On a beautiful sunny day in rural Northern Minnesota, Pastor Brad Shannon began the service by sharing a moving story about a man who lived a tragic life... alcoholic, philandering, and ultimately abandoning his wife and children, never to return. This man's oldest son joined the marines after years of being "the man of the house" to two much younger siblings. While in the marines, a church reached out to him, inviting him in to an evangelistic service. Because of the faithful witness of this church, a church that embraced the lost, Pastor Brad and his brothers learned the love of their Savior, Jesus. The marine, whose father had abandoned his home, was Brad's father.
Today was Communion Sunday, and today's message was intended to prepare our hearts for the Lord's Table.
The Scripture Readings can be found in Psalm 119:137-144 and II Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12.
Pastor Brad began his message by saying, "There are a couple truths I would like to put before you." Everyone of us knows that we have been chosen and loved from before the foundation of the world. What a remarkable truth that we are here with a good conscience only because of the forgiveness of Jesus and His merciful work on the cross. What's more, each of us is a legacy of someone else's faithful response to God.
Our faithfulness creates a ripple effect that expands throughout the world.
Jesus said, "You didn't choose me, I chose you, to bear fruit that will last.
"Think about those whose faithfulness resulted in your coming to God or bringing you to where you are," Pastor Brad said. Then, he asked us to share aloud, identifying those who have been an influence or significant in our coming to know the mercy of God. Several shared names of people who influenced them, and many in the congregation remembered others who have touched their lives in powerful or important ways.
The only thing that matters is what we do today. Those who can be trusted with little will be trusted with much. Citing the great passage in Hebrews 12, Brad shared an insight regarding that "great cloud of witnesses." We carry forward what they began.
In the passage, it is noteworthy that discipline is not a punishment. Discipline is what produces a harvest of righteousness.
What a privilege, then, to be partners with God to serve the world and make it a better place.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." ~ Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Oswald Chambers once said we will never see the full impact of our faithfulness on this side of eternity, for if we could see the impact, we couldn't stand the glory.