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The Measure of Success

I think it’s fair to say that everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be a success. That’s hardwired into us. No one wants to be a loser. No body wants to be a failure. We all want to succeed. We want to do well.

And we see this in every aspect of our lives. When we play sports, we want to take home the championship trophy – not just the participation award. When we play board games or video games, we say we play for the fun, but still, we want to win. In war – no one goes into battle being okay with losing –  if we’re going to fight, we want the victory.

We want to succeed in our careers. We want to have succeed in raising our kids. We want to succeed at being a good husband or a good wife.

We even want to succeed as Christians. Nobody wants to be a lousy Christian – we want to be a successful one. We want our church to succeed. Clearly there is something hardwired into us that drives us towards success.

But the challenge in all areas of life is knowing what determines success. We have to know what the objective is.

Because if you’re a football player, successfully running the ball to the end of the field is a measure of success – but if you’re a golfer, it’s not. You’ll probably get kicked off the course if you’re out there tackling the other golfers, stealing their ball and running it down the fairway.

We have to know our objective – We have to know what constitutes success in whatever it is that we’re doing. If we don’t know what the objective is – if we don’t know what determines success – then we’re gonna have a really hard time being successful.

As a church, we need to know what determines our success. Are we successful because we’ve outgrown this space and need to move to a larger space over at the Hall? Is that success? If we get to the point where we need to build our own building, is that success? If we get to the point where we offer more programs and have greater attendance and have more baptisms and have a bigger facility than Crossroads – is that success? Or are we measuring success the wrong way?

We need to know what determines our success – or we may spend all of our time and our energy and all our effort trying to be really good…  at the wrong thing!

And this totally applies to each one of us personally. We already mentioned how every one us wants to be successful in life. We want to be a successful in our work, we want our marriage to be a success, we want to raise our kids successfully and I think, as followers of Christ, more than anything, we want to be a success in that. At the end of our lives as we stand before God, I think each one of us wants to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

So it’s really important that we know what determines our success. To use our golf analogy, I don’t want to spend my life running running the golfball down the fairway, weaving around and dodging the other golfers like a football player (and being really good at that) – when all along I should’ve been practicing my putt. I want to know and do what it takes to be successful in God’s eyes – because that’s what really counts.

So today, I want to do two things.

Since this is the last service in this building before we move over to the Hall, I want to talk a little bit about how we can have success as a church. How will we know if we are being successful? Are we successful just to keep existing? Are we successful when we reach a certain number in attendance or dollars or sq footage or new believers? What is the measurement of success for our church?

And then, also being New’s Years Day, I want to talk about what it means for you to have success in  this new year. What do you need to do in order to be successful in 2017? Were you successful last year? What’s the measurement of your success?

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A Just God

Taste & see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8

We’ve spent the last several weeks learning and being reminded of who God really is and what He is really like and what we’ve tasted and seen so far is that God is really good!

For example, we’ve seen that God is a God of joy! In contrast to what many people believe about God, He’s not a grumpy wet blanket here to make life boring and miserable for us – No! He loves it when we experience delight and joy because His very character is joy. In fact, He has created us to experience immeasurable joy with Him forever! Pretty awesome stuff!

And that goes hand-in-hand with God’s generosity. He loves to give! He’s not a stingy, reluctant God that we have to bargain with or try to coerce into giving us what we need and want – No! God loves to provide for us and give us abundantly more than we could ask or even imagine!

And God is intimately involved in every area of our life. We saw last week that God is not some far-away, distant God, but He is so near to us that He even keeps a tally of the hairs on our head. And if God is aware when one little hair falls from your head, then He certainly knows about all the other more pressing issues in your life. And not only does He know, but He cares too!

It’s been pretty awesome to taste and see that the Lord is good – and this morning we’re going to be reminded of yet another aspect of God’s character.

So far, all the attributes of God that we’ve looked at to this point are usually pretty enthusiastically embraced. Everybody’s happy to know that God is generous, for example. No one complains about that. When we read that God will generously provide all we need – we’re good with that! Way to go, God!

Likewise when we read that God is the source of all joy – we’re like “Bring it on!” Bring on the joy!

And when we read that God is near, that God even numbers the hairs our head – that’s pretty cool. We’re pretty glad to have a God like that.

But then there are some aspects of God’s character that not everyone is eager to experience. Some of the things we read about God in Bible can sometimes make us feel a little uncomfortable.

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A Taste of God’s Generosity

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Over the past couple of weeks we have been focusing our Sunday mornings around this verse. We’ve discovered that knowing the truth about God – tasting and seeing for ourselves that God is good – that changes everything about how we live our lives.

Because what we believe determines our decisions. Just like how if we have an incorrect belief about gravity – we’re bound to make some foolish decisions that can lead us to having a real wreck. Likewise, believing false ideas about God can lead us to making foolish decisions that will cause us a lot of pain and hurt in our life.

So we want to know the truth about who God is and what He’s like. We want to taste and see for ourselves that God is good. As we do that, we’re gonna find that our day-by-day decisions change – which in turn, affects the entire course of our life!

And I know that many of us are already well into that process of tasting and seeing that God is good. We’ve experienced it for ourselves – and now it’s our turn to help the people around us taste and see for themselves.

Our friends and our neighbours have been fed a lot of mis-information about God. They’ve been told a lot of stuff about God that simply isn’t true. So our job, as disciples of Jesus – as imitators of Jesus – is to help them taste and see (through our lives) that God is good.

For example, we spent time last week looking at how God is joy. He is the source of all joy. He invented laughter and happiness and even pleasure. That was all his idea. The very character of God is joy. And the more we taste and see and experience God’s joy, the more we will find that our life begins to overflow with joy. And its then that our neighbours and friends and co-workers can taste and see that joy through us.

So that’s what we talked about last week and today I want us to look at another truth about God.

I read a very interesting article this week. It was entitled “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving”. I’d love to read you the whole thing, but for the sake of time, let me just read the first couple of paragraphs of the story…

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A Taste of Joy

Last week I began with a question – and the question was “Does it matter what you believe?” And the answer we came up with was “Absolutely. Yes it does matter what you believe because what you believe determines the choices you make, and the choices you make set the course of your life.”

If we have incorrect beliefs, then we’re going to make incorrect choices, and thus the course of our life will end up going in directions that we don’t want to go.

For example, if you believe that bears are cute and cuddly, the next time you’re out camping and you meet a bear in the forrest, your incorrect beliefs may lead you to make poor choices, and the results may not be what you were hoping for.

So yes, it really does matter what you believe – and this isn’t just limited to your belief about bears. As we saw last week, what you believe about God is even more important because what you believe about God will impact nearly every decision you make in life.

The trouble is, the world around us does not offer us much truth to believe about God. Our universities, our newspapers, facebook, tv, movies – western culture in general has very little truth about God to offer us. And so most people live their life with a lot of incorrect beliefs about God.

Perhaps they believe that God is judgemental and angry – or maybe that he’s aloof and distant. Or perhaps they believe that God doesn’t exist at all.

Last week we talked about one recent movie where the actor for God was a “Hank the angry, drunken dwarf.” That’s who played God in this particular movie. So if we or the people around us take our cues from hollywood – we’re going to have some messed up ideas of who God is and what He’s like.

And that’s exactly the reason why so many people today reject God. It’s actually not God they are rejecting, it’s their false idea of who God is that they are rejecting.

If my picture of God was painted by Hank the angry drunken dwarf, I think I’d reject that God too!

So our conclusion last week was that the key then is for us to know the truth about God and to convey that truth to the people around us.

We looked at Psalm 34:8 which says…

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Over the past several months as I’ve been thinking about our church and our community and what kind of purpose God has for us here, this verse has just been coming back to me time and time again. Our friends and neighbours around us have been fed a lot of distasteful, incorrect information about God. More and more every day I am convinced that it is our mission to help them taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.

Not only do we need to taste and see for ourselves the truth about the goodness of God – but we want the people around us to do the same as they interact with us. We want to be living examples of God’s goodness.

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A True Taste of God

Taste & SeeDoes it matter what you believe? Does what you believe actually impact your life?

If you find an unmarked bottle of liquid in your cupboard – there are many possibilities of what it could be. It could be water. It could be bleach. It could be vinegar. They all look pretty much the same. You could believe that it could be any of those.

But does it matter what you believe? Will your belief about the contents of that container effect how you choose to use it? And will those choices, based on those beliefs, impact the course of your life? It certainly could!

“If you drink bleach, it oxidizes or burns tissues in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach. According to the National Institutes of Health, it can cause nausea, chest pain, lowered blood pressure, delirium, coma, and potentially death.” ~ somewhere on the internet…

Does it matter what you believe?

Of course it does! And all day every day, we make choices based on our beliefs.

If we believe that it’s going to be -40º outside today, you’re going to wear a warm coat and mitts and boots and all that stuff. If you believe that it’s going to be +40º today, you’re going to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

We are continually making choices based on our beliefs – and those choices, based on our beliefs are setting the course for our lives.

So what happens if your beliefs are wrong? What happens if you believe that you have a bottle of water – and it turns out that it’s a bottle of bleach? What happens if you believe that it’s going to be +40º but it turns out to be -40º?

It’s a serious problem to have incorrect beliefs. The course of your life can take a serious turn for the worse in a quick hurry!

I think it’s pretty obvious how important it is to have true beliefs.

And if it’s that important to know the truth about the weather or the truth about the contents of this container – how much more important is it that we have true beliefs about God?

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Living As Salt

Today we wrap up our study on the book of Colossians and I’ve got to tell you, this has been a really great refresher course for me. For most of us, this hasn’t been ground-breaking new material that we’ve been looking at, but its sure been good to be reminded of some of these things that we already knew.

We so easily get sidetracked and distracted from the main thing – it’s good to spend some time going back to the basics.

If you’re a football fan, you probably know the name “Vince Lombardi”. If you’re not into football, I’ll presume you’ve at least heard of the superbowl. The trophy that you get by winning the super bowl is named the “Vince Lombardi Trophy”. Vince Lombardi was the coach of the Greenbay Packers from 1959-1967. Of the 130 games he coached, his team won 96 of them – including two Superbowl championships. So this guy knew what he was doing.

One of the things that Vince Lombardi was famous for was a speech he gave at every pre-season training camp. He would begin by holding up a football and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

He would then go over the basics of what a football is and its role in the game.  He would then take his team out and show them the field, explaining where the out-of-bounds lines and the end zones were.  He would go over the basic fundamentals of the game – touch downs, tackles, field goals – explaining the rules and organization of players. 

Now keep in mind that this was not little leagues. These players were not beginners. They were the seasoned, professional NFL players. They’d known all this stuff for years already. And yet every year, Lombardi would begin with the most basic, fundamental principles of football. Why? Because he knew that to build a winning team, they had to understand the basic fundamentals of the game.

And that’s just what we’ve been doing. As we’ve been looking at Paul’s letter to the Colossians – his Christianity in a Nutshell so to speak, we’ve been reviewing the most basic, fundamental principles of the Christian life. Who is Jesus? What did He accomplish by dying on the cross and rising again from the grave? How do we walk in close relationship with God? How does the Holy Spirit guide our lives? And how do we relate to each other now that Christ lives within us? These are the basics of Christianity. And these are what we have to understand if we, together, are going to be a winning team for Christ.

Last week we talked about how, in whatever we say or do, we do it as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ – no matter what position of life we are in. For example, we talked about husbands and wives – and how we are to reflect the attitude of Christ in our marriage. We talked about parents and children – and how we can reflect Christ to our family. And we also talked about slaves and masters (or employers and employees) and how we are a living illustration of Jesus in what we say and do in our workplace.

And so we had these three sets of relationships – these three areas of life – where we need to be accurate representatives Christ. Today we are going to look at one more kind of relationship where we need to be ambassadors of Christ. And that is in our relationship with those who are not believers. People who don’t share our beliefs. We could use the term “pre-Christians” – people who have not yet accepted Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – though we hope one day, they will. How do we represent Christ to these people?

Now depending on your situation, this area might overlap into some of these other areas that we’ve already talked about. It could be that some of you have a spouse or a boyfriend/girlfriend who has yet to accept Christ as their Saviour. Some of you may have children who are not currently walking with the Lord. Perhaps your parents have yet to come to know Christ. Probably most of you work with people who don’t share your beliefs. And certainly, all the things we talked about last week would still apply to these relationships whether they are believers or not, but now Paul gives us some further, specific instructions for our relationships with people who don’t share our beliefs – those who are currently unbelievers.

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