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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

(Because the message was incomplete Sunday due to time constraints, here is the basic outline including the missing parts.)

More of the Vision that Lies before Us

 Habbakkuk 2:2

Then the Lord replied:

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

 

Proverbs 29:18

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”

 

Hebrews 4: 12-13

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

 

Mark 16:15-16- “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

 

Sermon Blurb: As we continue to explore God’s 20/20 vision for OCF, we are reminded of the importance of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word AND, we are reminded of the emphasis to be given to the spreading of and empowerment by the Gospel through evangelism. The best way to honor God’s Word and to do the work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

Join us this Sunday at Ontario Christian Fellowship as we explore the direction God has given us at OCF with our series of messages, “2020 Vision”, and as we discover the vision He has given us to following Jesus. Services are at 9:00 and 10:30 AM at 636 Lex-Springmill in Ontario, OH.

 

Life Principle: The best way to honor God’s Word and to do His called work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

 

Introduction: Recap of where we have been so far and where we are going:

  • Where does our vision come from?
    • Although tradition is great, we MUST base our direction on the will and purpose of God
    • Our direction from God comes through seeking Him with His Word, prayer, and a journal.
    • We must write down the vision.
    • We must run with the vision.
  • Reiteration of the vision as laid out on January 5- 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 understand that God Himself is the Author of the Bible as He gave it through human men and women – all coordinating and producing a completed work that we know as the 66 books of the Old and New Testament, the Bible.
    • We believe the Bible is authoritative and accurate and worthy to be trusted.
    • The Bible is not to be added to; it is complete in its 66 books.
  • We are to build the Community God has placed us in and surrounded us with
    • We are to be a house of unity
      • All gossip must cease and never again raise its head in our midst
      • We must be careful to speak only good words about one another. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • We are to be 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 it is 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
    • Much of this sending will incorporate other aspects of our vision.
      • As a sending church, we must also continually be a praying church over those whom we send forth.
      • As a sending church, we must also be a discipleship/training center (somewhat) for those who we send forth.
  • We are to focus on being a house of Discipleship
    • We are to plan and prepare for a growing, challenging faith
    • We are to recognize the impact of 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
      • Double baptism offerings to twice per year (at this time) with an eye toward quarterly baptisms. We have a pond, a chapel pool, and a portable watering trough for use in sanctuary
      • Increase and enhancement of Communions
        • Move to make the distribution of elements quicker and more orderly in second service/ Review of distribution in the first service
        • Encourage partaking together in smaller community situations in additional to regular church communion
      • 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

 

This week, we will focus on a couple other elements of the vision God is placing before us.

 

Life Principle: The best way to honor God’s Word and to do His called work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

 

  1. The Bible and specifically, the Gospel message, the Good News, is to be at the Center of all our preaching and teaching

 

Illustration: “The Protection of the Bible”

Martin Luther made this statement: “Mighty potentates have raged against this book, and sought to destroy and uproot it – Alexander the Great and princes of Egypt and Babylon, the monarchs of Persia, of Greece and of Rome, the Emperors Julius and Augustus – But have prevailed nothing. They are gone while the book remains, and it will remain forever and ever, perfect and entire as it was declared at first. Who has thus helped it – who has protected it against such mighty forces? No one, surely, but God Himself, who is master of all things.”

 

  1. While we do not want to become guilty of bibliolatry – which is worship of the Book, idolatrous homage to a book, or the deifying of a book – all of which are forms of idolatry – we do recognize that the Bible is the Living Word of God.

Hebrews 4: 12-13- “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

 

  1. It is the very Word of God Himself.

 

  1. God produced His Word and preserved it through men and women.

2 Peter 1:19-21- “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

 

  1. His Word is completely reliable.

 

  1. It is designed to give us His light.
  2. It is not to gather private interpretation but is to be understood in community. (There’s that word that is part of our vision—community.)

 

  1. Prophetic word here equals visionary word or revelatory word.

 

  1. And God confirms that His Word originates in and from Him.

 

  1. And God confirms that His Word is preserved and carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

Life Principle: The best way to honor God’s Word and to do His called work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

 

  1. God has purposed His Word. His Word has a purpose.

2 Timothy 3: 15-17- “… and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

 

  1. God purposed His Word to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. (There is a clear understanding of another part of the vision – evangelism – making us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.)

 

  1. His Word is useful for teaching.

 

  1. His Word is useful for rebuking.

 

  1. His Word is useful for correcting.

 

  1. His Word is useful for training in righteousness. (Remember, those                                     whom God calls, He equips.)

 

  1. And the ultimate purpose of God’s Word is so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

  1. Keep in mind that Grace, which is WHAT the Bible is full of from                             OT to NT, is also a significant and important part of the center of                                    our teaching and preaching. We are a church whose desire is                           Biblical grace and reconciliation.

 

  1. So, we will review our pulpit messages and be sure they are true to the Word of God.

 

  1. We will review periodically our curricula and be sure that they are true to the Word of God.

 

  1. We will assure that all who present the Word of God at OCF will stay current in their relationship with the Lord.

 

  1. We will assure that each person who speaks forth or writes out the Word of God are themselves being bathed in the Word of God and its teachings. Many call this continual education.

 

Life Principle: The best way to honor God’s Word and to do His called work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

 

  1. We are to take a deeper refocus and enactment of Evangelism

Mark 16:15-16- “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

 

  1. We do plan to the continuation of two separate and distinct services on Sundays.

 

  1. This brings an awareness of the need for update/enhancement of chapel lobby area.

 

  1. We will give increased attention to care and growth for all current ministries in the church

 

  1. Although this thought bleeds into other areas of vision, it does address the need for increased discipleship ministries, including additional adult Sunday School and enhanced small groups.

 

  1. Men’s Ministries has been in the infancy stage through such superficial means as open gym nights from time to time.

 

  1. Men’s Ministries will take on a more focused and targeted approach to gifting our men with many enhancements.

 

  1. There will be defined breakfasts and suppers

 

  1. There will be opportunities for devotional gatherings of men only

 

  1. There will be planned outreach events guided by the men

 

  1. Women’s Ministries will continue in their growth and have regularly planned events.

 

  1. These will include various gatherings around tea and                                                                  coffees, sandwiches, etc.

 

  1. There will be an inclusion of a couple advances during the year.

 

  1. This will also include some quarterly gatherings such as the Ladies Christmas banquet and others.

 

  1. Enhanced Children’s Ministries

 

  1. We are looking at an Enhancement of Children’s Sunday School

 

  1. We are also looking to enhance our “every-six-weeks” Children’s Church ministry to include dynamic teaching, crafts, puppets, skits, and other involvement of the children themselves.

 

  1. To focus on the children actually doing some of the praying for one another during these six-week events.

 

  1. To see the children learning to become ministers in training.

 

  1. We will assure that these who minister to the children in Children’s Church will be equipped with that they have need of – including on-going training.

 

Life Principle: Remember, the best way to honor God’s Word and to do His called work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

 

  1. We see the need for and are addressing times to grow together as married couples, as parents, as single people, as grandparents, as those who are grieving, as widows/widowers, and others.

 

  1. The plan is to plan and implement classes, and small groups to address            these needs.

 

  1. There will also be retreats/advances to address these needs and to minister       to one another in these situations.

 

  1. We are working to broaden/enlarge both the Kingdom of God AND our local constituency with the Great Commission through Compassionate Outreach.

 

Illustration: EVANGELISM

I recently heard a story about a young man who applied for a job as an usher at a local movie theater. As a part of his interview process, the manager asked him, “What would you do in case a fire breaks out?”

The young guy answered, “Don’t worry about me. I can get out fine.”

That’s exactly how many of us today would respond to a lost and dying world around us. If you asked them “What would you do if Jesus came back tomorrow?”, they would probably respond, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I’d be fine.”

But what is all too easy to forget is that you’re an usher! It isn’t enough just to get yourself out. You are responsible for helping others know the way as well.

 

  1. We had been planning on an evangelism class/seminar to make all who are willing — better equipped for and more excited about — evangelism and winning our friends to Christ.

 

  1. We are also looking at evangelism engagement where we actually take proactive opportunities to tell others about Jesus.

 

  1. We are bolstering and enhancing OCF’s Missions efforts – both in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and among the uttermost parts of the world.

 

  1. Plans are to continue to engage in Upward Basketball as a community evangelistic outreach.

 

  1. We will continue to engage in People Helping People, Matthew 25 Outreach, and Salvation Army.

 

  1. We will also continue in our engagement with Richland Pregnancy Services and the Shelter for abused women.

 

  1.                  We look for greater participation with current community elements

 

  1.              Love Inc.

 

  1. Mansfield Pastor’s Network

 

  1. But we will also look in our community for other areas of ministry that we sense God is leading us – possibly even starting such ministries if none are currently in existence.

 

  1. Engagement to minister to addicts.

 

  1. Edification within the local churches through prayer and praise events like the March for Prayer.

 

  1. We are to intentionally focus on becoming more of a sending church—sending out teachers, pastors, and missionaries.

 

  1. We will continue and enhance altar calls for the purpose of identifying those among us who sense God’s calling
  2. We will establish and conduct training for missionaries, teachers, and pastors.

 

  1. We will Celebrate our wins

 

Life Principle: The best way to honor God’s Word and to do His called work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, obey, and proclaim the Biblical precedent.

 

  1. We will Increase and celebrate our Baptisms

 

Illustration: EVANGELISM?

Several years ago, a 4-year study funded by the Lily Endowment designed to identify and analyze highly effective examples of evangelism by congregations in 7 mainline denominations reached two primary findings: (1) Of the 30,000 churches that qualified for the Mainline Evangelism Project, only 1/2 of 1% (.0005%) are baptizing a significant number of adults (conversion baptisms). This translates to 150 churches of a qualifying survey pool of more than 30,000. The average age of churches qualifying in the study as evangelistic was 89 years.

 

  1. Immediately, we will double our baptism opportunity offerings to twice per year (at this time) with an eye toward quarterly baptisms. We have a pond, a chapel pool, and a portable watering trough for use in sanctuary

 

  1. We will increase the frequency and enhance the Communion opportunities

 

  1. Move to make the distribution of elements quicker and more orderly in second service and, we will review of distribution of communion elements in the first service

 

  1. Encourage partaking together in smaller community situations in additional to regular church communion

 

  1. Enhanced community/Fellowship through meals and activities together

 

  1. Calendars have already been drawn up and are currently being proof-read to be sure we have no overlapping dates.

 

  1. Unity among us is a critical point in presenting the Gospel to the local community. How can we expect them to follow what is apparently NOT working for and in us?

 

Conclusion:

As we look at this vision over these weeks — and how this vision affects us, we want to be sure that we ALL understand that it is not simply pie-in-the-sky words; these are real efforts and opportunities that God is placing before us to accomplish His will and purpose in us, OCF, this community, and the world.

 

And as we have continued to explore God’s 2020 vision for OCF, we have been reminded of the importance of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word AND, we have been reminded of the emphasis to be given to the spreading of and empowerment by the Gospel through evangelism. Now, we leave this place shortly knowing the best way to honor God’s Word and to do the work of evangelism is to understand, preserve, and proclaim His Biblical precedent.

 

Life Action Steps:

  • Preach the unadulterated Word of God.
  • Do the work of an evangelist

Where’s Your Passion?

I recently had a very exciting conversation with a young lady. She was telling me that she had once begun her studies to become a veterinarian but gave up because she was having too many difficulties with the studies. She obviously does have a learning difficulty but she had determined that her difficulty was simply too hard to carry on with her task — so she decided to lower her expectations a little to switch and become a veterinary technician.

As she was telling me her new goals, which she has been working on for about a year now, you could visibly see her lighten up and you could hear the excitement in her voice. In fact, she told me that wanted to tell many people about her new goal in life.

The excitement I heard, and that I related back to her, was her passion. She was iterating her passion. And it was contagious.

I have no doubt that Amanda will go on to finish her studies and will become a veterinary technician.

And I am pretty sure that she will specialize beyond that.

Why?

Because she was and is in the zone of her passion.

Passion is that objective that you have to have. You eat it, drink it, dream it — and live it.

And passion will carry you through in times when otherwise you might want to quit or give up.

And I know passion.

And I think we all know passion.

When is the last time you ever dreamed of something so hard that you couldn’t let it go?

When’s the last time that you really lit up when you were talking about something — or someone?

When is the last time that you wanted something so badly that you knew you couldn’t live without it?

That’s passion.

A story is often told of a young boy who desperately wanted to learn a martial art. It is said that he sought out the training of a wise, old sensei.

In the boy’s search of the old man, he did find him. And he found him fishing in the middle of a stream.

The boy waited patiently on the side of the stream for what seemed like hours — simply in pursuit of being recognized by the old man.

Finally, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “Boy, what is it that you desire?”

The boy anxiously responded to him, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man simply looked away and continued fishing — seemingly ignoring the young boy.

After a while longer, he again looked over at the young boy and said, “boy, what is it that you desire?”

Again, the boy responded, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

And again, the old man simply looked away and continued fishing.

Finally, after another hour or so, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “Boy, what is it that you desire?”

And, as the boy had before responded, he said: “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man motioned for the boy to come out into the water with him.

The boy, desiring NOT to show his excitement, waded out into the water to the old man.

When the boy reached the sensei, the sensei violently grabbed, pushed, and held the young boy’s head under the water.

The boy struggled violently as well.

— until at last, four bubbles come from his mouth

— then three bubbles

— then two bubbles

— then one bubble

At which the old man, grabbing the boy by the hair, lifted him out of the water — obviously (and literally) dying for air.

And the old man looked at the boy and said to him, “Son, when you want to learn the martial arts from me … as much as you wanted that next breath of air — come back and I will teach you.

This is an illustration of the power of passion.

Passion causes us to come back when all Hell is coming against us.

Passion is that thing that causes us to NOT give up when nothing else seems to be going our way.

Passion is what finds us successful.

Why?

Because passion creates within us an “I’ve got to have it — or die trying to get it” attitude.

So again, I ask each reader today — what are you passionate about? And what’s it going to take to see your passion fulfilled?

And when you have answered those questions — carry on — and see your passion come to fruition.


Christmas in December 25 — I think NOT

An interesting question, though.

A friend, colleague, and professor once posed the question whether we as Christians should defend December 25 Christmas or not. His basis for discussion is that Jesus certainly does not need our defense and further, that most Christians who would defend December 25 Christmas probably would do so for the retail aspect. Hmmm. Interesting observation.

Personally, I think we SHOULD defend it — but simply for the reason of NOT giving up ground (as in a “slippery slope” where the enemy continues to take and take and take until there’s nothing left to take.)

You see, I really can’t defend December 25 Christmas as being the birth of Christ because all evidence points to the fact that it is NOT; instead it is a “carry-over” or loan from the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia Festivals — marked by all kinds of tomfoolery and reversals of social roles, in which even slaves and masters switched places.

Rome was notorious for assimilating various customs and holidays of conquered peoples with their (Rome’s) own customs and holidays.

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In fact, December 25 Christmas has nothing to do with Christ other than sharing His name.

Hanukkah, on the other hand, is an eight-day celebration of God miraculously providing ceremonially pure oil when the Jews worked to restore and rededicate their temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV, King of Syria in the 2nd Century BC. According to Jewish religious writings, there was only enough consecrated oil to fuel the Menorrah flames in the Temple for one day. The oil, however, miraculously burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare, and consecrate fresh olive oil. (This story is recorded also in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha — which by the way is good historical contextual reading — but not anointed scripture.)

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Jesus Himself observed the celebration of Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights as it is also known) in the Temple as recorded in John 10:22-39. There are also many who feel that Hanukkah marks the “time of conception” of Jesus within Mary’s womb. This would certainly coincide with similar thought that would place the actual birth of Jesus during the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus may have been born during the “Feast of Tabernacles?” (And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:14 NASB]).

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However, I am not ready to release Christmas to secularists/atheists who would dare to attempt to take one more thing from the Christian world.

Also, in 61 years, I have gotten familiar with my own personal traditions connected with Christmas (and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to give those up.)

But I did make my own feeble attempts to observe and respect Hanukkah for several  years now — including spending some of that time in Israel during Hannuka 2011. (And besides, 8 days of Gift-giving/receiving beats that daylights out of one day of such.)

And I’m pretty convinced that Jesus was born sometime near Sukkot.

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So I guess I’ll do it like this: I will celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah —  and even though Christ wasn’t born on the day we celebrate as Christmas (December 25) — and even though He really ISN’T the reason for that particular season, I will continue to honor Him, love Him, and share Him — on December 25 and every other day of the year.

Merry Christmas — and Happy Hanukkah!


Luke 2:1-20

(translated by Dr. Jim Garrett)

And it happened in those days [that] there came an order from Caesar Augustus for all the Roman Empire to be registered. This registration first took place while Quirinius was ruling the Syrians. And every citizen went to be registered, each into his own city

And Joseph came up from the Galilee, from the city of Nazareth in Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he [was] from the house and of the ancestry of David. [He came] to enroll for himself, together with Mary, the one both being engaged to him and pregnant.

And it happened, while they were there, that the days for her Child to be born were fulfilled. And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and she wrapped Him in baby clothes and placed Him in a feeding trough because there was not a place [for them] in the guest room.

And there were shepherds in the same region living outdoors and keeping guard by night over their flock. And an angel of Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shined around them and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them,

Do not fear! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people. For today, there is born to you in the city of David, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord and this is a sign to you: you will find a Baby being wrapped in baby clothes and lying in a feeding trough.

And suddenly, it happened that a number of the hosts of heaven appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men.”

And it happened as the angels departed into heaven, [that] the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go indeed to Bethlehem so that we might see this event that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they left in haste and found both Mary and Joseph, and [they found] the Baby lying in a feed trough. And after observing [Him], they made known [around them] concerning the matter that had been told them concerning this Child. And all, upon hearing [this], marveled concerning the proclamation that had come through the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and considered them in her heart.

Then, the shepherds returned honoring and praising God because of all the things they heard and saw, just as it was said to them.


Wow!

I guess I’m really getting older.

I have NEVER faced such difficulty in re-acclimating to my US time and routine. The flight to and from Israel, by way of Istanbul, has taken its toll.

I have worked really hard to establish a routine of blogging every Monday BUT, that went all out the door on this trip — and a fabulous trip it was — but I am exhausted.

31 of us made this journey. Everyone expected something different — yet each expected the same thing: we wanted to walk where Jesus walked. We wanted to see the sights where events of the Bible really happened. (and yet, some want to see archaeology. Some wanted to float in the Dead Sea. Some wanted to taste the fabulous foods of the Middle East — and some — wanted to shop.)

Regardless, we all came away fulfilled.

But as a way of helping me to segue back into daily reality, I want to post a devotion that my wife and I had written for our visit to Bethlehem. Let it speak to you as you read.

 

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem.

The building of the Church of the Nativity is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land. Underneath its present floor are beautiful mosaics of the earlier church. (I actually saw some beautiful mosaics on previous trips to Israel that had been excavated … they were amazing!) According to tradition, Mary gave birth to Jesus at the place where the star is located on the floor of the Church of the Nativity. The tradition that the birth was in a cave is one of the oldest Christian traditions. It has been stated that the cave of Jesus’ birth was pointed out in His day and no doubt is the same place where this church was erected.

To the east of the city is believed to be the area of the fields of the shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night”. Several churches have also been built there to commemorate this event. Even today local shepherds can be seen tending their flock in this same area. As a matter of fact, on my last visit to the Holy Land, we met some of these shepherds who have made it a business to charge to have pictures made of them and the sheep in that field. (We were told by one vendor, “We love Americans — and the more you spend, the more we love you.”)

But the scene to the Shepherds at the birth of Jesus, happened in this manner:

Luke 2:8-20 – That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: “You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

So, what can we take home with us from Bethlehem? A few things cross my mind…

  • Bethlehem was chosen by God to host the birth of the King. God has chosen us, He picked us out as His very own to host King Jesus in our own hearts.

Ephesians 1:4 – Even as (in His love) He chose us (actually picked us out for Himself as His own) in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

  • Bethlehem was a “little” town yet Jesus, God in the flesh, came to dwell in it. God is not looking for “big” people who have it all together, who look a certain way or who talk a certain way … that have money, status, gifting, or personality. He is looking for ordinary people such as you and me. He wants to come and dwell in us, to take up residence in “little ‘ole’ us”.

Micah 5:2– But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

I Corinthians 3:16– Do you not discern and understand that you are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you (to be a home in you, collectively as a church and also individually)?

  • Throughout the Christmas story we see “be not afraid”. The angel told Mary to not be afraid … the angel told Joseph not to be afraid and the angels told the shepherds not to be afraid. God is saying that to us TODAY. Don’t be afraid to step out into your calling and your destiny and your purpose! He is with us in everything and through everything. Be Strong! Be brave! Don’t be afraid. Your God is with us everywhere we go! Glory to God in the highest!

Joshua 1:9- “Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave, Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”

  • Many of us tend to want to idolize places like Bethlehem and events and moves of God. He simply wants us to” idolize” Him: to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. That is the GREATEST commandment. And when we do that His presence shines through us to others to see Him and be drawn to Him.

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

 

God has chosen you and me to host Jesus. Many times, we feel too ”little”, too ordinary, and not good enough. But God sees us SO differently than we see ourselves and He wants to come to dwell in us: He desires to take up residence in us. All he really wants from us is for us to love Him with everything we are and everything we have!

O Little Town of Bethlehem … ”little ole you”, I choose you to be great, to host Jesus. Let Him in and love Him with your whole heart! Be strong and brave! Do not be afraid! I am with you everywhere you to!

Cheri Garrett


Israel- The Day Before

 

We are ready!

Tonight, we will call all the kids and will speak with most of the grandkids too.

And we are ready to head out tomorrow AM for Israel.

We leave Columbus, OH, head to O’Hare in Chicago, to Istanbul, Turkey, and then to Tel Aviv, Israel.

We hope to blog daily about this trip … and to share a few pictures. I will post the blog on my personal site and on the OCF site for those who are interested.

If you know us and you know people who know us, pass this link along to them so that they too, can know what’s going on and so they can pray for us too.

Tuesday is a day of travel, so you probably won’t see too much from us then though.

Keep the entire trip and team of 31 in prayers.

Pastor Jim & Cheri


Fight the Good Fight

In the book of 1 Timothy, accolades come to young Timothy through a title such as “man of God” and through strong command to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” These words could also be pointed to many who are in leadership today.

Many of the truths that are directed to Timothy are also true to all of us. We, the church, are the frontline of defense against the false gospel as promoted by the world.

And yes, it is a strenuous task BUT, as usual, the Holy Spirit equips us to be more than enough.

In Paul’s use of the term, “man of God”, for Timothy and other church leaders, he was drawing two lines. One, he was showing that the body of Christ was set apart from the world as having a special task—as a protector of the truth of the Gospel. And second, he was defining a mark between the man of God and the man of the world—the false teacher.

And Paul was letting us know that we are all to “fight – and keep fighting — the good fight of the faith and daily keeping the good testimony.”

The importance of our role was well portrayed as Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV).

Timothy was in an all-out battle to protect the truth of the Gospel.

You see, there were then – as there are now — individuals who believed they had some kind of inside scoop going on with God. We, as theologians, call such writings or sayings of theirs, gnostic gospels – simply meaning that they professed to possess a “secret knowledge” (or so THEY thought.)

And yes, fiction writers such as Dan Brown (in his book, The DaVinci Code) DID get that part correct; the early versions of the orthodox (or “right teaching) church excised, did away with – even burned or buried — these many false books as false teachings. The early church was continuing Paul’s charge to Timothy and to others to preserve and protect the pure Gospel; it was NOT a movement to hide secrets from the average church person; it was a directive to protect the Word of God from false teachings.

My friend, very little has changed today; we are still defending against false teachers, erroneous teachings, dilutions of the Gospel, cults, and intentional slanders. To protect ourselves and to be good guardians and stewards of the church, we must be faithful students of the Word of God and we must produce strong and correct doctrine.

The story goes that the command came, “On your mark, get set,” and then, the pistol cracked and the race was on. A fine athlete sprang to the lead, and when the race was over, he had broken the state record for the one-mile. Only a few other runners even finished the race. Many dropped out when they saw they could not win.

As the field crew was bringing out the hurdles for the next race, one of the judges yelled, “Get those hurdles out of the way. This race is not over. Look!” And around the turn came a runner, panting, and staggering. The crowd stood in silent disbelief as he made his way over the last hundred yards, and literally, fell across the finish line, grinding his face into the cinder track.

One of the judges ran to the boy, turned him over on his back, took his handkerchief, and wiped the blood from his face. “Son, why didn’t you drop out? What are you doing in the mile race anyway?”

Between gasps, the boy explained that his school had a good miler who had gotten sick just the day before. The coach had promised to have a man in every event, and so he had asked the boy to run the mile.

“Well son, why didn’t you just drop out when you saw that you had lost?”

The boy answered, “Judge, the school didn’t send me here to quit. They didn’t send me here to win. They only sent me here to run this mile — and I ran it!”

We are sent here by Jesus to run the race, to fight the fight, AND to win. So, let us run with endurance.

John Wesley once said: “Give me a hundred men who love nothing but God and hate nothing but sin, and I will shake the whole world for Christ.”

It doesn’t take many… but it does take someone who decides to be faithful.

In December 1944, the German army launched an unexpected attack. In what was to become known as the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazis drove deep behind Allied lines. Writing in WWII about the reaction of the American troops to this attack, James Jones said,

No one of these little road junction stands could have had a profound effect on the German drive. But hundreds of them, impromptu little battles at nameless bridges and unknown crossroads, had an effect of slowing enormously the German impetus … These little die-hard ‘one man stands,’ alone in the snow and fog without communications, would prove enormously effective out of all proportion to their size.

Faithfulness, playing your “little part” in the greater scheme of things, makes all the difference.

To you, the church, I thank you for your faithfulness.

Faithfulness to volunteer

Faithfulness to give

Faithfulness in your presence on Sunday services as well as other services.

Faithfulness to use your gifts and talents.

Thank you for your faithfulness – for it is in your faithfulness – combined with His faithfulness– that we are successful as a church

Your faithfulness – and His – those make all the difference.

This is God’s way of protecting the truth and spreading it around the world.

We, His church, are stewards of the doctrines of the faith and God expects us to be — and equips us to be — faithful in sharing His Good News.

And now, Paul brings his first letter to Timothy to an end. Throughout the book, he has sought to thoroughly encourage the young pastor Timothy. He has reminded him of his calling. He has reminded Timothy of his qualifications and equipping. He has charged him— in military terms – to be a guardian of the Good News. He has charged him to stand against false teachers by teaching and preaching pure and true doctrine. And in doing all these things, he has precisely reminded Timothy of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In fact, his apparently intended closing words in 1 Timothy 6 14b-16 (NIV) were

…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time– God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

And now, let us practice the things Paul has given Timothy – and us – to do. Be faithful.

 

On another note.

Our daughter and son-in-law just got back in from Paris, France. They had such a wonderful time there. And among the gifts they brought back for their children, they had a red beret for our granddaughter, Abigail. She adores it. She had to don a matching red dress (from last Christmas) so that she would look Parisian. She is beautiful – and she had to share her picture with everyone. I love it. But then again, I love it that my children are travelers – even world travelers.  I am glad we have instilled such behavior in our children – Get out. Explore the world. Witness God’s creation. And be an influence for Jesus wherever your foot, or your hand, or your voice, or your words may land.

Let’s go exploring.


‘Staying’ With The Lord

Psalm 55: 22- ”Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. “

There was an incident that occurred at a Martial Arts tournament several years ago.  An instructor assigned one of his lower belt students the task of filming what promised to be one of the best matches of the evening.  This young student was given permission to move anywhere around the ring with his video camera in hand as long as he did not enter the area of competition.

As the match began, it soon became everything everyone anticipated that it would be.  It was solid action from beginning to end.  In fact, within the first few seconds of the match, the two competitors were solid mass in motion, headed directly towards our young cameraman.  BOOM!  They mowed him over as they fell out of the ring area.  The competitors got back up, regained their composure, and their places; and so did the cameraman.

Again and again, the furious blur of feet and hands would bully its way out of the ring, and BANG … find its way back to the young cameraman.  Many were surely thinking, “When is that cameraman going to get a clue and move out of there?”  Well, he was trying his best to follow the orders of his instructor, “Film that fight!”  Eventually, he did decide that it might be best to move much farther away and use the zoom feature of his camera.

We can all recall incidents in our own lives where we decided to stand our ground for a principle. Sometimes this insistence on success just prolonged an inevitable failure. Today’s scripture lesson gives us some advice for tapping into God’s staying power. 1 Peter 5:5-11 offers further advice in situations where the strength of the Lord is a must — specifically verses 5b-7: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. “

Just like the young martial artist with the video camera who was following orders, we stand ready in our Christian walk to follow the order of our Life Manager, Jesus Christ. And like the young videographer, our orders seem almost impossible: Matthew 28:19-20 tells us, “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.”

Our present assignment as Christian soldiers may, to the uninitiated, seem just as daunting as the one assigned to the young cameraman. God wants us to tell as many people as possible about the Gospel or “Good-News” concerning His grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. He wants us to preach the Gospel — not just by our words but also by our actions. He has called us to be holy and righteous — not through our own strength, but by His power and wisdom. Herein lies the critical difference between that young martial artist/cameraman and us. God is telling us to follow these marching orders and to stand firm — trusting in His grace and strength. You see, He is standing right there with us! He promises that even though our problems may seem too large for us, and temptation too strong, He will lift us up and restore us, because after all, it is Him working through us!

Psalm 55:22 was written by King David after he was betrayed by someone he considered to be a close friend. His feelings of pain, rejection, and abandonment were soothed by the knowledge of God’s always-present Spirit, which He promises will never leave us or reject us. 1 Peter 5:5-11 was written by the Apostle Peter, who had denied the Lord three times before His crucifixion. However, he later became a mighty Leader of the early Church through the strength and wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit. He stood firm through seemingly impossible difficulties — even until death.

Friends, we too must stand firm. Our orders are quite explicit: we are to move forward, always standing our ground, and never giving an inch of territory to the enemy. Retreat is out of the question. We are well-equipped to follow this order, and we have been given the best training manual ever written, God’s Holy Word, the Bible. But wait! There is still more; you see help is only a cry away! You are not in this alone. God has also equipped an army of believers to stand by you in prayer and service.

Lord, protect me from self-serving pride and fear. Lead me away from the many temptations of life that are intended to take me off the course you have set! Grant me your strength and wisdom to resist the attacks from within and outside of my heart, and keep my eyes always on the cross.

In Jesus Name AMEN!

On Another Note:

This past week, Cheri and I had the privilege of watching three of our grandchildren, Crystal and David’s kids, while their parents were in Paris, France. It is such a delight in being with your off-spring and seeing/knowing they are truly growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Thank you, Lord, for this precious gift.

 


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Between the Words … Pastor Jim’s Perspectives on the Weekend Behind and the Week Yet to Come (October 21, 2019)

It all rises and falls on leadership

I am really enjoying teaching our series on 1 and 2 Timothy; there is so much valuable material in those two books. But, I have to admit that 1 Timothy 3 was a real challenge to me. The message went forth in the midst of Pastor Appreciation Month AND, this particular chapter dealt with qualifications of the bishop; it just seemed that it could appear as self-serving. I pray that it didn’t.

But too, I realized that the ideal for a bishop (elder, pastor, overseer) was being established for the purpose of being exemplary for the entire church to see and model after. These are the qualifications Paul presented to Timothy:

So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap (1 Timothy 3: 2-7 NLT).

And while these are certainly the ideal, they are by no means presenting that this office is to be one of perfection.

And, too, these are to be modeled before the entire church – so that the church can see and follow in that model. Wow! Lofty expectations BUT, the Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in those actions if we will co-operate with Him.

Therefore, I am greatly encouraged with the role that God has placed before us – before His leadership – before His church. He has called us. He has positioned us. He has equipped us and empowered us. What a great place to be.

Dr. Jim Garrett