Monday, February 26, 2018

On Purpose

What can possibly be said about Billy Graham that hasn’t already been said? He was as iconic a figure as we are likely to see in our lifetime. By the numbers, his life was more impactful than anyone else I can think of:

·      2.2 billion people heard him preach the gospel
·      215 million attended one of his crusades
·      2.2 million people responded to the call to come to Christ
·      A record 61 times in a row he has been named to Gallup’s Most Admired Men list 
·      He met with 13 US Presidents, from Truman to Trump
But if I had to guess, I would say that the most important number to him was the number one - 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus”

Let’s look at what it means to live a life on purpose.

Acts 13:36
For David served God's purposes in his own time, and then he died

Things to think about:
·      What adjectives come to mind when you think of Billy Graham?
o   For me, words like good, humble, faithful, integrity, wise, called, long-serving, graceful, undefiled seem appropriate
o   Of the words you think of, which ones would you most like to have said of you and why?
o   What memories do you have of seeing him at one of his crusades or on TV?
·      In our verse, it says of King David, that he served God’s purposes in his life and then he died
o   I like this because it illustrates that we are all made for a divine purpose. When we see a man like Dr. Graham be true to his calling and unsullied by scandal or failure, it shows us an example worth emulating.
o   The Apostle Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”
§  It’s encouraging to know that this promise isn’t just for the Mount Rushmore saints like Paul or Billy Graham but also for Mount Rumpke sinners like me!
§  What are practical things we can do to finish the race and keep the faith?
·      1 Peter 1:13-16 – “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
o   Staying focused on the eternal
o   Being obedient
o   Being mindful of the our sin nature and our enemy who seeks to bring us down
o   Living in reverence for the One who rescued us
·      Dr. Graham has now heard the words that should be the desire of every Christian heart, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
o   How does the hope of hearing those words motivate you to not just stay out of trouble but to be a productive servant?
o   Let us commit to serving the purposes God has set out for us in our lifetimes!   


Monday, February 19, 2018

God's Tree of Life

Did you know that God has an orchard of fruit-bearing Life trees?  In Paul’s prayer for the church at Philippi, he describes these trees from the roots all the way up to the fruits.  Each of us is one of these trees.  The health of our tree is dependent upon growing deep roots of wisdom, a sturdy trunk that is free of pests and disease, and strong branches teeming with fruit.

Philippians 1:9-12
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Things to think about:
·      Before we dive into our topic, here is a Pro Tip on prayer from a pastor friend: If you don’t know how to find the right words when you’re praying, use the prayers of the Scriptures as your model.  I have marked in my Bible this passage as my prayer for our group.
The Roots
·      Paul says that in order for our tree to grow big and strong it must have roots that are growing deeper in knowledge and insight. God’s word and His teachers provide us with the nourishment we need to grow as He intended.
o   Absent a strong foundation, our tree is susceptible to every wind, flood, and drought.
§  Winds of circumstance can challenge our commitment
§  Floods of discouragement can overwhelm us
§  A drought of feeling God’s presence can shrivel our faith
§  Do any of these ring true for you?
§  Are there Scriptures you cling to in times like these?
o   We can sometimes be more like thin blades of grass or a delicate flower than a towering tree
§  Isaiah 40:8 –“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
o   We are also vulnerable to toxins like bad teaching or faulty theology
§  Ephesians 14:4 – “ Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
§  Proverbs 19:2a – “Desire without knowledge is not good”
o   Then when the winds, floods, and droughts come as they inevitably do, we will be able to discern what is best, to remain pure, and to be blameless.
The Trunk
o   However, a great deal of knowledge that never comes out hiding is like a root system that never becomes a tree.  It eagerly takes in the nutrients and the water but doesn’t grow up and give back.
o   Paul said it like this in 1 Corinthians 13:2:
§  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
§  Jesus is love and does not hide from the harsh glare of the sun or the bitter cold of winter.
o   So the trunk is the link between the roots and the branches that bear the fruit.
§  Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
§  Why does Jesus count “good works” that are done apart from Him as nothing?
The Fruit
·      The very point of a fruit tree is to bear fruit.  The Orchard Owner designed it that way and expects to see branches that are leafy and brimming with deliciously sweet fruit.
·      Fruits of righteousness
o   Love God by obeying His commands
o   Love others as Christ has loved you
·      Fruits of the Spirit
o   Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
§  The fruit described here is attainable by each of us because it’s not called the fruit of man but of the Spirit who indwells every believer.
·      Let us pray as Paul did that on the day of Christ, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God.

Proverbs 11:30 - The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life