Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes and Outline for the Sunday Message; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 24 August 2014

Scriptures for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV and CEB

Hymns:

UMH 549 – Where Charity and Love Prevail
              Use melody UMH 57

UMH 349 – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (2X)

UMH 261 – Lord of the Dance

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other through our individual commitment to God. God is the common denominator in this relationship. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

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So far on this journey, as we have talked about commitment, as we have talked about what commitment is and what it is not, we have spent time with Lazarus, Rahab, Joseph, the Four Lepers, and Jonah.

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We saw that Rahab discerned that the Lord “…is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11) and enlightened with this understanding she took steps that led to her family being spared during the siege and fall of Jericho.

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Her wisdom, her discernment, and her ability to see and recognize God’s presence and actions in God’s world is what makes her a role model when we talk about commitment.

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Then we looked at the life of Joseph the Patriarch. We saw that as a young man, Joseph’s understanding of God was in the term of “I.” He had a prophetic vision (which I really think was his call to ministry) in his early teens. That angered his brothers, because the way that Joseph understood that call was “Joseph”-centric [“I saw a dream and God put me – Joseph – above you, you were bowing down to me” {Genesis 37:1-11}]

Because of that anger and because Joseph acted as an arrogant so-and-so, his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. The Bible explicitly states that “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2), and because of Joseph’s recognition of God’s presence, he was an able administrator and a conscientious servant. Joseph started learning that God is not about “I”; Joseph started learning that God is about “we,” or “team,” or “group.”

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In terms of commitment to God, the lesson that we can learn from Joseph is that growth in commitment goes from “I” to “We.”

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Then we met the four lepers; their story is found in 2 Kings, chapter 7. King Ben-Hadad of Syria besiged the capital city of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 6:24). The result was severe famine. It is in this context that we met the four outcasts, four men who had some kind of skin disease and had to figure out how to survive.

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Their story drives home a point that faith is not about making rational decisions. Faith is about stepping out when we see and feel God’s presence. Commitment to God boils down to being willing to make sure that when God reveals something wonderful to us, we spread the Good News. From a rational point of view it made absolutely no sense for them to return to the city to spread the news to people who had shunned them and left them to starve, but from the point of view of faith and commitment to God it made all the sense in the world. They chose to stay true to their God because they knew who God was in THEIR lives; each of them had a first-hand relationship with God.

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Then last week we talked about Jonah. His story makes it clear that we can run from God but we cannot hide from God. We cannot hide from God because all of us are created with a special place in our souls that is reserved for God, that only God can fill. We can try to fill it with various toys (pleasure, travel, electronics, hobbies, ideas, collections [movie “The Best Offer”]) but until we put God into our souls we will feel unsettled, we will feel dissatisfied and we will lack inner peace. That lack of peace, that feeling of being off-kilter, is the {“} “belly of the fish” that Jonah experienced first-hand. Even when we do “the right thing,” unless we do it to the glory of God, we may end up bitter, angry and broken just like Jonah did.

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What differentiates Jonah from Rahab, Joseph and the Four Lepers is that Jonah was not a loving person. Jonah had very little empathy for the people that he was sent to reach and to serve. By contrast, the Four Lepers had very few tender feelings for their neighbors but they understood their plight and struggle and were willing to help by sharing the good news (that’s all that they were able to do).

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That brings us to Lazarus.

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All of us face problems in our daily lives. Rahab had to make really difficult choices, Joseph had to learn and persevere, the Four Lepers had no idea how they would survive the next hour, Jonah was asked to do something that seemed like an insurmountable task, and Lazarus was dead.

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God established the Church (big C) so that we can be a community for each other and to help our neighbors find their way to God. God established the Church (big C) so that we can be a hospital for the broken, so that when we break we have a place to go to where everybody knows our name and is willing to hold our hand.

The Church has received a lot of negative press in the last twenty years or so, but the reality and the truth is that we are not (repeat NOT) a huge failure. We are sinners just like everyone else, and sometimes we fail and sometimes we stand with our heads held high. We have been short-sighted, arrogant and selfish over the years. We have also been the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

We give more to charitable causes than our secular counterparts. Christians run countless soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and rescue missions.

Christians operate orphanages, staff clinics, dig wells, raise crops, teach children, and fight AIDS and other diseases around the globe.

While we can always do more and may be blind to the needs around us at times (we are not perfect), as a group we do more for our neighbors than any other group on the face of this planet. We do it because we are committed to God and because we want to live out that commitment and that devotion to God in tangible and concrete ways.

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So let’s talk about commitment and about commitment levels.

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The truth is that we aren’t much, but we are all we have.

When we give ourselves to God with our assorted weaknesses, limitations, mental instabilities, inspirations and shticks, God makes us channels of grace, agents of reconciliation, and bearers of hope wherever we may be at the time. God’s strength is in our diversity, it’s in our differences, it is in our willingness to work together.

That is what commitment to God is about. That commitment translates into Christian mission, outreach and evangelism. That commitment takes everyone of us with our assorted differences and makes us a community and a church.

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