Celebrating the 4th of July!

Celebrating the 4th of July, 2014

                 ( the 238th birthday of the United States of America)

                                   Written by Tim Appleby with credits to David Barton of Wallbuilders.com

June 28, 1787 marked the 227 anniversary of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin calling the Constitutional Convention to prayer after several weeks of difficult discussions and frequent impasses. The Founders well understood the need to seek God and the important part that God played both in establishing this nation and in writing of the Constitution.

As Alexander Hamilton reported after its completion: “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God (Luke 11:20) never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests”.

James Madison agreed, and reported: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution”.

As far as these delegates were concerned, the finger of God – that is, His Divine power- had guided their writing of the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin also believed this to be the case, explaining: “I beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired when it formed the new federal Constitution….yet I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being”.

As we look forward to celebrating America’s 238th birthday, let us remember that God truly has had His hand involved in the formation of our government and let us take time out, as George Washington recommended, “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor” on America again.

To learn more about the real foundations of this great nation join me this fall in GateWay’s Family Growth Night class: Our American Heritage with David Barton.


“All Things New” Part – 3 “Day 3”

We have discussed Day 1 and Day 2, this now brings us to Day 3. After Day 1 where all is lost and Day 2 where all is dark we come to Day 3 where all things are made new. And that’s the day we celebrate today. He is Risen! Day 3 is Resurrection day. Hallelujah. And I have good news for you this morning we talked about the day after, remember we read that author, The Day After. There’s a day after the Day After. There’s a day after Day 2 and it’s the one that Jesus promised would come Day 3. Day 3 is the day when Paul’s third important truth is seeing Christ was brought back to life just as the scripture had predicted. This was all in the plan of God. This was all prophesied and declared beforehand.

Day 1, Day 2 and the Resurrection of Day 3 all foretold in the prophets just as the scriptures said God kept his promise. That’s the message of Day 3. He had told his followers, “I’m going to rise.” He even told them I’m going to rise on the third day. He had also said in John 2:18  “destroy this temple…” and he was speaking of the temple of his body he said to them one time, “destroy this temple and on the third day I’ll raise it back up.” That’s Day 3. You see, it’s Day 3 that it starts to dawn on us, on Day 3 we realize that Satan has not beaten Jesus. On Day 3 we realize that Jesus has beaten Satan. On Day 3 we come back to our confidence we come back to our hope we come back to our authority that our message is right and that our faith was right and that his promise was right and most importantly on Day 3 we come back to the reality that he is a king! And we shouldn’t have discounted his promise and we shouldn’t have looked at him on Day 2 and decided that he wasn’t a king because he is a king. And he has the authority to make all things new.

Just as the scripture says in John, Chapter 20 the Apostle John, one of his followers, wrote this beautiful Gospel that contains all the miracles and the things that Jesus did to change so many people’s lives and as he’s concluding this Gospel John writes these words; “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples and they’re not even written in this book but these miracles these stories are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus IS the Messiah, the King, the Anointed. These are written so that you will know for sure he was that king that he was crowned as and that as a king he has the authority to change your life and if you believe by believing him you will have life in his name.” Yeah, it’s a king that makes a promise to you and can keep the promise to you. When the king says behold I make all things new, you can take it to the bank baby because this is what the word of God says. We read at the end of the book in Revelation, Chapter 2; and he who sat on the thrown…” Who sits on the thrown? The King. He who sat on the thrown said what? “Behold I make all things new.” This is not the pious promise of a politician. This is the king and if you put your trust in the king and you give your life to the king he can take you out of Day 1 and past Day 2 into Day 3 into a place where all things have become new. Whoever is in Christ is a brand new creation. Old things have passed away and all things can become new.

Let me just talk to those of you reading that might be in a Day 1 experience in your life right now. And I know you’re here. I know there are people reading right now that are in a place where you feel like everything has been lost. Your expectation is shattered. Your dream has been broken and destroyed. You feel abandoned perhaps by God. And as you look around it’s like everywhere you look evil is winning and righteous and the right things are being defeated and broken people are being crushed and you say, “What’s the point of all this?” Maybe at one point you were even a follower and you say, “Man I’m out because this doesn’t make sense to me anymore.” You feel like all is lost and you’re ready to walk but I want to just remind you what your key is for Day 1. Your key is forgiveness. Receiving God’s forgiveness for the blame that you must have at some level in your own life for where your life is to receive God’s forgiveness for your sins the bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. That’s not a put down that’s a reality that we all must wake up to. We have all sinned we need God’s forgiveness but we’ve all been sinned against and we need to release those who have sinned against us. We need to extend forgiveness. If we do that we’ll survive Day 1.

I want to talk to you if you’re in the midst of the Day 2 experience in your life. You’re in tomb-time. It’s dark. You can’t breathe nothing’s moving nothing’s alive nothing’s happening but you remember somewhere a promise of Day 3. Maybe you’re humiliated because you feel like following Christ was a pipe dream you feel like it was a fool’s errand. I followed him and what did he get for my marriage? I followed him and what happened to me financially? I’ve followed him and everything went haywire so I’m out. Before you stop before you quit let me remind you Day 3 is right here and the king has the authority to grant you an all things new experience in your life if you’ll put your trust in him. In the worst moment you can trust God and he can be trusted. Put your trust in him and follow him as your king.

Hosea 6:1-3, “Come and let us return to the Lord, for he is torn and he will heal us. He is smitten and he will bind us up. After 2 Days he will revive us and the 3rd Day he will raise us up.” And it goes on and says, “And we shall live in his site if we follow on to know the Lord.” Are you prepared to believe him, are you prepared to follow him into your 3rd Day? Because he has the authority to grant you a new creation in life – he has the authority to change everything for you but you’ve got to trust him.

I want to say a prayer over you. I’ve said a prayer for you but now it’s your time to pray it’s your time to reach out to God. I’m not sure where you might be as you’re reading this. Maybe you’re from a Buddhist background maybe you’ve come from a Catholic background. Maybe you don’t know too much about, or maybe you’ve been serving God your whole life. I’m not sure where you are but the next step for each of us today is to pray and to believe. So I would just love it if you would join me and say it out loud right where you are. Let this be your way of reaching back to God. He’s reached out to you through Christ. Now reach back to him through your faith and say yes Lord I will pray, I will trust I will follow.

PRAYER: Father God, thank you that I can trust you and experience a new beginning in Christ. I’ve known such loss and pain in my life but today I have faith in you. Lord Jesus I choose to follow you,cleanse me and teach me to trust in you always. Thank you for making all things new in Christ name. Amen! Know that whatever day you’re in, Day 3 is coming, so keep believing and trusting!

All Things New – Part 2 “Day 2”

We now come to the experience of Day 2. Day 1 all was lost. The experience of Day 2 is something different. By the end of Day 1 Jesus was taken down from the cross he was as dead as you can be. His lifeless body was laid in that borrowed darkened tomb and his followers his faithful friends were scattered to the four winds nowhere to be found. Their world had fallen apart. They weren’t sure if the authorities were going to come through and sweep all of them up. They were devastated, they were in shock and just out of a sheer sense of survival probably they ran! The fled in fear and confusion just to survive Day 2.

What’s Day 2 all about? Day 2 is the day that we connect to Paul’s 2nd truth that he was placed; Jesus was placed in a tomb. That’s part of our Christian faith. We know that he died on the cross for our sins but also that he was dead and he went through tomb time! A time of darkness a time of suffocation that’s the day that we commemorate today as Holy Saturday.

Kathy and I were missionaries in the Philippines. In the Philippines they call the day before Easter they call it Black Saturday. Suggesting the hopelessness of that day and how that crushing suffocating feeling must have been all over the land. The darkness must have seemed so deep and hope must have seemed so far away for the followers of Jesus.

We all experience the Day 2. What is Day 2 mean to us? I like the way one author put it, he said, “Day 2 is the day after. A day we’ll all know it’s the day after the diagnosis of terminal cancer. The day after a spouse walks out, it’s the day after the law suit is filed is against you and the day after the verdict, it’s the day after 911 call, The day after the death of a loved one. The day the awful news is still sinking in.”

I know all of us have experienced the “Day 2.” A day that would change our lives in one way or another forever and it was tragic and it was dark for the followers of Jesus probably as dark as the Day 2 can be because we’re not just talking about a relationship between Jesus and his followers where Jesus was a nice spiritual man, he was a very special guy, he was a great teacher and he had close friends and it’s so tragic when we lose friends or somebody dies in such a horrible and cruel way. It was far beyond just the loss of a friend. For Jesus in their minds; they were anticipating that Christ was the Messiah, their King, not just a spiritual teacher and leader, not just a friend to the followers of Jesus the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah that was coming to change the world forever and make all things new! He was going to be the one to wipe out poverty and wipe out injustice and to get the Romans off of the back of the people of God. He was going to be the king so when he came into the city of Jerusalem and they were waving palm branches this wasn’t just a friendly greeting, they were hailing their king!

And so when the followers of Jesus saw their king dying a horrible and bloody death if Palm Sunday was his coronation Day 2 was their fallen king’s funeral. This was not just the end of a relationship it was the end of a dream. It was the death of every expectation that life would change and that life would be different for his people. It was devastating for them. All was dark on Day 2. A Day 2 is a day of unmet expectations, a day of numbing disappointment. A Day 2 experience is a day where we have questions, millions of questions and not one answer!

There is no explanation and it’s on Day 2 that we face probably the most difficult test that any follower of Jesus can face. And it goes like this, I’ll put it to you in a form of a question, here’s the test; Are we willing to follow him when our expectations are unmet? Let me put it to you this way; when the king doesn’t save your house will you still follow him? When the king doesn’t save your job? When the king doesn’t heal as quickly as you expected? When the money and the people change in unexpected ways, ways that you were and you thought that you could rely on this king to do something for you but that expectation is broken, will you then follow him or will you turn and walk away? That’s the greatest test. And so we make our decision Lord Jesus I will follow you no matter what because I remember your promise and Jesus I cannot forget what you did on that cross for me. And in the darkness of this tomb that I’m in, in the suffocating blackness of Day 2, I’m not going to let go of my faith. I’m going to hold on and I’m going to believe what you said because you said you would make all things new. And even though the schedule is different what I expected I’m still trusting you and I’m still believing you. By the way, that’s the key – trust.

In my first post on “All Things New” i shared with you that If you want to make it through Day 1 forgiveness is your key. If you want to make it through Day 2 TRUST is your key. You trust him through death and you trust him through darkness and you trust him through suffocation because you’re this close to your breakthrough. Never give up on Day 2, never throw in the towel never walk away from Jesus on Day 2. If you’ve walked away maybe you’re reading this today and essentially you’ve walked away you’ve just said well, I’ll go to church but in my heart I’ve walked away because my expectation has been broken and it didn’t happen the way I was expecting it. Never give up on God especially on Day 2 because you’re closer to Day 3 than what you know. Trust him and don’t be defeated by the loss of Day 1 and don’t be discouraged by the darkness of Day 2 just say to yourself for me there’s no turning back and I’m going to follow Jesus no matter what!

Be sure to catch the conclusion of “All Things New” in my next Post “All Things New – Part 3 “Day 3”

All Things New – Part 1 “Day 1”

Well, we’re together for another Resurrection season and we’re celebrating that glorious day that Jesus rose from the dead a day that I want to reframe and repurpose and reintroduce to you as Day 3. Everyone say Day 3. There’s an old song that goes like this, “What a difference a day makes….. 24 little hours….” Remember that song? I think that was a Gloria Gaynor song back in the day and there were others that did it but it’s really, really true. What a difference a day makes. How in your life things can be smooth and everything’s coming up roses and life is great and then “snap” the very next day disaster strikes and there’s trouble and there’s difficulty. We know plenty about that in Silicon Valley. And then it can go the other way, you’re in trouble and you’re in darkness and then just as fast as trouble came you realize wow, the sun is out the birds are singing the problem has passed and I’m OK. I made through that dark, dark time. What a difference a day can make.

That, really, is the truth when it comes to what we’re here today to celebrate and to commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’re in that 3 day episode: Day 1 was awful! Day 2 was even worse! But ohhhh Day 3, Day 3 what a difference a day makes! That was the day that all things became new!

Now I want to direct your attention to our scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, this is our main text; Paul the Apostle is writing. Paul says, “I passed on to you the most important points of doctrine that I had received Christ died to take away our sins. He was placed in a tomb and he was brought back to life on the 3rd day just as the scriptures had predicted.”

There’s something about that 3rd day. Redemption and life on the 3rd day just as the scriptures had said. That’s more than the central truth of our Christian faith; that’s actually a reason for us to hope when it feels like our world is falling apart. And if you’re facing loss, you’re facing darkness, your difficulty- your pain in your life if you’ve had a really rough year or a really rough month or a really rough week. I want to tell you that Jesus Christ can make all things new. I want to say that to you boldly that he has the authority to completely change your life and cause you to pass from one day into another day entirely. I want to describe 3 days that offer each of us a powerful and fresh beginning in our lives.

Let’s start with “Day 1.” This is the day we know as Good Friday. We just celebrated it days ago. Day 1 was the day that the Son of God was betrayed by a friend. He was arrested and jailed as a revolutionary. On Day 1, brutal Roman Soldiers took turns beating and whipping and brutalizing the body of this innocent man. They forced a mocking crown of thorns over his head. On Day 1 they stripped Jesus of his clothing and nailed him to a cross under a sign designed to humiliate him, “King of the Jews!” And on Day 1 darkness covered the land and it looked to everyone who was observing like Satan had won, like Satan had defeated the Son of God and that the Son of God had lost the battle. For the followers of Jesus Day 1 was a total disaster. Day 1 was a day when their world was falling apart, collapsing. It seemed that everything was lost.

Now Jesus had warned them that Day 1 was coming, he had told them beforehand. But he also gave them a promise, “When Day 1 comes here’s what I want you to remember, another day is coming.” Look at those words that he gave to his disciples. “Listen, we’re going to Jerusalem where the predictions, all the predictions of the prophets, concerning the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Romans. He will be mocked.” These are the words of Jesus in advance of these events. He will be treated shamefully and spit upon. They will flog him and whip him and kill him! But! On the 3rd Day he will rise again! He told them in advance about Day 1 and Day 2 but he also prophesied in detail about the 3rd day.

Now if the disciples on Day 1, this day of tragedy and sorrow, if they had remembered what Jesus had said they would have more peace in the midst of their Day 1. But let’s not be too hard on them because you’ve had a Day 1 and I’ve had a Day 1 and we all know that on Day 1 it’s easy to forget the promise when everything is collapsing when you’re disappointed when you’re broken when you’re in shock it’s really easy to let your faith slip. On Day 1 it can be really hard to believe that there’s ever going to be a good day again. But if we remember the promise we’ll know that that day is coming.

How can we understand Day 1 spiritually? What’s the importance of Day 1? Well Day 1 is the day that Paul’s alluding to and the first key there that he mentioned this is the day that Christ died to take away our sins. It’s Death Day. It’s the day of suffering it’s the day of betrayal. Why would Christ have to die to take away our sins? You see righteousness requires a settlement. A settlement for the offense of sin and Christ alone was able to pay in God’s amazing plan the death and the resurrection of Jesus would clear the sin debt of anyone who would believe and anyone who would receive.

It is so important to me that you would understand exactly why Jesus died and exactly why it’s important for you that I’ve prepared a book for you and I’d like to give it to you at the end of the service if you’d like it. There’s just enough for those of you who have the question; Why would Jesus have to die and what does that mean for my life? We’ll make this available to you. But it was a payment of a sin death and that our faith in him results in forgiveness and new life for every one of us.

But there’s another important aspect of Day 1 that I want us to think about. Day 1 also suggests to every one of us that there may be a time for us when all seems lost because if that happened to Jesus and if a Day 1 happened to his disciples then we, as his followers, would expect also that we at times might face a Day 1 opportunity. A moment when it looks like all is lost! A moment when we feel betrayed maybe when we feel stripped when we fell forsaken and abandoned. But as followers of Jesus I want us to keep one thing in mind and that is this; that we can hold on through the pain of Day 1 if we know that Day 3 is coming.

There’s a promise for us when we’re going through the experience of Day 1 that Day 3 is on its way if we’ll hold on in faith. By the way there’s a key to making it through Day 1 its’ called forgiveness. Everyone say forgiveness. How do I make it through Day 1 if I’m going through it? Forgiveness is the key. First of all the disaster that happens to us on Day 1 may be partly be our fault. I’m not saying it is in every case but sometimes we might have had a share in the breakdown of our marriage or the breakdown of our finances or the trouble that our world is in. We’re responsible for a lot of our own pain and we need the forgiveness of God. Amen? Be sure to read the rest in the next post entitled “All Things New – Part 2 ‘Day2′”

We as the church [Lifeguards for hurting people]

A quick thought today: We as the church, the body of Christ are meant to jump in after drowning people; people who are hurting, lost, sinners, and seekers. When we see someone who has hurt or sin in their life we can’t reject them! We don’t know what their stories are, or how they ended up where they are now. What if we as the church see someone walk into our doors with bruises? Do we avoid sitting next to them? Or should we point them to the Healer?

And the church is not a bunch of umpires, you know, calling people out, saying who’s out and who’s safe. The church is supposed to be a group of life guards. People jumping in where people are drowning, not saying to people well you deserved it, that’s what you get. Anymore than we would say to someone that’s drowning in a lake, “Well, you know, couldn’t you see you went past the boundary, you know you’re not supposed to be out there. What’s the matter with you, idiot! I hope you go to hell.” No, the church has got to be jumping in and saying, “We’ve got to get these people and pull them, and rescue them and save them!” This is why Jesus came, to save! He came to heal, not to condemn the world. Just so you know, we have resources as a church for our members. Maybe you know somebody that needs to get help. Please visit our website, call our church offices. We’re serious as a church about helping people, about healing people, and seeing this mess cleaned up. I love what Christie Hagion, one of our own said to me about past hurts and pains, in an old marriage Christie went through years of physical, emotional, and mental abuse, she says: “I have found that Jesus is more than enough to heal and restore all that the enemy stole from me.” She says, “I always tell people this…,” And this is my main though for today, “There is no wound so deep that Jesus cannot heal it.” Isn’t that awesome?

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter how far you’ve fallen or how much you’ve messed up, how bad you hurt or how many times you’ve told God you’re going to straightened up. Here’s what matters; Jesus loves you, you can be healed, you can be whole. Whether the sin was yours or someone else’s, he can repair you. And we as a church are here to lead the hurting to Him.

Thanksgiving in America

Information provided by David Barton of Wallbuilders.com and Tim Appleby from Gateway’s Grow class “American Heritage Series”
The tradition of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings dates back almost four centuries in America. While such celebrations occurred at Cape Henry, Virginia, as early as 1607, it is from the Pilgrims that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims left England on September 6, 1620, and for two months braved the harsh elements of a storm-tossed sea. Upon reaching America, William Bradford, the elected governor, had his wife be the first fatality. Mrs. Bradford fell overboard and perished. After disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they had a prayer service and began building hasty shelters, but unprepared for the harsh New England winter, nearly half died before spring.

Yet persevering in prayer and assisted by helpful Indians, they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer. The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast in December, 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends – America’s first Thanksgiving Festival. This began an annual tradition in the New England colonies that slowly spread into other colonies.
As you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this year, remember to retain the original gratefulness to God that has always been the spirit of this, the oldest of all American holidays.
Some people believe America has strayed from the religious convictions of her early fathers. Perhaps this is true. But the real question is not “where is our country’s faith,” but “where do you stand?” on the issue of acknowledging God in your life. For what and to Whom are you grateful?

Have you forgotten the source from which your blessings have come? Have you acknowledged “the providence of Almighty God” in your life? Believing in God is one thing, but you must also take the next step: you must come to KNOW Him.

Some of our founding fathers made public statements about Thanksgiving:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday the 26th day of November 1789… that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.” George Washington

“I appoint…a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God…to ask Him that He would… pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth…and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.” Thomas Jefferson

“We often forget the source from which the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies come…No human wisdom hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…I therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” Abraham Lincoln

“I…appoint…a day of public thanksgiving and praise to render to God the tribute of praise for His unmerited goodness towards us…by giving to us…the Holy Scriptures which are able to enlighten and make us wise to eternal salvation…And to pray that He would forgive our sins and … cause the religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the people on earth.” John Hancock, Governor , Mass.

America has a very rich history. The “Founding Fathers” and what they did, is where the term “American Exceptionalism” is derived. Not because we are better than anyone else, it is because NO other nation on earth has documents like the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. However, over the last 70 years some “progressives” have been busy revising our history to minimize and ultimately eliminate God from government and public display. They are working hard to eliminate the very thing that made this country great. If you are like me, you don’t know what you don’t know! Join me in the “American Heritage Series” and learn the real truth of America’s founding. The facts presented are right out of “original documents.”
I have a few questions for you to test your knowledge of American History:

1. How many references to Almighty God are in the Declaration of Independence?
2. What U.S. President was the first to have an actual photograph taken?
3. Of all the “isims” what is our form of government?
4. Where did the idea of “separation of powers” come from?
5. According to the Federalist Papers, are the 3 branches of government equal?

If you can answer these questions correctly in the comment section below, let me know and I will have a special gift for you.
Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.
Tim Appleby for the American Heritage Series

The Power of Love

The Power of Love
Pastor David Cannistraci – October, 2013

If you take a look at God’s word, Matthew Chapter 22, the words of Jesus. An expert in the law tested Jesus with this question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, this is the first and greatest commandment and the 2nd is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Let’s talk about that verse of scripture. My thought in a nutshell for us goes like this; the love of God is moving us. The love of God is moving us to be a church that makes an eternal impact on our community. God’s love is gripping us and moving us to a place of focus and commitment where we are not a church that just goes unnoticed in our community but a church that exists for a reason, a church that matters, a church that is relevant, a church that is connecting with the community and making a huge difference. I want to share with you 3 things that I’d like you to know about the power of love in that regard.

Number 1: Love is the main thing. At least if you ask God, you say, “God, what’s the main thing? What should we be like? Jesus said it’s LOVE.An expert in the Mosaic Law, some of the translations say a lawyer asked Jesus this question and he was a lawyer but he was a lawyer of the Old Testament Law. In other words he was a theologian, he was an intellectual and we think that he was asking Jesus this question kind of poking fun at him, this untrained theologian, this carpenter from Galilee coming to the big city of Jerusalem, teaching. So we have some questions for you Mr. Galilee Bible Teacher! We’d like to know, “What’s the most important thing about the law to you? Tithing? The offerings that we bring to the temple? The sacrifices that we give? Give us your opinion Jesus, tell us what’s more important and then we’ll all have a good laugh.

And Jesus took that Pharisee to school. And he said it’s not any of these things that you say. He gave the most brilliant answer, he taught them this; that love is the primary point of everything that was written in the law and the prophets. The MOST important truth of Moses, of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of all the Lord, all the prophets, the whole point was about LOVE. And it makes sense, you know why? Because even though we’re supposed to be holy, we’ll never be holy until we love God. Because we won’t even try, we won’t bring our offerings to him if we don’t love him and if we don’t love our neighbor we’ll cheat with his wife, we’ll steal his animals and we’ll murder him.

So while all of the laws are important the thing that holds it all together and makes sense out of it all is love. Jesus said, just forget about 600 laws in the Old Testament you only have to remember 2 things, love God and love people. And that’s what shut that Pharisee’s mouth because he had never heard anything like this before. I mean that was the brilliance of Jesus as a teacher as a master to boil down all these laws and all these rules of the Old Testament. To side step the trap that this guy tried to set for him and bring it down to two simple things; love God and love people.

There was a Pharisee that got that, he understood that and it became a big part of his life his name was The Apostle Paul. You might have heard of him, he wrote a famous chapter on love called the Love Chapter and right after that he gave us a commandment and it really says that love is the main thing. He said let love be your highest goal. Wow!

There’s kind of a humorous dialog in churches about which ministry is the most superb ministry. People in the youth ministry predictably feel that the most important ministry in the church is the youth. That’s the church of tomorrow. People in the prayer ministry feel prayer is the most important ministry because without prayer everything falls apart. People in the worship ministry think… yeah, you get the idea, right? And you know, those things could be argued and they’re all true on one level or another but Paul says here’s your number 1 goal; LOVE. Because when you have that in its right place when you have that in a church when you have it in a family when you have it in a community then everything else comes into its right place and right perspective.

Living for God, and really I hope we can get this today, that living for God really requires us to keep the main thing the main thing. That’s what churches need to do. Churches need to keep the main thing, the main thing. And what is the main thing everybody? LOVE. Wow! And when you get that everything else falls into its proper place. It’s so easy to make serving complicated you know, do this and don’t do that make sure you don’t forget this and there’s so many vital things to do. We should be doing outreach we should be doing prayer we should be doing scripture memorization we should be doing children’s ministry we should be feeding the poor and on and on and on and on and on it goes and it can get very overwhelming and very confusing. Jesus says, “Hey! Don’t get overwhelmed! Keep it simple. Keep the main the main thing. If you’re loving God and you’re loving people you are fulfilling the will of God for your life.

How many like it when it’s simple? That’s what Jesus says, “Keep it simple. Keep the main thing the main thing.” When he said that the 2nd commandment, that’s what we’re talking about loving our neighbors. The 1st commandment is loving God. The 2nd one love you neighbor that that is only 2nd to the idea of loving God. So that’s a pretty high commandment. Who’s our neighbor? What does it mean neighbor? Does that mean the person that lives right next to you? A neighbor is anybody that you encounter in this world. It’s your fellow man. It’s your fellow human being. It could be somebody that you’ve known for 40 years, could be a person in your family, you wife your husband your child could be your neighbor. Or it could be a total stranger, the guy that cuts your grass or the guy that accepts your mail at the post office. It doesn’t really matter, it’s any human being that you encounter at any level and the command is to care!

That’s what love really is. Say what is love? Love is making another person’s needs a priority. Love is not this; “Somebody needs to do something about that! You know, our church should really, you know our government should really, you know somebody ought to really… love is making it a personal priority to care for people in your life. Now of course we’re limited in what that can mean and what that can look like but there’s no excusing us in any way from that commandment to love God with all our heart and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words to treat other people the way that we want to be treated is another way that Jesus taught us.

Parents love and so they meet the needs of their children. Husbands love so they meet the needs of their spouse, their wife. God loves so he meets our needs. Thank God he does. And he is love the bible teaches. He sacrificed his own son to meet our need of forgiveness. His love by the way is unconditional. Aren’t you glad for that? In other words we don’t have to earn his love we don’t have to perform in order to merit his love. He just loves us the way we are. Thank God.
1Corrinthians 13:3; Paul the Apostle said, “No matter what I say (this is the Message translation) No matter what I say, whatever I believe, no matter what I do, I’m bankrupt about love. Love is the main thing.”

Number 2: The power of Love: Love has the power to move us. Love is the most motivating force on earth. You will start moving if you love. You will do things that you never thought you would do. You can do things that you never dreamed that you could do once you find love. Love will move you. It motivates you.

There’s a great pastor in the Hawaiian Islands, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, and he talks about how when he was learning to run. He’s a cross country runner and he asked his coach how can I be a great cross country runner? And he said, “It’s simple! Love running! If you love to run you’ll be a great runner but if you’re doing it just because I’m forcing you to do it or if you’re doing it to because you want to get into shape or you’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do or you’re doing it because somebody else is doing it and told you it’s great. But if you don’t love it yourself you will never be a great runner. You’ve got to love running!” Because if you love running you will run and run and run and run! And when other people are going to the beach, you’ll run! And when other people are doing what they do and they say, “Come along with us and do that.” And if you have a choice you’d say, “I’d rather run!” And that’s how you become a great runner.
The point is simple! Whatever you love, that’s what moves you.

Genesis 29:20, even the bible teaches this; Jacob worked 7 years for Rachel but ohhhh how the time passed. Why? Because he loved her! Un-convicted – We need more love. Who needs more love? Don’t look at me like you don’t need love. I said who needs love? Don’t leave me hanging out here! LOL. Now, what if serving God could be that fun? What if ministry could be that fun!? That we love God so much; where did the time go!? Instead of, “Alllllright, I’ll go to church, alllllright, alright, sure I’ll serve on the sound crew, alright, alright, alright leave me alone! I’ll do it for you! What if life could be that enjoyable it’s like this; where did the time go? Where did all these years I’ve been serving the Lord, it’s like a dream that has passed so quickly.

What’s the difference? The difference is love. If you’re playing your guitar for love there’s joy in it. There’s peace in it, there’s fulfillment in it.

Here’s the last piece of this… Number 3: We’re talking about the power of love. Love is what transforms people. That’s powerful. Love is something that will change you. It’s what changed me. When I really knew and believed in my heart the love that God has for me, when I first got saved, when I really understood that God saw me and he loved me and that he was for me, I mean that love just broke all kinds of stuff. That’s what changed me. And my response to that kind of love was; Lord, whatever you want. I’ll give you my life. I’ll do whatever you want. That LOVE of God is what transformed ME. It made me stronger it made me more willing it made me hungry it brought all kinds of change into my life. That’s the power of love.
I think about our city and I think about how are we going to change thousands of people’s lives? How could we possibly do it? Are we just going to have like better websites? Is that how we’re going to do it? Are we going to make a mark on this community because we have a better ad slogan or what’s really going to reach people in our community? Keeping the main thing the main thing! It’s going to be love. Love is what changed you and love is what’s going to change our neighbor. That’s what everybody’s hungry for. That’s what everybody needs. It’s what changes people. Love is our message. We don’t have a message of condemnation and judgment. What’s our message? Our message is love.

John 3:16; God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only son. That’s our message, so that whoever believes in him, whoever has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. That’s something we can share. We don’t have to make people feel ashamed. They already understand shame. What we need to do is say, “There’s an answer for the shame, there’s a healing for the hurt.” And draw people to that love that gives.

There’s a lot of talk, even among ministers, it’s kind of shocking to me, is the church going to make it? Is the church relevant? The church is on its way out. You can go to the Christian book store and you’ll read hundreds of books about how Jesus is failing miserably right now in building the church. I think it might be flavored by American Christianity. I can tell you, as a person who has gone all over the world, the church is far from dying! The church is as alive as it’s ever been. It’s vital, the Holy Spirit is moving. And you’re a part of something great. You’re not a part of something that’s about ready to fail. Trust God enough. I think he knows, he hasn’t read your book, but I think he knows what he’s doing. Is the church relevant to our culture? Those are interesting questions. Here’s what I think; a church full of love is never irrelevant. A church that loves people a church that actually cares about its community and is connecting, a church that’s fulfilling the love your neighbor thing, a church that’s loving God and loving people can never be irrelevant because love is the most relevant force on earth. Love can bring a biker and a grandma together! Love can transform any person’s life. Love can bring friendship and connection between the worst of enemies, love is the greatest force. So, if we’re a church operating in love then there really is no limit to what we can get done. We can get amazing things done in our community if we get that engine and we get that heart that God has for us of love. It’s our message.

I want you to just bow your heads and read this prayer right where you are. I’m going to ask God to just put a challenge in your heart, not duty not obligation. I want you to run because you love it. I don’t want you to minister because you need to or you should, I want you to run because you love it.

PRAYER: Father I pray that you would just touch each and every one of our hearts Lord, we’re relieved on one hand that all we’ve got to do is love but on the other hand we’re convicted because now we have to love. And we need your love Lord. We ask Lord that you would just fill our hearts. Holy Spirit let the love of God be shed abroad in our hearts by your great power. Help us to move from duty into desire. Help us to move out of obligation and into outreach Lord because of love. I pray that you’ll stretch our hearts out just a little bit further than ever before. Help us Lord to make a difference as a church in our community whether that’s on formal levels or informal, Lord just help us to do things that matter. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and passion and fresh love. I pray for leaders in our church, they’re working hard. It’s easy to lose love. I pray that you’ll restore our love for you Lord. I pray for parents and business people and people that are struggling just to make it. Lord, refresh us and fill us with love. I pray for people in this room that don’t know your love that today they will encounter your love as never before. You break down all the walls of rejection and hurt and wounding and religion and fill every heart with love Lord. Let this be Lord by the power of your Spirit and I praise you for it. In Christ’s name and everyone who agrees says Amen. Amen.