Sunday, November 26, 2006

Not Like Any Store I Know

Intro.: I need to apologize to you - I lied to you.

  1. I told you that we would spend time looking how we might restock the store.

  2. But it dawned on me during the week that if I did that, I was leaving he wrong impression.

  3. It might sound as if the church were just another store – with a product to market.

  4. The church., as we shall see, is unique.


Trans: Let me suggest three ways in which the church differs from a store.

  1. In a store, the products are obtained from an outside vendor; in the church, the shopkeeper is the toy maker.

    1. We sometimes get things reversed. We think we are in charge and God is where we get all that we need.

    2. But God does not run a store – rather he is responsible for all that is his. Take a look at Colossians 1:16-17 - For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    3. God is not merely a storehouse of gifts – he is the very glue that holds us together.

(Ill.) It is a very special glue – not like those we have available to us:

  1. There is a very simple glue that holds the little plastic toys that can be thrown against the wall. It sticks, but comes off so easy.

  2. Then there is rubber cement – it holds papers together, but allows them to be taken apart.

  3. You might also think of Elmer's glue – you put two pieces of paper together and then pull them apart – but the paper rips. But you can still pull them apart.

  4. And then there is super glue. And it is even not as good as they say. I can say that from first hand experience. Sandra and I were in our first apartment – it supplied a refrigerator – an old refrigerator. And, as was bound to happen, it broke – not the compressor, not the door, not the seal. It was the little clip in the back of the fridge that holds the shelf in place. Now, I was smart and got some super glue to put it back together. I held for a while – but eventually it broke again.

    1. Super glue is good, but it does not have the power of God.

    2. We cannot just think of the church as a store – but we must remember that we are connected to the Lord of Lords, the Kings of Kings.

  1. In a store, broken merchandise is of little value; in the church, God values everyone – even though everyone is broken.

    1. Brokenness is nothing new. Deb may joke about knowing she was broken until I showed up on the scene – but, sadly, she, like the rest of us, is really broken.

    2. Remember, as members of the human race, our brokenness comes from two sources:

      1. Part of our brokenness is just an illusion – it comes from the fact that we are created beings. We are not all powerful, we are not all knowing, we cannot always be present. These are attributes reserved for God alone. But it means that we are less than perfect – it means we are perfect. At the same time, realize that there are no flaws rooted in our creation. God created us just as he wanted us to be.

      2. Brokenness comes from another source – we are fallen people. Throughout scripture our sinfulness is evident. It was evident in the story of Adam and Eve. Isaiah says are “sins are like scarlet...” Romans 3:23 makes it clear that “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

    3. We are broken, but that does not stop God from loving us. “For God so loved the world ...” was not said when we were perfect. Rather it was said even as we were broken. Paul puts it this way, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Ill.) I tend to be a tosser – when something doesn't work, I will toss it out, I will buy a replacement. So when the lawn mower stops working, I take it out to the garbage and go buy a new one. But we have a neighbor who is wonderfully skilled in repairing things. So he will come out and grab the lawn mower, pitter around for a few hours, and bring back a working lawn mower.

    1. The store down the street may toss out or return broken merchandise. God, instead, continues to love us. His grace is offered to the broken. But that is what grace is all about – “getting what we do not deserve.”

  1. In a store, broken merchandise is tossed out; in the church, God uses the broken to accomplish his purposes.

    1. We are not tossed out – in fact exactly the opposite is true. Not only does God value us, God calls each into ministry.

    2. Every pastor is a broken person called into ministry.

    3. But the same is true for every believer – God values us enough to give us opportunity to serve Him.

    4. Rather than being tossed out, rather than being left unused on the shelf, God gives us the gifts and abilities needed to serve Him.

    5. We can truly agree with the hymn “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.”

Come Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy , never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above;

Praise the mount—I’m fixed upon it—

Mount of Thy redeeming love.1

    1. Are you allowing yourself to experience God's blessing. As we enter the advent season next week, I would encourage you, I would encourage myself, to be responsive to the many blessings that God gives

Conclusion: I hope that during the last few weeks I did not lead anyone to believe that the church is merely another store.

  1. The church is the family of God

  2. The church will be spreading God's grace to a broken world long after every store is closed.

  3. The church stands alone in spreading light to a dark world.

  4. I invite you to be part of that wonderful job.


1Logos Hymnal. 1995 (1st edition.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Getting The Word Out

Intro.: I remember when the movie Mr. Holland's Opus first came out.

  1. I was serving as the chaplain of a major hospital in downtown Sioux City, IA. It was a Tuesday night and it was my night to be on-call – but because I lived 45 minutes away, I had to spend the night in the vicinity of the hospital. I chose to go to a movie for the evening.

  2. I was not sure what I was going to see – but it was a movie I wanted to see.

  3. By the end, I was in tears. God had reached down into my heart and touched me deeply.

  4. The next morning, after my service was done for the day, I went home and told my wife. I don't go to many movies more than once – but the next Friday, I took my family into Sioux City to see Mr. Holland's Opus.

  5. Here was something special – and I could not wait to tell my family.

  6. The same should be true of my relationship to Christ. If it makes a difference, I will want to share him with as many people as possible.


T.S. We started two weeks ago imagining that we had to clean out the store. Last week we looked at what had to happen in order to begin or renew our walk with Christ by receiving Him or committing our life to him. But any store with its salt will also need to find ways of presenting the merchandise.

During the next few minutes, I want to look at four reasons that we as Christians may want to share our faith with our broken world.

  1. Evangelism is based on our God.

    1. I almost said that we too often speak of God's love for us. But that would be unfair – we cannot spend too much time talking about God's love for us.

    2. But I do think that we do lose track of another fact – God does not only love us, he loves our neighbors, he loves our world.

    3. I have heard some preachers rephrase John 3:16 to read, “God so loved Floyd Johnson, ...” or “God so loved Val Muhs, ...” And you know what, it is true.

    4. But when we do, we miss the point. “For God so loved the world, ...”

(Ill.) Country singer George Strait sings a song entitled, “Love without End, Amen.” It tells the story of a young boy coming home from school after having a fight and expecting punishment from his dad. Fully expecting the wrath of his father, the son waited, expecting the worst. However, the father said, “Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love . . . Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then . . . it’s a love without end. Amen.” The young lad grew up and passed this secret on to his children. One day he dreamed that he died and went to heaven. He was concerned, as he waited to go in, because he realized there must be some mistake for if they knew half the things he’s done they would never let him in. It was then that he heard his father’s words again, “Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love . . . Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then . . . it’s a love without end. Amen.” Isn’t it comforting to know that we have a Father like this? It is no secret, concerning our Father’s love: God doesn’t just love His children every now and then; indeed, it is a “love without end, Amen.”1

    1. As you drive home today – note your neighbors. As you go shopping, note the clerks, note the other customers. These are the people that God loves.

    2. As you drive home today, pray for your neighbors. As you go shopping, pray for the clerks and the other customers. God loves them – so should we.

  1. Evangelism is based on our Title

    1. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be appointed to an important government office.

    2. Scripture makes it clear that you have been given an office – a fairly important governmental office. Turn with me to II Corinthians 5:16-21. READ

    3. You are an ambassador – not just any old ambassador, but God's ambassador.

(Ill.) As I worked the internet this week, I stumbled on the web page for the Colombian government. The Ambassador from Columbia to the USA is Andrés Pastrana. According to the web page he has two jobs – one is to manage the Columbian Embassy in Washington DC, which is responsible for serving Colombian citizens currently in the US. But there is another official assignment – he has the job of representing the Colombian government to the US government.2

    1. As God's ambassadors, we are responsible for representing God to a broken world.

    2. Just as Andrés must speak for the Columbian government, we are responsible for speaking for God.

    3. It is important to note that Paul is not writing to the pastor of the Corinthian church. Rather, he is writing to members of the most corrupt church we find mentioned in the NT. If the members of this church are recognized as ambassadors, we most certainly also have that role.

    4. This week, do not forget, you are not just presenting yourself to our broken world, we are presenting Jesus.

  1. Evangelism is based on our Command

    1. It would seem to me that an ambassador has one more job. And that is to follow the instructions

    2. And as Christ's ambassadors we have been given a task. You will find it Matthew 28:16-20: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ina the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(Ill.) It may seem that would be easy to get the gospel to the whole world in this day and age. Scholars tell me that there are 6000 languages in the world – only 426 have both a copy of the OT and the NT available to them. More than 2500 languages do not have a single verse of scripture available. That leaves a little over 3000 of our world's languages that have some portion, though not all, of the scriptures available.3

    1. So what is our job -

      1. We can pray – watch the news, read the news. Wherever news takes place, there are Christians. Pray for their ministry, wherever they may be.

      2. Consider going – or sponsoring someone who is going. You have gifts that could be used for week or two on a short term mission trip. Or as you hear of those who are going, put yourself in the position to support them – Even small amounts can help those who represent you over seas.

      3. Obey – take Christ to your world. For some of you this means, living out your faith – day in, day out. You will find that as you live out your faith, it will show. It will become clear to those around you that something is different.

    2. Be obedient – Go and make disciples.

  1. Evangelism is based on our Home

    1. There is one more motivation for spreading the word of God. That is our new home. Take a look at Rev 21:1-2.

    2. Scripture makes it clear that heaven is not for everyone. It is ultimately God's choice as to will spend eternity with Him, but he makes it clear that those who have put their faith in Him will be there.

    3. Beginning in January we will spend a few weeks exploring what scripture teaches about the end of time.

    4. But I would be amiss to not note that our concern for the future is a motivation for sharing our faith.

Conclusion: A clean store, new merchandise, marketing the product – and that will be followed by the need ot restock the shelves. PRAY

1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.


3 (accessed on 11/18/06).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New and Renewed

Intro.: When it is time to get the store ready for Christmas, we begin by cleaning it up.

  1. Then we move on and beginning to put new merchandise on the shelves.

  2. “New” is nothing new for us a believers.

    - We have experienced a new birth (I Pet 1:3)

- In Christ, we are a new creation (II Cor 5:17)
- We are responsible for a new covenant (II Cor 3:6)

- We have a renewed mind (Eph 4:23)

- We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth (II Pet 3:13)

- And we will sing a new song (Rev 5:9)

  1. Let me read one such passage as a reminder of what God is doing in us.

Read: II Corinthians 5:16-21


Trans: What is there that makes us “new” in Christ?

During the next few minutes I want to look at to wonderful decisions that we can make that allow us to be new. Oh, we will still have the same old body, we will still have the same illnesses. But these two decisions will allow God to remake us for the inside. Our hearts, minds, and souls will never, can never be the same once we make these two decisions.

  1. Filling of the Holy Spirit

    1. I could have entitled this point, “Who's in control?”

    2. Read Galatians 5:

    3. When we gave our lives to Jesus some amazing things happened.”

      1. We became a member of a new family – the family of God.

      2. Our sins were forgiven

      3. We become a different person.

      4. The Holy Spirit comes to live in us

    4. But then comes the great conflict that most Christians experience in their lives – I want something or I want to do something, but I am not sure that God wants the same thing.

    5. The Christian life is a wonderful thing – because ultimately, God has given us the freedom to make choices – even if it something he would not want.

    6. And that becomes a slippery slope.

(Ill.) For a number of years, I traveled to Dayton, OH, for a continuing education experience for my Computer Science job at the college. One summer we were walking over to Arby's for lunch – we had walked out the back door of the classroom building, across the parking lot. We came to a grassy incline that stood in the most direct path to Arby's. As others went down that little hill, I saw that it would be safe – or so I thought. I started down the slope but then my right foot started to slip. I tried to recover with my left foot, but then it slipped too. You can perhaps picture it, Pastor Johnson, down on his hind end

    1. Just as my left foot followed my right foot, so do our lives tend to follow one decision after another.

    2. I put this chair here in the center of our platform. Imagine, if you will, that it is a throne. Not just any throne, but the thrown of your life.

    3. Now, as a believer, you have a choice. Who is going to sit on this throne. Christ is here, he is present. You know Him as your savior. But here is your choice, who will sit on this throne in your life?

    4. Who will be in control of your life. Will you insist on controlling your own life – or will you let God take control.

(Ill.) As Methodist, we talk about Christian Perfection. The Baptist prefer Paul's term, “being filled with the Spirit.” It really does not matter what you call it, but what is important is that we allow Jesus to have control of our lives.

  1. Receiving Jesus Christ

    1. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is only part of the puzzle. It is not the start.

    2. The Christian life, for most of us starts long before this. It may have been during our early years when our parents drug us to church – dven when we did not want to go. It may have been while our parents watched a Billy Graham crusade on TV – or you have been privileged to attend one yourself. Or maybe it began as you stumbled across a Christian radio or TV program.

    3. Now I mentioned those things because I can remember each of those being a significant part of my life before I gave my heart to Jesus. All of those things were important milestones in my coming to faith, but none of them made me a Christian.

    4. I only became a believer the day I decided to follow Jesus. Going to church, reading the right books, knowing the right people, doing the right things, never made me a Christian. None of these things got me into heaven. I only became a Christian when I was able confess my sin to God and acknowledged my faith in the Son He sent to die for my sin.

(Ill.) Rosemaria Von Trapp, one of the famous “Sound of Music” children, has this to say about her famous parents, Baron Georg and Maria Von Trapp, who fled Nazi-occupied Austria instead of cooperating with the Nazis: Only yesterday I talked to high school students—sophomores—who were doing research papers on the Holocaust of Hitler in Germany. They wanted me to talk about the Nazis. I told them that Hitler gave us a symbol of a cross with hooks on it. But our Christian faith gives us a symbol of a cross that brings freedom and resurrection. The world, you know, offers us a glossy cross with hooks in it. My father and mother had to make a choice. They chose the cross of Christ.1

    1. It is not new – Billy Graham offers the opportunity to follow Jesus every time he preaches. Today, I want to offer it to you.

Conclusion: I don't know where you are today.

  1. If you have never made a decision to follow Jesus, today is a good day to do just that.

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.2

  1. On the other hand, if you are at a place that you know you belong to Jesus; but life seems out of whack, maybe it is time to see who is in control.

Dear Father, I need You. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by directing my own life. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I now thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit.3


1Morgan, R. J. (2000). Personal interview, September 1994. Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (175). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Bright, B. (1994). Have you heard of the four spiritual laws? (10). Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications.

3Bright, B. (2001). Have you made the wonderful discovery of the spirit-filled life? (12). Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cleaning the Old Store

Intro.: We are approaching the winter months.

  1. I want you to imagine, just for a minute, that everyone who owns a car in the parking lot chooses to never wash their car this winter.

  2. We let the salt, dirt, and grime build up on the cars.

  3. Now it is six months in the future. And we go look at the cars. They all look alike – they are all grey (or would you call it a dirty white). The license number could just as easily be covered with salt and dirt – and be unreadable.

  4. For our cars to really stand out, we need to get them cleaned up.

  5. I think the same is true for you or me – if we want to stand out, we need to get cleaned up.

Read: Psalm 51:1-12


Trans: Stores have been getting ready for Christmas for weeks.

  1. They start by cleaning up the store

  2. Then they restock the merchandise

  3. Then they begin to market the merchandise

  4. Finally, throughout the holiday season, they need to keep the stock fresh and up to date.

  5. This is the model we will use during the next few weeks as we prepare ourselves for Christmas.

T.S. The first step in preparing for Christmas is to clean up the store.

  1. We will need to get rid of the dirt

    1. As I go shopping throughout the year, it seems that store is the dirtiest just before Christmas. Shelves are empty, more merchandise seems out of place, there seem to be fewer employees around just before the Christmas season.

    2. As the manager of a store, I would take a “cleanliness” inventory. I would walk up and down the aisles noting the places that needed to be cleaned out. I would make sure I checked every corner. I would look under the shelves and behind the cash registers. I would look everywhere to find those places needing to be cleaned before putting out the new merchandise.

(Ill.) Of course, cleaning is not just for stores. For example Colley Reserve, an amusement park in Glenelg, Australia, is located in the southwest corner of Australia was quite a mess after the picnic for the towns kids. But by the end of the day, it was left looking pretty as a picture. At day’s end, organizers broadcast the news that hidden among all the litter were two marked pieces of rubbish which could be traded in for new bicycles. Never has a picnic ground been cleaned as quickly.1

(Appl.) Just as that store manager has taken the time to walk through the store to find the places needing cleaning, we occasionally need to take time to take a spiritual inventory of our own lives. Let me suggest four questions that can contribute to an effective inventory:

    1. How do you spend your time? Keep a record for a week. Look at how the time is used – are you using your time as God would have you use it?

    2. What are you doing for recreation? What movies are you seeing? What TV shows are you watching? What books are your reading? Would Jesus want to be seen with you as you as you participate in your daily activities?

    3. What are you doing for your spiritual life? Are you in the word daily? Are you involved in ministry?

    4. Are there sins that interfere with your spiritual life – not to come down on yourself, but an honest evaluation.

    1. Psalm 139:23 says,
      “Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
      See if there is any offensive way in me,
      and lead me in the way everlasting. .”
      We want to see ourselves as God sees us.

  1. We will need to get rid of the old merchandise

(Ill.) One of the places I drop by on a regular base for a coffee break is our local Tim Hortons. Dave is the manager – and he does a good job of keeping the place in tip top shape. But you know something, I never see his employees cleaning the windows. Instead, he hires an outside firm to clean the windows. Two window cleaners are there every Tuesday cleaning the windows – inside and out.

    1. And that is where I get stuck. It would be so neat if I could reach out and touch Sandra and take away all those things that God wants to change. I wish I could do it to myself.

    2. You know, it is impossible to clean up the life of anyone else. It is impossible to clean up my own life. That job belongs to someone else.

    3. David understood this – Nathan had confronted him about his relationship with Bathsheba. In Psalm 51 we see his response. Yes, he acknowledges his sin; but he asks for something else as well. Four times he asks God to clean out the old stuff. Four times he asks God to wash away the sin.

      1. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. v 2

      2. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
        wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
        v 7

      3. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
        and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
        v 10

      4. Restore to me the joy of your salvation
        and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
        v 12

(Ill.) There is the story of the pastor who started his morning prayer, “Precious God, give us clean hearts, give us pure hearts, give us sweet hearts ...” and three ladies in the choir added, “Amen!”2

    1. The words were right, but those ladies got the message wrong – it is only God that can give us clean hearts, it is only God that can give us pure hearts. And it is only God, that can give us sweet hearts – regardless of how you interpret those words.

  1. We may never get it all clean

(Ill.) I drove up to Tim Horton's this past week and, sadly, I saw one really dirty window. Yes, it had been three or four days since the windows had been cleaned – but this window was really dirty. It was obvious, at least to me, that this window had not been cleaned for several weeks.
I had another situation where the cleaning was not perfect. We spent a great deal of yesterday afternoon raking the lawn. We tend to wait till late in the fall to rake – our trees never seem to let their leaves go. Yesterday, Jonathan, Wesley, Sandra, and I used our leaf blower and rakes to get the leaves out to the street. But you know, after we got all the leaves moved out to the street, I turned around and I still saw leaves on the lawn.

    1. God changes us at His pace. God changes us in His time.

    2. Even as God changes us, we will still find the need to recognize brokenness in our lives.

    3. Later in the month, we will talk about confession. But briefly, confession is agreeing with God. It comes back to where we started – we must continue to see ourselves as God sees us.

Conclusion: Returning to our original picture, once we have the store clean, we are ready to stock the shelves. And for that, we need to wait till next week.


1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

2Johnson, D. (2000; 2004). Did You Read That?. Thomas Nelson Publishers.