Archive | June, 2016

SUMMARY: WHAT A CARING CHURCH LOOKS LIKE

24 Jun

Romans 12:9-16:

  9Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

      14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation

Over the past several blogs, I  have focused our attention on what it will take for our church to be the kind of church that Christ wants us to be – a caring, committed, Christ centered community. Now I would like to summarize those necessary building blocks to achieve this goal by looking at some practical pointers Paul penned in Romans. If we apply and practice these truths individually and corporately, God will be honored, the church will grow – numerically and spiritually, lost will be saved, and the church will make an impact on our communities. If we, hearing these truths, merely give them a polite nod and fail to change personally by making these truths part of our lives, we will bring dishonor to Christ. We will at best trudge on through a life of  lukewarm mediocrity. The world will not want what we have and Satan will laugh with glee. Folks, if we are going to be what God wants us to be we must ….

BE SINCERE – vs. 9

9Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
That means to genuinely love. – Let it be the real thing

More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.

 John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Love – the visitors in church may not be able to explain it or define it, but they know when it is there and when it is not. A man will get up, dress, pass fifty other churches, and drive all the way across town if he knows that a warm experience awaits him with love and true fellowship in the house of God. For many, the love they receive in church is the only love they will experience all week long.

And one of the greatest expressions of love is simply to notice people and to pay attention to them.

BE CONSIDERATE – vs. 10

10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor
Put others first –

Luke 6:31 “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
According to U.S. News & World Report , 89 % of Americans think incivility (or rudeness and lack of respect) is a serious problem:
73 % – Think mean-spirited political campaigns are to blame:
67 % – Think rock music is to blame
52 % – Think talk radio is to blame:
1 % – Think their own behavior is uncivil.
Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
In the eternal triangle of Christianity, God is first, others are second, and self is last.
Christian maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself
A story comes to us out of the long ago of a king who organized a great race within his kingdom. All the young men of the kingdom participated. A bag of gold was to be given to the winner, and the finish line was within the courtyard of the king’s palace. The race was run, and the runners were surprised to find in the middle of the road leading to the king’s palace a great pile of rocks and stones. But they managed to scramble over it or to run around it and eventually to come to the courtyard. Finally, all the runners had crossed the finish line except one. But still the king did not call the race off. After a while one lone runner came through the gate. He lifted a bleeding hand and said, “O King, I am sorry that I am so late. But you see, I found in the road a pile of rocks and stones, and it took me a while, and I wounded myself in removing them.” Then he lifted the other hand, and in it was a bag. He said, “But, Great King, I found beneath the pile of rocks this bag of gold.” The king said, “My son, you have won the race, for that one runs best who makes the way safer for those who follow.”
Galatians 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

BE ENERGETIC – vs. 11

11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord

Serve with fervor

Get rid of the lethargy and get some get-up-and-go

Samuel Chadwick once wrote “Spirit-filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They believe with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with a fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God.”
John 10:10b “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Are you proving that the Christian life is a joyful, happy life? Do you look happy that you are a Christian? Does your life radiate joy and enthusiasm? understand that the simplest man, fired with enthusiasm, is more persuasive than the most eloquent man without it.

BE PRAYERFULLY PATIENT – vs. 12

12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
Get some camel’s knees – Pray! Pray! Pray!
“Christ’s soldiers fight best on their knees.”
I Timothy 2:1-3 “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;”

I Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”

BE WARM – vs. 13

13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality
Show true hospitality.”Pursue the practice of hospitality”

“People go to the church that is dearest to them and not the church that is nearest to them.”

Proverbs 18:24a “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly…”
Singer John Charles Thomas, at age sixty-six wrote to syndicated columnist Abigail Van Buren: “I am presently completing the second year of a three-year survey on the hospitality or lack of it in churches. To date, of the 195 churches I have visited, I was spoken to in only one by someone other than an official greeter and that was to ask me to move my feet.”

Hebrews 13:2 “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

BE DIFFERENT – vs. 14

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Turn the other cheek – Matthew 5:39 “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Jerry Vines -” Our churches are in serious trouble today. There is virtually no difference between the average church member and the person who is not a Christian. God meant for the Christian to be different, to live a different kind of life, and to be on a different moral level from those who are not Christians. And yet, there is practically no difference in lifestyle. ”

I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

Abraham Lincoln was once being criticized for his attitude towards his opponents. “Why do you try to make friends with them?” a colleague asked. “You should try to destroy them.” Am I not destroying my enemies,” the President asked gently, “when I make them my friends?”

BE UNDERSTANDING – vs. 15

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Be there and share

Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

I am sorry for the man who can’t feel the whip when it is laid on the other man’s back. –Abraham Lincoln

More people fail for lack of encouragement than for any other reason.

Discouraged people don’t need critics. They hurt enough already. They don’t need more guilt or piled-on distress. They need encouragement. They need a refuge. A willing, caring, available someone.
Jewish Proverb states:
“Among those who stand, do not sit; Among those who sit, do not stand; Among those who laugh, do not weep; Among those who weep, do not laugh.”

BE ONE – vs. 16

16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation

Be a team player

One mind – one heart – one Lord.

Psalms 133:1 “A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Some missionaries in the Philippines set up a croquet game in their front yard. Several of their neighbors became interested and wanted to join the fun. The missionaries explained the game and started them out, each with a mallet and ball. As the game progressed, opportunity came for one of the players to take advantage of another by knocking that person’s ball out of the court. A missionary explained the procedure, but his advice only puzzled the friend. “Why would I want to knock his ball out of the court?” he asked. “So you will be the one to win!” a missionary said. The man shook his head in confusion. Competition is generally ruled out in a hunting and gathering society, where people survive not by competing but by sharing equally in every activity. The game continued, but no one followed the missionaries’ advice. When a player successfully got through all the wickets, the game was not over for him. He went back and gave aid and advice to his fellows. As the final player moved toward the last wicket, the affair was still very much a team effort. And finally, when the last wicket was played, the “team” shouted happily, “We won! We won!” That is how the Church, the body of Christ, should be. We’re a team. We all win together.

Conclusion: You must decide whether to be or not to be…
TO BE SINCERE
TO BE CONSIDERATE
TO BE ENERGETIC
TO BE PRAYERFULLY PATIENT
TO BE WARM
TO BE DIFFERENT
TO BE UNDERSTANDING
TO BE ONE.
WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE?

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OVERCOMING BARRIERS

23 Jun

II Kings 5:1-14:

Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” Then the king of Aram said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes.

He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, “And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”

It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.

Let’s talk about barriers. Right now, more than ever before, the body of Christ needs to expand… to grow… to deepen its impact. But to do that, we have to overcome some major barriers… Things that are impeding our growth. That are keeping us from being the very best that Christ wants us to be.

The first would be the barrier of prejudice.

II Kings 5:2 “And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.”

Several armies of Syrians crossed over into Israel with object of capturing slaves.  They captured one particular little girl who became the property of a man named Naaman. Her sole purpose? To attend to the needs of his wife. Few would blame her for hating all Syrians with a passion. No one would expect her to have any allegiance to or love for a Syrian, especially her slave master.

There is a story about two business owners who were in bitter competition Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?” The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”

One sign of jealousy is when it’s easier to show sympathy and “weep with those who weep” than it is to exhibit joy and “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink: [22] For you shall heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward you.”

Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

Then, there is the barrier of indifference. You know… “not my place or my business” or as I heard one say… “not my circus, not my monkeys!”

The little maid in our text was a slave. Where does she get off thinking that she can stick her nose in Naaman’s business?
As D.L. Moody walked down a Chicago street one day, he saw a man leaning against a lamppost. The evangelist gently put his hand on the man’s shoulder and asked him if he was a Christian. The fellow raised his fists and angrily exclaimed, “Mind your own business!” “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you,” said Moody, “but to be very frank, that IS my business!” Even if people reject the gospel, we still must love them.

It is our business.

Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. [14] You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. [15] Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. [16] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Then there is the barrier of noninvolvement.

It’s not my concern – let someone else do it

When Rosina Hernandez was in college, she once attended a rock concert at which one young man was brutally beaten by another. No one attempted to stop the beating. The next day she was horrified to learn that the youth had died because of the pounding. Yet, neither she nor anyone else had raised a hand to help him. She could never forget the incident or her responsibility as an inactive bystander. Some years later, Rosina saw another catastrophe. A car driving in the rain ahead of her suddenly skidded and plunged into Biscayne Bay. The car landed head down in the water with only the tail end showing. In a moment a woman appeared on the surface, shouting for help and saying her husband was stuck inside. This time Rosina waited for no one. She plunged into the water, tried unsuccessfully to open the car door, then pounded on the back window as other bystanders stood on the causeway and watched. First, she screamed at them, begging for help; then cursed them, telling them there was a man dying in the car. First one man, then another, finally came to help. Together they broke the safety glass and dragged the man out. They were just in time — a few minutes later it would have been all over. The woman thanked Rosina for saving her husband, and Rosina was elated, riding an emotional high that lasted for weeks. She had promised herself that she would never again fail to do anything she could to save a human life. She had made good on her promise.
You must get involved to have an impact.

As John Holcomb said .. “No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.”

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

In the People’s Republic of China, the largest nation in the world and a billion people strong, is what is called the Three-Self Church. That is the state-approved church. At their churches, they sing hymns, some to western tunes. They are allowed to read the Bible. They can pray. There can preach sermons and give Bible teaching. But they’re not allowed to evangelize. That’s part of the deal with the state. “They can do their thing as long as their thing doesn’t include persuading somebody else.” 50 million Christians in the People’s Republic of China have chosen not to be part of the Three-Self Church, and meet in house churches, because they’re convinced you can’t be a Christian unless you evangelize. They say that the two go together; and if you don’t evangelize, you’re not a Christian. They would say that those who are in the Three-Self church are not Christians, as far as the New Testament definition is concerned.
Luke 6:46 “And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

What about the  barrier of inadequacy.

“I’m too young.”

“I’m too old.”
It is almost as presumptuous to think you can do nothing as to think you can do everything. -Phillips Brooks
Edward Everett Hale, the distinguished poet and former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, while speaking of Americans eloquently captured the essence of every believer’s duty: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, that I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do.”
There is a story of an Atlantic passenger laying in his bunk in a storm, deathly sick–seasick. A cry of “Man overboard” was heard. The passenger thought, “God help the poor fellow–there is nothing I can do.” Then he thought that at least he could put his lantern in the porthole, which he did. The man was rescued, and recounting the story next day he said, “I was going down in the darkness for the last time when someone put a light in a port-hole. It shone on my hand, and a sailor in a lifeboat grabbed it and pulled me in.” Weakness is no excuse for our not putting forth all the little strength we have. Who can tell how God will use it?

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Let’s talk about the barrier of timidity.

“I’m too afraid”

Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”
In preparing for his book, Good News is for Sharing, Leighton Ford talked to many people, and the fear issue comes up front again and again. What makes people hesitate to share their faith? Here are some of the fears that have been mentioned to him:

“I am afraid I might do more harm than good.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions.”

“I may seem bigoted.”

“I may invade someone’s privacy.”

“I am afraid I might fail.”

“I am afraid I might be a hypocrite.”
Perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected. A survey was given to those attending training sessions for the Billy Graham crusade in Detroit. One question asked, “What is your greatest hindrance to witnessing?”

Nine percent said they were too busy to remember to do it.

Twenty-eight percent felt the lack of real information to share.

Twelve percent said their own lives were not speaking, as they should.

But by far the largest group were the 51 percent whose biggest problem was the fear of how the other person would react!

None of us likes to be rejected, ridiculed, or regarded as an oddball.

Psalms 118:6 “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you;  I will help you; I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”

In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering. (Howard Hendricks.)

ALLEGIANCE TO THE LAMB

22 Jun

The Fourth of July is about so much more than hotdogs, cook outs, swimming and fireworks. The 4th of July is about a country founded, rooted and established on Christian principles…. In keeping with that tradition, I like to remind us of some of the words our founding fathers said in this regard.

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or to often that this great nation was founded not but religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
— Patrick Henry

“Do not let anyone claim tribute of American patriotism if they even attempt to remove religion from politics.”

— George Washington Farewell Address to Nation

“The 1st amendment has created a wall of separation between church and state, but that wall is a one directional wall, it keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.”

— President Thomas Jefferson in an address to Danbury Baptists.

“We have no government armed with power cable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people… it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other…”

— John Adams

So you can see that despite what modern politicians, the contemporary media or the history revisionists say – America was founded not on the concept of freedom to worship[ any God (Buddha, Allah..etc) but on the freedom to worship Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a moment to look briefly at the parallel between our founding father’s allegiance to this country and our allegiance to the lamb, Jesus Christ the Son of God. First we will look at them, “the patriots” and then us, “the Christians.”

“THE PATRIOTS”

For more than 14 months after the Battle at Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775) the patriots fought not for their independence but rather they fought for their rights within the British Empire. Rights that had been gradually taken away before, and even more after, the Boston Tea Party. And hundreds of Americans gave their lives to regain these rights, four hundred alone died at the battle of Bunker Hill.

It was during this time of conflict that Patrick Henry, the fiery politician from Virginia, gave his famous speech before the Virginia Provincial Convention…Here is how he concluded it:

“3 million people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the Destiny of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. Battle sir, is not to the strong alone, it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

Besides sir, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery. Our chains are forged. There clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come. I repeat it, sir let it come!

It is in vain, sir to extenuate the matter. Gentleman may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace. The war has actually begun! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?

What is it that gentleman wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. Forbid it, almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.”

Then early in the summer of 1776 at a meeting of the continental congress on July 2, 1776, the colonies voted to announce and declare, that they would accept nothing less than absolute freedom from England.

Two days later on July 4th, after making some minor adjustments to the text, the final wording was ratified and signed by the 56 members, representing the 13 colonies. John Adams who was a member of the drafting committee was so excited with the vote on July 2nd that he wrote his wife back home in Massachusetts a letter saying,

“The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable day in the history of America; I believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, with shows, games, sports, balls, bon fires and illuminations, from one end of the country to the other, from this time forward and forever more…”

Except for the date, for we celebrate the day that congress approved the final wording of the declaration (July 4), John Adams was a pretty amazing prophet.

After the declaration was signed couriers took copies of it to George Washington who was with his troops in New York — and on July 9th the declaration was read before the militia troops who were out in the fields.

Understand, this was a bold declaration, in it, the Americans were challenging the most powerful empire of the world at the time. And the Americans entered the war without a Navy or an Army. Their fighting forces consisted only of militia units in the various colonies. These citizen soldiers were ready to defend their home and families when danger threatened. The colonies could call up malitia men for service ranging from a few days to a few months.

On the other side, England had an army of well trained highly disciplined soldiers. They made a bold declaration — they had pledged their life and their allegiance to their country.

b. And They Paid A High Price

After the Americans declared their independence, they had to win it by force. The task proved especially difficult, partly because the people never fully united behind the war effort. A large number of colonists (about 1/3) remained unconcerned about the outcome of the war, they were indifferent and supported neither side.

And as many as 1/3 of the population sympathized with Great Britain, the called themselves loyalists (the patriots called them “Torries,” the name of the political group in great Britain that adamantly supported the King). These problems meant that victory in the Revolutionary War, depended on patriots who made up less than 1/3 of the entire population.

Approximately 7,200 Americans were killed in battle during the war, 8,200 were wounded, 10,000 died from disease & exposure (nearly 3,000 men died at valley Forge alone), An additional 6,500 died in prison after being captured and 1,400 soldiers were listed as missing.

What about the 56 men who signed the declaration of Independence? Did they pay a price for pledging their allegiance? They sure did, their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, 5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died. 12 had their homes ransacked and burned. 2 lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another 2 sons were captured. 9 of the 56 fought and died from wounds of hardship of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty. At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelsons home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered George Washington to open fire on his home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife’s beside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields were destroyed. For over a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home only to find his wife had died and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.

Now, it’s one thing to make a bold declaration in the comfort of a congressional meeting, but it’s quit another to pay the price, to fulfill that declaration on the field of battle, to pay with blood; – yours – your families – and your neighbors…

Our founding fathers made a bold declaration – they paid a high price.

… and they reaped a great reward.

The war that began on April 19, 1775, officially ended when the treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, nearly 2 years after the Great Battle at Yorktown, where 10,000 troops laid down their arms and General Cornwallis hid in a cave.

The Americans made a bold declaration.
They paid a high price.
And they reaped a great reward – they won their freedom, their independence…

And a particular kind of nation was established, a nation where every human being could be free, and have something to say about how they were governed.

But not only did the patriots win their freedom, but at the treaty of Paris in 1783, the US territory doubled in size, as Britain gave the new nation all of the land to the east of the Mississippi River.

And though many signers of that Great Declaration paid a high price, others reaped a great reward. Two of the signers became Presidents, ten became US Congressman, nineteen became Judges, sixteen became Governors and dozens of others held other high political offices — not to mention the enduring place they hold in our history…..)

The Patriots made the pledge; paid the price and reaped the reward (freedom, a new land, new country a bright future, a bright future – a new beginning)

“THE CHRISTIAN”

We also made a bold declaration.

Do you remember the day, when you stood before the body of Christ, when you came forward and confessed Jesus as your Lord & Savior, when you stood before the body proclaiming your desire; to be a Christian, to be united with Christ, to be bathed in his blood. Courageously announcing, that nothing but absolute independence from the shackles of sin and the ways of this world would be acceptable.

Do you remember the day “fellow Christians” when you made that good confession, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and I receive Him as my Lord and Savior.” When you repented of your sins and were buried with Christ in baptism and were raised to live a new life. In doing this, you were making a bold declaration.

You were at that time pledging your allegiance – your devotion, your loyalty, your dedication, your commitment, your very life, to the Lamb of God, to Jesus Christ. Understand that you were at that time proclaiming what Paul proclaimed in Galatians 2:20;

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave himself for me…”

Friends it is a very bold declaration to say, that you will no longer, live for yourself, that you will no longer, seek your will for your life, that you will no longer, live for the things of the world (power, pleasure, popularity and possessions). But rather that you will seek God’s will for your life, seeking to do what pleases him far and above what pleases you! Declaring that he comes first.

Yes it is a very bold declaration to say that you will live for him who died for you… And if you are here today and a Christian, you have made that declaration.

This declaration is as bold and as powerful as the one Joshua made in Joshua 24:14,15. You remember that one don’t you? God’s people had conquered the promise land and were beginning to settle down.

“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

When you came to Christ.
When you pledged your allegiance to the lamb.
You were making a very bold declaration.

And like the patriots, you must also pay a high price.

It’s one thing, to make a bold declaration in the comfort of a church building, but it is quit another to live up toit. To pay the price. To fulfill that declaration on the battlefields of our daily lives. Most times saying words is the easy part, the actions are much tougher.

You know, on that day when Joshua made his bold declaration, he was not alone, others also did, they said the same words (within the comfort of the assembly).

“Then the people answered, `far be it for us to forsake the Lord and serve other gods!…We too will serve the Lord, because He is our God…” Josh 24:16,18

What a declaration by the nation of Israel, they were pledging their allegiance to God – but
tragically, it didn’t last long. All you have to do is turn the page over to the book of Judges, and you will see recorded how God’s people quickly turned away from him….

“Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.”
— Judges 2:11,12

Understand wars are not won by those who only make declarations, who only make claims, who only speak words. No victory is seldom achieved by those who lift only their voices.

Unfortunately we who are in the Lord’s Army find just like the patriots found, in the American Revolution, that our war (for many reasons) is hard to win. For one , in our bold declaration we are challenging an empire that is very powerful. We are declaring war against; “the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, we are taking a stand against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…” THERE ARE real battles to be fought, real struggles to over come. We are called in scripture to; “finish the race,” “to fight the good fight,” “to endure hardships like a good soldier.”

YES WE ARE in a real war (and we have a real enemy, and he does not like it when someone, opposes, challenges, defies him) and our enemy (satan) will attack us, pursue us, tempt us, he will try to make sin look good. He will at times, come at us head on just like a roaring lion, and at other times he will appear as an angel of light.

And not only is the war hard to win because we have an enemy but another reason is because not everyone is committed to the war effort, not everyone who claimed Jesus as their Lord one day in the assembly, has lived up to it in their daily lives.

A final reason our war is hard is because others are like that a third of the colonists and are unconcerned about the outcome of the war… They are indifferent. They are uninvolved. Now they may not directly hinder the war effort and they will certainly want to take part in any benefits, but they will not join in, they will not leave their comfort and safety, they simply watch and critique from the sidelines.

Let’s make no mistake about it – there is a high price to pay to fulfill our declaration – THAT JESUS IS OUR LORD…. Our Lord demands total, radical, unswerving allegiance and the fact that he does, is no secret, Jesus made this clear to us when he walked the earth……

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the father and of the holy angels…” Lk 9:23-26

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mothr, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple….” Lk 14:25-27,33

Now that’s pretty clear

There are also severe warnings in scripture about those who merely make the declaration, who speak only the words… Who only make the claim…

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `lord, Lord did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Lk 7:21-23

“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good.” Titus 1:16

What is it that gets in the way of people keeping and fulfilling their declaration? I think most meant it when they gave it. I don’t think they were lying about it, they had good intentions. So what is it then that gets in the way?

The answer can be found in just one simple word….

“SELF”

“WE” get in the way, our pride, our opinion, our desires, our comfort, our convenience, our will, our way…… Many will say “I pledge allegiance to the lamb” but in reality their allegiance is still to self.

That’s why Jesus said we must pick up our cross, and deny self daily in order to be his disciples. What do you think Jesus means by the term pick up your cross, (My job, my husband, my wife, my kids, my good looks…..)

To the people is Jesus day picking up ones cross meant only one thing…..DEATH.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and I receive as my Savior and Lord….”

That’s a bold declaration

And to pick up your cross daily, to deny self, to die to self….. is a high price to pay.

But the reward we shall reap is a great one —- is worth it!!!!

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set free…” Jn 8:32

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…” Jn 8:36

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..”
-Rm 8:1

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us….” Rm 8:18

“He has given us new birth into a living hope…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you…” 1 Pe 1:3,4

Not only will they win their freedom — freedom from sin, death and condemnation (no small thing)

But a particular kind of church will be established, where all people can come to know Jesus as Lord…. A place:
where the good news will be preached to the poor
where freedom will be proclaimed to those in captivity
where recovery of sight will be proclaimed to the blind
a place where the burdened and oppressed will be released
a place of hope for the hopeless
a place of joy despite circumstances
of peace beyond understanding
a place of love, forgiveness, healing and acceptance
a place of new beginnings…….

And that is not all. One day we will reap what is perhaps the greatest reward of all. One day we will stand before the Lord and all His glory and receive the crown of life which he gives to those who love him and long for his coming….

And we will hear those most precious words of the ages;

“Well done they good and faithful servant, come and share your masters happiness…”

And we will in our new body, join that great heavenly choir that is circled around the Lamb;
Revelation 7:9-17

The declaration is bold “Jesus is my Lord”
The price is high “Die to self”
But the reward is great

A CARING CHURCH CARES FOR THE HURTING

21 Jun

Psalms 142:1-7

I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord;
I make supplication with my voice to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
You knew my path.
In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.

I cried out to You, O Lord;
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
“Give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me.
“Bring my soul out of prison,
So that I may give thanks to Your name;
The righteous will surround me,
For You will deal bountifully with me.”

This psalm is a prayer that David lifted up to God when he took shelter in a cave while hiding from King Saul.

There are many details to this story but for now, let’s just say that at one time he was like a son to Saul and now the King wanted him dead.

David felt disowned and deserted by his friends.

David was about as low as you could go and in verse 4, he expressed that very thing when he said, “No man cared for my soul?”

He had come to the point that he wondered if anyone really cared about him!

Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever been in a situation in which things just looked completely hopeless? And you looked around to others for friendship, and then found out that they were completely indifferent and apathetic to your situation?

We are living in a generation of hurting people who want to know that someone cares truly about them.

If we are going to be a church or a Christian that pleases God we are going to have to be people who care for the hurting.

Do we see and understand the needs of others? We say that we have a love for God, for our fellow believers and for the lost: but do we really love them?

Romans 12:9 tells us that love must be without hypocrisy. It must be genuine.

There is a story of a hassidic rabbi, renowned for his faith. He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted youthful disciples. In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, “My master, I love you!” The ancient teacher looked up from his books as asked his fervent disciple, “Do you know what hurts me, my son?” The young man was puzzled. Composing himself, he stuttered, “I don’t understand your question, Rabbi. I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions”. “My question is neither confusing nor irrelevant,” retorted the rabbi. “For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?”
Do we see those who are hurting physically?

Are we aware of those around us who are in constant physical pain?

People who have debilitating illnesses or conditions such as cancer, heart problems, or diabetes?

Are we aware of those who because of physical limitations cannot do the things that you and I can?

Consider the condition of the paraplegic man that Christ encountered at the pool of Bethesda in John 5.

“The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (John 5:7)
Are we aware of those who are alienated from the mainstream of society having diseases that  are considered socially and morally unacceptable?
Do we see those who are hurting mentally?

Statistics state that one in four Americans face some form of psychological or mental challenge.

Are we aware of their needs?

Are we aware of those who have mental/ physical addictions?

Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem in society and affects all–rich and poor; young-old; educated and uneducated; and the Christian and non-Christian.

There are 3.3 million problem drinkers in America’s high schools alone.

Do we see those who are hurting emotionally?

What about the hurt in the home?

Consider the condition of marriage within the context of today’s Christian homes and churches. The staggeringly high divorce rate is almost the same among believers as among unbelievers.

More children are being raised today in single parent households than those having both parents in the home.

Six out of ten couples will experience some form of violence in their marriage.

In the U.S. there is a woman battered every nine seconds. (more than 400 during this service)

There are more than one million cases of child abuse in America every year.

What about the lonely?

Mother Teresa….Loneliness and the feeling of being uncared for and unwanted are the greatest poverty.
When I was a teenager, I saw a short film called “Cipher In The Snow”

The movie went basically like this:

Asking to leave a school bus, Cliff, a young teenager, collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His math teacher is asked to notify the parents and then write a short obituary. This task is difficult, for although he was Cliff’s favorite teacher and had the most interaction of any at the school, he barely knew him. In unraveling the mystery of the untimely death, he finds that Cliff was shy, lonely, and ostracized, being slowly reduced to nothing, a zero (cipher).

And he died from a lack of love.

The teacher vows to not let this happen to others.

Essentially loneliness is the knowledge that one’s fellow human beings are incapable of understanding one’s condition and therefore are incapable of bringing the help most needed.
And what about those who live troubled lives?

Do we look beyond their faults and see their need? When we look at them what do we see?

When we look at the alcoholic, the person caught up in the sin of a homosexual life style, the drug addict, those with eating disorders, the convict and the ex-convict, the rebellious do we see lost souls or social castoffs.

Do we have an empathetic uneasiness about the needs of others? Does their plight disturb us?

We must never minimize the suffering of another. Billy Graham 

We need people who, as a part of their responsibility in life, will carry the burdens and wounds of other people and be outraged by them.
Hebrews 13:3 “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
Proverbs 21:13 “Who so stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
Luke 6:36 “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

Are we willing to show that we care by our communication?
If you truly care, you should tell those in need that you do!

It is not for us to assume that others know we love and appreciate them!

Make it a point to go out of your way to say, “I love you and I care about you!

Philippians 1:7 “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

Are we willing to show others we care by our action?

James 2:15-17 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself

To feel sorry for the needy is not the mark of a Christian–to help them is.

Love talked about is easily turned down, but love demonstrated is irresistible.

I once read about an elderly Christian lady who had lived all alone. Partly crippled, she had to rely primarily on the good will and help of her neighbors. She spent some of her weary hours keeping a diary, although no one knew why; for she had precious little to record. When she passed away, it is reported that she lay dead for several days before anyone missed her! In looking through her few belongings, someone discovered her diary. Most of the book contained nothing of interest. In fact, near the end of her life, as one monotonous day followed another, she wrote only three pathetic words of page after page: No one came! NO ONE CAME!

James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

A good way to forget your troubles is to help others out of theirs.

Are we willing to show others that we care by our availability?

Romans 15:1-2 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.”

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Titus 3:1 “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,”

It is not our responsibility to pass the buck but to step up and volunteer.

Are we willing to show others we care by our evangelism?

An old Mercedes Benz TV commercial shows their car colliding with a cement wall during a safety test. Someone then asks the company spokesman why they do not enforce their patent on the Mercedes Benz energy-absorbing car body, a design evidently copied by other companies because of its success. He replies matter-of-factly, “Because some things in life are too important not to share.”

How true.

In that category also falls the gospel of salvation, which saves people from far more than auto collisions.

2 Corinthians 4:3 “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:”
Jude 23 “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

ARE WE A CARING CHURCH?