Create in Me a Pure Heart: A Continuing Response to Racism

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
                                    Psalm 51:10-12

I want to ask you, today, what is the context of this Psalm?

What was the occasion of its writing?

The superscription that appears prior to the first verse gives some of the context:

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. (Psalm 51 superscription)

David did much more than commit adultery, he deceived, and he conspired to commit murder of Bathsheba’s husband.

How was he feeling between these sinful acts and the moment when Nathan, the prophet, confronted him?

Perhaps he was feeling guilty.

Perhaps he was numb.

Perhaps he was justifying his sinfulness

-not seeing it as sin.

He could have used the Scriptures to justify his actions; even though the same Scriptures would condemn him.

Two weeks ago, we considered Scriptural teaching to be a Living Sacrifice, and last week, I shared about how we need to be a church of restoration.

What went into last week’s message was

  • the need and
  • desire
  • to see people calling to God for a clean heart.

It is so that the members of the church would be thinking…

  • grace rather than judgment,
  • peace rather than conflict,
  • forgiveness rather than vengeance;
  • restoration rather than abandonment.
  • Repentance rather than revisionism

Thus, the church would welcome everyone to hear about and follow Jesus.

We mentioned a little last week about the situation that had happened the day before in Charlottesville.

I am used to not speaking too much in a sermon about particular events, as this is a place of Christian ministry, and not a place of politics.

But what happened last week was

  • more than a demonstration and a counterdemonstration.
  • More than even the deaths of two police officers and one counterdemonstrator.

What happened was that our nation, which was founded for freedom, and DECLARING ALL MEN TO BE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS…

Our nation continues to be divided over issues such as racism.

Politics hasn’t saved us.

If anything, politics has been dividing our nation for decades.

Media does not save us, for it seems to many that media (mainstream, conservative and social media) may be fueling this fire more and more.

This message today is not about racism, but again, about restoration and reconciliation.

Racism will be addressed, but restoration will be the goal.

You may be surprised, though, at the Scripture texts for today’s message. Some say that the Bible teaches racism, but I believe that when we look at the Bible, which IS God’s Word, it SCREAMS for RESTORATION, RECONCILIATION and PROPER RACE RELATIONS.

My text for today’s message comes from John 8:2-11. This is the story commonly referred to as the woman caught in the act of adultery.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”                                                       John 8:2-11

The title of my message is

Create in Me a Pure Heart: A Continuing Response to Racism

Let’s pray

PRAY

Lord, today we pray, as a church,

for our community, state and nation.

We pray that you will help us to change, and become more like You want us to be.

We ask you to create in us clean hearts…to renew a right spirit within us, not a spirit of division, but a spirit of unity and restoration.

Lord, we long for Your presence, and we do not want to stop fellowshipping with Your Holy and Precious Spirit.

Lord, we want to not only know the Joy of Your Salvation and Restoration, but we want to share that with others in a manner in which they will hear.

We ask You, Lord, for a willing spirit, that is willing to follow Your example, that says, “I won’t condemn you, and I ask you to go and no longer follow your life of sin.”  We thank You, in Jesus’ Name.     Amen.

As we look at this story, I see several notable points:

  1. The Players
  2. The Accusations
  3. The Results
  4. The Players

By “players,” I mean those in the story, as though it were a stage performance.

Here they are:

  • Jesus
  • The Accused Woman
  • The Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
  • The Bystanders (Those Listening to Jesus’ Teaching).

Jesus

He was the one being Tested. to see how he would respond to the accusers.

If Jesus had said what people say today about adultery, like

“it’s not really a sin anymore,”

then the crowd of listeners/bystanders might have begun to stone him.

Jesus, however, believed the Law of God.

But, if Jesus answered according to the fullest extent of the Law…at least on the surface, then He must condemn the woman.

If he condemned her, then his accusers would inform the Romans that Jesus was breaking the law, since only Romans could issue death sentences.

The accusers tried to put Jesus in a conundrum.

Jesus paused.

This is often good when someone is badgering us, and trying to entrap us.

Pause.

Pausing gives us time to relax. Adrenaline decreases, and correct thinking can begin.

Jesus wrote on the ground during the pause.

I don’t know what he wrote.

Some wonder if He wrote the names of the accusers, or if He wrote the sins of the accusers.

We are not told, but we do know that He wrote.

He wants to write in our hearts, today, too. He wants to create in us, pure hearts.

The Woman

This woman was accused of being caught in the act of Adultery.

So, where was the man? He, too, would be guilty.

As we see, the presence of the solitary woman suggests that reverence for the Law was not important to the Teachers of the Law or the Pharisees at that moment, but they needed someone.

They needed a victim in order to entrap Jesus.

  1. The Accusation

I’ve already referred to the accusation, but here I refer, again.

This time, I refer to it in light of today’s situation in our divided nation.

Racism is still a problem in America

The statues act like lightning rods for people on many different sides.

We must remember that those who support historic statues are not all racists.

Let me repeat this:

To support the statues does not make one a racist.

And there may very well be racists who don’t care about the statues, either.

Not everyone sees every issue in the same way.

  • Not every black person sees this in the same way.
  • Nor do all Whites see it in the same way.

Some feel it stronger than others.

I recall when I was in Chase City, we had an integrated church. We had one regular black family, a black woman and a black and white couple.

A minister from a denomination that is PROUDLY/supposedly against racial discrimination told me

“Your church would grow if you got rid of that black family.”

I was shocked.

People wrote racial comments on the sidewalk in front of this black family’s home. They felt racism.

We felt it with them.

I asked some young African-American adults in Chase City about racism. They said that they didn’t feel any problem with racism, but that their parents and grandparents did.

The accusation still stands, though:

America still has problems with racism, though many have tried to overcome it.

Once a white couple began to say horrible things against me and my family.

They were offended and no longer wanted to associate with us.

I was shocked, as they falsely accused us of snubbing them, and in retaliation, they chose to snub us.

I’ve tried to keep opportunities for communication with one in the couple.

We met for coffee, and he tore into me about my job as a pastor.

He said that pastors are political, and that we only care about ourselves and money.

Later, he sent me a text message:

The Church needs to address racism, and not ignore it.”

I thought, where did that come from?

The church is either

  • like the woman caught in adultery, standing alone without the other partner.
  • Or the Church is in the role of Jesus, and people who claim to care our democracy and rights, accuse us.

How will we know if we have satisfied their accusations?

The Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

We who are in the Church, especially us leaders, need to be leading the Church as God leads us,

  • not to be bullied into a certain direction,
  • and not to respond with a “knee-jerk” reaction.

What we do, affects those around us.

Even those who are not part of our church.

The Pharisees and Teachers wanted to be the ones on top,

but people were so busy listening to and following Jesus,

that the Pharisees were losing their position…losing control.

I learned about racism in my church, growing up.

It was not an Assemblies of God church, but from a denomination that proudly waves the flag of progressiveness.

I recall when I was young, and at our church in the country, as soon as we drove up, the women would go into the church building, and the men and boys would stand around outside.

Some of the men would be smoking big stinky cigars, too.

Our pastor was well known in the denomination.

This denomination usually is vocally against racism.

The pastor was an author and had held an important position in the denomination.

He had a good reputation with one of the nearby seminaries, and when he had to be away, the seminary sent students to preach.

One Sunday, while the women were inside the building and the men were outside, we were waiting for the seminary student.

Into the parking lot came a big two-toned car.

Out stepped a tall and handsome young man in a flashy outfit.

It was the early 1970s.

My dad, brother and I went over to greet him.

We all assumed he was the seminary student.

The other men in the parking lot stared.

Women began approaching the door, and peeking outside.

I heard the organist say, “The seminary knows better than to send us a black man.”

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that the tall man was also a black man.

While we spoke to him, my brother asked how his classes were at seminary.

“I’m not from the seminary.”

“Really, we thought you were the student preacher, today.” 

“No,” he replied. “I awoke today and God told me to go to your church, so here I am.”

The seminary student arrived, a little later, and we all went in to listen to his sermon.

I don’t recall anything the student said, but I do recall that for the first time in my life, I was in an integrated church, at least for one Sunday.

  1. The Results

The results of the story in the Gospel of John is that Jesus followed the Law, but gave a condition:

That he who was without sin, throw the first stone.

This resulted in the people dropping their stones and leaving.

Jesus asked the woman where were her accusers,

to which she answered that there were none,

so Jesus said,

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”                                     John 8:11

Jesus did not excuse the sin, but told her to leave her sin.

We who are being accused of not speaking out against racism enough, are probably guilty.

But those who are accusing us, are guilty of other things, too.

Instead of accusing, let’s restore.

Jesus saved that woman from being stoned,

but he also told her to not continue in a life of adultery.

He offered restoration.

Can we repent of our racism?

Or can we repent of our silence on this issue?

Yes, some people are overly sensitive to racism, but others are desensitized.

We need to be addressing this issue, but not only in our pulpits, we need to address it in our hearts.

We need pure hearts, created by God.

When I went to university, I had two black roommates.

I was excited. But in time, I found it was so easy to offend one of them over racial issues.

I didn’t see it, and I needed to learn, but at the same time, he needed to not be so overly sensitive.

My other roommate was a strong follower of Jesus, and we talked some about these issues. He offered grace when I was unintentionally awkward.

This week we talked about racism in our staff meeting.

It was our final meeting with our intern, Marina.

She said that her generation wants to hear more from the Church about issues that are dividing our society.

She suggested that we interview an African-American, about the issue.

Frank Christian is a friend of mine.

I think I’ve known him for over 35 years.

He is from West End Assembly of God.

And he, Frances-his wife, and Shannon-their daughter, are volunteers with us at our ESL Conversation Café on Tuesdays. Their son, Jonathan, was a friend of our son, Colin.

INTERVIEW

Peyton: How do African-Americans experience racism in America, today?

Frank: [response]

Peyton: How have you experienced racism, personally?

Frank: [response]

Peyton: What has been your response to racism?

Frank: [response] 

Peyton: How can the local church address racism in your experience and opinion?

Frank: [response]

In Frank’s responses, we see that he doesn’t act like some.

He was changed by Jesus.

We, too, can be changed.

We need to ask God,

“How am I dividing or uniting my community over the issue of racism?”

“How can I honor You, and glorify Your Name in relation to this issue?”

Bystanders:

It seems, nothing is mentioned of the bystanders after verse 2

Jesus was teaching in the Temple courts.

People were listening. His disciples, followers and others who were there for worship.

What happened to the people whom Jesus was teaching?

Were they silent?

Perhaps they were intimidated by the situation.

Or did they join the accusers?

Who is left in the scene?

John only mentions Jesus and the woman.

Whatever the case, some of the bystanders may have remained, and some may have been caught up in the frenzy of the moment.

  • Ready to accuse,
  • ready to defend a position,
  • ready to be political,
  • ready to be religious.

Are we going to be bystanders who join the protesters?

Are we going to be bystanders who join the accusers?

Are we going to be bystanders who remain silent?

Or, are we going to be bystanders who become agents for change, looking for peaceful ways to prophetically speak to society.

  • Helping the racist see the truth.
  • Freeing the victims of racism.
  • Helping all to be free in Jesus.

I said in the beginning:

Racism will be addressed, but restoration will be the goal.

Racism is evil.

I looked online for some biblical views on racism.

I noticed that the Huff Post had two hits that came up, consecutively:

The first hit was that the Bible should not be twisted and misused to justify racism, but that the truth of the Bible is against Racism.

The next said the opposite, that the Bible is guilty of justifying racism.

Yes, on the surface, we can justify almost anything with the Bible,

but when we have a pure heart from God,

then we should see that the Bible is actually ANTI-Racism.

I am reminded of the word I began with, today.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
                                   Psalm 51:10-12

  • Are our hearts pure before God and man?
  • Are our spirits deliberate and steadfast in light of our divided society?
  • Are we remaining in God’s presence and sharing His presence with others?
  • Are we living in fellowship with His Holy Spirit?
  • Are we people who share the Joy of Salvation with others?
  • Are we sustained by a willing spirit that follows God’s will?

Let’s pray

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Be the Restoration

I’m so thankful for you, our congregation here at River of Life. Thank you for your service to the Lord, and for your service to this community.

You are showing this community that you Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

The community might not recognize this, yet, but that is what you are showing and practicing.

Do you realize that you have reached out to and touched an immigrant family here, and, indirectly touched their larger family on the other side of the world though your love.

We’ve done this as a church through our missionaries, but now we are reaching out to those God has moved here.

That is because, we, River of Life church aspire to be a church of …

River of Life Community Church:

  • We are Contributors, not Consumers;
  • We are not Spectators, but Participants.

And we invite the community to join us as contributors and as participants.

We are reaching the community, and in particular, we want to reach out to the international community (which is not being actively reached out to by most churches at this time).

In reaching out, we must continue to build up and be a Genuine Church.

A church needs to operate according to God’s plan and heart, that sees through the eyes of God that transformation and reformation can come to this community.

Our community IS changing, whether we like it or not, but if we wait until the change becomes more evident to begin addressing the changes, then we have waited too long.

Restoration is a spiritual process

This week, our sidewalks were power-washed, and they look great! They were restored. Don’t they look great?

The Word of God is all about renewal, refreshment and restoration.

Even something new, requires renewing from time to time.

Last week we considered Romans 12:1, 2 that stated we are not to be conformed to the world’s image, but to be transformed by renewing our minds.

Our minds need renewal, just as the sidewalks need restoration.

Our hearts need to be restored and even recreated due to the influences around us.

We need this cleansing not only because we are victims, but we sometimes are participants in the destruction around us.

  • We have wrong thoughts, and continue thinking them.
  • We say wrong things, and keep separating from others
  • We have calluses on our hands from handling the bricks with which we metaphorically construct walls.

I believe that Jesus came to die for our sins and to be raised from the dead, as the first of the resurrection.

 But I believe that until He returns or until we pass on into eternity, we have the task of serving the Lord here on earth.

Jesus established on earth something very special, and this continues on in the Church.

The Church is often criticized for not living up to the expectations of people.

  • We are too strict or
    • not strict enough.
  • We are too formal or
    • too relaxed.
  • We are too narrow or
    • not narrow enough.

I got a phone call from someone, yesterday, disagreeing with me for “Liking” an something on Facebook.

Yet, it’s interesting, I’ve also received calls when I didn’t like a Facebook announcement.

This neighborhood called “Lakeside” has an interesting demographic that is not listed on any survey that I know of, other than hearing from the people who live here:

There are probably hundreds of people in this community who used to follow God, but have turned away from Him.

Some of them were pastors, or pastor’s children, believe it or not.

Last week, I mentioned a story of a man whose family left the church because they wanted to play soccer…and that may be the reason behind some of these people leaving church, too, but here are three other four other reasons that people leave churches:

  1. Sin…their sinful lifestyles
  2. Disillusionment… they could not find the answer to their questions in the church
  3. Lack of faith or No Faith… I heard someone say, “I used to believe, then I grew up”
  4. There are too many hypocrites in church (I have jokingly said when people give this excuse that we will gladly make room for more. J

I believe that we need to make it a point to reach out to this community (and the communities where each of us lives), and we need to be ready to receive back those who’ve been out of fellowship.

This past Tuesday, there were 53 people here for our international outreach.

But reaching out to the international community is just one aspect of our ministry vision.

As well, I want to see our church operating in a healthy manner that welcomes anyone and everyone.

We need to be Genuine Church.

“Genuine Church” is a term I began to use in Istanbul.

“A Genuine Church is a group of Jesus-followers who gather to worship God; build each other up in faith; and reach out to their immediate community and to the world.”

I did this because I wanted to show how our church, even though it was not orthodox and it wasn’t catholic, but it was genuine, too.

Protestantism is not as well known in other parts of the world, and yet, people from those parts of the world want to move to the West where Protestant Christianity is greater.

Occasionally I would preach about being the Genuine Church.

Some people thought I was appealing to the millennials who want “authenticity,” but I wasn’t intentionally doing that, I was intentionally trying to announce to the whole community what it means to be Church.

One Turkish man who was interested in following Jesus came to us.

He was in his mid-20s and I asked, “Why did you come here?”

His answer was, “because your church is the real church.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, until after a few weeks. We met for coffee each week and discipleship.

He put his faith in Jesus during our third meeting and a few weeks later I asked, again, “why did you come to our church?”

He said, “because I saw online that you are referred to as “Genuine.”

Then it dawned on me, he had seen the description that we gave to our church stating that we were “genuine.”

River of Life is a genuine church, too, and we want to get closer to the genuine as we get closer to Jesus.

One thing that we’ve noticed, lately, is that there seems to be a great sense of fellowship and camaraderie among us.

We fellowship before the service begins and after the service ends.

Many of us come on Tuesdays and on Wednesdays, because we want to be with each other and we want to learn more and serve more.

When I think about a “genuine church,” I often think about some of the New Testament churches.

The Philippian church is a good example.

Paul wrote to the Philippians because of a problem in their midst.

That may surprise you, since we often describe this as a thank you letter, but there was a big problem between two members of this church. Chapter 4 begins with that problem being addressed. At the end of chapter 4, Paul thanks them for their gift, and mentions that they had given at least twice before.

They were genuinely generous.

They had a genuine feud between two people in the church.

They were a genuine church.

I believe that because of the feud that Paul wrote the words that chapter 2 begins with:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:1-5

Since March, we have had the same theme of “Living on Purpose.” As we live on purpose, we need to think of how will we invite others to live on purpose, too.

Let’s pray

Pray

[pray through verse 1-5, above].

  1. Be United

We need to be with Christ, submitting to His leadership and united in His will.

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1, 2

Being united with someone or something takes an effort on both parties.

We have to be willing so follow Jesus in order to be united with Him, but what does Jesus have to do?

Nothing more, as He’s already done the greatest work.

He came to earth. He died on the cross. He arose from the dead. He invites us to follow Him.

But when we read this verse about being united with Christ, we must remember it is not written to individuals alone, but to the church.

We are to FIRST be united with Christ in order for this verse to make sense.

As believers and followers of Jesus we are united in Christ.

This unification brings us the comfort from His love, and the sharing of compassion with the Holy Spirit.

We have Jesus in common among us.

If we are united, we will stand, together.

We will think positive about each other, rather than to think negatively about each other.

For example, when we look at our phones and see that a certain person is calling us, don’t immediately think, “oh this is going to be bad,” but instead, pray, “Lord, help me to hear with your ears, and answer with your love.”

We are united with Christ, let’s therefore be united with each other.

In addition to being united, we need to be…

  1. Be Humble

That is much easier said than done, but we need to not be divided by our selfishness, but we need to be encouraged to work together.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3, 4

We need to truly be humble.

Ernie, Linda, Clover and I just attended a Christian leadership conference called the Global Leadership Summit from a church called Willow Creek in Chicago. The conference was shown at a local church. During the conference, we were told that Humility is the greatest value for the leader.

And the more I lead, the more I realize this must be true.

For two decades while on the mission field, we had to describe and model “servant-leadership,” which was not evident in those countries where we lived.

I need to learn more about being humble, and that is why I like to get on my knees before God, because it is an act of worship and an act of humility.

As the church, we must be willing to look to the interests of others, not only our own.

This may seem to be a waste of time (and possibly, it is, sometimes…people have asked me often, “Peyton, why do you waste your time trying to reach this person or that person?”),

But with each time of looking to the interests of others, rather than my own, I learn new things:

  1. What is precious to someone else
  2. What is really important to me
  3. How we can work together (sometimes I don’t learn this until after everything falls apart, sadly)

Humility says, “You are important to me.”

Humility understands that “I can learn from you.”

Humility submits to the reality that “we need each other.”

The person who called me, yesterday, to complain about my “liking” a Facebook post, is an extreme example of someone who no longer can allow people to have a difference of opinion. Sadly, this has broken this person’s relationship with other family members. I told the person to reach out to family, and don’t push them away.

We don’t have to condone sinful behavior, but we can still reach out to those whom we should love…especially our family.

Let’s find a way to reach out and find common ground interests between us and others, with eyes of a Christ-follower to someone else.

Pride says, “I am important to me…in fact, I am important to the whole world.”

Pride’s mantra is “I deserve this or that.”

Pride also says, “no one else can have an opinion.”

None of us would admit that we are like this, publicly, but if we ask those close to us to tell us the truth, then they might let us know that we don’t listen to other opinions.

That is a hard exercise.

If we don’t want to go through the exercise, then at least begin to go through the process of restoration from pride by consciously changing our ways, and enlisting the help of others.

Indeed, we are all important, but let us not have the wrong opinion about ourselves.

We are to be united, and be humble…truly, a group of proud people have trouble being united, but a group of humble people, too, can have trouble being united.

We need the best example: Christ

  1. Be Like Christ

We are to have the attitude and mindset of Jesus Christ.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

This is a lovely and powerful statement about the nature of Jesus.

Some people call Him “Christ,” yet they don’t understand what that meant.

He was “anointed” by God to save.

And as the Anointed Savior, He is also God in the flesh, who left heaven for earth.

Jesus was/Is God, yet, He left His throne to be with us, and even to die for us.

He, in humility, united Himself with humanity, and came to us to save and restore us.

Jesus, God in flesh, is the restorer.

We are to be like Him, and the Scripture says that the Lord…

“restores my soul”  

Psalm 23:3a

There are many ways in which we can be like Jesus, but I believe that the Church, at large, needs us to go back to school, so to speak, and be restored…and to begin restoring people.

And the Scriptures continue to teach that we are to restore people who are caught in sin.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

Galatians 6:1-5

Let us be United, Humble, Christ-Like Restorers of others.

In the coming weeks I want us to discuss this even more, and prayerfully move into that direction.

Yes, we are becoming an international church according to our outreach, but we are also called to be His Church with our hearts open to receive and restore.

 Be the Restoration

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even When it Hurts

With such a title, you can either grab a blanket and take a nap, or to put on your seat belts and get ready for a rough ride.

🙂

Today, we have experienced many things that happen in most churches: prayer; singing; fellowship; communion; giving, etc.  Now, we continue with our worship as we hear the Word of the Lord.   All that we do, together, here today is worship. In fact, all that we do, as followers of Jesus is either worship of God or a reflection of our belief and our fear in Him, through Jesus.

For today’s lesson, I will focus mainly upon two verses from Scripture.

But before that, let’s consider Creation.  God is the creator and we are the creature. We are the creation of God.  When God created the heavens and the earth, He did so by His Word, and after each point of creation He said,

“It was good.”

The only time He saw something that was “not good,” in the first two chapters of Genesis, was that it was not good for man to be alone.

When God created man and woman He declared them to be,

“Very good.”

We have been created in His image, meaning that we resemble/represent God in how we are put together.  In a physical sense, it doesn’t matter if we have piercings, tattoos, scars, cosmetics or sunburn, we are still in God’s image.  We can look at things and make a declaration of “it’s good” or “it’s not good?”

Yes, there is something inside of us that can recognize goodness and recognize what is not good. I think this relates to the image of God in which we are created.

We have been equipped with a conscience. Our conscience can sometimes be a good guide, but if we continuously turn away from God, then our consciences can be seared or branded with the image and imprint of the world, the flesh or even the devil.

This can come from continuous and habitual sin or from continuous and habitual focus upon negativity, paranoia, among other things.

Scripture teaches that we are kept in perfect peace when our minds and hearts are set upon the Lord.  Our minds are incredible, for with minds, mankind can build skyscrapers and even space ships that reach the moon. Our minds can be trained to understand different languages, and our minds can race with worry.

Scripture teaches we can test and understand God’s will. …”his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

But in order to do this, we must be transformed…changed…born anew, from above.

Jesus said

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ” John 3:3

We speak about our coming to faith in Jesus as being born again, and that is true. But, we must remember that the Scriptures were written to “Born Again” believers,

  • and they contain strong words about turning from sin,
  • remaining away from sin;
  • turning to Jesus, and
  • remaining with Jesus.

While the Christian is born-anew, the enemies of the believer want to cause us to fall again, and again….and again.

As those who have put our faith in Jesus, we need to have our minds renewed, our spirits revived, our hearts brought into the focus of the image of God.  Then we can determine what is right and good.

I have alluded to a Scripture, already, but let us look at the Scripture, specifically, now:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:1, 2

The title of my message is

“Even When It Hurts.”

Let’s Pray

Pray

  1. God’s Mercy

Please fill in the blank:

“No Pain—No _______ (what?)”

Gain.

Right.

At Crunch gym they have slogans on the walls like “Sweat is your body’s way of applauding.”

It takes work to accomplish anything in life it seems.  But, when it comes to our salvation, it TOOK work, ….notice the change in the verb tense from present tense i.e. “takes work” to past tense i.e. “took work.”

It takes work to succeed, but it TOOK work to be saved from hell

  • (yes, I do believe in the literal “hell” that the Bible teaches,
  • and I do believe in sin as the Bible teaches it…

but remember,

  • I also DO believe in the redemption through Jesus,
  • the forgiveness of sins and
  • the power of the Holy Spirit and
  • the Resurrection
  • as the Bible teaches).

When we want to accomplish something, we need to communicate with God about it.

Perhaps what we want to accomplish is not really His will.

I find it hard to believe it would be God’s will for some of the world live in opulence and wealth while much of the world is living in poverty.

I find it hard to believe that a fifth of the world’s population knows and believes in Jesus, while the other 4/5 are left to live in spiritual poverty.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy  (Romans 12:1a)

We who know Jesus, and even we who are spoiled, compared to much of the world…In view of God’s mercy.

We have a responsibility to act.

Remember 1 Peter 2:10, describes us this way:

…once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:10b

We have received mercy from God.

“Mercy” is a term we don’t use that often in our regular speech, though people sometimes use it in a humorous way.

Like in Roy Orbison’s song, “Pretty Woman,” the singer interjects

“Mercy”

as he sings about a beautiful woman.  He means that he is under her “spell,” so to speak, and has been overwhelmed by her beauty…or really that he is overwhelmed with lust.

“Mercy” is something that can be given by someone who holds power over someone else.

The weak do not extend mercy to the strong, but it is the other way around.

God, clearly, holds power over us, whether we believe in Him or not.

During natural disasters, believers and atheists often have something in common: when help is needed, we turn to God and beg for his mercy.  We who do believe in Him, understand the mercy of God as the Scripture is teaching.

Regarding mercy: it is one thing to lift the punishment from someone else, but to lift it by taking it upon Himself, as Jesus took our punishment upon Himself when He died upon the cross…that is a different form a mercy.

That is mercy, offered, even when it hurts.

Jesus has given us the best example of this.

ASTEROID ILLUSTRATION

Do you ever read in the news about large asteroids that came dangerously close to earth, and yet missed us?  Whenever I read those kinds of stories, I give thanks to God for His mercy.

And as advanced as we are, it’s terrifying usually that the astronomers see the asteroid AFTER it had already passed us…hence, had it actually collided with earth, no one would have seen it coming…no one except the One Who Has Mercy on us: The Lord God!

So, in view of God’s mercy, let’s worship Him and praise Him.

The last four weeks we’ve been looking at the Church on Purpose, … part of the theme called “Living on Purpose.” And today, we continue with our theme, for we need to be people of the church and individually who are praising God, in view of His mercy…Even When It Hurts.

  1. Living Sacrifices

Sacrifices were offered to God from the beginning of time, and continued even after Jesus’ death until the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. With the death of Jesus on the cross, sacrifices of animals were no longer necessary for worship, since Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Yet, worship and sacrifice work together.  We still are called upon to sacrifice, but not for forgiveness…our sacrifices indicate our desire to worship.  We sacrifice in the following ways as worshippers of Jesus:

  1. Tithes and offerings (truly, every congregation needs finances to operate and to be able to reach out to the community…if every church member gave at least 10% of their income to their local church, then the local church could serve the community even more, and perhaps our taxes would be reduced….well, I know I am thinking idealistically, but really, when we trust God with 90% of our income, He is honored, and He does help us to live on 90%).

Giving of our finances is not easy, and it even hurts. It means we might not be able to afford as big a car, or as big a house, because we worship the Lord by giving at least 10% (I know people who give 15%).

We sacrifice by (1) Tithes and offerings, and we also sacrifice by …

  1. Songs of Worship and Praise…congregationally and individually…let us be the people of God singing, and leading the community in worship.

Sometimes we don’t like the song choice, and I understand that.

But we need to still worship even when it hurts.

ILLUSTRATION

When I was pastor in Chase City, we stepped into a very difficult situation in which there had just been two splits and we could see the third one coming. The worship team at that time had a strange theology of worship. They believed that God could use them, even without any talent, to lead worship.

One example was that the song leader could not sing, but she believed that God’s Spirit would come upon her and her voice would improve….I never saw it, and never heard it. 🙂

As well, the guitarist had had no lessons. She had an expensive guitar, but would just play it open, with no chords, and no real rhythm.

There was a drummer who kept the beat, so it wasn’t all bad, and the background singers had really good voices.

So, I just painted a very painful picture of how the worship was for a few months at the church there, and I recall that when I would worship, I would often say to the Lord,

“Lord, I don’t like this music, but I love you, and I will worship you even though it hurts.”

Even when it hurts.

We worship with our (1) tithes and offerings and we worship with (2) Songs of worship and praise…and we worship with ….

  1. Our words…how we speak describes Who we worship and Who we fear…do we talk about ourselves? Our possessions? Our accomplishments? Our kids and grandkids? Certainly, it is not wrong to speak of those things in the right spirit, but we must give honor to God.

Are our words righteous or are they coarse?

Are we sharing words of life or bitterness?

For some reason, people who hurt and are hurt would rather share more hurt than to share something encouraging.

IT IS TYPICAL OF FALLEN HUMAN NATURE TO HURT RATHER THAN HEAL.

Praying for our enemies and asking God to bless those who come against us is not an easy or comfortable action, but it is what God calls us to do, because it helps to transform our minds.

  • Tithes & Offerings (2) songs of worship and praise (3) Our words and finally…
  1. Denying ourselves…this is why we need times of regular prayer and fasting.

Listen to these stats from the Washington Post

The average American …..

  • Sleeps 8.5 hours a day (clearly, I’m not average)
  • Works 7.5 hours daily
  • Enjoys Recreation 5 hours daily
  • Watches TV 3 hours daily
  • Commutes to work 44 minutes daily
  • Housekeeping 36 minutes daily
  • Grooms for 30 minutes daily
  • Reads 21 minutes daily
  • Thinks and relaxes 19 minutes daily
  • Participates in religious activity 11 minutes daily

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/06/20/ten-maps-that-show-how-much-time-americans-spend-grooming-eating-thinking-and-praying/?utm_term=.50c53d595fa8

Clearly, we are not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

When people say that we need to make America a Christian nation, again, are we willing to decrease TV time or recreation time in order to increase our prayer time and service to God?

If we work hard, we get paid in the working world. As Christians, if we work hard at our faith and service to God, we realize that this doesn’t make us more saved, but we work and serve BECAUSE we are saved.

REMEMBER… “In View of God’s mercy.”

Sacrifices in the Old Testament were supposed to be of good and perfect animals.

People were to offer their best to God.

It hurts to offer our best.

ADAM JOKE

It reminds me of a conversation that Adam had with God about his soon to be created wife:

God: Adam, since you are lonely, I can create for you a wife who will clean up after you, cook for you, give you many children, take care of you and love you no matter what.

Adam: WOW! That sounds great God, what will it cost?

God: That will cost an arm and a leg

Adam (thinking): Well, what can I get for a rib?

🙂

Even when it hurts, let’s praise, worship and love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

In the worship that we offer in response to God’s mercy, we are also commanded to offer our best…this time our best is ourselves.

We don’t like being commanded (isn’t that LEGALISM?), and we don’t like strong suggestions.

No matter what generation we find ourselves in, we are still human, we have still all sinned and we have still all fallen short of God’s glory.

The Word of God calls us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.

We are to be Holy and pleasing…that is, set apart

This is True and Proper for our worship.

Offering ourselves is the greatest worship.

Let’s recognize our bodies as His Temple, and let’s honor Him.

We abuse our Temples with substances, and too much of good things like food. Sometimes we pursue pleasure to the point that it is no longer pleasurable.

ILLUSTRATION

I recall a man whom I knew when I was a senior in High School. He studied with me at a class at our church for biblical counseling. He was VERY pumped up to help people solve their problems through the Bible. He began to serve at a Christian counseling center here in Richmond, and I went on to study at VCU.

I didn’t have any fellowship with my friend after the class, though I sometimes saw him at church.  In time, I realized that I no longer saw him.  I asked someone who knew him, what had happened, and was told something that surprised me:

He had not left church due to a moral failure.

Nor due to substance abuse,

Nor due to divorce, death or any other challenges in many lives.

And not because of a disagreement with the pastor’s vision …

🙂

He left church because he and his family devoted themselves to soccer, and had games on Sundays.

As far as I know, this family is not following God anymore.

You can say,

“Pastor, we can still be Christians without going to church on Sunday, right?”

to which I say, yes, you can be saved, but I wonder if the true understanding of a “Christian” can be given to someone who is not participating with the Body of Christ?

A living sacrifice says,

“Even though I want to play soccer, I will not let it interfere with my relationship with God or with His Church.”

We can fill in the blank with that.

It might seem that we are asking too much of some people.

But we are to be living sacrifices, and as living sacrifices, people often try to crawl off of the altar.

When everything falls apart around us,

with

  • our marriages,
  • jobs,
  • children,
  • finances,
  • possessions,
  • health

… we tend to blame God, and yet, we need to be people who like a living sacrifice, praise God, even when it hurts.

ILLUSTRATION

I recall a woman who was dying of cancer. She was from South America and came to Richmond because a doctor offered to treat her for free. Her son went to school with my oldest daughter.

This lady and her husband loved God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.

They spoke Spanish, so we needed an interpreter when we visited with them.

Once, the husband picked up a guitar and he and his dying wife sang a song in Spanish.

The interpretation was like this:

“I will worship you with everything I have,

but if I have no hands, I’ll worship You with my feet.

If I have no feet, I’ll still worship You with my life.

And if I die, I’ll still worship You, for I will be with You.”

Can we worship God, even when it hurts?

Can we follow Him, even when everyone turns away from us?

Even when Our prayers are not answered as we like…or as soon as we like.

Can we love Him, even when He seems to be silent?

Can we submit to His Perfect Will, even when our flesh doesn’t want to?

Can we bless our enemies even though we would rather curse them?

Can we praise Him even when we don’t feel like it?

Even when it hurts?

Let’s pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Church on Purpose: Assembled on Purpose to Declare and Praise

Premise:  Let’s see ourselves as the Church–assembled on purpose to lead worship

We are in a series called, “The Church on Purpose,” for, we have been assembled on purpose for God’s purposes.

Ernie talked about “fellowship” a couple weeks ago, and Marina spoke about evangelism last week.  Today, I want to speak about worship.

Worship” is something we do regularly, though not always in a “religious” manner. “Worship” is to declare the goodness of something,…so when we declare the goodness of a product like a car or even a home-cooked meal, we are in a simple way, “worshipping.” 

If we give too much attention to an object or a person, this can be dangerous, and idolatrous (idol-worship).

When the Church was born, there was great fellowship, as the Church shared possessions, food and time together. There was great evangelism, as thousands of people in one day transformed from

  • awaiting the Messiah
  • to acknowledging Jesus as Lord and
  • receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

As well, worship was taking place on the Day of Pentecost when the Church was born. Just as when Jesus was born, there was worship from the angels, so on the Birthday of the Church, there was worship.

Let’s look at Acts 2.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Acts 2:1-13

Today’s Message is entitled:

“The Church: Assembled to Declare and Praise”

Let’s Pray

PRAY

  1. Declaring

“..we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Acts 2:11b

I want to share with you a story from long ago.

It was a simpler time before public wifi and widespread cellular telephones. Information was conveyed by word of mouth, and those who peddled impractical products used to contact potential clients via a household device that was connected to our walls: telephones. These were rotary phones and even pushbutton phones.

At 7:00 PM, all across America, telephones would ring as desperate employees of telemarketing companies tried to sell something we couldn’t see, touch, taste or smell, but we could hear the speech on the phone.

Do you remember those days?

I recall when I was much younger, and a tele-marketer called and said,

“Sir, I have a trivia question for you, and if you answer correctly, you will receive a free gift.”

This perked my interest, so I listened:

“Which state in America begins with the letter “a,” ends with the letter “a,” and every other letter is “a?”

Immediately, I answered,

Alabama!”

I was correct and was so glad that I would receive a free gift.

I was, then, informed that I would be receiving a gift certificate for their product.

I needed to wait, and they would send a driver to me.

😦

I didn’t want their gift certificate, so I declined to give my address.

I was disappointed.

The salesman had peaked my interest with the challenge of the trivia question.

Two weeks ago, Ernie challenged us to build each other up in fellowship, and last week, Marina exhorted us to prophesy and speak to the “dry bones’ and the “dead people,” who need life and live and work all around us.

Building up and speaking to is great and right, but what will we speak, with what will be build? It is interesting to me that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, and 30000 “dead people” came alive, in the spiritual sense.

As well, Peter preached without notes!

🙂

Now, there is nothing wrong with notes, in fact, they help to make sure we stay on the course that the Holy Spirit prepared for us, for He is involved in the preparation of the message, too, and not just in the delivery.

Though Peter had no notes, he had been prepared through three years of ministry and by being a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

Peter was declaring while he was preaching.

Don’t you love it when we are listening to a sermon, and we recognize it as worship?

I recall even watching an infamous preacher whom I do not recommend, but on one occasion someone had me watch a video of his sermon, and it was inspiring and worshipful.

My soul said, “amen,” “yes” and “that’s so true” on several occasions, which shocked me,

Since, usually, this preacher seems to be after the donations poor people on fixed incomes.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every sermon were like that?

But, wouldn’t it be wonderful if every Christian, too, were like that?

Not like the telemarketer who peaks our interest only to make us think we won something that we really don’t need.

Instead, let us be those who share something that is real and necessary…let our worship overflow with the reality of Jesus.

That when we encounter each other,

  • we are encouraging the fellowship,
  • we are speaking to dry bones
  • and we are declaring the wonders of God?

After several decades of following Jesus in an age in which mankind had become very depraved,

Peter wrote these words to describe you and me:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9, 10

Who are we?

The chosen, royal, holy, people/priesthood and nation of God…we are His special possession

Why are we?

We are who we are that we may declare his praises.

What kind of Praises do we declare?

In Acts 2, they were called the …

  1. Wonders of God

“..we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Acts 2:11b

When we look at the words of worship in the Scriptures, we see two basic reasons for worship:

  1. Response for God’s Provision
  2. Response because of Who God IS

In 1 Peter, he writes that we have been called out of darkness. Thus, we worship, thanking God for salvation.

The term “church” in Greek is ekklesia, and it means the “called out.” And in this verse we see the elements of that “calling out.” Peter states that we’ve been “called…out of darkness.”

Do we remember this, daily?

We’ve been called out of darkness!

Praise the Lord!

  • Some people are called out of a false religion,
  • others are called out of idolatrous living,
  • and others are called out of dependency upon anything other than Jesus.

We are called to come out of the darkness and to stay out of the darkness.

God overcomes darkness.

God’s first act of creation was “light,” and with that came a change from darkness to light.

We who have been called out of darkness, must rejoice and give thanks!

God is good!

Let’s thank Him, now!

[PAUSE AND PRAISE]

We are not only called out of darkness, but we are called into his wonderful light.

God doesn’t call us out of darkness and then have no plan for us.

His plan is that we would live in His light.

Peter invites us to BE the church.

We have been

  • called out of darkness, and
  • not into a building,
  • but into His light.

We respond to God’s provisions, whether they are healing, restoration, actions, and even when it is an overwhelming sense of God’s wonderful presence.

But we also need to be declarers of God, because of Who He Is.

As we read through the book of Revelation, we realize that there is worship taking place in heaven all of the time, and this is what we will hear there:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 4:8b

We sometimes are shy to respond when God does something for us if there are others around, and yet, if we receive a great blessing such as

  • healing from cancer;
  • or a heathen child returns to faith;
  • or if a miraculous provision of money bailed us out of a tremendous problem,

we would probably spontaneously begin to erupt in worship and praise like a volcano.

Let’s worship and declare in our hearts.

Let’s worship and declare in our homes.

Let’s worship and declare in our cars.

Let’s worship and declare in our church building

Let’s worship and declare, together, in various ways and places.

Let’s worship and declare to those around us.

Let our worship and declaration prophesy over the dry bones and dead people.

Let our words of declaration, praise and worship build up our fellowship.

Let us declare so that all may hear.

  1. In Our Own Tongues

“..we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Acts 2:11b

On the Day of Pentecost, the 120 were speaking in at least 15 different languages about the wonders of God.

On that day, worshippers had come from all over the Jewish-migrant world to Jerusalem.

They represented various languages, but they were surprised to hear these Galileans praising God in their language.

What was it like to hear in their language for the first time the praises of God inside the walls of Jerusalem?

At least they were Jews and therefore believers in the One God, but for polytheists, hearing about worshiping only is not the norm in their language.

Hearing that Jesus is the Son of God is not welcomed in many languages and cultures.

But people need to hear this in their heart languages.

This is what brings about the transformation.

Once we believe in Jesus, and His Spirit begins to reside in us, our hearts hear a language that is greater than any other.

God speaks to us in ways that we would not have thought, previously.

We hear the wonders of God in our languages!

<<Story from the Mission Field (*names have been changed for protection)>>

I want to tell you the story of a friend, I’ll call her “Farida.”*

In 2000, we arrived back in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for our second term of missionary service.

We arrived to a church called “Joyful News” which we had planted in 1998.

On one of the first Sundays that we had returned, there were two ladies who came forward for prayer to receive Jesus at the end of a worship service:

Aziza* and Farida.*

They both were crying when they came forward, because the power of God had touched them.

We prayed with them, and the woman who brought them was going to help disciple them (Gulya* had become a believer through our ministry in 1997).

The next Sunday, I didn’t see either of the ladies.

I asked Gulya* who brought them, and she said that Aziza* had changed her mind and didn’t want to follow Jesus due to the pressures of family.

Then she pointed to Farida.*

Farida* looked like her whole world had collapsed.

And it had.

We cannot promise like a telemarketer, but we must help people see the need for Jesus, even though their lives can fall apart, literally, once they believe in Him.

That week,

  • her girlfriend, Aziza,* turned away from Christ and from Farida* for continuing to follow Jesus;
  • and Farida* lost her job;
  • and she realized that she was pregnant;
  • and her husband had told her that they could not afford another child, so she had to abort the baby…she would not abort the baby because she knew that it was wrong in her spirit;
  • so her husband abandoned her and his family;
  • then the landlord threw her and her kids out.

It sounds almost like the Book of Job for Farida.*

I asked, “What job did Farida* have?”

“She is a cook,” I was told.

Now that was interesting, since that week in my office, my students, staff and I had determined that we would do better if we hired a cook who could prepare food from scratch.

So, we were looking for a cook.

The next day we had a cook, Farida!* And she became one of our students, too. She found her own place to live (very poor, but warm and secure)

It was incredible. She grew spiritually and her baby grew, too.

Farida already had two children: Farid* and Alma.*

Alma* was from her second husband, who had just abandoned them, but Farid* was from her first husband, who had stolen her (yes, women my age were stolen in parts of Kazakhstan).

After a short while, they divorced.

Farid* did not like his step-father. His step-father had trouble keeping a job and he and Farid* didn’t get along.

One evening, we were at Gulya’s* home. We were having a small group meeting.

Bek,* Gulya’s* husband, had been a Christian for about four years was really pushing Farid to put his faith in Isa (the Kazakh name for Jesus).

I felt bad, but prayed in the Spirit for him.

I hoped that Farid* really understood Jesus.

Afterwards, Farida*, Farid* and Alma* went home.

When they got home, Farida’s husband was there.

Jerkin* is his name, and Farid* looked at Yerkin* and said,

“Mom has a new life now. I have a new life now. You need a new life, too.”

And Yerkin* repented and began to follow Jesus.

He soon found a job delivering bread and believe it or not, he is still delivering for that company.

Here is a photo of them from last September, and you see Galia,* the baby that should have been aborted, is at the table, too (Farid* is married and lives in a different place, now).

Why do I tell this story?

Because it wasn’t just evangelism and fellowship that made a difference in Farida’s* life and the lives of all of the others, but it was that they worshiped Jesus with their lives, because they saw others worship Jesus.

If Jesus is truly worth worshipping, then He is worth following!

<<>>

This Farida*, heard the Word of the Lord and became a priest to her family, prophesying over dead bones and building up the fellowship of her life.

She shared in her heart language, Kazakh, and several dozen people are now in the kingdom of God because of her.

Our ESL Conversation Café is a means of sharing the wonders of God with others.

We are sharing to those around us in language and culture that they can understand.

This goes way back to Exodus:

[4] ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. [5] Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, [6] you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” 

Exodus 19:4-6

We are to be a kingdom of priests, for the whole world.

Priests lead worship.

We are to be that holy nation for the blessing of all of the nations.

A Holy Nation of Royal Priests

  1. Who are we?

The Bible describes us in this way:

Chosen People

Royal Priesthood

Holy Nation

God’s Special Possession

Declarers

Chosen…picked, collected, received, acknowledged, acquired, redeemed, saved

People…not individual, but people, group, family, civilization, generation

Royal…kingly, majestic, prince-like

Priesthood…ministers, servants, subjects with responsibilities

Holy….set apart for God’s purpose and glory

Nation…ethnicity, society, kingdom

God’s Special Possession…favorite, “especially fond of each of us”

Declarers … we are called to, we are called so that, we are called-therefore,

We praise Him on Purpose

We praise Him by default…not on purpose…God will be glorified.

Why are we?

How Are We?

Are we people who are recognize that we are part of the people of God?

Are we those who know

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

But this verse reiterates who we are and Whose we are.

God’s people…made up of various nations…various backgrounds

Some may have Jewish heritage, but we are no longer limited by blood line because Jesus baked for us

We are assembled on purpose to declare and praise

Premise:  Let’s see ourselves as the Church–assembled on purpose to lead worship

We are…

Assembled on Purpose to Declare and Praise

Let’s Pray

 

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Church: Assembled on Purpose

What is the Church and Why is the Church?

These are two questions that people may have, today.

IN TURKEY

In Turkey, people would ask me, “what do you do?” To which my favorite response went like this:

“I am a pastor.”

“What is a pastor?” they would follow up with.

“I am a monk with a wife and a priest without a big hat (priests wear big hats in Eastern churches).”

People would chuckle.

The next question was usually this:

“Where is your church?”

I would answer by telling them the name of the neighborhood where my church was.

Their next response would be:

“There is no church in that neighborhood.”

This is because to them, “church” meant “building.”

So, then I would teach:

“Your term in Turkish, “kilise” comes from the Greek term in the Bible, “ekklesia.

“’Ekklesia’ was not a building, but a gathering.

“The term comes from two Geek words, meaning to ‘call out.’

“So, the church is not a building, but it has always been people.

“We meet in an office building, but we are still the church.”

I would usually, then, invite them to church, and their response was almost always,

enshallah” meaning,

if Allah wills”….and that was actually a polite way of saying

no way.”

🙂

In Istanbul and in Almaty, we had to have church on purpose.

We could not “play” church, but every worship service was about serving and sacrifice.

Many people rolled up their sleeves and served because they saw the awesome opportunity to present the gospel to people who need it, but are blocked from receiving it.

Every meeting was an opportunity to declare God’s praises in a place of spiritual misunderstanding/darkness.

Just going to church took much effort.

I recall that Clover and I used to go to church in this way:

  • Walk 10 minutes to a shuttle bus,
  • Wait, then take the 10-minute shuttle bus to the Metrobus.
  • Wait, then take the Metrobus, which was a bus in a dedicated line, and it was often crowded. This took about 30 minutes
  • Walk 10 minutes to church

Often, we did this with 1-2 bags, each, in our hands and a guitar slung over my back.

IN ALMATY

When we lived in Almaty, we would drive 20 minutes or so to the church, but we always had traffic police waiting to stop us.

Probably every other Sunday we would be stopped by the police.

Once, when I was stopped, I realized that I had left my license in my other trousers, so as soon as the policeman stopped me, Clover got out, and caught a taxi back to the apartment to get my wallet, while I stalled the policeman.

A couple from our church saw me being stopped. They were on a Trolley bus that went past us.

They prayed.

People rode busses sometimes one hour to come to church in Almaty, and in Istanbul, some people rode for two hours to come to church.

Perhaps the longest distance we have here in this congregation is about 25 minutes.

Here, we need to be careful about speeding, yes, or we will be stopped by the police, but our insides don’t twist whenever we get behind the wheel like mine did in Almaty.

We had to be “On Purpose” in order to attend church in Almaty and in Istanbul.

But we must, also, here, in Virginia.

Satan doesn’t want us to be in church.

And schedules and the media are on his side.

He doesn’t want us to assemble on purpose, but if he can get us to assemble for other reasons that are less dangerous, then he is happy.

But we don’t take our orders from Satan

WE Take them from Him Who defeated Satan on the cross and in the grave: Jesus the Christ!

IN HENRICO

Tuesday evening, we had people in the sanctuary, in the fellowship all, in the foyer, in the kitchen, in the back area, and in the front yard.

Eggs were being tossed, water-balloons blasted, conversations were happening, and in the fellowship hall at one point, we had several different ethnic groups singing and listening to hymns and songs in different languages.

We were eating, fellowshipping, singing and getting to know each other.

It was indeed a picture of heaven.

I want you to know, River of Life, that you proved on Tuesday, what God revealed to me and Clover last year: that this congregation can and should host and welcome people from other nations.

This vision was not only something that we saw from God, but former Pastor, Dwayne Stephens, also believed that we could be an international fellowship.

Look what God did among us:

We had at least 120 people at the cookout. I know that because I keep a running list of who is with us, weekly, and this was our largest event.

When I looked at the list of those who were here, I realized that not only did we have people from 14-15 different nations, but most of our ESL volunteers were here.

Not only that, but almost the whole church was present and serving.

I teared up several times as I told people about the event during the week.

  • Some guests were from out of town, and they told me that they wish they lived here and could be part of our fellowship.
  • Another guest told me that he felt so very welcomed by our friendly church. He said that he could learn a lot from us. And, this man doesn’t go to church, but practices another religion.

He spoke so highly of YOU.

And who are YOU? Who are WE?

Why are We?

We are the “church.”

For several months now we’ve been “Living on Purpose.”

I remember when we started this theme, I thought it would continue for 1-2 months, but had no idea it would become our theme for the year.

As we have been “On Purpose,” God began to open opportunities for us.

  • Marina is one of those gifts and opportunities.
  • Ernie is one of those gifts and opportunities.

I had no idea when we began to pray about River of Life last Summer that this Summer we would have an intern and an Associate Pastor.

You may wonder, how can we afford this?

I wonder those kinds of questions, too, but God has provided a little extra funding and He even gave us a nice little gift that helps with their funding for several months.

During this time, we all need to continue to work and be on Purpose, that our church will grow, and we’ll be able to continue to minister to this growing and changing community.

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

When Jesus spoke of the Church he said that He will Build His Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

We are the ekklesia, the Assembly of God. That is the name of our denomination, but it is also the biblical term for “church.” And as the Assembly of God, we are “Assembled on Purpose.”

What is the purpose behind the Assembling of the Church?

Let’s consider Jesus’ final prayer on the night he was betrayed.

After Jesus prayed for himself, and for his disciples, he prayed for you and me:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

John 17:20-24

Let’s Pray

PRAY

As I look at these verses from Jesus’ mouth just before his arrest, I know that he knew what was happening…and he chose to pray for us.

Even as his disciples were falling asleep and not keeping watch with Him, as He had requested, and yet, He knew that, though they were failing, they would pass the gospel on…

This is beautiful, for his prayer is still being fulfilled.

Isn’t it wonderful to think that a prayer that Jesus prayed is still being fulfilled?

His Great Commission, too.

Why?

Because within the Great Commission is the perpetuation of the Great Commission.

If the Church stops witnessing, then the Church stops assembling on purpose…and the Church stops.

Those churches who focus solely upon their own needs and turn a deaf ear to the needs around them, often dry up.

We were assembled on purpose for a purpose…

But who are we?

  1. Believers

 I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (John 17:20)

Jesus knew that the Church would continue. He knew that there would be people who would believe what other believers believed.

He knew this, and he prayed for these.

He prayed for us. We are included in this.

For whom did Jesus pray? I ask, again.

“Believers.”

He didn’t pray for “Christians.”

Though, certainly, a true Christian is a believer in Jesus.

But “Christian” is recklessly applied label.

There are people who say, “I’m a Christian,” but they haven’t the slightest clue what it means.

We are to be followers…not merely believers.

But how does one become a believer?

Through other believers.

Notice:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message    (John 17:20)

Jesus later commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations.

Are we making disciples?

I understand that there needs to be

  • the work of the Holy Spirit,
  • and there needs to be the work of God the Father drawing someone toward Jesus,
  • but Believers are important to the equation.

I recall when we were first in Kazakhstan, back in the late 1990s, and there had been an evangelistic revival in that nation.

Former atheists were now presented with the gospel, and they were embracing Jesus for the first time.

I was invited to a meeting of Kazakhs who were from small villages.

They were not Westernized at all.

They had practiced a form of Islam, but really, their faith was in charms/talismans and witch doctors.

Now, they had found Jesus

For some reason, they enjoyed how I presented the gospel (through an interpreter, of course) and many were growing in their faith.

One young woman approached me. She was shy and hesitant and I didn’t know what she was going to ask.

I thought it would be a question about the baptism in the Holy Spirit or about church leadership, but it was simply this,

“How long do you plan to live in Kazakhstan?”

My answer was, “As long as God allows me to live here and serve.”

You see, at that time, many of us missionaries were concerned we might not be able to remain in the country.

As she stepped away, I asked, “why do you ask?”

Her answer stunned me:

“We need good examples like you. Our people don’t know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We need examples.”

[ask congregation] Are we being examples?

People will believe through our message.

Our message may come from our lips but be nullified by our actions and our example.

Let us grow to be the right examples that more people will come and follow Jesus.

I think that the church around the world needs to make more disciples.

We need to share with more people the message that is worth believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead.

As a pastor, you know I am keenly concerned about reaching the community and building up this church.

Do you know that most of the churches in this community are reaching out to the same people?

We are reaching out to the easier people to speak with: the whites and the African-Americans.

But who is reaching out, deliberately, to the growing international community?

You Are.

What I saw the other evening at our cook-out was an effort of our church to reach out to a part of the Richmond community that is neglected by many churches.

We all worked together, using our abilities, serving, playing, talking, etc.

As a body, we are working to bring people into the Kingdom of God.

Now, let’s look at what Jesus wanted for the believers…Unity.

We were assembled on purpose for a purpose…that purpose is to be One.

  1. Unity

Unity is Jesus’ desire, and He prayed this before going to the cross and giving his life.

By giving his life, he enabled us to have unity, but before doing this incredible act of love, he prayed that we would be unified.

I love that Jesus was a man of action and a man of words.

Unity is not easily attained, but it is still desired, and many times we are not happy unless unity means everyone agrees with us J

Compromise is hard for some if not all, but unity without compromise is dictatorial.

We need to be unified, but it may mean we need to learn to understand each other.

God created culture at the Tower of Babel when He created other languages.

And with culture came the stress of crossing cultures.

We have stress across cultures already present in the US, and we have stress crossing the gaps between generations, and even between neighborhoods.

On the Day of Pentecost, there were 120 believers gathered in one place, and at least 15 different languages were heard, spoken by people who had not learned those languages.

What creates unity?

What drew them together?

The Spirit drew them toward unity.

Jesus had just prayed about 53 days before that they would be one, and in their oneness, 3000 people joined them, and the Church continued to grow.

In Jesus’ prayer, he prayed that the church would be unified.

But, as we look at the Church around the world, we may not always see unity.

There are so many opinions that separate us, but when we can focus upon what we agree upon, I believe that we can attain some unity.

Unity comes from love, for if we don’t love, then we will be unable to unify.

Unity is also the result of the work that Jesus implemented in order to establish His church.

He gave gifts to the church in order to equip it.

Paul wrote in Ephesians about this:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:11-16

We were not only a group of believers reaching out to people the other day, but we were working according to our gifting in unity.

Our moment of unity and outreach may have seemed to be hastily organized and quickly put together, but know this, in the heart of God, He has been waiting for this moment to happen with us.

He wanted to see nations streaming into this building and among His people.

He wants this to continue.

He wants us to assemble on purpose for His purpose.

For unity, and so that the world will see the Gospel.

As Jesus said in his prayer, when we are in unity,

Then the world will know that you sent me 

John 17:23

Now, let’s consider what Jesus wanted His Unified Church of Believers to see and to know…His Glory

  1. Glory

When Moses wanted to see God,

God would only show him a “safe” part of him, referred to as his back,

and Moses came back to his people after that experience with a glow around him that was bright and godly.

When Jesus was on a mountain with three of his disciples, he changed, and they saw him as God, and were amazed.

They saw God’s glory.

Moses saw God’s glory.

We will see God’s glory, soon, but we are already seeing something of His radiance.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

John 17:24

When we were gathered together on Tuesday, there was something supernatural happening.

I looked around and saw people from other languages, eating together, listening to worship together, even singing together.  It was like heaven.

I looked at one of our members and almost fell over as the look on her face was angelic.

Jesus calls us to believe and to share that belief.

He calls us to be unified and to declare Who He is in that unity.

He wants us to see His glory, and if we will open our eyes and our hearts,

I believe that we will see His glory more and more.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9, 10

We ARE a chosen people

chosen By God as we believe in His Son.

A Royal Priesthood…called upon to serve and worship.

A Holy Nation…made up of people from all around the earth…

We are God’s special possession

  • May we be unified,
  • may we declare His glory to the world.

The Scripture doesn’t say,

“You WILL BE…”

But that

“You Are.”

QUESTION:

How am I resembling what Scripture declares?

I want us, through this series on the Church: Assembled on Purpose, to see

WHO WE ARE?

AND

WHY WE ARE?

To see how God has called us to do the following:

  1. Evangelize
  2. Fellowship
  3. Worship

Let us declare that

WE ARE NOT A CHURCH OF CONSUMERS

BUT, WE ARE A CHURCH OF CONTRIBUTORS.

Remember the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

May I turn that around and say,

“Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.”

We are living on purpose so that there will be life.

In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the ones who did something with their talent were the ones who benefitted, while the one who hid his talent were punished.

So, this is what I ask of River of Life:

Are you ready to serve?

If not, then what is needed in order to be ready?

LET’S PRAY

 

 

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Forgiveness on Purpose

Last week we considered belonging to Our Heavenly Father.

We saw that

If We Belong to Our Heavenly Father We Can…

  • Do the impossible (loving our enemies)
  • See through Our Father’s eyes (forgive)
  • See our future with Our Father (trust Him)

So, today I want to continue with this theme, and look at forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something we need to receive, and something we need to do.

Without forgiveness,

  • we can’t do the impossible with God
  • nor can we see through His eyes,
  • nor do we have a future worth trusting Him for.

Christian scholar and writer, C. S. Lewis, said this about forgiveness and the Christian:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 

C.S. Lewis

Jon Krakauer states this about forgiveness in his book, Into the Wild:

“When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines upon you.”

Jon Krakauer, “Into the Wild

We need to be willing to forgive each other, even when we make mistakes by accident.

We’ve heard it said, “forgive me, it was an accident…I didn’t offend you on purpose.”

Well, we generally don’t forgive by accident, but it must be a purposeful action.

“Forgiveness on Purpose.”

When I think of forgiveness, I know that it can only be done on purpose.

Otherwise, bitterness roots into our lives, and forgiveness becomes more difficult.

Mankind has a tendency to remember and to have hurt feelings which make it harder to forgive.

Today, I want us to think of two people and their journey to forgiveness:

One is Joseph

The other is Donna Miner, John’s wife. The Miners have been worshipping with us for a couple months. Clover and I heard Donna’s story this week, and we want you to hear it, too.

But first, let me recap the story of Joseph:

God promised Abraham that his name would be great and he would be blessed…and that all nations would be blessed through him.

Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph, was one of the first from Abraham to see this being fulfilled.

Joseph was one of 12 sons of Jacob (aka, “Israel”), and he made Abraham’s Name great by bringing Jacob’s family to Egypt.

He blessed many nations by correctly interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh.

By doing this, Joseph saved his family, in particular, Levi, through whom Moses would come, and Judah, through whom Jesus would come.

As we look at the story of Joseph, we see that he was the favorite son from his favorite wife. Talk about a blended family! And there was strife in Jacob’s home.

Joseph gave his father a bad report about his brothers.

Jacob gave Joseph special clothing that distinguished him from the rest of his brothers

So,

  • as an informant,
  • as a favorite, and
  • as the oldest son of the weakest mother,

Joseph was not liked by his brothers.

So, they sold him as a slave. Then they told their father, Jacob, that Joseph had been killed, and gave him Joseph’s clothing with goat’s blood on it as proof. TALK ABOUT FAKE NEWS.

But, Joseph LANDED in Egypt, and became the chief servant of a public official. But, due to some unsavory circumstances, Joseph was falsely accused of a crime, and found himself in prison.

So,

  • far from home,
  • in a foreign prison cell,

Joseph waited.

One day, two servants of the Pharaoh had dreams.

Joseph interpreted the dreams, and they both came true.

Joseph asked the Cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about him, but he forgot.

After two years, Pharaoh had a disturbing dream an wanted interpretation.

Then, the cupbearer remembered Joseph.

Joseph was able to interpret the dream…

which was a forecast of an environmental cataclysm, a famine. Within the dream was the formula to protect Egypt and the surrounding nations, including Israel, from starvation.

Joseph was immediately made second in command of Egypt and began to save the nation.

Joseph arranged for food to be stored over a seven-year period, and then controlled the distribution of the food over a second seven-year period.

During that time, Josephs family began to suffer from the famine.

The brothers went to Egypt looking for food. Joseph

  • recognized them and
  • tested them,
  • eventually he revealed himself to them, and had his whole family move to Egypt.

When his father died in Egypt, his brothers worried, wondering if Joseph would kill them or not.

And I wonder, too,

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

I want to read a few verses from when Joseph was in prison:

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Genesis 39:20-23

And let’s look at Colossians 3:13

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 

PRAY

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

Because…

  1. Joseph Recognized God

“The Lord Was With Joseph.”

He was Emmanuel to Joseph (“God with us”)

When we recognize that God is with us, no matter where we are, life is different.

Bitter roots cannot grow under the radiation of God’s Light and God’s Love.

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

  1. Joseph Recognized God’s Hand

Joseph recognized that God was at work in his life.  He said to his brothers. Yes, they harmed him, but God had a purpose.

When we can see this, then we can have peace. Joseph saw God’s hand, he saw God’s purpose, and he was obedient and compliant.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 

Genesis 50:18-20

Joseph could have withheld food from his brothers. He could have executed his brothers and their families.

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

I believe that …

  1. Joseph Forgave His Brothers

We, too, need to forgive and forget…

We often speak of how hard it is to forget the offense, but, sometimes, it seems hard to remember that we have forgiven.

Last week, we looked at how we Belong to the Father, and one of the ways that we do this is to forgive.

We are to pray, “forgive our trespasses (or sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.

If we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven, either.

Joseph seemed to understand that, and was able to forgive.

Clover and I met with John and Donna Miner this week. They have been with us for over a month, now, and they are enjoying our fellowship here.

Donna shared with us a story, that I want you to hear, today.

So, I will invite Donna here to share with us.

[Donna to share]

Did you hear how Donna was ready to forgive and had done so, when she received a letter from her mother, who had asked for forgiveness from Donna.

They had a wonderful relationship after this.

Donna and her mother had FORGIVENESS ON PURPOSE.

Not every story of forgiveness is like that.

Sometimes we forgive, even though the soldiers continue to crucify us.

Jesus didn’t ask God to forgive them so that they would stop, but because he loved them.

As God in the flesh, He saw them as HIS creation, and yet they were so wrong.

As Joseph looked at his brothers and saw them as valuable to God, so valuable they, unwittingly, sent Joseph to prison, and it saved their lives and millions more.

Had Joseph killed them, the story would not have been told in the same way.

And, Judah, through whom, Jesus was to be born, would have been killed.

Surely God would have raised up another family for the Messiah to come through, but think of the power of forgiveness.

It sets things in motion for generations and millennia.

“Once we understand the depth of our sin and the distance it placed between us and God—and once we get a glimpse of the sacrifice He made to restore fellowship with us—we should not hesitate to forgive.”

Charles Stanley

Let’s be people of forgiveness.

Forgiveness on purpose.

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Belonging to the Father

This is Fathers’ Day, so we wish all fathers a happy day, and all men, too!

We all have or had fathers, though not all of us had dads.

God has

  • called us into His family, and
  • He wants to reveal Himself to us as Father, and
  • He wants us to be His children.
  • And to act like His children, too.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus revealed to us God as Father, and He Himself as Son.

He invited people into this relationship.

The invitation came early in his ministry, and was truly fulfilled in his death and resurrection.

But let’s look at how Jesus revealed the Fatherhood of God in his early ministry…let’s look at it in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount encompasses three chapters of Matthew (5-7) and it is full of teaching about being in God the Father’s home.

I would like to read one passage from the Sermon, and try to refer to other passages, today, as well.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

PRAY

  1. Our Father Helps Us Do the Impossible

When our earthly fathers asked us to do something that we didn’t want to do, our response sometimes was frustration and even anger.

“Come pull weeds with me in the garden.”

“Clean up your room.”

“Do your homework.”

If your father has to tell you to do your homework, you probably don’t want to do it, and no one wants to pull weeds in a garden.

And who wants to clean up their room?

Jesus teaches us that we are to act better than pagans.

We are to love our enemies and even pray for them.

But, many of us would rather ignore our enemies or, even, hate them.

Some people say,

“I neither love them nor hate them, I am apathetic.”

But even being apathetic is to Conform to the image of this world.

We, and our enemies, were created in the image of God our Father, and God wants us ALL to belong to HIM.

When God gave His law to Israel, it was to distinguish them from the other nations…

when Jesus gave his teaching to Israel it was to distinguish them from the world…even from the rest of Israel.

Jesus’ teaching invited us into HIS Father’s family.

When our dad’s told us to clean our rooms, it was because we could and we should.

Because, just as our father can clean his room, so we can clean ours.

Was it easy?

Not at first, but we could learn.

[Some of us never learned, though :)]

When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, it is because we can, just as our Heavenly Father does.

Is it easy?

No, but with our Father’s help, we can do this, we can be “perfect” as the Scripture says, we can fulfill this impossible task through our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

In fact, it is miraculous that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.

Our Father helps us do the impossible, because He is All Powerful! Omnipotent!

  1. Our Father Helps Us to See Through His Eyes.

In chapter 6 of Matthew we learn from Jesus that Our Father sees what we do in secret, thus we do not need to boast about our good deeds.

As well, Jesus teaches us to pray without making a show of it, and know that God sees our needs before we pray.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:6-8

Leading public prayer in a religious meeting is not being forbidden by Jesus, for he, too, led prayers, publicly, as did the apostles.

But Jesus is teaching us to trust our Father.

Don’t be satisfied because people hear our prayers and think highly of us for how we pray, but INSTEAD pray believing that God hears us.

When I first became a pastor in 1990, there were some elderly ladies living next to us with whom we would visit.

They loved to say, “you pray the sweetest prayers.”

And while that may have felt good, those feelings are not the purpose of the prayer, but the purpose of prayer is to communicate with our heavenly father.

We may not hear Him say anything like those elderly ladies responded, but we will see Him answer prayers.

I would rather have answers to prayer than fans of my prayer.

God knows what we need before we ask.

And, yet, He asks us to pray.

Thus, when we enter into a relationship with God and pray, then we actually begin to see the world through His eyes.

We bring the needs of the world to Him, and of course He sees them, too, but as we pray, we know He hears us and answers us.

And we begin to see the world differently.

Thus, we can do the impossible.

Thus, we can see with the eyes of God.

Satan tempted Eve that the fruit would make her like God…but Satan lied, and we found ourselves to be easily blinded.

And Jesus taught us that if we will follow God our eyes will be open to seeing as He sees.

We can forgive our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, and we are able to ask for forgiveness as we have also been forgiven.

12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12

For if we forgive, then we will be forgiven, but if we don’t forgive, then we won’t be forgiven, either.

This is not a “good work” that saves us, but it is a “good work” that happens because we are saved.

People say,

“I can’t forgive, unless God would just zap me with the ability to do so.”

But Jesus teaches us this, thus, it is not something that we would always be able to do immediately.

There is a process, as our old nature dies to sin, and our new nature is unleashed.

As our faith in Jesus continues to grow and change us more and more into the image of Jesus.

Then we will be able to see our enemies with the eyes of Our Heavenly Father, and be able to say, with Jesus,

 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34a

And God the Father forgave them, and I believe that when we look at people with the forgiving eyes of our Heavenly Father, then we can forgive, too.

And then it is obvious that we are children of God, when we can forgive.

Addendum: What Should God’s Children Do When Offended?

We might think that the first thing we must do is “go” to the person, but we should, actually, pray, first.

Because when we pray, we can then see them through our Father’s eyes, and come with a forgiving spirit.

Should we share the offense with others?

No.

That turns someone else against the offenders.

Let’s do the following with offense:

  1. Pray for the offender (bless them)
  2. Go to the offender and share with them what they did
  3. If nothing is resolved, then take someone with you (Sometimes the offender sees what is happening, and will change, or will run away, but sometimes the relationship is restored).

Our Father helps us to do the impossible

Our Father helps us to see through His eyes

And

  1. The Father Helps Us to See the Future

As we continue through the Sermon on the Mount, we see that the Father feeds birds and clothes the wildflowers, and will take care of us, as well.

So, we can trust our Heavenly Father to take care of us.

Jesus tells us not to worry, but instead to

…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Matthew 6:33

If we seek first…

FIRST thing in the morning.

If we seek first…

FIRST above all else.

If we prioritize our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom, and His Righteousness, then we will be able to forgive.

We will be able to pray.

We will have all that we need.

Our Heavenly Father helps us see the future.

The future Kingdom of Heaven that we will live in is something that we live in, already, in that we live under His law, Will and power.

At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, we see something about the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father:

  1. His Name is Always Hallowed in Heaven
  2. His Kingdom is coming
  3. His Will is always at work in His Kingdom

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus describes aspects of our future in our Heavenly Father’s Realm.

A.We Can Belong to the Kingdom

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3, 10

B. We Find Fulfillment in the Kingdom
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:4-7

C. We Join with God’s Family
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:8, 9

On this Fathers’ Day, I want to renew my covenant with my Father in Heaven.

The Sermon on the Mount gives me a prayer that will help me in this.

Let’s stand and pray this, together.

Our Father in heaven,

Praise to Your Name

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread

And forgive our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from the evil one

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power and the glory forever.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus invites us to belong to the Father. Let’s do that, through faith in Jesus, and let us act like we do.

 

 

 

 

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