November 8, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel

Part 4: Repairing the Hole

 

Opening:

          This is the fourth and final talk on “The Hole in Our Gospel”.  Today, we’re going to talk about repairing the hole.  What can we do?  How can we live our lives as God’s agents, to bring about the change in our world that God wants to see? 

ILL: Rich used the illustration of people who work around radioactive materials wearing radiation badges called dosimeters.  (Picture)  These badges change color with the cumulative exposure to radiation, turning bright red when you’ve reached a dangerous level of exposure.  When they’re red, you’ve become radioactive! 

We need radioactive Christians!  That’s what we’re trying to do with this series—ruin all of you!  Make you radioactive Christians who live in such a way that not only are you changed, but you are a change agent, doing God’s work in our world.

 

Offering and announcements:

          This Wednesday is Veterans Day.  To honor our vets and current military personnel, we have a display in the back and we are running a slide show before and after service.  Would all our vets and current military please stand so we can say thank you for your service.

Next weekend: Rich Stearns here at all 3 services!  And his wife, Renee, will meeting with women here on Saturday evening at 7 PM (item #1).

Kenya, May 2010:  info meeting at 7 PM on Saturday, Nov. 21. (item #2)

Journey to True Financial Freedom:  register by Tuesday for the best rate!  (item #4)

          Thanks to all of you who helped us pay for the books last Sunday.  You gave over $15,000—thank you!  We appreciate your help! 

 

Communion (last two songs of worship)

 

Introduction:

          This is the fourth message in this series, “The Hole in Our Gospel.”  Repairing the hole: what are we going to do?  Next Sunday, Rich Stearns, the author of the book, and the president of World Vision, will be with us and will speak.  That will be a treat!  And ladies, Rich’s wife Renee will be speaking at a workshop here on Saturday night at 7 PM in the multi-purpose room. 

          In the last 3 weeks, we’ve talked about the hole in our gospel, and I laid out a biblical framework for seeing the good news of Jesus as something bigger than just getting me to heaven.  Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth; we’re part of something much bigger than our own personal story; we’re part of God’s plan to redeem the world!

          We’ve talked about the hole in our world.  I explained the desperate need of over half our world, and we talked about the plight of the poorest of the poor.  These people are our neighbors, and we can’t just walk by on the other side of the road.  We’ve got to help.

          We’ve talked about the hole in our church.  We recognize that we suffer from cultural blindness that has made us slow to come to the aid of those suffering from injustice.  We can change that!  And we talked about the awesome potential of the church to change the world, if we get it right and live out the gospel.

          Today, we’re talking about the final section of the book, “Repairing the Hole”.  What are we going to do about it?  What are we going to do with all we’ve learned?  If we don’t do something, we’ve wasted a lot of time.  This book is a call to action.  So we’re going to talk about what we can do.

          The first thing that paralyzes many of us is that we feel overwhelmed.  The need is so large, and I’m so small.  I’m just one person.  What can I do?  So let’s start with:

 

1. The power of one.

          You’ve all heard the saying, “The journey of a million miles begins with one step.”  Everything starts with one: one step, one decision, one action, one person. 

ILL: World Vision is the largest Christian relief and development agency in the world.  It works in over 100 countries around the world, and has over 30,000 full time staff in those countries.  They help millions of people.  But it all started with one—one person.

          Bob Pierce was an evangelist for Youth for Christ.  (Picture)  In 1948, he was preaching in China.  A young girl, named White Jade, heard his message, gave her life to Jesus, and went home and told her parents.  She was beaten by her father, disowned and cast out of the home.

          The next morning, the director of the missionary school found White Jade huddled by the front gate, bloodied and crying.  She confronted Bob and said, “This little girl did what you told her to do, and now she has lost everything.  What are you going to do about it?”

          The question rocked Bob Pierce to the core of his being.  What was he going to do about it?  He was leaving for home the next day.  He reached into his pocket and gave the school director all the money he had—$5—and promised to send more when he got home.  Back in the States, Bob raised more money to help White Jade.  He began telling anyone who would listen the stories of the great needs of children in Asia.  At the outset of the Korean War, he returned to Asia and saw the appalling condition of thousands of war orphans.  This time he came back to the States armed with 16 mm films which he showed, and he started asking people what they were going to do about it.  The rest is history.  Millions of people helped…and it all started with one…one man…one man who decided to do something about it.  One man who went radioactive!

It’s the power of one.  You can be the one God uses to start something viral.  You can be the one who goes radioactive and decides to do something…and ends up changing the world.  It’s the power of one.

  • When God rescued the Israelites from Egypt, he started with one man: Moses.
  • When God rescued the Israelites from the Canaanites, he started with one woman: Deborah.
  • When God rescued the world from the sin, he started with one person: Jesus. 
  • So if God is going to rescue the poor, the sick, the suffering, the lost, he starts with one person.  One person who goes radioactive.

It’s the power of one.  It always starts with one.

ILL: I loved the story of Austin Gutwein, the nine-year old boy who learned about AIDS orphans and decided to do something.  Austin liked basketball, so he decided that on World AIDS Day, 2004, he would shoot 2057 free throws, one for every child who would be orphaned by AIDS on that day.  He got some sponsors and raised almost $3000.  Did I say that he was 9 years old?  The power of one…anyone!

          But of course, that power is multiplied exponentially when the radioactive person enlists others.  That’s what Austin did.  Thousands of kids have joined Austin in “Hoops for Hope” across the country and around the world, and now they’ve raised a million bucks for AIDS orphans.  Did I say that he was 9 years old? 

It always starts with one.  Sometimes the one is nine-years old.  Sometimes the one only has $5 in his pocket and not a clue what to do next.  Change has to start somewhere, and it usually starts with one, and then spreads.  

          At the top of your outline I wrote: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things! You can make a difference!  Together, we can make a huge difference!

          You can make a difference.  You can be the one who goes radioactive and decides to do something and starts a chain reaction. 

          And if one can make a difference, together, we can make a huge difference.  Imagine what will happen if we put our hearts and hands together.  I gave you one example last Sunday: if all American Christians tithed, we could change the world.  One small thing—multiplied by all of us—and we could change the world—a huge difference.  Your tithe may not be that big—but all our tithes could change the world.  It’s the power of one…multiplied.  But it starts with one: one person, one church.

          Before I go to the next point, I want to remind you of something I shared in week two about the power of one.  Bob Pierce said: “Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.”  Don’t get paralyzed and do nothing—do something!  Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed 100, feed one.”  Today we’re going to talk about things you can do, things we can do.  They may seem small, but that’s how the world is changed: one person at a time.  “In the end God works in our world one person at a time.  The hungry are fed, the thirsty are refreshed, the naked are clothed, the sick are treated, the illiterate are educated, and the grieving are comforted, just one person at a time.” (Pg. 257)  It’s the power of one: one person loving one other person.  It’s how the world is changed. 

I love the African proverb, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.” 

          Let’s be radioactive mosquitoes!  God wants to use you to make a difference, which raises two questions.

 

2. What do you have?

          If the world is going to be changed, it will be done by ordinary people like you and me who offer ourselves and what we have to God.  You might be thinking, “What do I have that God could possibly use?”

          That’s exactly what Jesus’ disciples were wondering one day.  The story is reported in all the gospels.  Jesus and the disciples were supposed to be on vacation, a much-needed break, but somehow people found out where they were vacationing and by the time they got there, a crowd had already gathered.  Jesus felt compassion for the people and spent the day teaching and healing them.  By late afternoon, the disciples (you get the idea they weren’t feeling compassion) told Jesus that he needed to do something.  It was late, people were getting hungry, he should send them home to get dinner.  But Jesus turned the tables on them, and told them that they needed to do something.  “You feed them,” he said.  I don’t know if they laughed, or rolled their eyes, or just looked at each other in astonishment.  Was he kidding?  I love what they did next: they tried to explain the situation to Jesus—don’t you love that?  “Lord, it would take 8 months wages—thousands of dollars—for everyone to have just a bite.  Do you really want us to spend that kind of money—not to mention that we don’t have that kind of money.”  Then Jesus asked:

          “What do you have?”  (Would you say that with me?)  What do you have?

          They did a quick reconnaissance, and came back with a little boy’s sack lunch, consisting of five little buns and two sardines.  It was like a Happy Meal—without the toy!  Andrew asked the obvious, “How far will they go among so many?”  This isn’t going to do much.

          When you look at the enormity of the world’s need—1.2 billion people without clean water; almost 1 billion people without food to sustain them; 15 million AIDS orphans; and on and on—how many of you feel overwhelmed?  What do I have?  I have a few hours to serve and a few dollars to give, but “how far will they go among so many?”  This isn’t going to do much.  That’s just how Andrew and the disciples felt trying to feed thousands with a Happy Meal (without the toy): overwhelmed and under-resourced.

          “What do you have?” Jesus asked.  They told him: not much.  “Bring it to me,” Jesus said.  And you know the rest of the story.  In the hands of Jesus, their little became much.  In the hands of Jesus, their Happy Meal multiplied into a feast for thousands. 

          What do you have?  Bring it to Jesus…and watch what He can do with it.

          So what do you have?  Rich suggests we all have three things God can use: time, talent and treasure.

 

          Time.  We’ve all got different amounts of money and talents, but we all have 24 hours a day.  What are you doing with your minutes?  Watch this:

          Minutes video.

          What are you doing with your minutes?  We are doing a Minutes Pledge Drive: our goal is to pledge one year’s worth of minutes—525,600 minutes—in service to the needy in our own community.  That’s 8760 hours—about 2 hours per person.  Here’s how it works.  You fill out one side of this pog, giving us your contact information and how many minutes you pledge, and your preferred month to serve—we’ll collect those at the end of the service.  Then you go to our website, and click on the minutes link on the home page, and follow the directions.  You’ll find a list of community partners in several categories: the homeless, under-resourced households, refugees and immigrants, children and youth.  Pick something you have an interest in, and make the call—the contact information is provided.  Then go serve! 

          Here’s the cool thing.  We think that when you serve somewhere, you will get so much out of it that you’ll go back for more!  Warning: this could be habit forming! 

We say, “Time is money.”  Time has value.  Many of us are paid “by the hour”.  All of us, when we spend our money, we’re spending time—the time it took us to make that money.  Time has value.  Our opening goal is to pledge and serve one year’s worth of time—525,600 minutes, or 8760 hours.  At $10 an hour, that’s an $87,600 gift to our community.  Just for fun, think about this.  There are about 4000 adults here this weekend.  If we all donated one hour a week in our community serving the needy, at $10 an hour, that would be a $40,000 donation every week!      Over one year, it would total over $2 million of time—and that’s at $10 an hour and I know that you’re all worth way more than that!

What do you have?  If you have some time you can donate to serve others, please do.  If you don’t—if you’re strapped to max right now, it’s ok.  Last Sunday, a young mom with four small kids stopped me after church and asked, “What should I do?  If I sign up to serve, it means leaving my children.  I want to help, but aren’t my kids my first ministry?”  Yes they are.  If you are in a situation that you can’t give minutes right now, that’s ok.  The day will come when you can. 

What do you have?  If you have time, you can give that to God.

 

          Talent.  Usually when we think of talent, we think of abilities: musical talent, athletic ability, artistic talent, mechanical ability, the gift of gab.  Certainly, whatever abilities you have should be available to God and could be used by Him.  But think beyond your abilities to other things you have as well.  Your unique personality, your passions and interests, your life experiences, your job skills, your relational networks—all of these are part of who you are and what God can use.

  • Rich did not think he was the right man for the job at World Vision—he didn’t think he had what it took.  But he wasn’t looking at what he did have, and that turned out to be exactly what God was looking for.
  • 9 year old Austin Gutwein had a passion for basketball and put that to work.

What do you have?  God can use your talents—whatever they are.

 

          Treasure.  We talked last week about how rich we are, and how the American church could change the world if everyone tithed.  We’re not talking about everyone giving up all they own…just doing the Biblical minimum of giving God the first 10%.  If we just did that, we’d change the world!

          Occasionally, people will say to me, “Well, I give my time and talent to serve others, so I don’t really need to give my money.”  Following Jesus means that all we have is His: our time, talent and treasure.  We can’t give him 2 out of 3 and be whole-hearted followers. 

          Besides, we are the richest church in history.  Imagine if Bill Gates was trying to decide the best way he could help the poor, and he decided to spend one week a year in Mexico digging latrines for people who have no toilets.  I think we’d all say, “give me a break!”  While digging latrines is worthwhile effort, it is not even close to the best Bill Gates could do.  Thankfully, Bill and Melinda Gates did ask that question—what do we have and what would be our best contribution—and created a foundation funded with billions of their own dollars that is making a real difference in the world.  Together, the American church is the Bill Gates of churches.  We’re rich.  If we don’t use our treasure for God’s purposes, I think we’ll answer to God for that. 

          We need to do more than just give money, but we’ve got to be generous with our treasure. 

          What do you have?

If you’re doing the Bible reading with us, on Monday you read in Mark 11 the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The story begins with Jesus sending two disciples into town to retrieve a donkey.  They were to tell the owner, “The Lord needs it, and will send it back here shortly.”  Jesus conscripted this guy’s donkey.  The Lord needed something this guy had: a donkey.  The Lord needs it.  Those words struck me.  We don’t often think of God needing something.  But when God does His work in the world, He does it through us and our resources.  What do you have?  Don’t be surprised if Jesus asks for something you have and says, “The Lord needs it.”  When he does, we want to be ready, like the donkey’s owner, to give it up for the Lord’s purposes.

What do you have?  And the other question is:

 

3. What will you do

          We’re going to field some answers, and I’m going to prime the pump by suggesting something that just about everyone can do: sponsor a child.  I’ve been beating this drum for years, and have often said that every Christian in America ought to sponsor a child.  For $35 a month—that’s $1.15 a day—you can provide food, water, education, medical care and spiritual training; you can change a child’s life.   And you get to build a relationship with this child if you want through correspondence.  And if you wonder whether it really makes a difference, watch this:

          Video of Rich and Renee about sponsorship: 4:10 minutes.

Next Sunday, when Rich and Renee are with us, we’ll give you a chance to sponsor a child. 

Have you ever wondered how sponsorship works?  Do they take your $35 and give it to the kid?  No.  Here’s how World Vision does it.  They try to serve the poorest of the poor, where no one else is working.  They create an ADP: and Area Development Project.  They go into an area—like a county—and meet with the village leaders—it starts with relationships.  They win trust and together create a development plan that includes clean water, food, education, jobs, and medical care.  As children in that area are sponsored, it provides a stream of income that can be used to make all those things happen. It is not only the sponsored child who benefits—it’s their whole family, the whole village.

Here’s a really cool thing: World Vision is opening a new ADP in the Maseyisini district in Swaziland.  They are giving us the opportunity to adopt this region—next week you’ll see the photos of 1500 kids from this region on our walls, and we’ll have the chance to sponsor as many of them as possible.  We could change this region—one child at a time.

I did a little research on Swaziland.  (Picture)  It’s a small landlocked nation in Southern Africa—roughly 130 by 100 miles, with a population of about 1.2 million people.  75% are subsistence farmers; most are living on less than a dollar a day.  Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world at 26.1%.  Because of this, life expectancy has fallen from 61 years in 2000 to 32 years in 2009.  And almost 83% of Swaziland are Christians.

          So here’s one small thing that almost all of us can do, and it has a big impact: sponsor a child.

          What else?  I know you’ve been talking about this in your Life Groups.  Let’s share some other ideas, things we could do personally or together.

  • Start praying.  Pray for the poor.  Ask God, What do you expect of me?
  • Volunteer your time.
    • UGM
    • House of Charity
    • Our House
    • Short term missions trip.       
    • Adopt a child.  China, Nicaragua, Ethiopia.  Pictures here:
      • Millers (Ethiopia),
      • Andrews (China),
      • Stones (Nicaragua),
      • Greshams (Ethiopia),
      • Zieglers (China)
      • Franklins (Ethiopia)
      • Mentor a child
      • Make a microloan.  www.kiva.org
      • Give a chicken, a goat, etc.  http//donate.worldvision.org
      • Tithe.
      • Fast for a day; give the money to the hungry.
      • Have a dinner for the poor (Luke 14:12-14).
      • Give to the poor for Christmas!
      • Donate some good clothes/things you don’t use.
      • Sell something on ebay or craigslist and donate the money. 
      • Create a video that challenges people to do something and post it on utube.
      • LG: sponsor and befriend a refugee.
      • LG: serve together.
      • LG: brainstorm and create a fun idea!
      • Use your gifts/passions to do something new: eg: Hoops for Hope.

What will you do?  God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. 

What will you do?  I hope you’ll pray and talk about that in your Life Groups this week.