Remember

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day.

Today, we want to recognize our veterans.

So, if you served in the US Armed Forces, please stand.

[allow people to stand, then cheer, then we will pray for them]

 Please remain standing while we pray.

 We don’t want to forget your sacrifice, nor the sacrifices of over 48 million American men and women who have served in our armed services throughout the history of our nation.

Veterans and our current military personnel provide protection for us as a nation. We remember you, today, and thank God for you.

And I want to pray for you, today!

Heavenly Father, thank you for our veterans. Thank you for the service that they gave for our nation, and that they have given to help other nations.

 Thank you for our current military service people, and we ask you to protect them.

 In Jesus’ Name,

 Amen.

 Remember.

Memory is a tool that helps us with basic situations in life.

If we cannot remember, then we find ourselves doing crazy things.

For example, sometimes as I am leaving the church building, I don’t recall if I actually locked the front door or not, because it is such a habit.

Subconsciously, I remember, even when I don’t consciously remember.

Our subconscious remembers things even when we don’t. I’ve had interesting dreams in which I’ve even been chased by something evil, and in my dream I shouted, “Away from me in the Name of Jesus Christ.” The evil presence disappeared and I awoke.

I’ve actually said that in real life, too, and seen great results.

I’m glad that my subconscious remembers the power of Jesus’ Name.

Remember.

“Remember when” These are two words that often occur at the beginning of a story from the past.

Whether or not it was a good story or a bad story, what these have in common is that they were memorable stories.

  • “Don’t forget to go to the post office on the way to work.”
  • “Don’t forget to kiss me good-bye.”
  • “Please remember to take your shoes off when you come into my house.”
  • “Always remember to look both ways before your cross the street.”

These and other statements we often hear, and we hopefully follow. If we don’t remember, then we usually have to remember it, again.

In your bulletins, there is a takeaway sheet, which has significant dates on it. I want you to take a few moments to remember these dates before we go forward.

[take a few minutes]

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we have a cynical book written by the wisest man who had ever lived.

Solomon was the third king of Israel, and he was the reason that the kingdom divided between the North and the South.  Solomon was wise, yet, he turned away from God, and followed the gods of his many wives.

Because of this, Solomon became depressed, and even in all the splendor and glory of his court, he had lost his way. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes and taught through it that life is meaningless without having God at the center of our lives.

Near the end of the book, Solomon writes three times that we must remember something.

I want to specifically look at one of those points to remember, first.

Let’s look at Ecclesiastes 12:1

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

Let’s pray

PRAY

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word that we read, today. You, Oh Lord, brought forth this Word from the pen of a man who had forgotten You, though he grew up knowing You. He had forgotten You, though he had previously written that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

King Solomon was like many who had at one time looked toward you and followed You, whole-heartedly, only to slowly take our eyes off of You, and allow separation instead of fellowship, as we sometimes seek relevance over relationship, and we may seek peace on our terms rather than seeking the Giver of and the Prince of Peace.

Bless Your Word, today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. Remember Who?

We must remember many things, but let us not forget the Who.

We must remember God, for He Is Our Creator.

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

This week I heard the testimony of a pastor of a very large church here in Virginia.

I don’t know this pastor, but I had tried to get to know him, and yet, suddenly, he was no longer pastor of the church.

When he spoke at a meeting this week, it was the first time he has spoken, publicly, about his moral failure. I don’t know what kind of failure he had, and can only guess, as he didn’t go into the details of the sin, but he wanted us to know what it was that allowed him to fall.

He was…

Disillusioned

Distressed

Depressed

From the outside, he looked like he was the happening pastor.

He led an incredible ministry, and not only ministered to his church family, but to the community.

In the first year of his ministry in Virginia, his church of 1500 grew by 1000 to 2500 members.

But he said that even though he was building the church, he was not building his relationship with God, nor with his wife, nor with his friendships.

During that first year of incredible growth for his church, he also had to deal with large groups of people criticizing him.

People would not allow him to be human, and he separated himself from others.

What he needed to do was REMEMBER.

Oh, he could remember to pass certain tests:

  • like counseling people,
  • leading meetings,
  • writing and delivering sermons,

but he didn’t REMEMBER what he needed to remember to keep his relationship with God alive, and he fell.

Let us be people who REMEMBER.

Let us be people who remember the Who.

I don’t’ want to forget God.

I don’t want to live like someone who have forgotten God.

I want to live like someone who remembers God. Remembers who God Is, and Who He I am, too.

If we forget, then we drop back into our default mode, and we can find that we remember things we would do better forgetting.

Those who forget God, remember what will destroy them.

Those who forget God, look for help and assistance apart from God, and then complain from when life falls apart.

We must remember.

  1. Remember When?

We need to remember in our youth.

Now that has passed for a few of us, perhaps very few of us feel youthful.

I am amazed at how many years have passed since I first believed in Jesus: 44 YEARS!

I am so thankful for those years.

I am humbled by those years, too.

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 in the days of OUR youth

Before the days of trouble come.

Truly, if we can remember God before we desperately need Him, then we will remember Him even then.

We need to fill up our cupboards, fill up our gas tanks with the knowledge…the relational knowledge of God before we find ourselves out of work or running on empty.

So, really that means remember Him, NOW.

Don’t despair if you didn’t remember Him when we were young.

Remember Him, NOW, and continue to remember Him.

Moses gave this word to the people of God:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Israel is first of all taught the God is One,

Then taught how to love God (with all heart, soul and strength…what Jesus called the greatest commandment)

Then how to remember this:

Put it in your hearts

Impress them on your children

Talk about them at home

When you walk, lie down and get up

Tie them on your hands and foreheads

Write them on the doorframes of houses and gates.

  1. Remember What?

Remember that He remembers us

a. The Lord was with Joseph, thus, He remembered Joseph.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him;      Genesis 39:20, 21

b. One of the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus’ answer should encourage us, too.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Jesus promised to remember this man, God remembered Joseph.

Thus, let us remember Him Who Remembers us.

We sometimes feel that He has forgotten us.

It is great to remember what has been done for us and what we have gone through with God and with His Church.

My son reminded me of something yesterday in which he said,

“Dad, do you remember when you took me to the Leukemia hospital in Kazakhstan?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Thanks for doing that. Thanks for not leaving me home, but taking me with you. It helped me to have a heart of compassion.”

My son was remembering something that helped him become who he is.

We may remember significant answers to prayer.

We may remember when God helped us through a difficult situation.

This week, I was in a meeting, and I remembered a situation in which I was in Kazakhstan.

I was at a bazaar and going toward my car. Near my car was a woman whom I took to be a beggar. 

I reached into my pocket to get some money for her, and as I handed it to her, I realized that she was NOT a beggar, but a fortune teller.

I don’t know what you think of such stories, but there is something demonic about fortune tellers.

As I handed her the money she said to me,

“I can see in your eyes that you are going to die, soon.”

At that moment, out of my mouth came these words in Russian:

“Get away from me in the Name of Jesus!”

She went away, and I went to my car. 

I then prayed and thanked God that I had no need of any worry, but that my trust was in God.

Then I went to my next activity which was to get my car repaired.

It was an SUV, and it was lifted up high. As I was going to leave, I remembered I had a bag in the back seat. I decided to climb up the lift.

I did, retrieved the bag, and then lost my footing. I fell backwards and landed on the back of my head.

My assistant was with me, and he looked so surprised when I got up and brushed myself off.

“You landed on your head.”

The whole way down as I fell, it felt as though I were floating. There was no fear.

Later that day, I remembered how a fortune teller had tried to scare me into putting my trust in her, when all along, I knew my trust needed to be in Jesus, and Jesus delivered me from death.

Let us fill up our wells, and fill up our hearts with the memories of God, and what He has done for us when He healed us, or helped us in some significant way.

Remember Who?

Remember When?

Remember What?

Finally

  1. Remember Why?

Don’t forget the joy that God brings to us.

We took communion, today, and it is something that Jesus said we were to do in remembrance of him.

It was the Passover meal that Jesus was celebrating, which was a meal of remembrance, too.

If people remember, then they follow God, if they forget, then they don’t follow God.

I heard someone say this the other day:

“Jesus said, ‘follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men,’ so if you ain’t fishing then you ain’t following.”

Don’t forget the peace that He has given.

Don’t forget the times He has answered and come through, and let these memories encourage us to not forget that God remembers us, so let us remember Him.

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 before you no longer have pleasure.

Perhaps that has to do with the changes in our physical being, that cause us to not enjoy life as we used to

Or

Perhaps it has to do with the changes around us that we don’t like to see.

Or perhaps it has to do with changes within us, as we take our eyes off of God and become cynical.

Let us Remember.

Let’s remember our mission at the River, too,

The Mission of the River:

Connecting our changing community with the unchanging Gospel.

Let’s remember and let’s pray.

 

 

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A House of Prayer for All Nations

We are excited about today, as it is a day that we’ve talked about for months, and Clover and I have thought about this for years.

We imagined that we might one day, hypothetically, live in Northern Virginia, in order to minister in an international community.

Our desire is to minister to the whole community, not just to the internationals…but to those who WELCOME them, as well.

“International” as I use it is synonymous with other terms like

  • “foreigner,”
  • “alien,”
  • even “stranger.”
  • “international students,”
  • “refugees”
  • “immigrants.”

The Bible refers to people as either “Jews” or “Gentiles,” and the term “nations,” is often used as well.

God’s purpose and plan is to draw all of the nations to Himself, through Jesus.

Today, I want to talk about prayer; specifically two statements of Jesus about prayer and their relevance for us, today.

17 And as [Jesus] taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?”    Matthew 11:17

 [Jesus] told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”                        Luke 10:2

Let’s Pray

PRAYER

Almighty God, we love You, and thank you that You love us.

We thank you for Your Holy Word and Revelation, today, given through Your Son, Jesus the Messiah.

 We pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen

  1. All Nations Need God’s Help

Jesus told us that God the Father’s heart is so in touch with His creation that He knows even when a bird, falls to the ground,

  • …He cares for us.

God the Father even knows the number of hairs on each of our heads,

  • …He is concerned for us.

Jesus taught that God, EVEN knows our needs before we ask…Yes, God cares for us.

As well, He gives out justice, too.

  • He knows everything

We can trust our Heavenly Father.

The Apostle Peter wrote this about our Lord:

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 3:19

Not wanting anyone to perish.

God doesn’t want you or me or our neighbor to perish.

He doesn’t want the people in other countries to perish, either.

God, the Father, even doesn’t want Sayfullo Saipov to perish.  That is the young man from Uzbekistan who was arrested for terrorist activity in New York City this week.

But what about justice? You may be asking. He killed people, and the US government may even sentence him to death.

Yes, justice systems must be in place, and they must operate.

Our justice system is based upon the justice system that God instituted through Moses 3500 years ago.

God’s laws enable us to live in harmony on earth, though it does not bring us into peace with God.

Following laws here on earth help maintain order, but God knew we could never follow His laws completely, 100% flawlessly.

Therefore, He who CREATED and BEGAN our justice system, also satisfied the justice system for our heavenly requirements.

He sent Jesus to die for us.

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice.

John the Baptist (aka the “forerunner”) declared this of Jesus:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 1:29b

God promised salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection throughout His Holy Scriptures …

  • From the Garden of Eden,
  • During the calling of Abraham,
  • Through the ministry of Moses,
  • In the reign of King David,
  • And in the ministry of the great prophets of the Old Testament.

Jesus IS the perfect Sacrifice to satisfy God’s Justice System.

We see this in Jesus’ own words:

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. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.         John 3:16, 17

Thus, Jesus, in referring to the Temple of God, that used to stand in Jerusalem, stated,

17 And as [Jesus] taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?”    Matthew 11:17

  1. It is Written

Jesus knew, followed, taught and FULFILLED the Scriptures

Thus, we, too, follow the Scriptures.

The Protestant Reformation happened 500 years ago because the Roman Catholic Church stopped knowing, following, and teaching the Scriptures.

“It is Written…”

  1. My House

Specifically, the Temple of God, but, also, believers in Jesus, become a Temple of God.

And, collectively, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit of God

  1. House of Prayer for All Nations

All nations should be able to pray in God’s House.

Through Jesus, all nations can join God’s family, therefore, when God’s people come together, we ought to look like all nations.

My friend, Frank, who played the drums today, referred to this as “the face of heaven.”

Heaven is not full of only one group of people.

For example, “white Americans.”

Heaven is filling up with people from all nations.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before [Jesus].                     Revelation 7:9 

Our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to die for our sins;

Jesus rose to conquer death, the penalty for sin;

Jesus sent God’s Holy Spirit to empower us as witnesses of God’s work through Jesus.

He desires a House of Prayer for all nations.

We are part of the House of Prayer, what we call “Church” with a capital “C.”

WHAT IS OUR JOB?

  1. Pray and Invite

God calls us to pray for the nations to know Jesus.

God calls us to support those who go to the nations to share the work of Jesus among them.

God calls us to go and serve Him among the nations.

So that the Desire that God Has will be Realized in us, His Church.

[Jesus] told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”               Luke 10:2

A.   Recognize the Harvest

The whole earth IS the harvest.

That is a monumental task!

And He recognized that the “workers” – “harvesters” are few.

He asked His disciples…and therefore us,

…to PRAY.

We are to pray, yes, that people would believe, but specifically in this verse we see that we are to PRAY that God would send out the workers.

Clover and I answered that call and served in Kazakhstan and Turkey for 22 years.

Now that we are back home, we still have that calling. We have the same calling, just a different address.

We are called to welcome the Nations who are coming here to RVA, and guess what, all Christians are supposed to be doing this.

My hope and vision is that every church in RVA will

  • Pray
  • Give
  • Go

To reach the people whom God has brought here.

But we must first RECOGNIZE the harvest.

Let’s not be blinded by the following:

  • Politics…we may all have differing views on immigration, and you may be surprised at even some of my views. I am not trying to be a Politician, but regardless of politics, we have internationals here among us, so let us welcome them.

Don’t Allow Politics to Close Our Ears to God and Our Hearts toward Our Neighbors.

  • Economics…Some people complain, “oh, they’re taking our jobs,” but in reality, there are many who are taking jobs that the rest of America don’t want to do.

Don’t Allow Economics to Dictate How Our Ears Hear God’s Word, Or How Our Eyes See the Harvest

  • Religion…Some complain that many non-Christians are coming here, but we must remember our history:
    • Many of us are descendants of people who came here for Religious Freedom.
    • As well, let’s be thankful that God has saved us, and, let’s rejoice as others who had no chance to hear the Gospel, before, may hear it, today.

Don’t Allow Religion to Block People From Finding Jesus through Us

A.    Pray and Invite

Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the Harvest.” This means, PRAY to God.

What are we to ask?

That Harvesters would be sent.

And let’s be willing to be part of that harvest.

And let me tell you a secret:

Resources for the harvest are IN the harvest.

We, at one time, were not part of the “harvesters,” but were part of the “harvest.”

God called us through someone else to follow and believe in Jesus’ Work on the Cross and His Resurrection.

We obediently give our tithes and our offerings to the church in order to reach out.

Lately we’ve been able to spend some money to make things better around here and more WELCOMING.

And as people get reached with the Gospel, they will become harvesters and supporters and prayer partners, too.

But, some may object and say, “Pastor Peyton, you are neglecting our children, and our neighbors who have grown up here in Lakeside and in RVA, but don’t follow Jesus.”

To that I say three things:

  • ONE: As they see us take seriously the Gospel and welcome refugees, the poor and the needy, then they might then decide to follow Jesus, too.
  • TWO: They have more opportunities to find Jesus than merely through me (family, literature, media, 100s of churches that worship in their language, radio, etc.) and yet they’ve not followed Jesus….Yet.
  • THREE: Those whom we welcome might be the ones who our family will listen to.

God calls us to pray and to invite

God wants us to be a House of Prayer for All Nations.

Remember our mission:

Our Mission at the River:

Connect our Changing Community with the Unchanging Gospel.

Therefore, we welcome internationals and locals to worship with us, and grow God’s Kingdom at this location, in this congregation for God’s wonderful glory!

Let’s pray

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Welcome Home (Part One)

Today, I want to start a mini-series I’m calling “Welcome Home.” It is about Welcoming the Stranger among us. We will look at Rahab and Ruth as well as our neighborhood.

INTRODUCTION

We like the feeling of being welcome, and don’t like to feel as though we are not welcome.

None of us want to feel like unwanted or uninvited.

We don’t want to feel out of place, but instead, we love to feel at home.

Have you noticed that when Kalyan welcomes us, he calls our church, “home.”

You know, when I call it home, and you might think,

“Of course, pastor, you would feel at home here.”

But for Kalyan to call it home, this is very different from what he used to call “home.”

In the Book of Hebrews, we have a chapter about faithful people.

Abel, Enoch and Noah are the first of many, including unnamed people (some of whom resemble  people today)

Those prior to Abraham were not Hebrews, but, Abraham, the father of the Hebrews, came from them.

The Book of Hebrews was written after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, about 2000 years ago, to help the Hebrews understand and recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

The 11th chapter is about the Faithful.

I’ve mentioned four names, already, but also, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, are listed.

These were BELIEVERS, who acted according to their BELIEF.

Yet, in relation to the world, they were strangers, even foreigners.

Let’s look at a few verses:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 

Hebrews 11:9-13

The title of my message today is

Welcome Home (Part One)

Let’s Pray

PRAY

Heavenly Father, we praise You, and thank You for Your presence in this place, today. When we gather in Your Name, we are gathered as family in Your Home.

 We want to honor You with our lives as people of faith, people we act faithfully, and people who encourage others to act faithfully.

 We thank You for the promise of eternal life that we have in Jesus. We praise You, today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. Faith in Action

What is faith or belief?

When I believe in something, I trust in it.

If I don’t believe in it, I won’t trust it.

When I went on my first missions trip, it was to the Dominican Republic, and I was part of a team of people who were going to build two church buildings in two weeks.

Although it was an adventure, we had concerns:

Re: health:

  • Malaria
  • Dysentery
  • Different Climate

We had social concerns:

  • Different culture
  • Different language

And, the work was going to be hard.

The means of getting to the work-site was also hard, as I had never before flown.

I was 15 years old, and it would be the adventure of my life at that point.

Whereas it might seem like something a kid would want to do, I must tell you, that at that young age of 15, I had distinctly  heard from the Lord that I was going to go on this trip for His purposes.

About 9 months prior to this trip, I heard a missionary speak in church. I was so moved by God, that I prayed and asked God what He was saying to me.

I had this strong sense in my heart that God was whispering His will to me:

“Be ready to travel to another country for me next year.”

I had heard of YWAM, by the way, very briefly, but that was all. I was honestly scared to tell anyone what I had heard, because I was not used to hearing God’s direction.

On the first Sunday of 1979, I arrived at church, late. Extra chairs had been added to the small sanctuary, and I sat on the front row. There was an empty seat beside me.

The associate pastor motioned to me to save that seat for him, for after he gave announcements. I placed my Bible there.

After praise and worship, the associate pastor, John Hershman, made an announcement:

“This year, although our church is in a building program, we will send a team of people to a country in the Caribbean to build a church for a struggling congregation.”

That statement was to me like Kennedy’s statement about sending men to the moon.

It was hard to believe, but still probable.

And I knew that it was God confirming to me what He had told me, previously.

I can’t tell you if anyone else on my team had heard specifically from the Lord, but I had.

Abraham had to specifically hear from the Lord in order to travel from one country to another in confidence.

He lived in an age in which people worshipped wood, clay, stone and metal objects, as well as stars and the moon.

Abraham’s family were moon worshippers, but Abraham began to worship the One who made the elements, stars and planets.

What is faith?

Earlier in Hebrews 11 we see this verse that explains it:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.                    Hebrews 11:1

Abraham believed and became the example for all who believe in One God:

Jews; Christians; and Muslims all claim to believe in the God of Abraham.

What distinguishes Christians from Muslims and Jews is our belief in Jesus.

Without Jesus, we have no hope.

As we look at the verses in Hebrews 11:8-13 we see that Faith was more than just intellectual understanding.

Faith is not merely saying,

“Hm, that sounds good,”

and then continuing in a sinful life as before.

But it IS to repent of our sins and believe that forgiveness of sins is found in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Faith is much more than recognizing the truth of a fact, but to live according to the truth.

These faithful heroes in Hebrews were commended for this.

They had lived and died according to their belief.

They acted upon that belief.

Notice these verbs that followed faith:

  • By Faith Abraham …obeyed and went.
  • …. made his home in the promised land like a stranger
  • By faith…Sarah…was enabled to bear children because she considered God faithful

We, too, are called to believe.

Belief is what separates us from the world and makes us strangers and aliens, too.

Paul describes us as citizens of heaven:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  Philippians 3:20

Faith in Jesus makes us a citizen of heaven. Becoming “born again” or “born from above” enables us to be one of God’s children.

When we are citizens of heaven, we are no longer citizens of the world.

My son-in-law recently became a US citizen. This week in the mail, he received a letter from the Kazakhstan Embassy in DC stating that he is no longer a citizen of Kazakhstan.

Thus, he is a foreigner, now, to the land of his birth.

Faith needs to be revealed in action in order to be faith.

When we get hired to do a job, we enter into an agreement with our employer.

The employer in essence asks the potential employee,

“Do you want to work here?”

The potential employee usually tries his best to get the job, and through the application and interviewing process says,

“Yes, I want to work here.”

And so, the potential employee is actually expressing a “Belief,” and the employer is accepting that belief by faith.

But,

  • if the person spends more time talking than working.
  • If they spend time on their phone with personal calls, Facebook, texting and reading, rather than working.
  • If they show up late for work, and hangout by the time clock 10 minutes before quitting time,

then by all of these actions they are demonstrating that they don’t really believe in work.

And what happens to the employee?

He gets fired.

It takes action to reveal what someone really believes.

Abraham believed and he moved.

Abraham and Sarah believed, and they had a child named Isaac, although they were elderly.

  1. The Actions of Strangers

Being a stranger is not easy.

Abraham lived in tents.

Not only he, but his next two generations lived in tents.

Often when people emigrate to another country, they are doing it not for themselves, but for the next generation.

And it is the next generation that grows up feeling less like a stranger, and more like a local.

In Scripture, see the Faithful in Hebrews 11 were looking in faith to the future.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Heb 11:13

Can we be people of faith even if we don’t get to see the answers to our prayers and the fulfillment of our faith?

These faithful people saw themselves in need of God, even though they could not see God.

And even if they didn’t have everything that they wanted, they submitted to the sovereignty of God and followed Him.

Let’s look at some more actions taken by these strangers:

11:17   By faith Abraham …offered Isaac as a sacrifice

11:19] …Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead

11:20, 21       Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau; Jacob…blessed each of Joseph’s sons and worshipped

11:22  Joseph…spoke about the exodus…from Egypt

11:23  Moses’ parents hid him…and were not afraid.

11:24, 25 Moses…chose to be mistreated along with the [Hebrews]

Leaving Egypt, walking through the Red Sea and even the bringing down of the walls of Jericho are all attributed to faith by the book of Hebrews.

All done by believers who really saw themselves as citizens of heaven and not earth.

The list of the faithful included some of the judges, kings and prophets, like Gideon, Samuel and David, included others as well.

Many of the unnamed. were tortured for their faith, and even killed.

The Scriptures declared these strangers in this way,

38 the world was not worthy of them.              Hebrews 11:38a

BUT, I left out one name in particular:

Rahab.

Rahab was a foreigner to the Hebrews.

She was a citizen of Jericho, and yet, she is included in this roll call of the faithful of Israel.

How did this happen?

She was welcomed into the family.

She was welcomed home.

She was a prostitute, though some scholars consider that this term may have actually meant “innkeeper.”

She welcomed two Hebrew spies into her home, which was part of the walls of Jericho.

She protected them.

She enabled them to escape.

She asked them to remember her and protect her.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.    Hebrews 11:31

Rahab welcomed, and she was then welcomed into the family of God.

The story of Rahab is in Joshua 2, and we see there that Rahab had heard all that God had done for the Hebrew people, even what had been done 40 years before, and she believed in God for this.

Listen to her declaration of faith:

11 … the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.       Joshua 2:11b

Rahab welcomed God’s people, and in turn, she was also welcomed by God’s people.

And, as we see, later, Rahab was included not only in this list, but in the list of the ancestors to King David and to Jesus.

The people whom Rahab welcomed agreed to protect her.

The strangers welcomed a stranger.

APPLICATION

We, believers in Jesus, are citizens of heaven, and we have been given the commission to invite people to come home with us.

We are to welcome them home.

Yes, some whom we welcome, will look like us.

But others whom we welcome will not.

Some whom we welcome will have shared experiences of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, while others will be clueless.

But what is important is that we be people who welcome.

Some will be locals, but God’s invitation is not only for locals.

For God so loved the WORLD….

And He has sent the WORLD to RVA.

In Hebrews 13, we see that by welcoming strangers, some have even welcomed angels.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Heb 13:2

And this was referring to a story in the life of Abraham.

As well, Jesus, said this about how we welcome strangers:

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

…..‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:35, 36, 40

One dream I have is that as we try to reach this community, God will reach Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, and as they become believers in Jesus, they will in turn share the gospel with locals from our area, and one day and American-born person from a Christian background will be baptized here because he heard the gospel from a former Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist.

Let us continue our journey Home, living out our faith in Jesus, with actions that declare our faith.

And let us, welcome others Home with us.

For a couple months, we’ve been showing you our mission:

Connecting our changing community with the unchanging gospel.

Let’s be about our mission.

Let’s pray

 

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Positional Focus

My dad has had two careers:

He’s a retired Bank examiner, but his second career was what he loved the most: golf.  He was not a professional golfer, but a professional who was a golfer.

He played well, and even with his failing eyesight could see where the ball landed, even when people 30 years younger couldn’t I played a few times with him, but really wasn’t very good. I learned early on, though, that how I stood at the tee off would make a difference in how I operated the golf club.

I thought of it as being positionally focused. If I were standing in the right position, and could maintain that position through the swing, then I had a much greater chance of a successful swing.

Honestly, there were times when I was properly and positionally focused, but still hit the top of the ball or scooped out a clump of earth with my swing.

You see, even when we are in the correct position, there is just something strange about golf.

The Reverend Billy Graham said this about golf:

“The only time my prayers are not answered is on the golf course.”  -the Rev. Billy Graham

A few weeks ago, we were considering how we have been restored in order to restore.

And last week we looked at transformation.

On Wednesdays, while studying the Book of Ephesians, we’ve been discussing who we are in Jesus.

And as transformed people, we need to remember who we are and whose we are.

We need to awaken each day as people who remember who we are.

It is just as I needed to be at the tee off: in the proper position in order to be focused.

Many of us are married, or we have been married (or we will be married).

In the American tradition, and the tradition shared in many other cultures, too, the bride and the groom exchange rings.

These rings are a symbol of the love they have for each other.

They are made, usually, from a perfect circle, showing no ending.

They signify a relationship…a covenant…an agreement that is meant to continue until death separates.

While there are legitimate reasons for divorce, we must acknowledge that many divorces occur because the bride or the groom forgets that they are supposed to love the other, and they emphasize their own needs and desires above their spouse.

I told a friend of mine this week,

“Love your family and spend time with them. If you don’t somebody else might try to take your place.”

Those who follow Christ are successful as they continue in prayer, fellowship and reading God’s Word, but when they stop, then their productivity and their faith will wane.

When it wanes, then our growth also slows down and weakens.

We need to daily awaken remembering that we are here in order to honor God and glorify Him.

I am here for my Father in heaven.

I am in this position in order to focus my attention upon Jesus.

Thinking what I need to think and not thinking about what will destroy me and others.

Destroy sounds like a harsh term, but when we focus upon what is unhealthy and even harmful, it not only hurts us, but it hurts others around us.

We need to remember where we are, whose we are and why we are.

A few weeks ago, we looked at Colossians and I was hoping to spend more time on chapter 3.

Let’s turn there, now.

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.       Colossians 3:1-4

Let’s Pray

Lord we thank you for your Word which describes where we are.

We are seated with You; We’ve been raised with You.

So, we want to set our hearts and minds on the things above.

The penalty for our sin was paid when you died for us…in that way, we died, too. And therefore we hide ourselves within You and Your Grace.

One day, we know, that we will be with you in Your glory.

Help us, therefore, to live like people who are destined for Your glory.

Help us focus positionally,

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

  1. Where are we positioned?

We have been raised with Christ.

Paul has said to the Colossian church that he knows were they are.

He wrote something similar to the Ephesian church:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.      Ephesians 2:6, 7

Btw, for an incredible discussion and teaching on Ephesians, come to our Bible Study on Wednesday evenings 7-8:30.

Being raised with Christ is not only the Colossians’ location, but is ours, too.

It is a spiritual location that requires no passport and no birth certificate, just the declaration of God through Jesus that we have been born from above: born again.

We need to know and remember where We Are.

We have been raised with Christ.

We are with Jesus.

We’ve been raised.

With Christ

Wherever we go, Jesus promises to be with us.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.   Matthew 28:20a

Truly, surely, absolutely,

Jesus declares He IS with us always.

That encompasses our past as believers.

This was not a new thought, but has been expressed to all believers even through Moses, Joseph and Abraham.

Abraham lived in a time when gods were considered to be localized, and not global.

People feared to leave the area of their gods.

But Abraham left his country and even his home to go to a new place. God was with him.

Joseph, Abraham’s great-grandson, found himself in prison in Egypt, and the Scriptures declare,

The Lord was with Joseph.

And to Moses the murderer, the failed deliverer of his people, God revealed that He will be with Moses.

If we thought we had been abandoned, previously, then we’ve been mistaken.

That includes the future. Are we worried about the future? Why?

The same Jesus who has been with us and is with us, will BE with us! He Will Be, He Is. He was!

That is what “Yahweh,” the sacred Name for the Lord, which is often translated LORD in all capital letters…Yahweh means, I will be who I will be, or I am that I am.

Jesus is with us.

When the apostles were questioned by the religious leaders who had previously condemned Jesus, they noticed that the Apostles had been WITH Jesus.

They had not merely heard about him, but they had been with Him.

When Mark describes the calling of the Twelve apostles, he wrote:

14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.

Mark 3:14, 15

Whether we are in an impossible situation, like when Jesus was with the disciples on the sea and a storm threatened to overtake them.

Jesus spoke to the wind, and it died down.

Wherever we are, Jesus is there.

Raised with Christ

As well, we’ve been raised with Jesus.

This signifies a raising out of sin, out of darkness and despair.

This reflects the resurrection power of God that was evident in Christ and can be evident in us, as we submit to God through Jesus and share in His power.

Yes, we still die, but in Christ, we have the power to move forward, even though sin wants to destroy us.

The resurrection is the greatest power ever.

Being raised with Jesus means we have a new perspective.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this power:

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.Romans 8:9-11

The power of the resurrection lives in us, today, and enables us to make those important decisions to believe and to follow Jesus.

His Spirit enables us to do what we might fear, and even helps us to be at peace in difficult situations.

God calls us to live by His Spirit, but He doesn’t call us to do this by ourselves, but to do this in the power of His spirit.

The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, works in us, too.

We are His temple.

We submit ourselves to be His temple, individually, and corporately.

Positionally, we are With Christ, and We have been raised by His Spirit out of despair, out of disgust, out of disillusionment, and into a new life and new position.

I like to climb high towers buildings, and yet, I have a fear of heights.

I remember the sick feeling in my stomach when I was at the top of the St. Louis Arch. In Istanbul, there is a building called the Sapphire, and from this building you can see all over the city, and even beyond.

But when fear grips someone, they cannot look.

They can only look at their feet to make certain that their feet are still connected to something stable.

When our fears overcome our position, then our abilities are stymied and our potential is hindered.

Where are we?

We are with Christ.

We are raised by His incredibly powerful Spirit

The world cannot understand, but they need to.

I had two interesting conversations last week with people who don’t follow Jesus.

I thank the Lord that I was able to share, clearly, and with humble confidence that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

One person was merely a non-believer, who is moving on with her life after her marriage of 46 years ended in divorce.

I wasn’t the first Christian to speak to her, and won’t be the last, but I wanted her to see Jesus.

As well, the next day, I met another lady who believes all religions lead to heaven.

All around us are people who don’t believe in Jesus, and how will they?

We need to remember where we are.

To the woman who believed that all faiths lead to heaven I said,

“Then Jesus was the biggest failure, since he died…if all faiths lead to heaven, then why did He die.”

You see, we are raised with Christ because of his gruesome and brutal tortuous death on a Roman cross, and his subsequent awesome resurrection from the dead.

The woman I was speaking with saw that I was convinced, so she spoke a clear and true observation:

“There are many Christians who do not appear to be following Jesus, and if they say that they do, then they should follow Him, and not merely say that they do.“

-an observer of Christians

Where are we?

We are with Christ and raised by His Spirit.

  1. How should we focus?

Understanding where we are, enables us to then know how we can focus.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 

Colossians 3:2

Have you ever picked up a pair of glasses, and not been able to focus?

That’s because your eyes need a different prescription, or they don’t need glasses at all.

We need to look in the right direction, in order to focus.

As I get older, my eyesight becomes weaker. I wear glasses much more, now than even earlier this year.

I need a flashlight from time to time in order to see this better.

And I like large fonts on emails.

Otherwise, I cannot focus.

If I can’t focus, then my attention may go elsewhere.

When it comes to the gospel, if I am not focusing upon the Lord, then I might begin to focus on other things.

As we looked at Josiah last week, we saw that many of the kings before him had taken their focus off of the Lord and put it upon other idols, altars and religions.

We live in a pluralistic society, and people don’t like it when we say that there is only one way to heaven, but honestly, I didn’t think or make that up.

How do I even know that there is a heaven except that Jesus taught us about it.

So then how can I say that the rest of the revelation is incorrect?

I can’t pick and choose what I want from the Scriptures, but must continue to read it all, and let it all speak to me.

Since I’ve been raised, I can see farther. When we sit, we can see only a short distance, but when we can stand, we can see even further.

As we stand, raised with Christ, we can see as He saw.

Eve was tempted by the serpent to be like God and eat the fruit, but what happened, instead, was that she and Adam and all of their children were no longer able to see as well.

Yet, being raised with Christ, positionally raises us to see farther and further than before, even to see into the will of God.

When we are raised, we can Focus upon Righteousness

Our minds need to be set upon the things above,

We need to be hidden with Christ.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:3, 4

Our lives need to be lived on purpose, and Paul describes it here as being “hidden with Christ in God.”

So, where are our lives?

In God and with Christ.

It is by Christ that our lives can be hidden with God.

For God so love the world that He gave His One and Only Son.

That whoever believes in him would not perish, but would be hidden with Christ in God.

We find ourselves overwhelmed by the world around us.

People are for us as long as we are supporting them, but once we show that we are following God’s Word in a way that discomforts them, then suddenly we are the scum of the earth.

We are to be hidden in God with Christ.

This enables our focus to remain in Him, for His glory.

Let us live as His disciples, denying our self, taking up our cross, daily, and following Jesus.

One day, we will appear with Jesus in Glory!

That will be a wonderful day, until then, God’s glory is hidden from us and the world, but when we spend time with Him in prayer, the Word and in His Church, we can see glimpses of God’s glory.

I know a minister who served in the former Soviet Union, and he suffered for Jesus there, but later moved to America, and in order to make ends meet, compromised and is no longer the minister that he was.

I meet people who used to be leaders in churches, and yet they have turned away from church altogether.

The world, the flesh and the devil are out to get Christians and prevent them from finishing well.

I for one don’t want to fall victim to his attacks.

When we come to Christ, we become a new creation, and we no longer are separated by race, religion, culture and position, but we come to Christ, and He is Supreme.

We become His child, and are no longer separated from God.

Positionally, we are in His family.

Let’s live as people in this position, and focus in such a manner.

His power is at work here in our church, today. Let’s not miss His plan for us.

As as the church, let’s remember our mission:

The Mission of the River is to Connect our changing community with the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray

 

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God’s Word of Transformation

We’ve focused upon Living on Purpose since March, and Restoration since August. Now, let’s continue with transformation. God wants to transform us.

When we live on purpose, i.e., for God’s purposes, then we learn contentment in all situations.

We are tempted to worry about the state of the world and what it will be like for our children and grandchildren.

But, let’s not quit or lose hope, for, there IS hope in Jesus; and He’s Coming.

Some of us, however, live under the shadow of our past. Perhaps we made serious errors, mistakes and sins in the past, and that weigh heavily on us.

Maybe our life’s decisions turned out badly.

We’re sometimes tempted to give up and quit.

We don’t think that there is any hope for us.

Now, if we don’t fall into this category, then let’s be thankful, and be ready to help those who need a life of Purpose…RESTORATION by the Spirit of God, and TRANSFORMATION by His Word.

The Scriptures teach to not be conformed to the world’s image but to be transformed by renewed minds.

Let’s teach our wills to follow God’s will.

It is not God’s will for us to do whatever we want, or to have whatever we want.

It is not God’s will for us to remain in a sinful pattern that we have inherited, but it is God’s Will that we would be transformed, and that we would tear down the paganism that the world, the sinful flesh and the devil have erected within our souls.

Let’s rid ourselves of whatever obscures our soul’s view of God.

.If there is anything constant in the world, today, it is change.

And yet, we as the Body of Christ are followers of the One who does not change.

Remember our mission…

The Mission of the River is to Connect the changing community with the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is God’s mission, too.

When God called Abraham, he was living in a deteriorated society, but out of that broken civilization, God promised to make him into a great nation.

Within a few generations, his people were slaves in Egypt, and after 400 years, they were delivered by God through Moses.

They conquered the Promised Land through Joshua and the judges, and then became a kingdom, led by Saul, David and Solomon, successively.

But, due to Solomon’s sins, the kingdom divided into North & South (Israel & Judah).

The Northern kings were all evil, and they were conquered by Assyria.

Many of the kings in the South were also evil.

The days for the kingdom of Judah were coming to an end.

One king grew up as the son and the grandson of evil kings, so, we might think that there would be no hope for him, and yet, he brought about a reformation and a transformation.

You see, even those who come from TROUBLED homes can find God and be used of Him.

Josiah did not long for the good old days or for “back then,” but instead, wished to go forward by living according to the Word of God.

This King began to Live on Purpose. He sought restoration with God and was transformed.

Jesus came to establish His kingdom. He did this in the hearts of people who were under the Roman Emperor. Throughout that Empire and beyond, the gospel spread.

These people were subjects of the emperor, but they were really subjects of the King of kings and the Lord of lords: Jesus.

I want us to look at the life of King Josiah, today, and see how his kingdom was transformed by the Word of God.

 1 … 22 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. … 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

2 Kings 22:1-20 NIV

PRAY

Dear heavenly Father, we thank you for Your Word, today. Thank You for Your Word, and making it known to us.

 We want so much to live as people transformed by Your Word and by Your plan. We determine, today, that we will follow You without turning away from You or Your Will.

We love You and praise You, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I wish we had time to read the whole chapter, though we’ll read some of it. There are details that I think are important for us to keep in mind relating to transformation.

First, what needs transformation?

  1. A World without the Word

Before Josiah’s Reign, the worship of God had been replaced with the worship of Baal and Molech.

The very religion that God wanted wiped out, was being practiced in the Temple, in which God had made a place for HIS NAME.

How did this happen?

The people turned from God, and on top of that, they lost God’s Word, literally.

Here in the US, there are other forms of paganism erecting altars and idols.

We were founded upon Christian principles, but Judah was also founded as a theocratic nation…a nation in which God was supreme and His Word was supposed to be Law.

Many want to see our nation return to God, but the answer is not in politics.

Just this week, it became clear that a Pro-life senator from Pennsylvania was not really Pro-life.

I am sure that Christians in Pennsylvania voted for this man because he talked Pro-life.

I’m not trying to condemn this senator, but we ourselves need to remember that we need a RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST, to be close to Jesus and ready to repent. We need to live our lives as people who are transformed by God’s Word.

When we recognize that we are not following God’s will…His law, love, etc., then we need reform and restoration

Josiah was a reformer, Jesus was a reformer. The goal of restoration is REFORMATION & TRANSFORMATION.

THE LOST BOOK, FOUND

King Josiah ordered for the Temple to be renovated, and during that time, a book was found.

It must have been the first five books of the Bible, which we refer to as the Books of Moses.

It may seem odd that there’s a story in the Bible about the Jews having “lost” the Bible, but it makes sense.

The Hebrew kings were supposed to make a copy of the law and refer to it.

They were supposed to lead a kingdom of priests who would reveal God to the world, yet, instead they became like the world.

They worshiped the gods of the people around them.

Most likely, they turned from God, first, by neglecting His Word and then lost the Word.

Martin Luther, 500 years ago, discovered the Bible. He had been a monk, and only knew the teachings of the Church, but had not known the Word of God.

As he studied the Scriptures, he began to realize that the Church wasn’t following the Bible.

He set out to help the Church, and became a reformer.

Over the years, I’ve heard many Roman Catholics say that the majority of their fellow Catholics still don’t read the Bible.

But, I want to address us and my fellow “Protestants:”

Do we read the Bible?

It is very easy to fall out of the habit of reading God’s Word, and it takes work to continue in the regular reading of the Bible.

One of the things that Martin Luther did was to translate the Bible into the language of his people.

This made the Bible accessible to more.

When the Bible is accessible to more people, there are usually changes in society.

In the modern Church of Turkey, growth took place once the Bible was translated into modern Turkish (it’s not much growth in numbers, but by percentage it is growing).

I know that if I mention President Trump, there are those who might get excited and there are those who won’t.

We cannot change the fact that Trump was elected, even if we didn’t see it coming. And we must pray for him, as for all of our leaders.

Donald Trump was/is a successful businessman, and in many ways, he, also, has been a leading sinner in our nation.

I don’t come to praise Trump, for this is God’s pulpit, but let’s see something interesting:

President Trump quoted the Scriptures when he addressed the nation after the horrific shootings in Las Vegas.

That doesn’t make him a good president, but it is wonderful that this man, who had previously been known for his flagrant lifestyle has somehow allowed himself speak God’s Word to a hurting nation.

Who would have thought?

And when I saw the prayer vigil at Las Vegas city hall, with people singing “How Great Is Our God,” I was shocked, in a good way.

You see, we need to pray for our leaders, as Pastor Ernie reminded us last week, in order to live peaceful and quiet lives.

While we might not expect to hear Donald Trump quoting Scripture, nor would we expect Las Vegas City Hall to have prayer and Christian Worship, it happened and we saw a brief glimpse of transformation.

Yeah, I know, any minute now, Trump will spout off another goofy tweet and Las Vegas continues to be the Sin Capital of the world, but for those moments, God’s Word peaked through.

Las Vegas will recover, and hopefully never forget that life can end tragically and suddenly, and we need to align ourselves with the worship of God and His Holy Word…let’s do it now, and not wait for another disaster.

[pause]

When Josiah found God’s Word, he changed, and so did his kingdom.

God’s Word made a difference and it made a difference around the world during the Protestant Reformation.

Let’s give God’s Word precedence over our lives.

  1. The partnership 

We need to take the lead in our own life’s restoration, renovation and reformation so that the Bible can cause transformation in us.

Before Josiah had found God’s Word, he was following it. He began to clean up his kingdom.

He got rid of altars and idols in Jerusalem and even in other locations in the kingdom and beyond.

He did this because he recognized that his people had not followed God.

He did this in partnership, too.

Several different groups partnered with him, and I see a parallel for us, today.

He partnered with the educated.

Some people look at education as greater than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but education is meant to build us up.

Why did God give the Church Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers?

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

Ephesians 4:12, 13

  • Equip
  • Build Up
  • Reach Unity
  • Become Mature

All these refer to education that we experience fullness in Christ.

When we look further into the Scriptures about King Josiah, we see that he relied upon his secretary/scribe for help.

We don’t see education separating Josiah from transformation, but we see it helping him toward it.

10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.                        2 Kings 22:10, 11

In addition to partnering with the educated, he partnered with the spiritual.

God gives prophets to the Church as He gave prophets to the kingdom of Josiah. Josiah enquired of the prophets.

12 [Josiah] gave these orders …. 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

14 Hilkiah the priest, … went to speak to the prophet Huldah, …

15 She said to them, …16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’  [to Josiah] 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people…, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. 

2 Kings 22:12, 13-17, 19, 20

Josiah was able to enact his reformation because of

  • partnership with the educated, which enabled him to hear the Word of God,
  • and partnership with the spiritual, which enabled him to pray and connect with God’s spirit.
  • AND HE TOOK RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS TIME. WE NEED TO DO THIS, TOO. EVERYTHING WRITTEN IN THE BIBLE ABOUT THE END WILL COME AS JUDGMENT ON THE EARTH, HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?

Often, I like to remind us that God has given us three gifts to help us us:

Three Gifts to the Believer

  • God’s Word-The Bible
  • God’s Spirit-through a prayer relationship
  • Christ’s Body-the Church

How does His body relate to Josiah’s reforms?

The people partnered with him

  • by giving,
  • by following and
  • by supporting his reforms.

It was the financial giving that enabled Josiah to renovate the Temple and take out all of the pagan altars and shrines that had been erected.

And it was in the process of those acts of repentance that the Book of the Law was found which that has been hidden from them for various reasons:

  • Because of their upbringing
  • Because of their culture
  • Because society is broken

Is the Word of God hidden from us?

Have we lost God’s Word?

Has the Bible’s authority been eroded by the views of modern society and the media?

The kingdom of Judah couldn’t have lost God’s Law overnight, but it must have been a gradual decline.

A gradual inclusion of other authority, other religion.

I wonder how many bystanders there were among the Hebrew people who watched what was happening to their nation, but did not pray…I wonder how many didn’t go to their neighbor and reintroduce them to the Word and Plan of God.

They may have complained saying, “Our society is going downhill fast,” but were they willing to fast a meal and pray?

Were they willing to help their neighbor avoid danger, which would then help the future society? Or were they just thinking,

“Hmm, God’s Word states that we are going to be judged…we will be sent off to another land in exile, so I’ll just wait until the end.”

Josiah learned God’s Word that God was bringing judgment on His people, and he led them into reform.

We know that Jesus is coming back, possibly very soon, so let’s not just wait for Him to come back, but let’s be transformed, and encourage others to be transformed.

Even blatant pagans in society today had parents who followed the Word of God.

Who are we going to follow?

Let us be people of restoration, submitting to God’s transformation.

Let Christ’s peace rule our hearts, minds and lives.

When we submit to His rule, then we can sing, heartily, what we sang at the beginning,

“You are good, good!”

“You’re never gonna let me down.”

Because we submit to His Word, His Rule, His Love, His Kingdom.

Don’t let the Bible get lost from our attention, but daily read and daily be restored.

Partner with each other in prayer, service, fellowship and giving.

Let’s be the restoration, the renovation, the reformation by Christ’s Transformation.

Let’s let God’s Word transform us, and then let’s see the transformation around us.

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Restored to Greatness

We looked at Colossians last week, and saw that Paul prayed, regularly, for this church, though he had not met them.

 And we recognized our need to pray for each other, too.

As well, we saw that Paul was thankful and encouraged the Colossians, and, therefore, we are encouraged to be thankful, too.

In this way, we saw that we have been reached to restore.

For the past seven months, our theme has been “Living on Purpose” and for the last several weeks, we’ve considered the theme of ‘Restoration.”

Why do we want to live on purpose?

Because we want to be reaching, intentionally, God’s will for our lives.

Why have we been concerned about restoration?

Because, God so love the world that He gave his only son that who ever believes in him would not perish but would be restored for eternity.

Our eternal life begins now, and we are to encourage believer and non-believer alike to live a restored life. We need to be restored so that our worship is that much truer, and our fellowship with one another that much fuller.

God has called us to come to Him, and to make Him known to others.

The goal God has for us is that we would be glorified.

In order to be glorified, we must first be justified.

We are justified by our faith in the work that Jesus did on our behalf.

We’ve seen that we have been reached and restored so that we can restore.

We’ve been set free to help free others, and today, let’s consider the greatness for which we’ve been restored.

God did not restore us for our selfishness, but for His Glory, and He is restoring us for greatness, not mediocrity.

Therefore, we are not a church of consumers or takers, but we are meant to be a church of contributors and givers. We want this community to be thankful that we are here taking up this piece of prime real estate beside Moody Middle School.

When a person is able to be a giver, they feel better, and when we are able to be a contributor, we are equipped.

Churches are meant to be congregations that are trained to serve, but you know, the tendency in many American churches is to train people to be served, so that they will give.

God wants us to be trained to give so that others may know Him.

God knows our pain and our suffering. He knows that we feel overwhelmed at times, and the Scriptures declare that God is close to the broken hearted.

But God does not wait until we are healed, or until we have everything together before He calls us to minister.

Jesus sent his disciples out before they were even filled with the Holy Spirit on at least two occasions to preach in His Name.

Clover reminded me of something that happened in one of our churches in Kazakhstan. In the beginning, it seemed that everyone was suffering in their finances, family or health. But as we began to encourage them to reach out and help others, they began to see that they were ABLE to reach out and help.

On one occasion, they gave all of their offerings for three weeks to help people who were suffering in Afghanistan (and don’t forget, but Afghanistan had been their enemy at one time).

God wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, as precious and as great!

Jesus said that we will be able to do greater things than Him, and I think many of us feel like we lack in that department, but one way of understanding what Jesus meant by this is that together, we can do more than we are able to do alone.

As Christians, we are selfish if we only care about ourselves and not about others.

When a person comes to Jesus, he or she is restored. We use other terms like, “born anew,” “born again,” “a new creation.”

We are not only new as individuals but as a new people, a new collective. We are citizens of a God’s Kingdom and members of God’s family.

What does it mean to be a member of God’s family?

What does it mean to be a citizen of His Kingdom?

It means that our wills are no longer supreme.

In fact, our wills must submit to God’s will.

Now, that is not something that we like to hear, really, but it is true.

Even for pastors.

Let’s look at Colossians 3:11.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Colossians 3:11

Let’s pray

PRAY

Lord we thank you, that You, indeed, are all, and in all. Thank you that we are in You, and we live and breathe and have our being in You. WE thank you that your presence is with us, and that Your Good Word is cleansing us and renewing us.

We thank you that in You we have purpose and we are part of Your family.

We pray this in Jesus’ Name.Amen

  1. Connected with God

When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden they had everything that they needed, and even everything they wanted.

But when the serpent came into the picture, they no longer had all that they needed and wanted. They wanted to be like God, so they disobeyed God, and were sentenced to death.

The story of the Bible is the story of the restoration of man.

Last week, we looked at how we are connected to God. He has qualified us through Jesus, and brought us into His kingdom of light.

In Colossians 1, there’s another couple verses about the connectedness that we have through Jesus:

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

Colossians 1:21, 22

We were separated from God and alienated from Him.

So, we are connected to God through the gift of Jesus, not by our own actions.

When we become followers of Jesus, we are called to renounce our sins, and to turn from them. We are called to put our faith in Jesus, and to not deny Him.

As we do that, we become citizens of heaven, because we have repented of our sins, denounced Satan, the world and our sinful flesh, and we become one people, together.

We are connected to God by our declaration of faith in the work of Jesus.

America is an interesting country, and we can be thankful to live here and thankful to welcome people here.

I can move to France and even become a French citizen, but I won’t be fully French.

America is an inclusive nation, and that is wonderful. We are not the only inclusive nation, but we are a nation that people want to come to for at least a visit, but many want to come for the opportunities that we have here.

But, we know, that becoming an American is not the best that we can become.

I know a minister who served in the former Soviet Union, and he suffered for Jesus there, but later moved to America, and in order to make ends meet, compromised and is no longer the minister that he was.

I meet people who used to be leaders in churches, and yet they have turned away from church altogether.

The world, the flesh and the devil are out to get Christians and prevent them from finishing well.

I for one don’t want to fall victim to his attacks.

When we come to Christ, we become a new creation, and we no longer are separated by race, religion, culture and position, but we come to Christ, and He is Supreme.

We become His child, and are no longer separated from God.

I believe that we are all in need of what is most important in life, and that is greater than a good job, or good pension. It’s more important than family and fame. We need to be followers of Jesus, and live our lives according to his teaching.

Let’s take a moment to thank God for the connection that we have with Him, through Jesus His Son.

[pause, pray and thank Him]

  1. Greatness Together

In addition to being connected with God, we are connected, together.

Paul wrote, “no Jew or Gentile,” and by this he didn’t mean that there would be NO ONE, but that as different ethnic groups, we would actually become One New People.

We who were not a people, are now the people of God.

And if the people who believe in Jesus would act like they believed in Jesus and fellowship with each other, work together, give at least 10% of their income to the Lord’s work, and dedicate their lives and families to the Lord and His work, then we would reach the world within a short time.

As followers of Jesus, the divisions that usually separate people, have melted. Let’s consider Race, Religion, Culture and Position. 

  1. Race…

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew…”

In Christ there is no racial separation, but why do we have churches, still, that have racial separation?

We must understand that some people like worshiping only with their “kind.”

I don’t want to judge them, but if we would want to worship with others who are different than us, then I think we’ll reach the world, faster.

Even in Missions I met people who tried to separate people by race, thinking it was better, and where as it might be better to have a new believer mentored by an older believer of his ethnic group, the gathering for public worship out to look as much like heaven, as the vision that John had in the revelation when he saw people from every tribe, people and tongue.

But it is easier said than done, I’ll admit that.

Different people whether it is a different culture, race or language takes some getting used to.

The early Church had some getting used to that had to be done.

Jews and Gentiles were separated

This was not a bad thing, on the one hand, as God designated Abraham to start a new people, through whom, the Redeemer, Jesus, would come.

But, now that He has come, there is no need for the racial division that previously was to reveal God through a people, now all people could be saved.

When the great Azusa Street Revival began in 1906, Blacks, Whites and Hispanics worshiped together, and received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, together.

Sadly, in time, there were those Christians who were against the Pentecostal teaching, and claimed it to be of the devil.

As well, there were those who didn’t like seeing the races mix together, and they created scandals about it.

But, it was too late, people began to see that they did not need to be segregated anymore.

God, who created culture, designated one man, Abraham, to be the father of many nations, and through Him, and His descendant, Jesus, God promised to bless all nations because God so loved all the world,

“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

  1. Religion

[neither] circumcised or uncircumcised

Circumcision may seem a bit odd, it only affected the men, and how did anyone know whether a man was circumcised or not?

Well, bathing was not always a private matter in the ancient world, and so this was a way that people would know.

As well, I was surprised when I visited the city of Miletus, in Turkey, which is a biblical city, that at the city gates there were baths. People were supposed to go to the baths upon entry into the city, and be inspected for diseases. And in that way, circumcision was exposed.

Circumcision, in a sense, refers to religion. Godly Religion is meant to focus attention upon God, however, religion can be spoiled and cause one to focus upon itself, as Paul had first-hand knowledge of, and as Jesus preached against.  RELATIONSHIP is the goal of the Christian Religion, not religion itself.

Paul wrote “[no] circumcised nor uncircumcised.” This was done to the body as a sign of the covenant, but what man really needed was that this would be done to the spiritual heart, and that excess would be cut off, and room for Jesus would be made.

  1. Culture

“[no] Barbarian [nor] Scythian.”

Barbarians were called such because they were non-Greeks who’s language sounded like “barbarbarbarbar.”  The Scythians were looked down upon even by the Barbarians (though, the Scythians became the Kazakhs, by the way, and had a sophisticated culture, and a “golden man”). Culture may influence our understanding of God, but let it influence in a positive manner and not a negative manner.  The Amish keep the culture of the Middle Ages, basically, but where is their actual faith in Jesus and relationship?

I recall many times when my Kazakh friends had trouble separating culture from faith, and they would not eat certain foods because they associated these foods with the religion of Islam.

I, on the other hand, had no trouble eating the foods because I didn’t have that same heritage.

I learned to not eat them, though, on certain occasions (during certain holidays) because it was as though I were participating in the rituals of another religion.

In Christ, cultures are redeemed, and ideas can take on a new meaning.

Jesus declared all food to be clean, and declared that man-made religious and cultural regulations were not correct.

  1. Position

[no] slave or free

We who are free, really are not free, and we who are enslaved, really are not. This is not to excuse the American institution of slavery, which is a heinous blot upon our history and our landscape, still. Some ask, “why is this still a problem?” and yet, what we should understand is that with the Civil War, Jim Crow laws and the KKK, the problem has not been able to go away, fast enough. In the Muslim world, for example, some Muslims are angry about the crusades of the Middle Ages, and while the term “crusade” is used differently, today, it brings up a negative connotation that still causes people to shudder

AS BELIEVERS we are slaves, truly. Did you know that in Greek, “servant” and “slave” are the same term doulos?  Jesus came as a SLAVE for man. Paul was a SLAVE to Christ. We are to be slaves, too, but without chains.

No separation does not mean no difference. Differences are beautiful.

Consider the situation of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He was Hebrew, an Israelite. He was betrayed, sold into slavery, imprisoned and forgotten.

As a Hebrew, he was detestable to the Egyptians. Hebrews and shepherds were looked down upon by the shepherds, which made it that much easier for the Egyptians to enslave them and treat them like property.

As an Israelite, Joseph was a follower of the One True God, and he made God known in a land where people believed in many gods. We live in a land with many religions. Don’t worry about all these religions coming to America, we were messed up in the religion department long ago, as Americans make their own religions J Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, Universalist Church, Unitarian Church, Unity Church, Moorish Temple of Science, Wiccans and even the Church of Satan all started here in the USA.

In this pluralistic society, we need to shine as lights and let people know that we believe in the One True God.

Culture: America doesn’t have much of it’s own culture, but we collect culture. What is truly American is Yankee ingenuity, Baseball, Hotdogs, and country music, …though Yankee ingenuity took what was invented in Europe and made it better. Took the game of Cricket and made it shorter. Took German sausages and made them smaller (and with questionable ingredients) and took Irish folk music and slowed it down to make country music.

Joseph’s culture was formed by his language and his upbringing. Though his culture had been created by God through his great-grandfather, Abraham, and was set apart by God, his culture had not acted godly. Therefore, he had been an arrogant sounding dreamer, while his brothers were schemers, world-be murderers and slave-traders.

Position…Joseph, as I mentioned, was a slave, yet he came to a high position in Egypt.

It is wonderful to realize that a betrayed man who believed in the One True God and was a great-grandson of Abraham, and was sold into slavery, imprisoned and forgotten, would rule as egypt’s second in command.

Joseph did not rule without Egypt, but it was God who made him great!

When I think about our denomination, the Assemblies of God, we have our roots in the Azusa Street Revival.

Did you know that William Seymour who started that revival was a black man.

Africans were brought to America and served as slaves.

African families were broken up, and had to make do in extreme and harsh conditions.

African women were raped and men were worked to death building our great nation, and even a war happened that brought an end to slavery, but with it came destruction to our nation.

yet our denomination owes its origination to the son of a former slave, William Seymour who started a revival in 1906.

In this revival, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in Acts 2, were given, and blacks, whites and Hispanics worshipped together.

  1. Here” Is Where?

Where is the “here” of this verse?

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

  1. Raised with Christ
    1. Resurrected Power (Present and Future)
    2. Position in the Kingdom of God (Present and Future)
  2. Focused on Righteousness
    1. Hearts…above where Christ is
    2. Minds…above for we died and are hidden in Christ
  • Deny self, Take up Cross, daily, follow Jesus (luke 9:23)

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 

Colossians 3:5-10

  1. Christ Is All in All
    1. Is All

Who is Christ?

Is He the American God?

Is He One god among many?

Is He One way to heaven?

According to the Word of God, Jesus is All

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

Colossians 2:9, 10

We live in a pluralistic society that doesn’t believe the authority of the Bible.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.

Psalm 19:1-3

I am so glad that we gave $1100 to Hurricane Harvey relief. But, the US has been hit by a 1-2-3 punch with Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Mexico has been hit by earthquakes.

Jesus warned of terrible things in the end.

The sun disappeared in the solar eclipse.

The sea disappeared from islands and bays with Irma.

Christ is all…but people don’t want all if it is Christ. They want all if it is them.

  1. In All

Christ is in all.

If only the world would know Jesus as we know Him, then they would put everything else aside and follow only Him.

Our Mission

Intentionally connecting the changing community with the unchanging Gospel.

 

 

 

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Reached to Restore

I remember once when I was first in Kazakhstan, I was invited to accompany a team of doctors who were going to help some people in a village. The people didn’t have access to good health care, and these doctors were going to help them.

I went to pray with people who came to our “clinic.” If they wanted prayer or just to talk, I was there to listen and pray.

A woman came in who did not follow Jesus, and I quickly realized that she wasn’t interested in following him, but she did want to hear from God.

I had already told her that I would pray with her in Jesus’ Name, and she didn’t seem bothered by that

As we were talking, I felt that I needed to share the gospel with her. I asked a question, but that didn’t elicit the response I was hoping to get.

I was using an interpreter, and I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well, so while the interpreter would interpret, I was able to quietly pray in the spirit (seeking God’s assistance and direction).

It seemed like I was speaking to a brick wall. I wanted so much to be able to tell this woman about Jesus, but she was closed.

“Help me, Lord,” my soul cried out, “I want her to hear.”

 You see, this woman was part of a group of people who think that they know all that there is to know about Jesus.

In fact, they think they know the correct information about him, and that we incorrect.

I had nothing in common with her:

  • she was a woman,
  • she was 10 years older,
  • and her life had been completely different than mine.
  • And, I didn’t know how I could speak to her about Jesus in a way that she would understand.

I thought, “If only she could hear, then one day, she might believe and follow Jesus.”

To many people around the world, “Christian,” is not understood, correctly.

A Christian is a person from a particular ethnic group or a particular country to some people. Some people think that all Americans are Christian.

We know that the term “Christian” is not political and even though it is a religious term, it originated as a description of people who followed Jesus.

The term was first used in Antioch, which is in modern Turkey.

At that time, it described those who followed Christ, but Christ had died 10 years prior to this term being used.

So how were people following a dead man?

Because Jesus has been resurrected from the dead, therefore, he is alive.

There are many churches in the New Testament and I appreciate the one in Colossae (which is in Turkey). What I like about them is that they were started by an ordinary person, Epaphras, who had heard the gospel in Ephesus took it back to his hometown of Colossae.

People listened to him as he shared, and the church began.

Paul later wrote to them and told them that he prays for them and is thankful for them.

Let’s look at some of the letter to the Colossians:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:3-13

The title of my message today is “Reached to Restore.” Let’s pray.

PRAY

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and bringing us into the realm of Your light and love.

Help us to grow in the knowledge of You, with wisdom and understanding, and help us to serve and love you more each day.

We thank you, in Jesus’ Name.

Amen

As I look at these verses, I want to focus especially upon verses 9-13.

I see so much in these verses that speak to us and our need. And for today’s message, I’ve reduced it to two main points:

  • Don’t stop praying
  • Don’t stop thanking
  1. Don’t Stop Praying

Paul wrote that he continuously prayed for this church.

He didn’t know them, but he was connected with them because they, too, had put their faith in Jesus.

They probably faced the same opposition that people face today.

They were afraid to change their religion. I get it.

But for these who had believed, Paul prayed for them since they had truly turned from darkness to light.

Some of the people in Colossae might have been Jewish, but the majority were most likely Greeks.

These Greeks had a sophisticated form of polytheism.

Polytheism is the belief in many gods. The province of Asia Minor housed significant shrines for those who worshipped these other gods.

The crafting and selling of idols were a big business, and in nearby Ephesus when silversmiths began losing money because so many were becoming Christians, it caused a riot.

As people put their faith in Jesus, their parents and grandparents were not happy.

But these new believers tried to help their families to see who Jesus really is.

The Greek world was very immoral, and the Colossians needed to turn from sinfulness that had bound them before they put their faith in Jesus, and they were to follow Jesus.

Jesus said we are to

  • deny ourselves,
  • take up our crosses daily
  • and follow Him.

So, Paul understood the challenges that these people were experiencing, and therefore he prayed for them.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.

Colossians 1:9

We need to pray for unbelievers to believe and for believers to continue.

Lack of prayer reveals lack of faith.

Paul prayed that they would be filled with knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

When I provide pre-marital counseling, I often share  from Proverbs 24:3, 4:

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.       Proverbs 24:3, 4

A marriage needs this, and we as believers in and followers of Jesus need this, too.

Paul regularly prayed this for these people whom he did not know, because he knew how important it was to understand God more, daily through Jesus.

Paul didn’t stop praying.

We must not stop praying!

I’ve prayed for decades for people whom I didn’t know. I was led by God to do this.

Not only I, but many people around the world are praying for people who don’t know Jesus to put their faith in Him.

I had prayed for the people of Kazakhstan for 11 years by the time I had that encounter with the woman who came to me wanting prayer, but not Jesus.

I prayed in the Spirit asking God to give me the right words.

I didn’t want to push, but wanted to just try to share Jesus with her. When I saw that she wasn’t interested, then I decided to help her with what she came for: prayer.

I asked, “How can I pray for you, today?”

The interpreter said, “She doesn’t know why she came in here, she just felt that it was the right thing to do.”

I thought about that, and about the years of praying for Kazakhstan, and years of study and ministry; years of support-raising (and

River of Life was one of our supporting churches).

Here I was on the other side of the world from where I was born, with a time difference of 11 hours from Richmond. I was in a village away from my family with a group of strangers and meeting other strangers.

And this woman, who wasn’t interested in Jesus came to me and said she believed it was the right thing for her to come into my room.

Its times like that when we think,

“Wow, here I am, placed by God, but I don’t know what to do.”

I had prayed for moments like this, and yet it seemed to be slipping away.

And I was not succeeding at telling her what I needed to tell her.

In my training I learned that some people need to hear the gospel 100 times before they will believe it. Possibly, this was going to be her 1st time to hear. I kew I should not be discouraged.

But, I continued to pray in my heart for the right words.

The Scriptures teach us how to focus our hearts, moment by moment:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When we realize that we are not joyful,

  • then we need to recognize that something is messed up in our lives.

When we realize that we are not following God’s Will and plan,

  • then we must realize that we are not keeping in communication with Him.

As well, we need to have Grateful hearts, always.

A grateful heart is a joyful heart, while and sad, angry, bitter or depressed heart is anything but thankful.

Paul told this Colossian church that he was praying for them, and that they needed to joyfully give thanks to God.

  1. Don’t Stop Thanking

…giving joyful thanks to the Father

Colossians 1:12

What was the reason to give thanks to God?

  • They truly believed in One God, no longer believing in other gods.
  • They previously caused followed religions to appease the gods.

BUT In Jesus, they found no need to appease God, for His Only Son had done that for them.

And because they believed in Jesus, they qualified to be included in God’s family, the Church.

He had rescued them from darkness into light.

They had been redeemed from hell, and were now on their way to heaven.

Their previous religion, and all religions, really, put emphasis upon their good works in order to be saved.

Modern man tries to redefine even the very basic components of life.

But, we cannot redefine our destiny without Jesus. He wants to redefine it.

And because we have been saved from hell, we give thanks to God.

In the Bible, we see gratitude expressed on dozens of occasions. Gratitude is the result of a life that trusts FULLY in God.

We cannot solve all of our problems on our own, but we truly need the help of God in our lives.

Some people believe and are thankful, and yet, there are those who don’t believe, and are oblivious to the work of God around them.

As we give thanks, we begin to notice God’s hand around us.

     We need to be people who give thanks.

      If we give thanks, regularly, then we will become more attuned to the hand of God around us.

When I spoke with that woman in Kazakhstan, I wanted to share with her about Jesus, but she wasn’t interested.

I tried, but was not succeeding.

I prayed and asked God’s help.

Then I learned that she felt led by something to come to me.

So, as I prayed and asked for God’s help, I, then, did what comes natural for me, I just began to talk.  🙂

And giving thanks is part of my regular conversation.

When we are thankful, we can be more expressive.

We are not worried because we are thankful!

Gratitude makes the best attitude, and with such a mind, our thankfulness can become contagious.

  • Even with the cultural distance between me and this woman,
  • and even though we had to communicate through an interpreter,
  • my thankfulness was contagious,
  • and she began to listen.

I talked about…

  • Following God and how He had brought restoration
  • My life was focused upon Him, and I was at peace
  • He had cleansed me from sin and from guilt, and I no longer carried the burden of my sins because of God’s provision and help.

When the woman heard that, she interrupted me through the interpreter,

“I want to be cleansed of sin and guilt.”

Suddenly, it was as though the sun began to break through the clouds, and I saw her smiling.

God’s Holy Spirit had led me to say the right thing to her.  We found common ground as we are both members of the human race, therefore, we are sinners and in need of God’s grace.

I began to share with her about Jesus.

This time, she listened.

God had opened her heart to hear.

I had prayed, for 11 years for that moment.

I had prayed for 11 minutes in that room in between sentences.

And then that woman bowed her head, closed her eyes, prayed with me and the interpreter.

And she walked out of that room as a “Christian.”

Oh, she didn’t exactly know that she was a Christian, I just told her that she was now a follower of Isa Masih (Jesus Christ) and that she needed to live for him.

She joined a group of other followers of Jesus, though she didn’t realize that she was part of a church, because to her, “church” was a building with pictures and candles, but in truth, Church is the group of people who follow Jesus.

CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING BUT IT IS A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO’VE BEEN RESTORED BY CHRIST!

She had been reached by a team of people over the course of years, and people back here in the US were praying for us and supporting us, financially.

She was reached to restore, and as a member of the “church” in her community, she was in place to help reach others so that they could be restored.

Once Jesus had healed a blind man. The man didn’t know who Jesus was, but Jesus healed him.

When people asked him, “what happened?” his answer simply was, “I was blind, but now I see.”

God is calling us to be reached.

He is calling us to reach out to others.

He wants to restore this community.

We have been reached in order to restore.

Don’t stop praying

Don’t stop thanking God

I heard a statistic this week.

Based on church membership in this Richmond metropolitan area, there are over 300,000 people who attend church!

While that sounds great, let me share the negative side of this: there are over 900,000 who do not attend church. Some of those who don’t attend might be believers, but they are not following as Jesus told them to…Jesus established the Church!

And there are those among the 300,000 who are not following Jesus, but they are still connected with a church.

We need to reach this community.

Our mission is to Intentionally Connect the Changing Community with the UnChanging Gospel.

Our Mission

Intentionally connecting the changing community with the unchanging Gospel.

How can we be intentional about reaching this community?

IT BEGIN WITH PRAYER AND THANKFULNESS.

Let’s pray

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