BLOG – The Cure for Fear of Poverty, Being Duped, and Death

On Sunday, I said there are 3 main fears that keep us from feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and visiting the imprisoned as Jesus commands us to do in Matthew 25 –

  • Fear of Poverty – we’re afraid if we’re generous we’ll end up broke.
  • Fear of Being Duped – we’re afraid people will manipulate us and take advantage of our generosity.
  • Fear of Death – we’re afraid we’ll be put in dangerous situations around contagious sick people or dangerous convicts in prison.

The cure for our fears is not guilt or command, but faith, which is why we’re so often told, “Do not be afraid,” throughout the Scriptures. What will take away your fears and mine and free us to live truly generous lives?

            Jesus gave up glory in Heaven and become completely destitute, was taken advantage of and betrayed by those he tried to help, and finally was killed. He too was afraid of those things, but for the sake of save you, blessing you, and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven, was courageous and faithful through his fears. When you see him do that for you, our hearts are transformed to do the same for others. We are given courage to act in spite of our fears.

            Further, when we are faithful and obedient to bless, give, serve, feed, visit, etc. we find that Jesus is faithful and trustworthy – Jesus keeps his promise and our faith grows again, rereleasing us to serve.

May 14 – Youth Sunday, Why?

On May 14, 2017, our youth will lead us to worship God and make Jesus famous.

Come ready to be challenged, encouraged, and generally rocked off your feet, spiritually speaking that is.

Why do we hand over worship?

Well it was theirs to start with. Our Youth are not the future of the Church; they are the Church. We design worship with them in mind, just as we design it with adults and new comers, so every now and then it’s fun to see what they come up with for our time together.

Moreover, you never discover spiritual gifts if you never get a chance to use them. Pastor Andrew preached for the first time on Youth Sunday 2003 to a church of more than 500 people, and discovered his passion for teaching and gift for communicating God’s Word. How many of our young members have similar gifts for preaching, singing, encouraging, serving, leading worship, or playing music and just don’t yet know it? Pastor Andrew wouldn't be here if someone hadn't asked him to try preaching over a decade ago. Youth Sunday could be the day, God calls one of our members into a life of service or it could be the day God uses our young to stir faith in the cold heart of a pre-Christian neighbor.

BLOG – Easter Art Explained – The Many-Splendored Wisdom of God

On Easter Sunday, we party.

Why? Because Easter is the greatest day in history. All of history, its purpose and its climax are reveled in Jesus’ Resurrection. Death does not win. History is going somewhere. Pain and brokenness are not final. Sin is forgiven. Jesus is Lord.           

             Every Easter we do an art project together as a church to learn with our hands what Andrew is trying to preach with his words – that God makes beauty from ashes, artwork from shattered hearts, glory from dust. So, the art must use RECLAIMED and REDEEMED materials that we transform into something extraordinarily beautiful. As we do this, we find that often the very brokenness of the thing makes it more beautiful and/or perfectly fit for art work. This reminds us that our brokenness will not just be healed back to original, it will be the very things that make us useful in God’s hands. Rather than brokenness or imperfection inhibiting God’s ability to use us, they actually augment our usefulness. That’s why the Apostle Paul can write, “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever” (1 Tim 1:15-16). Nearly 1900 years later another man whose life had been transformed by the teachings of Jesus wrote it this way, “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them” (9th Step Promises of AA).

           This year we used hundreds and hundreds of broken crayons to make extraordinary art. They were perfect for something colorful or “multi-splendored” as the Bible likes to say. In all our diversity, we’re a lot like these different colors. Moreover, each of us is broken in some way, some of us discarded, but Jesus does not throw us away, destroy us, or give up on us, instead he starts to transform us. In a creativity and artistry beyond all human aesthetic dreams, God crafts something that is more glorious than it could have been if it was never broken. That is why Ephesians 3:10 describes the church as God’s public, colorful art exposition. Paul says, “God’s intent was that now, through the church, the manifold, many-splendored, multi-faceted wisdom of God should be displayed.”

            It may not feel like it now, but God is in the process of taking all your hurts and flaws, and using them to make you into a masterpiece. God is preparing the shards of your broken heart for resurrection of love and purpose. Nothing in your past will be wasted, even the worst parts will yield their usefulness in God’s masterful hands.

            “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim 1:17)

Easter Party Music – HE’S IN ME!!!

The day Jesus arose from the dead was the greatest day in history.

Nothing comes close. Not Christmas, not birthdays, not the birth of a child, not national championships, not even VE Day. Nothing. It is the heart of all Christian preaching in the Bible. It is the axis on which all of history turns. In the resurrection, we see a preview of the end of the story when God will raise all of us to new life and judgment.

On Easter Sunday 2017, we pointed out that the resurrection proves (1) Jesus Christ is LORD and can give the Holy Spirit because he is God; and (2) we are forgiven, and so can receive the Holy Spirit because all our sins have been taken away. So, we can say with confidence, Jesus is not in the tomb, HE’S IN ME!! Jesus lives in me by the power of the Holy Spirit, and his presence in me assures me of God’s love, gives me contentment and God’s peace, and fills me with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

But since Easter is a party, maybe these truths are easier to learn through music. So here is some Easter Party Music to help you ponder the Resurrection this year:   

Alive - Hillsong Young & Free

O Happy Day - Tim Hughes

The Anthem - Planetshakers

Because He Lives - The Gaithers

Because He Lives - Matt Maher

Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) - Kari Jobe

May 21 – Percy and Flossie Barber Memorial Scholarship

We're giving away money to college students!

Well, kind of. It's a scholarship you can apply for.
So don't borrow money for college or books; chase every scholarship you can.

The Percy and Flossie Barber Scholarship

HOW MUCH?
$1000
WHO CAN APPLY?
Priority is given to Oakland Members graduating from High School, who've been accepted to an accredited College or University. For more details download the application below.
HOW DO I APPLY?
Download the full application. Complete it with the necessary recommendations and return it to the Oakland Presbyterian Church Office by May 21, 2017.

DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION

AN EXTRA SERMON – A Sermon About Singing and God’s Deliverance

Every so often, I try to share extra sermons on relevant topics that I think are helpful and frankly, better sermons than I could preach. Personally I try to listen to multiple sermons during the week to feed my faith. I find them easier than books often. I like to download them as podcasts on my phone so I can listen to them while driving.

In light of the Choir Open House tonight, here is a sermon that talks at length about singing and the Bible. Matt starts with this:

There are over 400 verses in the Bible about singing. There are 50 explicit commands around singing, which, if we just stop for a second, that's a weird command mixed in with all of the other commands 50 times, right? "Don't murder. Oh, and sing." Right? "You shouldn't touch another man's wife. Sing. Don't steal, but sing." Right?

The whole sermon is great, but if you don't have 52 minutes, at least listen to the first 15 or so.

From Bitter to Sweet from The Village Church on Vimeo.

Click HERE to watch or READ "From Bitter to Sweet" by Matt Chandler on the Village Church's Website

Click HERE to listen to the Podcast of "From Bitter to Sweet" by Matt Chandler, and check out other Village Church sermons.

Matt Chandler is the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Texas, and a hard-hitting, truth-telling pastor. If you like this sermon, check out his sermons on the Plagues via the Village Church Podcast. 

 

 

CHRISTmas OR christMUST – Advent Devotional Resources

Yesterday, I challenged us as a church to prioritize 4 things in our schedules and celebrations this month - God's Word, God's Church, God's Poor, and God's Kids. These are 4 places that JESUS guaranteed to meet us, speak to us, and change us. Let's try to put these practices on the calendar before the other "musts" this Christmas:

PREPARE YE THE WAY - In God's Word

Jesus promises to meet us in his Bible, so let's commit to engaging Jesus through some Advent Devotional practice. You can obviously use our Weekly Reading Plans to guide your study, but if you want something more, check out these options: 

FREE ONLINE ADVENT DEVOTIONALS:

Two Free Resources from John Piper and DesiringGod

A Daily Women's Devo From SheReadsTruth

DEVOTIONAL IDEAS FOR FAMILIES

There are hundreds of ideas out there for this from Joshua Trees to Following the Wisemen to Truth in the Tinsel. Here are three and here is a great Facebook feed of ideas for Families trying to celebrate with kids. 

Download a Family Advent Calendar from Focus On The Family

Book of Family Advent Devotional Ideas

Read a Chapter a Day from the Jesus Storybook Bible

ADVENT BOOKS:

God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller

God Came Near by Max Lucado

EXTRA SERMON – How Not to Be Anxious During an Election

Every so often, I try to share extra sermons on relevant topics that I think are helpful and frankly, better sermons than I could preach. Personally I try to listen to multiple sermons during the week to feed my faith. I find them easier than books often.

Here is a sermon in light of the upcoming election. It will not tell you who to vote for or not to vote for. It will not bash a candidate or bemoan the state of politics. Instead it talks about the biggest elections in Biblical history and what they show us about God and Politics.

Click HERE to watch "How Not to Be Anxious During an Election" by John Ortberg

Click HERE to listen to the Podcast of "How Not to Be Anxious During an Election" by John Ortberg

Pastor John Ortberg is the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in California and the author of a ton of books. His podcast is one of my favorites.

 

 

BLOG – Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Sermon at Ebenezer

While preparing for my sermon on Matthew 20:17-28, I learned that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his last sermon in his home church Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA on the same text. His title was, "The Drum Major Instinct." It is a fascinating sermon. He goes in a different direction than I did, but with great effect.

In his sermon he addresses the evils of segregation and class warfare. He speaks about war and education. His sermons are still ripe with challenges that must be heard still in 2016. He challenges many of our assumptions and many of the political narratives of the last 50 years, and that is why we must listen to him. Challenges help us figure out what we actually believe far more than unquestioned assumptions. 

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don't have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

Read "THE DRUM MAJOR INSTINCT"

and see the original transcript here. 

BLOG – Why was yesterday’s sermon part of the Money Matters Sermon Series?

Some of you are naturally drawn to connections and organizing facts together, and you might have wondered why yesterday’s sermon on power, cups, and service was part of a sermon series on money. You’re right to ask the question. I’ll give you two short reasons that didn’t make the sermon. I’ll give two short reasons.

“To give his life as a RANSOM for many.”

The chief reason is that Jesus uses Money to explain his life’s work. Here he does not use traditional sacrificial imagery of scapegoats or sacrificial lambs to explain his saving death. Instead he uses a financial, monetary image to explain why he must die and rise again. "RANSOM" is a Bible word used for the monetary price paid to free a slave, a captive, or to spare a person facing the death penalty. What we see is that Jesus uses everything he has – all his power, riches, and influence – to liberate us from the spiritual extermination camp of sin and the Devil. Like Oskar Schindler, Jesus liberated us at excruciating cost to himself in order to save us from death and the Devil.

Understanding this not only liberates us from the power grab of society, which is really just slaves fighting for position within a concentration camp. Instead it liberates us to serve, to lift, to give. When you understand that Jesus is your RANSOM it will affect your money, because it will change your heart and your money will follow your heart. When I understand that Jesus ransomed me, saved me, liberated me and gives me infinite worth and value and power, I find myself wanting to give everything to make sure everyone hears this news and is liberated from the rat-race for power. I will like Oskar Schindler use all I have to help liberate all those who still live like slaves to sin.

This is why we give to churches and Christian ministries, because I have been bought, and there are thousands, scratch that, millions of men and women still fighting for power and survival because they have not heard and have not believed in the awesome incredible news that our RANSOM has been paid. That’s why I plan my giving to the church even before my grocery bill, because I can live on beans and rice, but man does not live by bread alone.  

“Jesus talked about money more than anything else (including heaven and hell).”

You may have heard someone say that before, and while it is true it is misleading. Jesus did talk about money often, but most of the time, he was not giving direct financial advice. When he did give direct financial advice it was about generosity not economics. But Jesus knows the power money has over our hearts, and so much of the time that he’s talking about money, Jesus is using money as an illustration or parable or explanation for some deeper spiritual or anthropological truth. Last week for example, Jesus told a story about a businessman paying his workers, but he was offering an illustration of grace designed to show us how grace offends our sinful, self-righteous flesh. The story was not (directly) about how employers should pay employees, though there very well is something to be learned about paying “what is right” is connected to paying a living wage.

This week, Jesus uses RANSOM illustration to show us our own value. He’s using money words to talk about spiritual truth. You were bought. My dad used to say to me all the time, “Something is only worth what someone will pay for it,” and Jesus was willing to pay an infinite cost to save you. That is what you are worth, and it cannot be taken away from you by any financial situation, life circumstance, humble occupation, or embarrassing need.

Think of it this way, a $100 bill is worth $100 no matter where if it is stacked with a thousand other $100 bills in a suitcase or if it’s in the gutter covered in mud and muck. No matter if it is the hands of a banker or a beggar, no matter if it is crisp or wrinkled, no matter if it is on Wall Street or in an Indian slum. It is worth the same $100 because it’s guaranteed by the treasury of the United States of America. Believers in Christ are like that. They know their value is not dependent on their circumstances but on the guarantee of the treasury of Christ’s riches.

When you know this, you can stoop lower than the low, because all the dirt and filth and stank in the world can’t rob you of value. You can wash toilets, change diapers, serve soup, live in poverty, endure hatred and persecution, because you believe that you are worth what Christ paid for you. You will do these and crazier acts of service in order for others to hear the good news that because of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, they too can be children of God.

If you want to learn more, here is an extra sermon for you to read or listen to. It was given by John Piper, a Reformed Baptist preacher.