Thursday, June 02, 2016

Goodbye Sault Ste. Marie

The time has come for me to move on.  June 5, 2016 is my last Sunday in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Or as C.S. Lewis put it in The Last Battle, "upward and inward!" God has called my wife and me to a new and exciting direction and ministry.

I love this community.  It's been a joy to be a co-founder of the "Family Arts and Crafts Family Fun Fair" which is part Engineer's Weekend (the last Friday and Saturday of June).  Being a mediator has given me one form of blessing, or as Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" [Matthew 5:9]

I've spent 15 years at this church. If I had stayed one more year, I would have doubled up the previous two longest tenured pastors. Possibly this is not "bad" since I was told that I was not wanted at the church before I was appointed and eventually survived two attempts to get rid of me.

A parsonage was built and payed off. A garage was built thanks to anonymous donations from two families. Several fixes were made to the church building: a new metal roof, overhang/concrete, finally (after 20+ years) connecting to city sewage.  The church is debt free.

But what I'm most excited about are the people who's lives have been changed by God, through His grace. Indeed, the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  There are too many to recount and memory is not able to keep track.  So far this year we have had 4 baptisms and three professions of faith.

Maybe it's best that I finish this phase of my life (and blog) by suggesting that Christianity is fairly simple: love God and love others (all).  If you want to know how to do that, read the Bible and do what it says. 

Philippians 3:13b – 14 “One Thing”

Philippians 3:13b – 14
“One Thing”

Introduction:  Paul said that he was “pressing on” but there were two things he needed to do to accomplish that task.

I.             “Forgetting what lies behind.” [v 13]

                A.            Paul obviously remembered the past:
                                1.            Paul remembered past accomplishments. [3:4 – 6]
2.            Paul remembered bad things: shipwrecks, imprisonments, and beatings. [2 Cor. 11:24 – 25]
3.            Paul remembered bad people: warned Timothy (2 Tim. 4:14), handed people over to Satan (1 Tim. 1:20).
4.            Paul remembered his bad behavior: crimes against the church (Gal. 1:13)

***** Paul is saying that he did not allow the past to effect or hinder or alter the direction he was going.

                B.            The past can hinder us!
                                1.            Preference: to NOT try something new.
                                2.            Preference: to play it safe and keep to the known.
                                3.            Preference: to AVOID or STAY AWAY from possibilities.
                                4.            Sometimes we are motivated by fear or comfort or shiny distractions.

***** “That’s not how we do it here.” Is this the death mantra of dying churches?

Transition: Paul focus away from the past (good or bad) and fixes his energy on what is in front of him.

II.            “Straining forward to what lies ahead.” [v 13]

                A.            Distractions?
1.            “Tyranny of the Urgent” (Charles Hummel) – confusion between what is important and what seems urgent… “jumbled priorities.”
2.            Reality check: Most of us are motivated by circumstances and feelings, NOT by what we THINK believe.
3.            Attention to what seems to be urgent (needed to be done) can cause us to lose sight of what is important. (e.g. Husband/wife… earn money, take care of house… wake up strangers)
4.            The truth about PRIORITIES: ultimate we do what we want (value, believe)

B.            Direction?

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” [Phil. 3:8 ESV]

1.            Belief: “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”…  BECAUSE NOTHING is more important.
2.            Choice: “I have suffered the loss of all things” … BECAUSE they are “rubbish.” (KJV = “dung”)
3.            Goal: “that I may gain Christ” … BECAUSE Paul did not hold his ministry or eternal destiny lightly. 

“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” [1 Cor. 9:26 – 27]

                                4.            Value: The actual perspective… “Christ Jesus my Lord” OR “rubbish?”

Transition: With those things in place Paul is now free to move forward.

III.           “I press on” [This is the Greek word for “persecute”… as in pursue, chase]
A.            Paul puts all the zeal and energy he used to persecute the church into his pursuit of Jesus.
                1.            We don’t see this in English but the emphasis of v. 14 is on the “goal.”
                2.            Reaching the goal assumes a “prize.” 

B.            Paul feels the pull of “God’s upward call in Christ Jesus” [CEB]
                1.            NOTHING is more important than Jesus.
                2.            This single pursuit is compelling to the point of obsession. 

“In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead. 12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose.” [Phil. 3:9 – 12 CEB]

Put another way:

“Because Christ Jesus has made me his own” [Phil. 3:12b ESV]