Hope and Mission

Posted by on October 25, 2009 under Sermons

What do you hope for? – That your team will win, that this sermon will be short, that you won’t have the same argument around the supper table today, that your family could gather around the table. Do you hope that you will find a good job and marry the right person, or maybe you hope that for your children, or maybe you wish you could? Do you hope that you can make it through the day without a drink, a bad thought, losing your temper, or a visit to a certain website? Do you hope the economy will improve? Do you hope that God will return soon, or does that thought make you uneasy and you hope you can find a way that it wouldn’t?

Our inspiration and our mission, our hopes and dreams are influenced by the way we answer another question: What do you believe God is doing with the future?

Spell it out and then ask you to think through it with me … Mission, Hope, and God’s Plans for the Future are all connected in important ways. Bible speaks of the Day of the Lord with Hope.

What God is doing with the future …

  • Revelation 7:9-12 – People of all tribes, nations, and languages: These are the things that separate us. We work very hard to preserve our tribe, our nation, our language (culture). We work very hard to hold onto something we cannot always keep. We work for a future that just may not happen the way we intend.
  • Humans don’t have the ability to secure the future – we can shape it, influence it, impact it, but we cannot guarantee a particular outcome — this is why we hope.
  • On 9/11 people of one tribe attacked people of another tribe. People of one language attacked another nation of people with many languages. The attackers believed that God was going to do something with the future – they believed that God was going to establish a great empire but wicked sinful nations that stand in the way have to be crushed. They knew what the other tribe hoped for and so they targeted that: hope in prosperity, hope in security, hope in strength/power.
  • After the towers fell, hopes changed – We hoped that people would be found alive, we hoped that the enemy would be captured and killed, we hoped that things would return to normal. When things did return to normal, what did we believe God was doing with the future? Maybe he would give us some happiness? Maybe he would restore our fortunes? Maybe he would keep us safe? Maybe he would destroy our enemies?
  • That’s normal – going back to normal means hoping that God favors your tribe, your nation, and that he speaks your language.
  • But on the day that was not normal, maybe we saw a glimpse of God’s hopes. Maybe for a time, when we lifted our heads to the skies, and paid attention to one another, maybe then we saw what God is wanting to do with the future. Because people from different tribes, different nations, and different languages were all covered in ashes. They spoke of the same things: evil and repentance were spoken of, God was named, prayers were shared. We wondered if perhaps God had a different future worked out. It looked just a little like the scene in Revelation 7:9.
  • But then we all went back to speaking our own languages, we put on the colors of our tribes, and we secured the borders of our nations. Once again we started to pray that God would bless our hopes – our hope for prosperity, for strength, for safety. And we didn’t bother to consider what God was hoping. We didn’t really spend much time considering his future – maybe because we had a glimpse of it and we knew that God’s future doesn’t always match up with our hopes.

This reminds me of a man named Jonah …

  • God has a mission because God is working on the future. There is a wicked nation, full of evil tribes, and people who speak foul language. They offend God. And they offend Jonah too. Before God destroys this wicked nation, God wants Jonah to warn them, because God’s future hopes involve this nation changes its murderous, wicked ways.
  • Jonah knows that, and that’s why he doesn’t want to do it. Because these people offend Jonah too. God has a mission that sees the future one way, but Jonah’s hope for the future doesn’t include that wicked nation.
  • So Jonah refuses to get on aboard God’s mission. And he finds out that it is a tough thing to argue with God and try to avoid the hurricane force of God’s future and his mission. So Jonah does preach it. He warns the wicked city and tells them that they have no future in God’s future because of their evil ways. (And maybe he’s loving that just a little).
  • And the wicked, wicked city changes their hope. Instead of hoping in their strength, their power, their prosperity, they hope in God and his future. And God forgives them.
  • And this upsets Jonah. (Jonah 4) – Jonah would rather die than live in a future with people from that other tribe, that other nation, who speak a different language.

If we cannot see past our tribe, our nation, or our language, then we do not see God’s vision of the future.

If our hope is limited to our tribe, or just our nation, and if it can only be spoken in our language, then our hope is not rooted what God is doing with the future.

What we believe about the future will affect the way we live today.

  • We believe that a day is coming when God will establish righteousness as normal, sin and its corrupting power will be obliterated – and so we want to hope for that day in such a way that we live like that day is today
  • We believe that a day is coming when God invites all his children to a feast, a banquet and Jesus, our Lord, is the head of the table. Everyone there will be dressed for the occasion and there will be peace at that table – and so we want to hope for that day in such a way that we live like that day is today.
  • We believe that a day is coming when God’s stored up wrath is poured out and emptied and wickedness and evil have been cast out. There will be no more fear, no more harm, no more worry. Atonement is complete and there is reconciliation between us and God and that means there must be reconciliation with one another, for God wills it. And so we want to hope for that day in such a way that we live like that day is today.
  • But yes, we know that that day isn’t quite today – but we live for that day and that means we have a mission – a mission not for our own survival, nor for our protection or victory, rather a mission based on our hope in God’s future.

What do we hope for? What do we believe God is doing with the future?

It is time, past time …

The Challenge

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In Jesus’ physical life, lamps were very small-most household lamps would fit in the palm of a hand. They did not use kerosene (non-existent), but a simple wick that absorbed olive oil or something similar. The lamp would burn for a few hours as it provided a dim light that enabled people to move about a room at night. One did not light a lamp to cover it or put it at the lowest possible elevation. It was placed on a lampstand (usually about 4 feet high) near the center of the room. With that small light, people could see to move about without bumping into things or tripping.

Jesus’ point-a lamp is lit to provide light. If light is not wanted, do not light the lamp. A lamp is lit to allow people to see-so use the light to let people see!

People are Christians because they wish to be Christians! Such people have decided that Christianity is the way to live. They are not Christians to hide the fact that they follow Jesus. They are focused on the light he provides in order to avoid the pitfalls of life.

We do not “trick” a man or woman into following Jesus Christ. We convince people that life is best lived by avoiding unnecessary bruises and falls! We show people that following Jesus allows him to be our light, and that is the best way to move about life.

Will following Jesus remove all the dangers of the blackened room we know as life? No! It only removes the unnecessary bruises and stumbles. When we understand that there is more to life than the “now of darkness,” we realize there are some unavoidable hurts that are worth the pain. Pain resulting from faith in Jesus produces rewards worthy of the pain! There is an enormous difference in pain worth the suffering and unnecessary, useless pain! All decisions/acts have consequences. Worthy suffering and unnecessary pain stand in stark contrast!

Apply Jesus’ example in this way. Christians want to be Christians. Why? Christianity guides us as we navigate life. Jesus’ light teaches us how to live-now and later!

The Sons of Thunder

Posted by on October 18, 2009 under Sermons

2 Samuel 3:38-39

    “And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”

The Sons of Zeruiah


  • Pursues Abner without mercy (2 Samuel 2)
  • Killed by Abner (2 Samuel 2)
  • Avenged by his brothers (2 Samuel 3)
  • Counted among David’s heroes (2 Samuel 23)


  • Wants to kill Saul (1 Samuel 26)
  • Kills Abner – revenge (2 Samuel 2)
  • Wants to kill Shimei for cursing David (2 Samuel 16)
  • Killed to get David water (2 Samuel 23)


  • Commander of David’s Army (8)
  • Kills Abner – revenge (2 Samuel 2)
  • Involved in Uriah’s murder (11)
  • Woman from Tekoa (14)
  • Executes Abasalom (18)
  • Chastises David in grief (19)
  • Kills rival Amasa (20)
  • Executed by Solomon (1 Kings 2)

2 Samuel 20:11-12

    One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him.

Sons of Zeruiah

  1. Commited to God and David
  2. Not committed to God’s ways
  3. Devoted but unjust

David to Solomon (1 Kings 1)

  • He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.

Sons of Thunder

  1. Eager to do God’s work, but not in God’s ways
  2. On God’s side, but do not have God’s heart
  3. Willing to do harm for the sake of “good”
  4. Being Right vs Being Gracious

Healing and Mission

Posted by on under Sermons

In the ministry of Jesus and in the first century church, people experienced God’s healing.

Luke 4:18-21 … “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Acts 3:6 — But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

Healing continues in the church. In the name of Jesus, his disciples continue this ministry in his name and with his presence.

  • It’s too bad that charlatans kept us from recognizing the importance of the work of healing in Christ’s name (Acts 7 – Simon the Magician)
  • “We don’t want people to think we’re faith-healers.” Those faith-healers also preach in suits and ties. Do we stop preaching? If we stopped preaching and teaching because of bad preaching and teaching, that would be sorry. So let’s not stop healing because of a few eccentrics.
  • Let’s expand our definition of healing and mission … it’s not just miraculous. Healing wasn’t the only focus of the miracles. It was a sign that the kingdom of heaven – a new reign – was breaking into our world. And that’s still the case today.
  • You do not have to be in the medical, science field to participate in God’s work of healing.
  • Body and Spirit are both the domain of the kingdom of God
  • We do not command God’s power to heal. Even Jesus was limited in his power to heal. But likewise we cannot say that our faith is proportionate to our experience of healing. Once again, that is trying to command God’s power.
  • Death has ultimately been conquered. The resurrection is God’s sign that all disease and death will ultimately be undone – that is his will. As Jesus said, we have experienced God’s favor in Him.

I don’t think we’ve truly left healing in the past as some odd artifact of a legendary age. Look at our prayer list. That’s a witness to our hope and faith that God heals. But how wide and how broad is our understanding of God’s healing power – the in-breaking of the kingdom?

All sorts of healing … James 5:13-18

  • James is an early word from the Christian community. He seems to assume that there are godly responses to disease and sickness – and even sadness and sin. And he doesn’t chop these up into separate concerns.
  • I find it humorous that “medical science” begins to accept that these issues are related. Thank God for physicians and counselors who administer wisdom and learning in combination with God’s principles.
  • Christian leaders in ages past (including James) understood how sin, sadness, and sickness, and faith were intertwined and they prescribed treatments for the whole experience of illness and wellness.
  • But please note: This can sound a lot like new age medicine or therapy that has no relationship or reliance to God’s Spirit whatsoever. Thos views are not wholly wrong, but they are missing the vital core of healing. James, Jesus, and the witness of Scripture always place God and his Spirit at the center of healing.

Some practical responses for the church …

  • Stress, mental illness, depression, addiction – We have got to stop saying that these are not real. They may be difficult to understand and perhaps even debatable, but they are real. Whether we attribute it to an evil spirit, or brain chemistry, or a bad day – it is real. But it is also all within the power of God to manage. Honestly, is God anymore threatened by a demon than he is by serotonin levels?
  • We also need to get beyond the unnecessary burden of shame that surrounds issues such as these and addiction. Do we speak the language of shame or the language of healing? “Wait, isn’t this enabling the problem?” Not at all. Was Jesus enabling the Legion of demons that possessed the Gerasene man when he asked their name? In ages past, Christians understood that naming a problem (or a force or a demon) was a way of overcoming it. Just as a diagnosis can be a first step to treatment, naming problems gives us the “handle” on them that we need so that we can place it in God’s care.
  • Challenge to the church: Let’s stop being afraid of sickness and sadness. Let’s stop being afraid of the “sinners in our midst” and let us not be afraid to name truth and humbly work within God’s healing power to overcome them.
  • Being a community of truth doesn’t simply mean that we hold all the right doctrinal positions. It means that we are authentic and we can speak truthfully to one another. We tell the truth about ourselves and one another and we speak God’s truth. The powers of addiction, depression, stress, and sin are fueled by lies. James is calling the church to speak the truth in song, prayer, and confession.

  • We have got to stop despising weakness. Our culture glories in youth, strength, and power.
  • This is why health care is such a major concern in our nation. On a big scale, we bought into the modern idea that through our own resources we can create a world in which no one gets sick and no one dies. It is the serpent’s lie that convinces us that we are no good if we are weak. It is the serpent’s lie that convinces us that we are less human if we are weak or sick.
  • Let the church be a family in which our value is NOT determined by how healthy we are. I know that we find it hard to share our weaknesses (physical and otherwise) because we are afraid that others will treat us differently. We don’t want to be pitied. And in church we should not be pitied. (Rose prayed for me and my mom).
  • Pain and weakness are not a sign of God’s disfavor. Tragedy and suffering is not a sign of God’s abandonment. (John 8) Nor is God always trying to teach us something. Sometimes we tell people who’ve experienced a horrible situation – “What is God trying to teach you.” Maybe God is trying to teach us (the questioners) something. Honestly, how often do we pray for people and want others to be well because we aren’t sure that we can bear their brokenness?
  • We rejoice with those who rejoice and we suffer with those who suffer – but all have the same worth for all are created in God’s image. Think of how much healing would take place if we adopted this belief and practiced this belief more.
  • We can show dignity and respect the humanity of one another (Mark 10) – Jesus asks the blind man “What do you want me to do for you?”

  • Let’s be serious about healing the sickness of sin. Some of us feel illness in our mind, our heart, our bodies because of sin and broken relationships.
  • Man goes to doctor and says, “It hurts when I lift my arm like this.” … Stop hurting yourselves.
  • Do you need to reconcile with others? There is so much pain in our relationships with one another and the spirit of God can heal it. “But that’s not easy.” No, in fact Scripture says 1) it is hard, and 2) you need to do it.
  • Do you need to reconcile with God? Maybe you need to have it out with God. Go ahead. But you will never be healed and whole if you do nothing.

Thomas Aquinas went to visit Pope Innocent IV. Aquinas was amazed at the trappings of wealth, gold and treasures. So the Pope commented to Aquinas, “Well, Thomas, I suppose the church cannot say as Peter did, ‘Silver and Gold have I none.'” Aquinas replied, “True, Your Excellency, but neither can we say, ‘Arise and walk.'”

What’s our message? Can we say “Arise and Walk”? Are we willing to be so bold? Is our faith in our own resources (silver, gold, science, human effort) or in the Spirit of God? Let’s be agents of God’s healing in God’s ways …

God Knows How To Take Care of Us

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Our relationship with God is a faith relationship. We relate because we trust each other. Satan constantly tests and tries the quality of our trust.

“Wait a minute! I understand that we must trust God, but God trusting us sounds strange!” We generally refer to our trust as obedience (we do His will), though there are times when trusting God requires no specific act (such as believing God is there, God creates within us, God forgives an evil action, God keeps all His promises, etc.)

Yet, God also trusts us! He trusts us with His name, His reputation, His message, His will, etc. Those are not small things! Paul once wrote to some who claimed to represent God, “For THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written. (Romans 2:24, NASV) It is an enormous matter to suggest God says when actually we say, or to suggest, “This is God’s way!” when actually it is our way. To claim to represent God when we actually represent our desires is a huge mistake! Beware of willfully harming God’s reputation!

One of many ways we declare confidence in God is to trust that God knows how to care for us in each situation. That is not a simple confidence to have! As long as God physically cares for us in the way we wish to be cared for, it is easy to trust God-like a child trusting a parent. However, that is an extremely complex trust! (1) Do I trust God to seek my highest good when I do not physically wish to go there? (2) Do I trust God to care for me when I suffer because of the consequences of others’ mistakes? (3) Do I really trust that spiritual realities are above physical realties? (4) What if my trust in God results in physical suffering? (5) What if I do not understand how what is happening is in my best interest? (6) What if I see ungodly people physically better off than I am?

“Thank you, God, for Jesus! No one at Jesus’ cross thought You were winning! Yet, You took a death on a cross and made a Savior for us! Help me look, reflect, and trust!”

O Absalom, Absalom

Posted by on October 11, 2009 under Sermons

2 Samuel 12:11-12

    “Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes …”
    “… and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”

Wise Woman of Tekoa

King David

Layers of Story


David’s Option

  1. Bring Absalom back to his land and house
  2. David will not meet with him – loss of favor
  3. Absalom resents this

Absalom’s Rebellion

  1. Absalom believes he is just
  2. David and his people go into exile
  3. Absalom follows shrewd advisors (16:21-23)

Absalom’s Capture (18)

  1. David orders Absalom to be spared
  2. Joab executes Absalom
  3. David mourns – depression
  4. David returns to Jerusalem – forgives (19)

Parable of Father and Sons

  1. Family or Justice
  2. Reconciliation or Destruction
  3. The Way of Jesus

Three Layers of the Parable

  • Woman and her sons (parable)
  • David and Absalom
  • God and Us
  • The Need for Reconciliation

Revealed to Little Children

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If we are going to talk about mission, then we need to look at Luke 10.

  • Jesus sent his disciples out to preach and proclaim the kingdom of God
  • It was risky
  • They relied on God’s spirit and maybe help from others

We often compare Jesus to a preacher, but what if he’s more like a youth minister?

  • How old are these disciples? Some of them are probably in their teens.
  • Some of them leave their parents behind
  • Jesus was the traditional age to go into ministry (age 30, so we believe)
  • Jesus wasn’t the approved age for a pulpit minister (35-45, married w/kids, 10 years exp.)
  • These disciples were considered unlearned, bumpkins, zealots, rough

The Report of the 72 who were sent:

  • Evil was sent running, and we didn’t even count on that!
  • The defeat of evil is exactly what the mission is all about.
  • Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning!”

Jesus’ response to the report

  • Jesus rejoices!
  • What is it that fills Jesus with joy?
  • God has revealed the power of the kingdom to “little children.”
  • Not the wise, the learned, the experts, the powerful, the mature, but to little children!

Why little children?

“Star Wars” (1977) – It revolutionized pop culture. After 1977, movies and TV changed. Merchandising became big business. No one saw this coming because Star Wars was considered a “kid’s film.” Even most of the people working on it thought it was a children’s film with robots, shaggy monsters and dark villains.

But the film was popular with more than just children and it has remained popular for over 30 years. Why? Maybe because this film touched on our very basic hopes to see evil defeated and good triumph. Something that we understand as kids.

What was it like before 1977? It was the same. We still believed in good and evil and heroic deeds, adventures to save the princess, the power of evil. It’s just that Lucasfilm figured out a great way to package that and market it.

How did the church lose its child-like imagination? How did we lose our basic belief and hope in the struggle between good and evil and the faith that good always wins?

  • Maybe we’ve been too jaded by a cynical world
  • Maybe we got involved in so many busy activities
  • So many programs and preparations

We need to recover the imagination. We need to have the same imagination and child-like faith that sees simple acts and adventures of mission that knock Satan off his feet. We need to view the world again as a field where good and evil struggle. We need to rejoice that our names are written in heaven – not because God’s keeping score or because we want Jesus to save us a seat, but because God knows that he has some agents down here that he can call on when there’s a mission.

But we’ve all gotten tired and bored! We have become so busy! And it has made us bitter and proud!

Mary and Martha (Luke 10)

  • Mary is captivated, but Martha is busy.
  • At least Martha is inviting Jesus to hospitality. If it were left up to Mary it would never had been done!
  • Jesus explains to Martha that she only needs one thing. Why doesn’t he tell her what the one thing is? Because if he did then she would work on it the same way she was working at hospitality. She would wear herself out, upset everyone else and get upset with everyone else. Even with the one thing, she would get bitter and burdened with responsibility.
  1. Let’s believe again that the world really can change – otherwise, why do we have a mission?
  2. Let’s believe again that demons and evil can be sent running and that Satan (the dark villain) has fallen from the sky like lightning.
  3. Let’s believe again that good wins out and let’s pledge to be on the winning side.

“Three Measures of Convenience, Please!”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

When the Christ-followers began in Acts 2, this movement began with a “bang”! Peter spoke to a huge, religious, Jerusalem crowd confirming that God raised Jesus from the dead and made him Lord. Some 3,000 responded, and the unconquerable movement began. These early converts in Jerusalem were certain that nothing could stop them!

At first, opposition cooperated. The movement diversified. Being godly involved more than believing God raised Jesus. Local congregations had problems. Jobs were lost. Christ-followers were arrested and killed. Christianity was ultimately unpopular!

A movement that began with a “bang” in Acts 2 staggered badly in Asia Minor in Revelation. A movement that seemed destined for greatness in Acts 2 struggled for survival in the times of Revelation. John wrote, “God in Christ won the victory! All you need to do is endure!”

In this country’s southern region, we often enjoyed convenience. Prosperity allowed us to build and maintain buildings, to produce and sustain programs, to have incredible outreaches, to acquire staffs, and to dream dreams that early members never imagined. Though there were struggles, often it was “convenient to struggle.”

Times ahead may not be convenient. This may be one of those strange periods when opportunity is abundant, but funding is restrictive. Convenience can be like an unneeded narcotic. If taken from us, we struggle-did convenience control our actions, or did faith control our actions? Did we function as we do because of convenience or because Jesus is Lord? Is existence about lifestyle, or is existence about eternity?

In these difficult times, may we encourage each other. May we support faith in each other. May we be a people of faith regardless of circumstances. May we attack hardship and uncertainty with faith. May we never worship the god of convenience! May Jesus Christ alone be our Lord-in all challenges and all circumstances! “Now” is not eternity!

Assembling, Serving, or Both?

Posted by on October 4, 2009 under Bulletin Articles

When Paul penned those words, the Roman Empire was unsympathetic to Christianity. The predominant form of religion was some expression of idolatry. A common thing binding most idolatrous religions was a polytheistic thrust. Most forms of idolatry did not care how many gods a person worshipped. Worship of one idol did not exclude other idols. Thus doing good to “all men” included kindness, thoughtfulness, and helpfulness to people who worshipped idols. One principle of faith in Jesus Christ was defeating evil by doing good instead of by vengeance (Romans 12:17-21).

Christians were strange! The Roman Empire valued force! Defeat enemies by using force! The surrender of a defeated enemy was a wonderful thing! Doing good sought a willful cooperation; defeat sought an unwilling subjugation.

Christians were weird! Christians-slave or wealthy-regarded all who believed in Jesus as family! All believers were God’s family! Love motivated them to care for each other and those who did not believe. They threatened no one. One who included himself or herself in their ranks did so by personal choice. Anyone could belong. All, regardless of background, could be one of them. Though they believed in one God, they were kind to those who believed in many gods. Their morality was the weirdest known in that world!

Last Sunday was “Blue Jeans Sunday.” All colors of denim in all forms were worn-skirts, jeans, overalls, and jackets. The objective: to emphasize the biblical connection between worship and service. Between 200 and 250 served that afternoon. Cards were written, vans cleaned, linens at CURE folded, toys prepared for give away, quilts for earthquake victims in China made, and over 700 pairs of jeans collected for and delivered to the Hope Chest. There was a campus prayer walk, the yard of the new Lions For Christ house received massive help, and equipment manned-chain saws, a chipper, and a tractor with sweaty people dragging brush. When the day ended in a fellowship meal, the FULL price of the new property was contributed. God was honored, people were served, and we felt His life in us. We worked and gave to benefit people we have yet to meet! Young and old, different races, men and women worked side by side. We all were just Christians! God was glorified as we rediscovered the joys of Christian service.