Friday, July 22, 2011

God is Doing a New Thing

Seeing God's vision for me, my family and my church.


 

Sunday July 17, 2011


 

Habakkuk 2:1-4

 1 I will stand my watch
      And set myself on the rampart,
      And watch to see what He will say to me,
      And what I will answer when I am corrected.   
2 Then the LORD answered me and said:
      " Write the vision
      And make it plain on tablets,
      That he may run who reads it.
       3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
      But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
      Though it tarries, wait for it;
      Because it will surely come,
      It will not tarry.
       4 " Behold the proud,
      His soul is not upright in him;
      But the just shall live by his faith.

1 Corinthians 2:9

But as it is written:


      " Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
      Nor have entered into the heart of man
      The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

www.biblegateway.com


 

The opportunity of a lifetime. One day at Arby's in Muskegon when my children were very young my wife was handed a card intended for me. Apparently some gentleman in a suit and tie watched my behavior with the employees- the typical joking and such that I like to do from time to time with strangers. He was impressed with my articulation, my interaction and how I was outgoing. He told Naomi that I would be 'perfect for the new business venture" that he had started.


 

So I called the dude. He came to my residence and picked me up for a business meeting. The business was called A. L. Williams and the work was selling life insurance policies. But here was the catch- you made money when you recruited other people.


 

Here was the opportunity to be on the ground floor of a new business. The problem I had was the murkiness of what my role would be besides trying to recruit other people. I was beginning to discover that rather than starting on the ground floor of a new business, I was the ground floor along with so many others who were looking to make money.


 

I have sold newspaper subscriptions for the Muskegon Chronicle, sold the "Book of Life" for Zondervan's and was even approached about selling for Amway.


 

What I have learned is that the key to anything you do involves hard work. You have to settle in your mind that whatever it is you are doing you need to enjoy it (first of all) and be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed at the venture.


 

And there will be missed opportunities in your journey into the future. But…


 

Life is full of new opportunities. I have watched as young families have begun to populate Family Camp and the newness that this brings to our District as Wesleyans. Young couples with young children establishing their homes and involving themselves with ministry. There are churches who have opportunities come their way and they take full advantage and see tremendous growth and vibrancy take place in their ministry.


 

There is not a person here who has not lived the old mantra, "You win some- you lose some." The problem is that we can find ourselves wondering at the end of our days "what if" we had done things differently. "What ifs" can haunt us to the grave.


 

I have approached this morning's message much like William Wallace did when he let his fellow Scotsmen into battle with the very idea that someday when they get ready to die would they wish for this one opportunity to fight the English for the freedom from tyranny they longed for?


 

Would we someday look back- would I as a pastor and you as laity- look back and see that this is the ideal time for the fight of a lifetime and see God do amazing things in our presence that we only read about in books and hear old-timers talk about over coffee? There will be missed opportunities- that cannot be avoided since we are human beings striving to process the mind of God through our human minds. Yet there will also be new opportunities to more than make up for the missed the ones. Somehow in God's gracious providence and sovereignty, he does not easily give up on us and in moving the church forward.


 

So the question begs to be asked: What is God calling us to at this juncture of ministry in the history of Shelby Wesleyan Church? And as a backdrop to this, what is God calling you as a man or woman of God to reach towards that transforms your family into being the godly Christian home that we desperately need in these days.


 

So how do you in your life and family life see a fresh vision from God that will take you to another level of Christian living? And how do we see our Church- Shelby Wesleyan Church- see a fresh vision from God that will allow us to see the Holy Spirit move in our church and into our community.

Habakkuk gives us a great learning curve to work from. Notice a few ideas that are important to you getting a fresh vision for our Church ministry and for our life and families.

ONE: LISTEN to God.


Are you listening to God?

The Prophet Habakkuk was frustrated with his situation. He was watching the demise of his country as they were being attacked by the enemies not so much because the enemies were bad people but his own people were bad people and they were facing punishment.

These are days when we need to listen to God in ways maybe we had not in the past. As a church ministry we need to listen to God. I can tell you that right now in my spirit I need to get away and be alone for a few days so I can listen to God. There are a lot of things on my mind about our Church and the next steps that need to be taken.

Ask God for his specific vision and unique calling for this ministry, at this time in history and for the target group that we have established.

For you as parents and grandparents, as aunts and uncles, you need to be in tune with God. Raising our families is not an easy task. Taking care of the family responsibilities costs us something. We need to be in prayer constantly and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

TWO: STUDY others.

We all have role models that we look up to who have set a course to follow.

For Naomi and me we had people who set an example of godliness and good parenting. I want to be clear though: none of them were perfect. And let's be real: we all have clay feet at some point or on some issue. What we have done is strived to glean from them the qualities that would enhance our home ministry.

And that is just it: you are developing a home ministry. And to do so you need vision for your family.

What about us as a church? We should not be afraid to look to other churches, ministries, Biblical characters and leaders who have been given clear God-given visions. We cannot copy their vision but you can learn from them how to discern and put into words what God is laying on our heart.

For those of us as families and for us as a church family we must not be afraid to ask God to ignite within your heart a fresh vision of his will.

One day it struck Naomi and I in one of our late night conversations after our small children were put to bed (and probably had threatened them to get them to go to sleep). We talked about the possibility of them going into the ministry. Little did we know then that God was giving us a glimpse of his plans and purposes for our children. And in so doing create within us the necessary responsible choices that we knew would impact our kids.

Each one of us is a role model. You set the example for others to follow. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

THREE: BE PRAYERFULLY PATIENT.

The answer may take some time
as God helps you (and us) develop the ideas by the Holy Spirit's leading. How God works is mysterious and yet he never fails to answer the heart cry of his people for leadership.

Habakkuk was typical of the prophets of his time who sought for an answer from God that he then could pass on to his people. He lived and preached during the days of King Jehoikim- a very evil king of Israel. Sin was rampant everywhere. The enemy was closing in. What was God up to? Habakkuk went to his place of prayer- the "rampart" which was a high place that was secluded where he could listen to God.

We need to go to that place of prayer. We need to find that place as moms and dads as well as grandparents. We need to seek out God for answers that affect our families and so that we know what we must do.

And it is just as important as a church that we approach God with prayerful patience. We live in a time that we need God to be at work unlike any other time in history. However, we don't want just anything to happen- we want God to show up and change lives.

Many of us remember how God got a hold of Charity's heart through Child Evangelism Fellowship. What many of you don't know is the turmoil going on in the hearts of her parents as we battled those teenage battles with her rebellion. We prayed- maybe not enough- and we tried- maybe not enough and then saw God intervene and work.

Some of you were instrumental in seeing her come to Christ in more than a verbal way; she came to Christ in spirit. Not because of what any of us did but because of God.

Habakkuk reminds us of being patiently prayerful. "The vision is for another time" tell us that not everything we pray for is going to come immediately. God may grant a vision of what is going to take place but there may very well be a time frame.

A few years ago a couple of our ladies commented to me about a dream they each had. In their respective dreams they saw this church filled to overflowing for no apparent reason or special occasion. The perception they had was that this was going to be a regular church service.

We have not seen this vision fulfilled… yet. And I will grant that the vision God has for a ministry has a lot more to do than just numbers. The picture we seek is also a quality picture as well of us achieving our potential as a church.

Perhaps the next thought might help:

FOUR: TEAMWORK IS THE KEY.

Jesus once said, "Where two or three are gathered there am I in their midst." This is critical to our discernment. We need each other for clarity as well as God's involvement. Certainly as the pastor I will carry a lot of influence to the table- that is to be expected. However I also believe in the prayer lives of many of our spiritual "grandmas and grandpas" who commune with God on a daily basis. The dreams of the old men must not be discounted in light of the visions of the young men.

Husbands and wives need to be a team. Moms and dads need to be a team. Church boards and church committees need to be a team.

We are in this together and we need to work together as a team. Children learn early to divide and conquer; the devil knows that this holds true with church people as well.

Habakkuk was told what to do with the vision once he received it:

FIVE: WRITE YOUR VISION.

You might be thinking: "Oh, c'mon, Pastor Rob. Why would I do that?"

Well, to start with, God told Habakkuk to write out the vision.

The family life guru, Gary Smalley, has for years spoken to families on how to create a contract between each other, especially when our children become teenagers. This way your children are able to give their input and it allows the family to actually become accountable to each other. Put it in writing so that every family member has an understanding of what the family is all about. This also avoids the dominance of one member over the rest whether it be one spouse over the other or even the "hard-headed" teenager whose actions are bringing grief to the rest.

Furthermore as a church we must keep track of how we are doing things by putting what God leads us to do in writing. What happens when we do this is that it allows us to become accountable to what we have agreed that God has called us to do as a church. This then creates an atmosphere of integrity to God.

SIX: REMEMBER THE VISION.

It's too easy to run off to another project or get sidetracked onto something else. We must always remember what God has called us to and keep ourselves sharpened for the overall task. Furthermore, coupled with our core values we are able to keep the ministry on track and in the right direction.

For you as a family member what God is calling you to as you develop. It is critical that as parents we remember the high calling of holy living and making a difference in our church and world. It is critical to remember the importance of every action and attitude makes a difference in our child's heart and mind. They will imitate what they see far more than what they are told. The old adage is too often true: More is caught than taught.

We must remember that there was a time when God spoke to your heart about Christ. We cannot forget how our Lord led us on eagle's wings out of a life of sin and into the arms of Christ. We must remember the high calling to a life of love that is ours.

SEVEN: PASS ON THE LEGACY.

For Habakkuk, he was giving the message to a runner who would then carry the answer on elsewhere. For us, we are setting up a ministry that will give way for other ministries, ministers and whatever else God chooses to develop from this vision.

He was also told how this particular vision would be for a future time. Little did he know that his words would ring throughout the age of the Church concerning salvation by faith.

For you as parents pass on the vision of holy living and love to your children. Pattern for them the ways of holiness and godliness in all humility. For us as Christians we must pattern for each other these qualities as well as call others to share in the vision.

Naomi and I take very seriously our role as parents and now grandparents. Everything we do impacts our kids. What is interesting is that they recognized our short-comings as parents and realize that in parenting there is not perfect way but there is always a loving way.

And in the same sense for us as a Church, there is no perfect way to managing our ministerial pursuits. We are human beings with very human minds striving to interpret the wisdom and truth of the Holy Spirit. This means that we will allow Him to lead us into all truth. He will never get it wrong but we just might.

So what do we do?

Habakkuk 2:4 is a very key verse that still speaks to Christians today: "But the just shall live by his faith." Our calling as Christians is a life of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation but just as important it is the calling of living a life of faith in God in everything we do.

We pass this vision on as we move forward into ministry as a Church. We have an untapped potential to greatness that does more than hold the fort; we have a potential to reach areas of ministry we cannot hardly dare to imagine.

Daniel 11:32- "…but the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits."

That great exploit for you as a family and we as a Church can be as simple as serving a meal to a stranger and as complicated as raising a teenage daughter! I say that tongue in cheek but the greatest thing we can do for our children is leave them a legacy that will lead them to eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: Reaching for the heavens!

When we become heavenly minded God throws in the earth as well. (Cal Thomas)


 

We don't know yet what God has prepared for us. For you are parents and grandparents, for you as aunts and uncles, for all of us individually we don't know yet what God has for us. And far too often we fall short of God's very best. I know I have been guilty not so much of selling myself short but selling my God short.


 

And the same holds true for us as a Church ministry. We don't fully realize that when we reach for the heavens something wonderful will happen. Ministry will begin to shape differently as the Holy Spirit convicts men and women, boys and girls, neighbors, friends and enemies of the sin in their lives and they are born again. And when we become heavenly minded about our work on earth.


 

I love Philippians chapter 3. And there is one particular verse that I want us to notice (v. 14):

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Remember the Apostle Paul's quote of Isaiah 62:4 that we read as part of our scripture text earlier:

9But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."


 

And guess what? We may never see the fullness of our prayer and vision come to pass. Some of us if not all of us will die, be buried in the grave and await that final trumpet as our efforts come to fruitfulness in the hands of the children we see around here and the people of our community who are not yet believers and followers of Jesus Christ.


 

Let's do a new thing for the glory of God by the power of the Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

RECLAIMING OUR POINT OF REFERENCE

Jeremiah 8:18-9:11; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Galatians 5:1

There is a desperate need in America for us to be a people who acknowledge the wretchedness and evil pent up within our American soul and realize the absolute necessity that we reclaim a measure found outside of ourselves. Not a comparison of our educational standards to other nations; not a comparison of our technological and medical discoveries to other countries; not a comparison of our governing style to the United Nations; but a comparison to the absolutes of God's character and the holiness characteristics that once made our nation great.

"The old America had the mind to sift through these strengths and harness them. The new America finds itself without a point of reference." (Zacharias, Deliver us From Evil p. 39) We don't know who we are anymore because we have lost our purpose as a nation.

I say this gingerly, as an American Indian. The American history is riddled with unholy acts and atrocities. But yet, understand that these were corrected by a court system that meted out justice. For example, many of the tribal properties in Michigan and elsewhere were essentially stolen from tribal families either by coercion, inappropriate trades or just plain old theft. However, when brought to the U.S. Courts, time and again the Tribes were dealt with fairly and with justice.

We are not, however, a "theocracy." A theocracy is a nation that is ruled directly by God. If you want a good example of a theocracy you have to look no further than some Muslim nations that impose religious law on everyone- at least in public. The Taliban that ruled Afghanistan before 9/11 were so dominant that people had to bury televisions in their backyards.

I don't want that kind of government. I don't want a Christian government ruling our nation. When Christianity gets political power there is trouble. However, how about Christians bringing Biblical principles and values into their work as politicians? How about Christians running for office, changing laws that reflect proper moral justice? How about us as Christians just simply living a life of perfect love for God and perfect love for people?

Introduction- Jeremiah as the Weeping Prophet.

If Isaiah is the thundering prophet then certainly the next prophetic writer in the Bible is Jeremiah as the Weeping Prophet. Jeremiah lived a life of incredible paradox: a

Jeremiah sensed God's constant presence and yet felt oftentimes that God was far away.

Jeremiah loved his countrymen and yet hated the sin that was separating them further from God.

We can have feelings much like Jeremiah. We sense his constant presence and yet we see the suffering of our friends, neighbors and family members and wonder "where is God?"

We love our nation and yet grieve because of the lostness of our nation who seems to more and more turn their backs on God and his ways.

How can we reclaim our point of reference as a United States of America? How can we see our nation return to God? How can we endure in times like these?

The Problem of Truth Decay.

One of the great habits that my daughter is teaching my grandsons is the concept of brushing their teeth. Every night they love to suck the bubble-gum flavored toothpaste and chew on their toothbrush. The idea is to develop a habit that will keep their teeth intact not only as children but for a lifetime.

We all realize the need for tooth brushing to avoid tooth decay. In a similar sense, we need to engage in a regular habit of developing certain spiritual disciplines that help us to avoid what we might call "truth decay."

Truth decay is so prevalent nowadays that a new word was coined a few years ago called "truthiness." It's not that something is true, it's just "truthy." In the movie from the 80's- "The Secret of My Success"- one character's comment rung too honestly then and seems to be just as so today, "There is no right or wrong, only opinion."

In our day much as Jeremiah's four tragedies that promote truth decay:

  • The People were no longer people of truth.
  • They did not speak truth to God.
  • Friend deceived friend.
  • They lost their sense of guilt.

We must reclaim a sense of truth that makes us honest before God, honest to others and, especially, honest to ourselves.

The Fulfillment of Truth and Consequences.

Make no mistake about it: we live a life of truth and the blessings of God will pour out from heaven. We live a life of un-truth and there will be consequences. Our prisons and jails are full of people who ignored the truth of the law; many more live in prisons of there demise because they have chosen to ignore God's Word.

Throughout our scripture text we saw glimpses of God judgment on the nation of Israel who had ignored God and ignored obeying his truth. Jeremiah begs God, "Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away." (v. 19a) he saw judgment coming much like many of us have a hard time seeing our great nation continuing to turn from God without some sort of consequence.

Truth is an important ethic to live by. Without truth we celebrate life in a sea of falsehood and lies. For us as Christians we grieve very similarly as Jeremiah:

  • Jeremiah grieved over the lostness of people in their sins. We grieve for so much: friends and family with cancer, deaths, diseases, broken bodies; we grieve for the tragedies in society- the loss of life to senselessness, the loss of right and wrong, the loss of our moral compass. Sin is tragic whatever the capacity. It's one thing when we suffer due to things beyond our control but quite another due to our own doing.
  • Jeremiah grieved over the judgment as a result of their sins. Payday someday. Galatians 6:7- "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." This comes to us nationally, corporately as a church and most definitely individually. We cannot do sin and live a life of lies without punishment. Are we as Christians grieving not only over the lostness of our neighbors but are we looking in the mirror at ourselves?

Jeremiah can no longer hear the sounds of animals in the woods and mountains. Chapter 9:10-11 describes the desolation and the place becoming a haunt of jackals.

Jackals were wild scavengers who prowled the remote places, living off of leftovers- the scraps and carcasses of the dead animals. The land was becoming quite literally a place of darkness, death and destruction not fit for human beings.

The Falsehood of True Lies.


 

  • Falsehood in Family Life. Spouses lying one to the other or to each other; children being disobedient to their parents not so much out of childish behavior as out of a rebellious heart. Or as one movie quoted a few times: "You can't spell families without lies."
  • Falsehoods in Public Life. Advertisers love to lie about their product to get you to buy it. How many of us have been roped into purchasing something that did not live up to its advertising?
  • Falsehoods in Politics. Need I say a whole lot more?
  • Falsehood in Education. I used to get so frustrated about the lies the evolutionists tell in our public schools. It's not so much of me being against the evolution theory- fine, teach it- but at least be honest about it.
  • Falsehood in the Church. This is an even greater tragedy above all- when church members ever engage in falsehoods- lying about others in order to elevate one's self or worse yet, lie about someone to drag them down.


 

So where do we go from here? What must we do?

Restoring Truth to Everyday Life.

What will change our world is when nations such as ours is changed by through Jesus Christ- the power of the gospel message that Jesus saves and transforms. What will change our nation is when communities such as ours is changed by the power of the gospel message that Jesus saves and transforms; and what will change our communities is when the Church- with Christians such as us- are truly changed by the power of the gospel message that Jesus saved and transforms the human heart.

I am convinced that when the world out their sees us truly loving God and truly loving others as our self, then there will be an unleashing of the power of God that a lot of us haven't seen in years or in our lifetime.

So where does our responsibility come into play?

  • Repent for our own untruthfulness.
  • Become people of truth.
  • Grieve over untruth.
  • Be filled with love in truth.

We cannot expect government to legislate morality unless the Church is living up to its own expectations. We will never see the kind of change in our world unless we as Christians are living the life of Christ in the world.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

Conclusion- A Balm in Gilead

Outside of Israel to the east in what is now modern day Jordan, there was a type of plant that produced a balm that was often used to treat wounds and burns. This balm of Gilead would be comparable to the aloe vera balm you might keep in your medicine cabinet.

Jeremiah asks the questions, "is there no balm in Gilead?" He recognizes that there is nothing to heal the wounds of sin. He grieves over the lostness in such a way to recognize that no matter what he does, how long he prays that nothing is going to save the people… except God himself.

Jesus similarly grieves over the lostness of his people and he came to do something about it. Jesus gave his life so that his people- not just the Jews first but also us Gentiles- could enjoy this power of salvation.

Our Balm of Gilead is the precious blood of Jesus Christ that comes to our aid in forgiving our sins and giving us a new life- a new way to live.

Now we have a reason to pray and to help our world. Silver and gold have we none but what we have we give to them. The prayer for healing for our nation begins with us. We cannot cede this elsewhere. We have what the world needs- we have the love of Jesus Christ. We have the medicine that will heal the wound of our people.

And in the words of the Apostle Paul from Galatians 5:1- "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Set us free, O God, that we might live a life pleasing to you and a blessing to our neighbors. Help us by your Holy Spirit to love you with all of our heart, mind, body and soul. And help us to love our neighbors- our husbands, our wives, our children, our grandchildren, our relatives, our neighbors next door and down the street. Help us to love all Mexican people, black people, white people, American Indian, mixed races and the life. Help us to live a life of perfect love for you and experience the power of the gospel in everything we do. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


 

Bunion Surgery Recovery

Wow, who would believe bunionectomy and the second toe being shortened would be so painful!?

Here's my mistake if anyone is interested:

Right after surgery on Thursday June 16 my wife drove us to Lansing area because the next day I was to have a wedding rehearsal and then the wedding on Saturday. Terrible mistake!! I should not have done the surgery. Most painful experience of my life and I could hardly focus on my pastoral duties.

Then, on Wednesday- still hobbled up with the surgical boot- we got our twin toddler grandsons for the next five days. Another bittersweet event! Besides them standing on my foot, bumping my foot, touching it, walking into and all the things that go with having toddlers, I was in tremendous pain and was not able to help my wife with them.

After dropping them off to their parents, my wife gets sick and ends up in the hospital! So my husbandly responsibilities draw me to the hospital 35 miles away each day.

To top everything off, I wrenched my back out! The clumping around finally took its toll.

Needless to say my doctor's response to my pain is I have to stay off of it. The burning and pain is barely bearable but I do sense improvement.

I'll keep trudging along. This next week looks busy but hopefully I can keep off of it as much as possible.

We'll see.



54 State St.
(corner of State/Oceana Dr. and Ferry St.)
Shelby, MI 49455

Contact information:
231-861-5375
robnaomi@charter.net