Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The People That God Can Use - III

(This is the third of a four sermon series.)

For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. – Acts 13:36
In every generation we find people whom God uses to accomplish His purposes. They all have certain common characteristics.

The last two Sundays we have learned that the people that God can use will:
Learn to depend on God rather than depending on themselves.
Live to serve others rather than to be served.

Today we will see that:
Love the praises of God more than the praises of men.

John 12:42-43 - Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

1) Don’t fret over what others think about you.

* Most people you meet don’t think twice about you.
They are wondering what you are thinking about them.

* The praise of people is passing.
Main question: What have you done for me lately?

* Living to please others is a trap. Why?
You can’t make everybody happy. Can kill yourself trying.
Saul fell into this trap and lost his kingdom. 1 Sam 15
“I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

John Calvin called this the “golden shackles of earthly honors.”
Jesus never worried about what people thought. His concern was what His Father in heaven would want Him to do.He said, “I always do what pleases Him.”

2) Figure out the nature of God’s praise.

* God’s praise is a matter of the heart.
Rom. 2:28-29 - A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

EX: Prophet Samuel looking for new king at Jesse’s home.

1 Peter 3:3-4 - Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

* God’s praise is delayed until the end.
How long can you wait to be rewarded? Delayed until heaven?

1 Cor. 4:5 - Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

* God’s praise will come when you live so that He will be praised.
Matt 5:16 - let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Do you reflect honors toward God or absorb them for yourself?
Andre Crouch Song – “and should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary”

Questions to Ponder:

1) Who am I doing “this” for?

Me? Reward myself. Most people work for this person. Jesus said these people will get their reward in full in the here and now.

Others? May or may not reward you on earth.
Step up the motivational ladder. But still living for this world only.
“Acceptance Addiction” – both love and need people.

God? Reward is waiting in heaven. Is it true when we sing: "Living for Jesus thro’ earth’s little while, my dearest treasure, the light of His smile."?

2) How will I react if nobody notices that I am doing “this”?

“THIS” is the thing that you hate doing the most. For me it is:
scrubbing toilets / washing dishes / changing diapers.

What does the Bible say about “THIS”?
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The People That God Can Use - II

(This is the second of a four sermon series.)

For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep. – Acts 13:36

In every generation we find people whom God uses to accomplish His purposes. They all have certain common characteristics.
The people that God can use will:
Learn to depend on God rather than depending on themselves. (from last week)

Live to serve others rather than to be served.

Biblical Servants are:
* Available – Luke 17:7-10

Illustration: Complaints about London Transit Authorities buses not stopping to pick up passengers. Released the following statement - “It is impossible for us to maintain our schedules if we are always having to stop and pick up passengers.”

* Reliable – Luke 16:10

Serving doesn’t make you a servant, but if you are a servant you will serve. People know they can count on you.
Not just a “volunteer” (one who performs at his pleasure).
But a “bond servant” (one who willingly obligates himself).

* Humble – John 13:3-5, 12-17

Illustration: Dave Thomas – cover of Wendy’s annual report had pic of him dressed in work apron holding a mop with bucket. He said of the pic: “I got my MBA long before my GED at Wendy’s. MBA doesn’t mean Master of Business Administration. It means Mop Bucket Attitude.”

Illustration: St. Benedictine’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, NM
Hand lettered sign over only door in/out of sanctuary: “Servant’s Entrance”

Biblical Servants will serve:
* Wherever
The place you serve is chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait to be in the spotlight to serve others.

The moment of service is chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait until you are ready to serve others.

The people to serve are chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait until the “right” person comes along to serve others.

The means of your service is chosen by the Master.
Don’t wait until you have it all together to serve others.

Someone said: If you want to be happy for an hour – take a nap; for a day – go to the park; for a week – take a vacation; for a month – get married; for a lifetime – serve other people.

God uses people with a servant’s heart. Everything in our culture tells us that we should expect to be served. We often let this mindset creep into the church. Jesus’ model shows us that as Christians we are to think only of how we can serve others.

You can tell the difference between those who want to be served and those who serve by their clothing: People who want to be served wear a bib.
People who want to serve put on an apron.

When you walk out the church doors today are you going through the “Servants Entrance”? Will you be wearing a bib or an apron?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Person That God Can Use

While the Transition Team is leading the congregation through the task: determining our congregational identity I have decided to preach a 4 part series of messages entitled: The People That God Can Use. The foundational verse for the series is Acts 13:36. "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep."

I am challenging each member to be a person that God can use so that together we can be a congregation that God uses in the 21st century. This challenge is being connected to our congregational identity as we seek to answer the "bottom line" question: What does God want us to be and do at this moment in time?

Each week we are looking at a different characteristic of people that God can use. Last Sunday we highlighted the first quality. The people that God can use learn to depend on God rather than depending on themselves. There are three things that need to happen in order for us to develop this God dependency.

1) We review the Biblical models of people like Moses and Joseph to realize that it is not our dreams or talents but God's power that brings success.
2) We seek God in prayer. The closer we get to God, the bigger we realize He is and smaller we understand ourselves to be.
3) We experience humbling situations. God allows humbling and humiliating experiences to refine our character and release His power in our lives.

Read Paul's autobiography in 2 Corinthians 12 where God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." To which Paul responded, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

God can only use us only we learn to depend upon Him and not ourselves for success and achievement. Next Sunday we will discover the second characteristic of the person that God can use to accomplish His purposes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some Wesleyans Observed World Communion Sunday

First, an explanation as to why it has taken a week to post this blog. Last week I attended the annual meeting of the Association of Intentional Interim Ministers. This is a continuing education event and worth every penny of the cost. As a rookie Intentional Interim it was a great learning experience for me.
Now, for some background. The Wesleyan Church Discipline only says that we are to offer communion at least once per quarter. Most Wesleyan Churches probably don’t observe the sacrament any more often than that. The last time that our church observed the sacrament was at our Unified Service on July 29th, ten weeks ago (you can read about this service in an earlier blog).
But we decided to join with the larger community of faith for World Communion Sunday. This provided us with another opportunity to emphasis the need for community as our congregation is still rebuilding from the pain of earlier church conflict. The Scripture was 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 and the message was entitled, “Receiving Communion Within Community”.
I noted that the biblical model for communion was always in the context of a community of believers and that Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthians were focused on their lack of community during their communion service.
I asked the people to reflect on the larger community of faith around the world who were receiving communion on this same Sunday and to appreciate and affirm each other as they came forward to receive the sacrament as a local congregation.
To visually highlight that we were gathering around the table as a community I had the pulpit removed from the platform and moved the communion table to the place where the pulpit normally would sit.
Many people have stated that it was a powerful communion experience for them. Some even saying that it was the most meaningful communion of their life. To God be the glory!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Transition Team Update

Our congregation has now completed the first two transformational tasks (Coming to Terms with History and Looking at Denominational Relationships) during our year of Intentional Interim ministry. The Transition Team will begin leading us through our next task (Clarifying the Congregation’s Identity).

Some of our objectives in clarifying our congregation’s identity will be:
* determine whether or not our image of ourselves is realistic.
* refocus the vision for our congregation’s future.
* utilize the interim time as an opportunity for church renewal and maturity.
* learn the identity of the community and area in which our church serves.
The “bottom line” question that we will seek to answer is: What does God want us (as a congregation) to be and do at this moment in time?

A major tool that will be employed for this task will be a congregational survey in which everyone will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about our current ministries and facilities. The survey will be available for people to complete between October 14th and 24th. All surveys will need to be completed during this 10 day period so that the Transition Team can compile the results and share them at a congregational meeting in early November.

Surveys will be available in the Sanctuary foyer and Family Life Center entrance. Everyone is being asked to complete one and return it to the church office or to a Transition Team member no later than October 24th. Everyone in attendance in an adult Sunday School class on October 14th will be given the opportunity to complete a survey during Sunday School and a Transition Team member will be in each class to clarify any questions or statements on the survey.

Please continue to pray for the Transition Team as they lead our church through this year of self study. The team continues to meet three to four times per month. In addition to the congregational survey being conducted this month, the team is doing a demographic analysis of our community and surrounding area. The intent of this analysis is for us to learn how we can better serve others.
If anyone who reads this blog would like to see a copy of the congregational survey, please email me and I will reply with a Word file attachment of the survey. Also, as the Transition Team does more work on the demographic analysis I will give a later post about how we conducted the analysis and some of the highlights that we learn.