Faith

Today’s sermon was on vigilence in contending for the faith, based on Jude 1-4.  I don’t get through to Jude very often, but it’s a really nice little book.  Here are key points I marked down:

vs 1. – “…kept/preserved for Jesus Christ.”  ~ I love this promise, that no matter what, God holds us in His hands and will preserve us through the end.

vs 3 – “…contend for the faith…” ~ dictionary.com says that to contend is to struggle in opposition.  But I like the other definition for this verse: to assert or maintain earnestly.

What faith is this? – the faith delivered to the saints.

  • It’s a noun, both as substance of something hoped for and faith placed in God.

Faith is not: a verb.

  • not something you build up yourself inside yourself.  That would be courage.
  • not being irrational or believing the unbelievable
  • not something you speak into existence or activate into reality.
  • not something you claim by demanding

How do you contend for the faith?

  • gently if possible
    • Matthew 5:16 – “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [ESV]

Have any of you ever noticed how you can begin a prayer one way and by the end of it, your whole demeaner, content, and desire has changed?  I’ve often begun a prayer angry and frustrated about something, or depressed and wounded.  It’s a sick feeling when you feel the only thing left to do is to cry out to God.  And you know the words that you utter are filled with hate and despair, and nothing to grace the ears of your King with, but I am so grateful that He still listens to them.  Note that I didn’t say “He still hears them”:  He listens to them, with the attention of a lover listening to his beloved. 

As I am speaking to Him my sorrow, His Spirit is working in me, and comforting me.  He whispers sweet words of love to my heart so that my mind is not wholly aware of a change of atmosphere.  My words filled with guile are now resting on adoration, and express hope and praise to Him.  I was accusing Him and now I am thanking Him.  Ever notice that?  Not only is my attitude changed to Him, but also to the one or ones who filled me with that anger in the first place. 

What kind of a God can do that?!  I am amazed every time at His mercy and His sincere love for me.  With some recent events, I noticed that God changed my prayer from revealing the secret to salvation of the person who has afflicted me.  I despise when someone’s character is assaulted, and this time, when it was mine, I had all sorts of wild and crazy emotions that flew through me.  I was exhausted.  I was overly emotional.  And while it is still fresh, my emotions have since settled into the peace that comes from God. 

I know that He will protect me.  I am His precious child.  I have faith that He will because He has proven to me over and over again.  He has placed that faith into my heart, so that when circumstances arise, and I could easily be knocked down, that faith is already my support and my shelter.  The wind may howl and beat against my faith, but I am protected within.

Our God is greater, stronger, He is higher than any other, healer, and He is awesome in power.  And if our God is for us, then who can ever stop us?  And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?  Nothing and no one…that’s who.  Praise Jesus!

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The Purpose of the Church – Francis Chan

Wow.  I was going to put a ton about my day and whatnot…but I was listening to a sermon before bed, and have been knocked off my chair.  literally.  Ok, maybe not literally, but so hypothetically that it felt literal.  So, this means that I can only give a brief explanation of my day and then I have to share some of the amazingness that I heard from God through this sermon.

My day:  I woke up.  Talked with Mom.  Did a lesson plan.  Went to Hikoshima and had udon for lunch again.  It was yummy.  Came back to the Center.  Taught two classes.  Played my violin.  Got my first paycheck.  Sat and listened to Francis Chan.  Started typing my update for the day.

Francis Chan is one of my top five favorite pastors.  Those top five are not in any order, but they are, my pastor Tim White back home, Pastor Tony Haug here, Taka Asada here, Francis Chan, and Steve Miller of Timberhill Bapt Church.  I first heard Francis at Passion in Atlanta January 2007.  Lanna and I really loved his talk and have been trying to hear more from him ever since.  I discovered his sermons published on his church’s website and then found out he has a book that was just released May 1st!  I preordered it about 4 months ago.  🙂  It’s on it’s way to me via Japanese shipment.  I’m jazzed.  The church’s website is:  www.cornerstonesimi.com. When you get there, click on Media, and then Sermons, and it has all the recent sermons listed for you.  You click on the title and then on the right side of the screen, click on Listen, and a little box will come up and play the sermon.  They are all fabulous…but the one I listened to tonight has the same title as the title of this blog.

He speaks on the Purpose of the Church.  He and the other church leaders are currently taking Cornerstone Simi-Valley Church through a reorientation period…they are examining the Church, and what it is meant to be and then doing their best to put it back into practice in their congregation.  He starts off by saying that there is something about anonymity.  How many of us go into the church and are only interested in what we ourselves can get out of the service?  I’m guilty…most of my previous blogs will show you how guilty I am.  We listen to the pastor speak and think, “What does this mean for me?”  We thank God for our salvation, which is good…but then we leave it at that.

He used an illustration:  You come home and on your front porch is a box.  You find out it’s a gift to you, so you open the box and find a pair of ice skates.  You are so excited…you put on the skates and go skate around the frozen pond in your backyard…you’re so happy.  Such a great gift!  you think.  You even take your new skates and go to the local skating rink and skate out with the rest of the folks, skating together, and then you push away and do your own spins and turns and whatnot…enjoying your skates amidst the other skaters.  But then, the one who gave you the skates comes up and says, “I’m really glad you’re enjoying those skates, but I didn’t give them to you just as a gift.  I want you to join my hockey team.  In fact, we’re going to join the NHL and go up against all the biggest teams in the nation and kick their butts.”  And you suddenly realized that your gift means so much more than just your own amusement and satisfaction.  Your salvation is so much greater than your own salvation.  You are crucified on the cross and no longer yourself, but now, you have on the jersey for Christ’s team.  You are immersed in the body of Christ.

The Bible says, “You, be a light to the world.”  But the you is not singular…it’s plural.  It’s “you all”, the body of Christ, the peculiar nation that God has created…YOU ALL are to be a light to the world.  Same thing in 1 Peter 2:9-12…YOU (plural) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.”  We have been saved for something so much greater.  When the world looks at the Body of Christ, it should not see individuals…it should see the Body of Christ.  When an act of charity is done…it shouldn’t be from one person…or even from one church group…but from the Body of Christ, so that when the recipients go to thank who gave it to them, they can only thank GOD the Father. 

The money that was given for my trip was not given to me, but to the Body of Christ, for the edification of the Body of Christ, for the people in Japan who are and who might become a part of the Body of Christ.  It’s not for me…and I pray that I will lose my selfishness and become lost in the Body of Christ…that I would become nothing and Christ would become everything.  I pray that for you all as well.  And I would also encourage you to go and listen to Francis’ sermons.  There are so many great things in this particular sermon that I don’t even have the time to touch on…so you definitely should listen to it!  Thanks for your time…I’m praying for you.  🙂