LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOLUME II SERIES
SEPTEMBER 11, 1999
What happens? What really happens when the roof caves in, when you become ill or maybe face a season of trauma with a family member or child? What transpires in your life when your friend turns against you, when a spouse walks out the door or you face a tough run at work? What takes place when you have those intense feelings of loneliness, when you don’t have anyone to talk to and no one really understands? What do you do? Where do you go? How does it play out?
At this time I feel confident in making an all-encompassing, broad-brushed statement. Every person who is hearing my voice has gone through, is going through or will face the feelings and frustrations that I just described. All you have to do is live life a little bit and you are going to deal with them. You are going to face the music, something we will be discussing during this series.
You know this huge hit, “Jump”, by Van Halen put out in 1984 sort of describes the cry of our culture, doesn’t it? “I get up but nothing gets me down. You’ve got it tough. I have seen the toughest around. I know just how you feel. You’ve got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real.” What happens when you are down, when you have got it tough? When you are rolling with the punches, how do you get to what’s real. Well, today we are going to find the answer. The answer is in that word of action that David Lee Roth screamed over and over and over in this song – jump. We have got to jump, take a leap, dive in.
Now the problem is that a lot of us jump but we jump to the wrong things. But the Bible comes along and tells us how to handle difficulties and dilemmas that come our way, that hit us with the force of a bomb. The Bible says in no uncertain terms that we are to jump, to go ahead and jump. So I ask you, what do you do when you are down, when the times are tough, when you are rolling with the punches? How do you get to what’s real?
Let me give you several suggestions. Don’t jump to conclusions, jump to character development. It is so easy for me, when I face a tough run, to jump to conclusions. How about you? Oftentimes God uses dilemmas to develop character. Isn’t that something? God uses dilemmas to develop real maturity and real character growth. Now if you have come to a point in your life where you have made a faith decision, where you have established a personal connection with Christ, the following words are tailor made for you. Before I give you the words, let me give you an example about someone who jumped to conclusions rather than jumping to character development.
Moses. Moses was a strategic leader. Moses had a character flaw, something that he never really jumped over. It was his out-of-control anger. Talk about a hair trigger, this guy would just go off. And one day early in his life, Moses saw one of his fellow Hebrews being taken advantage of by an Egyptian. So Moses just whacked him, took him out and buried him in the sand. We will talk about this story in greater detail next weekend. Well, push the clock forward. In Numbers 20, after Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery, after God had performed miracle after miracle, we find Moses and the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 37 years. Finally, they came to the brink of the Promised Land, the incredible piece of real estate that God had mapped out just for His people. Moses, because he had not really dealt with his anger, jumped to conclusion, got ahead of God and had a temper tantrum in front of the entire Israelite community. Because of it, he didn’t jump into the Promised Land. God wanted to use dilemma after dilemma in Moses’ life to get him to jump over anger into self-control but Moses blew it. He didn’t do it.
I ask you, what kind of character development work does God want you to do? You may be saying that you don’t know. Well, think about your dilemmas. I will say it once again. God often uses dilemmas to develop character. He will put us in situations that kind of lure us into getting involved in fits of rage, a critical spirit or exaggeration. God wants to use the time to test us and He wants us to jump over our character deficits, our character flaws and onto real growth. For example, let’s say that you have a problem with impatience. Surely, no one here does, but let’s just say you do. Well, God could put you into dilemmas to develop patience. God wants you to jump over impatience to develop patience. He might allow gridlock on the freeway in your life. He might allow long lines at the checkout at Tom Thumb. He might even allow you to sit in traffic at church to develop patience, to jump from impatience to patience.
Maybe you are struggling with a critical spirit. Maybe you like to back bit, to back stab. Well God may allow jerks and unfair people to surround you at your job. It could be so alluring to get them, to talk behind their backs, but God says not to jump to conclusions. Don’t do what Moses did. Jump over that critical spirit into a positive one. Encourage them, help them, assist them. If you still don’t know what kind of character work and development God wants you to do, ask God. Ask Him what He wants you to work on. Ask Him where He wants you to jump, to take a dive. Where? Where?
You may be saying, “If Moses messed up, I will certainly mess up.” You may not be able to identify with Moses. You may not look at all like Charlton Heston. Well, I want to give you a better example. I want to give you an example that we all can connect with, an example of someone who blew it, who jumped to conclusions but later on made an incredible character leap. I am talking about that bold, brash man, that impulsive disciple named Simon Peter. You remember Simon Peter, don’t you? He walked up to Jesus and talked some serious smack to our Savior. He said, “Jesus, others might dis You, but not me. I’ve got your back. I’ll be with You. I’ll give my life for You. There is nothing that will take me away from You and your love and our connection.”
Jesus locked eyes with Simon Peter and said, “Over the next few hours you are going to tell three lies about me. You are going to do the trifecta lie and you are going to run. You are going to mess up.” And what happened? Simon Peter backed down. Simon Peter could have used this dilemma for character development, but he jumped to conclusions, put his tail between his legs and ran off. “Oh, I don’t know Jesus. I have never heard of Him. No, I am not one of his followers.”
We have all jumped to conclusions. We all have messed up. But if we read the rest of the story, specifically John 21, we see that after his death and resurrection, Christ reinstated Peter and Simon Peter made a huge character jump. He jumped over his impulsiveness, over his impatience, over his huge ego and became one of the boldest believers to ever walk on the face of the earth. And later on in the message, we are going to see what kind of a Christ follower Simon Peter actually was and what kind of character he really developed.
You know, this character jump is a lot like playing checkers. How many of you like to play checkers? Think about playing checkers. Your opponent gives you opportunity after opportunity to make a jump. And when you jump over your opponent’s checker, you eliminate your opponent’s checker. Hopefully, if you are good, you will have stacks and stacks of checkers by the checkerboard and at the end you win the game. As we do this character jump, if we don’t jump to conclusions, we should have a collection of negative character checkers by this big board as we develop in the Christian life. That is the kind of life, the kind of victory, the kind of ability, the kind of power that God can give us and we can tap into if we follow Him.
Now some of you do this. I have done it before. You just blame your past. And we have a bunch of blaming boomers and generation excusers, you know what I am talking about. “Oh, I just have a hair trigger temper because my father was that way. I am just a critical kind of guy. I’m just a girl who is impatient. That is just the way I am. My diapers were put on too tight. My nursery was painted orange instead of rainbow colors. I went to the wrong preschool, grammar school, junior high school or high school.” We all have issues from our past. I do and you do. We were brought up in imperfect circumstances and situations. I am all for Biblical counseling. We have some incredible Christian counselors who are members of this church. I say, yeah, go to a Christian counselor. Deal with the issues. Get over them and then make the character jump. Go ahead and jump.
Don’t you like the way even the graphics are jumping up there on the screen? Our media department is incredible. Unbelievable. When a dilemma comes our way we must not jump on excuses, but we must jump on the support system. Don’t jump on excuses. Isn’t it easy to excuse things? We love to play the blame game, to point the finger at this and that but never at ourselves. My mind rushes to a chapter from the Old Testament, I Samuel 13. This text describes King Saul, a man who had so much ability. But sadly, his life was a tragedy of what might have been. Saul could do a lot as King of Israel but there was one thing he could not do. Saul could not make sacrifices to the Lord unless God’s man, Samuel, was on the scene. Saul had to have Samuel there to make sacrifices to God before a battle. The Philistines were camping at Micmash. And the Philistines were bad. If you study history you will see that the Philistines had a corner on the iron market. The Beverly Hillbilly Hebrews had no iron. All they could do was throw some rocks and stuff. Well, Saul took a look at the Philistines when he was at Gilgal, another cool place and great name. The Hebrew people began to wig a little bit. They began to question whether Saul was strong enough to lead them against the powerful Philistines. Saul became impatient and made a quick sacrifice to God. And guess who shows up while the altar is still smoldering. Samuel.
Can’t you just see Saul checking his sundial Rolex watch? Wow, Samuel, you are late. I had to do it. Samuel asked Saul what he was thinking and why he disobeyed God. What did Saul do? Did Saul come clean? Did Saul confess his sins? No, no, no. He began to jump on excuses. “Well, the Philistines were pressing. My people were wigging. Plus, look at my sundial. You were like ten minutes late.” He jumped on excuses. Oftentimes God uses dilemmas and delays to test our character, and to allow us to jump to character growth. He could have jumped on a support system, but he didn’t.
I think about another Old Testament figure named Job. Talk about a man who was on a roll. Talk about a heavy hitter. Job. He owned a bunch of real estate, a lot of live stock. He was liquid, man. He had a beautiful family. One day, boom, it was gone. Kids gone. His wife turned to him and asked why he didn’t just curse God and die. He had it bad. I mean that is real bad when you wife tells you that, isn’t it? His friends began to blame sin in Job’s life for his condition. It was ugly. And you would think that Job had every reason to jump on the excuse bandwagon, but he didn’t. This man jumped on the support system, his connection with God. God built patience in his life and he jumped to patience and later on he was reinstated and he got everything back that he had lost.
Job had his ordeal before the cross. We have more things to rely on then Job did back in the Old Testament. We have Jesus plus we have the support system. When we face the dilemmas and difficulties of life, we have the support system. And we have to jump into the support system, to take a leap, to walk to the edge and leave the ledge. I am talking about the local church. You see we have a bunch of people here who are water testers, tire kickers, probers and seekers. You have been hanging around here for months, maybe years. And it is time for you to land. It is time for you to officially join Fellowship Church. But let me say, as I always do, our church is not for everybody. I am partial, but it is not for everybody. If it is not for you, find another church and get involved.
I had a man in his early 40s, married with teenage children, walk up to me two weeks ago. He said, “Ed, I want you to know something. We are committed to Fellowship Church. We are lifers here.” That is what I am talking about. I ask you. What is going to happen when the roof caves in? What is going to happen when you become ill, when you face a time of trauma with a family member or a child? What is going to happen when you lose your job? What is going to happen when you are lonely, tired or depressed? Who are you going to turn to? Your golfing buddies? The country club crowd? Your fickle friends at work or around the neighborhood? Hey, they mean well, but if they don’t know Christ personally, they are going to give you pseudo support. When I say pseudo, I mean a baseless support. If you are not living based on the authority of the Bible, everything at the end of the day is relative. Jump into a Christ centered community.
As I was studying and praying about this message, I thought about Acts 2:41. Now this is talking about the first church. Check this out. “Those who accepted his message…” You see his? You know who his refers to? Simon Peter, the man who had earlier jumped to conclusions, now made an incredible character jump. Now he is bold. He is teaching thousands. “…were baptized and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.” Three thousand. They started with early church with eleven, the disciples, and they went from eleven to three thousand and eleven in several hours.
People think that Fellowship is a big church. Well, let me say something. If God had a problem with a church being a big church, His first one wouldn’t have grown from eleven to three thousand and eleven in the first couple of hours. Do you realize that the Fellowship Church over the last month has increased an average of 3,000 people. That totally blows me away. I can’t explain it. It is a God thing.
We are to be like the early church. We are to do what the Bible says. In the early church they began to concentrate on certain things. Look at Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching…” Let me stop here. They gathered together in temple courts. Some of the early churches were 50,000 to 70,000 strong. They learned God’s word. They learned it in a public domain and also in a private domain. Do you remember when the evil one tempted our Savior? For one temptation he brought Jesus to the top of the temple and told Him to jump. Jesus didn’t jump off the temple. He jumped into scripture. He came back against those temptations with scripture verses, words from His Father. So we are commanded to come together in large groups corporately but also we are commanded to study the Bible in an intimate way in small groups. “…and to the fellowship…” That is why we call our church Fellowship Church, a bunch of fellows rowing a ship together. Fellow men, fellow women, fellow boys, fellow girls, fellowship. Fellowship means to have in common, to share that which is more near and dear to your heart.
It goes on, “…to the breaking of bread and to payer.” We are to learn how to talk to God. The church is to be a church that communicates to the Lord. We are to be a house of prayer. We are to pray and to learn how to pray. And that should transcend every venue of our lives.
This past week during my quiet time I was reading Psalm 6. Here is David who was very, very acquainted with the dilemmas and sometimes the delays of God. Psalm 6:6. “I am weary with my sighing. Every night I make my bed swim. I dissolve my couch with my tears.” Have you ever felt that way? Psalm 6:8-9. “For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication. The Lord receives my prayer.”
Many of you need to jump into church membership. Others of you who are members of the Fellowship Church need to jump into small communities. If you read on in Act 2:46. “The early church met from house to house.” We have something in our church, and it is the guts of our church, to be quite frank with you. We call them Home Teams. Home Teams are clusters of single adults and married adults who meet together at least twice a month for teaching, fellowship and prayer. Many people need to dive into Home Teams. And again, if you are just coming for a corporate feeding, what is going to happen during the delights and dilemmas of life. When the going is tough and you are not involved in a small community in the context of the local church, all I can say to you is good luck.
So many wonderful things are happening in our Home Teams. Some of you may be saying that from going to church on the weekends to walking into someone’s house is a big leap, a big dive. You may think they will ask you questions about the Bible and request that you pray out loud. They won’t ask you to speak or to pray or the meaning of Revelations 17. Each group has a leader who will facilitate conversation and community. You just show up. But I am going to tell you something. You will not believe the relationships and the potential that is out there, but you have got to take the step. You have got to leap. You have got to dive.
In thinking about a Christ-centered community and all the implications involved, a close friend of mine shared the following account with me. It really touched my heart. He said that he and his wife were sitting in one of the First Wednesday services. You see on the first Wednesday of every month we have an intense time of worship right here. Several thousand of us gather and it is a rich time of fellowship and connection with God. My friend had brought four friends to that service. Tragically one of the wives had just discovered that she had cancer. After the communion, my friend collected the communion cups from his friends. He looked at them and whispered to the woman’s husband, “If your wife ever wonders if people are praying for her, maybe these six communion cups will be a visible reminder that we are constantly lifting her up in prayer.” The husband got tears in his eyes and it was a powerful experience.
Several weeks later this same small group was on a trip together. Over dinner one night they were talking about the Fellowship Church and the power of prayer. This woman, who was by that time going through chemotherapy, opened up her purse and inside her purse were those six communion cups. They all just broke down.
Friends, that would have never happened without community. It would have never happened without a small group connection. I want you to have story after story after story like that because you are experiencing a Christ centered community. Yeah, do the public thing but also the small group thing. Do that.
Well there is something else that I challenge you to do. This is something that God has shown me over the years when I have felt down or too focused on my dilemma or too busy throwing a pity party. Not only are we to take a jump into a Christ-centered community, but also we are to take a jump into the lives of others. I am talking about ministry within the local church. I define ministry as using our skill set in a strategic and spirit-led way. You have unique talent and I have unique talent and we are to use those talents within the context of the church. When we dive into ministry, we get our eyes off of ourselves and onto others. I am here to tell you, when people work in our preschool, our jr. high ministry or greet or usher or serve with the sound and technical group, the band or the praise team, they always say they get more out of the ministry than those they are helping. Think about it. You can support a Christ-centered community, plus get a huge growth spurt because of it. On top of that, you are taking your eyes off of yourselves and putting them on others.
What did Jesus say? I came to serve. And at Fellowship Church, you are incredible at serving. I am blown away, week in and week out, by the sacrifices so many make. But there are also many others who are in the stands just doing the spectator thing, church jumping and church hopping. Dive in. Get involved.
A preschool worker walked up to me Friday and said, “Pastor, the amazing thing about the preschool area is that I will see parent after parent drop their children off for age-appropriate teaching, yet they are clueless concerning the need for their involvement. People say they want to make a difference, that they want to help others. We have so many opportunities here. The bigger the church, the bigger the program, the bigger and greater the need to get involved. And that is a cool thing about a church this size. We have so many specific avenues for you to get involved. But it is up to you. You have got to jump. Go ahead and jump.
We opened this message with a secular song called “Jump”. It is a song that a lot of people here recognized. During this series we will conclude the message with a song from a Christian perspective that answers the question and addresses the dilemma featured in the opening song. I pray that this next song, which will conclude the message portion of this service, is your prayer. It is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman entitled “Dive”.