Monday, November 17, 2014

Strong in Weakness, Rich in Need (1)

NOTE added Nov. 22 - an audio recording of the Nov. 16 worship gathering is posted here.
We had an extended church family time and quite a bit of prayer yesterday at Crossroads, so I severely abbreviated the message that I had prepared but said I'd make what I had planned available. They are posted below, just copied and pasted from my prep notes without editing.

In the notes you'll see references to "slides." Those are reminders to myself of when to click the presentation of images on the screen forward. Later on, if I find time, I'll post the slides too.

ALSO - We put a little "Survey of Needs" slip of paper in the bulletin yesterday asking folks to let us know what their needs are and also the needs of others in our local area. I haven't checked yet to see what was turned in.


A Community of Faith:
Strong in Weakness - Rich in Need
God has a plan.
God has a plan to make you and me—and to make this body of believers—this Crossroads Community Church—God has a plan to take us and make us into a powerful sign of His presence and His love in this world—a sign that will be worked out in weakness and need—because, like the Apostle Paul, we can say
“I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.”
For “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We are in the third week of what has become a series under the theme “A Community of Faith.”
According to Hebrews chapter 11, “Faith” is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is the gift God gives us in our time of need—which, in this life—that time of need is every day!
Faith clings to the promises of God.
Those who are right with God live by faith—we do not live according to what our common sense tells us—we live according to what God says.
And there are hundreds of examples of this in the Bible.
Last weekend, at the Alliance of Renewal Churches gathering, Toni picked up this book by Graeme Sellers, a book entitled The Dangerous Kind… and I’ve been eating it up since we got home.
One section of the book has the heading Reckless, and under it Graeme says:
“Reckless obedience is mystifying to the world. Our response to the voice of God will be at best confusing at worst delusional when viewed through the eyes of those who stand outside of the faith.”
He then lists some familiar examples:
Gideon, the least man in the weakest clan whose God-directed plan for defeating a huge enemy army was to cut the number of his troops from 32,000 to 300, and to arm them with nothing but torches, trumpets and clay jars. (Judges 7)
Joshua, who receives orders from God to march around Jericho for seven days, to blow horns on the seventh day and shout and, God said, the walls of the city would fall. (Joshua 6)
The shepherd boy David who goes at a giant enemy without armor but with the Name of the Lord. (1 Sam 17)
A teenager believes God’s Word as it comes to her through an angel—an angel who tells her that she will give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1)
And JESUS himself—Jesus believes his Father so completely that he agrees to die on the cross—taking the sins of the whole world on himself.
These are all examples of faith—faith that is strong in weakness—and rich in need.
And that’s what God is calling US to be.
·        God is calling us to trust him and not to worry.
·        God is calling us to believe His Word and his sweet promises—to believe God so that we listen for what HE has to say to us—and then, when we have heard, to do what he says.
As long as we think we need to protect ourselves by being smart or wise we will not experience the strength, or the wealth, of God.
Last Sunday the Lord spoke to us through someone among us who is neither strong nor wealthy. One of our women brought us a verse from Philippians (1:6):
I am convinced that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.
He is doing that—though the way he does it is sometimes confusing to us unless we consider it from God’s point of view.
We know that as a body of believers. And we know that as individuals.
God normally brings us down before He lifts us up.
And that’s why we have the scriptures we do today –
SLIDE - From Matthew 11, where it says that God has hidden spiritual truths from those who think of themselves as wise and clever – and, has, instead, revealed them to the “childlike,” or as the Greek says, to little babies.
SLIDE - In 2nd Corinthians Paul boasts in his weaknesses – we’ll come back to that…
SLIDE - In Revelation the Lord speaks to the church at Sardis and says they are rich even though they are poor and suffering!
SLIDE - And then, in Acts 6, God takes the complaints of Greek speaking believers and uses it to expand the organization and spiritual leadership of the first church.
God loves to work in unexpected places and in ways that seem strange—until we get to know the ways of our Lord—and we get to know those ways best when we are weak, when we have needs.
The scripture we had today from Second Corinthians is about how Paul got to know the ways of God. SLIDE
Here the Apostle Paul speaks of “a man” who was “caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago.”
That man was Paul himself – but, to avoid bragging, he speaks about it as if it were someone else.
“I know a man who was caught up [to heaven] … and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it…” [I’m reading here from the New Living Translation].
Instead, he says, “I will boast only about my weaknesses”… SLIDE and then he goes on to talk about the “thorn in the flesh,” a “messenger from Satan” that was given to him to “torment” him and to keep him from becoming proud.
Three times, he says, “I begged the Lord to take it away” but each time God said to him, and let’s read these words together: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
And then he says SLIDE:
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
If you take time to read the books of First and Second Corinthians and the rest of what Paul wrote, you’ll see that he really does boast about his weaknesses.
He admits that some people think he’s a crazy fool…
He writes that some people say he’s a poor speaker without proper credentials or recommendations.
Paul had such strong convictions…  He was very sure of himself and probably not all that easy to get along with. More than once Paul writes about the challenges he had with relationships…
In Romans 7 he writes as if he is in despair about his sin.
And just what the “thorn in the flesh” was we do not know… it could have been a physical ailment, it might have a person who persistently got in the way of his work.
But the point is this, this great man of God—the Apostle Paul—he does not hide his weaknesses—in fact, he says—like Gideon or Joshua or David or Mary or even Jesus Christ himself—when I am weak—when I’m in a position that there is NO WAY OUT except by the POWER OF GOD—then I am strong—because that’s when the Father shows himself to be my savior and my God.
The Apostle Paul is honest about his needs too.
This summer at Leadership Quest we spent time in Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy –
In chapter 4 of Second Timothy Paul shares:
·        His need for friendship and companionship (he speaks about how he is alone and that he has only  one friend to be with him, Luke)
·        His need for material possessions. (he needs a coat. He needs books and papers—the tools of his work.)
·        He mentions his need for financial support (see 2 Corinthians 11:9)
·        He asks for prayer (1 Corinthians 1:9)
·        He was honest about his need for allies, for fellow workers, for co-laborers (example 1 Cor 16:15ff)
The truth is that Paul was part of a great community of faith—a community that extended through the entire  is Paul’s honesty about his weaknesses and his needs that allowed him to be as effective as he was.
Paul does not believe that his weaknesses or needs disqualify him from doing God’s work!
No, on the contrary, they make him strong!
Why does he talk about his weaknesses and needs?
Not to make himself look small or unqualified!
Because God’s power works best in weakness!
When we can’t depend upon ourselves, that’s when God does his best work!
That’s faith!
Other examples: from Paul’s life… Peter and John… “silver and gold have I none…” OT (p. 128f Dangerous Kind)
The binding together of the community of people who have needs… not all have every gift… God arranges the body as he chooses…
And not just for individuals… for the community…
Acts 6.
[something about the cards turned in during October and what they say about our need to be vulnerable… the other results from Community Builders’ month.]
It begins with salvation – God saves those who admit they can’t save themselves…
And that pattern continues throughout our lives as disciples of the Lord.
Will you do the same? Will you be open about your weaknesses and your needs?
Will you depend up on the power of God?
Or will you depend upon your own strength?
Will we allow God to use the circumstances of our individuals lives and the life of our body of believers to make us depend upon him and rely upon his strength?
Let’s pray…

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