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Tag: purpose

Samson’s Disregard

Well, today we’re going start looking at our final unlikely hero in the book of Judges. Now of course, we haven’t gone through each and every judge nor have we haven’t examined all the details in every story that we have looked at. But I think we’ve drawn out several important lessons from these stories and we’re going to try to do that one more time today. The character that we want to look at today is probably the most famous of all the judges. Today we’re going to start looking at the life of Samson.

Now the Bible gives us more information about Samson than any of the other judges we’ve looked at. Just to give you a comparison, a couple of Judges that we didn’t look at in this study – Tola and Jair – both have only two verse each about their lives – but Samson has four entire chapters.

So there must be something important for us to learn from the life of Samson. Which is almost surprising considering what a wreck his life was. Most of us remember Samson for his great strength – how he killed a lion with this bare hands – or how He tore the city gates right off their hinges – or how he killed a 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. These are the acts that made Samson famous – but what do we know about his character? What kind of a person was He? What was his relationship with God like? What was his relationship with others like? You see, these are the kind of issues that determine whether someone is truly a hero or just some big strong guy…

So that’s where I want to focus our attention this morning – not so much on his super strength and his fantastic exploits, but rather on his character. Because, we can’t all become burly, muscular weight-lifting champions – but we can all become men & women of heroic character.

Samson’s story begins in Judges chapter 13 and it begins much like all the other stories of the judges… it says…

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. Judges 13:1

If you’ve been with us for the past few weeks, this is no surprise. Pretty much every story has begun with “Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight – so the Lord handed them over to…. so and so.” And in this case, it was the Philistines. But this is where this story begins to develop differently. Normally, we’d jump right into meeting the hero. But this time we start by meeting the hero’s parents. Look at verse 2.

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The Purpose of Prayer

Well, here we are two weeks into the new year. That means that 27% of all the New Years Resolutions have now been broken! I don’t know if any of you have made any new year resolutions this year (If I remember right – I don’t know that any of us did last year when I asked.) But if you did, I sure hope you’re able to stick with it longer than two weeks.

This week I was reading an article about the business model of gyms and fitness centres. And the article said that these businesses bank on people to sign up for gym memberships in January and then never show up. That’s a key part of their business model. The article said that…

If gyms operate at more than 5% of their membership at any given time, no one can use the gym. They want them to sign up, but they know that after the 15th of January, they won’t see 95% of them again.

That’s pretty incredible! But not too surprising, because I think a lot of us can relate.

I think all of us recognize the value of staying healthy and fit. Now certainly there can be those factors out of our control that prevent that, but generally speaking, all of would like to see ourselves healthy and fit and physically able to do all the things that we’d like to do.

And so most people would agree that it would be good for them to exercise more. Going to the gym would be beneficial. It would be a good habit to get into to. But yet, despite the knowledge in our head of how valuable physical activity and fitness is, very few people actually make it a priority to exercise or go to the gym or do all those things that are required if we want to stay healthy and fit.

Many of us have really good intentions – and we may go through short bursts of time of making the effort – but in the long run, very few people actually stick with it and make it a part of their lifestyle.

And I think we have a similar experience when it comes to the spiritual disciplines.

Over the past several weeks we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines (or the healthy habits) that Christians have been practicing over the centuries in order to cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship with God. We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the Bible (because that really is the foundation for everything we believe – we have to know and understand and apply this book to our lives), but today I want to look at another healthy habit – and that is prayer.

And prayer, I think, is very much like exercise. Everyone knows that it’s important, and everyone agrees that they really should do it more often, but yet, very few people make it a priority so that it becomes a central part of their life.

And so I spent some time this week trying to figure out why that is. Because every Christian I know agrees that prayer is important. They have the head knowledge that prayer should be central to every Christian’s life! But yet, almost every Christian will tell you, “I really don’t pray like I should. Maybe I pray some, but I really should pray more.”

Now of course, there are some exceptions. There are some people out there that just have amazing prayer lives – and usually, you know exactly who those folks are. They just seem to be so in-tune with God. Even in the midst of great struggles and trials, these folks aren’t shaken at all. It’s like they have this unwavering trust in God. And these folks tend to be so wise and patient and loving and kind. It’s like they’ve been mentored by God Himself! That’s the result of a lifetime and a lifestyle of prayer.

So why aren’t there more of those folks? Why isn’t every Christian like that? What is it about prayer that makes it so difficult to adopt as a lifetime habit? We know how important prayer is, and yet we struggle to make it a central part of our lives! Why is that?

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The Purpose of the Bible

I don’t know exactly what everyone here believes, but I think I know most of you well enough that I can make a few blanket statements about what most of us believe.

  • Most, if not all, of us here believe that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Most of us here believe the stories of Abraham, Moses, David & Goliath, and Daniel and all those other old testament characters.
  • Most of us here believe that God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
  • Most of us here believe that the little baby Jesus, born in a manger some 2000 years ago, was the Son of God who grew up and lived a sinless life, and was eventually put to death on a cross, but He rose again three days later.
  • And most of us here believe that one day Jesus is coming back to judge sin and put an end to death and will usher in those who believe in Him into everlasting, amazing life together with Him.

And for most of us, these beliefs have radically changed our lives. These beliefs have changed how we see our world. They have changed how understand our purpose in existing. They’ve changed how we raise our children. They’ve changed how we work, how we interact with our neighbours, how we manage our money, even how we spend our free time. I mean, these beliefs have changed everything!

And for some of us, holding these beliefs have come with a cost. Some of us have lost friends because of what we believe. Some of us have been openly mocked because of what we believe. Some of us, because of what we believe, have had to make choices that set us back in our careers or cost us financially.  And while I don’t think it has happened yet in our group (although we certainly see it in other parts of the world), the day may come when our beliefs may cost us our freedom, our families, or even our lives.

So holding these beliefs come with huge ramifications. These beliefs will change the course of your life forever.

And the issue that I want you to wrestle with today is that all of these beliefs come from one primary source – this book right here – the Bible. As Christians, everything we believe about our world, about God, about Jesus, about our purpose in life, about how to live life, about eternity – all of that is rooted and based on the words we find in this book.

We are risking our friendships, our finances, our family’s future – perhaps one day even our freedom or our very lives based on the words in this book!

How important is it then, that, #1, we know without a doubt that the words in this book are trustworthy, true, and reliable? and #2. that we fully know and accurately understand what this book is saying?

The stakes are so high! We are staking both our present lives and our eternal future on the words in this book. 

So I don’t know about you, but I sure want to know with certainty that the words in this book are indeed true. And if I can establish that, if they are true, then I want to know and understand and apply to my life everything it says!

And so to that end, I want to spend the next couple of weeks looking at the issue of the Bible. What is it? How did we get it? Can we trust it? And if we can, then how do we make sense of it all? How do we understand it and live out what it says? How does it make a difference in our lives?

These are super important questions that we need to have answers for, and so I’m pretty excited to go through all this stuff with you over these next couple weeks.

And of course, this is all part of our “Healthy Habits” that we’ve been talking about. Reading and studying and understanding and memorizing and applying the Bible to our lives is one of the cornerstone practices of all healthy, growing Christians. Of all the spiritual disciplines that we’re going to be talking about in this series, if you want to start with just one – this is the one I want you to start with! The Bible lays the foundation for everything else that we do and believe.

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Becoming a Whole Church

This is the introductory sermon to a series on becoming a “Whole Church”. This sermon was born out the concepts in Mel Lawrenz book – “Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement“.

As I mentioned in the introduction this morning, over the next four months we are going to looking at how we can become a whole church. We want to take full advantage of the opportunities that God is sending to us to expand His kingdom, but we can’t do that as a broken church or a fragmented church. We have to do this as a whole church.

Now there are two aspects to this idea of a whole church. The first aspect that I want us to look at is the idea of unity. Moving beyond our differences and focusing on what we have in common. This is exactly what we read in our passage earlier.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, there are many different parts, but we make up one body. Does everyone still have your puzzle piece? Can you take it out and hold it up for me to see for a minute? (Earlier, I had invited everyone in the congregation to come to the front to take a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that I had put together earlier…)

One of the biggest issues that I’ve wrestled with as a pastor over through the past two years is this issue right here. God has a lot of different puzzle pieces. And I don’t always know how they fit together, but I know that somehow they do. Just like the verse says…

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The Five Expressions of the Church

Over the past two weeks we’ve looked at three questions:
#1. What is the church?
#2. What is the purpose of the church?
#3. How do we fulfill our purpose?

We determined that you and I are the church, our purpose is to love God and be loved by Him, and we fulfill our purpose by surrendering everything to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we want to look at a fourth question,and that question is: What are the expressions of the church?

Before we explore the answer, let’s make sure we understand the question. What are the expressions of the church?

You may remember back two weeks ago when we were looking at the purpose of the church, I told you about how I had written up these five “purposes” of the church. They were worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & evangelism. But then we clarified our understanding and said actually, our purpose is to love God and be loved by Him. So if that’s our real purpose, what are those five things that I listed as purposes earlier? I think they are best described as expressions, and here’s why.

The word ‘expression’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘to press out’. Think about facial expressions for a minute. When we are experiencing deep sadness or grief, that feeling of sadness wells up within us, is pressed out upon our face. Tears flow and our face involuntarily distorts itself to express that feeling. Or when someone tells us something funny, that feeling of laughter wells up within us, and presses itself out on our face and we smile and laugh. We don’t try to laugh, it just comes out. It’s our feelings pressed out on our face. It’s a natural reaction.

And these five things – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & evangelism – work the same way. When we are living in a growing, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, surrendering our whole life to Him, these five things will just flow out of our lives. They are the natural expressions of the Christian life.

Table of contents for The Church

  1. The Purpose of the Church
  2. Fulfilling Our Purpose
  3. The Five Expressions of the Church
  4. Characteristics of the Church
  5. The Difficult Change
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Fulfilling Our Purpose

For those of you who missed last week’s message (and for those of you who have forgotten), last week we introduced a series of messages on the church. And to start it off, we looked at the two most basic fundamental questions you can ask about the church.

#1. What is the church?

The church, we were reminded, is people. Church is not a building, it is not a charitable organization, it is people who belong to the kingdom of God – followers of Jesus Christ.

#2. What is the purpose of the church?

And we discovered that our purpose, as individuals and together as Christ’s church, is simply to love God and be loved by Him.

Now the question I want to answer today is “How do we do that?” How do we love God and be loved by Him? So as I started to prepare for today’s message I began to come up with a list of different things we should do if we want to really love God.

  • Read the Bible.
  • Study the Bible.
  • Memorize the Bible.
  • Pray.
  • Love my neighbor.
  • Tell others about Jesus.

Before I was finished, I realize that the list I had looked very much like a Christians New Year’s Resolutions. Have you ever done that? Maybe not at just New Years, but after listening to a convicting speaker or reading a great Christian book, or while attending a Christian conference? You make a firm resolution – I’m going to read my Bible more. Or I’m going to spend more time in prayer. Or I’m going to be more bold in sharing Jesus with my friends.

I’ve sure done that a lot, I imagine you may have as well. But what happens most of the time? You get up at 6:00 am to read our Bibles on Monday. Then again at 6:00 am on Tuesday. You’re a little tired on Wednesday, so you bump it back to 6:30 am. On Thursday you manage to squeak it in at 6:45 am. Friday you hit snooze too many times and are running late, so you decide you’ll read your Bible before you go to bed that night. You forget all about it over the weekend, and by Monday, you’ve given up. Then it’s back to your regular routine until the next time you feel convicted.

After we’ve been through that cycle about 10 times we begin to think that we’re a pretty terrible Christian. Why can’t I read my Bible more – or why don’t I get more out of it when I do? Why can’t I memorize verses – I know I should, but I can never stick to it. Why can’t I be more bold in sharing Christ with others? Even when opportunity comes up, I chicken out. How can I really love God, if I can’t do all these things I know I should be doing?

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