Preparing to Grow!

(Sermon, Foothill 08-08-10)

Passage: Matthew 22:36-40:

 36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  And Mark 12:30 adds, and with all your strength….

Psalm 34:3;

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

6 teens drown in La. river during family outing!

(From Associated Press)  August 03, 2010 10:39 AM EDT

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Six teenagers wading in the shallows of a Louisiana river drowned in front of their horrified families after falling into deep water. None of the teens or nearby adults could swim.

A seventh teen, a 14-year-old boy, was rescued. Officials scheduled a news conference Tuesday to release more details about the deaths Monday in the Red River, in a popular recreational area where sand bars give way to 20-foot depths.
“They had one lifejacket here. As you can imagine, everybody started yelling for help,” said Caddo Parish sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick.

Shreveport Assistant Fire Chief Fred Sanders said he believed the victims, ages 13 to 18, included three brothers from one family and a sister and two brothers from another.
“They were out here with some adults. But unfortunately, neither the children nor the adults could swim,” he said.

Swimming skills can be scarce among African-Americans like the teens in this tragedy. A study commissioned by the sports governing body USA Swimming found 69 percent of black children had low or no swimming ability. Segregation kept blacks out of public and private pools for decades and the disparity continues because many poor and working class children have limited access to pools or instruction.

Sanders said victims’ names may be released Tuesday, after the department is sure relatives have been notified.

The teens had started playing in a familiar area but ended up at a spot in the river where the bottom fell suddenly and that’s where divers found the bodies, Sanders said.
Marilyn Robinson, a friend of the families, told The Times of Shreveport she watched helplessly as the victims went under. She said a large group of family and friends, including roughly 20 children, were out at the sandbar to barbecue and have a good time. They frequent the area and were familiar with the water, Robinson said.

“None of us could swim,” she said. “They were yelling ‘help me, help me. Somebody please help me.’ It was nothing I could do but watch them drown one by one.”
Sanders said he did not know whether one teen fell and pulled down others, or if they were trying to rescue each other.

It took more than three hours to find all the bodies, he said. “It’s devastating,” Sanders said. “To my knowledge the city has never experienced an incident of this magnitude.”

Rescue crews were delayed a bit because the accident was reported as near the Jimmie Davis Bridge but was nearly a mile away, Sanders said.
The families were in a recreational area of the Red River that has sand bars, Sanders said. The park is a popular picnic and fishing area and some people do go wading.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
Such a heart wrenching tragedy, the story goes on to say The sheriff and responders stated that living in that area, they should have known better and aware of the dangers. The officials and reporters in that area stated they should have learned how to swim or at least have more than 1 life vest for 7+ people… We can see that blame can be placed on so many areas, yet the loss to these families is unmanageable as well as needless.

When we fail at our faith and forfeit our purpose in our lives and our church we will fall off a sandbar that we think can support us into a water we think we can wade in, yet all we will do is go down and drown too. Not literally, unless you have a very bad plumbing problem…but the tragedy remains and the ripples of that pass on to many generations. We need to learn how to swim with our faith, pay attention to signs like the precepts of God’s Word and take precautions to engage in life, faith and church. We have to keep the main mission up close and our focus on our Lord, and this Matthew passage sets that focus very clear.

In this passage, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy, called the “Shema;” Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4). This is the quintessential Jewish “confession of faith,” and sets the theme for Jesus call and for the building of one’s faith and church. This is how you build a life and a church! This passage was memorized and recited frequently at worship services in the Tabernacle and then the Temple and today at virtually every Synagogue. It was and still is quoted by every Jew every day during prayer time, and thus became just mere rhetoric over the centuries until Jesus takes it back as the Command of God. The command that we can take to the streets of faith and life and church!

Love, Heart, Soul, Mind and with all your Strength are the imperative commands that form the heart of the Law (Lev. 19:18; Duet. 6:5). The purpose is to encompass; we are to love with all we are—our entire personhood. It is not just a part, or an aspect—it is all. This is a responsibility to love God at the forefront of everything else! Because, the law is the light that God turns on to show us how dirty the room is, and Jesus is the broom that sweeps it clean.

How are you Preparing to Grow?

Grow as in growing in our Lord and preparing this church as the magnificent vehicle and venture for the Kingdom f God! What we need to know are some of the basics of how to prepare your church for growth, and to be your best for His glory. To take Our Lord’s greatest commandment and place them in our lives so they flow out from us and collectively create the synergy to build this church, your church, His Church.

The programs that are active like your small groups and worship team, BARF, the potlucks and the sermons and… the programs that are potential, like a mid week Bible study or and outreach or whatever you envision and dream, it can be achieved and be a Light to the community as we follow Christ and His call.

 Let’s look at the key words in this passage like prime factors that are essential to build our faith and church: Love, Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength!

Prime Factor One, Love!

Love. The Greek verb is agapao, not phileo!  Phileo means, brotherly love, as in friendly affection; but, agapao means a deep commitment and devotion that comes from our willingness and our realization that it is a duty, a character and a choice (1 Cor. 13). It is also a response of our gratitude for the love God first gave us (1 John 4:19-21)!

ILL: FB hurting ex pastor lashing out dude… he has “lost that loving feeling”…and all he can do is criticize and condone to make himself feel good. How sad is that many of us do that and this is what drives people away…

From what I have seen from research and experience in doing church, we are in trouble. Our church families are being torn apart as if we were in a war, and each one of us were a faction, reeling in our hurt and expelling out our anger. Instead of place of love and doing our best in living in Christ’ presence, we are in contention. Thus, many churches are places where hurting people hurt other people, creating unhappy and disillusioned people, living a pathetic life instead of a triumphant life because they are miserable or disconnected. People in my church and even people in my family are in this trouble-perhaps in yours is too. This may not be your problem, but it is still a potential issue and this is what so many people are dealing with, no real love in their lives. The Good news we can rectify this…

God’s Theme and call for us is a Love that is Genuine and Stable:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

This passage should be known to you or me, but its practice may be new or difficult. Consider this; the distinguishing characteristic of Christ’s followers is that we are deeply and eternally loved. The application to this is that our standard of love must be Christ’s love for us flowing in us and through us and out from us (John 3:16, chaps14-15).

In ancient times and in modern times a seal is what confirms the authenticity or genuineness of something, like Kings of old sealed their letters with wax and made an impression with their signet ring, or when you install your new Microsoft program you have that multi digit code to put in. This is to insure what is sealed or sold is the real deal… in God’s economy and packaging, Love confirms the authenticity of Jesus!

As Thomas à Kempis, stated, Whoever loves much, does much! How much God so loved you…how much He so loves your marriage…how much He so loves your family! How much He so loves this church, your church, His church and the other people who are here! When you love much, you will be much and you will do much, you will do so much more in your life and in others’ lives as well.  Love confirms the authenticity of Jesus’ followers!

Prime Factor Two, Heart!

Heart, considered the seat of emotions in ancient times, but here it is more of a call to be genuine. The Bible uses the term “heart” to represent the center of your motivations, desires, interests, and inclinations. The act of faith comes from our motivations and then through our mouth. The heart gives what it means from what we believe. The mouth confesses it and makes it real to others (Ex. 20:1-17; Duet. 30:1-6; Lev. 18:2; Jer. 31:31-34).

We come to know truth not only reason, but still more so through our hearts. 
B. Pascal.
The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.   
B. Pascal.

Ill. “Cross my heart and hope to die

The true believer is the one who bases all their life,” IT ALL”, upon Christ, with full trust and assurance by faith and obedience (Gal. 2:20-21; Col. 3:1-3). With our Heart we can listen to our real passions to understand what God might be calling us to. Your heart determines why you say the things you do (Matt. 12:34), why you feel the way you do (Ps. 34:7), and why you act the way you do (Pr. 4:23).

Physiologically, each of us has a unique heartbeat.  Each person has a slightly different pattern.  Likewise, God has given each of us a unique emotional “heartbeat” that races when we encounter activities, subjects, or circumstances that interest us. 
Thus, another word for heart is passion. There are certain subjects that you feel passionate about and others that you couldn’t care less about. But collectively we can put it all together in synergy!

Prime Factor Three, Soul!

Are you an offering to God? Has the Christian faith impacted all of you, who you are as well as what you do?  Soul here is also a term for the seat of our emotions, but also a call to love the Lord without pretense, to not be a pretender. To not be merely academic or dry or antiseptic, but allow love to be expressed emotionally and intimately. 

A person who calls himself frank and candid can very easily find himself becoming tactless and cruel.
A person who prides himself on being tactful can find eventually that he has become evasive and deceitful.
A person with firm convictions can become pigheaded.
A person who is inclined to be temperate and judicious can sometimes turn into someone with weak convictions and banked fires of resolution . . .
Loyalty can lead to fanaticism.
Caution can become timidity.
Freedom can become license.
Confidence can become arrogance.
Humility can become servility.
All these are ways in which strength can become weakness.
Dore Schary, Bits & Pieces, December 9, 1993, pp. 3-4.

Real Devotion is rooted in how we react to what Christ has already done and continues to do for us. It is the commitment to “keep the law of the LORD your God or for us to focus on God (1 Chron. 22:19).” It is the application of our faith with discretion and understanding. To allow God’s light to shine on your dirty stuff and allow His Son by the Power of the Holy Spirit and our due diligence, sweep it away… We have to keep His laws and His percepts now in order to be devoted, heart and soul, to Him.

Christ is the noun and object of our devotion. We are to be the verb (the action), and our distinction and function in doing so is the adjective (accomplishments of trusting and obeying Him). We have to have something tangible upon which to place our devotion. If not, we will fill that need with other things that will slowly choke us from His most wondrous plans and opportunities! Fat sheep- skinny sheep….
 
Are you an offering to God (Psalm 1:2; Isa. 26:3)? Has the Christian faith impacted all of you¾who you are as well as what you do?

To mature in spiritual formation, we must have a desire to be impacted and then impact others with Christ who lives and works through us. This is not about certain times, places, or jobs, nor is it a doctrine; rather, it is an attitude that transcends from an idea to a lifestyle (1 Chron. 22:19; Isa. 26:3; Psalm 1:2; 34:8; Matt. 6:24; Rom. 6:13; 12:10; 14:7- 8; 1 Cor.10:31; Col. 3:1-3, 17, 23).
 
Our soul is Real heartfelt Devotion is being devoted to Christ because He is our all in all. It is aligning our personal desires, our plans, our worship, and our hope with God and His principles. It is an attitude more than an act, a pursuit to be offered to God to give Him glory through our pious, fervent, discipline to His Truth. Devotion is bringing our mind, our will, and our heart to God so our whole life is about seeking Him and His will. This is not about feelings; it is rather who we are to be. It is not about what is around us¾our circumstances and stresses; it is about who He is in us and our response to Him with our passionate pursuit.

Prime Factor Four, Mind!

Here our love to God is not to be mindless or silly; rather it is not just emotional it involves our intellect. Love can’t just be emotional or just academic, it has to be real. Romans chp 12 is the prime passage for this, where Paul calls us, his church folks and then urges us passionately that God’s will is to think rightly of His precepts. To think-through our Christian life and the call and precepts God has given. Then Paul pleads with them to make their faith real so it impacts others around them. Then he gives us all a simple way we can do this:

To see our life as an extension of God’s grace and hands, so we are willing and able to be lined up to Him, so we can be better used by Him. We are called to be a living sacrifice, which means we are to be living, growing and performing agents of God. We are not alone in this essential manner, as a Christian the Holy Spirit transforms us completely, all we are and then all that we are to do, our will, plans and our opportunities (2 Cor. 3:18). And we cannot do this unless we give up our selfish will over to His (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14)!

Let the mind of the master be the master of your mind.  Source Unknown.

 And the incentive for us to surrender to Christ is that His Way is better than ours! His way to run the church is better than ours! He gave us a gift we cannot fathom, yet alone earn the gift of grace and eternal life, so why would we not seek to please our Living Loving Lord?  Then Paul tells us that God’s will is us being willing and able to please Him and serve Him. This is accomplished when we are on guard, that the distractions of the sinful life to not entice, motivate or divert us from Him and His plan for us!

The call is simple, be willing to allow God to transform you and not the world, simple yes, but it takes diligence of our efforts from the trust we have in Christ to succeed! When we do this our thinking, attitude, mindset, all that we are in thought, will change and then impact all that we do in life.

Renewing of your mind is changing our pagan or even faulty Christian mindset away from our selfish nature to His character. Until we do, the deeper things of God’s Will, will not be available to us. Real church growth will not be available to us. Our ideas and attitudes directly shape our values and lifestyle. To get it right, we are to be shaping our mind to God’s Word and then be the tools His uses to shape this church and community and world (Rom. 8:5-9; 13:11-14; 2 Cor. 4:18; 1 John 2:17). 

Then to be Transformed, allowing the Word and Work of Christ to put in a completely new operating system in us helping u to trust and obey. Did you know that the opposite of obedience is not just selfishness or laziness but rather, creating your own opportunities with zeal instead of the Lord’s. The point is to craft our Christian life and church with His purpose and plan. So we do not misplace our passions on the wrong things or on bad trends (1 Sam. 15:22; John 7:17; 13:17). We are to cling to His highest standard, not compromise to the flow of the group we hang out with (peer pressure). The Q is Will we obey? 

Prime Factor Five, Strength!

We have the empowerment of Christ in as well in front, behind, over and under and all around us to grow in faith and maturity regardless of hurts and circumstances. We have been given by God the strength to face any situation, trial, or peril to not only grow our faith and family but to grow our church family as well. It is the ability to react, knowing that God is in control, that He who is in me is greater than he who is against me. 

This can gives us the courage to build our faith and the motivation to say and do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. We are fueled with courage because God promises to help us and save us because of what Christ has done for us! It is allowing Him to work in us with strength, power, and conviction. Because of our saving faith, we should have the response of gratitude, willing to tell others about what He has done for us and what He can do for them. Fear and trepidations will not go away, but when we lean on Him, He will give us the courage for evangelism and teaching.

ILL: when we’re in Christ, we’re under a new law — the law of LOVE. To illustrate: In America there is a law stating a woman must take care of her child. So, a man comes to a new mother’s home. He says “Are you taking care of your baby? The Law says you have to.” The woman, tenderly holding her baby, said, “I don’t need a law to make me take care of my baby.” Why? Because she loves her baby! She feeds him, holds him, changes him because she loves him. I no longer need the Law because I’m under Christ — a law of LOVE.

In closing

Never just rest your faith in a simple sinner’s prayer and nothing else. Christ’s grace gets us the admission into the club, but what good is the club if we never use it. Or is we misuse it! So use the club, but do not just rely on its privileges!

What good is a church where Love, Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength are not flowing from the law of Love, Chris’s love! I grew up in a family where love was rarely expressed well and was more often perverted and I grew up in a church were love was absent, where the fruit of fallen humanities woes was full on. Do not let your homes and church be empty of love or have love practiced wrongly. Our faith and practice must be real, or we will find ourselves on that sandbar thinking we are OK, having fun, the time of our life then splash, we can’t swim, we have the excuses, we did not heed the signs and the tragedy is an empty heart and an empty church in a dimly lit neighborhood that so desperately needs us.

How to do this? Rely on Christ; be real in your faith completely! Then you have something wondrous to offer and build upon. Christ’s sacrifice must have reached in the depths of our personality, will and aspirations wholly, so all we are and strive to be in life is because what Jesus has done for us, then we can display that wherever we are at, including here (Romans 10:5-21). 

Let us pray!

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About Biblical Guy

Dr. Richard Joseph Krejcir lives in Southern California and is married to the beautiful MaryRuth and a precious son Ryan, a miracle from God. He is a child of God who is committed to biblical understanding, prayer, spiritual growth, and integrity. He is the Founder and Director of Into Thy Word Ministries, a missions and discipling ministry, with a call upon his heart to bring discipleship materials to pastors and everyone who needs them here and overseas. He is also a researcher at the Schaeffer Institute and spent over fifteen years on an in-depth, careful and through study on End Times. He is the author of numerous articles, curriculum's and books such as "Into Thy Word," and is also an ordained pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California (Master of Divinity) and holds a Ph.D. (Practical Theology) from London. He has amounted over 25 years of pastoral ministry experience including serving as a church growth consultant.
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