DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

What It's Going to Take (Joshua 1:1-9; 16-18)

  • I don't know how you came this morning
  • you might have come encouraged by what's happening at the church
  • as I talk to people, I sense an excitement about the future
  • I sense a deeper hunger for worship and a passion for evangelism
  • some of our leading indicators would seem to suggest that we are making progress
  • some of you came excited about the future at Richview, and that's great
  • I like that!
  • I love the believing expectation that God is going to move in this group of people

  • but some of you might have a little bit of fear
  • and that's okay too
  • you may be wondering what these two young pastors are up to
  • I sense when I really listen that many of you are trying to be supportive, but you're not sure
  • perhaps there are some here this morning who struggle with the whole idea of change
  • you haven't heard everything you need to hear from leadership to be convinced
  • or maybe you're carrying around baggage from the past
  • you've heard it all before, and you don't know whether or not to believe
  • you came this morning not completely buying in to what's happening

  • for the past 5 or 6 weeks, we've been talking about changing as a church
  • we've talked about becoming a purpose-driven church
  • but some of us might not be sure that we want to change!

  • this morning I'd like to talk about what it's going to take to become a transformational church - a church that is living up to its mission
  • last year I traveled to Israel
  • as we drove down the length of the Jordan River, I looked over and saw the land of Jordan
  • I saw the general area from which Moses would have viewed Israel
  • I imagined the millions of people camped out on the east bank of the Jordan River
  • as the book of Joshua opens, that's where they are
  • the Israelites are camped on the east bank of the Jordan River at the very edge of the Promised Land
  • we have a lot in common with them
  • for one thing, there's new leadership
  • they had just lost the only leader they had known for 40 years
  • Moses was the one who started it all
  • now there was a new kid on the block - one who had been chosen while Moses was still alive, but he was still a new leader

  • we also face impossible obstacles
  • it wouldn't have been hard for one of the children of Israel to stand up at a business meeting and say, "We've tried this before - 40 years ago. Look across the river! What do you think we're doing?"
  • the obstacles were obvious
  • what they faced was impossible by human means
  • the only way to overcome was through an implicit trust and absolute dependence on God's miracle-working power
  • and so it is with us
  • look around us
  • in Canada, 82% of people are unchurched
  • "no religious preference" is the fastest growing religion
  • and most evangelical churches are in decline

  • they had another thing in common with us
  • they had God's guarantee; and so do we
  • God commanded them to go across the Jordan River and take the land he had given them
  • they had God's promise and guarantee of help
  • Jesus commanded us to go into the world and make disciples
  • we have his promise that he will be with us, that he will build his church
  • staying on the east side of the Jordan would have been disobedient and showed a lack of trust
  • for us to stay where we are right now would also demonstrate disobedience and a lack of trust

  • there's one more similarity between them and us
  • there's the issue of choice
  • remember what I said earlier?
  • they could keep going the way they'd been going for 40 years, and they could keep getting what they'd always be getting
  • they could have chosen another few years of wandering in the wilderness
  • or they could enter the Promised Land

  • we have a choice
  • we can keep doing what we've always been doing
  • we can settle for 82% of Christians in this community remaining unchurched
  • or we can enter the Promised Land - we can become a transformational church

  • what will it take to enter the Promised Land?
  • what will it take for our church to be a thriving church - a place where we see lives transformed?
  • I take a hint from what I read in Joshua 1
  • four times in Joshua 1, God tells Joshua, "Be strong and courageous!"
  • it's going to take strength and courage for us to become a transformational church
  • it's going to take strength and courage to open up our doors to people who matter to God, to embrace them, and to walk with them until they're fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ

  • in Joshua's day, two and a half tribes had decided that they liked it better on the east side of the Jordan
  • they were just as happy settling on the east side, which had great pasture for their flocks
  • I imagine that some of them could have said, "We were here before. We didn't have what it took"
  • there was probably a temptation on the part of many to settle for life on the east of the Jordan

  • some of us are probably happy with things the way they are
  • it's going to cost us something to become transformational
  • there's a price tag attached to becoming the church that God wants us to be

  • but then I see what's at stake
  • I can see the other side
  • I can see Richview becoming a prevailing church - a place where lives are transformed
  • I can see Richview being a place of transformation
  • I can see our church making a significant impact on the community
  • people are at stake, and people matter to God!
  • a little like the children of Israel, we face a choice of whether or not we're going to cross that river

  • so if you're interested, how are we going to do it?
  • how are we going to get the strength and courage we need?
  • it's going to take strength and courage on the part of all of us - not just me, but you
  • how can you get the strength and courage you need?
  • Joshua 1 gives us three steps that we will have to take

  • FIRST: GET YOUR MARCHING ORDERS FROM GOD
  • (Joshua 1:2) "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites.
  • (Joshua 1:3) I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.
  • (Joshua 1:4) Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west.
  • (Joshua 1:5) No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.

  • was there any doubt what God's will was for the people of that day?
  • they knew, without a question, who their leader was
  • they knew exactly where they were supposed to go
  • they knew the results that God had guaranteed them

  • we as a church need a crystal-clear understanding of what God has commanded our church to do
  • question: has God given us marching orders?
  • these past two months, we've talked about our mission: to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • we've talked about the five purposes God has given us as a church: service, worship, outreach, relationships, and discipleship
  • we believe that if we do these five things with excellence and balance, we will become an even more exciting and energized church
  • we know the leaders God has given us
  • we need to be crystal-clear about what God is calling us to do

  • at the beginning of September, I promised you that we would go out of our way to communicate what is goin g on at Richview
  • since that time, I have been meeting with key leaders to go over our strategy as a church
  • this month we will finish meeting with key leaders and getting their feedback
  • and on Saturday, December 5, we will begin to present to you what we believe our future should look like
  • we won't be coming with everything figured out
  • we will come to you with a plan to discern our future together as a church

  • as leaders, we are rediscovering God's purpose for Richview
  • it's not new - it's why this church was founded
  • it's as old as the New Testament
  • we believer we've got our marching orders from God
  • and I guess I have to say, are you willing to follow the orders we've received?
  • because we're not sensing a lot of wiggle room in what God has called us to do!

  • SECOND: OBEY HIS DIRECTIONS
  • (Joshua 1:7) Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
  • (Joshua 1:8) Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
  • God requires that we be a people who are absolutely committed to obeying the Word of God

  • did you notice that the emphasis in these verses is not knowledge but obedience?
  • John Maxwell says that most of us are educated way beyond the level of our obedience, and I tend to agree
  • imagine if we cancelled church until we had obeyed everything in this week's sermon?
  • it's very possible we wouldn't have to have church again until Christmas!
  • it's one thing to understand, and it's another thing to obey

  • can I give you an example?
  • one of the values that we're going to elevate at Richview is this value of outreach
  • Pastor Ed talked the other week about how lost people matter to God
  • let's take a vote - how many people here believe that lost people matter to God?
  • how many people believe that we need to do everything possible to reach everyone we can?

  • okay
  • now, next week we have a Discovery Service
  • we're committed next week to creating an environment in which seekers can come and hear in a clear and relevant format the claims of Christ and how it relates to them
  • studies show that 10-15% of people come to a church because of mass marketing
  • 10-15% come because of a drive-by or name recognition
  • 70-75% of people come because of an invitation from a friend or relative
  • all it takes is an ask
  • have you obeyed God by giving that ask to someone doesn't yet follow Jesus?

  • friends, we want to take these two steps
  • we want to get are marching orders from God
  • we want to obey his directions
  • it's going to take one more step
  • STEP THREE: EXPECT GOD TO BRING RESULTS
  • (Joshua 1:5) No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
  • (Joshua 1:9) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
  • these people had an unwavering confidence that came from a calm assurance that God was with them in their obedience
  • they had expectation - they expected that God would work
  • they knew that as they entered the Promised Land, God would go before them and drive out their enemies

  • Jesus promised us:
  • (Matthew 28:18) Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
  • (Matthew 28:19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
  • (Matthew 28:20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
  • we have the same promise from Jesus
  • how much do you expect God to show his power in this church?
  • what do you expect him to do?

  • I can't wait to see what God is going to do here at Richview
  • I can't wait to see the lives that he will transform!
  • Billy Graham once said of Canada, "I believe that Canada stands in a very unique position. If Canada should have a spiritual awakening and a spiritual revival, I think it could lead the world. And I think Canada could become the world leader in the spiritual dimension!"

  • for Richview Baptist Church, these are the best of times and the worst of times
  • in a short while, we're going to enter a new millennium
  • call it 21-C for the twenty-first century, 3M for the Third Millennium, or what you will
  • as the year odometer changes over to a 2 followed by 3 zeroes, our society is in the midst of a major sea change
  • for those of us who are passionate about reaching this Canadian generation for Christ, this presents a major challenge

  • we live in a new day - a day which requires, in the words of Len Sweet, "the fieldwork skills of an anthropologist, the dedication of a missionary, the patience of a saint, the learning curve of a child, the cunning of a spy, the stamina of an athlete, and the resolve of a Coast Guard sailor" (AquaChurch)
  • how are churches responding to this environment?
  • Terry Cuthbert, our Fellowship's president, has observed three responses among churches
  • the first is that of denial
  • he says, "These godly men and women do not want to admit to themselves that the world is changing dramatically around them. They are carrying on, business as usual. They continue to do what they have always done, except that it has been years since they have seen any significant spiritual results"

  • the second response is to "hunker in the bunker"
  • or, as younger people say while playing video games, "Shields up!"
  • Terry Cuthbert says, "These godly men and women see the change coming but have developed a healthy fear of the negative aspects of these changes, without recognizing the significant opportunities. They would rather form the holy huddle and keep themselves untainted in this wicked and vile generation"

  • the late Canadian novelist Robertson Davies said, "The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to an idealized past"
  • we have not been called to serve previous generations
  • we have been called by God to serve this one
  • thus, you and I need to adopt a third response

  • the third response is to hoist the sails
  • "These godly men and women have understood that we are not of this world, but we still have a significant role to play in it. Separation and engagement go together. There are churches and individuals across Canada that with boldness and courage are scouting out this new world after the sea change. They are fully convinced of the priority of the great commission and are taking the necessary risks to find out how to connect to this new culture"
  • but there's a price tag attached
  • as one church planter asked, "What are you willing to endure to see change occur?"
  • what are you willing to give up to enter the Promised Land?

  • do you know what the Israelites decided to do?
  • (Joshua 1:16) Then they answered Joshua, "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
  • (Joshua 1:17) Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses.
  • (Joshua 1:18) Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!"
  • they decided to hoist the sails

  • I stand before you today to tell you that God has given us clear direction
  • he's with us - he's promised to give us success
  • and I'm here to tell you, as for me and my house - we're going to hoist the sails
  • are you?

  • let's pray
  • [commitment to ask someone for next week]
  • [commitment to honor God's purpose for our church]
  • [commitment to obey]
  • [commitment to expect God to do great things]
  • (Ephesians 3:20 NLT) Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.
  • (Ephesians 3:21 NLT) May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.

Let's Talk About the Pastor (1 Timothy 4:12-16)

  • please open your Bibles to 1 Timothy 4
  • I counted on my bookshelf yesterday 58 books on being a pastor
  • many of these books have great titles
  • "What the Didn't Teach You in Seminary," "Principles of Pastoral Success," "Coping with Depression in the Ministry," "Confident Pastoral Leadership," "The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers," and my favorite, "They Smell Like Sheep"

  • I think my all-time favorite book on pastoring is one you've probably read
  • it's called 1 Timothy
  • if I had to get rid of everything I've ever read on the ministry and major on just one book, it would be this one
  • it was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, a young man providing leadership in the Ephesian church
  • the whole book is good, but this morning I'd like to focus on chapter 4, beginning with verse 12

  • leadership today is tougher than ever before, and it's no different in the ministry
  • an anti-authoritarian atmosphere pervades the world and the church
  • people distrust leaders
  • on top of that, we're exposed to tapes, books, seminars, and television productions of pastors who are all better than we are
  • and not only that, consumerism has entered the church
  • if we don't like what we find in one church, we just bail out and go to another
  • this is probably true of every area of ministry, but especially the area you're involved in Gary - the area of worship and music

  • I don't think any pastor is going to find it easy in the ministry
  • people talk about the pastor
  • a couple had invited the pastor over for dinner
  • while they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the pastor was chatting with their little boy
  • he asked if the boy knew what they were having for dinner
  • "Goat," the little fellow said
  • the pastor was startled
  • "Goat? are you sure?"
  • the boy said, "I think so. This morning I heard Dad say to Mom, ‘Might as well have the old goat for dinner today"
  • since people talk about the pastor, we might as well talk about him too
  • except let's talk about the pastor biblically
  • what kind of pastor is he going to be?

  • Joe Stowell has observed that some choose to lead from the platform of personal charm
  • they feel they can please all the people all the time
  • they treat ministry as a popularity contest, but any pastor who leads from the platform of personal charm is guaranteed to have a short ministry
  • the pastor is not called by God to be a diplomat
  • he is called by God to speak God's Word plainly and clearly and without apology - but with utter humility and brokenness of heart
  • some try to lead from the platform of the latest programs and ministry fads
  • others try to rally their people to causes
  • some pastors try to lead from the platform of self-promotion
  • I once read a church-growth book that encouraged pastors to be strong leaders, and one way to communicate this is to make sure that the pastor's name on the church's letterhead is bigger than the church's name
  • I'll reserve comment on that suggestion

  • the real question is, what kind of leader is the pastor going to be?
  • I believe the real answer is found in 1 Timothy 4:12
  • (1 Timothy 4:12) Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young
  • literally, "don't let anyone underrate you because you are young"
  • in essence, what Paul is saying to Timothy is this:
  • there are going to be some older members of your church
  • they're probably going to dislike being lectured to, and having their conduct dictated by, so relatively young a pastor
  • Paul admonishes Timothy to do what was necessary to engender a healthy sense of respect among those he was called to lead
  • rather than building on the platforms of personal charm, popularity, programs, or self-promotion, Paul admonishes Timothy to earn and build respect among those he serves
  • Paul says that the unchangeable factor of his youth can be overcome by exhibiting exemplary character
  • people rarely give respect as a gift to a leader or pastor; it has to be earned
  • most take a wait-and see attitude
  • pastors are challenged in the words of Paul to Timothy: earn respect
  • don't let anyone look down on you just because you're young
  • focus your life and ministry in three areas
  • and these three areas will define the kind of respect that will enable someone to be an effective pastor

  • FIRST, FOCUS EARN RESPECT BY YOUR PERSONHOOD
  • (1 Timothy 4:12) Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
  • it's amazing that Paul didn't begin with technique, style, or task performance
  • he begins with the question of basic personal integrity
  • when I go to an ordination, I can determine pretty quickly whether or not a person is orthodox
  • I can tell if he is sound theologically pretty quickly
  • but my main question becomes this: how is your integrity?
  • how is your walk with God?
  • how do you treat your wife?
  • who are you? can I trust you?
  • these are the questions that determine effectiveness in ministry
  • personhood is the ultimate make-or-break issue in effective leadership

  • Paul says in verse 12, set an example in five areas:
  • SPEECH - what you say about people, your day-to-day conversation
  • LIFE - really, your behavior; the general conduct of your life
  • your conduct toward your children and your spouse
  • how you handle those who will oppose you in ministry and cause you grief
  • how you carry out the business of life, and how you relate to others
  • LOVE - the defining mark of a Christian, and most certainly a Christian leader
  • once again, the issue of how you treat your enemies; whether or not you love unconditionally; loving those who disagree with you theologically, or who have certain temperaments or idiosyncrasies that just drive you crazy
  • Paul mentions FAITH - the idea of faithfulness and fidelity
  • and PURITY - who you are when nobody is looking
  • Ephesus was a center for sexual impurity, and Timothy was faced with temptations
  • so stay sexually pure, but also entertain purity of motives, purity of heart, purity of conscience, purity in the way you deal with money, purity in managing your time and relationships

  • as Proverbs says:
  • (Proverbs 4:23) Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
  • (Proverbs 4:24) Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
  • (Proverbs 4:25) Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
  • (Proverbs 4:26) Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
  • (Proverbs 4:27) Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

  • if you were around someone who exemplified these five characteristics on a consistent basis, you would be compelled to respect them
  • I've noticed that some pastors fail because they lack people skills, some fail because they lack leadership capacity, but an even greater number fail because they lack integrity
  • personal integrity is a non-negotiable element of a pastor's ministry
  • he is to set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity

  • SECOND, EARN RESPECT BY YOUR PROCLAMATION
  • (1 Timothy 4:13 ) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
  • the fundamental need of every believer is to understand and know the Bible and live in obedience to its truth
  • people come to our ministries expecting that in some way their innate spiritual hunger will be satisfied
  • the goal is not to be the greatest preacher, the goal is to be an effective proclaimer - one who feeds the truth of God to the spiritual needs of his people

  • when I began my ministry, I thought I could coast in this area
  • I could get away with hastily prepared sermons - for a while
  • but over time I began to see the effects of this, so much so that now I devote many hours a week to the preparation of God's Word to feed hungry souls
  • I'll never be a Spurgeon or Swindoll, and I'll never feed intellectual giants, but I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing - feeding sheep
  • and God calls us to ground our ministries in the proclamation of his unchanging Word to a new generation

  • look at the word Paul uses in verse 11
  • (1 Timothy 4:11) Command and teach these things.
  • the word "command" is a strong one, with military overtones
  • the pastor is told to command and speak with authority from God's Word
  • the pastor can never try to be a people-pleaser in his ministry
  • never shy away from preaching God's truth just because it isn't popular
  • he must preach the Word of God accurately
  • preach from the Scriptures, not from your own ideas and perspectives
  • relate the Word of God to the needs of your flock
  • clearly communicate the Word of God to the church and they will respect you for it

  • throughout the history of the Christian Church other elements have squeezed out the preaching and teaching of the Word of God
  • it's like the little girl who was vigorously stirring a glass of ice tea
  • she sipped some of it, grimaced; stirred it again and contorted her face with displeasure once again
  • she complained, "Mother, this tea won't come sweet"
  • her mother answered, "Of course it won't. There's no sugar in it. All the stirring in the world won't do any good."
  • all the stirring-up of people in a church won't do any good unless the Gospel is proclaimed
  • so the pastor must proclaim the Word of God!

  • Gary, I'm encouraged by the way you see your role
  • I'm so glad that churches today have elevated worship to its rightful place
  • for a while, I think that, as Tozer remarked, worship was the missing jewel of the church
  • but no more
  • make no mistake about it
  • you proclaim a message through the way you lead worship
  • you not only set the stage for the effective proclamation of God's Word, you actually proclaim God's Word in the way you lead music

  • PAUL SAYS THERE IS A THIRD NON-NEGOTIABLE ELEMENT IN THE MATTER OF RESPECT
  • (1 Timothy 4:14) Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
  • Timothy's commission as a church leader was confirmed by the laying on of hands by the elders of a church
  • Timothy was not a self-appointed leader; no pastor is
  • God calls the pastor into the ministry
  • God gives the pastor spiritual gifts
  • God may have gifted him to be a teacher, or a merciful person, or a servant, or an exhorter, or an administrator
  • but whatever his gift is, God calls him to proficiency in using that gift
  • he shouldn't covet the gifts of others
  • instead, he should lead others to use their spiritual gifts
  • some church members think they hire the pastor to do all the work; in reality, the pastor's job is to prepare God's people for works of service
  • he must be diligent in cultivating what it is God has gifted you to do
  • he must become, as Paul says elsewhere, a workman who needs not be ashamed

  • I love what Paul says in verses 15 and 16:
  • (1 Timothy 4:15) Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
  • (1 Timothy 4:16) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

  • these concluding verses bring together everything that has been said in the preceding verses
  • the pastor must be passionate, and establish his authority through respect, because everyone will see his progress in these matters
  • he must be completely dedicated to your task
  • he must watch both his life and his doctrine
  • and the stakes are high, as we notice in verse 16:
  • "Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."
  • by his conscientious and devoted efforts, the pastor will have the supreme joy of helping the flock entrusted to him, which depends on his teaching and leadership, to attain salvation

  • it's so rewarding to see you in ministry, Gary
  • I feel a little robbed that we were not able to be together longer
  • and yet I'm glad you're not too far away
  • I look forward to observing how God will use you at Grandview
  • and I pray that in your personhood, proclamation, and in your gifts, your ministry will point many people to God

Relationships

  • okay, it's test time
  • these past four times Pastor Ed and I have preached, we've been talking about the purpose of the church
  • we've been asking that famous question that toddlers and smart adults like to ask - "Why?"
  • why does our church exist?
  • we've answered by saying that we exist to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • and we've talked about the five purposes God has given us to accomplish our mission
  • they're the 5 reasons why we exist as a church - the things that we'll never stop doing no matter what

  • now my question today is, what do you think of when you think of our fourth purpose in S.W.O.R.D. - relationships?
  • what comes to mind when you think of relationships?
  • [solicit answers]

  • you know, for a long time I missed the point on this issue
  • it's very easy to think of fellowship as nothing deeper than surface relationships and church socials
  • today let's look at God's plan for our relationships in the church
  • but before we do, let's pray

  • Father:
  • open our eyes this morning to what you've called us to be
  • stir within our hearts the good desires you've placed there
  • make us into the people you would have us be
  • I pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

  • would you agree with me that in all of us - from the most introverted to the most extroverted - there is a deep hunger for relationship?
  • there is a desire to know and to be known, to be truly understood, to be accepted without judgment, to relate at the deepest level to another human being
  • you know what this is like - we even have a word for it
  • to connect - to know that at the deepest level of the heart, something significant has been shared with another human being

  • we are all hungry for this type of relationship in life
  • you need supportive relationships if you're going to make it
  • God put Adam in the Garden of Eden
  • it was a perfect environment, and yet do you remember what God said?
  • "It's not good for man to be alone"
  • you were made for relationship!

  • and where does the church enter this?
  • when you were born physically, you joined the human family, the human race
  • when you're born spiritually, you join God's family
  • 1 Timothy 3:14 says:
  • (1 Timothy 3:14 NLT) I am writing these things to you now...
  • (1 Timothy 3:15 NLT) so that if I can't come for a while, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household [or family] of God.
  • the church is a family
  • it's not an institution, not a religious club, not a society, not an organization, and not a business
  • the Bible says it's a family, and that's how we are to relate to each other

  • when you were born, you were born not just into the human race - you were born into a family
  • and when you're born again, you're born into the family of God
  • but you need a local family where you can give and be given to, receive support, and so on
  • and what I want to say to you today is that the Christian life is just about believing, it includes belonging
  • you're meant to belong to a spiritual family, and that's more than just attending a church service
  • God doesn't want church to be something you go to
  • he wants it to be a family you're part of
  • does this make sense?

  • this morning I'd like to look at three beliefs we need to accept
  • Jesus said:
  • (John 13:34 NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
  • (John 13:35 NLT) Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
  • three beliefs about what I'll call church love that we need to accept

  • FIRST, CHURCH LOVE IS DIFFICULT
  • love is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn
  • it's not easy to love within the church
  • disappointment will be inevitable
  • everywhere you turn within the church - both now and in days of old - you see what relationships could be, and yet you see the difficulties as well

  • (Philippians 4:2 NLT) And now I want to plead with those two women, Eudoia and Syntyche, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.
  • Paul writes to a church which had no doctrinal problems, in which these two women had been used to bring many people to God, and what's the problem?
  • the problem is relational
  • you could go into any church including this one and find relational difficulties
  • the easiest thing in the world is to begin to write off what God has commanded - to settle for shallow relationships
  • to substitute meet-and-greet time for connecting, potlucks for heart-issues

  • a couple moved to sunny Florida from the gray Midwest
  • they walked one block west of the luxury beach hotels, and what they saw shocked them
  • there was a very ordinary big-city street - noisy, dirty, less-than-elegant
  • they came to the wood-slatted porch of retirement home - a porch teen feet deep and about sixty feet long
  • and there on the porch were at least a hundred chairs arranged in neat rows and columns, none touching, each in exactly the same position as the others
  • the occupied chairs each held one motionless retired man or woman staring straight ahead at the street
  • no heads turned to see traffic go by
  • no heads were turned to converse with another porch-sitter
  • there was no conversation, no evidence that any of these people had been created by a relational God to enjoy deep, intimate relating
  • their souls were asleep - numbed by years of lifeless relationships and pointless conversations
  • they had worked their entire lives with the dream of retiring in Florida
  • and they had made it, only to sit in isolation - never looking into another's eyes, never knowing anyone, never being known

  • the man who saw this writes:
  • "Every Sunday morning we stand, then sit, then sing on command. Some of us raise our hands, most of us sit still while someone talks to us. At some point we reach into our wallets and drop [money] into a big soup bowl with a velvet lining to keep the silver from clanging. We're doing a lot. But I wonder if the Spirit, who lives in a circle with two Others who are always relating, sees us as...the retired folks on the Miami Beach porch: lined up in chairs facing straight ahead with no life passing back and forth among them. Is that what we really look like?" (Larry Crabb, The Safest Place on Earth)
  • even in small groups, isn't it easy to never move to a deeper level - never really meeting, never giving or receiving what is most wanted?
  • it's hard to turn our chairs
  • it's hard to live in community the way God designed us
  • that's the first belief about love within the church we need to believe
  • do you believe it?

  • here's the second truth about love within the church
  • SECOND, CHURCH LOVE IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
  • it's not an option within the church
  • it's not a program - it's a necessity

  • no doubt you've been at a wedding and heard somebody read 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter
  • we usually apply it to marriage, but when Paul wrote it he didn't have marriage in mind - he had the church in mind
  • listen to what he wrote:
  • (1 Corinthians 13:1 NLT) If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging symbol.
  • (1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT) If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good w ould I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody.
  • (1 Corinthians 13:3 NLT) If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

  • what Paul is saying is this:
  • a church could have all the spiritual gifts, great acts of dedication and service, great programs, stimulating sermons, and inspiring services, miracle-working power - and yet if it doesn't have love, it has nothing
  • a church that has everything going for it, minus love, is a church that has nothing
  • love is absolutely necessary within the church

  • the Bible says that love is our mark as believers
  • (1 John 3:18 NLT) Dear children, let us stop just saying that we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.
  • (1 John 3:19 NLT) It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth...
  • Frances Schaeffer goes so far as to say that the mark of a Christian is loving other people
  • it's not wearing a cross around one's neck, it's not even going to a certain building with stained glass windows on a Sunday morning
  • the mark of a Christian is love
  • and God gives the right to unbelievers to look at believers and say, by how they love other people, whether or not they're true believers

  • there's no other option but to deeply relate in love to each other within the church
  • did you know that there are over 30 commands in the New Testament that you cannot obey unless you love within the church?
  • Ephesians 2:19 says:
  • (Ephesians 2:19 NLT) So now you...are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family.
  • so love within the church is difficult, and it's also absolutely necessary
  • without it, a church is nothing
  • do you believe that?
  • repeat after me, "Without love, a church is nothing"

  • there's a third belief about love within the church we need to understand
  • THREE: CHURCH LOVE IS UNIQUE
  • the kind of love we're talking about - that's so difficult and is absolutely necessary within the church - is the kind of love that you'll find nowhere else in the world
  • people are looking for love
  • they're starved for deep relationships
  • and the only way they'll ever find that love is if they experience the love that God has designed to be shared within the church

  • why do I say that?
  • listen to what Paul said about church love
  • remember that he's not talking primarily of love within a marriage; he's discussing the sort of love that's necessary within the church
  • (1 Corinthians 13:4 NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud
  • (1 Corinthians 13:5 NLT) or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.
  • (1 Corinthians 13:6 NLT) It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
  • (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT) Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

  • now, that's a description of Christ's love
  • in fact, every time Paul uses the word love, you could substitute Jesus' name
  • "Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand his own way. Jesus is not irritable, and keeps no record of when he has been wronged. Jesus is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance"
  • I'm here to tell you, friends, that the more we become like Jesus, the more these words apply to us
  • the more they apply to us, the more we will show others the kind of love they're hungry for
  • and the church will become what one person has called "the safest place on earth"
  • it will be a place where you can love and be loved
  • where you can know and be known
  • where you can celebrate and be celebrated
  • where you can serve and be served
  • that's what heaven is like, and the church is a little like heaven here and now

  • there was a man with a serious drinking problem
  • and one day he wandered into a church
  • and in the church he met a man named Virgil
  • he asked Virgil if he could have some money to take a train from Illinois to Cleveland, Ohio
  • Virgil sat down with this man for a while and shared how he could know Christ as his Savior
  • the man responded, "I'm not really interested in that. Could I just have the money for the ticket to Cleveland?"
  • "Okay," Virgil agreed, "we can give you that kind of help if that's all you really want"
  • he was quiet for a while and then shook his head
  • "You know something?" he said, looking straight at the man
  • "You've just let me off the hook, because if you had chosen a new way of life in the Kingdom of God, then as your brother I would have had to lay down my whole life for you - my house, my time, all my money. Whatever you needed to meet your needs would have been totally at your disposal for the rest of your life. But all you want is some money for a train ticket"

  • the guy was so shocked that he got up and left without even the money for the ticket
  • on Sunday, the guy came back and sat beside Virgil in church
  • he said, "What kind of people are they, that if I became a follower of Jesus Christ, they would sacrifice that much for me?"

  • one person writes:
  • "Every congregation has a choice to be one of two things. You can choose to be a bag of marbles, single units that don't affect each other except in collision. On Sunday mornings you can choose to go to church or sleep in. Who really cares if there are 192 or 193 marbles in a bag?
  • "Or, churches can choose to be a bag of grapes. The juices begin to mingle and there is no way to extricate yourself if you try. Each is part of all - part of the fragrance, part of the stuff."
  • a bag of marbles or a bag of grapes - that's the choice we need to make

  • can you see that this thing called relationships is far more than meet-and-greet time and potluck lunches?
  • it's more than small groups that just scratch the surface
  • it's about becoming a biblically functioning community that's full of love

  • at age 21, a student of Moody Bible College lay in a hospital bed
  • his name was George Sweeting, and he was given less than a year to live
  • he had terminal cancer
  • he had 30 radium treatments and three operations
  • he was down to 128 pounds of weight, and he was not a small man
  • as he lay in his bed, he kept asking, "Why? What's the point? What's the purpose of this life? Why am I here?"
  • a friend gave him a book called The Power of God's Love
  • and as Sweeting finished the last page of that book, he said, "I've got it. The reason I'm here is to love God and love other people.
  • now, miraculously, George Sweeting recuperated
  • he graduated from Moody
  • eventually he became president of the Moody Bible Institute, and he traveled around teaching seminars saying, "This is our purpose in life. It's to love God and others. There's nothing else - that's all there is"

  • let me close with the words of Larry Crabb
  • "We need a safe place for weary pilgrims. It's time to put political campaigns and ego-driven agendas and building programs and church activities and inspiring services on the back burner. We need to dive into the unmanageable, messy world of relationships, to admit our failure, to identify our tensions, to explore our shortcomings. We need to become the answer to our Lord's praye r, that we become one the way He and the Father are one.
  • "It's time we paid whatever price must be paid to become part of a spiritual community rather than an ecclesiastical organization.
  • "It's time we turned our chairs toward one another and learned how to walk in ways that stir anorexics to eat, multiples to integrate, sexual addicts to indulge nobler appetites, and tired Christians to press on through dark valleys toward green pastures and on to the very throne room of heaven.
  • "It's time to build the church, a community of people who take refuge in God and encourage each other never to flee to another source of help, a community of folks who know the only way to live in this world is to focus on the spiritual life - our life with God and others. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. Our impact on the world is at stake" (Larry Crabb, The Safest Place on Earth)

  • let's pray
  • Father,
  • turn this group of people into a bag of grapes
  • transform us into a "group of individuals who have learned to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than [our] masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to rejoice together, mourn together, and to delight in each other and make others' conditions as [our] own" (Scott Peck)
  • help us turn our chairs toward each other
  • may we become more like Christ so that we may love more like Christ
  • and may Jesus' words be proved true, that our love for one another will prove to the world that we are your disciples
  • in Jesus' name, Amen.

Worship

  • spring training is an annual event that all professional baseball players have
  • these guys, who make millions of dollars for working 8 or 9 months a year, they go to the south, like Florida
  • they go to the baseball park and get ready for the baseball season
  • what's really interesting is that spring training is critical to the success of a team
  • what they do in spring training is that they try to get those guys back into physical shape
  • they try to get them emotionally prepared and focused
  • and they go back and try to teach them the basics, like how to bunt, how to steal a base, how to think through a play, what to do in a position
  • because, for some reason, baseball players lose their edge
  • once they've been out of the circuit for the summer, they forget the basics of baseball

  • right now, we're in spring training at Richview
  • now, we're not going to ride in a bus to Florida
  • we're not going to throw balls all over the place
  • we're going to sit here in your comfortable chairs
  • and we're going to get ourselves refocused again on the church
  • I'm convinced that churches lose site of the reason for their existence
  • and it's important, every once in a while, to come along and say, "Here's what it's all about"
  • and so, we're in spring training in the Fall at Richview
  • we began a few weeks ago asking the question, "Church: what's the point?"
  • and the point is, we exist to lead all people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • that's why we're here as a church
  • everything we do has to be evaluated against that mission

  • we've already begun the exciting and sometimes painful journey to transition to a church that is crystal-clear about its purpose
  • two weeks ago, we began talking about our five purposes as a church
  • they're the 5 things that God has commanded every church to do
  • and this morning we're going to talk about the second of these: worship
  • God has called us to be worshipers
  • we're going to ask ourselves why worship is so important to us at Richview
  • but before we do, let's pray

  • Father,
  • Jesus told us in your Word that you are looking for true worshipers who will worship you in spirit and in truth
  • Acts 2 reports that in the early church, believers worshiped together each day, praising God
  • your desire is that we would be a worshiping church
  • and I pray today that you would elevate this value among us
  • I pray in Jesus' name, Amen..

  • God has called us to be worshipers
  • in 1996, the Barna Research Group did a survey of adults in churches in North America
  • they wanted to find out how these adults reacted to worship
  • what they discovered is fascinating
  • 71% of the adults who regularly attend church said, "I have never experienced the presence of God in worship. Never"

  • to some people, worship is this regular routine that you go through each week
  • you come to church, sing a few songs, go through the motions, but you never really expect anything to happen
  • for others, worship has become synonymous with style
  • to them, worship means a certain kind of music
  • but for many, worship has no real connection with God
  • it's rote, it's routine, it's really irrelevant
  • empty, boring ritual

  • but that's not true worship
  • around here, we think that worship is much more than an event or a certain type of music
  • it's a lifestyle
  • worship is not something you do for an hour a week
  • it's not a particular type of music
  • it's a lifestyle - something that the believer does 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

  • and what's more, we think that the public worship of God, when believers gather together to praise him, should be something exciting
  • it should be an event at which 100% of believers come and expect to experience the presence of God in worship
  • there is simply nothing else like God-honoring worship, and we are deeply committed and thrilled about it

  • you say to me, "Why? Why is worship so important in the life of the church?"
  • I'm glad you asked!
  • I want to give you three reasons why we are deeply energized and excited about worship here at Richview
  • three ways that worship impacts us at Richview

  • ONE: WHEN YOU WORSHIP, LIFE IS ORDERED
  • that's the first reason
  • as you look in the Bible, you begin to discover that true worship does something important
  • it enables our whole lives to be lined up

  • God created us to be worshipers
  • would you agree that when God created us, we were programmed by the divine Creator to be worshipers?
  • when we put God in the right place, all of a sudden our lives become ordered

  • once in a while, you drive by and see these surveyors looking through this gizmo on a tripod
  • and they're looking through to this guy holding a marker
  • if you look carefully on your street at home, there are markers set up on your lawns
  • you've found them with your lawnmower, or maybe by coming across them as you walk along
  • by lining up according to the correct marker, they're able to line up the whole neighborhood
  • that is the standard, and if they nail that one down, they're able to line up everything else as well

  • worship is like that
  • worship is getting us back to the mark
  • it's getting us to see life the way it was meant to be ordered
  • listen to what worship does
  • it orders priorities, it gives right values, it gets life in focus
  • and I want to look at two Old Testament examples of worship to flesh this out a little

  • but first, let's define worship
  • there are many definitions of worship out there - some long and complicated, some very simple
  • let me give you the shortest definition of worship that I know of
  • it's not elegant, but it's true
  • worship is when you see God and you go, "Wow!"
  • in other words, worship is responding all that God is and has done with all that you are
  • it's looking at him and saying, "Wow!"

  • have you had something good happen in your life recently?
  • think back with me thousands of years ago to a story we find in 2 Chronicles 20
  • a king by the name of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, hears that there are three countries that have gathered their armies and are coming to annihilate him
  • he knows that there is no possible way that he can stand against them
  • so he sent messengers out, gathered the people together in Jerusalem, and prayed
  • (2 Chronicles 20:12 NLT) "We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help"
  • God responded by speaking to a priest, who said this:
  • (2 Chronicles 20:17 NLT) "You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand and watch the LORD's victory...Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the LORD is with you"

  • how did they react?
  • (2 Chronicles 27:18 NLT) Then King Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground. And all the other people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the LORD.
  • before they even saw the results, they fell on their faces, looked at God, and said, "Wow!"

  • do you have anything to be grateful for these days?
  • a new baby, a friendship that's brought you a lot of joy, your job, a raise, a promotion, an answer to prayer?
  • there's only one proper response to that: to worship God
  • sometimes before we've even experienced a blessing of God, we catch a glimpse of his majesty and power
  • has that ever happened to you?
  • and you fall on your face before God and say, "Wow! You are a mighty God. I'm so glad I know you and can worship you"
  • have you ever experienced that?
  • we have many reasons to worship God this morning

  • but let's look at the flip side of that
  • you know the story of Job
  • one day, Job received word that his oxen and donkeys were all stolen, and all of his farmhands killed except for one
  • no sooner had he received this message than another messenger arrived, announcing that all of his sheep and shepherds had been killed, except for one
  • and then another message came telling him that his camels and servants had all been killed, except for one
  • if this wasn't bad enough, a final messenger came with the news that his children were all killed in a freak accident, and were all dead
  • how would you react?
  • here's what Job did
  • (Job 1:20 NLT) Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground before God.
  • (Job 1:21 NLT) He said, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD has given me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!"
  • question: did Job feel like worshiping God at that moment?
  • probably not
  • I think that Job had so conditioned himself spiritually that he knew the only way to order his life at its lowest point was to worship God
  • his was not a heart that felt worship, but it was a heart that needed it
  • and although he didn't feel "Wow!" he began the long journey toward "Wow!"

  • you know David in the Psalms
  • how many times do you begin to read a Psalm and hear David cry out to God
  • his life is a mess; his enemies are all around him; he can't sleep; his life is wasting away
  • and a remarkable thing happens as he begins to worship God
  • all of a sudden his entire attitude change
  • although outward circumstances have not changed, all of a sudden something inside of him has changed
  • when he worships, he begins to go on that journey toward "Wow"

  • I don't know where you are this morning
  • this morning you might be here with a heart full of gratitude that's just bursting with worship
  • or you might have had the sort of week that has crushed your soul
  • wherever you are, worship has the power to order your life
  • to take it away from the priorities we usually set: material things, fame, popularity, hedonism
  • and it redirects our lives around the purpose for which we were created
  • worship orders our lives
  • that's why we're so energized about worship at Richview

  • TWO: WHEN WE WORSHIP, SEEKERS ARE ATTRACTED
  • when we worship God, the second thing that happens is that seekers are attracted to God
  • (Acts 2:42 NLT) They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity -
  • (Acts 2:43 NLT) all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people. And each day the Lord added to the group those who were being saved.
  • do you see what happened?
  • as unbelievers saw the church being the church, worshiping God, they enjoyed the goodwill of the people, and people were saved and added to the church

  • in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, Paul makes the point that worship within a church must keep the unbelieving seeker in mind
  • he says, in essence, don't do things in your worship that will needlessly drive unbelievers away from God
  • there is a powerful evangelistic component to worship
  • when God's people are worshiping God, it's a powerful testimony to those who are there observing
  • they sense something there that they can't explain

  • that's why I believe that our worship services here at Richview need to be targeted to the believer, and yet sensitive to unbelievers
  • do you understand that?
  • we design our services with believers as our target
  • only believers can worship God
  • but we need to remain sensitive to unbelievers in our worship
  • because worship is a powerful witness to unbelievers, if God's presence is felt and if the message is understandable

  • can I stretch you a little bit here?
  • this is such a personal issue
  • the debate over musical styles is dividing churches across the world
  • Spurgeon once called his music ministry the "War Department of the church"

  • music is an integral part of our lives
  • a song can touch people in a way that a sermon can't
  • I'll tell you something that's absolutely true: the type of music we use in worship will determine who our church reaches in the community
  • the type of music we choose will attract some people, and it will turn others away
  • and it's therefore necessary to match our music to the type of people that God wants our church to reach
  • are you okay so far?

  • let me go a bit further
  • music is amoral
  • there is no such thing as good music, and there is no such thing as evil music, with the possible exception of Country and Western
  • there are many different styles of music out there - classical music, contemporary music, music from different cultures
  • not all of the music is to my taste, but the style of music we use is not a moral issue
  • there is no such thing as "Christian music"
  • what makes a song Christian isn't the music, but the lyrics
  • there is no such thing as Christian music; only Christian lyrics
  • last week we sang A Mighty Fortress; the music for that hymn came from a pop tune of that day
  • John Calvin hired two secular songwriters to put music to his theology
  • are you still okay?
  • when Silent Night first came out, it was described as "vulgar mischief, and devoid of all religious and Christian feeling"
  • when Handel's Messiah came out, it was labeled "vulgar theatre" with too much repetition and not enough message

  • I'll be completely honest with you this morning
  • my main question in worship used to be, "What style of music do I like?"
  • but it's being replaced by two other questions
  • my main question is this: "What is my spiritual attitude as I worship?"
  • because then it doesn't matter what the style is
  • when my heart is right with God, I could be in a cathedral with a pipe organ, or in a gym with a band, and it wouldn't matter
  • I would be worshiping God using one of the greatest gifts he has given us in this world: variety
  • that's my first question: what is my spiritual attitude?

  • my second question is this, "What type of person will this music reach?"
  • if you sent a missionary to a foreign culture, what would you expect them to do?
  • you would want them to never change the message of Christianity
  • but you would want them to translate that message to the culture and the nuances of the group they're working with

  • now, we're missionaries to the culture around us
  • are we going to change the message? never!
  • but are we going to translate the message of Christianity to reflect the culture and the nuances of the day? absolutely
  • that's why we need to know our community
  • so if jazz is the way to reach our community, you know what I'd do? I'd start singing those blues
  • if classical music was the key that would unlock our community, let's bring out the orchestra and play those famous composers
  • if polka was the secret to reaching the community, you know what I'd do? I'd move to a new community
  • but seriously, are you more concerned with your musical preferences than about reaching the lost?

  • Paul wrote:
  • (2 Timothy 1:10 NLT) I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
  • never transform the message, but effectively translate the message so it can be heard in every generation
  • Charles Colson writes, "Many churches have found the right balance behind all the music and skits and fanfare. They have a solidly orthodox message that deepens the spiritual life of the members. That is the key. What matters is not whether churches use skits or contemporary music or squash courts. What matters is biblical fidelity"

  • have I stretched you a little?
  • I think I've said enough
  • when we worship God in a sincere, passionate, orderly, authentic way, it attracts seekers to God
  • it is a powerful tool for pointing to the God we love

  • when we truly worship, our lives are ordered, seekers are attracted, and
  • THREE: GOD COMES NEAR
  • God comes near, because that is his desire
  • God is looking for worshipers
  • (John 4:23 NLT) The time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way.
  • isn't that amazing?
  • God is looking for worshipers, because worship is the only thing that he cannot give himself
  • and when God finds somebody or a group of people who are worshiping in spirit and in truth, God comes near
  • and by that I don't mean geography - God is already near
  • do you remember when David said:
  • (Psalm 139:7 NLT) I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence.
  • (Psalm 139:8 NLT) If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
  • God coming near isn't a matter of geography, it's a matter of intimacy

  • in Revelation 3:20, Jesus said to a church - to believers:
  • (Revelation 3:20 NLT) Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.
  • that's what Jesus longs for
  • Jesus longs to come near to us - not just once in a while, but every single day
  • every single time we gather together to worship

  • that's why I'm so excited about worship
  • that's why God has given us worship as one of the five purposes of our church
  • because when we worship, God comes near, seekers are attracted, and God comes near

  • as we close, I want to read a story to you
  • "A man went to church with an angel as his guide. Every seat in the church was filled. But there was something strange about the service. The organist moved her fingers over the keys, but no music came from its pipes. The choir rose to sing. Their lips moved, but no sound was to be heard. The pastor stepped to the pulpit to read the Scriptures, but the man observing with the angel could not even hear the rustle of pages. Then the Lord's Prayer was recited by the entire congregation, but not a single syllable was audible. The pastor went again to the pulpit, and the man could tell he had started his sermon as he gestured here and there to make his various points, but the man heard nothing."
  • "Turning to the angel, the man said, 'I don't understand. What does this mean? I see that a service is being held, but I hear nothing.'"
  • "The angel replied, 'You heard nothing because there is nothing to be heard, at least not by heaven's ears. They're just going through the motions. Nothing they are doing has any meaning for them. Worship without heart is not worship at all"

  • let's pray
  • Father:
  • you call us to be a church that exalts you
  • Lord, you are worthy of our worship
  • and we want to worship you
  • be pleased with our worship, and be pleased to come near
  • in Jesus' name, Amen.
Adapted from a message by Ken Taylor, Community Fellowship Baptist Church