COOL SPRINGS METHODIST CHURCH REVIVAL: WEDNESDAY NIGHT

HAGGAI 2:1–9 ESV

“In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.'””

I hope this has been helpful, looking at the ministry of the prophet Haggai and God using him to call the people of Israel back to making God a priority. My selfish ambition behind moving through this book with you is that you will see the importance of moving God back to the proper place in your life.

100% of the time we can ground the source of our issues in the fact that God is not at the center of the situation. With Jesus Christ at the heart of any matter, we can respond well to the good, the bad, or the ugly. For the Israelites in our text, life was not going to get better until they tapped back into their spiritual lives and God was made central.

Our text this evening deals with God’s desire to bring peace. By the end of these 9 verses, it would seem that God is almost excited about what is about to happen. He and His people are working together, building the temple and making it into something worth celebrating. God has reminded the people that the silver and gold of this world belong to Him and that these things will serve His temple by making it majestic. The house of worship that sat in ruin will now surpass its former glory. It is going to stand out and be known as the house of God.

But this will take their participation. The key terms and phrases we read in the passage are important to point out and they go like this: be strong; work; I am with you; my covenant; my spirit; fear not; these things are mine. Let’s quickly look at how they connect.

The first key term is be strong. In order for this work to pan out, to be completed, the people will need to do what they failed to do the first time. They will need to be strong and be strong in their faith. From the top down, the Lord is calling the people to engage. It will take everyone pitching in to combat the temptation to halt or stop the work.

And what are they being strong in? Their faith and work. This is the second key term. They must work in faith and it will take strength to do it, and the strength that they will work in this time, unlike last time, is the strength of the Lord, for He has declared that He is with them.

This is the third key term We’ve heard this before, in the last chapter. When the Lord is with us there is focus, there is perseverance, there is a strength beyond ourselves that gives us perspective and purpose. The people lacked that before. Remember how when they lost the fear of the Lord, the fell and faltered in their responsibilities. But when the fear of the Lord returned, they found perspective and purpose.

The fourth key term is God’s covenant. God made a promise to bless the nations using the people of Israel. But they can’t bless the world if they are not a light that witnesses to God’s glory. How can they be a worshipping people if they have dropped their faith and let God’s house stay in ruins? And so, God is reminding them of the promise He made and is stirring them to engage their end of the covenant, to be a faithful people.

The fifth key phrase is my spirit remains in your midst. God will not leave nor abandon His people. He will remain with them, in their very presence, as they work, as they worship, as they live according to His redemptive purpose. This plays into the sixth key term fear not. Because God will remain with them, they have nothing to be afraid of, for God is their strength and portion. When they run into trouble, they have but to lean on God for what they need and He will provide.

And receiving what they need is the seventh key term, as God claims the materials that are needed to make the temple a greater glory than it was in the former days. God will make this people’s witness and worship brighter than in the days before it. He has claimed the silver and the gold and all the resources that are required. He declares He will shake the nations, as if to say He will turn them upside and shake the riches of the foreign lands to fund and fix the temple properly.

Want I want for you to take away from this text tonight is that God will provide you with the peace of heart and mind to live your life successfully, according to God’s definition of success. The peace that surpasses all understating that we read about it in Philippians 4.7 is a peace and comfort that allows us to live as a witness to God’s redemption in our lives that can be others redemption if they’ll be receive it.

In Haggai, God is restoring His temple so that the world may see His glory. For us today, God is restoring the temple that is His faithful followers so that the world may see God’s glory in us. God will furnish for you and in you what is required for you to be restored and for others to be restored because of you.

You may be here tonight and need to be restored. You are a temple that has experienced rot or ruin. I want you to know tonight that you can come to Jesus and begin again. You may be person who thinks you have little or nothing to give this world, for whatever reason, and I’m here to tell you that God wants to shake the nations of this world upside down to empty their pockets in order to adorn you as a holy witness, a walking temple, that shines forth His glory to someone who needs His presence and peace within themselves.

I hope that you will be revived and restored, in your own very important way. I pray that you will welcome God into your life and see His power and glory through a vibrant and strong relationship with Jesus Christ. The Son of God desires to make you whole. Let Him complete you today. Let the peace of God come upon you. Let the Holy Spirit give you life. Amen.

GET IN THE GAME: TEAM DEVELOPMENT

PHILIPPIANS 2:1–8 ESV
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In our text this morning, we’re dealing with the Christians that are found in Philippi. There were houses churches all throughout, supporting Paul’s mission and ministry through giving, but these churches didn’t all get along. Part of Paul’s mission was to spread the gospel in such a way that it mobilized Christians into churches and communities of believers that could further the message.

But, if the communities couldn’t get along, then sharing the same vision, mission, and mindset would sabotage the success of spreading the message of salvation throughout the world. And even worse, if they couldn’t put the good of others first, as we read in vv3–4, then they would be missing the character of Jesus altogether, and the gospel they would share as a result would be void of power.

So, today we want to focus on team development. Using our football theme for this series is intentional because we are starting new routines that include new opportunities. For some its back to school and work, for others its adjusting to the routine of family life and traffic patterns. But for us in the Church, this is a time for us to hear the call to GET IN THE GAME; to re-engage our spiritual disciplines and our mission-mindedness.

Last week we talked about DRAFT DAY, how God desires to equip you and use you for a redemptive purpose in the world. Today, we talk about team development because once we have the players on the field (or the people back in the church), its our time to become a redemptive force in our community.

We become a powerful force for God when we are engaged in our spiritual lives. If you are growing, then you are reflecting more and more of Jesus to those around you. If you are involved, then you are working for the formation of other people. What we want to see for our church is a team that shares the same mind of making disciples who make disciples.

The mission of the United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” In order to do that, we have to share that vision as a team. We have to put the salvation and transformation of those around us first.

Friday afternoon, I put together a video that I think will help us out. I spend time with Coach Alan Nicely, our director of missions and evangelism. That is how we know him. But to the rest of Smyrna, he’s Coach Nicely, the 32 year Cobb County educator, 28 year football coach, 7 of which he was the head football coach for the Campbell High School Spartans. I want you to listen to Coach talk about team development and see how perfectly it translates into Christian discipleship and ministry.

Among all the important things Coach said, there’s two things I want you to take away from his message, if nothing else: 1) fundamentals—the basic, ground level things that undergird all that we do; and 2) love one another. Loving one another is the essential, foundational piece of everything we do as Christians. When we love one another and practice this fundamental characteristic, we prove Christ to be in our hearts and alive in the world. The love of Jesus Christ overcomes all manner of evils and sins.

I can’t help but think about the hate and the evil of racism that took place in Virginia this past weekend. Folks, if we want to show the world Jesus Christ, then we must open up our arms with a supernatural power and unleash God’s presence through our words and actions. Our mission to make known the saving knowledge of Jesus can’t happen without us being grounded in the fundamentals, founded on love, and developing as a team each and every day. This message depends upon you knowing your Bibles, praying often, and raising your children to know the transforming love of God! These fundamentals are what grow us into the image of Jesus for the world to see and know.

So, will you join us in the mission to making disciples, of transforming the world? Will you be developed as a team by learning and practicing the basics so that Christ is known? Will you get in the game, and play your role in God’s mission to the world? I pray you will and I hope you will come talk to us about it. There’s more to come next week. Amen.

COOL SPRINGS METHODIST CHURCH REVIVAL: TUESDAY NIGHT

HAGGAI 1:12–15 ESV
“Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord 's message, "I am with you, declares the Lord." And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.”

Last night, we began in the book of Haggai. The prophet was raised up to tell God’s people that they needed to resume the construction of the holy temple or their lives would continue to experience discontent. The people had focused all their energy when they returned home from captivity on building back up their lives, but they neglected God’s sanctuary. Haggai’s message was clear: restore the temple and you will be restored to peace.

As we look at the text for tonight, we see a complete 180º turn in the people. As the text tells us, the Spirit stirs Haggai, then stirs the governor, then stirs the high priest, and then stirs the people to obedience. The work of the temple resumes! The people listened to the words of the prophet and obeyed the Lord’s call. The Spirit stirred the people from the top down.

The real proof is found at the end of v12, when it simply says, “And the people feared the Lord.” This wording is important because it signifies that the people have regained perspective. The reverent fear of the Lord is what sets the proper perspective for approaching and worshipping God.

In Proverbs 1:7 we read, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The people of God had little fear or reverence for God, which is why their houses were extravagant and the temple was unfinished and empty. They were foolish to ignore the importance of putting God first, of having Him at the center of their lives and of their livelihoods. But through the stirring of the Spirit, the fear and reverence for God was restored, and the work of the temple resumed. And when the people resumed their work for God, God resumed His work in them.

As Christians, we believe the the Holy Spirit is moving, always and everywhere. God’s presence is available and His power is accessible. But we must listen to the Spirit’s call, whether through the scriptures or through the activity of God around us, if we want to tap into what God is doing. God is stirring up peace in the hearts of those who will love Him and obey His word. Peace is our for the taking, if we will put God first.

The stirring of the Spirit that we read about in our text is something that we can tap into if we will be about the work of the Lord. We must not wait till things get bad and let the ruin start its awful, destructive process. That work, that stirring, is essential and God desires we live with His Spirit as a people who are stirred to action. That action or activity happens through all sorts of ministry. Whether we are table to teach, share, guide, or volunteer, we will be able the Lord’s work. Of all the ways to contribute to God’s stirring up in the world, it is prayer that is central to all of it. Through prayer, we connect our hearts to God and we store up treasures and peace on behalf of those we pray for. Prayer is an essential characteristic of God’s stirring Spirit.

Now, all of this talk about stirring and what that means for us tonight reminds me of something funny but familiar to all of us: cooking. I’m probably going to make you hungry, but bear with me as we look at how the Holy Spirit stirring in our lives is akin to what is required when cooking certain things.

Just this morning I asked my mama about a good recipe that requires stirring. Her grandmother had the most amazing chocolate pie recipe. Growing up, mama would double Nana’s pie recipe. She would make one that we all could eat warm, right out of the oven, and then put the other in the fridge and cover it with foil for daddy to eat later when he got home. Mama liked it warm and daddy liked it cold.

That pie is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. That good crust with the rich chocolate filling and the fluffy meringue topping. In the end, its that good chocolate that makes that pie what is.

Making the chocolate just right is important. You gotta get the mixture right—the cocoa, the flower, the milk, the eggs, the sugar, the butter, the vanilla flavoring. Everything has to be stirred and mixed and put in at the right time. But most importantly, you have to stir that chocolate or you’ll burn it. If you burn it, the pie is ruined. The scorched taste will permeate the whole dessert. You have to keep that chocolate moving, bringing it to the right thickness, and then pour it into the pie crust.

My friend Kristen is an outstanding cook. She told me about all the things she has to keep stirring when she’s in the kitchen. I’ll quote her here: “You have to stir the old fashioned boiled chocolate icing until it cools or it will lump. You have to keep stirring gravy to keep the lumps out. Anything you put milk or cream in will curdle if you don't stir it. Scrambled eggs will burn to the pan. The old fashioned caramel candies have to be stirred for almost an hour, and it's thick and hard to do if you’re not strong. I have to stir my Alfredo sauce constantly until the cheeses all melt. It takes a long time.”

The people of God abandoned their work because it got hard, they stopped stirring, in other words. The recipe of their lives didn’t pan out because they had both a missing ingredient and a missing ethic. 1) God was not central and the focus of their lives, and 2) they didn’t stir themselves to work hard for God.

The Spirit of God came and moved within the people but this was God’s way of getting their attention and showing them what life could be like. Once the work resumed and their spiritual life began to make sense again, God reminded them of a very important point. He says in v13, ““Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord 's message, "I am with you, declares the Lord."”

God did not abandon His people the way His people had abandoned Him. For God to show such mercy by saying He would be with them, shows that He was quick to turn His heart to them, even in the midst of their sinfulness. Look at how Paul tells us in the scriptures of God’s love for us, even when we are sinful and neglecting Him, as Paul says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).

My challenge for us tonight is that we would be stirred back to believing, active faith; that we would be stirred into a powerful, Spirit-filled worship of God; that we would be stirred into Christian action for a lost and dying world. From the top down, the Spirit of God seeks to stir up salvation in the hearts of those who do not know Him; and for the ones that do, He desires to stir up a mercy and grace that would be shown and shed on the hurting and wandering who are outside these very walls tonight.

I would bring back last night’s challenge to make this point. Consider your ways, reexamine your life, reevaluate your faith, and be stirred to action by the ever-moving Holy Spirit of God. Pray and pray often, as is the proper activity of a believer of God and follower of Christ. Ask you pastor or Sunday school leaders who it is that you can be praying for. Join them in the sometimes lonesome-task of lifting up the hurt and the needs of a community you are in the midst of. Put Jesus back at the center and be stirred. Amen.

COOL SPRINGS METHODIST CHURCH REVIVAL: MONDAY NIGHT

HAGGAI 1:1–11 ESV
“In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord." Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors."”

The book of Haggai is timeless for Christian living. There is so much here in this simple book and yet its so small. The message is very simple: put God first. The people of Israel came back from their captivity and found their homeland in ruin. So, like anyone else would have done, they rebuilt. They reestablished their way of life and got things off and running. Except for one thing. They never finished the holy temple.

The people got tired and the work seemed too much and so they stopped. And when they stopped they noticed something significant: their lives were incomplete and filled with discontent. The key verse in this is vv5-6, when the Lord says, “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

That line is haunting, “Consider your ways.” God sent the prophet Haggai to tell the people to reevaluate their lives. What they were doing was not working and God wanted them to know it. God has brought them back to their homeland so that they would be reestablished and experience blessing once again. That blessing was only going to happen with God at the center. If God wasn’t going to be their highest priority, then nothing would work in their favor.

My siblings and I own a farm in South Carolina, about 2 hours from here, right outside of a little town called Calhoun Falls. The property is old, with a long history of activity and ownership. As a child, one of my favorite things was to explore the old home places that once stood on the land. There were 3 or 4, some with still-standing chimneys that rose above the rubble that was once a home. I used to think that I would fine old coins or tools if I dug around them enough, but in the end there was just broken-up debris and copperhead snakes.

As I got older, the ruins of these old homes made me sad. Where once stood a structure that contained a family and a life of hard work, there sat a still nothing. The ruins made me sad. Sometimes I wished I had a builders bone in my body so that I could put them back together, but the fallen in house was too far gone.

I wonder tonight if that is where we are in our faith. Some of us can look at our lives and it seems like we’re surrounded by glory and blessing, but will we or can we maintain such glory on our own? Some of us may be discovering some rot that is creeping into our lives, causing the value of our existence to shift and the threat of ruin to become more real. Still others of us may be in a state of out right ruin, where we look back and we say, “How did I get here? Why is my life the way it is?”

The takeaway from such observations is that we are all susceptible to the ruin and rot that is brought on by sin. No one can escape the effects of sin. We are born with it and bent toward it. The good news for us all is in this: that God hates sin and has chosen to drive a stake in its heart with the cross of Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus is proof that God is not ok with the suffering of His people. Each and every day, the Holy Spirit is moving across the face of the earth and in the hearts of the faithful in order to remove the rot and ruin that we experience.

God’s chosen way to do His restorative work is through employing those He has changed and transformed. We are called to leave our paneled houses and self-comfort and usher in an eternal comfort that bleeds into our “right now.” For the people of Israel in our text, the challenge was to take back up the work of making God the highest priority. Was building the temple too difficult and worth abandoning? Or would it be much more difficult to live the rest of their lives unfilled and headed toward ruin?

I have two scriptures I want to give you before we close. The first is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Each and every person, no matter who they are, are to be a temple of the Most High God. Contained within each temple-person is to be the worship of God and each temple-person is to play the role of testifying to all who look up them that Jesus is Lord. You are a walking church.

The second scripture is my personal favorite, John 14:23, with Jesus saying, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The desire of God is that the Father and the Son would pack themselves up in the Holy Spirit and come and dwell within us. This happens when we love Jesus and obey His teaching. To love and obey is to witness to the world around you that Christ is the center of your life.
And so, I will leave you with this tonight: consider your ways. Can you keep up the level of maintenance you have on your own strength? Do you have rot that may lead to ruin? Are you in ruin and need restoration? The call tonight is to leave the place you call “home” and “comfortable” and begin working on the temple that God desires be setup in your heart. Do you have a church for Jesus in your heart? I think its time.

GET IN THE GAME: DRAFT DAY

MARK 1:14–20 ESV

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

Draft Day, Deshaun Watson leaves Clemson University and is drafted to the Houston Texans. That was a proud moment for my hometown, to see one of our own that we watched grow up be drafted into the NFL. I loved watching Deshaun in that moment because it was no different than other times when we had seen him overcome. The young man has perspective. His tears are the proof that he feels what is going on and that he knows how blessed he is. The whole world saw that, but thats not why he cried. He’s a humble guy who believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He’s a fine young man.

Deshaun Watson spent the last couple years putting the Clemson Tigers on top as their outstanding quarterback. He piloted that team with an outstanding coach, Dabo Swinney. Coach Swinney is a Christian man, who wanted to make sure that Deshaun’s faith was maintained throughout this college football career. That’s rare.

Deshaun was a high prospect draft choice for the NFL for several reasons. He is a versatile quarterback, with the ability to execute consistently, throw with both distance and accuracy, make successful split second decisions, and was a natural leader on the field. He maintained his cool and kept his head in the game. But another factor that made him a prime choice for any team was his leadership and character off the field.

Deshaun is a low-risk player, meaning that his chances of making poor moral decisions and getting himself or others into trouble is extremely low. In fact, Deshaun proved throughout both his high school and college career to be a player who increased the leadership level of other players around him.

I want you to look at this picture. This is a dear friend of ours, Leslie Wallace and two of their three children. Seth and Leslie are missionaries in the Mediterranean Sea, serving the last 6 years on the island of Cyprus. We’ve been supporting them ever since Leslie and Ashley worked together as teachers and Leslie’s entire family felt the call to serve Jesus through long-term missions. Leslie, her husband Seth, and their son and two daughters, left the States to embark on missions to bring Christian education to those who had no chance of growing in the gospel. This is them this past Friday after having come home, celebrating our Home Town Hero, Deshaun.

Now, here’s a picture of Deshaun at his home church, Free Chapel in Gainesville, with one of his pastors, Pastor Michael Thurmond, a good high school buddy of mine. Michael and I grew up together from the first grade through high school. He has seen many challenges throughout his life and just a few short years ago accepted a call to be a light in the Gainesville area through spreading the gospel of Christ as a local evangelist. You will find Michael EVERYWHERE! His social media presence is unmatched, as he posts pictures of prayers walks, devotional times, and photos of the good folks of Gainesville making a difference. You can throw a rock in any direction and hit Pastor Michael.

What do these three examples have in common? They all love the Lord and are committed to His work. What do they all have in common with you? They would tell you that there is nothing special about them, but that Jesus was doing special things with them. These folks understand what it means to get in the game. They have been drafted, not because of their abilities, but because of God’s ability to use the willing. Jesus is inviting you to drop the nets in your life and take up His work.

We worry about whether or not we can do something or whether or not we would be good at something. But in the end, its about what God wants to do within you. Many of you have heard this quote, I myself heard it in college for the first time: God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips those He calls.

Deshaun has a natural talent for sports, but its God’s grace that makes him a successful and humble leader. The Wallaces are smart strategists, but its the hope that God has given them that makes their missions work and their message sink in. Pastor Michael knows his community and everyone in it, but its the gospel that makes his connections significant and eternal.

Jesus drafted a few disciples, who would in turn draft more disciples. It was a multiplication process that developed leaders everywhere. There was nothing extremely special about those Jesus chose, only that they were willing to drop what they were doing and get in the game. They believed in what Jesus was doing. They knew that the world was hurting and that it needed a Savior, and so they spend the rest of their days telling others about Jesus, showing them Jesus in the way they spoke, the way the lived. They were living examples of the living Savior.

What we want for you over the next few weeks is to find your role, your place in the ministry of Jesus Christ, both here and beyond. It's time for you to get in the game, to understand that its Draft Day, a time when the Church is saying, “We want YOU to play for us.” We have many positions on our team and there is a place for everyone.

But we also want you to know that we need you now. There is an very important urgency that is required in Christian discipleship. Waiting puts many at risk, both in regard to temporal needs and eternal consequences. We want you. We need you. Will you get in the game?

There’s a scripture I want to share with you. It comes from Matthews gospel, 9:35-38, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."”

The Lord wants you in the game. The harvest is His game. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers, the players are few. Will you join the team? Will you get in the game? Amen.

BE A BLESSING

MATTHEW 25:31–46 ESV

“"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."”

Having kids is great for a 1,000 reasons but for preachers they are wonderful for sermon illustrations. Laney and Maggie are 16 months apart and they have truly grown up together. We basically stay in the same stages of life for a while because one will be exiting something while the other enters into it.

One stage we’re in right now is their ability to play together without Ashley and me watching. We’re getting a bit more comfortable letting them do their own thing around the house. But with the ability to play together comes the ability to argue. So, every now and then, we hear from upstairs, “No, Laney!” Or from the playroom, “Maggie, give it back!”

Its a tough stage because they love each other and show signs of concern at times, but there are moments when they are out for what they want, just as any growing child is. If one gets hurt, the other tries to distance herself from the scene because they do NOT want to get blamed.

It's at that moment when Ashley chimes in, “Laney, you need to check on your sister,” or, “Maggie, you need to ask Laney if she’s ok.” Having concern for the other shows compassion and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of another.

For us today, we hear this call from Jesus’ telling of what the end of days will be like. When the end comes, and life has been lived, God will separate those who have been a blessing and those who have been a curse. Those blessed are called sheep, for they listened well to the voice of their Shepherd. Those who are goats were a curse to those in need because they did not show compassion on God’s beloved.

The part that is hard to hear but must be heard is that the goats aren’t separated from the sheep because they weren’t nice to people. They are separated because they neglected God. For God considers the failure to show compassion to the needy a failure to serve Him. Meeting the needs of others is what moves the heart of God. To act against what moves God’s heart is to be out of sync with God. One of the main reasons for this is because God has chosen to minister to the world through us. Therefore if the ones He has asked to help do not help, we are no longer a blessing but a curse. To neglect is to reject in the eyes of God.

Our lives are either a reflection of God or a reflection of our fallen selves. The point is that judgement is coming and when it does, we will be found as either people who have loved others as God loves them or people who loved ourselves only.

As I read this week, it struck me for the first time that the people were separated by what they already were. They were either sheep or goats; blessings to the world or curses to the world. Their designation was a result of whether or not they served Jesus by acting on His love within them or rejected Jesus by choosing their own comfort. To bless others is to meet their needs as Jesus would meet them—with compassion and advocacy. And to curse others is to leave them in their squalor and ruin and so break the heart of God.

We take the love of God within us and let it drive us to the aid of the fallen, and we lift them up. We are called to be a blessing. If we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, then the Holy Spirit that lives in us will compel us to godly love. If we are not compelled, then we have tough questions to ask and answer.

This does not mean that because you have been self-absorbed lately that you are without Jesus and bound for hell. What we’re getting at this morning is simply that if the Holy Spirit lives in your heart, then you are moved to action in all manner of ways. For most people in here this morning, this is a call to get back on the horse and resume your duties of seeing Jesus in the eyes of those in need. For a few today, this may be a call to ask Jesus to be Lord of your life and then begin living out the godly compassion that reigns in the hearts of faithful followers of Christ.

Regardless, we must understand today that you are saved by grace through faith because God loves you and sent His Son to make a way through the sin and death that seeks to sink you. And we takeaway from this lesson that you are saved, yes, but then immediately called to minister to a scarred and broken world as vessels of compassion and grace.

And so we ask you today, where will you be a blessing this week? In what way will you share compassion and grace? How will YOU lift up the broken hearted? What would Jesus do? He would find ways to lift up the heads of the hurt, the hungry, the helpless, and the hung-out-to-dry, and He would show them a better way. He IS showing them a better way…through you. Go, be a blessing. Amen.

LIFT IT UP

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PSALM 116:12-14

“What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.”

This is one of my favorite Psalms, especially these particular verses. It meant a lot to me during my college years, as I was developing a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

I was pretty beat up by lots of bad decisions and wondered how much fight I had left in me. I was starting to think I was incapable of making a decent decision. It took one of my professors to get through to me, as he pulled me aside one day after class to chat. He talked with me about how God’s grace isn’t merely something that tells you its going to be ok, rather God’s grace is something that empowers you. I was acknowledging God’s grace, but I wasn’t depending on it.

To say you understand the goodness and grace of God is one thing, but to experience His goodness and grace is something else altogether. Far too many people have a conceptual view of their faith and not an experiential one. Near the end of college, I began to walk in the way of grace, rather than pass it by on my way to something else. I was reading my Bible, discussing it with my friends, participating in a small group, back to attending worship regularly, and I was praying…about everything.

In our text this morning, we find a Psalm that deals with deliverance. Though it is read at both the Passover meal for Jews and sometimes at the Maundy Thursday services just before Easter, it is actually a rather personal testimony of the work of God in the life of a person who desires to thank God for His goodness and grace toward him.

The testimony of the Psalm is that, in the face of pending destruction, God rescued this person. But its the response to that deliverance that is so important. Once that rescue has taken place, there is a responsibility to let the rescue properly affect the person. If they were unfazed by the action, then they didn’t fully understand it.

So, let me cut to the chase: Do you understand what Jesus Christ has done for you? Do you know that without what Jesus did on the cross, you would be staring at an eternal death sentence that one day would become a forever reality? The core difference between understanding salvation and experiencing salvation is your response to salvation.

What is the response of the Psalmist? He says, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.” Let’s break it down. To lift the cup of salvation is to give thanks, or to personally thank, God for what has happened. To call upon the name of the Lord is to commit to a relationship of trust. To fulfill the vow is to follow through on the response of thanks and trust. And to do so in the presence of God’s people is to be a living witness and testimony to what God has done.

That kind of response forms you into a person of living-gratitude and encourages the faith of the people around you, sometimes even revealing faith to others. The Psalmist knows that what God has done for him is both serious and life-changing. He has experienced the work of God’s deliverance and is trusting in God from here on out, both privately and publicly.

And then, there’s those who have not experienced life-change. What if someone hasn’t experienced the deliverance of God? What if someone understands the concept of grace but hasn’t experienced it? Then the truth of the matter is that they have yet to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ. For when one encounters Jesus, their sins become evident. And when faced with the evidence of their sin they are convicted in heart, and when convicted desire relief and forgiveness, and when they turn to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, they are changed.

How are they changed? Through the welling up and experience of gratitude. They believe in their heart that they have been forgiven and they seek to return thanks to God because they know He has saved them.

Gratitude and service are the natural consequences, the inevitable overflows of a life that truly knows that they are saved by grace through faith. And so the call is to lift it up. Lift up your salvation to God, lift up your gratitude, life up your life and let Jesus Christ heal the world through the healing He has brought you. Don’t try to understand grace like a philosophical idea. Experience it!

For some of us this morning that means crying out to Jesus to save us, to apply His salvation to our lives because we trust and believe. For others it means to move beyond the philosophy, the idea, and to let the grace of God rush from our head to our hearts, so that the fire of His life can burn hot. And for others of us this is a call to lift up that cup for the whole world to see, to fulfill your vow in the presence of the whole world and make the name of Jesus Christ famous throughout the entire world! May God be glorified through the work of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit works within you today! Amen.

 

SET ASIDE

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1 PETER 3:13-17 ESV

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

WRITE-UP

This morning at 855 and 11am services, we talked about setting aside Christ as Holy. So often we allow our lives and our faith to become a ‘catch-all’, drowning out the presence and voice of God from our lives. Our faith gets buried beneath demands that are ultimately not important compared to sacred time with our Lord. The congregation was challenged to take some things off the sacred table and time with God, and others were challenged to push things off, with force, in order to surrender their lives and schedules to Jesus. God want to do a mighty work in your life, and shows up often to meet with you. But will you do YOUR part and meet with him? Set aside Christ as holy in your heart and spend time with the Lord who sent His Son to die and rise for you, so that a mighty work can be done. Amen.

THE CARE OF GOD

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JOHN 14:1-3 ESV
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Our text today is Jesus with His disciples on the eve of His death. He’s telling them that He will be leaving them soon and they’re not happy about.  And because they don’t fully understand all that He means by leaving, they can’t comprehend that everything He is doing is for their own good; for their preparation and equipping as growing disciples and world-changers.

Jesus’ life and ministry have been one long witness to and example of how God is working in the world. And everything God has done, is doing, and will do is work that includes our participation. We’re invited through Jesus into the activity of God. Whether its feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, advocating for the oppressed, God is working and is calling us into life-transforming work with Him.

All of this work is caring work. We often forget that we come to faith in order to have a relationship with a God who cares about the needs of the world. God is truly a need-meeter. We watch Jesus, as the old hymn says, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,” and we know that Jesus is making a way for others. The world doesn’t know how to provide for the soul, it only knows how to take from it. And so we come to this important section of verses for today, with my hope being that you will learn a bit today about the care of God.

Jesus says that He is going to prepare a place for His disciples. His redemption work makes way for the children of God to be with God. All of the care that He exercises for the world is to meant to create a place for His children and to mold them into godly children. He is sharing His nature, all of his need-meeting characteristics. And so, Jesus must first make a place for us to become like Him.

Like the love of a dedicated mother, the love of God for His children paves the way to godly prosperity through constant sacrifice and life-giving work. Jesus is gathering the children of God together, making a way for them when sin had taken away their place with God and scattered them about.

As I read this text in preparation for today and thought about Mothers Day, I couldn’t help but think about the things the mothers I’ve known did for us growing up that connected with a godly example. I had wonderful childhood experiences in my hometown and in the neighborhoods where I lived and played.

The moms I knew hosted the neighborhood kids at their houses, providing food from their own family pantry to feed scavenging nomadic neighbor-kids. Oh, the number of juice boxes and pitchers of tang and cool-aid consumed. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made and eaten. The gushers, fruit snacks, cookies and popsicles. The make-shift cots and pallets spread through the house for the overnight visits. The endless boxes of pizza and the many cases of Dr. Thunder and Mountain Lightning (smart moms buy the cheap knock-off colas when you gotta feed teenagers).

There were serious times, too, when other moms helped out. The times they would talk to us about what’s been going on at school, or about tough stuff at home when we were afraid to tell our parents. They laid down the law when kids argued or fought. They filled in other parents on what they were hearing in the backseat of the carpool van and taught us as a group what was right and what was wrong.

The mothers I grew up around were fierce and fearless. Sacrifice was a part of the job and they lived it. They created community through their acts of hospitality and kindness. They ruled with love in one hand and discipline in the other. And they knew EVERYTHING going on and we couldn’t figure out how.

If you haven’t thought about it, God uses moms to create community and this is what we need to see more of in both our homes and our places of worship. Like God, we are creating a place for people, space for them to live and grow. People become holy when they have a place that facilitates holiness. Children learn to play when they have a place to play. Kids make friends when they have a place to make friends. The same is true for salvation and sanctification. God saves by preparing a place for salvation. God sanctifies or makes people holy by preparing a place for holiness to take place.

Jesus was to return to heaven to finish preparations for those who would be saved. There is a place in heaven for you and for me, for the sinner and the saint, for all who will call upon the name of Jesus Christ because Jesus would be preparing for it. There is a place for you with God, it is what Jesus worked for through His ministry, His death, and His resurrection. Only through the care of God would humanity have a life-changing experience here, that would prepare a place for them in eternity.

This is a call to care. On this Mothers Day, you are invited to create community. To welcome in the neighborhood kids, to provide a safe place for them to grow and learn. Give them food, give them fun, but ultimately care enough for them that you will give them Jesus. Amen.

 

FREE FROM SINS

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1 PETER 2:19-25 ESV

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.


Let’s set the context this morning. The apostle Peter begins the chapter by urging Christians to set a holy example for the world. That example will expose the world to the life of Jesus. Peter then shifts to telling Christians to obey the earthly rulers and authorities. Submission to the powers that be is an act of amazing humility and patience. Such a lifestyle helps Christians to stay focused on God, no matter how bad it gets, and serves to show the world that we’re not going anywhere just because things are tough.

Peter’s driving point is that Christians can inject transforming grace into the system of government they live under by submitting to worldly powers. The apostle Paul was famous for using “the system” in his favor. It was what allowed him to end up in Rome with a royal audience in order to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

For both Peter and Paul, cooperation was the key to influence. Rebellion was never an option because it would only upset the balance and the influence Christians wanted to have in the world. Rebellions are violent, and Christians are interested in conversion, not destruction. We’re here to win souls, not judge them. It was through working within that Peter and Paul saw the greatest benefit to advance the gospel.

This reality is present in our selection, as Peter transitions from submission to rulers and authorities, to submission of household slaves to their masters. Peter’s context in this passage isn’t like the terrible American slavery of the 19th century. Think more along the lines of an ancient Downton Abbey. Indentured servitude was common but at times was very harsh.

So, Peter uses the widespread understanding of household slaves to make a larger spiritual statement about serving and suffering like Christ. He admits that there is no real honor in enduring discipline or punishment if you deserved it. But what about when you didn’t deserve it? A harsh master who did not worship Jesus would not see a believing servant as a brother or sister in Christ, therefore they would be punished harshly and without grace at the whim of the unbelieving master.

Peter, like the apostle Paul, is asking believing servants to remain in their situation as a witness to Jesus Christ. Through that witness, a very real and powerful picture of Jesus’ sacrifice comes to life, as Jesus suffered unjustly for our sins, testifying to the power and love of God for people.

What does this mean for us? Well, the text tells us. We have been called to follow Jesus’ example in order to win the souls of those who are trapped in sin. Verse 21 tells us we’ve been called to suffer as a witness, following Jesus’ example in how we live. But here’s where it gets interesting. The Greek word Peter uses for ‘example’ is hypogrammos which means “a copy to write after.”

The intention behind Peter’s word choice is not that we would be inspired by Jesus’ life or aspire to be somewhat like Him. This word means to copy Jesus’ life into our own life that we would live AS He lived. Think of the old writings tablets that many of us grew up with in school. The gray paper with the red and blue lines. Some of the books had dotted-lined numbers or letters for us to trace over and over so that we learned exactly how the lines were to be drawn.

Peter is relaying to us that Jesus brought redemption through suffering for us. It was how He freed us from our sins, by suffering and dying in our place. This is revealing because through His suffering we learn in verse 24 why He came. Jesus lived, died, and resurrected, not so that we would be bound by sin and death, but that we would die to sin, or as it is sometimes translated, that we would be free from sin.

Do we think that Jesus suffered so that we would stay in bondage to sin? God did not send His Son so that you would stay chained! Jesus came so that your chains would be broken, that they would fall with a loud, crashing clanking sound; freeing you and alerting the whole world that you are no longer bound! Just as the song says, Jesus is a chain-breaker.

Folks, I long to see the world turn their heads at the sound of sin-stained-chains falling to the ground! The only thing that will unstop the dull ears of a sinful world is the shout of men and women being freed from the tyranny of the devil. The question is, will you let the Victor over sin into your life and dwell within you richly? It very much starts with you, asking the Lord, begging the Lord, to take away the sins that clings so tightly. Freedom comes with your courage to say ‘enough is enough’ and repenting of the things that hold you down. Only Jesus can loosen the white-knuckle grip that sin has on our lives.

This is a decision that Jesus Christ has enabled you to make because of His work on the cross. He has won your ability to say ‘Yes, Jesus’. You can choose freedom through Jesus Christ. Will you choose it? Will you hashtag your life as #nolongerbound? I say do it. Take the leap of faith, come to Jesus. Amen.