Sunday, February 12, 2006

February 12, 2006--Lost Causes Sermon Notes

Note: Post here taken from loose outline notes of pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have varied, but these are some of the key points. No video available...sorry!

Text: Luke 19:10; Hebrews 11:1; 1John 5:4

I was watching a movie the other night with some friends. It was a James Stewart classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." I would highly recommend it. It is about a Joe average guy named Jeff Smith who is selected to fill out the remaining term of a recently deceased US Senator. Along the way, Mr. Smith fights for freedom and liberty, and finds out about some of the unseemlyness in Washington.

There were a couple of quotes from the movie: "The lost causes are the ones worth fighting for." and, "Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books." Let's extrapolate that last one. "Salvation is too precious a thing to be buried in the legalese of religion." How about that one?

But, this sermon is about lost causes. As the Scriptures we read show us, Jesus came to find us. We were His lost cause. He came to find us and fight for us.

Mr. Smith thought the ideals he had been raised on were worth fighting for. He thought the notion of a boys national camp to exchange ideals and gain love for country was the right thing for him to do. And what did he get for his noble aims of service? He faced ruination by other senators. He faced disgrace, and a smear campaign. Sound familiar?

Jesus faced the same things. He thought our salvation was worth fighting for. Look at him. He went from being a loveable carpenter crackpot prophet to public enemy no. 1. He went from being a popular public curiosity and distraction to an insurrectionist. And why? In both cases, it involves people thinking the cause was lost, it involves playing ball, compromising our values.

The senators in Mr Smith thought that you had to "play ball to get ahead", to make deals. That way, we don't end up in lost causes like merely seeking after God. We don't get that loser label in the eyes of the world that we talked about last week. See, he thought enough about us to fight for us, to die for us. Mr. Smith thought enough of his cause to do the same.

Christ calls us to fight for lost causes, because he fought for us. We truly were lost. I mean, look at the Israelites. The Pharisees and other religious leaders had gone from being spiritual leaders to practicioners of pure legalism. They lost their way. We can too if we fall prey to that sense of just worrying about our power and our prestige. That is what became of those leaders. They made deals and sold out to the world and legalism. Christ came to free the Israelites from that, as well as to free us Gentiles from being lost in sin. And all of us are lost. Trust me. Look at how many times God has responded to lost causes in the Bible, how many times the Israelites turned away. Yet he still keeps on fighting the Lost cause, because he wants us to get lost to this world and be found by Him. He sent Christ to do that.

By becoming "LOST" himself, Christ found us. In that pit of sin and death he fell into, he found us and set us free. Much as Jimmy Stewart's character found friends he set free from the stigma and jadedness of Washington, Christ found us and sees us as a lost cause worth fighting for, so we can get lost in Him, so we can lose our cares on Him.

We, however, need to have that faith of the mustard seed to join Christ in fighting for the Lost causes, as that is what he calls us to do. We need to have that faith that Christ had in us, of seeing the tremendous potential we have, that essence of things hoped for, assurance of the unseen goodness in us. We need to see that in others. We need to be that Lost Cause crusader that Christ was for us. See, in that way, we are showing our own faith in things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen in loving the unloveable, in helping those downtrodden. We are showing the fruition of Christ's faith in us, and it is something to aspire to. Christ has faith in us, can't we have faith in his ability to equip us to help others and extend the kingdom?

Some people ask me why I am still here at New Hope. These are folks in the ministry. They think we are a lost cause. They say, you know, you only have this, you don't have that. You havent done this. Well, friends. Let me tell you about the lost causes here. I would have never thought when I left school in 1996 that I would be here. But God took this lost cause in me and here we are, and we have thrived. We have grown. Look at Bible School. When we started it, I thought, no way. And it has grown tremendously. Look at the lives changed. Fighting for Lost Causes makes us more of Christ's family. After all, He fought for each of us, and we know how lost we were. We need to have that same faith he had in us, so that when the time comes, we can all see the kingdom together. So, fellow lost causes, thank God that we have these things to lose ourselves in and fight for, and thank God that our lost cause has been redeemed by Christ!

February 5, 2006 Sermon Notes--What a Bunch of Losers!

Note: Sermon notes recorded here taken from loose outline notes of pastor. Actual Sermon delivered may have differences in delivery and length. No video available! Sorry!

Text: Matthew 10:38-39

Today is the day of the big game, Super Boxl XL (speaking of which, that is about my size, actually more of a 3XL, but that is another story). There is a big question of who will win and who will lose. There are winners and losers. There will be sacrifice and great stories to be told again and again. I still remember some of the great times the Bengals were in the Super Bowl, and how close we came to winning. It was heartbreaking, but it showed we can play with the best with the right group of people.

We too are in a big game. In big games, sometimes you have to lose to win. You must give of your own prestige and props for the betterment of all. You have to give some of the pleasure you want to help others. I wish Stanley Wilson would have thought of that before the Bengals last trip to the Super Bowl, then things may have been different. Sometimes we must be willing to lose ourselves, to engage in sacrifice, in giving, resources, time, etc., for the church. We need to be losers in order to win.

Jesus, friends, was the ultimate loser. He left everything to help us win, to achieve the eternal victory. He left heavenly glory to be born in a manger. He left his family to take up the ministry. He suffered and gave his health so that others could be saved from perdition. He lost on Good Friday, or so the world thought. You see, that is the amazing thing about losing. The world takes it to mean one thing, that you lost, you stink, you aint no good, but for some, it can be the best thing that happened to them. For Christ, His "losing" on Good Friday was the best thing to happen to us. The world saw it as a victory for them, but it was really a victory for Christ. He lost so that we could gain eternity, He "took one for the team." He calls us to do likewise. He calls us to give to the team. And he doesnt even call us to do it 100%, as He did. We are just to give a tithe, a percentage.

Now I know what you are thinking. Here comes another donation sermon about money. Not at all. Tithing is not just about money, but about time, thoughts, and prayers. Christ only asks for 10%, but he gave 200% to us.

Christ won, because as He died, He gained the keys of life and death, he gained salvation for us to increase the army of God. Satan thought he won, but he lost. Look at the supposed winners of our society, the big time athlete. I read a study that said that 10 years upon retirement, the average football player, who makes millions, will be divorced, penniless, and deeply in trouble financially as well as legally and otherwise. Maybe if said athlete had been willing to lose some of the fame and fortune, maybe if they had not been so single minded, they may have saved their way of living.

See, that is what the world does to us. It tells us not to be a loser, not to give things up, whether it be money, fun, experiences, time, because we don't want to miss something and be called a loser or a dork. We don't want to be among the havenots, so we strive for things of this world, losing the things of the next world. And when we retire from this game, life, we are left with far worse than financial burdens, we are left with an eternal spiritual debt that we will go through Hell to pay...for eternity.

So, Jesus calls us to be like Him, to be a loser to this world. This world considered Him a loser. He didn't party with Herod. He didn't take the money of others and build ivory towers. He worked for the betterment of the eternal kingdom, and sacrificed so you and I don't have to pay the sindebt we have accumulated through trying not to be a "loser."

However, through losing, Christ became more powerful. Through giving up the grip on this world, He grew unbeatable. Likewise, Christ calls us to be losers in this world so we can gain the kingdom. He calls us to be losers in giving to the Church, so we can do the missions that he intends for us. If we give even a small portion of ourselves to God, to service and mission, we will win as well. We will be fulfilled with the Spirit, Christ will see the fruits of our faith in being willing to be labelled a loser in Christ, we will see the Kingdom.

The world may say we lost, but in eternity we will win.

January 29, 2006 Sermon Notes--Even Jesus Told Fish Stories

Note: Sermon notes taken from rough outline of pastor notes. Actual delivered sermon may have varied slightly. No video available. Sorry!

Text: Luke 5:4-10; 10:19-20; Luke 6:22-23

We have all heard some fish stories in our time. Do you know what I mean by fish story? You know, when uncle Bob caught that fish that was this big, but over time that fish grew to leviathan proportions, and the struggle for the fish became more exaggerated, to where pretty soon, instead of a sunfish that fish becomes a walleye or a pike and uncle Bob had to struggle for it! The fish gets bigger and bigger. It is done to swell our pride, and sometimes it really is unintentional, but it is all a bunch of hooey, many times.

Well, Jesus has a fish story, too. He tells of how when we have faith, and it grows over time, the more we can do in His name. And the cool thing is, it is all true!!! That is right! Look at the Scriptures, when He talks about the disciples being able to perform miracles, and what happens? They do! He feeds the five thousand, He talks about us being his messengers. Our role gets bigger and bigger. As we grow in the faith, we are called upon to do more. We are called upon to become those fishers of men! I mean, talk about a fish story! Fishers of men indeed! But look what happened! Jesus's fish story came to pass, and it grew and grew in TRUTH, not in exaggeration!

Our role, as we grow in the faith, gets bigger and bigger. We need, like the disciples, to go from being those little guppies caught to giant whales capable of catching others and growing ever bigger, until we are spiritual giants. However, we often stand in the way of that ourselves.

We often tell reverse fish stories. We say, no, I can't do that, it is too big. I know God sets it before me, but I just can't. There is no way. Our church is too small. We don't have the resources. We tell reverse fish stories, where our role gets smaller and smaller. We don't want to answer the tasks God has set out for us. We want the big blessings, but not the big jobs to get them. And it is a lie of the world that leads us to this. Read over those awesome Scriptures we cited today, and see the truth. Look beyond the words to the deep meaning, the Deep Magic, if you will. Jesus trusts us with the big jobs, He gives us the power to do them. Christ gives us the power, so He can have the victory and the glory, so that we may grow in faith and grow the kingdom!

So, the challenge becomes, will we make Jesus's fish story a reality, as he did, or will we make it an earthly one, one that seems far fetched. Jesus has great things in mind for us, each of us individually and collectively as a church, Christ has fish stories for us. He wants us to accomplish great and impossible things, but it takes faith and a willingness to go out there in trust, in faith, that Christ will help us, that He will take over. You see, it looks like we are doing all the work, but it is all going according to God's plan, and Christ empowers us to be His fishers, bringing in the day's and the kingdom's catch. So, we can either get to fishin', or just think about what we could have done, and make excuses. But, you know, God has a funny way of workin. Moses tried that whole reverse fish story when God tapped him for a big job, and God proved Moses wrong. Hopefully, if enough of us who believe pray enough and hope in Him enough, even our own reverse fish stories can be overcome, so that the Great Truthful Fish Story of Christ will lead us to greater things. He has great things in mind for us, if we can only get past the fish story of doubt the world lays on us.

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