Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mr. Bob Ueker says... "I must be in the Front Row!"

Why is it that for a concert, performance or sporting event, we want to be on the front row.  Yet in the church, the most desired place is on the back rows?


Let me suggest a couple of reasons and their usually unintentional consequences.

  1. We Want to Watch - Not Be Watched

    We Want to Judge, not be Judged

    We want to see who is there. 
    We want to see who is late. 
    We want to see who's kids are behaving. 
    We want to see who is visiting and what they are wearing.

    Sitting in the Back helps us to see everyone else better.  We form opinions about people based on what we see.  We speculate about someone's job, family, marriage if they seem in a bad mood.  On the flip side, we don't want other people watching and forming opinions about us. 
  2. We don't Want the Responsibility of Being Examples in Worship

    Philippians 3:17--"Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us."

    Paul frequently tells his readers to look to him, his behavior and actions for an example of how they should be.  He's not asking them to do anything that he himself is not willing to do or practice.

    A church service can be confusing for people who haven't been to that congregation or to church at all in a while.  But when all the church members sit in the back, it forces the visitors to sit further in the front and they don't get to see what they should be doing.  This makes them more and more self-conscious, nervous and uncomfortable.

    They need to see what the expectations are.  What should they be doing?  Worship is not automatic knowledge--it is a learned behavior. Unbelievers and Visitors need to learn how to worship.  Visitors want to see if we're sincere in our worship, if we're genuine and passionate in seeking after Him.

    They need to see that from the regular attenders.  Visitors learn about the congregation by watching the members.  But if we only sit in the back, they have to sit in front of us and we are refusing to let out worship be their example.  We are refusing to lead them, instead we criticize them for not knowing what to do.
  3. We Want Distance from the Voice of God

    In Exodus and Deuteronomy, when the Glory of God descended on the mountain, the Israelites wanted to stay as far away as possible.  The Glory of the LORD is very intimidating.  It reveals His holiness and our sinfulness.  We don't want to be too close to that.. we don't want that kind of accountability. 

    And when the Word of God is preached... we don't want to get our toes stepped on.  When we sit so far away from the minister, it creates a distance that makes us more comfortable.  It allows us to think that he is talking to or about someone else.  We're able to glance around and see the other people who need to respond to what is being said, i.e. deflection.

    When God is speaking clearly and powerfully through the minister by the Word--it forces the hearers to consider it carefully and potentially make needed changes in order to grow as a disciple.  But we can avoid that and be out the door before we are expected to change.  Sitting in the back helps us do that more.
  4. Things Visitors Fear that keep them from Visiting Your Church

    Being Watched
    Being Judged
    Feeling Out of Place
    Not Knowing What to Do
    Not Having the Right Clothes

    All of these things are made worse for them when all of the church regulars take up the back rows.

    But We who are mature need to be Examples in Worship - to our children and for visitors

    We who are mature need to be seen passionately worshiping God - 1 Corinthians 14:23 assumes that unbelievers are attending our services and watching what we do.
  5. When mature believers all stay in the back we are saying by our actions... unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally...

    You're Not Welcome
    We Are Watching and Judging You
    We Don't Care whether you are comfortable or not
    We're not going to make it easy for you to be here
    We aren't interested in showing you how to Worship God

    You mature believers are in a place of familiarity and comfort.  Visitors are not.

    Regular attenders know what is going on.  Visitors do not.

    Making them sit in front of you increases their fears and insecurities.

    It also increases the likelihood that they won't come back. 
  6. So What should Mature Believers in Church do?

    Sit in the first 6-7 rows
    Lead in Worship
    Consider the Visitor's comfort more important than your own
    Serve them
    Allow the Word of God to mold and shape you



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Perspective - Matthew 8:18-20 - Foxes have Dens

Matthew 8:18--"When Jesus saw large crowds around Him, He gave the order to go to the other side of the sea. 19 A •scribe approached Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go!” 20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

This has traditionally been a difficult passage.  Some have proposed that this statement is saying that Jesus was homeless and poor.  In one sense this is true but in another not.

Jesus was homeless by choice not by tragic circumstances.

Other translations use "teachers of the law".

There was something in this culture that I believe adds to this passage.  Famous Rabbis or teachers would attract disciples that would sit under their teaching.  The more followers, the more prestige and their followers would defend the betterness of their teacher they were sitting under.  So it was an honor for this man to come to Jesus to ask to be His disciple, but it was also a boost to the man's own reputation to say he sat under the popular teacher Jesus.

But in order to join or be accepted by a teacher, the candidate typically brought money to buy their way in.  A popular teacher could make a good living.  In order to gain more followers, these teachers would want to be easily found and work from a base of operations to spread their influence.  It could become a cushy life.

 It made me think that this man was likely not empty handed in approaching Jesus.  Jesus wasn't just turning down the man, he was turning down his money.  Jesus was turning down the culturally expected life of an established teacher.

If the man was himself a scribe or teacher of the law, he may have been expecting that pattern to continue under Jesus.  I also suspect that the man was wealthy and used to his own cushy life.

That's when Jesus hits him with a simple truth.  “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head."

In other words, following Me will not lead to the cushy life with a big house and comfortable bed.  He's not setting up a base of operations--He is going to the Cross.  If you want to follow Jesus, He will sometimes lead you through the valley of the shadow of death--but He will bring you through to the other side in Victory.

To me, this statement flies in the face of the health & wealth gospel, aka name it & claim it, blab it & grab it,  covet & love it.

This man was handing Jesus a "check" full of money.  Jesus didn't want a Rolls Royce or a private plane, another mansion or a Hawaii vacation.  He turned the man away in much the same way that Peter turned away Simon the Sorcerer's offer of money in Acts 8:18-23.

The Gospel has never been about money or the promise of riches.  Faith is not a means to greater wealth and Jesus is not delaying the Second Coming because "you don't got your money" as I heard Jesse Duplantis claim back in the 1990's at a church in Austin, TX (that was the last straw and my family and I finally walked out).

Faith is about a willingness to give up your own wants and comforts in order to live for the Kingdom.  It may mean turning down more money in order to be where God wants you to be.

Are you the man or woman willing to give up the money and creature comforts to follow Jesus or are you the one who walks away from Him for not providing it?

Money don't buy you love... nor salvation.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Christians, Churches & Halloween-- Sending Mixed Signals

I found this article from The Christian Post regarding the popularity of Vampires, Werewolves & other such stuff.  Worth reading and considering.

This was originally a sermon from a few years ago.  I've updated a few stats and a couple other things.

Mixed Signals

I am going to make a few proposals to change some of the famous public service ad campaigns you’ve seen in the last decades and I want to ask how many of you think these sound like good ideas? What kind of message do you think they send?

Noting a shift in the youth mindset and America’s value systems, many of the old government, public service announcements have been retooled. Gone are the outdated “Just Say No”, “Don’t Drink & Drive”, “Don’t Play with Matches” campaigns. Maybe you’ve seen some of the new ones.

">Smokey the Bear<"—longtime spokesman for the National Park Service has come out with a new commercial series concerning playing with fire—“Only You can prevent forest fires, but if you really want to start a fire or play with matches—be sure and only start small fires at home.”

On a similar note—the Illinois Department of Transportation is coming out with a new ad campaign, getting rid of the “Designated Driver” idea, instead, they could offer special training classes for the frequent drinker. The new slogan is—“Protect the Streets—Drink and Drive successfully by Practicing Often.”  Or better yet, parents, take away the need for driving by providing the beer and alcohol for your underage kids.

“Just Say NO” and other warnings against gateway drugs like alcohol and marijuana have been replaced. Local elementary, middle and high schools can offer after school training and free samples to students so they can find out which drugs they prefer and how to take them correctly. After all, they’re going to do it anyway. “Just say ‘Once’”.

What kind of message do these ads send? Mixed Signals. Mixed Signals in this sense are things that are confusing to our kids. We parents say one thing, then at some point, contradict ourselves and the kids cannot be sure which one they should follow, which one they should believe?

Is it wise for us to say 364 days of the year that something is bad, something is to be avoided, something is dangerous, and 1 day of the year, give them permission to participate in what we’ve been saying is bad all the other days.

This is a month in which many believers will send mixed signals to their kids, their neighbors and friends. Some of it won’t be by design or decision, but by the decision of others. Some may be because you may not have noticed or given it a second thought in some time.

Let me ask you, how many of you, your friends, or your kids have seen more about death, about witchcraft, about evil and murderous and demonic forces lately?

If you haven’t yet, drive by the front of Wal-Mart, watch TV this month, ask the video store what type of videos are most rented this month.

I am concerned how we adults and parents tend to tolerate, even send mixed messages about death, the occult, witchcraft or the demonic during the month of October as we get ready for Halloween.

These messages are inconsistent with our faith the remaining part of the year and typically, we would steer our kids away from such things. But this month adults and parents seem to be leading the mixed signals. We don’t even question our participation anymore.

Here’s some stats from the last couple of years.

This year, the average person plans to spend $66.54 on the holiday, up from $64.82 one year ago. Total Halloween spending for 2008 is estimated to reach $5.77 billion.*

This year, consumers will spend an average of $24.17 on Halloween costumes (including costumes for adults, children, and pets). People will also be buying candy ($20.39 on average), decorations ($18.25) and greeting cards ($3.73).

National Retail Federation
2010 Popular Costumes

Kids:                                                     Adults:
1. Princess                                            Witch
2. Spider-Man                                      Vampire
3. Witch                                                Pirate
4. Pirate                                               Nurse
5. Disney Princess                                Wench/Tart/Vixen
6. Action/Super Hero                           Cat
7. Ghost                                              Zombie
8. Pumpkin/Vampire (tie)                     Fairy
9. Batman                                           Athlete/Batman (tie)
10. Star Wars Character                     Dracula

It’s hard to say how these mixed signals are contributing to the spiritual climate in our country. But let me share this with you.

According to Information collected from 1990 to 2001, The fastest growing religion (in terms of percentage) is Wicca -- a Neopagan religion that is sometimes referred to as Witchcraft. Their numbers of adherents are doubling about every 30 months.

14.1% do not follow any organized religion. This is an unusually rapid increase -- almost a doubling -- from only 8% in 1990.

These beliefs, once largely ignored or dismissed in America are increasing in our population and becoming more and more accepted; real to the point that now the military is required to have wiccan chaplains and burial rites.  I'm not saying we have Wicca in America because of Halloween, but many factors contribute to the growing interest and acceptance of it and Halloween is a contributing influence.

When the Israelites began entering the Promised Land, they were given several warnings regarding the religious practices of the surrounding peoples and how they were not to be like them. For them such beliefs were a reality, a competing belief system that was a lure to be unfaithful to God.

Deuteronomy 18:10-14--10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells [notice good/bad, white/black isn’t mentioned], or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.

Isaiah 8:19-20—“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

I believe God knew what He was talking about when he called His people to stay away from those things because they are dangerous to us spiritually.

The other nations practiced these things so they could gain control over or knowledge of the future, they would worship the created thing, rather than the Creator—ultimately these beliefs and practices keep people from an authentic faith in God based on worship in spirit and truth—so these are deceptions intended to prevent us from truly knowing God—so they function as lies and are demonic in their origin.

While many of us dismiss the occult or demonic, I and others can speak from experience—see my testimonies here

I hope you believe the Bible when it talks about the dangers of the demonic and the occult.

I hope you believe that Jesus had very real confrontations with the demonic, as did Peter, Paul, the other Apostles and the church—and you don’t write those accounts off as psychological conditions or some other medical phenomenon.

I hope you are not telling your kids that the occult is wrong, it’s dangerous, and totally opposed to God while at the same time saying, “we’re going to let you dabble with it for a little while, just once a year.

We tell ourselves… “It’s Harmless Fun” – maybe it is most of the time, but are you sure? Are you sure that putting your kid in those circumstances cannot affect them?

We’re going to buy dark, occultic decorations for our house, we’re going to encourage playing with witchcraft by putting the black pot in the lawn, we’re going to trivialize death and the demonic with cute cartoon figures and costumes that desensitize you to the real thing.”

That’s like saying:

Playing with matches is bad and dangerous, but let me show you the right way to strike them, let me give you a few things to burn.

You shouldn’t drink kids, but let me buy you a six pack for your birthday and let you drink it at home.

Hey Kids, there is a real spiritual evil out there trying to corrupt your soul and keep you from God, you must Resist the devil—but let me buy you a 10 horned demon mask, a witch or serial killer costume.

That is not a consistent message. It gives parental permission for something we normally wouldn’t want them playing with.

John tells us that he wrote the book of 1 John to warn us “about those who are trying to lead you astray”—1 John 2:26. John warns us in 4:1 to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.

It is my conviction that many Bible believing Christians have stopped “testing the spirits” when it comes to how we participate in Halloween.

I’m not saying that that a real Christian will not participate in Halloween.  I'm not questioning your salvation.

I’m afraid that we no longer question it or even care whether what we do, or whether how we celebrate is “from God” or not, that we no longer consider the spiritual impact of HOW we participate.

We have already accepted the idea and we’re no longer asking—is this wrong—we have made that decision—we not looking to Scripture to give us guidance.

When challenged, many believers react defensively even with anger regarding Halloween. It’s a very emotional reaction.

I believe people react that way because on some level, people are uncomfortable with Halloween but they talk themselves or justify themselves into doing it anyway—for the sake of the children or some other reason.

To me, that is extremely dangerous for the People of God.

We can reason and justify anything. And I find it inconsistent to “do it for the children” when they are the ones most at risk and dependent on adults to make the Spiritually discerning decision.

The demonic packaged up as “harmless fun” is still demonic and in reality that makes it more dangerous and deceptive.

2 Corinthians 11:14 warns us that, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”. In other words—he puts on a costume trying to convince everyone he is a cute, harmless, misunderstood guy. He wears a costume to hide who he really is and hopes that you’ll invite him in for a visit.

1. Playing with the Occult is Dangerous—Saul in 1 Samuel 28:4- was so afraid of the Philistines, that after trying to ask God what to do about it and getting nothing—more likely b/c his heart wasn’t faithful and his attempts were more insulting to God than inspiring.

He then sought out a “medium” (the title of a recent TV series, BTW) to consult the dead prophet Samuel. He wore a costume to do it— vs. 8 lets us know that he wore a disguise to meet with this woman. And while most biblical scholars disagree on exactly what happened when the spirit of Samuel appeared, was it really him, was it a delusion or a demonic deception, they all agree that something happened. Saul had to take her word for it because he apparently could not see the vision for himself—vs. 14.

Saul is playing with fire—he is doing something God commanded not to do, something he knows is wrong & tried to get rid of at one point by expelling the mediums earlier in his career.

He is dabbling, thinking he is exempt, thinking that it won’t hurt him, thinking that it’s not really a big deal, but he’s about to find out it is a big deal that there are consequences.

2. Playing with the Occult has Consequences
1 Chron. 10:13-14—“Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, 14 and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

a. Even non-Christians are beginning to recognize Halloween related consequences for children.

b. A study conducted of six- and seven-year-olds by Penn State psychologist Cindy Dell Clark found that most parents underestimate just how terrifying the holiday can be for young kids.

c. “Halloween is a holiday when adults assist children in behaviors taboo and out of bounds," Clark writes in the anthropological journal Ethos. "It is striking that on Halloween, death-related themes are intended as entertainment for the very children whom adults routinely protect."

3. Dabbling In The Occult is not Compatible with Biblical Faith

a. Acts 19:13-16—The demonic is real and dangerous. You and I must not dismiss it because there is a very real spiritual battle going on; a real demonic power. While most of what we see in America today, like the astrology, the wicca, the psychic hotlines, is fake—it is not always fake. And the Believer should know better than to try and live in both worlds.

b. Acts 19:17-20—Believers Got rid of their old way of life. Some of them had practiced sorcery in their previous way of life—but Jesus changed all of that. They may not have felt convicted to get rid of it in their lives, but they eventually saw the need, no matter how valuable the items were. Sorcery, witchcraft, the occult, idolizing death are not compatible in the lives of those who love God.

Whether you celebrate or participate in Halloween activities is a decision between you and God.

I’m not questioning your salvation if you have a pumpkin at your house or if you give out candy.

What I do want you to do is question how or why you participate—don’t decide as a parent today, based on the pleasant memories you had as a child.

Examine everything by your faith.

1. Test the Spirits to see whether they are from God.
a. Test the things your kids are exposed to—
Halloween is now more than just one day—many kids are looking forward to it all month just like they do Christmas—it’s hard to walk into Wal-Mart with all the decorations all over the stores.

Books, TV shows & movies, cute cartoonish characters try to convince your kids that witchcraft, magic, monsters and death is all harmless fun—

Through stories they try to teach that we should and that God sees a difference between a bad witch and a good witch, between black magic and white magic—and there is none.

b. Test the costumes they want to wear

kids, let your faith guide your decision.
Adults, make the decision whether something is appropriate for your kids—offer alternatives because it’s not too late.

c. Test the decorations of your house

kids open your eyes to what you see at home and ask what message it sends to your friends of your faith.
Parents, re-examine your plans—make your home a place of light and hope that does not glorify dabbling in darkness.

d. Test the decorations of houses as you walk around—don’t go to those houses that glorify the occult

e. Remember that Kids can’t always distinguish between the Real and Unreal.
They don’t think like adults logically, emotionally—as the study I mentioned found—the scary, death, occult themes affect them more than we realize. Make a commitment to Protect them and not Confuse them or send conflicting messages

f. Reclaim the day—don’t let this day be controlled by the dead in your house.

Try to promote life by handing out tracts with your candy, by carving Christian images in your pumpkins, by inviting all you know and recognize to church, or by reminding your house and your guests that Oct. 31st is the day Martin Luther hammered his 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral back in 1517 that started the Reformation. On Oct. 31st, he began a revolution of faith that we are living in today.

g. Embrace Philippians 4:8—“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sermon - Inneffective and Unproductive - 2 Peter 1:5-8

Have you seen the Corn in the drought this year?  
It looks awful doesn’t it?
Would you ever plant corn if you knew this would be the harvest?  Is it worth it?

Of course not.

We see this corn and know that it is wrong.  It is wrong for it to be unfruitful.  It shouldn’t look like this.  It represents loss, wasted seed, wasted time, wasted season. 

Certain things have to go wrong for corn to turn out this way.  The two primary are…

There’s not enough Rain or it’s not at the right times
Temperatures are too hot for too long

But under normal conditions, the harvest develops as a natural growth process.  You plant and care for, but God makes it grow—He designed it that way.

This corn is designed to be fruitful and productive.

That’s the problem Jesus had with the Fig Tree—it had all the signs of life, all the indications that it should be fruitful and yet when Jesus approached it expecting to find some sign of the tree fulfilling it’s purpose—but he found none.  And so He cursed the tree.

Fruitlessness—ineffectiveness and unproductivity are wrong.

It’s when the natural growth process does not have the right conditions, then fruitfulness is stunted.

Scripture teaches that believers can be just like this corn and so can churches.  They can have no fruit—like they have been through a drought.

It is possible for us to be ineffective, unproductive and unfruitful.

2 Peter 1:8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.—ESV

1:8--For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.—NIV

1:8--For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.--HCSB

ineffective and unproductive.

I sometiems find it helpful to teach Scripture using Opposites.  Flipping the verse around to get a better understanding of what it actually says.

So look again at that verse in an opposite sense.

“If you DO NOT POSSESS these qualities in increasing measure   
If you possess these qualities in DECREASING measure, they will CAUSE you to be ineffective and unproductive even in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ineffective - inactive, i.e. unemployed; (by implication) lazy, useless :- barren, idle, slow

Unproductive - barren (literal or figurative) :- without fruit, unfruitful

What does it mean to be “ineffective for Jesus?
What does it mean to be unproductive for Jesus?
When you examine the fruit of your life, are you like this corn?
Is your life and walk with Christ ineffective and unproductive?
How about this church?

What did Jesus say to His servants who were unproductive and ineffective—the ones who took their talents and hid them in the ground and refused to do anything with them?

The idea of being Ineffective, the though of being unproductive, the chance of living a Christian life with Jesus walking by and seeing our fruitlessness should bother all of us.

So if not possessing certain qualities, not allowing them to grow in us can cause us to be ineffective, unproductive or unfruitful, then it’s important for us to find out what those qualities are. 

Because on the flip side, under the right conditions, if it’s not too hot, if the rain comes at the right times, then the corn will germinate and you’ll be able to have a fruitful harvest. 

To discover those qualities, we have to go back to 1:5--"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-contraol with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love."

The Scripture says that you must possess these qualities in increasing measure—these also must be growing.  Not one at a time, one after another, they must all be cultivated simultaneously.

Make Every Effort – diligence, haste, speed—in other words this is something to be taken seriously, they are not to be neglected or forgotten.  These are things that are important

ADD to your faith – Add also means: Nourish-Supplement your faith—fully supply.  Like taking vitamins-- you need them to be healthy.
·        Goodness -  moral excellence, related to manliness or valor
o   Being good requires courage.  Courage to do the right thing even when it costs you.  Courage to resist the participating in the wrong even when everyone else is telling you to.
o   1 Peter 4:4 NLT –“Of course, your former friends are very surprised when you no longer join them in the wicked things they do, and they say evil things about you.”
o   If you’re not adding goodness, you are adding failure, not valor but betrayal
·        Knowledge
o   God wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, MIND and strength. 
o   He does not want us to be ignorant, uninformed our unaware.  God wants to be known!
o   Learning about God—His plan of redemption, His love, the Scriptures.  We need to understand our faith.
o   Retraining your brain on how you act, when, who is your neighbor, that you should serve rather than be served,
o   Coming to a greater knowledge of the Gospel
o   Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
o   If you are not adding knowledge to your faith, you are adding or maintain ignorance—a chosen ignorance.  “by now you should be teachers… solid food is for the mature,….  I gave you milk not solid food.”
·        Self-Control – temperance,
o   That sense of consistency and stability, that you’re not going to jump at every whim or desire that crosses your mind.  That you will think before you act
o   As opposed to shooting first and asking questions later
o   If you are not adding self-control, your are really out of control - cultivating self-indulgence.  You’re really looking for ways for you to make sure you get yours.  You’re out of control of the Spirit of God and in control of the sin nature.
If you are not in control of yourself, you're waiting or depending on someone else to tell you what to do.  You want someone watching over your shoulder, treating you like a child... "don't do that...".
Self Control requires maturity and strength.
·        Perseverance – patience, endurance,
o   Longsuffering, the ability to hold on and not quit even when it is tough.  Even when you want to give up, you will keep fighting, keep doing what is right, keep to your convictions, even in the face of death—even
o   When the going gets tough, the tough get going--not out the door.
o   When you look at your life situation, when you look at the future of your church, do you have the valor, do you have the perseverance not to give up just because it looks hard?  Has the dynamics and the population of your neighborhood changed—does that mean you should reach out to them?  Do they not need the Gospel?
o   If we do not have perseverance in our walk with Christ, we give up easily
o   Opposite -  impatient, quitting, giving up, despair, no hope for victory/rescue.
o   When we quit in our mission, when we have no hope of victory in the mission, then it’s no wonder no one wants to join us in His cause?
·        Godliness – pious, devout,
o   This is referring to taking ones faith seriously.  Allowing your faith to penetrate to the entirety of your life.  You take the Name of Jesus with you out of this building and into your home.  Into the restaurant you’re going to for lunch.  Into your place of work.  You take Jesus you’re your pocketbook, your checkbook, this neighborhood around the church.
o   You cannot compartmentalize Jesus.  Jesus never intended to be just part of your life.  As Lord, He expects to be all of your life.
o   This is talking about offering your life as a living sacrifice. When your faith sets your priorities and your schedules.  You give up some things that are hurting your faith.  You give up some places or events you would like to go to. 
o   You seek after those things that bring Glory to His Name.  You may ask, what’s the difference between Goodness and Godliness?
o   There are many people that are moral and have a claim of goodness.  But we must understand that Morality or goodness without the foundation of godliness is worthless.
o   That sense of right and wrong, though corrupted by the fall is still a part of our nature—but it needs the transformation and salvation of God to make any goodness have any eternal value.
o   Godliness is about taking on His values, His purpose, His Heart and His Mission.
o   But if you are not adding godliness to your life, you are losing your first love, walking away from His values, His Purpose, His Heart.
o   Without God’s Heart beating within your heart, it is all the harder to Love as He Loves.
·        Brotherly Kindness—philadelphia –
o   For most of human history, the love and care of family was the most important part of life.  Many of those who came to faith in Christ lost everything, including their family.  They were exiled, kicked out and were frequently rejected by their family. 
o   Believers needed a new kind of family.  A family that would care for each other, watch out for each other, and love them as if they were truly their brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers.
o   They needed to love as family in a culture in which being an outcast or an exile was often a death sentence. 
o   They needed to know that they are united together in Christ with a greater bond than that of a family.
o   In order to be fruitful, effective and productive we must not just talk about our church as a family, we must treat each other as family—with true love.
o   I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.
o   And when we are the Family of God, an increasingly disconnected society like ours will be drawn to us because they are looking for something and someone to belong to.
o   And if we are not adding love as brothers, love as family—then we are divided, we are bickering and arguing, we are saying some people are not welcome or wanted and we are not fulfilling our mission.
o   It’s not easy to love family.  Sometimes it requires us to sacrifice.  Which is why we must continue to add Sacrificial Love.
·        Love—agape – sacrificial love—not only are we to add sacrificial living, we are to add sacrificial loving to our faith. 
o   When we no longer see ourselves as the center of the universe, we can truly live as if we are not the most important person in the world
o   We must begin to add to our faith the idea that someone else’s salvation is worth giving our lives for.  Their salvation is worth giving up of our time, giving up of our money, giving up of our rights, our pleasures, and control over our lives.
o   If we will add sacrificial love to our faith, we will begin to love as Jesus loved.  “No greater love has any man than this, that He lay down his life for his friends.” 
o   God proved He was willing to sacrifice for us.  We must be willing to sacrifice for Him.
o   Until we are willing to commit to serve others even with our lives, we will not be as productive as we could be.  We will not be as fruitful as we could be.
o   If we are not living with Agape love, sacrificial love, we are living with a love of our selves.  We value our own things, our own money, our own time more than we value someone’s eternity, someone’s maturity in the faith, someone’s

Can you imagine how Productive, Effective and Fruitful we could be if we had these qualities truly manifesting in each and every person’s life in the church? 
And if we are unwilling to be adding these things to our faith, then we are truly nearsighted and blind.  We are burying our heads in the sand, we are closing our eyes to the great and privileged calling to the Kingdom of God.

God desires us to be Fruitful, effective and productive for His Kingdom.  That’s why He has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  It’s why He has given us a faith just as precious as the Apostle Peter’s.

Are you fruitful?  Is this church fruitful?  Or has there been a drought going on?  When Jesus walks among us and looks at our fruitfulness, what will He see?

Let’s pray for rain together, let’s pray for a fruitful harvest.  Let’s ask God to add these things to our faith so that we will be effective and productive in our walk with Him. 

Will you join me in that?