Church on Purpose: Assembled on Purpose to Declare and Praise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at Acts 2.

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

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

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

Acts 2:1-13

Today’s Message is entitled:

“The Church: Assembled to Declare and Praise”

Let’s Pray

PRAY

  1. Declaring

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

Acts 2:11b

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

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

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

Do you remember those days?

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

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

This perked my interest, so I listened:

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

Immediately, I answered,

Alabama!”

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

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

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

😦

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

I was disappointed.

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

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

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

As well, Peter preached without notes!

🙂

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

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

Peter was declaring while he was preaching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That when we encounter each other,

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

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

Peter wrote these words to describe you and me:

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

1 Peter 2:9, 10

Who are we?

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

Why are we?

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

What kind of Praises do we declare?

In Acts 2, they were called the …

  1. Wonders of God

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

Acts 2:11b

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

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

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

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

Do we remember this, daily?

We’ve been called out of darkness!

Praise the Lord!

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

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

God overcomes darkness.

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

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

God is good!

Let’s thank Him, now!

[PAUSE AND PRAISE]

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

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

His plan is that we would live in His light.

Peter invites us to BE the church.

We have been

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

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

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

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

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 4:8b

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

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

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

Let’s worship and declare in our hearts.

Let’s worship and declare in our homes.

Let’s worship and declare in our cars.

Let’s worship and declare in our church building

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

Let’s worship and declare to those around us.

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

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

Let us declare so that all may hear.

  1. In Our Own Tongues

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

Acts 2:11b

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

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

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

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

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

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

But people need to hear this in their heart languages.

This is what brings about the transformation.

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

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

We hear the wonders of God in our languages!

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

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

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

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

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

Aziza* and Farida.*

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

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

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

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

Then she pointed to Farida.*

Farida* looked like her whole world had collapsed.

And it had.

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

That week,

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

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

I asked, “What job did Farida* have?”

“She is a cook,” I was told.

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

So, we were looking for a cook.

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

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

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

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

After a short while, they divorced.

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

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

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

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

I hoped that Farid* really understood Jesus.

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

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

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

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

And Yerkin* repented and began to follow Jesus.

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

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

Why do I tell this story?

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

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

<<>>

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

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

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

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

This goes way back to Exodus:

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

Exodus 19:4-6

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

Priests lead worship.

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

A Holy Nation of Royal Priests

  1. Who are we?

The Bible describes us in this way:

Chosen People

Royal Priesthood

Holy Nation

God’s Special Possession

Declarers

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

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

Royal…kingly, majestic, prince-like

Priesthood…ministers, servants, subjects with responsibilities

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

Nation…ethnicity, society, kingdom

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

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

We praise Him on Purpose

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

Why are we?

How Are We?

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

Are we those who know

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

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

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

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

We are assembled on purpose to declare and praise

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

We are…

Assembled on Purpose to Declare and Praise

Let’s Pray

 

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Church: Assembled on Purpose

What is the Church and Why is the Church?

These are two questions that people may have, today.

IN TURKEY

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

“I am a pastor.”

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

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

People would chuckle.

The next question was usually this:

“Where is your church?”

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

Their next response would be:

“There is no church in that neighborhood.”

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

So, then I would teach:

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

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

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

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

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

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

enshallah” meaning,

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

no way.”

🙂

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

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

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

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

Just going to church took much effort.

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

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

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

IN ALMATY

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

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

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

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

They prayed.

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

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

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

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

But we must, also, here, in Virginia.

Satan doesn’t want us to be in church.

And schedules and the media are on his side.

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

But we don’t take our orders from Satan

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

IN HENRICO

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

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

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

It was indeed a picture of heaven.

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

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

Look what God did among us:

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

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

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

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

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

He spoke so highly of YOU.

And who are YOU? Who are WE?

Why are We?

We are the “church.”

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

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

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

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

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

You may wonder, how can we afford this?

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

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

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

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

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

What is the purpose behind the Assembling of the Church?

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

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

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

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

John 17:20-24

Let’s Pray

PRAY

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

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

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

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

His Great Commission, too.

Why?

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

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

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

We were assembled on purpose for a purpose…

But who are we?

  1. Believers

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

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

He knew this, and he prayed for these.

He prayed for us. We are included in this.

For whom did Jesus pray? I ask, again.

“Believers.”

He didn’t pray for “Christians.”

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

But “Christian” is recklessly applied label.

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

We are to be followers…not merely believers.

But how does one become a believer?

Through other believers.

Notice:

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

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

Are we making disciples?

I understand that there needs to be

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

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

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

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

They were not Westernized at all.

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

Now, they had found Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her answer stunned me:

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

[ask congregation] Are we being examples?

People will believe through our message.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with culture came the stress of crossing cultures.

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

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

What creates unity?

What drew them together?

The Spirit drew them toward unity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul wrote in Ephesians about this:

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

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

Ephesians 4:11-16

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

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

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

He wants this to continue.

He wants us to assemble on purpose for His purpose.

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

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

Then the world will know that you sent me 

John 17:23

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

  1. Glory

When Moses wanted to see God,

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

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

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

They saw God’s glory.

Moses saw God’s glory.

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

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

John 17:24

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

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

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

Jesus calls us to believe and to share that belief.

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 2:9, 10

We ARE a chosen people

chosen By God as we believe in His Son.

A Royal Priesthood…called upon to serve and worship.

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

We are God’s special possession

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

The Scripture doesn’t say,

“You WILL BE…”

But that

“You Are.”

QUESTION:

How am I resembling what Scripture declares?

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

WHO WE ARE?

AND

WHY WE ARE?

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

  1. Evangelize
  2. Fellowship
  3. Worship

Let us declare that

WE ARE NOT A CHURCH OF CONSUMERS

BUT, WE ARE A CHURCH OF CONTRIBUTORS.

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

May I turn that around and say,

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to serve?

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

LET’S PRAY

 

 

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Forgiveness on Purpose

Last week we considered belonging to Our Heavenly Father.

We saw that

If We Belong to Our Heavenly Father We Can…

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

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

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

Without forgiveness,

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

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

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

C.S. Lewis

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

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

Jon Krakauer, “Into the Wild

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

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

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

“Forgiveness on Purpose.”

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

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

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

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

One is Joseph

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

But first, let me recap the story of Joseph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph gave his father a bad report about his brothers.

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

So,

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

Joseph was not liked by his brothers.

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

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

So,

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

Joseph waited.

One day, two servants of the Pharaoh had dreams.

Joseph interpreted the dreams, and they both came true.

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

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

Then, the cupbearer remembered Joseph.

Joseph was able to interpret the dream…

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

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

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

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

The brothers went to Egypt looking for food. Joseph

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

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

And I wonder, too,

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

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

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

Genesis 39:20-23

And let’s look at Colossians 3:13

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

Colossians 3:13 

PRAY

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

Because…

  1. Joseph Recognized God

“The Lord Was With Joseph.”

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

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

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

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

  1. Joseph Recognized God’s Hand

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

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

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

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

Genesis 50:18-20

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

Why didn’t Joseph kill his brothers?

I believe that …

  1. Joseph Forgave His Brothers

We, too, need to forgive and forget…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Donna to share]

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

They had a wonderful relationship after this.

Donna and her mother had FORGIVENESS ON PURPOSE.

Not every story of forgiveness is like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sets things in motion for generations and millennia.

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

Charles Stanley

Let’s be people of forgiveness.

Forgiveness on purpose.

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Belonging to the Father

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

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

God has

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

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

He invited people into this relationship.

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:43-48

PRAY

  1. Our Father Helps Us Do the Impossible

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

“Come pull weeds with me in the garden.”

“Clean up your room.”

“Do your homework.”

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

And who wants to clean up their room?

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

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

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

Some people say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was it easy?

Not at first, but we could learn.

[Some of us never learned, though :)]

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

Is it easy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 6:6-8

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

But Jesus is teaching us to trust our Father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God knows what we need before we ask.

And, yet, He asks us to pray.

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

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

And we begin to see the world differently.

Thus, we can do the impossible.

Thus, we can see with the eyes of God.

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

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

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

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

Matthew 6:12

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

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

People say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 23:34a

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

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

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

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

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

Should we share the offense with others?

No.

That turns someone else against the offenders.

Let’s do the following with offense:

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

Our Father helps us to do the impossible

Our Father helps us to see through His eyes

And

  1. The Father Helps Us to See the Future

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

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

Jesus tells us not to worry, but instead to

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

Matthew 6:33

If we seek first…

FIRST thing in the morning.

If we seek first…

FIRST above all else.

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

We will be able to pray.

We will have all that we need.

Our Heavenly Father helps us see the future.

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

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

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

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

A.We Can Belong to the Kingdom

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

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

Matthew 5:3, 10

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

Matthew 5:4-7

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

Matthew 5:8, 9

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

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

Let’s stand and pray this, together.

Our Father in heaven,

Praise to Your Name

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread

And forgive our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us

Lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from the evil one

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

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13

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

 

 

 

 

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Remember

(a short sermon)

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

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

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

🙂

But memories can be annoying to us as well.

Our memory can be a treasure or a curse.

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

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

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

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

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

Last night’s rain gave me some doubts J

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember God

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

Remember while we are young.

Remember, NOW,

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

Remember, now …

Before so many distractions take our attention away from Him.

Before we become bitter.

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

Never forget.

Always remember.

God bless you!

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Lost and Found (Luke 15:1-10)

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

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

To this, the theologian responded:

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

-attributed to Karl Barth>>

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

And He IS the

“Seeker of the Lost” or

“THE LOST-SEEKER.”

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

…but political correctness never saved anyone.

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

According to the Bible, God is the One who

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

God called out to Adam…

<<“Where are you?”   Genesis 3:9>>

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

From Genesis–Revelation,

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

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

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

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

Why are there so many religions?

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

God sees us as “sheep:”

<

have gone astray,

each of us has turned

to his own way;

Isaiah 53:6a>>

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

LUKE 15:1-10

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

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

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

Luke 15:1-10>>

PRAYER

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

This photo reveals something more than just the obvious story.

It reminds me of my childhood in church.

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

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

They had handles that looked like wide popsicle sticks.

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

Here are two I found on the internet:

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

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

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

funeral home!

And I must say, I felt welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

  1. God Doesn’t Only Welcome Sinners

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

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

Romans 3:23

But all do not know that they are sinners.

All do not realize that they need God.

And God welcomes them, too!

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

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

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

Remember the fans.

But remember the other side of the fans, too!

Jesus knocking at the Door.

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

This statement of Jesus was originally to the Church,

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

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

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

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

We need to get with God’s plan, for

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

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

A. God Welcomes All

Jesus is interested in all:

He wants to reach the rich and the poor,

the crippled and the whole,

the blind and those who see.

God welcomes all to be with Him

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

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

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

B. God Loves All

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

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

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

By our Facebook posts, and by our gossip.

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

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

What we fear is the unknown and unfamiliar.

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

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

II. God Pursues Man

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

people ask, “where is God?”

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

 He pursues Man

In the parables, we see God as a shepherd.

Elsewhere in Scripture God is described this way.

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

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

God is always “Emmanuel”… God with us.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

he drew me out of deep waters.

he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:16, 19b>>

God is the one who reaches down to find us.

He PURSUES us!

Jesus made Himself nothing to reach out to us.

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

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

III. The Joy of Finding the Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep 

Said the Shepherd

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

Said the woman

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

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

The prodigal

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

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

…but the other son is unwilling to celebrate.

Let us be people who rejoice with God!

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

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

but if we held a grudge against that person,

and then see them experiencing Eternal Life, now,

Some people would rather judge that person away from us.

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

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

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

We are not a dumb coin on a string

or a dumb lamb that wandered from the flock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heaven rejoices whenever someone repents!

The angels join with God in celebrating our repentance.

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

Rejoice with me!

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

“rejoice with me!”

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

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

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

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

Let us partner with God in pursuing the lost…

let us take joy when people repent!

Let us keep God revealed before the world!

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

Let’s pray

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

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God with Us (Living on Purpose)

Happy Birthday to the Church!

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

As well, this is Communion Sunday.

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

“God with us”: Emmanuel.

We just sang,

“All Hail King Jesus, All Hail Emmanuel,”

and we understand our terminology.

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

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

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

  • Isaiah and
  • Joseph

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

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

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

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

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

As we know,

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

And …

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

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

I want to read from Matthew 1:18-25

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

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

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

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

Matthew 1:18-25

PRAY

God has created all that we know and see, …

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

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

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

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

*** ***

Joseph is described as Faithful and Fearless.

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

Can we be the same?

I believe that we can.

That is because Emmanuel,

“God with us”

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

God calls us into an

  • active relationship, not a
  • passive placement.

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

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

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

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

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

“God with us,”

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

“God with us”

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

  1. God

Jesus is God in the flesh.

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

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

You see, God was already present.

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

He came in a way for us to relate.

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

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

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

“God with us”.

  1. With

“With” is a small word.

In Spanish it is even smaller

“con”

and in Russian it is just a prefix,

“s.”

But with makes all the difference.

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

Or God AWAY FROM us?

Or as our pluralistic society would ask,

“WHICH” God is WITH us?

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

God of Money being with us.

But He is “God with us”.

He wants a relationship with us.

He has initiated it.

This week my mother had a difficult time.

I tried to be WITH her, often.

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

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

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

I was with her in her hospital rooms.

Being WITH someone is significant.

One evening,

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

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

so I could tell the nurses that she needed help.

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

I’m tired and exhausted.

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

Yet, all along, God has been with mom.

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

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

God was with Abraham,

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

certainly Lot was a believer, though weak,

and so was Melchizedek.

And Job was a contemporary of Abraham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a few moments, we will be taking communion.

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

[pause]

  1. Us

Jesus died for all of us.

He died for the whole world.

He died even though we were still sinners.

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

1 Timothy 1:15

God with us” is a promise.

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:12

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

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

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

We do this in prayer.

We do this in right relationship.

We do this by healthy communicating.

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

We use our lips for prayer and not for gossip.

We use our hearts for worship and not for bitterness.

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

[Pause]

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

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

[Sing “O Come to the Altar”]

 

 

 

 

 

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