Many Parts; One Body!

I Corinthians 12:12-27

Let’s play a little game in which I will provide you with the definition of a word and you come up with the word:

To get paid to watch TV and eat other people’s food while someone’s kid sleeps?’
Hint: Verb Show AnswerBABYSIT

When you’re too young for half the things you want to do and too old to do the rest?
Hint: Noun Show AnswerTEENAGER

A device used for looking less alone while in public places by yourself?
Hint: Noun Show AnswerCELL PHONE

A device used to find Legos in the dark?
Hint: Noun Show AnswerBARE FEET

Agreement where a man loses his Bachelor Degree and a woman gains her Masters?
Hint: Noun Show AnswerMARRIAGE

A group of people working together in a committed way to achieve a common goal or mission?
Hint: Noun Show AnswerTEAM

‘Team’ is not a bad image to borrow to describe the body of Christ.  1 Cor 12:12-13  . . . team . . .  1 Cor 12:14-18  . . . team . . .  1 Cor 12:27-28  . . . team!

We are indeed ‘a group of people working together in a committed way to achieve a common goal or mission.’ Team Crosspointe; called together by the Lord Himself for the purpose of helping Him bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

We need to be reminded every once in a while that we are a team because it is so easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that the church is an ‘individual’ sport.

Since the end of World War II, our society has continued its evolution toward what some sociologist termed ‘rugged individualism’ defined by Merriman’s as ‘the practice and/or advocacy of individualism in social and economic relations emphasizing personal liberty and independence, self-reliance, and self-direction of the individual.’ 1 In other words, we hold in high esteem one of Frank Sinatra’s most popular songs: I Did It My Way.

But when that kind of ideology worms its way into the church, it is detrimental to the body of Christ every time. And when people in the body of Christ think, make decisions and behave based solely upon what I think and feel regardless how it affects others that spells trouble. That is one reason Paul writes, “The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’

For the body to act efficiently, it must recognize that we all need each other working together toward a common goal. + Read More

Apostles All

Mark 3:13-19
Luke 10:1-2
Acts 13:1-3

The noun ‘apostolos’ appears 79 times in the NT; 10 times in the gospels, 28 in Acts, 38 in the letters and 3 in Revelation. This word implies three things that are important for us to understand.

First, it refers to and means ‘one who is sent.’ As Luke has it, first in chapter 9, the 12 apostles are sent out by Jesus to accomplish His work and in the next chapter, the number of Apostles sent out increases 6 fold as Jesus sends 72 on their way to share His grace with others. Thus an ‘Apostle’ of Jesus is one who is sent out by Him to accomplish His work.

Second, more than the act of sending, this word includes the idea of the authorization of the one doing the sending. In the Great Commission that we reflected upon last week, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me; therefore, go!” (Matthew 28:19). Those who go are therefore, as Paul writes the Corinthians, (II 5:20) “Ambassadors of Christ, God is making His appeal through us.” As an ambassador for the US has the authority to act on behalf of the President so as ambassadors of Christ we act on behalf of and in Jesus stead.

Third, as time passed the people to whom the term ‘apostle’ applied to increased. To be sure, at first, only Jesus is referred to as an apostle. Then the term begins to be applied to the 12 chosen by Jesus to be His disciples. But as time went on, the term began to be applied to anyone who is sent in the name of the Lord to represent His Kingdom. Acts refers to Paul and then Barnabus as apostles and as he closes his letter to the Romans with personal greetings, he mentions Andronicus and Junia, people we don’t otherwise know, except as apostles.

In other words, we would say today that the word apostle can be applied to anyone who is sent by Jesus into the world as His representative. And that therefore applies to any and all of us who not only should consider ourselves disciples (followers) of Christ but also apostles of Christ . . . Apostles all!

Sometimes we get discouraged with our station in life.

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Matthew 28:18-20
Romans 10:10-15

Last Sunday, I was a cheerleader for the church: I celebrate the church of Jesus because it is a great place for people to find community, healing and love. I celebrate the church of Jesus because it provides motivation for the most lasting, valuable, selfless efforts of humankind. I celebrate the church of Jesus, the Christ because it is the only institution in society that provides perspective to give dignity to all human beings. I celebrate the church because it is the only institution in society dealing with the ultimate issues of life and death.

Today I want to expand on that last point. As I mentioned last week, the whole ball of wax boils down to the fact that you and I are either creations of God or we are not. You and I are either complex neuro-physical beings moving without rhyme or reason throughout time and space, who came from nowhere and going nowhere, or else WE ARE UNIQUE CREATIONS OF A HOLY GOD. If we are simply cosmic accidents, if we just happened to have evolved from some primordial soup and this whole thing is some kind of great cosmic joke, the worst thing about that joke is that in the end there will be nobody around to even laugh about it. If that is true then you and I have a deep problem that we cannot solve with all the oratory in the world.

But if on the other hand, this is our Father’s world and if Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was born into this world with the express purpose of dying on a cross so that sinners such as you and I could be reconciled to God if that is true, then some institution on the face of the earth must stand up and remind us of those truths. And Jesus said that His Church is going to be that institution and that He Himself is going to build it one life at a time through people like you and I who have the honor and privilege to point people to Him!

So last week, I was painting a sort of philosophical/theological picture of the church, meant to increase our appreciation of the church, today is more a nuts and bolts message that will enable us to faithfully participate in the evangelistic task of the church.

With that in mind, listen to the scripture for today:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20).

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:10-15).

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Hooray for the Church!

Matthew 16:13-19

One balmy day in the South Pacific, a navy ship spied smoke coming from one of three huts on an uncharted island. Upon arriving on shore they were met by a shipwreck survivor. He said, “I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve been alone on this island for more than five years!”
The captain replied, “If you’re all alone on the island why do I see THREE huts.”
The survivor said, “Oh. Well, I live in one, and go to church in another.”
“What about the THIRD hut?” asked the captain.
“That’s where I USED to go to church.”

Today, I am here as your cheerleader as I want to celebrate the church of Jesus by reminding all of us of some basic truths about this institution that we are all associated with. And by reminding us that Jesus is inviting us to participate with Him to build what is, in my mind, the most important institution on the face of the planet.

I celebrate the church of Jesus because it is a great place for people to find community, healing, and love.

Our society has been undergoing tremendous cultural changes for the last 50 years and the really frightening thing is to realize that these kind of cataclysmic changes are going to continue at an ever faster pace.

One of those changes has to do with the nuclear family, where Leave it to Beaver, Family Ties, and Family Matters, has evolved into Modern Family. ‘Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go’ to enjoy a home-cooked meal has become down the freeway, through the toll booth, off the ramp, down the boulevard, into the guarded gate community, where grandma pops something in the microwave.

One of the results of the decline of the nuclear family is that more people are living alone than at any other point in human history.

Here is where the church excels; being a place where people can find community, healing, and love. In other words, family.

In this congregation, when we dedicate an infant, the parents are stepping forward to declare their desire to see the child raised in the church. And notice that as part of each dedication the church asks you, the congregation, to be surrogate aunts and uncles.

“Brethren of the household of faith, I commend to your love and care this child,
whom this day recognize as part of the family.

Surrogate aunts and uncles; that’s what we are. + Read More

Outrageous Grace

Luke 23:33-43
Romans 3:20-25a

There was once a handyman who had a dog named Mace. Mace was a great dog except he had one weird habit: he liked to eat grass; not just a little bit, but in quantities that would make a lawnmower blush. And nothing, it seemed, could cure him of it. One day, when the handyman was working on a tractor he lost his wrench in the tall grass. He looked and looked, but it was nowhere to be found. At dark, he gave up for the night and decided to look the next morning. When he awoke, he went outside to see that Mace had eaten the grass and his wrench now lay in plain sight, glinting in the sun. Going out to get his wrench, he called the dog over to him and sang, “A-grazing Mace, how sweet the hound, that saved a wrench for me.”

Today, I don’t want to talk about Grazing Mace, or even Amazing Grace; I want to talk about the ‘outrageous’ Grace on display in the scene that Luke paints.

Think about it; a convicted felon hanging on a cross next to the Lord’s. The hinge on death’s door is squeaking and just before the door slams shut, a prayer of desperation, “Jesus . . . remember . . . me when you come into your Kingdom?” The only thing more outlandish than the request . . . was that it was granted! “Today, you shall be with Me in paradise.”

“Any chance you could put in a good word for me, Jesus?”
“Consider it done.”

And he who in all probability never even said grace, much less did anything to deserve it, received outrageous grace.

I say outrageous because there are many, perhaps some of us, who wish this scene would disappear. For many, the promise of paradise for a common criminal is more than our religious sensibilities will allow. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not right, it’s just not fair! If this guy chose to live life as a thief, then he deserves to pay for it. After all, he never extended grace to others, so why should he receive it now; especially at the end of his life?

For this kind of outrageous grace to begin to make sense, we must come to grips with the biblical fact that God’s grace cannot be earned by human achievement. + Read More

Lord, Come and Change Our Lives

John 15:1-11
Ephesians 4:21-5:2

There was a guy who bought a parrot that reportedly talked a lot. He got the parrot home and found that the parrot not only talked a lot, but his speech was peppered with profuse profanity. Being a Christian man, he tried to get the parrot to change his ways by teaching him new words, but try as he might, the parrot kept cussing up a storm. Finally, out of frustration, he threatened his pet parrot, “You say one more cuss word and I’m going to put you in the freezer.” However; it wasn’t long before the parrot blurted out another profanity, so the man grabbed the bird, opened the freezer put him in, and closed the door. After about five minutes, he heard the parrot cry out, “OK, OK! I give up! Let me out! I promise I won’t cuss anymore.” So the man removed the desperate bird from the freezer. Greatly relieved, the parrot said as he shivered, “I just have one question: ‘What the heck did the chicken do?’”

Like the guy who tried to force his pet parrot to change, many times we try to force people to change. Sometimes preachers engage in such a fruitless effort. I say fruitless because the truth is, effective and meaningful change usually only occurs when someone like you or I choose to change. And that doesn’t happen very often.

Change? People say, “Leave me alone; why should I change? I like myself the way I am, change is hard, change takes work. I don’t have the desire to self-evaluate. I don’t have the time or the energy to change.

If any of this so far rings true for anyone here, I have good news for you today; especially if you are a believer and follower of Christ Jesus, the Lord.

For the Bible truth is that not long after we become Christians; positive changes begin to occur in our lives despite ourselves because they are motivated by God’s Spirit given to the new believer.

Sometimes these changes are immediate and enormous and are indicative of the probability that we have been a rather dastardly person. I remember after I came to Christ I was enabled by God’s grace and the work of His Spirit to quit swearing immediately. (And no one had to put me in a freezer to make it happen).

Most often; however, the changes occur more slowly and are more subtle. The good news is, if that’s the way change has happened and is happening to you it is likely that you were not a despicable person to begin with.

But to be sure, after we have accepted Christ, and we begin to draw near to Him, we begin to become more like Him. We begin to think and then behave in ways that Jesus did, even if we don’t notice the changes in growth. + Read More

Seeking Solitude

Psalm 46:1-11
Mark 6:30-46

A man seeking solitude moved to an isolated mountaintop. One day he heard a knock and there sat a snail and it said, “It is quite cold out here can I come in?” The man shouted, “No, I came here to be alone!” and he flicked the snail down the mountainside. One year later there was a knock at the door and there sat that snail and it said, “What did you do that for?”

I’m not recommending relocation to a lonely mountaintop, but I am strongly endorsing planned solitude as an important aspect of Christian living.

To be sure, there is a difference in being alone and solitude. Being alone is by definition, being alone; that is, by yourself. Many of not most people would say that they do not relish being alone. Solitude, on the other hand, is a preferred state of being in which we seek God’s own heart to keep company with Him.

The author of Celebration of Disciplines, Richard Foster, writes, “Loneliness is inner emptiness; solitude is inner fulfillment.” 1

Famed theologian Paul Tillich wrote: “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” 2

The irony is that the pain of loneliness often deters people from seeking the glory of solitude.

If Jesus is our model for Christian living, then we need to follow Him as He seeks solitude on a regular basis. Anyone who reads the gospels quickly picks up that Jesus is a very busy guy as He ministers to droves of people seeking something from Him. But it is only the careful reader who discovers that Jesus was very proactive about getting away to spend time alone with His Heavenly Father.

Seeking solitude was how He made important decisions; it’s how He dealt with troubling emotions; it’s how He handled the constant demands of His ministry; and it’s how He prepared for his death on the cross.

Today’s text from Mark aptly illustrates both the busyness of the ministry of Jesus as He feeds the 5,000 as well as His purposeful sending away of His disciples so that He can seek a few precious moments of solitude with His Heavenly Father.

Jesus invites us to join Him in solitude for at least four very good reasons. + Read More

Drawing Near

Psalm 27:1-6
Mark 12:28-31
Hebrews 10:19-22

I was reading about a father who was also a pastor and who asked the third-grade class to draw a picture of God. His daughter, who was in that class, showed her dad her picture: “I don’t know what God looks like,” she said, “so I just drew you, daddy, instead.”

It has been said that “a child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father.” And so I thought it would be good to spend some time today talking about drawing near to God, our Heavenly Father, through the Lord Jesus. For I can say with certainty that the closer any father gets to God our Father, the better father he will be.

Seems to me the first step in drawing near to God is having the desire to do so.

It’s one thing to talk about wanting to know God better, but how desperately do we want it?

Let’s do a heart check. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you desire to draw near to God?

Is this as much a priority for us as it was for the writer of the 27th Psalm?

One thing I ask of the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (27:4)

In those pregnant verses I read from Hebrews, there is only one main, frank command, “Let us draw near!” 7 times in this letter the writer uses this verb “draw near.” We’ll take a gander at just three of those

4:16 “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

7:25 “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him

11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who draws near to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

It may well have been that this writer had Jeremiah 29:13 in mind: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart.” Or perhaps, he had read a copy of James. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8).

But regardless the overwhelming passion of this writer is that we “draw near to God” that we have fellowship with Him; that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This is the very heart of the entire New Testament gospel, isn’t it? That Jesus came into the world to make a way for us to come to His and our Father in heaven.

But how in the world can we draw near to someone we can’t see, hear, or touch? It’s not like we can meet God at Starbucks for coffee and greet Him with a hug. So how do we “draw near;” what is that supposed to look like?

Once we have the desire, we can take the next step toward drawing near: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” + Read More

Judge Not

Matthew 7:1-5
John 8:1-11

In this passage from John’s gospel, Jesus was practicing what He preached in Matthew’s gospel. “Do not judge others, or you will be judged.”

I shudder when I read that because it is so easy to do exactly what Jesus said we should not do.

Let’s face it, judging others is a natural human trait. At one time, making quick judgments made the difference between life and death. Today our social media craze exacerbates the problem as we are encouraged to add our comments, our judgments to every story that appears. Our society is becoming a society of judges.

I try my hardest not to make assumptions about others, I really do, but sometimes despite my best efforts, I will find myself exploring feelings of negativity towards someone else. Is there anyone here who has not been guilty of making some gross misjudgment toward another person? Is there anyone here who has not suffered from someone else’s misjudgment?

There are several reasons we should not judge others; that is: make fun of others, criticize others, talk about them behind their backs, turn our backs on them, or in any other way think we are superior to them.

First, although first impressions are sometimes true, things are not always as they at first appear.

Researchers out of Princeton University have found that people make judgments about such things as trustworthiness, competence, and likeability within a fraction of a second after seeing someone’s face. The researchers caution, “The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn’t stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance.”

It is true sometimes we are accurate at making a judgment about other people based upon first impressions. However; this limited ability becomes a problem when we begin to believe our first impressions are always right.

Not long ago, an elderly woman in California went to a grocery store. When she returned to her car, she noticed four men getting into it. The woman let go of her shopping cart, reached into her purse and pulled out a small handgun she keeps for just such occasions. She walked to the front of her car, aimed the pistol and started screaming at the top of her lungs for those guys to get out of her car. They didn’t hesitate, they threw the doors open scrambled out as fast as they could and took off running across the parking lot. She put her gun back in her purse, put her groceries in the back seat and got into the driver’s seat intending to drive to the police station. There was only one problem; her key wouldn’t fit in the ignition. A quick glance around the interior confirmed she was in the wrong car. Her car was parked three spaces down in the same row. So she loaded her groceries into her car and drove to the police station to report what she had done. When she told the sergeant what she had done, he couldn’t contain his laughter as he pointed to the other end of the counter where four very shaken preachers who had just finished having lunch together were reporting a car-jacking by a mad elderly woman. The woman apologized profusely and the clergymen declined to press charges.

Have you ever jumped to conclusions about someone and then judged them in some way only to discover later that you were badly mistaken? Like the woman in that parking lot, do any of us have a tendency to jump to conclusions and assume the worst about other people?

Jesus taught that if we avoid judging others by not jumping to conclusions we won’t have to worry about being embarrassed or having to apologize later. Which leads to the next point.

We never know all the facts about either a situation or the person. + Read More

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