06-08-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at how God wants us CONNECTED to each other so we can help each other meet our deepest, spiritual needs. The church consists of people connected together in order to…

  • Belong: Because we all need to feel accepted—welcomed into a group.
  • Believe: Because we all need to know the truth—something we can trust.
  • Become: Because we all need a dream—something that can motivate us to improve, to grow, to go farther.
  • Be sent: Because we all need purpose—a reason for being, a higher call to answer.

Today we’re looking at this being a place to become—to become more!

  • more than our past,
  • more than we are right now,
  • more than what our friends might think,
  • more than what our parents could imagine,
  • even more than we could dream possible ourselves. God has MORE in store for you!

Phil 1:6 (TEV) …I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.

This last week I heard the names of several famous people who recently died. If you’re a celebrity, you might get a couple minutes recognition on the Nightly News when you die:
Maya Angelou (86), who wrote Why the Caged Bird Sings, was recognized by a number of people, including President Obama.
Lewis Katz (72), philanthropist, former owner of a couple professional sports teams, who with a friend had just purchased the Philadelphia Inquirer for $88 million, was killed in a plane crash a few days ago. His friend, comedian Bill Cosby said, “He always would tell me, ‘I love you, man!’”
Then there was Ann Davis (88), who played Alice, the housekeeper, on The Brady Bunch. Brian Williams: “After her acting career, she became known for…[are you ready for this?] for leading Bible studies.” They took note of her faith. The last chapters of her life were significant for different reasons than the early chapters. She finished strong!

What would they say about your life? If someone were to summarize your life in just a sentence or two, what would they say?

I’d like to think that as long as God gives me breath, I will still be dreaming of more—being more, doing more, becoming more. I want to go the distance. I hope my final chapters will be more significant and inspiring than my early chapters.

If God gives me strength, on my final lap, I’d like to sprint to the finish line. I want to keep growing and learning and doing and becoming more than I am right now.

What are you becoming? How can you tell?

(1)  You could measure what you do. What do we accomplish? What is our impact? Did we make waves? Were we movers and shakers?

(2)  You could measure what you are. What kind of person are we? What is our character? What are we made of? What inner qualities define us?

(3)  You could measure by what others see. The world has its own set of standards to define success.

(4)  Or you could measure by what God sees. People look on the outward appearance; God looks at the heart. When we stand before him at judgment day, what will he see? The most important thing is not what people think but rather: What does God see in us? One thing we can say for sure:

1. God has big plans for us! He wants us to become something more! He wants us to become something we could never imagine on our own.

Eph 3:16-21 (NIV) 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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…

What is your dream? What are you becoming? How are you growing? Improving? Maybe there are people in your life who can’t imagine anything better for you.

When my father was in high school, the teacher one day asked him and a classmate named George to stay after school. He wanted to talk to them. They didn’t know what was up, but when the teacher had them alone, he said, “You two are excellent students. You have great potential. You could become just about anything you set your mind to. Why, you could even become doctors if you wanted to.”
My Dad’s friend, George, turned to him. “Ha!” he laughed, “Imagine that! Doctor Doebler!” George couldn’t imagine it. But what George could not imagine became a dream for my Dad.

What is your dream? Maybe your friends can’t see the possibities. Or maybe you carry a load of put-downs and insults—weighing you down, holding you back. Maybe your parents’ criticized you. Maybe you hear words echoing in your head: “You’re no good. You’re worthless. You’ll never amount to anything.” Or maybe some bitter experience (divorce? bankruptcy? losing a job?) left you beating yourself up for your failures…

We need to close our ears to nay-sayers so we can open our hearts to what God is saying! Maybe some don’t believe in you, but God does! God sees greatness in you—because he put it there.

But even if you’re one of those who have not had to deal with discouraging words, I’d still ask: What are you becoming? Are you growing? Improving? Are you changing for the better? Are you striving to reach a higher goal? Are you pressing toward the finish line?

Because a lot of people are coasting toward the finish line. They’re satisfied they’ve done all they can. They think they’ve got nothing more to give. They think, “That’s enough for me.”

2. We have not yet arrived.

My uncle just died on Friday. Uncle Bob was 88 years old. His name won’t be mentioned on Nightly News, but he made his mark on this world because God made a mark on his life.
Years ago, I traveled with him on a missions trip to Argentina. He was in his 60s at the time, giving his time and energy to bless others. One morning, the team leader asked him to give the devotional. Twenty-five years later, I still remember what he said. And I’m going to summarize it right now because it has to do with this matter of becoming more than we are right now.

Uncle Bob reminded us how God called Abraham and made a covenant with him (Gen 12:1-3). He reminded us that Abraham obeyed God and by faith went out not knowing where he was going (Heb 11:8). We remembered those stories, but then my uncle point out what we often miss: that when Abraham began his journey, he was traveling with his father. My uncle reminded us that the story of Abraham really began with the story of his father, Terah.

Gen 11:27-28,31 (NIV84) 27 This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth… 31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

Terah began the journey, but he didn’t finish it. He stopped before his goal. But did you notice where did he stopped? He stopped at Haran, a place named after his dead son—who had died back in Ur!

“They settled there… Terah lived…and died in Harran.”

My uncle challenged us: If God starts you on a journey, he wants you to finish the journey. He wants you to finish strong and reach your goal.

Don’t be like Terah, who allowed his past—his grief, his disappointment, his broken dreams—to paralyze his faith and prevent him from becoming more. Is it possible that God had called Terah (like Abraham)—only Terah didn’t finish like Abraham did?

How easy it is to be stymied in our faith journey, to plateau, to hit a road block! All of us will face disappointment or loss. All of us will have our Haran. All of us will grieve. But we can’t build a monument to the past and camp there.

When God calls us to Canaan, we must not stop in Haran! But don’t settle for less when God has plans for more. In the natural we are all like Terah; but in the Spirit we can have faith like Abraham.

3. We need God’s power to finish.

Today is Pentecost Sunday on the church calendar. It celebrates the day when the church was birthed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:1-4 (NIV) 1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began tospeak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Pentecost reminds us that that the way we become more is by the power of the Holy Spirit! We can become something better than we are right now if we will allow the Spirit of God to have his way in us.

When we are empowered by God’s Spirit, when the Holy Spirit comes upon us in power, when he gives spiritual gifts to us, it’s because he wants to fulfill his dreams in us—not our dreams, but his! He wants us to become something more than we have been.

God dreams of us being transformed into people who look more like his Son (Rom 8:28, NASB). He dreams of us living out his promises (2 Pet 1:4). He dreams of us accomplishing his plan (Eph 1:11-12).

4. God shapes our destiny.

When the Bible says that we have been “predestined according to [God’s plan] who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” (Eph 1:11), it means he has designed a destiny for us, he has dreamed a dream.

At graduation we say: I’m going to change the world. As we pursue a career we might say: I’m going to make a difference. When we retire we hope to say: I did the best I could.

But God says, “With my Spirit in you I have a plan for you. I have a destiny for you.”

God sent his Spirit at Pentecost to empower the disciples. The Spirit enabled them to go beyond their own abilities and dreams. The Spirit equipped them with spiritual gifts so they could bless others.

5. Spiritual gifts have purpose.

We are gifted for a purpose—for God’s purpose. And God is interested in far more than merely making us feel good. He doesn’t give gifts just to give us a thrill or a spiritual high. He gives gifts so we can use them—but that can be an incredibly thrilling thing!

So spiritual gifts are both useful and beautiful. The Holy Spirit doesn’t give useless gifts, but they’re far more than merely practical, utilitarian things. They are beautiful and desirable.

It’s good to desire and enjoy God’s spiritual gifts. Paul said: “Eagerly desire them…” Unwrapping a spiritual gift should be a beautiful, thrilling thing—but it’s also a useful thing. A spiritual gift should cause a warm, tingly rush of emotions. But a spiritual gift should also be put to work.

A pack mule is useful, but not very elegant or beautiful. A thoroughbred race horse, on the other hand, is admired for its beauty and grace. In spiritual gifts, God brings both together—a pack mule and a thoroughbred—beauty and usefulness. Spiritual gifts are thrilling and exciting, like a race horse! But they are also practical and purposeful, like a pack mule.

6. Become more by being filled more! We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Spiritually empowered gifts go beyond “natural” talent and ability (even though “natural” ultimately comes from God). Spiritually empowered gifts are on a completely different level than so-called “natural” abilities:

  • They come through a supernatural encounter—“waiting on God until power from ‘on high’ comes over you.”
  • A supernatural encounter still requires a personal response. God doesn’t force himself on anyone. Empowerment doesn’t happen by accident. (We must surrender: like Moses at the burning bush; like David anointed by the prophet [contrast to Saul]; like Jeremiah called by God; like Mary; like Peter (all the disciples) called by Jesus; like Paul on the road to Damascus.)
  • Gifts are extraordinary—can’t be explained through ordinary means—training, education, and practice are good (and we should use them to work to improve ourselves) can’t replicate what God does.
  • Gifts are intended for God’s purposes, not yours. God has dreams that are far beyond your dreams! Eph 3:20