Archive for February, 2020


A Visitation to Worship


Does it ever bother you that God doesn’t accept all sacrifices (See Cain and Abel)?

It certainly bothers me — not from the standpoint of God BUT, from the standpoint of me.

I want my worship to be pure and holy– from a proper motive — and received by God–but do I sometimes simply just go through the motions?

Something to think about.
Jim


2020 Vision- Understand the Vision

Proverbs 29:18– “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

Habakkuk 2:2- “Then the Lord replied:

Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.’”

Matthew 28:19-20– “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””

Matthew 21:13a– “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer …”

John 4:23-24– “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

This week, as we conclude our exploration of God’s 20/20 vision for OCF, we are reminded of the importance of discipleship, prayer, and worship as they are vitally important to OCF. Because these three are so important to God, they are also important to OCF.

Thank you for joining us today at Ontario Christian Fellowship as we conclude our exploration and discovery of the direction God has given us at OCF with our series of messages, “2020 Vision”.

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

  • This vision is brought to us by the Holy Spirit through the Pastors and the Leadership Team — and is presented for each of us to put our trust in God, cooperate with Him, and carry out His mission among us.
  • It is up to Him to empower each of us to receive this task and to carry it out.
  • It is up to us to cooperate with what God desires to do and is doing among us.

Here are the specifics of what God is speaking to us as His purpose among us at OCF:

  • The Bible and specifically, the Gospel, is to be at the Center of our preaching and teaching
    • Grace is also a significant and important part of the center of our teaching and preaching
  • We are to build the Community in which God has placed us and surrounded us.
    • A loving fellowship enacting Living Worship
  • We are to take a deeper refocus and enactment of Evangelism
    • We are to broaden/enlarge our constituency with the Great Commission through Compassionate Outreach
    • We are to bolster and enhance OCF’s Missions efforts – both in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the world.
    • We are to intentionally focus on becoming more of a sending church—sending out teachers, pastors, and missionaries
  • We are to focus on being a house of Discipleship
    • Growing, challenging faith
    • Spiritual Warfare- Not fighting the personalities in and among us but knowing that our conflicts come through the spiritual realms and then, fighting against those principalities and powers while protecting those blessed brothers and sisters among us.
    • We MUST learn to Celebrate our wins
  • We are to be a house of Prayer through an increased emphasis on and practice of prayer throughout the entire church.
  • We are to make efforts toward becoming a house of genuine Worship
    • Music
    • Gifts, arts, and talents
    • Deeds

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

We are to focus on being a house of Discipleship

Illustration: CORPORATE DISCIPLESHIP

Did you know that there is not a single example of “one-on-one discipleship” in the entire New Testament? The choice to become and remain a disciple rests with individuals, but discipleship is always nurtured corporately. Discipleship is not a course you go through; it’s a life you live out, fostered in a community of interdependence, support, teaching and admonishment. This is why faithfulness to and active participation in a local church and its small groups are so vital. The local church is the nursery for discipleship.

— Pastor Chuck Sligh

Why should we have such an emphasis on discipleship.

Matthew 28:19-20– “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””

This is one of those instances where we miss some things in the translation of the Bible.

Please understand, this is NOT a mistranslation of the Bible; I believe God has intentionally preserved His Word better than that.

Rather, this is an occasion where a wrong emphasis has been given by the readers.

This is a case where we have over-emphasized the “going” – and that is important

  • But due to the grammatical parts of speech used, we need to see that the participle, “going” –
  • Along with the other two participles in this sentence, “baptizing”, and “teaching …”
  • These take a secondary place next to the imperative or command, “Make Disciples”.
  • These participles actually describe “How” we should act in doing the command OR “what we should be doing” when we act upon the command

And just what is a disciple?

2 Timothy 2:2- “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

Illustration: “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What is the fruit of discipleship? A growing, challenging faith

And where does Spiritual Warfare come into play in discipleship?

Ephesians 6:12- “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Spiritual Warfare is NOT fighting the personalities in and among us.

Spiritual Warfare is knowing that our conflicts come through the spiritual realms.

Then, we fight against those principalities and powers while protecting those blessed brothers and sisters among us.

Further, we must learn to let God fight our battles for us.

Friends, we MUST learn whom our warfare is against.

This does not mean that we take a passive stance BUT, it does mean that we fight in His strength and against His enemies – not personalities and faces

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

We MUST learn to Celebrate our wins.

This celebration includes getting the word out concerning ALL victories God sends our way.

We as a church must communicate better through every mean we know and through other means as we discover them.

We will increase our opportunities of Baptisms

Already, we have doubled our baptism events here at the church by adding one more at or around the month of February.

Our soonest particular baptism will be March 1 in the Chapel at the 9:00 AM service.

We will have an increase in Communion services.

We already have doubled communions here at OCF by making Communion on the third Sunday of EVERY month.

Communion is that time when we remember – and even proclaim – the Lord’s death (and remember, without His death, there could be no resurrection.)

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

We are to be a house of Prayer through an increased emphasis on and practice of prayer throughout the entire church.

Matthew 21:13a– “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer …”

Prayer is that conversation with God wherein we talk to God AND where we listen to what He speaks to us.

Probably one of the most recognized examples of prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13-

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”

It is appropriate to pray with an open Bible when the opportunity is there.

Illustration: A Prayer and Joy

In his book Living Life on Purpose, Greg Anderson shares the story of one man’s journey to joy: … his wife had left him and he was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, in God — he found no joy in living.

One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon. In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, “Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?” The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, “Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?” And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, “Bow your heads.”

Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, “God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen.” That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, “We should do that every morning.”

“All of a sudden,” said our friend, “my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl’s example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stop majoring in all that I didn’t have. I started to choose joy.”

We will continue to send out prayer sheets every Monday and Thursday via email and Facebook.

Additionally, our FaceBook Prayer page is open for anyone to present prayer requests AND to comment on/pray for others’ prayer requests.

We will continue to post Prayer Captains at the Welcome Desks at the beginning of both the 9 AM and 10:30 AM services who will take prayer requests and pray as necessary.

We will continue to have all church prayer in the Prayer Room each Sunday at 9:30 AM.

We will continue to have all-church prayer at 11:00 AM every Monday in the Conference Room

We will continue to have Men’s Prayer Meeting every Saturday at 7:30 AM in the Conference Room

We will open the chapel every Wednesday evenings from 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM for a time of structured OR unstructured prayer.

We are also looking for other corporate opportunities for prayer throughout the weeks ahead.

We Will Be and Are a House of Prayer.

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

We are to make efforts toward becoming a house of genuine Worship

John 4:23-24– “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Meaning of “worship”

Proskuneo is the Greek verb that the word for worship is derived from.

  • It is a word with two parts
  • The prefix is a preposition meaning simply “to or toward”.
  • The main root word is the Greek word “kuneo” and it simply means “to kiss”
  • Combined, this word “proskuneo” literally means “to kiss toward”.
  • Historically, it has been used as “to kiss the hand to (toward) someone in token of reverence, and among many Asians, it means to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence.
  • Note: there are several other Hebrew and Greek words telling us HOW to worship. This could be a message in and of itself and we will not take the time today to explore all those today.

We will walk in the revelation that worship is much more than just music

Certainly, throughout the entire Bible, worship has been observed through music.

Worship is an act of spiritual devotion usually directed towards God. An act of worship may be performed individually, corporately in an informal or formal way, or by a designated leader. Such acts involve honoring God in a respectful and sovereignty-recognizing way.

Methods of worship

  • The Bible also clearly describes physical acts of worship:
  • Lifting of holy hands
  • Bowing down
  • Bended knees
  • Speaking words of praise
  • Shouting words of worship
  • Weeping
  • Writing words of Worship (See the Psalmist)
  • I believe God also gives His people Gifts, arts, and talents to be used for His praise
  • And even deeds have been deemed as acts of Worship

And we are looking for volunteers – these will have to go through a training and screening process BUT we are committed to helping you develop the gifts and talents God has placed in you.

  • Singers
  • Musicians.
  • Writers and poets.
  • Actors and mimes.
  • Spoken word artists.
  • Painters, drawers, and graphics design people
  • If you are interested and realize that God has gifted you contact Pastor Jim or the Church office and let us know.

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

Conclusion:

As we have looked at the Vision God has given us, we see some important emphases:

  • The Bible and specifically, the Gospel, is to be at the Center of our preaching and teaching
  • We are to build the Community God has placed us in and surrounded us with
    • A loving fellowship enacting Living Worship
  • We are to take a deeper refocus and enactment of Evangelism
    • We are to broaden/enlarge our constituency with the Great Commission through Compassionate Outreach
    • We are to bolster and enhance OCF’s Missions efforts – both in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and among the uttermost parts of the world.
    • We are to intentionally focus on becoming more of a sending church—sending out teachers, pastors, and missionaries
  • We are to focus on being a house of Discipleship
    • Growing, challenging faith
    • Spiritual Warfare- Not fighting the personalities in and among us but knowing that our conflicts come through the spiritual realms and then, fighting against those principalities and powers while protecting those blessed brothers and sisters among us.
  • We are to be a house of Prayer through an Increased emphasis on and practice of prayer throughout the entire church.
  • We are to make efforts toward becoming a house of genuine Worship
    • Music
    • Gifts, arts, and talents, videography
    • Deeds

Life Principle: Because Discipleship, Prayer, and Worship are so important to the Kingdom of God, they are important to all of us to value, cooperate with, and practice.

Life Action Steps:

  • Be willing to give your life for God’s vision. That’s owning His vision
  • Be willing to give your life savings for this. That’s owning His vision
  • Be willing to say, “Though none go with me, still I will follow and His vision”? That’s owning His vision

Wisdom, Faith, and Endurance

James 1:2-12

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know (while knowing) that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Sermon Blurb

Often, we come into situations where we really don’t know what to do. And many would guide us to follow our hearts or to go with our gut. But the Word of God clearly tells us that if we lack wisdom — we should ask for that wisdom from God.

Thank you for joining us today, this One Service Sunday, at Ontario Christian Fellowship, as we seek wisdom from God — and in addition, as we pursue unwavering faith and endurance — and as we find His joy — in all life’s challenges.

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

Introduction

The author of this book has identified himself simply as James, a Servant of God.

Because of that simple introduction, I believe this is probably James, the brother of Jesus

He presents himself as one who is already known by his readers.

He is clearly not a name-dropper; he doesn’t need to be

He sees no reason to present further qualifications of who he is.

Besides being his brother, the Resurrected Christ had appeared to James. (Nothing will turn a man around more than encountering the risen Christ.)

This same James, at the time of this writing, was the head of the Jerusalem church that we see in the book of Acts — especially Acts 15.

Even the Apostle Paul came to consult with James—as we also see in the Book of Acts.

Facts about the Book of James

There are 108 verses in James — 54 of those verses are imperatives– commands.

James is telling us what to do.

James is not open to our suggestions; he really does not want to know what we believe or what we think.

James is more concerned with our walk than he is with our talk.

Because of James’ direction of writing to the 12 Hebrew tribes, it is clear that he writes with a Hebrew mindset.

“The 12 Tribes” is a clear reference to the Jewish People scattered throughout the world.

Because of this, James deals more with concrete function—as opposed to abstract theory. Again, this is part of the Hebrew mindset.

James is writing people who are enduring adversity.

Key words used in James

  • Pistisfaith, confidence, reliance, trust
  • Dipsychosdouble-minded, wavering, doubting
  • Sophawisdom, skill, ability to act on what you know
  • Hupomonepatient endurance, perseverance, steadfastness
  • Peirasmostrial, test, temptationDokimiontesting– Genuine, without alloy

Life-Thought: What makes the complete Christian?

  • The work that God does for us
  • The work that God does in us.
  • The work that God does through us- service.

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

As God works for us, in us, and through us, He often uses Troubles to work toward maturity.

James 1: 2-4- “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Note that James does not tell us, “if trials come”— instead, he says, “WHEN” trials come – My friends, TRIALS WILL COME.

1 Peter 4:12- “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Trials affect everyone

The Greek word translated both as “trial” and “temptation” is the same                                  word—peirasmos

And further, trials will come in all shapes, forms, colors (literally),                                            and sizes.

Trials may be frequent and frustrating, and life-changing.

But notice what Paul says in 2 Corinthians,

2 Corinthians 4:17– “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

And when compared to the eternal glory they bring, trials are simply light and momentary.

The testing of faith produces endurance—endurance.

Romans 5:3– “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance (or endurance) …”

Testing refers to a means of authenticating something.

Maturity only comes after – or through– testing.

And here is how the Biblical progression of our faith works: Trials- Testing- Perseverance- Maturity.

Even when God called Abraham to live by faith, He tested him – He put him through trials and testings– in order to increase his (Abraham’s) faith.

Testing, from the Greek, dokimion, means without alloy, genuine

My friends, our Faith will always be tested.

And also, God wants to use these trials – these testings — to remind us how faithful He is and how real He can be.

Illustration: Tapestry- Don’t judge the worker or the work by looking at the wrong side of the project.

In other words, don’t put off your life of faith until times get better.

Life-Point- Right now, in the midst of your suffering, is the very time to be putting your servanthood toward Christ into practice.

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

James is addressing hardships and sufferings that Christians encounter even as they are following Christ.

Poverty can be included in trials of many kinds. Humble circumstances were a common trial often mentioned among early Christians.

And even as we stand up underneath the trials, James says that we are blessed individuals.

  • The Greek word here, Makarios, means one who is genuinely happy.

Matt 5:11-12– “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

All throughout Scripture, what satan meant for bad—and often it was very bad– God used it for good.

In the Book of Job, God not only sustained Job all the way through his ordeal BUT, He rewarded Job ultimately.

Throughout the Bible are people who turned defeat into victory and trials into triumphs.

The ultimate result of this victory is spiritual maturity through Godly character.

It is God’s desire to process and develop our true character.

God is a good trainer—concerned with our spiritual exercise, diet, and schedule.

God is developing our spiritual muscles.

God is proving our character and maturity.

The directive is for us to develop a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, a surrendered will, and heart — that wants to believe.

Outlook determines outcome—attitude determines action.

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

Obeying while thinking “poor old me” is different from obeying with pure joy.

Choose joy.

Endurance is also a part of this goal of perfection/maturity/completeness/character

We can stay steadfast in joy BECAUSE we know that the attitude of joy is leading us and guiding us.

And we cooperate with God’s work because we are cooperatively being led by Him into His perfect result.

We are called to Joy.

1 Peter 1:6-7– “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven (tested) genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

My friends, here is a secret: to end with joy – begin with joy.

“Count” or “consider” is a financial term meaning to “evaluate.”

 Pasan charan means “all joy” or “pure joy.”

We are therefore, called to pure, total, ALL joy,

Do not be robbed of your joy by supposing that your trial is not a suitable context for applying this passage. Instead, look for the spiritual dynamics of trials. In particular, look for the testing – or proving — in the trial.

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

Seeing God’s faithfulness manifested in the situations, we will be made entire and complete; we will become mature.

When trouble comes, we should respond in faith.

God’s Spirit strengthens our personal faith within the community of faith.

1 Thess. 3:2– “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith …”

Hebrews 10:24- “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds …”

Faith is made pure only when the fiery trials burn away the dross.

Again, the Biblical context of testing as James uses it here, is one that reveals the genuineness of a person’s faith.

A test is also designed to develop something that is not yet present in full measure in a person.

This is why, for the one who wants to live by faith, the trial can be (and should be) a time for rejoicing.

But why do trials overwhelm us?

Because we operate in lack of knowledge concerning what God is doing.

My friends, if we value comfort more than character, trials will surely upset us.

BUT, Wisdom comes from God (5-8)

James 1:5-8– “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When troubles come, it is essential that we respond not only with joy – but also with wisdom.

Wisdom can be understood as the ability to view life from God’s perspective.

Someone once said that knowledge is the ability to take things apart while wisdom is the ability to put it back together.

God has not left us on our own to endure these things.

God tells us to ask Him for wisdom- Wisdom comes only by prayer.

James 1:5- “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Matthew 7:7– “Ask (and keep on asking) and it will be given to you; seek (and keep on seeking) and you will find; knock (and keep on knocking) and the door will be opened to you.”

We should ask God for the wisdom we are lacking.

And you may ask God for the wisdom you need without fear, for God gives without holding your failures or lack of wisdom against you.

The very heart of the Gospel of Christ will certainly not be contradicted by God when we come to Him for wisdom.

And what, again is that heart of the Gospel? God gives to all who ask — without finding fault.

One of God’s characteristics is that He is a giving God.

It is His constant nature to be gracious and giving.

God gives generously.

Stand the test of faith by asking God for the wisdom you need.

When asking, do not be unbelieving toward God or frightened by your lack of wisdom.

A lack of faith can cause us to fail in times of lack of wisdom.

Understand, God does not help us by removing the tests, but by making the tests work FOR us.

Satan wants to use the tests to tear us down, but God uses then, to build us up.

Again, as a reminder, all throughout Scripture, what satan meant for bad, God uses it for good.

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

Christ builds character before He calls to service- a surrendered will.

The Greek word translated “purify” in this passage literally means “make chaste.”

This is a picture of an unfaithful lover.

This lover has been unfaithful to his marriage commitment.

But somehow, God is able to once again make him chaste.

SO, in that light, testing purifies or makes chaste.

And testing produces perseverance

Stand the test of faith by asking God for the wisdom you need.

And that is Faith in the grace of God which enables faith to be exercised– even within hardship and deprivation.

  • It works to purity.
  • It works to perseverance.

There is no substitute for an understanding and wise mind; Satan can defeat the ignorant believer BUT, he cannot overcome the Christian who knows his Bible and who understands the purposes of God.

Stability only comes through Christ … That is unwavering faith

The greatest enemy to answered prayer is unbelief.

James describes such deep-seated doubt as being “double-minded”

James uses the Greek word, Di-sychos which literally means “to be two-                              souled”

  • James records the first historical usage of this term that we are aware of.
  • James defines Di-sychos as an impurity in our inner person

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

In the double-minded individual, where there should be one thought, goal, attitude, or devotion, we find instead two competing thoughts.

This is a vacillation between self-reliance and God-reliance.

Illustration: The South Indian Monkey Trap

The “South Indian Monkey Trap” was developed by villagers to catch the ever-present and numerous small monkeys in that part of the world. It involves a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be seen through a small hole. The hole is just big enough so that the monkey can put his hand in, but too small for his fist to come out after he has grabbed the rice.

Tempted by the rice, the monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped. He is not able to see that it is his own fist that traps him, his own desire for the rice. He rigidly holds on to the rice, because he values it. He cannot let go and by doing so retain his freedom. So, the trap works and the villagers capture him.

A double-minded person is one who wants his will and at the same time wants God’s will. This type of person is unstable in everything he does.

Doubt is an immediate contrast to belief.

Such doubt is instability

My friend, Doubt makes a person unstable.

Single-minded, Single-focused faith means to make a conscious decision, with God’s help, to choose our attitude: joy—and to move on to Christian maturity.

God’s goal for us, then, is to be mature and complete.

James wants to help suffering Christians find the strength to make tough personal moral choices beyond the realm of sentimentality.

Because we value the Lord and His Kingdom life more than we value ease and comfort, it becomes the choice of realism and wisdom to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds.

This becomes, then, courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

God does give the ability to endure patiently – in steadfast faithfulness

Life Principle: We must always remember that there is the work God does for us — the work God does in us — and the work God does through us.

Conclusion:  While it seems that perseverance may be a valuable end, there is a more valuable and ultimate ending- Godly character and maturity – and that perseverance and endurance and joy and maturity will ultimately result in praise, glory, and honor – all unto Him.

James 4:8- ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Life Points:

What makes the complete Christian?

  • The work that God does for us
  • The work that God does in us.
  • The work that God does through us- service.

Life Action Steps

  • Let God do the work He does for us
  • Cooperate with the work God does in us
  • Choose joy in the work God does through us

James 3:1-12- The Taming of the Tongue.     

1Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt-water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 

Sermon Blurb

The tongue! We are told that no man can tame it – and that it has the ability and strength to set on fire a raging inferno. Yet, the same tongue that has the ability to create so much destruction also has the potential to bring life, order, and peace into various situations – if surrendered to the power of God Himself.

Thank you for joining us today as we seek to understand, direct, and submit to God the power of our tongues.

Introduction:

  • Today’s message is one of those that hits us right where we are. As a matter of fact, it is one of those messages I really don’t want to preach because it touches everyone of us – where we live – and it challenges us for change. But, we must realize that our Spirituality is only a feeling, an illusion, if it cannot and does not purify our behavior in a practical manner.
  • As we hear today’s word, let us be struck by a sense that a strong characteristic of the mature Christian is that he has power over his tongue.
  • The ability to speak words is the ability to influence others and accomplish tremendous tasks for God

Life Principle: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

Our tongues have the ability to influence (vs. 1-5a).

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.

Against what seems obvious, James is NOT specifically speaking into the lives of only those aspiring to be teachers; rather, he is addressing those who aspire to positions of authority in the church.

(James 3:1)Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

James was not concerned with giving everyone career counseling; instead, he was addressing the sin of pride and self-righteousness.

In other words, he is saying, “Remember, you are subject to judgement even more strongly if you try to teach others — and you are highly vulnerable in that judgement because we all sin in many ways.”

James is prescribing humility to all who want to be leaders in the church.

And his emphasis is specifically on matters of the heart – but he arrives at those heart matters by way of instruction regarding the tongue.

James does not simply expect perfection.

BUT, he is making a case for and a call for — maturity, perfection, and completion– because he knows how strongly sin knocks on everyone’s doors.

There are two inescapable facts that James is addressing.

He is addressing Judgement.

There is a greater strictness of judgement for ones who teach and those who lead in the church.

Matthew 7:2– “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

He is addressing Failure –and we will get to that one in a minute

Life Principle: But know this: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

It would take a truly perfect person to stay free from the sins of speech. James is clearly implying the impossibility of such perfection (in our typical use of the word, perfection) because he just has said, “We all stumble in many ways”

And this is the failure James was referring to. Most translations use the word, “stumbling.”

(James 3:2) “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

  • There is failure in and by all of us.
  • ptaio– meaning to stumble or to cause to stumble
  • This word is a figure for making a mistake or simply, sinning
  • The KJV actually says, “For in many things we offend all.”

And sins of the tongue are prominent and seem to head the list of “stumblings” because our words usually lead to our deeds.

Psalm 141:3-4– “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies.

At this point – and throughout this message – I want to remind you that this is not a “self-help” or “feel-good” and “do better” message.

Someone once said, “Life Is Short, Death Is Sure; Sin the Cause,  Christ the Cure.

You and I cannot heal this looseness of the tongue; It is only the  Holy Spirit working within us, and our trust in Him, that will correct this problem of the tongue.

But even as James has declared that we should come to Christ if we lack wisdom, so also should we come to Christ and ask for help in taming our tongue.

There is hardly a sin more pervasively exposed and condemned in the Bible than that of speech.

1 Peter 3:10 (reiterating Psalm 34:12-13)– “For, Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.

The tongue is but a small member in the body, and yet it has the power to accomplish great things- for Good or for Bad.

Proverbs 18:21– “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

When Jesus Christ controls our tongues, then we need not fear saying the wrong things – or even saying the right thing in the wrong way or at the wrong time.

When Jesus Christ is the Lord of our hearts, then He is Lord of our lips too.

Life Principle: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

The Bible indicates there is a very strong, decisive influence that is directed by – or guided by — the tongue (James 3:2-5)

James makes application specifically to the tongue because he sees the controlling of one’s tongue as that which influences the entirety of one’s body – and thus – of one’s life

Life Illustration: The tongue is like a bit in the mouth of a horse. This small instrument, under the direction of skilled and knowledgeable hands can influence the direction of a powerful horse.

James says the uncontrolled tongue:

  • The uncontrolled tongue is a world of evil—A multitude of evils are contained within it
  • The uncontrolled tongue corrupts the whole person — The whole person becomes corrupted by the uncontrollable tongue.
  • The uncontrolled tongue sets on fire the course of one’s life—It is destructive and extends to the whole course of the person’s life
  • The uncontrolled tongue is itself set on fire by Hell itself—In other words, James exposes the tongue as the source of evil within each human.

Control of the tongue leads to a master-control of ourselves and our lives.

Life Illustration: The small rudder of a boat, under the direction of skilled hands, is able to influence the direction of a boat – even in strong winds.

  • The tongue is a key factor in controlled living.
  • The tongue is a key factor in consistent living.

In reality, actual speech is only a small percentage of the use of the tongue.

In other words, if you control what you say, you can control the rest of what you do. Bit and Rudder

But again note, the tongue is humanly uncontrollable

Life Principle: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

The tongue rages like a fire.

(James 3:5b- 6) “ … Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Our words have the ability to start fires.

Life Illustration: It only takes a spark or a small flame to set on course and roaring, devastating fire.

Life Illustration: Warren Wiersbe shares the story that he was visiting the used bookstore along Charing Cross  Road in London, — and he remarked to a clerk that there were not as many used book stores as he expected. “There’s a reason for that, replied the clerk. “One night during WWII, the incendiary bombs hit and the fires destroyed at least a million books.” In similar manner, our words, James would say, can operate like fire and can destroy

And yes, we have the capability of holding our tongues and speaking or not speaking what is on our minds.

Psalm 39:1-3– I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.”
So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

My friend, if you find that you are often creating virulent – or bitterly hostile situations through the words you are speaking, you must repent and ask God for His intervention

Proverbs 26:20-21- Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.”

Friends, I am making a call for repentance.

James is making a call for repentance.

If we are quarrelers—people who like to create situations full of strife and division– through and from the words we speak – we – I — must repent.

Life Illustration: (From James, from The IVP New Testament Commentary Series by Dr. George M. Stulac, page 130)”

  • “To the person who speaks praise to God in the worship service and then abuses people verbally at home or at work, James commands, Purify your speech through the week.”
  • With the person who says’ “Oh, I know I talk too much,” and laughs it off, James is not amused. He insists, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak.”
  • By the person who boasts, “I always speak my mind, no matter who gets hurt,” James is not impressed. He commands, “Discipline your speaking.”
  • Of the person who says, “I know I gossip too much, but I just can’t help it”, James still requires, “Control your tongue.”
  • Of the person who is in the habit of speaking with insults, ridicule, or sarcasm, James demands, “Change your speech habits.”
  • He expects discipline to be happening in the life of a Christian. Any Christian can ask for the grace needed for God gives good gifts (James 1:17) and gives them generously (James 1:5). There is, then, no justification for corrupt habits of speech in our churches today. We simply MUST repent.

And the Bible tells us that the one who restrains his words — he is a person full of knowledge and wisdom. (Remember, James is also ALL ABOUT us gaining that wisdom.

Proverbs 17:27– “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”

The Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition translation of Proverbs 17:26-28 says, “It is no good thing to do hurt to the just: nor to strike the prince, who judgeth right. He that setteth bounds to his words. is knowing and wise: and the man of understanding is of a precious spirit. Even a fool, if he will hold his peace shall be counted wise: and if he close his lips, a man of understanding.”

Know this: If our hearts are filled with hatred, satan will light a fire and kindle that hatred. But if our hearts are is filled with God’s love, God Himself will light the fire and stoke the love that comes out of us.

In other words, the fiery potency of the tongue starts with the character of our hearts.

To whom will we yield up the character of our hearts? Will it be to God – to stoke the fires of love ad Godliness? Or will it be to the deceiver, satan – to stoke the fires of destruction?

Life Principle: My friend, Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

Let me say it another way: Our Word-Fire either defiles and destroys.

Life Illustration: In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in November of 2016, because a couple of young boys were playing with fire, violent flames took 17,136 acres, destroyed 2460 structures, caused over $500 million in damage, and killed 14 people while injuring 190 more. It was later discovered that the fire was caused by two teens dropping lit matched along the trail known as Chimney Tops. Cheri and I have walked that trail many times. These fires were caused by lit matches. My friend, a fire can begin with only a small spark.

Fiery words defile a home, a Sunday School class, a relationship, and a church.

We often say that time heals all things – BUT, a greater truth is that time does not correct the sins of the tongue.

We may confess our sins of speech, but the fire keeps spreading.

Instead, we must break the cycle of destruction before it even begins.

Life Illustration: I often think of the magazine ads and the TV commercials of my childhood featuring Smokey the Bear. He would always say, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” or “Only YOU can prevent Wildfires.” Smokey the Bear

My friend, only you, under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, can prevent the fires  that are kindled by our wayward, unthinking, gossiping speech.

Ask of God, and trust Him to hold your tongue and exercise wisdom.

The tongue can spread evil throughout the church family because of gossip, back- biting, and criticisms.

If Paul had written this passage, we might expect him to employ his image of the church as the body of Christ to describe the injury done to other lives by one person’s impure speech.

Notice very carefully the words James uses here: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

But James’ reference to the body appears to be in the Jewish sense – after all, he is writing to the Jews dispersed all across the world – in the Jewish sense of the whole person rather than a figure of speech, a synecdoche representing the congregation.

James’ focus is more on the destruction of the impure speaker’s own life.

James is referring NOT to the reaction of others to your speech — but to the spreading of sin from your speech to the rest of your personal life.

In other words, Yes. Your words can destroy a church, a family, or a people – but more quickly—and ultimately, your words can destroy you.

Number 32:23b- “you may be sure that your sin will find you out.”

Life Principle: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

And while the tongue is able to steer like a bit in a horse’s mouth or a rudder to a large boat

And while it can set a large fire even as does a small spark or flame

The tongue is also full of many inconsistencies

(James 3:8b-12) ”It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

The deadly sin of inconsistency is the poison of which James is speaking. It perhaps is the culmination of ALL the evil of which the tongue is capable.

(James 3:3:16) “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

James says that the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

The parallel between the tongue and poison is clear.

Poison works from within and produces sickness and/or death.

The intention of poison IS to inflict pain or death.

In other words, the tongue must be controlled because it is a tool that shows one’s inner being.

And, as has been previously shown, the tongue affects both large populations, in the mindset of James it also immediately and ultimately affects the one speaking.

The tongue is also like a dangerous animal or poison

The deceptive thing about poison is that it works secretly and slowly – and then it kills

But note, when you tame an animal, you get a worker instead of a destroyer.

Matt 12:34- “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Life Illustration: I have had the privilege of training and helping to train some animals. I have had good success with horses – not so much so with dogs. Horses well demonstrate that strong, powerful animals can be trained.

The tongue can be trained by self, the world, and the enemy – for evil; Or the tongue can be trained by the Lord for His good.

The tongue has the ability to both bless and curse.

The tongue has the power to delight.

Proverbs 18:21– “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

If you and I are going to have tongues that delight, then we must meet with the Lord each day and learn from Him

After all, all of nature reproduces after its own kind.

Or, said another way, we take on the characteristics – or we will correspondingly be the reflection of what or WHOM we spend our time with.

So, what about that truth I earlier mentioned about the tongue being full of inconsistencies?

The greater truth, again as I mentioned earlier, is this: In its inconsistencies, the tongue excellently displays one’s character.

The tongue that blesses the Father and then turns around and curses men made in the God’s image, displays a double-mind (as James described in James 1) and is in desperate need of spiritual medicine.

It is inconsistent to bless God and to curse our fellow man.

James is calling for consistency within the Christ-follower because consistency and inconsistency are indicators of our spiritual state and relationship with God.

Again, these inconsistencies are indicators of a person who is in desperate need of spiritual medicine.

James, my friend, is referring to our relationship to God Himself (James 3:9)

The One Whom we praise is no less than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

But, the one we curse is made in the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, to treat people with contempt is to treat God’s own greatness with contempt.

Life Principle: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

Examples from nature in James 3:11-12 are intended to describe situations that never CAN happen.

Similarly, they are descriptive of what CANNOT be happening within the follower of Jesus.

They are exemplifying the words: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

The deeper problem is finally revealed; the real problem is not with the tongue; it is with the heart.

Luke 6:44 -45- “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

As we think about these things this morning, I ask of you:

What do your words indicate that your heart is full of?

And is your heart in need of repentance and renewal by the Holy Spirit?

One person said that, before we speak or write, we should THINK

  • T- Is it true?
  • H- Is it helpful?
  • I- Is it inspiring?
  • N- Is it necessary?
  • K- Is it Kind?

Rick Warren has suggested 12 Words that can change your life

  • Please
  • Thank you
  • I’m sorry
  • I love you
  • I’m praying for you.

James is stating the obvious facts that one spring does not pour forth two kinds of water.

The implication here is that a true Christian will not make a practice of unChristian speech.

The practice of unchristian speech is evidence that the speaker is not a Christian and is therefore, in danger of Hell.

James 3:12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Life Principle: Christ has given us power that we might speak words of life or death; let each of us vow to speak only words of life.

Conclusion: James strongly emphasizes the purpose of the tongue.

  • The tongue has the power of life and death.
  • Our tongue betrays our true relationship with the Father
  • Our consistency in speech – and thus, behavior — indicates our depth of relationship with Christ and with one another.

Action Steps:

  • Draw closer to Christ through daily prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship
  • Guard what you speak AND what you hear.
  • Speak words of life.

2020 Vision- Understand the Vision

Proverbs 29:18– (p. 1028)- “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”

Habukkuk 2:2- (p. 1458)- “Then the Lord replied:

Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.’”

 

Sermon Blurb: Some things are motivated by pure whim; others by such outside forces as tradition. Of course, there are moments that pure whim is exciting and energizing – and other moments directed by tradition which are fueled by those things that have been laid out by others before you. But the best way to serve God is to seek His will and purpose and to cooperate with His plan and to pursue it.

We now explore the direction God has given us at OCF with our series of messages, “2020 Vision”, and — we discover the vision He has given us to following Jesus.

Life Principle: The most exciting thing we can do in following Christ is to seek His purpose, to set it forth as His vision before us, and to run with that vision.

Introduction: Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in California, once said: “So you as a leader and as a pastor must have God’s vision for your church. The very first task of leadership is to set the vision for the organization. If you don’t set the vision, you’re not the leader. Whoever is establishing the vision in your church is the leader of that particular church. A church will never outgrow its vision and the vision of a church will never outgrow the vision of the pastor.

Tradition is a good thing – maybe even a great thing in certain circumstances.

Life Principle: The most exciting thing we can do in following Christ is to seek His purpose, to set it forth as His vision before us, and to run with that vision.

But is tradition enough to base a future practice of the church upon?

We must understand that traditions can be quite healthy.

Even as the video clip showed, tradition is capable of providing a “balance” in our systems and to our existence.

But in order for tradition to be and to remain healthy, there must be an understanding of the “why” of tradition. Why do we do it this way?

Illustration:

  • Many of us have heard the familiar story about the new bride who is cooking a big family dinner. As the ladies are gathered in the kitchen, the bride puts the roast in the pan and asks her mother why we always cut the end of the roast and put it in another pan? They ask grandma who says, “well honey, I cut the end off of the roast and put it in another pan because my roasting pan was too small!”

There are several variations of that story.

  • In one variation a young bride puts a pan of water in the oven every time she bakes a cake. She figured that this somehow added moisture to the cake. On one occasion her mother is visiting and asks, “why do you put a pan of water in the oven to bake a cake?” The bride replied, “well mom, that’s the way you always did it.” “Yes,” the mother replied, “but that’s because my oven racks were uneven and the pan of water caused the racks to balance out.”
  • In another variation, a young bride is thawing the turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. She puts the bird in the sink and covers it with a dishpan. “Mom, what is the purpose for putting a dishpan on top of the turkey to thaw?” “Sweetie, I put a dishpan on top of the turkey because we had cats.”
  • Finally, from “humor in uniform” comes the story of the young Seabee electrician who was electrocuted from working on a live fixture. The Master Sergeant visited him in the infirmary and chewed him out. “What made you think you could work on a live fixture?” The apprentice replied, “Sir, I was trying to save time and I’ve seen you stand on one leg, grab the wires and splice them without turning off the power. ” The Master Sergeant replied, “You dummy – didn’t you notice that I’ve got a wooden leg?”

Another wrote: Traditions are often group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening.

Illustration:

WHERE THE PHARISEES WENT WRONG

Robert Coleman tells where the Pharisees went wrong: “The Pharisees had so much respect for the Scriptures and wanted to protect them so desperately that they started adding to them. Many called this act, “building a hedge.” Then, after a while, it not only seemed helpful to make additions but it seemed absolutely essential. For instance, if God said we couldn’t work on the Sabbath, then don’t even pick grain to eat — just to play it safe. Don’t even heal people because that might be a borderline case. These traditions and additions to Scripture accumulated into hundreds over the years. Soon, it became apparent that they were far from optional. These laws became every inch as important as the scriptural laws and, in some instances, more crucial. The Pharisees also saw their mission as creating new laws as the times changed. If they felt the Scriptures contained no moral laws to control something modern, then they would manufacture a law and announce that it was binding on man and God. New situations could not be ignored, and if there were gaps in the Scriptures, someone had to fill them. Jesus found it very difficult to appreciate anyone changing God’s laws. For Him, it was fine if the Pharisees wanted to fast twice a week. They could go to it with great pleasure. The flak came when they said, “We instituted this new law, and God expects you to keep it.” At this point, Jesus balked and told them to back off.”

Remember, Tradition is NOT a bad thing. Friends, Tradition is NOT necessarily a bad thing.

Illustration: J.I. Packer once wrote, “All Christians are at once beneficiaries and victims of tradition—beneficiaries, who receive nurturing truth and wisdom from God’s faithfulness in past generations; victims, who now take for granted things that need to be questioned, thus treating as divine absolutes patterns of belief and behavior that should be seen as human, provisional, and relative. We are all beneficiaries of good, wise, and sound tradition and victims of poor, unwise, and unsound traditions.”

But, instead of simply relying on tradition, we must seek God for the vision He has for us.

The question we must always be asking is: Where is God taking us?

In order to succeed at what we set out for, we must have a clear understanding of what God’s purpose and plan for us is. Where is God taking us?

And so, there must be a clarity and a knowing of that vision.

Habakkuk 2:2- “Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.’”

Sit with the Word of God, prayer, and a notepad.

The Pastors and the Elders must sit at the feet of God listening to Him for His vision for our church.

While sitting at God’s feet, the Pastors and Elders must have their Bibles open and their spiritual, prayer antennae up and in receiving positions.

Then, they are required to write that vision or revelation down.

Finally, they are required to “run with it – to proclaim it – to make it known – to get the Word out.

And there must be such conviction upon the Pastors and the Elders – and the congregation — that each can positively answer these questions:

Would you be so committed to God’s vision that you are willing to give your life for it? That’s vision.

Would you be so committed to God’s vision that you are willing to give your life savings for it? That’s a vision.

Would you be so committed to the vision that you are willing to say, “Though none go with me, still I will follow”? That’s vision.

And each leader who receives this vision should be just as committed to the vision as the people with whom they share God’s vision.

Illustration: Although it’s not popular to talk about around here after last Saturday night’s football game, the county where Cheri and I are both from contains a SC state university named Clemson University. (When my dad attended there in the 1950s, it was simply called Clemson College. And, as a tidbit of trivia, if you’re from there, you probably pronounce it with a “p” in the middle—like “Clempson – although there is certainly no “p” in its spelling.) The football team has a slogan that we believe is attributed to Coach Dabo Swinney himself. It simply says, “All in.” What is meant by that is “we’re all in—nothing left out, nothing held back—we’re ALL IN. Further, it means that no one stands alone—we’re ALL in.”

I think that’s a good image for the vision for the local church—We’re ALL IN—Nothing Held Back—and we’re ALL in—no one stands alone.”

And why do we need a vision?

Life Principle: The most exciting thing we can do in following Christ is to seek His purpose, to set it forth as His vision before us, and to run with that vision.

“Among God’s people, Vision encourages unity, creates energy, provides purpose, fosters risk-taking, enhances leadership, promotes excellence, and sustains ministry.” –Aubrey Malphurs

Vision also gives us boundaries to work within.

Proverbs 29:18- “Where there is no revelation (vision), people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”

And, by the way, it’s OK if much of our church’s vision is similar to that of other churches.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.”

When we present the vision God has given us, we must communicate the vision in a plain, clear, and understandable way.

Habakkuk 2:2- “Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.’”

(several versions make this even clearer with something like: “And inscribe it plainly or clearly on tablets, That the one who reads it may run.”)

One of the things the NT brings us is the thought of hearing and trusting in the leadership God has placed over His church.

Hebrews 13: 15-18- “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

In other words, these leaders are shepherds giving watch and care of God’s people.

John 10:11-13- [Jesus said,] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I want us to clearly notice the initial words of this passage: All of this happens THROUGH JESUS – only THROUGH Jesus.

All offerings of sacrifices and praise are ONLY enabled through Jesus. (In other words, we cannot offer sacrifices and praise alone.)

In fact, these sacrifices and offerings ON OUR PART are a fruit we manifest and present because of the work Christ does through us – or worded another way — that we do through Him.

All good deeds and sharing with others are acts of the sacrifices that God does through us and that we cooperate with.

And therefore, the confidence we show to our leaders IS ONLY POSSIBLE because of the cooperation we show THROUGH CHRIST.

Life Principle: The most exciting thing we can do in following Christ is to seek His purpose, to set it forth as His vision before us, and to run with that vision.

Our confidence in our leaders is only through Christ.

And of course, our leaders are responsible to give full account TO Christ.

In other words, we give confidence IN our leaders THROUGH CHRIST – who in turn give account TO CHRIST.

It is the responsibility of the leadership in the church to seek the vision for the church through God—to hear and know that perfect will and vision of God for the church — to “catch His Vision for His church”.

Such was the case for Moses.

Numbers 12:7 (NIV)- “… my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.”

Moses was required by God to seek His (God’s) direction for His (God’s) people.

Although we who are in relationship with God are all capable to hear and know His plan for our lives and the lives of our family, God is specifically referring to the capturing of His (God’s) vision for His corporate people.

Note that this is not a positioning of Moses, AS A PERSON, as having any greater or better status AS A PERSON than others in the land.

Moses was no better than anyone else.

It is, however, pointing to a designated and God-appointed position OF AUTHORITY as being a spokesperson FOR GOD to His corporate people.

God was then to speak to Moses, FACE TO FACE in order to communicate clearly His Words, His thoughts, and His directions, especially as that communication concerned the people of the land.

And as God communicated to Moses (in order to communicate to His people), He also equipped Moses even beyond His capabilities and education.

When God calls you to a task, He also equips you to service that task.

One person said it this way: “God equips those whom He calls.”

AS we the leaders have received the vision you are being presented with over the next few weeks, it is up to us, under God’s empowerment, to communicate that vision clearly to you—even to write it down legibly and to keep it before you, the congregation of OCF.

Life Principle: The most exciting thing we can do in following Christ is to seek His purpose, to set it forth as His vision before us, and to run with that vision.

Finally, it is up to us, the congregation of OCF, to run with the vision.

Therefore, we must, then, run with the vision – tell it, share it, communicate it, and do it.

It is the responsibility of the hearer, the herald, the runner, the ambassador – to run with the vision

In running with it, we are to carry it out

We are to perform it.

We are to broadcast the vision.

We are to assure that the vision is further faithfully communicated among ourselves.

But we are also to note that the empowerment to “run with it” is not our own empowerment; it is purposed to us through Jesus Himself.

We cannot “work up” this empowerment.

We cannot “study up” on this subject and see it worked out.

We can only wait on Him and His timing to run with His vision.

Isaiah 40:28-31-“ Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

And we must be careful to Give God alone the Glory.

Life Principle: The most exciting thing we can do in following Christ is to seek His purpose, to set it forth as His vision before us, and to run with that vision.

Conclusion:

  • This is the simple iteration of the vision God is giving us here at OCF.
  • It is brought to us through the Pastors and the Leadership Team and presented for each of us to put our trust in God so that we will carry out His mission among us.
  • It is up to Him to empower each of us to receive this task and to carry it out.
  • It is up to us to cooperate with what God desires to do and is doing among us.

Here are the specifics of what God is speaking to us as His purpose among us at OCF:

  • The Bible and specifically, the Gospel, is to be at the Center of our preaching and teaching
    • Grace is also a significant and important part of the center of our teaching and preaching
  • We are to build the Community God has placed us in and surrounded us with
    • A loving fellowship enacting Living Worship
    • We are currently in the midst of a surrounding community that thinks we are the church that is the polling station when its time to vote. We want to extend/enhance that perception
  • We are to take a deeper refocus and enactment of Evangelism
    • We are to broaden/enlarge our constituency with the Great Commission through Compassionate Outreach
    • We are to bolster and enhance OCF’s Missions efforts – both in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and among the uttermost parts of the world.
    • We are to intentionally focus on becoming more of a sending church—sending out teachers, pastors, and missionaries
  • We are to focus on being a house of Discipleship
    • Growing, challenging faith
    • Spiritual Warfare- Not fighting the personalities in and among us but knowing that our conflicts come through the spiritual realms and then, fighting against those principalities and powers while protecting those blessed brothers and sisters among us.
    • We MUST learn to Celebrate our wins
      • Increase in Baptism
      • Increase in Communions
      • Increased and better communication for ALL our wins
    • We are to be a house of Prayer through an Increased emphasis on and practice of prayer throughout the entire church.
    • We are to make efforts toward becoming a house of genuine Worship
      • Music
      • Gifts, arts, and talents
      • Deeds

These items will be more clearly defined over the next few weeks and it is my desire that each of you would be here and listen to and buy into what God is setting before us.

Life Action Steps:

  • Be willing to give your life for God’s vision. That’s owning His vision
  • Be willing to say, “Though none go with me, still I will follow and His vision”? That’s owning His vision