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May 24, 2015 - Being a Good Steward of Your Failures - Acts 9:19b-25

posted May 26, 2015, 5:31 AM by Grant Garber

Main Thought
Part of our mission is knowing how to have good failures.
  • Seldom is someone argued into believing in the need for a Savior.  Faith is always a gift from God.
  • Paul never got over this early failure.  That’s the good news because he continued to learn from it, use it, and experienced more of God’s conversion through it.
  • We spend most of our lives either being converted toward or away from the image of Jesus Christ.  And there is nothing like a failure to make you move one way or the other.
“gravitas” = “a weighty soul”
  • No one has “gravitas” without experiencing some good failures along the way.  These are the people you go to for counsel and advice.
  • The difference in a devastating failure and a good failure is one that results in more conversion of your life.
  • Anyone who is living life to its fullest has to spend some time on the edges.  And you can’t get out on the edges, where risk is taken and faith is exercised, without occasionally falling off the edge. 
  • How do you respond to this inevitable failure when it comes?
    • Some become paralyzed with analysis.
    • Some become paralyzed with regret and remorse over what we have done and left undone.
    • Some become paralyzed with fear that it will happen again.
  • The reason Paul could keep going to the next town to talk about Jesus wasn’t because he expected to succeed, but because he wasn’t afraid to fail.  He knew he could never lose the love of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Both the successes and failures of life should make you humble.

Pastor Jim Spon | Acts 9:10-19a

May 17, 2105 - Faith or Fear? - Acts 9:10-19a

posted May 18, 2015, 6:38 AM by Grant Garber   [ updated May 18, 2015, 6:39 AM ]

  • The Lord’s commission to the church, especially when it is afraid and hiding behind its own walls, is “Get up and go!”
  • Today’s text is another conversion story.  Ananias was converted from fear and hiding to a mission and the embrace of his enemy.
  • The only successful way the church has ever responded to persecution is by reaching out to its tormentor saying, “Brother Saul.”
  • The problem isn't Saul, or Ananias, or whoever is different from us.  The problem, as President Roosevelt said long ago, is “fear itself.”
  • As Saul the persecutor was transformed to Paul an apostle of the church, and as Ananias was transformed from being afraid to getting up and going to his persecutor, so does our country need to be transformed.
  • God’s ways are not our ways, but He never leaves us alone.  His message is always the same.  “It is time to get up and go to the person who makes you afraid – and bless that person.”
  • The church was placed on the earth in part to resist this evil.  But we do that differently than the Department of Homeland Security.  The place where the followers of Jesus begin their war on terror is not by fretting over them, but by exploring and confessing the evil in our own hearts.  We confess this, find forgiveness, and then receive the perfect love of God that casts out fear.  This is where we put our faith – in the God of grace who is with us.
  • Let at least the members of the church of Jesus Christ stand in our nation as people who know how to be unafraid – so unafraid that we can resist evil by being a blessing to the people who only want to hurt us.  But the only way we can say, “Brother Saul” is if we have in the love of God that flutters by us every day.
Pastor Jim Spon | Acts 9:10-19a

May 10, 2015 - Life Interrupted - Acts 9:1-9

posted May 11, 2015, 6:21 PM by Grant Garber   [ updated May 18, 2015, 6:35 AM ]

Main Thought
Life doesn't move in a straight forward direction.  But it is always at the turn in the road where God is most visible to us.

  • Is there something about your life that you would like to change?
  • Is there something about your life that your friends and family would like you to change?
  • Is there a change that God wants you to make?
  • Real change can only come from the Creator of our lives.
  • As much as we talk about change, the only changes we are really interested in are the ones we control. God has other ideas.
  • Whether we realize it or not, our understanding of God determines everything we believe and how we live our lives.  
  • For most of us, conversion begins in a moment, but over a lifetime.  
  • Everything we do here at church is only a vehicle to carry us to God.  The point is not to get enamored with the vehicle. 
  • Real change in our lives comes not from what we know, but whom we know.  And knowing more of the love of God will always lead to the best changes in our lives 
  • When your life has been interrupted – not just turned, but turned upside down – have the courage to be quiet long enough to look through the interruption prayerfully, asking for a glimpse of God.
Pastor Jim Spon | Acts 9:1-9

May 3, 2015 - Building Community – Making Commitments - Ruth 4:7-12

posted May 4, 2015, 6:50 AM by Grant Garber

  • You are defined by the ideals and the relationships to which you are committed.
  • The most extraordinary things can happen when people pray and are willing to make a commitment.
  • Some of us remember past hurts when someone made a commitment that he or she could or would not keep.  It hurt so much that we vowed we would never go through that again.  So we become weary of committing our fragile hearts again.
  • How do you make a commitment to something that will become different than it was when you made the commitment?
  • It is easier to be in love with the idea of love than to commit ourselves to the flawed people God wants to give us.
  • Others of us are afraid of commitments because we have failed at them in the past.  
  • From the deepest places within us emerges a yearning to be connected, interwoven, devoted and committed to others.  But how do we do that? 
    1. A commitment isn't really something you make.  It is something you receive.  
    2. Commitments are costly.
      • Through committing ourselves to others, we receive blessings from God.
    3. Freedom is found only in commitments.
  • God is involved in our commitments.  It is the three-fold cord that doesn't easily break.
Pastor Jim Spon | Ruth 4:7-12

April 26, 2105 - Building Community – Plan to Start Moving - Ruth 3:6-13

posted Apr 29, 2015, 10:25 AM by Grant Garber

  • We love our plans.  If you want to reach a goal, it takes a good plan.
  • Grace is all about God’s initiatives in our lives, which means that God also has plans.  God’s plans often interrupt our own plans.  
  • There is a false piety which is often an excuse for laziness.  Naomi took the initiative, but she followed the direction which she believed God was already pointing out.
  • Faith always grows when it acts on the basis of what the Lord has already accomplished and provided.
  • The entire story of Ruth is one of ordinary people who are all doing the best they can with their plans.
  • The grace of God that redeems us, changes our lives, and brings us under His wings is mediated through ordinary people.  
  • If God wants to do something, He certainly can.  But most of our stories are like that of Ruth, who never saw a miracle.  She didn't expect it, and neither should we.
  • Expect to have to devise a strategy for what you will do with your life.  
  • You only have this one life.  This is your one opportunity to make a difference.
Pastor Jim Spon | Ruth 3:6-13

April 19, 2015 - Building Community - Our Causes - Ruth 1:8-9, 16-18

posted Apr 20, 2015, 7:08 AM by Grant Garber

  • Sooner or later, we all experience a famine.
  • Being smart people who are good at taking initiative, we eventually decide to make some changes, hoping they will lead to a better life.
  • This is the great problem with our plans to start over when we have times of famine.  We are only buying time until the next heartache comes along.  We cannot save ourselves from the famines of life because for salvation, we have always needed a Savior.
  • God doesn't act intermittently, but continuously.
  • Naomi is not our model evangelist.
    • Cynical
    • Angry
    • Rather than trying to gather people into the holy community, she keeps trying to make them go away.
  • We build the community of faith not by bringing our strengths and successes to it.  We build a spiritual community by confessing our weakness, our hurts, our failures, and our sin.  That is what opens our hearts to the grace of a Savior, and it is the grace that does the building. 
  • Maybe people come to our church not because Christians are so winsome, but just because we know how to find this Savior.
  • Jesus is the only One who can bring us home, and Jesus is the only One who can do anything about the famine in our souls.  He is certainly the only One who can build our community.
  • This is the great cause of the community we build.  This is why we give our time, our money, and our heart to this church.  It is because we believe that in Jesus Christ, “…the Lord had come to his people by providing food for them…”
  • We keep calling you the Beloved of God.  Someday, you, too, will embrace that identity.
Pastor Jim Spon | Ruth 1:8-9, 16-18

April 12, 2015 - Getting to Jerusalem - Luke 9:57-62

posted Apr 14, 2015, 1:31 PM by Grant Garber

  • There are times when life seems to settle into the plains of contentment.  Everything isn't perfect, but it is certainly well enough, and you would prefer to leave well enough alone.
  • Jesus isn't so interested in leaving well enough alone, and it is never long before He is once again on the move.

“My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping.  But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus.” ~ Kara Tippett
  • Every year brings another experience in change.  It isn't really changes that we resist; we resist the losses that come with it.  
  • What is so special about Jerusalem?  In the Bible, Jerusalem stands as the symbol of our salvation.
  • We may not be clear about where the future is taking us or how we will get there, but the Bible insists that we live with a conviction that Jesus is leading us toward His New Jerusalem.
  • But we aren't there yet.
  • Jesus may take you to places you would rather not go.  He may bring gifts into your life that you would rather not have.  And He will certainly take away things from you that you would rather not give up.
  • You cannot move ahead by looking back.  Jerusalem is ahead of you.

“Hunger is a funny thing.  Finally, you get so that it just feels like the sap is just draining out of your body.  It is the strangest feeling.  We were starving.  We would get a shower about every three weeks.  And every time we would go to that shower you could see that the guys were skinnier than they were the last time.  Plain and simple, it was starvation.”Robert Atkins Sr.
  • We Christians live with all three tenses.  We are gratefully informed and guided by our past and draw our identity from it.  But so is our identity formed by our compelling vision of the future.  And so we live in the present day with the courage to make the choices we have to make to keep moving toward Jerusalem.
Pastor Jim Spon | Luke 9:57-62

April 5, 2015 - The Mission of Forgiveness - John 20:19-23

posted Apr 14, 2015, 1:01 PM by Grant Garber

  • Isn't it ironic that the door to Jesus tomb was open and He was gone, while the disciples were huddled together in fear behind a locked door?  It makes you wonder who was really in a tomb.
  • We all fear something.
  • The most secure doors of all are the ones that lead into our hearts.
“shalom”  =  “a peaceful and just ordering of all of your relationships”
  • The Lord Jesus Christ literally, bodily, and historically, rose from the dead.  And He is with us now.  That is the source of our “shalom” – our peace; our freedom from fear.
  • Jesus gave us the mission to forgive the sins of others for our own sakes.
  • The retaining you do by refusing to forgive and holding onto the sins of those who hurt you is only retaining yourself in the small room of your wounded heart.
  • Forgiveness frees us from the power of the wounds we have experienced. 
  • The human heart can handle as much love, joy, and gratitude as you want to put into it.  That same heart will fill up quickly with anger and resentment.
  • How do we find our freedom from the locked doors of resentment?
  • Real forgiveness requires a Savior Who can go to the cross where all of our hurt is taken on and Who rises to give new life to relationships.  We don’t produce forgiveness – we just proclaim it, and at our best moments, we participate in it.
  • Jesus didn't unlock the door that the disciples were hiding behind.  That part is up to you and me. 
Pastor Jim Spon | 2 Timothy 1:3-7

March 29, 2015 - An Old Familiar Story - Mark 11:1-10

posted Mar 30, 2015, 6:33 AM by Grant Garber

  • Why do we keep going over these old familiar stories year after year?
  • These stories belong to our family, and in telling them, we are renewed in our identity.
  • Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem was the fulfillment of a prophecy of Zechariah.
  • The people who lined the streets of Jerusalem knew that prophecy.  It was one of their great family stories.
  • We are all waiting and searching for something, or someone, who can fix what is broken in our lives.
  • When the Savior brings hope, that hope is carried on the back of what you loan Him.
  • Jesus cannot get into town, or even into your life, unless you let Him use what you are holding.
  • We should not simply keep waiting for the Savior to arrive and magically fix us.  We are already holding the means of our salvation from our problems.  We just need to let Jesus hold that means. 
  • There is a holy purpose for everything we have.
  • We are just talking about loaning these things to Jesus long enough for Him to give them a holy purpose – to transform them.  Then He sends them back to you.
  • We just cannot out give Jesus.  But that is the way our family story goes.
Pastor Jim Spon | 2 Timothy 1:3-7

March 22, 2015 - Embracing Who You Are - 2 Timothy 1:3-7

posted Mar 23, 2015, 11:31 AM by Grant Garber

  • Life confronts us with a lot of choices.
  • Maturity is about embracing who you are, who you have always been, and who you were before you even knew it.
  • Paul tells Timothy to rekindle the gift that is already within him.
  • Tradition is an inevitable inheritance.  But it does fall to the members of each generation to receive this inheritance, and then to mold and shape it during the years while they hold the baton.
  • Faith isn't something that Timothy chose.  It is something that chose him.
  • Lois and Eunice were real people who no doubt had real flaws, just like our mothers and fathers.  But these flaws didn’t limit the faith within them.
  • When the storms of life come – and they do for all of us – we need such a deep-rooted, sturdy faith that is more than the little faith we have constructed in our hearts.
  • Our society will give us so many reasons to be afraid.  It will try to make us cowardly.  But we have this powerful gift of faith. 
  • We also have love.  God loved us before we knew His name, or what it meant to receive and respond to His love.  And we have self-discipline.  That will save us from bad choices which only hurt us.
  • Our world will also keep finding ways to tell us that we are ordinary.
  • If you are just ordinary, then you can leave it to the important people to change the world.  If you are just ordinary, then you aren't responsible. 
  • No one can opt out of the great conflict between good and evil.  You have to choose a side!  Either you are working for the faith that is within you, or you are working against it.
  • Jesus loves us ordinary persons for extraordinary purposes.  That is what great faith can do in your life and mine.
Pastor Jim Spon | 2 Timothy 1:3-7

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