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2018 - Go and Do

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2018 - Go and Do

Intro - typical and banter about holidays (weight, holiday let down, …move to the lengthening of days, and promise of life----->)
New year’s just always feels like a natural new beginning to me. To us all really. Now there are a lot of reasons for that, most of them center around our calendar, and the obviousness of the new start to the year. But we feel that newness spiritually as well.
We feel the new chance that comes every year with Christ. And right around this time, after the madness of the holidays settles down, we feel a new chance to start our next steps in the journey. Now there are surely plenty of personal reasons each one of us has for that, but I think our collective move towards this new start is at least partially because it is about this day, that logic tells us that the word of the savior being born had reached people outside of that manger.
Think about it like our kids going to school to hear about this awesome gift their friend got, a gift maybe you were keeping on the down low because it was expensive or just didn’t want them to get it. But now they know! They have heard of it. And their enthusiasm for that thing builds! And pretty soon, everyone wants it!
That is generally what would have been happening right about now. Bigger than that, though, tomorrow evening would mark the beginning of the eighth day, the day of the circumcision of Christ.
Now that might not seem like an overwhelming thing, but it is that first step, the first tangible proof, that Jesus was to fulfill all that expectation, all that prophecy. This was the first step on the greater journey.
And that really is what New Years represents to us! I think that is why we celebrate and make resolutions. We see the endless possibilities of the new year set before us. New life. New hope. New opportunities.
A new start.
And that is what we all need, everyday, not just this year, and not just in our personal lives - our diets, or habits, and what not - but in our faith lives as well!
That is why I give us a theme every year. This little idea, a little thought and phrase, that hopefully helps guide us toward the new start that we are afforded by the rebirth of Christ in our own lives!
And as a pastor, it also provides me an opportunity to intentionally guide us all towards God’s greater truth for us. And for those who have been walking together in this family over the past several years, you have seen that progression. When I first got here, it was all about finding identity - who we are together and who we are in Christ, and then “be willing” to become His creation. Then we looked at the reality of God’s calling, and together tried to “Move Toward It.” Then we focused on being “all in” this past year - willing to go commit fully to Jesus and to His plan for us.
But what is that plan?
That question is actually much easier to answer than it seems. But too often, we can’t quite commit enough of ourselves to make it happen. In fact, all too often, we don’t even want to hear the truth. I say all that more as a reminder than an indictment. A reminder that we must continually move toward God’s reality. We have to go all in with that reality. And to do all that, we must be willing to follow Him to wherever He leads us.
And today, I pray we see that truth, and find that destination in our text.
Acts 1:6–11 NIV
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
-----
pray
[pic of IAWL]
You know, this time of year I try to avoid one movie above all others. I can watch just about any Christmas or holiday movie there is, even, unfortunately, the Hallmark Channel ones as my mother forced on me last week. I can watch them all. All of them except “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie. In fact, it is one of my all time favorite films. But I can’t watch it.
I just can’t. I can’t take it.
I can’t take the emotions it stirs up in me. I can’t take the constant pull on my heart that I feel when I am watching it. And above all of that, I can’t take what seems to be the most potent aspect of that movie, the very thing that it offers every person who watches it.
The truth.
And not truth that we want to hear, mind you. This is the truth that we know to be true, one that we convince ourselves isn’t really all that important. One that we want to put under the rug, and move past. One that even our text today hints at.
That truth, church is best summarized in a simple prayer by George.
“Dear Father in Heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you are up there, and you can hear me, show me the way...show me the way.”
----read quote----
That is essentially the same question we see in verse 6. “Lord, will you...restore your kingdom?” Is it time? What is going to happen next?
We constantly search for those answers in life. I know I do church. We all cry out, almost daily, for God to just show us the way. And just like George in that wonderful old story, God answers those prayers! He heard those early apostles, He heard George, and He hears us!
But do we want to hear that truth? Do we want to listen?
You see, George prays to be shown the way, and there in the midst of being shown that way, of being answered by God, George reveals the true heart of that story and of that prayer he prayed. A truth that at first he refused to accept!
A truth that stands to me as the singular biggest takeaway of perhaps any story ever told. It is a truth spoken by Clarence, and it is the turning point of that story.
“Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't’ he?”
“Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't’ he?”
----read quote----
Our lives were meant to touch each other. Every moment we are given has a point, and has a purpose. And that point might seem mundane to us, but just as we spoke about last week, those mundane moments can actually be invitations to the miraculous!
And that is an important truth for us all. Our lives are filled with the miraculous. Those little moments when we get to choose to follow God, even when, like in our text, we have almost nothing to go on! Those moments, that true faith, even in the darkness, is perhaps the greatest miracle we can ever experience. But just like George, we can’t see that in the moment. You can’t see all the lives that you touch every day - in the moment. But even so, you have to keep following, you have to keep moving with Christ - in every moment!
Church, one of the hardest truths we ever will hear is that we are just followers of Christ. We are never going to be privy to everything He knows. No, we are only given the moment we are in, and church, those moments are all opportunities to do what Christ calls us to do.
And that call is the same for all those who are His followers, all those who take up His Spirit!
Acts 1:8 NIV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
[verse 8]
We all receive this power. And I don’t think of this like an actual ability. This isn’t, to me, some superhero stuff here. No this is the a power far greater than that! This is the power to choose the side and cause of the Creator of the universe, rather than the cause of man. This is the opportunity to choose to follow Christ wherever we are and wherever we go. In the world around us, like Jerusalem, in the region from which we come, Judaea for them, North Carolina for us, and Sumeria, the United States for us - even to the ends of the earth!
We all receive this power. And I don’t think of this like an actual ability. This isn’t, to me, some superhero stuff here. This is the a power far greater than that! This is the power to choose the side and cause of the Creator of the universe, rather than the cause of man. This is the opportunity to choose to follow Christ wherever we are and wherever we go. In the world around us, like Jerusalem, in the region from which we come, Judaea for them, North Carolina for us, and Sumeria, the United States for us - even to the ends of the earth!
You have the power to choose to follow. Wherever you are. Whatever you are called to in this life. You have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to choose to follow Christ and be His witness.
[what is a witness slide?put greek word here]
But what is a witness? I think that the word itself gives us the answer. The word used here for that is matus (mar-toos), and forms of that word sometimes mean someone who is a spectator. And whether it is translated that way or not, the word almost always gets translated to english as “witness.”
But here in , just as in several other places in the New Testament, that isn’t the idea that is being conveyed. No, martus here is better translated to mean - one who avers, or can aver; which means one who can confirm - confirm what he himself has seen or heard or knows by any other means.
Someone who can through some means, make the influence of Christ known to other people, and in fact, to everyone they meet wherever they go!
That is a witness.
And church, that is the same word that is used to convey the message that someone has given their life for Christ.
μάρτυς = Martyr = witness = us
But it is more. You see, the implications of our giving our lives, and our witnessing for Christ is that we ourselves can see Christ’s work! We are looking. We are in the mix. We are in the middle of all that God is doing around us!
And that, church, is the truth that this text ultimately points us towards. Those who follow Christ, those who have received His Spirit, those people are to be His witnesses. And that realization can only lead us to ONE reality!
We are called to God’s work.
[Go and Do]
We are called to go and do.
Wherever we find ourselves, Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, Valdese, Cleveland, Haiti - everywhere God puts us - we are called to do the work of Christ!
We are called to touch lives. To get in the mix. To represent our Savior in so much more than just our Sunday’s or our words! To actively find ways to do good for this world, and to heed the call of Christ to feed, clothe, and in any way possible, to tend to the needs of “the least of these.”
[matt 25 text]
Matthew 25:37–40 NIV
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Those who we see every single day. Those neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and friends. Those people whose lives have been brought close to ours so that we may touch them and show them our Savior through our actions.
Or as some will derogitoraliy call them, works.
But understand, I don’t mean works that somehow attain salvation, no that isn’t possible. The works that Christ calls us to daily are the things that believers are tasked with in response to their faith! These things are the responsibility of the believer. The very core of our response to the great gift of Christ! We have this new life, the new chance, this new identity, and that comes with new responsibilities!
Namely, it comes with the call of God to service! Wherever we are, whatever we are doing - at home, in school, at work, and even here at church - we are called to sacrifice our time and our energy to something bigger than ourselves! Something bigger than what we expect or what we normally do! Something that provides the best witness to the workings and the very Spirit of God! And that thing, church, can’t be shown in our words, or our clothes, or our building, or our numbers, that can ONLY be shown in OUR RESPONSE! OUR RESPONSE TO OUR SAVIOR, AND OUR LOVE FOR OUR NEIGHBOR! IT CAN ONLY BE SHOWN THROUGH OUR ACTIONS!
And that is what this year is about for us. That is our focus. That is our call. This year, we start that by shifting our thoughts for others. If you are here, I hope, and in some way expect, you to try to reach out more this year. Take time to be with the hurting. Give time away. Give love away. Give all you can away! Take moments when you would have felt the urge and then kept moving, to stop and let God speak to and through you and your actions.
Corporately, we are taking four days out of our worship year. Four days, four opportunities, four chances to touch a life for Christ! Four Sundays when we will go out into our Jerusalem and seek to show Christ through our actions. Four moments to choose between the inaction of those unaffected by the Spirit of God, or the good and faithful servants who have encountered God’s Spirit and heed the words of these two men at the end of our text, the two men in white robes. Men who stood there looking at those called by Christ as they stared into Heaven waiting for Christ to come back! Men who, no doubt, wondered where this great power of God’s spirit had run off to! Men who had the courage to speak out through this text to every Christian who has ever lived - even to us here today!
DON”T JUST STAND THERE! THEY CRY. DO SOMETHING!!! Don’t take the time you have been given for granted, because you never know when that time is done! Don’t be afraid to follow blindly! Don’t be afraid of the miraculous! Don’t be afraid of all the hurdles that will no doubt seemingly stand in the way! Just go and do! Do your best! Do what you can! Do all that you can with all that you have!
Just go and do!
[“All you can take with you, is that which you’ve given away.” ~ Pa Bailey]
Give all you can. Even your time. Give it all away, because it is only in the giving it away that you will ever truly be able to take anything with you.
Or as Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
That is our invitation today. An invitation for decisions, for prayers, for all that we usually do, but also, an invitation to service. An invitation to express our faith through service. An invitation for us to go and do. Lose your life for Christ, and find Him in the lives of everyone you serve.
Invitation
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