Sunday, May 31, 2009

This Week's Schedule 5/31/2009

Tuesday June 2nd-
No Activities
Pastor Charity at Orientation for Saltshaker Burundi Trip

Sunday June 7th- Sunday School for all ages 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.

Sunday Message: Worship God alone and don’t serve idols because God redeemed you from Slavery

Deuteronomy 5:6-10.
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."

This message is as applicable to us today as it was to Israel then. God brought them out of physical slavery, he brought us out of slavery to sin. Because of that deliverance, he required them, and requires us as well, to worship him alone. You shall have no other gods before me. What does that mean for us? We aren’t really surrounded by idol worship or temples to other gods. It isn’t really acceptable in our culture to worship multiple gods or to observe multiple religions. So how does this apply to us, if there aren’t any other “gods?”

Well, I will tell you that not every god comes in the form of an idol. Not every temptation to worship something other than the One True Living God comes in the form of an alternate religion. Jesus warns about serving more than one master. Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Wow, Jesus is saying here that anything that serves as a master in our lives is an idol, and in particular, money.

If you want to know if there are idols or competing masters for your life, ask yourself a question. What is at the root of my decision-making? What drives my schedule, my wallet, my investment of energy? If the controlling force in your life is something other than God, you are dealing with an idol. If you use the majority of your time striving after wealth, then money is becoming your god. If you are spending your money, other than the necessities, on worldly pleasures then your flesh is becoming your god. If the glowing screen consumes your life, you are giving your time to an idol. If you exert all your energy in pursuit of worldly gain or physical perfection, then you are dealing with an idol. Now, I am not saying that working for a living is bad or wrong, that is fine, as long as you are glorifying God. Having money is not bad or wrong, as long as you spend it to glorify God. Using your energy is not wrong, as long as you are working toward glorifying God.

Maybe that is all too abstract. Here are some examples of people who claim to be committed Christians and their decisions on how to spend their time, money and energy.

John works at a company where overtime is always available. Nice right? John works overtime all the time. He never takes a break, he never makes it home for dinner. It has been a month since he was home when his children were awake. They have enough with him just working his regular hours, but John is obsessed with earning more and more money. It makes him feel secure in a way that having a good relationship with his wife and kids can never bring him. I’ll ask you, Idolatry? Or no? Let’s compare John with Sam. Sam works hard at his job. He makes enough to support his family. Even though he works in the same position as John, Sam rarely works overtime. He is content to work well and then go home to his family. The last time Sam worked overtime it was so that his oldest could go on a mission trip.

Ok, so maybe work is not your issue. Let’s try looking at the life of Jill. She works hard and makes a lot of money. When she is off on Friday evening the party begins. She spends the weekend eating at gourmet restaurants, drinking the finest wine, and entertaining the best company. Last weekend she racked up a $3,000 bill at a chic spa. When the time came to make a commitment to support a local ministry, though, she decided she might be able to spare $20 a month to do her part. What do you think, Idolatry? Compare her decisions to Sue, who even though she works earning just above minimum wage decided to let go of eating out so that she could make the same $20 commitment.

How about Bill, who spends every available moment at the gym so that he can have the perfect body. Or take Gina who can’t sacrifice her mani-pedis, tanning appointments and monthly touch-ups to her hair color. She is always reading the latest bestseller, always seeing the newest movie, always on top of the celebrity news. Come Sunday morning, Bill and Gina are too tired to get out of bed. These two haven’t spent time with other believers in months because they spent all their energy elsewhere. Your call, Idolatry? Compare them to Fran who volunteers with a church sponsored youth program, and spends her spare time making meals for shut-ins. And Jack who volunteers to lead a Bible study at work on his lunch break, and is a lead sponsor in his son’s scout troop. Fran and Jack may not be in Church every Sunday, but if they miss, it is usually because they are helping someone or ministering to the youth they work with.

Do you see the difference in these people’s lives? Do you see what is behind their decisions in using their time, their money and their energy? All of them claim to be Christians, only half are showing it in their decisions. And why should they make God a priority? Why should they let him direct the use of their resources? Is it to earn a place with him? No, the place we have in Christ is a gift. The service we give must flow out of gratitude and love for the God who rescued us from bondage to sin and the world.

God knew that Israel’s success in keeping his commandments rested in their success in remembering why they needed to. So he gave them these words, in Deuteronomy 6:4-16. This is called the Shema, the Hebrew word for "listen" or "hear." It is a prayer and a statement of the importance of remembering.

Deuteronomy 6:4-16 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you--a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant--then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah."

Do you see? Remember, remember, remember, remember. Write it down, talk about it, talk about it some more, put it on your hands, your foreheads, your gates, your doors. Don’t forget. Love God, serve him only. The result of turning away is destruction. John the workaholic is about to loose his family. His children will grow up without a father. Jill the wild-spender is going to loose her nice job, and be stuck with $15,000 in credit card bills. Bill the work-out junkie is suffering from long-term steroid use, and Gina just found out she has skin cancer from tanning too much. Are these things the wrath of God? I don't know, but they are a result of living in a way that is unbalanced, self-centered, and unwise.

God is the creator of the universe, and he made you and me with unique gifts, talents, and passions that he wants to shape into lives that glorify him and bring us personal satisfaction. Idols are tempting because they are tangible, we can see them, we feel like we can control them, make them serve us. We think somehow that because we can see them and control them, that we are more secure. We feel comforted by being in charge, rather than serving a God who may ask us to do something uncomfortable. The reality is, that by serving idols, we end up in bondage once more. We find ourselves serving cravings and desires in ourselves that can never be satisfied.

Chasing after money, there will never be enough to make us feel secure, chasing after fine living only satisfies until we are hungry and thirsty again, chasing after physical perfection only lasts until our money runs out and the plastic surgeons turn us away. The only thing that will bring us lasting satisfaction is a life spent in service to the God who created us, who knows us, who delivered us from our own personal bondage. That is what lasts and brings wisdom and contentment to our lives.

I encourage you to lay down the idols that are creeping into your life. Set them aside, repent-turn away, and set your mind and heart once again on the God who is your deliverer. He can deliver you again from bondage to false idols, and with him there is unlimited forgiveness, and restoration. Turn away from the world and turn to God, and find peace and rest.

Monday, May 25, 2009

This Week's Schedule 5/24/2009

Tuesday May 26th-
Friends Women Fellowship 9:30am
Women of Faith Encourage Each Other 7:00pm

Sunday May 31st- Sunday School for all ages 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Mini-Area Rally Gathering at Cottonwood 3:00 pm Cookout and Outdoor Games
6:00 pm Singsperation and Devotional

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.

This week's sermon: Covenant People

Deuteronomy 5:1-6; 22-27. 1 Peter 2:9-12.

The children of Abraham were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. God redeemed them out of that slavery, and here at Mt. Horeb, he makes a covenant with them based on his redemption of them. This covenant, like the redemption, is initiated by God. He called them out, he rescued them, and he brings them to the mountain. When they are gathered at the mountain, God speaks to them from the cloud. He speaks not only to Moses, but to the whole gathering of people. He tells them what the covenant will look like. He tells them their responsibilities to God and to each other. Before this time, they were not in relationship with God. They were not strongly related to each other, either. As slaves, their responsibility was to their master and their primary concern was survival. At Mt. Horeb they became a covenant community. Now they are now the people of God. Now they have a purpose, to show forth the power and glory of God as a nation to the world around them. As the prophets said, they were to be a light to the gentiles (nations).

The same holds true for us. 1 Peter 2:10 tells us that once we were not a people. When we were on our own before we were in relationship with Christ, we were living for ourselves. We were not in covenant with God or others. We also were rescued out of our bondage to sin and self at the initiative of God. He rescued us. He brought us out. He has spoken his truth into our lives. He wants to make us a covenant community as well. Because of his redemption of us, we find that now we have responsibilities to God and to others. We were not a people, now we are a royal priesthood and a people belonging to God. Now we are his representatives to the earth. As his royal priesthood, we are the bearers of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. Because of the mercy that he has shown us, we are to show mercy to others. Because of the grace shown us, we are to show grace to others. Because of the love shown us, we are to love others with the very love of Christ.

**Some thoughts in this sermon were influenced by Jesus Wants to Save Christians, by Rob Bell.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly Schedule 5/17/09

Tuesday May 19th-
Coffee at Amanda's 9:30am
Elder's Meeting 6:30pm

Saturday May 23rd- Pastor Charity's Yard Sale to raise money for Burundi Saltshaker this summer! 8am-4pm

Sunday May 24th- Sunday School for all ages 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Next Sunday May 31st-Mini-Area Rally Gathering at Cottonwood

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.

This week's sermon: Listen!

Acts 28:11-31.
In this passage, Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah saying:
"The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: "'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving."For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they (also) will hear it!"

I don't believe Paul was casting off the responsibility to proclaim the good news to the Jewish people, rather, he was appealing to them to listen and letting them know they were not the only recipients of God's plan of salvation.

Throughout Jesus teaching ministry it was not uncommon for him to say "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear." I see us in the same dangerous situation of hearing but not understanding, seeing, but not perceiving as Paul's audience was then. We are so saturated with the word of God and the teachings of Christ, it is easy to think we have a handle on what they mean and stop listening.

Jesus issued this warning in a parable he told in Matthew 7:24-28 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Jesus tells us that the ability to walk through life's trials and hardships is determined by whether we take to heart what he says. Whether we not only hear, but stop to consider his teaching and allow it to permeate our lives.

James also has something to say about listening to the word. James 1:22-25 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does."

If we surround ourselves with God's word, and Jesus' teachings, and we do not allow them to affect change in our lives, we are like a foolish person who sees his own faults in a mirror and does nothing to correct them. We can choose to allow God's word to come in and do a work in our lives, or we can choose to walk away. Only one of those choices carries with it blessings.

John, in Revelations sends word to seven churches, and to each one, he says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches," followed with promises to those who overcome because of their hearing and obeying the word of the Spirit. Those promises include: the right to eat from the tree of life, not suffering the second death, a new name, authority over the nations, being dressed in white and acknowledged before the Father, being a pillar in the temple, and sitting on the throne with Jesus. All of this overcoming is accomplished through nothing other than hearing the words of Christ and allowing him to apply them to our lives.

Sometimes it is difficult to know just how Jesus' words need to be applied in us. For those times, Jesus says to his disciples, "I have set an example for you to do as I have done"(John 13:15). He was talking about the example he set in washing their feet, but it applies more broadly to everything that he did in front of them as an example of how they, and we, should live. When we look at the life of Christ, dominated by the law of love, we can see how he lived out the things that he taught. We cannot do all the things that he did--he is the Son of the Living God, but Jesus said that we would do even greater things than he had done through the Holy Spirit. Walking in step with him, hearing and taking his words to heart, allowing the law of love to rule in our lives, these are the keys to victorious living in Christ. And to those who overcome, there will be inexpressible blessing in heaven with him!