"Good morning," Pastor Shannon said in welcoming us this morning. "We’ve been through a week in which we celebrated one of the greatest days in the Christian year… the grave is empty! How did you do this week living in recognition of the power of the risen Christ?
And then, our traditional greeting... "Christ is risen."
And the congregation replied, "He is risen indeed."
Capital campaign meeting tonight at 6:00 p.m.
Property committee meeting Tuesday evening.
Calendars available in the back if the sanctuary if you do not have internet access to the Church website where our activities are being documented.
Brooke also shared that for VBS this year over fifty kids are signed up and fifty volunteers have offered to help in various ways.
There will be a large New Life Rummage Sale the last Saturday in April. We can use help with advertising and setting up. Friday the 27th we'll be setting up, pricing, etc. from 9-5. There will be a special time for helpers to shop from 5 to 5:30 after everything is priced.
Darlene played Because He Lives for the introit, which was followed by a short time of worship. Before entering into worship Brad read to us from Ephesians 3:14-21.
Pete Wizneski of Gideons International was with us today to share with us about the work. Pete shared a story about soldiers who were too macho to accept free Bibles when they went overseas to war, but every single one accepted New Testaments when offered by the chaplain later after the bullets were flying. Not everyone can go into all the world to preach the Gospel but this is what the Gideons are about, bringing the Word to the nations and especially to places where there are no Bibles or where they are needed most.
The Gideons started in 1898 in Wisconsin. Tens of millions of Bibles given out this past year in prisons, colleges, and most countries throughout the world. The Gideons consider themselves an extension of our ministry. Pete came asking us to donate for Christ’s work and to plant seeds.
The offering was taken followed by a Scripture reading by Chuck, who first noted that we have a new cross, thanks to Bob Winship and Pastor Brad. He then read for us from John 20:19-31.
Brad took the pulpit and led us in a time of prayer on behalf of needs in our church family and community. He then commenced to preach today's sermon, a reflection on this passage about "doubting Thomas."
2000 years ago, Scripture proclaimed that because of our moral failure, God became flesh to take our sin upon Himself. For our sin He was crucified... died, and was raised from the dead.
What does it mean to us that He is risen? “I have been asking myself this question all week in light of the brokenness of our world. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, what we are doing here in church is just a game."
Peter wrote, “Jesus is alive… and in God’s great mercy He has given us the possibility of a new birth into a living hope.” Our sins can be forgiven, no matter how bad we’ve blown it. Even though we don’t deserve it, we can be right with God. We don’t have to live as those who have no hope.
"There’s a difference between believing in God and believing God. Even demons believe there’s a God." Brad noted that there are three kinds of believers.
The casual believer says, “I believe in God, I’m a good person. I didn’t kill anybody. I do a ton for the community.” They believe in God but it doesn’t change their lives.
If it helps you get the contract, if it helps you close the deal, or get the date... if it helps you, is advantageous for you, you may be in this category. Serving is inconvenient. Giving is, too. 30% of church attenders neither serve nor give.
The third category is the committed believer. The committed believer understands that life is not all about me. It’s not about my needs. "My greatest purpose is to reflect God’s glory in the world. My life is to glorify God."
So we looked again at the story of Thomas. Brad noted the significance of rabbis in ancient Israel.
Rabbis were teachers. It was a very special privilege to be selected by a rabbi to be a disciple. Jesus was a rabbi, which is why when Jesus called him, Thomas immediately threw down his fishing nets and followed. This was a great honor for Thomas. But when Jesus was crucified Thomas bailed.
Elements of Thomas’s story… Thomas had questions. Even the most committed Christ-followers in this room have had doubts. After Jesus was risen, Thomas was not among those who had seen Him and when he was told of this he replied, “Unless I touch Him, unless I see for myself I won’t believe it.”
Thomas was saying, “I have to know for myself. If I am going to commit my life to this, I need to see it to believe it.” It was an important point in his life and he needed a greater certainty.
So, why are you here? Are you here because your spouse is here? Because you inherited it like a tradition?
Many people ask questions… why? Why am I here? Is Jesus really the only way to God?
If you have doubts, you need to sincerely seek God for answers. Jesus can handle our doubts.
"God doesn’t always give you what you want, but He gives you what you need," Brad affirmed.
The disciples were locked in a secret room in hiding, for fear of the Romans. Unexpectedly, Jesus came to where they were gathered and said, “Peace be with you.” This was a supernatural peace… for all time. God speaks and it is. But Thomas was not there. And when he was told about the incident he famously doubted.
But a week later, Jesus returned and Thomas was there with the disciples. And here, Jesus gave Thomas what he needed. Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
As you seek Him, God will give you exactly what you need to believe.
Brad shared a story from his freshman year in college. He didn’t know if he was going to make it. Then God gave Brad exactly what he needed. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph 2:8,9
You can be right with God, not by your own efforts. God was so real in my doubts and questions… That text changed my life. God worked in me in a significant way. I needed to be broken. I needed to be humbled. I needed faith.
Doubt, discovery, belief.
Thomas' response was recorded in John 20:28. “My Lord and my God.” As if to say “You will be the center of my life from now on. I will never renounce Christ.”
Thomas, tradition has indicated, later went to India spreading the Gospel for the next twenty years and was later martyred for his faith.
Where are you at? Are you a casual believer? Convenient believer? Step across the line to commitment. Embrace a new life…
Jesus said, "if you want a part of My kingdom, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.”
If the resurrection is true it demands our whole life. This is not a game. We’re not just playing church. He is alive.