Who has God called you to be?

“Calling” is kind of a trending topic in modern Christianity. Who has called me to be? What has he called me to do? Those are BIG questions that can haunt our lives in times of loneliness and despair. They can also be boosting questions in times of reassurance and success. To know that you are doing exactly what the Lord has called you to do is life-giving joy.Road

In the Morning Men’s Study we will be diving into this question through the eyes of the Old Testament character Samuel. He had several callings from God – Judge, Prophet, Priest, Mediator between Israel and God, and Kingmaker. In each of these roles, he was simply listening to what God called him to do. This did not mean every day at the office was a breeze – he faced rejection and tragedy as the people surrounding him fought God at every turn. However, he was could sleep at night knowing that God was behind him.

Samuel is set in the period of the Judges of Israel. This is the period right after Israel enters into Promised Land. It is summed up by one damning verse, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judg. 17:6). Samuel was born into a lawless society. Yoked in slavery. Enemies on all sides. Idolatry rampant. A people bent on rejecting God. He was called to this people. Every role that he was given was a relational one. Samuel was always called to serve the people of Israel, and it was always according to the needs of the people.

Now, you may be asking yourself how you compare to someone whom God spoke to very clearly. That is an important question, but that will be the question we will ask on a weekly basis. That is the question of application – how does what the Bible say relate to where I am at in today’s world? Each week will have its own application as you join with us in discovering God’s will. I can’t wait to dive in with you!

-Pastor Sean

 

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What Makes You Significant?

Many of us struggle with the desire to be significant in this world. We long to make an impact. We long to be someone who has influence.

This week in our Acts series we were introduced to Stephen. As we study the book of Acts in order to see how the early Church did evangelism so that we may imitate them, we run into this godly man. However, when he is first introduced at the beginning of Acts 6 he is one of seven men who have been appointed to resolve disputes over food.

From the world’s perspective he was a glorified table waiter. He was to make sure the appropriate people got their share of the food which the Church distributed weekly. It was a pretty mundane job that did not require skills that people in today’s world would pay a lot of money for.

"License to Wed"  Photocall

I typed in “a normal guy” in google and John Krasinski showed up. Publicist probably did this on purpose.

However, Stephen does not let that define him or inhibit his confidence in God’s power. I meet a lot of people in the Church who are hesitant to step out and share the gospel because they view themselves as ignorant about the Bible or unable to talk intelligently on difficult issues. The problem with using this excuse to not share about Christ is that you have an example of someone who is just a normal guy who does not hesitate to engage in a nasty debate that ultimately gets him killed (gotta love this series on imitating the early church). Sure, it turns out the guy can speak in Chapter 7, but its not because of some innate ability he had or because he was special. Instead, he was a guy who knew the Lord and the Word because he had seen the importance of following God.

He wasn’t special because of some talent he cultivated, but because God decided to move through him. If you are wondering about your significance in the world and whether or not God can use you, I hope you see the story of Stephen and recognize that it doesn’t take some innate ability for God to use you. God uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). It takes God’s spirit moving through a heart that is fully committed to him.

-Pastor Sean

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The Purpose of Freedom

Freedom is touted as the most precious American value. We talk about it as the main thing that makes this country different from so many “corrupt” nations that struggle in this world. However, we rarely sit back and dissect the purpose of the freedom that we have been given in different aspects of our lives. In fact, I bet many of us don’t even think about the fact that the word freedom refers to a specific kind of freedom in life.

America’s leading “satire-ologist,” Stephen Colbert, jokingly connects pistachios and freedom, as if eating one means supporting the other. Like most commercials today, it’s a stretched referenced meant to be ridiculous (make no mistake – I laugh at them all day long).

In America, we typically refer to “freedom of conscience” when referring to freedom. Of course, we extend that to choice of vocation, religious beliefs, political choices and such. In the book of Acts, there is a story that delves into the purpose of freedom in the Christian life. Acts 5:17-32 tells the story of the Apostles being freed from imprisonment by an angel. He basically teleports the Apostles to safety, confusing the guards the next morning who had been posted to watch the inmates.

Aside: My wife and I have been watching Heroes on Netflix lately, and this makes me wonder if Hiro Nakamura has angelic powers.

All kidding aside, this story perfectly illustrates the physical reality of this world. God gave the Apostles freedom from imprisonment. Jesus himself referred to sin as enslavement in John 8:31-38. In both cases, the freedom referred to does not understand the modern American concept of freedom. This freedom is not a “now I’m my own boss” concept (see Romans 6:17-23). We have been freed so that we might proclaim the mercy of God toward all men who will turn back to God. The Apostles were given their freedom in order that they might preach.

God doesn’t do miracles just to show off. He is not toying around in this world. He moves in powerful ways so that we might be witnesses of what He does and then go out into the world proclaiming what we have seen and heard.

Where are you going with your freedom?

Check out my notes for more details.

-Pastor Sean

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False Reality and the Glory of God

This is an old Facebook note that I wrote several years back. I edited it a bit (it was sloppy) and think its just as important to talk about today:

Well the idea of what the glory of God means has popped up in my mind the last few days. Not just in the sense that I have come to the conclusion that God is glorious, but that we must remind ourselves and others of that when we sin. God’s glory and how that plays into our lives is interesting.

What is glory? Well the word essentially means heavy or important, so when we say God is full of glory we say he is heavy or important to the utmost. So when we say we ascribe all glory to God, we mean that we give Him all importance. Peter says to the saints in his letter 1 Peter, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” The expression rejoicing with a joy that is full of glory means that the joy we have is of much importance, or weight. That joy in our salvation is of immeasurable consequences, as it rubs off on others and eases many situation. We all know that when one person is irritable, it causes others to be uneasy and may cause disputes. Joy is supposed to have the same effect in the opposite way.

Also, our joy is supposed to carry us through difficult times and through the sin which daily causes grief in our lives. We are not supposed to pay attention to the lie which Satan passes out on the street corner saying that your sin causes you to be worthless, because we have a God whose glory surpasses all and abounds in grace. We can build our foundation on the One who is stable, when everything else without glory (or weight) shakes under the groaning and despairs of this world. God’s glory is the reason we don’t need sin anymore. We have became slaves of righteousness and of the God who is larger (or “fatter”) than our imagination. We have no need to tie ourselves back to the deeds which are rotten and have no eternal value. God’s Word has value due to his glory. Sin only decays and corrupts. It destroys every living thing it can get a hold of and sucks in all who draw near. We are called to draw near to the One who gives life, not the one who abundantly gives death. Sin has corrupted this world with all its lies and temptations that empty us out (or “de-glorify” us), so why not rejoice in something that has much weight?

Technically, the saying “whoever has more stuff is worth more” is correct. However, the problem when we look at this phrase is that we tend to think of things that are material and going to pass away. We exclude eternal realities. The truth is that eternal objects are of much greater importance and value. Everything that is eternal is His and He gives it freely to those who love Him, so does not that statement ring true? It is just that what people value are things with infinitely less importance. We have Christ, who is everlasting, and that is our eternal glory. He gives us worth because God abundantly gives grace and righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ. So remind your brother or sister – we have no need to go back to things of little value, the sin which easily captures us, because we look to a God who is of much greater value. A God full of glory.
I want to end with a verse which is called the doxology, which comes from the Greek word doxa – which means glory.

Romans 11:33 – 36
Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements, and His paths beyond tracing out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever given to God that He should repay him? For from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.doxology

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Pray Before You Say

Evangelism is at the heart of what Christianity is all about. Right before Christ ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he did not tell the disciples to play keep away with the truth. He did not ask them to head back to their homes and act like nothing has happened. To lead comfortable lives. He told them to go throughout the earth with the good news of who Jesus is. In his last dialogue he focuses on the need to share the good news with people.

PrayerThat is what evangelism is – sharing the good news. It comes from the Greek εὐαγγέλιον which is simply “good” (εὐ) + “message” (ἀγγελία). The verb form involves that message being spread, which is the whole point of a message existing. For a piece of news to be qualified as news it has to be dispersed abroad in a way that informs people. So, for the gospel to be the gospel, it must be something that is shared with others. Otherwise it is not news at all – simply another factoid that exists mindlessly.

So, in our current series on evangelism in the book of Acts we spent the past Sunday talking about the importance of prayer in relation to evangelism. In Acts 4:23-31 we have Peter and John returning from their confrontation with the Jewish leaders who demand their silence about the name of Jesus. How do the believers respond to the threats of the Jewish leaders? With Prayer. They come together and lift up their voices. They vocalize their need before God. They join together as one mind to make their request to God.

In their prayer they focus on the will of God in history. They quote Psalm 2, emphasizing the fact that God spoke about the rebellion of the nations of the earth long before this event occurred. This rebellion is not new to God. People have been opposed to God since the Fall. People have not desired to serve God. The nations (i.e – everyone) have been devising schemes to corrupt God’s ways and make a name for themselves (see the Tower of Babel). The only reason people end up seeking God is because the Spirit is at work in their lives (see Psalm 14:1-3, John 16:7-11 and Romans 3:10-18). The believers in Acts recognize that they are standing in a long line of believers who have suffered persecution from the hands of the enemies of God.

How do they respond to these enemies? Asking for God’s protection while they set their minds on going towards those enemies. This prayer is not, “God please put a bubble around this house so that we don’t have to interact with your enemies.” This prayer consists of the believers desire to see those enemies become brothers and sisters in Christ. For enemies to become family. They ask for ability to do things beyond their power, like connect the living word to dead hearts.

Evangelism without prayer is like driving a car without an engine. Sure, you could get by Fred Flintstone style. But let’s be real. How far are you going to get pushing it to and from work everyday? Prayer causes you to align with what God is doing, and causes God to move in ways that are beyond your strength. Nothing is impossible for him! Don’t be afraid to ask for him to do mighty things in your life.

After all, the good news exists to be shared. You will need help spreading it.

-Pastor Sean

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That Gift Is Not For You

We talk about “gifted” people in this world typically in the sphere of athletics and entertainment. The gifts of these people has propelled them to the top of their respective profession. Like most often-used terms, rarely do we stop to think about what the term is actually saying.

sf_LaborOfLove_0005_Group 2 copy 7To have a gift is to possess something that you did not earn or work for in some inherent point. Now, this does not mean we cannot refine our gifts to increase their value. But at their most basic level you have no right to claim that you authored your gift. Some people appeal to genetics, but even then the question would be who allows those genes to function in a helpful rather than harmful way? (Stop thinking about evolution…now.)

Exodus 28:3 – within the section of Exodus that we begin to skim over – speaks of workers with the gift to craft beautiful objects with their hands. It also speaks of this gift as having been directly given by God. Not only this, but it speaks of the crafting ability as “wisdom”. These are all important aspects of this verse that dramatically impact the way we view our labors. Wisdom in the Old Testament can be described as the ability to live with skill (HALOT). It can be seen in different spheres – work, relationships, and knowledge.

Your job/specialty is not just a paycheck or task. It was divinely given to you to be able to serve God in this world. God calls each one of us to use their gifts and abilities that he has endowed us with to bring about the purpose of subduing this world in a godly manner. A gift is not something that everyone has. For instance, my wife has the ability to notice the physical needs of people, care in a deeply compassionate way for them and then creatively help to serve that need. My observation skills and detailed memory skills are admittedly pretty poor. She went to nursing school to further refine that ability that she inherently was gifted with to serve people on a higher level. She uses that caring ability to love our baby daughter with great care. That is how she is using the ability to bring peace into this world that also cares for humanity in a way that God does as well.

It is not simply what you get paid for either. You also may have more than one gift.

 

Whether it is working with your hands, your mind, or your words, you have been given a gift by God to serve people and have a doorway into their life to share what the Lord has done through his Son to bring you back from the dead.

How will you use your gift today?

-Pastor Sean

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The Reflecting Pool

There is something breathtaking about clear-glass water that reflects the objects around it. The stillness speaks of peace and order in a way that seems to speak of a nature as it calls us to be. On the calm reflection of the undisturbed surface the water’s surroundings come through clearly.reflecting pool

In Sunday School this past week we continued our Evangelism in Acts series. This week we were in Acts 4:5-22, reading about Peter’s trial before the Sanhedrin (Jewish ruling council). Peter had healed a lame beggar and this was causing uproar in Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin seemed to fear that the followers of Christ were going to incite a riot, bringing the Roman Legions down upon the city in violent suppression. So, they called Peter to account for his actions. Peter had nothing to say other than what Christ was doing through him. You see, Acts 4:13 points to the power of the Peter. It had nothing to do with his training, per se. He was a simple fisherman.

Yet there was something that made Peter different. Somehow he had healed a man who had been unable to use his legs for decades. He spoke with a courage and conviction that people did not expect. Yet what they knew about him and John was that they “had been with Jesus.” The schooling that these men had received was outside the normal Jewish route. They had been with the man they claimed gave them their power. They reflected the life of this man in all its clarity. These men were just an image of someone else.

The power of Jesus’ words were felt in Mark 1:27 in a way that Peter mirrors. Notice that Acts 4:13 does not focus on the power of Peter and John to heal the lame man, but it focuses on the courage that Peter had to stand up to the Sanhedrin. The power of Christ fills them with the courage to stand in front of those who wish them harm. This passage teaches us about the importance of having a relationship with Jesus that produces a godly courage to stand before those opposed to Christ.

The Bible never speaks of cowardice as a virtue. The Spirit that believers in Christ are given produces courage, not fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Knowing Christ causes us to reflect Christ. We become a place for people to see the face of Christ because of our relational proximity to him. Our words and actions represent the One who holds all things together. However, without spending time with him then we become a poor imitator of a second-hand image.

It is easy to share about those you know the best.

-Pastor Sean

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