Monday, October 12, 2009

This week's sermon: Are You Willing?

Isaiah 6; Mark 10:17-31.
Second Week of Missions Month: Whom shall we send? And who will go for us?

The question is really, “Who is willing?” It is the same question posed by the story of the Rich man. The question was whether he was willing to go the next step and leave his source of comfort—his wealth—and put his trust in God to provide as he followed Christ. Was he willing to go? He walked away sad and we don’t know if he ever came back to follow Christ or if he lived out his life in empty pursuit of wealth.

Jesus explains to his disciples that it is hard for those with wealth to enter the kingdom--easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. We all have wealth and possessions. Even the poorest among us in the United States of America has the opportunity of a roof over their head and at least one meal a day. By the world's standards that is security. And security is hard to give up. Jesus reassures the questioners "Who then can be saved?!" by reminding them that nothing is impossible with God.

Peter pipes up on behalf of the disciples saying. “We have already left everything to follow you.” Peter was looking for the gold star. He in effect is saying that the disciples are willing. They have left everything. They are following Jesus. And Jesus gives him an answer in his seeking for a reward. Jesus says that no one who has given up all of this list of things will receive them back a hundred times—along with persecution. The earthly reward for following Jesus, it seems, is to suffer. We don’t like to think about that. We want to stop where it says we will receive everything back, we don’t want to think about the persecutions that come with it. But on the other side of all the sacrifice, all the restoration, all the persecution is eternal life in the age to come. So the reward is bitter sweet, but the final destination is worth it.

Jesus closes his conversation here with the statement that “Many who are first will be last and the last first.” In making that declaration, Jesus refocuses our attention on the fact that those who think they are ahead—like the rich man—may end up last if we do not stop to consider our attachment to worldly things. Are we willing to leave it all and follow him? Are we willing to go? Are we willing to give up whatever God asks, holding loosely to what we have to be available for his purpose?

Could we give up some comfort for the sake of the kingdom? It is nice to have a roof over our heads, it is nice to have running water, it is nice to have electricity. It is really nice to have a little box on the wall to set the exact temperature we want our homes to remain. Are we willing to set our thermostats a little lower, be a little uncomfortable, and give the difference to missions? Are we willing to walk instead of drive and give the difference to those who are really in need? Are we willing to lay down our desire for absolute comfort to be obedient to build the kingdom of God?

God is asking, “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Are we ready to lay down our plans, our goals, our possessions to follow him and be his message-bearers to a world that is in darkness? Who will go? Examine your heart and ask the Lord to reveal to you the things you are holding onto that may keep you from responding “Here am I, send me.” Start to surrender those things to him today. The goal is eternity, and nothing is worth keeping if it keeps us from serving our King and building his kingdom.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Updated Calendar

Important Dates to Remember!

Tuesday the 6th Elder’s Meeting 6:30 pm

Sunday the 11th Business Meeting following Worship
Fall Harvest Party at Rainsbarger’s 5:30

Thursday the 15th Burundi Presentation at 6:30 pm

16th-18th Women’s Retreat Weekend
No kids or downstairs Sunday School,
Coffee and donuts for those who want to come for an extended fellowship time!

Sunday the 25th Area Rally at Gardner Friends


Sunday the 15th Beginning of Family Sunday School
Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child
Thanksgiving Meal

This week's sermon: With every breath

Ephesians 6:18-24.

In this closing section of Paul's letter to the Ephesians he finally speaks a personal request. He asks that they pray for him. Paul has spent this letter reminding the Ephesian Christians of their place in Christ as adopted children of God; of those who had been far, but brought near; of Paul's own concern for them and his prayers for them; encouraging them to live according to their new life in Christ; urging them to line up for battle with one another equipped with the armor God provides. He has used the words of this letter for the benefit of the Ephesians, which is why this request for them to pray for him catches my attention.

Paul asks them to pray that every time he opens his mouth, he will boldly and fearlessly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now we know after studying Acts and Ephesians, that Paul did not need help knowing the right words to say to preach the gospel. We know that he does not need more courage to proclaim the gospel in spite of hardships, he has been actively doing so for the entirety of his ministry. The words that catch my eye are "every time I open my mouth." Paul was asking for them to pray that his proclamation of the gospel would be continuous, an outpouring of the Grace of God with every breath.

In the service this week we heard a story about some missionaries in Aguascalientes, Mexico. They had the privilege of connecting with a woman and her family by simply caring for them, and celebrating a birthday. This family had heard words proclaiming the facts of the gospel, but had never seen someone live out the Grace and Love that come with the message. Because these missionaries chose to not only use words to share the gospel, but their very lives, this family left a destructive lifestyle and came into the Love of Christ themselves.

It is this kind of continuous living proclamation of the gospel that I believe Paul was asking the Ephesians to pray over his ministry. It is the kind of fearless proclamation we need to pray for each other; that we would be so filled with Christ, that the gospel would flow out in every breath, every action. Every time we encounter people in our family, at work, in the marketplace, we would proclaim Christ with our actions and our words. Every time we interact with those in the body of Christ--encouraging each other, ministering to others' needs, caring for the joys and sorrows of life--every time we minister to one another we pour out the message of the gospel with our actions and our words. This is the "with every breath" method of sharing the gospel. It is what Paul was asking the Ephesians to pray for him, it is what we need to pray for each other. This is how we fearlessly proclaim the gospel, this is how the kingdom of God is built one life at a time.