Sunday, April 20, 2008

His Character and Competence

Despite the dreary weather, the church was filled this morning with warmth in abundance. Pastor Brad Shannon opened with a few comments about faith, fear, hope, renewal and risk, then welcomed us, saying, “I’m delighted you’re here to worship with us.”

Chuck and Darlene sang Hide Me In Your Holiness to usher us into a time of worship.

JoAnn Winship then shared some observations from a gathering at Mission Covenant Church in Poplar the past few days. JoAnn and Pastor Brad were there on behalf of New Life Covenant. JoAnn shared how the testimonies of men and women getting ordained were all so powerful. Whether simple or dramatic, each had a story of how God’s hand had touched them, how they responded to the Lord’s call.

The highlight, she said, was Veritas, a Greek word that means truth. The goal for each congregation is to become a Healthy Missional Church. Healthy means we are individually pursuing Christ. Missional means we are pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world.

The Scripture readings this morning, by Leonard Armstrong, were from Acts 7:55-60 and John 14:1-14.

His Character & Competence

Pastor Brad began by drawing a construct for us in an attempt to make the abstract ideas in his message more comprehensible and tangible. He drew three circles, side by side from left to right on a sheet of large paper. The circles were not touching one another.

The first he labeled “Stable.” It refers to the stable orientation of our status quo situation, which is reliable and certain. The second circle was referred to as De-stable, and represents uncertainty and chaos.

He noted that there is anxiety in between these circles. We much prefer the safety of stability over the insecurity of change. Moving from the first circle to the next involves risk as we go from the known to the unknown.

People react in different ways to this transition. Many, instead of moving to the third circle, called Re-Orientaton, move back to the first circle where they felt secure and comfortable. This move backward is called the Doom Loop.

The message today, based on insights from Psalm 31, centered in part on this passage in verse 4: “Keep me from the trap that is set before me.” The Doom Loop is such a trap.

The pastor then told a story about a couple who went on a balloon ride together with another couple The railings were lower than he expected and the experience of being a thousand feet in the air was both exhilarating and terrifying. Especially problematic was the apparent inexperience and background of the balloon pilot. His character and competence were to some extent questionable.

By way of contrast, for Christians, the character and competence of God are unquestionably reliable. The psalmist is able, therefore, to declare that he is “in the hands of Him who will not fail me.”

I want to go where God wants to lead. It involves change, risk, times of insecurity. But we can trust Him.

Paul, in the book of Acts, in response to the Spirit, changed his plans and went to Macedonia on one of his journeys. In addition to a change in where he went, he also had to change the normal pattern which he had developed in his missionary journeys. There was no synagogue in Philippi.

It wasn’t long before an altercation occurred which resulted in him and his friends getting beaten and thrown into prison. (You can check out the full story in Acts 16.)

Years later, Paul wrote a powerful to these Philippian believers. It was written during a time of extreme uncertainty in Paul’s own personal life. He had been in prison awaiting trial, a trial that would very possibly result in his execution. Yet, when writing the Philippians, a church characterized by suffering and poverty, he writes a letter filled with joy. And he writes with pride of their generosity toward other churches.

The pastor then shared a video about a man who told the story of his walk around a lake with his one year old son on his back. When he reached the furthest part of his walk away from the cabin, the rain came, followed by thunder and his son’s cries.

The story revealed the relationship of God our Father with each of us, His children. In all lives, rain must fall at times. When the rain and storms come, God is not indifferent to our cries. As the Scripture repeatedly reminds us, God does not ignore the cry of one who is afflicted. He is close to the broken-hearted.

It is a myth that Christians are supposed to have it all together. In point of fact, Jesus’ call is specifically to the weary and heavy laden. We’re called to Christ in our need, not when we have solved all our problems.

What the child in the video did not understand was that his father would do anything to get him home safe. The last mile, with his infant son close to his breast, the father repeated continuously, “I love you. We’re going to make it. I love you.”

Pastor Shannon closed by reminding us of God unwavering promise: “I will never fail or forsake you.”


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