Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Bethany Bullet - Week of March 12, 2017

Sermon: “Immeasurably More”

Our Text (from Sunday morning) comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the third chapter verses 20 & 21. 

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

A survey was recently conducted among people who earned salaries of six figures or more. The question put to them was: “How much do you really need in order to feel secure…to feel that you have enough?” And their answer to that question was, overwhelmingly, some variation of these words: “Just a little bit more.”

Please note that the question was put to people who earned salaries of six figures or more. Their response is very revealing.

It shows us how most in our culture perceive the source of security in this life. It reveals that, for so many, their god is the money they have…or the money they wish they had.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he speaks of the “immeasurably more” that God desires us to receive, to accomplish His purposes in our lives, and in the life of our congregation. 

Just what is that “more” we are invited to believe God wants to bring?

First, let’s remember some great examples from Scripture.
  • Abraham prayed for more mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 18:16-33
  • Joshua prayed for more daylight to win his battle with the Amorites, and the sun stood still – Joshua 10:12
  • Solomon prayed for more wisdom – 1 Kings 3:1-15
  • A man with a sick child prayed to Jesus for more faith, and the life of his son was restored – Mark 9:24
  • Jesus prayed for deliverance, and received strength for his ordeal – Matthew 26:36-56

What kind of “more” does God desire us to ask for, and receive?
Whatever it might be, it is not a number in a bank account but I’m convinced it’s something that draws us closer to Him, something that causes us to treasure our salvation, and to seek to serve others in a more powerful, compelling way.

Our God wants us to have more; more of what Paul says right before our text in Ephesians , “. . . this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:19

The love that was expressed so beautifully, so tragically, at the cross, where the One who prayed that the “cup be taken from me” willingly drank it fully for us, so that by His death on our behalf, we might be sitting here with a destiny of hope, and a vision of what is possible if we grow as disciples of our Lord Jesus.

During the past few months, you’ve been hearing a great deal about the Renaissance campaign. 

We’ve been growing in awareness of what we believe the Lord desires to do through us, and why it’s the best for the future ministry here at Bethany.

That God may work a Renaissance first and foremost in the hearts of His people here in this place and also in the physical spaces here on our campus so that many more may come to faith in Him. 

This “more” we’re talking about: it’s not something that we have the power to do by ourselves. It’s not something that we are going to do because we’ve voted for it, and thus it’s the right thing to do.  This more is really not about a number in an account.

It’s something that God wants to do with us. To us. Through us. It is something that He sees, and we as His disciples say, “Amen” to what Paul said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. . .”

For that we kneel in obedience. We kneel in prayer. Because the vision God has given us is so far beyond our best efforts that He will have to make it happen by His power.

Because we’ll need all the inspiration God can give us, and strengthening within, for what He has in store for us.

On Palm Sunday, just a few weeks from now, we are all going to have the opportunity to make a commitment to the future God sees.

Everyone whose life our congregation touches – everyone who calls this place their worship home – will be invited to be a part of the "immeasurably more” that our God has for us.

Can you imagine the possibilities when our campus is a beacon of hope for the community, when all our youth in our programs have access to wonderful facilities, when the students who come here to hear about Jesus every day are provided greater safety and structures on which to play and imagine and learn? 

Imagine the first time visitor coming into our sanctuary and catching a glimpse of the divine in worship or seeking help in the comfort of our redesigned offices. 

Can you imagine that? Some can, but I also know that some are having difficulty, and of course there are some here who don’t want to imagine it, because they don’t want it to happen.

Regardless of where we are collectively, this “more” will be “more than all we can ask or imagine.” That’s God’s promise.

We pray that we will all experience personal renaissance and spiritual growth.

We pray that we will be inspired by the Word of God in order to see this “immeasurably more” come about.

That’s how Paul describes it: these things happen “…according to his power that is at work within us.”
Our goal, after all, is not transforming the value of our bank account; it is transforming the hearts of God’s people gathered here. It’s not just a number on a statement it’s so we can make a statement for Christ and what He has done for all humanity. 

Our goal is not to inspire you to give to a goal or a project, but to be transformed into disciples who are changed, and who continue to grow as generous people.

For that reason, Paul prayed, right before our text in Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Eph. 3:16

Ask yourself: for what do you need prayer for, with regards to our Renaissance campaign?
  • Are you one of our Directors, or a team member or volunteer, who has been putting in long hours to make this campaign happen? If so, we’re going to pray that you receive the strength and inspiration you’ll need to do “immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine.”
  • Are you one of the many who have become excited about our campaign, and who are looking forward to hearing more about the plans God has for our future? If that’s you, can you pray for our leadership, that they can describe our endeavor in a way that is “immeasurably more” than all we can ask or imagine?
  • Maybe you are a person who still isn’t quite sure what we’re doing and why it’s important. If so, let’s pray together that, as Paul wrote, “…the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
  • Perhaps today, as you’re listening, you know what our campaign is about, and you’re just not sure it’s the right thing for us as a congregation. We all want to respect each other’s opinions, and listen to each other, and so if that’s the case, the best thing we can do is to pray that our love for each other, inspired by the love God demonstrated for us at the cross of our Savior, will draw us together in a more powerful way than ever.

After our Commitment Sunday we pray that we will move on in the Renaissance Project and begin to impact the ministries here and the lives that they intersect.

And who will get the glory for all this? He will:   “…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:21

So, we pray for more.
  • More desire to speak to the Lord in prayer about our hopes, and yes, our fears, about this campaign.
  • More desire to see the vision we have coming true in our midst.
  • More passion to be generous, to give as those who are incredibly loved by God, through Jesus Christ.

I’d like to share with you a true story that occurred recently in the life of Jerry Kieschnick, one of the past presidents of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  In a recent article, he wrote:
During the Sunday service I noticed across the aisle a little girl who was crying while the offering was being gathered. Looking more closely, I detected a coin in her little clenched hand. About that time she looked toward the back of the sanctuary at the ushers who were making their way from front to back. I deduced that she was deeply upset about missing the offering plate.

Her mother was saying something to her that was impossible for me to hear. But I surmised that mom had suggested her daughter could still deposit her offering since the ushers would pass by again on their way back to the front of the sanctuary to place the offering plates on the altar. Unaware of the dilemma, the ushers walked right past her pew, which catalyzed additional tears.

After briefly pondering if and how it would be appropriate to help, I quickly got out of my seat, walked across the aisle, knelt beside the little girl and asked her mother if her daughter was crying because she missed the offering. Mom’s answer was in the affirmative. So I asked the mother if it would be okay for her daughter to go with me to the altar to put her offering in the plate. She readily agreed. So did the little girl, whose face suddenly turned from sadness to satisfaction.

Hand in hand a little girl and a man she had never met walked down the center aisle and up the chancel steps. When we stood before the altar, which was much too tall for her to reach, I asked if I could pick her up so she could reach the plate. She nodded in agreement. I picked her up, she completed her mission, and we walked back together to her appreciative mother. On the way I noticed no small number of smiling worshippers who had witnessed what had transpired.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I learned from her mother after the service that the little girl’s name is Katelyn. She is four years old. When I saw the coin she placed in the plate I was reminded of the biblical story of the widow who gave all she had. And I was thankful that I did not let my initial concern about possibly making a scene or interfering in a parental matter prevent me from taking what turned out to be a most rewarding risk.

May we be given that same desire for more and when the time comes, and we are invited to bring forward a commitment to the future God sees. To echo Paul, then, “. . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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