Sunday, October 23, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Look Again"

“Look Again”
October 23, 2011
Celebration Sunday
Matthew 9:35-38

We will return to the book of Acts next Sunday, but I wanted to do something special and different for this Celebration Sunday. Something that ties with our past and points to our future as a church. So, we turn to Matthew 9.

Before we launch into Matthew 9:35-38, I want to take a few seconds to say thank you.

This is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I always think of that as Church Family Appreciation Month for us Mitchells.  We appreciate you.  Thank you, Church Family for all that you mean to us.  All that you’ve done for us and all that you mean to us. We love you.

Thank you for this little blurb that was in the Progress last week.  It had this picture of a bald and goateed man and it said, “Pastor Matt, Thank you for helping us to dig treasures from the scriptures for over 13 years. Lanse Evangelical Free Church.”

I thought, “Vroom, Vroom!” I love how you said that, drawing words out of our song “Nuggets of Gold” and Family Bible Week this year. And that’s exactly what I want to do as your pastor–help you to dig treasures from the scriptures!

And thank you for sending us to the Pastors and Wives Retreat last weekend. We had  a very good time. After this year of writing in all of my spare time, I needed a weekend just to crash, and I did crash. It was a good weekend for crashing!

But also for inspiration. In a few minutes, I’m going to share with you some of what our speaker said to us that really impacted me. There was a good time of worship, I learned a few new songs that I’d like to have us sing here someday, and felt the Lord’s presence with good fellowship with the other pastors and their wives.

So, thank you for sending us.

And thank you for praying for us. I passed a major major milestone on my doctoral work this weekend. I turned in the last half of my project for my advisor to approve.

That’s huge! There are still hours of details left to cover, but they are just that–details. So, the project is finally winding down.

My goal is to turn it all in by December 1st, two weeks ahead of the deadline. If I do that, then I’ll defend it before my committee in the Spring and graduate in May of 2012.

Thank you for praying me through this process. I know that it’s a result of your prayers.

A couple more thank yous. I want to thank our elder board. Your elders right now are George Leathers, Blair Murray, Keith Folmar, Bob Gisewhite and myself. We have a smaller board this year than previous years, which means more work for each one. And they have done the work. The elders do not have a high profile. A lot of their work is behind the scenes and involves decision-making and policy making and involves lots of people and their concerns.  It’s not always an easy job, but these guys have been doing it with wisdom and love.

If you stick around for the church family meeting, you’ll see a few of the things they’ve been working on.

I also want to thank and praise the Facilities Team. Those guys also work behind the scenes doing what is often a thankless task. At the meeting, we’ll also hear from them and see some of what they’ve been working on. It’s just a fraction of the projects they’re involved with.  Their job is difficult because it only gets noticed if something breaks or if we have to raise the money to pay for it.  But we know that a building like this one doesn’t take care of itself. These guys do that. And as their pastor, I’m very thankful.

And I can’t thank every single ministry today, but I am also thankful for the deaconnesses who work behind the scenes showing compassion to others–the reason those envelopes are in your bulletins is because they have been helping people. 

And I’m thankful for the hospitality team, without which we would not eat like royalty like we do at this church. Yesterday, the Game Day, today at the meal and meeting, and all the rest of the time. Thank you, ladies.

And one more person I want to thank before we actually do get into Matthew, and that is Stacey Fisch. This was Stacey’s last week to sit in the command chair in the office. Next week, Holly will be doing it, with Stacey looking over her shoulder.

Stacey has done a fantastic job in our office. She’s been like the little quiet engine purring under the hood that makes the whole thing run. She has truly been behind the scenes, but for two and half years, she’s held everything together. Especially this year while I’ve been preoccupied with my doctoral work. Stacey will be missed.  Thank you, Stacey!  We’ll be praying for the Fisch’s as they take off on their new adventure.

Now, Matthew 9. Don’t worry it’s not long. I don’t have a lot to say this morning. It’s short but good. Verses 35-38. 

It’s Fall, and hunting season is in full swing. Some of you have been in the woods all month with your bow. Some of the youth went out on mentored hunts this weekend. Some of you took out a muzzleloader.

Have you ever had that experience of thinking you saw a deer and then it wasn’t there?

I’ll bet most of us have.

Last year, during rifle season, I didn’t see anything.

At least, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

After a few hours of just sitting there, I start to get fidgety.

All right, a few minutes of just sitting there, I start to get fidgety.

And then everything that moves begins to look like a buck.
Lucas Kristofits was sitting with me last year.

And he’d see me raise my gun and look through the scope off into the woods.

And he’d say, “Do you see something?  What is it?”

And I’d say, “Nothing.”

But I had to look again.

Because some time there will be something there.

Two years ago, there was. I saw some movement, and I didn’t think anything of it.

And but I had to look again.  “Look again.”

And when I looked more closely, there it was.

I saw something that had always been there, but now I saw it. I looked again.

This last weekend at the Pastors and Wive’s Retreat for our Allegheny District, the speaker, Fritz Dale of ReachNational at the home office, challenged us to look again at our community.

He spoke from Ezekiel 37 where the LORD tells Ezekiel to look again at a bleak situation and see it again with the Lord’s eyes.

The Lord often sees things differently than we do, doesn’t he?

The Lord often sees things differently than we do.

And we need to look again and get his perspective.

I think this passage tells us about our Lord’s perspective and encourages us to look again for ourselves.

Three things I think Jesus saw that we need to see this Celebration Sunday.


In verse 35, we get a bullet-point description of Jesus’ work in the early years of His traveling ministry. Three main actions: teaching (in synagogues), preaching (the gospel of the Kingdom), and healing (all kinds of diseases and sicknesses).

It was a very busy period for Jesus, and He was on a mission.

But in the rush of ministry, our Lord did not fail to notice the people.

Everywhere He went, Jesus saw people.  Big people, small people, clean people, dirty people, rich people, poor people, hungry people, sick people.  People, people, people.

And v.36 says, that when He saw the crowds, He had “compassion on them...”

The Greek word for “compassion” here literally means to have your guts wrenched in pity and sympathy.  Uggh.  He felt it right here.

When Jesus looked out and saw the people, he just grieved in His spirit with a gut-wrenching feeling.

Uggh.  It hurt Him to see people like this.

The people were (v.36) “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

What do you think a sheep is like that doesn’t have a shepherd?  I’ll tell you in one word: LOST.

Sheep are dumb animals. I’ve said this many times and it makes me laugh every time. Sheep are so dumb they can get lost by walking into an open garage and then not being able to figure out how to get out.

If sheep don’t have a shepherd, they don’t have a leader, don’t have a provider, don’t have a care-taker, they are done-in, they are a lost cause, they are helpless.

And Jesus, when He looked out upon the crowds, saw shepherdless sheep.

They were harassed and helpless.  They had forces at work against them which were way too powerful for them to stand against.  They were in danger and turmoil.

They were lost.

And our Lord felt compassion for them.  Jesus loved shepherdless sheep. Jesus loved lost people.

And the question that God is asking us as a church today is this:

Do we see the people?  Look again.

Do our hearts break when we see and interact with lost people?

Or are we too complacent and self-satisfied and self-centered?

Do we love the lost?

Or are we rather repulsed by them?

I firmly believe that our biggest problem in evangelism is not that we don’t know what to say. I think that many of us here know what the gospel is.

I believe that our biggest problem in evangelism is a lack of love.

Our hearts are not moved by the plight of those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Shepherd.

Bill Hamel, the President of the EFCA regularly challenges our churches that we need to love the LAST, the LEAST, and the LOST.

And if we don’t, we aren’t acting like Jesus.

Because He did it for us!

Jesus looked at our helplessness before sin.  He looked at our harassment by Satan.  And He took pity upon us.

Jesus loved us, even though there was nothing in us to commend us to Him.  We were His enemies!

And yet, He pulled us to Himself with covenant love.

If you are a Christian, it is because Jesus saw how harrased and helpless you were without him and loved you!

And we should do the same.

When I say the word MUSLIM, what happens in your heart?

Do you feel anger?  Do you feel revulsion?  Do you feel fear?

Or are you moved with compassion?

Not because Muslims are innately lovable, but because Jesus chose to love them, you and I should have our guts wrenched with an ache for their salvation.

I’ve heard supposed Christians call them, “Towel heads,” and hope they get out of our country. Yuck.

There are over 1.1 billion Muslims in the world. 80% of whom have never heard the gospel–ever!  Of the 350,000 Christian missionaries in the world, only around 5,000 of them work in Muslim countries!

Do you see the people?

When I say the words POOR PEOPLE, what happens in your heart?

Do you squirm?  Do you feel revulsion?  An aversion to talking about poverty?

Over a billion people in this world live on less than one US dollar per day. Every day, 25,000 people (most of them children) die from the results of dirty drinking water.  There are 47 million refugees in this world. And 85% of the world’s poorest countries lie within the 10/40 window: the least evangelized part of the world.

In other words, if you are poor, you are harassed, helpless, and have a much smaller chance of hearing the gospel.

And do we care?  Do we see the people?

Your neighbor down the street with the loud dogs, the beer cans in his yard, the raucous parties on Saturday night, the four-wheelers peeling over your newly planted grass?  You see him coming your way...what do you do?  Turn away?  Walk down the other side of the street?

What do you feel?

Do you fear for His soul?

Look again. Do you the see the people?

Or do we care too much for our comfort, our convenience, and our security?

Look again.

This is what our speaker did that really grabbed me.

He went to the door and looked out.

What do you see?

When you go to Sheetz, and there are bunch of people in the line.

What do you see?

When you look out here and see community people on our playground.

What do you see?

Do you see single moms that are struggling to make it?
Do you see people trapped in addictive behaviors?
Do you see sheep that don’t have a shepherd?

In my job, I talk to a lot of people. And sometimes, it’s easy to get compassion fatigue and stop caring.

I talked to too sets of outsiders this week about their problems, and when I was sitting with them, I thought about how harassed and helpless they were, like sheep without a shepherd.

They don’t have Jesus!

Look again.

It should fill us with compassion.

What do you see?

What do we see as we as we look out on our community?

Do we just see our school, our post offices, our truck stop, our families, our things.

Or do we see shepherdless sheep who are harrassed and helpless without Jesus?

Look again.

That’s why we do things like Game Day and the Durochers and the Ladies Christmas Tea and the Wild Game Dinner.

We don’t need more events in our lives. They are not just to entertain us. We are trying to see people and reach them.

This church has a great history of reaching out. Of seeing people as they really are and reaching towards them with the gospel.

Who are you inviting to the Durocher Family concert?  Have you put a poster yet? I haven’t seen many of these poster yet around our community. The concert is only two weeks from yesterday.

Do you know somebody who likes music that needs the Lord.

Don’t concentrate on inviting your Christian friends.

Concentrate on inviting the harassed and helpless and shepherdless sheep.

Look again.

In verse 37, Jesus turns to His disciples and says that He can see something else that they probably can’t.  V.37

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

Jesus, looking at these Shepherdless Sheep, sees something more that we often don’t see–potential!


He looked at those people [sinners–everyone of them], and He saw some potential followers.  He saw a church that He was going to build using lost people. He saw a harvest of souls won to the gospel of the kingdom–won to the King.

Look again.

Do you see the potential?

Everywhere you go, among all the people you see, are the elect of God, sprinkled throughout humanity.

Do you see potential Christians everywhere you go?

Some of us see the lost, and feel their lostness, but we don’t feel hope for them.  We see their harassment, and we see their helplessness on their own. We see their Shepherdlessness.  But we miss their potential to be Shepherded.

That’s a big part of my problem. I see the lostness. I feel it in my gut.  But often I have a hard time seeing what God might do with them if I am bold enough to allow Him to use me.

But Jesus sees redeemable humanity among the lostness.

He did in me!  He saw beyond my sin and my guilt and my shame.

And He went after me.  He saw the potential harvest in me.  Not that I had anything to offer Him.  I didn’t qualify for even one of His gifts to me.  But He knew what He was going to do with me.  And I’ll be forever grateful.

Look again.
That co-worker who bugs the living day-lights out of you could soon be your brother in Christ!

Your landlord who just about steals your hard-earned money, might soon be your sister!

Your hard-hearted father who has never had anything good to say about you or to you, may soon become a fellow Christian!

Because the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!

Ask the Apostle Paul!  God is in the business of changing murderers into saints.

You and I need to ask God that we begin to see every lost person we come into contact with as a potential Christian.  Look again!

They won’t all turn to Christ. In fact, a depressing number of them will take the broad road that leads to destruction.

But we have no idea who will. And Jesus wants Shepherdless Sheep to have a Good Shepherd!

Look again.

Do you see the people?
Do you see their potential?
Do you see how we need to pray?


V.38. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Look again and pray.

If you see the lostness of people and your heart is broken.
If you see how many people God desires to save through His gospel.

Then pray. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the harvest field to bring those Shepherdless Sheep to the Good Shepherd.

Do we pray for more workers?

There are 6.7 billion people on the planet today. Most of them do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

The current missionary force that we have will not reach the world.  We need to ask God to send more of us into the world to reach the world for Jesus Christ.

I’m so glad that we have Tobi here today. She is answer to prayers.

She has heard the call of the Lord of the Harvest and is going out into the field.

We have a group of people planning to go to Serbia next Summer.

That is an answer to many prayers.

And we need to pray MORE.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It will only happen through prayer.

Why is that?

Why does Jesus want us to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out more workers?

Doesn’t the Harvest-Lord know that there is a worker-shortage?

Of course He does!

At least 2 reasons why He wants us to ask.

#1.  Because when we ask, we get involved.  When we are praying, there is a much greater chance that we will care about what God does with these situations.  It pulls us in.  In fact, we are often the answer to our own prayers.

What happens in the very next verse? Chapter 10?  Those who were praying are sent on a mission.

When we begin to pray for the person down the street who needs the Lord so desperately, often He sends us to go get them.

#2.  Because God gets the most glory that way. Instead of OUR amassing a missionary army, we acknowledge our need and our dependance upon God to do it. And when He raises the army through our prayers–He gets the most glory.

Notice in v.38 that it is GOD’s harvest field? And that He is LORD of the Harvest?

The Lord of the Harvest is most glorified when He is most needed. And prayer is the most humbling and needful act that the church can participate in.

So we should pray for more workers.


I love how this church is a praying church.

Here’s something I want you to pray about for our church.

Pray for the nominating process.

It’s that time of year when we pray in our new leaders for the next year.

The nominating committee will be talking with various members about how you might serve the church in its mission of bringing people into a love relationship with the good shepherd.

Pray for that!  If the nominating committee asks you to consider taking an office, please pray seriously about that and ask the Lord if He is leading you into a particular place of service.

Don’t just ask if you want to do it or think about if you could or do it to please me or some other person in the church.

Ask the Lord of the Harvest if you are to take up a certain post as a worker in the harvest field.  And then do whatever you feel He is saying.

I’ve been praying for 3 more elders to join our elder board in the coming year.

And I don’t understand exactly how the Lord will answer that. I had thought that perhaps Tom Fisch and Rob Barkman would be new elders in 2012.

But the Lord has moved them to a different part of the harvest field.

And that’s okay. He’s the Lord of the harvest.

But I’m still asking Him!

Because he says to.

Look again.

Do you see how you need to pray?

Is there some person in your life that drives you nuts, that you’d love to complain about on your Facebook page.

That you need to pray for?

Is it a Democrat?

Is it a Republican?

Is it poor person?

Is it a rich person?

Is it Muslim?

Is it person far away in ________?

Or is a person that you live with or see at school or in the neighboorhood or at work?

Look again.

See them as Jesus sees them. “Harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”

And see them as Jesus see that they could be.

And then ask the Lord what to do. And do what He says.

Look again.