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Opportunities

Crisis Mode  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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* We are entering the 4th week of our sermon series entitled Crisis Mode. And things going on with our present crisis have changed rapidly. Every week there’s something new. Like this past week: Provisions from the $2 trillion dollar coronavirus package went into effect on April Fool’s Day; a study came out stating the virus can travel 27 feet through the air and almost immediately many physicians came out against the study; Ohio’s lock down and school closures will now run into May; State health officials believe we will hit our peak in coronavirus cases around 19 April; New York City, New Jersey, and New Orleans are beginning to struggle to care for the sick and many are dying; Samaritan’s Purse has set up a transportable field hospital in New York’s central park; the US Navy has medical ships in New York City and Los Angeles; the Army Corp of Engineers have and are continuing to set up temporary hospitals across the nation; World-wide laboratory positive cases have gone beyond the 1 million mark; and now we are being encouraged to cover our faces with masks or cloth when out in public. And there was even an earthquake reported in Idaho. Stuff has happened - Things have change…. and yet – followers of Jesus do not need to be afraid …… Jesus is on His throne – and His promises are true! Amen!
* Over the last 3 weeks, we have learned that God watches everything, He sees everything, He knows everything, He is all powerful, and He takes care of us – therefore – we should not be fearful – should not be afraid – instead - we need to remain positive. We need to be patient under pressure. We need to persevere in prayer.
* And We also need to understand the times we are living in ….. there are people that question if we are in the end times …. is this pandemic, and wars, and earthquakes, and tornados, and famines, and other things happening in the world today signs that the end is about to come? …….. the answer is yes - and no …… yes – the things happening around the world are mentioned in the Bible concerning the end times ….. and no …… because things have been happening like this since Jesus ascended to heaven and throughout history … and there are other things that still need to happen …….. but …….. Jesus said the end will come and He will return someday ……. The things we see happening today could be the birthing pains of the end, as Jesus said in . “6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
…… Jesus tells us not to be alarmed….. not to be afraid ….. Instead we need to trust in Him and abide in Him…….
* And we do! – we need to trust in Jesus. Yet, we might find ourselves in times of crisis focused on ourselves and locked inside our own heads….. and trusting only in ourselves. Isolated - mentally, physically, spiritually. And that is likely the way some of us may feel today in this crisis …. In this shelter in place period …… we are isolated from one another. We are socially distanced. And many of us are now working from home or teleworking. It’s easy to get caught up in the work, day after day, where you eventually develop the habit of waking up and working all day – going from the bedroom to the desk …. day after day ….. rarely stepping outside for some air – and rarely seeking the One that gives us strength ….. and forgetting to pray and study His word …… and forgetting we have some technology that allows us to stay connected with one another. It can be mentally draining – you start feeling isolated. Additionally, during the crisis, we have lost the ability to see one another, to draw strength from one another, to share our lives with one another – all those things we get from meeting together as a church on Sundays and in our Life Groups each week. The togetherness in Christ Jesus that acts as a fuel to keep us going each week…..We are made to be in community with one another. And the time alone causes us to withdraw into ourselves – instead of seeking opportunities to connect and to grow and to serve.
* The illustration I mentioned concerning teleworking and finding yourself going from the bedroom to the desk, and forgetting to pray and study your Bible…..being in one’s head day after day….. well… that was me a few years ago. My previous job in the market place found me working from home – and there were extended periods where I would wake up and check my email… and before I knew it, it was dinner time and then it was study time for my seminary program, and bedtime……. I went day after day not reading my bible, not praying, not spending time with Jesus, not communing with others, and finding myself getting further from God and further into my own head……. It was no fun – it was hard to recognize what was going on – it was damaging – it was horrible……. It was draining and it was isolating ……. It was my wife’s concern for me and the fellowship with a brother in Christ that got me out of it ……. I share this as a warning from someone who’s been there ….. don’t draw inward during this crisis… don’t close off ….. don’t stop communicating with and serving others during the lock down…… We all need Jesus and we all need community…….. and we can have community even with the 6 foot physical distancing, facemasks, and shelter in place orders…….
* Today, we are going to talk about opportunities. Opportunities in light of the circumstances that we find ourselves in today. Things we can do over the next month or two while sheltering in place that could, hopefully and eventually, turn into habits. We’ll talk about why we should do those things and why we should seek opportunities …. Opportunities to grow in God’s Word, to grow in prayer, to grow others, to grow in serving – to connect ….. to grow as a follower of Jesus…to grow others in Jesus …… all to His glory!
* Let’s jump in and talk about the opportunity you have to grow as a follower of Jesus while in crisis mode. We’ll talk about daily Bible reading and study, and prayer.
* Now some of you might be thinking it was weird to mention that someone could be so caught up in their telework situation or being in lock down mode that they would forget about reading and studying their Bibles …… but it’s true …. It’s easy to get off track when events throw a wrench into daily routines – or you lose discipline and allow stuff to get in the way. Just like it’s true that the busyness of life, prior to this virus, caused some to rarely, if ever, pick up and read and study their Bibles. Things get in the way.
* So – why do we need to read and study the Bible? The Apostle Paul gives us a good reason in his 2nd letter to his disciple Timothy, a co-worker, pastor, and fellow church planter. We read in 2nd Timothy chapter 3, verses 16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
* The first thing we notice from the scripture is that all scripture is God breathed – which means these are the very words of God – though they were written by men – the writers of scripture were guided along by God the Holy Spirit and wrote exactly what God had intended.
* The Apostle Peter also wrote in 2nd Peter chapter 1 verses 20 and 21 “20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
* Since the scriptures are God breathed…. We do not have the luxury to choose the parts we like or dislike, or the commands we wish to obey, or the doctrines we wish to believe. All of it comes from God…. it’s His word….. which means it’s all good, and perfect, and inerrant, and binding, and completely true……. Just as God is good, perfect, holy, and true.
* The next thing we see from 2nd Timothy is that the Bible is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”
* The Bible shapes our beliefs, shapes our lifestyle, shapes us into the image of Christ, it rebukes our ungodly behaviors, it rebukes our false beliefs, it corrects us when we stray from Christlikeness, it trains us up for righteous living, it encourages us when we are down, it lifts us up, it transforms us - from the inside out ….. all through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
* So far, we have learned from 2nd Timothy chapter 3 verse 16 that the Bible is God breathed – that it came from God - and it is profitable to the reader.
* Next we learn the purpose – and it’s in verse 17, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
* Here we learn the Bible is profitable in equipping the Jesus follower to spiritual maturity – but we are not just equipped …. The Apostle Paul used 2 forms of the Greek word for equip – he used both as an adjective and a participle - the words he used indicate that God super-equipped us through His word. We are not just given the tools, we are not merely given the equipment to do a job ……. Instead we are thoroughly equipped, we are fantastically equipped, we have more than enough, we are supernaturally equipped by God through reading and studying towards the application of His word.
* We need to read and study daily … to learn daily from God ….. to help us joyfully live out what He has taught us through His Word in service to Him and to others………through the Bible.
* If you are not reading and studying your Bible, then you are not profiting or being encouraged from its life-giving words, you are then are not fully equipped to joyfully do every good work God has made possible for you to do in service to Him and others.
* Now that you are on lock down, a lot of busy things you used to do are no longer there for you to do. You may find that you have the time to read and study ….. so that you are super-equipped to do what God has in store for you …. And the reading and studying may become a lifetime habit over the next month or longer. You are encouraged to read and study your Bible daily ….. and put those things into practice
* And also since you are in lock down, and a lot of busy things you used to do are no longer there for you to do. You may find that you have the time to pray…..
* We, as a church, were going through a sermon series on prayer before the shelter in place started, and we are still in the midst of our 40 days of prayer – and receiving the daily emails - through the prayer series - we learned the importance of prayer and why we need to pray ….. Who it is that we are praying to – and why we need to communicate with God.
* The Jesus follower needs to understand that we live in two worlds. We find ourselves here in this evil, lost and dying world, and yet… we belong to Lord Jesus and our home is in heaven. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. We cannot make it through this world unless we seek the One who saved us from the world. And we seek the One that saved us from the world through prayer.
* It is through prayer that we connect with God. Jesus said the following to His disciples in John chapter 16 verse 24 “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Here Jesus promises that we can have a direct prayer relationship with God the Father by praying in His name. And just previous to His promise in verse 24, Jesus explained in verse 23, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” And in verse 1, Jesus said the following to His followers, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The Greek word for pray or prayer in this verse is proseuchamai (pros-yoo'-khom-ahee) – is made up of two words – the first is pros which means “toward” and the second is yoo'-khom-ahee which means “to wish” or “to desire.” This means the fundamental meaning of prayer is to express a desire or wish to God. That means you can have a face-to-face relationship with God. You get to talk to God directly. And God answers you directly because you used Jesus’ name in prayer. But as we learned in previous sermons – his answers to prayer are Yes – No – Wait – and You’ve got to be kidding Me! We may not always like His answers – but He does answer us according to His good, perfect and holy will – He knows better what’s good for us… even when we don’t understand it ourselves.
* God wants to hear from us. He wants us to praise Him, He wants us to intercede for others, He wants us to make our requests to Him, He wants us to seek forgiveness and repentance, He wants us to seek His protection in the spiritual battle, and He wants us to seek Him and His will to be done always. God loves you and He wants to take care of you …… so spend some time daily in prayer to Him ….. and He also wants us to grow others ….
* The others we’ll focus on are those who are in your home during this crisis …… those could be your husband, your wife, your children, grandchildren, siblings, or parents.
* If you are a parent of children in the home, you have the overwhelming responsibility to teach God’s ways to your children – to have a family connection in love, to love God, and have conversations about God. We find this command written in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 4 to 9…… and it says: 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
* And we also see it in verse 6, “6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
* As the primary disciple maker in the home, parents are to live out their faith and model Christlikeness for their children each and every day. The family home should be steeped in God’s truth. Parents must teach their children about God, His Son, His Spirit, His character, His nature, His Word, His creation, His church, salvation, His commands, His mission, and about the things to come ….. and they should see you serve and love on others and our brothers and sisters in Christ – modeling the love of Christ. We see this in : “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
* Some of the things the adults and may be even the teens in the house could do are some of the same things we’ve discussed here today ….. and that is Bible reading and study, as well as praying together, ….. setting aside time to go through and discuss the scriptures and pray together …… teach one another, helping one another grow in Christ Jesus …… connecting to one another deeper, in relationship with one another, as well as in Christ together ….. spending time in prayer for one another, praising God together, worshipping Him together …..
* Jesus tells us in verse 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
* If you gather to learn, or pray, or study, or serve together, be encouraged to know that God is there with you! Amen!
* So use this time of crisis to develop new growth habits in your household that will carry beyond the crisis.
* You have heard the word “serve” said today… and
You might be thinking… “what in the world could I do to serve when we are in lock down ….. This guy must be out of his mind … I mean, we’re only to leave the house for medical purposes, to buy up all the toilet paper and bottled water, or for other critical needs….!”
…..well…..there are things you could do to serve others and some of it can be done without leaving your house
* We have seen through out the 2000 year history of the church that Christians continue to serve even if it means their death ….. all Jesus’ disciples died, with the exception of John, while spreading the good news of Jesus around the known world. Missionaries in South America, the Middle East, the Far East, and parts of Europe died serving and sharing the gospel with others that did not know Jesus…. and they died for it…..some have died due to disease – some at the hands of others. Most recently Samaritan’s Purse medical professionals and volunteers have gone into harms way to respond to ebola and coronavirus outbreaks. They all went to serve Jesus Christ and others …. all because of love.
* Please note that they did not put others at risk… they put themselves at risk. In our current coronavirus environment, coming into contact with someone may lead to their death …… therefore serving others may put others at risk.
* We read in verse 10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” If we love others, we will not put them at risk by serving them. That means directly and physically serving others requires a great deal of wisdom, discernment, and thorough medical risk analysis with you and the individual, and possibly their physician, and your physician.
* So….what can you do to serve others …… well….here are some examples:
Number 1: Connect with others visually through Facetime, Zoom, Go To Meeting or similar platform. Share your lives with one another, eat dinner with one another virtually, and stay in frequent contact. Using those visual platforms does give you the feeling of seeing someone physically …… it feels like you actually spent time together.
Number 2: Do some Bible reading, studying, praying with members of your church family or loved ones on a regular basis through Facetime, Zoom, Go To Meeting or similar platform.
Number 3: Go grocery shopping, pick up medication, take a car to be serviced, or similar activity for seniors, those that are sick, or immunocompromised, or have other risk factors – or for others that may need the help
Number 4: If you are well and have no risk factors, and after wise deliberation and consultation, consider offering to babysit for a grocery store worker, first responder, laboratory professional, or medical professional.
Number 5: Mow your neighbor’s grass or for someone in your neighborhood; such as a senior, someone sick, immunocompromised, someone that may have other risk factors, grocery store worker, first responder, laboratory professional, or medical professional.
Number 6: Contact one of the homeless or women’s shelters, or local ministries like Feed the Creek, and ask them what they are lacking; order it online and have it delivered.
Number 7: Check regularly on your neighbors – either by phone or by knocking on the door. Making sure you are wearing some type of face covering and maintain over 6 feet of separation if they answer the door.
Number 8: Using Facetime, Zoom, Go To Meeting or similar platform – help homeschool your grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children from the church, a grocery worker’s child, or your neighbor’s child…… you’d be a blessing for doing it!
* I’m sure there are other things you can do, but hopefully this spurs you on to serve others without causing harm to someone else.
Now remember:
- Jesus loves you so seek opportunities to learn about Him
- Jesus loves you so seek opportunities to pray to Him
- Jesus loves you so seek opportunities to help others learn about Him and pray to Him
- Jesus loves you so seek opportunities to serve Him and others
- And if you’ve never done it before, know that Jesus loves you – He died for you - so take this opportunity right now to confess His name as Lord and believe in His resurrection, repent of your sins and seek His forgiveness for your sins, and then know that you will be saved and will be His forever!
Amen!
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