Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's A Wonderful Life

Well, I hope you enjoyed listening to our most recent series as much as I enjoyed putting it together…It’s A Wonderful Life!  You can get all the podcasts through our website www.thecitylifechurch.com and the sermon notes will be posting this week as well.

Through the narrative of Jesus birth, there are five responses I believe God teaches us that we will have to Jesus:  an evangelism response, a suspicion response, a purpose response, an adoration response, and a material response.  Our material response is simply the outflow of generosity from our lives in light of who we believe Jesus to be.  Through the Magi, God reminds us that once we believe Jesus to be the Savior of the World, as the Magi did, we should be opening up our material wealth in moments of generosity as an expression of worship to Christ!  Christians should be the most generous people of the world, reckless, prodigal in our giving to others, to our church, to humanitarian causes…any time we have the opportunity to aid others!

In this series we also talked about how our material response enables us and others to see inside, to see our spiritual condition.  We explored verse like Matthew 6:21 for how material things reveal our heart and then Matthew 6:22-23 for how our material response reveals our point of view.  Then finally, we talked about how our material response, our reaction to moments of opportunity for generosity reveals our faith.  We didn’t quite finish this last one so I wanted to blog that part for those interested!

If I want to measure my faith, assess my faith, see this part of me that my natural eye is incapable of observing, I needn’t look any further than opportunities for a material response.  Remember, a material response is simply the outflow of generosity from my life in light of who I believe Jesus to be.  When is the last time you had the opportunity to be materially generous toward someone or possibly a particular cause?  Your reaction speaks volumes about the level of faith you have.

The story we didn’t reach in last weekend’s sermon is the story of the feeding of the 5,000.  (take time to read John 6:1-13).  There are three parts of this story I want us to see. 

First, the boy being willing to give all that he had to Jesus is an example of submitting to divine ownership.  All that we have belongs to God.  Nothing is really ours.  Our material lives should be lived out with the question, “God, what do you want me to do with your stuff?”  The more faith I have, the more I live in the light of the reality of divine ownership.  A person who lacks faith clutches to their material things because they do not trust God has their best interest at heart, they do not trust that God will allow them to have a standard of living they feel entitled to experience.  It takes great faith live with a stewards mindset!

Second, the text tells us that Jesus blessed what had been given to Him.  This demonstrates for us the principle of the sovereignty of God.  Jesus participated in lots of meals but He didn’t always perform the miracle of multiplication!  Why is that important?  Because He doesn’t always leave us with 12 baskets of surplus every time we act on the principle of divine ownership.  Sometimes the only blessing we get when we give His stuff away is the simple enjoyment of helping others.  That takes faith too!  The more faith I have, the more content I am when I give Him my lunch to feed someone else and I actually go hungry!

Finally, this story in John 6 is a powerful reminder that we are to continue in our generosity, no matter the circumstances!  The miracle of multiplication didn’t occur until everyone took what little they had been given in turn and began sharing it with people around them.  When each of the disciples turned toward the crowd after Jesus had blessed the food, they all had only a small portion of the original 5 loaves and 2 fish.  The boy who initially gave his lunch would have been given some but it would have been far less than the portion he initially gave Jesus.  The meal didn’t multiply until everyone was willing to divide their portion…and before long, all those portions kept being divided and multiplying until not only did everyone eat their fill but there were also 12 baskets left over!!!  In the end, that boy probably ate more than 5 loaves and 2 fish, as did everyone else!!!  But the abundance did not come until after they were willing to share the smaller portion they initially received.

Faith looks like a person holding all they have out to God trusting that He will always take care of them and even when the only thing we receive in turn is being fulfilled in knowing we helped others, we aren’t disappointed.  And in those times when God give us something in turn, even that portion we divide again, generously, never once acting with a sense of entitlement.  Show me a person whose material response looks like John 6 and I’ll show you a person who walks by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When I realize who Jesus truly is, I live a much more generous life, my material response, I become the magi, opening up my treasures.  Let’s make 2014 our most generous year yet!

Come Up!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, December 5, 2013

DP NN Town Square, December 5

Pick up a Daily Press in Newport News today and look for this in the Town Square Section

Looking for some new restaurants to visit over the holidays?  Three things I look for in a restaurant as I'm entering for the first time are a full parking lot, fat cooks, and retirees! I'm not talking about a spot for your next anniversary or where you might take your business clients. I'm talking about the place where you go when you are ready to give way to avarice, need a bib for your shirt, and leave the hand wipes at home because you have every intention of an unashamed finger-licking culinary event!

If Friday and Saturday nights aren't full-lot-nights, then you know the people who live in the area aren't excited about eating there.  Heavy kitchen staff you ask? Give me employees who just can’t stop eating every time the owners turn their heads; I want them plump and hopeful of their next bite!  Retirees may be the ultimate measure. Lots of hair the color of a pure driven snow not only says family friendly but great value. If you are on a fixed income, as many retirees are, you look for healthy servings at a great price. When these three factors converge, we are sure to find a local spot where appetites are quieted and palates are entertained!

This idea of criteria that are portents of coming satisfaction, I believe, was one of God's great motivations in giving us the Holy Scriptures.  In them we find stories that teach us how to live a life that leaves us feeling full.

I want to invite you to read three chapters of the Old Testament, Nehemiah 8-10. You find a profound picture of a city rediscovering the wisdom of God's commands and statutes, ultimately culminating into the rebirth of a nation. At first they weep, not just because they feel guilty for not having followed God's ways but out of sorrow for all the years they had lost, all the years they had settled for mediocrity, settled for emptiness when fullness had always been within reach.

Then as you read further in chapters nine and ten, you find them coming to moments of great celebration.  This celebration was because expectancy was rising in their hearts!  After confessing their own personal culpability for lives not well lived and also how their lives had led others astray, they vowed personally and publicly to no longer forsake His statutes.  Instead, it was time to forsake a life void of God's direction.  Scripture is filled with beautiful promises for a life overflowing with fullness.  Now Nehemiah and the people of Israel were once again sitting at the table of God, ready to feast upon the goodness He prepares of us all daily!

God wants you and I to discover the wonders and splendor of this existence, life this side of eternity.  I spent the first 23 years of my life believing that if I wanted to go to Heaven, I had to give up everything worth having in this life to get there.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Scripture has a lot to say about the Heaven to come, but God’s Word is also filled with lessons on how to possess a life that overflows with goodness here and now…or as we say at City Life:  heaven now…Heaven forever!

Is there anything you need to confess today?  Do you find anything that needs to change when you examine your life in light of Scripture?  Vow today to fully embrace God’s plan for you life…there is a table ready for you!