Charles Colson (who recently died) was the aide to President Richard Nixon who was sent to jail for Watergate. He was known as Nixon’s “hatchet man.” While incarcerated he became a believer. As as a result of his experience as a convicted felon and a new believer, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, now the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families. Prison Fellowship has more than 50,000 volunteers working in hundreds of prisons in 88 countries around the world. A ministry that has blessed millions of people got started thirty-seven years ago because Charles Colson committed a crime.
God’s eternal purposes for Chuck Colson included even using the sin that sent him to prison. Mind you, God did not cause his sin, but God used his sin for good.
This Sunday we begin a new short teaching series, “Living in the Sunshine,” that explores how we can experience real joy daily. We begin this Sunday by looking at Isaiah 43:18-25 and other supporting verses. I believe it is the Lord’s will that we live a joyful life. We find this to be the case as we look at Old and New Testament followers of God. Some lived difficult and hard lives, yet their life was characterized by joy. In fact we discover in John 10:10 that the Lord’s plan is that we experience life at an "abundant level." What does that mean? You have to discover that for yourself.
The story that should matter most to you isn’t Isaiah’s story, or Paul’s story, or even Charles Colson’s story. It is your story. And what I want to say to you this Sunday morning is that the story of your life has not been ruined by your mistakes, setbacks, failures, and sins. You can have a new START (we will use that word in acrostic form to outline the sermon)!
God’s wonderful plan for your life is not buried under the bad stuff of the past. He does has a plan for your life, a wise plan, a loving plan, a sovereign plan, and that plan is still in effect. You haven’t missed it. He is working out that plan in your life today.
The big question: Will you believe that? It really is your choice!
I hope you will join me and others as we explore this subject of new beginnings, a new start, this Sunday. The Lord has something to teach us that will help us live an abundant life.
You are loved. It is a privilege serving you.
We live in a very difficult time. Change is happening everywhere. Rebellion and anarchy make the news regularly. Government leaders in our country are so polarized and there seems to be little effort to find common ground for the good of the populace of our nation. As one person put it, “We seem to be approaching not just a political breakdown, but a cultural meltdown.”
In the midst of all of this, where is the voice of the church? What is our response? What should our voice be? Can the church really make a difference, or has the church become irrelevant? These are significant questions.
My guess is that the culture within which Paul was living was not much different than the culture of today. The people of the first century were facing similar problems and were probably asking these same questions. One of those churches was located in the city of Ephesus.
When Paul wrote his letter to them he was a prisoner in Rome waiting for a hearing before those at the highest level in the government - especially Emperor Nero. What does Paul write to this church about changing the world around them? Simply this: Fulfill your calling! Obey your orders! Don't deviate from the divine strategy! Follow your Lord!
He says to them, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians. 4:1-3)
With those words, Paul reminds the congregation of their true nature and responsibility as a church. He was saying, “If we live like this then we will indeed be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” In the words of the title of this blog, we will then be “keeping the main thing, the main thing.” Life will be lived with purpose - just like Jesus (see John 5:19 and 30; 6:38; 8:28 and 42; 10:37-38; and, 12:49).
The words of Ephesians 4:1-3 remind the church then and now of its purpose. The church is not about us, but about the Lord - always has been and must always be.
Our “Vision Statement” reminds us of our purpose - Building bridges (that is evangelism) . . . Developing people (that is discipleship) . . . Enriching lives (that is connection). When we practice these three distinct and yet interwoven parts, we, too, will be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” There will be people around us whose lives will be changed because salt and light have that ability.
The church is an army under the command of a king. We are not an independent organization, doing what we do under our own strength. We don’t devise our own purpose since that has been mandated by our Lord (see Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8). If the apostle Paul were speaking to our congregation today, I believe he would say, “obey your orders and follow Jesus.”
I hope to see you Sunday. May I ask a favor? PLEASE make your presence at church this week a priority. As I speak about vision, I want you to catch my heart. The Lord wants to use us in a phenomenal way, but we have to be willing to listen and follow. A great place start would be in the worship service this Sunday.
You are loved!
A young man who dives for exotic fish to be placed in aquariums says that one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay the size proportionate to the aquarium you put it in. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of about eight feet.
Now isn’t that interesting. That is in fact what happens to some churches. I have seen some of the cutest little six-inch churches who swim around in a little puddle. Haven’t you? You can look at them and comment on how fine they are. What do you think would happen if they were put into a larger arena? Those churches just might become great.
God help us as a church to not be confined to our little puddle. The Lord brought us into being in 1984 and wants to do great things through us right here in the greater Bristol community. Do you believe that?
Our Mission Statement answers the phrase, “Why we exist” and we answer, “The Bristol Missionary Church exists to fulfill the Great Commission through building bridges, developing people, and enriching lives.” This is our preferred future. This is what we, as a congregation, want to accomplish for the Lord and His Kingdom.