Love Your Neighbor with Your Words (Part Two)

We continue in our focus for the month on Loving Our Neighbor.

Let’s begin by recapping a few points:

  1. Our Neighbor is someone who breathes the same air as us
  2. We must love God, first, in order to love our neighbor
  3. We must love in/with our actions
  4. We must love with our words

Today, I want to continue last week’s discussion.

Last week we looked at psalm, 34, in which David blessed the Lord and invited others to hear and to join him in his blessing of God.

We concluded by looking at Paul’s word to the Ephesians in that they should

  • not speak in a non-wholesome manner,
  • but instead to build up others.
  • He warned that we can grieve the Holy Spirit by tearing down others.

Today, I want to talk about blessing others.

As David said that he would bless the Lord, so the Bible teaches us to bless others.

In the Scriptures, we see that the greater blesses the lesser

(yet in our worship, it is the opposite).

Blessing someone is a wonderful aspect of the Christian life.

I believe that as we consider the value of blessing in our lives not only as recipients but as distributors of God’s blessing, [then] we will find even more reason to rise in the morning and move through our day.

Let’s look at Romans 12:14-16.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.                 Romans 12:14-16

PRAY

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”             Romans 12:14

Let’s bless God in prayer and in our lifestyles,

but let’s also bless others.

With our mouths we can curse or we can bless.

There is power in our words.

I can remember negative words that have been spoken to me, and I can remember positive words.

I can remember times of using my mouth to bless people and using it to curse.

The power of blessing and cursing affects the one who is speaking as well as the one who is hearing.

ILLUSTRATION

Many years ago, I was helped a Christian medical center.

My colleague had founded it and practiced there twice weekly (and three days he served at his private practice).

He offered me the opportunity to be available to pray with patients who were interested.

All of the physicians would have a brief time of prayer with their patients, but they also informed them that a pastor was available to listen with them, pray and even provide spiritual counsel if they would like.

I loved this. I was on duty for one afternoon each week, and it was a great opportunity to meet people.

Sometimes I would ask people to return for follow up.

When people would come into my office for the first time, they often looked unsure of what to expect.

I hope I am correct in saying that they went away better than they were when they came in.

One day, this very petite woman who was about 35 though she carried herself like an 80-year-old, walked in.

Her eyes were sunken with  very dark circles under them, she walked with difficulty.

 Her clothing just hung upon her like she was a mere clothes’ hanger.

She was distraught. She was overwhelmed with life.

I don’t meet with women, alone, and I had an interpreter helping me with the difficult terms in Russian at that time.

I asked her what her problem was, and why she had come to me.

She answered, “I’ve been under a curse for 15 years. An Uzbek man looked at me in the bazaar one day, and he put a curse upon me.”

Now, some pastors approach such a statement one way and others another.

Some try to discredit the curse as imagination (and truly our imaginary worries can destroy us) while others look at the curse and try to break it.

Honestly, in my theology, I am not convinced that there are no such things as curses or not.

So, I asked this woman about her faith.

She was a Muslim from an ethnic group in the Caucus mountains of Southern Russia.

Her people group is called the “Inguish” and they are in the same area as the Chechens, whom you have heard about in the news.

When we lived in Kazakhstan, we had many Chechens and other people from the Caucus regions living around us.

I told this Muslim “neighbor,” that Jesus came to break the curse of sin and death.

I showed her a passage of Scripture:

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.               Galatians 3:10-14

This was the first time she had heard the gospel.

Her sunken eyes seemed to awaken as she heard this word from God, and she began to sit straighter in her chair, she wanted to know more.

I shared with her that in Jesus, she not only can be freed from curses greater than that Uzbek man had put upon her, and she would be free.

The Holy Spirit was in that room on that day, as I and my interpreter and this woman bowed and prayed.

The very real curse of sin fell off of her shoulders as she put her faith in Jesus for the first time.

We talked for about an hour and I gave her a Bible in Russian and a list of verses to read. I connected her with a church and gave her homework.

She walked out of my office that day standing a few inches taller than when she came in. She was rejoicing, and the miracle was incredible to see.

Think of the power of words.

And the Power of God’s Word.

I want us to think about those who have cursed us and are even cursing us, today.

Think of whom we have cursed, or at least not built up with our words, but torn down.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:15, 16

We need to not only be those who bless God and bless others, but we need to participate in the blessings of others, and in their struggles, too.

Our flesh wants to do the opposite.

It wants to be jealous of those who celebrate.

It wants us to ignore those who mourn.

The enemy of our souls doesn’t want us to live in harmony, but in disunity…look at our nation, right now, the lack of unity is overwhelming at times.

God calls us to bless this world.

When He called Abraham, God blessed him and said that he would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him. And that all nations on earth would be blessed through him.

Truly, through Jesus, the Son of Abraham, all nations can be blessed with the breaking of the curse of sin and death in our lives.

Jesus died for us and for the whole world.

The most famous verse of Scripture is John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.           John 3:16

It doesn’t say that God so loved part of the world, or the Jewish world or the Christian world, but the whole world.

It doesn’t say that God LOANED Jesus, but that he GAVE him.

**** **** ***

Justin and Sally Torres are overseas Christian workers.

I want them to share a little about their ministry, today

Justin & Sally Torres

Visions of Africa

As a church, we are able to bless the people in South Africa with our prayers and with our finances. We want to help Justin and Sally to serve.

[Faith Promise Card]

[Explain Faith promise]

When we help overseas Christian workers, we bless those whom they are serving, too.

Remember the woman who came to my office at the medical center in Kazakhstan?

The following week, she walked confidently into my office to show me her homework. She was transformed. She was even pretty. She carried herself as a person who had been freed, and it was amazing to see.

I did not recognize her at all.

Remember the verses I shared last week:

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:25-32

 

Let us

  1. Love God
  2. Love Our Neighbor with our Actions
  3. Love Our Neighbor with our Words
    1. Inviting them to Worship God with us
    2. Asking God to bless them and not to curse them.

God wants to see us speak His good word to others.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.            Psalm 19:14

Let’s pray

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Loving Our Neighbor with Our Words

[shout] GOD BLESS YOU!

How did you feel when I spoke those words?

Did you think, “Thanks, Pastor.”

I hope so.

What if I had come to your home before your alarm went off, and knocked on your door loudly and yelled,

“GOD BLESS YOU!”

Now, that would evoke a very different response, right?

The words are not any different. But the setting is different.

We can bless people, and we should.

Or we can curse them.

And we can use the same words to do so.

In Proverbs we see a verse that illustrates this:
14 If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning,
    it will be taken as a curse.

Proverbs 27:14

How we communicate with people, communicates just as much as what we communicate.

We are focusing this month on the second greatest commandment, Love your Neighbor as yourself.

This cannot be understood apart from the greatest commandment to love the Lord God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR FOCUS

I’m excited about our focus on Loving our neighbor, and I am happy about our plan to reach out to our neighbors.

Last week we looked at the story of the expert in the law who tested Jesus about salvation and then asked the question, “Who Is My Neighbor.”

Jesus, then, told the parable of the Good Samaritan. That was a teaching about loving our neighbor with our actions.

But, let’s also love our neighbor with our words.

For our Scripture reading, today, let’s look at a Psalm 34.

These are the words of David, after he had made one of many escapes from death.

There was a period of time in David’s life in which he was constantly under attack from his physical enemies and from spiritual and emotional ones, too.

David wrote some of the most emotional words in all of Holy Scripture, and they teach us that it’s alright with God for us to complain to Him and cry out to him.

We were made in God’s image, and in part that means that we are verbal:

  • God created by His Word and we can build up with our words.
  • God can also destroy with a word, and we can too.

This is a great responsibility to carefully use our words, not merely in speaking, but what we write and what we think.

Let’s look at Psalm 34, and see how David’s words were loving to his neighbors:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Psalm 34:1-6 (ESV)

Prayer

STORY FROM WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday evening, we had an interesting situation occur.

Connie had been inviting a friend of hers, Cheri, to come to the church for a very long time.

During the day on Wednesday, Cheri had a moment with God as He showed her His protection, so she was then determined to come to our church.

Connie called to invite her to our “Love Your Neighbor” dinner, and Cheri said that she would like to come that evening, too.

On Wednesdays, we have a wonderful friend, Ernie Campe, who teaches. The evening is divided into the three parts:

  • Worship and Prayer
  • Bible Study
  • Prayer in small groups

So, during the time of prayer in small groups, Pam, prayed with Connie and Cheri.

Pam and Cheri soon realized that had previously met, so they reunited.

I was impressed with God that He had led Connie to

  • invite someone with whom He was working,
  • who had met someone, already, in the church.

But, that’s not all….

Cheri asked if I would be willing to meet her husband.

I asked his name was, and was further amazed:

I knew her husband.

I had not seen him in 35 years or so,

but then I also realized that I had known her father-in-law, who had been a huge encouragement to me when I was a young man.

Think of the power of words.

Connie’s invitation in the Hands of God led to an incredible reunion.

And I thought of the power of words over the years in my life.

Cheri’s father-in-law encouraged me when I was a teenager, and God used him to help me to be who I am, today.

Words can build us up, and they can crush us.

David declared:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1

David wanted to always bless the Lord.

Is that what we want to do?

David Loved the Lord with all of his heart.

We can, too.

Let praise fall off our lips rather than fear or selfishness.

I am not advocating cliché or slogans

but real praise

honoring God with our words.

Notice that right away, in the second verse, David wants his neighbor to hear his words of praise to God.

“Let the humble hear and be glad.”

Psalm 34:2

The “humble” was his neighbor.

Remember who our neighbor is:

Neighbor” -someone who breathes the same air as us.

David then moves from

SPEAKING (Hearing)

To

INVITING TO PARTICIPATE

And invites his neighbor to…

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

Psalm 34:3

God didn’t look at the earth while it was formless and void and say,

“You’re a wasteland. You’re worthless.”

No, instead He spoke and the heavens and the earth were created.

God created us in His image, gave powerful tongues to us.

It is terrible how powerful our tongues can be.

Instead of building up, our tongues can destroy us and others.

People are forming opinions about Jesus from what we say and what we write…and I include what we post.

If we spent more time in the Scripture and less on our tablets, phones and laptops we would realize that God is not calling us to gather “likes” and favorable comments, but He wants us to call to others and say,

“Glorify, praise and magnify the Lord with me. Let us together worship and exalt the Lord, together.”

David wrote,

“I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all of my fears.”

Psalm 34:4

That is David’s testimony, and he wanted everyone to know it.

If this had been his Facebook Post, he would have gotten thousands of likes in his lifetime, and hundreds of millions, since.

For 3000 years David’s words have been read in numerous languages, and they have been

  • rehearsed,
  • followed, and
  • shared in experience.

The Church continues on because of testimonies like David’s.

We grow, spiritually, when we see God at work.

We help others to either grow, or to die by what we think, say and write.

The next two verses I want to illustrate with some new friends of mine:

Behzad and Jamila are from Iran.

They were born into Muslim families and found faith in Jesus while they were young adults.

I first met them a few months ago. And a couple weeks ago, Clover and I had tea in their home.

We, too, have mutual friends around the world.

I want them to share how they came to Jesus and why they are so thankful to Him.

[Behzad and Jamila to share]

Behzad & Jamila 

Church-Planters from Iran

Q: Behzad and Jamila, what kind of homes did you grow up in?

Q: Behzad, how did you change and become a follower of Jesus?

Q: Bahzad, what did you do, next? What did God call you to do?

Q: Jamila, so how did you change and become a follower of Jesus?

Q: What happened as you ministered in Iran, together?

Q: What was prison like?

Q: What happened, next?

Q: How long did it take for you to be able to come to the US?

Q: We know what the Iranian government thinks about America, but what do Iranians think?

LET’S PRAY FOR BEHZAD AND JAMILA AND THEIR DAUGHTER.

*** *** ***

When I think of Psalm 34:5, 6, I think of people like Behzad and Jamila.

Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.

Psalm 34:5, 6

God…

  • reached them,
  • called them,
  • saved them,
  • equipped them,
  • deployed them,

and like Clover and me, they have the

Same Calling, Different Address

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, let me share a final point from Ephesians.

Paul had to correct the Ephesian church on the use of their tongues:

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:25-32

We grieve the Holy Spirit of God when our words destroy and crush others.

Let us love our neighbors with our words.

You might ask me,

“but isn’t it loving to share a word of correction.”

And I agree, but let’s

  • build that relationship and
  • earn the right to speak a word of correction to people.

And let’s practice speaking a word that engages our neighbor to worship the Lord with us.

Let us be radiant and draw people toward us with our words and with our actions.

Let us love God with our heart, soul, strength and mind and love our neighbor as we love ourself.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

Let’s pray

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Love Your Neighbor

Prior to President Trump’s Executive Order which affected visitors from seven Muslim majority nations, I had been planning to focus upon the second greatest commandment.

I begin by saying this, because I don’t want my pulpit to be a political pulpit, but the stage on which the Word of God is PROCLAIMED.

What caused me to want to focus on this theme is the fact that the term “neighbor” has truly a multi-faceted meaning.

It is more than a person who lives near us, but is really someone who breaths the same air as us.

Neighbor

-someone who breathes the same air as us.

SAMARITANS & JEWS

In Jesus’ day, there was a huge racial divide between the Samaritans and the Jews.

On one hand, the Samaritans could not help who they were. They were victims of a forced immigration policy by a foreign government.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrian empire in 722 BC and part of their foreign policy was to forcibly exile people throughout their empire. Many Hebrews were moved to other parts of the empire, and, people from all around that empire were joined the remnant of Israelites who still lived there.

These people brought their religions with them.

By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans had returned, partly, toward the God of the Old Testament. They only accepted Moses’ books as Scripture, and they had their own place of worship: Mt. Gerizim.

When Jesus had a conversation with a woman from Samaria, she asked him where were people supposed to worship the One True God, in Jerusalem, or on Mount Gerizim in Samaria.

This was a very important question to the Samaritans, because in time, they tried to follow the One True God. The Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, but about 150 years before Jesus’ ministry, the Jews invaded Samaria and destroyed it.

They were insulted by this other religion that was similar to theirs, but not complete.

They did not build bridges, but they burned them, and the rift between the Samaritans and the Jews grew even more hostile.

That is part of the background of this story. The Jews discriminated against the Samaritans, and the Samaritans had been victimized against in an extremely unjust manner.

TESTING OF JESUS

In Jesus’ day, he was tested by the experts in the Law, the top theologians of his day.

This was not a bad thing, in that if Jesus couldn’t pass their tests, then he would not really be who he said he was.

As well, when he was tested, he also tested those who tested him.

Once an expert in the law asked what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.

Jesus didn’t give him the answer we might have expected, to believe in him in order to be saved.

This is what Jesus told another teacher of the Law named Nicodemus.

But instead, Jesus asked the man to answer the question himself.

When the expert listed the two greatest commandments, Jesus told him that he had answered correctly.

But, the man wanted to justify himself.  He wanted to complete his task of testing Jesus, so he asked another question.

He didn’t ask, “who is God,” for that was obvious.

But he asked the question, “who is my neighbor.”

Instead of saying, “everyone is your neighbor,” Jesus told a story. It was a parable,

which means a story in life that is told to tell a truth.

In the case of Jesus, he told stories that led people to an understanding of God, His Kingdom and His Will.

Let’s look at the passage of Scripture, today, from Luke 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37

The Title of My Message today is, “Love Your Neighbor.”

  1. When We Ignore Our Neighbor, We Are Not Following Jesus

This is called the “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” but that misses the point. Samaritans were not considered to be “good” to Jesus’ audience. Perhaps a better name would be the

“Parable that Jesus Put in the Face of Nationalistic Judaism in Order to Answer the Question: ‘Who Is My Neighbor?’”

We have benefitted from “good Samaritans” at times.

ILLUSTRATION OF BEING A “GOOD SAMARITAN” (Part One)

I recall a time when we were the Good Samaritan.

Clover and I were driving to North Carolina. This was in 2010 and we were using GPS to go the fastest route to the obscure little town that we needed to get to.

While driving, we wondered why we didn’t stay on the main roads, especially when a big storm came up.

But then we saw an opportunity: A young university student had run off the road, and her SUV was stuck in a ditch. She would need a tow truck to get out. We stopped to offer any assistance.

It was a great feeling to be the Good Samaritan.

The Story that Luke presents to us is actually two stories:

  • Dialogue between an expert in the Law and Jesus
  • The Parable

The Parable is what is often remembered, and that is good. I believe that this parable contains the essence of Jesus’ teaching on the subject of “Love Your Neighbor.”

In the Parable, there are several characters:

-A Man

-Robbers

-Priest

-Levite

-Samaritan

-Inn Keeper

The man is the victim.

The Robbers were small businessmen J

When Jesus told this story, people knew that the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was dangerous and there were thieves and robbers there.

The Inn Keeper, too, was a small businessman.

When Jesus asks the expert in the law who was a neighbor to the victim, he asks which of the three, and he is meaning the Priest, Levite and Samaritan.

The Priest and the Levite were those whom one would expect to help the victim, but they were able to ignore him.

I’ve been a “priest” and “Levite,” sort of, for many years. I’ve been involved in regular volunteer ministry since 1980, and was licensed to preach in 1991.

I know what it is like to spend all of my time ministering, and not have time to minister.

Early on in my ministry as a pastor, I learned the value of putting my family ahead of ministry. That didn’t mean that I was the perfect father or husband, but I didn’t want my family to resent ministry. I wanted them to love ministry and participate with me.

Jesus didn’t say why the Priest and the Levite failed to be a neighbor to the wounded man, which is good, because we can consider many different reasons as we apply this story to our own lives.

It could just be due to what I call Basic Weaknesses, which I have been guilty of, too.

Basic Weaknesses

-Too busy

-Too tired

-Too weak

-Too preoccupied

-Expect someone else to serve in our places

These basic weaknesses are SEEMINGLY excusable, and are often done without giving much thought.

We hear that there is a need to help someone, but we have too much going on, or we just don’t have the strength to help.

There are many others who could do a better job than us, we think.

But, really, we need to not allow these basic weaknesses to overpower us and block us from doing good.

There are basic weaknesses and then there are the greater weaknesses.

Greater Weaknesses

-Too greedy

-Too nationalistic

-Too righteous

-Too fearful

GREED

Greed plays a part. It could be in this story, that if the Priest of Levite helped the man, then they would not have been able to serve at their jobs and would not be paid.

Greed comes in political forms today, too.

NATIONALISM & PREJUDICE

Nationalism and even prejudice: I was surprised at something I heard regarding the Turkish churches, recently. Since there are so many Arab refugees everywhere, the churches have been trying to help. But they are overwhelmed. So now they are saying, “Turks, only.” And they only want to help their own.

The church of Turkey is very small and weak. Perhaps only 5000 Turkish believers out of 75,000,000 people.

But in the beginning of the church, it was wrong to assert the preeminence of one ethnic group over another, and the first churches in Turkey were international churches (multi-ethnic).

Perhaps the Priest and Levite assumed this victim had been a foreigner, so they just left him alone.

SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS/ RELIGIOUSNESS

We sometimes are too righteous or too religious to serve people.

Being so religious that our hearts are closed to the needs around us, is not what God intends.

Remember, God doesn’t ask us to save ourselves.

If He expected that, then He would have made us super-human, but He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us.

Therefore, when we do good works or perform religious acts, we do these because of Who God Is.

We do good things because we are saved, not in order to be saved.

FEAR

  • Fear prevents us from doing the right thing, also.
  • We are afraid because of our perceptions.
  • Our perceptions are formed by what we look at.
  • If we are told that something is bad and scary, then we will believe it is bad and scary.
  • But if we take our fears to God, then He will change our ways.

God can turn our fears around if we let Him.

We need to not fear evil, because God is with us.

As we looked at the Lord’s Prayer last week, Jesus taught us to pray:

“Deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13

  1. Loving Our Neighbor Can Be Challenging

As I mentioned, there are two stories in the passage of Scripture that we looked at today:

-The Test

-The Parable

Jesus did not fall into a trap with the test, but instead, he trapped the Expert in the Law.

After the story, Jesus asked,

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:36, 37

Notice that the Expert in the Law doesn’t answer with the term, “Samaritan,” but with the description of the Samaritan.

Jesus tells him to go and do likewise.

ILLUSTRATION OF BEING A “GOOD SAMARITAN” (Part Two)

Remember I told you that Clover and I were able to help a young lady several years ago.

Her car was in a ditch and she was awaiting a tow truck. 

When we pulled up to help her, she put down her window. However, the angle of the car was such that she couldn’t hear us. So she put her window up, and got out of the car.

She told us that she had called for a tow truck, and she was waiting. So, we didn’t think that there was anything we could do.

Sadly, however, when she got out of her SUV, the door closed (remember, it was at a strange angle) and she locked her keys in the car.

We felt awful that we had come to help her, but had made matters worse.

Then it started to rain. We invited her to sit in our car, but she must have been afraid, so we gave her our umbrella and waited for the tow truck.

In the process, due to the rain and other things, I became wet and muddy, so I had to buy a new pair of trousers when I arrived at the town where I was preaching.

It’s funny, but I think we sometimes don’t help people because we are afraid that we are not qualified or that we will make a bigger mess for them.

Sometimes we don’t help people because we think we are not qualified and might make a bigger mess.

But, God calls us to join in the experiences of life, and walk with people.

I recall when I was trying to buy a home in Kazakhstan, and we had to spend so much time in very long lines. We could have paid bribes in order to get through faster, but we didn’t want to do that.

After several weeks, we were finally able to buy the home (it was cheaper than renting).

I remember one day when I was getting ready to teach at a Bible School, and I was so exhausted. The interpreter asked me, “why are you so tired?”

When I told him that I had been standing in long lines every day to get this form that would enable me to get that signature, for that process…it was endless red-tape and bureaucracy.”

His response was, “now you know what we go through… And you did this in 2 weeks without paying a bribe? That is a miracle.”

God calls us to live life with our neighbors and to get to know them. He calls us to walk with our neighbors.

God calls us to love Him and to Love our neighbor.

How the Samaritan’s Actions Affected Himself: 

-He was late for his appointment

-He had a financial loss

-He became Ceremonially unclean

-It was Uncomfortable

-He acted as a servant (which is humbling)

Out of our love for God, we need to love our neighbor, and as followers of Jesus, we are not really following Him unless we love our neighbor.

I like how Author and Pastor Francis Chan puts it:

“Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter unless it is about loving God and loving the people He made.”

Francis Chan

Let us be people who show our love to our neighbor.

Our theme this month is love your neighbor.

But that really should be our theme, every month, as well as Love the Lord Our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

APPLICATION:

Now, in conclusion, Let’s consider another story….our story!

Who will be reached with the Gospel because we stoop in humility and service to those around us?

God Knows, and He wants to Dispatch us to do it.

I want to ask us to take some time in prayer to apply this message to our lives.

How can each of us, individually, show love to our neighbors?

How can we as a church show love to our neighbors?

We have an outreach plan of visiting with our neighbors and asking for their prayer requests.

This is an opportunity for us to physically reach out to our immediate neighbors.

It gives our church a chance to pray.

Thus, there is a connection between us, our neighbors and God.

Then, inviting those who do not have a church to come to a dinner here at the church.

Of course we invite them to come to our church, but to invite them to come to a dinner is a way to show them love and give them something that they need, a meal.

Let’s take time to think of whom we will invite, and how to reach out to them.

Let’s Pray

 

 

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On Earth as it Is in Heaven

We have had a prayer emphasis during this month, in which we set aside four hours each Wednesday for prayer.

Several months ago, I was considering this emphasis, and believed that I wanted to especially share from the Lord’s Prayer.

This prayer is something that I grew up hearing in church; and even in my school we said the Lord’s Prayer daily during elementary school (it was not a typical school situation).

We live in a different nation now than our nation was 53 years ago when I was born.But God has not changed during those 53 years, nor since the beginning of time.

God has always been the same.

Jesus is revered to be a “great teacher” by many who have never even read his teaching.

He taught many things, and his teaching on prayer is some of the most useful and revealing.

Today, I want us to look at the Lord’s Prayer as it is presented to us in the Gospel of Matthew:

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13

The title of my message is “On Earth as it Is in Heaven.”

As we begin, let us pray the Lord’s Prayer, together, in unison.

I have updated the language of the prayer from how I prayed it as a child:

Our Father, Who is in heaven

Hallowed be Your Name

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.

Amen.

  1. How to Pray

This prayer comes in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. It is surrounded by other verses about prayer and forgiveness.

-Don’t Pray on Display

Just prior to the prayer, Jesus tells us to not pray like the hypocrites who pray for display.

You know, I used to be worried about that, and sometimes I check myself, but I am ready to pray at the drop of a hat, I think.

I was criticized a few months ago for being so ostentatious or showy, so around that critic, I try to remember that even praying before eating a meal is more of an offense to them, now.

So, I’ll try not offend.

I think we can pray, publicly, as a means of helping people, but we should be careful not to draw unnecessary attention, and therefore become an offense.

Praying publicly can be a wonderful opportunity to share God’s love with someone, but let’s not pray to be on display.

 

When we pray, let’s remember that it is a conversation with God.

-Pray in a Private Way

Jesus also talks about privacy in prayer.

Pray in secret. This is the opposite of praying showy prayers.

This was Jesus’ example, as he was noted as one who would get up early to pray in a quiet place.

And, it is very therapeutic for people to spend time alone with God in prayer.

I encourage each of us to do this.

Set time aside when we can just pray, with no distractions; and Receive from God.

-Don’t Babble in Prayer

Jesus also says not to babble. Not to think that by the quantity of words we shall be blessed, and it is at this time that He said,

…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.      Matthew 6:8

God doesn’t learn information through our prayers.  He knows what we need, but He still asks us to pray.

He loves to have conversation with us, and the Lord’s Prayer is a pattern for prayer to help us in our conversation with God.

  1. Pattern for Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is a Pattern and a guideline for prayer

  • It begins with Worship
  • It leads us to our personal petitions for what we need
  • It reminds us of our relationship to forgiveness (we need it, and we must show it)
  • It calls us to pray so that we don’t fall into temptation
  • It declares our dependency upon God in our struggle against the evil one.

About 30 years ago, I was serving as a youth minister in a church near the Richmond Airport.  The senior pastor really wanted people to pray.

He found a teaching about using the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline for praying for a whole hour.  So, he encouraged the congregation to do this through his sermons and newsletters.

A few learned and began to practice this teaching, but he wanted everyone to pray this way.  So, he bought video cassette tapes of the teaching, and this is what we watched on Sunday evenings at church.  There were several tapes, and once people had watched 2 of them, they stopped coming to church on Sunday evenings.

So, Pastor decided that the Sunday morning format would change:  We would sing only a couple songs.  Children’s classes were canceled, even nursery.  I remember this, especially, because Emily was a young baby, and we had to hold her for two hours while we watched two video tapes.

We watched two one hour cassette tapes on a Sunday morning.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  The room where we met was full of over 100 people.

The next week there were only about 50 people.

The third week there were about 25 people.

In the end, the pastor received what he wanted…the whole church was trained to pray for one hour at a time,  but the whole church had dwindled to about 20 people.

Although the method was difficult and harsh that the pastor employed, the purpose was honorable.

He wanted us to be able to pray for one hour.

And I still believe that was an excellent teaching.

But it may not take too long to learn it.

If you want to try it, you just take the Lord’s Prayer and spend time expounding on each point for several minutes as we pray. Apply each point to every aspect of your life and of those for whom you are praying.

If you’ve never done this before, you may be surprised how long we can pray.  So the Lord’s Prayer can be seen as an outline, or pattern for prayer.

As well it is a Script for Prayer.

  1. Script for Prayer

I was preaching a series on the Lord’s Prayer once, and found a suggested method of praying it:

  • rapidly,
  • several times a day.

-Let it be the first thing you say

-And the last thing

-Let it be with every meal

-And before every meeting

I thought, “silly,” but I still tried it.

I was surprised.

The words of the Lord’s Prayer have a centering effect on me, and they help me to see difficult situations through God’s eyes.

Once, when I was about to have a very difficult conversation with someone, and I had already prayed specifically about the situation, but I had a couple minutes before the conversation was going to start.  I took that time to pray the Lord’s Prayer, RAPIDLY….and it helped me to see the person in a MORE favorable light, as I knew that I was praying to Our Father, not just My Father.

I’ve since recommended it to many people, and they thank me for it.  Those who are under stress or temptation or in impossible situations, have taken peace from God by means of this prayer.

  1. On Earth as it Is in Heaven

This is the perspective of the Lord’s Prayer, and I think it is so insightful for us.

The earth has been spoiled by the sin of man, and though we receive our physical sustenance from the earth, we are poisoned by the spoiled earth.

Earth represents human governments and societies.

It represents the physical realm of all matter, too, I believe.

Jesus told us to pray this pattern,

On Earth as it Is in Heaven.

He wants us to see the spoiled earth as the scene of redemption.

But he doesn’t arm us with

  • physical weaponry or
  • political power or
  • scientific ingenuity

Jesus was not calling man to rebel, but to repent.

This same group of people had just heard Jesus bless the Meek, as the Inheritors of the earth.

So, in prayer, Jesus calls us to make a change to the earth.

We change the earth by praying according to the Will of God that is always at work in the kingdom of heaven, and that it would happen, too, on earth.

In this case heaven means the realm of God.

  1. What on Earth as it is in Heaven?

What are we to do on earth as it is already done in heaven?

  1. Hallowing of God’s Name
  2. Welcome God’s Coming Kingdom
  3. Submit to God’s Perfect Will

When Isaiah saw the vision of God in the Temple, he was overwhelmed.  The Temple was filled with the majesty of God, and there were angels known as Seraphim who were worshiping God because of Who He Is:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

    the whole earth is full of his glory.”     Isaiah 6:3

When John saw the throne room of heaven, he saw and heard something similar.

He calls them “Four Living Creatures” and they said these words:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”    Rev. 4:8

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to direct their prayers to their heavenly Father, and to Hallow His Name.

When we hallow God’s Name, we are making it holy.  We are praising it, honoring it, worshiping His name.

It is not meant to be merely an instantaneous honoring of God (meaning for the moment that we pray those words), but it is meant to be our declaration that God’s Name be Hallowed, be Worshiped, Be Praised, Glorified and Honored.

A few words later, Jesus adds the phrase, “On earth as it is in heaven.

Often when we pray this prayer, it seems that the points about God’s Kingdom and Will are meant to be understood this way, but this first point of honoring God’s Name is meant here, too.

Hallowed is Your Name!

In heaven, God’s Name is Hallowed, always, but what about on earth?

Not so. There are places where God’s Name is hallowed, but many more where it is not hallowed.

There are those who will try to legislate morality, and I do believe that there is a place for Christians in the political realm, but when we pray,

“May Your Name be Hallowed,”

…we must think of the area under our control:  our beings.

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” begins in the heart of the one who follows Jesus’ teaching on prayer. May Your kingdom and will find their place in my heart, Lord, and may I be used to share Your Kingdom and Will on earth as it is in heaven.

In essence, these three points of

-Hallowing God’s Name

-Welcoming His Kingdom

-Submitting to His Will

Are all the same.

How do we make God’s name Hallowed or Holy?

-Obedience to God’s moral law

-Intentionally being in His presence

         And Sharing His presence

-Regularly praying and communicating with Jesus

-Trusting in God for

         our needs

         our salvation

         our deliverance

-Practicing forgiveness

So, as Jesus wants to change the world, He begins with enlisting us to pray for change.

And he expects us to follow what we pray.

So, let the change come to me and to you, today.

Let it reach out to those around us, and make a difference in this world for the glory of God.

On Earth as it is In Heaven

  1. Pray it
  2. Do it
  3. We’ll see it

This message today has been much more about application of this Scripture, so let’s conclude recapping this application:

APPLICATION

  1. As we pray, let’s recognize the Authority of the Kingdom of God over our lives. We are subjects of His Kingdom, thus let’s be people who worship God and submit to His Rule and His Will. We don’t always know His Will, but when we do, let’s do it. His Rule is very clear in the Bible, so let’s follow it. And He is to be praised not just as a response but because of Who He Is.
  2. Let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer several times a day, rapidly (but not as a mindless mantra). Repetition is one of the best means of teaching and learning, and meditation upon the Word of God is one of the best ways to begin the application of God’s Word to our lives.
  3. When we pray, perhaps once a day or once a week, let’s use the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline for our prayers

Let’s pray

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When My People Pray

We are being encouraged to increase the frequency of our prayers and increase the amount of time that we pray.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the first half of 2 Chronicles 7:14, and this week we will look at it, again. We focused upon the first part of the verse which is the CONDITIONAL part…

IF my people will pray

Today, we look at the RESULT of the condition…

If—then or therefore

It is the relationship between

  • what God calls us to do and
  • what He plans to do in response.

Let’s look, again, at this verse:

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.            2 Chronicles 7:14

Last time, we looked at the first part of this verse, and we broke it into these parts:

  • If My People
  • Who Are Called by My Name
  • Will Humble Themselves
  • Pray
  • Seek My Face
  • Turn From Their Wicked Ways

 God calls us His People…Is that not an awesome statement?

Most of us in this room are called by American society, “Baby Boomers.”  Some of us are part of “Generation X.”  Some are “Millennials” and our children here in church are “Post Millennials.”  But according to God, we are “His People,”

And that is because…we believe in the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, the Messiah.

  • Jesus bought us with the payment of His blood and
  • Proved that his sacrifice was sufficient by his resurrection from the dead.

We who are His people are to be humble, Yet, many people think this is the opposite of how we act. We need to change that by being even more humble.

And in Humility, meeting with our Father in the Name of Jesus, we need to pray even more; Seek God’s Face…kingdom and righteousness; Repent and stay away from sinfulness…

Then God promises two things:

  • To Hear
  • To Respond, Favorably

I am a realist, I think (I hope) and I am a man of faith in God.

God answers our prayers, because He hears them.

Now, let’s consider the whole verse, again.

It sounds like a formula.

When I was a teenager, I worked for the summer at a paint store, and I was trained to mix automotive paint. We did this by weight,

  • and we would begin with an empty can,
  • then fill it with the base or majority paint,
  • then we would add other colors to make the specific type of color…
    • not just grey,
    • but charcoal grey…
    • but not just charcoal grey, but phantom grey.

So, as a formula, God begins with His People, and He tells to add

  • 1 part humility

plus

  • 1 part prayer

and

  • 1 part seeking face of God and
  • finally one part of repentance, and

viola

God hears, and answers favorably.

To look at it as a formula might cheapen it, and I am not trying to do that…I am not trying to dumb this down. But, let it become a way of life…When we come before God, let us do so in HUMILITY By PRAYER, SEEKING HIS FACE…not our own ideas or opinions…And TURN FROM WICKEDNESS

It is a way of life

God calls us into relationship

He offers to HEAR  and RESPOND FAVORABLY

And this is what we need.

  1. Hear

Let us believe that He indeed hears us…He knows what we are about to pray for before we even ask.

He knows our thoughts…He longs to hear from us…he wants to hear us, so, we must pray….Yes, He can read our thoughts, but He created us as beings who can communicate, (which is part of the understanding of being made in God’s Image),

God communicates, thus He longs for us to communicate with Him. When We Pray, let us remember that He loves WHEN WE PRAY.

He hears us.

David recognized that it is the righteous that God hears:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

    he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.   Psalm 34:17, 18

And John wrote to the church that God hears us when we pray according to God’s will:

 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.      1 John 5:14, 15

Our prayers are even described as incense before the Lord.

… the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8

He hears us.   We must believe this.

David wrote:

Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:7-12

So, yes, He hears us, and therefore, Satan wants to stop us from praying.

Each of us who has endeavored to increase the amount of time we pray this month, or the amount of times we pray, has probably found it not only difficult as a new discipline, but we have found many things to complicate our time.

I’ve had many unusual things happen during this month of prayer, that have come down hard on me, and have blocked me from GIVING as much time as I had hoped, but I’m still pushing through.

Satan is at work, and he will try to keep us from praying, because he knows God hears us. And He knows that God will answer, favorably.

  1. Respond Favorably

This is a delicate area for many people. There are those who say God doesn’t heal today. There are those who say He does, but with limitations. There are those who SAY if you pray X number of times then God will answer.

The favorable responses in 2 Chronicles 7:14 are

  • forgiveness of sin and
  • healing of their land.

The first favorable response that God lists is forgiveness for sin.

When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees mentioned, specifically.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.   Genesis 2:8, 9

God told man to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but man, through the Tempter, ate of it, and man was exiled from the garden.

The earth that man was supposed to rule, now was spoiled by sin, and from that spoiled land man would receive his sustenance.

God promises forgiveness and the healing of our land.

We fully understand this in the sacrifice of Jesus, through whom all of our sin is forgiven, if we believe in His death and resurrection.

We need to be reminded of

  • our fallen state without Christ, and
  • our forgiven status with

Thank God for His forgiveness, through which we have eternal life, that we are living even now,

  • as we no learn to let go of grudges,
  • as we learn to let go of bad habits,
  • as we learn to let go of greed, and give God at least 10% of our income and give to those in need
  • and as we learn to let go of our loneliness,
  • and let go of our independence that sometimes leads to idolatry…

…as we are letting go, we are experiencing the beginning stages of eternal life even now. This is because we are Forgiven. 

There is so much more to say about forgiveness, but let share one Scripture that is incredible:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.    1 John 1:9

It sounds like a formula, again.

If…then

If we confess our sins, then we’ll be forgiven and John expounds more and says we will be PURIFIED.

Notice, too, that John describes God’s character, WHICH is why He not only Forgives, but Also Purifies.

He is Faithful…Faithful to forgive the one who confesses his sins

But He is Just…Full of Justice, and doesn’t want us to live forgiven and yet impure.

Remember, God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after they sinned, but it was not just a punishment, or result of their sin, it was an act of mercy.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  Genesis 3:21-22

God didn’t want man to live forever in a sinful state.

His character is Mercy, Faithfulness and Justice.

Thus, He calls us to Call to Him, and be forgiven and healed.

The natural question for us now is why doesn’t God heal us every time we pray?

I don’t really know.

But what I do know is that God promises to answer favorably.

How is God going to answer our prayers right now?

For example, Andrew Brunson is the American pastor imprisoned in Turkey today under false accusations…I am not in his place or situation…How can I say that God will do what He has promised and answer favorably?

It is by trusting in God while we are praying.

Andrew Brunson, like all ministers who serve in other countries, counted the cost before setting foot in Turkey. He knew that this could happen.

He continued to count the cost when three Christians were martyred in 2007.

He continued to count the cost.

While I pray for his release, I know that God called him to serve those people in the way that he has served, and God has walked with Andrew during this troubling time.

Andrew is not the only person in prison, but thousands of Turks are in prison since the attempted coup in July.

I pray that God’s Will be done in Andrew’s ministry, which continues through his unjust imprisonment.

Before 9/11, there were several Christian ministers  who were abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I pastored a church that I started in Almaty, Kazakhstan at that time.

Our church in Kazakhstan began to pray and ask God to release those missionaries.

I didn’t realize at the time that I had even had coffee with one of them when I had visited Pakistan earlier in the year in 2001.

But we were fervently praying.

Our church members did not watch the news, though, so when the missionaries were freed (after 911), I preached a message about how God answers prayer.

And at the end (in one of my favorite memories of ministry), as I announced to the congregation that the missionaries had been released,

And then this church of about almost 200 people, all rose and shouted praises to God and thanksgiving.

Then, sacrificially, this very financially-challenged congregation, gave an offering of $1500 to bless the churches of Afghanistan.

These former Communists and former Muslims were experiencing Eternal life, letting go of their anger toward Afghanistan, and letting go of their funds to bless that land.

What will God do for us?

God wants us to pray, and

When we pray,

God is at work!

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.   2 Chronicles 7:14

Let’s pray

 

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If My People Will…Pray

If My People…Pray

Happy New Year!

This is the time in which we make new plans, and new resolutions! This is the time in which we say,

“another year has come and gone, now we have a chance to make for a better year than last.”

And, therefore,

We need to pray.

It is the beginning of 2017, we need to pray.

We are Christ’s church,

a local expression of His worldwide body,

so we must pray.

We are God’s People,

gathered together around this fellowship,

so we should pray.

When we pray, we should expect things to happen.

As we pray,

we should be opening our hearts to God’s Spirit of Life.

Since we pray,

we should be hearing even more from Our Savior, Lord and King.

A favorite verse for God’s people on prayer comes from 2 Chronicles.

It is the voice of God speaking to Solomon after he had completed building the Temple.

Let’s read this, today,

and my message will really be a meditation upon that verse.

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

Let’s pray 

  1. IF My People

My people

God is speaking about “His” people

Specifically, He was speaking about a collective of the People of Israel.

Yes,

He would hear individual prayers, but He is for His People

As the Apostle Paul wrote,

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31

God is for US.

Yes,

that means God is for “you” and “me,”

but really, He is for “us,” collectively.

Can we step out of our American rugged individualism long enough

to see that what is precious to God is His People.

If my persons would be a people

Let’s be the people of God

Let’s gather together, not just here, but in our homes.

Let’s meet in cafes and pray for each other.

Let’s meet in businesses and study the Bible together while on break.

Let’s be the PEOPLE of God, not hidden, and showing up only at political events.

Let us be the people of God

Not waiting until we get everything ready, but let’s meet as part of our process of growing.

Let’s come here to share, to participate and to receive, not only from the pulpit but from the pew.

Let’s be the Active People of God, and specifically, let us be that with regards to prayer, and see where that takes us.

If my people…

  1. Who are called by My Name

The original people that God was talking about were the Hebrew people,

called by His Name.

Since then, God has expanded the definition of who are His People to include Non-Jews.

We are his people,

not ethnically,

but through adoption

into His Family

by the work of Jesus in His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead!

We celebrated this act when we shared the Lord’s Table, today.

We are part of His family because He did the work to bring us in.

IF MY PEOPLE

WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME

  1. Will Pray

Does God answer prayer?

Yes!

Must one be a Christian for God to answer one’s prayer?

No,

…but once you are a Christian, you are, then, in a relationship with God, and our prayers are part of our life.

Don’t grow tired in prayer.

As we enter into this emphasis of prayer,

I want us to spend time in prayer with God, daily.

One the handout sheet, I’ve put a place for us to put a commitment regarding prayer this month.

I want to ask you to make your own commitment to prayer this month

Increase the frequency of prayer for this month.

Increase the amount of time of prayer this month

If you are available, come on Wednesdays from 11:00-1:00, and/or 5:00-7:00 PM, even if you have only 15 minutes, join us for that time.

We want to know and publish your prayer requests.

We want to post requests for prayer, publicly, and want you to participate.

We’ll post more on Facebook about this this month, too.

We have new communication cards, please take one and turn it over.

Write your prayer request, today, that you want us to remember in prayer this week.

Each week, put it in the offering.

Make sure I have your card before you leave, today.

IF MY PEOPLE

WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME

…..

  1. Will Humble Themselves and Pray

Prayer is What God wants us to do,

And He also asks us to be humble in our prayer.

To repent of our self-centeredness.

Are we really so important?

TO repent of our self-sufficiency

Do we really think we can be successful apart from God’s Plan?

To turn from our rebellion

Is our heart really in rebellion against authority, and therefore, we are in rebellion against God?

To remember who He is and

To remember that we come from the dust of the earth at His command.

Remembering who God is, and who we are is the beginning of true humility.

James wrote:

“God opposes the proud

    but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:6

I really believe that there are many believers in America who are tired of prayer and tired in prayer.

They may not readily admit it, but they are.

This would be reflected in the frequency of prayer and length of time that they pray.

I want to challenge us,

if we are “tired” in prayer,

to humble ourselves, even more, and for this month,

to encourage each other to pray more.

In prayer, focus upon God.

Worship Him, and let’s bring the needs of others

and our own needs to Him.

IF MY PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES AND PRAY AND …

  1. Seek My Face

God calls us to seek Him, and Him alone.

If we will seek Him, He will be found.

Jeremiah 29:13 says,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

Jesus, later, said,

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

Matthew 6:33

As we pray,

we are seeking

  • God,
  • His kingdom,
  • His righteousness.

God is looking for worshippers who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

As we seek God, He finds us, too, and comes to us. As James wrote:

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:8

Let us come to God,

  • seeking Him,
  • His Kingdom and
  • His Righteousness.

But, we cannot seek Him if we are not also repenting.

IF MY PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME SHALL HUMBLE THEMSELVES AND PRAY AND SEEK MY FACE AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS…

  1. Turn from Our Wicked Ways

We are in a relationship with God through Jesus because we have turned from sin,

and turned toward Jesus,

but sin is stubborn, and doesn’t let go too easily.

We need to let go of sin.

We need to let go of

  • sinful attitudes….
  • sinful thoughts….
  • selfish cravings…
  • the ease of allowing anger, frustration, and depression TO CAPTIVATE

The context of this statement is that

when things are going wrong,

if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways….

there is an understanding that we bear some of the responsibility for our problems.

Yes, I live in a fallen world, and that is why illnesses, unemployment, troubled economies, broken relationship happen.

But, we also need to understand our own responsibility.

And we do that by humbling ourselves

In all of this, God is promising something to us.

  1. The Results

I will hear

I will forgive

I will heal

Response

I WANT TO SHARE THE SECOND HALF OF THIS VERSE NEXT WEEK, AND WE WILL FOCUS UPON GOD’S RESULTS.

BUT FOR NOW,

Let us pray

Let us humble ourselves

Seek His Face

Turn from Wickedness

Expect Him to Hear

Receive His Forgiveness

Look for His Healing and restoration.

Pray

SING “AS WE CRY”

 

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Seeing Is Believing

thomas“My Lord and my God!”

These were the words of the reluctant disciple known as “Doubting Thomas.” He doubted for a week, in between appearances of the resurrected Jesus. Once he saw Jesus, he no longer doubted.

Paul was a Jewish leader who persecuted the early Church, but once he saw the resurrected Jesus, he went from persecutor to preacher; from prosperous to persecuted.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).” Thomas, Paul, the other Apostles and according to Scripture 500 others saw the resurrected Jesus, and they believed.

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is key to receiving the power of His sacrificial death for our rescue from the effect of sin, which is separation from God. According to Jesus’ words to Thomas, there are those who see and believe, and there will be those who believe without seeing the actual body of the resurrected Jesus.

So, the vast majority of Christians through the ages have not seen Jesus, physically. Occasionally, Jesus appears to people, but for the most part, Jesus leaves the job of revealing salvation to His disciples of every generation with the help of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).” We hear so often that the churches are full of hypocrites, and yet Jesus tasked the Church to love one another. This love will identify them as His disciples…as “Christians,”…as those who have believed in the resurrection without seeing the physical body of Jesus.

I’ve never had a vision of Jesus. My wife had one when she was very young. I’m jealous (sort of). Thirty years ago I began to read about an interesting phenomenon that I could not readily appreciate. Random individuals from a particular group of people were having visions of Jesus. These were not Christians, but people who seemed to have these things in common: belief in one God; desire to follow God; an open heart.

At first I didn’t think much of these visions of Jesus since I had believed in Him without benefit of vision or dream. I had seen Jesus in the lives of His followers (and, yes, I have seen a great lack of Jesus in some of His followers). But, as I observed this group of people, I began to value their visions as gifts that God was giving them because that is how God’s grace is.

I have thought much of how important it is to represent Jesus to those who don’t know Him. I’ve learned that by reading His revelation, the Bible, I learn more and more of how to reveal Him to the world. Yet, still, God sends visions and dreams of Jesus to various people in this group. I cannot reveal my source nor the location of the story, but last year, in the midst of a battle in a place that Americans would refer to as “God forsaken,” two men from this particular group of people approached a friend of mine and asked, “Please tell us more about Jesus. He appeared to both of us in separate dreams, and we want to follow Him.” I remember wondering why my friend had remained in that dangerous place. He was not able to leave because of travel restrictions and visa problems, yet in his faithfulness to live and pray among an oppressed group of people because God placed him there, God sent a dream to two men who risked everything to follow Jesus, even though they were surrounded by Muslims, and in fact were previously Muslim, too.

Muslims are having visions and dreams about the resurrected Jesus! Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, hence they don’t believe in His resurrection.

As I prayed this morning for the world, my nation and the current refugee crisis, I wondered, “how many of these refugees had visions and dreams of Jesus. I know of one, and that story has influenced other refugees as well. But visions and dreams are not happening enough to touch the world. The world needs to see Jesus in His followers.

If “seeing is believing,” then I don’t want to people to believe anything less of me as a Christian than this: I want to love others as Jesus has loved me.

PRACTICAL WAYS OF SHARING JESUS’ LOVE WITH THE WORLD

  1. Pray. It is hard to love someone if you are not praying for them (vice versa, too). Pray for our enemies as well as our neighbors. Pray for the government and for those who have never heard about Jesus.
  2. Deny ourselves. Putting ourselves first, is not how we love others. Practice putting others, first. This should be learned at home, first, as it would be scandalous if we put our neighbor first, and don’t practice this with our families.
  3. Look at the world through the lens of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. Why don’t we stone adulterers today? One reason is that Jesus showed us a better way to deal with sin in our community.
  4. Get moving. Stagnation for anyone is a death sentence. Get off of Facebook. Get off of the couch. Get on with life. Jesus’ commission was to “go and make disciples,” not “grow wide on the couch and complain about the lack of disciples in the world.”
  5. Repeat (there are other things we can do, but repeating the four above is a great start).

Remember, seeing is believing, and I want the world to believe I am a follower of Jesus so that they might want to listen to His Word, believe in His resurrection and follow Him.

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