A Beautiful Mess: Changed Lives

Good morning – my name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey Church.

It was one year ago that we kicked off a 24 month Generosity campaign at Journey Church.  Can you believe we are now halfway through it?  We are 12 months into our two-year campaign and it feels great.

Now in case you are newer to Journey and weren’t with us a year ago – or maybe you just plain forgot the details…  I want to begin our teaching time with a refresher and to let you know how we’re coming along, and then to remind us about why we are doing this generosity campaign.

So first – the refresher.

It was twelve months ago now that we asked you all to commit to a 24 month generosity campaign in order to help us increase our impact in our community, around the world, and to be able to help us get a building project started.

Our audacious goal was that we might raise 2.5 million dollars over the course of 24 months.  We asked that you might just be as generous as God allows you to be – to contribute to one fund – and that from that one fund we promised to do three things.  Now – for the sake of ease – I’ll break it down into yearly chunks – okay

First – we said we would budget $500K a year for our continued ministry at Journey Church.  That included salaries, rent for the Hub, donuts, ministry supplies – basically everything it takes to keep the ball rolling at Journey Church.

Secondly – we said we would commit 150K a year to support missions, both locally and globally.  This includes our working Haiti, Mali, Togo an the Dominican Republic.  As well as local ministries like Heartland Hope, Gretna Food pantry, and it also included a budget to help people in need from our assistance program – which includes subsidizing professional mental health counseling for people who would like it.

Lastly – we said we would take everything that came in after that and put it toward the Building project.  And hopefully – we would be able to place $600k each of the following two years towards building our future home for Journey Church.

This is a couple of artist renditions of the 30,000 foot building.  This is the front.  And this is the layout. 

That was our hope – and we were blown away by your generous pledges – our goal was 2.5 million and when we added the pledges it came out to be – 2.5 million dollars.  And that is amazing!

Now -it’s one thing to pledge – how did we actually do?

Well, we said we would budget $500 to our local ministry – we actually used 488k.  So we are under budget over that 12 months.  Isn’t that a wonderful news.

Secondly – we said we would give away 150k – we actually gave away 149k.  That brings us great joy.

And – while we are talking about this – we received some very encouraging news from our friends from Global Partners in Hope.  Over the past ten years Journey partnered with Global partners to build Nine Health centers in the Bako Region of Mali – like the one pictured here in Adamabougou.  Our friend Daniel Thera recently sent statistics – In the first four months of the year – there have been more than 14 thousand consultations in these health centers.  There were 944 births in the first four months.  Including 88 c-sections.  

On top of all the good news from the health centers – there is a church that has been planted in each of these regions as well – and hundreds of Malians have come to know the “With God” life that is promised to us through faith in Jesus.

It’s okay for us to feel a great sense of pride that we were given the privilege of having played such a vital role in the work that God was doing.  He invited us to work with him in Mali – and it ought to be a sense of great joy to see how it all is working out.

Furthermore – we continue to build centers.  We are supporting the work of building a hospital in Togo – and Ian Vickers posted some pictures just yesterday about the progress that is being made. Once the hospital is established – the health centers can be built in nearby villages – and so – following the Malian plan – we expect to be working in Togo for many years to come.

So – this brings us to the building.  Where do we stand with the building?  Well – since April of last year – we’ve been able to put 592k into the building project.  And That is amazing.  That is amazing.  It’s okay to clap.  I’m clapping in gratitude for a church that literally put it’s money where it’s pledge went.  Thank you for your continued support of Journey.

What this means is – we are still on target for starting construction by April.  I’m not even putting a year on it.  The next time your calendar says April – we are expecting to be in position to begin building.

Now – remember – we hold onto all of these timelines loosely – right?  We’ve been worshipping in school gyms for 11 years now – we aren’t going to sweat it if it takes a bit longer – but I want you to know and celebrate with you that your generosity is amazing – and your gifts are being put to work exactly as we said they would be.

We appreciate your generosity as we are half way through our campaign.

Now – speaking of the schools – we are right now at the mercy of the school system.  These past two months we’ve been reminded of the precarious situation our church is in regarding a building – it’s a good reminder that now is the time to build a building for Journey to be able to bring the good news of Jesus to this community for generations to come.

But in the meantime we wait patiently and joyfully even – because we know that the Church persists and remains and we will be okay.  And when the schools open back up to churches we will restart our services and worship the heck out of the joint.

Lastly this morning – I want to take a moment to refresh our memories about why we are doing this generosity campaign to begin with…  Why is it important to have a building?  Why is it important to have a church like Journey in our community for generations to come?

And for the answer – I want to turn to the book of Acts chapter 16 – and re-visit a portion of scripture we read last year.  Because frankly – I absolutely love this story.  I love this chapter – it is spot on with what we hope to see at Journey.

We share our office facilities with another church in town – they are called the Acts 2 church and we love them.  And they chose to name their church after a description of what happens in Acts 2 – all good – but I’m not so sure that if we were ever going to name our church after a chapter of the bible – I’m not sure I wouldn’t call us the Acts 16 church.

Why?  Because Acts 16 is the story of the Apostle Paul – who was a very important early church leader – who traveled all over the region in the first century starting churches.  Paul ends up writing half the New Testament – that’s how important he is…

In Acts 16 we read about how the church that met in the city of Philippi got it’s start.  We read about the first three members of the church in Philippi…

The first member of the church in Philippi?  A woman named Lydia.

11 We (Luke and the gang) boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

What do we learn about Lydia?  Well – she was rich.  She was what we would call the CEO of a fashion line of clothing.  She had more than one house.  She was from Thyatira.  And the house she owned in Philippi was big enough to host Paul and Luke and the entire church planting team that he had with him.

Lydia was also religious – we’d maybe even call her a seeker – why?  Well, she wasn’t jewish – and yet – on the Sabbath she is at the place where Jewish women were meeting to pray together.

And we learn she was eager to learn – what she heard appealed to her intellect – it clicked for her – it made sense – it was as if everything that had happened to her prepared her to hear the good news and be able t immediately respond to it…

She quickly believed the good news about the availability of the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus and was immediately baptized and – man – she was all in!

Lydia was wealthy, powerful, independent – intellectual – successful, and respected. The founding member of the church of Philippi.

The second member of the church  in Philippi – is a person about as opposite as you can get from Lydia.  In the same city – just around the corner – there was a young slave girl.   

A slave to evil men who trafficked in human beings.  This girl was oppressed – not just by evil people, this poor girl was oppressed by an evil spirit that resided within her that gave her an ability to be a convincing fortune teller.

And the evil people who controlled her took advantage of those kinds of people by turning this young girl into a sideshow 

16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

It’s seems odd doesn’t it that an evil spirit would have to confess the truth.  After all doesn’t the bible say that the devil is the father of lies – that when he is lying he is speaking his native tongue?  Yes – except the Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth!  And whenever the enemy is dragged into the presence of the one true God it finds it can it’s mouth can no longer confess anything other than He is Lord.

Paul, troubled by what he sees, turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

Now we don’t get to read about the rest of her story.  We don’t – like Lydia – read that she became a follower of Jesus and was baptized.  And so I might be taking a little bit of leeway by including her as the second member of the church in Philippi – but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch.

And I’ll tell you a clue that I find in the book of Philippians.  See – about ten years after Paul leaves Philippi he writes them a letter.  It’s the only one of Paul’s letter to a church that doesn’t include a correction or a reteaching of a doctrine they aren’t getting quite right – it’s the only letter that has nothing but joy and love and he is writing to let them know how much he loves them.

And in that letter he writes – the day is coming when every mouth will confess – Jesus is Lord.  He is in essence – speaking to this girl who was freed by Jesus – who followed Paul around saying – Jesus is Lord!

Secondly – I think this slave girl becomes part of the church family because – well, this is one of those things that’s not obvious in the text – but in the first century there was a prayer that Jewish men would pray.  It’s not very PC – and not very biblical either – but they developed a tradition where they would pray – God thank you that I am not a woman, I am not a slave and I am not a gentile.

And I don’t think it’s coincidental that the church in Philippi – the first convert was a woman – the second was a slave – and the third – was a gentile.

Let’s read about the third person in Philippi to have their life changed by the good news of Jesus.

The short story is that – as a result of Paul freeing this woman – the owners create a riot … it’s a racially charged riot – but the result is that…

22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

Story #3 is the Roman Jailer.  Here’s your church planting team for the city of Philippi.  We have the rich, powerful,  Fashion CEO from Asia.  The powerless and poor street girl from Greece.  Now we have a retired, jaded, rough around the edges – ex-Roman soldier, now working as  jailer.

If Lydia was curious about God intellectually, and the street girl knew about God experientially – there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of spirituality in the life of the Jailer.  He could care less about Paul and his teaching.  He’s just a guy doing his job.

But something was about to happen to this guy – he woke up in the morning and God was not anywhere on his radar that we can see – and yet – by the next day his life is about to be totally different.

Because about midnight – while he is guarding Paul and Silas – there’s an earthquake.  And the walls of the prison collapse – the doors fly open – and it could have been a clean getaway for Paul and Silas.  Had the prisoners escaped it would have been a death sentence for the guard.

And yet – 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

What was it that broke through to the Roman Jailer?  It was grace.  It wasn’t an intellectual discussion – like Lydia – it wasn’t a powerful spiritual encounter – like the slave girl – it was grace – it was the Love that Paul and Silas displayed to him.

The kindness – the love of people he had treated terribly.  They responded to him with love – remaining in chains to save his life.  And he is utterly broken.

Religious men would pray – that you God I’m not a Roman or a slave or a gentile.  And yet – it’s a woman and a slave and a gentile – three people whose paths would never cross – then or now – expect in a church.

Why do we care about establishing a church that will be in this town for generations to come?  Simply because God is at work in the hearts and lives of everyone we come across.

And there are people right now – God is not on the horizon for them – they aren’t tuning into facebook to check out Journey Church – it’s the last thing on their mind.

But what they don’t know is that God is coming for them.  The Hound of Heaven is fast on their heels.  They have no idea that a year from now?  Two years from now?  They will be sitting next to you maybe at Journey worshipping the Lord with a grateful heart.

Heck – there are some of you listening today – you would say- God wasn’t on your mind two years ago – and here you are – learning, growing, carrying on the legacy started two thousand years ago – of lives changed by the Good news of Jesus.

Now listen – maybe there’s someone listening this morning and you are thinking – man – God wasn’t on my mind today – I wasn’t planning to tune into Journey this time last week – well – could it be that God has arranged this that you might hear the good news?  That Jesus has opened wide the gate into a new kingdom – where God promises to tend to your every need -it’s the “With God” kingdom – he walks with us each day – and that means we fear nothing because we lack nothing.

It’s all yours through faith in Jesus.

This is the message we are given, Church.  And so let’s together work with God to bring hope to our world.  Amen.

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