So, everyone knows that each year - at about this time of year - November - Early December our minds begin to turn to the next year and the next year's plans and responsibilities. For us in church leadership that means making a budget from which we are able to "live and move and have our being." And as such, we are in search of numbers and of knowing what you are thinking and praying about regarding your giving for the next year.
There are many of us who live from pay check to pay check, there are many who are on fixed retirement incomes, some have a little retirement nest egg that's wrapped in the fragile styrofoam of uncertainty these days. Friends, we understand all of that - believe me.
We joke about this sermon and call it the Sermon on the Amount! but it's not about the amount. It's about the heart behind the amount!
Jesus talks about money, as much or more than he talks about salvation! In fact, in some cases the two are inextricably tied - bound together! Think of the rich young ruler - righteous and upstanding citizen of the temple, doer of the law in all its tenets, by his own accounting - yet one thing remained: Go sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me? Why was Jesus so "hard" on this guy? Why didn't that admonition come with the other invitations to follow Him that his disciples got, each and every one.
Well, it actually did! It was implicit in the invitation Jesus gave - the one He gives to each and every one of us!
It was actually what the disciples were doing - leaving home and family and businesses to walk with Jesus on the dusty roads of Palestine. And it was what the rich man was unwilling to do. Leaving his comfort and luxury to keep in step with Jesus and with the Spirit of God.
You see that is what the call is about. Following Jesus is about keeping in step with Him, just like He kept in step with His Father and was empowered by the Holy Spirit - same way we ... can be. He was our 100% model. That is the "magic" of the incarnation, that we begin to anticipate in ADVENT and celebrate fully in CHRISTMASTIDE.
A couple weeks ago I spoke on the Word and the desire of God for us that we be free! Paul said it is for freedom that you have been set free! That freedom is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. And friends, that freedom, is what our giving is all about! Jesus wants us to be free from the inside out, and as long as we are bound up with fear of the future, with the pressure of money and its domineering nature, we cannot be truly free. The world thinks that this has to do with simply making more money! We speak of being financially FREE - a state you achieve when you have "enough." But the question is always, "how much is enough?" Again is not about the amount!
The Bible tells us that our inner well-being is actually tied to this reality in our lives! Paul refers to it as "contentment." He says I've learned to abound and I've been abased - living on almost nothing - I am content in whatever state I am found." How can that be? Because Paul was free!
Paul was free from the concern of "money" as a master! As a master, money is a heartless task master! A slaver as cruel as the worst stories of slavery that you've heard or seen! The purpose of the scriptural teachings about money is to set you free from that slavery - slavery to fear, slavery to a driven kind of life, slavery to stuff! That which you desire and accumulate eventually become a kind of prison, doesn't it!
I just want to reference our epistle lesson from last Wednesday evening. We watched the HEAVEN DVD, so I didn't get to comment on it - but its worth commenting on.
In 1 Cor 9, Paul is talking about the church's giving - or a plan to give a gift, which he is traveling around and collecting for the Jews in Jerusalem who were suffering dramatically at this time under the hand of the Romans.
Here is what he says:
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,
"He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
The point of Paul's teaching here, as he urges the church to make good on its promised gift, is to teach some basics of Kingdom economics.
1. What you give, GOD views as "seed." And the law of "seed" is "the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly - the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully!" What you sow is what you get. Something
every gardener - every farmer knows!! If there is no planting, there can be no harvest.
2. Every harvest is about enrichment! Harvest is a joyful time of reaping all that we have sown - simply reaping, and harvest is built in to the equation - it is the reward itself at the end of the day! What CS Lewis called an "appropriate" reward. It is the natural end - the consummation of all the work that has gone into the day of harvest.
3. God applies this law simply to your giving! "Each of you must give" Paul says. "not under compulsion, but from the heart, without reluctance." FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER.
4. You've heard me say this before - the word that is translated "cheerful" here is the word from which we get our adjective, "hilarious!" God loves a HILARIOUS GIVER.
5. And with that kind of giving, a law is set in motion! The law of sowing and reaping. A law so inherent in creation that it is just part of the fabric of our lives - most of us aren't even aware of it, it is so common. We take it for granted. But here is where God gets into the act:
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work ... (take out the OT Bible reference) ... He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.
6. The enrichment for you is not about your comfort, but about God's praise! It is not about "conspicuous consumption" - the mantra of our age, but about hilarious giving. A giving that creates and partakes in the joy of the God of the universe! A giving that is rooted in FREEDOM that looks like the freedom of the Creator! And that points to the freedom of the Creator, in thankfulness and praise.
7. There is a mutual testing that is going on in our giving: God is testing us and we are actually invited (this is the only time) to Test HIM! God invites us - He actually challenges us to try and "outgive" Him! The hidden benefit of the law of sowing and reaping is that God uses the measure you use! He measures back to you according to the "bounty" of your sowing - just like we said above, except his promise is that it will be "pressed down, shaken together and poured out into your lap - a blessing that you cannot contain."
Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Thanks be to God for his indescribable plan! to use you and me to bring about his glory in the earth!
We are sending work sheets around electronically. I have a few here if you want to pick up - they will be available on my blog and in a special Constant Contact today or tomorrow. Please consider your gift and what it means for us here at REZ.
The Constant Contact goes out to almost 300 each week. Everyone has an opportunity to be a blessing here! From a one time gift to a weekly commitment, its all a blessing, and God will bless you with the same measure you use! It's the law!
Remember - NO SEED SOWN = NO HARVEST GROWN!
Let us pray:
Thank you Lord for your indescribable gift! The way you made the world to work and the freedom you want to give us in our lives for your glory.
Help us, Holy Spirit, to give what will make us free; to set aside the bonds of fear and greed that so easily ensnare and entangle us, and to give with hilarious freedom and joy.
Meet every need, Lord, so we can be blessings to those around us. And finally, set us free to trust in YOU, not in money, in these days of uncertainty. Help us, Lord, to cast our cares on You, and to trust in you in every circumstance, whether it be in abundance or in need.
Let us live, Jesus, to the praise of Your Glory, for it is in Your blessed Name we pray,
Check all that apply; ( ) Member of REZ ( ) Regular Attender/Giver ( ) Occasional Attender/Giver ( ) Non-attending giver ( ) One time gift ( ) Special needs/projects giver ( ) Friend of REZ on Facebook ( ) I/We receive the weekly CC email or ( ) I/We would like to receive it.
My / Our giving commitment ;
( ) Annual $____________________
( ) Quarterly $___________________ X 4
( ) Monthly $ ___________________ X 12
( ) Bi-monthly $ ___________________ X 24
( ) Weekly $ ___________________ X 52
( ) Special $ ___________________
Total Giving Commitment $_______________
( ) I am interested in talking about giving non-liquid assets to REZ. (Car, business interests or stocks/bonds/insurance assets) (This may be accomplished by setting up a donor-advised fund through the National Christian Foundation and can have huge tax benefits. Ask Fr. Phil for info or to set up a consultation appointment)
( ) I would like to give through my bank, bank card or other fund transfer methods. We encourage you to set up a regular transfer through your bank's automatic payment system. We can help you get it set up.
Welcome on this cold morning to the faithful who brave the elements!
This morning is a time for us to consider stewardship - our stewardship of the treasure that God has placed in our hands to use for His glory...
You think I'm going to talk about our money today - but I think that I need to put first things first! If we get the first things right, then the other will follow! (Matt 6:33)
Our opening collect is one which points us to our stewardship of the Word of God, perhaps the greatest resource mankind has ever been granted! Like we search for food and water or drill for oil or dig for other fuels, the Word of God is the place which has riches untold, and food and drink enough for the whole world!
I hope that you remember the illustration that I used last year - which comes from various teachers - Bill Bright and Billy Graham to name a couple - the "hand illustration" we talked about using the words from our collect regarding the reading and study of Scripture.
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
Pinkie finger = HEAR
Hearing is about 10% of our comprehension - if we are truly listening!
So often though, in church or in other venues, the Bible is read and
we've heard it before so we tend to tune it our, thinking that we know it
Paul tells the Romans that Faith comes through hearing and hearing
through the Word of God (10:17)
Ring Finger = READ
Reading the Word shoots our comprehension in the arm! All the way up
to about half! Half of what we read, we remember! It is a definite
improvement, but even half of the message of the Word, while better than
none or 10%, still leaves us sorely lacking.
Reading is something of a discipline! Something that needs to be done
daily, but often gets squeezed out by other activities - important things
like watching the news or a game show on TV!
Middle Finger = MARK
What? Mark in your Bible? Anyone here mark up, highlight, make notes
in other books? Why do that? Because it makes what you hear and read
stick! Sometimes I've looked for passages I've read before based on
where they were on the page! Ever do that? Underlining and highlighting
is essential to beginning to take special note of parts of the Bible that
speak more directly to you, or that you want to pay particular attention
First Finger = LEARN
Learning is what we are after, right? We are after an understanding of
the Word that shapes our understanding and then impacts how we
actually do things!
In John 5:39 Jesus says, "You search the scriptures because you think
that in them you will find eternal life; They are the ones that testify of
The point of our coming to scripture is to learn: 4 things (2 Tim 3:16)
A. Didaskalia - Didactic learning - the facts, the precepts, line by line,
brick by brick
B. Elegmos - Refutation, Conviction, Reproof, [STOP !!]
C. Epanorthosis - To set something UPRIGHT - Correction, to Set
Right (to help someone find True North!)
D. Paidaia - The whole concept of training a child - very
comprehensive lifeskill training that includes nurture, correction,
discipline, love and detailed instructions
(Prov: Train up a child in the way he/she should go...)
How do we LEARN the WORD? Well we start with listening and reading, bible study, intellectual inquiry, reading not just the Reader's Digest version, but the notes at the bottom of the Study Bible - How many of you have a study bible? Any do online bible study?
There are no shortage of ways into the Word of God today - we have absolutely no excuse!
And finally the piece-de-resistance!
THUMB = INWARDLY DIGEST
This is the process by which we make the Word come to life in our own
lives! It is an all of the above approach, but goes further and deeper.
The inward digestion of something means that whatever it is has
become part of you at a cellular level - nourishment, food, and drink
become energy for action, for great deeds and for righteous living.
Turn with me to 2 Cor. 3 for a second: I just want to put this all in a final perspective - Paul is talking to the Corinthian Christians here about them being his "epistle of Christ." V 2 he says:
[2Co 3:2-3 NASB] 2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Paul takes a word picture here from Ezekiel 36, the promise of God to the people of Israel that He will write the law on their hearts - giving them hearts of flesh instead of their hearts of stone (EZ 36:26-27)
[26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.]
In the letter to Corinth, Paul refers back to the Jewish reading of the Torah, and says that a veil was over their hearts - but IN CHRIST, the veil is taken away. We have access to the WORD - The Law = the Precepts, ordinances, and instructions of GOD, as never before, through Jesus Christ by The Spirit!
V. 18 of 2 Cor 3 is clear:
[16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.]
As food is transformed inside our bodies by digestion, so the Word comes to us and begins to transform us - our minds, our hearts, our wills, and our actions. And the point of it all is Righteousness - Right living.
Dikaiosune - the state of virtue, integrity, purity and rightness in thinking, in feeling and in acting, that is approved by God and acceptable to Him.
Now to end, just one short passage from James:
[Jas 1:22-25 NASB] 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ:
You have given us Your Word and Your Spirit to instruct us in the Way we should go. Open our eyes, our ears, our minds and our hearts to hear, to read, to mark, to learn and finally, to inwardly digest that Word of God that can and will transform our lives into the very life of Jesus Christ.
Make us effective servants of Your purposes in the world, as we give daily attention to your Word. Give us Words in season, like apples of Gold in settings of silver. Help us to speak Your Word after you; cause us to hide your Word in our hearts, that we might not sin against You. Let your Word be our guide and our chief joy, a reflection of your Mercy made new every morning.
According to the power of God and the everlasting nature of His Word, we ask this
This interview was during the sermon time with Rabbi Jay Ledbetter, an elder at Messianic Congregation Roeh Israel in Denver and a Messianic Church planter in Colorado Springs.
Please click on the title above to listen to the answers to the questions posed below:
In the reading from Josh 24, Joshua is chastising the nation for following the "gods" of the lands they have sojourned in from the gods beyond the Euphrates, to the gods of Egypt, or the gods of Canaan, or the Amorites.
From the 1st Commandment to the Great Commandment, the Shemah Israel, the command of God is to worship the one, true God, who has revealed His name to Israel, through Moses.
Tell us just a bit about the Hebrew concept of the Name of God and the interplay between the words we see in Holy Scripture, even here in Joshua 24.
15 time the word elohim -7 times referring to our God, the other 8 are plural referring to the other gods of their history. Likewise, 15 times the Name of God is named here, translated Jehovah, or Yehovah, What is the Hebrew perspective on the names in Scripture and how is the Name of God treated today?
In the Psalm we are told to recount "the mysteries of ancient times."
... "the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD."
The reason for doing such a Sunday worship in cooperation and for our joy in sharing the service together is for us to glean from this 'ancient path' - the path that the People of God
have walked for millennia.
This looking back necessarily leads us to our Hebrew roots and the fact that, as Paul tells us in Romans, we are 'grafted into' the vine of Israel. How can we as a community of Gentile believers, honor and learn from our brethren of Jewish heritage? Today is like sticking our toe into the pool, but is there more to our identification with Israel through this Jewish Messiah, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah?
The reason we are doing this today is that we did this a couple weeks back and found a great deal of joy and anointing in the doing it together! From your perspective, what was the "learning" or "joyful surprise" as you encountered the Anglican liturgy and usage of the passages from Isaiah 6, what we refer to as the "Sanctus" and the "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD."? And what do they mean in the worship of Israel?
finally, tell us the meanings of your traditional worship garments. As Anglicans we have our own priestly garments and we will be using all of them today, in addition to the Talit I recently brought back from Israel. How do I properly use this and honor its history among the Jewish people?
Anyone ever feel like you are part of a quirky family? This probably isn't a good time to look around, or smile and nod.
I think every family is a little quirky! We have our ups and our downs, our ins and our outs, with characters and drama all of our own!
guess what - your family is no different than the rest of em!
It may seem different because you are closer in and get to see all the action!
The Family of God is no different.
The Bible calls us all saints - in fact that is what we celebrate today - ALL SAINTS - but I constantly look around me and go Wow! Saints?
And sometimes I hear the voice of God say back to me,
YES! SAINTS! ... BECAUSE I SAY SO!
I told a story a few weeks back of the saints who helped me with an ALPHA Course at St. George's many years back. Well that example has been repeated in my life over and over and over and over again, up to yesterday!
I got to spend an hour or so at a church in Canon City yesterday. This was a church of 8 that meets on Sat morning in a home in Canon City - led by a pastor/Realtor who is working with me in the My Hope Project for Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Now that group of 8, are turning that town upside down! I've heard that charge somewhere before! In Acts 17:6 it is the accusation of the Jewish leaders of Thessalonica against Paul and Silas as preachers!
God is giving this small band and their leader favor to bring other, bigger churches together to reach out through the HEAVEN video to the whole city. They have rented the local theater for two showings on the 13th and the 15th of this month, and all indications are that both showings will be sell outs!
I made a special trip down there yesterday to be with this tiny church, for which they were amazed. I wanted to affirm that they are a church just as surely as any other body is one in that city. And though they are small, they are mighty. Because they have a vision for souls.
ALL MEANS ALL
On All Saints we look back at our own history and our spiritual heritage - the people who have mentored us, lived their christian lives before us, who have contributed to our walk or to the place we are in right now.
We look back through church history and see the great names of the Church - from the historical names to the names of our own particular history.
These are the 'saints' who have gone before us - preceded us in death, going to their reward. We give thanks for them and remember them today. But all means ... all!
All... Saints means All Saints! ALL here means past, present AND FUTURE.
This table is at the midpoint of history. It stands-in for the place of the Cross of Jesus - that level ground at the foot of the cross, extends to the level ground at the Table of the Lord.
On the one side of the table we look back through the generations, and at the Table we find ourselves, but in front of the table, where we walk down, each and every Sunday, is a line of those who Will Come - those yet unseen by us but known to God, nonetheless, as saints!
One of our favorite verses is Romans 8:28 and I always like to include 29 & 30 as well:
[Rom 8:28-30 ESV] 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Notice that this whole section is in the past tense - its written from God's perspective. Its already done, but we, friends get to see the working out of that progression in v. 30
whom He foreknew He predestined
those he also called
and those he then justified
and the ones he justified He also glorified.
Here is the glorious task of the Church, friends. We get to take part in the adventure of a lifetime, every day! We get to partner with God in this marvelous work, this progression of the Kingdom to its fulfillment - to its fullness. We get to be a part of working with God to reach out to bring those who do not know that they are predestined, or called, or justified or glorified!
I'll end with this story. Last Friday night I was with dinner with one of our young men who I'm discipling. During the course of dinner we had the Bible out on the table and were heard reading it out loud and talking about it, seen praying at our table, in fact, the Holy Spirit was so thick at our booth that it took us several minutes to get our composure back at one point.
As we got up to leave, our server, who we always meet by name and ask about his/her life, prayer needs, and who we also leave an exorbitant tip for, asked if that book was a Bible?
I said yes it was and opened it and showed it to her. Asked if she knew much about it, "NO". Have you ever gone to church? NO I DON'T GO TO CHURCH. I FEEL I'M A SPIRITUAL PERSON THOUGH.
I shared that I was a pastor and gave her a card with my name and number and our website if she ever would like to poke her toe in.
We asked if there was anything we could pray for and she said she was having stomach pains, some even right then. We asked permission to pray for her, right there and then and she allowed us to take her hand and pray for healing. She reported that she felt better after prayer. I went out to the car and got her a cc of the HEAVEN DVD that we will see later this month.
Pray with us that the seeds we planted with fall on good soil and spring up to eternal life.
Do you see how simple this is?
Friends, this Altar is the Table of the Lord and we come to it every week for the nourishment of the Sacraments. Are there others in your life that you know are hungry and thirsty for this food and this water?
In our gospel today, Jesus promises that He will bless those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - they will be filled.
God is very anxious for us to join Him in this work!! So much so that He is going to impart a special anointing this morning, as we come up to the showing of HEAVEN on Thanksgiving eve.
Some of you have been praying for particular people, but there are people out there who we do not yet know, who are to be invited to come along that evening.
Friends, God's heart - Jesus' heart is breaking for those whom he foreknows, those whom He is calling to Himself. And we can access His heart, by His Spirit.
That is what happened at the table last Friday night. We were talking about the impartations many experienced at the Mike Flynn conference and I said, "when you feel that prick in your heart regarding someone, it is Jesus letting you feel just a fraction of His heart toward that persons eternal destiny! When I said that the Holy Spirit fell on my brother and he could not speak for almost 5 minutes, in a booth at Outback!
Friends, God wants to endue us with power to see people as He sees them - as saints or saints in the making! It's not every person we see, though I believe every one has the opportunity to say yes, not all will. But God knows the ones who will - that called simple foreknowledge. That is just God's perspective of the end from the beginning.
But God wants us - commands us and empowers us to GO and to PARTNER WITH HIM in this work of catching people. HIs promise is "I will make you fishers of men."
Come follow me.
If you want - if you desire this impartation of the Spirit to be able to see people as he sees them ...
If you want this kind of boldness to ask the questions that matter for eternity ...
If you want to make yourself available to God and be obedient to His call to GO, MAKE DISCIPLES.
IF SO I want you to stand now. (If you are listening or reading this later, place your hand on your heart and pray this prayer with us)
Place your hand over your chest area right now.
Let's pray together.
Holy Spirit, come. come among us and impart your gifts.
Lord, we pray for a gift of new eyes and new hearts - eyes that see as you see and hearts that hurt as your's hurts.
Touch us Lord Jesus, with the love you have for those who do not know you. Give us eyes to see those who you are calling to yourself. Touch our minds and our lips with your boldness.
[Some of you feel the 'heart burn' that we spoke of a moment ago, some of you are experiencing a tingling sensation on your lips or on your hands or forehead. If that is so, pray aloud with me.]
Lord, I accept your imparted anointing today. Seal now to me, the presence and power of your Holy Spirit, that as I go from this place, I will know and recognize your heart and let me speak boldly, Jesus, in your Name!
Come Holy Spirit. Come and abide with Your presence and power. Clothe me, that I may reach out my hands in love to those who do not know you, to bring them to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of Your Name.