Serving

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.26.12

A Life That Overflows   

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’. Now this he said about the Spirit whom those who believed in him were to receive.”  John 7:37-39

Christ not only saves, he fills

In v37 Jesus is inviting people to believe in him

He often referred to believing as “drinking” or “eating”

This is meant to shows us that belief in him is more than a mere acknowledgement of him

The word of Christ is to rule our lives

The kingdom of Christ is to be our hope

Those who don’t have life in Christ still thirst

They have an essential and unmet need which Christ uniquely satisfies, because he created us be in relationship with him

Our self-rule is unnatural to how God made us

To live apart from Christ is sin, because it corrupts what he made “good”

God hates sin because it ruins life: there are no good cancers and there is no innocent sin

Life in Christ is a return to what living was meant to be

Obedience to him returns our life to what is wise and good

A deeper relationship with Christ provides lasting satisfaction

To share in what Christ does brings the greatest of joys

“But I believe in Christ and my life is not full”

Christ remains glorious in all his character and his works. When we feel empty and dry, Christ has not come up short, we have

The answer to emptiness is a greater pursuit of the One who fills

Christ fills us to be overflowing

Jesus didn’t say “whoever drinks will have their thirst quenched”

This is true, but Jesus took it much further (v38)

God who was eternally satisfied in Himself, overflowed into our lives

We are God’s image bearers; we were created to live beyond ourselves

All rivers have a source; they flow with what they receive

The Holy Spirit is our source

He is all-knowing, unlimited and never overwhelmed

The Spirit is all we ever need and He not only lives in us, He works through us

We are not expected to produce the river, we just flow with it

To be overflowing, we need to be filled

1.  Drink deeply

Trust Christ so completely, that all of your life follows him

All Christians believe, but not as much as we think

We believe in eternity, but still try to find fulfillment in temporal things

We believe God is perfect, but still compromise with His ways

Overflowing is not complicated; keep drinking in and you will overflow

Take the realities of God seriously as if nothing is more real

2.  Keep debris cleared away

The clutter that clogs a stream doesn’t happen in a moment

Debris gathers at edges, which snags more debris, and silt begins to builds up

What is your debris? What forms of sin, neglect and misplaced agendas get in the way?

We deceive selves into thinking we are “functional sinners”; just as there are people who think they are “functional alcoholics”, it simply doesn’t work

Are you discouraged because you have messed up so often?

Although you are not yet completed in your sanctification, you can still overflow!

Rivers don’t all have same breadth, but even a small stream carries fruitfulness

3.  Flow out

Make your life about what Christ is doing

Your life is meant to be far better things than the shallowness of self-satisfaction

You were given new life in order to be part of God’s glorious works! (Ephesians 2:10)

Yet, we sadly settle for less and shrink life to our own desires

What would happen if everyone in our church simply overflowed?

The results would be spectacular!

Do you want your life to be overflowing?  So does God

Stop limiting life to selfishness and lesser things

Pursue Christ who is the fountain of life: strive to know him more intimately and love him more passionately

Be so filled with him, that his works cannot stay within you

SUGAR SNAILS – REVISTED

 

My blog began two years ago this week. Since there were very few readers in those early days, I am re-posting the first couple days of my blog. Today you can read my second article which was posted on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

This morning our kitchen is filled with the activity and smells of pie baking. I enjoy many forms of dessert, but nothing can beat a pie (for those who claim a great dessert must be chocolate, that’s why there are chocolate pies). I think I came by this love of pie from my granddad who, when asked what foods he liked, would answer, “Just as long as it’s pie.”

Another reason I love pie is that early on I tasted the mountain peak of piedom, which is a still warm and fragrant Doris Morey apple pie. The apples have a soft texture and the flavor is a perfect mix of sweet tartness. The crust is never over-handled leaving it flaky and melting in the mouth. Oh my, it is good! 

In his graciousness, God gave me a wife who among her long list of talents is a terrific pie baker. Debbie was raised in a proper farm home, where baking was a constant activity and pies were considered a major food group.

But my thoughts today are not only on pies, I would also like to extol the humble sugar snail. Sugar snails are made from the leftover pie dough that is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled. Before being placed in the oven, the roll is cut into small pieces or snails. We have to wait until after dinner to eat pie, but sugar snails are the special treat that can be enjoyed right away. A perfect sugar snail has a crust of caramelized sugar that oozed out and is still sticking to the foil wrapping.

I think there is a wonderful lesson to be learned from the sugar snail. They are a side benefit. No one goes into the kitchen to make sugar snails; their attention is on the lofty goal of producing a delicious and much sought after pie. During all the work and mess of making a pie no one even thinks about the sugar snails that will quietly show up in the end. Yet, when the big effort of pie making occurs, the humble sugar snail is also made possible.

So to those of you who are laboring for Christ, and want to do big things for His Kingdom; know that there are many small and very wonderful results that God will accomplish when we faithfully serve Him. When God enables us to be part of something big, we are rightfully amazed and thankful. Yet today let us not neglect being thankful for the privilege of taking part in little things for God – the “cups of cold water” we give in Jesus name.

As you go through this day wanting to be used by God, don’t forget the little things that are possible along the way. Even if the impressive pie you tried to make did not turn out perfect, you can still make and share a few sugar snails. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.19.12

People need God to work through us

Matthew 9:35-38

36When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”

People need us to see them as Jesus does (v36)  

Recent events have surrounded us with people who are obviously harassed and helpless

We have an opportunity to show Christ and help them in their immediate needs

It is important that we recognize these needs won’t end with the clean up. In the months ahead financial pressures will linger, which often leads to other family pressures

We can be ready for them by building relationships and being attentive to people

But most of all we need to be aware of the permanent need everyone we know has

Just as real these physical needs, but far more devastating is that people are “harassed and helpless” in their sin

These words are a picture of people who are worn down and without hope

However even when people feel this condition, they don’t see its cause

People can see the affect of certain sins, but they don’t recognize the deeper burden of sinfulness

Yet, sin is the root of every burden and pain we bear

Isaiah 59:11-12 describes it this way:

“We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves . . for our transgressions are with us”

Our touch in people’s lives should reflect this understanding

Any help without the gospel, is merely an anesthetic

Anesthesia has an important place but it does not heal anything

If we know people’s deepest need and ignore it, we have not served them well

People need us to see they are without a shepherd

People not only need Jesus as Savior, they need him as Lord (Romans 10:9); they need Christ to guide them  

Gospel is not preeminently life insurance from God’s wrath; it is new life under God’s care

People need us to see them in their true need, who else will?

People need us to have Jesus’ heart for them (v36)

Jesus response to seeing people under sin was to have “compassion”

Look at people vertically (God perspective), instead of horizontally (human perspective)

Look at people for what they need from Christ, instead of what they produce for us

Look at people according to the agenda of the cross, instead of our own agenda

We are the only ones who will have Jesus’ agenda for people (Matthew 11:28-30)

His arms are wide open to all who are burdened

His invitation takes into account people’s pain and weaknesses

His invitation is inseparable from submission to his truth and rule

We share Jesus compassion, by following his approach to people

People need us to be Jesus’ hands to them (vs 37-38)

We are to be laborers in the work that is most important to God

Jesus clearly means to instill us with a sense of urgency

We are always around people who need Christ

There are always people we can pursue – who else will?

Jesus wants us to pray with participation, not detachment

“Lord raise up workers among us; and Lord, use me”

How can we be God’s hands right now to people around us?

  • Pray for people and follow up by asking for updates
  • Clean up their yard
  • Ask if there is anything they need to borrow
  • Find out what they lost that you can help replace
  • Offer to watch their children
  • Offer to run errands
  • Make meals for them
  • Have a few neighbors over for informal meals
  • Let them serve you too, this is also important for relationship building

We are stewards of the ministry we have received from God (II Corinthians 1:4)

We who have light, are surrounded by the spiritually blind

We who are wondrously blessed, are surrounded by the spiritually impoverished

This week, what will people experience from you?

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.15.12

Is God Worthy of Our Obedience?     II Kings 5:1-15

 Naaman who had leprosy came to the prophet Elisha for healing. When Elisha sent a messenger instructing Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan, the proud man left in anger and belittled the prophet’s instructions. When a servant of Naaman urged him to do what Elisha said, he was healed.

We have a lot in common with Naaman

Naaman had a deeply felt need

Naaman was given clear instructions which he could fulfill

Naaman’s unwillingness to obey would have left him without hope

Why do people in need fail to obey God’s Word?

1.  We fail to obey God when our expectations are not met

v11 Naaman had expectations for how God’s prophet should have helped him

Expectations are one of the biggest reasons for conflict in relationships

  • Our expectations hold up what we want others to do for us
  • Our expectations minimize the perspective of the other person

These attitudes carry over to our relationship with God

Naaman’s expectations started with what he “thought”  v11

It’s amazing that we make conclusions about what God should do!

What experience do we have with being God?

  • He is almighty and eternal, which are concepts we cannot grasp
  • He is always perfect, and we know failure “like the back of our hand”

How does the greatness of God affect our expectations?   

Do we expect Christ to be Lord?

Do we expect our role to be that of worshiper and servant?

2.  We fail to obey God’s Word when we do not find it compelling

Naaman could not see how Elisha’s instructions would do any good

The eternal destiny of all creation will be compelled by God’s Word, yet we vacillate about obeying it

How many times have we heard the importance of consistent prayer and bible reading; yet are we compelled to make this our habit?

How compelled are we to act upon the clear biblical calls for us personally to “make disciples”, or to care for “one another”?

We miss so much by failing to fully follow God’s Word

We cannot get anywhere, when we only go half way

  • Do you wonder why fears and sins dominate your life: do you feed on God’s word?
  • Do you wonder why your family life is filled with tensions: is your home biblically directed?
  • Do you wonder why your life feels empty: is your agenda based on God’s word or yours?

Naaman eventually found out the fruit of obedience is very compelling

3.  We fail to obey God when we think we see better alternatives

Naaman thought there were “better waters” to cleanse in, in his country

From commercials to political campaigns, we are bombarded by promises

Yet, the consistency of human failure should make us wary of them all

While the faithfulness of the gospel, should makes us confident in Christ

Many people think the gospel is too simplistic. They are more impressed with their own efforts and sophistication

Gospel is simple truths, but Christ death which paid for sin and resurrection which promises life – are far from simplistic

Christian, does the old adage ‘trust and obey’ seem too simplistic?

God’s plan that saved you forever, will sustain you through all things

God’s Word is all one plan, we cannot pick and choose what we will follow

What is the result of trusting and obeying God’s Word?

Obedience made Naaman clean and led him to know God is real

These are things God has done for all who follow Him

The Bible repeatedly tells us those who trust in God “will not be put to shame”

It was Naaman’s “servants” who had the right perspective

Servants are trained in the perspective of listening and obeying

Obedience is to be based on God’s decision making, not ours

The greatness of God, should make obedience to all He says, the obvious choice

What level of obedience does God deserve?  And what does He get?

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.03.12

“The Glory of Serving Christ” Acts 26

Paul is still in jail two years after making his defense to Felix, the Roman governor. A new governor named Festus arrives and Paul’s enemies immediately bring back their false charges. Paul uses his right as a Roman citizen and appeals to Caesar.

When Agrippa, the Jewish King arrives, Festus asks advice concerning what charge to send along with the prisoner when he is taken to Rome. Paul makes his fourth defense (Acts 25:23-26:32)

Who was in the most advantageous position?

Agrippa and Bernice who came in with the glitter of celebrity status?

Festus, the man who had power to give the commands?

Or Paul, who in chains, stood surround by the mighty?

Actually it is an easy answer; there is no greater position than to serve great God

The call to be a servant doesn’t demean us, it exalts us v16

We serve the One who is nothing but glorious and we labor for a kingdom that never fails

If we labor for anything else the only results we can have is death and loss

Even if you think you have the satisfaction of serving yourself, it is a pathetic kgdm

Our message is glorious (v18)

Imagine having the privilege of telling someone who was blind how to gain sight. Well we bring news of a greater healing

We offer reality. This is why Paul keeps repeating his testimony? He is a “witness” of real changes God brought in his life

We have this glorious message for each other in the church, because we all need encouragement and support

And we have this glorious message to tell ourselves. Every day we will be helped as we preach gospel truths to ourselves (“A Gospel Primer” is a good resource for this)

Our reward is glorious, v18 we have an inheritance in Christ

Success, stuff or even a happy home, are not the prize, Christ and life with him is the prize

We have an inheritance worth dreaming about – and we can also have a life now that is wonderfully satisfying

Are our hearts filled the joy of being servants of Christ?

People are changed, lives are made whole and God is glorified

We serve the one always perfect and always victorious

If we are not joyful it is on us, because gospel gives us abundant reason for joy

Are our lives filled with the works of serving Christ? (v19)

Serving Christ is not meant to make us busier, but more purposeful

Our daily interactions with people all carry opportunities to serve Christ

The key is to reflect on what your life is being given to do and step into the glorious purpose God has for us

World will never see the glory of being a servant of God

v24 Festus mocked Paul and Jesus resurrection. This is increasingly going to be the response of our world. God has no place in their lives

v28 Agrippa pushed away the message of Christ. This is the most common response. God is an option, but not a priority. Let us make sure this is never our response

We have to decide whose approval we want

World will not welcome those with zeal for God to their table. We have to decide what prize we want and whose favor matters

Sometimes the burdens of life overshadow the glory of the gospel

If anyone could have used that defense it was Paul, yet his heart was not overshadowed by his troubles

Paul’s job as servant and witness not affected by his chains, because they don’t change what makes life glorious

Christ makes life glorious

For those who trust him, He is always at perfectly at work

We should never have the perspective that our God needs to do differently than he is for us to glory in him

 

 

WHAT GOD DOES THROUGH US

I Corinthians 3:5-8

“Who is Paul and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one;  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

We should not think too much of ourselves, because we are only servants of God

Our ministry is only effective through faithfulness to follow his ways and share his gospel. We can impact people’s lives, but we cannot transform their souls.

None of our abilities or resources were created by us. These are all gifts from a gracious God. Everything in our life reaches its potential, when it is placed in God’s hands. Any success we have is a manifestation of God’s grace. This means increasing success rests in more God and more grace, not more of us

The verses above tell us we should view everyone who truly serves Christ as our co-worker. Sometimes we look down on the efforts of other believers because they don’t serve up to our standards. Or, we look down on them because they attend a church we think is a lesser work of God than our own.  But we are not in separate kingdoms looking across a border at each other. In Christ we share in a single plan.

We should not think too little of our labor, because it is the work of God

We are only servants but what a work we have been given! We who not anything are used to change people’s everything! We get to be part of the biggest stuff happening in the universe

We need to consciously change our focus from how hard it is to serve God, to how great is our God. It is not our place to assign value to the work we do work for God. And we are not capable of knowing the effects of how God uses us.  1 Corinthians 12:22 says “the members of the body which seem to be weaker – are necessary”.

God values our service differently than we often do. Many things that seem successful to us are human achievements that will quickly fade, like the flowers in a field.  And other things we felt were botched or of no value will in fact become eternal monuments of God grace and mercy.

One example of how God values efforts differently than we do is found in Mark 12:41-44.

(Jesus) watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

What you can give to the kingdom of God may be rather meager, whether it is your finances or your abilities. But if you are giving who you are and what you have to God – He makes it something special. And what God blesses for his kingdom, is blessed forever!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.05.11

Acts 2:44-47 “In a Spirit filled church people always pursue one another”

Many churches are known as being friendly places, which is a good thing. However does that describe all we want to be? Disney is a very friendly place; we should want to be more.

In the Acts 2 church we see more

Our text presents 5 qualities about the “fellowship” of that church

1.  Time together as a church and as individuals v46

2.  Awareness of each other and their needs v45

3.  Commitment to each other that was willing to make sacrifices

4.  Unity of values and purpose; they were moving in the same direction

5.  Joy with each other (we have to assume they had their share of “difficult” people

How should we respond to this challenging example?

We can ignore this example, we can minimize it, or we can work toward their example. Which of these responses do you want from your church?

To work toward it, we have to focus on what truly does build relationships

A simplified schedule in our church will allow us to refocus on depth (in growth, care and outreach)

A phrase that helps guide our focus is “Always Pursue!”

We are constantly tempted to avoid people or to hesitate in reaching out to them. We have many reasons: fear, anger, awkwardness, intimidation, busyness, laziness etc.

“Always Pursue” means we always look to take a step, rather than hold back

How can we follow Christ’s agenda for people without pursuit?

What is it we are pursuing with one another?

1.  Deeper relationships: to know and care for each other

2.  Healthier relationships: we don’t allow distance or brokenness in relationships

3.  Gospel-centered relationships: we work toward Christ’s purposes for people

What are ways that we can pursue people?

Join a small group in your church; get to know people in a deeper way

Be friendly and helpful to people: this opens the door to building relationships and to being a witness

In strained relationships, make reconciliation your only goal

Make all relationships prayerful:  Who do you pray for?  What situations do you pray about?

Remember those who are hurting: instead of trying to fix hard situations, care for people in them

Pursue with encouraging words: everyone needs to be encouraged regularly

Why should we “always pursue”?

1.  Pursuit is what love does

Love wants to makes itself known

Love involves action toward others

Love always has a next step to take (I Corinthians 13:8, Romans 13:8)

2.  We always pursue, because we need each other

The Bible describes us as bricks in a building (Ephesians 2:19-22) and as parts of a body (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).  Do you consider connection in your church as optional? A part of the body that does not participate is called lame. A separation between bricks in a wall is called a crack. Are these the word pictures we want for our life?!

3.  God always pursues us!

The only reason we have hope, is because God pursued us

The only reason we have any growth or blessing, is because He keeps pursuing us

When you think about what kind of church you want your church to be, do you consider the steps you are taking to make it that way?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.03.11

Acts 1:6-11  ‘Capable Witnesses’

Last week we examined our great call in v8 to be Christ’s witnesses. We may agree this is important, yet we feel intimidated and ill equipped for the task.  So it is encouraging to see Christ has given us amazing help in the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit personally comes to dwell in us (John 14:16-17)

All that God is, lives in every believer

This is an astonishing game changing new reality

His presence is the most under-appreciated reality of our life in Christ

The “power” of the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill everything God wants us to accomplish

Consider the disciples in v8; they had recently watched Jesus die for his ministry; and they had a history of messing up

Since we are no less confronted with obstacles and weaknesses, it is vital that we recognize that the power of the Holy Spirit is deciding the factor in our ability to serve Christ

This is the same power Jesus depended on in his ministry (Acts 10:38)

On earth, Jesus operated in his human nature through the Holy Spirit. How encouraging to know we follow Christ by the same power in which he walked

This power is always sufficient and always at work (John 7:38-39)

We wear down, the Holy Spirit power doesn’t

When we don’t see things happening, the Holy Spirit is still working

This power can still bear fruit years after our witness is over

This power never deviates from its purpose

The power of Holy Spirit is not like finding a magic ring to get what we want. His purpose is to exalt what Christ has done (John 16:14)

The Spirit changes being a witness from burdensome to exciting

We have been given an exceptional purpose, with exceptional power to fulfill it

God has made a serious commitment to use us, which shows He has a great desire to use us

We are witnesses of powerful truths that are at work in us. No believer has a less than amazing story of God’s power

The Spirit is always working in us, so he can always work through us.

Even new believers, have the truth and experience that everyone needs.

The Holy Spirit enables us to be people of influence

All who believe, come to Christ by the gospel we know, and by the Spirit we have

Jesus left with a promise that he is coming back (vs 9-11)

What matters at the end of life is how we served Christ.      How does our life reveal that priority?

We all have steps to take to live out that Christ is our highest priority

  • What step will we take to strengthen the outreaches of our church?
  • What step will we take to be better equipped with the gospel?
  • What step will we take to will increase our connection with those who need Christ?

GUEST BLOGGER: DEBBIE HUBER

The Joy of Serving Even When It is Inconvenient

For most of you who are reading this blog, life is busy!  Between your responsibilities at home and at work, your families’ crazy schedules, and just trying to keep your to-do list under control some of you are thankful just to get to church on Sunday mornings in one piece!  It just isn’t convenient to do anything else in the life of the church right now.  Plus, people are messy and we don’t always have the time to get involved in their lives.

It is easiest to serve when it works well with our schedules, but don’t miss the point of service:  God uses the inconvenience of service to minister to others and to help us to grow in Him.

Serving others:

  • Shows the love of the Gospel through our love for others.
  • Keeps our focus on Jesus as the foundation of our lives.
  • Helps us to think of others and not ourselves.
  • Gets us connected to a group of believers who will pray for us and encourage us to grow in Christ.

Serving others helps us to have eyes that see those in need through the lense of the Gospel, knowing that there is nothing more important than showing the Gospel to a needy, hurting people.

I have been encouraged by the ministry examples of others:

Leona will tell you that she is shy, but her ministry is to personally greet people in church every week that she hasn’t met to make them welcome.

Jen, who has battled cancer, will minister to women in the church with serious illnesses by faithfully and regularly calling them to pray with them.

Donna, a business owner, genuinely cares about her employees and seeks to share the Gospel with them.

Sharon has developed close relationships with her fellow Sunday School teachers where they are accountable and pray for one another.

Kris, who serves in Junior High Ministry, said that this service has helped her to grow in her own walk with Christ.  She said “You can’t stand in front of teens and tell them how important it is to read their Bibles, pray and love others unless you are seeking to do it yourself.”

The common theme in these women’s ministries is the focus on serving God and ministering to others, not on their personal convenience.  So don’t wait until things are convenient to serve others, it may never come!  Ask God to give you eyes to see and an urgency for serving His kingdom.