April 26, 2011

Urban Legends: Salvation is about going to heaven when I die

This morning we are going to begin by reading the Resurrection Story...

Matthew 28:1-15

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The resurrection is the single most important event in the history of the world, and it is just as hard for some to believe now as it was almost 2,000 years ago. But for Jesus’ followers, the resurrection was more than an event; it was a beginning. These men and women saw something they couldn’t deny or turn away from. They were changed...transformed in such a way that they went out to transform the world in which they lived. They were willing to sacrifice their lives and suffer incredibly painful deaths because they dared believe God had raised Jesus from the dead.

The Apostle Paul understood the importance of the resurrection to Jesus’ followers, he says, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins...If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” 1 Corinthians 15:17-19

And it is this incredible event that leads us to debunk today’s myth. It is a very, VERY popular myth. The myth says...

Myth: Salvation is about going to heaven when I die.

It’s a myth...a lie. This is one of those myths that, if believe, can ruin our relationship with God because is can ruin the way we live out the Christian life in our world. And the resurrection blows this myth out of the water.

Many who believe this myth look for the day when they will get to leave this old world behind and go to heaven when they die...but N.T. Wright points, "Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about."

Salvation is about allowing the resurrection life of Jesus to flood into our lives so that God’s heavenly realm is brought into this world, and it looks toward the day when God’s Kingdom will finally be established here on earth.

When we reduce Salvation to simply “going to heaven when I die,” we strip the Gospel of its power and make it nothing more than a contract or ticketed-transaction where we get into heaven because we said the right prayer and did the right things.

But what good is a salvation that has no impact on the life we lead right here and now? What good is a salvation that forgets about the blood and bone world Jesus stepped into to save? What good is a salvation that rejects God’s investment into His creation? No, salvation is not about going to heaven when we die; it is about bringing the Kingdom of God to this earth, in our lives, right here and now and looking toward the day when God will establish His Kingdom on Earth.

This morning let’s look at three very important ways the Resurrection speaks against this myth.

The Resurrection means creation matters.

When people focus on salvation as going to heaven, many start talking about leaving this world behind. The old Gospel song says, “Some glad morning when this life is over...I’ll fly away!” They speak of it as souls somehow floating around in a heavenly realm.

But this world matters to God.

Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a Hebrew poem that shows a Creator who loves His creation. He has dreams and desires for what He has created. He cares for it. At the end of each creation-day activity, God looks at what He has done and declares, “This is awesome! Beautiful! It is good!”

The word we translate as “good” from Hebrew has two very important meanings. First, it means beautiful. God looked at all he had made and thought of how beautiful it all was. It is gorgeous, and when we look at the splendor of the Grand Canyon, the power of the crashing waves, the beauty of a hummingbird in flight...we see that God is right. His creation is beautiful!

The second meaning has to do with creation being fit for the purpose it was created. Much like looking at a hammer and saying, “That would be good to hit something with,” God’s statement of “It is good!” shows that His creation is good for its intended purpose.

But human sin sent creation on a detour. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they drug all of creation with them into it’s captivity. Yet despite this detour, God still loves His creation. He still sees creation as good because He can see what it was supposed to be, and He plans to see it fulfil the purpose for which it was created.

When Lori and I planted the church in Kansas City, we met in several locations: our living room, a school band room, a school board meeting room, and a dance studio. We moved in and out of our locations for more than three years. But then we got an opportunity to rent a store front location where we could have our own space.

I went to look at it, and knew it wasn’t perfect, but it would meet our needs...Lori, though, took one look at it and said, “This is disgusting! We can’t meet here.” Do you know what the difference was? I was looking at what it could be after we tore out some walls, painted a few other walls, repaired some ceiling tiles, cleaned, and cleaned some more. Lori saw the disgusting mess that it was at the moment.

We tend to look at God’s world with those two sets of eyes. Some look and say, “This place is disgusting! I want out of here.” While others look around and say, “I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with this place.” It isn’t that people with the second view point don’t see the mess...it’s that they can see the potential.

Jesus’ incarnation, His coming into our realm as a human being, and His resurrection are the God’s biggest statements that He cares for and loves what He created and has not abandoned it. And not just human beings...all of creation. His salvation will eventually release all of creation from its captivity to sin.

Revelation 21:2-4 makes it abundantly clear that God is not taking us out of this world to a heavenly realm, but He will one day resurrect us to bring His heavenly realm here to earth.

It says,
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

God will one day live and rule among us...He will dwell with us, as Revelation 21 says. And this world will be a different place, a transformed place, a place of peace and justice and filled with God’s presence. No death, no mourning, no tears, and the old order of things passed away.

God’s plan is to restore all things to what He created them to be in the first place.

Since Creation matters, and God plans to restore things to their original intent and purpose this leads us to our second point...

The Resurrection means the Kingdom of God is here.

Jesus’ ministry is founded on the message that, “The Kingdom of God is near.” As people heard Jesus, they were familiar with Kings and Kingdoms. They lived under the power one of history’s greatest Kingdoms.

The Roman Empire was the largest and most powerful force in the world. For the first time in history, there was a reasonable level of worldwide peace and security. Travelers could travel without constant fear of being beaten and robbed. It still happened, but the Romans had instituted a level of law and order unseen up to that time. Commerce and trade was booming! Koine Greek was a worldwide language that most everyone spoke. They had conquered more territory than any other culture.

These people knew about Kings and Kingdoms.

But Jesus’ Kingdom is different. It can’t be marked off by boundaries lines. It can’t be located on a map...it isn’t about geographic location. It doesn’t have a standardized language or money system. Jesus’ Kingdom consists of presence. Wherever God’s presence is...there is the Kingdom of God.

And Revelation 21 points to the day when that Kingdom will come and what it’s result will be, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Jesus’ resurrection says, “The end is in sight for the old order of things!”

We hear Jesus say this stuff, but when you and I look around, we still see a world that is crying, mourning, and hurting. If you are like me, you ask, “Where is this Kingdom?”

I read a great quote from Eugene Peterson the other day. He says the church is “a colony of heaven in the country of death.” That gives us an idea of how the Kingdom of God of where the Kingdom of God is...As you and I go into our world, we have the possibility of being the presence of the Kingdom of God. We are the presence of God in a world filled with death; a world that is not functioning the way God originally created it to function.

The heavenly realm of some day, that future Kingdom of God where things are as He intends them to be, is breaking into our world through the Church. When we pray, love, serve, forgive, heal, care, and create then the Kingdom is breaking into our world.

We don’t yet have it in its fullness. Things are not yet complete as God intends, but His Kingdom is here and active and moving in our world. We catch glimpses of God at work and spread His Kingdom by seeing what He is doing and getting involved.

I believe that God is at work through us here in Huber Heights establishing and building an outward focused church that loves and cares for people and therefore extend His Kingdom.

Several people came up to me yesterday just to say “Thank you for doing this for the kids!” They don’t have the words for it yet, but they experienced the Kingdom of God. For a few moments God’s love and joy was able to rush over them...there were probably people who resisted, they can’t let go of their pain even in the midst of God’s love...but it was there and available in Tom Cloud Park.

God also wants to work in you to extend His Kingdom in your neighborhoods, in your families, and in your jobs. He does this when we learn to hear His voice and respond in loving ways to the people around us. When we forgive the way the Bible tells us to forgive. When we live godly lives toward those around us. When we forgive our enemies and bless those who curse us. When they see us suffering and mourning and hurting...but with Hope because we know that God is at work.

Jesus resurrection means that God’s Kingdom is active in our world. And if the Kingdom of God is active then that leads to our third point...

The Resurrection means what we do has value.

If, as some say, we are evacuating this planet for a heavenly world like rats from a sinking ship...then there is no reason to serve, to love others, to do anything except to maybe get a few of them to get off it with us. But we are really making no impact on the world...because we don’t need to if we are going to get out of here. In this way of thinking our good deeds...serving the poor, caring for the broken, working toward justice...have no real purpose or end.

In Galatians 6:9, Paul tells the Church, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” What gives him the ability to say this? He knows that just because our lives may end with a death...death is not the end. He knows there will be a resurrection, and that God intends to establish His Kingdom in its fullness here on earth and restore all of creation.

Since God is doing this...all our actions matter. That means everything we do...the cup of cold water, the clothing of the naked, the visiting of the prisoner, the caring for the hurting, the dressing up in Easter Bunny costumes...it will not be in vain. It is planting seeds God will grow into something greater than we could ever imagine.

Almost every night for the past 10 years Lori, Bri, and I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer. There is one line that ALWAYS stands out to me. “Your Kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are working toward a time when God will establish His kingdom in its fullness, when His Kingdom will come, and everything will be done on earth as it is in the heavenly realm. And all our actions are part of bringing His Kingdom into a world of death.

N.T. Wright says,
"The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom."

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
This one thought alone should fill us with such joy and hope that we can hardly contain ourselves. When we care for that person who is hurting....when we create a beautiful piece of art...when we love our neighbor or care for the needy...they will not be in vain because God will use them to extend His Kingdom of peace and justice. He will use them in restoring this creation to its former and intended glory!

Conclusion

Jesus’ resurrection changed everything. A world that many had given up on...people that no one in their right mind would care for...Jesus’ resurrection shows us that it all matters. And this resurrection life can be ours. We can live out of it. It isn’t just the power for us to be forgiven for our sins...it is the power for us to live the life God has called us to live.

Tom and I were talking this week, and I forget the circumstances, but I said, “It is unbelievably difficult to be a Christian Businessman or politician because of the nature of the system they have to be part of.” And Tom said, “It is difficult to be a Christian period.”

And He is right...but luckily that is not the end. When we die to the patters of our old way of life and turn to Jesus and live in the power of the resurrection...we can live the life God has called us to live. It isn’t easy because it requires us to sacrifice some of the things we thought we knew about life. Paul calls it a transformation of the mind. Jesus referring to the radical nature of what takes place called it a new birth.

Too many of us live weak, lifeless lives because we “accept Jesus” as our Savior but don’t really believe that we can live the life He has set before us...but we can! We can because His resurrection says we can. And this morning I want to invite you to lay down those old patterns of this life and accept the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

I want to invite you to bow your heads with me this morning.

Maybe you have never taken that step of trusting Jesus in the first place. Today, I invite you to say, “I want to follow you Jesus and live in the power of your resurrection! I need your forgiveness.”

Or maybe you have accepted Christ, you have been following...but you have need for the resurrection power of Jesus to fill your life and renew you...to revive your heart for God and enable you to live as He has called you to live. “Father, I need something else. I through down the myths and lies I have believed and I accept the power of Jesus’ resurrection to live my life according to your principles.”

This morning we are starting a new tradition here at Crossroads. Every Sunday following the morning service we members of our prayer team available to pray for you. If you need prayer for healing, you need some encouragement, anything...our prayer team is here to pray with you.

This morning we are adding the opportunity for you to take communion every Sunday. Up here with our prayer team members will be someone to serve you communion. It is the Sacrament that Jesus gave us that reminds us of our participation not just in His death but in the resurrected life of God’s Kingdom. So this morning I invite you to come take part in communion or receive prayer following the closing prayer.
Father,

Thank you for your Son; for His sacrifice on our behalf, but also for His resurrection. We know we will receive the promised Kingdom because you brought Him back from the dead. You resurrected Him...just as you resurrect our lives from the ashes of this world. Be with us this week as we serve you and extend your Kingdom in our jobs, our families, and our neighborhoods. And we rest secure that you will grow all the seeds we are planting for your Kingdom.

April 24, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt 2011

Here is what happens when you share God's love with the people of Huber Heights using over 5,000 Easter Eggs!

April 19, 2011

Urban Legends: God will never give me more than I can bear

Life is busy and demanding, and our lives can get full fast. We feel stressed and overwhelmed. There are many times when we feel like we’re on a treadmill that is going way to fast and the only way to stop is to jump...which isn’t going to have a good ending! Job, family, sports, social events, church...busy, busy, busy! Before you know it...one thing piles on top of another and we feel overwhelmed by all that is going on.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?

It is a common feeling. You ask someone, “How are you doing?” And their response is, “Busy. Got a lot going on.” It has become my own mantra over the past few months. Full-time job, full-time family, planting a church, trying to get everything done, have a personal and social life...the calendar fills up quickly.

That is when today’s myth comes into play. If you are taking notes...Here is today’s myth. Fill it in there in your notes:

Myth: God will never give us more than we can handle.

You have probably been there. Struggling with all that’s going on...we feel pressured, stressed, overwhelmed by everything we are doing, and some well meaning person says, “Hang in there. God will never give you more than you can bear. You’re going to be alright.” Or, you begin telling yourself this, “God will never give me more than I can bear! So He must think I can do this.”

But that simply isn’t true.

This myth most likely from misunderstanding a really great Scripture passage found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” This is a great promise of God, but it does not say, “God will never give you more than you can bear.” It says, “God will never let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” You have to take this verse in context with what Paul is saying. What it says is that when you are tempted...when sin is crouching at your door waiting to attack...when Satan is trying to derail you from following God...there will always be a way to escape that temptation. It will be up to you to take it, but there will be a way out.

The myth that God will never give you more than you can bear is actually the opposite of what the Bible teaches. This phrase is more American Self-help Philosophy than Biblical. Rather than drawing attention to God it is more about you. “You can do it! God will never give you more than you can handle...so keep going even though you feel like you are going to blow out at any minute!” Since we all know that God will never give us more than we can handle...we push harder to keep going. It is a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of outlook with a touch of God. I can do it. I can do anything. I just work harder, push harder, and make it all happen.

And that is rubbish.

Today being Palm Sunday, the church typically looks at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week. And there is really no better place to start than with Jesus when we are debunking today’s myth. Sometimes we can get caught up in the “Godness” of Jesus and forget that He dealt with life in the same human way you and I do.

Jesus was facing more than He could bear. After being welcomed into Jerusalem with a triumphant parade and shouts of praise, he was rejected, mocked, beaten, and crucified. He knew He would be killed on a Roman Cross. He wasn’t surprised by what was happening, but it didn’t make it any easier.

The Pharisees were testing Him constantly; always looking for ways to trap Him. Despite three years with Him, the disciples still misunderstood Him and argued about who would be the greatest in His Kingdom when He overthrew the Roman Government. Judas was going to betray Him with a Kiss...the sign of reconciliation and friendship. His closest friends and disciples were going to deny him, abandon Him and flee when He needed them most...that sounds like too much.

Luke 22 shows Jesus with abundantly more than He could bear. Verse 41-42 says, “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’” Jesus knows what is coming. He knows what must be done...but He is asking God that if there is any other way for salvation to be accomplished...the agony is great...can we do something else. Isaiah 53:10 prophesies about Jesus, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer...”

Jesus stops praying, walks back to His disciples, and finds them sleeping rather than praying. He returns to prayer and verse 44 says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” I don’t know about you, but I have never prayed so hard that my sweat was like drops of blood. That is anguish. That is Jesus with more than He could bear.

Lest we think it is only Jesus...The Bible is filled with people who suffer with more than they could bear...Moses says he has been given more than he can bear in Numbers 11...the Apostle Paul says that he was given more than he could bear...even to the point of despairing for his life in 2 Corinthians 1.

In fact,

The Truth is God often gives us MORE than we can bear.

Why would he do this? Because He wants to teach us something very valuable in the “too much” of life.

You might say that God is in the business of giving us:

The Gift of too much!

When we try to convince ourselves that God will never give us more than we can bear...we are often trying to talk ourselves out of the desperation that comes from doing too much...from having too much stuff going on in our lives. We are adding one activity on to another. We are trying to do everything...to prove we can handle it. We don’t want others to know we are hurting inside. We want approval or applause.

Let me go down one quick rabbit trail...this is an important lesson to learn early on in your life. I didn’t, and I still need to. There is a big difference between God giving us the gift of too much, and us piling stuff on ourselves. Sometimes we place the blame on God when it is really our own fault. We need to learn to say “or” more often than we say “and” when it comes to the things we do. We are so caught up in doing this AND that AND this AND that. But true effectiveness in your life begins to take place when you use the word “or” more often. I can do this OR that. When we use “and” we are simply piling more and more stuff on ourselves and we can’t blame God for giving us more than we can bear when we are the ones adding more and more stuff.

Eventually we become so bogged down by doing this AND that AND this...that we are no longer effective in our lives. We are just moving from one thing to another. We need to less in order to be more...to be more present to our families...to be more present to God...to be more truly human. We can’t be what we need to be when we keep adding on more and more stuff to do.

So back onto the trail...We need the gift of too much. We need it because it teaches us several things:

1. Give something up.

This is really a question about priorities. One of the most influential books on leadership for me is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. And one of the most important of the seven habits is Begin with the end in mind. This is important because when you begin with the end in mind, you know where you want to end up. And when we know where we want to end, we have a better grasp on the things that will or will not allow us to end up there...it gives us the ability to set priorities.

When we keep adding and adding and adding more and more things to our life, what happens is not that we get better, become more effective, or become known for accomplishing all kinds of things...No, what actually happens is that we lose out on what is really important. We think we are gaining so much by doing more, when in fact we are losing hold of what is really important.

Jesus was visiting in the home of Mary and Martha...and we all know what happens around the house when company is coming over. Now imagine that the company is a local celebrity with a mass following. This man is Messiah who is getting ready to establish His Kingdom....there is a lot of pressure to make sure everything is right, and the proper hospitality is given.

Martha is cleaning and preparing the house, organizing the servants to get everything together, making sure everyone is comfortable, and then she looks in and sees her sister Mary just sitting on her butt doing nothing while she is doing all the hard work.

Martha would certainly like to be in there with Jesus too, but the food isn’t going to cook itself! So Martha, expecting a little understanding from Jesus, says, “Lord, there is alot to do, can you tell Mary to come help.

Luke 10:41-42 “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

One thing. Yes, there was a lot of necessary things that needed to be done. People were hungry. Hospitality of the day required certain things...but Mary sought after the one thing that really mattered. There are a thousand important things to be done...but only one mattered and Mary had chosen the right one.

In order for us to really seek after the things that matter...we have to learn to give up the things that do not. Do you really need one more sporting event for your child to participate in? Do you really need those extra hours at work? Do you really need to watch that show?

Have you decided what really matters? What end you want to reach?

God gives us the gift of too much because sometimes we just need to give something up...to let go, and prioritize what is really important.

The second thing we learn with the gift of too much is that we need to...

2. Hand something off.

I have always been a full-on, driven person. I have always tried to outwork those around me...do more...push harder. I have done this for several reasons; some good and some bad. One of the good reasons is I believe a leader should not ask people to do what they are not willing to do. You lead by leading. If I’m going to ask you to do something, I may not like to do it either, but I will demonstrate that I’m willing to do it.

The wrong reason...sometimes I don’t hand things off because I don’t trust people to do it right...to do it like I would do it. It is easier to just do it myself than to take the time to explain it to them and hope they get it right.

In Numbers 11:11-17, Moses is faced with a grumbling, whining people who wanted meat. “We would have been better if we had stayed in Egypt!” They complained. So Moses goes to the Lord and says...

“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.”

God gave Moses the gift of too much because He needed Moses to realize he couldn’t do it on his own. He was not strong enough to do everything. He needed to lean on others.

What I have discovered is that teaching and empowering others does take a little extra time...but it lightens my load. I don’t have to do everything. And, this is probably the most important part, when you allow others to do things you find that they are able to take part in the ministry of God and discover their calling. When I keep everything to myself, I am being selfish and depriving others of the ability to get involved in God’s Kingdom.

We ask people to volunteer around the church not because we need to fill a slot, but because we believe that when we are involved in ministry we grow as Christians and we find a place that allows us to our gifting and abilities to extend the Kingdom of God.

If I do everything, then really I am being selfish. I’m being arrogant to think that I am the only one who can do it. I am not leading as God has called me to do.

Sometimes God gives us the gift of too much because sometimes we just need to hand something off...to trust that someone else can do it...to let go.

The third thing we learn with the gift of too much is that we need to...

3. Lean on others.

In Mark 14:32-34, we see another view of Jesus praying in the Garden before His arrest. “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’”

Jesus once again reminds us that this is more than He can bear, and He is asking His friends to keep watch...to pray...to keep on the lookout. He needs them...and each time He returns they are not praying...they are not keeping watch...they are sleeping. Even Jesus needed the support of His friends to help Him bear what was happening.

Community isn’t just about being around other people. It is about being in a caring and loving relationship with others so that, in the words of Romans 12:18, we can “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” What is that law? The law of love. Love in action means we are in a relationship with others that allows us to be open and honest with what we are carrying and allow them to help us bear the Gift of too much.

Let’s face it, we can’t do everything on our own. Our Westernized American culture has created this Lone Ranger cowboy mentality that still affects us all. We have to be strong. We have to be able to handle anything and everything. If we don’t we are considered weak.

So what happens is that many people struggle...silently. They hold it in and aren’t willing to share their struggles with other people.

Lori and I were talking about a lady she works with who’s friend committed suicide out-of-the-blue. No one saw it coming. Not his wife, not the kids, no one. He wrote a note saying he couldn’t take it anymore, and his family wasn’t really sure what he meant. And that isn’t uncommon. Thousands of people a year commit suicide and the people around them say, “I never saw this coming!”

Why? Because we are taught from a young age to hold it in, keep it to ourselves, and go it alone. Be strong. And so we keep things to ourselves and don’t get the help we need because we aren’t willing to appear weak to others.

While suicide may not be a thought for many of us...we still suffer through many things alone because we would rather suffer through and appear strong than to appear weak. If we are to obedient to God’s plan and desire for us to be in community, we must be willing to allow others to help us shoulder the load of too much.

God gives us the gift of too much because we have to learn real community, and allowing others to help us shoulder the “too much” of life.

The fourth thing we learn with the gift of too much is that we need to...

4. Press into God.

This is the most important part of receiving the Gift of too much. It reminds us that we can’t do it under our own strength, and we need to just allow God to take some of things we hold onto.

The Apostle Paul is not the first person I think of when I think of weak people. His writing is powerful. The things he did were courageous. He endured many hardships and trials. He is not a weak person, and yet we read this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Following Christ means letting go. It means surrendering. We must press into God, and learn to depend upon God through the regular practice of prayer, fasting, and spending time listening to God in His Word and in the Holy Spirit.

Paul knew he had to rely on God. He had prayed for God to remove a “thorn in the flesh” only to hear God reply “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Strength made perfect in weakness? Weakness is not something our culture values. We are repulsed by weakness...but God values those who admit they can’t do it alone. He is able to speak to those who aren’t struggling to handle everything. As long as we are striving and holding on to things God will not step in to act because He will not intervene where He is not wanted.

Conlusion

So we receive the gift of too much for several important reason...to learn to give something up...to hand something off...to lean on others...and to press into God. This morning you may be carrying too much...you have been given this gift.

You haven’t felt like it was a gift, but it is. Now you just have to implement what God is trying to teach you through it. Maybe you need to let something go...maybe you need to hand something off...you might might need to allow yourself to lean on others...but most importantly you need to press into God and rely on Him.
I am a card-carrying member of the Gift of Too Much Club. I still struggle to learn these lessons...but it has to start somewhere. We have to let some stuff go. Clean out the clutter of our lives. Do less so that we can accomplish more; more of the stuff that really matters.

Let’s pray,
Father, we see in the examples you have set before us...in Moses, Paul, and in your son Jesus, that we can’t do it all on our own. Give us the strength to admit our weakness. We relinquish control to you this morning. Just as our Lord prayed in the Garden that night, “Not our will, but your will be done.” Help us to seek your will.
Amen.

April 15, 2011

Urban Legends Introduction

One of my cousin’s friends was driving home from a friend’s house when a car pulls up along side her. She notices that the man in the driver’s seat is looking at her. Staring, and then start pointing for her to pull over. When she wouldn’t stop, he slammed on his brakes, pulled up very closely behind her and started flashing his brights at her. She can see him in her rearview mirror continuing to motion for her to pull over.

She could hardly keep control of the car as she became more and more nervous. She swerved off at an exit, but the car still followed her. Through various turns, running red lights, blasting through stop signs, the car kept following her.

Finally she pulled into a gas station and makes a mad dash for the inside. The guy jumps out of his car and yells, “Get inside and call 911!” As she reaches the gas station she turns to see the man pulling someone from her backseat and a gun go bouncing across the pavement as the man subdued this guy hiding in her backseat.

Luckily that my cousin’s friend was saved from the Urban Legend known as the Killer in the backseat...a legend that has never actually taken place.

Urban Legends and myths are all over the place. We hear them from friends, receive them as emails, watch them on the evening news.

What makes a good Urban Legend?

  1. It's a story, and usually a good one that is alleged to have “actually happened.”
  2. It has usually happened to a friend of a friend or to a cousin’s friend.
  3. It's plausible, sometimes just barely, but enough to be believed. There is always that slight element that it COULD happen...even if it has been demonstrated to be highly doubtful.
  4. Often you can’t even discover where the story originated.
  5. It varies slightly in the telling; usually by region
  6. It circulates by being passed from individual to individual, either orally or in written form.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot the fakes...but sometimes it is not. Let’s see how good you are at spotting some of these myth, legends and lies...By a show of hands, let’s see how many of you think the following are true and how many false.

Is this real?

A member of the Nigerian Royal family wants to give you money to help him. FALSE

It takes 7 years for chewing gum to digest in your stomach: False

Neil Armstrong misspoke the quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” TRUE He intended to say “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The debate raged between reporters and NASA, with NASA claiming the recorder dropped out. Years later, Armstrong acknowledged that he did misspeak the intended line.

Elvis Presley was once told “Stick with driving a truck because you are never going to make it as a singer.” TRUE

Atheists are petitioning to ban religious broadcasting: FALSE Emails have been going around for years...Touched by an Angel was one...they had to put up a page on their website calling it Touched by a Hoax.

The Koran in 9:11 reads, “For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced; for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah; and there was peace.” FALSE No such verse exists in the Koran at all.

Is that in the Bible?

Train up a child in the way he should go...yes
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The fool says in his heart “There is no God”...yes
Psalm 14:1

God helps those who help themselves...FALSE
It actually comes from one of Aesop’s fables called “Hercules and the Wagoneer.” And then more recently by way of Benjamin Franklin.

Pride goes before the fall....FALSE
Proverbs 16:8
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

There is nothing new under the sun...yes
Ecclesiastes 1:9

Spare the rod and spoil the child...FALSE
Proverbs 13:24
He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Proverbs 22:15
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

Proverbs 29:15
The rod and reproof give wisdom,
But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Money is the root of all evil...FALSE
1 Timothy 6:10 says, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

Urban legends and myths are everywhere...from the Nigerian Prince who needs your help accessing a bank account to the weary traveler who buys a woman a drink and ends up in a bathtub of ice with a kidney missing.

I had one lady who constantly sent me emails she received with various Internet rumors on them. She believed they were true, and wanted to warn everyone. She had obviously never heard of Snopes.com. So, occasionally, when I was in one of my antagonistic moods...I would hit “reply to all” and send her the link to the Snopes article with all the research disproving the email she sent. Finally, after just a few times of pointing out how wrong they were to all her friends, I no longer received the emails.

She kept sending them, but at least I was no longer on the list.

Most are just good stories. They aren’t true, but they don’t do any real harm, and sometimes they help prove a point or make moral observation. The Killer in the Backseat Legends demonstrates that you should really check out your backseat all the time, and that actions can be misunderstood.

Why would we do such a message series? Because truth is important for those seeking to follow Christ.

Proverbs 23:23 encourages people to seek after truth, “Buy the truth and do not sell it—wisdom, instruction and insight as well.”

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

When we become followers of Jesus...we should become people of the truth...seeking after truth wherever it may be found.

But there is another reason we seek truth...some lies and myths are damaging if believed...especially when they affect the way we understand our faith or our relationship with God.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look at a few of these myths, and discuss what they mean for us as we follow Jesus.

This morning we are going to look at two pairs of myths that keep us from following Christ. They are each like two sides of a coin.

The first myth says...
I have to live up to God’s expectations so He will love me.

The flipside of that myth is...
I am a good person so God will accept me.

Both of these are myths because they come from a belief that our “works” or “actions” somehow earn us standing before God. Nothing you do or don’t do will earn you God’s love or your salvation.

If you fit into the first legend, you recognize that God has high standards, and you know that you have never been able to live up to them. Many people who come from legalistic backgrounds struggle with this issue. You will hear people say some form of the this, “I’ve got to get some things together before I come to church.”

The truth is our works are not the basis for God’s love. God loves you already.
Titus 3:3-5, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
Our salvation is not the result of our working harder to do the right things or avoiding the appropriate wrong things...it is a matter of trusting in Jesus Christ and following Him.

When we have the faulty belief that God loves us because we are doing the right things, we can fall into the trap of believing that He loves us less when we stumble and sin. God’s love and forgiveness are available for you despite what you have or have not done.

This myth plagues many people who have grown up in the church. I struggled for years with this one. I still struggle. If only I do one more good thing that will make sure I’m good. And when I mess up...I feel as if I’m doomed. We have to continually remind ourselves that God loves us no matter what.

If you fit into the second category, you see that most people have good in them, and that mistakes happen. People are not perfect. Some of you have also seen some Christians who act morally worse than some non-Christians you know. It is hard to believe that the morally good non-Christian is some how worse off than the morally bankrupt Christian.

The truth is even at our moral best we all fall short of God’s expectations...
Romans 3:21-24 “...apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
You see it isn’t about good or bad...it is about Jesus and His grace-filled forgiveness. Everyone falls short, but His grace is for everyone. Even when we are at our best, we still need God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So we don’t have to achieve some morality status level for God to love us. Nor can we do enough to earn our salvation. These are myths because it isn’t about what we do, it is about what God has done in Jesus to rescue us and restore a relationship with us.

Don’t get me wrong. Our actions and our obedience are important, but not because they earn us God’s love or a special standing in God’s eyes. Grace is opposed to earning not effort. Our works matter, not because they earn God’s love, but because they are our response to His love.

The book of James reminds us that “Faith without works is dead.” Why? because they are a sign that God’s love and forgiveness have actually taken root in our lives. If we really love someone...it will come out in our actions. If we are really excited about something...it will show up in our actions. If we are really following God...it will show up in the way we live our life. That doesn’t mean we always get it right or that we are trying to earn anything. It just means that our actions will be the fruit, the response, the sign that we have truly accepted God’s presence into our lives.

And this makes them VERY important. But they don’t determine how much God loves us.

The second set of myths focuses on our past.
I have done too much wrong for God to forgive me. Or, I haven’t done anything that bad.

These two myths come from our misunderstanding of sin and God’s power to overcome it. We have to go back to something I said just a little bit ago and look at it with a slightly different spin...

Even at our moral best we all fall short of God’s expectations...

All of us have sinful pasts, and our sin separates us from God. It stands like a roadblock in the way of true relationship with God. For those of us who believe we have done too many bad things...that’s a myth...God’s forgiveness overcomes all of it. For those of us who believe we haven’t done anything too bad...we still need God...because the sinful things we have done still need His forgiveness.
Romans 5:6-8, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
While we were still sinners...still separated from God...still enemies of God...Jesus died for our forgiveness.

But here is the best part...
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confessing and repenting are two very powerful words. Confessing means that we own up to our mistakes, and that we agree with God that we need His grace and forgiveness. We may even need to name our sins to Him; not because He doesn’t know what we have done wrong, but because we need to know what we have done wrong.

Repentance means we have an about-face in the direction of our lives. Once we acknowledge that a certain way of life is wrong or a certain action is wrong in God’s sight...we need to repent. This means we are headed down this path, and, when we repent, we turn and head another direction. We are headed away from God...doing life our own way...we repent...we head toward God and begin doing life in God’s way.

Conclusion:

I like what Eugene Peterson says, "When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn't go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us."

We talk about these myths because they can derail our search for God. They cause needless suffering for some and they keep others from knowing God at all. So they have to be named for what they are...lies.

Here is the truth...God loves us. No matter how good or bad we think we have been or still are...God desires to be in relationship with us. And it is not until we drop the lies that we are able to grasp God’s love in some way.

I love this quote from Tim Keller, “We are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Today, you may be wrestling with these myths. You have convinced yourself that you are too sinful, too unlovable, too bad for God to love...you are wrong. Or, you may be thinking I’m a good person, I haven’t done anything all that wrong...you too are wrong.

We all find ourselves in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. And Jesus’ death on a cross makes our forgiveness possible. Jesus’ statement that, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” reminds us that when we want to break the power of these lies...we simply look to Jesus. We look at how he responded to the people around him. He accepted those who were broken and hurting, those who were sinful and felt they were unwelcome in God’s presence.

This morning God wants to help us put down these lies that hinder us from knowing Him. Haven’t we allowed them to keep us from really knowing Him for too long already.

It took me awhile to let go of the legalism and rules based religion that dominated my childhood. They talked about the gospel being good news, and I always wondered where the good news was in what they were saying. But once I found a real relationship with God...once I let go of the lies that bound me...I found that Matthew 11:28 is true
Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This morning I want to invite you to lay down those lies and legends, and accept what God has to say...You are loved and accepted.

April 4, 2011

5 Marks of a Revived Church: Mission

Over the past few weeks we have looked at the marks of a Revived Church as found in Acts 2:42-47. This verse took root in me a few years ago while listening to Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willowcreek in Chicago. Many were accusing him of going soft on the Gospel because his church was growing and reaching people far from God.

He started talking about the impact this passage had on his life, and how it planted a seed in him to build a church that didn’t just meet on Sundays, but was the church everyday of of the week.

As he described this passage, I realized that I had never been to a church like that...and I wanted to. That’s when this thought started growing in me...maybe I could start that church.

Acts 2:42-47 says...
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Out of these we have drawn our 5 Marks:

  1. Seek Truth-Follow Jesus, we are committed to Scripture and right doctrine.
  2. Worship God-We respond to God’s grace by humbly bowing ourselves to Christ and sacrificially serving God with our lives.
  3. Live in Community-We love, forgive, and serve each other in order to develop deep friendships with each other.
  4. Growth-We grow up and we grow out.
  5. Mission
The 5 Marks are the principles that will guide us as we build this new church here in Huber Heights. So we have been studying each Mark, and then looking at what they mean for the vision of Crossroads Vineyard. And today we are looking at the mark of Mission.

My journey back to God began with the question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I was 18 years old, getting ready to graduate from high school, searching for direction as I entered college, and that’s when I heard something very similar to the opening lines of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life. He opens the book with this:

It’s not about you.

The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.

I was just looking for a way to earn a living...something to do for the rest of my life...a job. But God was giving me a way to make a difference...a way to find real life in my living...a calling to His mission.

In our search for meaning and purpose...we often start in the wrong place. We ask questions about who we are and what we are good at doing. While asking those question are part of our search they are not the beginning. They come later.

If we are ever to come up with the right answer, we have to start with God...when we start by asking, “What is God doing?” and “How does He want me to fit into it?” we discover a meaning and purpose in life we never expected.

Asking the question, “What is God doing?” is really asking a very big question. We are searching for the Mission of God. Some like to use the fancy Latin phrase Missio Dei. But it all means the same thing...we are looking for where God is working in the world around us.

And when we start looking to fit into that mission using our gifts, talents, abilities and involvement to make a difference...we will find a meaning and purpose for our lives that is deeply satisfying.

Because churches are made up of people who make the mistake of asking the wrong question...churches make a similar mistake. They ask, “What are the needs in our community?” Or, “What will draw people to accept Jesus?” Or, maybe even “How can we serve our community?”

These are good questions that must be asked, but only after we have asked, “What is God doing?” and “How can we be part of it?” We have to follow His lead...seek first His Kingdom.

This morning we are going to look at three ways of understanding ourselves as God’s people that will help clarify this idea of mission for us.

Being about the Mission of God means...

We are a Kingdom people.

Jesus’ audience knew what it meant to live in a kingdom. They knew what it was like to have a king, to be subject to that King, and they knew who the respected members of that kingdom were.

The Jews were waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. It had been part of their prophecy for thousands of years. But Jesus’ understanding of Kingdom conflicted with theirs. They expected the Messiah to be a ruler that would overthrow the Roman oppressors and establish the Kingdom of God on earth as a visible Kingdom. A kingdom that would punish the evild-doers and elevate the righteous.

They didn’t expect the Kingdom Jesus brought. Jesus’ kingdom is a subversive kingdom. It’s not one of power and over-throw, but one of love, compassion, healing, and forgiveness. It is a kingdom that rejects the idolization of power, wealth, and success, and instead values those who are rejected, powerless, weak, forgotten, and lost.

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus is declaring what it means for Him to be the Messiah and who His Kingdom values...and people don’t like it.

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In many way our world isn’t too different from Jesus’. Power, wealth, status, popularity, these are the things people look up to, crave, respect and seek after. And it has crept into the Church much like it had in Jesus’ day. Pharisees could not be around “those kind of people” because they had a holiness to protect...they couldn’t be tainted.

As followers of Jesus we value what Jesus values, and this passage from Luke is a call to love the unlovable, to pray to see the sick healed, and to reach out to the oppressed. It is a call to serve the poor. As one Vineyard pastor said...it is a call to serve the least, the lost, the lonely, and the lesbian.

We value what the rest of our world does not.

Now there is a danger here...we value those in this condition...we do not value the condition. There is a big difference. When we value those in poverty, those who are oppressed, those who are hurting, we value a person loved by God. But some have made pursuing the condition a badge of honor...when that is done, we are no better than the rest of the world. Instead of wealth and power being the marks of success, we can turn poverty and oppression into the marks of successful religious practice.

God isn’t asking us to seek after poverty and oppression...but He is saying the Kingdom of God values people the rest of the world does not.

As a church we value the poor, the broken, the hurting, and the helpless. We will seek justice in the world around us. We are joining up with God to bring the Kingdom of God on earth because we also understand that one day...Jesus will return to restore this world to its original purpose...to the way He intended it to function when He created it.

God’s Kingdom has come on earth. We can see people healed, rescued, and redeemed, but God’s Kingdom has not come completely. The Kingdom is what we call the already and the not yet. God’s Kingdom has come on earth, but not in its fullness. The fullness of God’s activity and reign of our world will not be completed until He establishes His Kingdom on Earth.

And we look forward and work toward that day.

As Kingdom people, ...

We are a compassionate people.

When I was in college, we were required to take a course that exposed us to different ministries. From wealthy, suburban churches to inner-city homeless shelters.

Part of this course was a trip to Washington DC where we traveled around to experiencing various ministries. One of the most talked about aspects of the trip was the day we were to pose as homeless people on the streets.

For safety reason we weren’t going to spend the night out. But on Friday night, we all got dressed up in our “homeless gear” and, slept in our clothes. We woke, didn’t take a shower, and were dropped off at various locations around the city. We were to wander the city doing whatever level of homeless activity we could. I tried begging for money only to be cussed out several times. I also attempted a nap on a steam grate.

That night the van picked us up and we returned to the hotel. We were all ready to change our clothes and take a shower, but our professors called us into the meeting room and announced that 6 of us would be going to church just as we were at that moment...which meant no shower or clean clothes. I wasn’t chosen, but Dwayne, one of my roommates, was.

Several of us decided to help Dwayne look more homeless...we donated clothes or whatever we could to the cause. The result was that Dwayne stunk so bad the next morning that no one wanted to ride in the same van with him. So in the middle of January, in the coldest weather spell DC had seen in 10 years, we were driving the 15 miles to a church in the suburbs with the windows down.

I don’t know what I expected. The church was HUGE!!!! The parking lot was full of Jaquars, BMW’s, Mercedes, and other very expensive cars. The pastor’s message was essentially that if God loves you and you are obedient to God and you give as much money as you can to God then God will give you more money! People cheered when the offering was announced.

I thought Dwayne was in for a very rude experience. Dwayne was in rags. He smelled horrible. We were his friends and we didn’t want him around...how was this church going to respond?

They responded with love. Dwayne was hugged by more people than you can imagine. They told him about different ministries that could help him. He said later that he felt completely loved by that church.

Whatever I thought of their theology and preaching, I certainly couldn’t fault their love for the outsider and the broken.

Love is not the first word most people use to describe the church...and the reason is that despite all our talk of grace...we really don’t understand it. Grace means we receive something we don’t deserve from someone who doesn’t have to give it to us. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We may not even know we need it.

When we can’t love and forgive others, it is a sure sign that we have forgotten what grace is about. God loves and values us beyond our wildest understanding. He offers us forgiveness and hope when he doesn’t have to, and out of that we are asked to love and forgive others unconditionally.

Talk about a radical call. Jesus is making the claim that the hurts and pains we experience are nothing in comparison to what we have been forgiven. That takes some time to wrap our heads around because people in our world have suffered some horrible things.

God isn’t trying to belittle our hurts and wounds. He isn’t saying our pains and the atrocities of this world don’t matter. He is definitely not asking us to let people off the hook for the evil they have done...He is just asking us to allow Him to be their judge. To free ourselves from that responsibility and allow the one who fully knows right and wrong to make the call. He is asking us to grace-filled toward others because we have been given grace.

No one deserves grace or love, and yet God gives it anyway. And as His followers we learn to love and forgive as Jesus loves and forgives.

Because we don’t have to be the judge and because we too are recipients of God’s grace...we can love others with God’s love.

So we are give the responsibility of a Kingdom and called to be compassionate. The last aspect of being about God’s mission is that...

We are a sent people.

Psalm 72:19 says, “Let the whole earth be filled with His glory!” Because God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom as we would understand...His territory is not controlled by space. As we go out into our world...we become the presence of the Kingdom of God in that space.

When you walk into your job...the Kingdom of God is present because you are there...whether the job is good or bad, the boss is cool or a jerk, the company is supportive or using you...you are the Kingdom of God present in that space.

When you live in a neighborhood...the Kingdom of God is present because you are there.

When you enter a store, a restaurant, a business...the Kingdom of God is present because you are there.

The Apostle Paul calls us ambassadors. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us...”

The American government has Ambassadors that represent us and speak for us in foreign countries around the world. We are God’s ambassadors representing Christ and speaking for Him in this foreign country in which we live.

We learn to speak His words. We learn to do His actions. We proclaim His message...that God’s power and rule is breaking in to our world and people can find love, forgiveness, and wholeness through Jesus Christ. That is our message. And WE are the ones sent out to proclaim it.

When people look at a situation in our world and say, “Why doesn’t God do something about that?” The real question is “Why hasn’t the church done something about that?” We are the ambassadors. We are the spokespeople. We are the sent one...sent into a foreign and sometimes hostile culture to make an impact for Jesus.

Most everyone has seen the movie Field of Dreams. That is one of those guy and baseball movies. While the ghostly voice commanding him to “build it and they will come” was a good thing for Ray...it is not one the church should heed. We should not build it and expect people to come. The church is not meant to be a come-and-see church. The church is only the church when it is a go-and-do community. When it enters the world, experiences the pains and struggles people are facing and brings God’s love and grace with them.

We are the church not just when we gather on Sundays, but when we go into the world and pray for the sick, care for the poor, heal the hurting, speak out for the broken and oppressed, and love the unlovable. That is when we are most being the church.

Conclusion

Crossroads Vineyard must be the church in our community, outside its walls, caring, loving, accepting, and praying for people.

So what does it mean for us to be people of mission as we look to the future?

  • We will offer people love, forgiveness, wholeness...when no one else in the world will offer it to them. We will love them when they are most unlovable.
  • We will pray for and see people healed from their hurts and sicknesses.
  • We believe that small things done with great love will change the world. Compassionate outward-focused service to our community is our m.o.
    • 50,000 touches a year in the Huber Heights community with acts of service, compassion, and love.
    • By year 5 we can be impacting 100,000 people a year in our region for Jesus Christ.
  • We will work toward a ministry and healing center for the north side of Dayton where
    • People can receive food help
    • People can find help for their addictions and hurts
    • People can receive prayer for emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological needs.
    • with a medical clinic to help fray medical costs for minor things
    • Job training facilities
    • Tutoring for underprivileged children
  • We will be active in spreading God’s Kingdom around the world
    • We will begin involving ourselves in world relief efforts...wells, farms, building churches, caring for people in disasters.
    • We will begin praying for God to show us where in the world He would like us to serve...and when those opportunities arise, we will become involved in helping spread the Kingdom in other world areas.
    • We will develop 2 short-term mission teams over the next 5 years.

I started off this message series by explaining my journey to find a vision for this new church that would answer these two questions, “What vision of church would be so compelling, so exciting, that I would give sacrificially of my time, my energy, my money, and my abilities to see it accomplished?” and the second question “How could I describe that in such a way that others got that excited with me?” I made that my prayer to God because I know that no matter what I dream up...it isn’t near what God wants to accomplish here.

And over the past few weeks we have broken that down and looked at it peace by peace...now I’m asking you...Is this a vision of church you would be willing to sacrifice to see happen here in Huber Heights? Is this something that you could invest your life in to see accomplished? If so, let’s work to see it done in God’s name and power.