Loving on Purpose

Today we continue in our monthly focus on Living on Purpose, with a message called, “Loving on Purpose.”

We’ve been looking at John 15.

Two weeks ago, we looked at our dependence upon the sustenance of Jesus, just as a branch is dependent upon the vine.

Jesus is the Vine, and we are the Branches.

Our Heavenly Father is the Gardener who is able to remove fruitless branches and prune the fruitful.

Last week, we saw that we need to remain in Jesus, and He remains in us.

His Word needs to remain in us, as well. It has to get into us, FIRST, in order to then remain in us.

  1. Remain in Jesus
  2. Remain in His Word

Thus, in our dependence upon God, we must live by His Word.

In today’s verses, we will see that we are to remain in something else: the Love of God.

Let’s read from John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:9-17

PRAY

  1. Remaining in Love

We can accidentally fall in love.

I recall when I first met Clover, she was one of many young ladies that I was attracted to.

I was a teenager, and had no ida how powerful love can be, until one day in 1980, I found myself falling in love with Clover.

We’ve been married since 1982, but that is not by accident. That was by sheer will power on Clover’s part, I can promise you.

Falling in love may seem random or even by accident, but staying in love is not.

We must live on purpose…we must love on purpose.

Jesus spent about three years teaching and preaching, making miracles and answering difficult questions of his day.

During that time, people were attracted to him, but when his ministry on earth came to a close, only his mother and one of his disciples, John, was with him.

All others had abandoned him.

Most likely if we had lived at that time, and had followed Jesus, we probably would have abandoned him, in his darkest hour, too.

Yet, the story of Jesus continues in that He arose from the grave on the third day after his execution, and he spent 40 days with his followers.

Then he ascended to heaven, but a short time later, sent the Holy Spirit of God to the people of God and formed the Church.

Remember, this building is NOT a “church” but it is a “building that houses a church.”

Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it.

The church is Jesus’ body, and we are not able to take a break from being part of the church.

Either we are a healthy part of the church or we are an unhealthy part.

God the Father can separate us from His Church if we no longer produce fruit, and honestly, that is scary.

But, also, He prunes us that we would be more fruitful.

All of this is so that we would remain in love.

This is so that we would live on purpose. In fact, God calls us to love on purpose.

The best way to remain in love with someone is to spend time with them, which is why God has given us His Word and His Spirit.

But that is also why He has given us His Church.

The three gifts God gives to us:

  • His Word
  • Prayer (Spirit)
  • Church

Are given that we might be able to live on purpose.

And to love on purpose.

We cannot remain in God’s Love and at the same time remain outside of the Church.

The Church is God’s Idea, not man’s.

In fact, what is wrong with any church community is not God’s fault, but it is the fault of people.

Yet, rather than linger on that negative thought too long, let’s look at that Scripture, again:

Notice that how often “Love” as a verb and as a noun is written. And note how often “you” is written or implied.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now [you] remain in my love10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: [you] Love each other as I have loved you13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you17 This is my command: [you] Love each other.

John 15:9-17

Love: 9 times

You: 21 times

We are the “YOU” that He calls to remain in His love.

  1. How to Remain in His Love
  1. Honesty with God

An honest relationship is necessary.

David sinned greatly as a murderer and an adulterer, but throughout his life, we see an honest transparency between David and God.

David’s words are available for us, thus, we see that David, though he was the greatest king, was exposed for his kingdom and for us, too.

When we don’t see David being transparent before God is when he was sinfully involved with Bathsheba, and God has to send the prophet, Nathan, to rebuke and correct him.

Moses was honest with God about what he was going through, and that honesty allowed him to even receive instruction from his father-in-law.

Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others were transparent and honest in their relationships with God and with other.

  1. Honesty with each other

God calls us to love Him and to love each other.

Isolation is not love.

Let us be people who love each other, and notice that the term love is used as a noun and as a verb in these verses.

  • It is something we can remain in…
  • and it is something we are to do.

And in both cases, Jesus commands this of us.

How can we do it?

First being honest with God, then with each other.

And, we must obey orders.

  1. Keep His Commands

How do we remain in His Love?

He says,

Keep my commands

In general, Jesus has affirmed all commands of the Old Testament relating to Morality and Righteousness.

He expanded the commands regarding murder and adultery to include hatred and lust.

Specifically, here, he gives this command:

Love one another.

How are we to do this according to Jesus’ teaching here:

  1. As he loved us
    1. He gave himself for us
    2. This is the greatest of loves
    3. Sacrificial
  2. As His Friends
    1. Abraham was a friend of God
    2. Jesus calls us into the same relationship
    3. Not merely servants
  1. As Chosen
    1. Jesus said he chose the disciples, they didn’t choose him
    2. As well, he has chosen us, we have not chosen him
    3. Since He has chosen us, how should we behave? He wants to choose others, too.
  2. As Obedient Ones
    1. Compliant with His Will, Word and Ways
    2. Obedience is how societies live in peace with each other, and rebellion is the opposite of this
    3. When we are obedient to God and His commands, then we will live according to God’s Love
  1. Why? Because God IS Love.

What we read today were Jesus’ words reported by John, but in John’s first letter, we receive words that are John’s sermon to the church in Ephesus, where he lived at the end of his life.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is loveThis is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 John 4:7-21

We are to love God.

We are to love each other.

We are to love on purpose.

When we read Scripture, we must read as not only written to us, personally, but to all believers.

APPLICATION

Remember that during this focus, I want us to see how we can apply the message to the priorities of our lives:

Priorities in Life

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

God: When we love one another, then we are truly loving God.

Family: If we don’t love our families, then who will love them

(I’ve mentioned that every week, but it is true), and we must take care of our families.

But, we cannot allow our families to stand between us and the gospel.

Jesus didn’t, as his family thought he was crazy.

He warned us that family could stand between us and Him.

So, while we must love our families, we must love God, first.

This is helpful for us as parents, in that we must not give our kids whatever they want…that is not love…

Professions:  If we are people who love one another, especially the church, but not limited to that, then we are able to share compassion with the world, which is what the world desperately needs.

Community: Our communities are changing.

For me, community is all around the world, via Facebook, What’s App, Email, Texting, etc.

If I love the community, and really love them according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, then I will be a blessing to the community.

Church:  This is where Satan loves to mess up love. He wants to destroy families and communities, and he often attacks a church.

But we must NOT GIVE UP. He can be stopped. We don’t need to give into the temptations of the World that says, “why go to that big church, or why go to that little church?”

Don’t listen to the flesh that says, “You don’t need church, and they don’t need you.”

And don’t listen to Satan who says, “The church would be so much better if they listened to you.”

God calls us to Love on Purpose.

He calls us to Live on purpose.

Not by accident

Let’s Pray and commit ourselves to loving God and each other, ON PURPOSE

 

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Living on Purpose by God’s Word

This is the second week of our focus on Living on Purpose

We will continue to look at John 15, this time reading from verses 5-8. Before we do, let’s recap what we considered last week:

  • Jesus is the Vine
  • We are Branches
  • Our Heavenly Father is the Gardener
  • We need cleansing from the Gardener
  • We need sustenance from the Vine

Thus, to Live on Purpose is the be fruitful for God’s Glory.

There are three gifts that God gives to His Disciple so that we will live on purpose:

Three Gifts to the Believer

  1. Word (Revelation)
  2. Prayer (Spirit)
  3. Body (Church)

Today, I am looking, specifically, at the gift of His Revelation: God’s Word.

I have books available for every household.

As well, I have a magnet for every household.

Revelation is something that normally is hidden and unseen.

Once it becomes visible, then the knowledge that it holds becomes useful.

ILLUSTRATION

I heard a story about a man from another country.

He was living in the Midwest, and some believers who LIVE ON PURPOSE were reaching out to him.

As they shared with this young man, he spoke about his grandmother, who was 86 years old at that time and lived nearby.

He said, “My grandmother says I should listen to you.”

So, as they reached out to this foreigner, they helped him find the right things that he needed for his university studies.

They helped him with shopping, and other things, because immigrants and refugees need help, just like we all do.

I’m amazed at how many times Muslims helped me to live in Istanbul and to start a church there.

This couple even helped this man during a time of marital problems.

And many times he told them,

“My grandmother says I must listen to you.”

So, the couple asked him,

“Why does your grandmother say you should listen to us?”

He said that he didn’t know. He explained that his grandmother spoke a very obscure dialect from their country, and he didn’t even speak it well.

He spoke another dialect as well as the national language, but his grandmother only spoke a rare dialect.

So, he only understood a little of that dialect, and not enough to even ask her why she had told him this.

One day my friends found someone from that country and learned that they spoke that rare dialect, so they arranged to meet with that grandmother.

And when they met her, they learned why she had told her grandson that he should listen to them.

And I will tell you why a little later in the sermon  🙂

Let’s continue reading where we left off last week:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:5-8

PRAY

These verses speak about all three of God’s gifts, but Verse 7 is significant, and causes me to pause and focus upon the gift of God’s Word:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.          John 15:7

This verse is about prayer, but more so, it is about living on purpose by God’s Word.

The significance of remaining (aka “abiding”) in Jesus

and having His Word remain/abide in us affects our prayer life.

  1. Remaining in Jesus

Last week I shared that to remain in Jesus is to make use of all three of the gifts God gives to us.

As well, we looked at how they apply to the priorities in our lives.

Priorities in Life

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

And we will consider those priorities, again, at our conclusion and how they relate to God’s Word.

But remaining in Jesus means that Jesus invades our lives, and He has his SAY in everything we do, and every aspect of our lives.

We are not called to be monks, and hide away from the world, but we are in the world.

As we are in the world, we need to let Jesus invade the world, with us and through us.

Thus, whatever we do, we do it

  • with Him,
  • in Him,
  • for Him,
  • by Him,
  • because of Him, and even
  • enjoying Him in the process.

We need to invite Jesus to be the leader of our lives, daily.

Remember if we are to be his disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, daily, and follow Him.

FOR GOD’S GLORY

And we do this for God’s Glory!

GOD IS NOT GLORIFIED IN OUR PERFECTION, BUT HE IS GLORIFIED IN OUR RECEPTION OF HIS WORD IN OUR LIVES.

So, whether we are working for the government, or for ourselves, or whether we are retired, a student, or disabled, whatever we do, daily, we are to do it

  • denying ourselves,
  • taking up our crosses and
  • following Jesus.

Not only do we need to ask Jesus to be with us, but we must also consider whether or not we are with Jesus.

We are to remain in Jesus.

Reading God’s Word, is one of the ways that we can remain in Jesus.

By reading His Word, we know Him, better.

But reading His Word is not enough, we must be connected with His Spirit and His Body.

Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.”

  1. Remaining in Jesus’ Word

The Word of God makes a difference in our lives when we are

  • exposed to it,
  • hearing it,
  • taking it into our lives and
  • allowing it to make a difference.

His Word corrects me.

His Word directs me.

In order to remain in Jesus’ Word, we must be receiving from His Word.

And specifically, we would be receiving from Him, Jesus, who is

  • the Son of God and
  • Savior of the world.
  • Lord &
  • Christ
  • He is the Resurrection and the Life.
  • He is the
    • Way the
    • Truth and the
    • Life

And in the beginning of John’s Gospel, Jesus is described as the essence of all life:

He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.         John 1:2-5

  • From the beginning
  • Through Whom all has been created
  • Life is in Him
  • Light is in Him
  • His Light is greater than Darkness

What was the first thing God did when He created the heavens and the earth?

He created light by speaking it into existence.

In the beginning, His Word spoke the Universe into being.

Today, He wants to speak light into our lives

Into the pain that pulls us down.

Into the sadness that breaks our hearts

Into the depth of our souls.

When a child goes to see a popular movie at the theater, the child often can’t stop talking about the movie for days and days.

I still remember being that way as a child.

People had to tell me to be quiet.

** **

“If you remain in me,” Jesus said,

“and my words remain in you.”

** **

When we have good news, we can’t wait to tell it to someone.

While we have three children, we are physically closer to Grace, since she lives in Henrico.

So, often when I see her, I want to tell her something cool about you guys or something else.

Usually she has to interrupt me and tell me,

“Dad, mom already told me.”

I remember once when I was excited to tell her something, but I asked first,

“did mom tell you about this?”

and when Grace answered,

“no,”

I was so excited that I didn’t know where to begin.

🙂

** **

“If my words remain in you…”

** **

When someone gives their word, they are making a promise,

and if they break that promise, then their name and reputation are damaged.

Jesus promises to be with us.

Illustration

You remember that story I told you about at the beginning.

The friends of mine had found someone who spoke an obscure dialect and they were arranging to meet with an 86-year-old grandmother in order to learn why she had said to her grandson,

“you need to listen to those people.”

The interpreter spoke with the grandmother and asked about it.

The grandmother said that when she was 16 she met a Christian, and was very impressed with that Christian.

And for 70 years, she had never met another Christian.

So, when her grandson met these Christians, that is why she said,

“you must listen to them.”

** **

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you.”

** **

By the way, Turkey is one of the least evangelized nations on earth, and in fact they have what I call “anti-evangelism.”

Many people I met there didn’t know much about Islam, but they knew many arguments against Christianity.

But even though they receive anti-evangelism, the gospel is being shared.

Yet many people that I met with in the few years I lived there had had some sort of exposure to the Gospel.

So, God had placed us there to water seeds that had been planted by others.  

We prayed with some people to repent of their sins and follow Jesus, too

NOW, BACK TO MY STORY

My friends I am talking about were the first Christians to meet that old 86-year-old woman in 70 years.

But because that first Christian made an impression upon her when she was 16, she was ready to listen when she was 86.

And she, soon, repented and began to live for Jesus and serve Him.

She lived to be over 100 years old and shared Jesus with others.

At age 86, she received the Word of God into her life and she remained in Jesus and His word remained in her.

And BECAUSE OF her, churches were planted.

We must let the Word of God dwell in us richly and deeply, and a transformation will take place in our lives!

And it will affect the lives of those around us.

The apostle Paul described the Corinthian church as a letter from Christ.

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.             2 Corinthians 3:2, 3

How will we know what God wills if we don’t know His Word?

Even prophets, like Jonah, refused to follow God’s Word.

He was given a second chance.

If we remain in God’s Word, we will know what God is willing and how God is calling us to live and serve Him.

  1. Ask According to His Word

God wants us to ask according to His Word.

Our desires must be shaped by remaining in Jesus in Prayer, Bible Study and in the Church fellowship.

Ask whatever we wish.

Our wishes will change when we spend time in God’s Word.

Our desires become His Desires.

God called Jonah to preach to ISIS. Well, they were called Nineveh, at the time, but they were the violent enemies of God and of Israel.

Jonah didn’t want to do it.

He ran away and caught a ship going in the opposite direction.

A storm arose, threatening the ship.

Jonah confessed that he was the guilty one, and was thrown overboard.

Jonah found himself inside of a fish, and he prayed and God released him.

So, then he commenced with living on purpose.

For three days, he preached throughout the city of Nineveh, and the people responded in repentance.

Nineveh was a hard group of people.

God’s Word can penetrate.

Jonah was a man of God, a prophet of God.

But prophets and preachers can be wrong.

And we need to remain in Jesus and let His Word remain in us.

We cannot afford to be political, but we must all listen to the voice of God, and speak to Nineveh.

Right now, in the world, there are several major religions:

  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Atheism/Secularism

And while many in the West are leaving Christianity to follow other religions, the majority are probably people who didn’t have a relationship with Jesus at all.

Yet, around the world, Buddhists and Hindus are embracing Christianity in the tens of thousands.

And it is reported that Muslims are coming to Christianity in the hundreds of thousands (the Roman Catholic church reports “millions”).

Who would have thought?

The Gospel is attractive to those who are perishing, and many are being drawn to Jesus.

We need to be concerned about those who are coming to faith in Jesus from other religions,

…but we are rightfully concerned about those who come from our own households who are turning away from Jesus and embracing other faiths and even espousing atheism.

How do we reach them?

How do we answer their questions?

How do we answer their objections?

We need to know God’s Word.

As we do this, we will feed our souls and be able to share with them in a way that God wants us to share.

Psalm 1:1-3 says this:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

So, how does one “meditate on his law, day and night?”

By remaining in Jesus, and letting Jesus’ Word remain in us.

  1. Living on Purpose according to God’s Word

Remember the priorities we looked at last week, and I mentioned at the beginning of the message, today:

Priorities in Life

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

How does the Word of God relate to them:

God: I show my love for God by reading, studying and meditating upon His Word.

Family: When God’s Word is the final authority in our homes, we will prosper (otherwise, anything goes).

But we must resolve to do this.

And this relates to our relationships with our families after we’ve raised them.

Let God’s peace rule our lives and our hearts, and this will affect our families, too.

There can be great opposition, but in time, most will respect us when they know we are acting according to God’s Word since it is a higher standard than anything that the world offers.

Jobs: If we are regularly in God’s Word, then we have something to offer our places of employment that is different than even the world will offer.

Even if we work in a Christian organization, we need to be regularly in God’s Word on our own so that we can discern properly.

People desperately need God’s Word practiced among them.

Community: As Christians, we live in the world though we are not to be of the world.

Let’s bring the Word of God into our communities, and not keep it hidden.

Church: We need to increase our consumption of God’s Word and not decrease.

A church full of discerning Bible readers is what every pastor wants.

Let’s be a church full of people who make an impression that lasts 70 years.

Let us be a church of people who say, we want to give our best, and make this world a better place, by remaining in Jesus and letting His Word remain in us.

Let’s dedicate our lives to remaining in Jesus and letting His Word remain in us.

Let’s Live on Purpose by God’s Word.

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Living on Purpose: Introduction

When we trip over something that we didn’t see, or when we forget something that we need to do, or even when we yawn or sneeze, all of these things and more have something in common:

They are unintentional.

When we are unintentional, things happen to us.

When we are intentional, we are taking responsibility for how we respond to what is happening around us.

Jesus expects us to live intentionally.

That’s why He told us to “seek first the kingdom of heaven and God’s righteousness (Matthew 6:33).”

As well, Jesus taught us to be intentional in prayer, regarding forgiveness:

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” and Jesus explained “if we don’t forgive neither will we be forgiven (Matthew 6:12, 15).”

Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you (John 15:4).”

INTENTIONALITY MATTERS

Notice the intentionality of these three statements.

We cannot accidentally seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

We cannot unintentionally forgive someone.

We won’t remain in Jesus or abide with him naturally, as the World, our flesh and Satan, himself, does not want this.

We must be living on Purpose.

We must be intentional.

This month’s focus is

“LIVING ON PURPOSE,”

in other words,

being intentional disciples of Jesus.

As a local church body, River of Life is being intentional:

  • Last week we had a “Love Your Neighbor” dinner, to which we invited several dozen people, and about one dozen accepted our invitation. J
  • We’re INTENTIONALLY reaching out to them with phone calls, emails, physical letters and even visits.
  • Last night we hosted a concert to be a blessing the Richmond community, and it was great.

Being intentional is important and good.

As Christians, we can either be intentional or we can be unintentional.

Being intentional takes work.

I thank all of you who worked hard last week helping with the dinner.

We plan to have an outreach to the bus drivers at Moody Middle School on Tuesday, March 14, and it will take work to do this.

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS

To be intentional as a Christian will take work.

I must clarify that work does not save us, but because we are saved, we must work.

God saved us because He loves us, and because He wants us to be productive (fruitful).

I want to be more productive

  • as a Christian,
  • as a husband,
  • as a friend,
  • as a citizen and
  • as a pastor.

I invite us all over this next month to consider how we can be more productive as we apply ourselves to “Living on Purpose.”

Living on Purpose

Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.”

Let’s read more from that part of the Bible.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

John 15:1-4

PRAY

  1. First Principle: Know Who’s Boss

When we take a new job, we must know who our bosses are.

Whoever has authority over us is the one that we must account to.

If we listen to the wrong person, then we will not necessarily please our boss, nor will we be productive.

Jesus explains the relationship that He and His Father have to us.

He is the Vine and

His Father is the Gardener.

We are the branches.

Knowing is not really enough, though, but it is the beginning.

We must know Him, and we must receive from Him.

This is a hard passage of Scripture, by the way, as it speaks of pruning and separating from the vine.

An unproductive branch, must be removed and a productive branch must be pruned.

Do we know who is the Vine?

Is Jesus our vine? Really?

Are we truly drawing strength and nutrition from Him and from what He declares?

During this focus, I want to give special attention to the gifts that God has given to the believer to help us live on purpose:

Three Gifts to the Believer

  1. Word (Revelation)
  2. Prayer (Spirit)
  3. Body (Church)

If we feed on these three, then we will thrive, but if we neglect them, then we are not remaining, TRULY, in Jesus.

When He was tempted to turn stones into bread, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy to Satan.

Here is the full verse from the Old Testament:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 

-Moses (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Moses spoke these words to the second generation of Hebrews who came out of Egypt and were about to enter the Promised Land.

A whole generation had been removed due to their lack of faith (including Moses), and God allowed the second generation to enter the new land with the understanding that they remain in Him by His Word.

Who is the Boss?

The Gardener has authority over the Vine and over the Branches.

The Vine has authority over the Branches.

We must know and follow our boss.

  1. Principle Two: We Need Cleansing

In these verses, we see we are cleaned by the Word of God.

This term “clean” is a gardening term. It means to prune and even to remove.

Our Heavenly Father is the gardener (cleaner and pruner).

Language is funny, as I recall many years ago when I had an office/apartment in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at the foot of a mountain range called the Tien Shan.

I had three young men working for me. Two were interpreters, and one was learning English.

We had about 8 students who met with us several days, weekly, for prayer, study and growth. We ate together and grew together.

One day when we were considering what we would do for lunch, I said to the one who was learning English,

“please clean these potatoes.”

I said it in Russian and in English, and when I came back to the kitchen, I saw that he was peeling the potatoes. I asked,

“why are you doing that? I just said to clean them.”

Well, what I had meant was “wash” them, but in Russian when you ask someone to “clean” a vegetable, then that means to peel it.

What I should have asked was “wash” it.

When Jesus says to his disciples that they are already clean because of His word, He is speaking of something that we, too, can experience.

A cleaning.

A removal.

A peeling.

A washing.

It is not necessarily comfortable, like a bath, but more like a hard workout in which our muscles throb as they are being stretched and used in ways we’ve not known possible.

The Word of God, the Spirit of God and the People of God are part of this cleaning.

While we pray, the Lord’s Spirit brings to mind His Word. God’s people are only such because His Word has separated us from what is unrighteous.

Baptism is a symbol of the cleansing work that happens in us as God’s Word separates us from sin and it’s consequences.

As we take communion, today, we are taking it as His body.

And we give thanks to Jesus for his cleansing action on the Cross. The supreme Word of God, the Final Revelation of God was nailed to a cross and resurrected on the third day.

[take communion]

[Dave to lead in a song: “You Are My King”]

  1. We Must Remain in Jesus

We remain or abide in Jesus by spending time with him in His Word, in Prayer with His Spirit, and in fellowship with His body, the Church.

ILLUSTRATION

I asked someone who is ministering on a university campus to tell me some good news that was happening with him. 

He said that while praying he really believed that God told him to reach out to the hockey team at the university.

My friend is not very athletic, and certainly doesn’t know hockey, but he was obedient to pray.

When he was at the airport in December to fly to Virginia, he saw one of the hockey players waiting at the airport. So, he went over to him and struck up a conversation.

Then in January, he met him, again, and began to connect with two other players.

One of the players told my friend that he had been praying and asking God to reveal Himself to him, and then my friend began to reach out to him.

We don’t have to be missionaries in order to be LIVING ON PURPOSE, but we all can.

My friends have reached out to many students on campus, but notice that he listened to God’s voice, which is what happens when we pray and listen.

And God led him to someone who was open to hearing from God.

We must remain in Jesus.

As we consider this theme of Living on Purpose,

I want us each week to consider areas of our lives in which we need to Remain in Jesus.

Remaining in Jesus is not something that we do for a few minutes each morning and evening, OR ONCE A WEEK ON SUNDAY….

but it is something we must continue to do, moment by moment, and it will affect how we live.

It will help us to live on purpose, and not by accident.

We will live according to His purpose, and not our purpose.

We will produce for His Glory and not for our own.

I want us to focus upon several priorities in our lives:

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

These are priorities.

  • We are to love the Lord Our God with all our heart, soul, strength and Mind.

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR GOD

  • Family: Who else will love our families if we don’t. If we are not intentional about loving our families, then they will miss out, and they may even look for someone else to love them. I’m not excusing anyone, but the truth is, we must intentionally love our families.

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR FAMILIES

  • Jobs: We need to work well on our jobs, whether our employers are watching us or not. Our co-workers are watching us, too.

We need to be good examples when it comes to work and business.

Remember, we can be replaced with someone who will be more intentional. And when we find ourselves retired, or out of work for any reason, these are not times to relax, but to continue to be LIVING ON PURPOSE.

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR JOBS, FOR OUR CO-WORKERS, FOR THOSE AROUND US.

  • Community: We need to be good citizens. In fact, we should be model citizens.

Our next-door neighbors glad that we live by them, …or do they wish we would move?

I have a friend who prays with people on the job, and the government doesn’t like it, but they love this person so much, that they allow it to continue. And the rest of the staff is/are better for it.

If we are not good citizens, who will be?

Do we want a group that we disagree with to influence our communities?

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES

  • Church: This encompasses all of the above in that it is where we jointly worship God.

The church is a family for us, too.

The family of God.

It is where we are expected to work as disciples of Jesus.

It is a community, and in fact, the church should be a community center.

If we are not being intentional as the church or as members of the church, God will raise up someone else to take our place.

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR CHURCH

Illustration: I heard a story on Friday that fits this.

A man drove to another city in order to purchase a piece of furniture that was on sale. It cost $700, so he gathered his cash and drove to the other town. He made a stop at a gas station, and there was a man standing outside who had a very mean look about him. Naturally, this man automatically avoided the mean-looking man. But he sensed in his heart the following word from God,

“you need to give him $100.”

What, God,” the man thought?  “I only have enough money for my furniture. How can I give him anything?”

And, of course, he felt uncomfortable around the mean-looking man.

But God wouldn’t let up. So, the he went over to talk with the man.

While they talked, he felt even less a desire to give the mean-looking man anything, but God kept speaking,

“give him $100.”

So, finally he gave the mean-looking man $100.

The mean-looking man asked, “why are you doing this?”

The man responded,

“because Jesus told me that you need it.”

But I’m a Muslim,” the other man responded.

That’s ok,” the man replied, “Jesus told me to give this to you.”

The Muslim man said, “No, I’m a Muslim and my wife is a Christian, and she told me I need to follow Jesus. A few minutes ago she dropped me off here and said, ‘Jesus is going to show you that He loves you, today.’”

What a wonderful story of someone who lived his life on purpose.

He continued on to the furniture store, and he found that his item to purchase had been reduced to $600.

How can we “remain in Christ?” by keeping His commandments and being with him…

“Abiding in Christ”

He calls us to remain in Him to bear fruit and to be productive.

We remain in him in prayer, Bible reading and in fellowship with His Body.

Next week we will go deeper.

But before we go any further, let me ask us to consider what we can do to become more intentional as disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps, reading, studying and memorizing the Scriptures, which are God’s Revelation to us.

Perhaps, it is increasing our time of prayer. I know we focused upon prayer in January, but as believers, we must always focus upon prayer.

Perhaps it is being more intentional in church.

We need more volunteers, but that is not all.

We need more worshippers.

We need more servants of God serving the community with us.

We need to reach more people.

Let us become more intentional.

Let’s live on purpose.

INVITATION

If you believe that God is calling you into a time of repentance, and giving your life to Jesus, we are here to pray with you.

If you are desiring the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, come and pray.

If you believe that God is calling you to venture into something that is not comfortable with you, come, let’s talk, let’s pray.

[Dave leads “Amazing Grace”]

 

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How To Love Our Neighbor

 

We have spent this whole month focusing upon loving our neighbors.

This week, we conclude the sermon focus, but we continue our life focus to love our neighbor.

Let’s continue to pray for our neighbors and neighborhood: on Sundays from 9:45-10:15 (same time as breakfast) and from 6:00-6:45 on Wednesdays, prior to the mid-week Bible study.

ILLUSTRATION

It has been my privilege to preach in almost 200 different churches, and I’ve seen many interesting things.

 There was this one church that I visited on a Sunday evening with about 60 people in attendance, and most were in 60 and above (I was in my 30s at that time). At this church on Sunday evenings the people would share testimonies.

The first testimony went like this:

“[triumphantly] I thank Jesus that He is on the throne, but … [defeatedly] I have so many problems, and everything is breaking down. I just wish Jesus would hurry up and come back.”

The next 2-3 people had similar testimonies, and I didn’t even want to preach after hearing how depressed everyone was.

Last evening, we hosted a dinner last night and were able to serve several of our neighbors.

Remember, my definition of neighbor is:

“Neighbor”—Someone who breathes the same air as us.

We’ve spoken about two ways to love our neighbors, by our actions and by our words.

Regarding actions, we scrutinized our own actions and lack of action toward our neighbors.

Regarding our words, we’ve considered that words can bless and they can curse.

Today, I will conclude by looking further into the question of “how” we can love our neighbors.

I am led to a verse of Scripture that I shared from in August.

It’s an important verse, that we should memorize and follow.

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

PRAY

  1. Whoever

This is not restricted to a specific group of people, but throughout time, the “whoever” has been ordinary people like you and me.

Whoever might be the non-Christian, — invited to follow Jesus, but more likely is the Christian who is not complying with the three points that Jesus gives.

When we put our faith in Jesus, we became His disciple, but it is not automatic to be a good disciple.

I met with our insurance agent this week, and we discussed expectations of our insurance policy, and how we need to complete certain tasks, etc. in order to get the most out of our business agreement.

A church simply cannot operate, publicly in our society without insurance. So, it is necessary and we must protect ourselves.

And I want to thank you who give, because if you didn’t give then we wouldn’t’ be able to pay our premium.

My agent’s job is to think about the “what ifs” that we hope will never happen.

As a pastor, I think often about the “what ifs” that can, do and will happen, referred to as the “challenges” of life.

We must guard ourselves from the negative effects of the challenges of life.

We need to be ready and able to grow from those challenges, and move forward.

Jesus spoke to the “whoever” during a time that was much more challenging than our time, now.

It’s not an easy word 2000 years ago and not an easy word, today.

If we are going to “come after Jesus” or be His Disciple, then we must:

  1. deny ourselves;
  2. take up our cross, daily;
  3. follow Jesus.

When we, as Americans, read the Bible, I think that there is a tendency to read it as an individual.

We read such a verse as this and we are thinking,

“OK, that is true, and I should be doing it.”

But then we offer a brief prayer to God in light of such a verse,

“God, I really want to follow your Word, and I’m sorry that I keep falling short. Help me.”

And then we stop praying.

When we STOP praying, we stop listening. In fact, when we fire off a quick prayer to heaven like that, it’s almost like when we talk to someone, without listening to him.

Instead of reading the Scriptures for ourselves, let’s read them for our neighbors.

I don’t mean to read and look for what our neighbor is doing wrong,

but let’s look at what the Scriptures say in regards to how we can live our lives to be a blessing to our neighbors, and our children.

I had the privilege of attending three different meetings for Assemblies of God pastors this week in the area.

One of the common themes in all three meetings was the need to reach people with the Gospel.

So many need Jesus, yet they don’t know him.

Churches must lead people to Jesus, or they should shut down.

Many churches have older people and they want younger people to come, but are not willing to change their worship style or even their decorations.

Rather, they want young people of the MTV generation to come into our churches and sit.

One pastor said that his church didn’t want to change, so he asked,

“What are you willing to deny yourself in order for your children and grandchildren to come to church?”

And with that kind of understanding, they began to double and triple in size with many young families joining them.

So, let’s look at this verse, again.

“Whoever [is concerned for their family, nation and world and…] wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Let’s read it this way:

I believe that we ARE concerned for our world, nation and families.

We can become Jesus’ disciple and in doing so we can love our neighbor, better.

  1. Denies Themselves

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves.

And we probably think that we do.

Actually, we like to pick and choose the areas that we are willing to deny for ourselves.

We pat ourselves on the back and say to ourselves, yeah, I stopped watching that popular TV program in order to deny myself, or I boycotted a company due to my Christian principles.

These are ways of denying ourselves, but they are NOT the heart of ‘self-denial.”

The heart of it is to sincerely give our lives to the Lord and receive what He wants for us.

Jesus is Lord, and we believe that for our salvation, but if we want to be Jesus’ disciple, we need to be willing to deny ourselves the rights and privileges that we think we deserve.

We live in a society that was based upon the idea of inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and as Americans those are our rights, but look at how the pursuit of happiness has led our nation.

I am an American SECOND, but a citizen of heaven, FIRST.

As believers in Jesus, we really have no right to say that we are even Christians if Christ truly is NOT Lord over us.

He is Lord over our bodies,

He is Lord over our lips,

He is Lord over our finances,

He is Lord over our decisions, He is Lord,

and yet, rebellious man, and even the Church, says that we don’t need a Lord, but….

  • I am smart enough to make my own decisions, and don’t need to consult with God, the Bible or the Church.
  • I will spend my money as I like it, and won’t tithe,
  • I will determine how I use my words, and if I use bad language then that’s my problem;
  • I will choose my own morality over that of the Bible

As members of the Church, we MUST love one another.

Thus, our goal is not to RECEIVE love but to GIVE love.

We don’t receive love from others because it is our right, but we show love because it is our privilege and opportunity.

One way to deny ourselves is to Love our neighbor, and to say, my schedule is not as important as showing real love to my neighbor.

“Whoever [is concerned for their family, nation and world and…] wants to be my disciple must deny themselves [by putting others first] and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23   

  1. Takes Up Their Cross Daily

Jesus spoke these words to people who had seen crucifixions and would eventually see his crucifixion.

It was a very real possibility that the people hearing his words would be crucified one day.

We apply this part of the verse in ways that really don’t equal Jesus’ meaning. We deal with a difficult family member and call it the “cross we bear,” and while that can be part of it, for the original hearers and for millions of Christians around the world, it is a reality.

O I know we might lose a friend if we follow Jesus, but there are people around the world who will lose their family and their lives.

We cannot take up our crosses, unless we first deny ourselves.

Secondly, we must be willing to suffer. This is not for our salvation, but persecution comes to those who follow Jesus. That means not having what we want, but following God’s will in a situation.

ILLUSTRATION CONTINUED

Remember that church I mentioned earlier in which the people shared depressing testimonies about how they knew Jesus was on the throne, but they were miserable and couldn’t wait for Jesus’ return?

Well, we need to be expecting his return, and he warned us that we need to be about his work when he does return…but I went back to that church four years later, and when I heard the testimonies, they went like this:

I shared the gospel with a friend at work, and now, my friend is a believer and is sitting with me in church.

Another said something about God healing someone whom they prayed with.

Another talked about the restoration of their marriage.

And while all of them wanted Jesus to return, none of them were losing hope while waiting for him.

The church had changed in four years.

I believe it is because people were denying themselves, daily taking up their crosses and following Jesus.

Are we willing to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, daily, for the sake of those who do not know Jesus?

If we are, then we are truly loving our neighbor.

If we are not…if we value our own comfort over being obedient to Jesus, then we are not good disciples.

  1. Follows Jesus

Jesus calls us to follow Him, but it doesn’t look like we are.

When we follow our own flesh, when we follow a political direction without asking God to lead us, then we are not following Him.

We are to follow Christ, FIRST.

I was in another town, recently, with pastors, and we decided to go to a certain restaurant. I went out to my car and began to set the GPS, but I saw one of my friends drive a certain way, so I followed him. But he didn’t even go near the restaurant, and after five minutes, I stopped and set my GPS, because I realized he was not leading me to the restaurant. Apparently, he wasn’t going to the restaurant.

When we begin to follow Jesus, we need to set our GPS, too:

Gospel (God’s Word)

Prayer (God’s Spirit)

Saints (God’s People)

Like a three-legged stool, if we get those out of balance we will be out of balance and we will stop following Jesus,

and the enemy is looking for those of us who fall out of the pack, and stop following.

He pounces on us, and then we are worse than before.

When we follow Jesus, we are not only following him because we should and we need to, but because our neighbors need us to follow Jesus, so that they can, too.

Our children need us to follow Jesus so they can follow him, too.

How will we love our neighbor? By being a good disciple of Jesus.

How can we reach out to the drug addicts of Lakeside?

By being a church full of disciples.

How can we show love to the broken homes in Northside?

By being a church that follows Jesus?

How can we be a light to the unbelievers whether they are Buddhists, Atheists or nominal Christians?

By denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, daily, and following Jesus.

ILLUSTRATION

My son, as a child and teenager, thought only about himself.

He wanted every latest gadget.

He believed in Jesus, and was saved but he was a lousy disciple.

But one day he was invited to help some special needs children.

His life turned around.

Suddenly, he began to deny himself.

He began to take up his cross, each day.

He followed Jesus closer than before, because he had a cause and he saw people who had nothing, and he wanted them to have a better life.

And that special needs home changed. And it affected the mental hospital as well.

What needs to change here among our neighbors?

Let’s be the change.

Let’s pray.

 

 

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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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