a JPUSA sermon from Vic Williams

1. Before the sermon Rich shared a great story about a neighborhood boy (Uplift student) who wanted a great deal on a skateboard (free, like his friend).  Rich told him we didn’t have anymore free, used boards but that he would work out a deal to trade some after school work around the shop for a board.  The boy agreed, worked for a few days and got a new board.  The student is still dropping by just to hang out.
Almost makes you think we opened a skate shop so it could also be a ministry outreach.

2.  I shared briefly about Glenn’s recent tour to Germany and Eastern Europe.  Glenn shared how several young pastors introduced themselves saying how they got saved though Rez concerts years ago.  One Czech man couldn’t speak any English but just gave Glenn a huge bear hug and began sobbing.  Later through a translator, he explained how much Glenn was his ‘hero’ and how much the music and teaching had formed his Christian life.
Once additional tag on to this I added was that we all share in the credit for these great stories.  Those are our pastors, our conversions, our new churches whether you went on the concert tour or stayed home washing dishes or watching other peoples’ children.

3.  Quotes in the Rev Rag (thanks, Joey):

“One of the neglected aspects of Christianity today is, I believe, a neglect of liturgy. Now I don’t have some sort of detailed checklist as to how liturgy should be conducted. What I do believe is that liturgy should bring us into the presence of God, i.e. bring us into the presence of eternity in some way.
“… I read this chapter and this particular commentary on it I heard a sermon titled “The Eighth Day” in which the speaker suggested that we are to be living in the 8th day, somehow in the kingdom even though it’s not here yet. There’s a bit of a theme based on that in the appearances of Jesus in the book of Luke. I believe that we are to be living in eternity, and both our liturgy and our teaching needs to reflect that.”
Henry Neufeld,  Personal Blog

“Everything we do or say has the potential to affect not only the individuals we live, work, and play with but also those we’ve just met.
Though we may never know the impact we have had or the scope of our influence, accepting and understanding that our attitudes and choices will affect others can help us remember to conduct ourselves with grace at all times.”
Oneactkind.com

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.”
~ Barbara De Angelis

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”
~ Blaise Pascal

4.  The full story about the 8th grade math teacher, sister Helen Mrosia, can be found at ‘allthingswomen.net’ , July 13, 2009 posting.
[Okay, so what was I doing at a site with that name?  You never know where Google takes you].

Notes for August 9th sermon, “Stars, Kindness and Eternity”

Opening text, Psalms 90.  1 Lord, through all the generations you have
been our home!   2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth
to the earth and world, from beginning to end, you are God.   14 Satisfy
us each morning with your unfailing love,  so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. 15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!  Replace the evil years with good.  16 Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful.  Yes, make our efforts successful!

The Psalm begins with God as Creator, giving “birth” to our world. the Psalm ends with a very personal involvement of God in our lives — replacing the bad with good, turning things around.

What do you see when you see the stars in the night sky?   If you’re in
a good dark location you can see hundreds, perhaps thousands of stars.
In ancient history, humanity only imagined stars as white dots on the ceiling’ of the world.  Later, the depth and distances of each star became clearer.
For example, our sun is 8 minutes away, if you are traveling at the speed of light.  A space car going 120 mph would complete that same distance in 143 years (which means, pack a lunch).  So that gives you a rough example of fast speed on earth compared to light speed.  If we look at other points of space, our nearest star (besides the sun) is 4.2 years away at light speed.  The farthest star you can see without a telescope is 5000 years away at light speed.  The nearest galaxy is 2.5 million years away at light speed.
All this to say, when we see the light coming from various stars, we are looking back into ancient history, light that first flashed thousands or billions of years ago.  In a way, each star is showing us one page out of the book of the infinite history of creation.

But what about eternity?  Is this also an endless time line going back to the very beginning and end of time?  Personally, I think it is a different concept all together.
Using the ‘book’ metaphor again, I think of eternity like taking all the pages of creation and laying them down so that you can look at everything all at once.  To me, eternity doesn’t have a beginning or end, it IS.
If that’s true, then how or when are we part of eternity?  When we die?
I don’t think so.  I believe we’re living in eternity right now, though we can only see and experience a limited view.  We are still
caught up in the limits of linear time, space, etc.   So it is
difficult for us to imagine anything beyond this current  type of existence.

So what if we begin looking at our lives as part of eternity?
Ephesians mentions an eternal plan in chapter 3,  verse 10 begins, God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus always included the Big Picture into everyday events:  getting water from a well, feeding a hungry crowd, talking about lilies in a field and even mundane things like raising someone from the dead.  The ideas of eternity (and eternal values) were always part of His message.

So how do we view our daily work and our interactions with others?

Matthew 25 introduces a drastic concept.  The context is that Jesus is about to be betrayed, arrested and killed.  Therefore he is taking time to talk to his close disciples about the final judgement.
32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

First, a quick disclaimer:  I don’t believe this teaching is describing a plan of salvation.  We don’t become a Christian through our good
works.  Salvation comes by receiving God’s grace and forgiveness.    I
believe this teaching is telling us how we should LIVE as Christians.
Instead of believers kicking back (with our “fire insurance”) relaxing and waiting for the second coming, we have a responsibility to reach out to others; to help others toward eternity.

But look at the examples of how we act like sheep and help others:
giving a glass of water, or food, welcoming strangers into our home, giving clothes and visiting lonely people.  You would think the really big differences would be something like preaching to thousands at a giant revival, working out peace plan for the Middle East, or at least running an orphanage or drug rehab all by yourself.  But Jesus describes small simple things that make the difference.
And Ephesians 3.10 explains how…  God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The church (ordinary folks like you and me) display God’s purpose, wisdom, etc.  And we do it with compassion and kindness (rather than bigger-than-life ministries).
So what will this look like?

One ‘simple act of kindness’ example is reflected through an 8th grade math teacher.  She was assigned to teach the “new math”.  Needless to say, everyone was getting frustrated.  The teacher told the students to stop their math, get out a piece of paper, and list the names of everyone in the class (leaving a blank line between each name).  On that blank line they were to write their favorite thoughts about each
student under each name.   The teacher collected the papers and did
some editing that night.  The next day she handed each student a new sheet of paper listing all the good things the other students had written about them.  It was a little thing that changed a tense day into a great day.
Years later, the math teacher attended the funeral of one of her favorite students, Mark, killed in Viet Nam.  After the funeral service a couple of soldiers came up and asked her if she was Mark’s 8th grade math teacher.  A little surprised, she replied that she was.  They told her that Mark talked about her often then they handed her a well-worn piece of lined paper and said it was found in a pocket of Mark’s uniform when he died.  It was the same list of favorite things written about him years before.  Several former students who were at the funeral came forward and stated they also still had their original ‘favorite’ lists too.  Some carried the worn sheets in their purses or wallets every day.
This 8th grade math teacher changed her students’ lives one afternoon with a simple exercise.  You might even say that she also affected their eternal lives.

So what’s so big about a glass of water or just inviting a a stranger to sit down and talk?  Jesus was of the opinion (just before he was about to face his own death) that those little things could make a huge difference in eternity.

On a more modest scale, I saw one of those timely articles giving advice how you can save your job at work.  Of course there were the usual items such as being creative and always being on time.  But one thing made me stop and think.  They said it would be a good idea to always be the source of chocolate for you fellow office workers.  A small consideration that could make all the difference in the world to others.

Let me give you some simple steps to bring “Matthew 25” compassion and kindness into your daily routines:

1)  Start where you are.  If you can be Mother Teressa or Desmond Tutu, then go for it.  Otherwise, do something simple you CAN do.  If you can remember others’ birthdays, start there.  If you can lend a listening ear to people who walk in the door, start there.
2)  Keep your eyes open for opportunities.  This works great for people who are already considerate and compassionate.  But for the rest of us, write reminder notes to yourself each week.  I have been running workouts since I was 12.  But I still remind myself to make time for a workout in my daily book.  Sometimes kindness will naturally fall into place; sometimes it needs a push.
3) Remain faithful to God’s truth.   In Christ, we can practice truth
and we can practice kindness.  As Christians, it is very difficult to practice both at the same time.  So choose well.

Do we only see stars as whites dots on the ceiling of the world?  Or do
we see an infinite history?   Are we just teaching students?  Or do we
see a way to touch lives for eternity?  Are we only working in a skate shop, or a warehouse?  Or do we see an opportunity to demonstrate what
Christians are supposed to be?   Are we only getting water for someone
in the lobby or only fulfilling a work rotation?  Or is it possible to see eternity standing right in front of you?

“…Replace the evil years with good.  Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.”

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