Sunday, July 24, 2011

Linked to Community: Bigger Dreams


Acts 1:1-12

So far we have seen that being linked to Christ gives us hope; healing; and makes us whole.
Three weeks ago we talked about being linked to community and how having a community, an extended family of twelve to twenty, around here we call them Connection Groups, allows us to have better relationships across the board. We have better relationships with our spouse, our family, our co-workers, we are designed to be in community. Today we continue talking about being linked to community, and how when we are linked to community we have bigger dreams.

What do you do when your dreams are shattered? When your plans fall apart? When the life you had dies? In Acts 1 we find the followers of Jesus, the remnant, the most committed that had anticipated the re-establishing of God’s kingdom with Jesus as the king, are crushed by the reality that their king had been crucified.  Now they were living in the shadow of the cross but their dream was not dead, because they had seen the resurrected One.  Now after forty days Jesus plants the seeds of a new dream in their hearts. The dream is to share the message of hope, love, and redemption that He brought with “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is a pretty ambitious plan for a group of people who had lost their leader and their hope.  What did this community have to do to live out God’s dream for their lives?

They had to look upward and receive God’s dream for their lives
They had to look inward to decide whether they would embrace God’s dream for their lives.
They had to move forward and take a step of obedience to live out God’s dream for their lives.

They had to look upward and receive God’s dreams for their lives.

Jesus knew the power of community to bring forth the presence of God.  He had already told them this in Matthew 18:20 when He said, “where two or three are gathered in My name I am in the midst of them.” Divine synergy occurs when we gather in community. God’s presence is made real, the whole of the community is far greater than the sum of the parts because God shows up in bigger ways to unleash bigger dreams.

God has a gift for you, the Holy Spirit. God’s active and living presence that, once you make a commitment to Christ, lives within you to guide you, to show you God’s plan, path, and purpose for your life. God wants to reveal God’s dream for you but you have to be willing to be open to being led by the Spirit. v. 8 Jesus promised, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;” yet we still live as if we are powerless. Why? Because we are unwilling to be led.

My uncle had an old mule. This was the most stubborn beast that ever lived. One day my uncle told me, just for fun I believe, to put the mule in the barn. I grabbed the reins and I pulled, I got behind and I pushed, I begged, pulled some more but that mule would not move. He just stood there, tail swishing away the flies, looking at me like I was about as annoying as those flies. Whenever I would quit pulling, he would actually back up. After about twenty minutes my uncle comes out and asked how it was going. It wasn’t. He walked back in the barn, got a blanket, threw it over the head of that old mule so he couldn’t see, said a couple of words, and then grabbed the reins and led him into the barn. What was the difference? First, my uncle removed all the distractions; he covered the eyes so the mule couldn’t see a thing. Then he spoke to that old mule, and the mule trusted the voice of its owner because he had spent years with him. You know why some of us aren’t led by the Holy Spirit? Why we aren’t living God’s dream for us? Because we are either distracted or don’t recognize God’s voice. There are too many distractions in our lives. Our lives are too full for God to be able to get in. We don’t recognize God’s voice when He calls cause we aren’t spending enough time with Him.

The disciples just stood there looking up, which is important. They looked upward, they received God’s dream for their lives together but there is another step. The two guys in white had to remind them that Jesus would be back, but in the meantime he gave them a job to do, then they had to..

They had to look inward to decide whether they would embrace God’s dream for their lives.

Jesus told them to go back to Jerusalem, there they would receive power and then they would become “witnesses,” that is they would tell others what they had seen. He told them to go back, wait and pray, stay in God’s presence. Listen with your heart, wait until you hear the voice of God, when you do then you will receive power. The power will give you the courage to proclaim what you know to be true. You know why some of us never share what God is doing in our lives? We become paralyzed because we aren’t spending enough time in the presence of God to receive power from God.            
           
Once we receive God’s dream there is a moment, a time, then we have to decide whether or not we are going to fully embrace God’s dream for our life.  What community does for us is allow us to stay in God’s presence and to experience God’s power so we can live out God’s dream in us. Looking upward and receiving God’s dream is important, then looking inward and embracing God’s big dream for your life is vital, but nothing happens until you move forward and take a step of obedience.

They had to move forward and take a step of obedience to live out God’s dream for their lives.

Most of us are educated far beyond our level of obedience. When Lydia was little she was, strong-willed. Well, she still is, but it was more frustrating coming from a three year old than it is coming from a twenty-two year old. She had the habit of breaking out of the nursery. More than once she walked into the sanctuary and stood beside me until I picked her up while I was preaching. I have done many sermons with her in my arms. One day I was dropping her off in the nursery as I was about to go in the sanctuary. I reminded her that if she left the nursery she would have to get the spank spoon when she got home. She looked up at me and said, “you might as well go ahead and spank me now, cause if I can I’m getting out.” She knew what she should do, she just didn’t want to do it. Sound familiar?

We know what we should do, we know what God wants from us but obedience is tough. It requires we change actions and attitudes. It means we have to be more concerned with people who are far from God than we are with our own preferences. It may mean we have to change, change our lifestyle, change our direction, even change our profession. When we are living out God’s dreams for our lives it may mean we have to leave behind the rest to pursue God’s best.

Acts 1:12, “Then they returned to Jerusalem…” I want to know if they all returned, don’t you. I mean were there those who hung back, slid away, knew that it was going to be hard and that the easy way is just to step away. Nobody would miss them anyway. God’s dream is too big, the cost is too high, I can just go back to living the life I had before the Jesus interruption and nobody will know the difference. In  a group this size it is my bet that some of us are practicing “coasting Christianity.” We know that God has a big, honking dream for our life but rather than let other people get involved with our life and share that dream with them and force us to do something about it, we just cruise along and hang back.

Do you know why people quit community? Not all of them, but a significant number of people quit community because it is easier to ignore your God given, God sized dream alone. It is easier to live a life of quiet, mediocre disobedience if you never share your dream and allow God to shape your life around it. If you avoid the loving and leading relationships that real community provides. One speaker we heard while at church during vacation said it well, “You do not live an extraordinary life by accident.” You don’t accidentally happen into extraordinary, it takes effort. It takes at least as much perspiration as it does inspiration. It takes perseverance, the willingness to keep getting up when you get knocked down, to believe the dream even when its hard. Don’t you want to live an extraordinary life? A life pursuing your God-sized dream? We we are in a community of twelve to twenty people who love us and challenge us, our dreams get bigger because the presence and power of God is more real.

Challenges:
For a lot of you, you need to commit to take the first step of obedience. You need to follow the disciples who left the mountain looking and took that first step toward Jerusalem Its really an issue of obedience. You know what God is calling you to do, and you have to decide to live a life of mediocre disobedience or to give yourself over to God’s dream. You know that God has called you to something but you are holding back, the group you find may be the group that helps you release God’s dream within you. This is what I know; community releases bigger dreams because Jesus has promised to always show up in community.

Some of you are in a group, you are committed to re-engaging in your Connection Group in the fall and you have had a God sized dream that you have been keeping to yourself. You need to share with a group so you can be prayed for, experience God’s presence and power and see what God leads you to do next. 

Some of you are called to lead a CG and have been resisting. It’s too much work. It takes too much time. I’ll have to give something up. Yes, it is a lot of work, but everything that is eternally worthwhile requires real effort. Yes it takes time. Yes you may have to say “no” to something. My question for you in this, in ten years, or one hundred years, or eternity, will what you give up to lead a CG still matter? Will the soul of somebody you impact in your CG still matter? I believe that God has a call on some one here to lead a missional group for people not even connected to our church. For somebody to lead a mature group, a group for engaged senior adults.  For somebody to lead a mother’s group specifically for mom’s with small children. I don’t know what other group God is calling you to lead, but you do. Your heart is beating faster. Your brain is buzzing. Your palms are sweaty and you are hoping I won’t list the group God is calling you to reach.

Are you ready to dream big? 
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