Sunday, February 25, 2018

Peace, Preparedness, Preaching

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on August 25th, the first category 3 or higher hurricane to hit the US in 12 years. It dropped the second most rainfall in US history. Hurricane Irma is hitting now in Florida, a category 5 storm. Every western state from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and west all are experiencing fires. With Montana, Oregon and Idaho covered in them.

Thousands displaced here in the US, thousands more waiting to see what will happen next.

I was recently asked if I believed these things were a judgment of God. Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains and the Left Behind movies fame, said that he did believe this was a judgment of God, and is for us to repent. On the other side Jennifer Lawrence, who played in movies like the Hunger Games and the new X-men series, believes that this is judgment of God too, except it’s because the US elected Donald Trump as president.

But it’s not just here in the US that we see destruction. On September 7, Mexico and Guatemala were hit by an 8.2 magnitude earthquake. The death toll has risen to 61. Going back to the same time as Harvey, flood waters, effecting three different countries in southeast Asia, has left at least 100 dead.

Do I believe that God uses physical storms to bring judgment? Yes I do, he once sent the biggest storm this world has ever seen to obliterate humanity from the face of the earth in the global flood. I do believe there is judgment in the storms. But I think that we’re missing the point if we point to any one natural disaster as the judgment of God. Instead, we need to look at the whole of what is happening in this world as the birth pains before the coming of Christ. Instead of seeing this destruction that we are seeing as being God’s judgment on us for whatever we have done as a nation or as a world, we need to see it as the precursor to Jesus’ return.

In Jesus’ teachings of Matthew 24-25 he goes in-depth to what will happen before his return. Earthquakes, famines, wars, Christians will be given over to death, people will fall from the faith, there will be false prophets and christ’s, wickedness will grow, love will grow cold. Everything we are experiencing, the hatred, the violence, the natural disasters, the turmoil in the churches, it’s all a part of what has to happen before we can see the return of Christ. 

But that’s not the point of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25. If we take a step back from the passages and look at them as a whole, only 27 verses deal with these things. These beginning signs to Christ’s return. But Jesus turns around and spends 57 verses on what he sees as a more important topic for his disciples to focus on. If you have your Bibles I want us to open up to these two chapters of Matthew 24-25.

We’re not going to go in-depth here, I just want to ask you what are the section headings in your Bibles say? My Bible has five different sections: Signs of the End of the Age, The Day and Hour Unknown, The Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Parable of the Talents, and the Sheep and the Goats.

In the first section is where we find the 27 verses that deal with these destructive signs, that we can see all around us. The last few verses of the first section and other four sections all deal with one pointed teaching, are you ready for Jesus’ return? And before you answer, here some of Jesus’ words, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”

Are we recognizing the birth pains, or our we chalking them up to something else? To a specific judgment of God, and not the return of the King? Are we missing the point of what is happening in our world, with love going cold, and violence everywhere?

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Our we living our lives in expectation of the return of the King, or are we unprepared for his coming? Is are focus on our comfortability, but we have not taken the steps necessary for his arrival?

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Are we becoming to comfortable with the things around us, that we are preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies for Jesus’ return.

29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Are we squandering what God has given us during this time? The possessions, the finances, the place in life that we find ourselves?

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Are we wasting the opportunities that God has given us to serve him, and those he has given us?

But, why? Why does Jesus tell us all of this? Isn’t to prepare us? Isn’t so that we are not living in a state of worry?

Isn’t it because of his words in John 16? Hear what he says three times, first in verse 1, “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.” Then in verse 4, “I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.” And finally in verse 33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus tells us these things for the three purposes that have been brought out in all of these passages. He tells us so that we have peace. With all the fires, with all the storms, with all the flooding, with all the violence, with all the falling away, with all the strife that comes from it all, God desires us to have peace with it all. Why, because we have the inside information. We know that these must happen because that means Christ is near. 
Jesus also tells us these things so that we may be prepared in our own lives. That our hearts would be in a right relationship with him. That we would not only accept him, but be more interested in him than in the world around us.That we would be people pointing to his return, than our earthly comfort. 
Finally, Jesus tells us these things so that we would use what he has given us, not for our advancement but for his. Our possessions, our finances, our time, and our strength. Are we using it to advance the gospel, or our we hoarding it for purposes that are all our own?

These storms, these fires, these floods, this violence, this falling away, this cold love is not going to stop, it’s going to increase, because Jesus, the God of the universe has told us it would. The question is not why is the destruction coming, that question comes from the lips of the ones that do not know Christ. The question we should ask of ourselves is, am I doing everything God requires of me to prepare the people around me for his return?

And if we are not. If we are not walking in the peace that he gives, if we are not ourselves prepared, or if we are not using what God has given us for his kingdom purposes, then are we ourselves ready for his return? Let us be the people God saved us to be. The people that can face these storms, because we know the One who has foretold it all.

This week my challenge is simple, take an inventory of these three parts: Walking in Peace, Preparing ourselves, and using what God has given us for his kingdom.  And then ask yourself of each one, am I doing what God would have me do in this time of unrest? Or am I not? 

May the Lord who calls us into action give you his strength, and may you in turn abide in him for all things. Amen.

Honoring God Even If We Don't Understand

I’ve shared several times about how much I love baseball. Well there was something I began to do after I had accepted Jesus as my Savior. At some point along my life I had heard the verse from 1st Corinthians chapter 10 verse 31, “31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
I don’t know where I heard it, or when I heard, but it had stuck with me. So one day I decided that baseball was to be something I did that should bring glory to God. So before every game I dedicated my play to him. Eventually, I also wrote that verse on my cleats. Now I found that when I didn’t dedicate my game to God, I didn’t work as hard as I know I could. It was if something propelled me to work harder, to watch my words more carefully, and to keep my emotions in better check.
And when I didn’t, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Fast forward into my college time, I found that I could go online and and have custom cleats made for me that had 1st Corinthians 10:31 stitched onto the outside. And for the years I played college ball, they were a constant reminder that my time on the field was time that should be spent binging honor to God.

But that verse doesn’t speak of baseball, or church, or meals, or any one thing. 1st Corinthians 10:31 is a verse that calls every aspect of our lives to be God honoring. Today, I want us to look into the book of John and see what happens way too often in our own lives with this whole idea about honoring God. And what God would have from us.
So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in the book of John, chapter 6, starting almost at the end in verse 60. And as you open up to John 6:60, I want to give you a little background to catch us up to where we are.
In the sixth chapter of John’s book, Jesus has accomplished two miracles. The first was to feed 5,000 plus on five loaves of bread and two fish. The second was walking on water. Both of which are pretty amazing. I mean, if you have ever had teenagers or a kid with a bottomless belly, five loaves and two fish wouldn’t go that far. And walking on water should be pretty obvious on how amazing that would be. And the people we will see interacting with Jesus in this passage have either seen one or both of these miracles, or they know of people that have seen them. These people are therefore following Jesus because they perceive him in a certain way.
But these two miracles bring us to Jesus’ teaching. These teachings in verses 25-59, can be summed up this way: Jesus is the bread of life, and he is the only way to eternal life. And it’s because of this teachings we get verses 60-71. So let’s read.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

This interaction is a great example of 1st Corinthians 10:31, “31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” It gives us both a negative on how we do not honor God, and it gives us a positive on how to honor God.

Now let’s take a look at all of this together. Jesus had just performed miracles so amazing, that thousands of people began to follow him. Jesus had showed that he had the power over the hunger of the people. To the people, Jesus was the answer to famines, to poverty, to starvation. Jesus had showed that he had power over natural law. To the people, the very sea was at his command. If a person could do these things today, millions would flock to them.
And in fact, there are people who are charlatans and thousands follow them, just think if Jesus was doing these feedings and water strolls today? And because of these and other miracles that Jesus had performed, people were flocking to him.
And then, from a human point of view, Jesus messed it all up by telling the people, that he was the bread of life. That they needed to eat of his flesh. And looking at what Jesus just said here, one might think, “Man Jesus, you just made things weird. Everyone was with you when you were giving out free food, and looking good as you walked across the water. Why did you have to make it weird by comparing yourself to food, and telling everyone to eat your flesh?”
But that wasn’t just it, Jesus also told the people that he was the only way to the Father. That Jesus and the Father were one.
To the Jews, Jesus gave them two reasons to think he was out of his mind. To them, and I would hope to us, eating human flesh was sickening. Something a nonbeliever, a sinner would do. Not an good Jew. And I would have to agree. In the book of Lamentations were told that mothers were eating their children. Doesn’t that disgust you? And yet here, Jesus is telling people to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
To add another level of insult to the whole thing, Jesus was making himself equal with God. And therefore making himself God. And with both of those things taken together, is it really that strange that the people started leaving?

I’m sure many of them were like, “look I just came for the free food and the cool tricks, I’m not into all this flesh eating, blood drinking, crazy direction that this seems to be going. And they many started to walk away. And as they walked away they say, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Who can accept eating a man’s flesh, or drinking his blood? Who can accept believing that God is walking with us right now?
And as they begin to walk away with these questions in their mind, Jesus asks them, “Does this offend you?” Do these words make you uncomfortable? Do these ideas not fit your tastes?
And this is where we see the negative use of 1st Corinthians 10:31. These people showed that they never wanted to honor God in the first place. Sure they were there, sure they got to experience some amazing things, they were even called disciples, but the ones they wanted to honor were themselves. They wanted what was good for them, what was good for their bodies, for their entertainment, but not for God.
And when it was time to answer the calling of God, they showed what they wanted to honor, and it wasn’t God, it was themselves.

And this is how both these disciples that left and we can be on the negative side of 1 Corinthians 10:31. See, we have the tendency to only give God honor, until he no longer fits what our desire for him is.
When God fits into our theology, our social norms, our preconceived ideas, we will honor him. But when he tells us not to lust, but we want to look at that picture one more time, we walk away. Or when he tells us to forgive that person in our lives, we walk away. When he tells us to share his Gospel, but we think it will just cause problems in our friendships, we walk away. And why? Because it’s to hard to honor God. To submit that thing we want to hold onto, because it’s too hard for us. And instead of honoring God, we show where our true honor lies, and it’s with us.

After these people left, Jesus turns to the twelve disciples he had specifically called and asked them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” And it’s in Peter’s response that we see the positive use of 1st Corinthians 10:31.
Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
The disciples that stayed realized that they might not understand what Jesus was saying, but they were going to follow it anyways. Did they understand that Jesus didn’t actually mean that they were going to eat his flesh and drink his blood? That what he meant was that what sustains us only comes from Jesus. That Jesus meant, that just like we eat bread to keep our bodies going, it’s the word of God that takes our lives into eternity. Probably not. They probably were just as disgusted at the idea of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood, as the other Jews were.
They were probably just as put off as the other Jews with Jesus making himself equal with the Father. But they realized that Jesus had something they needed. That there was no other place that had what Jesus did. So even if they didn’t fully understand, they at least understood that Jesus was the only place where they could go that held what they truly needed. And they would not abandon that reality.
These disciples show us what it means to honor God. See God wants us to honor him, beyond our current need, even if we don’t understand what is happening.
I might know that God wants me to forgive that person for the hurt they have caused me, but what if I do? What will happen? Will we become friends again, or will they hurt me more? But here’s the thing, If I am going to honor God, I forgive. I don’t know what will happen, but God says to do it, so I must do it. Is it hard? Yes, but to honor God I must follow his teachings, even if I don’t fully understand it.
And here is where 1st Corinthians 10:31 becomes real. “31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
The question for the longest time I had was, how do I do this? How do I honor God in whatever I do?
Peter and the other disciples with him that stuck with Jesus gives us that answer.

What are you doing right now? Are you working? Are you retired? Are you taking care of kids? Are you enjoying freedom? Are you dealing with the loss of a loved one? Are you celebrating the birth of child? What is happening with your life right now?
Is everything falling into place? Or maybe it’s all falling apart? Is your life feeling like it’s finally getting on smooth ground? Or are you feeling like there’s potholes every foot?

Whatever it is, whatever is going on, everything that is happening right now is to be God honoring. We might not understand it, we might not get it, and we might be uneasy with what’s happening. But the way we honor God through this is just like Peter did, by looking to Jesus and saying, where else can I go?
We dedicate our time, our work, our experience, our kids, our retirement, our spouse, our whatever to God and say I have no place to go, so I will follow you. I will put my trust into you.
Can we ask questions? Yes, God is a God who wants us to seek him. Can we share our struggles? Yes, God wants us to cry out to him, and he has given us his people the Church to do just that.
But we need to make a commitment today, and say, with whatever is in my life I will do it for God’s glory. I might not understand everything, but with everything I will honor God.

When we do that, we will experience the life God has for us, because we will do the one thing that opens up the door to God’s full life, and that’s taking our eyes off ourselves, and putting them where they’re supposed to be, on God himself.

Today my challenge is very simple, write the verse1 Corinthians 10:31 on a small piece of paper and put in your wallet, or purse, and when you see it say a little prayer, “God, let me honor you even when I don’t understand.

Now may the Lord who is worthy of all our honor and praise, give us the strength to honor him today. Amen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Standing in Chaos

Chaos is everywhere. This past week on Valentine’s Day, 17 people died from a mass shooting. A boy, who seems to be mentally unstable, took out his anger and malice on his former schoolmates. A boy who didn’t fit in anywhere, so he extended the chaos of his own life to the lives of others. And as all of you know this isn’t the first time. I still remember having the school locked down on April 20, 1998 when the Columbine shootings happened. And every year since, we have seen, boys bring chaos and evil to the children of our nation. But the chaos doesn’t stop in the schools.
One month ago, 13 children were rescued from their abusive parents and jailed existence. People are choosing to forego their biological sex and live as the opposite gender. Parents are treating their children with puberty blockers to help them transition to the opposite sex.
Constant turmoil in the Middle East, especially Syria, keeps the area in a constant fear of all out war. The threat of war with North Korea is not as hot of a topic at the moment, but for so many it is a fear that lingers.
Add to all of it, the stock market instability. The racial tensions that have been rising up in our nation. Chaos seems to be the norm in this life and through it all, it can become so easy to lose sight of God.

Today, we’re going to look at Psalm 11 and see how David handled the chaos of his world.

As we dive into Psalm 11, I want to give you some additional insight into it. This Psalm is one of the eight confidant Psalms. A group of Psalms, where the faith of the Psalmist is undisturbed by the circumstances around them.
This Psalm also has two sides to it, two voices as it were. The voice of the chaos, and the voice of the steadfast. The voice of chaos is most likely coming from the advisors to David, seeing the problems that surround them, they question David’s focus.
The voice of the steadfast, comes from David’s focus on God, which leads David into where God desires us to be today.
Let’s read in Psalm 11.

1 In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. 3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” 
4 The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them. 5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. 6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.
7 For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.

So what is happening here? David takes an interaction he has, and turns it into a Psalm. David is in a bad situation. Someone is seeking to destroy him. Their not seeking to destroy his reputation, though that is where it always starts, they’re seeking to destroy his entire life.
And his advisors see this and they’re seeking David’s best interest. When David restates their concern you can hear their love for David. “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
His advisors are saying, “look get out of here for a while, there are evil things that surround you, and we don’t even know where they’re coming from. But what we do know, is that their coming for your blood. And not only are they coming for your life, but they’re coming to destroy the very root of the nation.”

And isn’t that what we see in our society? Isn’t this what we see in our culture? Destruction coming from the shadows, wanting to destroy the lives of people, to destroy the root of what it all has been built upon?
I was just listening to an interview with a Jewish man named Dennis Prager. In the interview he was asked what is the reason for all the social upheaval we’re seeing today? His answer was this, “The Bible is the most important book in history, whether you like it or hate it. It is rooted in a concept called distinctiveness. There are five distinctions that are at the core of the biblical worldview. 1) The difference between man and God. 2) The difference between man and animal. 3) The difference between man and woman. 4) The difference between good and evil. 5) And the difference between holy and profane.” He goes on to say, that each of those distinctions has been demolished in our society.  

And where has it come from? If you trace it back, it was done from the shadows for years, until within the last 60 years it has slowly crept out of the shadows, into mainstream society.
And the question the advisors gave to David, is the same one we ask ourselves today, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
What are you and I to do in the face of the chaos that is plaguing our society? The answer is, we need to learn to respond as David responded.

David responds with three realities we must learn to stand in. Three realities that we must focus on, or else the chaos that surrounds us will take our eyes off the God who has saved us. So let’s take a look at these three realities:

First David replies to his advisors with these words, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth;”

David points out the reality that God is transcendent. Meaning, he is above all of this chaos, and the chaos does not change him. The chaos that surrounds us changes society, it changes culture, it changes history. But God is unchanged by the chaos. The chaos cannot overcome the power of God. This is why Jesus says in John 16:33, “33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The first reality we must stand in, is that God is above the chaos, and therefore is unchanged by it. The chaos of this world is not out of God’s where he is impotent to deal with it, rather God is powerful in the face of it.

David moves on to the second reality. “his eyes examine them. 5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. 6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.”

David points out that not only is God transcendent, above it all, but he is also emanate. Meaning, God is not so beyond us that he doesn’t know what’s going on. He sees it all. He is examining it all. He is keeping score. People are not getting away with anything. We may not know where the arrows come from, but God does. This is monumental because it reminds us that there will be justice for the unborn. There will be justice for the victims. There will be justice for those who bring the chaos. And it reminds us that God also cares about what is happening. David uses this really strong language, “[God] hates with a passion.”

And when God comes for judgement it won’t be pretty for those who choose wickedness. This is why Peter says in his second letter, “10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”

This brings us to our second reality, God sees the chaos, and will not surrender to it. God is fighting against the chaos, and he will prevail.

Finally David gives us the third reality we must stand in, “7 For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”

David points out something, that is easily overlooked. If we say that we trust in Jesus, then we have only one job, to live upright lives. That means that we are to continue to trust in God and his word. We are to seek to do righteous things. Those things that God says are right and true. God’s word needs to be reflective in our lives. We must forgive, because God’s word says to forgive. We must serve, because God’s word says to serve. We must sacrifice, love, be gentle, hospitable, caring. We must seek to live lives that God calls righteous. 
Again, Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” The trouble of this world is a given, what is not a given is that we would be people seeking righteousness. That is what we are to strive for. 
When the world is dark, God is in control. When the wicked prevail, judgement will come. But in this darkness, are we succumbing to the dark, or are we living for righteousness? That is the question. 

An it is our final reality. We must live the right lives God has called us to live. The chaos is there, but are we doing what God desires of us, or are we falling into the trap of chaos ourselves?

When the mass shootings, the upheaval of our society, and all the dark things shoot their arrows, our response must be to stand. To stand in the reality that God is in control, that God is working towards justice, and that we must be the ones who live right lives in the midst of it all.

This week I have a simple challenge for you. To write on a piece of paper the opening statement of Psalm 11, “In the Lord I take refuge.” In other words, in the Lord I make my stand. The challenge is this, take that paper and tape it to your TV, or your tablet, or whatever you use that connects you to the news. And when the chaos of this world is reported, let this be a reminder to you to make God your refuge. To stand in God. Because he is in control, he is not defeated, and he is looking at you to live a righteous life. 
And when we wake up to these realities, then we can stand firm in God, when there is chaos all around us, we will stand just as David did, here in Psalm 11.

May the Lord show you in the chaos that you are not alone, because he is active and calls you to his activity. Amen.

Vision Series, Week 4 of Life - Preparing a Procession

When I was 15 years old my parents were able to save enough money to take our family to Hawaii. That same year, I got in major trouble and missed out on that trip. But, two years later I had redeemed myself with my parents and for my graduation from high school, they took our family to Hawaii again.
We had a fantastic time. We went to three islands, the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. On each one we had a great time, but by far the Big Island was the best. Not because it had the best beach accesses, but because of the stories that came from it. While we were there two things happened. First, we got to ride horses at one of the oldest ranches in the US, where I have an amazing picture of me sitting on my horse as it relieved itself. And second, on the island of Hawaii, there is an active volcano. While we were there, they were still allowing tourists to walk near the lava flow. And being dumb tourists, we went off the beaten path to within feet of the flow as it waterfalled into a hole. It was an amazing experience having the heat from the flow surrounding you, and just when it seemed way to hot, it started to rain. My mom has a picture on her fridge of her and my sister with the flow behind them.

But here’s the thing, why was it so easy for me to tell you about this amazing moment in  my life, but it is so hard to talk about a God who came to earth, and died for me? For us, sharing memories of vacations, or good times gone by, and times that brought us great joy are easy, because there’s no sense of dread in sharing those memories. We can share those things, because they don’t seem to need a response from a person. I mean, how many of you felt like you had to make a life altering decision because of that story? When we share our memories, they don’t seem to bring with them judgement. How many of you felt like I was trying judge you for not experiencing what I had?
When God is brought up, life altering decisions seem to be the end goal; judgment seems to like it’s being passed. And it’s because of that, it can be hard and a little discouraging to share anything about God. Because we don’t want to be people who are trying to make others do something, or make people think we’re better than they are.

These past several weeks we have been talking about the last aspect of the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church. This last aspect is life. To point people back to the life that God has for them. But the very notion of even bringing up God can make us stop dead in our tracts
Now, we’ve talked about how this life that God has for people is his life. That it is rooted in the very person of God. God desires that life happens, fights for life to happen, because he is the source of which all life comes from.
We talked about how Jesus, being God himself, came to earth to live God’s life out in front of humanity. Jesus taught what God’s life looked like. Then Jesus showed us how that teaching worked out in real examples, and told us to do the same as he did. Jesus showed us that God’s life is meant to be lived with God’s people. So we may grow and teach each other. And that God’s life is meant to be lived every step in him, with him, and through him. 
And then last week we talked about how we can put each of these aspects of God’s life into action. So that we are not simply saying we want the life God has for us, we are actually living it.

Today we’re going to finish off this Life series by answering this question, how do we point people back to God’s life? These first three weeks were all about understanding God’s life, and making sure that we are living it out ourselves. Because you can’t point someone back to something that you yourself haven’t experienced.
So today, I want us to look at the pages of Scripture and see three ways we can point people back to the life of God as if we are pointing them back to a good memory. And I want us to be able to do this without seeming like we’re asking them to make a decision on our time table, and without it seeming like we’re personally judging them.

Now a quick disclaimer, I’m not one of those that think people shouldn’t feel convicted, or that they shouldn’t make a decision. But I want us to realize, that neither of those are our jobs. See in the Gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 8, Jesus says, “8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:”
So it is the Spirit’s job to convict people of sin, not ours.  
And as Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark chapter 4, starting in verse 26, "26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.’”
It is God’s work to bring a person to repentance and a decision to put their trust in him; our job is to share the gospel. Putting these two things together, we must realize that we are to share, it is God’s job to work on the inner workings of a person. So in the end, we are not trying to make them make a decision, or passing judgement. Instead, we are to be sharing God’s life.  
By understanding those two things about sharing with someone else, let’s look at three ways to share God’s life with someone without judgment and without forcing them to make a decision in the moment. 

We’re going to look at the life of the Apostle Paul for these three ways of sharing, because Paul had many approaches in sharing the life of God. All of which we can see in the fifth book of the New Testament, the book of Acts.

So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in the book of Acts chapter 13, starting in verse 16. Here, Paul is standing with people he can relate to. People that are Jews just like him. People that honor God, just as he does. To them, Paul shares a common ground; and on this ground Paul meets them.

“16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: ‘Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
‘After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
23 ‘From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.’”
Paul looked back in time and pinpointed what God had done throughout the course of history to bring the Israelites to this point. So can’t we do the same? Can we ask people what their thoughts on how we got where we are today? Can we ask if there are any defining moments in history that if taken out would mean the complete shift of what we experience today?
Because I can tell you one thing, without Jesus, there would be no United States of America. Without Jesus, and the love he told people to have for others, war would be more egregious. The founding of hospitals would be effected. Cast systems would still be in place. The world as we know it today, would be vastly altered without the life of God in Jesus. Let us talk with people about the history we share, and help them see the life of God through it.
All that we would need to do is start a conversation by asking a simple question, What do you think is the most significant event or person in history? This simple, opened ended question, can lead to a lot of conversation. And it’s a way to share God’s life with people without being judgmental.
Second, let’s flip a few pages over to Acts chapter 17, starting in verse 24. Here, Paul is roaming around the city of Athens waiting to share Jesus with the great Greek philosophers of his day. Paul has spent many hours looking around the city and seeing the many statues that have been erected in the name of the pantheon of gods. It is here that we pick up what he says to these philosophers.

 “24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

The second way we can share God’s life is sharing how God is the creator. In Quartzsite, with it’s amazing sunrises and sunsets, it’s view of the stars, and the endless exploration of it’s desert; how can we not look on all of it and question why is it here? And this is how we can point people back to God, by simply asking what do you think? How do you think it all got here?
And if given the chance, we can share how we believe it was created by a loving God. See Paul observed and waited for the opportunity to be given to him. And when given the chance he talked about the God who creates. He does this because creation was the only common ground he had with the Greek philosophers. We are living the experience of this desert with a lot of people. It gives us the perfect opportunity to open a conversation up.
So let us point other people back to the creation and ask, where did it come from? Then, wait for our opportunity to share how it came from God. That will open up doors to many more questions and answers.

Finally, in the book of Acts, chapter 22, verse 1-21 Paul is coming to the end of his life and shares how he’s gotten to this place. In 22 verses Paul says “I,” again and again. He shares what Jesus had done for him. What Jesus had brought him out of, and what Jesus sent him into. And this is the final way we can point people back to God’s life, by simply sharing what God has done in our lives.
By sharing our testimony, our story, our relationship with God. This is why it is so important that we experience God’s life ourselves. Because anyone can talk about the creation. Anyone can talk about history. But few can point to their lives, and say I know God’s life is real, because this is how his life looks in me.

We can point people back to the life of God, by asking them questions about the creation that surrounds us, about the history we experience, and the life that God has given us. The question is are we willing to take that step out and do it?
My challenge this week is to ask one of these questions to someone you know is not a believer: Where do you think all this came from? What one event in history do you think is the most important? What is the most important event that has ever happened to you? I challenge you to ask one of those questions this week.

Now, I want to leave you with this last thought as we close out this series on pointing people back to God’s life.
In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis wrote this image of heaven that has stuck with me throughout the years. It is of a person who shared the life of God with others while on earth, and what happens to them in heaven. Listen to what he writes,

Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.
First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers-soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honor all this was being done.
"Is it? ... is it?" I whispered to my guide.
"Not at all," said he. "It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green."
"She seems to be ... well, a person of particular importance?"
"Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things."
"And who are these gigantic people . . . look! They're like emeralds . . . who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?"
"Haven't ye read your Milton? A thousand livened angels lackey her,"
"And who are all these young men and women on each side?"
"They are her sons and daughters." 
"She must have had a very large family, Sir." 
"Every young man or boy that met her became her son-even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter."
"Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?" 
"No. There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”
And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them." 
I looked at my Teacher in amazement. 
"Yes," he said. "It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end?

Now, when we arrive in heaven, will there be those who line up for our procession, because they are there because we decided to point them back to God’s life. My prayer for you this week, is that you would be worthy of a procession in heaven, by being willing to point people back to God today.
        Now may the Lord who has called you to share with others the greatness of who he is, given you the strength by his Holy Spirit to bring life to others by your actions and words. Amen.