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And Then What Happened? | Mark 6:1-11 | Week 6

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AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?  Mark 6:1-11  Pastor Josh Suddath  {1st Service}

{Manuscript—View video for complete content.}  On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had been invited to the wedding also.  When the wine was gone, Jesus mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me,” Jesus replied, “my hour has not yet come.”  Jesus mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”  Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water;” so they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”  They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned to wine.  He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who drew it out knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have all had to much to drink, but you have saved the best until now.”  This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in Him.  (John 2:1-11)

I love this account in John’s gospel for two reasons.  First for what it says about Mary and her strength.  Mary was a young woman when she had Jesus, but she isn’t young anymore.  And like many of you in this room who have had children, Mary’s word to Jesus is, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it.”  She knows the power he holds.  And when Jesus balks at his mother’s request for more wine, Mary forces the hand of God.

Secondly, I love this account for what it says about the servants. Given the opportunity to hear the voice of God, to do what He told them to do, and then to know where the wine came from. When they bring the wine to the master of the banquet, the text says, the master did not know where it had come from, but the servants who drew it out, they knew.  This was first of the Spirit’s public demonstrations of Jesus miracle working power.

And as we continue our series in Mark 6, a quick note about what we will cover today.  We’re only going to look at Mark 6:1-11. If you want, by all means, go ahead and read the other three stories in this chapter.  Let me sum them up for you.  Two of them involve a platter—one holding five loaves and two fish by which Jesus feeds five thousand, and the other holding the head of John the Baptist, by which an angry woman feeds her pride.  And then Jesus walks on water.

In Mark 6, we find Jesus returning to the place where he was raised, Nazareth, for the first time since his earthly ministry has started.  Nazareth is eight miles from where the wedding at Cana took place.  That’s from here to the Hogback.  When Jesus returned to Nazareth, it must’ve been midweek, because the text seems to indicate that there are a few days before the Sabbath came, which is Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown.  When the Sabbath comes, and people are off of work and going to the synagogue, when crowds would’ve been present, Jesus begins to teach.

And we can notice from the nature of the questions that follow, that something felt different to the people gathered.  “Where did this man get these things?” they asked.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?”   Whether Jesus had made any small demonstrations there, or whether the wind had blown far enough that the Nazarenes had heard of Jesus miracles in other cities—we aren’t told what was said or what was done—but we’re told people recognized it as wisdom and remarkable and they were amazed.  And they recognized him right off the bat.   Isn’t this the carpenter?  Those were the hands of a blue-collared teenager from their town.  The hands that had fixed some of their stables and maybe even built a few of their dinner tables.

As they think back to Jesus’s teenaged years, they become a little bit agitated that this kid from their town would now speak to them with authority.  Several of them were probably much more thoroughly trained than He was, so they begin to mock him.  As they begin to mock him, they were faced with a dilemma.  They couldn’t seem to easily bring to mind a time when he screwed up as a teenager.  Nothing that every hurt anybody at least.  There wasn’t much to poke at.  So they do what anyone does who has no ammo—they went after his mom.  Isn’t this Mary’s son?  Certainly we’re told the full story with Mary, of the immaculate conception, and the virgin birth, but this text and others in scripture seem to indicate that people in that day either didn’t know or didn’t believe that part of the story.   They saw Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary.  And they don’t even mention Joseph.  So this is an underhanded dig at Mary and at Jesus.  “Aren’t you the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t your sisters right here?   They’re all pretty normal human beings.  What makes you any different?”  And Jesus, knowing their hearts, responds, not with thunder from heaven, but with a universal truth that pierces the hearts of the people gathered, and might just pierce ours.   A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home. 

 

And you and I wonder how in the world they could be so blind, deaf, and rude? This was the son of God they mocked.   And yet we’ve done the very same things him.   We’re the hometown.   Corporately and individually, we become inoculated by our culture and we’ve lost our sense of anticipation of seeing the Spirit work.  We’re the master of the banquet who doesn’t know where the wine has come from.  Or maybe we’re so drunk that we fail to see the Spirit moving.   Maybe that’s why the scriptures say don’t get drunk on wine, but rather be filled with the Spirit.  And when we mock Jesus in this way, we also often mock the ones in whom His spirit resides,   sometimes the people closest to us.

When was the last time someone close to you went away for a while?  Maybe for a year, maybe off to college, maybe just a mission trip or a retreat.  Here’s what may have happened.  They came home, and in the first few days of being home, they did something, or said something remarkable….something unexpected and something that proved some significant spiritual growth.  And you mocked them.  You didn’t do it intentionally.  It’s your default.  You’ve seen them screw it up so royally that when you see the Spirit do something amazing in them, at best you question it, and at worst you fail to see it altogether. We dismiss it and without knowing just what we’ve done, we’ve simultaneously preached a false gospel to our loved ones and we’ve given the enemy a foothold.

I know a young man who went away to college and this very thing happened.  God did something radical in him.  He came back and he looked different.  He had a zeal for Jesus that I hadn’t seen before.  He wanted to share with me some scriptures he was learning and excited about.  This was at the beginning of Christmas break.  And then what happened?  He hung out with his old friends from high school and some of his extended family members, and this zeal for Jesus wasn’t met with the same kind of encouragement that he had hoped for.  I saw the young man after Christmas break and he looked like he’d just gotten out of the ring.  He said, “I just don’t know what happened.”  He shared that the enemy had had a hey-day over his life over that break.

A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.  Sometimes without knowing it, the gospel that we’ve preached to those people we love the most is ‘something like that could never come from someone who’s screwed it up like you have.’  We’ve said to those closest to us, God chooses to use the strong things of the world, the ones who have it together, the pure, the wise, and the polished people.

And God says to us,  “I chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  I chose the lowly things of things and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are.”  Because if it was the other way around we’d beat our chests and show everyone the number on our jerseys, but if it’s this way, our only recourse is worship.  The next time the Spirit shows his work, show your worship.  When you see Him working, or moving, or speaking in someone you love, encourage it, pour gasoline on that fire.   Paul says it like this to the church in Thessalonica:  Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire.  Don’t treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good, rejecting all that is evil. (1 Thess. 5:19-21) 

In one of my favorite Jerry Seinfeld stand-up routines, he impersonates the flight attendant who stands at the barrier between first class and economy and gives you that look.  “If only you had worked a little harder.”

At first glance, this seems to be what Jesus is doing to his hometown of Nazareth.  The text says:  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  I think the verse, in and of itself, is kind of funny.  He couldn’t do any miracles there, except the ones he did.  This begs the question, could He do miracles there?  I bet half the people in this room would say, “Absolutely, He’s the Sovereign God of the universe.  He can do whatever he wants.”  He’s not limited by human beings.  The other half of this room might say, “No, the text said he couldn’t do any miracles there, so that must be what it means.  He was limited in some capacity, obviously.”  I wonder if it might not be a little bit of both.  Maybe he is limited but not by what we see in this verse.  Maybe he’s not limited just because of their lack of faith.  Maybe God’s limited in this moment with his hometown because He’s so committed to his character and to the unraveling of his kingdom, that when He’s presented with this moment of the lack of faith of the people He knows the best—He came to that which was his own and his own didn’t receive him.  He loves them so much that he withholds the full measure of his blessing and his healing in that moment because he knows he has something better for them.  Sometimes what looks to us like the judgment of God is actually his mercy.  So often we want mercy in the giving from God, but we get mercy in the withholding.  In Nazareth, Jesus withholds the full measure of his healings, and miracles in his hometown because knows it’s these “things” that the people are fixated on.  In a place where people are failing to see WHO it is behind the WHAT.  They proved it with their questions in the beginning of this text:  Where did this man get these things?    So, by withholding the full measure of his gifts, he’s giving Nazareth a chance to wrestle with the person they’ve just encountered.  That’s mercy. I wonder this morning, what is it that God is withholding from your life right now?  The thing that’s just eating away at you, and that He would have you wrestle with himself.

So Jesus’s time in Nazareth comes to an end and he moves on from village to village, meanwhile calling twelve disciples to himself, gives them authority and sends them out to do what he’s doing.   These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.  Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”  

While this seems like a list of directives to his disciples, Jesus is not giving a list of rules that will cause their mission to fail if broken.  He’s not giving a mandate that should be followed by all future missionaries.  He’s not calling all of his followers to a life of poverty.  He’s making a statement about his kingdom.  He’s using language that would’ve made his disciples scratch their heads and think, “Where have I heard that before?”   That’s right—the stories from Egypt.  Exodus 12:11 when God is instructing his people on how to observe the very first Passover meal in Egypt.  These were the directions.  This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste.  Because the Israelites were about to go on a journey to a new land, new hope, and new life.  By using this language in Mark 6, Jesus is telling his disciples, “I’m inviting you and giving you authority and power to invite the people around you on a new kind of exodus.  A new journey into a new land with new life and new bread to eat…..and it’s me.”   In John 6:33, Jesus says:  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

“Sir,”  they said, “always give us this bread!”  Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.”   And in that moment, the Jews who were with Jesus did the same thing that the people in Nazareth did…they began to mock him.   Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he say, I came down from heaven?  All too often all we can see is humanity, when Jesus is showing us heaven.

Mark’s message is the same as John’s—God’s Spirit is at work, but there are some of you who just don’t see.  Quick note to those of you who may be in here this morning and you’re struggling to see or hear Jesus……get out.  I’m totally kidding!  Isn’t that what you hear from the church pretty often?  We see and you don’t; we know and you don’t; we get it and you don’t so if you’re not there, just get out.  Jesus would warn us to be careful if you think you stand, lest you fall.  The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know and right now you only see dimly through a glass.  There’s nobody sitting in this room that sees clearly.  If you’re here and you’re struggling to see God and hear from Him….lean in!  Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  Cry.  Get mad.  To be balanced, if you’re a person who’s pushing against the goads and you’ll have nothing to do with it, the truth should’ve been reaching out to you and they’ve been  extending their hand for a while.  Maybe you’ve taken what they give you because things are fun, but you don’t want to listen to anything else, don’t be surprised if the church moves on.  At least for a season.  Because there’s something in this passage from Jesus that seems to say to his disciples that if no one’s going to listen to you or welcome you, shake the dust from your feet and move on.  In other words, if it starts to rust, shake the dust!   If God is working in you and through you, don’t let the blindness and deafness of others slow you down.

Jesus’s statement to his disciples may have been part euphemism, but he may have actually wanted them to literally do it.  He may have been reminding them that the feet of those who bring the good news are actually quite beautiful.  Don’t miss the irony that Jesus chooses one of the ugliest parts about us to remind us how beautiful we are.

Jesus’s words to the servants at the wedding are his words to us.  Just fill the jars with water.  You’re the jar.  He’s the water.  And when we do, people around us will begin to ask the same questions they asked of Jesus,

“Where do these people get these things?”  You and I then have the opportunity to tell them where the wine came from.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us.

One of these precious jars of clay, a friend of my family, passed away this week.  She was, as I observed from afar, a woman who lived a life expecting her Jesus to move and expecting him to speak.  Her name was Robin.  Robin lived 50+ years with down syndrome.  Somewhere along the line Robin developed a friendship with Joni Erickson-Tada through Joni’s work with the disabled community in her Joni and Friends summer camps.   The story goes that one of Joni Erickson Tada’s representatives called Robin after a few years of Robin attending their camps as a camper.  “Robin, we have an exciting opportunity for you.  This year we’d like you to be a counselor at Joni and Friends and lead other campers.  Is that something you’d like to do?”  The representative heard no immediate response.  Instead she recalled hearing the phone set down on the table on the other end of the line.  Then, in the background, she heard Robins’ voice, “Jesus, do you want me to be a counselor at Joni and Friends this summer?”  Then a pause. Then this.  “Sounds good, Jesus.”  And she picked up the phone and said “Jesus told me I’m in.”  Robin was a servant who knew where the wine came from.

Let’s pray.  Heavenly Father, I love that song—we came here with nothing, but all that you’ve given us, Jesus, bring new wine out of us.  Lord, we need you.  Fill us with your water.  In Christ’s name.  Amen.

And Then What Happened? | Mark 6:1-11 | Week 62020-08-20T18:55:33-06:00

TRANSFORMED | Kingdom Refreshments | Romans 15:23-33 | Week 6

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TRANSFORMED: Kingdom Refreshments  Romans 15:23-33Pastor Josh Suddath   (1st)

{Manuscript–View video for complete content}   Toward the end of July I was approached by a gentleman in this church that I did not know well, who asked me how my family was doing.  I shared with him the excitement that my wife is pregnant with our fourth, and that Jesus definitely doesn’t love me because it is another boy and I wanted a little girl.  The man (whom I won’t mention by name because he’d get mad) piped in and very caringly asked, “How is your wife? I remember that you guys have had some issues with pregnancies in the past and how is this one going?”  Immediately my heart was warmed, this man had remembered something from over two years ago about our family’s journey.  I was glad to share with him that this pregnancy is going well so far in every regard, except that it was just so hot in July, and we don’t have AC in our home so that makes my wife uncomfortable.  The man nodded and we went about our days.

The next day, the same man called and arranged a meeting with me at the coffee shop.  I walked in and he handed me a gift card with a considerable amount of money on it and said, “Go get yourself a portable AC unit for your bedroom so you and your wife can sleep peacefully.”  Needless to say, this man’s gift was and has continued to be incredibly refreshing for us.  Incidentally, my wife and I also happen to be lacking a private jet to travel the world if anyone is feeling extra generous this morning.

Resources.  Transformed.  If you have a bible with you this morning, will you turn with me to the book of Romans 15:23-33.   I want to make a note what I mean when I say the word resources; it’s not going to be limited to a financial conversation, and I don’t think a conversation about resources ever should be.  I mean whatever God has put into you or given you that he could use to impact someone positively for his kingdom, that’s what I mean by resources.  We pick up with Paul concluding his letter to the church in Rome. He writes: But now that there is no longer any place for me to work in these regions and since I have been longing to see you for many years, I plan to do so on my way to Spain.  I hope to see you while passing through, and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for some time.  Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem, in the service of the saints there.  For Macedonia, and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them.  For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.  So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and I will visit you on the way.  I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.  I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join with me in this struggle by praying to God for me.  Pray that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem might be favorably received to the saints there, so that by God’s will, I might come to you with joy, and together with you be refreshed.  The God of peace be with you all.  

Paul’s longed to see the church in Rome for many years now.  There’s got to be a reason why it’s taken him a long time to get there.  I think for us to understand why it’s taken Paul several years to finally get there, we have to rewind to Romans 1:13, where Paul says to the church in Rome:  I want you to know brothers, that I often planned to visit you, though for now have been prevented, that I might reap some harvest among you, as I have also had among the Gentiles.  For I have an obligation to the Greeks and the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise.  And that is why I long to preach the gospel to those of you who are in Rome.  

Paul’s telling the church in Rome that he wants to see them and he hopes God will work it out that he can get there, but he’s been busy.  He’s had an obligation and resources to use.  He’s had something God has put in to him that needs to be let out.  Paul’s gotten pretty clear about who God has made him to be and what God has asked him to do with what he’s given him.  It’s Paul’s job to get the gospel to the Gentiles.  I believe that a proper posture toward resources begins with a refreshed perspective toward providence. An understanding that God has made me to be me, not you or anyone else, with all my baggage, all of my story, all my pain, all of my talent, and all of my treasure, and I have something to offer the world.

Paul’s story was wrought out of a lot of really ugly and painful baggage that he brought into his relationship with God that proved to be the perfect crucible for God to wield a messenger to the Gentiles.  And you go, yeah but I’m not Paul.  Paul was for real.  Paul was “the man,” and I’m a little bit less than that.  Which is ironic because Paul felt he was a little bit less than you.  He put it this way:  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:7-8) Paul goes, “I’m less than you.”   I don’t care who you are, whether you believe it or not, God has made you to be you and I want you to be reminded of that.  Not anybody else with all of your story, all your baggage, all your pain.  God’s put some stuff into you that needs to be let out.  He’s given you a “bag of resources,” as it were.

I love the game of basketball, and there’s a new line the commentators are using these days to describe the way a player will show off his repertoire of skills during a game.  They call it “reaching into your bag.”  He’s been in his bag lately.  And I wonder if you’ve been in your bag lately.   Are there some resources in your bag that you aren’t sure are in there, because it’s been a while since you’ve looked around?  Are there some resources in your bag that you’re a little bit afraid to pull out, because it would require a little bit of risk, or time, or effort on your part?  Or maybe you’re just a pretty humble Christian and you realize the Christian life is about letting others go first, and God should get the glory after all, and Josh, you don’t know my life right now, it’s a little bit messy and I want to be sure if I pull out my repertoire of skills, my motives are pure and I clean up this mess first.   I remember a moment of personal angst in my life, around this issue, and I said to a friend of mine, “I just don’t think I can preach anymore right now.  There’s some stuff going on inside of me…..I read the warnings in James: Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my dear brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)  Cognitively, I know when I preach that God’s suppose to get the glory, but it feels like most of the time I want it.”  My friend said to me, “Josh, when do you think that’s going to go away?”  It’ll probably be two or three years before I’m that mature.  I actually said, “Probably not for a long time.”  He said something profound to me, “So preach and trust that Jesus was judged more strictly on your behalf.”

I wonder, this morning, if you need to hear what I need to remind myself of that there’s a chance that it’s not your desire for humility that’s keeping you from reaching into your bag, it could be your pride.  It could be the fact that you bought the lie that it’s about you in the first place.  Maybe this morning you need to be reminded that if preaching’s your thing, there’s people out there that need to hear the message.  If service is your thing, there’s people out there who need genuine help.  If encouraging people is your thing, there’s people out there who need encouragement.  If contributing to the needs of others is your thing, there’s people out there with real needs.

Paul has been in his bag lately and by the end of this letter to the church in Rome, he’s looking around going,  “Yeah my work here is done. I’ve pretty well exhausted the resources I’ve been called to use for now. There is no longer any place for me to work in these regions. Hey Rome, I’m coming, and it’s going to be good.  It’s going to be refreshing.  But before I get to you, I’ve got this little task God has put in front of me.  I’m the middle man for this little bit of love that’s coming from here and going to there.  Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”   He specifically names the recipient of this contribution as the poor.  He goes on to say:  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe to them.  For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.  He’s making a commentary on the nature of poverty.  He delineates between being spiritually poor and materially poor.   The Greeks were essentially spiritually poor and because of the gospel they have shared in the spiritual riches of the family of God, and in return they owe it to contribute to the equitability of the materially poor amongst them.

Now there is a key principle at work here. I went to school with a guy named Michael Rhodes, who has done a significant amount of work in the area of poverty alleviation in Memphis.  If you want to read a fantastic book on this concept, read “Practicing the King’s Economy.”  In it, he says, “Jesus invites his people everywhere to embody an equitable economy in which everyone has a place to stand and a portion to steward.”  It’s Acts 2:44, it’s the way the early church operated.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

It sounds really great, and you read a book like that–Practicing the King’s Economy–and you get really excited.  The only problem is it’s a struggle.  It turns out that practicing the king’s economy isn’t that easy.  It turns out that church gets real messy.  Resources get abused.  Givers get taken advantage of.

I remember a story from a church I attended in west Tennessee, where one of the more generous givers set up a meeting with the lead pastor when he received his annual giving statement at the end of the year.  They sat down and he shared with the pastor that the church had grossly underestimated the amount of money he had given during the year.  This man explained that each week he’d faithfully put a healthy wad of cash in a sealed envelope, written his name on it, and deposited it in the collection box at the back of the church.  The collection box which, by the church’s routine, sat securely locked in the back of the church Sunday afternoon and Sunday night.  It was rolled into the office by two trustworthy employees every Monday morning for counting.  A camera was set up, and it was discovered that the sound tech, a young man engaged to be married, was making regular visits to the empty church every Sunday afternoon. He had made a long thin grabbing tool which he used to grab loose cash and envelopes out of the slit in the top of the box.  He was stuffing empty envelopes behind some loose wall paneling while stuffing his pockets with cash.  The young man received an invitation to meet with the head elder and the pastor the following day.  When he entered the office, there was a TV set up, and the pastor simply pushed play.  He was caught, dead to rights.  The young man had stolen around $5,000.  The pastor looked at him and said, “I have two options here.  We can graciously arrange some sort of plan for you to repay all that you’ve taken here, or I can call the cops.”  The young man pleaded with the pastor, “Please, you can’t call the cops.  I’ll work it off, I’ll do anything!” “I most certainly can call the cops,” the pastor said. “What’s stopping me?”  The young man paused, “Sir, I’m marrying the sheriff’s daughter.”  True story.

And in light of the fallen world we live in and our own messiness, it’s really easy to throw up the white flag and just be done with it all.  I don’t trust the church anymore.  You know what, I’m closing up my bag for a while.  If you’ve been there, I can’t blame you.  People close up their bags for any number of reasons. Many of us, without knowing it, close up our bag every week.  We come in and give when the offering comes around, or we serve in an area each week, or maybe we set up our giving online and don’t even think about it on a Sunday, it’s done. That’s our contribution to the movement of resources in the kingdom and then we’re kind of done.   I’ve done that with preaching, with the students.  I get in my car, finally, after a Sunday and I just , “I don’t have to think about that for a week.”  I want to encourage you this morning—Don’t let the tithe behind you keep you from the task in front of you.  Resist the temptation to just check the box and check out, whether it’s in a season of life or on a weekly basis.

Maybe you’re in here this morning and you’re just old, and you’ve given faithfully to the church your whole life.  Or you’ve served in your place at work.  You’ve served your business and you’ve served the people around you, and you’ve even used the gifts God has given you in a powerful and impactful way.   Maybe you’re a young professional and you just feel like there isn’t much in your bag to give.  I mean you’re doing what you can.   I just want to encourage you; Paul had emptied himself. He had gotten the gospel to the Gentiles.  He had spent himself.  Just because Paul had emptied himself, on behalf of getting the gospel to the Gentiles, it didn’t mean he was done.  He had eyes to see the task God had put in front of him.  So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 

The fact that Paul had emptied himself didn’t mean he was done.  It was actually the very thing that allowed him to say the next part of this verse:  I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. ….  Because all my life he’s been faithful.  I’ve just been around too long; I’ve seen the goodness of God.  When I come, this train is coming!  It’s not over for me.  I’m not tired.  I’m coming and it’s going to be refreshing.

Paul asks the church in Rome to pray with him that he’d be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea and that his service in Jerusalem would be acceptable to the saints there.  Other versions say favorably received—that his service would be favorably received.  Have you ever tried to give a gift to someone who just wasn’t in a place to receive it?  I mean, what if Paul lands in Jerusalem with this bag of cash and the saints in Jerusalem are like nah, we’re good.  Or what if they just feel guilty, like they should accept this gift because they don’t deserve it.  Really we should just earn it on our own.  Or maybe they are just ignoring altogether their current state of poverty.  Whether you’re the giver or the receiver of a gift in God’s kingdom—The advancement and acceptance of provision necessitates getting acquainted your own personal poverty.

In Romans 1, Paul says to the church in Rome, hey, I’ve got a gift for you and it’s actually not a financial gift, it’s more of a spiritual gift.  He says it this way:  I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  (Romans 1:11)  Mutually encouraged or mutually refreshed.  And then he spends the next fifteen chapters completely obliterating their sense of self righteousness, their sense of self sufficiency, their tendency toward “nah, we’re good.”

Nine years ago I memorized the book of Romans; it took me exactly a year.  I want to give you a funny little challenge this morning, leave here and spend the next twelve months memorizing the book of Romans!  Come back to me after twelve months and then tell me you’re not just a little bit more acquainted with your own sense of personal poverty.  That book will rip you in half and then it will show you the goodness of the gift of God.

During that season in my life I remember eating at a Denny’s with a friend of mine in Seattle at 4:30 in the morning on our way to an early flight out after a friend’s wedding.  It was a cold, rainy and wet Seattle morning.  As we finished our breakfast and walked to our car in the dark, we passed a young man soaking wet and shivering, looking like he’d been out all night.  My heart sank and I said to him, “Hey man, I hope you stay warm.” No sooner had the words come out of my mouth than my friend took off his coat and put in on the young man’s back.  We got in the car, and this old dead guy, James, started speaking in my ear — Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  (James 2:15-16)   And—Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  (1 John 3:18)    Appreciate that one, James, I’m feeling really good right now!  Do you know the difference between my friend, who was the son of a multi-millionaire who grew up on the south side of Boston, and myself at the time?  He was just a bit more acquainted with his own sense of personal poverty.

Interestingly enough, so was the church of Macedonia.  Upon first reading of Romans 15, it’s easy to assume that the Macedonian church was getting along quite well.  Clearly they were the rich helping the poor.  Then you read 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 — And now brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in generosity.  For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.  Paul, whatever you do, let us just be a part of the movement of resources in the kingdom.  We don’t have a whole lot, but we’re here and we’re ready.

So Paul says to the church in Rome, “Rome, I’m going to give you a gift here.  I’m going to let you in on this and I want you to be a part of this.  I want you to pray with me—even though these resources aren’t yours, they’re not even mine, and they’re not even going to you—I want you to join in with me and pray that Jerusalem would receive well….so that by God’s will, I might come to you with joy—most likely telling the story of God’s faithfulness in this whole process—and together with you be refreshed.

Our participation in the movement of resources is not just a weekly rinse-and-repeat game of rote obedience.  It’s an invitation for us, as South Fellowship Church, to participate in the refreshing of the kingdom.  I’m going to give you four real practical ways you can participate in maybe taking a step in being a refresher of the kingdom this week.

1) Take 10 minutes and do a resources inventory.  Open up your bag a little bit and see what’s in there.  If it’s been a while, you may need to sit down with someone to talk through what you have spiritually and materially. Maybe set up a time to do that in the near future.

2) Give a gift outside of your regular routine this week.  Maybe you’re like our family and do your tithing online and it’s what you do and you don’t think about it.  Maybe there’s an opportunity this week to give something out of your normal routine—either financially or with your other resources.

3) When you give that gift, pair it with prayer.  This was a suggestion from Aaron.  Maybe you give this gift and as you’re giving it, even just to yourself, you pray the Lord’s Prayer—Lord, let your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, with this gift.

4) If you’re presented with an opportunity to receive a gift, open your hands.  Whatever’s going on, even if you feel you shouldn’t take it, just accept it and let yourself be refreshed in the kingdom.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we recognize that every good and perfect gift is from you, raining down from the Father of Heavenly Lights.  Father, I pray as we go about this next week in our lives, as individuals and as families and as a body here, we would see our resources not just as a box that we check off, but as an invitation from you to be a part of your commitment to the renewal of all things.  Lord, thank you for your goodness to us in the past and your promise of goodness to us in the future.  In Jesus’s name…..Amen.

TRANSFORMED | Kingdom Refreshments | Romans 15:23-33 | Week 62021-03-25T11:41:29-06:00

Exam Time | Matthew 15:21-28

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Exam Time | Matthew 15:21-282019-02-18T07:43:51-07:00
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