Sunday, October 26, 2008

Would Jesus Be A Christian?

“I’m glad you’re here today,” Pastor Brad said, welcoming us warmly. As is often his manner, he briefly outlined his theme. Today we would focus on prayer, and what it means for us to be Christians. After the service we would conduct a semi-annual meeting to which we were all invited.

Two announcements that needed to be mentioned. First, next Sunday there will be a meal at the Swamp Sisters to which we are all invited, courtesy the Armstrongs. Cost is a free will offering, all proceeds to the New Life Covenant building fund. Second, November 5th we will be packing Samaritans Purse Christmas boxes during Adventure Club. Everyone is invited.

Darlene, Ken & Chuck opened the service with “Something Beautiful” as we entered in worship.

Pastor changed the Scripture reading to Matthew 6:25-30 and 7:9-11, which was followed by special music from Dana who briefly shared from her heart about prayer, noting that there is a difference between foxhole prayers and mature prayer.

After we spent time praying for the needs of the body, Pastor Brad spoke to us from his heart.

Would Jesus Be A Christian?

Pastor Shannon began his sermon by drawing for us two illustrations which he borrowed from Brian McLaren’s book A Generous Orthodoxy. The first illustration shows how many, if not most, people experience salvation. The large circle is “me” because for most people, our approach to God is, “What can Jesus do for me?” The second circle is the church, which we then become a part of which in some distant way is part of the world.

The second image illustrates an alternate perspective. Jesus came to save the world. The church is the means to this end. When we become Christians, we ourselves can become part of this world picture, and God’s overarching purposes.

With this perspective, everything changes.

Brad then introduced a second book, The Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson. Though a small book it received major acclaim when it was introduced eight years ago. The book is essentially about a relatively minor Old Testament character and his famous prayer which is recorded in I Chronicles 4.

According to Wilkinson when we pray for God to bless us, as Jabez prayed, God will bless us.

To Pastor Brad, this sounded a bit like magic, as if our prayer would make God do this.

Pastor Brad shared that the name Jabez is actually based on a word that means pain. Because the Hebrews delighted in wordplay, there seems to be an aspect of this story that gets lost in translation. The words Jabez uses include the request that he be free from pain. (NIV, verse 10)

But Brad noted that other translations that convey a different shade of meaning. Here is verse 10 from the New King James Version:

10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

Pastor Brad noted that there is a truth here. That we are indeed to ask God to bless us, not because we’re worthy, but because we are His children and nothing is too small for God.

There is a context in Scripture for this truth that we need to keep in mind. In Matthew 6, in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about prayer. But afterwards, the Lord reminds us that worry and anxiety over things we want and feel we need ought not be our primary concern.

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Being blessed by God was never intended to be an end in itself. God wants to bless us for a higher purpose, to redeem the world. Yes, we should ask to be blessed, but for the purpose of being a blessing to others.

The prayer of Jabez that we need to make our own is this: “Lord, give me a new identity so I am not a pain, causing pain….”

Brad’s prayer is that we’d pray to be blessed so that we can be a blessing.

It was an abbreviated service today because afterwards we had our Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting.

Very briefly, the key decisions made, after committee minutes and a pastor’s report were given, dealt with approving the budget, assembling a new nominating committee, and hearing the building committee report. A new budget was approved, a nominating committee assembled and a recommendation to purchase approximately 4.2 acres for the purposes of a potential new building sometime in the future was discussed. As a result of the careful and thoughtful manner in which this recommendation has been developed, the recommendation passed unanimously.

For additional details on all these matters, contact the deacons, treasurer or members of the building committee.

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