Sunday Live Stream: Jonah [Lessons from the Runaway Preacher] Hide and Seek

Jonah – Lessons from the Runaway Preacher
102: Hide and Seek
Jonah 1:3-17

-> I love a good game of hide and seek… especially with my boys… it truly is a highlight
-> It starts with me usually finding some obscure place to hide. Usually somewhere in the basement. And then I listen…. The conversation between them is usually more entertaining than the hiding part… EX) “Dad would never hide in that spot… he is too ‘big’ “. What is great is when they walk right by me, cant find me, and leave the basement all together.
-> Then I sit just inside the closed basement door, in the dark stairway, and wait. When they cant find me anywhere else, they decide to give the basement one more check, and I am waiting.
-> As soon as they open the door, I let out a yell, they jump off the floor, shriek, slam the door, run away, laugh, and come back for more. I could do that all day.
-> Hide and seek is a fun game. Do we ever play hide and seek with life though? How many of us have ever had one of those days, or weeks, or years where we just want to hide because the difficulty of our lives is too much?
-> Tension is this: It seems easier to hide than face what we don’t want to deal with.
-> Do we do the same in how we respond to God? God loves you very much. He pursues you in relationship. He wants to show His love to you and through you to others. In order to experience the fullness of His love, and to see His love in action through you to others, He is going to ask you to do what He asks you to do. At times, we will struggle because of ourselves and what we think and want. Maybe God is asking you to do something that is not on your top ten list of what you want to do. Maybe not even on bottom of list… Maybe it makes no sense, is uncomfortable, is getting in the way of you having the life that you want, or maybe it just makes you mad. And that rather than obey God, it is easier to hide. But, can we hide from God?

KEY IDEA:

God sees you where you are

-> Whatever our reason, we may try to hide, but God. In His love always knows where we are.
-> Get you to flip to Jonah 1:3… As you are turning there, quick recap of last week for those who were away. Introduced to Jonah, a prophet of God who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th C BC during the rule of Jeroboam II.
-> Lived during time of Assyrians who were known for their wickedness, cruelty, and brutal oppression of the people in Israel. The capital city of the empire was Ninevah, and it was especially wicked, enough so that it “reached the ears of God”.
-> God, because of their evil, acts… calls on Jonah as a prophet to deliver a message of judgement on them, of destruction (with the hope that they would repent).
-> There are a couple key themes / questions that work their way through the book of Jonah:
a) Jonah is about the grace of God on people who don’t deserve it.
b) Did Jonah need saving as much as Nineveh did?

Read Jonah 1:3-4
1) God sees us and interrupts our hiding
-> Looked at this a bit last week, so I don’t want to spend too much time on it. Ninevah was wicked, and in Jonah’s world view, didn’t need to hear the message of destruction from God because if they heard it, God’s mercy and love for a wicked people would get in the way and they might get spared of the destruction Jonah felt they deserved (Jonah 4). Jonah would be the vehicle of repentance and relationship.
-> Remember the map from last week? Rather than going to the far east part of the known world (Ninevah – Mosul Iraq), Jonah runs to Tarshish (Spain) instead on the far west corner of the known world. Gets as far physically away from where God was calling, walked as far away from his calling and job as a prophet, and tried to hide from God.
-> Jonah is in the boat, and what happens? God brings a violent storm to interrupt the journey to Tarshish. I don’t think it was meant as a punishment to Jonah, but as a wake up call. “Hey, I love you, and them. I have a plan for you that is also for them. Because of love, I need you.”
-> Crazy question… did God have to send out the Jerusalem coast guard to search the waters? Did he have to scramble the Holy Hebrew Air Squadron to do an aerial search? Did he have to put an app on Jonah’s cell phone so that a GPS could pinpoint for God where Jonah was? NO – other than the fact that these things weren’t around then… why? Because He is God and knows all things at all times. None of this was a surprise to God.
-> Jonah bought into crazy lie and deception that He could hide from God… that essentially he could be his own god and do whatever he wanted in this case. Really, as a prophet of God, Jonah knew better… but in his frustration, ignored all wisdom and did something really futile and useless.. tried to hide from God.

Psalm 139:1-10
-> One question: If this verse is true, can anyone ever hide from God’s presence?
-> Because God loves us very much, we are never out of His sights.
-> Jonah tried, and God had to remind him that no amount of running would do the trick. He sent a storm to remind Jonah that He was still watching Jonah, that He loved Jonah, and had a plan for his life. Jonah needed to return and embrace God’s love and plan.
-> How about you? If you are hiding from God this morning, why? What is it going to accomplish? God, in His love, sees you now. Do you think that you can hide from God’s love and plan for you?

Read Jonah 1:5-16
2) God breaks through our hiding as an opportunity for grace.
-> VS 4-5a, we already see how God personally caused this storm to come on the boat… one violent enough that the boat risked being destroyed. A storm that caused a lot of panic on the deck of the ship. Sailors were worried that they would die, and in desperation are calling out to their idols and gods to save them. They through cargo overboard… anything to help. Mass panic and chaos on the boat…. WHY? So that they would be interrupted in going to Tarshish, and God could, in His grace, get a hold of Jonah. As crazy as it was, the storm was an opportunity for grace.
-> VS 5a-6: Where is Jonah? Sleeping… in the inside of the ship… how heavy of a sleeper is he?? How could he sleep at this time? This makes an interesting comparison actually:

a) Jonah sleeping and ignoring the storm paralleled his heart sleeping to the promptings of grace.
-> Just like Jonah was sleeping and ignoring the storm, the grace of God was nudging him to go to Nineveh… yet he chose to let his heart sleep through that too.
-> When the grace of God has been received in your life, it always produces something… it always causes change… and it always causes action. The grace of God in you is what drives you to be and share God’s grace with others. Grace of God was given to Jonah, and was now trying to produce in Jonah’s life, but much like the storm, he ignored it and kept sleeping in his own sense of self righteousness.
-> Captain calls out to Jonah to wake up and start praying to his God, most likely in a panic, because at this point they are running out of options… Notice how God breaks though in this situation (beyond just the storm)…
-> In vs. 7-12 what does God do? He works through the casting of lots so that Jonah gets pointed out and Jonah has to come clean with His disobedience. Why? Because as long as we live in our disobedience, we get in the way of the message of grace.
-> Jonah comes clean that he serves the One True God, and somewhere in there it is implied that he told them he was running from God.

b) Will we embrace grace?
-> There are two polar opposite responses when given the chance to embrace grace.
-> Notice the salior’s response? Even though these guys don’t worship God, they grasp holy fear of Him. They no doubt have heard stories of the might and power of the God of Israel. They have, no doubt heard that this Almighty God can do what no other idol or created god can do. They know enough about God even as pagans to realize holy fear… and confront Jonah’s sin head on… The end up throwing Jonah overboard, and the storm calms. They are spared.
-> All these interruptions to the travel plans were no coincidence… the storm, the casting of lots, the throwing of Jonah overboard… all for God’s purpose. Yes, the one purpose was to give Jonah a reality check, but what about the sailors too? It sure seems that God orchestrated all of this for their benefit too.
-> Vs 16 – we see former idol worshipping pagan sailors, so overcome with holy respect and fear for God (after seeing first hand His amazing power) that they offer sacrifices to Him and make vows to Him. God broke through Jonah’s hiding, and used it as a chance to interrupt their lives to convince the sailors to come to Him and serve Him instead of their empty powerless idols who could not save them. He extended GRACE. They embraced GRACE.
-> What’s Jonah’s response? Throw me into the sea and things will be calm…. It is my fault. Yes, he is taking responsibility for his choices, but do you notice that his attitude hasn’t changed? What would have happened if Jonah repented to God and promised to go to Nineveh? When faced with the power and presence of the Almighty God, Jonah, in his stubbornness and sin, still refuses God’s grace offered to him, and the chance to share a message that could result in God’s grace to the people of Nineveh. He never repents! He refuses to go! He is still hiding from God!

Jonah 1:17
3) Even when we continue to hide, God does not give up on us.
-> Jonah is thrown overboard. His hiding from God and continued hard heart towards God’s grace on the Ninevites has brought him to the end of his very life. The waves and stormy waters have overtaken him, and he is sinking to the depths of the sea. It would appear that God has finally given up on him…Or has He?
-> Even though Jonah continued to hide in his rebellion and hard heartedness, God did not give up on him, and still, in love pursued him, this time with a giant fish that swallowed him and kept him safe. But more about that next week.
-> All you need to see today is that God still did not give up on Jonah even though he continued to hide to the point of his very life almost ending.

KEY IDEA:

God sees you where you are

-> Are you hiding from God today? Is there something that He is asking you to do, and rather than live in His love and grace, and obey, you are choosing to hide instead? Rather than obey, you are choosing to do your own thing apart from God? Maybe your choice to hide looks more appealing, more comfortable, better for you in the long term, easier, etc….
-> How is God interrupting your hiding right now? Is God speaking to you personally and showing you it is time for you to come out of hiding and return to obedience? Maybe He is using a person, situation, or even just wrestling with you inside… and you know it is time to obey – time to follow – time to do what God is asking you.
-> Are you like Jonah or like the sailors? Will you, like Jonah, continue in your rebellion and keep hiding? Will you continue to walk away God’s love and grace for you? Will you continue to walk away from God’s plan for you where you can be used to share His love and grace with others? Or will you, like the sailors, realize that on your own your ways are empty, are a dead end, and will lead you to disappointment and desperation – and instead embrace God’s love and grace for you today? Will you stop hiding and choose to be found by the God who already sees you?

Sunday Live Stream: Overwhelm

Phil 4:4-7
July 12, 2020

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?

We are taking a one week break from our “Are We There Yet Series” as I felt God saying to speak on something different this weekend. But do not fear, road trip stories will be continuing! Among the many great stories that came in over the last several weeks was from one family, who by the end of it, I am sure felt very overwhelmed.

Tensions were already high as they were taking a trip into the USA to visit a relative who was given a tough health diagnosis. The week leading up to the trip, their youngest got what was considered to be a routine vaccine. Except in this case, she ended up getting sick from the live vaccine. She seemed to mostly recover, and life was good. Everyone got in the van and left.

Then, it hit again. Within hours, mom and one of the other children were sick, another child was complaining of being uncomfortable, and being on a budget, the only place to sleep was in the van for rest stops on the way down. Screaming kids, sick kids, sick adults, no where to sleep that is comfortable. You feeling overwhelmed yet?

Of course, no story ever stops there. The sickness with the one child only got worse. Mom wasn’t sleeping for a couple days, and everyone was just worn right down.

On the way home, following the instructions of a local sheriff to get to the highway, a turn was missed and they ended up lost, in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere, with no cell service, in the yard of a backwoods, Tennessee mountain trailer home. They did get turned around, and maybe now things would look up.

Until mom got what appeared to be food poisoning (and I hope I am getting this detail right), but the sickness the family thought they were done with, and what seemed so bad then, was like a small sneeze in comparison to what awaited the next 36 hours.

They finally did make it back home to Canada, then dad got sick.

-> Who thinks this family was overwhelmed? Makes me overwhelmed just hearing about it. And I didn’t tell you most of the details (for that talk to the family directly. The story is painful). But oh man….talk about rough.
-> Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. Everyone gets stressed. Everyone gets anxiety. Everyone has struggles that seem to get the best of them. Some things that overwhelm are small: For example, I don’t like rodents, and if I think one is either going to crawl on me as I sleep, or fly around my head, I feel some anxiety.
-> But we have a lot of things that can overwhelm don’t we? Family troubles, financial worries, job losses, health concerns, problems at school, bullies, a loss of a pet, a conflict with a friend, a car breaking down, the house needing major repairs, need I go on? And that is before we even flip on the news to hear about nations fighting, political instability, crazy world leaders, scandals, violence, etc… We would have a lot less anxiety if we would stop listening to the news.
-> Everyone struggles.

How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?

-> I invite you to turn to Philippians 4:4-7. Going to unpack that this morning.
CONTEXT:
-> The church in Philippi (to whom Philippians is written) was first church Paul started in Eastern Europe. Believed to be written around AD60-62 which was later in Paul’s life.
-> Written in the context of uncertainty and danger (were they overwhelmed?)
a) Paul is in prison, and muses about his own potential execution
b) People are preaching, imitating him, but with mal intent
c) The church is in a Roman stronghold – there was strong patriotic nationalism in Philippi due to army veterans who settled there, which then led to persecution when Christ was presented as King instead of the Emperor of Rome.
d) Nero was the Emperor of Rome (He was a tyrant who felt he answered to no one – he was brutal, strong handed)
e) Conflict in the church (between Euodia and Syntyche)
->The whole of the letter revolves around key theme expressed in Phil 2:5. Asks the question: “How does a follower or Jesus live like a follower of Jesus in anxious times?”
-> In that context we read Phil 4:4-7

Phil 4:4
1) Choose true joy
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Paul is saying: Pay attention – this is important! States ‘rejoice’ 2X with emphasis
‘Always’ – In the face of your trials, in defiance to them bringing you down, rejoice always… (Paul was living this first hand!!)
Being able to rejoice was possible in being independent from their immediate surroundings, and being based in a relationship to Christ. Christ brings joy (ROM 5:1-2)
In the face of our trials, the strength Christ brings will be our joy (Neh 3:10)
-> Even though they were facing all sorts of trials, even though Paul was living through overwhelming and anxious times, a follower of Jesus lived like a follower of Jesus (had the same mindset of Christ) by choosing joy.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?

Phil 4:5
2) Don’t react, trust Jesus
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near”
Some translations say “graciousness, you are considerate, etc.” It speaks to your attitude in how you respond to hardships and trials.
In hardships, don’t respond in anger. Don’t get all worked up and frustrated with everyone and everything (not an easy lesson).
In the case of someone (rather than something) being the issue, don’t pursue a
desire for revenge and retribution. Don’t be a vigilante. Instead, let your calmness
be known to all.
Why? Because Jesus sees you and is taking care of you. Because Jesus will at some point return to judge the world, and if He doesn’t bring about justice before, He will then. Our job isn’t to make justice happen. Ours is to put our lives in the hands of God and trust that He is fighting for us and that He will right wrongs.
Not a prescription to be a door mat and let yourself be trampled and taken advantage of – IMPORTANT CLARIFIER. There is a difference between standing up for what is right and being a vigilante.
-> Even though Paul was in the hands of those who wanted to harm him, even though there were those preaching the gospel with mal intent, even though the Emperor was tyrant who was against the church, even though there was conflict in the church, even though things were uncertain ahead, even though they may have been overwhelmed by everything around them, the church’s response was to be one of trust in God that He was fighting their battles and taking care of them. To the rest of the world, that would show a follower of Jesus living like a follower of Jesus.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?

Phil 4:6
3) Let go and let God
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation…..”
When overwhelmed, fight the urge to become anxious about it.
Why? Because anxiety cripples (what are the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of anxiety on a person?)
What ever the situation (in every moment) pray and request of God.
Prayer is an act, but also an atmosphere. Have a balance of both.
With thanksgiving? But isn’t this a trial? How can I be thankful in the middle of something hard? If you are joyful in the Lord always, you can, even in trials, be thankful. You don’t need to be thankful that you are going through overwhelming situations. But you can be thankful to God for what He has done, what He is doing now (even if you don’t see it) and what He will do because He is faithful.
-> Even though it would have been easier to be anxious about all that they were facing (and we could likely make a strong case for it), instead they had to learn that they could and should trust God instead of spinning in anxiety. They needed to understand that if He held the whole of the universe in His hands, that He also held them. They didn’t need to have all the answers and solutions. Followers of Jesus living like a follower of Jesus means responding to anxiety with the willingness to let go and let God.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?

Phil 4:7
4) Let His peace protect you
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard…..”
God’s peace is perfect, all encompassing for those who trust. (Isa 26:3)
The peace of God transcends (it defies, breaks through, goes beyond) understanding
His peace guards: army picture – keep external influences out.
Hearts – Seat of the emotions and soul, Minds – thoughts and intellect.
This ultimately comes through trust in Jesus Christ.
-> If the church wanted to be followers of Jesus, living like followers of Jesus, adopting His mindset, they needed to trust God enough to let the peace of Christ cover them. With the peace of Christ covering them and guarding their hearts and minds, they could truly act like Christ did when He was encountering accusations, trials, and dying on a criminal’s cross. As they faced their own persecution, Paul’s arrest and possible execution, and everything else, the only thing that would get them through was to have the peace of Christ. They needed to let His peace protect them.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?
-> Right now, people are overwhelmed. Life has always had its fair share of things to be concerned about: Family troubles, financial worries, job losses, health concerns, problems at school, bullies, a loss of a pet, a conflict with a friend, a car breaking down, the house needing major repairs, need I go on? And that is before we even flip on the news to hear about nations fighting, political instability, crazy world leaders, scandals, violence, etc…
-> And then add all the unique tensions of COVID to the mix. We are still largely isolated, under tons of restrictions, we can not enjoy a lot of the same things we used to because they can’t open, a lot of family and friend get togethers don’t happen, going shopping is a lot more inconvenient, we cant physically meet with our health care providers, we don’t know if our kids will be back in school come September, we may not have a job to come back to, we may lose our house because of being backwards on payments, the stress has killed our marriage, we may walk out and catch COVID, family members who shouldn’t be out are and are now at huge risk, etc…
-> And the longer COVID goes, the more tense people are. At the start, there was anxiety. People were overwhelmed because this was so new. Then we all settled down and settled in. People calmed and made the best of it. Now we are all tired and grumpy with making the best of it. And it shows. People are overwhelmed. People are short and grumpy with each other. People are offended with each other. Conflict seems like it is always around the corner, and there are a lot more egg shells to be walked on. And people who normally don’t react and are quiet with their opinions suddenly have a whole lot more to say and don’t care how they say it.
-> We are all uncertain about the future, and rather than live in the tension and trust God, we are clambering to find answers, something concrete, something to give us a plan. Instead of praying to God, we are prying open the door of self sufficiency that leads to further hurt, confusion, and self destruction.
-> This is not the way God intends for His people to live, as followers of Jesus living like a follower of Jesus. Instead of spinning in anxiety and allowing our feelings of being overwhelmed to drive us, choose true joy in every situation. Don’t react, trust Jesus. Let go and let God, and let His peace protect you.
-> How will you respond to being overwhelmed by life?

Sunday Live Stream: Are We There Yet? “Able”

Posted by Hanover Missionary Church on Sunday, July 5, 2020

Let me tell you another road trip story where I am sure “are we there yet” was on the minds of everyone!

Our story starts in March of 2020 (hindsight suggests it may not have been the ideal time for a vacation). We have friends who live in Washington state, who we had not seen for years. We were able to book the time off work, scored an amazing deal for flights, and we were finally ready for our first big family vacation. We are the type of parents who enjoy surprising (or tormenting) our children, so the only thing they knew was we were going somewhere and they would miss a few days of school. As the date drew near, we were becoming more aware of Covid-19, and the US outbreak near our destination. We monitored travel advisories, discussed it with our friends in Washington, and made the decision to proceed with our trip, but wash our hands often, and buy toilet paper before leaving.

We left on a Wednesday morning and made it inside the London airport before the girls realized they were actually getting on an airplane for the first time in their lives!

Because they had never left the province before, their first view of mountains was from the air, which is an incredible view! Wednesday afternoon we land in Abbottsford BC and drive the 2 hours to our friends’s house, and the kids finally believed us that we really weren’t going to Disney.

But then Covid-19 started rapidly evolving. Wednesday we arrived. Thursday, schools in Washington state closed for 6 weeks. Friday, Ontario schools closed for 2 weeks following March break. Saturday, Trudeau starts suggesting Canadians return home, and there is concern that Washington state will have mandatory stay at home days, which could make it hard for us to get home. Sunday, we decide to cut our trip short, and bunker down in an Abbottsford hotel and wait for our flight on Tuesday.

Sunday night saw whispered conversations in a hotel room hallway while the kids slept. Based on information we had, and consulting with a lovely doctor in our church family, we determined cancelling our flight, extending our vehicle rental and driving home was the most responsible choice for us.

Monday morning’s conversation: “So kids, you know how you’ve always complained about never leaving Ontario before? Now you’re going to get to say you’ve seen BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and northern Ontario!!!”

Strangely this was met with a resounding “NOOOOOOO!”
We ignored their protests and started the cross country trek.

We took shifts driving (my husband doing most of the driving using a combo of red bull and sunflower seeds to stay awake). My first shift started at dusk, in the mountains. Having never driven in mountains before, and doing so in a rental I was unfamiliar with, I was slightly nervous. It did not help passing a tractor trailer on it’s side. Or driving through an emergency scene involving two more tractor trailers. When the GPS alerted me to falling rocks ahead, my nerves were shot. I white-knuckled it until there was somewhere safe to switch out with my husband, who had not slept at all because I was so nervous he needed to stay awake.

We switched back and forth as we sped for home. The kids slept, and played on their tablets, and were suprisingly well behaved. We made it past Winnipeg before the first tears happened (it wasn’t me, but I felt close). After much discussion (and perhaps some disagreeing, and concern about our marriage lasting the remainder of the trip) we checked into a hotel in Thunder Bay, around 2 am on Wednesday morning. Never have we been so thankful for beds and showers! 6 am, we were back on the road, and 11pm Wednesday night we crawled into our own beds, and began our quarantine.

The biggest advantage of the trip is, when the kids now complain about being stuck at home, we simply ask if they want to go for a road trip again, and they stop complaining immediately!

I am sure that for that family, everyone just wanted the trip to end; they wanted to arrive. And if they could have screamed it, they probably would have said “are we there yet?”

We are on a strange journey as a church. Everything has been closed or cancelled (so it seems) due to COVID. Our churches are no exception. Until recently, no one was allowed to meet. And even as restrictions lift a bit, the ability to properly meet is still in question. And now even as we hear that we can maybe meet again, but also wrestle with if it is the wisest option, we are left asking “Are we there yet”? We all just want this wild ride to stop, and we long for some sense of normalcy. Yet, we also know that we are not quite sure where we are actually going; the final destination is unknown. What is normalcy? Everywhere we turn, we hear “life will never be the same” or “there will be a new normal”. What does that mean? And how does that impact our life as the church? Truthfully, I don’t really know (prayers for myself and all our leadership team would be great!)

Regardless of what church life ends up looking like, how we worship, how we carry out the mission, certain values drive us, and will always be the same. We are: Generations Following Jesus Together. That is our vision statement, who we want to become. We believe this happens as we Gather, Grow, Give, and Go. These are mission statements, or how we practically live out and achieve our vision.

So far, we have focused on the first three:
i. Gather: We believe that we are a connected family and community. We find ways to gather together because when we are together, life happens, relational and spiritual growth happens, and we reach our full, God given potential.
ii. Grow: Spiritual maturity is a continual process, and as followers of Jesus, we know that we are to grow deeper in our relationship with Him, and grow to become more like Him in our words, attitudes, and actions.
iii. Give: As we grow more mature, we understand that we are to give of ourselves from the gifts and abilities God gives us to serve others. We have looked at two central ideas so far:
God gives so you can give it away.
The very reason you have gifts and abilities is so that you can invest it in the lives of others for the purpose of building up the Kingdom of God here on Earth and for eternity.
Faith and humble service go hand in hand.
Serving others humbly is an evidence of who you are following. Following Jesus (doing as He did, following His example and His teachings) means humble service.

Key Idea:
Everyone can serve someone: we are all able!

As we talk about being the family and a community, and we together make it our goal to follow Jesus more, we embrace the idea that we are all able to serve someone; that God has given us all abilities so that no one is with excuse. Everyone can serve someone.

As we talk about everyone serving someone, what are some helpful tips from the Bible? What are some things we need to remember so that we can serve others the way God intends? I Invite you to turn to Romans 12:3-8.

CONTEXT
The book of Romans written to the church in Rome, later on in Paul’s ministry It was written to the context of a divided church. The church in Rome was made up of Jewish and non Jewish believers. And as certain things happened in the life of the church, fractures became more apparent.
a) The Jews exiled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius during his reign (anywhere from 41AD – 54 AD) (See Acts 18:1-2)
b) When they were allowed to return, they returned to see a church that was not what they left. It was not Jewish in flavour as for all this time, the Jewish contingency was gone. As a result, there were tensions regarding practice and traditions.
c) Tensions arose over what it looked like and meant to follow Jesus.

Romans was written to address that tension. The first 11 chapters give thorough theology of the gospel. Then from chapter 12 and on, we are given the practical application to the theology, or how it works in every day life. The discussion around everyone being able to serve is a part of that practical application that is handled. So, based on what is written in Romans, what is important to understand as we serve?

Romans 12:3
1) Keep yourself grounded. Don’t be crowded by egos.
Paul starts with the phrase “By the grace given to me” Here Paul is addressing his role given to him by God, by His grace. Paul’s role as an apostle and teacher was a gift of grace given to him by God. I will unpack this more in a bit, but out of this grace that was shown in how Paul was called, he has the authority to issue a warning. To the church he says:

Stop having inflated view of yourself:
a) This was written to a church with cultural tensions. Remember that up to very recently, those who were considered Gentiles were considered unclean. And now these same people who were once unclean were now equals in the church. There had to be a learning curve.
b) This was written to a church struggling with traditions.
c) There could have been tension based on giftings. There may have been some gifts that they viewed as being superior.
Instead of having an inflated view, Paul says: be honest with who you really are, using the measure of faith given. This is a fancy way to talk about what would be the standard for faith and of faith. What is this standard?
a) Jesus is the standard. So, measure yourself by how He lived.
b) Also, measure yourself by what He did for you. Jesus is the great equalizer / level ground for all people. There is nothing in the gospel that would encourage anyone to have a superiority complex. SEE GAL 2:20.

APPLICATION: How do you view yourself? Do you have a healthy view of who you are? (In this context, are you conceited? Prideful? Do you think that no one can live without you and what you contribute)? We need to think right about ourselves before we can think right of others, and start to serve them. This is a scriptural principle. See PHIL 2:3-5.

Romans 12:4-5
2) We are a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that requires our active participation
Verse 5 starts out by talking about there being one body in Christ / Christ’s body. Followers of Jesus are a part of this body:
a) Jesus was incarnate (God made present in human form) as He physically lived on Earth, making Himself known in personal form.
b) We are now the incarnation of Christ to world. The church is the physical vehicle by which Christ makes Himself known to the world.
c) In this body, every part has a special function. Every part has a role. The
health of the body is dependant on the parts working. Even the smallest part being out of order can affect the whole body.
d) In this body, all parts belong together.
This was in direct opposition to the mindset of Roman church that those who were of a different background or held different traditions did not have a place in the body. It was in opposition to those who claimed superiority based on giftings.

APPLICATION: Is there anyone who you see as being less than you in the church? Or any role within the church that you see as less? Or any church that you think is less? Or maybe you see others as being way better than you? Do you think that they (and not you) are able to make a difference or are more important? Is there a church that you think is superior? Jesus is the great equalizer. He levels the playing field. There is no room for an ego trip while following Christ. Anyone who calls on His name will be saved. And anyone who is His follower is a part of His body. Yes, our level of ‘responsibility’ within the role may seem different, and some roles will attract more attention, but in terms of the Body working, we need all parts working together. 1 COR 12:14-21.

Romans 12:6-8
3) Whatever the ability, use it!
Paul starts off this section with the phrase “According to the grace given” Some translations say “In His grace…”. Does it sound familiar? It should. It is very similar to the language used in the start of verse 3. Paul once again equates how people are gifted and called to serve as an act of grace.

Paul makes the statement in verse three that each person is differently equipped and has different gifts because of God’s grace for us.
a) God designing us different is an act of love and grace to us. Imagine if we were all the same? How messed up life would be? How impossible it would be to function together? Community would fall apart and life would not happen.
b) The early church needed to understand that it was God’s grace, not inconvenience that brought them all together, all be it all different from each other. Their differences were a part of God’s loving design for the Body of Christ.

What Paul then tells the church is “what ever your different gift(s) are, use them how ever you are able!” We have an obligation to serve as we are able. Paul then lists some of the spiritual gifts that people in the Body may have. He does not give an exhaustive list here, but is simply making a point.
a) He mentions Prophesy: These are direct messages from God about the present or future. And it is to be exercised as per the standard of faith that has been taught and given.
b) Serving, Teaching, encouragement, generosity, leading, and mercy / kindness are all mentioned.
-Paul follows the mention of each gift with an exhortation to use the gift, what ever it may be, in the way it was intended. The gifts are not meant to be hidden or hoarded.

APPLICATION: Everyone has gifts to be used. Everyone has a place to serve and function, no matter the gift. Regardless of how you view your gift, it is needed and important. So, use it! Obviously, serving and using the abilities that God has given each one of us will be a core value of our church when we do re-open, just like it has been before we closed. But even now, it is a core value, though the church building may be closed. Why? Because the church is bigger than the building. The church is the people. And anywhere the people of God gather together to do the things of the people of God, there the church is. Even as you are in your living room today gathering with others in your family, there the church is. And as His church, you are sent out to serve, regardless of where you meet, and with how many you meet. Serving isn’t reserved for just in the church building. It is meant to be shared in the community at large where ever and to whomever there is a need. And as you serve in the way you are gifted, to those around you, the body of Christ still functions.

Everyone can serve someone: we are all able!

FAMILY CHALLENGE: Who can you serve, in the ways that God has gifted you this week as a family? Find someone to serve. Be courageous and step out. And as you serve, I want to hear your stories.

Sunday Live Stream: Are We There Yet? Serve (Part 2)

Are We There Yet?

Serve Pt 2

Matthew 25:31-40

Thanks to all of you who have sent in your road trip stories so far.  I have one I have received that I would like to share with you today, where I am sure at least one person was asking “Are we there yet??”

“I was 9 or 10, and my parents were recently divorced. My cousins had a trailer across the border in a small town called Birch Bay. It was my week with my dad, and I was invited to spend a couple of days with them.  We were waiting in line at the peace arch border crossing, which is one of the busiest in BC going into Washington state. Dad was in the front driving, and I was sitting behind him in the back coloring…or ummm writing letters. I decided to write “HELP” and hold it up to the window while waving at the cars beside us. Unbeknownst to my dad, the car beside us alerted border patrol, which caused us to get pulled over and put in separate rooms, and interrogated separately. They thought my dad was abducting me and fleeing the country. After about 3 hours of interrogation, a phone call to my aunt to confirm we were indeed going to her trailer, and a phone call to my mom to confirm that yes my dad does have permission to cross the border with me, we were free to go. From that point on, I was never allowed any writing utensils while traveling with either parent.”

I am sure that dad was asking “are we there yet??”…

As a church, in this age of COVID, isolation, and all the other oddities of it, some of us are asking the same thing. Life as the church has been completely turned upside down.  We can no longer do what we were doing, and we keep hearing that when things do relax, everything could look different for us.  It feels like a crazy journey.  Who would have thought six months ago that church services would be completely digital? How many of you thought it would be accepted to sit on the couch sunday morning, in your PJs, with a coffee, participate virtually in our gathering with many other families who were doing the exact same thing?  Who would have thought that in a matter of a couple weeks, all of our ministry plans would be turned upside down?  

In the midst of all the crazy journey that is the church in this COVID era, what can we hold on to?  Is there something about our life as a family that remains constant regardless of what is going on around us? Well, God’s plan for us is steady.  We believe that He is asking us to be Generations Following Jesus Together.  I am not going to unpack that this week, but if you want to know more about what that means, check out the last few Sundays.  We believe this is achieved as we Gather, Grow, Give, and Go. We spent a fair bit of time talking about the first two.  I want to again look at the third mission value: Give.  

Last week we talked about how when it comes to serving others and giving of ourselves, God gives so you can give it away! God gives everyone abilities, talents, and resources so that we can invest in the lives of the others, and in doing so bring God honour, and build His Kingdom here on Earth. This week we are talking about how:

Faith and humble service go hand in hand

These two things truly are are the perfect pair. They go together naturally. When we think of faith, we should also think of humble service being an expression of it.

Please turn to Matthew 25:31-45.  I want to give you some context. This passage is written in the setting of the church age.  What this means is that Jesus’ earthly ministry is done has left Earth to be in Heaven with the Father. He has left His Holy Spirit to empower and commission followers to do His work while He is gone, to be the church.  Like parable in prior section we looked at last week of the master who takes a trip and gives his servants responsibility over his wealth while he is gone, Jesus is gone but coming back at some point, and wants to see when He returns that His Church is carrying on His work, in His absence.  This sets the tone for the next passage – what we are about to read is what Jesus expects of His Church.

Matthew 25:31-33
1) Jesus looks to the intentions of the heart

The context here is future, when Jesus comes back to give final judgement for humanity and usher in eternity. He says that all the nations will come, and then He will separate the people, much like the shepherd separating the sheep and the goats.   Important because:  i) Goats and sheep would be in same flock, and would need to be separated as they were put in the fold to rest ii) Goats and sheep resembled to the point that only shepherd could see difference. There was something beyond the surface that they shepherd had to look to.  It is similar to how only God can judge our heart and truly see if we are His. Only He can see the motivations behind what we do. Jesus looks to the intentions of the heart.

In the Bible, followers of Jesus are called sheep.  As He prepares to judge humanity, sheep sit at the right, and goats at the left. That is important because right is always sign of blessing and the left is a sign of conflict and curse. There was something at a heart level that separated them as sheep, which allowed them to be on His right hand side. Is there something that sets you apart at a heart level?  What is it that Jesus can see at a heart level that separates you as a sheep?

What characterizes those who are sheep?

Matthew 25:34-40
2) The compassion you show reveals the nature of your faith

Jesus teaches that compassion and faith have to go together. Jesus invites those who are sheep to enjoy the eternity of the Kingdom that God had designed and intended for them to enjoy since before time began. Then He lists why they have proven themselves to be sheep.
Notice the characteristics that Jesus lists. They were not overly or overtly religious (such temple visits, observing religious traditions, or observance of ritual and laws – all be it very important. Jesus adhered to those same laws, rituals, and traditions).  It was the everyday stuff. It was the stuff that came as they loved their neighbour as themselves because they loved God.  It was the care and compassion stuff (food, drink, clothing, hospitality, visiting those in need).

Notice also how natural it was, and how every day it was for them.  They didn’t do it because Jesus was there watching, or because He was specifically the beneficiary.  Quiet and humble service was the right and natural thing to do as followers of Jesus.  Jesus tells them that they fed Him, clothed Him, showed Him hospitality, and visited Him. Note their response in VS 37: “When did we see you?” They were so busy doing what came natural, and they didn’t do it because they saw Jesus as the physical beneficiary.

Yet Jesus says something: you may not have saw me, or thought of me as the beneficiary. But I was.  Whatever you do the least, you do for me.  The compassion you show reveals the nature of your faith.  How they lived was important.  It said a lot about their love for God.

Was Jesus teaching that in order to be accepted by God, it was all about their own good deeds? Was He teaching a works-based gospel?  No.  He was not contradicting the heart of the Gospel, and what would soon be written in Eph 2:8-9.  Instead, He was confirming something similar to what His brother James would soon write in James 1:27, 2:14-17.  The idea that Jesus was teaching was that their faith (what brought about a saving relationship with God) was based on grace, mercy, and choosing to place their trust and belief in Him.  Yet the reality of their faith would find expression in their actions.  

Who were the “least of these”, the ones that we should even be willing to serve even though it may not be comfortable, or be the people of prestige, position, and influence? There are different ideas among scholars. Some think that this refers to fellow believers who are in need. I agree with other scholars who tend to think it is a reflection on those who were marginalized, outcasts, the lowest of the low.  The ones that no one else would associate with.  In those days, they would be the poor, the disabled, the lepers, Gentiles, women.  This interpretation reflects the ministry and heart of Jesus, where it seems Jesus did the most ministering and had the deepest compassion.
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What is the application to us as a church in 2020? Your faith is not measured by how often you attend church, how much $$ you give, how much you read, how much you pray. Yes we need all these spiritual disciplines.  They are valuable and are of crucial importance to help you grow in your faith.  But where the rubber meets the road, where we see the outward proof of your inward faith is in your acts of compassion and love for others.  Faith and humble service go hand in hand.  The compassion you show reveals the nature of your faith. 

How can we exercise compassion and love to the least of these?  Who can we serve? HMC is trying to grow in this within our community. We see this evidenced by our involvement with Hanover Heights School, the warming center and use of our showers, gift bags given to some of our seniors, annual gift baskets at Christmas to those in the hospital, and our food pantry.  How can the universal church be better? How can we personally be better on a global and local level? We have to stop thinking of those in need with an “us” and “them” mindset. We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones, especially when it is inconvenient to show compassion, care, and love.

How will the church be relevant moving ahead?  What sorts of things will impact the community at large for Him?  Yes, our meetings are important to us and to our spiritual growth. But at the ground level, in our community, I propose that it is how we love the least of these that can help make the biggest impact.  Our message gains credibility when people see it in action in our lives first. When they see us living out the teachings of Jesus, they are more inclined to listen to us.

Compassion and loving the least of these is modeled for us by Jesus Christ. It is ultimately how Jesus reached us who were “the least of these” by giving up His life for us.

Faith and humble service go hand in hand.

Sunday Live Stream: Are We There Yet? Serve

Are We There Yet?

4 – Serve

May 31, 2020
1 Pt 4:10, Matthew 25:14-27

The last few weeks together, I have been sharing my fun and wild road trip stories with all of you. This week I am going to do something different. HMC likes challenges, so here is your challenge (for all of you joining the live stream today, watching on Wightman channel 6, or reading this later on). I want to read your wacky road trip stories. Tell me about that trip where everything seemed to go wrong, or the strangest things happened, and where you found yourself asking “Are We There Yet?” Email it to me, drop it in the mailbox at the church and address it to me. And as they come in, I will read some of them on air. And the weirdest, most off the wall (Yet 100% true) road trip story is worth a prize. The deadline is June 13th, 2020. Send them in!

We have been talking about being on a bit of a road trip together. COVID has changed the rhythm of our church family significantly since the pandemic was declared in early march. No longer are we meeting physically in person. Everything we are doing now is digital – we are on Facebook, zoom, tv, and other streaming sites. To participate in the life of the church, you never have to leave your home. While I know there is a certain attraction for some, we also know that without the personal interaction isn’t the same. As we look to the future, we know that life in every single area will be different, and the church is no exception. And we long for clarity on what life will look like, what church will look like, but really, we don’t and can’t know as there are too many unknowns. And for some of us, we just want this wild road trip to end. We want to know “Are we there yet?”

In this time, there are some things for the church that regardless of how weird and awkward life gets around us will stay constant. Regardless of how the church looks and functions six months from now, we know that we will still be:

Generations following Jesus together

We will be an intentional gathering of all the ages who are united together in our desire to know, love, and follow Jesus deeper. We do this as we:

Gather: We understand that we are a community, a family. We understand that authentic community requires intentional participation. We understand that practical faith finds its expression within the setting of an authentic faith family and community. We need authentic community as we grow in our faith.

Grow: We understand that spiritual health, growth and continuing maturity is an important part of us being a community. So we strive to cultivate our heart soil so that when the seed of faith is planted in our hearts, it grows into an amazing, healthy, fruit bearing, reproducing plant. That is something that should be natural and normal.

Give: As we grow in our faith, we understand that a natural part of spiritual maturity is developing and using the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given us to bring Him honour by serving Him and others. I want to spend a few weeks talking about why we give, how we give, etc…

1 Pt 4:10

God gives so you can give it away!

God gives you gifts, talents, skills, and abilities, and then He gives you the opportunity to put those things to good use, to invest them in doing His work (which often involves serving others). He gives so that you can give away. This is a natural and expected part of your own spiritual growth and maturity. Let me tell you a parable of Jesus that illustrates that point.

Matthew 25:14-15
1) We are given gifts

Verses 14-15 are not just a nice story about a boss going on a journey and leaving his servants in charge, doing his work in his absence. It is a foreshadow of what is coming in a scene reminiscent of Matt 28:19-20, Acts 1:8 where Jesus leaves. He ushers in the church age in Acts 2 when the promised Holy Spirit comes and commissions the followers by giving them a fresh filling. And then the church carries on the work of Jesus in His absence, knowing that one day He will physically return.

Note the size of the wealth that was given. 1 Talent was equal to 15-20 years wages as day labourer. 5 talents = 75 to 100 years wages. 2 talents = 30-40. Huge investment… Think 550K minimum. This was a huge investment, huge risk in trusting these guys. The sheer size and risk of the investment reminds of the investment Jesus made in each one of us. He gave up His life, and then gives us His Spirit who gives us (who don’t deserve it) gifts to serve Him and do amazing things for Him. He gives us gifts to carry on His work in His absence. We are given gifts.

Matthew 25:16-18
2) We can choose what to do with these gifts
The first two servants worked hard, gave it everything, and leveraged the wealth they had to make more back. They understood the reason the master gave them his wealth, so they worked it hard to get a return. They invested, they used what was given to them.

The third servant buries the money in ground so that it is safe and there is no risk of loss. In a day before banks, digging a hole and burying was a common safety and security measure to keep valuable possessions safe.

You have been given gifts, talents, resources, abilities by God. You can choose to invest it, take risks with it, work hard with it, and see a return in the lives of others, or you can keep those things to yourself. You can choose what you do with them.

Matthew 25:19
3) We will need to show how we used those gifts

The master returns after a long time. He wants to see the returns on how the servants handled his wealth. They had to give an account.

This is a parallel to us in this church age. After what seems to be a long time, Jesus will return as promised (unexpected, like a thief). There is an understanding that all of us will need to give an account for how we used the gifts He gave us to carry on His work in His absence. Have we been wise with those gifts? Have we used them, worked hard with them, or have we hidden them?

Matthew 25:20-27
4) God is looking for a return

In the case of the first two servants, hard work happens with the master’s wealth, and 100% returns are had. I don’t think the main focus here is how much the servants made back. The focus is that they took what was given to them, worked hard with it, and used what they had been given to grow a larger return. Faithful stewardship pleased the master more than the return. And because they worked hard for a return knowing that is what the master would have done, he rewarded them.

Contrast this to servant #3. He is the ‘sensible’ one that many of us can relate to. On the surface he did the wise thing. Taking care of wealth seems to be wise. But we see that he completely misunderstood heart of the master. He knew that the master always wanted a return for his hard work and efforts (harvesting where you have not sown, gathering where seed has not been scattered because maybe there still is something there) but saw him as only him being a hard hearted, penny pinching miser who wanted to protect his riches. So when the master gave the servants responsibility over his wealth, it was seen only as a protectionary measure rather than as the desire for them work hard with all with his wealth, and get a return.

The servant, not knowing master, fears him. Even though he knows his master expects a return, the servant is too worried about losing what has been given to him, which is why he buried the money to play it safe. This is why he takes the easy way out.

The master confronts him…Your words make you guilty! I gave you more than enough wealth to do a lot with, and you should know that I work hard for a return. And you know I expect you to work hard with what I gave you to get a return, yet you were fearful and lazy with what I gave you. There was no responsibility with my wealth!

God gives you and I gifts. Jesus left, the Holy Spirit came, and now all who know and follow Jesus have spiritual gifts that we are entrusted with while He is away. For some it is preaching, some teaching, some words of encouragement, some helping and serving quietly, some giving generously, some mercy and compassion, some are gifted in sharing faith and the Gospel. Whatever the spiritual gift, we have all been given gifts to use, to work hard with, invest, to build up His kingdom before He returns.

Which servants are we like? The ones who will work hard, risk it all, and put it all out there for a return? Or are we taking the gifts that God has given us and hiding it, fearful of the gifts, fearful of what it means for us and what we should do, fearful that God is more worried about protecting the gifts than using them in the lives of others and maybe sometimes messing it up?

God gives so you can give it away

How and who are you investing in? Sharing? Planting? Helping to grow the Kingdom?