Thursday, March 31, 2016

Locating the Needs Around Us

       We’ve been talking about God’s vision. We talked about how God’s vision begins even before Genesis 1 and how that vision is realized within the first two chapters of Scripture. That vision is God wanting a creation where he could interact with, talking and teaching it as a father talks and teaches his children. We also talked about how when humanity rebelled and sinned, we basically told God that we didn’t want any part of his vision and instead wanted to make our own.
Now we, as humans, have a tendency to give up on our visions because they get hard, but instead of giving up on his vision God fights for it. This is the Gospel message in a nut shell, and we see God’s fight accumulating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And God is still fighting for each us to come back into a right relationship with him or, in other words, back into his vision.
We see that God has already told us within the pages of Scripture that eventually he will bring creation back to his vision, which we see in the last few chapters of the book of Revelation.
Now knowing that God has a vision for creation and humanity as a whole, we asked the question, where do we fit? When we accept Jesus as our Savior, when we accept God’s vision as the right one and turn away from our own, what then are we to do? In a sense, we talked about how God has an overarching vision for his creation, but also calls us into a mini-vision that we are to live out as people who are a part of that grand vision. This began with us understanding that everything God does is because of love, it’s his motivating factor. He created his creation out of love and he fights for his creation because of love. So love is what God calls us into and from. So since we know now that love is key, what, then, is our response to God’s love?
Here we talked about how our first response to God’s love is worship, or as we ended up talking about it last time, lifting. We talked about how, our response to God’s love is to lift him up in worship. And that this worship can happen at every moment of our lives. We also talked about how we are called to be people of worship, people who lift God up, not just in our worship time on Sundays, but moment by moment as we live out our lives. 
When we understand that love is the motivating factor, our response to that love needs to be living a God lifting life, then we can move on to our second response.
So let’s dive into Gods word and discover what our second response to God’s love and the third part of God’s mini-vision for us both as individuals and as a community of believers here at the Alliance Church.

To begin with, we’re going to go into three different passages and find out what the common denominator between the three are. 
The first one is from 1st Kings chapter 17 verses 7-16; the second is going to be from the book of Esther chapter 4 verses 14-18 and the final passage will be from Acts 3:1-8. Now we’re going to try something a little different. We’re going to read each passage, and before you move on, I want you to write down what you think the common denominator in the three passages are.

Alright? Here we go, starting in 1st Kings 17:7:
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

The next passage is Esther 4:14, 
14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

And here’s the final one, Acts 3:1-8
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

What do you think the common denominator is between these three passages?


And, times up.

The common denominator is, that in each situation, God was meeting some sort of need.
In the case of Elijah and the Widow, God was meeting the need of food. The widow had already come to the conclusion that her and her son were going to die. The need was that she needed food and God supplied it through a miracle done by Elijah.
In the case of Esther and the Jewish people, God was meeting the need of the Jew’s survival. One of the Babylonia king’s advisors was plotting to kill all the Jews because of the actions of one, that one Jew found out, communicated this to Queen Ester who was also a Jew, and told her that maybe that’s why she became the Queen; to meet the need of protecting the people. 
Finally, in the case of Peter, John and the lame man, God meets the need of healing. The man seemed doomed to sit and beg for the rest of his life. And when he saw the two disciples, he thought it was just another two people that were going to give him money, but God did him one better and healed the man.

Now, if the common denominator in all three of these passages is need, what’s that have to do with our talk about Love and Lift?
Well, there is one other common denominator that we haven’t talked about and that’s the people of God.
See, God met the need, but he used people to do it. Elijah was sent to the widow, Esther was placed in the palace, and Paul and John were going to worship at the temple. Each one was a person of God, each one was going about there lives and each one was called into God’s vision by being apart of meeting a need.
So what’s that have to do with us?
The third part of God’s mini-vision for us, and our second response to God’s love is that we are to be people who are locating the needs in our community that God wants to meet.
We have been referring back to the two greatest commandments. The first is to love God with everything. That means that love is the motivating factor, both for God and for us. We love God with our worship, by lifting him up with everything that is within us, as David said in Psalm 103. Now the second greatest command is this, that we love our neighbor as our self. How do we do that? By meeting their needs, as we meet our own.
How many of you have ever read, or said what we call the Lord’s Prayer? It’s interesting that we call it that, because really it should be the disciple’s prayer, because they’re the one’s who asked for it. But anyway, have you ever broken it down into it’s key components?
In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus says this, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

If you break it down, it starts off with worship and moves onto need meeting. Jesus’ prayer that he teaches his disciples, lines up with what he says are the two greatest commandments. We are to worship God and focus on needs. Not on wants, but needs. In the second greatest commands, Jesus says to treat our neighbors as ourselves. Now, taking away from the prayer that we are to meet our own needs by going to God for them, and combining that with the second greatest command of loving our neighbors as ourselves, then are we not  to look to meet other’s needs as we meet are own?
In each of our passages we see needs being met, God calls us to be need meeters. So to put into our “L” format, we need to be people of Love, who Lift and who Locate.
But what’s that mean to locate needs? It means that we need to open our eyes to what is going on around us. We need to see the people in need of food, the lost in need of saving and the broken who are in need of healing.
In the town of Quartzsite, it’s everywhere. Needs are abundant here, but the need meeters are not. We have a lot of needs, but not many who are willing to locate them and actually see them.
Yet we are called, both as individuals and as a community of believers into God’s mini-vision to Love, Lift and Locate. The question is are we willing? Are we willing to see the need around us and to join with God in meeting them?
Here’s my challenge for you this week, as you go on your way, I challenge you to make a needs list. As you go around your town or around the country, simply write down the needs you see. See a broken fence? Write down the need. See a homeless person? Write down the need. See a single mom struggling with her kids? Write the need. If you can at that time to meet that need, by all means go and meet it, but my challenge isn’t to meet every need that’s around you, instead the challenge is to begin the process of locating the needs and actually seeing them.
I want all of us to see the needs that are around us. To see them through each other’s eyes and to have our heart’s break for the needs that break God’s heart. And to become a people who Love, Lift, and Locate and join with God in his mini-vision for our community of believers here at the Alliance Church.

Can we do that? Can we live this year, being people who are locating the needs that God is working in? Paraphrasing what the little engine said, I think we can. Let’s Pray.