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"Tag, You're It"!!

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In this new year, we will face a lot of new challenges, new dilemmas and new uncertainties. However, as Christians, we are still running the same race and wrestling against the same adversary. Instead of looking at the new year with uncertainty and doubt about what is coming and how we are going to manage things, we need to be preparing the next generation for running the race and passing the baton, the torch, so that they will be ready to finish the race!

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OPEN WITH THE SKIT GUYS NEW YEARS VIDEO

Well good morning CWC family! How is everyone doing this fine morning? Did every one enjoy the white Christmas we just had? I have another quick question for everyone? How many of you have cell phone service with AT&T?

You know, since the bomb exploded in Nashville on Christmas morning, we have been without service (except on WiFi), and even this mornin, I still cannot make or take phone calls!

I was just thinking this morning about abruptly everything in life can change with something as simple as losing cell phone service! You don’t really realize how programmed you’ve become, until there is a sudden change and you can’t do something that you have been doing autonomically for years!

Everytime that I wanted to ask someone a question, or send someone a quick message, I couldn't. Everytime that I wanted to check and see if I had a new email, I couldn't. When I wanted to look at the news, or jump on YouTube, or something like that, I couldn't.

And of course, with my position as a pastor, as a shepherd, my phone has become my link to the flock. And when I instantly lost that direct acces, I somewhat felt crippled. As an example, I was working to prepare for a funeral message yesterday morning and I needed some information from someone to help with the message and I couldn't get ahold of them.

And then I began to think about how people used to get things done, before these stupid devices came along!! What was my life like, before the age of “instant” accessibility? I really took a long hard look at how quickly life could change in this country, if the right circumstances took place and people were suddenly cut off from all of their “stuff”!!

I read a news article this morning talking about how the FBI is looking into the possibility of the person behind the bombing in Nashville, being someone who is paranoid about the whole 5G movement that is coming and that maybe they did what they did out of their irrational fear! But, just in one instant and “poof”, thousands upon thousands of people were instantly cut off from the world they are usually entrenched in via their smartphones!

But think about this for a minute, what would happen to this nation, if someone took this scenario a step further? What would happen if in the blink of an eye, everything was just shut down and you had access to nothing? What I am eluding to, is the scenario of someone shutting down the power grid system in the United States!

I have watched and listened to news reports about this very situation. The possibility of some country or terrorist organization planting a bomb in the just the right place and suddenly, this nation is completely without power! I even saw where they are now scrambling to fix the issue of a “cyber attack” on our grid system! In other words, they don’t even have to be here to shut us down.......they just hack in to our grid and remotely throw the switch via the internet and that’s it, lights out!

Have you ever stopped to think about what your life would instantly be like in a situation like that? If you remember back during the Y2K scare, everyone was scrambling to prepare for “doomsday” because the computers wouldn't be able to handle the calendar rolling over! And just like in this little situation that took place with the AT&T towers being out and people being cut off from their life of “instant” connection and communication. And then you factor in the past year and the effects that all of the isolation from the COVID-19 virus has had on people and the marked increase in depression and anxiety that is has produced!

If we really stopped and took a long hard look at our lives right now in this nation and asked ourselves the question of what would happen if EVERYTHING came to a screeching halt in a matter of seconds, what do you think it would look like? How much chaos and disorder do you think would come from something like that?

Our lives have become intricately connected with all of our “stuff” and if we were to lose ALL of our stuff and our conveniences, what would happen to us? What would happen to families and homes all across this nation? What would happen to the church in America?

I read another article the other day, from The Christian Post, and it was talking about the situation in China right now. I wanted to just read you a little excerpt from that article, as an example of kind of what I am talking about right now.

Tens of thousands of house church pastors and evangelists across China have gone into hiding as the Communist Party prepares for what seems like a "final assault" on Christianity in an attempt to eradicate it from the country, according to missions group Asia Harvest.
Asia Harvest said pastors have disconnected from their phones and computers so that government authorities can no longer use those devices to track their movements. These pastors have also reportedly destroyed the microchips inside their ID cards so authorities cannot track their locations using those devices either.
“Each person in China must have an ID card. It is impossible for a person to catch a flight or train, open a bank account, get a job, or rent an apartment without using their card. Each ID card contains a computer chip which is also used to track people's movements,” the newsletter added.
(IN THIS ARTICLE, IT MENTIONS OF HOW THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO CORRUPT THE GOSPEL MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE BY CHANGING IT.)
One example of this is a communist textbook that's being used in Chinese schools that falsifies the biblical account found in John 8:3–11. The textbook claims that Jesus murdered the woman who was found in adultery and then referred to Himself as a sinner, too.
The textbook, published by the government-run University of Electronic Science and Technology Press, states: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death, saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’” By doing this, the regime hopes to "control the Church and ultimately render it powerless and subservient to the communist system," Asia Harvest added. "The government has openly announced plans to ‘reinterpret’ the Bible and other religious texts, so they will have ‘socialist characteristics.’”

What would happen to the church in America, if the pastors and the true church had to go underground and off of the grid? No more computers and phones, because you can be tracked! No more identification chips and thus no more buying and selling and interacting with the outside world, because you can be tracked and stopiped!

And that final statement about the intentions of the Chinese governments plans to reinterpret the Bible so that it has “socialistic characteristics”! I mean, seriously, what would happen if anything like this came about?

The reason for me asking these questions is to make a point.
I know that a scenario like our grid system being shut down, or the government beginning to try and subvert the Word of God and thus eradicate the true church, seems highly unlikely, if not impossible to many people.
But, there have been many things happen in my lifetime alone, that 50+ years ago, would have seemed completely unlikely, if not impossible!

So, all of that said and done, now that I have your cranial tissue awake and your really thinking right now, let me take your minds to the Word of God and ask you about a couple of situations and then make my overall point for the day and for the New Year.

When you go back and read of what happens to the nation of Israel after they have been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and after Moses has died and now Joshua has taken the helm, what changes about their plight and their destiny as the people of God?
In other words, when you start reading the book of Joshua and of what took place coming out of the whole Exodus account, does God say to the people, “OK, now that you've made it through the wilderness, I'm going to lessen the load, so that you don’t have to finish going in and conquering the land! I’m going to remove your part of the obligation and and change what I have called and commanded you to do”?
Is that even close to what we read in the Bible?
No, abolsutely not! They had to finish what God told them they were to do.
And all of the circumstances that had lead up to that point were irrelevant.
They still had to prepare and finish what they were told to do, if they wanted to “claim the prize” of the promised land!
Another example for you, when you read of the children of Israel being returned from Babylon, after 70 years of captivity and they are finally getting to return, as a nation, to their homeland, did God say to them, “OK, now that you’ve learned your lesson, I am going to take care of rebuilding everything for you and setting up all that you’ll need to get going again”?
Again, “NO”, that didn't happen.
The people had to get busy from the day 1 and start rebuilding and getting back to doing what God had instructed His people to do and operating under the laws that He had commanded them to operate under.
The point that I am trying to make, is that circumstances and situations (whether bad or favorable) do no change the mind of God and they do not alter the calling and command that He has given To His people!
And just like I was mentioning to you about how quickly things can change in our lives and how dramatically events can impact us.
Whether it be something as simple as our smartphones and computers going down, or something way more impacting, like the grid system being shut down and having no electricity, or having all of your religious rights and freedoms removed by a government that is trying to subvert and change the Word of God and thus eradicate true Christianity!
If any of those situations took place, or any other like them, does that change who we are and what we have been called and commanded to do, as God’s people?

Each and every year, as we get to the end of one year, we look to beginning of the new year and of what lies ahead for us. We begin planning on “new” everything. New goals, new habits, new friends, new diets, new cars, new jobs, new technology and the list goes on and on.

We are hard wired to always look for the new.........the bigger and better.......the next big thing!
It’s like I have mentioned in messages in the past, you can change your clothes, you can change what you are putting into your body for food, you can surgically and cosmetically alter and change your physical appearance (completely and in every way), you can change what you are reading and learn new thought patterns and become more intellectual. You can change jobs and change addresses and change all of your friends and social connections on Facebook and Twitter.
You can completely redo and change everything in and about your life and after your through and when everything is changed and you lie down at night to go to sleep, guess what happens when you wake up the next morning?
Absolutely nothing! You are still the exact same person You were before, just a different look!
The only way that you can become truly a new person, a new creature, is to be “reborn” into a new creature/a new person!
And the only way to become reborn is through Jesus the Christ!
Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
You and I can only change the temporal parts of our life, the physical appearance and the mind (both of which will eventually end), but the part that lives on, your spirit, (who you really are), can only be changed by rebirth in Christ!
Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:16-17,
2 Corinthians 5:16–17 ESV
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Only in and through Jesus can we ever truly become “NEW”.
And the moment that happens, you and I are joined in His body, as one unit and we are instantly given the same mandate and the same commandments as His body and as His children.
And the life that we live from that day forward and what we are called to do, never changes.
Regardless of the world and life circumstances, our job here, is be Christ to the world and become His ambassadors and thus take the gospel message with us everywhere that we go and increase His kingdom here on earth.

I performed Jo Evans funeral service yesterday. And the main point for that message, was driven by a joke that Jo and I had between ourselves.

Tell of the joke with the dollar bill and explain about and display the “Tag You’re It” envelope.
The whole point that I was making yesterday, was this. We have been handed something and what we do with it, is up to us.
God has given us His Word and His gospel message and He has equipped you and I with everything that we need to live a godly life and empowered us with His own Holy Spirit.
Now, what are you going to do with what He has given to you?
Have you ever watched the track event of the relay races?
You know one person from the team starts and as they come around the track, they have to hand off the baton to the next runner and so on and so forth, until the race is run.
Back in 2010, at the Rio Olympic athletics, the USA women’s 4x100m relay team was the hot favourite. Right up to the time they dropped the baton in their heat. Each runner was faster than anyone else in the race. But they dropped the baton, and were disqualified.
As it turned out, they got the chance to re-run. And, this time they DIDN’T drop the baton. They qualified for the final. And ended up winning the gold medal.
There are stric rules about running the relay. Rules about the exactness of the batons, rules about the handing off of the batons during the race.
There is a 20m zone that the hand-off has to take place, if you hand off the batons before or after that zone, you're disqualified.
And it doesn’t matter how well you started the race, one wrong move and the whole team is disqualified!

In I Corinthians 15, we see Paul doing this very thing with the church in Corinth. He hands them the baton in the race (which is the gospel message) and then he reminds them that what he had received, he handed off to them. In verses 1-3 of that chapter, Paul says to the church, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.”

Paul was handed the baton and then he handed it off to these new runners.
He is reminding them of this and in a sense is asking them, “how are you doing running the race? What have you done with what I handed to you?”
And Paul repeated this race he was on, everywhere that he went.
He would hand off the baton and then follow up and make sure that the runnners under him were following through with their part of the race.
To the church in Galatia, Paul said this, in dealing with their running the race.
He said, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
He was asking them, “Why have you guys stopped running according to the rules? You have to keep running like you started, lest you become disqualified.”
Paul says this, again to the church in Corinth, in I Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
And the verb that Paup uses here for “discipline”, where he says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control”, is the Greek word, “hypōpiazō”, which literally refers to beating something black-and-blue.
In other words, Paul is saying that he completely brings his flesh under submission and he is always training to run the race.
He never stops in his training as a Christian, so that he would not yield to the flesh and disqualify himself as an effective witness for the Christ and of being his ambassador!
And then listen to what Paul say to his spiritual son Timothy in II Timothy 4:7, where we find Paul in prison (again), but now at the end of his life, where he knows that he is about to die and he is using his every effort to help train this new runner.
Paul says to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
The entirety of 1 and 2 Timothy, is Paul instructing Timothy on how to run the race! How to keep going and why he must keep going and of how to spend his time, doing what Paul had been doing and teaching others of how to run the race!

We must run the race. We must keep handing off the baton to those coming up behind us. Circumstances and the world around, whether favorable or otherwise, do not change who we are and what we have been called to do!

In each of the 7 letters that Jesus had John pen to the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3, in the province of Asia Minor and ultimately to the church today, Jesus ended each letter with the same directive.
To each church, whether they were doing great, or horribly failing, Jesus issued the same instruction for them, “To the one who conquers, I will....”
In other words, Jesus was and still is saying to the church, His body, “You must finish the race and then I will reward you with the prize for doing so.”
There was no mention of any consolation prize for trying, or starting the race! But only for those who finish the race!
We are in the race people and it is time to prepare to hand off the baton to the new runners!
As Jo said to me, “Tag, You’re It”, with the understanding of, you must do something with it now!
You have the baton, what are you going to do wth it heading into this new year?
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