Living on Purpose for God’s Purposes

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

We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

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

So, how can we do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this due to people’s talents?

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

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

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

But this will come later, Lord willing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one anticipated this, except Jesus.

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

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

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

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

He WOULD THEREFORE HAVE BEEN considered to be a traitor.

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

This man was judged by the community.

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

Others are judged because of their addictions.

And others are judged because of their sexual sins.

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

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

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

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR PREJUDICES…

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS…

WE HAVE TO OVERCOME OUR BLINDNESS…

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

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

And while we believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 19:1-9

PRAY

  1. Jesus’ Mission Directed Jesus’ Action

Why did Jesus do what he did?

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

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

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

  1. Jesus bothered people

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

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

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

THE SAME THING CAN HAPPEN TO US…

LET US SUBJECT OURSELVES TO THE HOLY WORD OF GOD…

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

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

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

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

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

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

He went to the home of a sinner.

Why was this?

  1. Jesus pleased His Heavenly Father

He didn’t go to the most talented

He didn’t go to the most anointed

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

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

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

He went to the home of a sinner.

Jesus said,

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

Luke 19:9

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

We need to know our mission, too.

And we need to live according to it.

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

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

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

We can chuckle at them and think,

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

How do we know?

Are we complainers, now?

And what happened to those complainers?

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

[PAUSE]

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

Sin leads to death.

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

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

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

AND YET, WE WILL FIND OURSELVES LOCKED AWAY.

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

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

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

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

And by our actions of complaining and gossip,

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

while we need to be Loving and supporting each other.

  1. Who Are We Pleasing?

Are we complainers and mutterers?

Are we

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

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

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

  • Tradition
  • Ego
  • Short-sightedness
  • Selfishness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People could have complained,

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

to which Paul might have answered,

“yes, that’s right, and it shows.”

There are changes that must happen

And these may be uncomfortable.

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

We need to see ourselves as contributors and not consumers.

  1. Jesus’ Ministry was to Reach People

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

Jesus knew that Zacchaeus would respond.

Jesus said once that

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

John 6:44

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

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

-not just the part that I like

-or the part that our president likes,

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

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

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

2 Peter 3:9

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

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

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

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

BUDDHISTS

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

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

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

HINDUS

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

MUSLIMS

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

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

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

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

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

So, what has happened?

I believe that God has sent them here.

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

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

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

and Let them complain.

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

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

Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, and reached out to him.

It wasn’t comfortable

It wasn’t popular

But look at Zacchaeus’ response:

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

Luke 19:8

Zacchaeus changed.

Who among us?

Who of our clients?

Who of our neighbors?

Who of our co-workers will change?

We need to be ready,

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

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

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

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

In order to do this we must be FAT Christians.

Faithful

Available

Teachable

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

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

To Seek and to Save the Lost

Let’s pray.

 

 

 

 

 

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Correction of the Resurrection (Acts 2:22-36)

The greatest event in the history of the universe is the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah!

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope and we have life, too. Eternal life that begins now, while we are on earth, and that continues into the future.

If it were not for the resurrection, there would not be a Church around the world.

Prior to the resurrection, the single greatest event to change the course of the world happened at the beginning of civilization, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command, and sin began to rule.

They had been warned that if they ate fruit of a specific tree, then they would die. Prior to this, they were destined to die, but once sin came into humanity, then we all are cursed with death.

The resurrection changed history and it changed the future, for it reversed the consequences of sin. The resurrection overcame the power of death.

Death is a natural event that takes place, daily, around us, whether we are seeing a dead animal on the side of the road, or we finally notice a house plant that we had forgotten to water, death comes and goes without too much notice.

Until we are the one who hits that squirrel, or wild Turkey (oh, I remember hitting a turkey once, and as I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw nothing but feathers flying around).

When we are the cause of death, we feel it. I felt a slight sick feeling in my stomach.

When it is someone whom we know and love who died, we miss and mourn that person.

When it is someone with whom we had been close, we often truly miss the deceased and suffer.

Imagine how the disciples felt at the time of Jesus’ death. Though he had warned them, and prepared them for his death, they probably thought that nothing could take him down.

He seemed indestructible:

  • Diseases were no match for Him;
  • They had known of him to walk away from a crowd that was bent on killing him, once.
  • They knew that he could speak to a storm and it would stop.
  • In fact, they had seen him walk on water.

Death was not something that they were probably expecting…at least not while he was so popular.

And yet, he died.

But, Jesus didn’t die a sudden, accidental or quick death, he died a slow and grueling death.

Had Jesus died in a sudden event, people might not have believed that he died.

“Perhaps you were mistaken,” Peter might have said.

Or, “There’s no way Jesus could have died from drowning.”

It is a typical reaction to not believe news of a death, and to second guess.

I recall when a colleague of mine died in Kazakhstan from a disease, and I and four others found her body after she had been dead for over a day, and we were shocked at how she looked.

It was obvious that she was dead, and we all instinctively left the room where we found her.

Then out of my mouth I heard these words, “shouldn’t we check to see if she has a pulse?”

One of my friends said, “She is dead, Peyton, and no one who looked like that could be alive.”

He was right, but it was a typical reaction to think that my friend was not really dead.

Throughout the day, on that Friday when Jesus died, he was surrounded by death.

When he came out onto the road with his cross, there was no turning back.

His mockers were challenging him to come from the cross. Those mockers didn’t expect him to come down, because to them, he was already a dead man.

The followers of an executed revolutionary like Jesus would be in danger of arrest and execution, too.

Under normal circumstances, they would have left Jerusalem.

But, on the day of Pentecost, 50 days or so after the resurrection, several things happened:

  • The followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised
  • The Church was born
  • The resurrection became the prominent teaching of the Church

Let’s look at Peter’s declaration on the day of Pentecost, and see the significance of the resurrection:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.                                                                                     Acts 2:22-24

The title of my message today is

“The Correction of the Resurrection.”

Let’s pray

PRAY

  1. The Resurrection Corrected Perception of Jesus’ Conviction

Who was Jesus before the resurrection?

He was the same as he was after, in that the Scriptures teach that he is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

How can that be said about anybody, really?

Are you the same yesterday as you are today?

Maybe if we mean just yesterday, you are about 99% the same as you are today, but what about yesterday meaning last year?

Even last week?

And can it be said of anyone else that they are the same tomorrow as they are today?

What does the Scripture mean to say that this man who was born in poor conditions and died as a revolutionary was the same one day from the next?

Without the resurrection of Jesus, such statements would be meaningless, but the resurrection of Jesus was a declaration of who Jesus truly is.

Jesus IS Divine. He IS the One through Whom all things have been created and all things have their purpose.

ILLUSTRATION

(Clover and I told this story on a Wednesday evening, once.)

Nine years ago, in the area of Sinjar, Iraq, a Yezidi man told his family,

“We need to follow Jesus.”

He had never read a Bible, and had never been to church.

All the family knew to do was to pray in Jesus’ Name.

So, that is what they did.

Soon after beginning this practice, the man’s wife had a dream in which Jesus met her and told her that it was right for the family to follow Him.

His rationale: he believed that the successes of Europe and America were due to Europeans and Americans believing in Jesus.

Everyday, his family prayed in Jesus’Name.

They still pray in Jesus’ Name. Something convinced them. It was the power of Jesus that they later understood.

On that day of Pentecost, people from around the Jewish world had come to worship.

Some had come at Passover, 50 days prior, some were new.

Many had probably heard about Jesus’ miracles, his teaching, his popularity, and his sudden unpopularity.

They heard of his execution, and they probably were just continuing on with life as usual.

So why was Jesus executed? Was he really a fake, or a criminal?

A strange thing happened on that day: Peter and the other followers of Jesus began to speak other languages, and those who were visiting from abroad recognized what was being said.

Peter began to preach, by explaining the strange phenomenon that was happening.

Peter explains that this occurrence is the fulfillment of prophecy.

But he doesn’t spend too much time explaining that miracle, instead he explains why the Holy Spirit was being poured out in this way. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus.

In order to explain the resurrection, Peter had to remind them of the work up to that point. Let’s look at the Scripture, again:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.                                                                                     Acts 2:22-24

Now let’s look at it with the emphasis upon the audience:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.                                                                                     Acts 2:22-24

Peter points the finger of guilt at the audience.

Yes, we know that God loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, but Peter wants this audience to see their responsibility.

They had witnessed the miracles

Yet, they had handed Jesus over to be killed.

They were co-conspirators with the Priests, Pharisees and the Romans.

If it had not been for the resurrection and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Peter might have gone crazy and only rattled this accusation in a place outside the cities were the crazy people went.

The resurrection clarified that Jesus was not guilty.

Better than DNA evidence, the Resurrection was an immediate vindication and release from the prison of death for Jesus.

The Resurrection Corrected Jesus’ Sentence, and showed who was really guilty. The resurrection corrected the perception of Jesus’ conviction.

  1. The Resurrection Corrected Perception of the Messiah

The resurrection of Jesus makes perfect sense when we consider how the seasons are.

  • Summer is a time of flourishing life,
  • and Fall a time of harvest,
  • but Winter is a time of death,
  • and then Spring, a time of new life.

The resurrection of Jesus was a new life, newer than ever before experienced.

It clarified that He had a purpose that was greater than anyone else had imagined.

It clarified perception of who the savior would be, and how He would save.

Peter continued to correct the perception of the people by quoting from the Psalms:

25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 

Acts 2:25-31

Jesus is to be the king who sits on David’s throne.

While the people who followed Jesus at one time tried to force him to become king, that would have been of a temporal kingdom, yet, Jesus knew that he was king of the Universe, already.

ILLUSTRATION

Remember my Yezidi friends from Iraq who now pray in Jesus’ Name?

In July, 2014 this man’s wife had a nightmare.

She saw a baby, whom she understood to be Jesus, speaking to her, and told her that the family is in danger, and they had to leave, immediately.

The family didn’t readily agree, but after much persuasion,

this family of 10 made their plans and rode in various busses to the Turkish border.

For almost an hour, during the 6 hours of riding, they had to duck their heads because ISIS was shooting at them.

Once in Turkey, they bought tourist visas and bus tickets to Ankara.

In the bus station in Ankara, they sat, not knowing what to do next.

A person came to them and asked if they needed help. He was a Turkish Christian. There are only about 5000 Turks who follow Jesus in Turkey, out of 75 million people.

That is a very small number.

And yet out of such a very small number, God arranged one of them to meet this family of 10 Yezidis who had been praying in Jesus’ Name.

The Resurrected Jesus is powerful, and to pray in His Name means we are praying correctly.

The resurrection showed that Jesus was the most powerful of all leaders, for not even death can overwhelm him.

  1. How does the resurrection correct our perception?

The Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead.

The same Spirit was released upon the Church on this day of Pentecost.

The same Holy Spirit of God is released to us, and through Him we are able to receive power to not continue on in the destructive direction of sin, but to live by the Holiness of God.

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[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

Romans 8:11

Let the resurrection change us, today.

Peter continued to speak to the crowd on that day:

32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 2:32-36

“It was impossible for Death to keep its hold on Jesus.”

Because Jesus is Lord, meaning God, and Christ, meaning the One God has Anointed for the purpose of our salvation.

ILLUSTRATION

While my friends were in

Ankara, they received news that in Sinjar, ISIS came and began to kill the Yezidis.

About 25 family members were killed, and about 9 were received the same fate as John the Baptist (beheaded).

The story is sad, yet interesting.

The power of the Name of Jesus, being part of that family’s regular prayer life, made a change and brought them physical safety during an awful time.

This family saw that prayer in Jesus’ Name protected them from Evil.

Jesus was not just a character from history, because of the resurrection, He can be trusted, and He is savior.

That family is now in different places, as refugees are often divided by circumstances, by the UN and by Government dictates, but they continue to pray in the Name of Jesus.

The Resurrection Means that we can trust in Jesus.

He protected my friends from ISIS, but he offers greater protection than that. ISIS will be gone one day, but death and hell await all because sin leads to death and all have sinned.

But through Jesus we have the gift of eternal life.

The Resurrection Corrects Us, and when we submit to Jesus, we have His power in our lives.

  1. The Resurrection Reconnects Man with God

 Corrects the Disconnectedness between Man and God

The consequences of sin from the Garden of Eden are reversed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and we become people who have a new life that is eternal and with Jesus.

The resurrections connects in these ways:

  • Connection with Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, remain in me as I remain in you. They were living on purpose because of Jesus. Not just living according to Jesus’ teaching, but according to Jesus’ presence
  • Connection with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that when he would ascend to heaven, that he would send another counselor…another who is like him…the same as him. On this day of Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were baptized in this Holy Spirit. The third member of the Trinity.
  • The connection of the Father. Jesus had said that no one can come to him in faith unless the Father were to draw him, or to connect them. Our Heavenly Father was drawing people to Him through the work of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection of Jesus.
  • The connection with others. Because of the resurrection, we are able to connect with others.

The enemies of life (the World, the Flesh and Satan himself) do not want us to connect in these ways.

But let’s connect, as the resurrection corrects any disconnectedness.

Let’s pray

 

 

 

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The Lord Needs It (Palm Sunday, 2017)

 

As we have been considering the importance of living on purpose, we have looked at the gifts God has given to us:

  • Word of God (the Revelation)
  • Prayer (communion with His Spirit)
  • Church (Jesus’ Body)

We have also considered how Jesus was resolute and determined to reach Jerusalem…he lived on purpose so he would be able to die on purpose…thus, through his death, we can learn to Live on purpose.

This week, let’s progress in the story a bit and read what happened when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

We refer to this date in the Church calendar as Palm Sunday: which is, today.

On this day, Jesus came into Jerusalem as a king. Let’s read from Luke’s Gospel:

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:28-40

The title of my message today is

“The Lord Needs It”

Let’s pray

PRAY

If we look backwards at this story, we see that there was a lot of worship going on at the time when Jesus made his entrance into Jerusalem.

On Friday, we had a lot of worship going on. Children were running around freely and dancing in worship to God. It may not have been what I experienced as a child in church, but it was touching

We need to worship.

  1. We Need to Worship

The truth is, if we could see God, physically, our response would be either automatic worship, or of horror.

Worship, because of Who He Is, and Horror because of the immediate conviction of Sin that would come from being face-to-face with God.

Sometimes just coming into a time of worship, the Spirit of God begins to convict me and I recognize wrong attitudes, thought patterns, etc.

Adam and Eve fled from God’s presence after they sinned because of the perfection of God.

God is the complete opposite of sin and imperfection, so immediately everything that is not perfect becomes conspicuous.

We will go to Alaska the day after Resurrection Sunday to visit with our son and daughter-in-law who are ministering on the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. I wonder if I might be able to pan for gold while there? If so, I would be using a black pan, because the flakes and grains of gold stand out against the black pan.

In the same way, imperfection and sin are visible and conspicuous when God is present.

We worship because we are proclaiming the worth of something.

God is more worthy than anything else in the universe, and so we bow, we pray, we sing and we live according to His Will in honor and worship of God.

On Palm Sunday, people, including children, shouted “Hosanna! Glory to God!” as their response to Jesus’ entry. The enemies of Jesus recognized that they were praising Him, and told Jesus to tell his fans to stop…Jesus’ response was that if they did, then the rocks would cry out.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he was doing something similar to many other kings.

Solomon had entered Jerusalem riding a donkey that had belonged to his father, King David.

As well, Zechariah had prophesied that the coming king would enter on a donkey.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

Jesus was doing something that naturally caused people to praise God and Worship.

As well, he was fulfilling Scripture, which doesn’t happen every day (though in Jesus’ situation he fulfilled Scripture, often).

It was natural to praise God on that day.

… Meaning that it was natural to praise the Royalty of the Divine Son and Creator Jesus

The Pharisees should have joined in the praise, too, but they didn’t. Instead, they allowed their condemning nature to rule over them.

The Pharisees needed to join in the worship on that day, and some, later, repented.

In order to live on purpose, we need to be worshippers of God. Otherwise, we worship our accounts, our families, our jobs, our self-centeredness and our rights.

We need to be people of worship, and we need to worship the Lord, Jesus.

  1. We Need to Submit

As well as being worshippers, we must be people who submit to the Lord.

Will we, too, worship God? Will we live on purpose as an act of Worship to Him?

In order to do this, we must submit to God. We don’t accidentally fulfill God’s will, but we do it as we submit to His purposes and live on purpose for Him.

What saves us is believing in the work of Jesus, thus we follow Him and do what He asks.

We live on purpose for His purpose.

Will we live on purpose and worship on purpose?

We need to make this a point in our lives to live in this way.

When we live on purpose, we are not always aware of How God is at Work.

Living on purpose can be to simply just to do God’s Will without realizing What God is doing.

Jesus asked for a donkey colt that had never before been ridden.

I didn’t know that Jesus was a donkey wrangler. J

Jesus was able to ride that donkey without it being trained, and apparently, donkeys are not stubborn, as much as they are dedicated and submit to their training.

Jesus, being the first to ride that Donkey was the one who trained it.

He must have had some sort of arrangement made beforehand, because he sent his disciples to pick up the donkey and lead it to him. All they had to say to the owner was

“The Lord Needs It.”

Could this have belonged to Lazarus, or to Nicodemus or to Joseph of Arimathea?

I don’t know, but the owner submitted to the statement,

“The Lord Needs It,”

and the donkey submitted to the Lord.

We need to submit to the Lord.

[pause]

I make no apologies for this. The kingdom of God is such that

  • He is the King and
  • we are NOT.

There is no room in God’s Kingdom for people who will not submit to Him, and we submit to Him not on our terms, but according to His Word.

As we submit to the Lord, we will be trained, and we will do some mundane things. Plodding along like a donkey doesn’t seem glamourous, and yet, look who this donkey carried: Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

ILLUSTRATION

On the first day of the Virginia General Assembly this year, I participated in a prayer walk around the Virginia Capital.

I encourage us all to try and participate, next time.

I was in a group whom I didn’t know, but we were all Christians and we all believed in prayer. We believe that God hears every prayer, and that God answers according to His will. He calls us to pray, so we pray, and let Him take care of the results.

Prayer walking is something I have done in several countries: Morocco; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Pakistan; Turkey. ThIS is not glamorous, but it is an opportunity to pray and ask God to move in the hearts of people whom we see, and I even pray for those I don’t see.

At the State Capital, we had several different places where we stopped, and we took turns praying according to a plan that was composed by the Family Foundation.

  • First, we prayed for our nation, while standing near the monument that honors George Washington,
  • then we prayed near the Governor’s mansion for the executive branch (the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Attorney General),
  • then to another location for the Legislature,
  • then to another for the VA Supreme Court.

While praying at the Governor’s Mansion, our small group of 6 was praying in a huddle, and there was another huddle nearby. We were close to the gate of the Governor’s Mansion.

The leader of our group would assign different points for each of us to pray for.

Some would offer a word of praise to God, then another, a confession of our need, and then another would read a Scripture, while another would intercede for the particular government branch that we were focusing upon at that moment.

The leader assigned me the task of praying for the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Attorney General by name. So, when It was my time to pray, I passionately prayed aloud for these men who serve our state.

At that moment, I was submitting to God and His authority, and I was submitting to His Will and Word which declares To Pray and Intercede….

 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Simply interceding for all people, and in particular for leaders is something that not only helps us, but pleases God, and when we do this, we are submitting to God’s will.

Most of the time, we may look about as mediocre as a donkey, just plodding along the path that it has learned. It doesn’t want to follow a different path, but the donkey has submitted to the path that it has learned.

On that day of praying at the governor’s mansion, one of the brothers in my group came up to me after we finished our moment at the mansion, and asked, “Did you pray with your eyes open or closed?”

I answered, “they were closed.”

“Well,” he continued, “at the moment when you were praying for Governor MacAuliffe by name, he and his team walked right beside you and went into the gate.

That is interesting to me, though not too spectacular. But I’ll tell you, when we are willing to JUST SHOW UP in submission to God, God wants to use us to reach others.

God not only heard my prayer, but the Governor did, too.

When we submit to God, it may mean unglamorous duties, but it may also mean that we get to speak to Governors, Presidents and Kings!

Let’s be people who worship and let’s be people who submit.

  1. The Lord Needs It

Have you ever felt low like an “it.”

Something without any power or recognition?

That colt had never been ridden. Perhaps it had pulled loads, but it had never before been used as a mount, and it was about to carry the most honored of Kings.

ILLUSTRATION

I played the part of Jesus in a play at West End Assembly of God about 32 years ago.

I was the custodian at that time, and sometimes was seen vacuuming while dressed as Jesus.

For the season of Passion Week, we had several performances.

For the first 20 minutes or so, I did not appear on stage, but once I did, there was a bit of anticipation in the air. I didn’t look like me, as we had great make up artists who colored my hair (I wore it a longer, too) and I had a well-crafted beard on my face.

I came out on stage, and someone brought their sick daughter to me. I took the child in my arms, prayed, and the child was restored and ran across the stage to her mother.

I was on stage with my disciples, and there were dozens of singers dressed like first century Jews on the stage with me.

After doing a few more things, I then led my disciples into the audience, and I would just gently lay my hands upon people as I walked through. Sometimes 3-4 sometimes 8-10. I was enjoying this, especially since no one recognized me. J

We had several performances.

I knew I wasn’t Jesus, but it was great to be used of Him.

The Lord needed me. The Lord needed all of us in that play performance.

The Lord needed a couple in that church, too.

This couple prayed and asked God to direct them, daily. THEY LIVED ON PURPOSE.

As they were going to see the play, they felt prompted to invite a neighbor to join them. She was a single woman.

They sat still in the audience. Their neighbor seemed a little preoccupied.

Backstage, the director told us that we were behind schedule, so he said to me, “Peyton, when you walk through the crowd, don’t take too long, but go faster than before, and perhaps only touch 1-2 people this time, so we can go faster.”

I heard my orders and understood.

The Lord needed me, and if it meant doing it differently than I liked, BUT, that’s OK.

LIVING ON PURPOSE, MEANS LIVING IN SUBMISSION TO THOSE IN AUTHORITY, TOO.

As I walked through the crowd, apparently, I only touched one person.

That young lady had felt that no one loved her. As she heard the songs, she thought, “God doesn’t even love me.”

Then “Jesus” appeared, walked through the crowd, and touched only one person:

And it was her.

Believe it or not, that touch was significant.

She had actually planned to overdose on pills that night and say “good-bye” to the world.

Then her neighbors, whom the Lord needed, invited her to a play at church.

The Lord Needed them.

God LED the director to tell me to touch only 1-2

The Lord Needed him.

Talented people had made my costume, applied my make-up and created my beard to look real.

The Lord needed them.

Talented people sang and acted, and cleaned the church, ushered the room.

I just showed up, followed the direction of my music pastor, and touched the one person God wanted me to touch.

AND THERE WAS ONE LESS SUICIDE THAT DAY

The Lord needed me.

The Lord Needs It, can relate to all of us.

  • We who have the need to worship something, must choose to worship God and God, alone.
  • We who worship Him, must do so in submission to Him. And that means submission to our leaders and submission to one-another.
  • And we who worship and submit to God, must do so recognizing that the Lord needs us.

He wants us to JUST SHOW UP.

He wants us to carry Him into the city, into the place where people who need Him are.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

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Serving on Purpose

I have really appreciated the phrase,

Living on Purpose,” and originally planned it to be the focus only for March.

Of course, such a theme, would continue through our lives as we live on purpose.

As I considered the month of April, in which we have

  • Palm Sunday,
  • Good Friday and
  • Resurrection Sunday,

I see that this month we celebrate the work Jesus did on purpose so that we, too, could live on purpose.

Every day, we should live on purpose and with intentionality.

Daily, we should celebrate life and be excited for what He is doing.

When we live on purpose, we are better able to celebrate the purposes of God.

Honestly, there are times when we may feel as lone cheerleaders, even among other Christians.

Let’s not be troubled in this, but instead, let us continue to believe God and to trust Him.

In fact, I know that I am living on purpose

  • when I am able to meet opposition with the opposite spirit.
  • When I can treat

-chaos with order and

-anger with peace and love,

  • then I know that I am living on purpose.

God’s Spirit is

  • -not a Spirit of fear,
  • -nor of complaints,
  • -nor a spirit of indifference,
  • -dread or
  • -doom,

but the Spirit of the Living – Lord – God – Almighty is Holy, Powerful, Loving, Lovely and Honoring.

God’s Spirit wants to bring out those qualities in our lives, as

He drives us with Purpose in the direction of His perfect and pleasing will.

As we enter into a second month of this focus of living on purpose, let’s look at how we can do this, and let’s encourage each other toward love and godliness.

I want us to look at Jesus, who was the ultimate model of living on purpose.

ILLUSTRATION

I remember a time when I found myself being very resolute to pray for a need.

There was a family in our church when I was first serving as a senior pastor. The church had few resources, and I had to work a job for my salary (the church did pay my rent, thank God).

A family in the church regularly had financial problems. Even though both spouses worked, they still had trouble.

One morning the husband called to tell me that their electricity was going to be cut off at 5:00 PM. They needed $300, and I wished I could have given it to them. We had no funds in the church, and, personally, we had no funds.

As I mentioned, this family had financial issues, but this was the worst.

That day I was spending at home, working on my sermons.

I spoke with my friend in the morning, and told him that I would be praying all day.

We didn’t have cell phones, but he called my home number a couple times, just to check in.

That morning, while I was studying, I came across an article by a pastor named David Wilkerson.

You may have heard of him. He started “Teen Challenge,” and wrote the book The Cross and the Switchblade.

His articles were very rich and hard to read. They were very challenging.

The article that I was reading was about the difference between intervention and intercession.

He said that we need to be able to discern when we must intervene and when we must intercede

He said we needed to learn to hear God’s voice.

Since I was interceding, already, and had no way to intervene (remember, we were poor), I wasn’t sure how to apply this lesson.

I prayed, and said,

“Lord, I don’t have the money to help my friend, and I ask you to help him.”

About mid-day, the mail man came by and delivered a letter with a check for $500 that came anonymously through another organization.

They wanted to bless us since we were ministering in a difficult situation.

Immediately I thought,

“Now I can help my friend,”

and I praised and thanked God. 

But God’s voice spoke to me,

“that money is for you, and I want you to trust in ME to intervene for your friend as you intercede.”

I was confused. I had been praying, and within a few hours, the answer came to me.

The initial check had been written about a week before, and then a second check in order to ensure anonymity was written and mailed. It took about three days for the check to arrive.

And it arrived a few hours after I had begun praying for my friend’s need.

I kept praying.

About 30 minutes later, my friend called.

He asked if I had heard from the Lord…

I said that God was encouraging me to keep praying and to believe.

It was hard for me to say that to him, when I, now, had the funds to help him, but God was teaching me to trust Him in a new way.

When Moses trusted God to provide water for the Israelites in the desert, God told him once to strike a rock with his staff. He did that and water flowed.

But on a later occasion, Moses was told by God to speak to the rock.

Instead, he said to the people,

Must we bring you water from this rock?”

and then he struck the rock.

Water came gushing forth just as before,

It looked to all that Moses was still connecting well with God…for he had been able to perform a miracle…

…but Moses missed an opportunity to intercede, when he instead intervened.

For Moses, this meant dire consequences.

With that in my mind, for the rest of the day, I had to be resolute to follow what I believed God was sharing, and even though I could have gone to the bank, cashed the check and given my friend the money,

I had to remain resolute to live that day on purpose.  

And Purpose was to follow God’s Will as He was showing me.

Let me share more of that story a little later.     🙂

We have been looking at John 15, and we could continue there,

but as I was considering this theme, I found myself drawn to a specific time in Jesus’ ministry.

You see, next week is Palm Sunday, and in Jesus’ ministry, this was a day, prior to the Passover in which Jesus entered Jerusalem, and was seen as king.

By the end of that week, Jesus had been betrayed, tortured and crucified to death.

We know that this was not a surprise to Jesus, but what was going on in his mind when he was on his way to Jerusalem?

In Luke’s account of Jesus, we have this paragraph that I want to consider today:

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Jesus resolutely set himself toward Jerusalem because the Cross was His Destination, and our redemption was His goal.

Today’s message is entitled, “Serving on Purpose.” Let’s pray.

Pray

  1. Living/Serving on Purpose Means to Be Resolute

Jesus came to earth to save us.

To save sinners.

The Scriptures teach this over and over.

In fact, in the Old Testament, we see the prophesies of the Jesus suffering for us.

Paul quoted a trustworthy saying:

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

1 Timothy 1:15

As well, the Scriptures teach that…

 …God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.                  Romans 5:8

He did not accidentally die,…

it’s not like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was NOT a victim, in fact, there were many occasions when he could have been killed throughout his ministry, and even when he was a child, King Herod sought to kill him.

But, he was NEVER a victim.

Jesus was and always is purposeful in everything He does and did.

We would be hopeless, were it not for the purposeful living and dying that Jesus did for us.

When we are purposeful or when we are resolute, we usually feel fruitful, don’t we?

To be resolute is to be “unwavering,” to be “focused,” to be “determined,” “staunch,” “indefatigable,” etc.

When we determine to tackle a job around the house…

…Or when we have a deadline to meet, and we put everything else on hold in order to focus upon that task,

we may feel some anxiety, but we often find ourselves focused, and nothing can stop us from our task.

Jesus was resolutely traveling to Jerusalem from Galilee.

Jewish travelers often, resolutely avoided Samaria, although, that meant it took longer to reach Jerusalem.

This was not only because of their dislike for the Samaritans, but because the Samaritans didn’t want them passing through on their way to Jerusalem.

If they were on their way somewhere else, then that wasn’t such a problem, but since the Samaritans were not welcome into the Temple to worship alongside the Jews, then they didn’t want to encourage Jews on their way to the city of the Temple.

The Samaritans had been treated very badly by the Jews, so they held a huge grudge.

I mentioned in February how the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, but, about 150 years before Jesus, the Jews sent an army to the Samaritan temple and destroyed it.

They were saying,

“you cannot have this temple,”

while at the same time they said,

“and you cannot worship in our temple as our equals.”

So, the Samaritans were resolutely opposed to allowing Jews to pass through their territory on their way to the Temple.

Jesus was resolutely on a mission to Jerusalem for their sake, for the sake of the Jews and for our sake, too.  Nothing would stop him.

Enemies of Resoluteness

What are the hindrances to resoluteness?

What keeps us from Living and Serving on Purpose?

DISTRACTIONS

If only we, too, would be as resolute as Jesus in our service to God and to the community.

I find many things can stop me, or distract me.

PROCRASTINATION

One of our greatest enemies is procrastination.

I might think,

“I should spend some time praying right now,”

but then, Procrastination says,

“there will be plenty of time to pray, later, do something else, now.”

LAZINESS

We can be very industrious for many useless purposes, but for the purposes of God, we might find ourselves to be lazy.

WRONG PRIORITIES

We’ve considered priorities during this time.

Correct Priorities

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

REFLECTION

Let’s right now, reflect, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us with our priorities.

Have we put God first and sought His kingdom and righteousness, first, above everything else?

Let’s ask these

IMPORTANT QUESTIONs:

How healthy would my family be if they all acted like I act?

How successful would my company be if all employees acted like I act?

How attractive would my community be if everyone acted like I act?

How healthy would by church be if we all acted like I act?

TEMPTATIONS

Jesus was tempted by Satan to bow before him in order to save the world.

Jesus loved the world, and was resolute to reach the world without compromise.

Jesus served us on purpose.

Jesus’ friends and disciples rebuked him for declaring that he would be crucified…

…Jesus in turn rebuked them for trying to stop him.

The thousands who followed Jesus tried to force him to become their king after he had fed 5000 men, …

…but he was not resolute to establish a physical kingdom that would spoil, but instead he wanted to provide entry for us into a kingdom that was not of this world.

Jesus didn’t sin, and the temptations did not trip him up.

What temptations prevent us from being resolute?

Jesus was resolutely set to go to Jerusalem and to hang on a cross for us.

He did not let distractions, procrastination, laziness, wrong priorities or temptation keep him from serving on purpose.

Let us not allow them to keep us from serving on purpose, either.

This was politically incorrect, but Jesus didn’t care.

When a village would not allow him to pass through, James and John wanted to punish the village.

  1. Living/Serving on Purpose Means to Be Merciful

There are many things we can do in that are purposeful in our service, but there is a QUALITY that we need above all things. It is a quality that Jesus showed: MERCY.

GRACE

Jesus was being merciful to visit the Samaritan village

James and John wanted to punish.

54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Luke 9:54

They were rebuked by Jesus

And Jesus went to another village.

James and John probably had no idea what was happening.

They had not long before seen Jesus transfigured before them.

They saw him in his divine state.

So, they must have thought that they had power and privilege to call down apocalyptic power.

Jesus, who could calm a storm and gave Elijah the power to call fire down from heaven, did not comply with James and John’s suggestion.

There are many things we CAN do, but they are not necessarily PURPOSEFUL in God’s sight for us to do.

We can rebuke the world, but they don’t care what we have to say, but when we love the world and show them the mercy of God, then we are indirectly rebuking the world, and giving them something better.

The Scriptures state that God sent Jesus to the earth because He loved the world so much…that is in John 3:16.

John 3:17 speaks to this moment in particular:

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

What has God called us to do? Are we to do what He was not called to?…

to Judge and condemn the world?

We are called to learn the will of God and to follow it. We are called to show mercy, which is the opposite of what the world decrees.

We are called to learn God’s voice and follow His direction, even when it hurts.

ILLUSTRATION (Continued)

You remember my story about the young family in my church and how their electricity was going to be cut off.

The husband told me and asked for help, and I told him I had no money and the church had no money.

 I promised to pray, and while praying, was challenged by an article from a pastor to learn the difference between intervening and interceding.

Then while praying, a check arrived in the mail, which was sufficient enough to help my friend, but God told me to keep interceding.

By the end of the day, God DID meet my friends’ need, and their power was not cut off.

It was incredible, and I realized that had I intervened, then my friend would not have seen God’s provision.

He would have seen mine.

Had I given him the money, it would have been like when Moses struck the rock, even though God told him to speak to the rock.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should not help someone in need, but that we need to be resolute to do what God calls us to do.

We are to be representatives and ambassadors of God’s mercy with others.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

How did Jesus face opposition?

In the opposite spirit, in a spirit of love in this case, and we too should meet this.

In this way, he served with purpose.

And because He served on purpose, we, too, can serve on purpose.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, he wasn’t having a random outburst of holy anger, but he was cleaning house.

When he rebuked James and John, he must have told them that they needed to understand that he did not choose them to condemn, but to raise up.

He did not choose them to live according to their own purposes, but according to God’s purposes that are separate from the purposes of man.

Jesus has called us to serve on purpose, not to please ourselves, but to cause people to know who He is.

Jesus told us to do good deeds so that people would praise Our Heavenly Father!

And when we think of the adversaries around us, do we have the capacity to think of them being restored, and raised up?

How About When Jesus Wants to Come through Our Town?

Jesus and His Spirit want to invade our lives, are we open to receive him, or do we send him a different way?

How many times has Jesus wanted to come to you and me, but we didn’t welcome him?

Let’s Be Resolute and Merciful

Let’s Live on Purpose

 

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Loving on Purpose

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

We’ve been looking at John 15.

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

Jesus is the Vine, and we are the Branches.

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

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

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

  1. Remain in Jesus
  2. Remain in His Word

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

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

Let’s read from John 15:9-17

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

John 15:9-17

PRAY

  1. Remaining in Love

We can accidentally fall in love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All others had abandoned him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three gifts God gives to us:

  • His Word
  • Prayer (Spirit)
  • Church

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

And to love on purpose.

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

The Church is God’s Idea, not man’s.

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

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

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

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

John 15:9-17

Love: 9 times

You: 21 times

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

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

An honest relationship is necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Honesty with each other

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

Isolation is not love.

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

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

And in both cases, Jesus commands this of us.

How can we do it?

First being honest with God, then with each other.

And, we must obey orders.

  1. Keep His Commands

How do we remain in His Love?

He says,

Keep my commands

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

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

Specifically, here, he gives this command:

Love one another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4:7-21

We are to love God.

We are to love each other.

We are to love on purpose.

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

APPLICATION

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

Priorities in Life

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community: Our communities are changing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God calls us to Love on Purpose.

He calls us to Live on purpose.

Not by accident

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

 

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Living on Purpose by God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

Three Gifts to the Believer

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

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

I have books available for every household.

As well, I have a magnet for every household.

Revelation is something that normally is hidden and unseen.

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

ILLUSTRATION

I heard a story about a man from another country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And many times he told them,

“My grandmother says I must listen to you.”

So, the couple asked him,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 15:5-8

PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Remaining in Jesus

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

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

Priorities in Life

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

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

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

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

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

Thus, whatever we do, we do it

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

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

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

FOR GOD’S GLORY

And we do this for God’s Glory!

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

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

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

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

We are to remain in Jesus.

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

By reading His Word, we know Him, better.

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

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

  1. Remaining in Jesus’ Word

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

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

His Word corrects me.

His Word directs me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He created light by speaking it into existence.

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

Today, He wants to speak light into our lives

Into the pain that pulls us down.

Into the sadness that breaks our hearts

Into the depth of our souls.

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

I still remember being that way as a child.

People had to tell me to be quiet.

** **

“If you remain in me,” Jesus said,

“and my words remain in you.”

** **

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

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

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

Usually she has to interrupt me and tell me,

“Dad, mom already told me.”

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

“did mom tell you about this?”

and when Grace answered,

“no,”

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

🙂

** **

“If my words remain in you…”

** **

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

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

Jesus promises to be with us.

Illustration

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

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

“you need to listen to those people.”

The interpreter spoke with the grandmother and asked about it.

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

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

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

“you must listen to them.”

** **

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

** **

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOW, BACK TO MY STORY

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

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

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

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

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

And BECAUSE OF her, churches were planted.

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

And it will affect the lives of those around us.

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

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

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

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

He was given a second chance.

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

  1. Ask According to His Word

God wants us to ask according to His Word.

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

Ask whatever we wish.

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

Our desires become His Desires.

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

Jonah didn’t want to do it.

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

A storm arose, threatening the ship.

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

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

So, then he commenced with living on purpose.

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

Nineveh was a hard group of people.

God’s Word can penetrate.

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

But prophets and preachers can be wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who would have thought?

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

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

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

How do we reach them?

How do we answer their questions?

How do we answer their objections?

We need to know God’s Word.

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

Psalm 1:1-3 says this:

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

Psalm 1:1-3

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

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

  1. Living on Purpose according to God’s Word

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

Priorities in Life

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

How does the Word of God relate to them:

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

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

But we must resolve to do this.

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

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

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

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

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

People desperately need God’s Word practiced among them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Live on Purpose by God’s Word.

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Living on Purpose: Introduction

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

They are unintentional.

When we are unintentional, things happen to us.

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

Jesus expects us to live intentionally.

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

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

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

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

INTENTIONALITY MATTERS

Notice the intentionality of these three statements.

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

We cannot unintentionally forgive someone.

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

We must be living on Purpose.

We must be intentional.

This month’s focus is

“LIVING ON PURPOSE,”

in other words,

being intentional disciples of Jesus.

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

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

Being intentional is important and good.

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

Being intentional takes work.

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

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

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS

To be intentional as a Christian will take work.

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

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

I want to be more productive

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

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

Living on Purpose

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

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

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

John 15:1-4

PRAY

  1. First Principle: Know Who’s Boss

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

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

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

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

He is the Vine and

His Father is the Gardener.

We are the branches.

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

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

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

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

Do we know who is the Vine?

Is Jesus our vine? Really?

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

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

Three Gifts to the Believer

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

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

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

Here is the full verse from the Old Testament:

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

-Moses (Deuteronomy 8:3)

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

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

Who is the Boss?

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

The Vine has authority over the Branches.

We must know and follow our boss.

  1. Principle Two: We Need Cleansing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“please clean these potatoes.”

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

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

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

What I should have asked was “wash” it.

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

A cleaning.

A removal.

A peeling.

A washing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[take communion]

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

  1. We Must Remain in Jesus

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

ILLUSTRATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We must remain in Jesus.

As we consider this theme of Living on Purpose,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • God
  • Family
  • Professions
  • Community
  • Church

These are priorities.

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

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR GOD

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

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR FAMILIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we are not good citizens, who will be?

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

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES

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

The church is a family for us, too.

The family of God.

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

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

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

WE MUST LIVE ON PURPOSE FOR OUR CHURCH

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

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

“you need to give him $100.”

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

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

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

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

“give him $100.”

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

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

The man responded,

“because Jesus told me that you need it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Abiding in Christ”

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

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

Next week we will go deeper.

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

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

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

Perhaps it is being more intentional in church.

We need more volunteers, but that is not all.

We need more worshippers.

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

We need to reach more people.

Let us become more intentional.

Let’s live on purpose.

INVITATION

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

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

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

[Dave leads “Amazing Grace”]

 

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