Saturday, November 12, 2011

Enter the Circle (2)

This is my preparation work for tomorrow's message at Crossroads as of this time.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit would use our worship tomorrow as He desires, to save and free many in Jesus' name. 
Romans 11:33-12:5

33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!  34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? 35 Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return? 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
Two weeks ago, on the day before Halloween, I brought tootsie pops to church.  I sucked on one, put it back in the wrapper, and tried to give it to the kids.  ;-)  I talked about how we are infected with "harmartia" (sin) and that covering up sin with a shiny wrapper doesn't work.

Then we looked at the circle of repent and believe--the circle that God uses in our lives to make us new.

The message ended with a story  from the book Too Late In The Afternoon.  A character in the book, Alex's grandson, talked about his grandpa Alex...:
"'...a crotchety old man and had been tight fisted and a hoarder of money… He was always thinking that another Great Depression was around the corner and that thinking robbed him of pleasure.  He had constant anxiety.'"

Then, at the age of 77, Grandpa Alex came to a crossroads--a moment* of truth--

Quoting from the message from two weeks ago:
"'After many years of being a miserable old man, Grandpa Alex got a wake up call.'

"He met a JIM--something BIG in his path."
Who all was here two weeks ago? I mentioned this last week too... I used Jim Richards as the BIG thing... The big thing could be a good thing or a bad thing...  If you met Jim in a dark alley--that would be a good thing... but, in Grandpa Alex's case, the BIG THING he met was bad.

Going back to quoting from two weeks ago:

"'He was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.  He underwent chemotherapy and was in remission the last ten years of his life."
"'Six months after that diagnosis, we started to see a remarkable change in him."
"He became joyful, generous, kind, someone you wanted to be around.'
"God had done a miracle in Grandpa Alex's life."
And then I concluded the message like this:

"It can be done.  You don't need to go on the way you always have.  God can give you a new life and a new spirit. 

"It's never, ever too late.

"Jesus is here to meet you with his grace.  He knows the truth about you.  You can't hide it from him no matter how many layers of tootsie pop paper you put on yourself.  He knows the truth.  And he's willing to make you new.
And after that, I led a prayer:  (Here's a link to an audio clip of the prayer from Oct. 30 -
"Father God, I can't see the hearts of people. You haven't given me that ability.

"But you can; and you know, Lord, how it is that there have been times in our lives when we've walked around pretending to be new and different when there really is some work that you need to keep doing in us.

"So Lord God, we together here, as we say 'Amen' to this prayer, we want to give you permission to confront us, to be that 'big Jim,' and the let us know the truth about ourselves.

"And then we ask that you Lord would walk with us and that you would send someone else to walk with us too as we make a turn, make a change, a transition--as we repent--and as we believe.

"And we ask Lord that you would bring us through this process as many times as necessary to continue to make us new."
So that was two weeks ago.  It was "Reformation Sunday" and I thought it was sort of fitting because we were talking about having reformed lives, new lives, changed hearts.

But I wonder now, two weeks later, what really happened through that message. Have people who heard that message actually ENTERED the circle? Have we looked for times of encounter with God?

I got a note from someone this week that said it would have been good to help people step out in faith on that Sunday two weeks ago... This person said:
There was a time toward the end of your sermon when it would have been very appropriate for you to ask for those struggling with feelings of guilt or not sure if they were saved, etc., to come forward for prayer. I've seen that at other churches and as people came forward, others in the congregation came up behind them, laid hands on them and prayed along with the pastor. Your sermon was great calling out these issues, but then people were not able to get them resolved in a concrete way...
I actually had the same thought... why not give people a chance to step out...

To step out here... to come forward... to ask for prayer out in the open... because, truth be told, we don't walk the circle alone.
Something more I'd like to add at this point--a bit off the subject but I think it's important.

See the word on the right side of the circle?  When I say the word "repent" what do you think of?  It's my guess that many of us think of SIN.  "Repent" can mean changes away from sin and for us human beings it always means that... at least it means stopping being so stubborn... but "repent" doesn't always mean feeling bad or saying you're sorry.  Sometimes REPENTING means just a change of direction, doing things differently, even THINKING differently. 

...Like in the Bible passage we read earlier from Romans 11 and 12.  We step out.  We don't CONFORM to what we've always done.  And I let God TRANSFORM me... and you let God change you... from the inside out.  REPENTING MEANS CHANGE that God makes in our lives... it really NOT about feeling bad about doing something wrong.
But here's what I'd really like to focus on today:  These life changes--becoming a more faithful and more effective disciple of Jesus--they don't usually happen to us all alone--it usually takes a team--sometimes it takes more than one team.

In the Too Late In the Afternoon book God rescues a man from depression through spiritually wise Christian friends, a medical doctor and a psychologist.  Here in Cokato and Dassel God works through teams of Christian friends, professionals and organizations of many kinds.  Local churches like ours can connect people with the help they need as long as people somehow don't keep their troubles to themselves.  Prayer ministry can lead to practical help, and practical help can lead to prayer.

We are called, by God, to walk with one another and with those we reach out to, to walk with them all the way... not to just get them saved... to get them saved for God, and then let them loose to figure everything out alone.  We're called to walk together.  All the way.

One of the people who are a part of our Crossroads church family has recently come clean about an addiction to pain medication.  That person is now getting help through a Methadon clinic in Saint Cloud.  In order to let God deal with that issue, this individual needed to be honest with other people about it.  It wasn't a matter of just dealing with it one on one with God.  She needed other people to enter the circle with her... to come along on her journey.  Many of us are doing that with friends and family every day.

This is something Betsy Simons knows about.   (See Covenant Love for a bit more about Betsy.  Tomorrow we'll ask her to share at this point in the message -- something about how entering and walking the circle of repent and believe TOGETHER is important in her life and/or in her work with Treehouse, a ministry aimed at loving kids, bringing hope, transforming lives.)

You can enter the circle with Betsy and the youth she ministers to by supporting her--and we as a church can consider making her work one of our church's missions.

Still somehow, we do need to enter the circle.

Somehow we need to step out.  For others.  For ourselves.  But not alone.

Here's what I'd like to try.

Let's be a little daring today.

How many of you know someone, either yourself or someone else, who just needs a change... some kind of a change that you know you need God to handle.  Something that's a God-sized challenge... something that just needs to change.  In yourself or in someone you know well, someone you are close to?  Maybe it's an out of control teenager or child.  Maybe it's an addiction.  Maybe it's something that you know, from the Bible, is sinful.  Or maybe it's just something that you  know you'd like to leave behind.

How many of you have that sort of thing going on now either in your life or in the life of someone you're close to, someone you can walk beside?  Maybe it's a simple matter of being saved for heaven.  Maybe you'd like to know that for sure--that you are saved.  There is power in prayer, in admitting you can't do it on your own.

Is there anyone who would like to share what they'd like to pray about?  What the BIG thing in your life is that is leading you to say, yes, I need a change?  (I'll leave a time here for people to share if they'd like.)

Here's what we're going to try:  I would like to pray for you today. a little more personally than we usually pray here.  Just a little more personally.  I'd like to encourage you to take a first public step, recognizing that you have a need to repent and believe God for a change in your life OR in the life of someone you are walking with.

I won't be surprised if almost everyone comes forward today... So what I'd like to do is to have you be thinking of that one God-sized issue--that BIG JIM challenge in your life right now--and I'd like you to step out, in just a minute, to step out of your row and to come up to the front.

Then I'm going to pray for all of you as a group, trusting the Holy Spirit to give the the right words... and then if there are others who would like to pray out loud... we'll have an opportunity to do that.  And then I'll encourage you to let someone else know what it is you prayed for.

This might be hard in a small town where everyone thinks they know you.  But, honestly, until you let someone else know, you'll probably stay on the same old track.  It's not by mistake that the Holy Spirit had the Apostle Paul write about being MEMBERS or PARTS of one another...  Romans 12:15 is one of the simplest teaching on this: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." And we can't rejoice with you, or weep with you, unless we know who you are.

We're in this together, my friends.  Let's not stay back and think we can do it on our own.

(At this point we'll do what was explained above, trusting the Lord to lead us.  We'll then sing a song of surrender to the Lord.)


* In the Bible, when Jesus teaches about crossroads moments you'll find an important Greek word: kairos.  See, for example, Mark 1:15.

No comments:

Post a Comment