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Fireworks

Tomorrow we celebrate the 240th birthday of our great country.

  • We are so very blessed to be in America. To say that our country is in transition is as much an understatement as Custer saying, “I think they are friendly Indians!”

  • Even so, with all of our challenges as a nation, our faults – our failures – our sins – our best days can still be ahead of us.

  • In a 2014 Harris Poll, the Congress got a whopping 6% favorable rating; the lowest of any entity ranked.

  • In a 2015 Rasmussen Report, 63% of Americans stated they felt the country was headed in the wrong direction.

  • So, we need a shaking and a stirring politically. Let the fireworks begin!

  • Enter the candidates for President of the United States. Next January, most likely, we will inaugurate President Hillary Rodham Clinton or President Donald J. Trump. Either way, our great nation will be forced to do some serious soul searching.

The culture around us is changing. Much debate is taking place in our churches over whether or not Christendom in the West has collapsed.

  • Many no longer share our value system.
  • Many no longer pay attention to the voice of the church.
  • Many do not think we add anything to the cultural mix.

A lot of you grew up like I did. For our students here today, and our young adults, imagine another time and another place.

  • Sundays were truly a day of rest.
  • Rarely were businesses open, to include restaurants.
  • Most gas stations did not open until after 12 in the afternoon. (And they were real gas stations: pumped your gas, washed your windows, checked the oil).
  • People went to church.
  • Sunday School at 10:00
  • Morning Worship at 11:00
  • Sang from hymnals
  • One special
  • Birthday march – penny per year
  • Went home or to Grandma’s for lunch

Folks, those days are the ancient past. And as much as some would like to, we’ll never go back there again.

So that brings me to the point.

Fireworks – a combustible or explosive device for producing a striking display of light or a loud noise, used for signaling or as part of a celebration.

As weird as it sounds, I get something spiritual out of this!

Listen to the words of Jesus:

Matthew 5:13-16 NLT
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
Jesus came and told his disciples,
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  • In a culture that was more anti-God than today’s culture…
  • In a culture of brutality where criminals were fed to animals or hung on posts and set on fire to light the streets…

In a culture of abuse and oppression and slavery and class warfare - Jesus says to those who would follow Him:

“You my friends, are the healing agents. You are the preservers of right living. You are a light to repel the darkness. You aren’t to blend, fit in, be embraced. You’ll be hated by some. Rejected by many. But that does not change the fact you are world changers. You are Children of God. You are the Church – the ones called out of all this darkness and translated into My Marvelous Light.”

So then, in a rapidly changing culture, what do we do?

We can:

  1. Be oblivious to culture.

    • Pretend everything’s great.
    • Or worse, act as though we don’t care that people have changed.
  2. Hide from culture.

    • See church as a shelter from the world and come and huddle and sing, “Kumbaya.”
    • Be afraid to engage because we may get tainted by their sin.

  3. Slam the culture.

    • Expose the evils – condemn the people of the culture.

    • Judge and run from them.

    • Actually, having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values puts us Christians in great company – Jesus and His disciples!

    • Jesus spent no time at all asking the government to change, but rather offered an alternative – the Kingdom of God.

    • The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land.

    • He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them.

    • Paul constantly suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, he didn’t look to them for change.

    • Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, Paul wrote letters from prison talking about the love of Jesus Christ.

    • Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

    • None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of the government. In fact, in Canada and the U.S., our government protects our freedoms to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations.

    • We honestly don’t have it that hard.

    • Maybe the future North American church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread.

    • Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.

    • Maybe we’ll be losing our jobs, our homes, our families, and even our lives because we follow Jesus.

    • That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago.

    • Perhaps the government might even take notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.

    • I hope so.

  4. Maybe – just maybe – we can embrace people and offer an alternative.

    • There’s so much about today’s culture we don’t like and we don’t agree with. But we cannot stop loving the people!
    • In an age when so many churches have pushed people away and cherry-picked the ones we want – the harvest is ripe for Christians who will just love their neighbor as they love themselves.

This will change our churches. This will change our community. This will change our nation.

Jesus didn’t say go and judge, condemn, hide, and abandon. He said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

  • The Gospel is still the answer.

  • The Cross is the still the answer.

  • A bloody, crucified Savior is still the relevant message.

  • The Christ Who walked out of the tomb on the third day and said, “Behold I live” turned to this culture, this day, and said, “And because I live you can live also!”

  • You talk about fireworks! And noise! And celebration!

  • We will be the church He intended.

  • We will impact our community.

  • We will win our families.

  • And the effect – we will make America great again – with or without Donald Trump!

Keep looking for the moment – the Grand Finale, when you can give your testimony – you can share your light. 

Darkness does not exist in and of itself. Darkness is merely the absence of light. Where there is no light there is darkness. That’s why Jesus said, “You are salt and you are light!”




Worship Set

Same Power

- Jason Ingram and Jeremy Camp

Verse 1

I can see waters raging at my feet.
I can feel the breath of those surrounding me.
I can hear the sound of nations rising up.
We will not be overtaken.
We will not be overcome.

Verse 2

I can walk down this dark and painful road.
I can face ev’ry fear of the unknown.
I can hear all God’s children singing out.
We will not be overtaken.
We will not be overcome.

Chorus

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave,
The same power that commands the dead to wake
lives in us, lives in us.
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks,
The same power that can calm a raging sea,
lives in us, lives in us, lives in us, lives in us.

Verse 3

We have hope that His promises are true.
In His strength there is nothing we can’t do.
Yes, we know there are greater things in store.
We will not be overtaken.
We will not be overcome.
(Repeat Chorus)

Bridge

Greater is He that is living in me.
He’s conquered our enemy.
No power of darkness,
No weapon prevails,
We stand here in victory. (Repeat)
Oh, in victory!
(Repeat Chorus)

Draw Me Close

- Kelly Carpenter

Verse 1

Draw me close to You,
Never let me go.
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I’m Your friend.

Verse 2

You are my desire,
No one else will do,
‘Cause nothing else could take Your place;
To feel the warmth of Your embrace.
Help me find the way,
Bring me back to You.

Chorus

You’re all I want,
You’re all I ever needed.
You’re all I want –
Help me know You are near.
(Repeat all)

Help me know You are near.

The Lord’s Prayer (Hymn)

- Lowell Mason

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom
And the power and the glory
Forever Amen (Amen).

Never Once

- Jason Ingram | Matt Redman | Tim Wanstall

Verse 1

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we've come
Knowing that for ev'ry step
You were with us

Verse 2

Kneeling on this battleground
Seeing just how much You've done
Knowing ev'ry victory was Your pow'r in us

Misc 1(Pre-Chorus)

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes our hearts can say

Chorus 1

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful God You are faithful
(You are faithful God You are faithful)

Misc 2(Pre-Chorus)

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once no we never walk alone

Chorus 2

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful God You are faithful
Ev’ry step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful God You are faithful

Misc 3(Ending)

You are faithful God You are faithful (3X)