Removing Barriers

Sermon Follow-up from Sunday, January 14th

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. Mark 2:4

The determination of these men to get their friend to Jesus is undeniable. However, it is important to see what drove their determination. The group of men had faith that Jesus was the only one who could help their friend. When Jesus saw what lengths the men were willing to go he recognized their faith and forgave the man of his sins. I believe the reason the men were so determined was because they were convinced Jesus was the only hope for their friend. Do we believe that this morning? Do we believe it enough to do whatever it takes to remove barriers to get people to Jesus?

I want to challenge you this morning to consider the following about barriers as it relates to people coming to the gathering of a church in particular on Sunday Morning

1. Many facilities were built to meet a different context. Any church building that is over 20 years old has challenges meeting the needs of today’s church and context. Add 50 or more years to that building and you have a reality you need to deal with and that is your facility is probably hard to navigate. It is important to recognize what we take for granted in getting into our building and where to go.

2. Signs can never take the place of human interaction. When I worked at a grocery store in college, our store manager insisted that we never allow signs to take the place of human interaction. Never point people to isle 6 and hope they find what they are looking for, you take them there and help them find it. The same is true of our guest who come to the facility where our church meets. Make sure no one has to wander around, take them where they need to go. This provides a great opportunity to get to know that person or family as well.

3. Don’t assume people trust us with their children, show them why they can. The days of the assumed trust of the church are long gone. It is imperative we help our guest know what policies and procedures are in place to protect their children while they are in our care. It is also vital we live up to those procedures to earn the trust of parents.

4. The guest information card is not the only or best way to make someone feel welcome. It is helpful to get follow-up information from our guest. This is the way we give information about the church and answer questions. However, it is important for people to know they are not simply a name and address being added to an excel sheet. Take time to have real conversation with our guest and invite them to lunch. This is a great way to do what I call, “Making our welcome authentic.” It is a great opportunity to get to know someone new and maybe begin a relationship that will lead to a deeper or new relationship with Christ.

 

The Blessings of God

The Blessings of God November 19th Sermon Follow-up

Psalm 28

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. Psalm 28:6

Day one: Understanding our desperate situation

  • Are you desperate? In middle school that may seem to be a derogatory statement. However, I believe David shows us being desperate is actual a good thing. David is desperate for the Lord to hear his cry for mercy. David knows without the Lord hearing his cry for mercy he is ruined. Do we understand the desperate state we are in because of sin? Have we become so comfortable with our lives we have forgotten without the Lord’s mercy we are doomed not for a season but for eternity? I would encourage you today to reflect on your prayers to God. Are you desperately calling out to Him or is your prayer life simply a routine void of a cry for mercy?     
  • In your prayer time, cry out to God in mercy and acknowledge your utter dependence on Him.    

Day two: Blinded and unaware

  • David’s plea for mercy contrasts with those he sees in trouble. David is begging God not to let him end up like those who have no regard for the work of the Lord. These people have chosen a path of self-reliance and not a reliance on God. Because they have become self-reliant, they are in fact doomed. Their judgment will not be wrapped in God’s mercy but rather they will be judged on their own merit which cannot stand up to God’s righteousness. Today, look at your life. Have you become self-reliant and instead of God-reliant? Do you only do what you can pull off on your own? Are you submitting to your own understanding and not the understanding of God?         
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you become a person who is willing to live by His standard and not you own.

Day three: The thing that matters

  • David progresses in this Psalm from begging God to hear his cry for mercy to thanking and praising God for hearing his cry for mercy. David was able to praise God because of God’s mercy and the salvation provided in that gift. People who have repented and turned their lives toward God and believe in Him can give God praise because they know they have been saved. Without repentance we cannot utter the joyous praise of salvation. Today, I want to challenge you to consider not only your life but those you love. Do you and those you love have the ability to give praise to God today because He has heard your cry for mercy? If not, I want to encourage you to do that today. If you need someone to talk to please contact me and I will be glad to walk you through this journey.
  • In your prayer time today, give praise to God knowing He will hear and has heard your cry for mercy.   

Day four: Looking forward

  • Read Micah 5:2-4 and Luke 2:1-7 in preparation for next week.  

Thankful People

Thankful People November 12th Sermon Follow-up

Colossians 3:15-17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Day one: Being a person of peace

  • “Let the peace of Christ rule you in your hearts.” This is a powerful command for each of us. Our lives are to be ruled or arbitrated by the peace of Christ. This command should have major impacts on our lives. The peace of Christ is not arbitrary. Jesus said His peace was for certain and we could count on it. It is this truth that lets us be thankful people. Since the peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts, what evidence of that peace is in your life? Take time today to reflect on how you respond to people and/or events. Are you a person who allows the peace of Christ to rule your actions or do you allow other things to filter your conduct?  
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you live with the peace of Christ ruling your heart.    

Day two: Centering your life in the Gospel

  • “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly.” The peace of Christ should rule in our hearts and the message or Gospel of Christ should dwell or inhabit our lives and in our church. Paul instructs us that the Gospel of Christ should be what guides our teaching and our admonishment of one another. Too often we rely on our own “understanding” of truth to teach and admonish others. Too often we become either logistic or secularistic in how we approach one another. Today, I would encourage you to consider what you teach others and with what end do you admonish people. Our goal in either teaching or admonishment should be to help reconcile people to God.        
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you live your life centered in the Gospel.

Day three: Faithfulness and Thankfulness

  • Paul finishes this teaching by laying out what a thankful life should look like. No matter what we do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of Jesus. This is not a command to simply put the name of Jesus on the things we do to justify our actions. Rather, our actions and our words should reflect an obedience to God’s will and desire for our lives. If we truly are thankful, our actions should be in concert with the one to whom we are thankful. Today, take time to consider what your actions say about your thankfulness. Is your life truly reflective of being thankful to God? If not, what do you need to change?
  • In your prayer time today, ask God to help you understand and act to live your life as a person thankful to Him.

Day four: Looking forward

  • Read Psalm 28 in preparation for next week.  

James: Part 8

James: Part 8 October 29th Sermon Follow-up

James 5:7-12

“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the LORD’s coming is near.” James 5:8

Day one: Our Hope

  • How we see our future is a big deal. What future we see is a big deal. James writes to be patient, not because patience is easy, rather be patient because the Lord is coming. The reality of our current situation cannot be our motivation, rather the reality of our hope. I would encourage you to think about how you view life. Do you spend much of your time focused on your current situation? Good or bad, letting our current state in life frame the context of our actions can be a dangerous thing. How would your life look differently if you lived today framed in the context of eternity? Would you treat people differently? Would you spend your time and energy differently? Would you spend your money differently?      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you live with the hope of eternity with Him in your mind.    

Day two: Those who have gone before

  • Sometimes we think our life is so unique no one understands what we are going through. The reality is not matter what we are dealing with others have gone before us. James reminded the readers of his letter, the prophets and Job had experience the worst this world could offer and, yet they were considered blessed. I want to challenge you today to search through the Scripture and make a list of the things people had to endure for their faithfulness to God. After you compile the list, compare the struggles you have faced, if any, to theirs. I think what your will find is that others have faced the trials of life many of us face and, yet God has been faithful.      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you realize His faithfulness through the lives of those who have gone before you.

Day three: Integrity matters

  • James rewrites the words Jesus spoke about integrity. Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no. When we find ourselves losing patience with God or our current situation, we often give up on truth. We begin to let our guard down on the truth. We compromise here and there and eventually we lose our integrity and our witness. I would encourage you think about areas of your life where you play lose with the truth. Think about what motivates this “looseness”. How can you guard your life to ensure you maintain your integrity?    
  • In your prayer time today, ask God to help you maintain your integrity by maintaining His truth.

Day four: Looking forward

  • Read James 5:13-20 in preparation for next week.  

James: Part 7

James: Part 7 October 23th Sermon Follow-up

James 4:13-5:6

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14b

Day one: God’s Will or Our Way.

  • Sometimes we think about what we should do in terms of whether it is legal, ethical or moral. These are certainly goods things to consider but in this passage, we are commanded to go further. The challenge is to consider God’s will for our lives and not simply whether something is permissible. This means we might need to turn down what seems to be a great opportunity to pursue God’s will. The point is we need to make sure we consider God’s will first before we make plans. Today, I would encourage you to consider your plans for the immediate future. Have you considered God’s will in these plans? What have you done to understand His will?      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to make you sensitive and obedient to His will.    

Day two: It is just stuff

  • In the past week or even the past month, what have you spent most of your time and energy pursuing? James reminds us that the things we accumulate on this earth will all be worth nothing at some point. Even gold and silver will be of no value to us. The challenge for us is to make sure our life is not full of chasing after things that have no eternal value. This does not mean we don’t work hard to support ourselves or our family. We must be careful we don’t make our life about stuff. Take an inventory of the things you have accumulated? Are these things you needed? Did the pursuit of these things cause you to neglect more important things? What steps are you willing to take to keep yourself focused on what is important and not simply accumulating stuff?      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you not to get caught up in pursuing stuff?

Day three: People matter

  • James is writing to a group of people who have claimed a faith in God and yet are treating people in a way that is in contrast with God’s will. Some of the people have been withholding wages from workers and some have even been responsible for the death of those who work for them. God makes is clear through James, how we treat people matters to Him. I would challenge you today to reflect on how you treat people. Do you invest in people or do you use people? Do you build people up or do you tear them down? Do you bring joy to people’s lives or do you often add to their misery? I would urge you to be a person who sees people as God sees people and find ways to invest in their lives.
  • In your prayer time today, ask God to give you His eyes for people.

Day four: God’s model of grace

  • God’s desire for us to follow His will is not only a command He gives, it is a command Jesus followed. The whole idea of our lives being centered in God’s will is not something God was unwilling to do. Jesus himself was willing to pursue the Father’s will even unto death. God was willing to treat us with grace even though we sinned against Him.  God’s desire is that we do not see our relationship with Him simply to escape Hell, but rather a pursuit of worship and love. How are you pursuing God? What do you do daily to grow in your relationship with God? If we will seek God every day with passion and commitment, we will stay in His will, invest in the things that matter and see other as God sees them. I urge you to be proactive in your faith.
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you become more passionate about Him every day.

Day five: Looking forward

  • Read James 5:7-12 in preparation for next week.  

James: Part 6

James: Part 6 October 16th Sermon Follow-up

James 3:13-4:12

“Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4b

Day one: The substance of Wisdom: It matters

  • James talks about two types of wisdom. One type is from heaven. Heavenly wisdom produces peace and leads to righteousness. The other type of wisdom is from this world and is unspiritual and evil. The choice we face is what type of wisdom we will choose to subscribe to in our lives. If we choose wisdom from above, we will be on the path to peace, if we choose wisdom from this earth we will chase after our own selfish desires and never find peace. Today, consider what is on your “wish list” in life. Are you chasing after the things of God or after your own pleasure? How you answer that question has deep rooted and long reaching tentacles.         
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you seek wisdom from above and not from earthly sources.    

Day two: The disruption of Peace

  • What is the result of earthly wisdom? James makes it clear when we choose to follow earthly wisdom, we choose a path that disrupts peace. This disruption of peace is both personal and within the body of Christ. Earthly wisdom creates a war that rages inside our minds and then pours out into fighting and quarreling with others. The elements of the war inside are lust and jealously which creates a desire for what we cannot have or what other have. Take time today to consider the level of peace in your life. Do you find yourself consistently wanting what other people have? Do you find yourself dreaming about what you would do if you only had what currently do not have? How much of your desire is about God’s will for your life and for His glory?      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you seek after His glory and not the things of this world.

Day three: The Choice we make

  • James makes a dangerous warning to us all as he continues this teaching. When we choose to follow the wisdom of the world we choose to be at enmity with God. We choose to make God our enemy. This is not the desire of God but it is the reality of His Word. To make this clear, we choose this path, God does not choose it for us. Today, consider whether you have decided to be a friend of the world or become a faithful follow of Christ. You cannot live in both worlds. Look at your life. How do you spend your time, energy and money? How you answer that question will most likely reveal your choice.   
  • In your prayer time today, ask God to help you make the right decision to follow Him.

Day four: Finding Peace

  • James makes it clear, the only way we will turn the war inside of us to peace is through surrender. We must give our life completely to God. The GREAT news is that when we do that and when we repent and draw near to God, He WILL draw near to us. You cannot get to far away from God. Would you consider where you are today? Do you have peace? Have you completely surrendered your life to God? What areas of your life are you holding on to?
  • Your prayer time, ask God to help you surrender every aspect of your life.

Day five: Looking forward

  • Read James 4:13-5:6 in preparation for next week.  

James: Part 5

James: Part 5 October 8st Sermon Follow-up

James 3:1-12

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  James 3:10

Day one: The Weight of Assumed Credibility

  • It seems odd to have a warning to those who would teach in the church in this teaching on our speech. However, it fits because of the consequences. When you are placed in a position of teaching you are granted an immense position of power. That power comes from an assumed credibility people have of those who teach in the church. That power means what we say is usually accepted. It is imperative we speak the truth with compassion and love; but the truth. Think about a time in your life when you may have said or heard something you believed only to find out it was not true? What caused the untrue statement? Perhaps it was due to being unprepared, uninformed or it was just a distortion of the truth. How has that experience helped you be more careful in what you say to others? What can you do to make sure you are communicating truth to others?      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you be a person who communicates truth in every situation.

Day two: The Controlling Power of Speech

  • James uses the illustration of a bit in the mouth of a horse and a rudder on a ship to paint a picture of how powerful small parts of a whole can control the entire structure or being. The same is true of the tongue. The tongue is a small part of our body yet, it wields extreme power. The tongue can control our relationships, our attitudes and even our success or failure. If we are unable to control our tongue, we are most likely going to be negatively controlled by it. Consider what areas of your life are controlled by your tongue. This may be a hard concept to wrap your mind around but try hard. What things do you say to others that might have control over the way people interact with you daily?      
  • In your prayer time, ask God to help you turn control of your tongue over to Him so that your tongue doesn’t control you.

Day three: The Consuming Power of Speech

  • James moves on to another illustration of how the tongue is powerful. A small spark can set an entire forest on fire and that fire is consuming. When we speak, our words cannot be taken back, they cannot be controlled by us and they can leave a path of destruction we could have never imagined. Do you take time to think before you speak? We might just blow by that question and answer, “Of course I do” but do we really? I want to encourage you to do something that might seem odd. Try for one day to stop and really think about everything you say. Think about the words, the tone, the implications and the body language you use along with the speech. I think what you will find, is that when we allow time before we speak, we will allow the Holy Spirit to guide our words and not our emotions or reactions. I would appreciate your feedback on how this works for you.
  • In your prayer time today, ask to give us wisdom and patience as you speak.

Day four: The purpose of our Speech  

  • Can fresh and salt water come from the same source? No. Neither can the praise of God and the cursing of those created in the image of God. God makes it clear through James that it is inconsistent for us to praise God and curse our neighbor with the same mouth. The purpose of our speech and our existence is to praise God and to worship Him. I would encourage you this week to examine your speech toward others. When you at the point of cursing someone, I would encourage you to stop and give God praise. This is not easy, it is counter intuitive, but it is what you and I were created to do. You just might find your relationship with God will begin to change as will your relationship with others.
  • Your prayer time give praise to God for who He is and what He has and is doing for you.

Day five: Looking forward

  • Read James 3:13-4:12 in preparation for next week.