“Strike the Arrows” (Hub Sunday)

Last July, we began Hub Sunday. Hub Sunday is a monthly focus to specifically remind us that our church is a hub. We are a hub intent on engaging people to be on mission within the community and around the world.

As I mentioned last month, my intent is to provide opportunities to others to share what God has laid on their hearts on Hub Sunday. I can stand and convey my thoughts, and I will from time to time, but you hear from me most every other week. So, hearing from others, gives us all a chance to hear how God is using the church as a Hub, rather than me simply trying to encourage us to be a hub.

Now, I know the response from some may be that, “Well, what are we paying you for if you are not preaching every week?” But the reality is that equipping others to serve, including to preach, should be a key part of my responsibility – particularly, according to the Bible. And God has gifted all of us in some way to serve Him, and a part of my gift, and more specifically right now, my development, is to equip and empower others.

A part of that empowerment is why we must think of ourselves, as Fairfax Baptist Church, as a hub. If we think about the messages this month, as it relates to building our muscles of faith, hope, and love, we can see why being a hub should be paramount.

We have hope – something that most people do not have.

We have faith – in Someone most choose not to believe.

We can love – with a purpose that most people cannot give.

As a true hub, we can show others the love of God, because of our faith in God, and give others a reason to have hope in God as well.

Showing love and sharing our faith is absolutely required according to Jesus’ own words in the Great Commission. It was echoed by the NT writers like Paul when writing to the churches to do this work. Why did Paul need to write then? Because of the same reason we need to review his words now. Because most people, including myself, do not follow the commands of Christ as we ought. And when I say most people, I mean all but just a very select few, at least most of the time. Why do I say this? Because I am convinced that the world is filled with four types of people. We will concentrate on the last of these today, but first let me define the first three.

People Who Do Not Know

This group of people represents most of the world. Estimates are that 7.7 billion people live in the world (more than double the number from 1972!). In 2015, the number of people who call themselves Christian was 2.3 billion, and I believe that number is VERY generous. Still, 2.3 billion is less than one-third of the total population which means approximately 70% of the world does not know Jesus. They need people to leave the hum long enough to tell them what they do not know.

Quote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” – Carl F.H. Henry

People Who Do Not Grow

This group of people may know about Jesus, and may be a part of that 2.3 billion who call themselves Christian, but they do not grow in their faith. This group would also include those who may have been a part of a (or this) church for a while, but assume they already know enough and/or get bored with God. Thus, they may or may not be Christian, but they do not care about growing to be who God has created them to be.

Quote: “The church exists for one reason – to draw men unto Christ, to make them little Christ.” – C.S. Lewis

People Who Do Not Go

In one sense, this group includes those who might not go to meet with others who are born-again, such as at a church service like this. In fact, church researches now call those who attend church less than 15 times each year – the nominally churched. This percentage of people is growing. Sadly, they think they go to church, and will tell you they do, if asked, but the math says that 15 times per year is not much more than once per month.

But the other sense of this idea is the people who may go to church, but do not engage with what God is doing within the walls of the church, and are especially unengaged beyond the church walls. In that sense, they literally do not GO. They are tied to the hub and will not release out to be a part of the spoke. Many reasons exist, but fear is the primary reason. And, frankly, even the most dedicated Christian will claim that excuse at times.

Quote: “Untold millions are still untold, you have one business on earth – to save souls.” – John Wesley

But, we still have one more group to cover. And this group is even more true of most Christians most of the time, including myself. And, we find an example of a person in this group in 2 Kings 13 verses 14-19.

People Who Do Not Go Far Enough

In this story, the King, Joash (also Jehoash), seeks the counsel of Elisha. Why? This holy leader is dying and the King wants a blessing from him. The phrase the king cries out may seem strange, but this is the exact phrase that Elisha cried out when he saw Elijah being carried up into the whirlwind (2 Kings 2.12). Thus, Joash was linking the power of Elisha and Elijah – two of the great miracle-working prophets of the Old Testament.

So, Elisha tests him. First, Joash is instructed to take a bow and draw it. Then, with Elisha’s hands on Joash’s, Elisha says to have the window opened and to release the arrow. The king did so and Elisha said that Israel would be victorious over Syria (their enemy).

Then, Elisha instructed Joash to take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Again, the kind did so. But then we get an unexpected surprise. Elisha was angry and said that Joash should have struck them several more times to make the victory complete. What we must realize is that Elisha said to strike the ground. He never said stop.

The issue is that very few people are willing to go as far as God wants them. I will admit, I have had a few times when I have been determined to go that far, but most of the time, I do not. Some will say that I may go further (and/or farther) than others, but that is not what God asks. God asks us to go as far as He leads.

The Example of Jesus

Think about Jesus in Gethsemane. In Mark 14, Jesus leads His disciples to the garden. He tells the main group to stop before leading Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden (v. 33). But then, He tells them to wait and the text says, “And going a little farther…” (v. 35). Jesus went a little farther. The problem for most of us is that we think Jesus will ask too much of us. We may be willing to go, but we are not willing to go too far, lest we find ourselves in trouble. But notice that Jesus did not do that with his disciples, and He will not do that to us. He knew what His disciples were capable of doing, and how far they were capable of going at that moment. He will lead people farther, but prepares us along the way. It was true then; it is still true today.

The Example of Paul

At the end of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about running the race to win the prize. He says that he disciplined his body so he would be ready and not be disqualified. I hear a lot of athletes who say, “I am just grateful to be here.” For Paul that was not enough. Paul wanted to win. And it was not just a race of running with his legs; it was the race of faith which he later says he finished (2 Timothy 4.7).

Both Jesus and Paul did not quit until they were told to quit. But Joash did. We are not told how many arrows he had. Maybe it was three, so he struck once for each arrow. Or maybe he struck three times because three was a ritualistic number in Old Testament times. We simply do not know that answer. But we can know that he stopped short of what was required, and thus, Joash and the nation of Israel would not receive the benefit he, or the nation, desired.

In the words, used earlier, Joash was willing to go, but he was not willing to go far enough.

Quote: “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is, where life and death, sin and grace heaven and hell converge.” – Robert C. Shannon

Our JOURNEY

As we consider the idea of a hub, each one of us has to ask the following question: Which category best describes me? Are you one who does not know, who has not grown, who does not go, or, like me, one who often does not go far enough?

You cannot truly engage the JOURNEY until you honestly answer that question for yourself. But if you want to be on a true JOURNEY with Jesus (which certainly implies going!), then you have to ask yourself the next question: What will I do differently to move to the next type of person? Or said another way: What can I do to move beyond these classifications and truly be who God has created me to be?

Our vision is to be “a large church in a small town” which is based upon Jesus statement that we ARE the light of the world. Are you shining or have you burned out? The more we shine individually, the brighter we are collectively, and the benefit, in Jesus’ words, is that the Father in heaven will be glorified.

Again, Jesus will not push you too far too fast, but He does expect all of us to grow and go further than we are currently going. Like with His first disciples, He took them as far as they could go in that moment, but eventually He sent them into all the world.

What’s Next? The Challenge

You might recall the question I asked so often last year. I have modified it a bit, but for our light to shine and to be the church God wants us to be does not require rocket science. It requires obedience to serve in a way that He has already gifted you to serve. Thus, in going a little further, a practical outlet can begin with the question:

What can I do, if done well, can benefit this church and the Kingdom of God?

I need to engage other people in the process. You need to let others know what God is doing in your life. We all need to simply encourage one another, and to inspire others, and then invite them to join. But unless we all go a little bit further, we will not be as effective as God wants us to be, as Wayne Cordeiro reminds us in the following quote.

“I’m convinced that the influence a church has on its community will be determined in large part not by the personality of the pastor, the size of its building or how long the ministry has worked in the community. It will be determined instead by the percentage in the ministry of each member.” – Wayne Cordeiro

We have everything we need to overcome any problem we are facing. But we must have faith in the One who has given us what we need to use what we need to accomplish what He needs.

God’s work will be done. He is waiting for people who will go a little further to make it happen in our midst. He is waiting for people to be obedient to what He has called them to do. As Gandhi said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem.” If that is true for the world, then it must be true for this church, and it certainly is at the heart of what Jesus wants from us for His Kingdom.

“God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” – Hudson Taylor

Next Step:        LIVE – Go a little further even if that means going a little farther.

“True Strength”

Most people believe that the bigger the muscle, the stronger it is. Therefore, when we think of strong people in the Bible, we might think of Samson. He was able to do some amazing things because of his strength. However, after our trip to Israel a few years ago, I had a new appreciation for how strong Jesus’ legs must have been as a boy. Nazareth is filled with hills. As a carpenter, he likely had strong arms, but I bet his legs were very strong.

But humans are not the only creatures with muscles. And the size of a muscle is not purely indicative of strength because we can measure strength in different ways. Last week, I said that strength could be measured by how much force is used as well as by how long something can be done (endurance). Additionally, strength can be measured by brute force or in a more relative sense. For instance, elephants are likely the strongest land animal when it comes to sheer strength. Their structure and thus their muscles are large and powerful. But some of the smallest muscles in the world are the strongest proportionally. For instance, ants can carry many times their body weight. But the dung beetle is estimated to be the strongest creature in relative strength. A dung beetle can pull an object well over 1000 times their body weight. For comparison purposes, an average person would have to pull six double-decker buses full of people to match that feat. (1)

So, having large muscles may mean being strong. And having purposeful muscles may allow for incredible proportional strength. But recognizing our limitations is one of the greatest strengths a person can have. We all have limitations, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. But recognizing these limitations allows us to minimize their impact on us. Why? Because it forces us to choose another path, and that often means involving others. This idea is true in much of life, but it is a part of God’s particular design for the body of Christ. Some things I do well, and therefore, I should focus on them. Other things, I do not do as well. That does not mean I ignore them, but it might mean empowering someone else who does do that particular thing well. But before we can be effective like that, we must first recognize our strengths, we must acknowledge our weaknesses, and then we must let God provide the solution. And we an allow God to turn our weaknesses into a strength for Him because of one thing – faith.

FAITH+HOPE+LOVE=DIVINE TRILOGY

The last two weeks we have looked at the other parts of the divine trilogy. We began with love two weeks ago, and then hope last week. But today, we will see that it is faith that truly provides our strength, but only if the object of our faith is worthy. So, let us look at what Paul says about the source of his strength because of his faith.

BODY

Faith Leads to Humility  (2 Corinthians 12.1-6)

It is odd to say humility is a key characteristic of this text when the fifth word of the chapter speaks of Paul’s boasting. If we look back to Chapter 11, the chapter is about boasts that are made by others, and by Paul. But notice the topics of Paul’s boasting. He boasts about such things as being imprisoned, beaten, stoned, hungry, tired, etc. But he does so in an effort not to show how great he is, but to show how great God is. In fact, He boasts about such things to show that he, Paul, is an apostle chosen by God to serve, not like the so-called super-apostles (11.5) who use their self-proclaimed “authority” to manipulate the Corinthians for their own personal gain. (This issue is the heart of the latter part of letter. See for instance, 12.11-18, but all of chapters 10-12 relate to the claims of “superior” leaders.)

How does faith lead to humility? Humility is knowing that we are not the center of the universe. All of us are guilty of this phenomenon, some more than others. For instance, every time we think of ourselves over God, we are lacking humility. Or consider the last time you looked down on someone else or talked badly about someone else. Pride is talking about others; humility it talking with those same others.

But we must be careful not to think humility is something other than what it is. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Thinking less of yourself is a slap in the face of the Creator who made you. But thinking too highly of yourself is to ignore God or that God made others in His image. In fact, Lewis’ statement is particularly challenging because to maximize who were are in Christ is to become all that God intends for us to be. To accomplish that goal means that we must focus on ourselves to an extent so that we can improve our skills and abilities. However, the other side of the coin is that we cannot be all that we are meant to be unless we are with others. We are not made to live in isolation. Thus, we must often put the needs of others over our own. In fact, Paul makes that very appeal in Philippians 2.4.

So, how does the idea of humility relate to faith? It relates very well, but the determinant is the object of our faith. If someone’s focus is on me, myself, and I, then his/her faith will be in what s/he can do. But I will also be forever limited by what I cannot do or what I cannot learn to do on my own. If my focus is on others only, then I will neglect my needs which will ultimately negate me being able to care for myself, which will, in turn, prevent me from focusing on others.

Notice how Paul addresses this in the first verses on Chapter 12. He speaks of himself in the third person, which is a strategic tactic, but he clearly acknowledges that what happened to him is beyond his own understanding. He says, “God knows” but “I do not know.” This is a statement of humility. Paul is saying that he was in heaven, with God, hearing things which were not to be told. Paul was made to realize that the experience was not about Him – it was about Christ. It was about Him learning to place his faith himself and beyond what he could understand. That requires a great deal of humility, particularly in light of what he is describing.

Therefore, faith leads to humility. We must be humble to be the person God wants us to be, not who we want to be, or who others want us to be. But that same humility should help us realize who God is, and that He is so far beyond our comprehension, which should create a desire within us to become more like Him.

Faith Leads to Weakness (2 Corinthians 12.7-9)

Paul continues his thoughts without breaking stride. While I have divided these first verses into humility and weakness, Paul tied the two together because true faith will bring about both in some way. The truth is that Paul is about to share a thought which we have now coined as “No pain, no gain.” The problem is that we do not like pain, and therefore we rarely experience the kind of gains God has for us.

In the western world, we have largely been taught to avoid it. Parents and grandparents now go out of their way to make life easy for their children. This is a big mistake. I am not saying we should not help them, but people often learn best from their mistakes, and children are not allowed to make mistakes any more. Parents naturally want to protect their children, but that protection must be in place when they are outside the home as well. It is the difference between raising children or preparing future adults. I remember one of the strangest reactions I received as a father was at a parent-teacher conference when Nicole was in the 6th or 7th grade. She was taking a class in technology and had just brought a paper home with an F. Now Nicole is bright and graduated from college with high honors, but that assignment was a bust. Why? She didn’t do it right, obviously, but, partly because she didn’t care. The teacher was a woman whom I want to say was about Susan’s size and I was 80+ pounds heavier than I am now, so it was likely that my presence intimidated her – particularly when I said I wanted to talk about her giving Nicole an F. What she soon realized though was that I was thanking her for it. Nicole needed to learn the lesson. And she did. I am not saying that Nicole was a perfect student after that (she wasn’t), or that she didn’t procrastinate later (she did), but she learned a lesson, and made the most of it. Some pain, some gain.

Paul experiences a great deal of pain to receive this great opportunity. I believe Paul likely died in Lystra after he was stoned and was left for dead (Acts 14.19). It was early in 2 Corinthians that Paul said that being in the body is to be apart from the Lord (chapter 5), and he knows from experience. So, Paul had pain, and thus he had gain. But because he had gain, he also had pain. He was afflicted with some ailment for which he prayed for relief. (You can check the Weekly Nugget for my theory on what his affliction was.)

But the affliction was not punishment, it was preventative. Notice that Paul says in verse 7, “to keep me from becoming conceited…” Let’s face it, Paul had seen something grand. He knows it.

And between the Bible and Jewish history, we can know that Paul was special and was especially trained. Thus, he probably fought pride. And that goes back to humility. But a part of learning humility was to live in weakness. This affliction forced him to live with a focus on something or someone other than himself. Certainly, Paul engaged others in helping him with the ministry, but we can make a strong case that Paul needed help. He needed help because he was weak. And one purpose of that weakness was so Paul would realize the Someone he truly needed was God. It was only through the grace of God that Paul could find strength. He desired to be free from the affliction. But after God said to stop, Paul knew that he would be closer to God with the affliction than he would be without it.

Where do you seek your strength? Let me state that another way. Where does your loyalty lie? Or, for our purposes: In what do you place your faith? For some, it is politics – perhaps, loyalty to a particular party or focusing on a particular issue. Others place their faith in a team. Still others a person or their family. All of these may bring a sense of strength for a while, but none will bring the kind of strength we need to overcome the weaknesses we have. And that is why we must focus on the only pure object of faith, and the source of all strength – which is God.

True Strength Is Found in Christ (2 Corinthians 12.10)

The essence of 2 Corinthians is that Paul knows who He is. Others are making false claims about themselves and about Paul which has confused the people of Corinth. So, Paul writes this stern letter to correct their thinking. But he does so not with his own authority, but with the authority of Christ – because that is where Paul gets his authority and his strength. Paul writes in humility as we have seen. Paul writes from weakness which we have seen. But Paul writes in the full authority, and thus strength, of Jesus, for as he wrote, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The strength Paul has is not his own, it is the power of Christ within him. Remember, it was Paul who wrote the phrase we saw last week, Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1.27). It is that hope which gave Paul the strength to endure – not only his weaknesses, but the insults, the hardships, the persecutions, and the calamities. These words were not foreign to Paul and are not foreign to many of us. If we truly have our faith in Christ, we can endure like Paul did. We can overcome like Paul has. We can be victorious like Paul is. Why? Because in our humility and our weakness, we find true strength – a strength that is only possible through Christ.

CONCLUSION

Most of mankind has a fixation with strength. In fact, we often equate strength with health. While some truth may exist between strength and truth, without using the strength we have, our muscles are worthless. Furthermore, we often overlook relative strength (like the ant) or wrongly consider the source of strength. For instance, remember, that it was not Samson’s muscles that made him strong, it was his hair.

So, let us not get so focused on what we think should be the source of strength; let us focus on the source of real strength. And that source is Jesus, which…

…is why our JOURNEY letter for today is again:  JJESUS.

Remember, our strength comes as a result of our faith. And our faith will lead us to be humble and realize our overall weakness before God. When God sees us as humble and weak, He is able to best mold us into the individuals that He desires for us to be.

PRINCIPLE:  True strength is the result of faith in Jesus.

QUESTION:  Do you focus on who you are or who He is?

OPPORTUNITY:  God wants more for you than you realize, but the only way to achieve His purpose is to be humble and weak so you can receive His strength.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN:   Write down five times this week you put your desires ahead of God’s (putting faith in yourself above faith in God).

LIVE:  For each of the five items, specifically write down how God’s desires are different from yours. For one item, consider how you might respond differently in the future.

LOVE:  Express your love and thanksgiving to God for His love and forgiveness.

LEAD:  Reflect on the single item in the LIVE step. Construct a plan to lead yourself away from that temptation in the future.

(1) https://onekindplanet.org/top-10/top-10-list-of-the-worlds-strongest-animals/

Weekly Nugget

What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh? Although it cannot be proved, I believe Paul’s thorn was related to his eyesight. First, remember that Paul was blinded by a flash of light when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9.3,8), and later “something like scales fell from his eyes” (Acts 9.18). Then, he was stoned at Lystra and left for dead (Acts 14.19), which likely involved rocks hitting him in the head, which could damage his eyes. Finally, as Paul closed his letter to the Galatians, he mentioned the “large letters” written with his own hand (Galatians 6.11), which could be an indication of him writing largely so he could see (and Galatians is one of the few letters that does not include Timothy’s name at the beginning as one writing with Paul).

“The Hope of Glory”

Muscles are more than about strength (as I mentioned last week). We may think of strength, but the reality is that muscles allow us to maintain good posture as well as allowing us to move. But that movement does involve strength. But how should we best measure physical strength? Is someone strong because they can do something one time or because they can do something multiple times? The answer is both can be true. Maximum muscle strength is best measured by determining if someone can do some action one time. For instance, a weightlifter will measure their strength by how much they can bench or squat or dead lift one time. But then someone might ask, “How many reps do you do?” And that question tests endurance.

But beyond physical strength, people are said to be emotionally strong. On a day like today, (Mother’s Day) we can think of mom’s or other women in our life that show great emotional strength through certain trials in their lives or the support they show when the trials are challenging their children. I know we do not always recognize this in the moment, and sometimes we may never recognize the fullness of a mother’s strength, but over time most of us appreciate our mothers more as we age.

But another kind of strength is spiritual strength. Perhaps those words make you think of someone whose life is full of faith, hope, and love at levels you might never expect to attain. Perhaps it is someone you know or about whom you have heard or read. Or perhaps it is someone from the Bible – like a Paul or a Peter or Jacob or David. But do you realize that each of those people, and countless others are no different from you and me except they learned to exercise their spiritual muscles over time? Abraham had to leave his homeland to become great. Jacob was an underdog (and a liar), but God chose him as an underdog. Moses was a coward but became a great leader through spiritual exercise. David had several older brothers, but through his spiritual exercises became a great king over them (similar to Joseph who became a great leader). Peter, a mere fisherman. Paul, someone who loved to have others do the grunt work (see Acts 7.58-8.1), but wanted the godly destroyed. All of these people had to develop their spiritual muscles. And that takes time. Again, there is a difference in being strong for a moment or strong for the duration. And in our spiritual lives, both are important. And that is why we must develop our spiritual muscles.

FAITH+HOPE+LOVE=DIVINE TRILOGY

So, today, we are going to talk about developing the muscle of hope. As I mentioned last week, a book I recently read talks about the divine trilogy or faith, hope, and love. You are likely familiar with this trio of words because it is found in 1 Corinthians 13.13. But I had never heard them described as the “divine trilogy” and, more importantly, I had never realized the importance of these three words together (or especially when one is missing) in the NT. (1)

Today, we look at the second of these concepts. We are reviewing them in reverse order because Jesus said the greatest commandment involves love. Furthermore, it is love that will remain. But the three – faith, hope, and love are perfectly interconnected just like the true Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For you cannot have the Son without the Father, and the Spirit is continuing the work of the Son as He was sent to do by the Father. Likewise, if we love, we must have faith in something or someone which leads to a hope of something better because of that faith. We will look at faith next week, but for today, let us turn our attention to hope.

To Have Hope Requires a Bit of Foolishness (1 Corinthians 1.18-21)

First, I must point out that the text we are reviewing today does not include the word, “hope.” But the principles of the text share the point that those who have the least can have the most – and that is a bit of what hope is.

Consider, why people have hope. They hope for peace – because peace doesn’t exist. They hope for wealth – because money alludes them. They hope for a spouse – because they are single. They hope for a new job – because they do not like they current one (or they do not have one). See we only hope for things that are currently beyond us.

But as I have said dozens of times, that kind of hope is a wish. When the Bible speaks of hope it is something that is certain, just not yet realized in full. For instance, Titus 2 calls the return of Jesus – the Blessed Hope – because it will happen, but it has not happened yet.

But to believe something to be true, even though it has not been realized, does makes us appear foolish. And yet, those who are foolish enough to have this type of HOPE are the ones that God elevates. Verse 18 says it is the power of God to believe in the folly of the cross. Verse 19, says that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise. Verse 20 says the wisdom of the world is what will be foolish.

We see this throughout our culture right now. More than anytime in recent history, the elite believe those who are religious are fools. But this is nothing new. 100 years ago, it was determined by the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) that any school which issued any kind of religious test should not be called a university. This is not a law, but it is why most every Christian institution of higher learning are called colleges. Thus, to many people my having a doctorate does not qualify me to teach in many schools because it was earned in a Christian environment which means it does not really count. The thought process is that Christians cannot be people of reason, only superstition. Thus, in the minds of many any hope we have is indeed superstitious.

As a people we live in an age of reason which began with the Enlightenment in the 18th Century. But reason cannot explain the cross or the resurrection even though they are documented by historians in the 1st Century apart from the Bible. However, this reason, or wisdom, is nothing new. Paul was writing to Corinth which was a city with a strong Greek heritage and the Greeks were notorious for their wisdom. Thus, Paul says God made the wisdom of the world (that is, human reason) foolish while making those who appear to be fools (for following an unseen God) the ones who will be made victorious in the end. And that is why we can have HOPE.

To Have Hope Is to Understand Christ (1 Corinthians 1.22-25)

Again, we often think that our culture is much worse today than it has even been. Now, in all honesty, I cannot tell you how bad the world has been at every era of history, but we can look back at many instances in history and see a world that was as corrupt or more-so than the one we live in currently. Without debate, two accounts from Genesis come to mind, and both ended with calamitous consequences. First, in the story of Noah, we have God saving one man and his family and destroying everyone and nearly everything else because “every intention of [mankind’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6.5). Then just a dozen or so chapters later, we have God sending fire balls from the sky to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to the rampant sin in those towns (Genesis 19.24). And yet, Jesus said that on the Day of Judgment it will be better for those two towns than it will be for Capernaum (the town which was the base for His ministry, Matthew 12.23-24).

So, we must not kid ourselves that our culture is the worst ever. But it is bad. And a part of the evil we face today is ill-conceived logic that is cast as wisdom. For instance, I heard a story this week about a father who has a 14-year old female child cannot call her a girl or it will be considered “family violence.” FAMILY VIOLENCE! (2)

This is the type of wisdom that Paul says the world will chase. And it has, and it is, and it will. In his day it was the Greeks (v. 22) while the Jews wanted proof. They wanted signs. Remember it was the Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus to do signs (after all of the signs He had already done – and yet they missed the biggest one, His return from the dead; see Matthew 14.13-16.1).

But what Paul preached was that a man who was crucified was the long-awaited Messiah. The Jews would not believe and the Greeks thought it was folly. But for anyone who would believe – whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), the name Christ is equated with the power of God. Why? Because the world may believe that having belief in God is foolish and perhaps even that God is foolish, but as Paul writes, the foolishness of God is far wiser than any wisdom found in man (v. 25).

To Have Christ Is to Have Hope (1 Corinthians 1.26-31)

In this last portion, Paul ties up any loose ends that the reader might be questioning before expanding on the idea as it relates to his specific message in chapter two. Earlier, I mentioned that we often hope for things we don’t have, and Paul realizing that truth, asks the Corinthians to remember where they were before Christ, and where they are now.

Before Christ, they had a hope (as in a wish) to have a better life according to “worldly standards” (v. 26). Much of his audience was not of noble birth, but “God chose what is foolish in this world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (v. 27). In other words, whatever wisdom or strength the world thinks it has is fake. God is the source of true strength. That was going to be the title for this week’s message, but I am moving it to next week because it fits better there.

What Paul says is that God choices are not what human reason might consider. Again, we see this from the earliest parts of the Bible. Jacob was chosen over Esau. Joseph was chosen over all of his older brothers. Moses was chosen over Aaron. David was seventh in line. And, as we have seen before, Jesus was born through Nathan’s line whom we know nothing about (this is not Nathan the prophet) instead of Solomon’s line.

But being wise and strong in the world’s eyes means nothing when this life is over. If that is the fullness of somebody’s hope (that is, their desires, or wishes), then they may achieve greatness, but it will be gone. Read 1 Corinthians 1.28-29. But for those who seek Christ, we have God’s true wisdom and His true strength, and thus we do not boast in ourselves, we are to boast in what God has done for us. Read 1 Corinthians 1.30-31.

In our reading this morning we heard what Christ can really means to us. Colossians 1.27 says Christ in You, the Hope of Glory. I love how Paul writes sometimes. That idea has no verb, and yet it is completely sensible. Essentially, Paul makes is a mathematical equation.

Christ in You = Hope of Glory

Now, do not misunderstand me, and more importantly do not misinterpret God, being physically strong or mentally astute is not wrong. And we can, and should, develop our strength in all aspects of life until we are able to love the Lord our God will all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength (as we saw last week). But in our quest for strength and knowledge, we must recognize the source of both and that achieving any personal goals does not give us any more HOPE than we already have if we have Christ.

CONCLUSION

And that brings us back to the idea of our needing to develop our muscle of HOPE. For those who are following Christ, we cannot receive any more of Him than we already have. But we can allow Him to have more of us than He currently does. And when we find ourselves thinking of Him and yielding to Him more often, we will find that the troubles of the world do not concern us as much as they otherwise might because of the HOPE that we have. Again, that HOPE is not a wish, it is an unrealized certainty. What God has promised might otherwise be considered foolish by those who do not believe. And most will question – and SHOULD question – what comes out of the mouth of someone teaching God’s Word. That is why I simply try to elaborate on what He says in His Word – because it is His wisdom that bring true HOPE, not anything I might say or do (which is Paul’s exact point in the next chapter of this letter). And again, that HOPE comes from our belief in Jesus,…

…And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is again:  JJESUS.

Our hope is truly in, and because of Jesus, who is the Christ. And it is Christ in you which is the hope of glory. So, build that HOPE muscle. This muscle is different from faith which we will review next week, but it is certainly related because we cannot have true HOPE if we do not have a legitimate FAITH. That does not mean that we may not waiver, but if Christ is truly within us, how can we not have HOPE within us. Furthermore, if we have that type of HOPE within us, then how can we not share it with others?

How can we build our muscle called hope? First, we must all realize that…

PRINCIPLE:  True HOPE is not a wish, it is a certainty of what is promised but is not yet realized.

QUESTION:  Do you live with HOPE within you, or do you merely wish your life away?

OPPORTUNITY:  Live this week knowing true HOPE is a greater gift than any wish you might want God to grant.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN:   Memorize Colossians 1.27.

LIVE:  When you find yourself wishing something to be true, catch yourself, and consider how true HOPE might change your thoughts.

LOVE:  Love God with all of your being knowing He is preparing to share glory with you! (Remember Colossians 1.27)

LEAD:  Share the HOPE you have with others. Paul’s testimony in Colossians 1.28-29 are directly linked with Him knowing that Christ, the hope of glory, was within him too.

 

(1) I discovered this truth in Gene Getz’s book, The Measure of a Healthy Church.

(2) https://thefederalist.com/2019/03/01/canadian-court-rules-parents-cant-stop-14-year-old-taking-trans-hormones/

“Loving Hard or Hardly Loving?”

During the month of May, our body system of focus is the muscular system. We all know what muscles do even if we don’t think about it much. When we think of muscles we think of strength. We see this in young boys who compare biceps. We might think of weightlifters in an Olympic competition. Of course, some people make a career out of building their muscles – we call them professional bodybuilders.

But muscles are far more than about just strength. Muscles allow us to move and to maintain posture. No doubt you have scene a depiction of a skeleton moving. Technically, the only thing a skeleton can do on its own is fall down. Bones cannot move. Bones are for structure. As we saw in the month of March, bones allow us to have form. For the church, the skeletal system was about leadership – and the need and structure of that leadership within the church. But if bones are to move, muscles must be involved. As muscles stretch and contract, our bones and every other part of the body can move. If we over-stretch or over-contract our muscles, the they become strained (or pulled) and it becomes painful to move.

Muscles have another function as well. Without muscles, we cannot maintain posture. What keeps you from slumping over in a chair? Muscles. What keeps your head upright? Muscles. If we stop to think about the bones in the head – primarily the skull – the muscles in the neck must be strong to hold the head in position or to move it from side to side.

As I mentioned back in March, the human body has over 200 bones. But it has 3 to 4 times that amount of muscles. The body has at least 650 muscles, but some suggest that number should be over 800 due to some muscles being complex muscles (if the complex muscles are broken out into the individual muscles, the 650 increases by nearly 200 more).

But regardless of how many muscles we have, the question is are they functioning? Are our muscles able to function? Or have they been damaged in some way? Or maybe due to another health issue, the muscles in a particular part of the body have atrophied?

Well, what is true in the human body is certainly true for the Body of Christ as well? This month is not about service (that will be in July when we look at the nervous system). But let’s face it, we cannot serve – that is, we cannot function – if our muscles are too weak? So, this month is about building our muscles. And our muscles need to be built within the divine trilogy Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13. That trilogy consists of faith, hope, and love. I will say more about this trilogy next week, but because Paul says that the greatest of these is love, then we will begin by discussing developing that muscle today. And to do that we will review the Great Commandment – to love the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Our passage today is one of the most commonly known statements in the Bible. The specifics are given in four different times. Three of those are in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 10), and the original statement is in the Shema from Deuteronomy 6. Each statement is a little varied, but the essence of each is the same with Jesus’ words in the New Testament linking Leviticus 19 about loving our neighbor as we do ourselves.

The problem with Jesus’ statements is not in what He said, but in our response. In fact, in my email and Facebook post sharing my initial thoughts on the message, I chose the Mark passage (in part because our Sunday School lessons are currently from Mark. But as I started with my sermon, my mind was changed to the Luke passage for reasons you may already be able to consider, but if not, for which I will share shortly. And ultimately, that reason has to do with our response which is how this paragraph started.

In Matthew and Mark we are told to love God with everything we have, and everything we are – our heart, soul, and mind. Mark also adds strength, as does Luke. The original command was to love with all of your heart and soul and might. But our response to the command generally falls into one of two categories. We either think we do not need to improve or we think it is impossible. Let me state that either thought might be true if you allow it to be, but neither thought has to be true. That is, loving in this way is not impossible. At least, it is possible part of the time for some. But for most of us, we need to improve.

Again, our system this month is the muscular system. So, we need to develop our muscle of love. That begins with loving God, but it must include loving others. That fact is why I originally chose Mark’s message because of Jesus’ words in Mark 12.31. He recites from Deuteronomy 6 to love the Lord, then says that a parallel idea is to love our neighbor we do as ourselves (Leviticus 19), but then Jesus makes this statement. There is no greater commandment than these.

Now, I pay attention to words. It is how God built me. And when I see a pronoun I want to know what the antecedent is. So, in that sentence, I see a very ambiguous word – these. That word is plural – meaning Jesus has multiple ideas in mind, but the word commandment is singular. This is fascinating. What Jesus is saying is that the commandment to love God and to love our neighbor might look like two different thoughts (“these” – plural), but Jesus combines them into one idea (“commandment” – singular). Essentially, what Jesus is saying is that if you love God, but do not love your neighbor then you are not fulfilling the single most important commandment. Likewise, if you love your neighbor, but do not love God, then you are not fulfilling what God wants you to do.

So, if we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, most of us, perhaps all of us, have work to do. Because we are talking about muscles, I want to focus on the strength portion. And to do so, I am going to return to two primary functions of a muscle – posture and movement.

Strong Muscles Make Good Posture

How do you approach God? How do you approach others? What do you think about God? What do you think about others? While each of these questions is true and both posture and movement should related to God and others, I am going to focus on our posture before God and our movement regarding others.

Do you have a high view of God or can you take Him or leave Him depending upon the moment? The Bible says that because of Jesus, we can be bold in approaching the throne of grace. But many people turn that boldness into arrogance. When we are arrogant toward God, or even about God, we are not loving Him with all of our heart or mind, let alone our soul, and strength.

I do not know of anyone here who may have attended a charm school. These schools were also known as etiquette schools or most commonly as finishing schools. The purpose of these schools was to train young girts to be ready to move into society (particularly, high society). The idea was that some manners were known, but to be ready to mingle appropriately, certain customs and mannerisms had to be taught and refined. One such aspect was that of how to carry yourself – that is, what posture should be maintained. A proper posture meant that your place was secured.

For those who choose to follow Jesus, our place is already secured. But that does not mean that we do not need some finishing ourselves! In building muscles, we may know what we are supposed to do, but we may not know how to do it, or how to do it correctly. For instance, people get injured all of the time while lifting weights. For novices, it is because they may not know how to lift properly or perhaps because they are trying to lift more than they should. If the latter is true, it is about pride. And pride really reflects a lack of strength. Sure people can be good at something and we should have pride in what we do, but to be prideful is different. Being full of pride often causes us to pretend to be something we are not. In other words, being prideful distracts us from being our true selves. And, if we are not our true self, then we cannot properly love with our heart (because it is full of pride), our mind (because it is focused on self), our soul (because the essence of our lives, which is what our soul is – our thoughts, passions, desires, etc., is focused on pleasing others), or our strength (because we do not acknowledge the source of true strength – as Paul said, when I am weak, then I am strong. More on that verse next week.)

So, our posture is important. If we are going to love God correctly – with everything we are, we must remain true to Him (heart), we must remain humble (mind), we must remain obedient (soul), and we must remain ready to serve. Those are the elements of having a good posture towards God. And that last are – being ready to serve, leads us to the next item – movement.

Strong Muscles Allow for Movement

Loving God with everything we are is both the easy part and the hard part. It is easy because we can say we do, but it is hard because how can we prove it? The reality is that Jesus has given us a measure for making sure our talk matches our walk.

First, we can see that movement requires obeying God. And, as we have just seen, a part of that obedience involves loving Him with everything we’ve got. Jesus further said, in John 14.15, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” There is that word again – commandments. But this time it is plural. As in, we are to keep all of them. And a part of that keeping is to teach others what and why you are doing because Jesus said in Matthew 28.20 that a part of being His disciple is to be about the business of “teaching others all that I have commanded.”

So, if we love Him, we will obey Him which means teaching others about Him and making disciples for Him which means showing them how to live by His commands. How do you measure up? Me, not so well. And, yet, I would say I love Jesus. I would admit that maybe I do not fully love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, but I want to love Him that way. And yet, He gave this simple test, and I find myself failing. And, I do not have to ask to know the truth that you fail it too. I know that because that is what sin is – it is failing to live our lives loving God with everything we are and everything we have. Because if we loved Him perfectly, we would be making more disciples as well as fulfilling the new commandment He gave His disciples on His last night with them – Love one Another (John 13.34). In fact, Jesus said this is how others will know we are His disciples – if we love one another (John 13.35).

So, before you balk at me and say you love everyone – let me show you the story that follows Luke’s version of Jesus naming the Great Commandment. The story is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Many will know this story quite well, and you have likely heard sermons or lessons that loving like this means loving Osama Bin Laden (well, he’s dead, so we are off the hook there, or are we? Having a love for him would mean we don’t want Him to suffer in hell). But let’s get real, Osama bin Laden, may have been hated, but what is the likelihood you are I would ever really deal with him? So, let me share a few pictures? See if you get agitated with any of these?

Perhaps, you get agitated with someone from a different political party? Perhaps, a dividing issues like abortion causes you to find others disgusting. Perhaps, someone burning your country’s flag might be unlovable to you. Or perhaps it is just someone who lives a very different life from you (like a homeless person or someone who has the biggest house in town).

These are ideas that are in our mind all of the time – each week, if not each day. And God says that loving our neighbor is completely in sync with loving God. Samaritans and Jews despised one another – in part, because the Jews thought they were so much better than the Samaritans. Thus, the Samaritan was not only good, He was extraordinary! Because love, and being a neighbor, must transcend rivalry, conceit, and bitterness – regardless of who is involved.

And that requires us to move. It requires us to move into service (again, that will be the focus of July); but we must be willing to move our minds toward the ways of God as well. Jesus death was not just for you and me. He died for everyone in those images. And He rose again that everyone, including the people we like least (or hate most) might truly find life. And that life is only found through us building our muscles to love others.

CONCLUSION

As we consider building our muscles, we must consider that just as little boys compare biceps, churches compare themselves to one another too. Why? Because people are the church and we compare ourselves to one another. If I love God and others better than you, then I must be better than you. But that is not what the verses say. The text of the Great Commandment in every instance, does not say, “Love God better than other people.” It says, love the Lord your God with ALL of your heart and with ALL of your mind and with ALL of your soul and with ALL of your strength.

Thus, our comparison is not with others. Our comparison is against the standard God set for us. And that is why we need Jesus! Jesus lived that standard perfectly and expects us to. But He knew we could not on our own, so He died showing what true love is and how much it costs. And because of His sacrifice we have the opportunity to love others for Him by loving others through Him.

And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is:  JJESUS.

1 John 4 says God is love. And Jesus, as God, showed us what love truly is. If we are to become like Jesus, we are not simply to love better or love more. We are to BE love. (I encourage you to read Bob Goff’s books – Love Does and Everybody Always – for how he depicts this idea.)

PRINCIPLE:  We are to love God and others because He first loved us (1 John 4.19-21).

QUESTION:  Will you be one who hardly loves or will you commit to love hard even when loving others is hard?

OPPORTUNITY:  Pray that God will help you to love more truly and deeply. (See WayPoint.)

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN:   Learn to love the Lord your God with all of your mind.

LIVE:  Live to love the Lord your God with all of your soul.

LOVE:  Love loving the Lord your God with all of your heart.

LEAD:  Lead others to love the Lord your (and their God) with all of your strength.

“Replacement Body Parts” by Rick Sons

During the westward movement, many started on their journey not knowing where the trail would take them but they all had a vision and a dream.  In 1843, some 1,000 men, women, and children climbed aboard their wagons and steered their horses west out of the small town of Elm Grove, Missouri. The train comprised more than 100 wagons with a herd of 5,000 oxen and cattle trailing behind, their eyes always focused on the promised land they would find out west in California and Oregon.

At some point on their way, one man proposed to steal an Indian pony and the rest of the group, worried about the consequences, decided to try the man before the entire company. This event caused much discussion about the need for rules of conduct. This was required so that the train could move as one body, one unit. A committee was formed to discuss it but decided that no law other than the moral code enacted by the Creator and recorded in every man’s heart was all that was required.

The wagon train would travel at around two miles an hour. This enabled the settlers to average ten miles a day. With good weather, the 2,000 mile journey from Missouri to California and Oregon would take about five months. The wagon train was no longer a group of individuals but had now become a body moving as one unit on journey on a common goal. During the long trip, sometimes parts of the body would be in need of repair, as 2000 miles could put a strain on the body, much as our journey does to our own bodies.

Many times spare parts were needed to continue on the long journey. Extra wheels, tongues, yokes, things needed to keep the body going, and other necessities were carried in the wagon. Often these extra items were shared among the rest of the body so that the journey could be continued. One part, working to help another part, could function for the benefit of the body.

As time progressed, our method of travel changed but spare parts were still needed to keep the body going. Where would we be with out the spare tire?

The act of keeping spare parts, to some, is more of a pattern for their life. I was recently talking to Roger about Dennis. The other day we needed something from the back of Dennis’s truck. In looking for what we needed, we had to sift through a mountain of bolts, tools, receiver hitches, and every means of extra parts that might be needed to keep his vehicle going. He has a pick-up truck but would never be able to haul anything for all the extra stuff he has.

Keeping the human body going sometimes requires spare parts. Many of you have most likely had to have some work done on the body. Some of you may have seen Dr. Scarbrough to obtain a set of replacement teeth. False teeth have been around since 700 B.C. and, at the time, were made from walrus, hippo or elephant tusks. Many people wore ivory dentures even though the material deteriorated quickly. In fact, these types of dentures were still being worn in the early 1800s.

Some of you may have had knee replacements. Over time, the wearing down of the cartilage made it harder for you to walk and for your body to continue on its journey. Many have lost limbs, either by accident, illness, or unforeseen occurrence. This also makes the journey difficult. Again, there spare parts which enable to body to once again continue on its journey.

Medical advancement has been able to use replacements even for the heart, the body’s muscle for pushing life-giving blood through the body. Veins from your legs can be used to repair your heart and hearts have been replaced by donors whose whose journey has stopped and even mechanical hearts made by man. These spare parts allow the body’s journey to continue.

In 1975, through a series of unfortunate events, I severed the thumb on my right hand. The doctors were able to stitch it back and did the best they could to keep the nerves intact. My thumb works just fine even though I have no feeling in it, except on cold days and it is the first part of my body to feel the cold. I was lucky to be able to keep my thumb. But with medical advancements today, even big toes can become a thumb.

The church body, like the human body, sometimes finds itself in need of replacement parts. The Body of Christ, like all bodies, is comprised of many parts. There are limbs, organs, and various members that, when left alone, are useless; but when assembled these limbs, organs, and various members make up the entire body. 1 Corinthians 12.12-14 describes it like this:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Many churches have no clear guidelines on what it means to be a part of the body of Christ; nor what role each must play in that body.

Just as human body parts fail and need to be replaced, so do the body parts of the church. Sometimes the parts need to be replaced so that the church body can continue on its journey.

Over time, our own church body here at Fairfax Baptist Church has gone through several body part replacements. Since it was formed in 1884 until 2019, our church has had 36 pastors. That is one pastor every 3.75 years.  Since 1960, when my life’s journey started, we have had eight music directors, myself being one. Over time, Sunday school teachers have come and gone. Deacons, mission directors, and workers of many kinds have been replaced.

Now to be clear, all of these changes were not due to damage or to a part failing to function. Sometimes replacements happen as a natural progression of the body’s journey; just like children losing a tooth and having a new one grow in its place.

However, just like the human body, there are warning signs to tell us that parts of the body are wearing down or may be in need of replacement. Many times, infections enter the body resulting in sickness and causing the body to fight itself for survival.

In the church, these infections/sicknesses are things like gossip, self-serving church members, lack of prayer, low expectations, failure to evangelize, or power groups. These infections wear down the body, causing it parts to become weak as it fights itself to survive. This weakness makes the journey difficult for the body to continue.

Just as in the human body, we tend to ignore these signs and, over time, matters become worse. We tell ourselves that we are okay or that we will heal and all will be good. We put off going to the doctor or the dentist because the pain is not all that bad or we just don’t have the time.

Sometimes, we have to face the reality of a sickness before we are willing to seek treatment.

As part of the church body we must each take a close look at ourselves to see if we suffer from the symptoms that make us weaken the body. These symptoms are:

Your heart no longer beats for the mission. (1) This doesn’t mean the mission is wrong. It might just mean that God is calling you to do something else. This may have been the case of many of our past pastors who felt the calling to go elsewhere. Others felt the need to leave the ministry.

You begin to hear things come out of your mouth that you don’t really think or feel. You are just going through the motions; saying and doing the right things because that is what those around you expect. Your position in the body requires you to maintain an image. You become confused or aggravated because you are unsure of what you really believe.

You find yourself watching the clock longing for the time to leave. You are anxious to leave church or worship and be somewhere else.  Looking for other places to be on Sunday or during times when you are expected to serve could show that you’re no longer invested.

Your main reason to stay is because of tradition. You are in church because your family has always been in church. You serve because it is tradition; i.e. “My family always serves in the church.” You know in your heart that you’d walk away in a second if there was a way not to offend your family tradition. This is a sign your heart isn’t in it.

At the end of your time away, you begin to get tense and dread going back. On days you are away from the church or your responsibilities, you fear going back. This is a sign that you no longer enjoy and find value in what you do.

You don’t trust your leader. Outwardly, you are supporting your pastor, but inwardly, you find yourself questioning him more all the time. If you are honest with yourself, you find that you no longer trust him.

You no longer tithe to your own church. Giving is a heart issue and it often indicates you don’t trust the way the church is handling the money. You may also feel that all the church ever does is ask for money; i.e. “We place so much value on keeping our own lives in the black, why should we have to support so many other functions?”

You are worn out. You are not investing your energy in moving the mission forward. You are tired of debating ministry philosophy and arguing over methods of doing things in your church body. You feel like you are banging your head against the wall over the same issues again and again.

Now, if after hearing this any of you feel that you fall into the above heading, I want to let you in on something. I was humbled and convicted on several of these. This, however, does not mean we give up. We still have a role and a function in the church body.

Sometimes replacements are necessary; we must be prepared for when that time comes.

The idea for this sermon came to me right after the passing of Ferd Ray. As I thought, I reflected on the different members I have known in my life time that have passed on.  The music person in me always seems to turn to songs when I am in deep thought. In 1985, George Jones wrote a song in honor of all the great country music singers that have passed called, “Who’s Gonna Fill their Shoes?”

To fill their shoes, who is going to replace them? Who is going to fill the gap that has been left in the body?

Who will be Sunday school teachers, like Virginia Swan or Minnie Vaught? Who will be music leaders like Gil Johnson? Who is going to sing praise like Jess Johnson?

This past Good Friday, while Cindy and I sat in the service, we heard a woman singing the refrain to the hymns. As we listened, we both realized that she sounded just like Jenny Johnson.

Who will be prayer warriors like Ola Thayer, Louise Pope, Olga, Earl and Helen Sons, Aunt Minnie, Aunt Molly, Beth Miles, Dale and Dorothy Grubb, Vernie and Euthel Smith, Aaron Simmons, Gladys Davis, Zeta Wiley Fern and Daryl Jones?

Who is going to pray as these members prayed? On May 5, we will be having a study on prayer, “Making Prayer Important.” This is all well and good, but will we be able to learn as much from a video over what we could have learned from these powerful prayer warriors?

This is by no means the full list of our past body. And I am sure many of you remember others from your past that I have not mentioned here.

Looking forward, where will our body be when there is no Doyne Swan, Leona Ray, Janice Pierce, Dean and Lois Wiley, Roger and Ann Martin or Alva and Dixie Stoner?

Think about who will fill your shoes if you were to no longer be a part of this body. We need to mentor and train the younger parts of the body for service, remembering that we were young once also.

Ephesians 4:12 says, “To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

During heated discussion at a business meeting here at Fairfax Baptist years ago, I asked this question: “How old do you have to be to be an adult in this church?” (Now to be clear, I was in my early 40’s at this time.) The answer I got was “We will let you know.”

Now I am sure this was not intended to be as bad as it sounded, but how often does one part of the body tell another part they are not important?; i.e., “You just sit back and watch; we have this under control.”

Paul describes members of the body, not by what they should receive in a local church, but by the ministry they should give. Sometimes that giving comes after we have exited from this life.

I want you to take a minute and think about James Pope. Jim was an organ donor. Because of this, many people were given a second chance to continue their life’s journey. We will never know the number of people that Jim helped through his final act of ministry.

There may be someone here in our church, or someone you know, who has been given that second chance; whose life has been made better from what are known as cadaver donations.

Every part of the body needs the opportunity to give. Every part of the body needs to know they are a part of the body.

Often, we look only to the pastor to equip God’s people for service to the body; i.e. “He is the head of the body; that is why we pay him; he is the head and I am just a finger or a toe.”

When, in reality, it is the job of every member, every part of the body, to equip, mentor, and to train, so that the body can remain healthy.

If we do not mentor the younger parts of the body to be replacements in time of need, then the body will fail.

You prayer warriors? Teach others how to pray. Mentor them and walk them through the importance of prayer.

The church body’s overall mission extends well beyond its initial responsibility of preaching the gospel. The Church body must also teach the younger parts, to observe all things that Jesus commanded; to prepare them to care for the body as they grow in it.

Many years ago, an older member of this church stated, “If it wasn’t for the older members, this church would fail. The younger people just don’t have the commitment.” Is it that they don’t have the commitment? Or is it that we don’t have the commitment to see that what we have done for the body continues?

If you feel this way, what have you done to mentor and prepare the younger members to take your place when you have passed? If you feel you are important in this body, who is going to fill your shoes when you are gone?

As I stated in my last sermon, it take exercise and commitment to see that the sick and failing parts of the body are cared for so that they may heal.

It is the job of each part of the body to see that infection does not grow and cause part(s) of the body to be severed.

Just as the settlers kept and maintained the extra parts so the journey could be completed, we must also, as a church body, maintain our spare parts for our journey.

Benjamin Franklin Once said:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the rider was lost; all for want of a nail.”

What will be lost to the body, all for the want of a replacement? Now you may say, “We are strong. We can get by without a part here and there.”

That may very well be true, and many have learned to live, and even function, with the loss of various parts.

But just like the settlers on their journey west to what they considered the promised land, the church body must work together to keep their eyes on the Promised Land that we call God’s Kingdom.

Our JOURNEY letter for today is: YYOU

Take a close look at yourself. Are you doing all you can to build up the body?

Are you helping to prepare and mentor your replacement for the time when you can no longer do your part?

Are you holding on to something just for the sake of holding on to it?

Are you holding back other parts not allowing the body to grow?

(1) Information gathered from: The Church that Jesus Built by Ron Hutchison and How Do I Know When It’s Time to Leave a Church? by Dr. Roger Barrier.