Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
We are starting a new series this morning called “Stretch.”
The idea of stretching doesn’t always bring up the best connotations for many of us
Maybe it makes you think of middle school or high school gym. Which is probably not a good memory for anyone.
Gym was so much better in elementary school when you didn’t care what you look like and it didn’t matter how you smelled
Or maybe it reminds you of stretching out clothes you used to be able to wear, and it’s not just because now your biceps are so big.
Or maybe stretching makes you think of having to really “stretch” your finances or “stretch” the number of hours in your day.
But I think there are some good connotations about stretching as well.
I mean sure, to stretch, is to get out of your comfort zone. It’s always more comfortable to not do anything. To not stretch anything.
But when you stretch, things happen.
You’re able to reach things you weren’t before.
You’re able to help people you couldn’t get to before.
You’re able to do more and run farther than you were before.
And that’s what we want to focus on in this series.
I want you to stretch your faith into action. To get a little uncomfortable.
And let me just state right away that stretching means different things for different people.
It’s like say you’re going to challenge yourself in the area of working out.
Well, for some people, getting off the couch and walking down the block is a huge deal.
It’s the first step. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you signed up for the gym, and I was your physical trainer, and I told you that we were going to start with a brisk 8 mile run, you would potentially punch me in the face.
But if I said, were going to start with a 5 minute walk, you’d say, “Ok. That’s maybe a STRETCH, but I’ll do it.”
And that “STRETCH” would be different for different people…
And my encouragement to you over the next 4 weeks is to start praying this prayer to God, “God, what does it mean for me to stretch a little in my faith?” “What does it mean for me to get out of my comfort zone?”
I want to read you a story this morning of a woman in Jesus’ day who took a stretch out of her comfort zone…and she also happened to literally stretch towards Jesus.
It actually takes place in the middle of another story. Jesus had just been approached by a spiritual leader whose daughter was dying.
The father asked Jesus to come heal his daughter. As Jesus is on his way, the following happens:
(Mark 4:24-34) – NIV
24So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
31"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "
32But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
It’s a pretty cool story.
But it’s even more powerful if you dig deeper.
See, it would have been powerful even if this was just a woman who had a disease who wanted to be healed and she reached out, stretched out, and touched Jesus.
But her particular illness makes it all that more powerful.
The Bible doesn’t elaborate on what sort of bleeding disease she has, so we can only really only speculate
But here’s what we do know:
If you had any sort of bleeding issues in Jewish Culture, you were considered what the Old Testament calls, “Unclean.”
They used the word clean for a lot more things than we do.
For us it mostly just means dirty or not. For instance is your bathroom clean, or does it look like 4 college guys have been living there.
I suppose we sometimes use it for moral things:
It’s used in music.
For instance, say you’re in high school and instead of the explicit version, your mom makes you buy the clean version of every Lil Wayne song you buy
But in Jewish culture, You could be “clean” or “unclean” for all sorts of things: moral issues, dietary things, or just plain health reasons.
Since the arrival of Jesus, we don’t have “clean” and “unclean” any more, but for Jewish culture, it was a massive deal
It often gets picked on as a weird part of the Bible, but for a culture and time that had no idea of things like “germ theory,” it’s actually quite brilliant…which I believe thus really demonstrates God was behind it.
I mean think about it this way, the book of Leviticus (which is where this comes from) was written almost 3,500 years ago.
And they were told at that time that an issue like bleeding made you “unclean”
Meanwhile, other cultures at the time were trying bloodletting (draining the blood to heal) or doing human blood sacrifices or doing blood pacts….The Israelites were told by God to be careful about blood.
I guess you could smirk at the way it’s explained to them with all the scientific terms you can use now, but for 3,500 years ago, it was explained to them the best that they could possibly understand with the knowledge they had at that time.
And for them at that time, if you happened to touch any garment that a bleeding person wore, you would be then considered “unclean”
(Leviticus 15:27) – NIV
27 Whoever touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening.
So, knowing that (that you couldn’t touch anything a bleeding person wore), think of what life would have been like for this woman the past 12 years.
She basically was an outcast
She most likely couldn’t even go into town because people would immediately move away from her because they didn’t want to be unclean.
And it’s not like she’s in the booming city of Jerusalem where no one would know her.
This event takes place around one of the smaller villages or towns around the Sea of Galilee, so after 12 years, people would have known.
And yet, this woman’s faith that Jesus could heal her as brought her into the public arena where she is certainly going to be mocked, avoided, and probably ridiculed.
And not to mention, it’s not like Jesus is walking on a secluded road and she just approached him from behind the tree.
It was so crowded that the disciples laughed at Jesus when he said, “Who touched my clothes?”
Yet, this woman risked the crowds, she probably fought through the looks, the shrieks, the disgust
She took a risk, and she stretched out for Jesus…both metaphorically and physically.
She got out of her comfort zone.
And you may say, David, I don’t know if she was in that much comfort
True, but I would say to you that people every day live in depression-filled, anxiety-filled, or anger-filled lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s still not a stretch to reach out towards God for help with those things
Just because your life is uncomfortable doesn’t make it easy to stretch out towards God for help. A stretch is still a stretch.
GOING BACK TO COMFORT
This woman though was at a point where she was willing to reach out for Jesus, no matter how hard it was. How big of a stretch it was going to be.
She knew it was worth.
So let me ask you, where do you need to stretch out towards Jesus in your life?
Where is it in your life that you need to stretch out towards him?
Jesus is walking by all the time, but will you get up off the couch and follow?
Will you fight through the crowds and stretch out?
Sometimes in the life, it’s the opposite, God comes after us
We see this in the Bible
Jesus says he goes after the lost sheep.
In Lk 19, Jesus calls out an onlooker Zacchaeus and tells him he’s coming to his house
Jesus did this in my life
I was 18 years old when I became a Christian, and I was not looking for God.
I wasn’t going on some big spiritual quest trying to find a creator, and I wasn’t studying books on philosophy trying to find out if God could be true.
He just started showing up in my life.
He found me.
But over the last 10 years of walking with him, it doesn’t always work that way. It’s BOTH/AND.
Sometimes He still comes after me when I stray, and sometimes if I really want to grow, I need to stretch out for Him when He walks by
Well, here’s the deal, He’s always walking by.
Are you willing to stretch out for him again?
I’m guessing many of you in this room have stretched out for him at many times in your life, but like anything, it’s all too easy to just get back on the couch again.
To get back our old self where life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but oh well. It’s easier just to sit here.
It’s no different than working out, or dieting, or quitting smoking or anything
Sometimes people are successful for months at a time.
They go to the gym every day for 3 months and punish themselves until they feel like throwing up on their shoes or their trainers shoes who’s making them do all the work.
Or people quit smoking for months at a time even though they might feel like putting their hand through the wall many days…they do it.
And they even see results
We lose weight.
We get healthier.
You quit smoking and save yourself $97 dolllars a day or whatever it costs to smoke nowadays.
And yet, we go back.
And sometimes we go back because it just got too hard or it doesn’t work out like we wanted
It was just easier and felt better when you were eating a carton of Moose Tracks Ice Cream every day rather than eating things that come in the color green (and I don’t mean skittles, m&m’s, and mints)
Or, it was just easier when you were doing that one sin that you used to always do but now stopped doing…so just go back. So just give up.
And, unfortunately, as humans, we give up all too often.
And I imagine that after 12 years, that woman had given up many times as well.
The passage said she had spent every dollar she ever had going to different doctors to try and get cured.
I imagine she had all but thrown in the towel.
But when the Savior of the World walks by, I don’t care what’s going on in your life, you brave the crowds, you brave the ridicule, and you stretch out for Him.
And the same is true for your life.
The Savior of the World is walking by. Stretch out for Him.
Stop living a life of mediocrity and start trusting in the one who has real answers for your life.
HOW WILL YOU STRETCH
God is good. His ways are so good.
We just need to stop ourselves from tricking ourselves into thinking otherwise
Everything about his ways are good. Sometimes they’re hard. Sometimes the road is difficult…as it was for that woman.
And sometimes people are going to take notice of you if you start stretching for Him more
I mean, look at that woman. She didn’t get to just disappear off anonymously afterwards
Jesus called her out. You can’t give your life to Christ, and then also NOT be noticed.
It doesn’t work that way.
Jesus calls her out…thankfully clarifies that it’s not a magical coat that heals her, but her faith.
And her faith that changed her life.
So how are you going to get off the couch and get into the game of trusting Jesus with more of your life?? How are you going to stretch out as he walks by, grab his hand, and start doing some actual following?
Following Jesus means you have to follow Him. Not just observe from afar.
What does it mean for you to stretch?
And I like I said at the beginning, that means different things for different people?
Maybe you’re not even ready to follow Jesus yet. You’re just checking this whole thing out.
Maybe a stretch for you is to just commit to coming to church for a month.
For a lot of people, that’s a huge deal. But it’s a good deal. It’s a good thing to be around.
Maybe a stretch for you is to finally get serious about an issue you’ve let fly under the radar for far too long.
Maybe a stretch for you is to slow down and take time to listen to God each day. To start reading his Word.
If I can, I’d like to recommend a stretch for you. J
Maybe that’s presumptuous, but I think it’s a pretty all-encompassing stretch…and that is this: Being in Christian community.
We’re not so good at that in our culture.
In fact, Christians themselves aren’t so good at being in Christian community
We prefer to kind of just be spiritual on our own.
Why? Because it’s a STRETCH to step out into the crowd. It’s a risk. Let’s not pretend it’s not. It’s a step out.
But it’s an incredible one. And I believe one that will bring you so much growth in your life.
Because it’s what God designed you for.
This morning, we are starting sign-ups for our House Groups
House Groups are our version of small groups…except we have 25 people in one house
It’s sounds pretty different at first, but it’s not as different as you may think
Basically, each group will has 25 people in it of varied ages, and half the night is spent in large group (getting to know each other, fun activities, DVD teaching from here.), and the other half of the night is spent in small groups of 5-6 people
So really, it’s like having normal small groups that a church would have, but instead of having 4 separate small groups that meet at 4 diff. houses, we are putting 4 small groups together in the same house
And the ages are somewhat varied throughout the house
When we announced we were doing this last year, many of my pastor friends collectively held their breath for me (as the trend is to only make small groups for 28-29 year olds who all enjoy flyfishing, or they all enjoy knitting baby blankets or something
But you know, there really is something to learning from someone older than you and impacting people younger than you.
And I would say this was one of the best risks I’ve ever taken in ministry as a pastor. It was incredible to watch last year.
By the time groups broke into small groups, many of the groups still broke down demographically (not all), but even so, at least we’re finally exposing Christians to people who are more than 2 years older or younger than them.
And we do the house groups model for a couple of reasons:
1) I believe 1 of the main reasons ppl don’t join small groups (they don’t STRETCH in this…they just sit on the sidelines…) is because churches typically randomly assign……And that’s intimidating
It’s like if you were to have 8 random people for dinner, could be cool…could be really awkward.
But you know if you went to a BBQ with 25 people, you’d eventually find someone you would connect with.
We put you in diff. small groups for the first month until you can pick who you want to be with
2) It allows you to know a “community” of people at Renovation Church
3) It allows us to reach more people w/ the good news of JC
Now, as I talk about this, some of you are going this is incredible. I can’t wait.
And I know that’s true for a lot of you. It’s real unique and defining thing about our church. Last year we had 86% of our adults connected to a House Group.
We are really serious about people not just being lost in the crowd here.
But for others of you, thinking about stepping out into the crowd feels like, well, a stretch.
People are going to notice, say like the woman, that you have issues
That you’re not perfect. They’re going to notice that you need Jesus.
But I want to encourage you this morning to take that stretch. Take that leap. Walk towards Him. Walk towards the crowd of others around Him.
And the closer you get, you’ll realize that they’re nowhere near perfect either. In fact, they’re probably more messed up than you are.
And they need Him to.
That’s why they’re gathered around Him.
So make a stretch this week. And pray that God will show you even more ways that you can get off the couch and start walking towards Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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