Best of Times, Worst of Times
Sharing Life Together - Go small, grow big!
“Best of Times, Worst of Times!”
I hold in my hands here this morning 50 cards people have sent to me or to my family. That’s not counting the cards my brother David and his family received. That’s not counting the cards my Mom received from many of you – cards you sent to a woman you probably have never met. My Mom says thank you. My brother David says thank you. I say thank you!
Your cards and prayers and text messages and phone calls were so very important. In light of my Dad’s death, I was reminded again just how much I need you – how much I need this place, this church – Jesus body in this world! In MY world! It’s easy to think the opposite. “Ok, my Dad died. I’m tough. I can make it on my own!” You can’t. At least not very well.
I mean no disrespect when I say… when Michael Jackson died I did not shed one tear. Not one single tear. I know he gave us the red leather jacket, the one white glove, serious dance moves (moonwalk/The Thriller), but his life did not intersect with my life. My Dad, however, did! I have participated in some 65 funerals in the last 20 years, but I have never felt sadness like I do now. I confess – I need you all and you need me! Today, I am beginning a new message series straight from the book of Acts! If you need a Bible – now would be a great time to raise your hand. I’m calling this series – “Sharing Life Together – Go small, grow BIG!” I like that – “Go small, grow BIG!” There are three pressing reasons why I need to present this series. Reason #1: Our children’s ministry is busting at the seams. We have so many children here we have to keep dividing classes. Nearly every age group has two classes meeting at the same time. Some classes are fast approaching three. For every class that divides that eliminates a class location for adults. Since we are running out of space on Sunday morning we turned our attention to Sunday Night. We’ve called these classes Sunday Night Sessions. But with some 500 to 550 adults worshipping at Westerville Christian on Sunday morning – we can barely get 75 to attend on Sunday Evening. Here’s Reason #2 of why I must do this series. You can’t short cut spiritual growth! If you want to be like Jesus you must be intentional about growing. SO, here’s my dilemma. We’re running out of room on Sunday morning and few adults return on Sunday Night. Well, that tells me we must try something new! And the funny thing is - it’s not new at all. It’s what the 1st century church did. They shared life together. They experienced community. They had a need for one another and fulfilled Jesus’ prayer in John 17 of becoming one! They went small (that is a few people connected together) and they grew BIG! You will too!
Here’s a 3rd Reason for this Sharing Life Together series. Every human being needs a forum to share the best of times and the worst of times in life! In the last 14 days I’ve experienced such extreme highs and lows. Hospice told my Mom on Monday, July 20 that my Dad had 48 hours to live. My older brother Bill was already at the house. My sister was there. I arrived around 1:00PM and David was there by mid afternoon. My Mom and her four children spent a week together watching over Dad. We have not been together like that for 25 years. We celebrated my older brother’s 55th birthday together on July 21st. We took walks together. We sifted through photo album after photo album. (PHOTOS) My sister and I noticed that all the pictures were of the 1st born and the baby of the family. Bill & David – Bill and David. Middle kids are the forgotten ones. We laughed so hard I thought I was going to pass out. We played the board game Aggravation together and of course my sister beat her three brothers again! THIS TIME WAS SO GOOD, but in the same breath – it was so bad. My Dad moaned in pain. Despite the methadone – despite the liquid morphine. He stopped eating. He stopped recognizing us. I watched my Dad take his last breath on earth. I’ve never seen my Mom cry like that before. I’ve never cried like that. I felt like such a big whuss! My brother Bill wrote out his obituary and we planned his funeral.
Times like these it’s easy to think you’re the only one. Satan wants you to feel this way, but it’s not true. How many of you have had a parent or a close family member die? A church family helps you see that you’re loved, but a small group won’t let you to go through that experience alone.
I will not kid you – I loved my dad. He was a great example to me. Can I show you just what kind of example?
Turn in your Bibles to the 2nd chapter of Acts. I love the book of Acts. Acts was written by the Holy Spirit though Luke – when I think of Acts – I think of ACTIONS. Acts is the actions of the Holy Spirit working through two primary apostles – Peter & Paul. Ordinary Peter – fisherman Peter – the only one who walked on water besides Jesus and the very guy who chopped off Malchus’ ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. This very same Peter - is preaching. He is not any more special than you. He just chose to follow Jesus! Find verse 40 in Acts 2. Wow! 3000 more people because followers of Jesus. That’s incredible. I wonder if Peter heard some of the same comments I’ve heard over the years. I don’t want to become part of a big church. 3000+ is a BIG church. BIG churches are impersonal. People in BIG churches will get lost in the crowd. Not true! If you are part of a small group! Couples’ group. Ladies group. Men’s group. My Dad was part of a men’s small group that met on Wednesday mornings.
There again he’s being an example to me. When I was 16 I wanted to learn to drive. I already knew how to drive an automatic, but I wanted to drive a tow truck (Photo) which meant I had to learn to use a stick shift. I had my license so Dad said one day – “let’s go home – you can drive the truck.” Well, it was a long drive home as I was grinding on the gears. I had this difficulty in multi-tasking. I was trying to get the gears shifted right, so I kept staring at the gear shift. Dad would say to me “Look up. Look up, Greg.” “Stop staring at the gear shift and keep your eyes focused on the road.” My Dad spent his life encouraging people to look up. Look up and see God. Look up and trust Jesus. My dad was a man who majored on the majors. He focused on God’s priorities in his life. ARE YOU? I don’t mean that in a condemning way. I mean it this way – it’s not too late! My dad made a willful decision in 1967 to be a better example of Jesus to his family. You could make that decision today. He spent the rest of his life trying to model God’s priorities for his life! Now just what are God’s priorities for his church – for your life and mine? Find verse 42 in Acts 2. (Read 42-47)
This is the kind of church I pray Westerville Christian is becoming. Not every church is like this. Did you hear about the 7 yr old boy in Utah who led officers on a car chase in an effort to avoid going to church? The car reached 40 mph before the child stopped in a driveway and ran into a home. The Sheriff said, “As a 7 year old, we’re really rather impressed with his ability to have avoided any accidents.”[i] Apparently this 7 yr olds church has no indoor play land. Some churches are worth avoiding. Churches that do not speak the truth. Churches that are not tight knit. Churches which do not celebrate Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Churches that trivialize prayer! For the next four Sundays we are going to unpack verses 42 – 47. To understand what it means to be devoted to the teaching of the Apostles, to be devoted to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and devoted to prayer! But not today! Let me give you some titles of The Shortest Books Ever Written: The Code of Ethics for Lawyers - Americans' Guide to Etiquette - 1000 Years of German Humor - Royal Family's Guide to Good Marriages - Cooking Gourmet Dishes with Tofu - Everything Men Know About Women[ii] - How to Cheat Death / That one is REALLY short. You can’t. You can’t cheat death. My Dad didn’t. Michael Jackson didn’t. Walter Cronkite didn’t. Farrah Fawcett didn’t. Jesus didn’t. On Easter Sunday I said to you. Jesus didn’t cheat death – he beat it! Once and for all. So before you die – before we all die – you’ve got to get your priorities in order! And here’s priority #1! Find Acts 2:36. (Read 36-38) Are your sins forgiven? You won’t go to heaven if your sins are not forgiven. Have you confessed Christ with your mouth? Repented of your sins and continue to repent of your sins? Have you been baptized? Accepting Jesus was my Dad’s first priority. It became my priority. It needs to be your first priority! I want to be crystal clear here – you are going to die someday and IF you die without accepting Jesus you will go to hell. And here’s why! You will be judged by what you did and not what Jesus did for you! You are in essence saying – I don’t care about the cross - I’ll find another way. There is NO other way! It’s either Jesus’ blood or your perfection! Take Jesus’ sacrifice. I know this is bold to say, but I think my Dad is now part of the hallway of faith in Hebrews 11. Look at Hebrews 11:4. My Dad’s lips don’t move anymore. His body doesn’t function, but he’s still speaking. The question is. Have you been listening? (Accept Christ/Sadness)
[i] FOXNews.com/Boy, 7, takes joyride in family Car to avoid church