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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Matt's Messages - Re-Focus

“Re-Focus”
August 19, 2007
Matthew 22:34-40, Hebrews 10:24-25, Matthew 9:35-38

I know that I’m going to disappoint you by not preaching on Numbers 28 this morning. I’m sure that for the last 2 weeks many of you have been chomping at the bit to know about the religious calendar of Israel in Numbers chapter 28!

But this week, I felt the Lord leading me in a different direction for this Sunday’s message.

I have felt the Lord putting together various thoughts in my heart for several weeks now, especially during my mini-sabbatical, thoughts that I might share after Numbers and when Fall officially began. But this week, those thoughts came together in a way that made me think it was time now to share them.

And they are all about re-focusing.

I was reading a book this week that told the story of the Hubble telescope. Remember the flap over the Hubble telescope?

“The Hubble telescope was launched from the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. Expectations were high from the beginning, as astronomers anticipated new discoveries and verification of their hypotheses and theories. At launch time, the Hubble project had cost over $1.5 billion to create what would be the world’s most powerful and accurate telescope. The primary mirror, nearly eight feet across and weighing nearly a ton, was ground as close to perfection as humanly possible. The curve did not deviate by more than 1/800,000th of an inch. According to Hubble officials, if this mirror ‘were scaled to the dimension of the Earth, the biggest bump would only be six inches tall.’ Perched 353 miles above the Earth, the Hubble had an unobstructed view and could peer light years into space to observe previously undiscovered galaxies. But there was a problem. Soon after the Hubble was set in orbit, engineers discovered that the main mirror was flawed. Objects that were supposed to be clear were fuzzy. The problem was not power or size. The problem was focus. The Hubble had to be repaired. So in December 1993, astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavor fitted the mirror with corrective optics. The mission was a complete success. The repairs corrected Hubble’s previously blurry vision and allowed the telescope to explore the universe with unprecedented precision and clarity. Only when the Hubble was focused, could it carry out the mission for which it was created. Size is important. Power is important. But focus is everything” [The Externally Focused Church, pg. 35-36].

I have felt the need to re-focus for some time. My mini-sabbatical was a time of re-refocusing–re-adjusting my priorities and systems of life to reflect what my priorities and systems should be.

And I think that many of us, and probably all of us to some degree or another need to re-focus.

Because, whatever we focus on directs us.

Have you ever noticed something lying on the road as you drive down the road? And you want to swerve to miss it, but you focus on it, you stare at it, what normally happens?

You hit every time, right?

That’s because whatever has your focus, has your attention, directs you, directs your life.

And there are lots of things that compete for our attention, that fight for our focus.

And on a regular basis, you and I need to come back again to adjust our lenses and remember what’s most important. What do we need to focus on.

Remember the Big Rocks that we talked about back in January?

We talked about how if you don’t put in the Big Rocks first, they won’t get in?

And we talked about making a Big Rocks list and focusing our lives on it this year.

How many of us made a Big Rocks list?

And are we still focused?

I think that we need to re-focus.

And I have been thinking about three areas that I need to re-focus upon and I think most of us do, too.

#1. WE NEED TO RE-FOCUS ON GOD.

I’m sure that you expected me to say that, but it’s true isn’t it?

Let’s look at what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 22. Look down at verse 34.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

The Pharisees thought that they had Jesus in a bind.

This expert in the law did not have a sincere question. He was trying to trip Jesus up with a debate that had gone on for centuries as to which of the commandments in the Old Testament (at least 600 of them) was the weightiest.

If he could get Jesus to say something that would anger one group or another by taking sides, then Jesus would lose followers.

But Jesus doesn’t take the bait, and in fact, knows what is the most important, the biggest rock, the greatest commandment that there is.

Focus on God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Notice that big three letter word there: A-L-L. All.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

That will take a lot of focus upon God, won’t it?

And it will mean that we need to constantly be re-focusing on God.

I’ve recently be reading the book, Lord, Make My Life a Miracle by Raymond Ortlund Senior. Ray Ortlund Senior was the Bible teacher on the Haven Broadcast for many years and his son was one of my professors at seminary. Dr. Ortlund just died a few weeks ago and I was reminded of his book, and decided to read it. I’m glad I did.

In the winter of 1968, Dr. Ortlund was the pastor of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California. And everything was going well in that church. In his words, “We were going through all the proper motions of a Great Evangelical Church...But my heart wasn’t satisfied. There were far too few “delivery-room” cries of newborns, too few victory songs at midnight.” And he began pray, “Lord, Make My Life a Miracle” and gathered around others to pray and to re-focus their church. And the Lord led them to put forward 3 commitments to call people to in their church. He was the first to sign his name to what they called “The Company of the Committed.” [Lord, Make My Life a Miracle, pgs. 1-4]

Do you know what the first one was? “Number One: at whatever stage you are spiritually, commit your heart anew to the Person of God Himself in Jesus Christ.”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

And it began to change that church.

I know that I need to re-focus on God. How about you?

I’ve recently been convicted that I need to focus on God in His threeness and His oneness.

You know that God is a trinity, do you not?

He is “a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” [EFCA PRSOF #1]

And I’ve recently been convicted that I’ve forgotten His threeness and His oneness.

And I want to give more attention to worshiping Him privately and publically as the Three in One.

In what ways do you need to re-focus on God?

For example, do you have a regular appointment for one-on-one time with God?

If not, you need to re-focus.

Some people call them quiet times (but they can be loud!).
Some people call them devotional times.
Some people call them personal Bible studies.

Whatever you call it, we all need to have regular appointments for one-on-one time with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

And you can do a lot of things with that time. There are various spiritual disciplines and holy habits that you can work into that divine appointment.

But at heart, you need to do at least 2 things: talk to God and listen to God.

Talk to God in prayer and listen to God in His Word.

Re-focus on God by meeting with God regularly.

Do you agree with me on that? Okay. When are you going to do it? Write down right now when your next appointment will be.

Because Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Now, there are a lot of different directions that we could take this morning, but I want to get to next foci (or focus-point).

#2. WE NEED TO RE-FOCUS ON THE CHURCH.

Turn with me to the letter to the Hebrews chapter 10, starting in verse 24. Hebrews chapter 10, verse 24. Pew Bible Page #1191.

The Hebrew Christians that this letter was addressed to were starting to get discouraged because of some persecution. And they were considering giving up on Christianity and returning to orthodox Judaism.

So the author of this letter has been encouraging them to re-focus on Jesus and how much better He and His New Covenant are than the Old Covenant ever was.

And in chapter 10, he calls them to persevere in participation in the local church. Verse 24.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing [some had given up on church], but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Christ is coming! And as that day gets closer and closer, we need to not give up the fellowship of the local church, instead we need to draw closer to each other and meet together to encourage one another and spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

We Need to Re-Focus on the Church.

Did you notice what Jesus thought the second greatest commandment was? He said it was like the first, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We can’t just focus on God; we must focus on each other. And we need to love each other.

Christianity is not a Lone-Ranger Religion.

The church is not optional. It is essential. We are not just saved and then find ourselves as a by-product of salvation in the local church.

We are saved into the church, the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ is made manifest in local churches.

And the local church is where we are called to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And to “encourage one another–all the more as [we] see the Day approaching.”

Do you need to re-focus on the Church?

Let me ask you these 3 questions. You might come up with some others.

#1. Are you regular in Sunday morning attendance? And by regular, like we learned from Jack Kelly last week, I don’t mean, “Yes, I’m regularly there every Christmas and Easter.” Or “I’m regularly there as long as I don’t get a better offer.”

Are you regular in Sunday morning attendance? You need to be.

For yourself. AND FOR US! Don’t be selfish here. Notice that Hebrews says that we shouldn’t give up meeting together so that we can encourage each other and stir one another up to love and good deeds.

We need you here just as much as you need to be here for yourself.

#2. Are you connecting with other believers? Not just are you here on the pew. But are you connecting with other believers so that they are in your life and you are in their lives?

Listen to commitment #2 that turned Ray Ortlund’s church upside down:

“Number Two: commit yourself to the body of Christ, to be in a regular small group of believers, small enough that you can be personally accountable to them for your growth, and personally responsible for their growth” [ibid, pgs. 2-3].

Do you have something like that going on?

It wouldn’t have to be an official Link Group of our church, though I’d love to see about 5 or 6 of them start this Fall. Some for empty nesters, some for young 20somethings that are just starting out, some for whomever is looking for fellowship.

But it wouldn’t have to be an official Link Group.

Are you connected with other believers in the Body of Christ?

We need to re-focus on the church so that we have more biblical fellowship happening in our local body.

Listen to that Scripture again: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You can’t do all of that in one big Sunday morning meeting every week.

We need to get into each others’ lives so that we can obey these verses.

Do you agree with me?

What are you going to do about it this week? Write down your plan for getting connected to other believers in the local church.

Here’s the third diagnostic question. #3. Are you serving the Lord in the local church? Do you have a place to serve?

Remember last week when Wally told us that when Jack Kelly was the pastor here nobody just sat on the pew. Everybody worked. And I said that we were re- instituting that right away.

Re-focus now. What is your job at church?

If you don’t have one, I’ll help you get one.

It’s time to get signed up for Fall programs. We need small group leaders for children.

We need helpers for the Wednesday night youth group meetings.

We need people to serve as greeters and ushers and attendance-takers and worship team members and Link Group leaders and hosts and a lot of other things that we haven’t even thought about yet.

We need what you have to offer. Everybody needs to know what their spiritual gifts are and put them to work in the Body of Christ.

Notice that it says that we need to spur one another on to “love and good deeds.”

Are you serving the Lord in the local church?

We need to re-focus on the local church.

And number three. Yes: last, but not at all: least.

#3. WE NEED TO RE-FOCUS ON THE WORLD.

Our church does not just exist to worship.
Our church does not just exist for ourselves.

We also exist for the world. To love and reach the world.

Jesus said that we need to love our neighbors. That’s not just the person over the pew.

It’s the person over the cubicle wall, the person over the fence row, the person at the next desk, the next locker, the person across the street and across the world.

We Need to Re-focus on the World.

Turn with me back to Matthew chapter 9.

Jim Culbertson took us here. We were here two weeks ago.

I don’t think we can get away from it. Matthew chapter 9, starting in verse 35. Pew Bible Page #964.

Here was Jesus’ heart. And I know it needs to be ours, as well.

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

Jesus had a focus on the world, on the harvest field.

He saw people for what they really are, and He had compassion on them “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Our EFCA President Bill Hamel, talks about how we need to focus on the “last, the least, and lost.”

And we’ve been listening to messages in Sunday School about loving those we’d rather avoid in our Samarias.

We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to break out beyond the four walls of our church and not just love those who are like us, but love the last, the least, and the lost.

Those who are different from us, distant from us, sometimes distasteful to us, and often discarded by us.

And we’ve got to go to them with the gospel.

I’ve recently come to a newly formed definition of the church. It goes like this:

The Church Is Jesus’ Worshiping Community of Gospel-centered Disciplemakers.

Notice that it is Jesus’ church.

Jesus said, “I will build MY church” and nothing will stand against it.

It’s Jesus’ church, and He has laid out how He wants it to function.

Notice that it is a worshiping church. The church focuses on God. God is loved with all our hearts, all our souls, all of our minds.

And it is also a community. We focus on each other. We connect to each other like joints and ligaments. We hold each other accountable. We love each other and encourage each other daily as we see the Day approaching.

But we don’t just exist for worship and fellowship. We are called to make disciples of all people.

We are called to believe the Gospel, live the Gospel, and take the Gospel to all people to include them in Jesus’ worshiping community of disciplemakers.

OUT-Reach is not optional. It is a necessary part of our mission.

We must see people like Jesus did. “Harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” And we need to introduce people to the Good Shepherd.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Shepherd, it is our privilege to commend Him to you. He died on the Cross to save you from being harassed and helpless. From being the last, the least, and the lost. From being a rebel against a Holy God.

To being brought into His own community, His own flock.

We invite you to trust in Jesus Christ as your King and Rescuer and Good Shepherd.

You will never regret it and you will be thankful for all eternity!

And we all need re-focus on sharing this Jesus with the world.

Listen to the last commitment that the Company of the Committed made at Pastor Ortlund’s church:

“Number three: commit yourself to the world, to your work in this world, and to your witness to it. Make it specific enough to vow to love one person to Jesus and into the fellowship of the church by next Easter” [ibid, pg. 3].

Could you make a commitment like that?

This last week, I had my annual performance evaluation from our Leadership Board.

They care enough about me to meet in advance and think of the things that I need to hear about how I’m doing as your pastor. And then they lay out for me my strengths and weaknesses and where I’ve been improving and where I still need work.

And they asked me this week a key question that I needed to hear.

They asked what is my commitment to loving the lost in our community?

What am I do practically to lead the church by example and to be personally obedient to the Great Commission within our community.

Pastor Kelly worked in the coal mines and drove a school bus.
Pastor Josh Perry works at Starbucks one shift a week to rub shoulders with the lost.
Pastor Eric Tober hangs out with the Penn State Basketball Team.

What does Pastor Matt do to be out in the community connecting to and loving the last, the least, and the lost?

And I didn’t have a good answer. I have a couple of ideas, but I’m not where I need to be.

I need to re-focus. How about you?

Do you need to re-focus on the world?

It’s easy to get insulated from the world. I’m reading a book right now and doing a book review of it for EFCA Today. It’s called the “Externally Focused Church.”

And while that’s not our only focus, it’s one that we desperately need to sharpen.

I was thinking this week about how we used to have a bunch of teenagers that did donuts in our parking lot and drank out there on Friday and Saturday nights.

I think our church campus was a good meeting place out here in the woods.

I used to be writing my sermons in the evening on Saturday nights, and I’d see those hooligans out in the parking lot hanging out.

And I remember telling the board about them, thinking that they might be concerned about the property and might need to have the police drive by occasionally, and so on.

But your board came back to me with this: “Praise God they’re here! What can we do to reach them?”

And I remember thinking, this church is a special church. That’s unusual. That’s the right mind-set.

And we need to continue to re-focus with that mind-set.

And go to them!

We need to love the last, the least, and the lost.

I loved Jack’s story last week about their church knocking on 100,000 doors in 10 years.

Whose door do you need to knock on?

Is there someone on your mind and heart right now that you can begin to pray for that they would come to Christ by Resurrection Sunday?

It might seem to be an impossible person. Nothing is impossible with God!

Let’s do this. Let’s all think of someone that we want to reach out to like that. Or maybe a group of someone’s and we don’t know which person exactly it will be, but we’re going to pray and then get into their lives with the Gospel so that each one will win one to Christ.

And let’s do this. Let’s let each other know who that person or group is. Next week, on Back 2 School Sunday, we’ll have a way of writing down those people and focusing our prayers on them together as a whole church. Will you do that with me?

We need it.

We need to re-focus on our triune God.
With at least, a regular appointment for one-on-one time with Him.

We need to re-focus on the church, the Body of Christ.
Not giving up meeting together, but getting into each others’ lives and serving the Body of Christ.

And we need to re-focus on the world, loving the last, the least, and the lost.
Getting out beyond our 4 walls and reaching our Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.
Introducing harassed and helpless sheep to the Shepherd of Our Souls.

Can you see it?

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