUSTRATION

My son, Colin, currently lives and serves in Fairbanks, Alaska.

I recall when we misplaced Colin when he was only 5 years old.

We were walking through Maymont Park with another family, and honestly, I was more concerned about the other family.

I thought their kids might get hurt, as they were running all over the place.

The ladies were behind us, and we men in front, and when I didn’t see Colin, I thought he was with Clover.

Clover thought he was with me.

When we realized we had lost him, we sprang into action.

I went one way, Clover the other, and as I asked people if they had seen a child matching his description, eventually, someone told me that a woman was taking a child to the guard house.

I was so relieved when I was reunited with my son.

Losing a child is tough

During the story we read, today, Mary thought she had lost Jesus, again, and so she sprang into action

She was incorrect, however, as were many others.

Mark puts her actions and thoughts into the same light as that of the Teachers of the Law who said Jesus was demon possessed.

They, obviously, had not studied the law as well as they should have, but Mary thought Jesus was “out of his mind.”

It was typical for the religious leaders to criticize Jesus, because of their jealousy, and they judged His lack of a theology degree.

But for the mother to think he was crazy, that carried more weight.

Moms help sons to regain some clarity.

ILLUSTRATION

In 2014, I began to experience sharp nerve pain in my forehead.

We were serving in Turkey at that time. I told my mother by phone about the pain, and she wanted to know “WHY” I had it.

I answered that the doctor said this could be caused by stress. So, my mother sent me some money and said,

“go and get some massages.

I went to a place and found a Filipino Pastor who also was a masseuse. So, we would have discussions of faith while he worked the stress out of my body.

That was the way my mother was concerned for me.

Mary was concerned for Jesus. So, she bought a plane ticket and flew to Him

J

Well she didn’t actually do that, but she gathered her children together.

She couldn’t safely travel alone.

The children had to put their plans on hold in order to help their mother and help Jesus.

She had lost him, once, and didn’t want to lose him, again.

On the day that Jesus was dedicated to the Lord, an old man named Simeon prophesied that Jesus was the Christ, and yet, that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul…

Mary, and Jesus’ brothers had good intentions, though they misunderstood.

Moms and children have an odd relationship

Ernie Campe read on Wednesday, the following:

At 6 years old, “Mommy, I love you.”

At 10, “Mom,…whatever”

At 16, “My mom is sooooo annoying.”

At 18, “I wanna leave this house.”

At 25, “Mom, you were right.”

At 30, “I wanna go to mom’s house.”

At 50, “I don’t wanna to lose my mom.”

At 70, “I would give up anything for my mom to be here with me.”

As we see, even wonderful people like Mary and Jesus’ brothers were capable of good intentions and misunderstandings.

So, we need to be people of intention and understanding.

  1. Intention and Understanding
  • Mary had been visited by an angel
  • She had become pregnant as a virgin
  • She had raised Jesus and knew something of his power (thus, she went to him when the wine ran out at a wedding)
  • And, yet, she thought Jesus was out of his mind.

Why do people, TODAY, think Jesus is wrong or not enough?

  • Logic—their understanding of logic doesn’t allow them to believe
  • Convenience—sometimes it is better to not believe
  • Tradition—if we are expecting something, and it doesn’t fit the “How,” then we look elsewhere

Yet, a transformation had to occur for Mary.

She somehow became part of the faithful…a believer…a follower of Jesus.

Mary didn’t want to lose her son.

On a third occasion, she realized that a sword would pierce her heart as she saw Jesus hanging on a cross.

Did she understand?

How much did she realize?

Yet, she, later, is found among the faithful

Somehow, she had understanding

This third time for her to lose her son brought more understanding, I think.

Since Jesus was so popular, it was inevitable that he would be crucified as a revolutionary. Perhaps, that is what was meant when Mary thought Jesus was crazy.

Did she know that He was going to the cross?

I don’t know. But I do know that she was there.

It took so much energy for Jesus to push himself up in order to speak, because his lungs were filling up with water as he hung there.

Seven statements of Jesus were recorded from the cross, and Mary would have heard them:

  1. I am thirsty
  2. Father, Forgive
  3. You will be with me in Paradise
  4. My God, my God, why have You forsaken me ….and
  5. It Is Finished…these were most likely the first verse and last words of Psalm 22
  6. Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit
  7. “Woman,[b]here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

John 19:25-27

Jesus may have been saying two things when he addressed his mother:

  • Mom, John is NOW your son, and will take care of you

BUT, ALSO

  • Mother, look at me, your son, now

She had given birth to him, and tried to protect him, yet, here she was witnessing his greatest moment of ministry.

He not only was taking care of his mother, but he was trying to minister to her, as well.

While He carried our sin as our sacrifice.

I have a feeling that Mary became an intentional follower of Jesus prior to his crucifixion,

but once she saw how he behaved on the cross,

she must have had no doubt that she was following more than her own son,

but following the Son of God.

Jesus was intentional,…ESPECIALLY on the cross.

She became intentional, too.

She had become His disciple.

When I speak with Muslims, sometimes they try to convince me of Islam according to logic, but I often say,

“If you could see Jesus the way that I see Him, then they would understand and follow Him as Lord and Savior, too.”

How did Mary see Jesus on the cross?

I think she understood that He is our Lord and Savior.

  1. Our Response

Look what does Jesus say about living on purpose in this passage:

Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:35

As we do God’s will, we find purpose.

It is God’s will that we believe in the love and sacrifice of Jesus, and in believing, we become His brother, sister and mother.

Let’s be Mothers on Purpose, and dads, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters on purpose, too.

ILLUSTRATION

A few years ago, I was flying somewhere, J and sitting beside me was a small Egyptian man.

He was a Christian, called a “Coptic” Christian.

He has lived in the US for several decades, and when I met him, he was retired.

His parents had recently died, and he was going to Egypt to encourage his fellow Egyptian Christians, and to share his faith with Muslims.

He knew that this might be his last trip.

We prayed, together, and I have prayed for this man, at other times, too, but we’ve not been able to keep in touch.

I gave him my email address, but he did not write.

He was living on purpose. All of his life, he was a good citizen of the US, living on purpose for the Lord.

At that moment, he was on special assignment from the Lord to encourage and evangelize.

Last month in Egypt there were two church-bombings in which about 45 people were killed, and 126 were wounded.

I don’t know if the man traveling with me was among the casualties, but I thought of him

Egyptian nation-wide TV interviewed a woman who lost her husband in the bombings. I want you to see this interview.

Even though they speak in Arabic, there are English subtitles.

Egyptian Christians are made of steel.

This is a Muslim man saying this about Christians after a Christian woman was interviewed.

Let’s let the world know who we really are.

If we are Not People of Steel, then we need a touch from Jesus, today.

Let’s be people of Steel.

Let’s be people who live on purpose.

Let’s be people who learn God’s Will, together.

Let’s be people who follow God’s Will together.

RESPONSE

 

Song—See His Love

 

 

 

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Led on Purpose

Led on Purpose

INTERPRETATION

Biblical Interpretation

I want to look at a well-loved passage of Scripture, today. It is very well-known, and very popular.

I am not sharing anything novel, today, but I love the wonderful the truth of this psalm.

Before going to seminary, I thought Psalm 23 was only about the theme of our Lord being our Shepherd, but once I was in seminary, I learned that there is another metaphor in the psalm.

While this understanding was new to me, and it helped me to understand the psalm, in reality, I still understood the psalm’s purpose and meaning before spending scholarship funds on my classes J

The second metaphor is that of a Host, and in the final two verses, we see terms like “table,” “cup” and “house,” which would support this interpretation.

Since seminary, I’ve read other interpretations, one in fact disproves that “host” altogether, and continues the understanding of the Lord being our Shepherd throughout all six verses.

Interpretation is important, and needs to lead us to understanding what God is saying.

Live Consecutive-Interpretation

I have lots of experience preaching with interpreters, in fact, I still, sometimes, think I need to pause, while preaching to give room to the interpreter J

While we served in Kazakhstan, I preached, gave speeches and taught classes in the Russian language, and yet, I still preferred to have interpreters.

I felt that with the interpreter, I was able to communicate even better.

I found that having more than one interpreter was a good thing.

As well, when studying the Scriptures, I find that using different translations is also helpful at understanding depth to God’s Word.

When I would preach in Kazakhstan, as I learned Russian, I had to have good interpreters, otherwise, I would be distracted by their mistakes.

Overall, even when we had weak interpreters, the audience understood what was being taught, most of the time.

And if not, then they would interrupt and ask appropriate questions.

ILLUSTRATION:

There were a few funny situations that happened with interpreters:

SASHA

I had one interpreter who would listen to me, and then put his finger to his mouth and say, “soooooo….” And then would interpret.

RUSLAN

Another used to reword what I said, and would preface it by saying, “In short, he said, ‘blah, blah, blah.’”

SAULE

There was one interpreter who worked with me for many years.

She was rather robotic, and wouldn’t always listen to what I was saying, but was able to automatically interpret. This, at times, though was funny.

On one occasion, I mentioned that a group of Kurds (that is, “Kurdish” people) had put their faith in Jesus, and were now Christian. My interpreter translated “Cheese curds” rather than “Kurds” and said that 50 cheese curds were saved.

People interrupted with, “excuse me, but what did you say?”

It gave us a good laugh.

Over all, people, hopefully, remember that God’s Word was preached, even if all they can recall after all of these years is the mistranslated remark.

INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE

Sometimes we may find that even if someone interprets Scripture a little differently than we, it might actually not be so bad.

Thus, two different interpretations of Psalm 23, is not a crisis for my faith.

In fact, when we approach the Scriptures, we need to do so from Faith.

The Bible, for example, does not prove God’s existence, but assumes it.

So, as we look at psalm 23, today, let’s notice the  description of our Lord.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

The title of my message today is “Led on Purpose.” Let’s pray.

Led on Purpose

PRAY

  1. Who Is Leading Us?

In leadership seminars, we are told that

“if you think you are leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.”

I found this motivational poster online. It says that this is an Afghan proverb, but it was attributed to many different sources.

And, I’m not sure why they use a penguin to illustrate something Afghani, but it is cute.

But, when no one is following the leader, that’s NOT cute.

And the converse is also true:

If you say you’re being led, but not acting like your leader, then you’re just taking a walk.

I think it is sad that many of us who call ourselves Christians find ourselves

  • merely taking a walk,
  • rather than walking with Jesus.

TRANSFORMATION vs LACK-OF-FORMATION

One of the greatest accomplishments that Jesus completes in the lives of ordinary people is the evidence of a transformed life.

Over the past 43 years as a believer in Jesus, I’ve seen many people transformed.

There have been times when I’ve seen evidence of transformation in my own life, too, Thank God!

Yet, one of the greatest obstacles to people finding New Life through Jesus is the many non-transformed people who call themselves Christian. They are those who are in LACK-OF-FORMATION… NON-TRANSFORMED

If we are honest, we recognize that there is evidence of LACK-OF-FORMATION in our own lives, too.

The Lord is my shepherd.

Is that true?

If Jesus, indeed, IS our Shepherd, then we will be moving toward transformation, rather than LACK-OF-FORMATION.

One of the most common times to hear the 23rd Psalm is a funeral.

It’s a comforting Scripture that may or may not have described the deceased.

Those in the audience are touched for that moment, but for the deceased, it is too late.

We need to see who the Lord is, and who We are in relation to Him.

Are we transformed?

Is He really our Shepherd? Our Host? Or the Head of our Household?

Let’s open the door for more transformation in our lives…

each of us in this room.

Let us pray and model this for our families, neighborhoods and city.

Thus, according to the two interpretations of Psalm 23, [the Lord is my Shepherd, and He is my Host.]

What does that make you and me?

We are the Lord’s Sheep and His Guest and His Family.

That is, if we are being led by the Lord…if we are being…

Led on Purpose

Who is leading us?

Are we leading ourselves?

Are circumstances leading us?

Are we being led by our personal desires?

OR Are we dying to self so that we can be led by our Shepherd? By Our Lord? By our Host?

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.      

As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34, 35

[what is fascinating is that just after Jesus said this, he predicted Peter’s denial of him]

Are we loving one another, which Jesus said was a sign that people would know whose disciples we really are?

If we are, then we are being

Led on Purpose

So, the question has been “Who Is Leading Us?”

Most of us in this room represent the older generations.

Yet, Generation-X and the Millennials aren’t well represented.

We want our church to reach out to these generations, and I want us, individually, to see how we can help those aged 20-50 (roughly–depending on how we look at these generations).

We need to consider, who in this age group is, already, following us?

  • Co-workers
  • Employees
  • Neighbors
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Facebook Friends

And then we need to be praying for opportunities to share with them how the Lord is leading us.

TRULY, we are ALL leaders of people,

BUT the question is,

are we good leaders of people?

We may ALL be followers of Jesus, but the question is,

are we good followers of Jesus?

So, let’s Look at another question:

  1. How Is He Leading Us?

This is an important question, because it is in the “how” that we recognize our real needs.

In Psalm 23 we see that the Lord leads us in the following ways:

How the Lord Leads in Psalm 23

  1. Provisions
  2. Discipline
  3. Guidance
  4. Protection
  5. Belonging

There are many sermons that can be preached

  • about how the Lord is our provider, and I can share about that at another time.
  • about how the Lord disciplines us.
  • And how He guides us
  • and protects us.

But the final point is that of BELONGING.

How does the Lord Lead us?

By leading us into a family.

We are welcomed into His Fold/His Flock,

and He shows us that He is our Shepherd,

our Host

and even the Head of the Household.

If we are being Led on Purpose, then

WE ARE BEING LED TO BELONG

Led on Purpose—Led to Belong

Who is leading us?

And How is He Leading us?

He is leading us into BELONGING.

You see, because He is our Shepherd, I have everything I need.

I’ve seen God provide miraculously.

Let me give you an example:

ILLUSTRATION

I recall once in Seminary when we did not have enough money for bills, and I didn’t know what to do.

But we prayed.

The funny thing is, that just before we began to pray, the mail man had delivered a letter with a check in it from a friend.

That check was all we needed at that point.

So, while we were praying, the need was already met.

In fact, the check had been written several days, prior, before we had that need.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Psalm 23:1

He knows what I need before I pray for it, even before I need it.

It is because we belong…we belong to Him,

We belong to Each Other!

Some people, erroneously judge other Christians for not having what they need.

People told me, once,

“If you have a need, that means that you are not seeking God, first,”

and I felt under judgment for that.

Someone said,

“The Scripture teaches, that the RIGHTEOUS ARE NOT FORSAKEN.”

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.

Psalm 37:25

“Therefore, if you are a Christian,”

PEOPLE SAID TO ME,

“and in need, then you must be unrighteous.”

I think that this kind of INTERPRETAION and TEACHING comes from the Prosperity Teachers and not from the Whole Counsel of Scripture.

And, yes, we need to die to self, and we need to seek His Kingdom

and Righteousness, first and daily,

but there are people who are unrighteous, and they have an abundance of provision.

Are we

Led on Purpose

Are we

Led on Purpose—Led to Belong

We are.

Or we should be.

The 23rd psalm states that I have all that I need, I am led in the right paths,

and that I will live in the Lord’s house, forever (including now).

And yet the same writer also said,

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.

Psalm 37:25

I talked a bit about interpretation.

One of the most important points about interpreting a story, is to understand the back story.

And to understand and interpret the Bible, we need to understand the context.

Sometimes we mean the historical context,

but simply, it can just be the literary context…

in other words, what verses are included with Psalm 37:25?

When we look at the next verse, we see the righteous described, again, not just as being taken care of, but as people who are generous.

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.

Psalm 37:25, 26

So, when we see people in need, let’s not consider their RIGHTEOUSNESS,

BUT, LET’S CONSIDER OURS.

Have we done the righteous thing, and reached out to those who are hurting?

Remember…

If you SAY you’re being led, but not acting like your leader, then you are just taking a walk.

So, when we read Psalm 23 and see that because the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing, it means that the Lord is leading us to help others, too.

He is Leading us to help people with ….

How the Lord Leads in Psalm 23

  1. Provisions
  2. Discipline
  3. Guidance
  4. Protection
  5. Belonging

When we are being led by the Shepherd,

we hear His voice,

and our hearts change.

Our desires change from what our will wants to what His will IS.

If we are being Led on Purpose, then we are not only belonging, but we are helping others to belong, too.

I am so glad that we are friendly to everyone who enters this church,

whether they are a drug-addict or alcoholic (former and current),

or a previously incarcerated person,

whether they ride a motorcycle, pickup truck or SUV, we are welcoming people to belong.

Whether they vote Republican or Democrat,

and whether they were born in the USA or in another country.

We who are being led to belong, MUST DO THE RIGHT THING, encourage others to be led BY THE SHEPHERD into belonging, too.

That is how I am interpreting Scripture.

How can I learn to belong to the family of God?

How can I invite more people into His family?

How can I spend time seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness? 

ILLUSTRATION-CONTINUED

I told you about the interpretation mistakes earlier because I was having fun, but I want to tell you that once I was teaching for two days to a group of Gypsy Bible students in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

I had no interpreter. I didn’t realize that there would be no interpreter, so I was less prepared that I would have wanted to be.

I talked about Psalm 23 and when I was finished, this group of 25-30 Gypsy men gathered around me to pray. I prayed for them and they for me. It was a beautiful time.

As I was closing, in prayer, I said,

“thank you God for being our Shepherd, and for letting us be your sheep.”

At least that is what I thought I had said. Some of those men began to chuckle, and then one prompted me with a different word for “sheep” than I had used.

 After prayer I asked,

 “what did I say?”

 I realized I had said,

 “You are our Shepherd and we are your mutton.”

Sometimes we feel like mutton rather than cute, cuddly sheep.

God calls us to be

Faithful

Available

Teachable

And in addition to that, I believe that God is calling us to be Fit:

Fearless

Intentional

Trained (or in Training)

Because the Lord is My Shepherd, I can be…

  • Faithful
  • Available
  • Teachable

Because I am being Led on Purpose, I can be…

  • Fearless
  • Intentional
  • And Trained/In Training

And in this way, we will welcome people into a BELONGING relationship with God and with His Church.

Let’s pray

RESPONSE

 

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Living on Purpose for God’s Purposes

We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We are commissioned by Jesus to teach everyone all that He has commanded.

So, how can we do this?

We need to be a church of contributors and not consumers.

At the same time, we know that we need to reach out to people, and provide what they need, more than what they want.

For example, if we had 20 kids in our children’s program, then we would attract other young families with kids, ….but we don’t have 20 kids, yet, and until we do, then we need to be praying and restructuring WE NEED TO BE CONTRIBUTORS, RATHER THAN CONSUMERS. WE NEED TO THINK, HOW CAN RIVER OF LIFE WELCOME MORE PEOPLE INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD….so that we will reach out to this community.

The capacity of our sanctuary is about 130, comfortably. But we could probably squeeze in about 175 or even more.

As a congregation grows, we must be thinking of how we can facilitate and keep that growth.

FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN THE SANCUARY FILLS TO ABOUT 80%, then we need to begin a second worship service.

You may be wondering, “why am I talking about this during a sermon?” and I’ll tell you, as I’ve been saying for the past many months,

“God placed our church in this building to reach this community.”

Thus, we need to assess, HOW CAN WE REACH this community with greater success?

Is this due to people’s talents?

Well, talents are good, and we need to use our talents, but it is not dependent upon talent. It is dependent upon the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.

Today, we were supposed to have a missionary whom we’ve been supporting, Mark Cannon, share, but his father passed away, and he is helping his widowed mother, right now.

I was excited about having Mark come, and I also wanted him to share a seminar afterward about reaching out to Muslims.

But this will come later, Lord willing.

So, I wasn’t originally planning to preach today, but I believe it is so important that I share.

God gave me this word for us for today, and I believe it more strongly now than ever.

We must be people who are going to do the effort to reach out to the community.

To reach those who do not believe in Jesus and those who may believe but are not disciples of Him.

We call the unbelievers, “lost,” and that is true, in fact, that is a biblical term, but the term can cause some to misunderstand.

For my message, the Lord led me to a story in the Bible about a man who was prepared to receive the gospel, but no one thought this.

NO ONE REALIZED THAT THIS MAN WAS RIPE FOR THE HARVEST.

No one anticipated this, except Jesus.

This man was wealthy, and in Jesus’ day, wealth was a sign or the blessing of God (still, today, we consider wealth to be such a sign, and yet, wealth is a snare that causes many to turn away from God).

This man was wealthy because he was a bad man. In fact, he was part of a pyramid BUSINESS scheme, if you will, in which he made money off of the other bad businessmen around him.

He overcharged people, and expected his people under him to also overcharge.

Politically, he was not on the side of the majority of the suffering masses, but was on the side of Herod and on the side of the foreign country that was occupying Israel at that time.

He WOULD THEREFORE HAVE BEEN considered to be a traitor.

When people looked at this man, they probably despised him in their hearts.

This man was judged by the community.

Some people are judged because they’ve served time in prison.

Others are judged because of their addictions.

And others are judged because of their sexual sins.

People are judged due to their education, or they job, or their neighborhood.

THE LIST GOES ON AND ON OF HOW PEOPLE ARE JUDGED.

AND YET, AMONG THE JUDGED, THERE IS RIPE FRUIT.

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR PREJUDICES…

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS…

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR BLINDNESS…

IN ORDER TO FIND THE ONES WHO ARE READY FOR THE GOSPEL.

JUDGING is dangerous, because it causes us to erect a wall between them and the truth of God’s Joyful News through Jesus.

And while we believe

  • crime needs to be punished,
  • and people need to live holy lives in marriage relationships as a man and a woman;
  • and we don’t want people to be enslaved to chemicals and objects,

what we want is that people would find a new life through Jesus.

JESUS WAS THE FRIEND OF SINNERS, AND THEREFOR, HE REACHED MANY

For today’s Scripture reading, let’s look at Luke 19:1-9.

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-9

PRAY

  1. Jesus’ Mission Directed Jesus’ Action

Why did Jesus do what he did?

Just recently we celebrated his death and resurrection…HE DID THAT FOR US.

His disciples did not want him to be crucified, but it was the plan of God, that had been even foretold in Scripture.

On this occasion, Jesus chose the person that no one would have expected him to choose, in fact, Zacchaeus was probably surprised.

  1. Jesus bothered people

Religious People: He did not do what the religious people wanted, because they wanted Jesus to acknowledge them and to be subject to them…

Jesus would not do that, not just because He is God in the flesh,

but because subjecting himself to those who did not follow God’s Purposes would have kept him from fulfilling God’s plan in His life.

THE SAME THING CAN HAPPEN TO US…

LET US SUBJECT OURSELVES TO THE HOLY WORD OF GOD…

Political People: The followers of Herod, the Herodians, did not like Jesus because his very presence threatened their favored political position.

As well, the Sadducees and Pharisees were not just Religious leaders, but political.

And the Zealots, or the “freedom-fighters (which may have included Judas Iscariot),” wanted Jesus to overthrow the Romans.

Jesus was NOT politically correct, thus, not welcomed BY THE POLICAL COMMUNITY.

The Masses: They wanted to make JESUS king, by force; and yet, in his hometown, they were offended by him.

On the occasion of Jesus’ entry into Jericho, Jesus chose the one person that no one else would have chosen for him to stay with, nor would they have chosen ZACCHAEUS for themselves.

He went to the home of a sinner.

Why was this?

  1. Jesus pleased His Heavenly Father

He didn’t go to the most talented

He didn’t go to the most anointed

He didn’t go to the home of a synagogue leader

He didn’t go to the home of a political leader

He didn’t even go to the home of the godly grandmother

He went to the home of a sinner.

Jesus said,

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:9

Jesus knew His mission, and He made decisions according to that.

We need to know our mission, too.

And we need to live according to it.

We are living on purpose. And our purpose is to welcome our community into a relationship with God.

And while this will please God, it also means that some people will mutter and complain.

If we could go back in time and consider this story when it occurred, let’s consider those who complained and muttered.

We can chuckle at them and think,

“well, I for sure would have never complained like them.”

How do we know?

Are we complainers, now?

And what happened to those complainers?

Were they, perhaps, in the crowd shouting “Crucify Him!” just a short time, later.

[PAUSE]

When we complain to other people, rather than directly to the person with whom we have the complaint, then we are sinning.

Sin leads to death.

COMPLAINING CAN BE A FORM OF JUDGMENT…SO NOT ONLY WERE PEOPLE JUDGING ZACHAEUS, BUT JUDGING JESUS, TOO.

WHEN WE COMPLAIN TO OTHERS ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE, WE ARE ERECTING A JAIL CELL IN OUR HEARTS

IN WHICH WE THINK WE ARE INCARCERATING THE ONE WHOM WE ARE JUDGING,

AND YET, WE WILL FIND OURSELVES LOCKED AWAY.

As long as that offence is kept alive, that is, unreconciled and unforgiven, we envision that person in a little jail.

And yet, in truth, we are living in that jail.

And in truth, gossiping and complaining will lead to our demise,

and we will become that person who no one really wants to be around.

And by our actions of complaining and gossip,

we are shouting to the community, “Crucify Him/Her!”

while we need to be Loving and supporting each other.

  1. Who Are We Pleasing?

Are we complainers and mutterers?

Are we

  • participants in God’s Mission or
  • are we focusing on our OWN mission?

God’s mission has NOT changed since the beginning of Time and especially since Jesus gave us the Great Commission.

But, we find ourselves holding on to things because of various reasons:

  • Tradition
  • Ego
  • Short-sightedness
  • Selfishness

God calls us to serve Him. His mission hasn’t changed, but methods can and must.

We don’t read the Bible in the original language,

but if we did we would see that Paul’s earliest writings are different from his latest writings.

It was the influence of the places where he traveled and served.

Early in his ministry, Paul spent his time East of Rome, but later, he spent time in Rome and West of Rome.

What kind of difference would that have had on his ministry METHODS?

  • Roman imprisonment
  • Latin Culture and Language (rather than Greek Culture and Language)
  • HIS Age
  • Politics

Paul established leaders quickly in his early days of ministry, but in time, he realized that there needed to be more testing and qualifications for leaders.

People could have complained,

“hey, we never did it like that in the past,”

to which Paul might have answered,

“yes, that’s right, and it shows.”

There are changes that must happen

And these may be uncomfortable.

You know, we need people to be willing to serve in areas where we have the greatest needs, not just where we want to serve.

We need to see ourselves as contributors and not consumers.

  1. Jesus’ Ministry was to Reach People

It was an act of love for Jesus to choose Zacchaeus that day.

Jesus knew that Zacchaeus would respond.

Jesus said once that

 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, 

John 6:44

God is in the “drawing people to Himself” business.

God loves the World so much…all of the world,

-not just the part that I like

-or the part that our president likes,

but God loves the Whole world, and therefore sent Jesus.

Peter wrote this about God and His desire to reach people:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

This is why we went to the mission field called “Almaty, Kazakhstan.”

This is why we planted a church on the mission field called “Istanbul, Turkey.”

And this is why we are here, today, with River of Life…

because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

BUDDHISTS

It used to be that in order to reach a Buddhist, we had to go to a country where Buddhists live.

Now, we live in a neighborhood with two Buddhist temples within three miles of us.

And we have two families in our church who came from a country where the majority of people are Buddhist.

HINDUS

It used to be that in order to share the Gospel with Hindus, we had to go to India. But now, there is a large Hindu center 4-5 miles from us, and we have a family that used to practice Hinduism, but now follows Jesus in our church.

MUSLIMS

It used to be that we had to travel to the Middle East in order to share the gospel with Muslims, but now, we have a mosque one mile to the South and another one being built three miles from here (and another 6 miles from here, and plans for more). We have in our church, a former Muslim, who is the only Christian in her family.

It is safer to share the gospel here, than to share it in some of the other countries of the world.

When we lived overseas, we told many people that we were serving in Kazakhstan because someone else had not gone there before us. The same in Turkey.

And in the early part of the 20th century, it was understood that the Muslim world was able to be reached by the Church, if only the Church would send missionaries to reach them.

You see, our predecessors did not send enough missionaries to reach the Buddhists, the Hindus and Muslims when we had a better chance and reaching them.

So, what has happened?

I believe that God has sent them here.

And as we reach out to these people from around the world, they will have the ability to reach out to their family and friends back home.

THINK OF THE INFLUENCE WE HAVE HERE IN LAKESIDE TO REACH THE NATIONS FOR JESUS.

There are those who might mutter and complain about OUR vision,

and Let them complain.

But we must be willing to reach out and love this community.

AS BELIEVERS IN JESUS, WE ARE SO GLAD THAT JESUS REACHED OUT TO ZACHAEUS, AND THAT HE REACHED OUT TO US.

Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, and reached out to him.

It wasn’t comfortable

It wasn’t popular

But look at Zacchaeus’ response:

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus changed.

Who among us?

Who of our clients?

Who of our neighbors?

Who of our co-workers will change?

We need to be ready,

and to listen to the Holy Spirit, to know how and when to reach out and call to people so that they will know and follow Jesus, too.

The disciples walked away from this, amazed, and shared this story with each other so that when Luke was writing his gospel, this was included.

There were others who were too offended that Jesus did things differently from them.

Let’s be people who say, yes, we want to follow the Holy Spirit as He is guiding us in this church to reach out to those who need Him.

In order to do this we must be FAT Christians.

Faithful

Available

Teachable

2 out of 3 is not enough, but we need to be 3 out of 3.

So, when the world, the flesh and the devil whisper in our ears and try to lead us away from God’s Purpose, let’s decide according to the reason that Jesus came:

To Seek and to Save the Lost

Let’s pray.

 

 

 

 

 

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Correction of the Resurrection (Acts 2:22-36)

The greatest event in the history of the universe is the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah!

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope and we have life, too. Eternal life that begins now, while we are on earth, and that continues into the future.

If it were not for the resurrection, there would not be a Church around the world.

Prior to the resurrection, the single greatest event to change the course of the world happened at the beginning of civilization, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command, and sin began to rule.

They had been warned that if they ate fruit of a specific tree, then they would die. Prior to this, they were destined to die, but once sin came into humanity, then we all are cursed with death.

The resurrection changed history and it changed the future, for it reversed the consequences of sin. The resurrection overcame the power of death.

Death is a natural event that takes place, daily, around us, whether we are seeing a dead animal on the side of the road, or we finally notice a house plant that we had forgotten to water, death comes and goes without too much notice.

Until we are the one who hits that squirrel, or wild Turkey (oh, I remember hitting a turkey once, and as I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw nothing but feathers flying around).

When we are the cause of death, we feel it. I felt a slight sick feeling in my stomach.

When it is someone whom we know and love who died, we miss and mourn that person.

When it is someone with whom we had been close, we often truly miss the deceased and suffer.

Imagine how the disciples felt at the time of Jesus’ death. Though he had warned them, and prepared them for his death, they probably thought that nothing could take him down.

He seemed indestructible:

  • Diseases were no match for Him;
  • They had known of him to walk away from a crowd that was bent on killing him, once.
  • They knew that he could speak to a storm and it would stop.
  • In fact, they had seen him walk on water.

Death was not something that they were probably expecting…at least not while he was so popular.

And yet, he died.

But, Jesus didn’t die a sudden, accidental or quick death, he died a slow and grueling death.

Had Jesus died in a sudden event, people might not have believed that he died.

“Perhaps you were mistaken,” Peter might have said.

Or, “There’s no way Jesus could have died from drowning.”

It is a typical reaction to not believe news of a death, and to second guess.

I recall when a colleague of mine died in Kazakhstan from a disease, and I and four others found her body after she had been dead for over a day, and we were shocked at how she looked.

It was obvious that she was dead, and we all instinctively left the room where we found her.

Then out of my mouth I heard these words, “shouldn’t we check to see if she has a pulse?”

One of my friends said, “She is dead, Peyton, and no one who looked like that could be alive.”

He was right, but it was a typical reaction to think that my friend was not really dead.

Throughout the day, on that Friday when Jesus died, he was surrounded by death.

When he came out onto the road with his cross, there was no turning back.

His mockers were challenging him to come from the cross. Those mockers didn’t expect him to come down, because to them, he was already a dead man.

The followers of an executed revolutionary like Jesus would be in danger of arrest and execution, too.

Under normal circumstances, they would have left Jerusalem.

But, on the day of Pentecost, 50 days or so after the resurrection, several things happened:

  • The followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised
  • The Church was born
  • The resurrection became the prominent teaching of the Church

Let’s look at Peter’s declaration on the day of Pentecost, and see the significance of the resurrection:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.                                                                                     Acts 2:22-24

The title of my message today is

“The Correction of the Resurrection.”

Let’s pray

PRAY

  1. The Resurrection Corrected Perception of Jesus’ Conviction

Who was Jesus before the resurrection?

He was the same as he was after, in that the Scriptures teach that he is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

How can that be said about anybody, really?

Are you the same yesterday as you are today?

Maybe if we mean just yesterday, you are about 99% the same as you are today, but what about yesterday meaning last year?

Even last week?

And can it be said of anyone else that they are the same tomorrow as they are today?

What does the Scripture mean to say that this man who was born in poor conditions and died as a revolutionary was the same one day from the next?

Without the resurrection of Jesus, such statements would be meaningless, but the resurrection of Jesus was a declaration of who Jesus truly is.

Jesus IS Divine. He IS the One through Whom all things have been created and all things have their purpose.

ILLUSTRATION

(Clover and I told this story on a Wednesday evening, once.)

Nine years ago, in the area of Sinjar, Iraq, a Yezidi man told his family,

“We need to follow Jesus.”

He had never read a Bible, and had never been to church.

All the family knew to do was to pray in Jesus’ Name.

So, that is what they did.

Soon after beginning this practice, the man’s wife had a dream in which Jesus met her and told her that it was right for the family to follow Him.

His rationale: he believed that the successes of Europe and America were due to Europeans and Americans believing in Jesus.

Everyday, his family prayed in Jesus’Name.

They still pray in Jesus’ Name. Something convinced them. It was the power of Jesus that they later understood.

On that day of Pentecost, people from around the Jewish world had come to worship.

Some had come at Passover, 50 days prior, some were new.

Many had probably heard about Jesus’ miracles, his teaching, his popularity, and his sudden unpopularity.

They heard of his execution, and they probably were just continuing on with life as usual.

So why was Jesus executed? Was he really a fake, or a criminal?

A strange thing happened on that day: Peter and the other followers of Jesus began to speak other languages, and those who were visiting from abroad recognized what was being said.

Peter began to preach, by explaining the strange phenomenon that was happening.

Peter explains that this occurrence is the fulfillment of prophecy.

But he doesn’t spend too much time explaining that miracle, instead he explains why the Holy Spirit was being poured out in this way. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus.

In order to explain the resurrection, Peter had to remind them of the work up to that point. Let’s look at the Scripture, again:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.                                                                                     Acts 2:22-24

Now let’s look at it with the emphasis upon the audience:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.                                                                                     Acts 2:22-24

Peter points the finger of guilt at the audience.

Yes, we know that God loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, but Peter wants this audience to see their responsibility.

They had witnessed the miracles

Yet, they had handed Jesus over to be killed.

They were co-conspirators with the Priests, Pharisees and the Romans.

If it had not been for the resurrection and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Peter might have gone crazy and only rattled this accusation in a place outside the cities were the crazy people went.

The resurrection clarified that Jesus was not guilty.

Better than DNA evidence, the Resurrection was an immediate vindication and release from the prison of death for Jesus.

The Resurrection Corrected Jesus’ Sentence, and showed who was really guilty. The resurrection corrected the perception of Jesus’ conviction.

  1. The Resurrection Corrected Perception of the Messiah

The resurrection of Jesus makes perfect sense when we consider how the seasons are.

  • Summer is a time of flourishing life,
  • and Fall a time of harvest,
  • but Winter is a time of death,
  • and then Spring, a time of new life.

The resurrection of Jesus was a new life, newer than ever before experienced.

It clarified that He had a purpose that was greater than anyone else had imagined.

It clarified perception of who the savior would be, and how He would save.

Peter continued to correct the perception of the people by quoting from the Psalms:

25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 

Acts 2:25-31

Jesus is to be the king who sits on David’s throne.

While the people who followed Jesus at one time tried to force him to become king, that would have been of a temporal kingdom, yet, Jesus knew that he was king of the Universe, already.

ILLUSTRATION

Remember my Yezidi friends from Iraq who now pray in Jesus’ Name?

In July, 2014 this man’s wife had a nightmare.

She saw a baby, whom she understood to be Jesus, speaking to her, and told her that the family is in danger, and they had to leave, immediately.

The family didn’t readily agree, but after much persuasion,

this family of 10 made their plans and rode in various busses to the Turkish border.

For almost an hour, during the 6 hours of riding, they had to duck their heads because ISIS was shooting at them.

Once in Turkey, they bought tourist visas and bus tickets to Ankara.

In the bus station in Ankara, they sat, not knowing what to do next.

A person came to them and asked if they needed help. He was a Turkish Christian. There are only about 5000 Turks who follow Jesus in Turkey, out of 75 million people.

That is a very small number.

And yet out of such a very small number, God arranged one of them to meet this family of 10 Yezidis who had been praying in Jesus’ Name.

The Resurrected Jesus is powerful, and to pray in His Name means we are praying correctly.

The resurrection showed that Jesus was the most powerful of all leaders, for not even death can overwhelm him.

  1. How does the resurrection correct our perception?

The Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead.

The same Spirit was released upon the Church on this day of Pentecost.

The same Holy Spirit of God is released to us, and through Him we are able to receive power to not continue on in the destructive direction of sin, but to live by the Holiness of God.

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

Romans 8:11

Let the resurrection change us, today.

Peter continued to speak to the crowd on that day:

32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 2:32-36

“It was impossible for Death to keep its hold on Jesus.”

Because Jesus is Lord, meaning God, and Christ, meaning the One God has Anointed for the purpose of our salvation.

ILLUSTRATION

While my friends were in

Ankara, they received news that in Sinjar, ISIS came and began to kill the Yezidis.

About 25 family members were killed, and about 9 were received the same fate as John the Baptist (beheaded).

The story is sad, yet interesting.

The power of the Name of Jesus, being part of that family’s regular prayer life, made a change and brought them physical safety during an awful time.

This family saw that prayer in Jesus’ Name protected them from Evil.

Jesus was not just a character from history, because of the resurrection, He can be trusted, and He is savior.

That family is now in different places, as refugees are often divided by circumstances, by the UN and by Government dictates, but they continue to pray in the Name of Jesus.

The Resurrection Means that we can trust in Jesus.

He protected my friends from ISIS, but he offers greater protection than that. ISIS will be gone one day, but death and hell await all because sin leads to death and all have sinned.

But through Jesus we have the gift of eternal life.

The Resurrection Corrects Us, and when we submit to Jesus, we have His power in our lives.

  1. The Resurrection Reconnects Man with God

 Corrects the Disconnectedness between Man and God

The consequences of sin from the Garden of Eden are reversed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and we become people who have a new life that is eternal and with Jesus.

The resurrections connects in these ways:

  • Connection with Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, remain in me as I remain in you. They were living on purpose because of Jesus. Not just living according to Jesus’ teaching, but according to Jesus’ presence
  • Connection with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that when he would ascend to heaven, that he would send another counselor…another who is like him…the same as him. On this day of Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were baptized in this Holy Spirit. The third member of the Trinity.
  • The connection of the Father. Jesus had said that no one can come to him in faith unless the Father were to draw him, or to connect them. Our Heavenly Father was drawing people to Him through the work of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection of Jesus.
  • The connection with others. Because of the resurrection, we are able to connect with others.

The enemies of life (the World, the Flesh and Satan himself) do not want us to connect in these ways.

But let’s connect, as the resurrection corrects any disconnectedness.

Let’s pray

 

 

 

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The Lord Needs It (Palm Sunday, 2017)

 

As we have been considering the importance of living on purpose, we have looked at the gifts God has given to us:

  • Word of God (the Revelation)
  • Prayer (communion with His Spirit)
  • Church (Jesus’ Body)

We have also considered how Jesus was resolute and determined to reach Jerusalem…he lived on purpose so he would be able to die on purpose…thus, through his death, we can learn to Live on purpose.

This week, let’s progress in the story a bit and read what happened when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

We refer to this date in the Church calendar as Palm Sunday: which is, today.

On this day, Jesus came into Jerusalem as a king. Let’s read from Luke’s Gospel:

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:28-40

The title of my message today is

“The Lord Needs It”

Let’s pray

PRAY

If we look backwards at this story, we see that there was a lot of worship going on at the time when Jesus made his entrance into Jerusalem.

On Friday, we had a lot of worship going on. Children were running around freely and dancing in worship to God. It may not have been what I experienced as a child in church, but it was touching

We need to worship.

  1. We Need to Worship

The truth is, if we could see God, physically, our response would be either automatic worship, or of horror.

Worship, because of Who He Is, and Horror because of the immediate conviction of Sin that would come from being face-to-face with God.

Sometimes just coming into a time of worship, the Spirit of God begins to convict me and I recognize wrong attitudes, thought patterns, etc.

Adam and Eve fled from God’s presence after they sinned because of the perfection of God.

God is the complete opposite of sin and imperfection, so immediately everything that is not perfect becomes conspicuous.

We will go to Alaska the day after Resurrection Sunday to visit with our son and daughter-in-law who are ministering on the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. I wonder if I might be able to pan for gold while there? If so, I would be using a black pan, because the flakes and grains of gold stand out against the black pan.

In the same way, imperfection and sin are visible and conspicuous when God is present.

We worship because we are proclaiming the worth of something.

God is more worthy than anything else in the universe, and so we bow, we pray, we sing and we live according to His Will in honor and worship of God.

On Palm Sunday, people, including children, shouted “Hosanna! Glory to God!” as their response to Jesus’ entry. The enemies of Jesus recognized that they were praising Him, and told Jesus to tell his fans to stop…Jesus’ response was that if they did, then the rocks would cry out.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he was doing something similar to many other kings.

Solomon had entered Jerusalem riding a donkey that had belonged to his father, King David.

As well, Zechariah had prophesied that the coming king would enter on a donkey.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

Jesus was doing something that naturally caused people to praise God and Worship.

As well, he was fulfilling Scripture, which doesn’t happen every day (though in Jesus’ situation he fulfilled Scripture, often).

It was natural to praise God on that day.

… Meaning that it was natural to praise the Royalty of the Divine Son and Creator Jesus

The Pharisees should have joined in the praise, too, but they didn’t. Instead, they allowed their condemning nature to rule over them.

The Pharisees needed to join in the worship on that day, and some, later, repented.

In order to live on purpose, we need to be worshippers of God. Otherwise, we worship our accounts, our families, our jobs, our self-centeredness and our rights.

We need to be people of worship, and we need to worship the Lord, Jesus.

  1. We Need to Submit

As well as being worshippers, we must be people who submit to the Lord.

Will we, too, worship God? Will we live on purpose as an act of Worship to Him?

In order to do this, we must submit to God. We don’t accidentally fulfill God’s will, but we do it as we submit to His purposes and live on purpose for Him.

What saves us is believing in the work of Jesus, thus we follow Him and do what He asks.

We live on purpose for His purpose.

Will we live on purpose and worship on purpose?

We need to make this a point in our lives to live in this way.

When we live on purpose, we are not always aware of How God is at Work.

Living on purpose can be to simply just to do God’s Will without realizing What God is doing.

Jesus asked for a donkey colt that had never before been ridden.

I didn’t know that Jesus was a donkey wrangler. J

Jesus was able to ride that donkey without it being trained, and apparently, donkeys are not stubborn, as much as they are dedicated and submit to their training.

Jesus, being the first to ride that Donkey was the one who trained it.

He must have had some sort of arrangement made beforehand, because he sent his disciples to pick up the donkey and lead it to him. All they had to say to the owner was

“The Lord Needs It.”

Could this have belonged to Lazarus, or to Nicodemus or to Joseph of Arimathea?

I don’t know, but the owner submitted to the statement,

“The Lord Needs It,”

and the donkey submitted to the Lord.

We need to submit to the Lord.

[pause]

I make no apologies for this. The kingdom of God is such that

  • He is the King and
  • we are NOT.

There is no room in God’s Kingdom for people who will not submit to Him, and we submit to Him not on our terms, but according to His Word.

As we submit to the Lord, we will be trained, and we will do some mundane things. Plodding along like a donkey doesn’t seem glamourous, and yet, look who this donkey carried: Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

ILLUSTRATION

On the first day of the Virginia General Assembly this year, I participated in a prayer walk around the Virginia Capital.

I encourage us all to try and participate, next time.

I was in a group whom I didn’t know, but we were all Christians and we all believed in prayer. We believe that God hears every prayer, and that God answers according to His will. He calls us to pray, so we pray, and let Him take care of the results.

Prayer walking is something I have done in several countries: Morocco; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Pakistan; Turkey. ThIS is not glamorous, but it is an opportunity to pray and ask God to move in the hearts of people whom we see, and I even pray for those I don’t see.

At the State Capital, we had several different places where we stopped, and we took turns praying according to a plan that was composed by the Family Foundation.

  • First, we prayed for our nation, while standing near the monument that honors George Washington,
  • then we prayed near the Governor’s mansion for the executive branch (the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Attorney General),
  • then to another location for the Legislature,
  • then to another for the VA Supreme Court.

While praying at the Governor’s Mansion, our small group of 6 was praying in a huddle, and there was another huddle nearby. We were close to the gate of the Governor’s Mansion.

The leader of our group would assign different points for each of us to pray for.

Some would offer a word of praise to God, then another, a confession of our need, and then another would read a Scripture, while another would intercede for the particular government branch that we were focusing upon at that moment.

The leader assigned me the task of praying for the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Attorney General by name. So, when It was my time to pray, I passionately prayed aloud for these men who serve our state.

At that moment, I was submitting to God and His authority, and I was submitting to His Will and Word which declares To Pray and Intercede….

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Simply interceding for all people, and in particular for leaders is something that not only helps us, but pleases God, and when we do this, we are submitting to God’s will.

Most of the time, we may look about as mediocre as a donkey, just plodding along the path that it has learned. It doesn’t want to follow a different path, but the donkey has submitted to the path that it has learned.

On that day of praying at the governor’s mansion, one of the brothers in my group came up to me after we finished our moment at the mansion, and asked, “Did you pray with your eyes open or closed?”

I answered, “they were closed.”

“Well,” he continued, “at the moment when you were praying for Governor MacAuliffe by name, he and his team walked right beside you and went into the gate.

That is interesting to me, though not too spectacular. But I’ll tell you, when we are willing to JUST SHOW UP in submission to God, God wants to use us to reach others.

God not only heard my prayer, but the Governor did, too.

When we submit to God, it may mean unglamorous duties, but it may also mean that we get to speak to Governors, Presidents and Kings!

Let’s be people who worship and let’s be people who submit.

  1. The Lord Needs It

Have you ever felt low like an “it.”

Something without any power or recognition?

That colt had never been ridden. Perhaps it had pulled loads, but it had never before been used as a mount, and it was about to carry the most honored of Kings.

ILLUSTRATION

I played the part of Jesus in a play at West End Assembly of God about 32 years ago.

I was the custodian at that time, and sometimes was seen vacuuming while dressed as Jesus.

For the season of Passion Week, we had several performances.

For the first 20 minutes or so, I did not appear on stage, but once I did, there was a bit of anticipation in the air. I didn’t look like me, as we had great make up artists who colored my hair (I wore it a longer, too) and I had a well-crafted beard on my face.

I came out on stage, and someone brought their sick daughter to me. I took the child in my arms, prayed, and the child was restored and ran across the stage to her mother.

I was on stage with my disciples, and there were dozens of singers dressed like first century Jews on the stage with me.

After doing a few more things, I then led my disciples into the audience, and I would just gently lay my hands upon people as I walked through. Sometimes 3-4 sometimes 8-10. I was enjoying this, especially since no one recognized me. J

We had several performances.

I knew I wasn’t Jesus, but it was great to be used of Him.

The Lord needed me. The Lord needed all of us in that play performance.

The Lord needed a couple in that church, too.

This couple prayed and asked God to direct them, daily. THEY LIVED ON PURPOSE.

As they were going to see the play, they felt prompted to invite a neighbor to join them. She was a single woman.

They sat still in the audience. Their neighbor seemed a little preoccupied.

Backstage, the director told us that we were behind schedule, so he said to me, “Peyton, when you walk through the crowd, don’t take too long, but go faster than before, and perhaps only touch 1-2 people this time, so we can go faster.”

I heard my orders and understood.

The Lord needed me, and if it meant doing it differently than I liked, BUT, that’s OK.

LIVING ON PURPOSE, MEANS LIVING IN SUBMISSION TO THOSE IN AUTHORITY, TOO.

As I walked through the crowd, apparently, I only touched one person.

That young lady had felt that no one loved her. As she heard the songs, she thought, “God doesn’t even love me.”

Then “Jesus” appeared, walked through the crowd, and touched only one person:

And it was her.

Believe it or not, that touch was significant.

She had actually planned to overdose on pills that night and say “good-bye” to the world.

Then her neighbors, whom the Lord needed, invited her to a play at church.

The Lord Needed them.

God LED the director to tell me to touch only 1-2

The Lord Needed him.

Talented people had made my costume, applied my make-up and created my beard to look real.

The Lord needed them.

Talented people sang and acted, and cleaned the church, ushered the room.

I just showed up, followed the direction of my music pastor, and touched the one person God wanted me to touch.

AND THERE WAS ONE LESS SUICIDE THAT DAY

The Lord needed me.

The Lord Needs It, can relate to all of us.

  • We who have the need to worship something, must choose to worship God and God, alone.
  • We who worship Him, must do so in submission to Him. And that means submission to our leaders and submission to one-another.
  • And we who worship and submit to God, must do so recognizing that the Lord needs us.

He wants us to JUST SHOW UP.

He wants us to carry Him into the city, into the place where people who need Him are.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

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Serving on Purpose

I have really appreciated the phrase,

Living on Purpose,” and originally planned it to be the focus only for March.

Of course, such a theme, would continue through our lives as we live on purpose.

As I considered the month of April, in which we have

  • Palm Sunday,
  • Good Friday and
  • Resurrection Sunday,

I see that this month we celebrate the work Jesus did on purpose so that we, too, could live on purpose.

Every day, we should live on purpose and with intentionality.

Daily, we should celebrate life and be excited for what He is doing.

When we live on purpose, we are better able to celebrate the purposes of God.

Honestly, there are times when we may feel as lone cheerleaders, even among other Christians.

Let’s not be troubled in this, but instead, let us continue to believe God and to trust Him.

In fact, I know that I am living on purpose

  • when I am able to meet opposition with the opposite spirit.
  • When I can treat

-chaos with order and

-anger with peace and love,

  • then I know that I am living on purpose.

God’s Spirit is

  • -not a Spirit of fear,
  • -nor of complaints,
  • -nor a spirit of indifference,
  • -dread or
  • -doom,

but the Spirit of the Living – Lord – God – Almighty is Holy, Powerful, Loving, Lovely and Honoring.

God’s Spirit wants to bring out those qualities in our lives, as

He drives us with Purpose in the direction of His perfect and pleasing will.

As we enter into a second month of this focus of living on purpose, let’s look at how we can do this, and let’s encourage each other toward love and godliness.

I want us to look at Jesus, who was the ultimate model of living on purpose.

ILLUSTRATION

I remember a time when I found myself being very resolute to pray for a need.

There was a family in our church when I was first serving as a senior pastor. The church had few resources, and I had to work a job for my salary (the church did pay my rent, thank God).

A family in the church regularly had financial problems. Even though both spouses worked, they still had trouble.

One morning the husband called to tell me that their electricity was going to be cut off at 5:00 PM. They needed $300, and I wished I could have given it to them. We had no funds in the church, and, personally, we had no funds.

As I mentioned, this family had financial issues, but this was the worst.

That day I was spending at home, working on my sermons.

I spoke with my friend in the morning, and told him that I would be praying all day.

We didn’t have cell phones, but he called my home number a couple times, just to check in.

That morning, while I was studying, I came across an article by a pastor named David Wilkerson.

You may have heard of him. He started “Teen Challenge,” and wrote the book The Cross and the Switchblade.

His articles were very rich and hard to read. They were very challenging.

The article that I was reading was about the difference between intervention and intercession.

He said that we need to be able to discern when we must intervene and when we must intercede

He said we needed to learn to hear God’s voice.

Since I was interceding, already, and had no way to intervene (remember, we were poor), I wasn’t sure how to apply this lesson.

I prayed, and said,

“Lord, I don’t have the money to help my friend, and I ask you to help him.”

About mid-day, the mail man came by and delivered a letter with a check for $500 that came anonymously through another organization.

They wanted to bless us since we were ministering in a difficult situation.

Immediately I thought,

“Now I can help my friend,”

and I praised and thanked God. 

But God’s voice spoke to me,

“that money is for you, and I want you to trust in ME to intervene for your friend as you intercede.”

I was confused. I had been praying, and within a few hours, the answer came to me.

The initial check had been written about a week before, and then a second check in order to ensure anonymity was written and mailed. It took about three days for the check to arrive.

And it arrived a few hours after I had begun praying for my friend’s need.

I kept praying.

About 30 minutes later, my friend called.

He asked if I had heard from the Lord…

I said that God was encouraging me to keep praying and to believe.

It was hard for me to say that to him, when I, now, had the funds to help him, but God was teaching me to trust Him in a new way.

When Moses trusted God to provide water for the Israelites in the desert, God told him once to strike a rock with his staff. He did that and water flowed.

But on a later occasion, Moses was told by God to speak to the rock.

Instead, he said to the people,

Must we bring you water from this rock?”

and then he struck the rock.

Water came gushing forth just as before,

It looked to all that Moses was still connecting well with God…for he had been able to perform a miracle…

…but Moses missed an opportunity to intercede, when he instead intervened.

For Moses, this meant dire consequences.

With that in my mind, for the rest of the day, I had to be resolute to follow what I believed God was sharing, and even though I could have gone to the bank, cashed the check and given my friend the money,

I had to remain resolute to live that day on purpose.  

And Purpose was to follow God’s Will as He was showing me.

Let me share more of that story a little later.     🙂

We have been looking at John 15, and we could continue there,

but as I was considering this theme, I found myself drawn to a specific time in Jesus’ ministry.

You see, next week is Palm Sunday, and in Jesus’ ministry, this was a day, prior to the Passover in which Jesus entered Jerusalem, and was seen as king.

By the end of that week, Jesus had been betrayed, tortured and crucified to death.

We know that this was not a surprise to Jesus, but what was going on in his mind when he was on his way to Jerusalem?

In Luke’s account of Jesus, we have this paragraph that I want to consider today:

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Jesus resolutely set himself toward Jerusalem because the Cross was His Destination, and our redemption was His goal.

Today’s message is entitled, “Serving on Purpose.” Let’s pray.

Pray

  1. Living/Serving on Purpose Means to Be Resolute

Jesus came to earth to save us.

To save sinners.

The Scriptures teach this over and over.

In fact, in the Old Testament, we see the prophesies of the Jesus suffering for us.

Paul quoted a trustworthy saying:

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

1 Timothy 1:15

As well, the Scriptures teach that…

 …God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.                  Romans 5:8

He did not accidentally die,…

it’s not like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was NOT a victim, in fact, there were many occasions when he could have been killed throughout his ministry, and even when he was a child, King Herod sought to kill him.

But, he was NEVER a victim.

Jesus was and always is purposeful in everything He does and did.

We would be hopeless, were it not for the purposeful living and dying that Jesus did for us.

When we are purposeful or when we are resolute, we usually feel fruitful, don’t we?

To be resolute is to be “unwavering,” to be “focused,” to be “determined,” “staunch,” “indefatigable,” etc.

When we determine to tackle a job around the house…

…Or when we have a deadline to meet, and we put everything else on hold in order to focus upon that task,

we may feel some anxiety, but we often find ourselves focused, and nothing can stop us from our task.

Jesus was resolutely traveling to Jerusalem from Galilee.

Jewish travelers often, resolutely avoided Samaria, although, that meant it took longer to reach Jerusalem.

This was not only because of their dislike for the Samaritans, but because the Samaritans didn’t want them passing through on their way to Jerusalem.

If they were on their way somewhere else, then that wasn’t such a problem, but since the Samaritans were not welcome into the Temple to worship alongside the Jews, then they didn’t want to encourage Jews on their way to the city of the Temple.

The Samaritans had been treated very badly by the Jews, so they held a huge grudge.

I mentioned in February how the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, but, about 150 years before Jesus, the Jews sent an army to the Samaritan temple and destroyed it.

They were saying,

“you cannot have this temple,”

while at the same time they said,

“and you cannot worship in our temple as our equals.”

So, the Samaritans were resolutely opposed to allowing Jews to pass through their territory on their way to the Temple.

Jesus was resolutely on a mission to Jerusalem for their sake, for the sake of the Jews and for our sake, too.  Nothing would stop him.

Enemies of Resoluteness

What are the hindrances to resoluteness?

What keeps us from Living and Serving on Purpose?

DISTRACTIONS

If only we, too, would be as resolute as Jesus in our service to God and to the community.

I find many things can stop me, or distract me.

PROCRASTINATION

One of our greatest enemies is procrastination.

I might think,

“I should spend some time praying right now,”

but then, Procrastination says,

“there will be plenty of time to pray, later, do something else, now.”

LAZINESS

We can be very industrious for many useless purposes, but for the purposes of God, we might find ourselves to be lazy.

WRONG PRIORITIES

We’ve considered priorities during this time.

Correct Priorities

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

REFLECTION

Let’s right now, reflect, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us with our priorities.

Have we put God first and sought His kingdom and righteousness, first, above everything else?

Let’s ask these

IMPORTANT QUESTIONs:

How healthy would my family be if they all acted like I act?

How successful would my company be if all employees acted like I act?

How attractive would my community be if everyone acted like I act?

How healthy would by church be if we all acted like I act?

TEMPTATIONS

Jesus was tempted by Satan to bow before him in order to save the world.

Jesus loved the world, and was resolute to reach the world without compromise.

Jesus served us on purpose.

Jesus’ friends and disciples rebuked him for declaring that he would be crucified…

…Jesus in turn rebuked them for trying to stop him.

The thousands who followed Jesus tried to force him to become their king after he had fed 5000 men, …

…but he was not resolute to establish a physical kingdom that would spoil, but instead he wanted to provide entry for us into a kingdom that was not of this world.

Jesus didn’t sin, and the temptations did not trip him up.

What temptations prevent us from being resolute?

Jesus was resolutely set to go to Jerusalem and to hang on a cross for us.

He did not let distractions, procrastination, laziness, wrong priorities or temptation keep him from serving on purpose.

Let us not allow them to keep us from serving on purpose, either.

This was politically incorrect, but Jesus didn’t care.

When a village would not allow him to pass through, James and John wanted to punish the village.

  1. Living/Serving on Purpose Means to Be Merciful

There are many things we can do in that are purposeful in our service, but there is a QUALITY that we need above all things. It is a quality that Jesus showed: MERCY.

GRACE

Jesus was being merciful to visit the Samaritan village

James and John wanted to punish.

54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Luke 9:54

They were rebuked by Jesus

And Jesus went to another village.

James and John probably had no idea what was happening.

They had not long before seen Jesus transfigured before them.

They saw him in his divine state.

So, they must have thought that they had power and privilege to call down apocalyptic power.

Jesus, who could calm a storm and gave Elijah the power to call fire down from heaven, did not comply with James and John’s suggestion.

There are many things we CAN do, but they are not necessarily PURPOSEFUL in God’s sight for us to do.

We can rebuke the world, but they don’t care what we have to say, but when we love the world and show them the mercy of God, then we are indirectly rebuking the world, and giving them something better.

The Scriptures state that God sent Jesus to the earth because He loved the world so much…that is in John 3:16.

John 3:17 speaks to this moment in particular:

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

What has God called us to do? Are we to do what He was not called to?…

to Judge and condemn the world?

We are called to learn the will of God and to follow it. We are called to show mercy, which is the opposite of what the world decrees.

We are called to learn God’s voice and follow His direction, even when it hurts.

ILLUSTRATION (Continued)

You remember my story about the young family in my church and how their electricity was going to be cut off.

The husband told me and asked for help, and I told him I had no money and the church had no money.

 I promised to pray, and while praying, was challenged by an article from a pastor to learn the difference between intervening and interceding.

Then while praying, a check arrived in the mail, which was sufficient enough to help my friend, but God told me to keep interceding.

By the end of the day, God DID meet my friends’ need, and their power was not cut off.

It was incredible, and I realized that had I intervened, then my friend would not have seen God’s provision.

He would have seen mine.

Had I given him the money, it would have been like when Moses struck the rock, even though God told him to speak to the rock.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should not help someone in need, but that we need to be resolute to do what God calls us to do.

We are to be representatives and ambassadors of God’s mercy with others.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

How did Jesus face opposition?

In the opposite spirit, in a spirit of love in this case, and we too should meet this.

In this way, he served with purpose.

And because He served on purpose, we, too, can serve on purpose.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, he wasn’t having a random outburst of holy anger, but he was cleaning house.

When he rebuked James and John, he must have told them that they needed to understand that he did not choose them to condemn, but to raise up.

He did not choose them to live according to their own purposes, but according to God’s purposes that are separate from the purposes of man.

Jesus has called us to serve on purpose, not to please ourselves, but to cause people to know who He is.

Jesus told us to do good deeds so that people would praise Our Heavenly Father!

And when we think of the adversaries around us, do we have the capacity to think of them being restored, and raised up?

How About When Jesus Wants to Come through Our Town?

Jesus and His Spirit want to invade our lives, are we open to receive him, or do we send him a different way?

How many times has Jesus wanted to come to you and me, but we didn’t welcome him?

Let’s Be Resolute and Merciful

Let’s Live on Purpose

 

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