CONNECTING AND SERVING

1 Feb

Hebrews 10:22-25:

22 let us draw near with a [a]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

This is a scripture we preacher guys often use when we are encouraging others to be in church.

Naturally, we believe it is important to be plugged into a local body of believers. We believe, and scripture bears it out, that it is important that you be part of a group of Christians gathering together in order to grow in your relationship with Jesus.

In fact, I will go as even far as to say that it is impossible to reach your fullest potential without the church.

There is something to be said for being around others who love Jesus. There is accountability. There is encouragement. There is the bearing of one another’s burdens.

Yes, we can read scripture at our house alone. Yes, we can watch some quality preaching online and even some on television.

But there is no substitute for the relationships that can be formed by gathering in a place of worship on a regular basis to study the Word of God and discuss together.

And yet, most of us are inconsistent with our attendance when it comes to church. This is not said to put a guilt trip on anyone or make anyone feel “called out”.

But I truly believe that we miss out on being our optimal when we’re not here as much as we can be.

It has nothing to do with wanting to boast great attendance figures. It is not about driving up the weekly offerings. It has everything to do with the fact that as Pastors, we truly love our flock. We want to point you in the direction of the One who died for you. We want you to grow in Him.

The world is lying to you. There has been a gradual push over the last several decades that has intensified in recent years to totally discount the Word of God or the need for church.

The enemy is telling lies. And no matter how long he’s told the, there are always going to be people that will believe them.

One of the biggest lies is this:

“I won’t fit in at a church. Those people would not understand me. Those people would not get me. I’ve got too many skeletons in the closet. I’ve got a past.”

It assumes that everyone in church is perfect. Maybe you’re one of those. Maybe you don’t come that often because you don’t feel you identify. Maybe you come to church occasionally in an effort to appease someone else. Or maybe you’ve come to church because you’re seeking something and you’re willing to come and listen but you’re quiet skeptical you’ll find anything.

Today, I want to invite you to look beyond the perceptions. To look beyond the stereotypes. To look beyond your inhibitions. See the members of the body of Christ for who they really are.

Check out the man who had put more drugs in his body when he was younger that some of us even knew existed. It costs him much including some relationships and even at least one marriage.  Somewhere along the line, he decided it was time to seek out the local church and see what could be done to make his marriage right and put his life on a better path. Now to not see him or his wife here is a rarity. This is his family. He belongs here.

There is the couple that spent much time together when they were each married to someone else. Their marriages destroyed, their lives broken, they came to a church expecting to be harshly labeled. They actually looked forward to it.  When that preacher shoved his self righteous, judgmental talk at them, they could then flip him off and walk out and be justified in their attitude against the church.

But that’s not what they got at all. Rather, they got love. Now, nobody told them they were okay. In fact, quiet the opposite.  They were definitely told what scripture had to say on the issue. There was no sugarcoating or whitewashing. But it was done with an attitude of compassion. It was said in such a way that they knew they were not being judged but cared for in spite of everything.

Steps were taken toward repentance and restoration. Today, they have a Christian marriage and they can’t imagine being anywhere else.

There is the one who had her first child at 15, who saw more garbage in her young life then most will ever see in a lifetime.  She resolved to one day make something better of herself but soon found that she couldn’t do it alone. So she embraced Jesus and what He has done in her life has been absolutely amazing. If you could have told her fifteen years ago that she would be sharing Jesus with people every chance she got, she would have laughed at you. But today, that’s exactly what she does.

There is the one who had an abortion. The one who has struggled with same sex attractions. The one who has a prison record. Every single one of them with a past.  Every single one of them thinking at one time that the church would not be accepting of them as they were. Every single one of them finding that there were people who loved them and understood them and were willing to walk with them in their journey to become children of God.

And don’t just look at the ones in the audience. Look at the music minister who once was so drunk that his wife in a fit of rage knocked him off the front porch with a frying pan. Look at the Pastor who was once such an incredible liar that his wife wanted to leave him.

My point? Not to drag out skeletons. Not to expose anyone. But for you to understand that there is nobody in a church that is spiritually superior. There is nobody who “has it all together”. We are all spiritual misfits. We are not here because we have all the answers. We are here because we are seeking answers.

We have discovered that we need Jesus. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the beginning and the end. He is the Answer.

But we have also discovered that we need each other. Satan invades our lives daily. When we are left to our own thoughts, our own devices, and our own ideas, we are prone to make the wrong decisions.

But when were together with Christian brothers and sisters, we hold each other up. We keep each other from falling. We remind ourselves of Who it is really all about!

Consider Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Consider Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another.

But you don’t know the blessing of that if you only attend half-heartedly.  It can only come through consistent, committed attendance.

I know not everybody here is a Duck Dynasty fan. Though I don’t understand why.

When I first heard about that show, I was resistant to it. All I heard was that “they pray at the end of the show”. I had heard that kind of thing before. Rap artists who have all sorts of vile lyrics and yet dedicate their album to God, that sort of thing.  I figured it was going to be the same thing.

But one day, they had a “Duck Dynasty” marathon going.  I watched the first episode and it was okay but it wasn’t what I considered spectacular. But I kept watching. Before too long, I was DVR’ing it. I was buying the books. I went to see Phil Robertson and WIllie and Korie speak live. I was so excited when we went through West Monroe, Louisiana just so I could have my picture taken under the sign. I just may be the biggest Duck Dynasty fan ever!

But it didn’t start that way.  It grew on me.

That’s the way it is with the local church. You come into the building. The people are unfamiliar. The ideas don’t mesh with culture. You’re intrigued by what you hear but you’re not in love with it. But you keep coming back and God begins to work a change in your heart. Soon, you can’t imagine life without your church family.  God usually uses them to change your life.

But trust me, you won’t undeCrstand until you begin trying to connect.

And then you get a bigger blessing in the body of Christ when you start looking for ways to serve.

Consider Acts 20:35:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Our whole mission as a church, according to Matthew 28:18-20 is to tell others about what Jesus can do for them.  That means willing to be give more than we get.  The church does not exist for our entertainment but if we are believers, it exists as a vehicle for which we can carry His message.

Sometimes we have to feed and clothe them first. That’s what the Agape Food and Clothing Ministry is all about. Every Thursday from 5-7, over 60 people gather to receive food and sometimes clothing. Then we have an opportunity to tell them how God is the ultimate provider.

That is why we support prison ministries like Kairos and No Turning Back. We know that it takes different methods to communicate the truth of the Gospel to different people and we are not going to relate to everyone. So we allow others the chance to work alongside us and let us work alongside them.

That is why we have Sunday School, the more you know about the Word of God, the more you can share it with others. That is why we have small groups, so that we can further strengthen a connection and attract people who normally wouldn’t come into church so that they can hear the truth about Jesus.

That is why we have Thanksgiving in the Homesteads, that is why we have youth group, that is why we have children’s camp, that is why we have Vacation Bible School, that is why we adopt families at Christmas. That is why we put together a fantastic Easter production every year. Nothing is about our recognition. Everything is about Him.

Now, let me ask you something…. where are you serving? There is so much to be done in the body of Christ. We have so many needs. But they are not our needs. They are the needs of Jesus. He calls us out. He says “my fields are white unto harvest but my laborers are few” (John 4:35). He is calling us out to serve His kingdom.

And one of the reasons that the church is ineffective is that the majority of the church is not actively serving.

It’s time to grow up in your faith. And you cannot grow in your faith if you’re sitting idle.

I grew up on a ranch.  I loved that place. But one of the reasons I loved it is because every Saturday morning, Dad made us work on it. We helped with landscaping, building barns, building fences, feeding cows, gathering eggs,.  When we finished a day, we had the satisfaction of knowing we had made a contribution. If we didn’t do anything, weeds would grow up, animals would starve.  And it would lose its value.

It’s the same way with church.  We sit on our blessed assurance and much goes undone but when we have a part in the general upkeep, the ministering to others, the saving of souls, the value of this place grows in our hearts.  Otherwise, attitudes decay and spiritually, we starve.

How are you serving today?

Let 2015 be a time for you to relate differently to the body of Christ.

CONNECT

then SERVE!

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