- Like God’s “Yes”, the only purpose of His “No” is to further the construction of our souls.
- Mostly what “No” makes available to us is the grace of God, which shapes our lives. “Yes” is a grace. So is “No”. No just makes it clear that grace is all there is.
- When you face these hardest moments in life, you don’t want to be alone. You call on your friends to pray. But it doesn’t matter how many friends you have, on the nights when you are up all night, wrestling with a decision, you know this is now between you and God.
- Your soul is shaped not by receiving the things you want, and not by avoiding the things you don’t want. Your soul is shaped by the hands of a Savior who finds you at the cross and raises you to a new life that far exceeds your expectations.
- Victims assume they don’t have choices and, as Jesus illustrates, you can always choose your response, even to God’s “No”.
Two kinds of faith
Faith in spite of...
- It is after hearing God’s “No” that we lose our instrumental use for God. Then we face the question, “Will I still love God even when that love comes without the blessings?”
- The Bible doesn’t claim that Christians should avoid conflicts, and it doesn’t even tell us much about how to resolve them. What it does tell us is how to live with conflict.
- The early church was quite accustomed to conflict. This spat between Paul and Barnabas was no big deal. The big deal was fulfilling their mission of talking about Jesus.
- The mission, the purpose of your life and mine is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. If you find that all of your energy and joy is being sucked away by your conflicts, you are missing the point of your life.
- God’s will is about God’s choices. And God will use our choices, even the conflicted ones, to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ with us.
- There is a unity that comes not from consensus, and not even from the will of the majority, but from the common salvation we all have in Jesus Christ.
- Christ’s church can be defined only at the center, where He alone is found, and that center is strong enough to hold the church together.
- Our unity isn’t found in agreement. Not even in agreement about extremely important moral or justice issues. Our only source of unity is the grace of Jesus Christ – to which we all cling for our only hope.
- God is using even this “troubled sea” to lead us, and those with whom we are conflicted. And this is God’s mission.
- Since we believe God’s will ultimately prevails, we are free….
- To develop humbly the most thoughtful position we can in a debate.
- From having to prevail ourselves when our position conflicts with the beliefs of other thoughtful Christians.
- To commend those with whom we disagree to the grace of God, and return to our mission of knowing and enjoying God.
- We live in a culture that is pretty hard on those making mistakes.
- When we experience these overwhelming losses and great mistakes, we may grieve for a short while. But typically, way too soon, we decide that we have to get going again. What we mean by “get going” isn’t to get help and find healing, but to get away from the pain and hurt.
- This is when the running starts, and once we start, we just keep running. If you’ve been on the run for a while, you know how much it depletes your soul. And you understand about tired.
- The church of Jesus Christ has inherited this calling of being a City of Refuge. It is a place where you can come when you have made mistakes, where the only ticket to get inside is the need for grace. And best of all, it is a place where you can finally stop running.
- No mistake is as great as hiding behind the expectations others have of you, or of confusing carefulness for cowardliness and the refusal to take risks.
- Some of us run because we are fleeing our past, and others of us run because we have to hustle just to meet the demands of being good.
- On Sundays after you have run into the City of Refuge, we do the unforgivable thing here of slowing you down. All of our worship is designed to create an atmosphere in which your tired soul can at last rest in God.
- None of us are here because we’ve got it all figured out. We are all searching for the same thing – a little grace. And in that discovery, the blessed City of Refuge, the church, is formed.
- The church isn’t a Hole in the Wall gang of fugitives, but a community of people set free.
- Only those who have experienced such grace know how to be gracious to those we meet in the course of our days who are still running for their lives. And there you find your mission.
It is important to remember that humankind has been given only two things to master: “how to live” and “how to die”.
- Coming to grips with life.
Coming to grips with death.
- Life lived in the image of God is drastically different from life lived in the likeness of sinful man.
- Adam hid from God, Cain went from the presence of God, but Enoch walked with God. That is the ultimate human compliment.
Coming to grips with life after death.
- Death in the abstract no longer moves us and we like to keep it that way. But death is not abstract. Paul tells us that “death came to all men”, and he attributes this to Adam’s wrongdoing.
- Life after death for some will mean glory and for others judgment.
- Only those who view death rightly can hope to live properly.
- The Holy Spirit is a mighty wind that moves across the dark chaos that settles in, pushes it aside, and creates life in its place.
- When the winds of change sweep through your family, your life, our community, do you know what it means? Do you realize that this may be the Spirit of God who insists on leading you to a new life?
- Like the first disciples who nestled together in their familiar upper room, we, too, look for places of sanctuary.
- At Pentecost, as the disciples were hiding in their safe upper room; the wind rushed down upon them and blew them out of their sanctuary into the waiting world.
- Sanctuaries are good places. But whenever we use our safe place to resist change, the sanctuary becomes a tomb. Expect Jesus to send His Spirit to breathe life back into you by pushing you to a new place where you can only live by faith, which is the only way to be fully alive.
- The war dead tell us that no one gets to keep their freedom by playing it safe. They also tell us that we must accept the gift they were dying to give us and to live our lives, to grab hold of the wild mystery of life, and to be free of the tombs.
- What Pentecost tells us is that the Holy Spirit will push you into this life. The wind forces all of the disciples of Christ out of their safe places in order to follow the risen Savior who is at work in the world. For where He is, there is our life and our freedom.
- The point of giving is that it changes your life. We don’t give because the church has needs; we give because we need to give.
- There is no verse in the Bible that says God helps those who help themselves. God helps those who tell the truth, and then cast themselves upon His grace.
- Ananias lost his life in a lie, claiming that he was totally dependent on the Savior when he was depending on the little stash he kept for himself – just in case.
- God is not asking you to give your savings to the church. God is asking you to give your trust to Him. And that is because the stash isn’t enough to save your life.
- Money is only one way to keep a stash from God. What He wants is everything. He wants you.
- Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives trying to save them.
- God has always been so tender with repentant sinners who confess their failure in belief. This is how we become Barnabas. We confess our inability and receive the Spirit’s ability.
- To have integrity in faith isn’t just to give God your trust, but also to give God your doubts and anxieties.
- Nothing will take your life away like fear, most of all the fear that your little stash isn’t enough.
- Paul’s vision for his life, and for the Christian Church, was according to the last verse of our text, to “…finish the race…testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
- Grace, as defined by our Lord and the Apostle Paul, means that God gives us what we need and not what we deserve.
- We live in a world of deal-making. You fulfill your responsibility, and the other persons will have to fulfill their responsibilities.
- But how are we going to factor love into the deal? Love is a commitment. It is an ordering of one’s life around the other. Deserving has nothing to do with it.
- The blessing is that God gives us grace – a decision, a commitment to love no matter what.
- Let us remember that God’s grace doesn’t mean He gives us what we want. It means He gives us what we need, and sometimes what we need is to hear, “No.”
- From the time of Abraham, we were told that we were blessed to be a blessing. We were loved to be loving. We received grace in order to give grace.
- Let us stay the course and finish our life of faith the way we began, testifying to the grace we have received. Let us continue to join others in our community who are devoted to giving people what they need.
- Mortals always have limits.
- Faith is simply a way of getting back up – in the power of God.
- Gods that human’s create, they always eventually destroy. That’s because it’s only a matter of time before a false god disappoints us.
- For a long, long time, mortals have been consumed with finding a way to mend their brokenness.
- The search goes on and on and one because whenever the person or the thing we were counting on to save us fails, and we discover our life is still broken, we become so angry we could throw a stone.
- Jesus will not fix everything that is broken in our lives any better than anyone else.
- Jesus came to give us God; not to give us the nature of gods. We will always be mortals, which means something is always broken in our lives.
- Being a Christian just allows us to call our broken lives holy.
- Joyful people have learned that they do have enough – even with some of the pieces broken, it’s a pretty good life. In fact, they have learned to give thanks, especially for the broken pieces because that is now their best altar where it is easy to pray and find communion.
- The witness of mortals who find it easy to believe in God because they have stopped trying to be a god can never be destroyed. That’s because they believe not in what they can do but in what God can do even through them.
- The importance of the Holy Spirit in our:
The "Gideon Report" by Bill Long