Month: July, 2015

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 4:1-16

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 4:1-16

What are the characteristics of a life that is worthy of our calling? Verses 1-3

 

Why are these characteristics so important to have? Where do you fall short?

 

Paul says we have one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. How do these seven “ones” contribute to actually living out true unity?

 

Is unity the same as uniformity?

 

Why is unity so important to the church?

 

How is unity demonstrated in a believer’s life?

 

How does the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit demonstrate unity?

 

On the one hand, unity is given by the Spirit. It’s not something we produce. On the other hand, it takes effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. What kind of effort?

 

Describe the “unity of the Spirit.”

Verse 3 is the only place the term “bond of peace” is used in the Bible, what is Paul referring to?

What kinds of things have you observed that occasionally sabotage Christ’s peace among

believers?

 

How does spiritual infancy differ from spiritual maturity?

What is an Apostle? Acts 1:20-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1 A Prophet? Acts 11:27-28; 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 An Evangelist? Mark 16:15 A shepherd/teacher? 1 Peter 5:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Do you think that the church needs every member to exercise their Spiritual Gifts? What do you think might happen if some members choose to ignore their gifts and not use them in the church?

The Greek word for “equip” found in verse 12 is the same term you would use to equip an army. How does this change the way you look at this term? 1 Corinthians 1:10

What spiritual gifts do you think you might have? How do they fulfill the purposes described in verses 11-13?

 

Why is it correct to say that maturity is the ultimate goal of all ministry?

What do “children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” look like in today’s culture?

“Dare To Dream Big”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

We look around us this morning and many of us wonder what God has in store for our tiny church. The size of our church has been the topic of many conversations. Many wonder how we will survive now that so many have moved or have died or have left by other means. Many wonder what kind of difference we can make being so few but asked to do so much. I have to admit, I’ve even let it get to me from time to time. More than once I’ve looked up to heaven asking God what He is up to with us.

Praise Him that He has not left my questions unanswered. The church I was blessed to shepherd as a Deacon, Zion Lutheran in Ashton Idaho, had many of the same concerns. They were worshipping about as many people and those people were asking many of the same questions. I believe God called me to that church so that I could properly serve this one.

In many ways that church had much bigger problems than we do.

They had just survived a split two years earlier and were licking the wounds all that had caused. They were far from a congregation that found forgiveness for those who left, a thing to grasp.

Our little church was in a tiny community that was over 70% Mormon and those who left had started another church in nearby town. Zion was known for its dysfunction because this was actually the third time they had split in anger in the last 35 years. The church was in rough shape and they needed to find someone who was crazy enough to think it could be saved. That’s where I come in. I’m the crazy one.

The greatest thing I learned during that time in Ashton was that our God is a great God. He has done much greater things than saving a tiny church. He is infinitely wise to know all the answers and, despite its diminutive size, He had a plan for us.

And God did bless us. We grew, mostly from those who had left the church long ago and had been convinced to give it another try, but we grew. We went from being the dysfunctional church to being the growing church. Ministry was actually coming out its walls to the streets and the people were the happiest they had been with their little church in many years.

Because of the great experience I had there, God found that I had finally learned something. I had learned to trust Him in all things.

I had learned that He is much bigger than any problems our church might be having and that nothing is truly impossible should we walk in faith and believe even for the sake of believing.

So my message to you this morning is not, “how can we survive,” It is, to imagine what God can do. God doesn’t want us to be afraid to dream.

So, what is your dream for this tiny church? Is it to have enough people join so we can pay our bills? If so, then your dreams are not nearly big enough. Is your dream for Redeemer to have lots of kids and a real Sunday School. If so, your short changing God because our God is a mighty God and capable of doing mighty things.

Don’t dream to be big enough to pay the bills, trust in God to make us big enough to help others with their bills. Don’t dream that we have a few more kids so we can have a Sunday School, trust in God to make us big enough to build our own school.

In our Epistle lesson we read, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more then all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Here God is actually challenging us to dream big. He wants us to see how truly remarkable He is. He wants us to dream big dreams and trust Him to deliver big results. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, and all we want is a ministry that glorifies Him to millions.

If your dream does not stretch you to the point of being uncomfortable, than it’s probably not from God. He asks all His children to trust completely in Him, He wants to do even more than we ask for or imagine.

He wants us to believe that, thru Him, we can do all things. Colossians 1:17 reminds us that, “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Our God is a great God and He is literally capable of anything. In Ephesians 1:22 Paul tells the church in Ephesus, “He (God) put all things under His (Christ’s) feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” Our Savior waits for our call to Him and He can answer any request because He is head of all things for all believers. John 1:3, All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” The Creator of the world is waiting for our call, I think we can trust Him to do what He must to save our little church.

So He calls on us to dream big dreams. So, what exactly is a dream? Well, the worldly definition is a succession of images, thoughts or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.” Well that seems kind of boring. I’ve had dreams that conjure up scary things, especially if I had one burrito too many the evening before. About all we can learn from this is that dreams are a process.

This is not the kind of dream that were talking of here. We must find a different definition. Our definition has to do with things that we imagine wide awake, a vision voluntarily indulged on while awake, a day dream, a reverie (Definition #5 in Dictionary.com).

In 1983 a young man named Michael Dell graduated from High School. He had a passion for computers and would take them apart and rebuild them. He discovered that he could build them for one forth of the price even adding more memory, bigger monitors, and faster modems, he would be able to sell them cheaper with a handsome profit. His dream was to build and sell computers.
That fall, under a lot of pressure from his parents he enrolled at The University of Texas. After his freshman year, he dropped out of school and started Dell Computer Company with $1,000.
Three years later, the company did a private placement offering stock to a small group of investors. At that time, Michael Dell was 22 years Old and Dell Computers had 150 million of annual sales.
Today, Dell Computers is a 57 Billion dollar company, with the leading market Share in the US. He said, I followed my dream. I learned by doing and by making mistakes, and I got smart people to help.

Michael Dell wasn’t afraid to dream big and because of that, he was greaty rewarded. He was willing to put in the work necessary and he found capable people to help him.

 

I believe this is our calling. I look out and I find many capable people and in all of history, there has been people just like you who could take a dream and make it a reality. Just like us, they were being asked to start the process of making their dreams come true.

The children of Israel dreamed of a promised land and the only way to get there was through a harsh wilderness. But they were determined even if they did have to be coaxed from time to time. In the end they found the land that God had promised them and later they became a great nation.

Many people are afraid to dream because they are afraid of the process. It’s much easier to be satisfied with the way things are, even though they know that doing nothing will cost them. We must not despise the process because it is in the process that the lessons appear from a God who wishes us to achieve great things.

By trusting in God they were able to see His power as they crossed the Red Sea. There were no sign posts to guide them, they just followed in faith. Every day was one day closer to realizing the dream.

There were old and young alike, both educated and uneducated, powerful and weak coming together to use the gifts that God had given them to realize the goal.

Yes, the process can be difficult and it may ask more from us then we ever seemed possible. To realize the dream, we too must survive the journey thru the wilderness but we will never see the land of milk and honey without completing the tasks necessary to get us there.

But our dream for Redeemer will never be realized unless it is pursued. If we are to reach the goal we must be persistent in faith, tenacious in our actions and even a little bit stubborn to achieve the greatest results both for God and for us, His children. No matter how far-fetched our dreams are, we must be dogged in our efforts, trusting in a God who is capable of all things.

Our dreams should be like our children, an offering to God. Our dreams should be filled with the joy of possibilities and full of hope. We need to protect them, feed them, encourage them to grow for as long as the dream takes to realize its potential.

Look at the life of Joseph if you think that dreams aren’t worth suffering for. His family betrayed him and he was sold as a slave and his master’s wife gave false testimony against him that landed him in prison where he lingered for many years.

Yet he never gave up on his dreams and they carried him all the way to his destiny as a mighty ruler in Egypt and able to save his people.

Of course, when we talk about dreams we are talking about those that glorify God. There should be no self-ambition involved. We should not wish to grow so that we might appear something special but because growing allows us to do the most good in the kingdom of our Creator. If we can refrain from vain goals, God will bless us as He has promised.

To Joel God said, “And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28

Today is the day to see this come true. Can you see a better future? Can you see the dream that God has for you and for this church? He has a dream for you, for us, and He will reveal it if we come to Him in faith. God has chosen you for a very powerful task if you’re willing to follow your dreams, dreams specifically for you. He’s not going to give someone else your dream because only you can do what He has gifted you to do in the way you can do it. God may confirm it through others but He will only reveal it to you.

I have had many come to me looking to find their purpose and my advice is always the same. Follow your dreams and along the way, always do the right thing. And as you dream, expect the unexpected. Expect to be challenged and questioned. When others say it can’t be done, act like Noah and keep building your boat.

Your dreams might separate you from others but that should not hinder you from doing all you can do to realize them. True dreamers are risk takers and usually find themselves in the minority, but dreamers, the risk takers, will eventually separate themselves from the caretakers satisfied with the status quo and the undertakers who only work for the dead. Those who walk by sight will always outnumber those who walk by faith.

So, when you look around at all the people God has gifted us with here at Redeemer, allow yourself to dream big dreams because we have all the people we need to do it. Our God is a mighty God and our salvation is on the top of His to do list. He wishes for our church to do more than survive, He wishes it to thrive to the point that we are able reach the world with His message of salvation so that all those who wait for those sweet words to touch them, might enjoy paradise just as we will. He believes in us so much He was willing to sacrifice His only Son so that even our most outlandish dreams wished for in His name might become reality.

We are not alone in the fight and our dreams should not have limits. Our God is mighty God and His is capable of mighty things. May He see fit to making our biggest dreams come true. Amen.

 

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 3:14-21

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 3:14-21

What does it mean for Christ to dwell in our hearts? What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us?

Define God’s glory Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20

What does it mean to live for God’s glory? How does that play out in day-to-day life?

This section contains two prayers, one in verses 14-19 (The Apostles Prayer) and the other in verses 20-21. How are they the same? How are they different?

What are the six steps in praying for spiritual strength? Vs. 14 (2 Chronicles 7:3, Ezra 9:5, Psalm 95:6-7, Daniel 6:10, Matthew 6:6-14, Luke 22:41; Acts 20:36);  Vs. 15 (Mark 12:27); Vs. 16 (Romans 9:23, Philippians 4:19, Colossians 1:27); Vs. 17a (Philippians 1:21, Galatians 2:20); Vss. 17b-18 (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27, Ephesians 4:4); Vs. 19 (Romans 8:32)

How would following Paul’s prayer as a model change the way you pray?

Paul wants God to grant us “according to the riches of His glory, He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” Do you pray this for yourself? Do you pray it for other believers?

Why do we need this power in the inner being? Matthew 23:27-28; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 2:20

How (practically) can a Christian experience the power of God’s Spirit in the inner being?

Is Biblical faith a passive faith (where you “let go and let God.”)? John 14:23

If God is sovereign and has ordained everything that comes to pass, why pray? Ephesians 1:11

So that his request may be realized, what does Paul ask God the Father to do for the Christian? Explain it in your own words.

Can God give us such infinite knowledge of his being and love so that we can truly understand it? (Verse 20) If so, how?

God is described as “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (verse 20). How would the Ephesians have been struck by this? (For example, think about the Jewish / Gentile context and the one family of God.)

If God is truly able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, how should that impact your thoughts and prayers?

 

“God of The Broken”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

In high school, one of my very best friends was a guy named Rick. To this day we remain friends and I always try to see him when I go back home to Minot. Rick was a jock in school who was one of the best swimmers on a team that was always expected to win the state title. He also loved the theater and that’s really where our friendship began.

Rick was a little unusual in that he really never dated much, preferring instead to tag along with the whole gang. We’d try to fix him up with a girl but it never really stuck. He wasn’t shy but when it came to the opposite sex, he never knew what to say or what to do.

Soon after my first year in college, I moved away from Minot to start my life but Rick decided to stay behind. My travels led me to Colorado. My intent was to be a ski bum for a while before I finished college but then I found that ski bums have bills too so I worked instead of skied.

While we were there we received the awful news that both Rick and his father were in the hospital. I was still very close to both so I pressed the caller further to fill me in to what happened.

It turned out that the reason Rick never felt comfortable with girls was because he had feelings for men instead.

For years he had fought this urge but it had become too much to bear. He knew that homosexuality was a sin so he didn’t want to share his secret with anyone because he feared the rejection and ridicule he might receive. Because of this he held all of his struggle inside until, one day, it was too great a burden and he decided to kill himself because of the shame and hurt he was experiencing. He took a whole bottle of pills before he realized that death was not the way out, he really wanted to live.

So he ran up to his parents room where they were sleeping and, in a panic, told his parents what he had just done. His father, because of this message and from the terror he was feeling, then had a major heart attack. That night two were taken to the emergency room.

Rick’s dad never really recovered from that. From that day until his death, he suffered from heart troubles. You might imagine that Rick blames himself and you would be right.

Today, Rick is still fighting. He became a hair dresser and even had his own shop for a while. He no longer hides his feelings and has dated different men off and on but has mostly remained alone.

I’ve never hid my feelings from Rick and he knows I cannot approve of his life style, but we still remain good friends.

He was one of the groomsmen at our wedding and when I visit Rick I don’t visit gay Rick, I just visit my friend. We’ve never really talked about his struggles, at least not in any great detail, but I know he still suffers because I can read it on his face and in the words he shares with his friends over social media. I know he still lives life on the defensive. To this day he is still broken inside.

In our Epistle lesson we hear Paul speak of the dividing wall of hostility. It’s that wall that we put up between ourselves and those we choose not to associate with, those who we perceive to be the chief sinners, those we see as lower then ourselves, wrapped up in sin and unable to escape. We don’t want them to influence us or endanger us. We don’t want to be with them for fear that someone might see us and think we are somehow condoning their actions. So we write them off leaving them alone in their brokenness on their side of the wall.

The truth is, it’s in our very nature to do such things, especially in our current era. We build houses and live our lives in quiet oblivion rarely venturing outside its walls to get to know our neighbors…I mean really know them. We would rather not get involved in any problems they are having because we have enough problems of our own.

 

In America, we have become experts at building walls. Slavery ended 140 years ago, still some can’t accept that a black man has every right to live the same as every other man, race still divides us. In much the same way we have put Native Americans within their own walls thinking we are doing them a favor by establishing reservations for them. We build walls between men and women, old and young, educated and non-educated, homeless and home owner, gay and straight, Christian and non-Christian, broken and those who see themselves as unbroken. We are specialists at wall building, so much so that we have walls everywhere and we’re still building more.

In our Epistle lesson Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, a letter to be circulated between all the churches around them. In the section of Scripture we study today, he calls on them to remember, that at one time, they were Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision.” He was warning them to remember that wall that separated them.

Remember, Paul is talking to Gentiles. To call them uncircumcised was typical and very disrespectful. They were considered heathens by the Jews who saw themselves as God’s chosen ones. They would never be called children of God. In fact, it’s hard to adequately describe in today’s terms just how much disdain they had for the gentiles.

It was, in some ways, a greater divide then there ever was between slaves and slave owners. It was racial but it extended far beyond race.

It was also political and religious. A certain Jewish writing of the time called Gentiles, “fuel for the fires of hell.” In the temples there was literally a wall that separated the important part of the temple, the Court of the Israelites, from the Court of the Gentiles. Signs were posted in Latin and Greek warning Gentiles not to go any further into the temple under penalty of death. There was a serious divide, one that Christ came to break down.

Today we still construct walls. We all do it in one way or another. On one side are the saved and on the other are the unlucky multitude. We have but to read our newspapers and surf the web to see that the separating has never gone away.

Our latest battle has shown all its ugliness in the passing of a judgement that all states must allow gay marriage. I have personally heard some of the most vile things said by people who call themselves Christian. They play the part of the tax collector in the temple saying, “look at how good I am Lord, at least I haven’t done that.” In doing so we forget the depth of our own sins. We feel self-righteous because we only do the little sins. Who do those people think they are doing such things? America is becoming a cesspool of forbidden pleasures and ignorant citizens, they say. Well, I’m not going to get involved in all that brokenness.

If that’s you, then I’m afraid I have some very bad news for you. You see, In God’s eyes your every bit the sinner as the gayest of the gay and the most ignorant of the ignorant. Because to God, sin is sin and all of us must share the penalty in equal amounts. We all fall short of the glory of God because we all sin. We are all broken people.

But with this bad news comes the good, because of Jesus. When Gentiles were being dismissed as those not worthy of life on earth, Jesus came to bring them everlasting life in heaven. At a time when Gentiles were being beaten down by messages of hate, the Savior came to bring them love. Even as Gentiles were being threatened, He came to bring them peace.

By the most unselfish of acts, His own death on a cross, He tore down the wall that was dividing His children. He came for all His broken people, Jew and non-Jew, white, red, yellow, black, moca. He came so that He might put back together all the brokenness of the world, and He did so with a kind of peace that can only be found in the Jewish word, “Shalom.” Shalom means wholeness, completeness, well-being, prosperity. In other words, Shalom is the way things should be. Free from walls and full of hope.

Our lesson says that through Christ the two have become one. Both Jew and Gentile have been claimed as children of God. We are all among the chosen. Through the Blood of Jesus we have all been reconciled.

 

This is the very best of news but yet it continues to fall on deaf ears. People still want to serve as their own Savior. They have become comfortable in their walls Christian and non-Christian alike. They know nothing other than their own brokenness, many because they have never been told how to become whole. They have yet to hear the Good News of their salvation through Christ. As it says in our lesson, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”

In our world, there are so many people who remain broken. Like Rick, they have become lost and alone in their sin. They have had no one to cling to in times of trouble except those who are just as lost and alone as they are and instead of helping them, we have chosen to mock them and pity them. Instead of offering a hand we use that hand to wave them off like so much debris. Instead of offering them Christ, we walk past them without even a thought. Instead of helping them mend the brokenness in their lives, we find ourselves swinging the hammer.

Jesus Christ didn’t come for those without brokenness in their lives, He came because of the brokenness we all share. When He sees us, it doesn’t matter the extent of our sin because He came to save all from their sin. When he sees you and me He sees the shattered pieces of our lives and He mends them because He loves us that much.

He has abolished the law by becoming the supreme sacrifice, substituting His whole life for all our brokenness. He heard our call of despair and He answered it as only He could.

We are no longer strangers and aliens, but we have been gifted with the citizenship of heaven, fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Rick and I had a real good talk over Facebook the other day. Unfortunately it was after he lashed out on all Christians for their hypocrisy. I reminded him that not all Christians can be heaped up into one pot and after that came a conversation I wish we would have had with him long ago. Rick is still gay, but he knows that Jesus doesn’t love him any less for it. He still clings to his faith and even said he would never marry because even he thinks it’s not right. Later others joined the conversation and, other than a couple Christian bashers, the conversation was extremely civil. I was able to make the case for those Christians who are still concerned for those who are broken like the rest of us. In the end, Rick and I came to realize even more that our friendship is not about what separates us but what brings us together.

 

Our text is calling the church to be the CHURCH! To be a family! To bring together all sinners to a place of reconciliation! To be a place where the walls have been torn down and open and honest, real friendships are formed! To be a place where Jesus Christ is at the heart and core of everything we say and do. It’s a call for us to be the type of Christians that can form a church full of broken people with equal concern for all.

This is the invitation that God is extending to you this morning. An invitation to see past our pettiness to the very real problem of sin. An invitation to the lost, the forgotten, the ignored and the broken of the world to find where true peace and reconstruction can be found.

May our foundation, our very cornerstone, always be Christ and may we be brave enough to become Christ to the world by serving the God of the broken. Amen

 

Bible study questions – Ephesians 2:11-22

Bible study questions – Ephesians 2:11-22

What are the Gentiles called, and by whom? vs. 11. Why was this name disrespectful?

What are the implications of this name for the Gentiles? 1 Samuel 17:24-27.

What about the name for the Jews? Leviticus 12:1-3.

What are the five conditions attributed to the Gentiles before Christ? vs. 12

Why do you think it is important to remember who we were (the description of the gentiles in verse 12 is exactly who we were) before Christ saves us?

 

How do you square Paul’s command here to remember your spiritual past with his comments about forgetting the things behind? Philippians 3:13-14

 

How is it possible for their former circumstances to be radically changed? vs. 13

What does Paul mean by “far off” and “brought near?”

How are the two reconciliations Christ achieves related? vss. 14-18

How does Paul describe us now as a result of the cross? vs. 19 What does this mean in your own words?

 

How do the images Paul uses in verses 19-22 emphasize the unity Christians have with one another?
Since we are now a part of this Kingdom, what does Paul say our reason for being built is? vs. 22? How well do you do this in your own life?

 

What kinds of name-calling (perhaps even using biblical terms) have you heard Christians engage in towards others who they perceive as lesser?

 

How is it that the truth that God has chosen us for salvation can lead either (rightly) to greater humility or (wrongly) to sinful pride? How can we avoid becoming proud about this?

 

A person from a Christian upbringing may remember his past and not identify with a person with a sinful background. How does Scripture help correct this skewed perspective? Luke 7:36-50
Why is racial, sexual, political and religious prejudice always sinful and how can we as a church guard against it?

“Practical Education”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Many of you know that when I first received my call to preach from God, I ran. I looked at the carefree life I was leading and I wasn’t prepared to restrain it enough for seminary. I had convinced myself that I simply wasn’t ready. I had grown as a Christian but I wasn’t ripe yet.

Yet I knew that this was my call. I felt it as deeply as anything else I had ever felt. I was confused because on the one held I had this strong pull from God and on the other, I had this intense feeling that it was too early.

I went to my Pastor to confess my confusion and lay it all on the table and, to my shock, he totally understood. He gave me some of the best advice that I had ever gotten as he reminded me that “All of your life should be a ministry. In fact, there are as many different ministries as there are people.” He said, “You don’t have to go to seminary to start your ministry, you can begin it right now.”

Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything different and, in the end, the people of my church had it right, I was going to be a pastor one day.

But because I waited, I was able to have experiences that I might never have gotten had I went right into pastoral ministry. I got to experience different ministries, ones that helped to shape me and prepare me to be your pastor. I also got to experience life with all its summits and valleys. I got to see people as they were and not how they might act in front of a pastor. And I got to make lots of mistakes along the way.

Throughout life’s journey from then until now, I knew that my life would always be a part of the church and that one day I would be a pastor. But I am glad I waited, because there’s only so much you can learn sitting in a classroom. I firmly believe that to be the best pastor you can be, you have had to see what the real world is like first, free from the shelter of the seminary. If you want to be the best teacher, you need to practice working with real kids. If you want to be the best mechanic, you have to first work with real cars. If you want to be the best nurse, you need to experience people in real pain and sickness. Your education is not complete unless you get out there and use what you have learned. Even more than one year of vicarage can provide.

It’s the same with our Christian life. For years you have been trained by God’s Word. Throughout your Christian life, you have been strengthened and nurtured to, one day, take that same message that saves you to those who so desperately need to hear it.

You’ve heard me say several times that our purpose on earth has very little to do with us. Our purpose on earth is to serve our neighbor. This is what we have been trained all these years to do and what we have been called to do. But you can only learn so much sitting in a church. The greatest lessons in your Christian lives are found beyond these walls. When you work to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and reach the lost, you are doing ministry as Christ has trained you to do through His example.

For the whole of Jesus’ ministry , He was training his disciples. Verse 6 says, “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” As Jesus went, he also healed (as we learned last week when He healed the woman who was bleeding and Jairus’ daughter). As Jesus went from place to place, the disciples watched and learned. Little did they know that they were being trained to do the same.

In our lesson Jesus is essentially saying, “OK, you’ve watched me preach, you’ve seen me heal people, you have observed me driving out demons, you’ve seen what true Christian love is all about. Now it’s time for YOU to do it. I don’t call you my own so that you could hide in the comfort of a church and watch others do all the work. It’s time for you to get some life experience.”

Jesus is our perfect modal for ministry and notice that He didn’t wait around for those in need to come to Him. He left Nazareth and went to them! He didn’t hang posters up around the village asking people to come visit His disciples, he sent them out two by two to where the need was, beyond the shelter of Christ’s company.

There is a lesson here. In Christian circles, we hear a lot of talk about getting people to come to church, but we don’t talk nearly enough about taking the church to the people. It’s hard to leave our churchly comfort zone, so we gravitate to those things that we perceive will cause us the least amount of risk. Being inside the church we know, but going beyond the walls? Not so much.

I believe with all my being that most of the ministry that God calls us to is outside the church. It happens when we physically help those in need with love and Christian charity, when we reach out to co-workers and friends with God’s Word wrapped in Christian kindness, and in the grasping of a homeless person’s hand with the love of God beyond the comfort zone. That is Christ’s modal of ministry.

And this is not something we ever have to do alone. Christ had His disciples go out two by two. It was customary in both Jewish and Greek culture to send messengers in groups of two so that there would be two witnesses to testify on behalf of the sender.

The bottom line is, God never intended that we do our ministry alone. That is why we assemble here, to encourage one another and to make plans together to get into our communities with each other.

A great example is the apostle Paul. As great as he was, when the church sent him out in Acts 13, he was not sent alone. Does anybody remember who went with him? Barnabas! Did you know that the name Barnabas means, “Son of Encouragement?” We all need each other in the effort to bring the Good News to our neighbors. People who will love us, encourage us, and yes, sometimes carry us.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a better return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up, but pity on the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

We all need our Barnabas, our “Son of Encouragement.” We all need to pray for each other, work with each other and love each other. That is one of the reasons we come together every Sunday. Our time here is not simply to learn more. It is also to be there for each other like Barnabas was for Paul. That is why it is so important to come to church every Sunday. We need each other to be the most effective witnesses to the Gospel we can be.

As we read our text, the next thing we witness is that Jesus gave His disciples authority over evil spirits. That same authority given to His disciples He gives to us. But here you might say, “How am I going to deal with someone else’s demons when I have so many of my own to worry about. I’m not strong enough! I can’t do it!”

I would say, you are right. You are not strong enough. But Jesus is not asking you to depend on your own strength, to fight the battle against sin all alone. He is giving you HIS authority. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” If I thought I had to do this job as your pastor all alone I would probably quit, but I know who strengthens me and I know I will never be alone in the battle.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus gives us the perfect modal for ministry and He provides all the tools we will need to succeed. Verse 8 says, “These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” 

The staff was needed to help them along the rocky terrain but minus that they were to go armed only with the Word of God and the spiritual gifts they had been given.

 

Jesus wanted them to travel light for a couple of reasons. First He wanted them to come to understand that, even if He wasn’t there standing at their side, He would be there for them and would be all they would need to depend on. Remember, this was just a short-term mission project. The apostles were simply getting their feet wet for the great challenge they would face after Christ’s death and resurrection.

He also wanted them to know that God’s call never lacks God’s supply. In fact, Jesus refers back to this episode later in Luke 22:35 when He said, “When I sent you without purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?  His disciples replied “Nothing” They had everything they needed. God was true to His promise.

So it is with us. God will provide. He also asks us to step out in faith just as His disciples did. He wants you to know that when we make that step of faith, you will always have what you need to change lives. His calling to us is not without its provisions.

And Jesus wanted them to travel light because He wanted them to be totally committed to their mission, and not be preoccupied with material things. Today, in the 21st century, many of us have such a comfortable existence and this sometimes gets us so contented in our worldly lives that we soon forget that we’re supposed to be on a mission in our Christian lives. We’re supposed to be here to minister to the needs of our neighbor.

Material blessing in and of themselves are not sinful, but when they cause us to lose sight of our calling as the children of God, they are nothing but tools for the devil to lead us away from the goal. The devil is very good at what he does and he knows what material things will lead us away from Christ. It is his goal to trip us up, to take our focus off of our neighbor and onto ourselves. He plays to our weaknesses and, unfortunately, we are often easy marks. We must always keep our sight on the goal of salvation through Christ, not only for us but also for our neighbor.

So far, Jesus has shown us the modal for ministry and the tools of companionship, power and provision. His final lesson has to do with the practice of ministry. Verse twelve says, “They went out and preached that people should repent.” The word for repent means to change one’s mind, to live a new life different than the one you have lived before. So the disciples were preaching that people needed to have a change of heart and mind about sin. They needed to make a change in how they lived their lives and they needed to change their minds about what would truly give them peace and comfort. They needed to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

This is the part we are most scared of and it’s not hard to see how this kind of preaching might cause a problem.

There are not a lot of people who like to be told what to do, especially when it comes to how they live their own lives. No one likes to hear that they’re a poor miserable sinner and have fallen short of the glory of God. They don’t like to be told that they need someone greater than themselves to save them.

But, praise be to God, the disciples didn’t listen to all of those inner demons trying to talk them out of witnessing to their neighbors. Verse 13 says that because of this they, “Cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

I think it’s important to notice two things here. In verse 12, we see the disciples ministering to people eternal needs and in verse 13, we see them ministering to people’s felt needs. What we should learn from this is that, when we minister, it’s important to minister to the whole person. Jesus Christ is not only interested in their eternal needs and their eternal destiny, He is also interested in ministering to their immediate situation. He’s not telling us to focus only on their salvation. He is also concerned with the problems and trials they are experiencing right now. And just as Jesus sent out his disciples to the downtrodden people of Galilee, He is sending us to serve the hurting and the lost of Northwest Washington.

The old paradigm of the pastor wearing all the different hats and doing all the work will simply not stand up to the test of Scripture. Just like Jesus, my job is to train you and encourage you so that YOU can also do the work of ministry right along with me. Ephesians 4:11 says, “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be preachers and teachers, TO PREPARE GOD’S PEOPLE FOR WORKS OF SERVICE, SO THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST MAY BE BUILT UP!” So, in other words, my job is to prepare you and encourage you to do your job.

And that is just what God has gifted us to do. The people of this church have the great gift of love and charity. You prove it to me every day. It is my firm belief that God has equipped Redeemer with all the tools we need to make an awesome kingdom difference. There are men and women here who have sacrificed many hours of their time to make Redeemer a better place and I am humbled by some of the stories I have heard and in what I have been blessed to witness in my three years here. You have answered the call to become a more devoted follower of Jesus Christ and you have been an incredible encouragement to me.

But there is so much more to be done. Right outside these walls are people who are hurting and lost.

There are children who have never been given the opportunity to live a safe and fruitful life. There are people who have given into other god’s and have seen everything they have held dear taken away from them. There are other’s looking for an answer that only a life in Christ can provide.

Our calling at Redeemer is not to be satisfied by going through the motions of our faith. No, our calling is much greater than that. God never intended for us to be spectator Christians. We all need to be involved with some kind of ministry that not only benefits us but also our neighbor. It can be reaching out in love by tutoring a child or volunteering to work at the local shelter. It can be doing a Bible study that invites everyone in the area. You can visit the elderly, encourage other believers, feed the hungry, fight abortion, defend the oppressed, provide compassion and care for the needy. We all have been given gifts to serve and each of us needs hands on experience, otherwise our Christian training is not complete. If you’re not using the gifts God has given you to serve your community then you’re really not learning what you should be learning.

It is my prayer that all of us have the determination and courage to work towards making our world a better place, one that focuses on what only God can provide.

(Slide) James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given them.”  Together we can make a difference. May God use us in great and mighty ways. Amen