Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
On April 12th, 1961, the first human went to space.
Anyone know his name?
He wasn’t American.
He was from the USSR.
In the years, months, and days, leading up to that day, the Americans were frantically trying to become the first people in space…
And on April 12th, 1961, as Americans gazed up at the clouds, many felt a deep sense of disappointment.
We had lost the first leg of the space race.
And what were we going to do?
You could sit there and just gaze at the clouds…or you could get back to work, and figure out how to get there second…and maybe be the first to the moon!
This morning, I want to look at a story in the Bible, where some people were quite tempted to just gaze at the clouds.
It all starts at the very end of Jesus’ public ministry on earth.
He’s preparing to leave earth and return to heaven.
We’re told in the beginning of chapter 1 that after his resurrection, Jesus made appearances for a period of 40 days.
He told the disciples that after he leaves, they should return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them to go out and take His Good News to the “Ends of the Earth”
At the end of the 40 days, it’s time for Jesus to go back to heaven.
And here’s what happens:
(Acts 1:9-11) – NIV
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
So the two men in white (presumably angels), say, “Um, excuse me guys…”
Meanwhile the disciples are going, “Stop bugging me, I’m looking at this cloud…where’d he go?
And the angels say, “What are you still standing here…staring into the sky?”
In other words, you’ve got work to do.
For one, he commanded you to be in Jerusalem and wait for the Spirit, so you better get down the mountain and get back into town.
And secondly, he just told you were going to lead a movement that’s going to go global…so STOP CLOUD GAZING!
The more I think about this passage, the more I think far too many of Jesus’ followers today, make the same mistake that the disciples did that day.
Far too many Christians are still …staring at the sky.
Forgetting that God has empowered them with the Holy Spirit
Forgetting that God has commanded them to change the world.
And thus, Christianity, has become a spectator sport
And nowhere is this probably truer than the country that gave us Hollywood, Netflix, Youtube, and about everything else in the entertainment world.
As Americans, we are prone to…cloud gazing
It’s our culture
And in many ways, the American church is even to blame for this
In our quest to reach Americans for Jesus, we started to entertain them…knowing that’s what they love!
Of course, not every aspect of that is bad.
A good missionary understands their culture.
And if the culture is visual, then teach with video.
If the culture listens to a certain style of music, that’s the style of music they’ll play in their missionary church
It should be no different here.
But we’ve taken it a step too far.
And made it “okay” for people to just “watch and consume” church
We’ve made “cloud gazing” acceptable when that was never Jesus’ original intent for you.
In verse 6 of our chapter today, the disciples ask, “Hey Jesus, when are you going restore the Kingdom?”
But he essentially says, “Not me, YOU guys are going to take the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth”
The Holy Spirit will empower you, but YOU gotta go.
Your job is not to just sit here and cloud gaze, it’s to get in the game and start changing the world.
Now I don’t want you to misinterpret me.
Sometimes it’s good to look up.
It’s good to study God.
Good to spend deep, quality time with Him.
But at some point, somebody better tap you on the shoulder and say, “ehem, you have work to do!”
And it’s interesting to note that it was fine and right for them to watch Jesus ascending up to heaven, but by the time the angel tapped them on the shoulder, the cloud had already hidden Jesus from their sight.
They were just staring at a cloud.
This is why this is such a good description for the church in America.
I don’t think the problem of the typical American Christian is that they spend TOO much time studying or too much time in their prayer closets
Besides, usually when you spend a lot time being filled up by God, He inspires you to get out there.
Our problem, is we have spent too much time watching a spectacle.
An event. A cloud rising into the sky.
Neat…but it’s just a cloud.
Christianity is always described as watch Jesus…then do likewise.
That’s what Jesus did himself.
He says, “I only do what I see my father doing”
That’s our job too.
But too many of us never “DO” anything…we just keep watching.
It’s time to get out and change the world.
Stop looking at me.
Stop looking at the person next to you.
I’m talking about you.
What else do the angels say about Jesus in our text?
He’s coming back! The same way He left!
I love how that comes right after they’re caught staring at a cloud.
It makes me think of what preachers of old used to often say:
They would say, “When Jesus comes back, what’s He going to catch you doing?”
And for far too many of us, He’s going to come back and say, “Are you seriously still staring at the cloud?”
It’s like when your mom would come home from work and she had asked you to do your chores, and she would say, “Did you even move??”
Jesus is saying, “It’s great that you thought what I did was really cool. I appreciate that. But I’m pretty sure I gave you some commandments about serving, and sharing, and declaring, but all I see you doing is staring!”
Jesus rhymes really well
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR EVANGELISM
A few days ago, I was driving on 125th in Blaine, and I came to the intersection of 125th and Aberdeen (right by Walgreens and where you turn to go into Cub as well)
It’s a busy intersection.
And I could see cars all along 125th, all the way up Aberdeen, even off in the distance, cars whizzing by on 65.
And for some reason, in that moment, I just thought, “I can see about as many cars right now (at this one intersection in Blaine) as we probably have in the parking lot on a Sunday morning.”
But this is just one intersection, in a huge city…in an even bigger county.
And how many of these people around me right now, don’t know Christ?
Stats would say about 5 out of 6 in Blaine.
So if that’s true…
That lady in front of me (in the minivan)…she doesn’t know Him
The teenage girl beside me on her phone, who can’t see that the light is green, she doesn’t know Jesus.
The guy on the motorcycle whizzing by on the other side, he doesn’t know.
And all of them, without someone telling them (Romans says), will be in Hell. Separated from God. Forever. FOREVER.
The spiritual culture of America has changed drastically in the last 25 years.
And yet, so many of us, while 5 out of 6 people in our own neighborhoods drift along to a Christless eternity, we stand staring at the cloud. Cloud Gazing.
But here at Renovation Church, we’re not interested in spectators.
As we say almost every month, Renovation Church is not a cruise ship, it’s a row boat.
We encourage every single person to not sit here and watch, but pick up an oar.
Renovation church is, as I like to say sometimes, the anti-consumerism church.
It’s one of the things that makes us really unique.
Now, if you’re brand-new around here and just checking this God thing out here…keep coming, keep listening. That’s fine. That’s great.
But if you are a follower of Jesus, and you call yourself one of his own, then, friend, follow His teachings.
God has commanded you to serve, to go, to stop staring at the sky.
I’m going to do a lot of apologizing today for our short comings as a church, but I’m also going to say a number of things that might be really difficult for you to hear…
So I want you to promise me that you will hear it with an open mind…that you will open your mind to what God’s Word says for you.
Let’s start with this difficult truth:
At some point in the American church, we have to be bold enough to call “cloud gazing” a sin.
It’s not obeying our God…which is sin.
The disciples were commanded to go and wait in Jerusalem.
Jesus was gone, it was time to obey.
The Bible is the Word of God, is it not?
And if it tells us to serve one another? (John 13)
If it tells us to proclaim our faith to others (romans 10)…
If it tells us to use our spiritual gifts (Romans 12)?
If it commands us to do all of those things, and yet all we do is come to church and cloud gaze for our own benefit…are we not sinning?
The average church in America engages about 30% of its people in serving with 70% cloud gazing.
This is a serious cultural problem.
Renovation is actually in the top 10% in the nation…with 76% of our people serving.
That’s nice, but when I look at that stat, all I see is that 24% of you in this room are cloud gazing.
And as your pastor, I’m desperate for you to follow God. Obey Him. I want you to feel the pleasure of Him using you!
But perhaps you’re saying:
“But David, my situation is different. I don’t need to serve God because I’m really busy…I have kids…I need to be in a service for ME…my life is in a tough spot right now…”
But there are no “clauses” in God’s commands.
He doesn’t say, “Serve my people, unless you’re super busy and tired, because if you are, you just take care of you!”
That’s not Biblical truth, that’s American Pop Psychology
Over the last month or so, I’ve been reading an incredible biography by Roger Steer about the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor.
In the mid 1800’s, Hudson Taylor set out to bring the Gospel to the interior of China, where millions upon millions of Chinese had never even heard of Jesus before.
I’m not done with the book yet, but so far in the book, at 45 years old, in his quest to tell the masses of Chinese about Jesus, Hudson Taylor has already lost 5 of his children and his own wife on the mission field.
To diseases that probably were curable back in his hometown of London.
But still he went, because people were going to hell if he didn’t.
He understood Jesus’ command from Acts 1
Be a part of taking this Good News to the ends of the earth…however God’s gifted you!
But what do we say???
“God, I can’t serve you because…look how busy I am with things less important than you!”
How has Christianity become this for us in America??
We’ve stopped remembering what’s at stake.
Isn’t this part of the reason the angels show up??
I mean why does God send them for that? He doesn’t send angels all that often.
The angels are saying, “Guys, this is SO important. The world needs you…like now.”
There’s too much at stake for you to keep staring at the sky.
And the same is true for you!
People walk into this church every Sunday, and they don’t know Jesus yet.
Will you be a part of that??
Next time you go to Cub, or the Tavern, or Target…
Open your eyes.
5 out of 6 people are unknowingly walking towards hell.
But you can’t see it, you won’t see it, if you’re always gazing at the clouds and not looking at your neighbors.
Will you say, “Today is the day I will stop cloud gazing.”
Even if it means sacrifice for you.
So what are you going to do? How are you going to decide, TODAY, to stop cloud gazing?
If you prefer to just keep cloud gazing, I honestly recommend going to a different church.
Here’s why: I think you’ll just feel uncomfortable here at Renovation Church.
Because we’re just going to keep challenging you to live as Jesus challenged you to live…because that’s how we change the world!
And that’s how you’re going to find life as God intended you to find it!
And if your mind is racing right now, going, “I can’t…I can’t…I’ve got this challenge.”
I encourage you to trust in the teaching of Scripture.
(Philippians 2:3-4) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
This is the Word of God.
Your best move is to think of others first.
That’s how you find life.
The Bible consistently teaches that when you keep putting your own issues and your own challenges first, you actually spiral more and more into selfishness and self-loathing.
But you find life and freedom in putting others first.
Which do you want??
Now, you might say, “I know that already,” and yet I know very few who live like that.
I know some at this church, and they are incredible.
They’re always looking for ways to serve.
And guess what, “They’ve seen God move more than probably anyone else at this church”
Because you can’t see Him move when you’re gazing at a cloud!
You see Him move when you start moving w/ Him!
Christianity, at its core, is about sacrifice
Sacrifice is the model of Jesus.
The cross IS sacrifice.
And what we’re talking about today isn’t losing 5 children and a spouse for the sake of the Gospel.
As Hebrews says, “You have not suffered to the point of shedding blood.”
You’re going to be okay.
For the 76% of you that are already serving…these principles are true for you too.
In fact, for those of you that have been here for a while, let me publically apologize to you for setting a culture of serving in the early years of this church that was more American than it was Biblical.
In the first five years of this church, we used to always say, “It’s not too hard to serve. Just serve once a month; it’s convenient and easy!”
That’s consumeristic culture…not Biblical culture.
And we’ve got a way to go to get back to Biblical Culture.
When we ask people, “Will you be a leader for our growing youth group,” we hear thing, “That would be two nights a week for Church. Too much for Jesus.”
I know a TON of people in this church (because of the culture we created) say, “I just serve once a month. Please don’t ask me to sub and don’t schedule me to do any more.”
“If I was to have to greet two times a month, that would be too much for Jesus.”
I know you wouldn’t really say “too much for Jesus,” but perhaps that’s what we think.
In the Bible, when there was a man who wanted to go to his own father’s funeral before he followed Jesus, Jesus said (in luke 9), let the dead bury the dead, You come follow me”
People of Renovation, listen to me, if we keep putting ourselves and our schedules…and even our own families in front of Jesus…we will never change the world.
This will be another nice, neat, well-polished suburban church.
But we won’t change the world.
On vacation last week, I read a book about John Bunyan who wrote, what was for a long time, the second-best selling book of all-time, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
Bunyan was thrown in jail for sharing his faith with others
And the authorities told him, if you just stop publically preaching and writing about Jesus, and just share with people you already know 1 on 1, we’ll let you out of jail and back to your wife and 4 kids.
And he said no way.
Jesus has commanded me to serve and share.
And he was in prison for 10 years, and it was IN prison that God actually blessed him with the idea for a book that blessed millions.
And I was thinking about this upcoming message as I was reading the book, and I just thought, “Lord, I’ve failed these people.”
Because I feel like almost 100% of us would say, “Okay, because I need to be there for my kids, I’ll stop talking about Jesus. I’ll still do a little for Jesus, sure, but most importantly, I need to be there for my kids”
And yet, doesn’t Jesus say this:
(Matthew 10:37) – NIV
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
I always hear people say their priorities are, “Faith, Family, Work”
But for most Suburban Christians, there’s no way their faith comes before their family. No way.
We don’t want to serve an extra time for Jesus in Renovation Kids, or at set-up or tear down, because it would get in the way of our family.
But you can’t change the world like that.
I want a whole number of you that are already serving, on your way out today, to find your ministry leader and say, “I’ll do once every 3 weeks. I’ll do every other week. Use me whenever you need me. I’m here to serve Jesus and others, not me”
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR SERVING
If you don’t know exactly how He’s gifted you yet, and aren’t sure how He wants to use you…
Start asking Him and just start trying things out.
I can tell you one thing, you won’t figure it out on the sidelines.
But when you find out, there is almost nothing better.
It feels like you go from walking to flying
And so, if you call Renovation Church your home, we encourage every single person, Adults AND Youth, to find a place to serve here.
100% of you.
God has his hand on this church right now, and I don’t want you on the sidelines gazing at it.
Let Him use you here.
On top of your chairs when you walked in today, was a list of 11 different teams where you can serve here at Renovation.
We could use 10 more people for set-up
Maybe 15-20 for Renovation Kids
We need people to Usher…Greet, you name it
All of these are part of a team that helps people meet Jesus…and every part matters!
We want 100% of you to be a part of one of these teams. I’m not kidding. 100%
God wants to use you to make a difference. You.
Many of you will do much more than this, but it all starts here.
Once you find a team you’re interested in, mark a team on your connection card that came with the bulletin.
Do you see where that is? On the side?
There are other opportunities as well.
We need a new host home for our brand-new Monday night House Group we’re starting for our fast growing church.
We need someone to bring communion once a month.
You can make a note on your connection card for either of those.
We need many of you to go on mission with us in Haiti and Rwanda in 2018.
We’re also excited to announce a new initiative that we’re starting.
For a long time now, the most glaring weakness of this church has been our inability to really serve those among us in need.
We’re great with teaching, worship, Biblical community, church planting, international missions…but serving those in need right in our midst, not so great.
We’ve been working on two major initiatives in this regard, and we’re excited to reveal the first one today.
We’re going to be partnering with The Sheridan Story to help feed hungry kids right here in Blaine.
The Sheridan Story is a non-profit that started in 2010 when Administrators at the Sheridan school in Minneapolis started to notice that students were stealing and hoarding cafeteria food on Fridays so that they would have something to eat on the weekends.
As so many kids nowadays are dependent on free breakfast and free lunch at schools Monday – Friday.
The Sheridan Story was then launched by Mill City Church, which is a church plant in our denomination (Converge)
And what The Sheridan Story does is partner with local churches (like us), to have volunteers from the church go into schools every Friday, and while kids are in class, volunteers put non-perishable food items in kids’ backpacks in their lockers.
This then enables many of these kids to finally have enough food to eat on the weekends.
The Sheridan Story has grown exponentially over the last 7 years, and now they work in a ton of schools throughout the metro.
And we are absolutely thrilled to announce that we are going to be partnering with the Sheridan Story and Roosevelt Middle School…(just down the road here in Blaine) to feed 25 kids from Blaine…that are in need…and we’re going to do it…every single weekend, all year long.
(Wait to this point to put up Show Sheridan Story slide please)
But again, we can’t do this if we’re a church staring at the clouds.
We need your help.
We’re looking to sign up a number of volunteers who would be interested in going to Roosevelt Middle School on Fridays to put food in backpacks.
Whether you have the availability to do it often or not every often, would you give us your name…either on your connection card, via the app, or by signing up on our Sheridan Story sign-up sheet at the main hallway table?
Listen, I want to apologize to you as your leader that it’s taken us this long to get here…but we’re going to get there…and we are getting there.
Because it’s the same principle.
It doesn’t matter that it’s hard…or that we’ve got a lot of other things going on.
God has commanded us to do it, so we’re going to do it.
Remember this: when the 11 remaining disciples obey their first instructions (to stop gazing and go back to Jerusalem), eventually more instructions come…and then even more.
And God uses them in an absolutely incredible way.
But it all started with obeying the first set of instructions.
And for many of you, this is where your exciting journey begins.
To listen to his first command…to stop cloud gazing and to start serving.
What will you do?
Can you see what will happen if we can become an entire church of people who’ve stopped cloud gazing?
As you sign up to serve in Renovation Kids, perhaps you get to share with a family that their child decided to follow Jesus for the first time today.”
Perhaps, as you serve on the prayer team, someone will come back and tell you that they’re ready to turn their life back to God and they want help”
Or perhaps, you’ll be driving over to get groceries during the week, and instead of seeing 5 out of 6 people who don’t know Jesus…
You might look over and see another Renovation Car sticker…
And you’ll think, “Hey, that’s that new person I just greeted on the Greeting Team on Sunday…
Maybe you walk inside the store and the first person you see is a guy who just got baptized because someone from Renovation was bold enough to tell him about Jesus”
And as you look around you’ll see change…you’ll see transformation.
Look at me, God can do that.
He can do that right here in this city. He WANTS to do that!
But it starts with every single person in this room saying, I’m done cloud gazing, I’m going to sacrifice…I’m going to let Him use me.
Will you let Him?
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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