Monday, January 26, 2009

This week's schedule 1/25/2009

Tuesday January 27th
- Friends Women Fellowship 9:00am at Mildred's
Women of Faith: Encouraging Each Other 7:00pm

Wednesday January 28th- Kid's Cub!- 5:30-7:00pm

February 1st- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This Week's Sermon: Ready to serve.

Acts 21:1-17.
Are you ready? Americorps, Politicians, Search and Rescue, Minute Rice all claim to be ready to serve. This morning I want us to ask ourselves if we are ready to serve. What does it mean to be ready to serve? For some it means being trained and educated. For some it means having enough experience. For food it means the preparation is done. I want to explore what it takes for us to be ready to serve God.

I often feel inadequate. When I first came to serve here, I definitely felt unprepared. My knowledge and my training were really untested. It all sounded good in theory, but I hadn’t put it into practice on my own. I was willing to serve, I had been called to serve and even though I felt unprepared, in my heart I was ready to serve.

We all feel unprepared at times. Often we are called upon to serve without being fully prepared. Becoming a new parent. Embarking on a marriage relationship. Starting a new position at work. All of these can make us feel ill-equipped. The same can be true of serving God. We may not feel prepared and equipped. We may feel completely inadequate. But the key is not always in the education and experience. Our resume has little to do with whether we are ready to serve God. What matters is that we are willing to face whatever comes. In Acts 21:1-17, we find that the readiness that counts is readiness of heart.

Paul’s friends and disciples tell him not to go. Both here in Ceaserea and before at Tyre and before that in the last chapter in his meeting with the Ephesian Elders, they all say the same thing. Paul knows he is headed into a storm, into trouble and persecution. He knows he will not be back, and those he has led to faith are telling him not to go. Why would anyone keep traveling a road that they knew would lead them to captivity and death? But Paul says they are breaking his heart by asking him to stay. Paul says he is ready to face whatever comes. How could he be ready? No one could possibly be prepared for that kind of future.

You have been studying Acts with me, did you see the part where Paul took a seminar on how to bravely march into the face of death? Did he spend a summer interning at the die for Jesus boot camp? No, he didn’t have any training or education to get equipped for his future. What he did have was a relationship with the God who saved him from himself. He had come to know the Jesus who had stopped him on the road to Damascus and instead of striking him dead in retribution for the persecution ring he was running, Jesus knocked Paul off his feet and introduced himself. Paul had been following Jesus as his Lord and God for a couple of decades and he had seen God at work. He had seen miracles and wonders, and witnessed the greatest wonder of all: the changed life. Paul was not trained and equipped to serve God even in the face of death, but he was ready.

Paul’s readiness was a result of the condition of his heart. He knew God, he knew Jesus, he knew the Holy Spirit and he loved them enough to sacrifice greatly in their service. Sacrifice seems like such a giant word until we realize that we make choices to sacrifice all the time. People will sacrifice something valuable for something they see as more important. Parents sacrifice sleep in order to care for the needs of a new baby. Service men and women sacrifice their time, their relationships, and sometimes their lives to serve something they see as greater than themselves. Missionaries sacrifice everything from their former lives to go and tell others about Jesus.

Sacrifice is all about priorities; not just in the big things, but the small things as well. No one will fulfill their New Year’s Resolution to loose weight this year without sacrificing some calories. No one will get any office work done if they don’t sacrifice their chance to get high score on minesweeper. And no one will step out in faith and service to God without sacrificing something.

Are you ready? What is God calling you to do? Maybe He is calling you to do something small, like step out in faith to tithe or give to missions. Maybe He is calling you to help with an area of ministry within the church. Maybe He is calling you to step out in faith and tell those around you about the hope, the peace, and the joy to be found in this new life in Christ. So often our greatest excuse is that we aren’t prepared. Maybe the truth is that we aren’t ready in our hearts.

So how do we get there? How do we get ready, if it isn’t a matter of taking a class or attending a seminar? Like Paul, we find ourselves ready when we spend time getting to know God. When we know him, when we take time to see him in action, then we see that no matter how great the sacrifice we make in service to him, it is nothing compared to the glory of living in his kingdom.

Are you ready? Are you ready to serve? If God is calling you this morning, are you willing to step out in faith and obedience? I hope the answer is yes. If not, I hope you will take steps to grow closer in your walk with him, to fall more in love with him. Spend time in his word. Spend time with him in prayer. If we could all come to that place of being ready in our hearts, there is nothing that God couldn’t do through us to build his kingdom. Let’s pray.

Monday, January 12, 2009

This Week's Schedule 1/11/2009

Tuesday January 13th
- Elder's Meeting 6:30 pm

Wednesday January 14th- Kid's Cub!- 5:30-7:00pm
Pastor out of town until Tuesday the 20th.

January 18th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: Don't leave anything unsaid

Acts 20.

What would you say if you knew it would be the last time you would talk to someone dear? Most of us have things we want to say or things we think we will have time to say later, to those people we hold dear. I know that I have had people pass out of my life and wondered later if I had said everything important. I can't remember, for example if I told my grandmother that I loved her the last time I saw her before she died. I showed her sonogram pictures of Kathrina, and we talked about her first great-grandchild. I visited her in her room at the nursing home, and she came to the family home for lunch. I had several opportunities to tell her that I loved her, and maybe I did, but I don't remember. It is so easy to leave things unsaid.

We all have people in our lives that we care about. We love them and we are always determined to tell them how much they mean to us, later. We want to spend more time with them, later. We have things we need to tell them, issues to clear up or fences to mend, but we think there is more time so we put it off.
This morning I want us to look at a story in Acts of how determined Paul was to not leave anything unsaid.
Paul was traveling and we get this whole list of places he visited and tidbits of who traveled with him and that in at least one instance there was some persecution and a plot to disrupt their preaching of the gospel, and then we come to this short account of an all night prayer meeting where Paul talked “on and on.” Those aren't my words, they are Luke's. He said Paul talked on and on. He preached from sometime before the sun went down until midnight. You think you have heard some long preaching! Who here has been in a seven hour church service with nothing but preaching? Wow, Paul had a lot to say! We have no idea what he said, but it must have been important.

Paul had visited Troas on his journeys, and in his letter to the Corinthians, he tells them that when he came to Troas the first time the door was opened for him to preach the gospel. So this is one of the centers of Christianity in that region. There were many people there who were following Jesus, and here Paul had a brief opportunity to tell them all the things that were important and useful, all the things he wanted them to know about grace and following Christ: all of the pitfalls to avoid and all the beneficial practices and teachings he had to offer.

I love this little story thrown in there about Eutychus. The room was hot because of the lamps and it was the middle of the night. He was sleepy and probably sat in the window so that he could get some fresh air and stay awake. In spite of all his efforts, though, he fell asleep and fell out of the third story window! This is a big deal, I don't know how many preachers can claim to have not only preached people to sleep, but preached them to death! Paul runs downstairs, throws himself on the boy, who returns to life, and then Paul goes back upstairs, has a snack and continues preaching until dawn. He is so determined that what he is saying is vital to these believers that not even a death and resurrection in the middle of the service is enough to distract him from his goal. But why on this occasion did he preach all night? Why on this trip did he choose to unload all of his apostolic wisdom? What was so important that not even a boy falling out a window could stop him from imparting this knowledge?

We read in the next few verses that Paul is so intense about his message because he knows that he will never see these people again. He is so passionate about saying everything now, because he knows he will never have the chance to say it again. So he has told them everything that would be helpful to them. He has preached from house to house and in the public places. He has persevered and done the work to which God has called him. And it is important now for Paul to say all of this because he knows his time is almost up.

It is easy for us to say the things that need to be said when we know we have no time. It was easy for Paul to preach all night and into the morning because he knew that he wouldn't have the chance to tell them later. It is easy if we are dying or if someone we know is on their death bed to tell them all the things we ever wanted to say. But sometimes we don't have that time.

A friend of mine recently lost his father. They had talked the day before about building a greenhouse for the spring. They had made a list of supplies and lumber. They had a good conversation and they were on good terms looking forward to the future. The next morning, the father was gone. If they had had unresolved issues, they would have stayed unresolved. If there had been things unsaid, they would have remained unsaid. By the grace of God, my friend had left nothing unsaid.

I tell you that this morning, because we are all dying. Some of us more quickly than we realize. We don't know the day or the hour that Christ will come back, and we don't know the day or the hour that he may call us home. It is so important not to leave anything unsaid. So stay up all night if you have to. Talk on and on if that is what it takes. Don't worry if they drop off to sleep in the middle of what you are saying, wake them up and keep talking until you get it out. You may not get another chance. And once it is said, think of the peace that would cover our relationships.

If we stopped putting off talking about those issues, and forgiving those past hurts. If we stopped waiting for the right time to talk to that friend or loved one about Christ, think of the peace we would have. Those things would stop being worry points and become peace points. So go out there. Ruffle some feathers if you have to. Forgive what needs forgiving. Offer grace to those who need it. Tell people that you love them. Don't wait, and don't leave anything unsaid.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Weekly Schedule 1/4/2009

Tuesday January 6th
- Women of Faith: Encourage Each Other 7:00 pm

Wednesday January 7th- Game Night for People of All Ages- 5:30-7:00pm!

January 11th- Sunday School 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Nursing Home Service at Holiday Resort 3:00pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.
Faith Promise Cards are out--pray about how God wants to use you to share the gospel with people everywhere!

This week's sermon: Is the goal is worth the sacrifice?

Matthew 2:1-23.
We consider it very noble to sacrifice everything for a goal. It is held up in our society as one of the noblest things a person can do. We have legends of people who gave up even their lives to bring about their goal, and we admire them. We set them on a pedestal and celebrate their fame.

Every year there are more than 800 events called marathons to celebrate and reenact the running of a Greek messenger from the town of Marathon to Athens. This messenger reportedly ran with such abandon that when he arrived, he fell down, uttered one sentence and died. He brought news that the Athenians had been victorious in battle. He laid down his life to bring a message, and we celebrate him.

Every year for 87 years, men have tried to climb the highest mountain in the world: Everest. Every year, some have died going up or coming down. At least 3,000 people have attempted the climb, and at least 200 have died trying. That is one in six. And yet those who have made the climb are given acclaim, and those who have failed are lost forever.

So, what does this have to do with wise men and Herod and the baby Jesus? They didn’t run Marathons and they didn’t climb Everest, but each participant in today’s scripture had a goal they were willing to sacrifice for. This morning we are going to look at their goals and their sacrifices. And we are going to be challenged to evaluate our goals to see if they are worthy of sacrifice.

The wise men, the magi, were scholars, astronomers and probably astrologers as well, they knew of ancient prophecy that said that a star would appear to signify the birth of a great ruler in Judah. They had knowledge, and that knowledge led to a goal. Their goal was to find and honor this new king. So they left everything, probably selling what they had to buy camels and pay for travel expenses to go to Judah and honor the new king. They brought with them expensive gifts worthy of a mighty king. They sacrificed time, money, property, and risked it all traveling across the desert to accomplish their goal.

Herod was a mighty king. He was given the name Herod the Great. He was a master builder and oversaw construction on palaces, monuments, fortresses, the first completely man-made harbor, and the temple in Jerusalem. His buildings and structures are still there to be studied today. He was also ruthless. He murdered family members, exiled his first wife and son, held religious leaders captive, and when the wise men came and told him a new king had been born, he would stop at nothing to maintain his position and eliminate the competition. That was Herod’s goal: to have power and authority, and to keep it at all costs. For Herod, that goal was worth sacrificing, but the sacrifice he made was the lives of others. He sacrificed the children of the region of Bethlehem to keep his throne, but he also sacrificed his soul.

For Joseph and Mary, their goal was to protect Jesus, as any parent would, and to obey God. When the angel came and told them to go to Egypt, they sacrificed everything to go. They were poor people; the sacrifice they offered at the temple when Jesus was circumcised was that of a poor family. They probably had to use the gold that the wise men brought to finance their trip. They didn’t know how long they would be gone; they sacrificed the security of their future and their relationships. They got up in the middle of the night and left for Egypt, and so they sacrificed sleep and personal comfort for their goal of protecting Jesus and obeying God.

All three had goals that were important to them. All three sacrificed to accomplish their goals. But not all of those goals were worthy of the sacrifices they made. Certainly it was noble for the wise men to sacrifice everything to visit a new king whose birth had been prophesied and was marked with such a great sign. I doubt, though, that they fully understood the magnitude of their decision to visit him. They went to the palace. They were expecting an earthly king. They were expecting a great ruler. Maybe they were expecting to find greetings and hospitality, maybe even a job in his royal court. They never expected to find him in a small town, in a nondescript house, with impoverished parents. But that is exactly what they did find. And they had enough confidence in the prophecy, and enough resolve to complete their goal that they presented this toddler with the gifts they had brought. When the angel came to them in a dream and told them not to return to Herod, they obeyed. They went home by another route. Their goal had changed. They were no longer seeking fame and hospitality in a warm palace, but were willing to lay down their previous goal to honor this new king that angels came to protect.

Herod thought his goals were noble and lofty. He was wrong. It was not worth the lives of all those innocents to keep his power. It didn’t work either. He missed his target, and was powerless to stop the decay of his rule and his health. One commentary said it could have been as short as a few months after Joseph and Mary took Jesus and fled before Herod died and Joseph was given the go ahead to return. His sacrifice of others was in vain. His goals even if he had the power to make them happen, they were temporary. They were fleeting. And in the process of pursuing his own ends, he sacrificed anything that would have made a difference for eternity.

Certainly the goal of Mary and Joseph were pure and correct. Their sacrifice was justified. It was the sacrifice requested and required of them by God. They left everything to carry out his command to protect Jesus and leave the country. And when it was safe, they did it again to bring him home. They were obedient. And Jesus was obedient. The Bible tells us he was obedient even unto death, even death on a cross. Their sacrifice made a difference for eternity, not just for their own souls, but the souls of all who would come after them and believe.

Their goal was worthy, their sacrifice was noble, and that is what God calls each of us to as well. He calls us to have his priorities, his goals. Sometimes like the wise men, our personal goals have to be changed in order to accomplish God’s goals. Sometimes like Herod, people make choices to sacrifice others to their own personal gain. Maybe we are those people, and we don’t even know it. How often do we sacrifice our families to pursue wealth? How often do we sacrifice other people’s well-being because it is inconvenient for us to help? How often do we sacrifice the speed limit to be a little less late? Anytime we sacrifice the eternal for the temporary, we are putting ourselves in the same boat with Herod. Whenever we sacrifice the temporary for the eternal, we build the kingdom.

When we sacrifice for a goal, we need to be sure that the goal is worthy of the sacrifice. Whenever our goals are eternal, we can be confident that giving up everything is not too great a sacrifice. If our goals are earthly, we have to ask if they are worthy of any sacrifice at all. People routinely sacrifice their health for vanity; their children for status in their profession; their marriages for pleasure in the moment; and their souls because they are simply too busy.

As followers of Christ, we need to be different. Let us be those who will sacrifice the temporary for the things that last. Let us be the ones who sacrifice vanity for health; earthly status for the health of our children and families; momentary pleasure for the joy of long and healthy marriages; and our busy schedules so that we can nurture the greatest relationship of all—the one that is freely offered to us by the creator of the universe and the savior of the world.

Jim Elliot, a missionary pilot who gave his life to reach the lost wrote in his journal “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot loose.” If we could only let go of the temporary, think of the heavenly gain that would abound.