Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left instructions known as the Great Commission. The Great Commission not only tells us to teach about Jesus in other countries, but – with equal urgency – to represent Jesus to diverse groups of people in our own, immediate spheres of life.
P.S. – The Story Continues
Pastor Stephen Hayes
Sunday April 23, 2017
Theme – Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left instructions known as the Great Commission. The Great Commission not only tells us to teach about Jesus in other countries, but – with equal urgency – to represent Jesus to diverse groups of people in our own, immediate spheres of life.
- A teaching strategy whereby the teacher uses real world events, as they are experienced, to instruct his/her students. The teacher uses examples the students have experienced in order to understand concepts.
- Jesus used this teaching strategy with His followers as He walked with them during His three years of ministry.
- Today, we have the opportunity to use the same strategy to tell others about Jesus as we go through our own lives.
The Great Commission
- The Great Commission is the final instruction Jesus gave His followers before He ascended to Heaven. This instruction is recorded in the Gospels and the first chapter of Acts.
- Matthew records it as: Matthew 28: 18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
- Mark’s writing about the Great Commission includes: Mark 16: 15-16 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
- Looking at the original Greek for the words “nations”, “world”, and “preach” gives understanding of the Great Commission we might otherwise miss.
- The word “nations” in Matthew is the Greek word ethnos. Ethnos includes the idea of different cultures; different types and groups of people.
- The Gospel is meant to be taught to all types of people. This includes the different types of people in our own community and workplace. Luke 10:2 – Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
- Each of us has the assignment to represent our faith in our own walks of life.
- Even when we do not feel qualified to talk about our faith, God will give us the understanding to represent Him well. James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
- The word “world” in Mark is the Greek word kosmos. Kosmos includes the idea of an order, or a system.
- Kosmos can include the different institutions, systems, and spheres within which we live in our society.
- We are familiar with, and are therefore comfortable operating within, these different orders.
- The word “preach” in Mark is the Greek word kerysso. Kerysso means representing the original teacher by how we present ourselves.
- Our countenance: the way we act, dress, body language, etc. should all be a visible representation of Jesus.
- Not only is it important what we say, it is equally important how we say it and how we present it.
- We should not only say the right things, we should reflect Jesus’ ideas through our entire persona.
The Great Commission in our own community
- When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He intended us to understand it in the context of our own, immediate communities and spheres.
- We are to look for opportunities to interact with all types of people, in all of society’s institutions and groups, and to reflect the nature of Jesus as we do so.
Reflective Questions for P.S. – The Story Continues
- If you had previously understood the Great Commission to only mean teaching Christianity in foreign countries, what new thing did you learn from this message?
- When you think about the different groups of people (or subcultures) in your community, what are some of the groups of people you think of? Do those groups accurately understand Christians? If not, how might one help them better understand our faith?
- Name one system, or institution, within which you operate in your daily life. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, do you think He had that type of system in mind? Why or why not?
- What are some attributes of Jesus’ persona that you would like to reflect as you interact with others who don’t know much about Christianity?
There are direct connections between several Biblical events that happened on Mt. Moriah and the Easter message. For example, there is much in common between Isaac and Jesus; with Jesus being the final, willing sacrifice for all mankind.
Easter 2017 – Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus
Pastor Stephen Hayes
Sunday April 16, 2017
Theme – There are direct connections between several Biblical events that happened on Mt. Moriah and the Easter message. For example, there is much in common between Isaac and Jesus; with Jesus being the final, willing sacrifice for all mankind.
Abraham was a good son before he became a good leader
- In Genesis 12 God told Abram to leave his family.
- At this point in time, Abram was 75 years old. He had been a devoted son and family man his entire life.
- This devotion prepared him to be used by God. His relationship with God became more personal when God called him to his purpose and mission.
God taught His family about the necessity of sacrifice
- The children of Isaac and Jacob grew into the nation of Israel while they were enslaved in Egypt.
- God called Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of slavery back to the land He originally promised to Abraham.
- In Exodus 12 God taught the Israelites how to sacrifice an innocent lamb to temporarily pay for their sins.
Sacrifice and the messiah
- The Israelites performed their sacrifices in anticipation of the appearance of their messiah whom – they believed - would free them from their earthly oppressors.
- They had a general understanding of the messiah idea, but did not fully understand the enormity of what the Messiah would actually accomplish.
- Genesis 22 tells a story of devotion, submission and sacrifice.
- Isaac was submissive, obedient, and willing to be a sacrifice to the Father.
- However, the Father stopped the sacrifice of Isaac before it could happen, and Himself provided the needed sacrifice of a lamb (verse 13).
- The location where this happened was Mt. Moriah in the current day Old City of Jerusalem. Since Abraham’s time it has remained a place of significant temples and worship.
- When Jesus’ time came to be sacrificed, He willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice. Like Isaac, He never objected, but submitted to the will of His Father. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb.
- The sacrifice of Jesus is different from all previous sacrifices because it accomplished the payment for all sins, for all time.
- After Jesus, no more sacrifices have been necessary.
Jesus is now everywhere in the person of the Holy Spirit
- On the first Resurrection Sunday (Easter) Jesus rose from being dead, thereby demonstrating He had fully paid the price for all sins.
- He soon after returned to Heaven, but His Spirit was sent back to take His place on the planet.
- The Holy Spirit is now everywhere on the earth.
- The Holy Spirit also resides inside the soul of every believer.
- Like He did for Abraham and Isaac, God provides for all our needs in life – including the beautiful awareness that believers are guaranteed an eternal life with God after they die.
Reflective Questions for the Easter 2017 Message
- From looking at Genesis 22, and listening to Pastor Stephen’s message, identify as many connections as you can between Abraham & Isaac and Jesus.
- Why, do you suppose, the Bible shows us these similarities?
- Why is it no longer necessary to sacrifice innocent lambs, or anything else, to God?
- How does the knowledge – and awareness – that the Holy Spirit is inside you influence how you perceive the world around you (your environment)?
Sand and stars are mentioned together in God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 22: 17) as symbols of how He blesses us. Great blessings were promised to Abraham and his descendants. Jesus is both God and man at the same time, thereby not only being the means of our eternal salvation, but also providing Heavenly blessings to us in the flesh.
Sand and Stars – Stars
Pastor Stephen Hayes
Sunday April 9, 2017
Theme – Sand and stars are mentioned together in God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 22: 17) as symbols of how He blesses us. Great blessings were promised to Abraham and his descendants. Jesus is both God and man at the same time, thereby not only being the means of our eternal salvation, but also providing Heavenly blessings to us in the flesh.
The importance of fatherhood
- Numerous statistics point to problems that come to fatherless households in the United States.
- These negative outcomes involve poverty, infant mortality, out of wedlock pregnancies, and behavioral problems with the children.
- We must see ourselves as sons in order to properly function in life, and to receive blessings our Father has for us.
Sand represents the “flesh” of our earthly condition
- It is sometimes difficult to recognize God’s promises for our lives. In “the flesh” it is sometimes difficult to see His heavenly blessings.
- God has promised us many blessings while – at the same time – He has already cursed Satan. Genesis 12: 1-3 – Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
- Notice how many times blessings are mentioned in those verses compared to only the singular curse of Satan.
- God is taking care of you. He has already cursed Satan. Satan has no influence over you.
Abraham lived “in the sand” but navigated “by the stars”
- Fresh vision comes when we are submitted.
- Abraham knew well the life of living in the sand. But, he also knew he had to navigate through life by following the stars.
- It is impossible to count all our blessings because they are so numerous. Genesis 15: 4-5 – And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
- When we look up to “the stars” (God Himself) we are able to understand things we cannot if we solely focus on what we see “in the flesh.”
Similarities between Isaac and Jesus
- God’s plan is for us is to understand ourselves as being His sons.
- Isaac - by his submission and by his relationship to his father Abraham - represents Jesus, through whom we have a relationship with God.
- Jesus is our reference point for what was represented by the Old Testament character Isaac. Philippians 2: 5-8 – Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
- Jesus incorporates the nature of both sand and stars. He lives like us “in the sand” while – at the same time – being what we look to for Heavenly guidance “in the stars.”
- The Greek word for “look up” is anablepo, which means “to receive sight, to regain sight.”
- We need to look up to regain our perspective; to see things as they really are.
- When we look up our perceptions are opened. Mark 7: 34 – Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
- When we look up we receive blessings. Luke 9: 16 – Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.
- When we look up we receive breakthrough; opposition is removed. Mark 16: 4 – But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away – for it was very large.
No limitation to our blessings when we see ourselves as sons
- There is nothing that can prevent us from accomplishing – and receiving – what God has intended for us.
- Hebrews 6: 13-15 – For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
- Look up to your creator for all your provision and satisfaction (the stars) for what you are dealing with in the world (the sand.)
- When we accept Jesus as our savior (the Messiah) we are able to access Heavenly guidance and blessings for our earthly journey.
Reflective Questions for Sand and Stars - Stars
- What does it mean to have a “heavenly perspective”?
- Do you have an example, from your own experiences, where you were able to receive a heavenly perspective about something you were experiencing?
- If so, how did this perspective change your thinking? How did it change your actions or activities? How did it change how you talked to people?
- Did you receive any blessings because of your heavenly perspective?
- What burdens (or restrictions) were removed?
- How does knowing that Jesus personifies both sand and stars help with your daily journey?
Sand is plentiful on the earth. In the Bible sand is used to represent important parts of a Christian’s earthly journey through life. Sand can represent a means of travel, our mission, or our carnality.
Sand and Stars – Sand
Pastor Stephen Hayes
Sunday April 2, 2017
Theme – Sand is plentiful on the earth. In the Bible sand is used to represent important parts of a Christian’s earthly journey through life. Sand can represent a means of travel, our mission, or our carnality.
Sand and the Abrahamic Covenant
- The Old Testament character Abraham is sometimes called The Father of Our Faith.
- God gave Abraham a powerful promise that many generations of God’s people would be his descendants.
- Genesis 22:17 reads, “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.”
- God had made this promise to Abraham several times before this in Genesis. So, Abraham was well familiar with the promise by Chapter 22.
- Abraham – as all people of that region – knew all about sand.
- In Genesis 22:17 God used sand as a metaphor to demonstrate the number of Abraham’s descendants.
- Abraham was patient when the promise did not immediately appear evident. There was significant travel and time that transpired during the Genesis chapters dealing with Abraham’s story.
Three Biblical Principles about Sand
1. Sand is a medium; a means of travel. It can also be a source of provision.
a. Abraham walked on sand throughout his journeys in obedience to God’s promise.
b. Genesis 26 tells of Abraham’s son Isaac digging wells in the sand; redigging old wells and also digging in new locations.
2. Sand exists as part of our mission; shake the dust off your feet.
a. Part of our Christian mission is to protect our inner peace and shake off natural carnal elements in our lives.
b. In Matthew 10: 11-15, Jesus told his followers to “shake the dust from your feet” when they were rejected by people. This was a symbolic gesture that represented how they were to psychologically respond to people who were hostile to their message. Matthew 10:14 – And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.
c. We are in a spiritual battle every day. Ephesians 6: 12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
d. This spiritual battle requires us to shake off everything in the natural that is not part of God’s mission for us.
3. Sand is part of our make-up; we are made of sand.
a. Genesis 2:7 – “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
b. Because we were formed from the earth, we sometimes do “earthly” things that are contrary to God’s laws.
c. We need laws to show us our shortcomings. Romans 3: 19 – “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
Jesus satisfies the Law
- Laws demonstrate our shortcomings and are written to keep us on a proper path.
- But, we regularly resist and break laws.
- Christians know they have a God who rightfully judges, but also undeservedly displays love and grace.
- We all make mistakes, but God has a plan for us. Jesus is our means to accomplish God’s plan for our lives.
- When we make mistakes and fall short, Jesus absorbs those mistakes and guides us back to the path He originally designed for us.
Reflective Questions for Sand and Stars - Sand
- In Genesis 22 God used sand to emphasize a point with Abraham. What was that point? What modern day metaphor might God use to make the same point?
- What are some things you have had to “shake off your feet” in order to stay focused on God’s purpose for your life?
- Describe the process you use to communicate with Jesus when you need someone to help you keep a proper perspective in a confusing world?
The people of Covenant Church practice generosity. Part of human nature is the tendency to gather and keep things for ourselves. God’s desire is to give each of us what is sufficient for happiness, and that He then can bless others - through us - with what we have in excess to what is necessary.
A Place to Call Home – Practicing Generosity
Pastor Mike Hayes
Sunday March 26, 2017
Theme – The people of Covenant Church practice generosity. Part of human nature is the tendency to gather and keep things for ourselves. God’s desire is to give each of us what is sufficient for happiness, and that He then can bless others - through us - with what we have in excess to what is necessary.
Practicing generosity – a Covenant Church value
- Covenant Church’s core values declaration includes the statement, “As God has richly blessed us, we actively look for opportunities to bless others.”
- Generosity is a learned behavior. Our natural tendency is to gather to ourselves.
- The proliferation of storage warehouses – with rented space full of excess material property – is evidence many of us are hording things that could be better used by others.
- Americans know well the statistics about world-wide poverty that contrasts with our excess of possessions. This is not how it should be.
Seven Biblical principles that describe how we should understand wealth and giving
- Everything we own belongs to God.
- Wealth and possessions should be used for God’s purposes.
- Wealth is like dynamite; with great potential for good or harm.
- Worldly wealth is short term; heavenly wealth is eternal.
- Giving generously to the poor is a moral duty in a fallen world.
- Giving should be voluntary, generous, cheerful, and needs-based.
- Giving generously breaks the power of money over us.
Everything we own belongs to God
- Colossians 1: 16-17 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
- 1 Chronicles 29: 11 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all.”
- These verses clearly show us that “everything” means everything. We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking we are the true owners of our material possessions.
- Human tendency is to give ourselves credit for our successes and blame others for our failures.
- Rather, our appropriate response to our material blessings should be:
1. Overwhelming gratitude to God
2. To recognize we are only stewards of all that is His.
Wealth and possessions should be used for God’s purposes
- Luke 12: 42-43 “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.’”
- 1 Timothy 6: 17 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
- Stewardship is the active and responsible management of God’s creation for God’s purposes.
Wealth is like dynamite; with great potential for good or harm
- Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote: “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30: 8-9)
- Covenant Church teaches a “sufficiency gospel” where we neither take a vow of poverty nor seek to accumulate an excess of material goods.
- We should not seek riches, because that search will lead us away from God.
- Likewise, we should not embrace poverty because poverty leads to other sinful temptations that reflect badly on God’s name.
Worldly wealth is short term; heavenly wealth is eternal
- We all know our material possessions decay and go to other people when we die.
- It makes little sense to focus our attention on such things.
- Rather, we should spend our money on things that carry value into eternity.
Giving generously to the poor is a moral duty in a fallen world
- Isaiah 58:10 “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.”
- “Extending your soul” means to deeply care about people as individuals.
- We cannot place blame on people who are poor. It is not our place to judge the motives of others. Poverty exists for many reasons. We simply are told to be generous “to the least of these” (Matthew 25:40)
Giving should be voluntary, generous, cheerful, and needs-based.
- 1 Chronicles 29: 9-14 tells of the joy the Israelites’ experienced from their willing offerings, and how this experience gave them a perspective of God’s ownership of everything on the planet.
- Verse 9 reads, “Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord; and King David also rejoiced greatly.”
Giving generously breaks the power of money over us.
- 1 Timothy 6:9 – “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
- If we focus on obtaining possessions, “enough” will never be enough.
- In Luke 12: 13-21 Jesus told the story of a man who focused on establishing personal security through the accumulation of possessions. Jesus said the man was a fool.
- Generosity also includes things other than material goods. Generosity also involves the giving of things such as our time, or kind words spoken.
Reflective Questions for A Place to Call Home: Practicing Generosity
- Have you ever tried to “downsize” or to divest yourself of some of your possessions? If so, what was that experience like? What were some of the things that happened when you did that?
- In your own words explain Pastor Mike’s teaching about a “sufficiency gospel” which is informed by Proverbs 30: 8-9. Is there anything from your own experiences that is an example of the wisdom of those verses?
- Why is generosity something that has to be practiced?
- Think of a simple challenge you could give yourself that would test the principle of “giving generously breaks the power of money over us.” How would you recognize and evaluate the outcome of that challenge?