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Turning Faith into Action

So let me give you a few starters. If you want to turn faith into deeds, and belief into actions I think we have to understand a few things. And the first thing is…

1. Actions realize risk

Turning faith into deeds is risky business. Living out your faith is scary. No martyr was ever killed for their beliefs, it was something they did that exposed their faith out into the open that brought attention to them.  My guess is that most of us a pretty conservative people. Even if you think you are spontaneous, you probably still stay within certain boundaries.

Proverbs 3:5 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

I know I tend to be very shy and cautious. I may not have to see the whole path ahead of me, but I really like to be able to see at least a few steps before I put my foot out there.

But that’s why they call it a “leap of faith” and not a hesitant tip toe of faith.

You realize there is risk and you jump – but we don’t jump blindly, we jump knowing that God will catch us.

George Muller said… “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where (our) power ends.”

Faith in action is scary because it feels like we are jumping without a parachute. That’s why it is so vitally important that we stay connected to God every step of the way.

2. Actions reach out and stay connected.

Through this series, we’ve talked about the necessity of being plugged in to the source. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus told us flat out – the main ingredient of a Christian – is Christ himself!” Right? So knowing that, our actions won’t add up to much if we aren’t daily plugging in.

Psalm 119:108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.

I would argue that it’s pretty hard to have an active faith that manifests itself in word and deed without first taking the action to reach out to God. If you find that you don’t have confidence, or bravery or strength – I would tell you those things are found in your King. God goes ahead of you, so draw near to Him. And that’s when you arrive and begin rolling up your sleeves to get to work.

3. Actions respond with work.

God has gifted each of us with abilities and passions and so God has a job for each and every one of us. Sure, we might not be the star on the stage or the brightest light in the strand, but all of us have a talent, and our purposes are all important to the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

If you are a husband or a father your work is to be the spiritual leader of your family. I know there is a strong temptation among men to leave the roll of teaching kids to women, but the Bible says the man is the head of the household.

Of course women are important and I am not saying they have a lesser role, but what I am saying, is if you’re the Father don’t leave it all on her shoulders.

Your wife shouldn’t have to drag you to church, husbands are you doing what it takes to lead your family? Are you putting in the work that God expects from you?

Proverbs 14:1 The wisest of women builds her house

For you wives and mothers… are your doing the work that God has for you to do? Are you loving and supporting your husbands? Are you teaching and training up your kids?

When I was a youth pastor one of the biggest things we learned was that kids don’t learn about God and faith from their Sunday school teachers, they learn it from their parents. It’s simple math. Your Sunday School teachers have your kids for a few hours a week, but you have them for all the rest. Who are your kids going to learn about faith and morality from? Whoever takes the biggest interest in their lives. Hopefully it’s you.

Ephesians 4:11-13 He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, (and) for building up the body of Christ

There is work for all of us isn’t there? Within this church right now there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers… you know how I know, because the “….Bible told me so.” But it’s possible you just haven’t tapped into that.

You have not stepped up and claimed that work. God’s been pushing you, nudging you, urging you and you’ve put it off.

Remember it all starts with risk. It’s when you walk into the Sunday School class room for the first time and 6 tiny sets of eyes stare back at you. But don’t worry, you’re not doing this alone; and that’s not to say that it first won’t require a plan. In fact…

4. Actions require wise planning

Even though taking a leap of faith can be very scary, and even risky, it shouldn’t be foolish. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to have a plan.

It doesn’t show a lack of faith when we make a plan, rather it shows a lack of faith when we make a plan and it doesn’t include God.  Think about how you go about making plans now. Do you fly by the seat of your pants? Do you just do what feels good at the time? Do you just do whatever the people on TV are doing?

Hopefully not.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Just as God has given you talents, he has also given you tools.  God doesn’t put you to work without tools. Prayer being a HUGE one of them. Hey, before you make that leap of faith, why don’t you pray about it? I know I would.  I’d commit a lot of prayer to that.

And you know what? Even though I just got through trying to encourage you and reassure you, the bottom line is even after all of that… you could still fail. It might still not work. You could plan through prayer, leap in faith, work hard and take risks and still….. end up with nothing. Fall on your face…. have nothing to show for it.

Not all actions succeed.

5 Actions result in set backs.

As much as God’s love is powerful and the message of the gospel is truth, our world still has it’s own vices, things like greed, and selfishness and anger and pride. And when you take a message out into the world that tries to show that there is a loving God at the center of it all, some people might not like that.

Remember, faith in action is a risk. And one of the risks is disappointment.  There isn’t any guarantee of instant success in ministry, and there certainly isn’t any guarantee that we won’t face our own share of trials. But faith in action trusts that God will work out all of those details. Faith shouldn’t be shaken when we are faced with setbacks. Rather true faith, gets back up, dusts itself off and gets right back in there.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Growing up, and learning to swim was one of the most difficult things I ever did. I was terrified, I spent hours crying to my parents how I didn’t want to do it, and do you know why? For the most part you’re pushed into the water alone while your coach yells at you from the surface. Your mind says, “sink or swim” and it’s a reactionary response. Your body learns to swim because the alternative is terrifying.

I think some of us are afraid to take that leap of faith because we think we’re alone. But see that’s the thing. That’s why we take the risk, take the leap, roll up our sleeves and get right back up when we fall… because Christianity means we are never alone.

Not only is the church always there, but God is always there.

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Love is an action word

For a long time we’ve been asking the question “what would Jesus do?” you remember the bracelets? it was real big a hundred years ago when I was in college. the premise was you’d come into a situation and ask the question, “what would Jesus do?” You know what he’d do? The answer is easy. He’d love. He’d love in every situation. “Well, when would he stop?”

Never. He’d never stop.

And every person is different and every person has a different story, but in each of those situations we should be asking, “What does love require of me?”

I tell you, if you want to influence someone’s life and make a difference in their life you have two choices – you can hurt them or you can love them.

I can tell you – it won’t be your beliefs that influence others – Jesus said, “by this… by loving others…. all people will know that you are my follows in how you LOVE one another.”

Love is an action word. Just like I wanted to show my wife I loved her before I told her, Christians have a responsibility to show the world love. And I think the church does a great job talking about theology, and orthodoxy and doctrine, but how do we take our belief, how do we take our knowledge and turn it into action?

James was the flesh and blood brother of Jesus. He was Jesus’ little brother, and James writes some often over looked passages. He says,

James 2:14-20

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

And you know what, I understand this is a tough passage, I am human just like you, I still get it wrong, I still fail to show people love and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but you know…. we’ve been talking about the ingredients of a Christian and they are there on the front of your handout.

A Christian is a DISCIPLE

Someone who LOVES others

ABIDES in Christ

WINS the lost

SALT & LIGHT

GRACE & TRUTH

Missionary field by COMPASSION

and AUTHENTIC

Well, if those are all ingredients, what are  you supposed to do with ingredients? Bake em! Cook em! Why? Otherwise you can’t eat!  You can’t eat plain baking powder, or salt can you? No, you have to mix them and back them otherwise you can’t have cookies.

Otherwise you can’t have pancakes!

James says, you have ingredients?

Great!

You have the recipe memorized?

Even better?

BAKE SOMETHING!

Get cooking!

Show me some food!

You have the essentials now FEED the world!

A recipe does you no good sitting on your bookshelf.

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Tiny Bear’s Bible

As a father and a pastor, I am always looking for books and bibles for my two boys. My family already has The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thought to Make your Heart Sing from Sally Lloyd-Jones, so picking up the Tiny Bear’s Bible for my 1 year old was a no brainer.

This “Bible” is really a Story book/board book containing 11 stories from the Bible. Most of the stories are cute little 6 lined poems accompanied by a single picture.

As a side note, I always get a little worried with “adult themed” stories being included, especially for young eyes and ears, but I think Sally has done a great job with her content. That said, the story of the cross is NOT included, but the resurrection is.

Each story comes back around to “Tiny Bear” who is listening to the story being told. My son loves the fuzzy cover and often wants to close the book before I have finished reading so he can rub the bear’s fur.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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How do you apply love?

My wife and I met on the internet, and it was over the course of weeks that I began to love her, but I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell her because we had never actually, physically met face to face. But even when I got off the plane, I didn’t blurt out, “I love you.” I waited, I waited so that I could hold her hand, walk with her, talk with her, look into her eyes, and yes even kiss her. Because I wanted to SHOW HER I loved her before I told her I loved her.

Why is that important? Well it’s important because I wanted her to feel safe, know that she could trust me, be familiar with me and so that when I finally did tell her that I loved her… she wouldn’t be surprised. So when I say, “I love you” she hears the words, but in those moments agrees and she thinks to herself, “I know this is true, because he has shown me that he loves me.”

You don’t want to tell someone you love them and have them shake their heads and say, “no you don’t.”

And I want to tell you something this morning, and this is certainly my story and I am hoping it is your story also – and I am hoping that you agree with me.

And that is each of us is the product of our upbringing and our environment and many contributing factors have made us the people that we are today, but more than the city we were raised in, or the books we read in school….

Two types of people have made us the people we are today. Two types of people have influenced our lives the most and made us the people are we. And it’s not necessarily people of faith, people who were related to us, or people who held a certain political viewpoint.

“Two types of people have shaped us and influenced us into the people we are today: People who have hurt you and people that have loved you.” (Pastor Andy Stanley)

I believe you and I were are shaped and influenced the most, by the people around us who love us and the people who hurt us. And the truth is, those people can be anyone. You can be hurt by people who believe the right things and who from the outside look like fine upstanding citizens and you can be loved by people who had their faith and beliefs all messed up.

Yes it’s great to have beliefs, and convictions and it’s wonderful to be people of faith, but it’s how those beliefs manifest that change and influence others. Remember Jesus didn’t’ say they world would know us by our doctrine or by or theology, he didn’t say, “it’s real important that you get a life verse.”  He said that we would be recognized by our actions. We would be recognized by how well we loved the world.

Pastor Andy Stanley said  “If we would just do what Jesus did instead of arguing about what he said, the world would change.” (2x)

Which raises the question, what did Jesus do? It’s a tough question, because he did a lot of things, and he didn’t’ seem to be very constant. You know what I mean? I mean if Jesus had always said the same thing to each person, or treated everyone the same, I think it’d be easier to be His follower, but what I find when I read the stories is – a Jesus who was constantly treating each new situation in a new and unique way.

Let me show you what I mean.

Matthew 19:16-22

A man came up to him (Jesus), saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”  Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

A rich man asks Jesus, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” And Jesus says “sell all of your possessions.” Wow… let’s look at another story

Mark 12:28-34

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

(so again, Jesus mentions love at the height of Christian obedience.)

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

To the rich man, Jesus says “sell all your stuff,” and to the Pharisee, Jesus says, “You’re close to eternal life…” Wait how come he didn’t tell this man to sell all he had? The Pharisees were upper class. they lived well. How comes Jesus doesn’t tell this person to sell all their possessions?

How come Jesus is never consistent with his actions – how come he doesn’t have a life verse that he just applies evenly to everyone and every situation? Probably because everybody is different! No two people are alike – and no two situations are alike –  have you ever noticed that? Jesus noticed it – and so he doesn’t treat each person exactly the same.

To some people Jesus was very tender to, and to others he was very … cutting and to the point, sometime even sarcastic.

Why did he treat people differently?

I think because when you chose to love other people – it’s a messy thing – and it requires you to step into their lives, hear their stories – and then – apply love how they need.

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The true test

John – one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples wrote these words,

1 John 4:20-21

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Saul, who changed his name to Paul and became one of Christianity’s biggest influences writes these words…

Romans 12:117-18

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Paul says if it’s up to you – regardless of what others are doing – your job is to make peace.

And Jesus, the founder of our faith said in John 15:12

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

As long as Christians and the Church can remember the teachings of the scriptures, and not just remember them – and believe them – but act on them – live them out – the Kingdom of God…. grows…. spreads… multiplies…. lives.

Yes, there are many churches, many Christian leaders and many denominations, but there is one God and one gospel.  Jude, another of Jesus’ disciples reminds us…

Jude 1:3

3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.

The message… the gospel.. the good news, has been entrusted to us. It’s our job to fulfill the commands of Jesus, it’s our job to represent Him well and to be the arms and legs of the church, the message has been entrusted to us, for safety, for security, for preservation, for clarity and for truth.

And  you know what? We still get it wrong, as much as we might want to learn our lessons from history, people still make mistakes. The church still ends up being on the wrong side of the argument, and our Christian leaders end up being part of great moral failures – and they let us down – why?

Because we’re all people. We’re all sinners. None of us are beyond disappointment. None of us are perfect. And so the church through the years also has a responsibility to uphold their image and their branding. Because despite the fact that we’re sinners (remember Jesus goes so far as to call us sheep) despite the fact that we sometimes pursue selfishness and we try to order things with our own power, Jesus reminds us that to be a Christian is to be his representative.

In a nutshell a “Christian” is to be a person who follows Christ, and Jesus says, when people see you – they are supposed to KNOW you by how you act. And Jesus says this is how I want you to act.

John 13:33-35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus says the true test to Christian recognition, the one way people will know that you belong to me and that you follow me is that if you love others.

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