Losing MY Religion

Moral compass – Without something pointing us north (like we need to be pointed toward God) our focus becomes inner, self focused. So whatever makes me happy is best, right, acceptable.

Without a moral compass we can justify anything.

My greatest concern with pastoring an independent church…

Jesus had that moral compass. John 7:16-18


This isn’t a mere call to follow Jesus better just for the sake of obedience. It’s also encouragement, mentoring, pastoring, to say if we want to have impact like Jesus then let’s stop doing it our way and try doing it His!


Three truths about Jesus and personal interactions:

  1. Jesus was only rude to a very few people.
  2. Jesus wasn’t rude to people just because they disagreed with Him.
  3. Jesus was rude to those who were supposed to be leaders but were breaking the law.

If my religion tells me to be rude, attack verbally, etc, it’s probably not Jesus’ religion.


We often must decide if we want people to hear our personal message or our Jesus message. Because they usually won’t listen to both.

Proverbs 15:1

Matthew 10:16

Look at IMPACT Jesus’ way. Not political, no personal axe to grind. Some great examples are John 7:15, 46, Matt 7:28, 13:54, 22:33, Luke 2:47, 4:22, 32, Mark 1:22, 6:2

What was so amazingly different?

Living water, the Spirit, for those thirsty, John 7:37-39

Parables of two sons, evil farmers, the great feast – a common moral that it’s not what you say but what you do! Matt 21-22

Yet Matthew 7 is the best insight into what amazed so many people:

  • Don’t judge others
  • Be careful finding fault with others while ignoring your own faults!
  • Don’t waste your efforts where you know they won’t be received!
  • Keep on asking & receive… seeking & find… knocking & doors will open
  • God wants to give good gifts
  • The Golden Rule
  • The path to eternal life takes effort, as opposed to the path to death
  • Be careful who you listen to
  • Activity is not enough, not the goal, but doing God’s will is

Jesus’ teaching, His way, is a rock to build your life upon. Our religion is shifting sand!

When we share our God-given passion with Jesus’ words and in His way, lives and hearts are changed!

Jesus has given me passion AND direction on how to share it!

Responding in Difficult Times

The first part of 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear…”

Don’t respond in fear!

The Greek word used here that we translate to fear means “cowardice or reticence”

There is paralyzing fear and there is the fear that is just over-concern. Either one, fear is not from God!

So is what follows in that verse the opposite response of fear? In a way.


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power…”


There is peace in strength, especially His strength. If I know I can handle it then there is no need to fear.

It’s not just that God gives us power but He has given us a spirit or an attitude of power!


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love…”


Same as above, not just the command to love but we have been given a spirit, an attitude of love.

Love – perfect love casts out all fear. Fear keeps us from one another, physically and emotionally.


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”


Sound mind – peace, calm, sober, level headed, not stirred, not shaken by circumstances, not over-reactive!

We are merchants of peace, purveyors of His peace! This world needs what we’re offering!

Respond in confident power,
in a spirit of love,
in a calm, level-headed way.

An Invitation to Dream Again

Jeremiah 32:6-7

Why this is even worth noting in the Bible…

  1. Judah was not following God, not walking in blessing – verse 23
  1. Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonian army – verse 2
  1. Jeremiah was in jail for preaching, because his sermon wasn’t popular – also verse 2

But God gives a promise through Jeremiah’s message: It was going to get worse before it gets better.

The Bible is full of the promise of restoration!

Joel 2:25, Isaiah 61;7, Job 42:10, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Genesis 28:15, 48:21, Psalm 126:1, Deuteronomy 30:3

Haggai 2:9

And to Jeremiah God says land will again be sold and purchased! verse 15


Christianity is about hope!


Context is always important…

This new building is not a traditional “church” building nor the Civic Center. So things will be different, the way we use it, what we can and will do with it.


If God has led us here, then God is leading us to something different!

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly impacted our nation, communities, the way we work and shop and play – and church. What things look like in the future is still unknown. But we all agree things will change. And when things change, businesses that don’t adapt (like sell online) and churches that don’t adapt become irrelevant, inaccessible and extinct.

And I believe God is leading each of you to do something that you’ve never dreamed possible!


Have you ever thought about Jesus’ Dream?

Jesus dreamed about people following God’s will! Luke 22:42, Matthew 6:10

Jesus dreamed that we would love one another! John 13:34

 And Jesus had a dream of unity! John 17:20-23

According to a recent survey of pastors, unity is the #1 concern of pastors right now! It’s easier to be rude, hurtful, critical when you aren’t face to face. And it’s harder to have great, meaningful conversations.


Recap…

We cannot fully realize our dreams without pursuing God’s dream!

The dream is bigger, and deeper, than we often imagine!

So dream! This difficult time doesn’t dictate the dream!

An Invitation to Forgive Again

Our emotional responses, like criticism, cynicism and unforgiveness, often backfire on us.

If you’ve given up on trusting people because too many relationships have ended badly, it’s time to wipe the slate clean, and let people in.

 

WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?

Forgiveness is a choice.

Forgiveness doesn’t take time or special circumstances. It is immediate, instantaneous. So…

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting.
  • Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
  • Forgiveness does not take away the pain, it is not healing, but can begin the healing process.
  • Forgiveness is not deserved or earned.

We forgive those who don’t deserve it because we don’t deserve it.

Forgiveness is dropping the rock. It is no longer demanding someone be punished for hurting you.

In John 8:3-11 Jesus’ immediate response was forgiveness!

Forgiveness depends solely on the forgiver.

It is an error to say “I don’t have to forgive someone until they apologize.” Jesus’ example in Luke 23:34


Here is your invitation to bless someone

Romans 4:7


Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses. Proverbs 10:12
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs. Proverbs 19:11
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

An Invitation to Gather Again

Some have enjoyed this isolation… but it’s time to gather again.

We were not designed for life alone! We were designed for community!

Just because you CAN make it alone doesn’t mean you SHOULD!

There are perks to doing church online … but it can never really be a true replacement.


This is a reminder for all of us to see why gathering is so important and a call to embrace the full scope of what it means to BE the church not just go to a building.


The Church in not kirche, a building, but ekklesia, a gathering of people united by identity and purpose!

The New Testament never describes a building as a church.

Acts 2:42-47


Five things you miss if you don’t gather!

Worship
Ephesians 5:18-19

But I also believe there is a theological reason why your singing along with the television isn’t the same thing as your experience on Sunday morning. And I hope we remember this and carry it with us even after this thing is over. You and I are meant to “sing to one another” and you cannot do that as well with worship at home. It’s hard to live out Ephesians 5:18-19 in your living room. To only sing vertically is to forget that we were saved into a people. It isn’t just me and Jesus. My relationship with God is intimately connected to the vital companionship I share with my brothers and sisters. So we need to sing songs together. And to one another.
– Mike Leake

Encouragement
Hebrews 10:24-25

Missions
Isolation breeds selfishness – article

Spiritual development
During online church, most people handled it one of two ways:

  • They either let someone do their worship for them and got weaker in faith and further from God’s dream and planned blessings for their life, or
  • They felt online wasn’t enough and they owned their growth! They went deeper! They took advantage of opportunities. And the spiritually rich get richer.

Connection
We are a body. We’re not independent but interdependent. We are a family and someone needs you!


An Invitation to Gather Again

We Can Do More Together

There is great power in unity!

Gideon’s story in Judges 7:15-25

Joshua leading Israel around Jericho in Joshua 6:8-16

Nehemiah 4:6

Formula One pit stop

But we live in a time of individuality, we don’t need anyone else. It’s a consumer-oriented time where spectatorship is higher than ever.

We have come to believe that we are truly part of something by simply watching it.
Casey Cockerham

The Bible does not encourage us to spectate!

Ephesians 4:7-8

Ephesians 4:11-12

You are God’s gift to your communities!

Everyone has something awesome to do for Jesus!

In the last 4 months:
Food banks have probably fed more people than ever,
landlords have forgiven rent more than ever,
companies have delayed and forgiven payments more than ever,
families have shared food with other families perhaps more than ever.

But all this is normal for Jesus’ church.

The church isn’t perfect but the majority of the good in this world has been led by the church!

More Opportunity

People hearing a sermon normally fall in two general categories: the pastor is either singling you out or he’s talking to those other people.

Understanding someone does not mean you agree with or condone their actions.

Mark 14:3-9

The first step in reaching someone is hearing them – even when they aren’t talking.

Jesus fed people who had not even asked for food! John 6:1-5

Jesus hears, sees, feels what we are going through even when we aren’t expressing it. Like the silent woman in John 8.

Because ALL are broken, ALL are invited.

Romans 5:8

Reaching someone requires caring about them, not judging them.

Like Jesus did for us.

John 8:7

1 Corinthians 14:1-5 introduces this chapter about God’s dream for spiritual gifts. It’s all about encouraging and bringing people closer to Jesus!

When we don’t use our spiritual gifts, it affects us in much the same way a pandemic shutdown does: depression and fatalistic emotions, selfishness, critical and argumentative attitudes, etc.

We are no longer in pause mode. We have to figure out how to do life and ministry!

What were you dreaming before March?

Dream again and dream big!

More Understanding

Perspective is powerful!

Problems arise when we forget other people have a different perspective than we do and when we forget their perspective is just as real and valid as mine.

It was customary in Jesus’ time to provide for your guests’ feet to be washed. In the various recordings of the times Jesus had His feet washed, the one thing that connects them is the reaction of other people.

In Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26:6-13, those eating with Jesus scolded the woman washing Jesus’ feet!

And it appears from Matthew 26:14 and Mark 14:10 that Jesus’ acceptance and forgiveness of this woman was the final straw in Judas’ decision to betray Jesus!

In John 12:1-6 it was specifically Judas who was upset with the woman. Really? Judas? He didn’t just betray Jesus a few days later, he was also stealing from Jesus’ ministry funds! So his judging of her wasn’t genuine!

In Luke 7:36-48 a Pharisee scoffed at Jesus for letting a sinful woman touch His feet.

Thank God this Pharisee wasn’t in charge of the guest list the night I came to Jesus!

The Pharisee, instead of rejoicing in the tokens of the woman’s repentance, confined his thoughts to her former bad character.
Matthew Henry


Don’t be angry if I wash His feet with my tears and dry them with my hair
You weren’t there the night Jesus found me
You didn’t feel what I felt when He wrapped his loving arms around me
And you don’t know the cost of the oil in my alabaster box
Janice Sjostrand, Alabaster Box

But beyond other people’s sins, what about others who look or act differently than ourselves.

Instead of judging others or jumping to conclusions, let’s try on their shoes. People aren’t responding to my perspective but the one they are coming from.

First, ALL people are broken—we just express our brokenness in different ways.
Next, ALL people are welcome—the Gospel is good news for all of us.
And lastly, ALL followers of Jesus are called to repent—because we are all in the long process of being conformed to the image of Jesus.
Jonathan Morrow

Whether our struggles are community-inflicted, family-inflicted or self-inflicted, the answer for all struggles is Jesus!

This world is dying for a church that will help them see past their struggles and mistakes and the scars of the past to see Jesus as their strength, their healing and their hope!


If you’re broken, if you struggle, someone is ready to pray for you. Text your prayer needs to 205-476-2911. If you’d like someone to pray with you over the phone, just ask!

More Time

It’s not about more room
It’s not that it’s more grand
But God has given us More Time!

We are going from having a few hours each week to 24/7, to do ministry from this building!


God has given us MORE time
so we can do MORE
to reach MORE!


At the first of the year our leaders shared with us that something was going to be different. There is something different about this time that God has given us.


What if God has given us this time – more time – because we are running out of time?

The Bible gives us signs to be looking for…

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Matthew 24

Luke 21:28


Perhaps it is Harvest Time
the time of year when crops are ripe and ready to be gathered.

    1. Stop complaining
    2. Not a time to be lazy or complacent
    3. No fear! Be bold

We have to fulfill the great commission. We are called to make disciples in this time! Matthew 28:18-20

Most of us have become quite good at the church thing. And yet, disciples are the only thing that Jesus cares about and it’s the only number Jesus is counting. Not our attendance, not our budget, not our buildings. Just disciples.
Mike Breen

The example of Esther in Esther 4:14