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2005-10-02_This Time This Place

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This Time, This Place

October 2, 2005

I.  Thank yous:

A.   The Bennett Bed and Breakfast for free accommodations last Saturday night

B.   The Buckleys for the on-going free accommodations

C.   All who painted and caulked and installed and otherwise prepared the Buckley Bed and Breakfast for me and my family.

D.   All who made sandwiches and unloaded the trucks and carried large items up the very narrow, old staircase.

1.     After we unloaded everything at the farm, a few of us came over here to unload my office boxes and when we lifted the U-haul door, sitting there on one of my boxes of books was a sweet little Buckley cat. He was a stow-away and I think he was less thrilled with the situation than I was. But, we spent the rest of the evening together until I returned him back to his home. We bonded, I think.

2.     That night, I spoke with Beth on the phone and we agreed that it would be best—given the size of the house and number of rooms—for the Master bedroom to be upstairs. I was very tired, so I decided to get our bed set up so I could crash whenever I needed to. I took the bedrails up that narrow staircase, then I squeezed the two twin-sized box springs that sit under the mattress up that tiny staircase, then I came downstairs and as though I was looking at it for the first time, stared at our king-size mattress. It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that it would be a class B miracle to get that king-size mattress up the mouse-size staircase by myself! But I did it. I can’t remember exactly how I did it because I immediately passed out on the mattress after I got it upstairs. I just thought you’d be glad to hear that—when necessary—I’m able to pull off a class B miracle.

E.    So many of you have made us feel so welcome and on behalf of my wife, Beth, and myself and our children—thank you. It is good to finally be here. For the past two months we’ve been emotionally leaving Texas and getting to Kansas. It feels good to finally be here.

II.     Introduction

A.   Many of you know that I arrived here in Lawrence just over 7 days ago—September 25 just after midnight. My wife and children arrived on Friday. That’s the “when.” “When” we came to Community Bible Church.

B.   Many of you know that my family and I—and our Texas family (Coppell Bible)—loaded approximately 200 boxes, furniture and toys, bikes and computers, onto two U-haul trucks last Saturday. Our friend, Rick Damuth, drove one truck and I drove the other truck. We came up I-35 out of Coppell, up through Oklahoma City, up through Wichita to Emporia. Then we took 335 to Topeka. In Topeka we got on I-70 and arrived in Lawrence about 11 hours later. That’s the “how.” “How” we came to Community Bible Church.

C.   Many of you knew the “when” and the “how,” but not all of you know the “why.” I know what some of you are thinking: “Why is this perfect stranger—or imperfect stranger (I admit it, it’s true) the new pastor of Community Bible Church. Some of the “whys” are yet to be discovered. We know God is in complete control and He doesn’t always tell us what He’s up to. I believe with all my heart that He has led us to this place at this time.

D.   But from a human perspective—from the perspective of your elder board and myself as I prepared my resume and as they pored over a couple thousand resumes J—the answer boils down to this: Shared values. I’m convinced that I fit here. I think this church wants to accomplish—for the glory of God—the same things I want to accomplish in my life—for the glory of God.

E.    You don’t know me—yet. I don’t know you—yet. But I believe we have shared values.

F.    Over the next several weeks, I want to explore those shared values. Ninety percent of the time, I will be preaching expositional sermons—book by book, verse by verse. But there is a time and place for topical sermons. The topics I will be preaching over the next several weeks will help you to get to know me—how I think, what I’m passionate about, why I’m here. My hope is that as I preach through these topics—these shared values—God will begin to give us a vision for the future of Community Bible Church of Lawrence, Kansas.

G.   The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “…I run in such a way as not without aim; I box in such a way as not beating the air.” His ministry was aimed at something. His work had a clear target. We need to follow his example and clearly define what we’re aiming at. What our target is. By identifying our shared values, we identify our target. Every program, every activity, every decision can be run through this standard—these values—and help us to evaluate whether we’re running without aim or beating the air or whether we’re running in the right direction and hitting the target.

III. What are these shared values?—you ask. Here’s a list—developed by your elder board before we met. We found that we—and presumably you—share the following values:

A.   We value the Bible.

1.     Second Timothy 3:16 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable…” How is it profitable? Read on! “…For teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” You and I need to know this book. But even more than that—we need to do it, keep it, live it, obey it—trained for righteous living. Knowing the Bible is not the end. It’s the means to an end. That end is changed lives for the glory of God. Our aim must be to know this book and encourage one another to be doers of this book.

2.     In fact, all of our values are inseparable from this first one. Everything a church values should be a biblical value—I believe this list is biblical. That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes, churches value buildings too much. Sometimes they value their reputation too much. Sometimes they value their denominational affiliation so much that they are willing to sacrifice their doctrine on the altar of unity. Sometimes churches value certain programs that don’t help accomplish their purpose anymore. All of our values must be biblical.

3.     Expositional, applicational preaching of the Bible has changed my life—made me a better Christ-follower, a better husband, a better father, a better man. I want to provide that kind of preaching and teaching to this church.

4.     My promise to you is that I will follow the example of the apostles by devoting myself to prayer and to the Scriptures. I will work hard at preaching and teaching—and at showing how what is preached and taught should make a difference in our lives.

5.     And, I will be praying that God will continue to use those of you who have had a teaching ministry in this church and raise up new teachers that can refute false teaching and defend Biblical doctrine and show all of us how to be doers of the Word.

B.   We value community.

1.     Over and over and over the Scriptures tell us to love one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, serve one another, exhort one another, accept one another, be kind to one another, submit to one another, comfort one another, teach one another. I made a list of 34 “one-anothers” in my quiet time once.

2.     Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

3.     My promise to you is that I will constantly “consider how to stimulate” this body “to love and good deeds.”

4.     And, I will be praying that you will do the same. That all of us will commit ourselves to being here every Sunday morning and—just as important as Sunday morning service—plugging into a small group. A group that you can connect with. A group that will pray for you by name. A group that will encourage you in your specific, unique struggles.

C.   We value prayer.

1.     Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…”

2.     But we struggle with it. We find ourselves frustrated with our lack of prayer. We often don’t know how to pray, but we value it. We know it’s important—vital to true, significant ministry. God does not need us. He is not bound and unable to work if we don’t pray, but He chooses not to act, not to work, until we pray. If anything eternally significant is going to happen through Community Bible Church in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, we must pray. Because we all struggle with it individually, we—as a church family—must encourage one another and devote ourselves to it.

3.     My promise to you is that I will pray over my sermons and Bible studies. I will pray over my decisions.

4.     I will pray for you. I will pray Scripture over you such as Ephesians 3:16-19: That God would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. My sincere request—and perhaps my greatest need—is that you would pray for me.

D.   We value worship.

1.     Worship is a big deal—I know you agree! Worship of the true and living God is perhaps the greatest theme in all the Bible.

2.     The Book of Psalms—the longest book in the Bible—is devoted almost exclusively to this subject. It climaxes with great emotion and passion in Psalm 150: “Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”

3.     Worship is a lifestyle to be lived, not just what we do between 10 and 11:00 a.m. on Sundays. A. W. Tozer said it well: “God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there.” That’s right! Whole life worship.

4.     This is not to say that what we do on Sunday mornings is unimportant. The Church gathered in corporate worship is very special to God and very important for the growth of Christians and important as well in the process of winning unbelievers to Christ.

5.     My promise to you is that I will be the worship leader of this church. That doesn’t mean I will be the one who picks the songs and plays guitar—I may from time to time. When I say that I will be the worship leader, I mean that I will—as your pastor—do whatever I can to make sure that our worship is biblical and authentic and fresh and God-centered. First and foremost, I will worship. Someone has said that the role of the pastor is basically to help a congregation remember God. I like that. I’ll do what I can to help you remember God and keep your focus on Him.

6.     And, I will pray for you—that all of us will live each day in the presence of God, worshipping our God in spirit and truth. And I’ll pray that when we come together our hearts will be prepared to worship with sincerity.

E.    We value Outreach.

1.     Jesus told the disciples in Acts 1:8, “…You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” My Texas friends think Texas is a whole other country. So, when I told them I was going to Kansas, they thought I was going to the foreign mission field. They think Kansas is “the remotest part of the earth.” And as I followed Scott Schultz out to our new home—the Buckley estate and saw all those wide-open spaces—I began to think myself that Kansas is the remotest part of the earth. That’s actually not a bad way to think about it! Because it’s true! When we remember that Kansas—and Texas—are the “remotest part of the earth” Jesus was talking about, we remember that we are missionaries wherever we are!

2.     Too often, in my experience, churches are like little islands. The community doesn’t know we exist. The community doesn’t care that we exist and they certainly aren’t going to come out to where we are. We’ve got to go to them.

3.     In the great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). We “are” the light of the world, but we must choose whether or not we will “let” our light shine before men. We must work hard at finding ways to put our light on a lampstand so we can give light to our community. We must reach out. We must be missionaries to Lawrence, Kansas.

4.     I don’t know you—yet, but I know this much about you—you want your life to matter for Jesus Christ. You want to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We value outreach. But it’s hard! In a society that is increasingly disinterested and confused about the Christian faith and even hostile to the Christian faith, we must work hard at outreach.

5.     My promise to you is that I will work hard at it. I will model outreach and I will equip you to share your faith clearly and show you how to overcome your fear of evangelism.

6.     I will pray that God will provide us with numerous opportunities to do good works and tell the good news—for His glory.

F.    We value World Missions.

1.     This is really the same point—we value outreach so naturally we value world missions. I’m impressed with how active Community Bible Church is in supporting and participating in world missions work.

2.     My promise to you is that we will continue to support and pray for and go with (from time to time) those who are penetrating other cultures and countries with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3.     I will pray for our missionaries and for you that God will lead you to financially support world missions. That you will participate in life-changing, short-term mission work. I’ll pray that some of you—and some of our teenagers and college students—will one day step out in faith and go to the mission field full time for the cause of Christ.

G.   We value the priesthood of believers.

1.     Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9: “…You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” That’s not written to pastors only. It’s written to all of us. We’re all priests. We’ve all been chosen to—as Peter said—“proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

2.     This church body is full of servants. So many of you are serving in so many ways. You know that every member must be a minister. It only makes sense that if one person tries to do all the ministry in a church, not much will get done. But if we all pitch in and use our gifts and share the work of the ministry, we can change our world!

3.     My promise to you is that I will use my gifts in a biblical manner for biblical purposes. Ephesians 4:11,12 tells us: “And He (Jesus) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…” Notice, God gives pastors and teachers. I’ll never refer to myself as “God’s gift to Community Bible Church,” but I will give glory and honor to God that He gives each of us gifts and uses us to do His work. There’s no pride in that! God does the gifting, then He gives the gifted to a particular church. Our job is simply to use the gifts He’s given us.

4.     And—by the way—I’m not the only “pastor-teacher” in this congregation. That’s a gift, not an office. I’ve met enough of you to know that some of you are gifted to be “pastor-teachers.”

5.     But why? For what purpose does God give pastor-teachers to churches? Read on: “…(v.12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…”

6.     My promise to you is that I will use my gifts to equip you for works of service that this body—the Body of Christ—may be built up and press on to maturity.

7.     I’ll be praying that you will discover and use your gifts as well. That you will discover how God has wired you to be a vital part of this body and that you will use your gifts in His service for His glory.

H.   We value innovation.

1.     By innovation, we mean creativity. Who should value creativity more than those who love and follow and worship The Creator?! God is—by nature—creative. When we value creativity and strive to be creative, we reflect God’s creativity as His image-bearers. We value the need to creatively communicate God’s truth to the people of Community Bible Church and Lawrence, Kansas.

2.     By innovation, we also mean translation. Culture is constantly changing. Language is constantly changing. Think how the words cool and bad and gay have changed over the past 100 or even 50 years. And even though the Bible, the message of the Scriptures is unchanging, we must work hard at communicating that message in a way that gets through to the people of this time and this place.

a)     In the summer of 2004, I went to the Amazon region of Brazil on a short-term mission trip. I got to share the gospel with people who live on the banks of the Amazon river. But I soon learned that the key to the effectiveness of my gospel presentation was a translator. The people in Brazil speak Portuguese. I do not. I know how to share the gospel with people who speak English, but I needed someone to take my message and help a Brazilian understand it. That’s what we mean by innovation. We need to translate our timeless message to the people of our time. We need to learn the language—just like missionaries.

b)    Sometimes, churches value innovation over the message. They’re so caught up in being innovative and cutting edge that they never get around to clearly communicating the good news of Jesus Christ. We must work hard at guarding the gospel message which has been entrusted to us by the apostles and succeeding generations. We must work equally as hard at translating that message in a fresh way.

c)     My promise to you is that I will work hard at both guarding the timeless message and communicating the message for our times.

d)    And, I will pray that we—as a church body—will always maintain Scriptural purity while seeking to be culturally relevant.

I.  I’ve only scratched the surface of these this morning, but we will be exploring these subjects in more depth over the next few weeks.

J.      And let me add that this isn’t an exhaustive list. We also value excellence and racial reconciliation and proper stewardship and perhaps every member of this church could add to this list of eight values. For now, we’ll be emphasizing these eight. But of course this is a short list that—unlike Scripture—can be added to as needed.

IV.      Important Observations

A.   Real values result in action. If we really value these things, our church will demonstrate that by our programs and choices and our stewardship. In fact, all these values fall under the following three activities—actions—which I believe summarize all that we should be doing as a local church body:

1.     Exalting God. As we worship and study Scripture and teach Scripture and pray we exalt God. All of these are opportunities to lift Him up and give Him the glory He deserves. This is acting upon our values.

2.     Equipping Believers. As we teach the Scriptures, not just explaining the text, but explaining why it matters—how it applies to our lives; as we work toward and participate in building community in this body; as we value the priesthood of believers and encourage all to use their gifts in service to the body, we are equipping believers to do the work of the ministry and live the life God calls us to live. This is acting upon our values.

3.     Evangelizing Unbelievers. As we reach out to our community—build bridges to those who desperately need to know the Jesus Christ of Scripture; as we support world missions; as we work hard at being innovative in sharing the timeless message of the gospel, we evangelize unbelievers. This is acting upon our values.

4.     So, real values—if we truly value these things—we will be moved to action.

B.   Real values can change forms.

1.     We are devoted to preaching and teaching the Bible, but not a specific form such as in-home small groups, Sunday School or newsletters. These are forms that work well in some places but don’t necessarily work well in other places. The function is preaching and teaching. The form can change.

2.     We are devoted to worship, but not a specific form—specific musical styles or instruments or time of day or day of the week. We have liberty to adapt and adopt and change these forms as long as we value the timeless treasure of worship.

3.     We value outreach. Our options for acting upon that value include door-to-door evangelism, altar calls, tract distribution, television and radio programming, evangelistic events—we could choose from a hundred different forms. The main thing is that we choose one and get busy reaching out to our community.

4.     The Bible gives us the values we should value and the functions we should accomplish, but not the forms. We have great freedom to mold and shape our programs for our time and our place as long as we make sure we’re staying true to our values and accomplishing the functions of a biblical, New Testament church.

V.   Closing

A.   Near the very end of the Gospel of Luke, something amazing happened. In Luke 24:13ff, we find this wonderful encounter two disciples had with the risen Jesus as they walked on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appeared to them, but they did not recognize Him. After these two disciples revealed their disbelief—or at least their uncertainty—that Jesus was the Great Deliverer, Jesus said something amazing. Look at verses 25-27: “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

B.   Isn’t that amazing? Jesus claimed to be the subject of “all the Scriptures”—meaning the Old Testament.

C.   So all of the Old Testament looked forward to the Incarnation—the divine visit. The day when God Himself would come down here and die for our sins.

D.   And of course, Jesus is clearly the subject of the entire New Testament—right down to the very last sentence of the very last book. The New Testament explains for us what Jesus did.

E.    Shortly after that encounter on the road to Emmaus, Jesus’ disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to teach and preach all over Jerusalem. Persecution drove the new and growing church out of Jerusalem, but it did not shut down the message. It only spread it to new places. All over Judea and Samaria and the entire Roman Empire, people were believing in Christ and receiving eternal life.

F.    As the Apostles’ ministry spread, they began to write down their eyewitness testimony and the truths and the teaching they had received from the Holy Spirit. These stories and letters and doctrines were copied and taken to churches everywhere. For the next few centuries, the gospel spread like a wildfire throughout the Roman Empire in this way. Second and third generation Christians chose to faithfully serve God at that time and in that place.

G.   In the fourth century when the churches came together to clarify what was real—what was truly from the Apostles, they found that it was obvious. The Holy Spirit identified for them—in various ways—what was to be included in Scripture and what was not. These documents officially became a single collection—what we now call “The Bible”. It was like a torch of light in a dark world. That generation of Christians chose to faithfully serve God at that time and in that place.

H.   The next several centuries saw the downfall of the Roman Empire and the world fell into chaos—the Dark Ages. The Church—as the only stable institution during this time in history—became the most powerful institution. Men seeking power infiltrated the Church and corrupted it. But the torch still burned. The light of God’s Word was never extinguished because that generation of Christians chose to faithfully serve God at that time and in that place.

I.  In the 17th century, God used men like Calvin, Zwingli and Luther to hold up the torch and turn the world upside down. The Reformation fanned the flame of God’s Word once again. The wildfire swept across Europe as that generation of Christians chose to faithfully serve God at that time and in that place.

J.       Then God began to raise up missionaries. Men and women across Europe began to spread the fire to other parts of the world: China, Africa and The New World—the United States of America. As the thirteen colonies spread Westward and the number of United States grew, this torch—the light of God’s Word—eventually reached Kansas as those generations of Christians chose to faithfully serve God at that time and in that place.

K.    Today, the light of God’s Word still burns in Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka—and Lawrence. There are many churches in Lawrence. Many of them have abandoned the light of God’s Word for other purposes. Man-centered gospels. Many of those churches, however, have not. They still hold up the torch of God’s Word as the only reliable truth.

L.    So, the point of this history lesson is this: We—Community Bible Church—must choose whether we will be a generation that faithfully serves God at this time and in this place. Every church and every generation of a church must choose whether or not they will faithfully serve God in their time and in their place.

M. God has had faithful servants in every generation. But they cannot serve God now. God has faithful servants all over the world this day, but they cannot serve God here. This is our time. This is our place—yours and mine now.

N.   At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, I am not here to play games. I am not here to play church. I am here to faithfully serve God at this time and in this place. The beginning of the 21st century in Lawrence, Kansas. I have no agenda other than the hope that God can use me for His glory for however many days I have remaining.

O.   I have met and spent a little time with Chuck Thomas. He’s a good man—he’s my brother in Christ. He has faithfully served God in Lawrence, Kansas, for the past quarter of a century in the best way he knew how and in the way he felt God was leading him—using his gifts, his personality, his ideas, his experience, his convictions. He deserves our admiration and respect.

P.    At the same time, I think it needs to be said, that I am not Chuck Thomas. We are different men. Yes, we have the same Lord, the same Spirit, the same seminary degree, the same haircut—the same goals: to exalt God, to equip believers and to evangelize unbelievers.

Q.   But we are different men. I have different gifts, a different personality, different ideas, different experiences, different convictions. I will lead differently—and I’m confident you and the elders and Chuck would have it no other way. I will pastor this church the best I can, in the way I believe God is leading me. Because, it’s not about me. It’s not about Chuck. It’s not about us—it’s about Jesus Christ.

R.   This time won’t last forever. This place won’t last forever. Someday, very soon—I believe—Jesus will return. He will rapture His people away and initiate what the Bible calls the Day of the Lord. Then, He will reign and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords and all things will be summed up in Him. At some point in the midst of those events, He will open up the books—God’s record of how well we served Him in our time and in our place. On that day, we will find out how much this time and this place really matter.

S.    I don’t have all the answers—I don’t know what the future holds. I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet and in fact, I work for a non-profit organization. But I’m convinced that God is going to do great things in and through Community Bible Church of Lawrence, Kansas—for His greater purposes and the glory of His name. I believe that because we have the promise that God stands ready to strongly support those whose hearts are completely His. And I believe that because I know you well enough to know that you desire to serve God faithfully at this time and in this place. I know that you—as I—desire to hear Jesus Christ one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

T.    May He be glorified and exalted and praised and lifted high in and through Community Bible Church as we serve Him together at this time and in this place.

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