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Past Ponderings

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Dads, How Are You Loving? (Ephesians 6:4)

VIDEO: Dan Upchurch

VIDEO: Bobby Upchurch

NOTE: Today, we had a neat Father’s Day opportunity. My dad happened to be in town, so we’re actually “tag-teaming” the sermon. He preached the first three verses (Ephesians 6:1-3), and I covered the final one (Ephesians 6:4).


Dads, How Are You Loving? (Ephesians 6:4)

GIST: Don’t provoke your kids to anger and push them away from the life-giving love of Jesus; instead, do your part to nourish them toward a mature, personal walk with Christ. 


Let me start by laying my cards on the table. I have four kiddos, so I feel qualified to speak about fatherhood on at least an experiential level. However, I don’t harbor any delusions about being an expert in the field. I mess up… a lot. Even as I write this, I’m distinctly aware of how I’ve let my kids down today. The world might see an energetic, Jesus-loving guy who wants what’s best for his family, but in my heart, I know I’m not the daddy I should be and my kids deserve better. 

Maybe you feel the same. Regardless of where you are on this fatherhood journey (and that includes men without biological children), you probably feel “less than” more often than not. That’s uncomfortable. Especially in the context of our homes, men want to be heroes who swoop in, rescue, and protect; but sometimes we’re not even good sidekick options.

Thinking about this, I kept coming back to one verse. I might not be the world’s best dad (even if I own a notebook that says otherwise), but I know the good Father, and His word tells me the kind of man I’m meant to be. As just one example, look at Ephesians 6:4.


“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”


Since the phrase translated “bring them up” has the connotation of nourishment, this verse starts with an implicit contrast. We’ll let that be our gist this morning: Don’t provoke your kids to anger and push them away from the life-giving love of Jesus; instead, do your part to nourish them toward a mature, personal walk with Christ. Let’s break this down a bit. 


I. Don’t Provoke Your Kids.

First, we’re called not to provoke our children to anger. There are probably about a million ways we could do that, but this is a short sermon, so I’m just going to list a few that came to mind as I was writing this up ☺️.

Refusing to show grace or being impatient. Have you ever noticed it’s easier to be patient with everyone else in the world except your family? In summer school, I’m teaching high school, remedial English. My patience gets tested every day, but I still find myself quicker to distribute grace to these students than my own children. Dads, our love should reflect the love of our merciful Savior. We need to be so careful not to push them away from the love of Jesus with our critical attitudes.

Playing favorites. It didn’t turn out well with Joseph. It won’t work for you either. I know it’s a topic we joke around about. I tell my students at school all the time, “I don’t have any favorites. I hate all of you equally ☺️.” The truth is, I do have favorite students though. I can’t, however, have favorite children. They our all a gift from God, and it is my responsibility to make sure they realize that. I’ve taught long enough now to have encountered several students who have had their parents make it clear they are not the favorite. Guys, it’s devastating.

Neglecting their needs. The flip side of playing favorites is neglect. In extreme cases, this involves not providing adequate food or shelter. That is something, I’d like to say, is universally regarded as wrong. However, heart neglect is more common and still so harmful. Let me just be completely honest with what this looks like in my life. It is easier to parent the way I would want to be parented than to parent the way my kids need from me. If my kids are interested in what I’m interested in, then it’s no extra effort to show them attention. But my kids aren’t me. Playing basketball or throwing around a frisbee might not be the best cotnext for talking to them, so maybe I need to learn about princesses or play some Minecraft because I need to speak their love languages…not just force feed them mine.

Humiliating them or not struggling alongside them. I put these together because often they go hand-in-hand. A lot of times, parents can fall into this when we make our children’s behavior more about “how we look” than who they are. If you’re upset with your kids because they are acting goofy in the store or throwing a fit in public and that “makes you look bad”, it will be easy to shame them than redirect them. If their struggles —even struggles with faith —become a source of embarrassment for you, then you’re walking them away from faith in the Jesus who wants them to bring their struggles to Him. Our homes should be a safe place to grow up in the Lord, but growing up is messy. Kids don’t come out put together. From my experience, they rarely get that way as adults either. They’re just better at covering it up. Our homes have to be a safe place to ask questions and make mistakes as we point to grace.

If we make enemies of our children, how will we point them to a grace-bestowing Heavenly Father? In fact, instead of pushing their buttons, we’re told to→


II. Nourish Them In Christ.

That is to pour life into them… by pointing them to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. When I hear the word nourish, I immediately think about food ☺️. Most of us would never think of starving our kids (though that would save my family of six so much $ ☺️!). Still, we often neglect their deeper needs without much thought.

We’re not meant to needlessly provoke, but that doesn’t mean we just let them do whatever they want. We have a responsibility to direct them. The word discipline is being used as we would when referring to learning “a discipline”. Instruction, then, is speaking to our duty to admonish our children. Therefore, this is a call to point them to the whole counsel of God, to teach them how to walk the narrow way with Jesus, and to show them abundant life.

We could talk about what that might look like, but there isn’t a “method”. If there is, I sure haven’t found it. What I do know is this: guys, this kind of instruction will never stick unless we live it! If you really want to see your efforts fail, talk to your kids about following Jesus while not striving to do that in your own life. If you don’t make Him a priority, don’t be surprised when they don’t either—no matter how often you’ve told them “He’s important”. Let them see you reading God’s Word and even struggling with it, let them hear you talk about what He’s doing in your life, and, by all means, show them how vital it is to be plugged into a local church! Love them like all of us are called to love the world, by pointing them to the Jesus who is changing your life!


TAKEAWAYS

  1. Struggle with your kids; don’t be a struggle for your kids. 

  2. Take your walk with Jesus seriously and let them see that. And just as a bonus one→ 

  3. Tell them you love them… all the time.

I’m not a great dad, but, man, I want to be. Let’s pray we can love our kids of all ages and stages (and the whole world around us for that matter) like this.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

What Will You Do With Despair? (Psalm 42-43)

VIDEO 

What Will You Do With Despair? (Psalm 42-43)

GIST: There will be good reasons for despair, but the reasons to hope are better!


Welcome to our fifth Summer in Psalms! Fifth. That’s crazy! That means we’re still on the 15-year pace (which would bring us to the end around 2033 ☺️), but Psalm 119 could take us a whole summer by itself, and we hit some longer ones last summer and only got through four…so ☺️. Honestly, though, I love this study and am excited to continue it with you guys. 

This year we’re starting with Psalm 42 which is also the first psalm in Book 2 of the psalter. The entire text is divided into five “books”, and these divisions are older than the oldest manuscripts we have…so they’ve been around for a long time. That number, five, could also be designed to remind us of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). In general, though, the psalms are not divided up by chronology but seem to have been sorted intentionally to cover broad themes. In the biggest of pictures, they focus primarily on songs of lament and praise—addressing our hardships and pointing us to truths about God. Gradually, those laments become overshadowed by praise as if the psalms are drawing us nearer and nearer to the presence of God. 

We won’t notice that fade this summer though. Book 2 continues to hit the struggles we’ll face in life in full force. The first two psalms of the book, in particular, hit despair head-on. In fact, they are so similar in both theme and wording (they even share a refrain), some scholars assume they were originally part of the same song. Either way, I think they’re addressing such a similar topic, we’re going to try and address them together.

Psalm 42 is also the first psalm we’ve come to so far that has a designated author who isn’t David, so that’s worth pointing out. It is attributed to the Sons of Korah. There are several Korahs in the Old Testament, but the most famous one is found in Numbers 16. He led a rebellion against God and His chosen leader, Moses, and he and those supporting him were swallowed up by the earth. Still, Numbers 26 tells us his line survived. That has led many to speculate that this group, which penned many of the psalms and were known as great worship leaders, were descendants of that rebel. If that’s the case, even the title of this psalm is a redemption story. Let’s start by reading it and Psalm 43 together.


Psalm 42: "1 To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?" 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the LORD commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God, my rock: "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?" 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God."


Psalm 43: "1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! 2 For You are the God in whom I take refuge; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3 Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling! 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God."


This psalm brings us face to face with despair. Though we could speculate, we aren’t given any specific context for what this psalm might be referencing. What we do know, is that this brings us straight into the heart of someone deeply broken. This is a reality many of us understand, some at deeper levels than others, and that’s one of the most precious aspects of the psalms for me. They are raw and bring us face to face with real emotions and circumstances we still really struggle with. I know I’m opting to deliberately bite off a larger chunk this morning, so let me give you our gist and dive straight in: There will be good reasons for despair, but the reasons to hope are better!

I. There Will Be Good Reasons For Despair

These two psalms list… a few. I’d say there are at least six. Now, these are by no means the only situations in our world that lead to these feelings, but they’re the ones here, so they’re the ones we’ll walk through together this morning. 


1. Longing For The Presence Of God & Christian Fellowship & Feeling Isolated From It (42:1-2, 4, 6). This is one of the biggest points made in the psalm. He feels isolated from God and fellow believers. Look at a few verses here. “1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?... 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival… My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” 

Deer only pant for water when it’s not there. He’s longing for something he once experienced but is now separated from. He wants to feel the presence of God again. He wants to be fellowshipping with the multitude singing praises to Him. But he’s far away from Jerusalem, the center of worship, and his soul is mourning as it remembers God and that sweet company from a distance. 

2. Taunted By Those Who Call Faith Into Question (42:3b, 9b-10). 3… while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?" 9… Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?" He’s broken and separated from the encouraging fellowship of other believers (which —as we’ll touch on later—is why being part of a local church is so important!). Instead, people see his despair, know about his faith, and call God’s existence into question. When you’re already weak and what you think is your strength is now being questioned, it’d be like having the air knocked out of you. 

3. Being Overcome By Great Need (42:3a,7). Let’s look at two of the most poignant lines from these psalms: “3 My tears have been my food day and night…7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.” Would you say he feels a little overwhelmed by his sorrow? Sorrow, which by the way, this psalm gives no indication is the result of any particular sin he’s committed. He’s in the depths of despair. Tears are his food. It’s what fills him up. It’s all he’s consuming. And the depths just keep coming like waves crashing over and over. Now, he doesn’t deny that these, too, are subject to God’s control (they are “His” waterfalls and “His” waves). Nonetheless, he feels like every time he gets hit, another wave comes before He has a chance to stand back up. Have you been there?

4. Feeling Forgotten By God (42:9).9 I say to God, my rock: "Why have You forgotten me?” This isn’t true. God has not forgotten Him because God never does. However, when everything keeps going the wrong way, it’s easy to feel like He has. Jesus experienced this for you on the cross, and it was devastating. He was despised and rejected, so you’d never have to be. Still, our hearts forget this, and feel alone and left behind. It’s then salt in the would when we are→ 

5. Facing False Accusations (43:1) Psalm 43 starts with a familiar request. It’s one we saw David ask in our earlier studies: "1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” This psalmist, too, is feeling the injustice of being falsely accused. His name and reputation are being run through the mud. If you’ve experienced this, you know how bad it hurts. You want to stand up and fight for your name and character, but sometimes doing that just adds fuel to their fire. 

6. Feeling Rejected By God (43:2) Deeper, though, than the rejection of man is feeling like your God has left you. “2 For You are the God in whom I take refuge; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Like before, this is never true. But these feelings are real, and the brokenness they cause is shattering. 

Let’s never downplay this. There will be plenty of reasons in our lives to feel despair. Experiencing that doesn’t make you “less Christian”. However, there is hope in Christ that can pull us from those depths and→ 


II. The Reasons To Hope Are Better!

One of the lessons we can learn from these psalms is one that comes up frequently in this book of the Bible. When you are facing the effects of living in a broken, sinful world→

Talk To Yourself (42:5, 42:11, 43:5). Remind yourself of the truths of God’s word…even when you’re not “feeling it”. That’s exactly what’s happening in this thrice-repeated refrain: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” 

The first thing the psalmist reminds us to do here is→ 

Consider The Source Of Your Turmoil. You’re going to have it. Your life won’t always be easy. But take time to step back and ask yourself why you’re feeling overcome by it. Your pain is real, but so is His grace. We can’t ever forget either of these truths. Let me just break down how the psalmists actually do this in the psalms themselves. 


WHAT IS THE CIRCUMSTANCE?: 

  • Longing For The Presence Of God & Christian Fellowship And Feeling Isolated From It (42:1-2, 4, 6) 

  • Taunted By Those Who Call Faith Into Question (42:3b, 9b-10)

WHAT TRUTH SHOULD WE REMEMBER?: 

  • Don’t Neglect Or Take For Granted The Fellowship. Ok, this one isn’t directly stated in the text, but it is definitely here by implication. Being separated from consistent fellowship with other believers can be devastating. Yes, I keep up with the modern religious trends, so I know deconstruction and church abuse are buzzwords. I also know that many terrible things have been done in the name of “the church”. That’s inexcusable. However, people misusing God’s design is not a reason to throw it out. Find a church that loves Jesus and wants desperately to point you to Him and get plugged in. They won’t be perfect, but if they are willing to struggle through this walk with you, they’re vital.   

  • Follow His Truth & Light to His Presence (43:3-4). Now, look at what the psalmist tells himself in verses 3-4. “3 Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling! 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God.” You might feel distant from God. People might taunt you by calling His existence and movement into question, but none of that changes His reality or His character. Cry out for Him to send you light in the dark world and point you to the truth when you’re wading through lies and let those lead you to His presence where you’ll praise Him!


WHAT IS THE CIRCUMSTANCE?: 

  • Being Overcome By Our Great Need (42:7)

WHAT TRUTH SHOULD WE REMEMBER?: 

  • He Is Our Rock & Refuge (42:9a & 43:2a). Even though these two verses express that he feels forgotten and rejected at the moment (which we’ll come to next), they start with the truth he needed reminded of—the truth we need to remind ourselves when we’re overcome with despair. No matter how many hits keep coming, we have a solid rock to stand on and a refuge in which to take cover. The rain might continue to pour, but we can remain safe in His unshakeable arms. 


WHAT IS THE CIRCUMSTANCE?: 

  • Feeling Forgotten—or even—Rejected By God (42:9 & 43:2)

  • Facing False Accusations (43:1)

WHAT TRUTH SHOULD WE REMEMBER?: 

Look at the only verse we haven’t talked about yet this morning: 42:8 By day the LORD commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

  • His Love Is Steadfast. It will never forget or reject you. It will stand no matter what opposition you face. 

  • His Song Is With Us. You know I’m a sucker for songs, and this resonated with me. His song, which is a prayer for the psalmist, comes to him at night—when we are most susceptible to despair. He is always with you. He’ll bring to remembrance His words and speak for you in your groanings too deep for words!

  • He Is The Source Of Life. You might feel cut off from Him, but your very life is a testimony of His existence. 

So, talk to yourself about the truth and→ 

Determine To Praise Him. The psalmist makes a conscious decision to praise God even though he’s not “emotionally prepared” to do that. Praise is a choice. Choose to do it, and→ 

Remember Why You Can. You can and will praise Him again. Despair doesn’t have to be the end of your story because He is your salvation and your God!


TAKEAWAYS (RECAP)

  1. There will be good reasons for despair. Life will hurt.

  2. But the reasons to hope are better! God is good.

    1. Talk to yourself!

    2. Consider the source of your turmoil.

    3. Determine to praise Him.

    4. And remember why you can! (He is your salvation and your God!)




Sunday, June 5, 2022

Why Do Our Shirts Say “Love. Equip. Send.”? (Various Passages)

VIDEO 

Why Do Our Shirts Say “Love. Equip. Send.”? (Various Passages)

GIST: The life of the church should be defined by loving, equipping, and sending.

This morning, instead of diving into our Summer in Psalms, we’re going to do something a little different. I’m going to explain a t-shirt ☺️. 

We ordered new shirts for our summer activities with the following phrase on them: “Love. Equip. Send.” If you were in the youth group when I was youth pastor or ever helped out with the activities we did, this might sound familiar. Otherwise, it might not ring much of a bell. However, if you’ve been with us for the past five years, I hope the heart behind this statement is very familiar because it summarizes my convictions about ministry—convictions I find to be deeply rooted in Scriptural directives.

The words themself come from a conversation I had with my dad early in my ministry out here, so somewhere between 10-12 years ago. We were talking about another pastor who had summarized everything his church was about in a statement like this and used it as an umbrella of sorts to gauge the effectiveness of everything they were “doing”. Because, as a church, it can be so easy to just get “busy” without being intentional about how we’re using our time, the idea of having something concrete to run everything through as a sort of litmus test of “are we actively following after Jesus or just being active ” really resonated with me. So I dove in headfirst, as I tend to do, and this statement was born. I wasted a bunch of ink printing pictures that still hang in the youth room today. I spent several months teaching the youth, who are all now grown and mostly married, about these three words. And it became our mantra and the determining factor for what we did. Melissa and I spent a lot of time asking ourselves these questions: Are we loving? Are we equipping? Are we sending? The answers we gave weren’t always good either. At times, it revealed areas where we just… weren’t. 

I actually found those first PowerPoints last week as I thought about this message, as well. They were pretty comical to look back at. Truthfully, they’re all basically useless. Nonetheless, loving, equipping, and sending have remained in our hearts and have been the driving force behind how we’ve tried to serve you guys for the past 5 years. However, in an attempt to do this, especially through some really interesting times in our world, I realized I’d never actually explicitly shared my heart on these. Now, I’ve talked about them. In fact, as I share this with you today, I really think you’re going to recognize some of my pet phrases. Still, since we’re going to be wearing shirts with this message on them, I figured it was time to walk through it together ☺️.

That means this will be something even weirder for me—a more topical message instead of my traditional verse-by-verse exposition, but we’ll make it, I think ☺️.

The gist today is simple, but let me throw it out there, then we’ll pray together: The life of the church should be defined by loving, equipping, and sending. (I’ll also try to keep this short and sweet since I might have set some sort of record last week ☺️.)


I. LOVE

One thing I know you’ve heard us talk about frequently—and something that made it into the first church shirts we had made when I came as pastor ☺️—is this: 

Our Lives Should Be All About Loving God & Loving People. When the scribes were bickering about which commandment was most important “29 Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).

We’ve talked about these verses before. When you break down everything we’re called to in the entire Bible, which includes the equipping and sending we’re about to discuss, it comes down to this: Love God. Love People. Just a few months back, we talked about the implications of this love we’re meant to have for God. It’s meant to define everything about us—everything we think, feel, and do… forever. We aren’t just mindless robots following a cruel tyrant. We’re sinners rescued by the amazing grace and unconditional, unmerited love of our incredible Jesus. That rescue and that transformation should lead us to love Him.

And, like I have said a whole bunch of times I’m sure, the greatly loved should love greatly. In fact→ 

This Is A Mark Of Belonging To Jesus. 1 John 4:8 tells us “8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And Jesus told His disciples “...all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Being a Christian means being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. If God is love, then our lives should be all about loving others as well. This is what people should recognize about you. We should strive to live in such a way that people see how much we love… instead of all the things we hate. 

Likewise→This Is A Mark Of Being The Body of Christ. In the context of John 13:35, Jesus is telling the disciples that the world will recognize them as His because they love each other. That means as a church not only should we be SO intentional about loving the world outside these four walls, but we should also take time to really care about each other as well. Yes, that means planning specific events that give us an excuse to just enjoy one another. It also means being there for each other when we’re broken. That, of course, means taking time to get to know the people in these pews as more than just faces that sit in front and behind you on Sunday mornings.

We should be people defined by love. Ok, now on to the second word→


II. EQUIP

This one is a particular burden for me as your pastor. I want you to know God’s Word, and I want to help foster a love for His Word that extends well beyond Sunday mornings. Here are a few reasons why→ 

What God Calls Us To, He Equips Us For. I think I said that one like two Sundays ago or something. It’s so true! God is going to open doors in your life, and so often, they won’t make a lot of sense. Still, if He is leading you to walk down a path, He’s also going to prepare you to do that. How? Well, look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Have I told you to read your Bibles before? ☺️ Oh, we need it. I need it. If you feel ill-equipped to face this world, it could be because you haven’t been listening much to the one who made it! Without His direction, we’re just going to be stumbling through trying to figure this out on our own.

Furthermore→We Have Reasonable Hope. I love 1 Peter 3:15. “15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” I actually quote this verse a lot, but I’m usually trying to draw attention to the “with gentleness and respect” part (which is super important). However, there is something else here. Peter was inspired to tell us to be ready to tell people why we have the hope that we have. By implication, that means our hope is not just blind faith! It is reasonable to trust the Bible. It is reasonable to believe in Jesus. It is reasonable to follow after Him wherever He leads. But if we’re not taking our walk seriously, then it’s easy to believe the lies of the world that tell us all we have is faith that equates to nothing more than organizational superstitions.

And that’s why I feel→This Is A Solemn Responsibility. I often have people tell me I’m more of a teacher than a preacher. Sometimes it makes me chuckle because deep down I guess I feel like those two should be the same things ☺️, but I completely know what they’re saying…and I pray that never changes. The Sunday you guys called me as pastor, I preached a message titled “Don’t Vote For Me”...because I’m a fan of shock value ☺️. But my point was, don’t look for me to come in and be the answer to all your questions or the thing that gets things going in a good direction…etc. Churches don’t need dynamic leaders, they need Jesus. That’s why I am so burdened to try to walk through the Bible verse by verse (on every Sunday except this one I guess ☺️). I want us to be constantly looking at Jesus. Here’s part of the passage I preached on that Sunday. “26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.” (Acts 20:26-28). And just for fun, here’s a picture from that day five years ago:

Alright, the last one…and the one bound to make most people a bit nervous→


III. SEND

In conversations over the past year, in particular, I have shared my heart with several of you and said something along these lines: one of my desires as your pastor is to keep all kinds of missions in front of you all the time. A church that loses sight of God’s movement around the world is a church that ceases to be an active part of His kingdom. To use a term that was in vogue around the 2010’s, we’re meant to be mission-minded. Here are three quick reasons why→

We’re Meant To Be Witnesses…All Over The Place! What did Jesus tell His apostles right before He ascended into Heaven? “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Local. National. Global. We’re called to be part of sharing Jesus with the whole world. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing in TDL this summer and why we’re gearing up for VBS. That’s why we support the World Changers and college ministries. That’s why we do shoeboxes around Christmas. That’s why we support my parents, Ryan Steel, and others—because we’re called to be witnesses for Jesus… everywhere. That’s why we should always have our eyes open to what Jesus and where Jesus might be calling us to next because→ 

Jesus Told Us To Go. It’s the directive of the great commission. “18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Do I need to break that down any more? Jesus called us to go. It will be scary, but He’s not limited by our fear! Let’s go with Him! And guys, we should want to because→ 

We Can Have Hope And Life Because Jesus… Came. Before we hit our takeaways this morning, let me just end with this final note on the importance of going. If Jesus had chosen not to go, where would you be right now? “10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10). 

Love. Equip. Send.


TAKEAWAYS

Let me just close with a series of questions I think these truths should lead us to ask both of ourselves and our ministry as a church all the time. 

  1. How can we love each other better?

  2. How can we show the love of Jesus to the world around us?

  3. How seriously do we take growing in our walk?

  4. What intentional steps are we taking to grow closer?

  5. Where has God sent us (you) already?

  6. Where might He be calling us (you) to go?

  7. Are we willing to love Him and the world enough to carry His truth wherever and however He sends us?