Friday, February 10, 2012

Something different I suppose

Here's the manuscript from the sermon I gave on Sunday at church. John 10, pretty good passage:

Have you been a bandwagon jumper? I know I sure have, in fact, unfortunately I might need to confess that I still am at times. I can get so easily excited about something for a little while and then completely lose interest once it’s run its course, I have no use left for it, or there’s another wagon for me to jump onto across the street.
I can think of a number of these kinds of things and I think it tends to be how our society operates on a large scale as well. How about some examples…flock of seagulls haircut, the backstreet boys (or for those who might be a little bit older, the bee gees), bell bottoms (though they came back), delorians, and of course…the internet, cause it’s just a fad.
Well one of those bandwagons that I at one point jumped onto and then subsequently fell off of was blogging. This is one that I’d like to take up again actually because it had tremendous benefit and it was kinda fun to have other people’s takes on my thoughts. Trying to come up with some things to say today, I went back to my blog from 5 or 6 years ago when I was a pastor because I was thinking about Cam diving into youth ministry and remembering how it felt at first.
I was also thinking a lot about the theme verse on which Cam is basing much of his ministry, well, in a sense anyway. It’s the words of the verse and the truth it entails that spurs him on and I think it’s something to take note of, John 10:10 “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” from the message. Or “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Going back to the blog thing, if you’ll humour me, here’s one that I wrote on:
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I feel imprisoned right now. That's the honest truth. Imprisoned by the ease of mediocrity.
There is so much potential that God has placed within me and I know He longs to make me fly in that potential and reach pretty huge heights. What that might look like is another story that I don't know the middle or the end to, but I have a feeling I know the beginning.
Perhaps God's stirring something within me to break free from said prison and bust away from any sort of mediocre lifestyle that just doesn't fulfil.
Jesus promises abundant life. Am I there? I'm not so sure that I am entirely. Do I see glimpses of it? Absolutely. Do I long for more? Yup, sure do. Am I saved by the blood of the Lamb? You bet I am and I'm so thankful for it.
There's something more though. There's a satisfaction in life that Jesus provides that I don't always experience. Contentment is what most people seem to call it, and I'm just not there.
I wrestle with thoughts that I've had many times in years past of, as Paul describes, "being content in any and every situation." If you've read any of my blogs you've noticed that I'm not married and I don't like that. That's not contentment! Does contentment mean that I settle for my current situation? Not in the least! It means I recognize my current situation as being where God has placed me and I find joy in Him, not in searching for what I don't have!
But there are aspects of life that I believe God wants us to be unsettled about. He wants us to feel unsettled over unsaved people, poverty, affluence, mediocrity, stagnance, etc. I shouldn't just settle for a life of second best, a life that doesn't change, a heart that isn't constantly broken for the people around me. I shouldn't settle for just getting things done, they should be done well. I shouldn't settle for last minute efforts to be prepared for wednesday night youth ministry, I should be well ahead and well prepared so that I don't disappoint the people who need to hear the truth.
I shouldn't settle for ideas that come to mind about how to strive for purity, how to help those around me, how to share Jesus with other people, only to write them down on a piece of paper and file them away along with the rest. Non-action plans just don't cut it. And if all of these things are being settled for in my life, then I'm too comfortable.
There's too much that isn't happening that could be and should be. An action plan doesn't go anywhere without the "action."
For far too long I've settled for the ease of mediocrity all the while not realizing that it's really a prison that people get trapped in. As a prisoner wants to be out of his jail cell so I should long to be as far away from a mediocre life as possible. But not only long for it, work towards it.
Can I do such a thing on my own? I think many lives, including my own, would testify that it's not something I can do myself. I need others to push me forward, I need God to pull me up out of the quick sand. Do I know the "action" steps that need to be taken? I'm not sure that I do right now and that is certainly unsettling, but do I need to take action? Yes, I do.
Will I? I most certainly intend to, but succeeding in such a track will only come from God.
Will it just happen if I don't do anything? Not likely.
I think it's time to be unsettled. I'm feeling it right now, it's only begun to stir recently, a hungry heart growls like an empty stomach. There's a longing for more, my heart is saying "more food, less garbage." A broken heart, that's what I want. Not in the normal way, that's been done before, a new kind of broken heart. One the spurs on toward love and good deeds. A heart that longs to see people come to Jesus, that would do anything to see that. A heart that doesn't settle for just existing, for just getting things done, but one that strives to excel in everything and to experience the abundant life Christ offers.
That's what's on my heart today.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over time, in my illustrious long life and experience with youth ministry, ministry and life as a believer in general it’s that regardless of what I try or do, it’s Jesus who provides. If we look at the greater context of this verse there are two major ways that Jesus describes himself and they are definitely worth paying attention to for all of us.
1)      Jesus the Gate
The first way that Jesus describes himself in this shepherding metaphor is as the Gate. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
There’s a couple things to note about this image of Jesus as the gate. I can’t get the image of a swinging gate out of my mind when I read this, mainly just because I’m a visual thinker and when I think of sheep I think back to my childhood visiting my Aunt’s sheep farm. They had pastures and gates the swung open. But here imagine a stone wall of sorts, likely topped with thorns or some kind of prickly plant to try to keep thing out and to funnel the sheep through the gate. Now the “gate” is the shepherd himself, who would plant himself at the opening to monitor everything from the proper vantage point.
Notice Jesus mentions how the sheep are free to come and go, to find pasture…as long as it’s through the gate. Think this is something to pay attention to for the full life he’s talking about, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
The other important thing to note is that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Going with the image of the fence, the thief is the sneaky one, trying to climb over the fence when the shepherd’s not paying attention. Scattering the sheep. So the question to think about here is what kinds of thieves do you face on a regular basis? What thieves are trying to scatter people away from knowing the voice of the Shepherd in Esquimalt?
If we’re the representatives of Christ in our world, we need to pay attention to those things not only around us but that can potentially distract us from knowing the shepherd’s voice. What are the thieves around us, and how can we point people back to Jesus?
2)      Jesus the Good Shepherd
11-13"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him. 14-18"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary.”
Known by Christ, knowing Christ. Recognizing his voice requires a deep knowledge of what he sounds like, who he is. It’s like a child knowing the voice of her mom or dad, there’s comfort and rest in knowing your parent is near. Jesus makes sure to point out that he knows his sheep, he knows his people, he knows each person who is under his care. There’s some fullness right there, being known by the Shepherd, not neglected and not just a number.
Sacrifice is another key element that Jesus mentions here too. We know that Jesus has made that sacrifice, taking our weight of sin on him for the sake of our freedom. It’s also something that we need to be aware of for ourselves, because just like Peter in chapter 21, Jesus has some words for us as we seek to follow him.
John 21:15-19.
15After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"
   "Yes, Master, you know I love you."
   Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
 16He then asked a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
   "Yes, Master, you know I love you."
   Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep."
 17-19Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
   Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."
   Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I'm telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you'll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don't want to go." He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, "Follow me."
Jesus’ commissioning of Peter is a commission to us as well. Jesus is the ultimate Good Shepherd, but we need to shepherd, feed, look after the sheep. Bring more along, point them to the Good Shepherd but why? All for what?
Abundant life:
Going back to that blog post I read, I think it’s important to recognize that Jesus didn’t do it all so that we can be comfortable, he said it himself, he came so that we can have abundant life, full life not mediocre, not basic, but FULL life. I think this “full life” means a number of things but here’s a few that stood out to me:
1)      Freedom, from sin. Salvation is much more than just a transaction, it’s a call to action as well, a call to live the way Jesus showed us to because now we have the freedom to! Just like Paul reiterated in Galatians 5: 13-15”It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom.”
2)      Spilling over life, not just existing (sustenance). This kind of life is contagious, it’s the kind of thing that other people see and want to have a part in. This goes beyond just living, doing the everyday thing, to relying on the Good Shepherd for the things you need. Resting in the comfort of his care and following his lead through dark or tricky territory to find that pasture where he’s taking you. This kind of life has us looking towards the shepherd/leader and paying no attention to the danger around, relying on his sustaining presence to get us there. This kind of life might look somewhat crazy or frightening to those who don’t get it, but it’s the kind of life worth living.
3)      Eternity. Abundance also means that it will never end, this vibrant existence that Jesus provides us now in this life will be that much more full, spilling over, when all is said and done. The knowledge of eternity is a huge aspect of living abundantly now… if God is for us, who can be against us?

So what? I leave you with a question that I ask myself continuously…are you living abundantly? The Jesus kind of abundant? Depending on your answer to this question there are different ways to approach it. Ultimately, the way to this life is Jesus, he said it and he did it. He went to the cross to make this abundance possible, so if we are in need of it then the answer is Jesus. Dig into Scripture, find out for yourself who Jesus is and discover how to live abundantly. It’s only through him that we can live so freely, but not to just go and do whatever we feel like, to serve one another in love.
I think that’s what we’re here for at Harbourview. I also think that’s what Cam and Candace are here to do for youth in Esquimalt. To love people, introduce them to Jesus and walk with them as our lives explode with fullness in Jesus. 

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