Sermon


Christians should not be doormats.  Too often Christians get depicted as “pushovers” or “weak” but we are not to be doormats. Lots of professional athletes help dispel this image to  a degree, but what does it really mean to make oneself meek and humble?

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. Mark 10:42-44 (emphasis mine)

I know for me servant and slave are not words that I readily identify with.  Like Chris I have always read this passage and thought that to become a leader or first I must be a servant and slowly work my way up in an organization or group.  I don’t think this is completely incorrect, but Chris provided an alternate idea that really got me thinking.  In our society by being a servant and serving the needs of others we are being leaders of Christ’s kingdom, spreading His love.

Chris explains it much better than I, but basically the way we think about leadership and power is focused on the world, but when Christ thinks about leadership and power it is on a very different plane (one that we would think of as low).

Christ came to invert the world or to use the language from the message: Vertigo.  Vertigo is when our surroundings seem to whirl dizzily! Christ’s perspective can seem so different than ours that is whirls by us without ever truly understanding.

Christ was known by His love.  What are you known by? This is the famous tombstone or epitaph question. Christ doesn’t want us to be a doormat, but does want us to love others as He loved. He doesn’t want us to feel the shame that comes with being lowly but the joy that comes through loving service.

Another main point of the message was that we are called to give everything.  Many of us rationalize that when we “make it” or make our first million we’ll give a substantial amount to the church or missions.  That’s not what Christ wants, if the widow had waited to give 5 mites instead of her 2, she might never have been able to do it.  We are asked to remember that God has blessed us and we should give back to Him and honor Him now.

This point can also be hard, when your budget is tight and you are barely able to put food on the table, it makes sense that you should provide for your family’s needs before the others.  Yet, the widow “put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44)

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We don’t celebrate a traditional advent at The Bridge.  In the last three years that I’ve attended (and its existed) this has made for a different holiday season than I’m used to.  This week Chris’s message was excellent and Bono even paid a short visit!

I must say it was a little interesting using Jonah as the basis for the Christmas story, but it tied in very nicely. The main point of the message was that we should love people rather than judging or condemning them.

Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites and knew deep down that if he presented the message of salvation to them that they would probably be saved.  This happened in Jonah 3:10 “… He [God] had compassion…” Jonah’s plea in Jonah 4:2 is almost funny but sad,  Jonah was so angry about God’s compassion for the heathen! “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

God does not want His people walking around the earth holding His love inside their hearts or in some niche group and condemning everyone else.  Look what happened to Jonah when he tried.  Matthew 5:43 commands us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.  That definitely isn’t an easy task and it should be done in a healthy and Spirit-filled way.

Finally from Hosea 6:6 we learn what God wants from us:

I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

Rather than focusing our energy and time on hatred and condemnation, God calls us to be a people of mercy and compassion. (excerpted from this week’s discussion guide)

Application

Chris made a point at the beginning to say that we are often more charitable this time of year, than during the other 11 months.  He clarified that God wants us to live with love 24/7 all year long.

Make a list of people or situations that you need to let go of and focus more on loving those people instead of harboring ill feelings or judgement. Pray for God to help you to do this.

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It = Faith in this current scenario.  If we don’t utilize faith as part of our life it will slowly fade away and we may lose our faith.

Without exercise our muscles slowly fade away to some degree.  We will go blind if we are stuck in a cave without any light.  These are a few examples from Sunday’s message My Life: My View.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) defines faith as

…the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

It is important to realize that we are “foreigners” on Earth and that we will have desires that aren’t of God (1 Peter 2:11-12). So we realize that our real life is WITH GOD, not here today on Earth.  This takes a daily exercise of faith to remember and live out.

Chris spoke repeatedly about how we view the world around us.  Obviously we view things with our eyes and Jesus talks about the eye in Matthew 6:22-23:

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

Our viewpoint constantly shifts between the world and God.  It is simple to say that we all want to focus on God, but it takes a step of faith to actually work that out and rely on Him and trust Him with everything.  Chris also said “anything that stops me from experiencing faith is evil.”  Without diluting that message it may not be evil, but our view of it is evil.  In my life, my pursuit of a job isn’t evil, God wants us to work, but if I place that pursuit ahead of my pursuit of God (which is probably the case) then it has become evil.

Father you have seen and created everything, help me to have the confidence to trust in Your plans and to be seeking Your Will.

This week’s journal questions are:

  • What is the process you go through to make a decisions?
  • Your paradigm has been formed through experience – how much has faith impacted it?
  • Is God talking to you about your faith? How much does it come into play in your life?
  • What sense do you rely on the most? Why?
  • Faith takes us to God’s reality. In His reality we see that we are just visiting here. Does this change your view on anything?
  • If you had one year left on this earth – how would your life change?
  • Write about what you have learned about faith and yourself this week.
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Well we are sitting safely at home after a very busy, challenging, and uplifting few days at the Global Health Missions Conference. Today was a short day with only two breakouts and 1 plenary speaker, but lots of time for worship and making commitments related to missions.

Today’s first breakout was by Mike Soderling, a MD working in Guatemala, entitled Nuts and Bolts of Building Effective Networks and Partnerships. I wasn’t really sure if this would be focused more on individuals or organizations and it ended up being more organizationally focused, which was fine for me. I was a little surprised by this figure there are about 700 churches in the West per unreached people group in the world. If churches and organizations would work in true Christian Unity these groups could be reached quicker and easier. This was a solid breakout with some good technical information.

The two breakouts were interrupted by Dr. David Stevens, the Executive Director for the Christian Medical and Dental Association and also the head Doctor at Tenwik Hospital in Kenya. I had heard him speak while at Taylor and his voice his powerful. He spoke about William Borden and three phrases that were written in Borden’s Bible.

  • No Reserves (Matt 6:19-21)
    • We must die to live wholly giving ourselves to God
    • We must live to serve now
  • No Retreat
    • For lack of purpose (Prov 3:5-6) relentless pursuit of Purpose
    • For lack of discipline (Col 3:23)
    • For lack of love greatest investments are the investments in others.
  • No Regrets
    • Live a life without regrets, take advantage of the calling

Finally, the last breakout I attended was What do I do Now? by Kevin Shannon a MD with Africa Inland Mission. He talked about what our purpose is and discerning what our calling is. He waited 25 years from when he received the call to when he actually made it to the field. He shared 3 things we should be focusing on while waiting for the call.

  • Sanctification – becoming more like Christ
  • Professional Growth – gaining skills and knowledge creating a solid foundation
  • Growth in Ministry – gaining experience by learning, teaching, and serving.

I found today very challenging. We know we have been called overseas. But we aren’t sure where we have been called specifically or when we are being called to go. That is what we are currently wrestling with, especially since I’m looking for employment.

I think we have fallen off the wagon on many of the things we heard today. One that really got me was the difference between taking God with OUR plans, instead of letting God show us HIS plans and following Him. I’m sure we all struggle with that at different points, it is so hard to surrender our lives to Him. We know that He has great plans for us and we have been patient, waiting for an answer, but we maybe haven’t been searching for Him. Maybe we have been more passive in our patience, instead of actively seeking Him out while waiting (does that make sense?).

Anyways, prayer and insights are always welcome!

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So I acutally got to hear Steve speak today during one of the breakout sessions at the Global Health Conference in KY. He was a little off topic but it was still a good session. The title of the session was Putting Indigenous Leaders in the Driver’s Seat and talked about the need of empowering indigenous peoples and letting them control the ministries in their country. Steve is a big proponent of moving away from dependency building relationships towards empowerment. It is save to say that ministry is much more effective when coming from someone “similar” to you and it is also a better use of resources.

He shared a lot about what his company, I-Tec, is doing around the world, specifically their dentistry programs. It was neat to hear about inidigenous lay leaders who are being trained and empowered by American dentists to take care of the dental needs of their own people.

Other speakers today that I heard included Dr. Peter Okaalet, the Senior Africa Director of MAP International. He is a Ugandan physician with an MDiv and Mth working on the issues of HIV and AIDs throughout Africa. His was a little more technical presentation but some of the points I took out of his presentation were:

  • Swaziland has the highest concentration of churches and also the highest prevalence rate of HIV, while Muslim countries have very low prevalence rates.
  • Commercial Sex Workers (prostitutes) are making the choice between eating today and living for a few more years or dying of starvation.

After lunch I attended a really good breakout entitled Ten Essentials of Highly Healthy Marriages by Walt Larimore, based off of Ed Young’s book The Ten Commandments of Marriage. I’ll just list the “10 Commandments” because they are good enough for their own past later!

  1. Thou Shalt Not Be a Selfish Pig
  2. Thou Shalt Cut the Apron Strings
  3. Thou Shalt Continually Communicate
  4. Thou Shalt Make Conflict Thy Ally
  5. Thou Shalt Avoid the Quicksand of Debt
  6. Thou Shalt Flee Sexual Temptation Online and Otherwise
  7. Thou Shalt Forgive Thy Spouse 490 Times and More
  8. Thou Shalt Keep the Home Fires Burning
  9. Thou Shalt Begin Again and Again
  10. Thou Shalt Build a Winning Team

The final Breakout was entitled From “Churchanity” to Christianity in Forging an Enhanced Biblical HIV Prevention Response. This was presented by Troy Lewis, who is loosely affiliated with Christian Connections for International Health. The basic summary of his presentation is that Churches and Christians get so caught up in arguments about things like condoms or focusing on marriage as a prevention tool that we lose sight of the real impact, lifestyle changes. Marriage is great, but not if one partner is infected or is unfaithful. He gave much food for thought about our perspectives and stereotypes and how they negatively impact our prevention efforts.

Finally, the evening Plenary was by Yvette Maher, the VP for the Sanctity of Life division at Focus on the Family. She shared about some of their work, primarily focused around abortion but also other sanctity of life issues. Her main points though were why are we here? and what are we afraid of? She said that the Bible says 366x’s that we should “Fear Not.” Finally, Fear is a Contradiction of Faith.

This was a crazy busy day. They are keeping us well fed with boxed meals and plenty of time for the two of us to discuss what we are learning and to visit with many great exhibitors.

Thanks for reading and please pray for us that we would be open to God’s leading and understand where He might be calling us to. Thanks!

We just left the first evening of the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY, where Steve Saint translated a very inspirational message from Eli Catachunga, a Ticuna tribesman from the Amazon in Brazil.

Eli wearing traditional headdress and markings shared about how in Brazil the missionaries were kicked out of the indigenous lands, because they were ruining the culture. But that God had prepared people within the tribe to become leaders and the Gospel continued to spread without outside missionaries! He kept using the example of Moses being saved and prepared by God, both in Pharaoh’s house and then in the wilderness, to be a leader and save his people from Egypt. He also spoke much about the need for the entire body of Christ in all its ethnic and tribal forms to pull together and mix resources to bring the Kingdom.

Some of the things I pulled away from this first Plenary are:

  • The Gospel doesn’t destroy our culture (or any culture) but purifies it and is the solution to our culture’s deficiencies.
  • Why aren’t we teaching others what God has taught us?
  • God prepares us to give to others
  • One should help another (we are all equals, in the Body there is no one who is better or worse)
  • Every tribe (people group) needs a Moses. This is a project that he is currently working on in Brazil
  • We can’t get too comfortable with the blessings that we have been given. Otherwise there will be consequences.

This last point segways well into the breakout session I attended earlier in the day. The title was My Life: A Designated Donation? The main thrust was that we often put stipulations into our willingness to serve God, like a donor may stipulate where money should go within an organization. She was saying that like an organization’s leadership knows where money is needed (which may differ from a donor’s interest, ie. toilet paper or other “non-sexy” needs), God knows where His people are needed. We should be willing to commit our life to Him and then be willing to follow Him wherever He may lead us.

Those are just some thoughts from the first afternoon of the conference. We are here because 1) my wife is an RN, and 2) because we are interested in working overseas.

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I want more stuff, I want stuff until my closets are overflowing with junk I don’t need or want anymore.

Ok maybe not, I don’t really like junk and always ask for and want practical gifts for Christmas and my birthday. I’ve been more excited about getting a window fan, pillow, and socks for my birthday than some new or hip gadget I don’t have a use for!

I know I’m weird, most people want more, bigger and better, everyone wants to keep up with their neighbors (even if they aren’t named Jones). Is it wrong to want stuff?

It all depends on your perspective according to this week’s message at church: My Life: My Stuff.

Chris used the sad but true stories of parents who get caught up in Little League games and forget about the true meaning of the games. He also told the story from Matthew 9:18-26, in which a Jewish ruler comes to Jesus because his daughter had died. In verse 24 Jesus says that the girl is not dead but only sleeping. This was to illustrate how God’s perspective is different than ours.

He also used this well-known passage:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

I found this message to be right on the spot and something I needed to be reminded of. While the main thrust of the message could be pointed towards worldly materialism on the broad scale, it comes back home when we start looking at the little things we place between ourselves and God.

As one of the series theme verses says:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

This week’s program summary says:

This week, we have begun to see that God being in our lives requires us to recognize that all that is in our possession is His. This is a difficult thing for us to grasp. But, as we follow Him and trust Him, we learn to hold on to things loosely.

This week’s journal questions are:

  • What things are nearest and dearest to your heart?
  • What things do you hold tightly to the most? Why?
  • What things are easier to release to God? Why?
  • What does it look like to “Seek the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33)?
  • What do your possessions have to do with the Great Commission? (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Write a prayer to God about your desire to have a heart that is more like His.
  • Write about what you have learned about God and yourself this week.
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