8/14/16 - Tweetables - We Do Good

Tweetables: We Do Good (Matthew 5:16)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Rail Community Center

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

I want to start off by acknowledging the band. Before you give them a round of applause, let me tell you their plan was to play out in the band shell this week, you know, over there at the park {ed. note: Shaffer Park - changed to The Rail due to expected inclement weather}, and it was supposed to be loud and exciting and one service, not two, and now this is their second set, and so they've gone above and beyond in being flexible even to the space and also to extra time, so if we could just thank them for that {well-deserved raucous applause}. I also want to acknowledge all the other volunteers who have been setting up the picnic, who are cooking the food right now while you're in here. There are many people who make what we do here happen, especially on special Sundays like this where it's supposed to be an outdoor service, it takes even more hands. So if you see someone serving, thank them for their service, thank them for getting here probably at 7:00 a.m. this morning to start setting stuff up to make sure you got a hot dog, you know? So, yeah.

"Now in the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. The earth was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep." This is the opening of the book of Genesis. Let me say that one more time. "Darkness was over the surface of the deep." The opening words of the Bible highlight that darkness was present. So at the very beginning, darkness is present.

Now, the first words we hear from God are four very simple words. Four very simple words that maybe you've said when you've walked in a room and flipped the light switch on. "Let there be light." Right? Let there be light. So these are the first words of God. We see darkness, and then we see God saying, 'I'm going to separate light and darkness.' God first creates light and then uses the light to push back the darkness. This is the metaphor we see of light and darkness from this point forward throughout the rest of the Bible.

Light and darkness are always used to describe positive/negative, good/bad. God and bless or evil and curse. Like these two metaphors are constant throughout the Bible. Here, just to give you a quick brief, and this is not even close to all the metaphors to light and darkness, they're just some of the big ones.

David said, "'The Lord is my light and my salvation."

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."

John said, "God is light; in Him, there is no darkness at all.

James kind of got wordy and creative with it. Here's what he said, "Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

John has this book called Revelation, which is this really crazy book of all this imagery. It's like Jewish apocalyptic literature, and so when you read it, you're kind of like, 'What is that about?' But at the very end he talks about this city that we spend eternity in, and when he talks about the city, here's what he talks about. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb (Jesus) is its lamp." The imagery at the end is that darkness has been defeated by light, fully defeated, so much defeated that we no longer need the sun and the moon.

See, light throughout the Bible is a main theme. And whether you know it or not, light throughout your life is a main theme. I mean, just a quick science lesson about light. You use light more than you're aware of. Did you know...so, light is called electromagnetic radiation. How many of you guys knew that? Just really quick, electromagnetic...like one hand raised and then dropped really fast like 'I don't want to be the only one in the room.' {congregation laughs} But I'm not a nerd, so I didn't know it, I had to Google it this week. {more congregation laughter} Sorry if you're a nerd. I apologize. You're way smarter than me. But I don't know science. I didn't pay attention in science. It really wasn't interesting to me. Until now, it's become a little more interesting.

But I was studying light this week, and I was like, 'What? That's light?' So light is not just a wave and not just a particle, it is a wave and a particle mixture. It's this interesting thing in science that is almost like a phenomenon. The crazy thing about light, though, is light is what allows your microwave to work, to reheat your food. And I'm not talking about the light that turns on when you open the door, I'm talking about when you shut it, when you turn it on, what heats the food is a light source. What takes x-rays of you, to show the inside of your body, is a light source. When you listen to FM or AM radio in your car, that is a light source. Technically, scientifically speaking, there are waves that travel through our universe that you cannot see, okay? So there is visible light and then there is all this other light around us.

Visible light makes up like this small, little percentage of like a stream of different options of light in our universe, probably from that wall to that wall {ed. note: roughly 60-70 feet}, and this is visible light. So what we see in our universe that's affected by light is just barely anything. Yet what we see is incredibly important because light for us, visible light, is incredibly important. Light is so incredibly helpful, it reveals things to us. We gather information about our surroundings because of light.

For right now, for instance, right now I'm standing here. If I start walking this direction, I see a chair because there's light. If there's no light in this room, there's no visible light in this room, I do not see the chair, I bump into the chair and I'm like, 'Oh, there's a chair there.' Outside of visible light, I would not know that. I'm able to gather information about my surroundings, I'm able to make adjustments, because I can see things. So light illuminates for us our surroundings. It also illuminates dangers. So we see that something's dangerous because we can, in fact, see. It provides us a path.

So light is revealing things to us, all around us, but light is also removing darkness. And so when you think about an ancient metaphor that has stood the test of time, light might be the best one. It's found at the very start of Genesis: darkness and light. It's all throughout the Bible, and it's still relevant in our lives today. What better metaphor for God? God reveals the dangers in our life. 'Hey, don't do that. That's dangerous. That's not going to work out well for you if you go down that path.' God provides a path of light you might say, so, a way of a living that is good.

Then also God defeats darkness along the way, and so light is victorious over darkness, and we love these stories, right? Christ on the cross is supposed to be –  in my mind – the best story of light defeating darkness, but we love telling these stories. Some of the popular stories of our time right now, or even in our history, you might think of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. This is a dark versus light story, and we just saw the reboot of it, and everybody's so excited about Star Wars and all the new Star Wars coming out. One of my favorites is the White Witch and Aslan in Chronicles of Narnia, so if you're a Chronicles of Narnia fan, you might see that and say that's a great representation of light and darkness and even darkness masquerading as light. The Wicked Witch and the innocent Dorothy, right? {The Wizard of Oz}

We could go on and on with all these stories that are in our world that are light versus dark. Light against dark. And we love it when the story ends and the light pushed back the dark a little bit, or maybe even the light defeated the dark. Something within us is like, 'Yes! That's the way it's supposed to be.' I would say that something within us is that we are created in the image of God. You and I are created in the image of God, and being created in the image of God, the first four things...four words God says, "Let there be light." We are called to push back the darkness in our world with light.

And so we're in the series called Tweetables, these small, little passages of the Bible pack big meaning. We've been on this journey through this variety of different passages that call us to action in some way. So today's passage is no different. Today's Tweetable, I'll read it for you right now. "Let there be light..." or, sorry, "Let your light..." 'let there be light' is what God said earlier, these are Jesus's words.

This passage reveals something interesting. When we do kind things, when we let our light shine, it has an effect on other people. Think about that for a minute. Your light, when you let it shine, when you do something good, it can actually effect other people. The passage reveals that good deeds can actually be a part of the process in which someone finds Jesus, finds faith. Isn't it interesting that sometimes we think we might have to enter into evangelism as an argument or evangelism as 'I have to have all the answers to all their questions'? We enter in saying 'I have to know the right formula, I have to know the right thing to do and say,' when really this passage tells us hey, when you shine the light of Jesus into someone else's life by doing good deeds, it can actually bring them to a place where they want to glorify God, so they are able to connect with God. That is amazing.

I think St. Francis of Assisi kind of in a sense got this. Here's his quote, here's what he said. "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words. It's this picture that our deeds, our actions, can speak volumes about who Jesus is.

Have you ever met that person who's trying to share with you Jesus, but they're kind of a jerk? Like I've met these people maybe. I don't know if you've met these people, but they always come up to me...it's funny because I'll be like at a county fair or something. There's one county fair that always had this booth where, you know, they would do evangelism out of this trailer that they would have, and they would see me walk by and they would see the earrings and the tattoos, they'd be like, 'That dude needs Jesus, so we're going to go talk to him.' {congregation laughing} And so I would always play along like, 'Yeah, tell me about that. Yeah, tell me about my sin.' You know what I mean? And so {Justin chuckling}...'Tell me about how my tattoos are sending me to hell.'

But anyway, they were a little different than what we believe here. But I would let them talk to me and the crazy thing is, they would be so harsh and like uncompassionate. They didn't have a desire to serve me or love me; they just had the desire to tell me how terrible I was and how if it wasn't for Jesus, I was going to hell. And while I agree with a lot of what they were saying, I didn't like the way they were packaging it. I was like, you know, multiple passages...let me just read this again: "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Why would you package the gospel any different than that?

My goal is to come to you, to love you, to have compassion for you, to show you good deeds, and through that, and certainly through dialogue as well, you can come to a faith. And so when we see that, it's kind of like an oxymoron. It's kind of like these are not...these are so inconsistent with one another, the idea that you would be this way in the way you share Jesus when the text calls us so clearly to share Jesus as a servant through our deeds, and then hopefully through that they get a glimpse of God because remember, you're created in the image of God. And so when you shine a light, you're shining a picture of God to this person, a reflection you might say, and it might change them.

Now I've got four points to make, and these are going to be our take-home tweets for the day, and these are ways that you can go into this world and hopefully take this passage and apply it to your life. So here we go.

Point #1:

 

So first things first, you've got to be connected to the light source. You've got to be connected to something that's going to keep you charged. But it can get really hard, right? And so we need prayer, we need meditation, we need the scriptures, we need the community of faith to encourage you and to connect you, and even more than that, you know, find what recharges you. But here's the deal, we need these anchors in our lives. That's what they are, they're like anchors. When the waves hit, that life hits, it can be very easy for us to become so inwardly focused that we miss our opportunities to shine light because we become so inwardly focused. These practices help us recharge, help us remember that we are called to shine a light in this world.

Now, my son has this thing that's attached to his crib. Reed is just about two years old, and he's had it for quite awhile, and it takes D batteries. It takes like four D batteries, and whenever this thing goes out of batteries, it's almost always like one minute before bedtime. And it's really important because he presses the button, and what it does, when he lays down, and he'll literally lay down while he's on his back and hit it, and when he presses the button, the light turns on and music turns on. And it goes on for about five minutes and then what happens is it has an auto off, and he usually falls asleep within that first five minutes. Brittney and I are like, 'Best invention ever.' We would've paid $200 for it, you only charged $20, your loss. Right? Because this is what gets us a good night's sleep. So when the battery is not working, when it runs out of batteries, I'm running around anywhere they'll sell me D batteries and I'm willing to pay whatever the cost is. Like I'll go up to 7-11, I'll be like, 'You're selling them in singles for $10, I'll take eight of 'em,' just in case it goes out in the middle of the night. Right? So we have to recharge this thing, because here's the deal, the next day, we'll be exhausted, Reed'll be exhausted, he'll be cranky, he'll be terrible.

Here's the deal, for us in our own life, we have to recharge. We can't constantly be doing good to others without also connecting to God, connecting to the light source, recharging our own batteries, refreshing in the way that we were designed to refresh. So what in your life allows you to have a healthy rhythm? What in your life allows you to feel connected to God? You have to lean into that before you can really lean into shining your light.

Now, Point #2:

Every day you encounter a variety of opportunities, whether you're aware of it or not, to be kind or to serve someone else. Let's just start here. You have a house, probably, or a place you live. You have people you maybe live with or you have friends that have that you see every single day that are your roommates or your family. Start there. How can you serve them? How can those people be people you can serve? Can you share a kind word? Can you do something nice for them? Maybe your brother has chores and you've seen he's had a tough week and you're like, 'You know what? I'll go ahead and vacuum the living room for you,' and so you vacuum the living room for your brother. Are there ways you could serve your spouse? Are there ways you can serve in your own family? Start there. How can you shine a light in that place? Then let's talk about work. You go to work. How can you shine a light in your workplace? How can you be a reflection of God in your workplace? How can you love in that radical of a way? And then maybe as you go about your day. Maybe when you're at the grocery store, the restaurant, the library, the gas station, Starbucks, wherever you are, how can you be a reflection of Jesus to those around you?

I remember I was at home, my hometown Shelbyville, Indiana. We were there for like Thanksgiving, I think, and we were on vacation there. I'm standing...I'm in line at the Starbucks, and while I'm in line at the Starbucks, I order my drink, I pull up to the window, and I, you know, I'm getting ready to hand the payment for the drink, and they're like, 'No, the car in front of you got you, you're good.' And I'm like, 'Well, I'll take a scone, too.' No, I didn't say that. {congregation laughs} But I was like, 'Wow, okay,' and they're like, 'Yeah, they took care of you,' and I'm like, 'I don't even know that person in that car,' and they're like, 'No, they just wanted to do something randomly nice for somebody else.' I was like, I sat there and I was like, man, that's awesome to think creatively about how we can be a light in the world, even through just sitting there and doing some random act of kindness.

So I was like, 'You know what? There's somebody behind me; I'll pick up theirs. And they had like two or three drinks. I was like, 'This is messed up. The economy of this is not working.' No, I'm just kidding. It wasn't like that. But, I mean, how can we be creative? I'm kind of curious about how long did that chain last? There was a car behind them. Did they say, 'Hey, I'll take the car behind me.' I mean, when we do something kind in our everyday life, we have no idea what the impact could be because you have the power to shine light in someone else's life who might be in a dark place. I mean, that act of kindness had me glowing all day. I was like, 'Man, that was awesome. That's such a cool thing. Someone paid for my Starbucks. That was really awesome.' We have the power to do this in our everyday lives.

And even more, on I guess a deeper level, I have this friend named Steve who is homeless, and I met him first about eight years ago when I lived in...the first year I lived in Wisconsin. He drove through on his bike. He rides a pedal bike. His headquarters, you might say, is in Georgia. He doesn't live there, but he rides a pedal bike all across the nation, which is just ridiculous to think about, pulls a trailer with a tent, and he pulled into our church lot while we were having youth band practice and walked in and said, 'Are you guys having a Wednesday night service?' And I'm like, 'No, we don't have Wednesday night service. We're just doing band practice for Sunday. And he's like, 'Well, can I set my tent up in your backyard? I'm traveling.' I'm like, 'Yeah, sure, you know, whatever.' And he's like, 'Great. You're the first church in the last like 20 miles that's actually let me.' I'm like, 'Okay. Like that's crazy that no one'll let you set up a tent in the backyard.' So we got to talking. I talked to him the next morning when we went out to breakfast. I talked to him, and then he left. And I gave him my email; we stayed in touch through email. He would go to the library and check his email and email people every, you know, every once in awhile.

Stayed in contact and he would come back, and eventually our relationship got so he would stay at my house when he would come. So he would stay at my house. Probably the third or fourth time he came, we were sitting eating, and he had had a tough couple days. He'd got in a wreck where he messed up his hand really bad, and even with that, he had gone like two days without eating, and keep in mind this dude's like traveling 100 miles a day on his bike, like pulling a trailer and stuff. It's nuts. And he had gone a couple days without eating, and he told me about this story about how he had sat outside a store asking for some change or for some food for a whole day and saw people walk by him all day and he got nothing. So we're sitting here eating lunch and I'm like, 'Man, how do you keep your faith in God? If He really cares about you, if He really wants to provide for you, when you go a whole day – a whole day – asking people for help, praying that God would provide for you, and you get nothing.' You get nothing.

I said, 'How do you...how do you keep your head up? How do you really feel like God is on your side?' And here's what he told me. He said, 'I feel like God answered my prayers that day.' I said, 'Dude, you went hungry. What do you mean you feel like God answered your prayers?' He goes, 'I feel like God prompted many people to help me that day, but no one helped me. They were too busy to recognize the need right in front of them or too busy to hear God prompting them to care for me, but I don't think God's the one who let me down. I think they let me down. I think God was prompting many people to help me out, just like He prompted you to help me out all those years ago and now we have this relationship.' And I'm sitting here like, 'How do you have this perspective, dude?' {Justin chuckles wryly} Like I could not...it was like a Judo move he did on me, and I'm sitting here like how did that happen? That is a crazy way of seeing it, but it's so true.

So how do we navigate our everyday lives? Are we so busy that we don't even see the needs around us? Do we look the other way so quickly that we miss opportunities where God might be speaking to us to care for somebody? And it might not even be as extreme as helping a homeless person, but it might be just that person at the office who is down. Something's different and you come and say, 'How are you doing? What's going on?' Or a kind word to that person. It can be so simple but sometimes we navigate life completely unaware of our opportunities to shine light in the darkness.

Point #3:

Let's watch this clip together on the screen.

Some of you have talents, gifts, abilities, skills that can be used to bring hope to people who are hopeless. What a creative way of thinking, not thinking inside of the box, you know. You're a barber, you're a beautician, you're like, 'Oh, wow, I could actually use this skill every once in awhile to help someone out who really needs it.' To bring some dignity back to someone who's maybe lost it. And all of us, we need to think creatively, even outside of the cultural norms, with the gifts we have because stories like this are amazing, and when we watch them, we get teared up. We're like, 'Oh, man, that is so awesome.' We're...we can do that! You and I can shine our light in that way. We have gifts. We have abilities. There's people who need what we have. There's an opportunity to shine a light in a dark place, and so we need to take that opportunity. We need to use the gifts we have to serve others.

Finally our last take-home tweet (Point #4):

At The Bridge, we believe a relationship with Jesus is the most life-changing thing you can possibly have. It pushes back the darkness within us. It provides grace for all of our brokenness. We believe without Jesus, the world is an incredibly dark place to try to navigate. So why wouldn't we work as we do good to connect people to Jesus? And again, we need to think creatively about this, but maybe it's that you continue to share good deeds to them, and when they ask why, you share why – because I believe I was created for this. I was created to bring light into the world. Or maybe you invite them to a growth group or you invite them to The Bridge on a Sunday morning experience and you say, 'Hey, come join me. Come check this out.' Or maybe you just ask them about their experience with God, what they think about God, and then you listen...like you really listen. You desire to know more about what their experience has been as it pertains to faith. We have the opportunity to shine hope into the world, a hope that is everlasting hope as the scriptures say, and this is a light that we cannot ignore, connecting people to the true source of light.

Finally, there was a man walking down an alley one day, and in this alley, it was really narrow and it was kind of even like canopied, and so he could tell as he was walking down it was a really dark alley and it really never got light. It was the light of day, but this alley was incredibly dark. So he noticed that, and as he was walking, he saw this boy at the end of the alley standing in the light trying with a mirror to grab the light and shoot it up to one of the windows. And so he asked the boy, he's like, 'Hey, what are you trying to do?' And the boy said, 'Yeah, you see that window right there? That's my house.' And he's like, 'Oh, okay. What...why are you shining a light from here?' And he's like, 'Well, my brother two years ago had an accident and now he's bedridden and he lays on his back in bed all day, and his room is located in a part of the house where that's his only window. That's our only window in the whole house, so that's the only one that has any access to light and this alley never gives light. And so what I do once a day is I come down here, I grab this mirror, and I try to reflect some of the light from the sun into this dark alley into the window so that he can get a glimpse of the light at least once a day.'

We have access to the light. Some are living in darkness. It is nothing for us to grab a mirror. It is nothing for us to reflect the light of Jesus to those around us. As followers of Jesus, we're called to do good to others, we're called to shine the light of Jesus, so may you let your light shine. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we pray that we would take every opportunity to let our light shine, that we would see people in our world around us, that we would see opportunities to shine Your light, to reflect Your light in this world, that we would not be so busy that we miss those opportunities, that we would be mindful of all of the people around us who are maybe living each day in darkness. And we have an opportunity to say a kind word, to provide a gift, to provide something that You have gifted us with – maybe an ability, a skill – to meet a need that they have. God, show us the opportunities that we have in our lives to shine light. Allow us to think creatively about the ways we shine light in this world, to be aware of the opportunities around, but to think creatively. God, may we stay connected to the light source, may we stay reliant on You, may we understand that without Your light we are nothing. So may You continue to work on the darkness even within us. But as You work on that, guide us and show us opportunities for us to shine Your light. We were created for light. "Let there be light" is what You're saying over each of us right now and not just for us personally but for those in our sphere of influence. And so, God, let there be light in our stories. The way we navigate life, let there be light. In the name of Jesus, amen.