Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Heart of the Matter

A splendid sunshine is spilling into the sanctuary this morning as Darlene plays a medley of songs on the keyboard, from Give Thanks to Jesus Name Above All Names. Pastor Brad energetically welcomed us with a hearty "Good morning. I'm grateful you're here today." In his welcome he shared about the building project progress.

"Last week we talked about worship. Today we're going to talk about the heart of the matter..."

Brad introduced some of the Shannon's friends, Rosie Peterson and her son Chris. They have been head of Covenant Pines Bible Camp for many years.

1. There is firewood across the street which can be taken
2. Council meeting Tuesday at 7:00
3. Sam, a Yorkshire Terrier, is in need of a new home. Contact Kelly Smith.
4. Bring aluminum cans and Matt will help recycle them for building funds.

Today's quartet was comprised of Chuck, Ken, Darlene and Patty who sang the beautiful In Christ Alone.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

If you know it not, I strongly encourage you to find this hymn and meditate upon its richness. During the offering they followed up with How Long Has It Been?

We shared our needs and lifted up our many needs in prayer, and the quartet returned to the front of the hall to sing one more... "Praise the Lord."

Praise the Lord
He can work with those who praise Him,
Praise the Lord
For our God inhabits praise,
Praise the Lord
For the chains that seem to bind you
Serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you
When you praise him

Joanne Winship read from the Scriptures with the young people scattered about around her. The reading was about how Jesus found His helpers.

Brad then did a drawing of Highway 53 and the various businesses along the way asking us what value each offered to the community. He ended by noting that the Good News of Jesus was not given to these businesses but to us, the church.

The Heart of the Matter

People have never really liked the tax people but in Jesus' day it was even worse. Though Matthew was an Israelite, he worked for Rome, the oppressor. They often siphoned off money for themselves, from their own countrymen. They were despised by the people. Rabbis wouldn't even look at one. They were worse than untouchables. Even the Romans disliked them because they were Jews. Their only friends were other tax collectors.

Matthew was a low level tax collector. He worked at a toll booth on the side of a road going to Galilee. He was often on the receiving end of verbal abuse for doing his job.

One day, as Jesus was passing Matthew's toll booth he said, "I want you to be my friend. I invite you to be part of my community, to be one of My students to learn from Me."  Matthew's response: he got up and followed Him.

In Jesus' community, everyone is welcome. Everyone is accepted. On this day, Matthew was blind-sided by grace.

After this happens he is a changed man with a new purpose and a new heart. But Matthew is only just begun. He thinks about the other tax collectors in his former circle and decides to throw a party for these other tax collectors. He believes in Jesus so much that Matthew is sure to show up.

As the dinner goes on, Matthew is thinking about how petty making money must have been. Matthew is thinking how cool it is to have brought these people he cared about and put them together with Jesus, just to see what would happen.

If I take a risk pointing someone to Jesus who will I know is with me there? Yes, the Holy Spirit. 

Brad illustrated this with a story about a 92-year-old woman who was being robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. He asked for her money as he pointed a gun at her. She didn't have much money but still said no, and added, "If you shoot me I will go to heaven and you will go to hell." The man broke down, convicted to his core, and ultimately was praying to God for forgiveness of his sins. When the transaction with heaven was completed, the woman gave him the ten dollars she had to help him begin a new life direction.

What's keeping me from doing what Matthew did, introducing people to Jesus?

There were pharisees there who questioned Jesus' presence there. "Why do you sit with tax collectors and sinners?"  The pharisees thought being spiritually mature meant distancing oneself from sinners. Jesus replied, "It is not the righteous but sinners who need forgiveness."

How can we get the people we care about in touch with Jesus? Ask the Lord to make it happen. We carry the Kingdom of God with us.

There is no greater adventure in life than bringing people to Jesus. This is not a program. It is simply you and me, a heart deal. When the fire burns brightly inside a church people are saying, "I will do anything." It's this kind of church that can accomplish anything.

The message was delivered with power. Thank you, Brad.

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