Remember

(a short sermon)

When I was younger, I had an awesome memory. I remembered everything that anyone said, word for word.

It was a great talent, though it was annoying to those who didn’t remember so well.

“Dad, don’t you remember you promised to give me a $5, today.”

🙂

But memories can be annoying to us as well.

Our memory can be a treasure or a curse.

If we spend time remembering and rehearsing offenses…either the regrets we have had or the offenses that others have done to us, then we will be living inside our own personal torture chamber.

We need to use our memories in a positive manner that will assist us as we move forward.

When I look at the word, Remember, in the Bible, I see several important points:

God Remembered Noah when he was in the ark….Genesis 8:1

And He promises to REMEMBER his covenant with man and not destroy us by water again (Genesis 9:15)

Last night’s rain gave me some doubts J

Scriptures were written so that God’s people would remember, and one of the 10 commandments says we are to REMEMBER the Sabbath to keep it holy.

We keep the Sabbath holy, or separate, by remembering it.

Btw, if you don’t have a church family, I invite you to join us, tomorrow, here at 10:30. Come at 9:45 for breakfast and fellowship.

Throughout Scripture, God calls man to remember and He promises to remember.

I want to conclude with a verse from Ecclesiastes in which King Solomon is talking about the importance of remembering, before we get old:

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember God

He is our Creator, Sustainer, He is our Savior, Redeemer…He is the One who REMEMBERS us.

Remember while we are young.

Remember, NOW,

For some of us, we are no longer young, but this Scripture speaks to us, too, for we can remember God NOW, and it will affect our Today and Tomorrow.

Remember, now …

Before so many distractions take our attention away from Him.

Before we become bitter.

In Jesus, God the Father brought us into a new life. His Holy Spirit will sustain us.

Never forget.

Always remember.

God bless you!

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Lost and Found (Luke 15:1-10)

There is a quote attributed to a theologian in which a student asked him…

 <<“Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?”

To this, the theologian responded:

“No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.”

-attributed to Karl Barth>>

Of all the “gods” worshiped worldwide, only the God of the Bible actively pursues man.

And He IS the

“Seeker of the Lost” or

“THE LOST-SEEKER.”

It may not be politically correct to refer to people as lost,

…but political correctness never saved anyone.

God cares about all who are living today and throughout time.

According to the Bible, God is the One who

  • creates,
  • commissions,
  • warns and then
  • searches for Man.

God called out to Adam…

<<“Where are you?”   Genesis 3:9>>

And He calls to Christians and non-Christians, alike.

From Genesis–Revelation,

God sought man…and in Revelation 21, we see a time in the future when …

<<“…the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”   Revelation 21:3>>

 As we considered   “Emmanuel,” last week, we know that God created man for fellowship with Him.

God is the pursuer of man, and so, man, pursues God, but unless there is Revelation, man will imprint himself onto a substitute.

Why are there so many religions?

Man seeks God; Yet, sin skew’s mankind’s pursuit, and our own pleasures and plans take over.

God sees us as “sheep:”

<

have gone astray,

each of us has turned

to his own way;

Isaiah 53:6a>>

Today, let’s read two parables that show God as the  “LOST-SEEKER” and the head cheerleader when we are found!

LUKE 15:1-10

<< 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

    8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:1-10>>

PRAYER

Jesus has been portrayed in many ways in art, for example, as the “Good Shepherd.”

This photo reveals something more than just the obvious story.

It reminds me of my childhood in church.

We used to sit in very old pews, with long dusty cushions.

There was no Air conditioning in the church other than using a paper fan.

They had handles that looked like wide popsicle sticks.

And there would be a nice picture like this one of Jesus the good shepherd on one side of the fan.

Here are two I found on the internet:

One has photograph of a typical American church building in Autumn and the other is Jesus knocking at the door of our hearts.

So, imagine me, a very thin, small boy, or five or six, laying on the cushion of the old church pew, fanning myself, yet trying to stay awake… listening to a “boring” sermon… stopping to look at the fan… remember the one side had a picture of Jesus, ….but on the other side of the fan and was an advertisement…

Does anyone know what would be advertised on the other side of those fans?

funeral home!

And I must say, I felt welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

  1. God Doesn’t Only Welcome Sinners

OK, I know that throws you a bit, since the Bible states:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

But all do not know that they are sinners.

All do not realize that they need God.

And God welcomes them, too!

There are those who don’t realize that they need a savior.

There are those who don’t realize that they are sinners.

And these are the ones who don’t realize that the funeral home is not all that awaits them when they die.

Remember the fans.

But remember the other side of the fans, too!

Jesus knocking at the Door.

 <<Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  Revelation 3:20>>

This statement of Jesus was originally to the Church,

And, of course, it can be applied to those who don’t yet belong to the Church, too.

Jesus loves all, and he was accused of improper friendships with the world.

He was hard on those who claimed to know the way of God, and yet hated their neighbor.

By our actions and inactions we scatter our young people and prevent the non-Christian from hearing the gospel.

We need to get with God’s plan, for

God is the “Seeker” not the “Scatterer.”

We should be seeking the lost rather than scattering them and other Christians along with them.

A. God Welcomes All

Jesus is interested in all:

He wants to reach the rich and the poor,

the crippled and the whole,

the blind and those who see.

God welcomes all to be with Him

Not only those who know they are sinners, but also those who don’t know this!

God loves the whole world (John 3:16).

And He wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4)

B. God Loves All

Jesus was critical of those in his day who were the Keepers of God’s Word…the Religious People…

And yet they made rules that blocked “Sinners” from finding God.

We need to be careful that we are not blocking people from the gift of God by our actions and inaction.

By our Facebook posts, and by our gossip.

There are people whom we fear…some people fear those who ride motorcycles….So, should we ignore those?

Some fear those who have been in prison…so should we ignore those?

What we fear is the unknown and unfamiliar.

  • How Can We Love those Whom We Fear?
    • Recognize God’s Word (God loves all)
    • Pray according to His Word (God calls us to live in a manner that draws others to Him)
    • Look for opportunities to express God’s Love (Jesus said that if we love one another the world will know that we are His Disciples)

We need to live in perfect love, which casts away all fear.

II. God Pursues Man

  • Yes, the same God who doesn’t always seem present when there is a tragedy…

people ask, “where is God?”

  • The same God who seems impersonal with His laws
  • The same God who seems so old fashion with His brand of Morals
  • The same God who was declared “dead” by so-called experts, who have since died.

 He pursues Man

In the parables, we see God as a shepherd.

Elsewhere in Scripture God is described this way.

But, as well, a Woman is used as an illustration of God in a parable. And God is elsewhere described as motherly in Scripture.

  • Shepherd’s Pursuit
  • The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep alone while he pursued the 1
  • In the parable, the Shepherd leaves the 99, and yet in reality,

God is always “Emmanuel”… God with us.

  • But when the lost sheep is found, it is as though God only sees him.
  • When he finds the lost sheep, he puts it on his shoulders
  • No one is too heavy for God’s shoulders.
  • I used to love to put my kids on my shoulders (I still remember being on my father’s shoulders)…
  • What a very nice place to be when you are reuniting with your master.

 

  • The Woman’s Pursuit
  • She loses a coin…1 out of 10. While this may not seem that much (only 10%)…but as a whole these 9 coins were not worth as much, as only 9, but when the 10th was included, the other 9 were worth more.

LET US NOT FORGET THAT EACH OF US IS PRECIOUS TO GOD…AND WE SHOULD BE PRECIOUS TO EACH OTHER

  • It could be that this coin was part of a headdress, and to be missing one would mean she would look odd, with only 9 coins…perhaps it would reflect on her character.
  • She lights a lamp and sweeps the floor, and looks for the coin…and she most likely bends down and kneels looking for the lost coin
  • This is a picture of humility, as this woman, who represents God in this story, does the work of a servant—lighting a lamp—sweeping the floor—searching…perhaps on her hands and knees…in search of the lost Coin.
  • Elsewhere, the Scriptures describe the humility of God reaching out to man

In Psalm 18, David called to God in his distress, and described God in his power coming down from heaven to help…

 <<He reached down from on high and took hold of me;

he drew me out of deep waters.

he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:16, 19b>>

God is the one who reaches down to find us.

He PURSUES us!

Jesus made Himself nothing to reach out to us.

  • He was born into a poor family
  • He washed his disciples’ feet as a servant.
  • He hung on a cross looking like a criminal.
  • He welcomed sinners, tax-collectors, people who were dangerous for National Security, as well,

The woman seeking a lost coin illustrates how God is not only the Lost-Seeker, But He is the Lost-Finder!

III. The Joy of Finding the Lost

Aren’t you happy when you find something that you have lost?

When you are looking for something dear and precious, and cannot find it, it is really amazing and wonderful when you do.

I still remember as a child I we were visiting Williamsburg (suburbs) and I went for a walk.

And while I was walking, I got lost. I didn’t know what to do, but I looked and looked.

Eventually, I saw my dad looking for me in his car.

I was so glad to be found, and I hope my dad was glad, too.

‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep 

Said the Shepherd

‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

Said the woman

Let’s be people who rejoice as God finds those who are far from Him.

In the parable that follows these two is about the prodigal son and his brother.

The prodigal

  • leaves home
  • blows his inheritance shamefully,
  • while the other stays at home and continues to serve.

When the bad son repents and returns home, the father rejoices and throws a party,

…but the other son is unwilling to celebrate.

Let us be people who rejoice with God!

How do we feel when someone repents and becomes a believer?

If we admired the person before they repented, then we are often excited;

but if we held a grudge against that person,

and then see them experiencing Eternal Life, now,

Some people would rather judge that person away from us.

I recall speaking with a man who had repented of his homosexual lifestyle.

He said, “It is so important that I turned away from my sin, but even more important that I have turned to Jesus.”

If we cannot rejoice when the Lost are hearing the gospel, then we, too, need to turn to Jesus.

We are not a dumb coin on a string

or a dumb lamb that wandered from the flock.

Note the fact that the rescuers in these stories kept the “dumb” objects close to them…

the coin would have been part of jewelry that would have been worn on the body (you can’t get much closer than that)

and the sheep on the shoulders of the shepherd for a period of time, until the sheep learned obedience.

Yet, we have a part in this and can stick close to our rescuer, as well.

It would be a complete waste of the grace that God has extended toward us

to just ignore the voice of God after we have repented, and to say,

“I’ve already heard you, Lord…don’t bother me anymore.”

Heaven rejoices whenever someone repents!

The angels join with God in celebrating our repentance.

The Shepherd and the Woman called their friends, neighbors and family together and said,

Rejoice with me!

When we come together as a church, it is our way of declaring publicly,

“rejoice with me!”

Let us remember that God revealed Himself in Jesus and is the LOST-SEEKER who

  1. Welcomes All
  2. Pursues All
  3. Rejoices when we come to Him

Let us learn to welcome, even those with whom we disagree…

Let us grow closer to the Lord and become transformed by His love, His Word and His Spirit.

Let us partner with God in pursuing the lost…

let us take joy when people repent!

Let us keep God revealed before the world!

Let us keep close to God, to His Word, to His Spirit.

Let’s pray

(Note: This is a reworked version of a previous sermon entitled, “The Lost Seeker.”)

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God with Us (Living on Purpose)

Happy Birthday to the Church!

Today is Pentecost Sunday, which is the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 believers in Jesus. This is the birthday of the Church, and it occurred about 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, and a few days after His ascension!

As well, this is Communion Sunday.

It seemed appropriate for this Sunday to look at the concept in Scripture of

“God with us”: Emmanuel.

We just sang,

“All Hail King Jesus, All Hail Emmanuel,”

and we understand our terminology.

But we didn’t always understand it, nor are we born with such knowledge.

This needed to be revealed to us, as a curtain when it is opened will reveal something more than was previously visible.

There are two characters in the Bible, besides Jesus, whom I think about when I consider the name Emmanuel:

  • Isaiah and
  • Joseph

In Isaiah’s case, he gave a prophecy that had a short-term fulfillment and a long-term fulfillment, too.

A child would be born to a young woman in Isaiah’s time and named, “Emmanuel,” and yet, he prophesied about a virgin giving birth, and the name of the child would be “Emmanuel.”

Joseph experienced the long-term fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

The miraculous conception and birth of Jesus is connected with the name Emmanuel.

The greatest of creative miracles is connected with God being with us.

As we know,

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)”

And …

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3).”

Let’s look at a passage of Scripture that we usually read at Christmas time:

I want to read from Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means ““God with us””).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.       

Matthew 1:18-25

PRAY

God has created all that we know and see, …

He has created what we don’t yet know and cannot yet see.

He sees the beginning and the end. He sees what is deep and what is shallow.

One of God’s characteristics is Omnipresence, being everywhere at all time.

Yet, Emmanuel, “God with us” is something different than that.

*** ***

Joseph is described as Faithful and Fearless.

Joseph’s faithfulness came from a fear of God and his fearlessness came from a faith in God.

Can we be the same?

I believe that we can.

That is because Emmanuel,

“God with us”

was not just something revealed to Isaiah or to Joseph, but to all of us, as well.

God calls us into an

  • active relationship, not a
  • passive placement.

For example, these drums don’t get played much, only when we’ve had special teams come or had a concert.

We would like to see them in an active relationship with the church, but today, they are in a passive relationship.

They look good, but they are not here for looks.

We as followers of Jesus may look good, but God doesn’t call us to look good.

Compared to God we look like nothing, but when we enter into a relationship with Emmanuel,

“God with us,”

then we look great…because it is not we who God sees, nor even the world, but it is Jesus.

“God with us”

is a simple statement. Let’s look at it.

  1. God

Jesus is God in the flesh.

Jesus himself said that God is Spirit, and yet, he also said that he and the Father are One.

God sent His Son to draw us into a relationship with him.

You see, God was already present.

He is Omnipresent…everywhere all the time, but in Jesus, He came in a way for us to understand and know.

He came in a way for us to relate.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he ascended into heaven.

And on the day of Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit.

Jesus had described the Holy Spirit as “Another who was the Same,” and so having the Spirit of God among us, now, is the continuation of Emmanuel.

“God with us”.

  1. With

“With” is a small word.

In Spanish it is even smaller

“con”

and in Russian it is just a prefix,

“s.”

But with makes all the difference.

What if Emmanuel were not “God with us”, but God WITHOUT us?

Or God AWAY FROM us?

Or as our pluralistic society would ask,

“WHICH” God is WITH us?

And our Materialistic society doesn’t want to be far from the

God of Money being with us.

But He is “God with us”.

He wants a relationship with us.

He has initiated it.

This week my mother had a difficult time.

I tried to be WITH her, often.

I was with her in her home, and made the 911 call.

I was with her in the ambulance (my first time).

I was with her in the ER (my first time with her).

I was with her in her hospital rooms.

Being WITH someone is significant.

One evening,

  • she was having a bad reaction to medication,
  • and was pulling at her IV and
  • pulled her mask off of her face.

I was glad that I had walked in on her and was WITH her,

so I could tell the nurses that she needed help.

But, my body didn’t take well to being WITH my mother so much.

I’m tired and exhausted.

I would awaken and pray (it was better than worry).

Yet, all along, God has been with mom.

Even though the pain meds caused her to think that she was in different places other than a hospital bed,

God knew where she was and was WITH her, and still IS.

God was with Abraham,

although Abraham was not the only believer in God at that time,

certainly Lot was a believer, though weak,

and so was Melchizedek.

And Job was a contemporary of Abraham.

In all of these cases, “God with us” meant that no matter where that person was, God was there, too.

Abraham heard God’s voice while in Iraq, and moved to Turkey, then he moved to Israel, and spent some time in Egypt, too.

God was WITH Abraham in all of those places, which was significant, because in the ancient world, man thought that their gods were only for a small area.

I think it is historic that at our English Conversation Café this week, we had a visitor from Iraq who is actually an atheist (this is an unreported trend in the Muslim world, today).

Let’s pray that our friend from Iraq will hear God’s voice and believe in Emmanuel.

As God is WITH us, we are invited to be WITH Him, too.

In a few moments, we will be taking communion.

I want us to take a bit of time, now, to reflect upon God being with us.

[pause]

  1. Us

Jesus died for all of us.

He died for the whole world.

He died even though we were still sinners.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.

1 Timothy 1:15

God with us” is a promise.

He has to come to us, that we would be with Him.

God calls US into a relationship, and that relationship is with EACH OTHER.

We are all made in His Image, and we all need to recognize His Image in each other.

Our battles are not to be against flesh and blood, according to the Word of God that has been written to US, but our battle is against the spiritual forces that war against us:

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Ephesians 6:12

The Scripture continues to describe God’s spiritual armor against Satan’s weapons of words and thoughts.

But this armor does not cover our back, it only covers the front.

There reason is that we are to cover each other’s back.

We do this in prayer.

We do this in right relationship.

We do this by healthy communicating.

We do this by building each other up, and not by tearing each other down.

We use our lips for prayer and not for gossip.

We use our hearts for worship and not for bitterness.

Let’s pause, again, and this time, let us bless those who curse us, and let us forgive those who have hurt us.

[Pause]

As we approach the Lord’s Table, today, let us do so, in confidence, that He calls us, and that He calls us a relationship of love with Him and with each other.

[Approach the altar, place offering into box, and take communion elements. Then wait until all are served.]

[Sing “O Come to the Altar”]

 

 

 

 

 

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Unbelievable

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

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

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

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

The Church is the greatest organization on earth:

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

Let us never sell ourselves short.

We belong to Christ, and we are His assembly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can make history!

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

And we are an older congregation, today,

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

“the Called Out Who Belong to the Lord!”

We must become WELCOMERS!

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

And we are to be alert and watchful.

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

Matthew 24:42

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

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

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

he cannot be caught sleeping on the job.

Let us be people who remain at attention.

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

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

Let me briefly recap the story:

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

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

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

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

In the interim, a Samaritan woman approached the well.

Possibly she and the disciples had passed one another.

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

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

This woman was coming at noon.

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

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

She was probably surprised to see Jesus by the well.

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

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

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

to the people who had judged her,

and invited them to meet Jesus, too.

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

Now I want to read the Scriptures that follow:

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

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

John 4:39-42

Pray

  1. UNBELIEVABLE

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

It is UNBELIEVABLE to go against their own ideas.

It is UNBELIEVABLE that another idea could be correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • social,
  • cultural and
  • historic traditions.

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

Jesus was indeed a REVOLUTIONARY!:

SOCIAL REVOLUTION: Men Honoring Women

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

The woman who came to the well,

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

-and if he did talk with her,

then it would have been an immoral conversation…

and yet, Jesus spoke to her…

He STILL speaks to women.

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

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

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

Probably, still living in the Dark Ages.

In Jesus’ day, women were not educated.

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

Change, Is Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are His bucket…we are his instrument

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

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

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

and yet, he did

and he still does, even today.

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

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

and his answer was so different.

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

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

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

It was UNBELIEVABLE that true worship would

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

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

True worship doesn’t happen

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

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

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

but that is what happened.

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

It’s about faith!

  1. BELIEVABLE

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

And we are called to believe.

We are called to follow!

We are called to minister with Jesus.

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

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

This Samaritan woman began to believe.

She had a change in her Faith.

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

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

This village changed because Jesus came there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

getting out of Samaria;

getting home to Galilee.

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

There was too much bad press about these Samaritans.

They could not be trusted.

They didn’t follow all of Scripture.

They were ethnically a different race…a mixed race.

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

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

Samaria was smack in the middle of Israel.

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

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

This included the Samaritans.

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

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

The Gospel has not changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do we want revival?

Is it for us?

For us, alone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. From Unbelief to Belief

The progression from unbelief to belief is inspiring and incredible.

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

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

and in the fellowship hall…

in parks and in office lunch rooms,

at J. Sargent Reynolds and at Virginia Center Commons.

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

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

Let’s read it, again:

41 And because of his words many more became believers.

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

John 4:41, 42

Because of Jesus’ Words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our salvation is BELIEVABLE, too.

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

Our salvation is received through belief.

Belief in the work of the Son of God

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

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

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

We are either going to welcome the Samaritans and ADVANCE,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s pray.

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Mothers on Purpose

Jesus and His Mother

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

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

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

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

Of all of the Ten Commandments,

one is dedicated to children and parents,

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

We are to obey our Father and Mother.

This command

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

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

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

are continued in the New Testament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… …

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

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

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

Mark 3:20-22; 31-35

The title of my message, today, is

“Mothers on Purpose”

Let’s pray

PRAY

  1. Good Intentions and Misunderstandings

Good intentions and misunderstandings…

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

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

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

We have often heard that…

“Mother knows best.”

…right?

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

knows that this is not always correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IILUSTRATION

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

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

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

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

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

Clover thought he was with me.

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

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

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

Losing a child is tough

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

She was incorrect, however, as were many others.

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

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

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

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

Moms help sons to regain some clarity.

ILLUSTRATION

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

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

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

“go and get some massages.

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

That was the way my mother was concerned for me.

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

J

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

She couldn’t safely travel alone.

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

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

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

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

Moms and children have an odd relationship

Ernie Campe read on Wednesday, the following:

At 6 years old, “Mommy, I love you.”

At 10, “Mom,…whatever”

At 16, “My mom is sooooo annoying.”

At 18, “I wanna leave this house.”

At 25, “Mom, you were right.”

At 30, “I wanna go to mom’s house.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, a transformation had to occur for Mary.

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

Mary didn’t want to lose her son.

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

Did she understand?

How much did she realize?

Yet, she, later, is found among the faithful

Somehow, she had understanding

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

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

Did she know that He was going to the cross?

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

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

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

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

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

John 19:25-27

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

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

BUT, ALSO

  • Mother, look at me, your son, now

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

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

While He carried our sin as our sacrifice.

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

but once she saw how he behaved on the cross,

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

but following the Son of God.

Jesus was intentional,…ESPECIALLY on the cross.

She became intentional, too.

She had become His disciple.

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

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

How did Mary see Jesus on the cross?

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

  1. Our Response

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

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

Mark 3:35

As we do God’s will, we find purpose.

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

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

ILLUSTRATION

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

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

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

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

He knew that this might be his last trip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Egyptian Christians are made of steel.

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

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

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

Let’s be people of Steel.

Let’s be people who live on purpose.

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

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

RESPONSE

 

Song—See His Love

 

 

 

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Led on Purpose

Led on Purpose

INTERPRETATION

Biblical Interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Consecutive-Interpretation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ILLUSTRATION:

There were a few funny situations that happened with interpreters:

SASHA

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

RUSLAN

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

SAULE

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

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

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

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

It gave us a good laugh.

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

INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

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

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

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

Led on Purpose

PRAY

  1. Who Is Leading Us?

In leadership seminars, we are told that

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

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

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

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

And the converse is also true:

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

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

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

TRANSFORMATION vs LACK-OF-FORMATION

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is my shepherd.

Is that true?

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

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

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

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

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

Are we transformed?

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

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

each of us in this room.

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

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

What does that make you and me?

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

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

Led on Purpose

Who is leading us?

Are we leading ourselves?

Are circumstances leading us?

Are we being led by our personal desires?

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

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

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

John 13:34, 35

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

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

If we are, then we are being

Led on Purpose

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

Most of us in this room represent the older generations.

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

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

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

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

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

TRULY, we are ALL leaders of people,

BUT the question is,

are we good leaders of people?

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

are we good followers of Jesus?

So, let’s Look at another question:

  1. How Is He Leading Us?

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

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

How the Lord Leads in Psalm 23

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

There are many sermons that can be preached

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

But the final point is that of BELONGING.

How does the Lord Lead us?

By leading us into a family.

We are welcomed into His Fold/His Flock,

and He shows us that He is our Shepherd,

our Host

and even the Head of the Household.

If we are being Led on Purpose, then

WE ARE BEING LED TO BELONG

Led on Purpose—Led to Belong

Who is leading us?

And How is He Leading us?

He is leading us into BELONGING.

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

I’ve seen God provide miraculously.

Let me give you an example:

ILLUSTRATION

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

But we prayed.

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

That check was all we needed at that point.

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

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

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Psalm 23:1

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

It is because we belong…we belong to Him,

We belong to Each Other!

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

People told me, once,

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

and I felt under judgment for that.

Someone said,

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

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

Psalm 37:25

“Therefore, if you are a Christian,”

PEOPLE SAID TO ME,

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

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

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

and Righteousness, first and daily,

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

Are we

Led on Purpose

Are we

Led on Purpose—Led to Belong

We are.

Or we should be.

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

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

And yet the same writer also said,

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

Psalm 37:25

I talked a bit about interpretation.

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

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

Sometimes we mean the historical context,

but simply, it can just be the literary context…

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

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

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

Psalm 37:25, 26

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

BUT, LET’S CONSIDER OURS.

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

Remember…

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

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

He is Leading us to help people with ….

How the Lord Leads in Psalm 23

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

When we are being led by the Shepherd,

we hear His voice,

and our hearts change.

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

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

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

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

or a previously incarcerated person,

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

Whether they vote Republican or Democrat,

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

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

That is how I am interpreting Scripture.

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

How can I invite more people into His family?

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

ILLUSTRATION-CONTINUED

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

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

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

As I was closing, in prayer, I said,

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

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

 After prayer I asked,

 “what did I say?”

 I realized I had said,

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

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

God calls us to be

Faithful

Available

Teachable

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

Fearless

Intentional

Trained (or in Training)

Because the Lord is My Shepherd, I can be…

  • Faithful
  • Available
  • Teachable

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

  • Fearless
  • Intentional
  • And Trained/In Training

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

Let’s pray

RESPONSE

 

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Living on Purpose for God’s Purposes

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

We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

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

So, how can we do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this due to people’s talents?

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

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

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

But this will come later, Lord willing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one anticipated this, except Jesus.

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

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

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

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

He WOULD THEREFORE HAVE BEEN considered to be a traitor.

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

This man was judged by the community.

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

Others are judged because of their addictions.

And others are judged because of their sexual sins.

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

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

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

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR PREJUDICES…

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS…

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR BLINDNESS…

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

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

And while we believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 19:1-9

PRAY

  1. Jesus’ Mission Directed Jesus’ Action

Why did Jesus do what he did?

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

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

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

  1. Jesus bothered people

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

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

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

THE SAME THING CAN HAPPEN TO US…

LET US SUBJECT OURSELVES TO THE HOLY WORD OF GOD…

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

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

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

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

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

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

He went to the home of a sinner.

Why was this?

  1. Jesus pleased His Heavenly Father

He didn’t go to the most talented

He didn’t go to the most anointed

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

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

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

He went to the home of a sinner.

Jesus said,

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

Luke 19:9

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

We need to know our mission, too.

And we need to live according to it.

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

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

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

We can chuckle at them and think,

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

How do we know?

Are we complainers, now?

And what happened to those complainers?

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

[PAUSE]

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

Sin leads to death.

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

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

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

AND YET, WE WILL FIND OURSELVES LOCKED AWAY.

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

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

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

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

And by our actions of complaining and gossip,

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

while we need to be Loving and supporting each other.

  1. Who Are We Pleasing?

Are we complainers and mutterers?

Are we

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

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

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

  • Tradition
  • Ego
  • Short-sightedness
  • Selfishness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People could have complained,

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

to which Paul might have answered,

“yes, that’s right, and it shows.”

There are changes that must happen

And these may be uncomfortable.

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

We need to see ourselves as contributors and not consumers.

  1. Jesus’ Ministry was to Reach People

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

Jesus knew that Zacchaeus would respond.

Jesus said once that

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

John 6:44

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

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

-not just the part that I like

-or the part that our president likes,

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

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

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

2 Peter 3:9

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

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

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

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

BUDDHISTS

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

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

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

HINDUS

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

MUSLIMS

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

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

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

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

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

So, what has happened?

I believe that God has sent them here.

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

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

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

and Let them complain.

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

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

Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, and reached out to him.

It wasn’t comfortable

It wasn’t popular

But look at Zacchaeus’ response:

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

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus changed.

Who among us?

Who of our clients?

Who of our neighbors?

Who of our co-workers will change?

We need to be ready,

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

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

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

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

In order to do this we must be FAT Christians.

Faithful

Available

Teachable

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

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

To Seek and to Save the Lost

Let’s pray.

 

 

 

 

 

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