When was the last time you had a song stuck in your head? Do you remember what the song was? Isn’t it interesting when that happens, regardless how much you try, you cannot can get the song to leave your head. It’s Friday, and I still have a song stuck in my head since Sunday. However, this time it is not a bad thing. I see it as a reminder from God on how we are to walk in this life. As much as we would like it to be trouble free with no disappointments, we all know that is certainly not the case. Heartaches and troubles are a part of our earthly existence. So I go, from moment to disappointing moment, singing in my head and reminding myself “I still have Joy.” The thought of having the joy of the Lord to carry us in these times, is what God has been trying to get us to understand. He is with us in every moment. In every heartache. In every disappointment, and he covers all of them with his immeasurable joy. I was gazing out the window today as the rain came pouring down in buckets. In that moment I was on the phone receiving word, the preliminary decision from Emma’s court case was, in two months Emma is being returned to her birth parents. It was a very surreal moment because the rain outside emulated the tears of disappointment in my heart. We asked God on Wednesday night in our time of prayer to take control of the situation and to protect Emma regardless the outcome; and I believe he will do this. As we all struggle to choke down this decision, let us remember God works in ways that are beyond our understanding and things often turn out in ways we could never have imagined. It comforts me to know God is in control and will work this out. As for us, it’s because of our God that we still sing “after all the things we have been through, we still have joy!”
When we consider the work or focus of the church one of the primary considerations is “evangelism.” This is certainly right thinking because seeking and saving the lost is a directive to us from Jesus. However, when we take one step beyond this, our motives become cloudy at best. For many groups, the goal of evangelism is to fill the building which, though good, can be a distraction from the true purpose of evangelism; allow me to explain. When our focus of evangelism becomes just filling our building, we miss the big picture of the work of God in humanity. Matt Smethurst had a great perspective on this very topic, he wrote “We tend to say “the church grew. Acts tends to say, the word spread.” “We talk about church growth. Acts talks about WORD GROWTH.” He concludes, “Preach the WORD and let God take care of the size of the church.” I concur with Matt 100%. When we have a church vision, our energy is limited to what happens within our four walls and how it impacts us. When we have a KINGDOM VISION, we see everything as it relates to the kingdom of God. Therefore, we then will have unlimited vision, and begin to see the work of converting the lost, through the eyes of God. Our hearts will enlarge to care about the lost being saved everywhere, not just in our backyard.
We have been focusing on developing greater KINGDOM VISION this year. We have placed the emphasis of our mini missions, on the work happening on foreign soil to bring the lost to Jesus. This focus is ground preparation for us, as we prepare to do the same in our backyard, during our Mission Possible campaign; and our continued work during the summer. When we adjust our vision to KINGDOM VISION, we will see God at work everywhere, including every conversation we have, in our thoughts, as well as our deeds. As we do this, not only will the Kingdom expand, but the local congregation will grow as well. So, let us all seek to recalibrate our vision to include KINGDOM VISION.
As we celebrate fatherhood today, I thought I would share the interesting history how Father’s Day began. This information is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Father's Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis' Mother's Day at Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.
A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father's Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus "[singling] out just one of our two parents". In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
Today, we celebrate fatherhood because one person wanted to honor her father. Again, more proof that one person can make a lasting difference.
Needless to say, with the volume of funerals in my life in the last 30 days, the thought and vision of heaven has taken center stage in my thinking. It’s hard watching the pain associated with death in those who the bible says, “grieve as though they have no hope.” What a contrast between those who grieve with hope from those who grieve without hope. I noticed in the text, Paul didn’t say the saved would not grieve, he tells us our grieving is different in its foundation. In fact, for those in Christ, it’s the sorrow of not seeing the deceased again in this life. It is the impact the passing has left on the family. It the hole that it leaves in the hearts of loved ones. However, there is also the joy of knowing they are with the Lord. Now they can rest from their labors. Now any disease and pain is gone and they are whole again, and in that we rejoice. We also rejoice in the fact that Jesus is preparing a place where we will live eternally. There is so much to be joyful about. So we wrestle in our humanity with these two important emotions, when death comes knocking. What we experience makes me fully understand in an even greater way what the apostle Paul was driving at when he spoke of dying in the Lord. To put this into perspective the best I can, I grieve for those who cannot see the cross, as well as those who see it, but refuse to embrace it. How can they? How can they walk away from the greatest offer they will ever receive? How can they say no to the greatest hope they will ever know? How can they turn their backs on the greatest love they will ever experience? Has Satan really blinded them this much? Can it be possible that he has dulled their ears as well, so they cannot hear? If nothing else this serves as a solemn reminder that we have a lot of work to do to reach those who are perishing. Today it is important more than ever, that we be about our father’s business.
One of my favorite biblical accounts is the young boy who before leaving home knew he would be gone for a while so he packed himself a lunch. Not an extravagant lunch and certainly not much more than a young lad could eat. The day started out as any other, but as the day unfolds, it becomes a day he will never forget. I can imagine his excitement as he returned home to his parents attempting to tell them what happened. I wonder if they believed him. Logically, what he was telling them seemed totally unreasonable, and very much like something a child with a vivid imagination would conjure up. The text is found in John 6:1-14. There are 5,000 hungry men (not including women and children), and wouldn’t you know it, all that was available to feed this humongous crowd was our little friends’ sack lunch. I often think of the faith and trust of this young man who was willing to surrender his lunch, so others could eat. Keep in mind, he had no idea what was going to happen and how this all would turn out. He had no idea, his limited lunch would provide him an Unlimited meal (as well as the rest of the crowd on that hill that day. We all know the rest of the story. Jesus commanded the people to sit, blessed the two fish and five barley loads, and fed everyone until they were full with twelve baskets left over. That is the message to us today. All we need to do is to surrender what little we have and God will multiply it into what it needs to be.
We asked you to bring your two fish and five loaves for Africa this month and God took our little bit and multiplied it. How much you ask? The answer to that question will be shared in worship at 11:00 and in the bulletin next Sunday for those who cannot make it tomorrow. All I will say at this point is that God is amazing. So I close by simply saying, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.