On a sunny Northland Sunday morning, Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly, as is his custom. He reminded us that Easter is a season, not a day on the calendar. We're reminded at this time of year that we have a living hope. It's a broken world but evil doesn't have to win. We have a living God who continues to actively meet needs.
After giving an overview of the themes of his Lenten sermons, Brad tipped his hand to today's message: God designed us to share our stories.
1. Please pass your Secret Sister forms to Brad or Joanne by next week
2. Through April we're collecting items for the Bethany Crisis Shelter. See the information below on this blog.
3. Pam also shared that the first bike has been purchased for the Congo missionaries.
The quintet -- Ken, Eli, Dale, Chuck and Darlene -- sang for us and then led us in worship. This was followed by the induction of new members.
The Scripture readings this morning were from Acts 5:27-32 and John 20:19-31, read by Leonard. This was followed by our prayer time where we brought up the many needs we share. Brad then took the pulpit to deliver the message.
Sharing Your Story
"Take a hike, take a ride, take a bus,..." Brad produced a seemingly endless uses of the word "take" to set up his message today. Many were especially humorous, especially with his comical intonations... "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning... take your hat off, take your coat off, take your shoes off, sit a spell, you all come back you hear?"
There are thousands of uses for the word "take" but his favorite, he said, was the subject of today's message, the story where Jesus told a man to "take up your mat and walk." Why didn't Jesus just say, "Get up and walk" and skip this part about taking up his mat? Brad stated that this man's mat and his story were intertwined. And when Jesus comes to us, it isn't just to heal but to have our story go with us. "Let the story of your life spill over into others."
We all have experiences that we tell stories about. "If I catch a big fish, you're going to hear about it." So it is when we encounter Christ. It is a spiritual awakening, not just a religious experience. This man was crippled, and many of us have been crippled by addictions, habits, pain, paralyzed by fear, stuck in the past. Jesus frees us, heals us and gives us the power to walk in a new direction. But He also wants us to share our story.
God wants to recycle us, and use us for good. Take up your mat and walk.
Brad has three prayers which he prays over his sermons every week. He shared those with us as the basis for today's message.
1) That God would get your attention.
Brad likes hotels because of the friendly wake up call, which is a gentler than a harsh alarm clock. We need those wake up calls and it is better if we listen and respond to it. God is talking to us. Brad said he believes God prefers the gentle wake up call. But sometimes we ignore it, and He has to use pain to get our attention. As it is written in Proverbs 20:30, "Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being."
Most of us are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. Brad said he was inwardly moved that the father let the son go. It's a hard thing to do. The son ended up stuck in the spin cycle of self-destructive behavior till he came to his senses, face down in pig slop. It's here that he finally hears his wake up call and returns home.
Brad cited the Apostle Paul's tough love as revealed in a letter to the Corinthians. (II Cor. 7:9) where Paul expresses that he is not glad that they were hurt, but that the pain resulted in their repenting and changing their ways.
2) That we'd learn to depend on God every day the rest of our lives.
Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the leopard change his spots?" God alone has the power to change us. Can you imagine the leopard waking up one morning and saying, "I think I'll go plaid today." So it is with ourselves, long accustomed to sin and selfish ways. God alone is able to change us, and He changes us from within. It's not a behavior modification program, it's a work of the Holy Spirit.
At this point Brad shared Micah 6:8, act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. "This is the way I want to live my life. I've been praying that we'd do these three things, every day."
3) That you'd move beyond just focusing on your own recovery.
Allow God to use your life and your story to help others. It was noted that we can replace self-centered destructive behavior with self-centered recovery. This is a recovery that is incomplete. Brad shared that our healing is directly related to stepping outside ourselves and thinking of others, sharing our story with others and encouraging them. You don't have to wait until you are completely well for God to use you.
If we cooperate with the Spirit, He will recycle us. We are God's masterpiece, and even though we have been marred by sin, God is in the restoration business. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (II Cor. 5:17) And right after this Paul states that we have a new purpose as well, to be Christ's ambassadors, carrying forward the message of reconciliation and hope.
You never know how God will use your life, but if you look at the Bible and history, you see that God has always used ordinary people, broken people. "I'm convinced that there is no more effective healer than a wounded healer."
"God uses our past pain to pour hope into other peoples' lives. God never wastes hurt. So take up your mat and walk."