Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How To Find Your Calling - Sermon Series

The last three Sundays I had the privilege of teaching at my church, Connections Church, in SE Portland. These three Sundays were great days in which the presence of God showed up and I believe lives were changed and the Word was brought forth. As we all know the Word of God nevers returns void, so when the Word is brought forth things happen. For this reason I wanted to share the messages with all of you. I will write a short summary of what I preached on but I encourage you to check out the link below and hear the messages themselves. There are also outlines for each message.


Now for the summary:

Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

This is probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. we quote as an encouragement thinking, "Wow, the God of the universe thinks thoughts about me!" This is an amazing thing but often we stop there. We never take the time to find out what thoughts He is thinking, what is His future that He has planned out for us. We use this as an encouragement but then we continue on living our own plans for our life.

So How do we find the plan that God has for our life? God gave me three steps that became three sermons.

Step #1: We have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus

Hebrews 12:1-2 refers to this life as a race and tells us that as we run this race we need to keep our eyes fixed on Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. This is our first step towards finding the calling that God has for us. We need to focus on Him no matter what the circumstances or situations around us. We need to trust Him that no matter what storms come, He has promised that we would make it through as long as we keep our eyes on Him!

Step #2: We need to recognize our gifts and use them.

Romans 12:6 says "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:..." We need to start using the gifts that God has given us, taking advantage of every opportunity. Often we get focused on trying to improve our weaknesses and end up forgeting our strengths. God wants us to focus on using our strengths and allow Him to work in our weakness.

Step #3: We need to pursue the vision God has given us

Proverbs 28:19 says "Without vision the people perish..." Literally this means 'Without Godly sight the people run wild without moral restraint...' We can see in today's society a lot of people running wild without any sense of morality holding them back. For this reason it is important for the church to rise up with vision and lead people into God's presence and Word. According to 2 Corinthians 4:18 we need to be people who see those things that are unseen. We need to have faith enough to see what God has promised and to see those promises come to pass. We need to be people of vision.

This is just a short summary of each sermon so please go to the website and take some time to listen to the series. http://www.connectionministries.com/media-files.html

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fearing Him

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.." (Psalm 111:10) 

Previously we discussed the relationship that God desires to have with us, we discussed how He desires to be a Father and a friend to us. This is an important revelation to the church and brings us to the realization that we can be bold in coming to Him for forgiveness, but it also brings confusion when we read the verse above. If God wants to be our Father and friend, why would He expect us to fear Him? Why should we be afraid of our father? Of course the answer to this question has to do with the way we understand fear. The Bible is not telling us to be terrified of God or to run from Him and cringe in His presence. What the Bible does mean is that we should recognize God's greatness, that we should be in awe of who He is and be reverent of His presence.

In many of today's churches we have preached the message that God wants to be our friend so much that we have developed a 'buddy buddy' attitude towards God. While it is true that God wants to be our friend, it often seems we have lost our respect for the presence of God. We have developed an attitude that it doesn't matter what we do because God's grace will cover it. This attitude is holding us back from all that God has for us. 

Think about your church. How often do you see people getting up and moving around during worship? Is it common for people to carry on side conversations while the preacher is speaking? Are there people laughing and talking during prayer times or altar calls? These are all evidences of a lack of reverence for the presence of God. What would our services look like if we had a renewed fear of the Lord? How would they be different? What would happen if we demanded respect, honor, and reverence for the presence of God the same way we would demand respect for someone of 'earthly' importance? How would you act if the president walked into the room? We need to demand even greater respect when Jesus' presence enters the room. As we do that we will find that we will experience the tangible presence of God more than ever before. It is then, this presence that will bring us into the power and authority that Jesus Himself walked in, and that He promised would follow us as we go after Him.

Preachers don't seem to preach about the fear of the Lord anymore. We don't want to talk about it because it isn't popular. Instead we prefer topics about love and grace because we think that is what the people want to hear, but what the people need to hear is the whole story about who God is. God is loving and full of grace but He is also a God who demands respect. He is almighty, He is powerful, and He is awesome. He will not allow anyone to walk all over Him, and He will not allow anyone to walk in His power and authority if they do not respect the one to whom the power and authority belongs.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Higher Standard

So far all we have talked about are applying basic principles of all relationships to our relationship with God, but Jesus gave us a higher standard. Most Christians recognize that there is a higher standard and in response claim Jesus as their number one. In other words they are saying that on their list of priorities Jesus is at the top. This implies that their first priority is to spend time with Jesus and then, once they have finished with that, they can go on to the rest of their list. But Jesus gave us a even higher standard than that. In John 15:4 He said,

"Abide in me, and I in you." 

From this verse we see something different. We don't see Jesus as being the first thing on a list of priorities but as a place where we should live and dwell. We see Him encompassing the entire list, being a part of it all. Jesus should not be our first priority, He should be our only priority. We need to learn to place everything we are in Him and then to include Him in everything we do, in our whole life. We need to stop being satisfied with our Sunday services, or even our daily devotions. We need to learn to be in Him when we are with our friends, at work, and everything else we might do throughout the day. Smith Wigglesworth, when asked how long he usually prayed for, responded by saying, "I rarely pray for more than fifteen minutes at a time, but I never go fifteen minutes without praying." Like Wigglesworth, we need to learn to talk and listen to God throughout our entire day.

Another verse where Jesus clearly sets a higher standard for our relationship with Him is Luke 14:26. 

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." 

When I first read this I was confused. I had been told my whole life that the Bible was God's Word and that it does not have any contradictions but I was sure I had found one. In Matthew Jesus says that we should love one another, and names that as the second greatest of all commandments, binding it together with the first commandment to love God. Yet here Jesus is telling us that we should hate everyone who is close to us and that unless we do we are not worthy to follow Him. At first glance this looks like an unquestionable contradiction, however there is more to it than that. Jesus is not telling us to hate everyone close to us, but He is setting a higher standard for our love for Him. He's telling us that the amount of love we have for Him should be so much that in comparison it looks like we hate everyone else. This same sentiment is shown when the man comes to Jesus and says, "I'll follow you but let me first go and bury my father." Then Jesus responds by saying, "let the dead bury the dead." In other words, He is telling the man to put Him before his father. This is also shown in today's society when a man or woman feels called to go on the mission field and leaves his/her entire family behind. Often, on the outside, this can look like disrespect, or possibly even hatred, towards his/her family, but really it is just them understanding this higher standard that Jesus has set.

One of the most common reasons for a lack of authority in today's church is a lack of relationship. Throughout the Bible we see people, who act in God's authority, called friends of God, but today we have religious servants who have no relationship with the Heavenly Father. They might go to church, pray, read their Bible, but they do it because it is their religious duty, because they are supposed to. They might tell a few people about Jesus but they do it simply out of guilt or pressure. We need preachers who will start introducing their congregations to their best friend and Father rather than just talking about a God whom they don't even know. We need Christians who want to get to know Jesus and not just learn about Him. Then and only then will we begin to return to the power and authority that was so evident in the early church.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Knowing Him

Before we can represent Jesus we have to know Him. We need to build a relationship with Him. The first major problem in today's churches is that they are filled with people who do not even know the Jesus whom they are supposed to follow. True Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship, but we have too many Christians who treat it as a religion, too many Christians who simply attempt to follow the rules and regulations and who do not know the Savior. Like the Pharisees in Jesus' time they honor their tradition but don't honor God. They go to church on Sunday, throw some money in the offering plate, and may even pray occasionally throughout the week, but in the end they do not even have a relationship with Him who gave us life. God is our King, Lord, and Master, but He also wants to be our Father and Friend! So how do we build a relationship with Him, it starts the same way any other relationship does:

Spending time with him:
Dan was standing alone throwing rocks into the river. Suddenly a thought came to his mind;
"Dan, can I throw rocks with you?"
"Where did that come from," thought Dan. "Was it God? No it couldn't be." But then it came again;
"Dan, can I throw rocks with you?"
Dan was now convinced that God was trying to speak to him. "God," he began to respond. "I think I heard wrong. It sounded like you said you wanted to throw rocks with me."
"I do want to throw rocks with you," God responded.
"But why would you want to throw rocks?" Dan asked confused.
"Because you are throwing rocks."

received a revelation that day. He received a revelation that God, the God that created the whole universe, the God that is King of kings and Lord of lords, is interested in simply spending time with Dan! This is the same for each and every one of us. God is interested in spending time with you! The problem comes when we, for whatever reason, are no longer interested in spending time with Him. We allow ourselves to get too busy, to forget, or maybe we we just never truly understood that God is there waiting for us, waiting for us to come to Him.
As I mentioned before, James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...". This means the responsibility is on us. If we want to get to know Him then we have to do something, we can't just wait around for God to force Himself into our lives, we must take the first step. This step could look different for each individual. It could be taking a walk, getting on your knees beside your bed, singing praise and worship songs, or reading your Bible. It doesn't really matter what it is as long as you take some time out of your schedule to say, "God, here I am, just me." We need to take time to talk to Him, to worship Him, and perhaps more importantly, to listen to Him, but most of all we simply need to take time to be with Him.

Sharing in His Interests

Jesse woke up one morning with no plans for the day. "God what do you want to do today?" He asked.
"Jesse," God responded. "I know how much you like riding your motorcycle, let's ride your motorcycle together."
This got Jesse excited, so he went out to his motorcycle and started it up. He and God had a great time riding around the city. After a while Jesse found himself at a McDonalds and he saw a trucker pull up about the same time. This gave him an idea, he walked up to the trucker and offered to buy him lunch. After Jesse spent some time convincing him that there was no catch, the trucker finally agreed. As they ate lunch Jesse shared the Gospel with the trucker and finally led him in a prayer accepting salvation. After saying their goodbyes Jesse got back on his motorcycle.
"You didn't have to do that," God said.
"Yeah I know, but you rode my motorcycle with me because you knew I was interested in it. You shared in my interest and I know you're interested in saving souls and I wanted to share in that interest."

In all earthly relationships we learn to share in each other's interests. Often a relationship will be built in interests which are already shared, but as we get closer in our relationship we must learn to take on the interests of the other person. If a guy starts dating a girl who enjoys romance movies than that guy learns to enjoy those same movies. In order to strengthen our relationships we may take up a new sport, learn to cook, start playing board games, or plan vacations we wouldn't normally be interested in. If we take up the interests of our earthly relationships, how much more should we take up God's interests in our relationship with Him. We should learn to love what He loves and hate what He hates, and just as we desire to be a part of His interests, so does God desire to share in ours.