A Theology of Work

This morning at our first Men's Breakfast, we spent a half hour discussing the topic, "How does your Faith affect your Work?" Trying to pass round questions like, "How does your faith affect HOW you do your work?" "How does your faith inspire you to work?" "How does your faith inform your interactions with employees and customers?" "How should we balance profit and employee care?"

It was a great conversation, and I'd encourage you to head over to

www.theologyofwork.org

 

to check out lots of great resources explaining why your work is sacred and important to God.

This is an awesome sermon:

 

Why Pulling Together Now?

Here are the words, I shared last night at Dinner, just in case you missed it and you find yourself asking, “Why are we working so hard to pay off our mortgage debt now? What does it benefit us? Doesn’t everyone have debt?” The short answer is, “Because Jesus asked us to…” but another reason is below:

You have heard Denton, you have heard Rudy, you have heard Marie, you have heard Art, you have heard Wayne tell you that now is the time to Pull Together in Faith, and so we’ve launched and are currently planning the Pulling Together in Faith Campaign. Pulling Together is about sowing seeds for the next generation of believers, and by “next generation” we are talking about both our children and our children’s children, but we’re also talking about those people our same age, who will become believers at Oakland in the next months and years, and will lead the church for years to come.

You may have noticed that the farmers are out in the county “Breaking ground” as they say, pulling plows and discs and tillers, to prepare the land for seeds that will be planted in a few months. Well, now is the time for us as a church to pull the plow together to prepare for the future harvest. We cannot wait anymore than farmers can wait til July to break ground. It is time to take up the harness and the yoke together, and pull the plow together towards our new future.

But I know some of you are still wondering why. Some of you are still trying to wrap you head around and understand why we need to do this at all, let alone now. We have a comfy building, we have enough Sunday School rooms, we have enough seats on Sundays, we have enough room in the Fellowship Hall, we have heating and air, and this campaign doesn’t seem to benefit us in any way.

Well, I hear your concerns and your questions, and many people in our position have felt that way as well. And I could stand up here tonight and tell you how on more than a handful of occasions last year, we completely filled this Sanctuary and this Fellowship Hall, how we are already butting up to our capacity, and yet each of us have loved ones that we want to know the Love of Jesus in a real way that transforms their life and delivers them from self-destruction. And I could stand here and ask, “Where is your son Johnny going to sit, or your daughter’s boyfriend, Bob, or your sister, Sarah, or your neighbor, the Smiths; where are they going to sit, when they come, and how are you going to explain to them, that the service is full this Sunday, and they’ll have to come back next week earlier to get a seat in the sanctuary.”

Or I could stand up here and tell you about our dreams for new listening devices for those of us struggling to hear on Sunday Morning.

Or I could stand up here and try with all my breath to convince you that for the last 150 years, Oakland has given away money and materials and labor and land and members and elders and musicians and convenience and our pastors to start churches all over Johnston County. I could stand up here and tell you that because of people just like you scraped together enough money and resources to start and build the properties for 8 church all over Johnston County, from Oakland to Smithfield to Selma to Four Oaks to Princeton, down to Meadow and Newton Grove, over to Angier and McGees, back over here to Sanders Rd and 210. I could tell you that because people like us made gave even when it didn’t benefit them, the entire spiritual landscape of Johnston County was reshaped.

But I’m not going to do that. You’ll hear all about that over the next few weeks and months. Tonight I’m going to tell you another reason. I’m going to tell you that our faithfulness, your faithfulness, to break ground, to Pull Together, is already yielding fruit. With the weight of $800,000 in debt, broken into $6000 monthly payments hanging over their heads, the Session at Oakland has been very careful, and even hesitant, to expand the Operating Budget with any new ministries or expenses. There was always the possibility that the Budget would have to carry the $6000 a month payments, because those payments were being made out of a shrinking pile of money mainly left over from the first campaign 5 years ago. If that money ever ran out, and no further donations were given, we’d probably have to fire Michele, Cheryl, and Keeley, and cut my pay to make up the shortfall.

But as we’ve stepped out on faith to pay off this debt now, so the Session has stepped out on faith as well. The Session is making sure that our ministry doesn’t plateau. We are going to make sure that in three years we will sit around and thank God that we paid off the debt when we did, because our ministry will have grown and our Cleveland’s need will have grown, and we’ll have to make another big decision.

So the Session took the next step towards changing lives in Cleveland and making more and better disciples of Jesus, which will not only result in people in the pews, but souls in heaven, marriages growing in health, believers growing in knowledge and character, volunteers learning new ministries, and kids being spared from addictions and destructive relationships. We believe it will result in better preaching and better worship services. We believe it will lead to future pastor s and better businessmen.

So what fruit are we already seeing. Where are we sowing for the future. What is this campaign allowing us to do NOW? Why is this campaign so important?

We decided we’re going to pay it forward and we have created a new staff position at Oakland Presbyterian Church. We are looking for our next Youth and Children’s Ministry Coordinator.
That’s right we’re looking for a person to spearhead our Youth Ministries, to love our middle and high school students, to lead them to Christ, to shepherd them through doubt, to coach them through life.

This person will be in charge of coordinating all Youth Activities, Leaders, Curriculum, and Trips, in order to better fertilize our youth adults’ faith. This person will coach and train and organize our Volunteer Leaders, helping to prevent the burnout of key leaders at Oakland, and to fertilize their own ministerial growth. This person will also help plan and coordinate the Acorns and Sprouts initiatives on Sunday Nights. And they will be the point person for our Annual Vacation Bible School revival.

This position will take the pressure off of our volunteers, who currently bear the brunt of teaching, planning, chaperoning, researching, and implementing the necessary things for all our youth activities. This will take pressure off Andrew, allowing him to invest more time in preaching and ironically enough, in youth ministry.

This would simply was not possible before the campaign began. In fact, we twice left this position out of the budget for fear of the debt. Twice, we said, “We can’t do that until we get this mortgage paid off,” and so our kids will have to wait and our volunteers will have to suck it up and Andrew ill have to carry more weight. But not anymore. Thanks to our faithfulness now, in three years a generation of Christian leaders will graduate from Oakland ready to be ministers on college campuses and in the workforce. Thanks to your faithfulness today, in three years there will be a generation of students entering West Johnston and Cleveland High Schools, who love the Lord, who are prepared to share the gospel with their classmates, and are equipped to help answer their friends’ hard questions.

Let me try to paint a picture this way. Remember the guy, Andrew, who played the guitar on Ash Wednesday? Well Andrew is only 22 or 23 I think, and he’s the worship leader at a new Church in Apex. He started playing guitar because his Youth Leader taught him, and encouraged him. He learned to love Jesus because his youth leader loved him. By the time he graduated High School he was participating in worship on Sundays at his church, and a few years later, when his church decided to start a church, they had a worship leader with 5 years of experience to send to the new church, all because of a great youth leader, who loved Andrew and taught him the value of worship.

I believe that in our children’s ministries and our youth ministries, there are right now people that in 5 years will be leading worship at Oakland and in campus ministries at colleges around the State. I believe there are future pastors who will get a vision for ministry here at Oakland. I believe in 5 years we could see college kids coming home on Summer break to lead the next generation on mission trips. I believe that with guidance of a God-given, experienced leader, we will see our Youth and Children volunteers grow in their faith like never before and discover a passion for children and youth, and decide they too want to be youth ministers.

Friends, that’s just a taste of what is at stake in this Campaign. Just a foretaste, an appetizer, an antipasta of what is at stake in our faithfulness now. Why have a campaign? Addictions broken, cancers healed, joyous funerals healed, marriages saved, couples married who met here, ministers trained, missionaries released, new churches started, children loved, purpose discovered, regrets redeemed, and hope restored. And it starts with this Youth and Children Coordinator and with Pulling Together as we sow for the Future.

Daniel 9 – Because God is Good, not because we are sorry.

Daniel 9.9

Daniel 9: 1-19 is one of my absolute favorite passages this morning, probably because it is the passage I am reading. It is heart-wrenching to watch as Daniel realizes his and all of Israel’s bad decisions and unfaithful living. It is humbling to watch Daniel realize that he and his country men are in a profound way, the source of all the suffering they now encounter. That they sinned against the Lord, they abandoned his ways and and ignored his servants. Notice how he comes to this realization; through searching the Scriptures. He was studying the Scriptures and that is how he saw for the first time the reality of his situation. Apart from Scripture we are blind to God’s goodness and our own failures.

But what is more amazing, is that Daniel does not believe they can be sorry enough to merit forgiveness and restoration. His sorrow is genuine, because he does not believe it is the deciding factor in his restoration. When we’re sorry to get God to improve our lives, we’re not sorry, we’re manipulative. And manipulating God is just another attempt to be God over God. Instead, Daniel depends wholly on God’s goodness to incline God to forgive. It is because God is Good, not because we are sorry, that God works good from bad, and redemption from rebellion. Praise God for that.

TODAY: There is an example to follow: Daniel. I should search the scriptures and repent.

So I will continue to read Scripture everyday in hopes that God will reveal my reality and his will. I will repent on my account and my church and my country. I will remind myself again and again that God is good, and it is because he is absolutely righteous and faithful that I can pray for help and I can approach him in trouble I create and trouble I suffer. I acknowledge today that God’s ways are best and intended to save me from avoidable calamity.

SERMON – Youth Sunday – Exodus 7-12 – How Are the Plagues Gospel?

 

YOUTH SUNDAY 2015
Exodus 7-12 - How are the 10 Plagues Gospel?

So how are these 10 plagues “Good News?” What do these ten huge, supernatural disasters teach us about God? And how is the God we see in the 10 Plagues a “Good” God?

 Well, in the 10 Plagues of Egypt, we see a God so jealous and loving that he goes to war to rescue his people from slavery in order to deliver them into a Promised Land. In these stories, God rightly judges Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but God does not destroy the Egyptians, which is remarkable when you think about it. The Egyptians have subjected the Hebrew people to the inhumanity of slavery for 400 years. Moreover Pharaoh ordered the murder of all Hebrew baby boys. Pharaoh has murdered hundreds of God’s grandchildren, and yet all God does is discipline him with Plagues.

Through that lens, the Plagues are far less severe than you or I would have poured out if Pharaoh had killed our grandchildren. In fact the plagues demonstrate God’s mercy and show beyond a shadow of a doubt that “YHWH is the LORD.”

At the other end of the Bible we see the God of the Plagues go to war again to save his people from slavery. Instead of sending Moses, God sends his only Son to confront the Devil and lead his people into the Promised Land. Instead of subjecting his enemies to plagues, the Son of God became a slave to all. Instead of spotless lambs on the doorframe, this time it is the Only Begotten Son, the First Born, who is sacrificed, so that the judgment of God will pass over those covered by his blood and those who eat of his flesh will live forever. Instead of leading his people into the Promised Land, the Son of God made a way for humans to enter into the very presence of God. The plagues showed that “YHWH is the LORD,” and now because of the Death and Resurrection, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess “Jesus is the LORD.”

Romans 6:20-23 teaches that we were previously slaves to sin, unable to do the right thing. We were slaves to the sin and the devil, whose business is death, and so all we grew was sin and death. But now we have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, and God’s business is holiness and eternal life – so that’s what we spend our lives building now. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Remember that your ancestors were slaves in Egypt, and so have mercy on those who are enslaved now. Remember that God fought for your ancestors and so labor to deliver those in slavery now. Remember that you ancestors were slaves in Egypt, and remember that you were a slave to a much greater Pharaoh, the Devil, but God fought for you and won your freedom on the cross. Remember, you were a slave to the Devil, but now you are a Child of God, so do not participate in the business of the devil, but give your whole life to God’s family business of making more and better disciples of Jesus.